Follow Up on the
The AIP Now In Limbo?
It all started
with the September 15 release of a letter from seven environmental
organizations giving Gitter and his development company
60 days to complete a 1,200 acre land transfer to the state
or be considered in breach of the 2007 Agreement in Principal,
brokered by former Governor Eliot Spitzer, that essentially
settled a series of major legal obstacles against the giant
Gitter’s spokesperson replied, in a same-day press
release, that Crossroads Ventures welcomed the environmentalists’
call to hasten the land sale’s completion, and hoped
to finish the deal even sooner than the 60 days ultimatum.
This past Monday, September 21, Joe Kelly of the Coalition
for Belleayre sent out a press release calling for the state
to complete its long-awaited Unit Management Plan for Belleayre
and proceed with renovations and growth at the state-owned
But later that same day, NYS Deputy Secretary for the Environment
Judith Enck reiterated a statement by Gov. David Paterson
made last week that Belleayre should not expect any funding
for the coming term, given the state’s financial straights.
The land transfer in question, put into jeopardy by the
Albany officials statements, was the key to the environmentalist’s
signing of what has come to be known as the Spitzer AIP,
which promised to drop major adjudication battles over a
long list of issues and tie-in state investments to publicly-owned
Belleayre Ski Center. The key, though, was Gitter’s
promised sale of the eastern half of his properties to the
Earlier this past summer, representatives of Crossroads
Ventures expressed public worries about drops in the state’s
cost offer, at drastically reduced prevailing rates, for
the 1200 acres in question. The issue came up when attorney
Anthony Bucca asked Ulster County, via it’s legislature’s
Public Works and Capital Projects Committee, for a deed
to county-owned railroad property as a means of increasing
its property values. At the time, Bucca made a veiled threat
that, should the state’s purchase offer stay low,
the developers might have to renege on their plans to drop
development on the eastern portion of their holdings and
maximize profitability through subdivision and other means.
The September 15 letter to Gitter came signed by directors
at the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development,
the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York Public
Interest Research Group, New York Trout Unlimited, Riverkeeper,
Theodore Gordon Flyfishers and the Zen Environmental Studies
Institute. All had been part of a coalition of national,
state and regional environmental groups that had come together
as interested parties for the project’s SEQRA review
process, which eventually saw over a dozen issues be set
aside for adjudication.
At the signing of the Spitzer AIP on September5, 2007, everyone
talked about construction on the proposed resort starting
within a year, following completion of Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statements on the part of the developers and the
state, including substantial new climate change predictions
and mitigation for both.
“We believe that the failure to complete a contract
for sale of this parcel to the state, or to a recognized
land trust, within the next 60 days, would constitute a
breach of the letter and the spirit of Agreement in Principle,”
noted the letter.
Requests to Gitter’s office for comment, as well as
his firm’s top legal staff in Albany, were answered
within hours by a press release.
“For its part Crossroads has in good faith done everything
in its power to expedite the land transfer process contemplated
in an Agreement in Principle (AIP) signed over two years
ago by these same environmental organizations, along with
the State and City of New York,” it read, after noting
the letter received that morning and the difficulties involved
in land transfers for “18 separate properties, as
well as the fact that the State has been under severe budgetary
constraints the last two years.” “It is and
remains Crossroads’ intention to consummate the land
transfer as quickly as possible, recognizing that every
day of delay is both costly to Crossroads and undermines
the spirit and intent of the AIP.”
Later, when asked to elaborate on the release, Crossroads’
Project Consultant Gary Gailes added that, “Crossroads
does not consider the 60 day time period cited in their
letter as an ultimatum but rather as a spur to all parties
to move the process forward. It is my personal judgment
that this matter can be settled in a matter of days, not
weeks or months.”
And what about that other element involved in all the deals…
the long-awaited SEIS, which Enck had earlier said was being
held up on the developers’ side, and not the state’s.
“I think the most important issue for Crossroads has
been to make every effort to respond to the many questions
raised during the project’s scoping session,”
Gailes wrote in an e-mail received on Sept. 16. “While
this has taken a considerable amount of time, Crossroads
believes that a much better project design has evolved from
Meanwhile, Kelly’s Coalition release claimed that
the state is using the delays in the resort review process
to delay the release of a Unit Management Plan (UMP) for
the ski center, as well as needed improvements there.
In a separate interview, Kelly noted that the Governor’s
remarks about not being able to add any funding to Belleayre
for the next two years was “unacceptable.”
Enck, who helped prepare the AIP after chairing the talks
that first brought 12 environmental groups to the table
with Gitter (five never having signed the AIP), said Monday
that the State remains committed to the agreement, but it
would have to now take longer than anticipated.
The issue, Enck said, is that there are no funds in the
current funding cycle to pay for either any Belleayre work
or the purchase of the 1200 acres. Nor is any expected in
the next state budget. Therefore, the state does not feel
any need to rush to prepare its end of the plan.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to
honor the AIP,” she added. “Slow and steady
wins the day.”
As for the idea, which Kelly has repeated, that a hastened
completion of the UMP would pave the way for federal stimulus
funds to be used to begin construction at Belleayre now,
Enck said that would not happen. She pointed out that the
stimulus money was and will continue to be used for safety-related
projects like bridge and road repairs, not ski lodges.
“Not that that’s not important, but there are
other priorities’ she said.
Meanwhile, on the evening before the 60-day threats rose
and were answered, it the Chairman of Ulster County’s
Public Works and Capital projects Committee, Kingston legislator
Peter Loughran, introduced a resolution strongly supporting
the construction of the Belleayre Resort project. But after
discussion amongst committee members as to whether the matter
was appropriate for them, the motion was withdrawn and referred,
instead, to the County’s Economic Development committee.
Crossroads has requested the $500 it paid to have their
earlier request heard be returned. Which it has been.
Leifeld has a rough preliminary plan for Olive, but said he
was still working on it in hope of dropping the increase down.
And how would he do that? As has been the case throughout recent
years, Leifeld points out how the town has a healthy batch of
what are called capital reserve accounts. The supervisor says
he hopes these interest bearing funds can be tapped to offset
some of the revenue shortfalls.
“Interest earned is down 95% from last year,” he
said. “We’re going to have to do some creative thinking.”
Leifeld is presenting a preliminary budget to the public on
Monday, October 5th at 4pm at town hall in West Shokan.
With this being the first truly crowded election season the
town’s faced in nearly a decade, and many residents noticing
tax hikes brought on by the tax reval two years ago and changes
in the state’s STAR exemptions this year, expect a crowd
then, as well as at the town board’s next meeting in the
Bostock Road building on Tuesday. October 13.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of county officials recently presented
a long list of how the state’s fiscal woes are impacting
their county governments. They have also called on the state’s
fiscal decision makers to cut state spending in their deficit
reduction plan, rather than by shifting costs to county property
Governor David Paterson has said he will call the state legislature
back into session in the coming weeks to enact a mid-year deficit
reduction plan that will help to close the projected state budget
gap, as he did last year. But county leaders say they want to
make sure they aren’t called upon to close that gap.
County legislator Don Gregorius and Brian Shapiro shared the
doom and gloom about Ulster County’s budget problems last
“Today we hit a milestone,” Gregorius said. “Today
we are now short $5 million in sales tax revenue….and
by the end of the year it’s going to be $8 million.”
Increased pension costs are also going to be going up another
$3 - $4 million, Gregorius added, noting that the state is changing
the details of previously reached agreements about pension funding,
with the intention of making counties pay more than they planned.
And what about the towns? How is all this affecting them?
Seems what they’re calling for in many, including that
one to Olive’s west, are reductions, and not just lower
See you at the budget hearings…
weeks ago,” he said, “175 of us walked. Tonight,
300 of us have marched.”
Kocher explained that the teachers have united with the “common
goal to get what is fair and what it right.”
During the time of their march, the school board was in executive
The teachers are going into their second year without a contract
and both unions have gone to a third party fact finder through
the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). To date OTA has
had one meeting, while a scheduled second meeting was cancelled.
ONTEA announced two weeks ago that it would be seeking a third
party for mediation due to stalled meetings.
Corey Cavallaro, the President of OTA, was asked in a separate
interview if the school board’s recent move to change
legal representation was a positive step. He had no opinion
either way, but said, “Getting to the table is a positive
During the board meeting public comment section, Cavallaro stood
with seven teachers who represented the negotiating team. Cavallaro
said, “As you are aware, the Onteora Teachers Association
approached the district on several occasions to continue negotiations
in good faith, but we have been met with silence.” He
invited the board to meet them at their new crisis center located
directly across the street from the High School.
“The OTA negotiations team is prepared to stay through
the night tonight to create a successor agreement should the
BOE choose to re-start negotiations,” Cavallaro stated.
The OTA will be having grand opening of their crisis center
on Friday September 25. The pubic is invited from 3:30 to 7pm.
It is across the street from the High School on Route 28 in
In regular business during the meeting, Onteora Director of
Transportation Dave Moraca presented maps of elementary school
boundaries and the density of population. The board has been
exploring ideas on redistricting as a way to alleviate crowding
issues at Woodstock Elementary.
Board members assured jittery parents who may be concerned that
their children might be forced to another school that they are
not re-drawing boundaries or redistricting any time soon.
“Everything that ended up being discussed in public, redistricting,
really came about because class size,” said trustee Tony
Fletcher. “How do we best even out the district that’s
got anywhere from 13 to 28 children in a particular class…
I think that’s what were looking at.”
Moraca said that Woodstock and West Hurley carry the largest
population of kids.
“The bulk of Woodstock/West Hurley students live in the
town, with Woodstock as our most urban area,” Moraca said.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it urban but that’s
where the bulk of the kids are.”
Phoenicia carries the largest undeveloped landmass, but lowest
population of children, he added. Woodstock is shared between
three elementary schools. It is also split between three school
districts — Onteora, Kingston and Saugerties.
Woodstock’s two first grade classrooms are at their maximum
capacity of 25 children per class. New children coming into
the first grade had to attend other schools in the district.
Phoenicia elementary currently has one grade six classroom with
28 kids, but does not have a cap.
“I wanted to point out that we have a guideline of 23
for the lower grades, and 25 and 27 for the upper grades,”
trustee Anne McGillicuddy said. “Why, then, was a class
of more than 27 allowed to exist?”
The district policy does not dictate maximum classroom size,
nor do regulations. It only gives a suggestion of low, medium
and high range.
School board president Laurie Osmond suggested adding an amendment
to the policy.
“If the board wants to amend existing class size policy,
we can do that with the policy committee,” she stated.
Setting concrete limits on class size maximums will be discussed
at a later date as the board gathers more information.
Cranes Sang For Killian
How can you explain a family so generous that they let a whole
community mourn with them? Barbara, Phil and Cally Mansfield
(Cally writes this paper’s Kid’s Corner) let Killian’s
death come into our lives in the same way Killian did--- fiercely
and with purpose. Always a presence when his family owned the
Olive General Store, Killian had a sense of humor and a sense
of style that held him to this earth way longer than anyone
In the year before his death, Killian was hard at work on his
amazing album, Somewhere Else. With performances by Levon Helm,
Dr. John, Kate Pierson, John Sebastian, Todd Rundgren and others,
it showcased Killian’s spot-on ukulele playing, with the
proceeds going to the Killian Mansfield Foundation, which will
help children with cancer get alternative therapies, like acupuncture,
reflexology, and aromatherapy.
But the memorial--- ah, what a day. The sun shone on those cranes,
and inside the church there were tears and laugher. But mostly
laughter. There was music, just the way there always is at the
Mansfield’s. A dozen or so people spoke, remembering Killian’s
humor, his love of music, those hats and sneakers, the orange
ukulele case, and farts. Yes, farts were a recurring theme,
reminding us once again that while cancer took him, Killian
was still a kid.
Afterwards, those inside the church were joined by hundreds
of others, and we walked the mile to the cemetery, singing all
the way, surrounded by friends, cranes, and Killians’
At the cemetery Cally spoke, people put even more cranes on
the uke case, the Mansfield’s tried to hold themselves
together. And then we walked back to Davis Park and partied
all night. Bands played, food kept coming, people who hadn’t
seen each other for years danced til their sides hurt. And really,
isn’t that just what Killian would have wanted? (Donations
can be made at Killianmansfield.org)
Jar Of Olives...
Aargh! That’s pirate talk for “I’d like to
punch my telephone, Internet, television provider square in
their automated nose.” Some things do not come easier
with digitized automation. When dialing a number, written in
a cute word phrase, I have to figure out what number corresponds
to what letter. Then I get a menu with press one, press two,
only to be directed to someone’s voice mail telling me
how important my call is. When I finally reach a live CSR, who
must have been suffering with terminal PMS, she told me that
my credit card expired. “No, it didn’t. I am holding
it in my hand.” She didn’t care.
“Well, I’m sorry, you’ll have to take that
up with your credit card holder, or you can reregister at this
number….” She proceeds to rattle off at warp speed
a number with thirteen digits that I am trying to record with
a pen (given out by a local politician) that has decided to
skip whole numbers in the sequence. After trying that number,
I was told, “You are not in our system. You must have
So, on-line I go to be asked my user name and my password. I
enter my usual ones only to be told that I was invalid. Luckily
I could have them e-mail me my name and password, in two separate
steps, and I was able to log on to my account because they gave
me an eight-digit temporary password that I can change if I
am willing to jump through six or seven more automated hoops.
I now think I have paid my past due month of service, my current
month and a few more for good measure. I have given out so much
personal information that I might have to invite all these people
for Thanksgiving dinner and add them to my Christmas card list.
It’s only two hours out of a delightful day, so I will
let it go. However, I think I will continue my late afternoon
reading with a nice chilled glass of Merlot.
As I decompress from my automation/frustration, I will quit
kvetching and try to concentrate on pleasant, good-news events.
One source of pride is that Olive’s Sam Bachor is at Emery
Riddle on a ROTC scholarship. Another is that Bridget Haug is
studying in South Africa while Megan Van Gordon is studying
on the Island of Fiji. Marissa Reynolds just returned from the
west coast graduating from AmeriCorps. Grace Maloney will be
returning from Spain for a visit with her family. These young
adults are citizens of the world, and we proudly launched them
from a loving community.
Locally the political season is laughingly called “The
Rubber Chicken Circuit.” Not so in Olive. There are lots
of chicken dinners, but the chicken is wonderful. Samsonville
Methodist Church had theirs in August. Shokan’s was last
Saturday, and the Olivebridge Methodist Church has theirs this
coming Saturday, September 26. Methodists are known for combining
food and faith. Potluck dinners are as much a part of their
fellowship as a worship service. My Aunt Christine, a Methodist
herself, used to refer to Cream of Mushroom Soup as “Methodist
glue” for any and all casseroles.
Not only can you enjoy an inexpensive and delicious church supper
each and every weekend, the Odd Fellows can entertain you. Does
anyone know the background of that disparaging title? On Sunday,
October 11, Odd Fellows Shokan Lodge will present LIPS, HIPS
& RIFFS, a performance of music, dancing, poetry and comedy.
A donation of $10.00 is suggested to continue the support of
a community center for the arts, meetings, workshops and cultural
events. The Lodge is on Route 213 in Olivebridge, and for more
information contact Elaine Ralston at 657-5115.
Lastly, as Colleen McGloughlin said at her visit last month,
Olive has the best recreation program of anyone. I think we
sometimes need a visitor to remind us what we take for granted.
Woodstock has a summer rec program that is more expensive and
does not transport its children. Our program offers structured
fun for youngsters and employment for youth counselors and CIT’s.
The Town Board and Recreation Committee has expanded recreation
to its seniors in its art program on Monday mornings at the
Reservoir Methodist Church, in its yoga program at the Library
on Thursdays, 6:30 to 7:45, and in its new Wednesday exercise
class at the Library from 9-10:00 a.m. Judith Boggess is the
facilitator for art, and Kathy Carey is the yoga and exercise