Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Doing Business

GreeneLanders are hurting.  Jobs are scarce, sales are slow, tourist traffic is down, tax revenues have shrunk.  (Fees from marriage licenses, however, have hit record highs in the past couple of days). Our plight is illustrated by commercial property transactions.  In Catskill’s business district, in the past three years, sales of commercial properties have numbered just two.  One was realtor Gary diMauro’s own purchase (for $167,500) of a building to house, among other things, a sales office.  The other was--at the price ($1.2 million), for the announced purpose (video games), and based on a financial windfall (the lottery)—a fantasy purchase.  Meanwhile, many commercial buildings remain empty, after months or years of being offered for sale. The immediate outlook is dour.  As Mr DiMauro says, “the recent deadlock on raising the [Federal] debt ceiling and anemic job growth numbers do not bode well for any serious recovery during the balance of the year….”  BUT:
PROMOTION of GreeneLand as destination has been bolstered by way of the Economic Development, Tourism and Planning Department’s much-improved web site:  www.greatnortherncatskills.com
     On the other hand, the www.welcometocatskill.com site shows signs of neglect.  Clicking on the “Events” link yields only directions for driving to the Village.  And the Masters on Main Street program that closed at the end of May is still touted, while the new MOM program is not mentioned at all.
      (It’s not a mess, however, like the official web site http://villageofcatskill.net
which tells us that the term of the current Village president “expires March 2010”; that the term of the senior Village justice, Charles Adsit, also expires in March 2010 (when in fact he held court until he retired in May of his year); and that the term of the incumbent justice, William Wooton, expires in “March 2011”). 
FRUCK SOLD?  The Ulster Savings Bank may have succeeded at last in unloading the Friar Tuck, which in times past was touted as GreeneLand’s “foremost” resort.  According to Michael Shaughnessy, the bank’s executive vice-president (as quoted in a Daily Freeman report by Ariel Zengla, 7/22; see also Daily Mail, 7/23), a deal was closed Wednesday evening (7/20) and the buyer, called L & H Resort Systems LP, paid or promised to pay $2.425 million in cash.  That price is about one million dollars less than what the bank was owed when it foreclosed on the property, with its 376 rooms, 52,000 square feet of exhibition space, banquet facilities, conference rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, debts and deterioration. Two previously announced sales of the Tuck failed.  Realtors Greg Berardi and Win Morrison represented the new buyers.  They did not immediately identify their client, apart from alluding to a “foreign” group of individuals. The Daily Mail’s web search yielded an “L&H Property Development” company, “a global real estate development corporation based in Kuala Lumpur.”  Our own Google search yielded a web site for “H & L,” “point of sale solution providers in the hospitality industry” in, mostly, Australia (www.hlaustralia.com.au.  No properties listed; latest “news” item posted in February 2010).  When contacted by Seeing Greene (7/24), Mr Morrison said the buyers are mainland Chinese who are specialists in entertainment, and “If they do what they say they plan to do, the result will turn Ulster and Greene counties around considerably.” Mr Berardi said that a major partner in the buyers’ team is based in the United States, and that before making their bid, the buyers made a direct, close inspection of the place, with a view to transforming it into a “luxury resort.” 
BANK BOOM.  The Bank of Greene County (with branches spilling into Albany and Columbia counties) evidently continues to thrive, or at least to survive comfortably, amid hard times.  Its quarterly dividend, payable in mid-August, will be the same as it has been for many quarters past: 17.5 cents per share.  To recipients, the yield is about 4 per cent per year, which is better than the return on savings deposits.  Its availability is due not only to financial solidity but also, in no small measure, to the fact that the bank’s parent, owner of 55 per cent of the shares, foregoes dividends.   [This item was inserted three hours after the blog was first posted.  DM]
NEW STAGE.  The venerable Orpheum Theater in Tannersville has achieved juvenescence.  (We’ve waited for years for a chance to use that word).  It has been comprehensively, expensively renovated as a venue for live up-scale entertainment, thanks to the efforts of Peter Finn and other supporters of the Catskill Mountain Foundation.  Its recent soft opening bodes well for the cultural life—and, incidentally, the economic life--of GreeneLand. (http://catskillmtn.org)
NEW OWNER. The Kingston-based Daily Freeman, which offers news about some GreeneLand events (as evidenced by citations in this blog), now is owned by a New York hedge fund.  Its immediate parent, the Journal Register company, whose stable of publications includes newspapers in Troy, Saratoga and Clifton Park, as well as in other communities (chiefly in Connecticut and Pennsylvania)  was bought by Alden Global Capital Company which, surprisingly, has placed substantial bets on the viability of several print-based media companies.
 (BTW.  Another change of ownership in local publishing will be announced soon). 
SMART START? Veteran journalist Paul Smart has announced plans to launch a trio of “independent community” newspapers. Adopting the editorial we in a broadly circulated e-mail message, he says that “As seasoned newspaper folk, we have tried working on blogs and other digital means, as well as radio. But we miss the tactile qualities of print. So we're trying to do it from scratch, without investment, believing that our local businesses also miss having direct contact with their local communities and will support what we're doing.” In times past Mr Smart edited The Mountain Eagle and The Phoenicia Times, as well as operating the Olive Press and, until this April, chairing radio station WGXC’s news committee.  He envisions a September 8 launch for three bi-weeklies that are stuffed with local news: The Catskill Current, The Hudson Harpoon and The Mountaintop Meteor.
GLORY. Zach Hyer of Tannersville, according to DailyMailman Jim Planck, has won an Academy Award—yes, that academy—in the 2011 competition for film students.  For his short film “Correspondence” he scored a gold medal in the animation category. Receipt of the award involved a free trip to Hollywood, a tour of industry-related events, and attendance at the regular Academy Awards presentation.  His depiction (via the Flash and After Effects programs) of a soldier delivering a message through a heavy combat area came out of a storyboarding class in his first semester in the Master of Fine Arts program at New York’s Pratt Institute, following graduation from SUNY New Paltz and, before that, from Hunter-Tannersville High School. Hyer is the son of Rosemary Hyer of Tannersville and Mark Hyer of East Jewett.  For his acceptance speech, click http://www.oscars.org/video/watch/38saa_animation_gold_hyer.html.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy July

4 WOOD as musical instrument?  We saw it and heard it at the Catskill Point warehouse, during last Saturday’s (6/26) Bing Bang Boing Festival.  Ken Butler also played a electrified tennis racquet (electrified strings), a snow shovel and (with a violin bow) an umbrella.  Extracting sounds (music?) from other improvised, performance-based, sculptural instruments were Harry and Josh Matthews, Matt Bua, Ed Podokar, Peter Head, and cousins Brian and Leon Dewan (creators of the now-famous Dewanatron).  Their experiments in audibility were complemented in no small measure by the moving sculptures, the graceful swaying gestures of GreeneLand’s own Wild Rose Belly Dancing Troupe.

330=number of revelers at Sunday’s glorious fund-raiser for GreeneLand’s Thomas Cole National Historic Site.  It rained in the morning.  Rained again in the afternoon.  Then the clouds passed, and people converged on the designated Catskill party site.  Welcomed by Cole volunteers, by suitable libations, by photographer Rob Shannon (www.fotopic.com)

and by soft music (the raucous stuff came later), they eventually strolled down to a giant tent that had been erected just above the majestic Hudson.
After (and while) dining,
they were jolted by the start of a spectacular fireworks show provided by Rich (Misbehaven) Pilatch.   
(To view full size display, click on the lower right corner of image)
(To return to text, hit ESC key, upper left of keyboard)

Then it was back up hill to dancing (luscious Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers), to a laser light show that bathed trees and pool in dancing light (based on the ingenuity of the late Rudi Berkhout), to more camaraderie. 
     According to hostess Lisa Fox Martin, who presides over the Thomas Cole House board of trustees, the affair took in “a bit more than” $80,000.  That was a gain over the take in 2010.  The net return also was higher.  That gain was due in no small measure to donations of items and time as well as money. Cole House staff members and Fellows and volunteers handled multiple assignments.  Every table was graced by potted flowers loaned by Story Farms.  Welcoming libations were a gift from Ed Domaney of Great Barrington (www.domaneys.com).  Memorable catering was provided by Shawn Hardy (www.therentachef.com).  Geoff Howell (www.geoffhowellstudio.com) designed the background for the photos taken by Mr Shannon (big white number 10, marking the tenth year since the restored Cole House opened to the public). And Mr Howell and his helpers gave the big tent the look that appears in our photo (by Shannon).  Pivotal too were the party’s sponsors.  These people, 52 in number this year, paid from $500 to $2500 for tickets they gave to chosen guests (some of whom made independent contributions).  Meanwhile, the other attendees paid $150 (as Cole House members) or $175 (as non-members).

LAST YEAR'S Cole House benefit, as it happens, has been memorialized in the July-August issue of Country Living, by way of a picture together with a note written by Sarah Gray Miller, editor of that magazine and (with husband Tony Stamolis) an Athens resident.  The family photo below was taken by Rob Shannon against another background designed by Geoff Howell.