Follow Up on the
As has become a familiar sight at his local public appearances,
Gitter was accompanied by a large group of trade union members,
many from the Newburgh-Middletown area, there to voice hope
they might one day benefit from construction jobs on the
project. Gitter's men who arrived early, took up most of
the visitor seating and for the most part sat with their
Gitter began by outlining his company's positive economic
projections, substantially unchanged in the eight years
the project's been formally under public review. He repeated
his recent pronouncement, first made before the Chamber
of Commerce, that his company was "in partnership in
the design and operation" of the proposed project with
some environmental groups which signed on to a 2007 Agreement
in Principal brokered by former governor Spitzer. Asked
about this after the meeting, several of those groups said
that's an understanding of their involvement they do not
But apparently troubled by legislator Brian Shapiro's comment
that the project is "extremely contentious" in
our district, or perhaps by remarks from fellow District
2 legislator Don Gregorius that he felt lawmakers should
delay considering an endorsement until Crossroads actually
releases its current plans to the public, Gitter went after
"This is part of the conspiracy that you guys have
been involved with for four years," he said. He also
accused them of representing only the town of Woodstock,
not Shandaken. The two also represent the towns of Denning
and Hardenburgh in the legislature, though Gitter didn't
offer political analysis of that.
"I do take exception to you, Mr. Gitter, attacking
my fellow legislators" said David Donaldson, who until
recently served as their chairman these past several years.
Similar sentiments were echoed by former majority, now minority
leader Jeanette Provenzano. Perhaps sensing the discomfort
at the sudden surge of palpable surliness, Chairman Fred
Wadnola stepped in.
"Thank you. Enough is enough," he said.
"If I've embarrassed you, I apologize" said Gitter.
Neither Shapiro nor Gregorius responded to Gitter's attacks
in chambers, but later held a brief news conference, joined
by the Catskill Heritage Alliance's Richard Schaedle.
Shapiro said that Gitter had described his community's concerns
as "a lunch meat product known as bologna." Gregorius
reiterated that for the county legislature to take a position
on the project "before an environmental review is finished"
makes no sense. And Schaedle raised a number of questions
concerning Spitzer's suspension of its SEQRA process and
the unresolved issues in 12 areas legally judged to require
adjudication but never allowed, under Spitzer's executive
authority, to proceed.
A week later, the public was back in the same chamber, sans
Gitter, to comment in advance of the legislature's planned
vote on the matter. Crowds in the packed chamber overflowed
into the hallway. At issue was a resolution "strongly
supporting" the project and citing as whereases the
developer's economic claims, but having no force of law
or direct effect on its ongoing regulatory process. In legislative-speak,
what was pending was a "memorializing resolution."
More than two dozen people addressed the legislators and
crowd, and comments went on for well over an hour. Some
spoke in support of the measure and the need for the project,
including Eugene Gruner from the Ulster County Chamber of
Commerce, who called Shandaken "a sad, depressed place,"
and Joe Kelly of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, who said
the state-owned ski area lost out on $5.5 million in funding
for snowmaking that would have been available had the resort
project been moving forward. Newburgh residents and union
workers Glen Williams and Mark Peifley also spoke in favor,
as a means to creating needed construction jobs.
Many of those who spoke, however, were local residents of
the Route 28 corridor, citing potential problems and unresolved
impact issues, and asking the legislators not to take a
position until the developer's current plans are released
for public review. Such plans have been expected by regulators
since the end of the project's last SEQRA Scoping process
"We respectfully request you keep your nose out of
it," said Town of Hardenburgh Supervisor Jerry Fairbairn,
adding that the project is subject to municipal review in
Shandaken and Middletown, and that Ulster County lacks permitting
and regulatory authority.
By the end of the evening, though, it became clear the votes
had been counted earlier at the two parties' pre-meeting
caucuses. 27 legislators voted in favor, Shapiro, Gregorius,
and Robert Parete of Boiceville voted against, with Roy
Hochberg from Glenford abstaining. It was the third time
in four attempts over a 10-year period that such resolutions
supporting the project had been adopted by the county legislature,
and most observers regard it as public relations win for
the developer. Whether its passage will have anything beyond
symbolic effect remains unclear. The week before, Gitter
had said " I firmly believe that such a statement by
this county legislature will help move this project through
the bureaucratic morass." Time, presumably, will tell.
As for Gitter's suggestion of an ongoing partnership with
signatories to the 2007 AIP, that, if anything, appears
perhaps overly hopeful.
"No contact or collaboration (has) ever been made with
Crossroads Ventures for "design or operation"
as Gitter stated" said Ron Urban, signatory to the
agreement for Trout Unlimited. "I in fact, have never
met Dean Gitter or spoken with him."
"I wouldn't characterize the relationship as a partnership,
" said Alan White, Executive Director of the Catskill
Center for Conservation and Development. "It primarily
reflected agreement on a couple broad strokes."
"We would not characterize our relationship with Mr.Gitter
as being "in partnership in the design and operation
of the proposed project" said Eric Goldstein of NRDC,
one of the agreement's lead negotiators. "When we signed
the AIP, we did so primarily to advance and support the
acquisition of 1,220 acres of hydrologically critical and
ecologically important lands...We also agreed, consistent
with Congressman Maurice Hinchey's original concept, that
there could be environmentally sound economic development
on the smaller parcel, west of Belleayre. The groups that
signed the conceptual agreement were careful to insist that
(such) proposed development be required to undergo a comprehensive
review process including public hearings and comment as
well as full compliance with all local, state, and federal
environmental laws. And we look forward to reviewing the
SDEIS and participating in the public hearings when they
When Gitter's company will unveil and submit that long-awaited
document isn't readily apparent. In late December Gitter
said it would be released in January; few regulators now
expect it until late spring or perhaps summer.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors in Delaware County,
where 15 percent of the resort will lie and 50 % of its
taxes and all of its runoff head, say they haven't heard
from Gitter this season.
That's in contrast, however, to 2008, which saw 24 permits
in the hands of builders by mid March.
Zoning Chairman Rolf Reiss said Tuesday that things have
been slow for the Zoning Board of Appeals of late. Real
"Actually we haven't had a meeting since November,"
The ZBA handles cases in which landowners seek relief from
land use law by claiming hardship. Sometimes people want
to put on an addition to their home, but find the plans
require that the new structure be too close to the property
line. Or others might want to put up a fence to block unsightly
commercial activity but need a fence higher than the law
allows for it to be effective.
None of that is happening this year.
Reiss, a builder, did note that recent storms have created
lots of short term work in the town due to tree limbs doing
damage to structures, but he doesn't see much real building
Nor does Planning Board Secretary Marie Stutman.
"We've only had two cases all year," she said
One was for a two lot subdivision and the other was a simple
lot line adjustment. Both have been completed by the board
already. Stutman says this is nothing like the planning
board's agenda a few years back.
"Five years ago they were handling four cases a month,"
So what will the Planning Board do now?
"We'll have a meeting without a case," she said.
This is now policy on the Planning Board under new Chairman
Charles Frasier, who was appointed to the post in February
by the Town Board after the rest of the Planning Board supported
the ousting of former chair Beth Waterman, who was not reappointed
when her term ended on December 31st.
One the criticisms of Waterman's tenure by her fellow planners
was that she would cancel meetings when there was no caseload.
Planner Joanne Kalb, a vocal critic of Waterman, said at
the time that she believes there is plenty for the planners
to work on besides specific cases, including looking for
means to be more proactive about changing the town's development
The planners will meet for an informal workshop on April
6th at 7pm at town hall on Route 28. The official monthly
planning board meeting, where they can conduct official
business, is slated for Wednesday, April 14th at 7pm.
Calls to both Frasier and Kalb went unanswered as of press
So did a call to Ulster County Planner Dennis Doyle regarding
what a town should do when it has eight standing zoning
infractions pending, and more expected to come into view
in the coming term.
At the March 2 Olive Planning Board meeting, a brief discussion
was held about putting plans for new building at the Ashokan
Center on hold for the foreseeable future. The Center had
been on schedule to get plans finalized for their new buildings,
and had hoped to be able to go to Public Hearing sometime
in April. However, due to estimated costs coming in much
higher than had been anticipated, they are taking a step
back and reviewing their options.
to Big Indian resident Jeffrey Laskow, who owns the building
the United States Postal Service leases along Route 28
next to the recently spruced up Big Indian Park, he has
been battling with the USPS recently, trying to negotiate
a new deal instead of their apparent plans to let a lease
expire at the end of June and shift services to Shandaken,
a few miles away..
In Willow, a committee of local residents, including former
postmistress Rose Van Wagenen, has come together to find
ways of ensuring the USPS honors a deal it announced three
years ago to move its temporary trailer from private lands
whose owner has requested they move to another lot.
In lieu of the fact that current postmasters andpostmistresses
are forbidden for speaking about such matters publicly,
they have, in turn, been in touch with Betty Eickler of
New Paltz, National Chair for matters dealing with all
closings and consolidations of post offices for the lobbying
group, National Association of Postmasters of the United
"Losing such an important component of our local
community will have everlasting effects and create such
hardships on the locals that would never really recover,"
Laskow said in a prepared statement. "Our local Post
Offices create a life line for residents during bad weather
and times of local disasters and the obvious reasons of
day to day life....without your help and the support of
local government the facility will close in a blink of
an eye and be lost forever."
"This is how we lose our hamlets," said Stanley,
after noting that he and Laskow had been unable to reach
anyone at USPS confirm, or even talk to about their concerns.
"This is how we lose our identities."
Laskow says the USPS plans to not sign another lease,
but call the result an eviction. His research indicates
this strategy "has been happening all across America."
The post office has been struggling with a sharp decline
in mail volume as people and businesses switch to e-mail
both for personal contact and bill paying, or use private
carriers for shipments. The agency is facing a nearly
$7 billion potential loss this fiscal year despite a 2-cent
increase in the price of stamps in May, cuts in staff
and removal of collection boxes.
Post officials sent a list of nearly 700 potential closing
candidates to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission
for review. That was recently whittleddown to a list of
several hundred, most of them in major cities... including
New York's five boroughs, Albany and Syracuse, in our
In addition, USPS is studying activities of approximately
3,200 stations and branches across the country considering
factors such as customer access, service standards, cost
savings, impact on employees, environmental impact, real
estate values and long-term Postal Service needs.
"Negotiations are going on in Big Indian. We have
a lease there that expires at the end of June," said
USPS Corporate Communications Officer Tom Grayson from
New York City offices this week, when contacted about
the local closing possibilities. "Things are in flux..."
According to information put on the record this week from
a March 10 U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission hearing in
Washingtton, the objective of the current "Initiative"
is to "realign the postal retail network with current
and future postal customer service needs, to reduce inefficiency
and redundancy, and
to capture the resulting cost savings." Citing the
recent declines in mail volume
and demand for retail service, the Postal Service is proposing
to identify opportunities for consolidation, but to carry
out consolidations only after concluding that such changes
would continue to provide "ready access to essential
The USPS stated, at that time, that the Initiative began
in May, 2009 with the examination of the portion of the
retail network consisting of stations and branches primarily
in urban and suburban population centers and comprise
approximately two-thirds of the over 4,800 stations and
branches nationwide. Request at 5-6.
Gaynor suggested that the activities taking place in our
region are more routine than part of the larger effort,
but added that he would have to ascertain such information
In the recent hearings, it was determined that use of
Channels" to postal services via the Postal Service's
website, the availability of stamps at non-postal retail
locations, privately-operated Approved Shipper locations;
and carrier pick-up services now account for over a third
of all business, further forcing changes.
And although, as Laskow has pointed out, postal regulations
stipulate specifically against the closing of rural post
offices for efficiency purposes, new criteria discussed
on March 10, and part of the new Initiative, include looking
at all post offices within five to ten miles of each other,
as well as those leased, as well as the nature of the
In Shandaken, at present, post offices exist in Highmount,
Pine Hill, Shandaken, Phoenicia, and Mt. Tremper, as well
as Big Indian and nearby Lanesville. In Olive, they are
located in Boiceville, Shokan, West Shokan, and Olivebridge,
as well as nearby Glenford. In Woodstock, besides Willows,
post offices are currently in Lake Hill, Woodstock, and
Bearsville, as well as nearby West Hurley.
Older post offices existed for various periods in various
other communities around the region, from Krumville and
Samsonville to Bushnellsville, Allaben and Oliverea. Whenever
closings have occurred in recent decades, they've tended
to occur somewhat mysteriously, as now.
Representing postal customers at the recent commission
hearing, by and large, were representatives from the American
Postal Workers Union, as well as the Association of United
States Postal Lessors... the sort of entities some now
characterize as "special interests." Amongst
the points they raised were the fact that the Postal Service
should consider additional factors in its review process
for potential closings and consolidations including meetings
with area planners and government staff to better understand
the general activity of activity, and possible development,
in the area, as well as " the postal and non-postal
needs of the community."
Two public hearings on the current Initiative were held
last September, in Ohio and The Bronx.
In their findings, the Postal Regulatory Commission found
that better communications were needed whenever actions
were contemplated by the USPS in a community, and that,
"The method used for evaluating proposals for consolidations
and closures should include a separate category for
At the same time, they also concluded that all current
cost-cutting attempts by the agency should be continued.
We'll keep you informed as negotiations continue, and
USPS plans surface. In the meantime, we urge you contact
NAPUS, the American Postal Workers Union, as well as the
Association of United States Postal Lessors for help.
In the end, there are governmental entities we both want
and need in our lives.
is the first step down, they are only restoring part,"
the superintendent added, predicting that the following
years will become even more difficult and presenting
a sheet of projections that saw the district with a
deficit of $5.3million if nothing changed in the aid
formula and the district maintained a three percent
levy increase each year based on increased budget costs
regarding health care, teacher's retirement and salaries.
Reductions or elimination of programs have already included
the Gifted and Talented program, after school homework
help, GED, INDIE and field trips so far. Other cuts
include a complete shuttering of West Hurley Elementary,
special education teachers and aides, and field trips.
With a four percent levy targeted by the board, the
budget is projected to increase by .26 percent or $127,997.91.
Currently the district budget is $49,918,911.97 and
would increase to $50,046,909.88.
If the district made no budget reductions, a rollover
budget would increase the tax levy by 10.23 percent
or a 4.93 increase in the budget. If voters were to
reject the budget two times, a contingent budget would
take over, offering up a zero budget increase and a
2.85 percent levy increase... as well as a projected
$3 million budget shortfall.
A week later, on March 16, the cafetorium at Phoenicia
Elementary School was wedged with students, parents,
teachers and community members who sometimes spoke through
tears, music and prayers. Everyone asked to save their
beloved programs on a three tiered list of budget cuts
and spoke about the importance of art, music, sports
In response, the board asked the administration to make
tweaks to the proposed .36 budget increase that would
bring in a four percent tax levy and, in order to restore
some of the programming, board members said they would
start looking at increasing the budget to meet a 4.5
percent levy, although they acknowledged approaching
such an increase with caution.
Among newer cuts discussed were the elimination of a
middle school team, which in turn would lay off four
secondary teachers, the cutting of a math teacher, the
cutting of girl's volleyball, golf and winter indoor
track, the elimination of late bus runs on Monday and
Friday, the dropping of another two special education
teachers and a speech therapist, four special education
teaching assistants, and one librarian.
After three plus hours of discussion, the board requested
that the administration look into a handful of cuts
that would replace other programs on the chopping block,
including JV sports (to be merges into modified and
varsity if possible), ALL late run transportation, the
printing of a school calendar, the finding of additional
energy savings, the partially elimination of the district's
equipment budget, and the complete mothballing of West
The board additionally requested restoring the music
position; that administrators seeks a gifted and talented-type
program through in-house teachers, and look into combining
bus stops where possible.
The athletic department announced that the popular indoor
winter track program had broken 14 district records
this year and board members are seeking ways to keep
Also, early retirement incentives were introduced as
a cost savings strategy.
The superintendent's budget recommendation is set for
April 6, with a public discussion period starting at
5 PM at The Bennett School in Boiceville, and the board
is scheduled to adopt a budget on April 20 at the Middle/High
In addition, it should be noted that two seats are available
for anyone interested in serving on the Onteora Board
of Education. Petitions can be found at the central
office in Boiceville or online by going to Onteora.k12.ny.us.
A PDF file of petitions and rules can be found to the
left of the district's home page. Anyone interested
in the three-year term beginning July 2010 must be a
registered voter, citizen and have resided in the district
for one year. Petitions must be turned into the district
office with 37 valid signatures no later than 5:00 PM
on Monday, April 19. Tom Hickey and Rob Kurnit are up
for re-election. The school board appointed them in
July 2009 when Michelle Friedel and Rick Wolff resigned.
The election and budget vote is Tuesday, May 18.
Jar Of Olives
I'd rather count my friends than my enemies.
Sometimes, though, I can veer off that middle of the road line
and do some serious thinking about some heavy-duty subjects.
In a month that saw friends lose mothers and fathers, friends
and children, I needed to look beyond the sadness. I was not
seeking answers to why, but I was dredging up feelings and emotions
that all of us experience in the journey of birth, life, and
We manage to become ostriches, averting eyes or any direct reference
to death. We probably have more euphemisms for death than any
other natural function except, perhaps, the "ladies"
or "gents" room. Lately, I have been contemplating
death, not in a morbid way, but in a curious way. When my sons
were little, I explained death as a natural occurrence of someone
being "worn out" and "used up." It satisfied
them as children, but I can't accept that depleted battery theory
any longer. I find myself echoing platitudes about "being
at rest, lived a good long life" with a hollow conviction.
What I really want to understand is why a good, loving, young
person is sometimes taken from us. Perhaps the answer lies in
the habit of humans to measure everything in time. We think
quantity and not quality.
I think the answer to my question may lie in the celebration
of Cindy Klippel Van Buren's life that is planned for early
June. Some of Cindy's friends are organizing a softball tournament
and picnic in her memory. We will share the memories of time
she spent with us and honor her as a good wife, mother, niece,
aunt, sister, neighbor and friend. The time was "not enough."
The quality of her presence was much more than can be measured
in years. I believe we are all here to help each other along
that journey of life. We will reassure each other that she is
in a better place. If life is a journey, and I am sure it is,
there must be a destination.
Greek mythology explained death as a journey to the other world.
They had Charon rowing souls to the other shore of the River
Styx. We, who are on this shore, stand saddened and bereft.
Someone we loved has left us. What we need to know is about
that far shore. Imagine the great gladness as Al and Jean welcomed
Cindy on that other side. I even picture Cindy's mom waving
and running to the water and Al with a Rob Roy raised high asking
about Don and Donny, Amanda Jean, John and Diana, Russ and Lynda
and all the grandchildren. There has to be love and light on
that other side. No matter what your religion, there has to
be a reason for life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that one became part of the "oversoul."
Our life force or soul or essence joined all others in an energy
shield to be tapped and renewed. Dr. Duncan MacDougall actually
did experiments weighing people at time of death. His results
were published in the New York Times confirming the theory that
a soul was matter and must have mass. The difference between
life and death was twenty-one grams. The body is lighter at
death. I'm curious about the missing twenty-one grams, which
is less than an ounce. I'm not sure what it all means, but I
do know that someone like Cindy may be 21 grams lighter now,
but she leaves tons and tons, not grams, of memories, laughs,
and people who loved her here.