Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dark Greene

WRONG MOVE?  Back in 2005, when Fr. John J. Murphy was obliged to retire as pastor of St Patrick’s Church in Catskill, at age 76, after 34 years, the parish experienced some turmoil. A satisfactory, durable successor to Fr Murphy proved to be unobtainable. Archbishop Howard Hubbard assigned administrative duties to a nun, Sr Mary Mazza, who already was managing St Patrick's church business in Athens.  Then a collapsed ceiling made the Catskill church unsafe for services, which were conducted thereafter in a basement chapel.  These developments troubled some parishioners, who responded by joining other churches.  Among those new affiliations was  Sacred Heart  in Cairo.  There the departed Catskillians came under the priestly supervision of Jeremiah Nunan.
  That prelate, after graduating from a seminary in his native Ireland, had joined the Albany diocese in 1963.  He had served at St Henry’s church in Averill Park, at St Mary’s in Little Falls, at Assumption perish in Lathan, at St Mary’s in Hudson, and as chaplain for the Columbia Memorial Hospital’s school of nursing, before being transferred by Archbishop Hubbard to the Cairo parish (and to Our Lady of Knock mission in East Durham) in 2007.  His arrival there came in the aftermath of what appeared to be a scandal.
  In 2006 a California-based priest, Mark Jaufmann, went public with street demonstrations claiming that, while he was an altar boy at St Mary’s, and later as well, he had been abused sexually by Fr Nunan.  Jaufmann’s accusations prompted an official church investigation, during which Nunan was placed on administrative leave (no officiating at a Mass or other sacrament; no presenting self as a priest).  The review board reported in January 2007 that it could not find reasonable support for the accusation.  Fr Nunan was restored to pastoral duty and transferred to the Cairo/Durham posts.   (Fr Jaufmann died in March 2008). 
  Last month (on 4/14) the diocese announced that Fr Nunan had been placed on leave again, pending the outcome of an investigation that was triggered by a lawsuit accusing him anew of molesting a minor.  The news attracted abundant Press coverage  (TimesUnion; Daily Freeman; Associated Press; Daily Mail), from which much of this account is taken.  This time the priest (now 74 years old) is accused of criminally molesting in Hudson two former altar boys who were under his supervision:  Ivan Morales Jr. and his brother Martin.  As evidence (in the civil suit aimed at the priest, the parish, and the archdiocese) the plaintiffs cite large sums of money given by Nunan to Ivan--in the form of checks drawn from parish funds.  They also blame the priest for Ivan’s troubled passage into young adulthood.
  Will the departed Catskillians be returning?
REVOLTING.  According to a Greene County Republican leader,  Barack Obama is a “political socialist ideologue” who is “unlike anything world history has ever witnessed,” and if he wins re-election in November, then American patriots “shall not have any coarse [sic] but armed revolution.”  Thus spake Ponch McPhee, in The Constitutional Conservative, newsletter of the Republican Party of Greene County, VIRGINIA.  His  party’s county chairman repudiated that declaration. ( (
BILKED. Maurice Latimer of Catskill is named in a TimesUnion report (B. J. Lyons; 5/21/12) as one of hundreds of victims of a Ponzi-like racket conducted, prosecutors say, by Albany stock brokers Timothy McGinn and David J. Smith.  The partners have been indicted by a grand jury on charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion, and they are targets of a civil suit brought by the Securities & Exchange Commission.  Estimates of the victims’ total losses exceed $100 million.  Mr Latimer, however, put his dollar loss in the hundreds.  He is identified in the TU story as an insurance claims adjuster, but he is better known around the county courthouse as the dapper guardian of jurors.
JOBS.  The GreeneLand situation, as gauged by State Department of Labor data collectors, is still dismal.  Although the rate of unemployment did drop a bit from March (9.6%) to April, it still is worse than in April of 2011, and it still is one of the highest—meaning worst--at 9.4 per cent, in the State.  (Worst, at 12% is Bronx County; best, at 5.7%, is Tompkins County).  It is worse than the nation-wide rate (7.7%), the State rate (8.1%) and the Columbia County rate (7.2%). 

RISING STARS.  Included in the Business Review’s new “40 Under 40” roster of promising young Capital Region business people are two GreeneLanders: Elena D’Agnese, 33, of East Durham, and Alexander Betke, 35, of Coxsackie.  Ms Agnese is director of marketing and communications for the Albany-based Center For Economic Growth (, which touts early-stage, high-growth companies to prospective investors.  Mr Betke is a partner in the law firm of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, is Coxsackie’s elected town supervisor, is lawyer for Catskill (village) and for Saugerties and is an active, baseball-coaching father of 4.
INDUCTED into the Blues Hall of Fame (1989 incarnation) last Sunday (5/20/12), at a New York ceremony and jam session, was GreeneLand  drummer (and Windham disc jockey) Cliff Anshanshin, better known as Sonny Rock.  Not
bad for a guy who almost died of severe burns at age 3 and has needed periodic surgical treatments ever since.
SCHOOL FINANCE.  Among events that did NOT happen on Tuesday, May 15, contrary to apprehensions, was voter rejection of proposed GreeneLand school district budgets.  As reported in The Daily Mail, majorities of voters in all six districts (of the voters who turned out, that is) gave approval to planned outlays totaling $135 million.  Margins of support, with one exception, were substantial: Catskill, 547-302; Cairo-Durham, 632-353; Coxsackie-Athens, 722-599; Greenville, 778-354; Windham-Ashland-Jewett, 193-30. The exception was Hunter-Tannersville: 277 Yea, 212 Nay.
SPROUTS, the free arts program for children (3-7) will happen again this summer, during July-August, at six GreeneLand locations.  It’s an art/music or theatre/dance program with five daily session led by professionals who are assisted by teen volunteers.  Ruth Leonard (6344 2289) directs it for the county Arts Council (943-3400).  Registration fills quickly.
MEMORIAL DAY was observed at GreeneLand’s  Juniper Woods Campground by way of a “Red, White & Blue” picnic.  Uniforms, among other garments, were optional.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Greene Goodies

ACHIEVERS.  Carly, Kassadi, Tyler, Jordan and Seth are first names of children who share at least three traits.   They attend Catskill public schools (Middle and High).  They scored top academic honors during the latest school term.  And their last name is Bulich.
 LAGGARDS.   The latest scores on local school kids' academic achievements confirmed, with one exception, a familiar pattern: male retardation.  Although boys make up about half of the student population, they do not provide half of the good students. At Coxsackie-Athens High School, 27 of the 45 seniors who achieved top academic honors in the latest term are girls.  At Catskill High School, in grade 9, 15 girls and only four boys achieved top honors.  In grade 10, the ratio was 16 to 4.  In grade 11, among the 16 High Honors achievers, only five boys were included.  But the grade 12 results provided a radical departure from the gender norm:  4 girls, 10 boys (including two Buliches).
COOKING!  "O'Sullivan Stew," the musical which was first presented in Catskill 2010, based on a book by GreeneLand’s Hudson Talbott, on songs composed by GreeneLand’s Frank Cuthbert, on staging by GreeneLand’s Casey Biggs, was performed dozens of times over the last year by Urban Stages, a New York City theater group that presents plays and musicals to  libraries and charter schools.  "O'Sullivan Stew" also is one of five plays, out of 177 entries, that won selection for performance at a new works festival recently at Bowling Greene University in Ohio.  What is more more, “The Last Pine Tree on Eagle Mountain,” another original work by Mr Cuthbert (story and music and lyrics) was produced for Earth Day 2012 performance in the New York City Public Library.
CULTURE BOOSTS.  Ten GreeneLand non-profits will be receiving grants of county money, in amounts ranging from $500 to $3000, to help with the costs of programs to be offered during the year.  The money, totaling $18,000 (scaled down from $62,475 in requests), comes from the county legislature’s Initiative Program, with recipients and their allocations decided by a panel of county Arts Council selectors.  The program dates from 1983, and it has long been distinctive for geographic diversity.  This year’s winning applicants include the county Historical Society’s Bronck Museum ($2200), the Catskill Mountain Foundation ($3000), free103point9 Wave Radio ($1200), Horton By the Stream theater company ($1000), Inter-Cities Performing Arts (concerts and a play; $500), the Grazhda music and folk arts center in Jewett ($2350), Planet Arts (jazz; $1650), the Thomas Cole National Historic Site ($2400), the Windham Chamber Music company ($2500), and the Zadock Pratt museum ($1200).   Other arts-boosting grants, to groups and individuals, may eventuate.  The State Council on the Arts has earmarked $22,000 for “re-grants” allocated by GreeneLand's arts council.  (See )
IDEAS.  In response to our question (Seeing Greene, 5/5/12) about salutary uses of the Union Mills (ex-Oren’s Furniture) property on Main Street and on Water Street in Catskill, we have received two suggestions.  One is to transfer to that site the headquarters of the aforementioned Council on the Arts.  That move would allow for expansion, and could enable the Council to serve as a kind of magnet for independent arts-related projects, under the same roof.
    The second idea is to establish in that commodious space a branch of the institution that is known officially as the Columbia-Greene Community College although physically it only exists on the Columbia side of the Hudson.  So: put some C-GCC courses in Union Mills building.   There's plenty of room for classes.  Offer courses that are particularly popular with Greene County students and  would be particularly convenient for GreeneLand high school kids who are doing Advanced Placement work (or who would do that work if the classroom were closer to home).
   Those two ideas, BTW, are not mutually exclusive.
    Moreover, there has been abundant talk about building dormitories to house C-GCC students.  Must those dormitories be right on the current campus?  What about adapting the residential section of the Union Mills lofts?
BANK SHOTS.   Good things have happened lately for GreeneLand’s foremost local bank:
 *Profits.  In its latest quarter, Greene County Bancorp, parent of the Bank of Greene County, scored record earnings.  As reported by company president Donald Gibson, net income from the start of the current fiscal year (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) grew by 15 per cent, and the pace of increase in the latest quarter (January 1 to March 31) was faster than in the previous quarter.  Moreover, net income relative to number of company shares also went up.  The bank's assets now total almost $580 million, a gain of around $25 million since this time last year. That increase was recorded even while the dollar tally of outstanding loans that are classed as “non-performing”—likely defaults—has reached $6.8 million.  Anyhow, the bank’s good fortune is due largely to a nice combination:  more borrowers, plus  an increase in the spread between rates of interest payable to the bank by its borrowers and rates payable by the bank to its lenders.
 *Recognition.  Exceptional fiscal feats won for Greene County Bancorp elevation by an investment bank, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, to an “honor roll” of  “most profitable [U.S.] banks over the past decade.”  That recognition—bestowed by KBW on 45 out of a population of 400 banks--was based on meeting three tests: no yearly loss over the past decade; yearly net income per share of stock that is at least the highest posted over the past decade; and consecutive net income increases, before extraordinary items, since 2009.    In size of deposits, Greene County Bancorp was the smallest newcomer to KBW’s 2012 honor roll.   And that fact won for the bank special attention in an American Banker magazine story. There, Mr Gibson is credited with making the point that his company “sticks to the traditional formula of collecting local deposits, making loans in the deposit area and shunning risky bond purchases.”  Accordingly “’We’re just trying to do the basics, making all the layups and the foul shots’.”
   (Incidentally, the biggest bank included in KBW’s 2012 “honor roll” is JP Morgan Chase, whose inclusion pre-dated the revelation that the Chase incurred, in the space of about six weeks, losses totaling $2  billion.  The losses came from the practice that is called Proprietary Trading and is a prime example of not sticking to the basics of banking).   
  *Innovation.  Late in 2011,  Greene County Bancorp formed a real estate investment trust, Greene Property Holdings Ltd.  To that subsidiary, with 20 per cent of preferred shares owned by “certain employees of the bank,” went all the mortgages held by the bank.  The change, we understand, yielded immediate tax advantage and thus promises to boost profits in coming quarters.
 *Infusion.  According to a report in The Register-Star, the BOGC is about to receive a multi-million dollar deposit.  And for the use of that money, as a way to earn money as a lender, the bank will pay a pittance: 0.75 per cent.  The infusion will come from Columbia County government funds, transferred from the Bank of America.  The transfer is the result of a bidding contest.  For the privilege of holding Columbia County deposits, the BOA was willing to pay interest at the rate of just one-fifth of one per cent.  The BOGC topped that offer, and other banks’ offers, with an 0.75 per cent bid.  It thus acquires a big pool of money that can be loaned to mortgagees at a considerably higher rate of interest.
FAST ACTION.  The girl in that picture actually is an adult, a mother, a part-time Athenian, and a budding mogul.  Lexy Funk is president of Brooklyn Industries, which Crain’s New York Business calls the “hipster clothing chain.”  The picture illustrated a May 13th story about “fast fashion,” or turning to local manufacturers in order to get designs to the market in a more timely, well, fashion.  Six weeks instead of (for things made in China) six months.  
(Full disclosure: we are related to that mogul)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Downtown Undoings

   As foreshadowed here on August 7th, downtown Catskill now has yet another empty building.  In this case it is one of Catskill’s biggest and finest: 355 Main Street (corner of Bridge), which housesd an HSBC bank branch.  Its emptiness is a consequence of a big deal whereby HSBC (advertised as “the world’s local bank”) sold all its local New York State operations (184 branches) to First Niagara.  That paved the way for closings wherever branches of the two thrifts have been near-neighbors. Around the State, consequently, 35 branches have been closed or are slated for closing, including 11 in the Capital region.  HSBC’s Catskill customers will be accommodated right next door at First Niagara.
    That HSBC exit augments an already-abundant stock of vacant commercial properties:
     *Idle cement plant sites up and down the Hudson.  Future boating and golf resorts?  Dream on.
     *The former Dunns Builders (and then Herrington’s) complex just below the Uncle Sam Bridge.
     *The former Irving Elementary School building, now partly and elegantly converted into apartments. 
     *The former Agway branch on West Bridge, with its four buildings plus a big strip of street frontage. 
     *The former St Patrick’s Academy, with its classrooms, offices, gymnasium, playing fields, Hudson River view. 
     *Two big former automotive dealerships. 
     *Departed downtown restaurants-- Fire House; MOD; 355; Bells--and galleries, plus Imagine That!
     *The former Orens Furniture store on Main Street, with its huge creek-side warehouse that is partly and elegantly converted into potential creek-side condominums.  Last Wednesday it was offered at auction, again, apparently fruitlessly, by the foreclosing Buffalo bank, in one two-unit parcel (69,600 square feet) or two parcels.  The assessed value of the respective units was $195,000 and $290,000, with full market value being pegged officially at $324,000 and $464,000.  But the auction may not have been in vain.  Aaron Flach, the Coxsackie-based champion of restorations and conversions, has expressed to the bank a more-than-casual interest.  While no deal is imminent, he told Seeing Greene, he is seriously interested, and is eager to collect ideas about how best to adapt the two buildings in a financially viable way that contributes to the social and cultural well-being of the community.  (
Looking for more words of comfort?  Well,
   *the residential housing market is picking up. 
   *Catskill’s public library is offering more programs and services than ever before, and drawing record volume of patronage. 
   *The Bank of Greene County has continued to grow and prosper, notwithstanding our ‘down’ economy.  (More on that anon).
   *the venerable Pollaces Resort in Catskill was hailed recently by the TripAdvisor organization as one of this country’s top 25 “small hotels and motels for families.”  That designation was not a product of inspections by visiting agents.  It was a reflection of the persistently warm terms of voluntary reviews posted to the TripAdvisor web site by Pollace visitors. 
   *Also winning rave notices from guests is Catskill’s new Bed & Breakfast: the Post Cottage on Spring Street.  Guests persistently give it the top (five stars) TripAdvisor rating on all five tests of merit. 
   *Community Action of Greene County had a festive opening on Saturday at its new, spacious, accessible headquarters: the former Sawyer Motors used car dealership at 7856 Route 9W.  Turnout, and participation in multiple activities for kids, was HUGE.  A terrific start. 
   *The Thomas Cole National Historic Site has reopened (as of last Sunday, 4/29) for the new season, with a fresh collection of Hudson River School art.  The featured artist for 2012 is Louis Remy Mignot (1831-70), a Charlestonian of French origins whose glowing landscapes (European and South American, as well as upstate New York) draw upon the leadership of Thomas Cole and of Cole’s pupil, Frederic Church. The opening started with an illuminating, illustrated lecture by Katherine Manthorne, professor of art history at the City University of New York’s graduate center.  Mignot, she said, was an “enigmatic” and “multi-faceted” artist, who belonged to "the inner circles of “polar opposites," Church and James Whistler.   The fresh opening marked the ninth year of exhibitions that have been mounted since the restoration of the house and grounds in Catskill where Cole lived for most of his extraordinary career as founder of the first distinctly American school of art.   Attendance at the opening was abundant, with many coming from out of town, as they did for monthly pre-season lectures.  The attendance, along with the substantial growth in staff and in volunteers, bodes well for the final great project of restoration at Cedar Grove: resurrecting Cole’s New Studio, the structure that he designed and used in the final years of his life.    
   *The second stage of the latest Masters on Main Street art-appreciation project, “Wall Street to Main Street,” commenced in Catskill.  To the store window exhibits and installations that have been on display since March 17th will be added, as organizer Fawn Potash (of Council on the Arts) says, “skill-sharing workshops, demonstrations, discussions, panels, tours and more.”  Those activities are designed “to encourage democratic art and free speech,” providing “a window into the ideas, dreams and inspirations” that have arisen from the ongoing global “Occupy” movement.
   *At Catskill Point, a splendidly refurbished Port of Call restaurant has just reopened.   
   *Downtown Catskill has been enhanced in the past year by the additions of Bryan Hunter's bicycle shop (Catskill Cycles), a chocolate shop (Sweet Sensations), a local produce outlet (Chuck Solberg’s Catskill Country Store) and a restaurant (Casa Latina; tasty and cozy).
   *And Kirwan’s Game Store, now fully stocked and furnished to attract the post-Dungeons & Dragons generation, is proving to be a big regional draw.  Think of it:  Catskill as geek destination.
FIRST IN LINE. For Catskill Village’s annual Clean Sweep Day on Saturday morning (volunteers, supplied with gloves and sacks, cleaning up downtown and creek-side public sites) who was the helper to sign in? A Schoharie County resident, Assemblyman Pete Lopez.  

REST IN PEACE:  Jack Guterman.

REST IN PEACE:  Nanette (Nette) Margolius.