Follow Up on the
It also looks like there will be no political
acts of grandstanding in the region this time around, as
are occurring in some southern states now and as happened
in the 1930s when a number of Upstate GOP strongholds refused
the New Deal funds for new schools and other infrastructure
based on their long-held dislike for President Roosevelt.
Notes from a recent Greene County meeting with U.S. Senator
Charles Schumer on how stimulus funding will be allocated
addressed the various single taxpayer monies involved, from
the average $12 a week payroll tax decreases per family
through $7,500 first time home buyers and $2,500 tuition
tax credits to auto loan interest deductions and large influxes
of money to counties to offset recent state hikes in Medicaid
More importantly, Schumer said that half of all the rest
of the money set aside is for 90 to 180 day “shovel
ready” projects, with the other half for projects
that can get started by 2010. The current timeline for getting
such funds, or at least applying for them, has May and June
deadlines for complete, all-permits-in-place applications
for “shovel ready” county and state transportation
department-listed projects, with some leeway for projects
scheduled to start next year. 2010 priorities, he said,
would emphasize “long term projects” such as
increased IT access infrastructure, such as getting broadband
to rural areas in the Catskills presently underserved, as
well as communication equipment for emergency operations.
Water and sewer plants, as well as ready-to-roll alternative
energy projects, are also being given precedence.
Schumer suggested that, in addition to submissions through
county government, his office will be handling applications
and ready to answer any questions coming in from municipalities
about the stimulus.
Looking at the area more specifically, the big county projects
being looked at for the present include a number of roads
and bridges projects put together from a wish list from
the Ulster County Transportation Council, including quite
a bit of rehab money for the county-owned Ulster and Delaware
Railroad railbed, for development into a rail trail and
possible eventual tourist train revival.
Federal stimulus funding for transportation projects is
required to be distributed through the same process that
all federal transportation funds follow and are not under
the discretion of the Governor’s office. That means
entities such as the UCTC have direct control of what gets
what… and quickly.
All of the local plans dovetail with state plans for what’s
expected to be at least $24.6 billion in stimulus funds
coming to New York over the next two years, including funds
for New York City transit, the Metro North commuter rail
system, high speed rail connections between Albany and both
Buffalo and the New York metro area, and the purchase of
new, energy efficient buses for public transportation. The
region has also been allocated over $200 million for weatherization
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said the county is
“excited” about the long term and short term
job that can come from this, “short term with infrastructure
projects and long term with the re-investment in the new
energy economy that we are looking to move forward in Ulster
The first transportation projects — “Bridges,
roads, and projects that can be up and running in less than
90 days,” according to Hein — are expected to
go out to bid as early as March 5, Governor Paterson announced
recently, in between continuing sessions to get the rest
of the state’s budget in order, despite persisting
revenue shortfalls in the billions.
U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, meanwhile, has said that
in addition to Kingston sewer repairs and some key local
bridges, he’s been trying to set aside funding for
the fledgling Solar Energy Consortium as a means of bolstering
the region’s economic future, and welcomes a returned
$680,000 in revenue aid for the Onteora School District.
In related moves, a state rural health initiative has started
pumping new funds into local rural health networks and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency
is reducing its interest rate on direct home loans to four
percent, effective March 1. Funds for potential homelessness
within the region have also been increased from the federal
On an even more local basis, here in the Route 28 corridor,
a call by supporters of state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski
Center and a private resort planned for its vicinity have
said they were lobbying the governor for stimulus funds,
although competing statements from the state Department
of Environmental Conservation indicated there was no way
such funding was possible, given the state’s other
needs (see accompanying story).
Woodstock is putting forth approved plans for new town offices,
while the town of Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani
said he is looking for $1 million to go toward the proposed
Phoenicia sewer project plus additional funds for a wastewater
retrofit project in Pine Hill. He also hopes to secure money
to rehabilitate the crumbling Town Hall.
In Olive, requests for specific stimulus lists were not
disseminated by press time, although a number of such projects
have been filed with the Catskill Center-administered Central
Catskills Collaborative, a Route 28-specific planning consortium
that came together in recent years to spend regional Smart
Growth funds from the state and start coming up with regionally-minded
projects for possible future funding… such as that
in the stimulus package.
Discussion of such matters is expected at town meetings
in the coming weeks, as well as at the CCC gathering planned
for Margaretville this Thursday, February 26.
Over at the Catskill Watershed Corporation, the region’s
leading non-governmental projects-oriented agency, employees
said they’d not only been getting numerous requests
for help getting stimulus funds of late, but were starting
to work informally towards compiling lists of shovel-ready
projects throughout the watershed region… to be formalized
with board policy decisions in the coming weeks.
“CWC, if asked, is prepared to assist in any way we
can with our member towns and counties,” said the
agency’s legal counsel, Timothy Cox, after conferring
with board president Georgianne Lepke this week.
A February 17 meeting scheduled to deal with the vacancy, which
will then go up for district-wide vote along with two other
board seats when the school budget gets voted on May 19, was
canceled last week due to an illness in board president Maxanne
The four applicants who have come forward, culled by reporters
who FOILed the dirict for the information, are West Shokan resident
William Melvin, Oliverea Resident Tom Hickey, Mount Tremper
resident Dan Spencer and Shokan resident Rita Vanacore.
Melvin, a high school senior and student representative to the
Board of Education, said in his statement that his appointment
would allow for continuity and could serve to bring harmony
to a sometimes divided board.
“I feel my appointment would be in the best interest of
the…district,” he wrote. “Student perspective,
someone who experiences firsthand the effects of board decisions,
on the board…would be very beneficial to our schools.”
When Melvin first suggested he be appointed to the position
earlier this month, board member Donna Flayhan said to him that
she thought such a move would end up detracting from his studies.
Hickey, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board four years
ago and who has a background in finance and management, said
in his statement that he is willing to serve until the next
election in May.
“I feel with my background, I can be fair and balanced
and bring experience that may help the ongoing budget process,”
Spencer, who submitted his statement of interest one day after
the February 16 deadline, is a Project Manager at AMETEK Rotron.
Spencer wrote that his position gives him skills that would
benefit the board. He also considers himself “neutral
on the issues currently driving what I see as a split in both
the board and the community they serve.”
Vanacore, a former trustee who lost her re-election bid last
year, and adamantly said she would not be running when asked
earlier in the month, wrote that she always put the needs of
the students first during her tenure.
“My previous tenure gives me the updated experience to
transition onto the board with the least amount of confusion
and lack of knowledge,” she wrote.
To fill the vacancy, the remaining six trustees will decide
with a majority vote.
Legnini, a West Shokan-based musician and producer elected to
a three-year term on the board last May along with three other
district residents running as a slate, resigned on February
3. His resignation letter said he was frustrated with a board
that, in his view, lacked the harmony necessary to do the best
job for the district.
A special meeting had also been set this for Tuesday, February
24 to discuss the hiring of a new District Clerk to replace
Laurel Herdman, whose recent resignation was the district’s
third since July 2008, when longstanding District Clerk Jeanne
At that meeting, Fern Amster was named the new Onteora District
Resnick was elected board president at a special meeting on
February 6, where she won a 4-2 vote with Michelle Friedel and
Richard Wolff in opposition.
At that same meeting, Triton Construction was awarded the bid
for the High School Auditorium renovation project. In total
there were three bidders. Contractor Greg Chiapperino presented
a timeline and oversight table assuring that the job has appropriate
oversight. Board Vice-president Laurie Osmond asked Chiapperino
to protect the auditorium seats that are still in good condition.
Chiapperino said he was aware and already received a call from
someone possibly interested but board policy dictates that the
district must try to sell the seats before donating them. Resnick
explained that they have already emailed out to non-profit arts
organizations, offering to sell them in lots of 25. When McLaren
said there have been no interested bidders Resnick replied that,
“Levon Helm wants 50.”
The auditorium is still on schedule for completion by the new
school year in September 2009. But Chiapperino said it is important
that the school board approve construction by the next school
board meeting, which at the time was February 17.
That matter will now be voted on at a special meeting the board
has called for this Friday morning, February 27, at the District
Administrative offices in Boiceville.
In ongoing budget discussions geared towards addressing fluctuating
revenue possibilities for the coming year, department heads
have presented budget reductions as a way of keeping costs down
while addressing declining enrollment. And according to Onteora
superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford, six teachers have been given
word that if the board approves a reduction, their positions
will be eliminated.
In a separate interview, Union President, Corey Cavallaro said,
“Contractually they have to tell the staff that they are
being excessed by sometime in March.” He added that he
believes the administration will follow through, recommending
the cuts even if money is freed up to keep teachers.
“We have the lowest enrollment that I think the district
has ever had,” said Cavallaro, “and we have too
much staff our district cannot afford to pay…it’s
just not fiscally responsible.”
On the other hand, Cavallaro admitted that he disagreed with
the cuts proposal, but explained that it is a very difficult
fine line to walk between what is good for students and right
“It’s a difficult situation the district is in,
we want to do the best for the kids, and laying off staff, I
don’t think that is in the best interest of the students
An alternative plan under discussion includes shared teachers
and courses in order to keep staff at full time, as well as
a possible changing of secondary school scheduling from an eight-day
block with 55-minute classes to a nine period, 43-minute class
owner of Fabulous Furniture on Route 28 in Boiceville,
had caught a glimpse of legacy in that mirror
which tracks directly forward to his winning,
last week, of the New York Times Collectible Car
of the Year Award and a subsequent invitation
to display his mobile “sculpture,”
the “Marquis de Soto,” at the celebrated
New York International Auto Show in the Jacob
Javits Convention Center in Manhattan from April
10th to 19th this year.
“I heard him pull away in the log truck
and heard him come back,” recalls Martha
Frankel, whose instincts as a mate were alerted
by the maneuver. “He came in and said ‘I
can’t get rid of this stuff. I have to keep
it,’ and when I asked what he was going
to do with it, he said he didn’t know.”
The “stuff” in question was a truckload
of accumulated odds and ends which his father,
a former antique dealer in Lake Hill, had left
behind when he died and Steve had cleared out
of the old homestead. Something in the reverse
image of it said that this stuff wasn’t
disposable and Heller, a creative designer of
sleek and unique furniture, mulled on it a while
before he started taking lessons in welding. Now,
as Martha points out, a third of the furniture
shop is filled with imaginative metal sculptures
which trace their genesis to that almost discarded
Another “almost” in the story is the
contest he almost missed because he heard about
it with only two days left in the entry period.
Since the “Marquis” was a custom-made
vehicle rather than a restored car like most,
if not all, of the other entries, Heller was a
bit dubious about his chances. But those doubts
fell out of his pockets as he jumped up and down
when, on December 1st, Martha came into the workshop
to announce she had checked the contest website
and found the Marquis de Soto among the 30 finalists
out of well over 600 entries.
From here it became a reader popularity contest
as the finalists chosen by the Times automotive
experts were put to a vote to be tabulated by
the RealTime Media company in Pennsylvania. The
announcement to finalists politely requested “please
register to vote and come back to vote once a
day,” sending Martha into action, saying
she “remembered how Obama won” before
sending directions to the car-voter website out
to their e-mail list and posting the information
on her Facebook page.
Hopes dimmed as time passed without notice from
the paper before an e-mail from RealTime saying
they were surprised Heller had not responded and
there was only 24 hours left before the prize
of a trophy, a first-place certificate and $5,000
in award money would be given to the second place
winner. A phone call to the company revealed that
an e-mail announcement a week before had somehow
gone astray but it was then resent and another
“almost” was averted.
It became a very busy week. The paperback edition
of Martha’s memoir had just been just published
by Tarcher/Penguin and a story on Steve’s
car was in the New York Times. The book, titled
Hats & Eyeglasses after a poker term signifying
a hopeless hand, is a compelling account of Frankel’s
shaded waltz with compulsive gambling and it had
gathered a stack of positive reviews. Described
as “fearless” by a brazen tabloid
like the New York Post, it’s also a book
in which a reviewer for USA Today found “a
heady joy ride” in the turmoil of poker
addiction; a clear tribute to the wit and writing
ability of an author who had gained renown from
her interview portraits of celebrities for numerous
Heller, raised in Queens, had met his wife-to-be,
raised in the Bronx, at Woodstock’s Joyous
Lake in 1974, a year after he had moved Fabulous
Furniture from an upstairs space at Winchell’s
Corners to its present location.
“Our shop burned down on October 30,1978,
with all his tools,” recalled Frankel, who
by that date had become deeply involved in the
running of the business. “The whole town
got together and helped and we built this amazing
concrete block building before New Years. A hundred
people would show up in freezing cold weather
to lay block and put the roof up. It was a lovely,
incredible thing. Steve was, I think, 38 at the
time and I was 30 and that committed us to living
in Olive the rest of our lives.”
Undaunted by the car trim which serves as kitchen
cabinet handles or the Chevy Impala tail lights
over the fireplace, Frankel is, on the contrary,
delighted with Heller’s “customizing”
touches around the house. Although he studied
psychology rather than art, Steve’s eye
is keen to the aesthetic sensibilities he brings
to his woodwork and sculpture. She sees no separation
between the focus of his work and the daily living
of his life.
“I love that he’s doing something
that he loves doing,” she declares, explaining
that he turned to outdoor sculpture when house
space was filled. “He’s so happy,
who could be mad at him?”
The Marquis de Soto, of course, goes far beyond
customizing. It approaches the kind of genetic
engineering we find in the half-lion, half-eagle
Griffins that Zeus created to guard the fabled
“Gold of the North.” In fact, in an
age when human genes are being inserted in rice
and, for obvious reasons, the food industry and
the FDA are downplaying the use of bacterium like
Salmonella Typhimurium and various plant viruses
as vectors in transgenic transfer to produce such
patent-eligible foodstuff, it’s refreshing
to see a mad scientist lay it all out there on
his website. Click on the “Fabulous Stuff”
link at Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture
website and you will find this pedigree for his
award-winning fabulous four-wheeled beast...
“She started out as an almost new Mercury
Marquis. We stripped all the bumpers, lights and
trim, modified and added rear quarters from a
1957 DeSoto complete with tailights, bumper and
trunk lid. The front fender is from a 1958 Lincoln
with headlights. The bumpers are from a 1955 Caddy
and the grille is from two 1957 Corvettes with
extra teeth. The top of the hood is a 1965 Buick
Skylark trunk lid and the roll pan is a 1958 Caddy
hood turned upside down. The directional signals
are 1959 Cadillac tailights and the turning lights
are from a 1948 Dodge. The side chrome is from
a 1957 Buick. Also parts from 1953 Pontiac roof
and front fenders.”
“I needed a car to drive longer distances
than my truck and I always wanted to build a totally
customized car,” Heller elaborates. “Since
I was a kid, I’ve never driven a stock vehicle;
always had some kind of modifications and custom
paint jobs, which I do myself, too. The custom
cars you saw on the covers of car magazines back
then were just personalized whatevers. You could
always tell what they were. But I wanted to do
something different...something you couldn’t
tell what it was...In the contest, the collectibles
are all just restored cars. I think this was the
first time they had a fully modified car in the
With this triumph under his belt, Heller is looking
forward to other intriguing projects on the horizon,
such as a commission for his own cubist vision
for a guitar sculpture eight or ten feet tall
or the completion of his Stargate...
Stargate? Yes, he hopes to finish it this year,
he said. It’s 14 feet in diameter and he’s
“electrifying it so it works,” he
said. “With a DHD (Dial Home Device), so
you can get back from wherever you’re going...
You don’t want to get stuck on planet BRB29.”
Er....okay, Steve. Visions of the Stargates of
science fictional fame are dancing through my
mind; visions wherein you step through dimensions
and wormhole out on a planet light-years away
in the space of a blink. Or studies of contemporary
mythology like the ponderous The Stargate Conspiracy
by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, wherein the
concept takes a deeper step toward reality, and
the subquantum kinetic twists of Paul LaViolette
and others on the leaping trail of quantum “entanglements,”
hyperbole geometry and further loopholes of physics
and cosmology that provide scientific footing
wherein serious Stargate theorizing is perfectly
Steve, the Marquis de Soto is combine sculpture
that extends into the functional realm. You drive
around in it. But a “Stargate” model
“An absolutely functional model,”
Heller said with a grin you could almost hear
over the phone. “All my stuff is functional.”
For One, Ski For All?
More importantly, are they still set to close at the end of
March, as promised by the state Department of Environmental
Conservation that owns and operates the region’s oldest
surviving winter sports mecca, in a move to save funds this
year? How’s their budget looking, given the state’s
attempts to wrestle down its ballooning deficits, for not only
the coming years, but the one we’re now in? Have the skiers
The big news of late has been the regular meetings the principals
of Ulster, Greene and Delaware county ski centers have been
holding in recent weeks, finally bringing themselves to the
idea of working together to attract more visitors. And the goal?
To make the Catskills a unified ski destination, with room for
niche marketing to satisfy the big four still remaining in the
area… Hunter, Windham, Belleayre and Ski Plattekill near
According to Belleayre’s Superintendent Tony Lanza, all
sides have found common ground in a hope to attract more skiers
to the region, skiers that otherwise travel to Vermont. Preliminary
plans, he said this week, call for a billboard blitz along the
routes to and from the Vermont slopes announcing discounts to
those that try the Catskills instead.
“It might not be ready for this year, but at least we
have an agreement about what we want to do,” Lanza said.
The campaign would be paid for by the four ski centers, with
the three counties, and hopefully whatever’s left of the
state’s I Love NY and other tourism-related programs,
contributing as well.
Yet simultaneous with the good news, a talk with DEC Region
3 Director Willie Janeway this week found him saying that no
new expansion funds had been set aside for Belleayre this year,
and a recent skiing trip to the winter sports center under his
aegis led him to concur with other DEC officials checking out
the mountain in recent weeks.
Their findings? That things are operating just fine for now,
so there would be no need to burden the state with funding requests
next year, either.
As for bigger ties-in to federal stimulus funds, which the Coalition
to Save Belleayre asked Governbor David Paterson to help them
get in a press release this week, Janeway noted that it was
his understanding that such funding needed “shovel-ready”
projects not encumbered with outstanding environmental review
or permitting processes still in need of being worked through.
“We at the state won’t have our part of this ready
for public review for many, many months yet,” Janeway
said on Monday, February 23, the same day the Coalition’s
Joe Kelly was noting that such process, and the state’s
new Unit Management Plan for Belleayre, were all but done already.
Janeway did add, however, that funds were still available, and
the process moving along well, for a massive land purchase of
private lands that developers Crossroads Ventures had once been
planning for a second resort, before former Governor Eliot Spitzer
scuttled such ideas with the formulation of his as yet-unrealized
Agreement in Principle to join the proposed Belleayre Resort
with a long-awaited ski center expansion.
Lanza, told of Janeway’s statements regarding the budget
on Tuesday, Feb. 24, expressed surprise that anyone knew anything
about the state’s budget yet.
“How’d he know that,” Lanza said. “Nobody
He went on to note that while he’s still planning on closing
down Belleayre at the end of March, he’s also considering
appealing for a later close should the weather stay cold. He
also noted that, despite a halved advertising budget and later
start than usual, Belleayre had been having a “very good
year,” on a par with a six year average if behind last
year’s bumper income.
“Our revenues will exceed our expenses,” he said,
carefully. “WE were helped that the fuel costs dropped,
cutting our snowmaking expenses.”
He said that the recent talks with Hunter, Windham and Plattekill
had left him enthusiastic about better years to come.
“We’re all realizing that together we CAN compete
with Southern Vermont,” he said. “After all, we’re
all dealing with the same region’s economy. We’ve
got to do what we’ve got to do…”
Jar Of Olives...
Consider It Shabby Chic
Up Here, It’s Our Version Of Wabi Sabi
I think the idea of recycling and rethinking what we do have
is much more productive than lamenting what we do not have.
For example, many of us have a pantry filled with enough food
to feed a small third-world nation. Dig out that slow cooker
and use up leftovers and staples from our shelves. Add water
or broth and you have either stew or soup. Dump it in a Pyrex
dish and bake it, and “Voila” you have a casserole.
I personally am going to try Tuna Noodle Casserole that I haven’t
had since Aunt Dine made it for us in 1978.
There’s nothing embarrassing about using coupons either
or shopping sales. What difference does it make if you eat the
chicken that is on sale this week or the pork that will be on
sale the week after? Carpe Diem. Seize the Day and the opportunity.
Last week good old pot roast beef was on sale. My husband announced
that he would make his famous sauerbraten roast for us. Bruce
is an excellent cook; however, he doesn’t cook that often.
About once a year he will turn Chef du Jour. The frozen rump
roast will sit in its frozen state until “the mood”
moves him to produce the secret marinade that, invariably, requires
one more trip to the market for a special ingredient missing
from the kitchen. The roast will bask in its luxurious sauce
for three days. On the fourth day it will slowly bake in its
juices until served. We will consume it in a matter of minutes,
but Bruce will retain bragging rights for months to come.
Cooking for family and friends can be a social occasion. The
potluck dinner is a grand way to get together without one family
bearing the burden of preparing or financing the menu. I remember
one year we had a Progressive Dinner, a dinner where each course
is served at different home. I remember, no names given, that
we overstayed and overdid it at the cocktail and hors d’oeuvres
house, making the main course fare at the second house overcooked
because it was served an hour late, and we were too full and
too tired to eat the dessert at the last house. You might have
better luck. Playing cards, watching a DVD, and reading are
virtually free ways to spend an evening in or out at friends.
Auctions, lectures, art shows and demonstrations might open
up new interests.
Another inexpensive or free venue is a sporting event. Come
cheer for your favorite sport or athlete. Even if you don’t
know a participant, there are some action-packed events. Just
this weekend, Onteora wrestlers, coached by Louis Chartrand,
took first place in the sectionals for Division 2 sending four
wrestlers to the state championship in Albany next week. One
of those wrestlers was Donny Van Buren, son of Donny and Cindy.
Spring sports are about to start, so grab a piece of bleacher,
bask in the sun, and cheer athletes to do their best in competition.
If you are a senior, art classes start the spring semester on
March 9 from 10-12 at the Reservoir Methodist Church in Shokan.
A yoga class will run from Thursday, March 12 to June 18 at
the Olivebridge Methodist Church. Kathy Carey will be the yoga
instructor, and the cost for the fifteen-week session is $40.00.
Contact Judith Boggess for applications (657-9735).
I know the stock market is just plain discouraging, but there
are some signs of good news. The dollar is stronger against
the Euro and Pound. Oil and gas are cheaper than a year ago.
Houses are more affordable, and the mortgage rate is the lowest
I can remember. Car sales are unbelievable, and retailers are
literally giving things away. You can cruise or vacation in
some paradise cheaper than you can stay at home. The most important
thing is to keep your job. Let’s hope the stimulus works
to get projects moving and putting people to work. The most
over-used phrase this week is “shovel- ready.” Well,
it has been a long, snowy winter and I am “shovel-ready!”
I am ready to pack in that SNOW SHOVEL, await that robin, and
hope that spring will begin a better economy. The only shovel
I want to use is a garden spade to plant some colorful flowers.