Follow Up on the
"Commissioner Christopher O. Ward announced
today that after extensive traffic and security analyses, a
decision has been made by DEP to close Monument Road over the
Olivebridge Dam at the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County to
vehicular traffic," read the terse release on the matter
from city headquarters in Queens. "Monument Road is closed
from Reservoir Road to Route 28A. The closure commenced at 7
a.m. on March 19, 2003. Motorists will continue to be able to
cross the Ashokan Reservoir, but will have to observe posted
Addressing the potential inconvenience, Commissioner Ward was
quoted as saying, "We realize this will cause difficulty
for residents of the area, and we apologize for any inconvenience.
This decision was not made lightly, and ultimately is in the
best interest of protecting the water supply that serves so
many millions of New Yorkers both in the five boroughs of New
York City and upstate counties."
Olive supervisor Berndt Leifeld said this week that the first
he heard of any closing was after the fact, when a town resident
phoned to tell him his normal driving route had been rerouted."It
would be nice if they let us know a little more about these
things," Leifeld said. "The only thing I know is that
they've had a similar closing down at the Kensico reservoir
where they're saying it'll be lifted after three months."Continuing,
Leifeld noted that at least the current detour for those seeking
to go or come from Olivebridge is only a little over a mile,
and not so inconvenient compared to recent closings that had
people detouring clear around the causeway, or earlier, around
a closed bridge along 28A just west of Watson Hollow Road.
"Quite frankly, we can all live with this,"
Leifeld said. "The dividing weir would be something else,
but this seems okay... for now. The supervisor pointed out that
during the interim after the booths went down, he was told that
the city DEP had increased its own security road patrols around
Adding to her department's press release, DEP spokeperson Natalie
Millner said everything was done after "extensive study"
and with the "security of both the water users and the
local populace in mind."
"WE feel we have good reasons for this," she said.
"I can't really go into our reasoning any further than
that without breaching security. All we want is for everyone
to have the best security they can..."
Any questions about the Lemonsqueezer should be addressed to
the DEP at 718-595-6600.
Even at the Legion Hall, something feels muted. The crowds are
there and the television's running, as much on Fox as CNN. And
there's much talk about the support our troops need, and the strong
sense of loyalty everybody is feeling towards the Homeland. But
more quietly, people delineate between what they support and what
they fear. They're just not so sure everything's going to turn
out all right… with the war, withthe economy, with the larger
schisms that have uncovered themselves between us and Europe,
us and the Islamic World, us and so much that has been made into
"I don't think this is the right time. It just doesn't feel
right," says Marty Millman, Phoenicia pharmacist and Onteora
trustee, aswell as a longstanding Republican. "A lot of people
I see are felling anxious about this one." "I've got
mixed feelings… and that's as much as I'll say," noted
Berndt Leifeld, Olive town supervisor and a lifelong Democrat.
He said he's noticed many normally verbose folks voicing similar
reticence towards making quick decisions on this one, even at
the expense of the nation's usual patriotism.
Jean Paul Biassutto, head of the Phoenicia Fire Department and
chef at La Duchesse Anne, spoke about threatening language he's
heard because of his French heritage. He noted he's lived locally
for over 30 years… but then adds that he's noticed much
more tension than usual over the War."We've had a lot of
people taking out books that address subjects involved in the
Middle East, Islam and war," said the women at the Olive
Free Library. "But people aren't talking about it much, except
in protest. Those who are in support aren't saying a whole lot."
Which is just what folks were saying at Snyder's Tavern in Olive.
There were better subjects to talk about. Everyone shared worries
about those who were fighting… and some sense of questioning
regarding the reasons we are in Iraq, as well as the possible
outcome of all this. "All I care is that no one starts burning
the flag," says one fellow at a local Legion Hall."We
got to stick together, whatever happens," says one of his
God bless us all in this time of tension. May
our Army be home soon.
At Monday night's board meeting, trustees questioned
administrators on the four elementary options, and Rowe gave
them a list of programs that are eligible to be cut because
they are not mandated by the state, with the implication that
the more the district could save with elementary reorganization,
the less it would have to cut from programs. On the list were
43 high school advanced placement courses and career training
programs and 23 other categories, including academic intervention
services, the Indie program, assistant superintendent, assistant
principals at the middle and high schools, life skills assistant,
summer schools, field trips, mentor program, reading recovery,
all but minimal music training, and other items.
"There may be things on this list as important or more
important than what school your kid goes to," trustee Meg
Carey told parents in the audience. "They will grow up,
and you will want a highly functioning high school."Trustee
Greg Walters said, "A lot of these are absurd to consider
cutting. If we had to do away with all of them, how much money
would we save?" Rowe replied, "We would never have
to do away with all of them, it's just that none of them are
mandated. When I make my recommendation, I'll tell you how much
we can save."
Rowe asked the board to suggest a tax levy
increase they would be comfortable with, but president Marino
D'Orazio said he felt the board lacked the expertise to specify
an increase and preferred to wait for Rowe's proposals."Is
anyone in favor of closing West Hurley?" asked trustee
Marty Millman.Drawbacks were discussed, including the stress
on children to make an additional transition to a new school
when going from third to fourth grade, just at the point when
they have to prepare to take state standardized tests. Phoenicia
principal Linda Sella said rather than dividing the schools
into kindergarten through third grade and fourth through sixth
grades, a more logical arrangement would be K-4 and 5-6.
There was some discussion of making Bennett a 5-6 school, with
the other three elementary schools K-4, but it was decided that
West Hurley did not have enough room for that configuration.
Rowe presented an alternative he called Plan B-2, in which Phoenicia
and West Hurley had grades K-2 and Bennett and Woodstock had
3-6. This option would yield a savings of about $1,050,000,
slightly less than Plan B, due to possible increased transportation
costs.The rise in transportation time and cost is another objection,
with concern about children having to go all the way from Samsonville
to Phoenicia or from Pine Hill to Bennett. Transportation supervisor
Mike Grehl slightly raised his earlier projection of transportation
costs, saying that a few new routes would probably need to be
added, at a cost of $38,000 per route. Some routes would have
to leave earlier, in order to transfer students from their home
school to their destination school in time for the start of
school, and there would be additional costs for staff to supervise
children during the transfer period.
Rowe said no students would miss any programming
as a result of the change.The board discussed and rejected Plan
A, creation of multi-age classrooms at each school, which would
avoid redistricting but save only $600,000. Sella reported on
Phoenicia's experience with multi-age classrooms, which had
worked well for some families and not for others. They began
to be phased out when state standards were raised, and teachers
felt they needed single-grade classes to focus their teaching
and help students pass the state standardized tests.
Currently there are only two second/third grade
classes at Phoenicia, partly due to requests from parents for
single-age classes, and partly due to the hiring of new teachers
who would require training to be able to teach multi-age classes.
Tina Harp of the Phoenicia PTA stated her group's position that
state test scores had improved significantly in the last two
years, and that a return to multi-age classes in the upper grades
would be unacceptable. Plan C, which involved multi-age classrooms
at Bennett and Phoenicia, and the Princeton Plan at Woodstock
and West Hurley, was rejected for the same reasons.D'Orazio
lamented the state's threatened reduction of aid to the schools,
blaming the government for the district's crisis, which Rowe
said is reflected around the state.
Carey encouraged parents and staff to participate in the March
for Public Education in Albany, scheduled for Saturday, May
3. The New York State School Boards Association is calling on
administrators, employees' associations, and PTA's to send delegations
to the demonstration to protest the proposed $1.2 billion cut
to education, as well as government policies that hamper the
operation of public schools, such as the repeated failure to
approve state budgets before school budget votes. School districts
across the state are planning to send representatives, and 100
busloads of supporters from New York City are already signed
up. Grehl offered to arrange transportation for Onteorans who
wish to attend. The school district cannot finance the expedition
or provide buses, but Grehl will get pricing from outside contractors
used by the district. He said drivers were willing to donate
their time. The board voted unanimously to pursue the sending
of a delegation.
Jordan flips aside hangers of various Metallica
and West Coast Chopper shirts to reveal Che Guevara portraits,
Anti-Flag and American Head Change emblems, the latter with President
Bush's face on it. There are also lots of the seemingly requisite
"I'm With Stupid" brand shirts. And leather pants. And
shoes with band and brand insignias. It's your usual mall-oriented
over-supply of product.
"I wouldn't do anything if someone wore a peace T-shirt,"
Jordan says, when asked how the Mall handled enforcement of its
little-known policy to keep "offensive" statements off
people's shirts. "I don't know who would do anything, except
maybe the security guys."
TSX owner Arthur Fine of Shokan, who also keeps a store at Crossgates,
said he'd always thought of America as a free country… but
added that he'd run into similar trouble back when he owned a
T-shirt store in Danbury, CT, where a customer wearing a t-shirt
with obscenities on it took his case to court.
"I urge people to be careful about what they wear in the
mall," he said.
The Crossgates story started Monday evening, March 3, when Stephen
Downs, a 60-year old attorney with the state Commission on Judicial
Conduct, was arrested for trespass after he refused to either
take off a T-shirt sporting the most benign of anti-war messages,
or leave the premises. Downs had bought the offending shirt, and
had the statements put on it, at a mall store much like TSX. On
the back of his shirt was the statement, "Peace on Earth."
Downs' son, Roger, 31 of New Baltimore, also
bought a custom shirt that read "No War With Iraq" and
"Let Inspections Work." Subsequent news coverage of
the arrest, which went international by Tuesday evening, noted
how mall security guards were called by an employee of another
mall store when they saw the two men emerge from the store wearing
their new t-shirts.
Security Guard Robert Williams responded to the call, and confronted
the Downs in the Crossgates Mall food court, where he asked that
they take off their T-shirts, leave, or be arrested. Roger did
so but his father, stating his legal occupation, said he didn't
think he had to. Williams returned with a Guilderland police officer
who arrested and handcuffed
the 60-year old attorney, then spoke with him for an hour asking
Downs "to drop the whole thing and take the shirt off"
according to reports. He was repeatedly told the mall was private
property and what he was wearing was unacceptable, the same as
if he went to someone's home wearing something unacceptable.
"I said it's not the same thing, it's not a good analogy,"
said Steve Downs, who later insisted he wasn't protesting or demonstrating
by wearing the shirt. Guilderland Town Justice Kenneth Riddett
released Downs on his own recognizance and set a return date of
March 17. Two days later, The Pyramid Companies, a Syracuse-based
company that owns 17 malls, countless senior citizen and student
housing complexes, and office buildings throughout Upstate New
York, dropped all charges. But then on Friday, they fired Williams,
the security guard who was originally called in to confront the
Protests of between 100 and 250 people have occurred at the Crossgates
Mall in defense of both Wiliams and the Downs, on three occasions
since March 3. "Mall management determined the customers
in question were violating mall policy," added Earl Wells
of E3, speaking from a car phone in the Rochester area Monday
"Courts have affirmed that shopping malls
have the right to restrict actions and behaviors deemed inconsistent
with a shopping environment.""I've ordered new t-shirts,"
Fine said about TSX. "People are asking for the Give Peace
A Chance shirts. I'm also making Peace Is Not A Crime ones. We
won't display them, but it'll be there," he said. "I'm
pro peace, always have been. But I don't want to upset people."
Aren't you glad we don't have malls here in free-speaking Shandaken?
Vice President Dick Cheney served as Halliburton's
chief executive officer from 1995 to 2000. The company has since
come under heavy pressure because of concerns about its liabilities
and a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into its
accounting for cost overruns on construction projects.
At the time Cheney retired as CEO of Halliburton, to run along
side George W. Bush for control of the White House, the company
awarded him a $20 million dollar retirement package, saying it
was their legal prerogative to increase the size of that package
at any time to any amount they desired.
KBR is the exclusive logistics supplier for both the Navy and
the Army, providing services like cooking, construction, power
generation and fuel transportation. The contract recently won
from the Army is for 10 years and has no lid on costs, the only
logistical arrangement by the Army without an estimated cost.
The New York Times noted recently that the government business
has been well timed for Halliburton, whose stock price had tumbled
almost two-thirds in the last year because of concerns about its
asbestos liabilities, sagging profits in itsenergy business and
an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into
its accounting practices back when Vice President Dick Cheney
ran the company.
Halliburton has declined any comment and referred all questions
Defense Department. Meanwhile, Halliburton Co. the world's No.
2 oil field services firm, did announce last week that it has
started a probe involving U.S. and Nigerian government officials
over theft of a radioactive device used at its Nigerian operations.Halliburton
said that it is concerned that the device's radioactive material
could be used to create a "dirty bomb," an explosive
device designed to scatter radioactivity in a densely populated
The device was in a locked storage box that weighs about 200 pounds
(90 kg) and is the size of a small car engine block. The device,
oil detection, was stolen in early December. Halliburton is saying
that its investigation also involves officials from the International
Atomic Energy Agency, which has been involved in recent UN searches
in Iraq. Cheney is still receiving deferred compensation from
Halliburton, but neither the company nor the White House would
specify how large his payment will be this year or how long the
payments will continue.
This is cash that he's already earned. Yet it's also cash that
Halliburton is accruing in part from its activities in Guantanamo
Bay and Afghanistan.