News Briefs 12/18/2008
According to Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani, he and
other town officials were asked two weeks ago to meet with
the state Department of Environmental Conservation official
who is overseeing the Belleayre Resort’s review process,
Daniel Whitehead of the DEC’s Division of Environmental
The meeting was called by Whitehead, DiSclafani noted in a
press release, to discuss the local towns’ ability to
review the imminent Suplemental Draft Environmental Impact
Statement (SDEIS), awaited since former governor Eliot Spitzer
announced his controversial Agreement in Principal at a Kingston
press conference in September 2007, as well as specific socio-economic
and environmental impacts for the proposed Belleayre Resort
at Catskill Park and adjacent build-out at the ski center.
Also in attendance, according to the supervisor, were Andrew
Labruzzo and Jaime Ether of the New York Department of State’s
Division of Coastal Resources, Ulster County Legislator Brian
Shapiro, and recently re-elected Shandaken board member Doris
“Among the concerns discussed was the importance of
our zoning laws and comprehensive plan being in conformity,
which would give the planning board a stronger planning foundation;
and the ability of the Town to have enough funding to properly
review and/or proceed with the permitting process… Funding
that could hire professional guidance and technical support
for the volume of material needed to be reviewed,” DiSclafani
noted in his Friday press release, written soon after the
closed-door meeting. “Another concern was that the town
understood the importance of having an adequate fee schedule
to cover the zoning and building aspects for a project of
this size and scope. “
“The initial idea for the meeting was that this thing
(The multi-volume SDEIS) would be dropping onto our desks
in the next few weeks,” DiSclafani said in a separate
interview about the ratcheting back up of Belleayre Resort
concerns after such long dormancy. “Now, though, it’s
looking more like February or March, according to Whitehead,
before anyone sees anything.”
Hold ups in the submission process, he added, seemed to be
coming more from the state. Not only does the DEC need to
add to the existing Crossroads DEIS ample documentation regarding
its own Belleayre plans as well as a new Unit Management Plan
that addresses the Spitzer AIP, but word is that it’s
also wrestling with possible changes to those plans arising
alongside the major budget cut discussions currently underway
in Albany. The latter are not expected to reach any form of
conclusion for weeks yet, and maybe even months.
“I think the deal is that the state wants us to realize
that the distant future is fast approaching,” the supervisor
said. “They want us to be ready.”
Whitehead held similar meetings with officials at the neighboring
Delaware County Town of Middletown, as well as with representatives
of a number of the environmental non-profits that signed on
to the Spitzer AIP last year.
The question of paying for consultants, though, seems to have
been left up in the air, at least in official terms The DEC
says it can’t cover such costs, after its own review,
and has no way of forcing the developer to do so, even though
Crossroads has said it would pay. Meanwhile, the town has
no money budgeted for consultants on such a scale.
“We were neither invited nor did we know they were happening,”
Crossroads spokesperson Joan Lawrence-Bauer said this week
of the recent meetings. “As to progress on the SDEIS,
we are months away from any submissions.”
Later, in a separate press release, she indicated that, despite
the worries expressed by DiSclafani, the Belleayre Resort
developers would pay for local review if needed.
“The taxpayers of Shandaken and Middletown can rest
easy that every relevant environmental detail and regulation
will be enforced by the appropriate state and city agencies,”
Lawrence-Bauer wrote. “There will come a time in the
next year when the Belleayre Resort project will apply to
the planning boards of Shandaken and Middletown for requisite
permits to build the project. Crossroads has for years assured
the towns that at the point when their respective planning
boards are called upon to commence their review of the project
the developer will provide the funds necessary for them to
engage appropriate consultants.”
The Ulster County Legislature adopted its 2009 budget on December
3 alongside new ethics laws and the tabling of a $600,000
proposal, and associated bond, for renovations to the county
administrative office space. Tentative plans call for the
executive and legislature to share the sixth floor at the
county office building, colloquially known as the Glass Menagerie,
in Uptown Kingston, with the comptroller and county attorney
sharing the fifth floor.
The renovation measure was referred back to committee, by
unanimous vote, and without discussion.
For the long-discussed ethics law, a controversial provision
that would have prevented elected officials and department
heads from holding offices on county political committees
was not included…
In other final business, the legislature thanked county attorneys
Joshua Koplovitz and Bea Havranek, who will not be returning.
Also congratulated was Legislature Clerk Kathy Mihm, who is
to become the county’s Democrat election commissioner.
Hein announced the appointment of three deputy county executives,
one of whom will serve as his chief of staff, including Adele
Reiter as chief of staff and deputy county executive, Havranek
as deputy county executive in charge of government operations
and education, and Marshall Beckman as deputy county executive
in charge of health and human services.
Hein also named Arthur Smith as budget director. He has worked
for over 27 years in county government serving, at one time
or another, as Ulster County administrator and deputy administrator.
Later, legislators adopted an energy policy for Ulster County
intended to help departments cut costs and increase energy
savings. In the policy, county officials would be required
to determine the amount of energy use for vehicles and buildings
while developing an implementation strategy. Requirements
under the policy include: Use of energy performance contracts
when making building improvements that would affect fuel use;
the provision of verification and commissioning of fundamental
building systems to ensure they are designed, constructed,
installed, calibrated, and operating properly; adherence to
voluntary guidelines such as Energy Star when possible; development
of a purchasing policy that identifies the energy-use impact
of products, vehicles, and services; provision of county personnel
with training to implement new policies; the setting of a
timetable for measuring environmental impacts from county
energy use, water use, fleet emissions, recycled materials,
and waste generation; the finding of energy-saving initiatives
through savings from utility costs; and the development of
a reward system as an incentive for programs that help the
county save energy.
Redefining hamlet lines in the region has become something
of a bother to DEP, which extended the offer earlier this
year, announcing that watershed towns could propose plans
to expand Hamlet borders, thus preventing the DEP from trying
to buy land within those new boundaries.
Some of town’s came up with dramatic plans to limit
the DEP’s buying power, but DEP has so far not favored
the proposals. Shandaken proposed that the DEP not buy any
more land at all within town borders. Olive proposed no buying
along the north side of the route 28 corridor in the entire
Jeff Baker, the Attorney for the Coalition of Watershed Towns,
said December 15 that it has been agreed that the town of
Hunter in Greene County and Hamden in Delaware County will
be pilot communities where Hamlet designations will be prepared.
Using both towns as models, Baker said the idea is to show
DEP that they can still protect water in other ways besides
gobbling up property, an idea that apparently still needs
to be driven home to DEP brass.
Baker said that one New York City official recently complained
that the Coalition was interfering with DEP’s “mission
to buy all developable land in the watershed.”
With such a mindset still prevalent, Coalition Chairman Dennis
Lucas added that now, more then ever, watershed dwellers must
take steps to protect themselves.
“We are planning for ourselves so as not to have it
done by others,” he said
Tough times are coming home to roost in the area.
As predicted, the downturn in the nation’s economy has
put a dent in the revenues that area municipalities anticipated
when their Officials prepared their operating budgets for
this year. Last week the Ulster County legislature announced
the bad news that there has been a 27.52 percent decrease
in mortgage tax revenue countywide. Towns like Denning and
Hardenburgh were particularly hard hit, with Denning seeing
a decrease of almost 70 percent and Hardenburgh’s take
down 52 percent from the same April through September collection
period last year.
Shandaken and Olive suffered too, but not nearly as badly.
That towns’ revenues from mortgage tax, basically the
fruits collected from the sale of property, are down between
16 and 21 percent, respectively.
Specific amounts are as follows:
Denning received $10,380.67 from real estate transactions
occurring between April and September of this year. That figure
is down 69.50 percent, or $23,652.55, from the amount received
between April and September of 2007.
Hardenburgh has collected $4,978.25 for a 52.48 percent decrease
Olive has brought in $71,186.24 for a 21.37 percent decrease
Shandaken received $47,607.86 for a 15.69 percent decrease
Woodstock has brought in $189,058.86 for a 23.70 percent decrease
Of course, any revenue loss must be picked up by the taxpayers.
A former state Supreme Court justice who was kicked off the
bench more than two years ago has been charged with attempted
extortion and bribery for allegedly soliciting $10,000 from
a lawyer who had cases pending before him. The federal indictment
handed up December 10 alleges Thomas Spargo, 65, a former
justice in the state’s Third Judicial District, solicited
the money from an Ulster County attorney in 2003, when Spargo
was on the bench, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ulster is one of seven counties in the Third District.
If convicted, Spargo faces up to 30 years in prison and $500,000
in fines, according to a spokesman for the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, which investigated the former judge. Spargo
was not taken into custody after the indictment was handed
up and that an arraignment had not been scheduled.
The indictment alleges Spargo solicited the money by convincing
the attorney he would benefit from making the payment or suffer
reprisals if he refused. The money apparently was for a defense
fund Spargo had created for himself to help him resolve legal
problems he was having.
Spargo, a politically active state judge who went to Florida
in late 2000 to help fight for George W. Bush during the state’s
presidential election recount, was removed from the bench
in 2006 after the state Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded
he was hitting up lawyers for money.
Spargo’s legal problems — and the commission’s
investigation of him — date to 1999, when he was running
for town justice in Berne, near Albany. Spargo was accused
at that time of giving out coupons for gas and coffee and
buying drinks for potential voters. The gifts had a total
value of about $2,000, the commission said.
State Supreme Court justices are elected to 14-year terms.
Spargo was elected in November 2001 and was being paid $136,700
per year at the time of his removal. New York’s Third
Judicial District comprises Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Sullivan,
Albany, Rensselaer and Schoharie counties.
Household wealth fell in the third quarter by the most on
record as property values and stock prices tumbled, highlighting
the tattered state of consumer finances even before the most
recent slump in lending.
Net worth for households and non-profit groups decreased by
$2.81 trillion, the most since records began in 1952, according
to the Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds report issued
today in Washington. Real-estate-related assets declined by
$646.9 billion, three times the prior quarter’s drop.
Combined with the loss of 1.9 million jobs so far this year,
almost half of which occurred in the last two months, and
the slump in bank financing since the credit crisis intensified,
the figures darken an already gloomy outlook for consumer
spending. President-elect Barack Obama has called for a stimulus
package of unprecedented size as the economy slides toward
the longest postwar recession.
Consumer spending will probably decline 1 percent in 2009,
making it the biggest drop since 1942. The economy is projected
to shrink for four straight quarters, the longest contraction
since quarterly records began in 1947.
Hold on, everybody…
OK… the big talk is of a Green New Deal, a rearranging
of the nation’s economy to match new challenges, including
the phenomenon formerly known as Global Warming and now talked
about as Climate Change.
President-elect Obama is speaking of high system charges via
new emphases on infrastructure re-builds, the push for better
energy planning, and so on.
Locally, the recent weeks have seen a host of regional conferences
on warming trends and new sustainable lifestyles. Olive’s
own Charlie Blumstein has stepped up in all this with his
push to Relocalize via a host of community-building activities
from shared dinner discussions and movie nights in Olivebridge
to the building of greenhouses for more home production of
Finally, Sustainable Hudson Valley’s Melissa Everett
is currently getting on a number of key boards and commissions
patterning the county’s and region’s future…
and holding a special holiday party this Friday December 19,
from 5 to 7 pm to celebrate her organization’s new offices.
Talk about a nice intimate way to get hooked on the new impetus
to make change real and lasting!
Everett will report at the event about her recent scouting
trip where she learned about a new Living Green Project funded
with 9.4 million Euros to do deep green renovations of 5 historic
buildings in 5 countries, about the Netherlands Institute
for City Innovation Studies and how they help un-stick local
governments, as well as several European entities wanting
to work with Hudson Valley and Catskills counterparts.
The new offices for Sustainable Hudson Valley are at 400 Stockade
Drive, Kingston (off Schwenk Drive & opposite Kingston
Plaza). For further information call 331-2670 or visit www.sustainhv.org.
Shandaken, Olive, and Hurley residents with Time Warner cable
service will soon be able to watch Onteora school board meetings
and other district-initiated programming on a new cable channel
to be available on the system’s channel 20. Programming
for what’s slated to debut as the “SHOW (Shandaken,
Hurley, Olive, Woodstock) educational channel” will
originate from a new studio at Onteora, partially paid for
by BOCES. It will not initially be available to Woodstock
residents, as a result of that town’s lack of a currently
renewed contract with Time Warner.
Guided by high school principal Lance Edelman and teacher
David Nelson-Epstein, the project reflects contributions made
over a seven year period by Onteora and Time Warner staff
and officials and others districtwide. According to Epstein,
who actually built the studio facility and will run it with
his students, he hopes to provide sports, arts, and music
programming and events from all 3 elementary schools and the
middle and high school.
The channel is expected to be up and running by sometime in
Six area businesses in the towns of Kingston and Hurley were
burglarized during the pre-dawn hours of Sunday December 7,
according to police, with persons unknown making off with
over $1,000 in cash, coins from a car wash, and gasoline stolen
from a landscaping business. Businesses struck included the
Hobo Deli, Bistro-To-Go, Steve’s Pizza, the Route 28
Car Wash, and Woodstock Landscaping.
According to MaryAnne Erickson, co-owner of Bistro-To-Go,
the thief cut phone and power lines and security camera cables
before prying open a back door and smashing a safe containing
cash. She said that video recorded before the system was disabled
showed a person in a ski mask & hooded sweatshirt.
County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum says that his agency and others
are investigating and asks anyone with potentially helpful
information to contact them at 338-3640.
There’s a new initiative through the New York State
Attorney General’s office to deliver $1.9 million to
low-income households to help them cope with the high cost
of home heating oil. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo created
the Oil Efficiency Pilot Program with funds secured through
a record settlement with the nation’s largest power
company for violations of the Clean Air Act.
The hitch? Most of the money is for weatherization.
The Oil Efficiency Pilot Program will be administered by the
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Approximately 500 low-income New York households are expected
to benefit from the pilot program across the state.
The funding will offset the costs of installing high-efficiency
furnaces, steam boilers, and household hot water systems,
as well as insulation, weather-stripping, and other weatherization
features. These oil efficiency measures are expected to save
an average household approximately 224 gallons of heating
oil per year.
For more information or questions about the Oil Efficiency
Pilot Program call Cahill’s Kingston office at (845)
338-9610, visit www.HeatSmartNY.org or call the New York State
Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) at 1-877-NYSMART.
Are you a homeowner in the Catskill-Delaware Watershed who
repaired or replaced your septic system during 2008 without
help from the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC)? If so,
you may be able to recoup those costs now. Full-time residents
may receive 100% of eligible costs, while part-time residents
can get 60% of those costs reimbursed.
The CWC Board of Directors recently adopted a measure allowing
reimbursement for septic repairs done between January 1 and
December 31, 2008 that were not within priority areas for
the regular Septic Repair and Rehabilitation Program. Adequate
monies in the program fund allows the CWC to make this assistance
available at year’s end.
Homeowners who can show proof that repairs were completed,
were approved by NYC Department of Environmental Protection
and were paid for may fill out a CWC form to request reimbursement.
Homes that were constructed after November 2, 1995 are not
eligible for this program. Neither, we have heard, may residents
of Phoenicia, which is still on a priority list…
The Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) Board of Directors
on December 2 also approved rules for a new program that will
reimburse eligible small business owners – those employing
100 or fewer people — 75% of the cost of septic repairs
up to a maximum of $40,000. To be eligible, failing commercial
septics must be 100 feet from a watercourse, 500 feet from
a reservoir of the New York City Water System, or within a
specified priority zone (the so-called “60-day travel
Apartment buildings and trailer parks are not considered small
businesses for this program and only commercial septic systems
constructed after Nov. 2, 1995 are eligible for repair reimbursement.
Business properties served or potentially served by New York
City- or municipally-owned sewer projects, or by Community
Wastewater Management Projects developed by the CWC, are not
eligible for the new septic repair program (ah, Phoencia,
Commercial enterprises in 13 areas where a new Cluster System
Septic Program is being developed may also be ineligible for
septic repairs as they may be served by future wastewater
projects addressing clusters of buildings. Arrangements may
be made, however, for temporary or managed repairs in these
areas if circumstances warrant it.
For more information on both programs, call 845-586-1400 or
The Ulster County Fire Coordinator’s office in partnership
with the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce is coordinating
a Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) in recognition of Ulster
County’s volunteer Fire Fighters and Emergency Responders.
The program aims to increase the number of volunteers willing
to serve their local Fire Department and/or Ambulance Squad
by asking local businesses if they would be willing to offer
a discount of their determination to emergency service volunteers,
while the County Safety Department will provide volunteers
identified as active, social or lifelong with an identification
card that will indicate membership.
For more information contact the Chamber of Commerce at 338-5100.
Want a sense of how Albany really works? Consider this…
After narrowly winning the state Senate last month, Democrats
looked forward to a new era of control in the Capital, with
majorities in both houses of the Legislature and a Democrat
in the Executive Mansion. Right? Well, it turns out that three
Democrats (originally four) held their colleagues hostage
by flirting with current GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos of
Long Island and threatening to jump ship unless some political
goodies were given them. After weeks of uncertainty and a
delay in organizing a transition, the three reached agreement
with Malcolm Smith, the Senate’s Democratic leader.
As a result, Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. will be the Senate’s
new second in command and majority leader of the Democratic
caucus. (Under Republican rule, the majority leader had both
titles.) Senator Carl Kruger will chair the powerful Finance
Committee. Senator Ruben Diaz will chair the Aging Committee.
A same-sex marriage bill (which Diaz opposes) will not be
brought to the floor this year. And finally, a new Latino
caucus in the Senate will be created.
A breakthrough in bipartisanship or the handing over juicy
assignments and concessions to three men who put a figurative
gun to their party’s head.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey recently submitted comments to
the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
(NYSDEC) regarding the draft scope for the Draft Supplemental
Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) on the Oil,
Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program. NYSDEC has solicited
comments on its draft scope for the environmental review of
natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale deposit.
Hinchey asked the agency to use the SGEIS process to “develop
and implement the highest standards possible for protecting
human health and the environment” for permitting and
regulating new gas drilling operations. In addition, Hinchey
called for an analysis of the cumulative impacts from the
expected proliferation of drilling, full review and public
disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals, and requirement
of best management practices by gas companies to ensure the
protection groundwater, aquifers and surface waters.
“In addition to assessing whether and how drilling should
take place in certain areas, the SGEIS should examine how
thousands of new gas wells throughout New York State might
impact water quality, scenic and historic resources, and land
use patterns,” Hinchey noted in the lengthy comments.
“When new subdivisions or commercial developments are
reviewed under SEQRA, lead agencies must take into account
the aggregate impacts of development and avoid segmentation
in reviewing a project. The industrial activity of gas drilling
in the Marcellus Shale should be considered in the same cumulative
and comprehensive manner as part of the SGEIS.”
President-elect Barack Obama should create a new White House
office to protect cyberspace from hackers, thieves and foreign
agents, coordinating security efforts across U.S. military,
intelligence and civilian agencies, according to a new report
from a panel of leading government and industry experts.
The report, made public last week, also urges Obama’s
new administration and Congress to pass new laws to allow
for speedier investigations - and in some cases quicker retaliation
once intruders are identified. It proposed online “data
warrants,” for example, rather than traditional search
warrants, which it said “may be increasingly impracticable
in the online environment.”
Chances are good Obama will be receptive to many of the proposals:
At least five members of the panel that produced the report
also are working for his presidential transition team. They
include former White House official Paul Kurtz, advising Obama
on national security matters, and Obama technology advisers
Dan Chenok and Bruce McConnell.
The proposals by the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th
Presidency were being delivered to Capitol Hill during a period
of increasing exasperation within the U.S. government over
embarrassing computer break-ins at the Pentagon, White House,
State Department, Commerce Department and elsewhere that have
been traced in recent years across foreign borders, notably
to Russia and China.
It was unclear how the commission’s new recommendations
will compare with the Bush administration’s proposals
because President Bush chose to classify as secret most provisions
of his cyber initiative, which was launched late in his second
term. Bush’s plans included reducing the number of the
government’s Internet junctions to minimize the number
of targets for attackers and monitoring federal Internet traffic
more aggressively under a surveillance program it called “Einstein.”
4 Day Weeks?
As local governments face tougher and tougher budgetary times
with the state of the economy, some in the lower Hudson Valley
have started exploring converting to a four-day work week
for municipal employees.
The regional group Pattern for Progress held a forum this
month with a number of communities to consider the options
and Pattern President Jonathan Drapkin said that depending
upon the local government, it may be something worth exploring
in the future.
“Our sense is while it may not be for everybody today,
that as fiscal conditions worsen for local government, more
of them are going to use this in discussions with their employees
to say, ‘is this something we can offer you in exchange
for some other benefit’?”
Drapkin said a four-day work week could be an added benefit
for workers in terms of a three-day weekend. He also noted
that the program would not work with some departments like
public works and police.
A four-day week is seen as a means of reducing electric and
energy costs for municipalities.
Mark those calendars, folks…
Not happy about the state cuts to STAR Refunds on your property
taxes? At least the county seems to be trying to work on your
The Ulster County Legislature has adopted legislation to increase
the income limits for senior citizens’ exemptions and
disability exemptions. The increase allows qualifying seniors
and certain persons with disabilities that own and reside
in Ulster County to receive an exemption if their income is
between $24,000 to $32,400. The exemption could be five to
50 percent of the assessed value of their residence.
Also adopted was the Cold War Veterans Exemption. This exemption
also allows for a partial exemption for those veterans who
Exemption applications are available on line at www.orps.state.ny.us
or at your local assessor’s office. Please be advised
that any exemption application needs to be at your assessor’s
office by March 1, 2009.
They’re small windows but hey, every little bit helps,
The New York State Farmstead and Artisan Cheese Makers Guild
will be holding a four-part series of workshop/events scheduled
regionally for the winter/early spring of 2009 about an hour’s
drive north of here. In addition to Guild sponsorship, addition
support comes from Pure Catskill (an economic initiative of
the Watershed Agricultural Council) and CADE –Center
for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship.
The first of the series is a hands-on cheese making workshop
in the Catskill region. The class will meet the needs of both
novice and intermediate cheese makers. The workshop will be
held Sunday, January 18, 2009 from 9 am to 4 pm at Brovetto
Dairy and Cheese House in Jefferson, NY
For more information and registration forms contact Linda
Smith at 607-829-8852.
Other events include a seminar to be held in the Northern
Hudson region that will cover more advanced topics of cheese
making such as rind development, cultures, phage, and trouble
shooting. The third event, a tour of aging facilities in the
Finger Lakes region, will be held in March. The final event
is a cheese tasting and an opportunity to meet the cheese
makers and will be held at the Culinary Institute of America.
Check www.nyfarmcheese.org for updates on these events.
Gertrude Muller, 82 of Ava Maria Drive in Phoenicia, died
peacefully at home on Monday December 8, 2008. She was a life
time area resident, who was focused on raising her family.
She was talented in handicrafts such as crocheting and knitting.
She was born February 14, 1926 in the former community of
Arena, now flooded by the waters of the Pepacton Reservoir,
the daughter of the late Victor and Frieda Irwin Cross. Surviving
are her son Robert of Olivebridge, 3 daughters: Susan Wayman
of New Kingston, Debra Muller of Phoenicia, and Linda Pettersson
of Shandaken. Grandchildren Angie Hunter, Jacob and Robbie
grandchildren Makayla and Mackenzie Hunter , Cody and Connor
was predeceased by her husband Robert in 1979, grandson Ian
Lee Wayman,and siblings: Valmer Cross, Dorothy VanValkenberg,
and W. Robert Cross.
A Service to Celebrate the Life of Mrs. Muller was held on
December 11 at the E. B. Gormley Funeral Home 87 Main St.
Phoenicia.. Burial will be in the Mt. Pleasant Rural Cemetery
Rt. 28 Mt. Tremper. Donations may be sent to www. LiveStrong.org,
or to www.AmericanCancerSociety.org.
Tisanne S. Gardner, 80 of Brunell Drive in Boiceville, died
peacefully at her home after a lengthy illness on Tuesday
December 9, 2008. She was a talented artist who worked with
watercolors, and she was the graphics designer for the Town
of Olive logo. She was an accomplished seamstress who also
enjoyed cooking, entertaining, travel, and tending to her
flower gardens. She had played the organ at the Shandaken
Reformed Church at Mt. Tremper and years ago had worked for
the Ulster County Mental Health Clinic at the switchboard.
She was born February 1, 1928 in New York City, daughter of
the late William and Marian Brown Sewell. Surviving is her
daughter Christina Gardner of Boiceville, and former husband
Ernest Gardner of Boiceville. She was predeceased by her daughter
Judith, and sister Millicent Coleman. A Service to Celebrate
her Life was held at 11am at the E. B. Gormley Funeral Home
87 Main St Phoenicia. Burial will be in the Hudler Cemetery.
A paper published in a British medical journal concludes that
happiness is contagious — and that people pass on their
good cheer even to total strangers. American researchers who
tracked more than 4,700 people in Framingham, Mass., as part
of a 20-year heart study also found the transferred happiness
is good for up to a year.
“Happiness is like a stampede,” said Nicholas
Christakis, a professor in Harvard University’s sociology
department and co-author of the study. “Whether you’re
happy depends not just on your own actions and behaviors and
thoughts, but on those of people you don’t even know.”
While the study is another sign of the power of social networks,
it ran through 2003, just before the rise of social networking
Web sites like Friendster, MySpace and Facebook. Christiakis
couldn’t say for sure whether the effect works online.
“This type of technology enhances your contact with
friends, so it should support the kind of emotional contagion
we observed,” he said.
Christakis and co-author James Fowler, of the University of
California in San Diego, are old hands at studying social
networks. They previously found that obesity and smoking habits
spread socially as well.
For this study, published in the British journal BMJ, they
examined questionnaires that asked people to measure their
happiness. They found distinct happy and unhappy clusters
significantly bigger than would be expected by chance.
Happy people tended to be at the center of social networks
and had many friends who were also happy. Having friends or
siblings nearby increased people’s chances of being
upbeat. Happiness spread outward by three degrees, to the
friends of friends of friends.
Happy spouses helped, too, but not as much as happy friends
of the same gender. Experts think people, particularly woman,
take emotional cues from people who look like them.
Christakis and Fowler estimate that each happy friend boosts
your own chances of being happy by 9 percent. Having grumpy
friends decreases it by about 7 percent. But it also turns
out misery don’t love company: Happiness seemed to spread
more consistently than unhappiness. But that doesn’t
mean you should drop your gloomy friends.
Being happy also brings other benefits, including a protective
effect on your immune system so you produce fewer stress hormones,
said Andrew Steptoe, a psychology professor at University
College London who was not involved with the study.
According to the research, an extra chunk of money increases
your odds of being happy only marginally — notably less
than the odds of being happier if you have a happy friend.