Follow Up on the
The road, which traverses the top of the reservoir’s
dam along a stretch popularly known as the "Lemon Squeeze"
was closed in response to the attacks in Manhattan on September
11, 2001 and reopened to local traffic without incident. It
was later closed "permanently" for undisclosed "security"
reasons, an action many area residents consider unjustified.
"They’re not protecting the water supply,"
commented a middle-aged man who had just crossed the cement
barriers shutting out vehicular traffic after walking across
the Lemon Squeeze on Saturday. "You can get at the water
in many ways before and after it reaches the reservoir. They’re
protecting the dam." That’s a thought which has
crossed a number of minds.
"The risk to New York’s drinking water supplies
or wastewater facilities is small, but real," the newly
appointed first director of the state’s newly formed
Office of Public Security (OPS) James K. Kallstrom told the
U.S. House of Representatives on November 14, 2001 before
urging their support for the Water Infrastructure Security
and Research Development Act, HR3178.
Under Kallstrom’s direction, the Pataki administration
advanced legislation to severely restrict public access to
information his office deemed sensitive and exempt a broad
range of materials from the Freedom of Information Law. Some
of the previously public information being shielded from even
local public officials includes "sensitive" reports
concerning matters such as the physical integrity of dams.
This has been a subject of concern in other areas of the country
(such as Missoula, Montana, where gaps discovered near the
foundation of the Milltown Dam raised alarm that the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission’s report on the situation
was censored from their website). One of Kallstrom’s
first activities in his new post was stripping websites of
a range of materials that has been criticized as ill defined.
This, of course, raises the question of the overall safety
of the Ashokan Dam and whether or not this would be considered
a national security item requiring a "sensitive"
engineering report withheld from the public as well as a "nonsensitive"
version released to local officials, as was the case with
Teton County’s Jackson Lake Dam on the Snake River in
Former Olive Supervisor and Town Justice, Vincent Barringer,
who also worked at the reservoir for the DEP for many years
doesn’t think it too likely that the dam is structurally
compromised. He wonders what the purpose of the test borings
taken at the dam several years ago were for but recalls that
the last time he saw the interior of the dam, in 1992, it
seemed stable. There was some "weeping" around expansion
joints but, all in all, it seemed in "good shape"
despite the crumbling appearance of the Lemon Squeeze walls.
These cracks and flaws were regularly maintained in the past,
he said, but have been neglected in recent years.
Reflecting the unfortunate byproduct of doubt spawned by the
new security rules, Barringer notes that while the DEP denies
any problem with the dam, "they’ve denied a lot
of things lately."
"They’ve dragged their heels terribly, the last
15 years," Barringer said of the DEP. "It used to
be, when I was supervisor, we had a good working relationship
with them. They’d listen, we’d listen and there’d
be compromise. That no longer happens. Knowing the City of
New York, they’re going to ignore you as long as they
can and I wouldn’t be surprised that we win (a suit
to reopen the road) in a local court and they’ll appeal
it and that’ll take another 5, 7, 10 years."
Delice Seligman, in pursuing legal avenues toward the reopening
of Monument Road, has also found the City’s response
sluggish at best.
"I received no response at all to a letter I sent back
in August," the attorney observed. "Then there was
a response to an email saying not to worry, that they got
the letter and I’d hear from them soon. That was in
September and I never heard from them again. Other email and
another letter on October 27 have been ignored, so it seems
we have no other recourse than to bring an Article 78 proceeding.
The Notice of Petition will be by an order to show cause and
they have to respond by a particular date unless they request,
and are granted, an adjournment to file a response.
"Normally the court requests oral argument and, normally,
you have to exhaust your administrative remedies before you
start an Article 78 proceeding but there’s no administrative
remedies to exhaust because they just haven’t responded."
Seligman said that her contention on behalf of Olive is that
the request is not to open the road to the world but only
for Olive residents who have applied for and received a kind
of "EZ pass" akin to the agreement that was in force
in 2002. The original hope was that this sort of arrangement
could be worked out before winter conditions escalate the
dangers of the lower 28A detour around Monument Road.
"I think that could be upheld in this special situation,"
she said. "There may be some type of concessions that
could be made. I know they talk about the fact that the road
needs to be repaired, although that sounds like a ridiculous
reason because, obviously, the City has enough money to fix
the road. Olive should be entitled to have their own inspector
look at the dam to see if it’s sound or not and that
priority should come before fixing the road."
With a clamor downstate to lower reservoir levels at the Neversink,
Pepacton and Cannonsville reservoirs downstate due to floods
in each of the past three years and already lowered levels
due to the current work on their Schoharie reservoir upstate,
DEP officials may in fact find questions about their Ashokan
reservoir, being kept at capacity levels, a "sensitive"
subject in itself. And budget questions are always sensitive.
Olive Supervisor Brendt Leifeld acknowledged a letter from
Senator John Bonacic at a recent town board meeting. The note
described a $25,000 grant to the Olive Police Department which
Bonacic announced he had secured from the state budget to
be applied toward the special equipment required for compliance
with the federal NIMS program. At the same meeting, the town
board passed a resolution by a 5-0 vote to comply with the
Homeland Security Directive to develop a National Incident
Management System (NIMS) to link "Federal, State, local
and tribal agencies."
Beyond questions of sovereignty, autonomy, Home Rule and personal
privacy raised in some circles, funding problems at state
and local levels for the new federally mandated security programs
have stirred widespread concern. Although a recent study on
the impact of terrorism on state law enforcement cites federal
grants from the State Homeland Security Program and the Law
Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, it is clear that
added responsibilities present an extra burden to police forces
already suffering personnel shortages from national guard
and reserve activations.
That’s only the start of it. The passage of the Real
ID Act and other security measures which pass the costs onto
state and local governments promise budgetary uproars in the
near future. The new technologies supporting the anti-terrorism
boom will funnel the money to favored high tech companies
in colossal amounts. New York City, which has been spending
$200 million annually on counter-terrorism since 2001, will
see its costs hike precipitously but in a climate wherein
political campaigns feature a terrorist under every bed, the
public demand for additional security has fed the rise of
what the ACLU terms the "Surveillance-Industrial Complex."
Certain drawbacks of the interrelationships of these firms
and state agencies which favor their products is well illustrated
by Kallstrom, who will oversee NIMS along with Director of
New York’s Homeland Security Office, Brigadier General
F. David Sheppard.
Kallstrom, as FBI spokesman lobbying for increased electronic
surveillance in the 1990's, seemed surprised at the reaction
at a 1997 press conference to his mention that the FBI maintained
"only" 1,100 daily wiretaps in New York City. The
push was always on for more sophisticated equipment.
Overlooking Kristina Borjesson’s disturbing account
of Kallstrom’s conduct as head of the FBI taskforce
on the TWA 800 disaster in her bestselling 2002 book INTO
THE BUZZSAW, which she investigated for CBS with the network’s
law enforcement consultant, bomb expert (and former Woodstock
chief of police, Paul Ragonese, lingering criticism of his
handling of the case seemed to hasten his retirement into
the private sector, where he joined a flock of other ex-intelligence
officials at MBNA, then the second largest credit card company.
During his watch, using data-sharing technology similar to
NIMS, MBNA instituted the "universal default" ploy
which spearheaded the credit industry’s practice of
hiking interest rates of customers they discovered missing
a payment in some other account or even applying for a loan
elsewhere by huge amounts.
As prodigious contributors to political campaigns, MBNA also
successfully lobbied the passage of a bankruptcy reform bill
of their own design, putting the screws to thousands of families
living on a financial edge.
"But a funny thing happened," wrote consumer affairs
expert Martin H. Bosworth in July 2005. "MBNA cardholders,
furious over incessant jumps in interest rates, constant tacked-on
fees and questionable customer service, started paying their
debts down as fast as they could, and closing out their cards
even faster." The resultant drop of an amazing 94% in
first quarter profits last year, a class-action suit against
company insiders and takeover by Bank of America was watched
from Albany by Kallstrom, who had joined Governor Pataki’s
security team on paid leave from MBNA.
This example barely scratches the surface of the pitfalls
inherent in the plunge into technological security spurred
by the 9/11 attacks and fallout from the events of that day,
like the closing of Monument Road, are expected to continue
in pace with the war on terror.
Goes The Winter...
On a local basis,
a quick glance at the big picture shows that half the Catskills’
ski areas have closed in the last dozen years. And those that
remain, all but state-owned Belleayre Resort agreed, are facing
rising odds of survival.
“Industry-wide, the amount of uphill capacity –
the number of skier days, lifts, slope acreage and so forth
– has not gone down, but the small ski areas have suffered.
The big guys have gotten bigger and the smaller areas have
dropped off,” said Windham Mountain owner/manager Dan
Frank of what’s been happening this week, on the verge
of a Wednesday, December 6 opening he was set to share with
Hunter Mountain. “The problem is that this isn’t
necessarily very good for the industry since the smaller areas
served a purpose introducing a lot of people to skiing. They
were what we call our breeder areas.”
Locally, Catskills skiing has seen the loss of former slopes
at Highmount, Andes (Bobcat), Haines Falls (Cortina Valley),
and Stamford (Scotch Valley). Years earlier, the state’s
first ski area, Simpson’s just outside Phoenicia, succumbed
to a winter sports scene that was demanding steeper slopes
and more amenities.
Besides the region’s big three ski resorts at Belleayre,
Windham and Hunter Mountain, two other areas have held on
in recent years. Roxbury’s Ski Plattekill is locally-owned
and supported, with a loyal customer base and weekend-only
opening hours. And in the Town of Kingston, between the city
of the same name and Woodstock, family-owned Sawkill has stayed
alive through sheer will – and the introduction of snow
tubing, says owner Alan Lund, despite being “North America’s
smallest ski area.”
“Last year it was too warm to make any snow during Christmas,”
said Lund, speaking on a cell phone while working his former
bluestone quarry with a bulldozer to make new runs. “We
made it through, though… You’ve got to be an optimist
to be in this business.”
He went on to note how he started his slope on a lark, because
he had some good north-facing property and the equipment to
shape it, back in the early 1980s. He’s kept things
running because – besides the cost of insurance –
he maintains a small crew of ten part-timers, doing much of
the work himself. When Ski The Catskills was a big thing,
he adds, he figured he couldn’t afford its higher fees
for advertising. When his own customer base, young and half
from the city, started changing expectations for what they
wanted, he changed, too. Hence the new focus on snow tubing…
“Those things have saved us, and a lot of us little
outfits. That and the fact that we have so little land to
cover, we can make good snow without much ice. We’re
only open on weekends when the conditions are right,”
he said. “Then again, I hear that Cortina closes and
I think, maybe they’re smarter than us. Maybe I should
have quit too…”
Frank, who has helped Lund and other smaller areas around
the region, says he’s glad the smaller areas are still
running. It all feeds the region’s image.
He pointed out how, following industry trends in the United
States, he’s been pushing Windham to be ever-more “green”
in its approach to skiing, and especially the vast amounts
of resources it takes to run a major ski resort.
The industry standard, he pointed out, is increasingly towards
using groundwater for snowmaking, and wind turbines to generate
electricity for lifts and other needs.
At Windham, he’s proud of the efficiencies he had built
into the resort’s main lodge buildings when they were
constructed twenty some years ago.
Over the mountain from him, regional ski pioneer Orville Slutsky
of Hunter Mountain noted how he’s pushed forward by
increasing his ski school activities, to the point where he’s
now considered one of the industry’s leaders again.
Yet he too worries about what’s coming down the slopes,
“It’s an ever-tougher battle to survive,”
he said. “You have to be able to keep operating at a
loss and make it up in other areas.”
At Hunter, condo and time share sales have been a boost in
“The one good thing about global warming is that it’s
not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be gradual,”
Slutsky said. “I think about it a lot. But I also figure
it’s just one more hill to cross. We shall overcome,
as they say.”
More worrisome to the octogenarian who still rises at 3 am
winter mornings so he can be at his ski center by 4:30 a.m.
is the unfair competition he and other private ski areas in
the Catskills face competing with state-run Belleayre, which
can “coast along on the public’s dime” without
having to worry the costs like the others who are struggling.
He wouldn’t be surprised, he said, if it’s only
the state-run ski centers that end up surviving in areas like
“Belleayre’s living off the fat of the land, spending
half a million here, a half million there,” he said,
echoing a refrain he’s been whistling for decades now.
“I would give my left eye to get their support…”
Calls to Belleayre Supervisor Tony Lanza, a former marketing
specialist who has been under fire of late for utilizing local
ambulance services without any monetary remuneration, went
unanswered as of press time.
Lund, though, noted how the ski industry as a whole was going
to have to push harder to change people’s opinions about
skiing… to waken them up to the fact that even when
there wasn’t snow on the ground where they lived, it
was being made in places like the Catskills… for now.
According to a new policy statement from the National Ski
Areas Association, meanwhile, the key is perception. “Although
our own GHG contributions are negligible on a relative scale,
climate change could impact the winter recreation experience
for our guests and our weather-dependent business. The best
and most current climate models for skiing regions in the
U.S. suggest warmer nights and wetter shoulder seasons. Variability
in climate is not good for our customers, our business or
the environment. The ski industry has an opportunity to take
a leadership role in raising awareness and encouraging solutions
on this important issue,” the new “Sustainable
Slopes” paper reads.
Think Snow.. for now, at least.
Keller’s letter to the town board in November
described her efforts to persuade the DEC, who partnered
with ACE in the remedial work upstream and, by agreement,
is responsible for maintenance problems, to act to avert
increasing threats of flood damage in the area.
"During a telephone call with a DEC official last
week I was told that the DEC had decided that stream widening
was ineffective as early as the 1970s," Keller wrote.
"Why the corps and DEC decided to use this methodology
in 1985 is a good question."
Keller also notes that ACE broke their own rules about
not using stream materials to rebuild banks but denied
a permit to the Kellers to do the same before the damage
exceeded their capacity to repair as individuals, as it
has since more recent storms.
"The Bushkill was a small stream running alongside
Watson Hollow Road when my husband moved here in the 1970's,"
Keller elaborated. "One day he came home and the
Army Corps was in the stream with giant bulldozers, widening
it. It was not a beautification project. In the last couple
of years there’s been a lot of big storms consistently
causing large trees to fall in the stream. Parenthetically,
a water expert I spoke with said when a stream meanders
back and forth and is small, when big trees fall, they
fall over the stream. When you widen it, they fall INTO
the stream. The Corps thought they were doing the right
thing but now we have a stream full of trees and, worse
yet, the banks shored on both sides with stream material
Olive Supervisor Brendt Leifeld, whose town office, along
with the Davis Park recreational field and pool are also
threatened, said the DEC would issue emergency permits
to homeowners for limited work "but not approval
to go in and bulldoze it out like they did 20 years ago.
It looked like hell and didn’t really do anything.
It just speeded up the velocity of the water there- which
is not a good thing."
Leifeld, who toured Esopus and Bushkill troublespots with
ACE representatives and other local officials in May 2005,
said his perspective on the matter is tempered by having
grown up alongside a stream in Chichester, noting "I
don’t care what you did, the stream did what it
felt like doing. I’ve seen rocks as big as Volkswagens
fall down there." He added that DEC was supposed
to return to modify the Bushkill stream flow to compatibility
with the dictates of Mother Nature.
Jason Shea, a civilian engineer and watershed planner
with ACE, sent forms and regulations he thought might
be helpful, including "Section 208: Authority for
Snagging and Clearing for Flood Control" and "Section
204: Authority for Environmental Restoration Projects
in Connection with Dredging" but, clearly, the situation
calls for more than spotwork.
The problem is, as Dan Ahouse of Rep. Hinchey’s
office points out, that streams everywhere in the area
are in bad shape and a comprehensive plan for the whole
region is needed.
Leifeld concurs; "If they can stabilize it, that’d
be great but what everybody that’s supposed to know
something about it says, you’ve got to do the whole
stream. If you patch just a little section, diverting
water from where it’s washing out, now it’s
going to the other side of the channel and changing things
Leifeld said that he sent letters and a packet of photographs
last week to "everybody but the Pope- DEC, DEP, (Rep.)
Cahill, (Sen.) Bonacic, ACE, whomever and now I’m
waiting for a response."
"You read about flood disasters that cost millions,"
said Keller. "Someone needs to pay attention here
before it comes to that."
we were on Long Beach, early in the morning, drinking
coffee as we watched a television crew shooting
an ad for some bathing suit that allowed the wearer
to tan safely. They had such trouble with the light
and the blowing sand, but finally they called it
a “wrap.” Mom interrupted and corrected
the dialogue. Boldly she approached them saying,
“You misused the objective case there. My
daughter’s an English teacher and she’ll
tell you how to redo the copy.” They found
me crawling under the beach blanket trying to look
inconspicuous. And the shoot began anew with the
Minerva Olsen Strand was special. If life could
be compared to a food buffet, we could say, “she
tasted it all.” Perhaps she lingered longer
at the lobster, lamb chop and dark chocolate, but
she was brave enough to try it all—unafraid
and daring, she would feast at the gourmet table
of life. She would be up for anything.
When the hostages were released from Iran, she and
her girlfriends packed a cooler with martinis and
wrapped the car in a yellow ribbon to welcome them
home. At five p.m. her deck in New Paltz was the
neighborhood-gathering place for cocktails and snacks.
Her refrigerator contained an endless bounty of
food for guests and Styrofoam containers filled
with worms for the grandchildren to use fishing
for bass in the lake.
She loved to travel. Some places she visited were:
All over the U.S., Canada, Grenada, Mexico, Venezuela,
Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Russia, England, Africa,
and Spain. She returned to Greece for the twelfth
time in her eighties with even older friends and
relatives. As much as she liked to see new places,
she was happiest in her cottage on the canal in
Freeport or in her house on Lake Sharon. She loved
water: the beach, the lake, and the pool. She would
always have her L.L. Bean bathing suit and a beach
She was the mom who used her iron as an anchor for
the boat and used paper plates (from the Christmas
Tree Shop) instead of her complete set of Carnival
Dishes that she collected. She was the mom who put
up with rabbits in the bunk beds, raccoons in cages,
thirteen tanks of tropical fish, snakes in the cellar,
and every stray dog and cat we brought home. She
raised a baby Phoebe mashing up worms and feeding
it with an eyedropper and then let it free. She
put up with a nasty parrot named “Phantom”
who literally bit the hand that fed it. The neighborhood
dog Quincy claimed her as her own.
Her house was a mixture of yard sale and N.Y. Tiffany.
She drove a pink Cadillac convertible and could
wear orchid corsages with her faded jeans and sweatshirts.
She would line dance, do yoga, and show off a backbend
up to this year. She was the meter maid who ticketed
the Mayor of Freeport!
. She bragged and boasted and gloated about all
that her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren
accomplished. She gave away her diamonds but she
displayed her real treasures—her family with
Relatives became friends and friends, relatives!
We had to grow up to sort out all the extra cousins,
uncles and aunts we had accumulated when both mom
and dad each only had one sister. She still called
my husband, Bruce, “What’s his name?”
after forty-one years of marriage. They had a constant
political battle going on over current Presidents.
How ironic that she and Joe Friedel died within
a week of each other! When Henry Rank sent her some
fresh clams to enjoy when she was so ill before
she died, she shared the fond memory of Cape Cod
when Joe Friedel brought over some clams to her
and her golf buddies when they vacationed there
this summer. When I met Joe and Sandy at the Pineview
Bakery on the morning of his passing, we laughed
and shared “Mom and the Golden Girls”
stories about Cape Cod as they expressed condolences
If you think this column is about death, you are
wrong. It is about life. When my dad died so many
years ago, the minister explained how animals in
the forest react to death. “When an animal
dies, the forest becomes silent. Then, within minutes,
you will hear the birds begin to sing.” Death
stuns us, but life goes on. Somehow the coffee’s
aroma this morning compelled me from bed and the
cereal I chose, for somehow I was hungry as well
as sad, was Life Cereal. Then I heard the birds