Follow Up on the
For A Shoe...
The "other shoe" yet to drop is a pending decision
in New York City’s lawsuit against Olive’s appraisal
of $640 million for the city’s extensive holdings in
the town. The decision will have a dramatic impact upon the
reservoir towns and a residual effect upon the entire county.
It may also represent the Town of Olive’s last defense
of its appraisal.
According to Olive Supervisor Brendt Leifeld, who chairs the
Land Committee at the Catskill Watershed Corporation, the
CWC’s director Alan Rosa appeared at their last meeting
to outline the finances of the Legal Defense Fund set up by
the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement [MOA] between New York City
and the upstate communities from which it draws its drinking
water. The news wasn’t good.
Leifeld said that Rosa related that the funds were "starting
to come to an end and there’s other towns standing in
line (for what remains of the defense fund), too, who have
gotten nothing up to this point while we’ve used over
$1 million of it in the two lawsuits. That’s not all
lawyers’ fees. That’s the appraisal, the engineers
and so on. It was a $3 million fund and add about $1 million
in interest but now there’s maybe a little over a million
left but that’s not just for the Town of Olive. The
City’s not putting any more money in. When it’s
gone, it’s gone."
In other words, if the $340 million ORPS appraisal favored
by New York prevails in the judge’s decision expected
sometime this month, tax figures will change significantly
and the thud of that shoe will echo through the school district
and the county.
"We’ve got a current contract with the Town of
Olive, approved by my board in October, 2004, for the amount
of $500,000," said CWC Corporate Counsel Tim Cox. "I
can’t comment on how much of that is left because of
matters that are in litigation. We had one previously with
Ulster County for the same amount- there was an inter-municipal
agreement with the towns- that ended in the Fall of 2004-
and then the towns came in directly and applied to us."
Cox noted that the defense fund had been included in the MOA
at the insistence of local watershed municipalities, presumably
because of New York City’s history of frequent legal
challenges to assessments on its property. Quoting the language
of the MOA, Cox observed that the fund was "To pay the
fees and expenses of professional consultants and/or attorneys
retained by counties, towns or villages, West of Hudson, to
review, analyze and/or assist in the administration of real
properties taxes paid by the City on City-owned lands..."
"The responsibility ultimately lies with the towns to
defend the assessments put on the property, first and last,"
said Cox. "The fund, a one-time $3 million provision
for the municipalities that CWC would administer, was here
to help out with that."
Noting that Olive has long been on the front line in the tax
battle with New York City, Leifeld observed that Olive’s
efforts were "supposed to come up with a method, a template,
so to speak- a court decision that would help the other towns
when they got sued. But (CWC) is getting to the point where
they’re not very happy with our attorneys. For the amount
of money that’s been expended versus tangible successes
is not very much. It was dismissed last time on a technicality
when they (NYC) came in with appraisers that weren’t
even licensed in New York State and (Judge) Bradley threw
them out. There was no decision."
All of which brings up an off-the-cuff admission allegedly
from a NYC attorney just before leaving the case and employment
in the City government, that the City’s legal strategy
was to milk the CWC fund dry and buy time until it was all
spent, whereupon the City would be back to where it started
in dealing with the towns from a position of strength. The
attorney in question could not be reached for comment or elaboration.
"My opinion is that New York City is absolutely behind
the Large Parcel law," said Olive Town Clerk Silvia Rozzelle
of the "Divide-and-Conquer" aspects of the law’s
impact. "There’s no incentive for us now to fight
to keep that assessment up just so it can be taken by somebody
down in Gardiner or over in Woodstock or Saugerties. The City’s
getting exactly what they wanted and if we accept their (appraisal)
figures, we’ll be hurt but we’ve been hurt before."
Also hurt would be the school district and the county, Leifeld
noted as he remarked upon the unlikely prospect of Olive being
able to afford the hundreds of thousands it would cost to
pursue on its own a defense of the appraisal by the experts
hired with CWC funds.
"Maybe the rest of the county needs the shock of finding
out what losing $330 million in assessed value does to their
tax base," Leifeld said. "If we agree with the ORPS
figure then there is no large parcel. If we keep the City
happy and they don’t sue us for 10 years, who knows?
We would lose half of this town’s assessed value. So,
instead of paying 33% of the Onteora (School District) pie
up there, we’d be down to probably around 20%. That’s
a lot of money. Olive’s school taxes would go down and
the rest of (the) Onteora (District) would have to pick it
up. This is what (Woodstock Supervisor) Jeremy (Wilber) and
those other clowns don’t want to listen to but, if they
find out what kind of impact it has for a couple of years
maybe they’ll shut up when we come back up the ladder
to raise our assessment. This is a never-ending headache-
the lawsuits and large parcel."
"We knew all along that this money at CWC was going to
run out. That was the plan that the City had in the first
place," Leifeld added. "Use it up and then we’ve
got all these towns by the (throat) again and we can do what
we want. And it’s true. Where’s the town going
to come up with $500,000 for lawyers and why should we? To
have them come and beat on us with Large Parcel again on top
of it? We’re either going to have to have another inter-municipal
agreement or shock everybody. If we keep on the same route,
it’ll come out of our pocket and I’m not advocating
Only Come At Night?
She looks quite
fetching, despite the greenish lump growing out of her cheek.
She tells me about a previous scene, where she trying to kill
someone: “All my Yiddish and Hebrew left me! I couldn’t
think of a thing to say but ‘Didja eat?’ Then
I got bashed in the head.”
And so it goes on the set of the micro-budget short Night
of the Living Jews, written and directed by Oliver Noble of
Accord, with Sam Allen-Falconi of Krumville as cinematographer
and co-producer. The film involves a plot to poison matzos,
and a family terrorized by hordes of Hasidic zombies. But
not to worry, one girl survives.
Sam’s father Tim Allen, who, as an arborist, can normally
be found up a tree somewhere, is tending to several smoldering
fires. His son Sam is staring intently at the camera monitor.
A smoke machine cranks; smoke billows, then thins, delicately
weaving through leaves like so many snakes. “I’m
liking this… there! That’s the shot,” declares
Sam. The kid’s got the eye. “I learned to shoot
in high school,” he says, “and from going on shoots
with [cinematographer] Mark Benjamin, and also with Roy.”
Roy Gumpel, in the tradition of multi-tasking on low budget
films, is co-producer, gaffer, creative consultant and set
photographer. Oliver learned filmmaking during his high school
Valerie Fanarjian is the whirlwind producer that quarterbacked
the ideas of these two Roundout high-schoolers into a full-fledged,
albeit shoestring, production. She zooms around like the Tasmanian
Devil, doing, well, everything. I ask if I can mention the
SAG actors, since this is a non-SAG production. “Sure!”
she says. “We’re going for the Olympic record
in All Known Law Breakage on this production!” And where
did she acquire the skills to produce a film? “I worked
for Philippe Petit [Shokan’s famous funambulist], I
run a sawmill [Boiceville Lumber]. Heck, I could run this
country, since Bush is clearly on permanent vacation. Producing
a film? Phssh!”
The phrase “it takes a village” describes the
set, which is also Oliver’s home. In fact, almost everyone
involved lives in the surrounding communities. Krumville author
Kim Wozencraft (Rush, The Devil’s Backbone) and artist
Steve Heller of Woodstock’s Fabulous Furniture were
a pair of flesh-eating zombies. Phillip Levine, a Woodstock
poet, was also in the film. Tonight’s shoot is the death
scene of the head rabbi zombie, played by Laurent Rejto, co-director
of the Woodstock Film Festival. His son Adam Blaustein also
stars in the movie.
The woods are littered with props, including a severed pig
head, unlit cigarette stuck in its grin. A zombie strolls
by and quips, “No animals were abused in the making
of this film.” An earlier shot used a live pig, then
Fleisher’s Meats donated the pig head. Local businesses
such as Winchell’s Corners and Bread Alone donated to
the food table. Woodstock gallery owner and main zombie Bahram
Faroughi loaned the camera. But for the most part, when I
ask where they got financing, I get answers like, “It’s
a Jewish production, there is no money!”
Two guys are placing a plank on top of a pile of rocks, where
Rebbe Zombie Laurent has his final battle. They have to lift
the plank to levitate him. “No storyboards?” I
ask. Nope. “No run-throughs, no rehearsals on this stunt?”
Nope. Phil Dorling, from Woodstock, the art department and
props guy, rigs a gun to an eggbeater. He demonstrates how
churning the eggbeater makes a cool clackity-clack noise.
What’s it for? “I dunno,” says Phil, “It’s
just cool.” You gotta love the chutzpah. This is the
pure joy of ad-hoc creativity.
How did Oliver talk his parents into letting him take over
the family home? “I’m their retirement plan,”
he says with confidence. Henri Falconi, Assistant Everything
on the production adds: “It’s kind of a ‘loonies
take over the asylum’ production.” Inside, Oliver’s
dad Charles is making dinner for the zombies. A dozen of them
sit around waiting to be fed, looking horrific and bored,
including one sporting a tiny Hitler mustache. Why did Charles
let his kid take over the roost? “He promised me a cottage
on his estate when he makes it big,” he quips. A glance
in Oliver’s bedroom reveals posters for The Ring and
The Exorcist. The overheard comments in the kitchen-slash-wardrobe
are priceless: “I get eaten tonight, d’you?”
“I’m the only one who lives,” sighs Sierra
DeCrosta. “I heard a goose-stepping zombie is coming.
Hey, is there such a thing as zombie Torah walk?” “I’m
just gonna turn my shoe sideways and drag that leg,”
says zombie Dash Stratton.
I ask cast and crew if they’re worried about how the
film’s provocative title might perceived. “Think
of it as a Barbara Streisand Hebrew National Hotdog kinda
thing,” says one zombie. Another adds, “It’s
a Jewish zombie noir comedy homage to Night of the Living
“We’re making a funny movie with no deep meaning,”
says Charles Noble, “and we hope it’s funny enough
that it isn’t hijacked by someone looking to find something
offensive in it. The thought crossed my mind that this is
potentially incendiary, but as long as it’s funny, it’ll
Zombie movies have a tradition of tropes and riffs. If it’s
a Beach Blanket Bingo Zombie movie, the zombies will be in
bikinis and slathered in ghoulish sunscreen. If it’s
Speedway Zombie, the zombies will be dripping with car parts
and slinging hubcaps. In Night of the Living Jews, the zombies
have bekishes, tichels, payos, tsitses and yarmulkes, and
are killed with cheese and bacon. No offense given, none taken.
Consider the Broadway hit The Producers, with its “Springtime
for Hitler” musical numbers.
I head outside just in time to watch the magnificently berobed
zombie Laurent as his side curls twirl (literally two guys
spinning attached strings) so he can levitate like a perverse
doppelganger to the Flying Nun. His Freddie Krueger claws
clutch at his chest, his kutchma-slash-Viking helmet falls
as he screams, with great thespian pizzazz, “I think
I’m gonna plotz!” and crashes to the ground.
Tragedy On Route 28
Two passengers in the car were pronounced dead
at the scene and a third died later at Columbia Memorial
Hospital in Hudson, police said. The driver of the car
and another passenger were hospitalized - one in critical
condition at Albany Medical Center, the other in stable
condition at St. Francis in Poughkeepsie.
State Police at Kingston announced the identities of the
three persons on Monday after being assisted by representatives
of the Chinese Embassy in locating family members in China.
Killed were Hui Wang, 22, of Cambridge, Mass., and Yuan
Li, and Zhenying Gu, both 26 and from Manhattan. Injured
in the same vehicle were Yanming Fang, 28, the operator
of the car, and Wentao Mo, 25, both of Manhattan.
The two people in the SUV - 67-year old Catherine Whitelaw,
who was driving, and 88-year old Florence Palmer, both
of Lanesvilkle - suffered non-life-threatening injuries
and were admitted to Benedictine Hospital in Kingston
in stable condition, police said.
Police said the accident occurred when Fang’s vehicle
crossed into the opposite lane on Route 28 and struck
the other car head-on. The impact of the crash caused
the SUV, a Ford Expedition, to catch fire, but not until
after its occupants were out of the vehicle. The car,
a Mazda, was totaled, and Regan said its roof was removed
by rescuers trying to reach the five occupants.
The cause of the accident was still under investigation
as of press time but police said there was no indication
of drugs or alcohol involved. Both vehicles were equipped
with airbags that opened when the crash occurred.
Route 28 was closed in both directions from Shokan to
Boiceville for several hours after the crash, with traffic
detoured onto Upper Boiceville Road, which intersects
Route 28 in both hamlets, during the closure. State police
were assisted by police from the towns of Olive, Shandaken
and Woodstock; the New York City Department of Environmental
Protection police; the Olive Fire Department; and several
The crash was the area’s deadliest since a two-car
collision on a straight stretch of road in the Shandaken
hamlet of Allaben in April 1994 that claimed seven lives.
Four adults and a child died at the scene, and a child
and a teenager died in the days that followed. Two people
survived the crash, which police blamed on “driver
fatigue or driver inattention.”
A Round Tuit
now, procrastinating worked for me, but I am resolved
to recognize what can be put off until tomorrow
and what needs to be done now. It was a lesson sadly
I had wanted to make an apple pie for my neighbor
Bob to let him know that I was thinking of him and
his wife Nola. I also wanted to write Nola a letter
letting her know, as her life approached its end,
how much she meant to me and my family. But I didn’t
get around to it. Nola died on September 18, much
I hope you got to know Nola Marie Luce, wife of
Bob Tischler, or, at least know someone like her.
She was amazing. An immigrant from Guam, she lived
the American Dream rising from clerk to Vice President
of a public relations firm. She chose her faith
and practiced it everyday doing “mitzvahs”
or kind deeds every day. She made the best key lime
pie, could arrange weeds like a professional florist,
and could build a stone wall like Harvey Fite of
Opus Forty. What made her so special was the way
she did everything with style and grace. Even suffering
the side effects of chemotherapy, Nola held a perfectly
shaped bald head high and moved with the grace of
a runway model. She was so capable that I was sure
that she would overcome Cancer with the power of
her charm and positive energy.
Nola, who insisted that her Navy father named her
for his home—New Orleans, LA—was one
with nature. She loved working in the yard or walking
in the woods with Bob and beloved Labrador retriever
“Gus.” Now she is one with nature. I
will think of her with each leaf that falls this
autumn, with each flower I plant, and with each
rock I move. I just wish I had told her.
I still think that it’s okay to procrastinate,
but not in the things that really count. Make that
phone call, write that letter, do that “mitzvah”
right now. Tell someone that they are important
to you. Let things go that really don’t matter
in the long run. No one will mention how neatly
you made that bed, but they will remember your kind
words and deeds.
So, I send you a round “TUIT.” Some
things can’t wait until you get “around
to it!” Right now I have an apple pie to m
At the same time, Jane Todd of the Shandaken Area
Revitalization Plan (SHARP) Committee, and Joan
Lawrence-Bauer, director of the Margaretville-Arkville
Project, each noted difficulties they’ve run
into getting projects through to completion in recent
years, as well as the increasing need for housing
help in the Catskills and Hudson Valley regions.
Lawrence-Bauer, in fact, went so far as to suggest
that the region’s larger developers, including
her former employers at Crossroads Ventures, should
look to creating more hosuing for middle income
people than their current high-end projects. The
principles at Crossroads include Shandaken-based
Dean Gitter. of the Emerson Inn and proposed Belleayre
Resort, and Gitter’s development partner Kenneth
Pasternak, a former Wall Street magnate now under
investigation from the SEC who recently announced
his own 30-home development for the Delaware County
town of Middletown.
But complicating the recent interviews came a simultaneous
announcement from Todd, following an October 4 in-depth
interview with her, that she had actually resigned
her position as SHARP Committee Executive Director,
a job she’s held 13 years, as of October 1
and been replaced by her former Administrative Assistant
Todd, a longtime Shandaken resident and current
member of the town board there, said this week that
her reasons for leaving the position she inherited
from former Executive Director Gladys Gilbert of
Olive was simple.
“I have eight grandchildren and I’m
going to be 60!,” she said with a laugh.”
I’m just done.”
“We just built 30 units, 16 for seniors and
14 for families, that sold out immediately when
we listed them… all to local residents,”
Lawrence-Bauer said of M-ARK’s Mountain Laurel
Gardens project, started 12 years earlier, before
the news about Todd’s resignation was out.
“The thing people never realize about these
projects is that you don’t just snap your
fingers and they happen. We didn’t have any
NIMBY problems,” she added, referring to the
increasingly common term for “Not In My Back
Yard” challenges to projects.
Lawrence-Bauer said that Mountain Laurel’s
difficulties came about when funding agencies kept
sending back the project’s marketing plans
for changes, saying they didn’t feel the need
was there for a planned 30 senior residencies. Eventually,
M-ARK succeeded by changing the mix to include 14
Now, Lawrence-Bauer added, the agency was beginning
work on a new project for more such apartments,
realizing the local need for low-income housing
was increasing as the local real estate market continued
“This nonsense that people will come up to
take advantage of such housing from the city is
nonsense. We had a working list of 80 locals we
made our selections from,” she added. “You
do your marketing plan, then market to who you want.
We have two seniors from Queens, but they’re
here because their children live here.”
Part of the problem with such projects, Lawrence-Bauer
further noted, is that state and federal agencies
want to fund larger projects. No one can go less
than 24 units, she said. As a result, she’s
looking to put M-ARK’s next such project into
another nearby community, either Fleischmanns, Andes
or Grand Gorge, once their “sense of crisis”
can be determined, charted, and fit into the sorts
of marketing info the funders need to activate such
She said that what Woodstock is being offered, via
the Woodstock Commons package put together by RUPCO
at the behest of the town’s Affordable Housing
Committee, invaluable, given that the hardest work
– the funding – is already solidly in
“The bottom line is that we all need affordable
housing up here. There’s no question about
that,” Lawrence-Bauer said. “If Woodstock
doesn’t do it now, they’ll lose it forever.”
Todd, who operated three completely-full, wait-listed
affordable housing complexes in Olive and Shandaken
while director of SHARP, said she too had been finding
great need in the communities she serves, especially
for families looking for more than one bedroom.
More importantly, she sees such need not only not
going away but getting worse over time.
Asked whether talk in Woodstock about outlying towns
being affordable was true, Todd said her towns of
Olive and Shandaken were too far away… and
not any cheaper, really. She would like to start
new projects but is having problems finding sites
that match requirements for centralized services
and gas and water hook-ups, if possible.
As a result, she said that SHARP, as with RUPCO
and M-ARK, is having to rely more and more on references
to private subsidized rentals, although even those
are increasingly hard to come by.
“These projects just don’t happen overnight,”
Todd added, echoing what Lawrence-Bauer had said.
“The process is very, very difficult.”
Todd described how she found funding, a number of
years ago, to add five units to SHARP’s Tongore
Pines’ 19 in Olivebridge. Got all the requisite
zoning changes and planning board approvals in place.
Then got hit with an Article 78 lawsuit that held
her up long enough to “raise the construction
costs 40 percent.”
“Despite having gotten our funding in place
we had to abandon our plans and give back the money,”
Todd said. The net effect was a cooling of all such
projects for her area for a spell.
Lawrence-Bauer said that apart from affordable housing
for seniors and low-income members of a community,
she’s starting to worry about other problems
with middle-income housing.
“No one wants the middle now,” she said.
There’s high end and low end real estate,
she added, but nothing for the area’s aging
population looking to move out of their homes, not
wanting to take on the high cost of renovating.
No cluster housing that area teachers or nurses,
service people and workers can take advantage of.
“We’ve now got Kenny Pasternak announcing
he’s going to build 30 high end homes in the
$750,000 range,” she said, mentioning one
of the major backers of developer Dean Gitter’s
Belleayre Resort project, for whom she once served
as a publicist. “Dean should be told he needs
to build some middle income housing if he wants
to do what he plans.”
Todd noted that she and RUPCO had been part of Ulster
County Housing Consortium talks about growing housing
needs. But Lawrence-Bauer said a more regional approach
may be needed to really achieve something.
“We’ve got Dean at the high end and
RUPCO at the low end,” she said. “But
the reality is we have to look at all our housing
needs across the board and create a balance.”
That, she said, was happening in her base-town of
Margaretville now. And, given RUPCO’s plans,
was within reach in Woodstock.
But more needed doing.
Some larger entity, be it the Catskill Watershed
Corporation or a state or federal legislator’s
office, needed to pick up the ball.
“It certainly would be the right thing to
do,” said Lawrence-Bauer.
Meanwhile, SHARP founding directors Lonnie and Ruth
Gale of Phoenicia noted this week that their agency
was originally started in the late 1970s as a means
of helping assure rebuilding of the Route 28 corridor’s
railroad line, and the branched out into senior
and affordable housing projects when the private
not-for-profit’s board hired former Eleanor
Roosevelt consultant Elise Miller as its first director.
Miller used government connections to not only build
Shandaken Apartments in Phoenicia, but also helped
gain the town of Shandaken a number of key grants
that helped its revival.
Her success was such, in fact, that later Town Supervisor
Neil Grant tried interfering with SHARP’s
choice of Gilbert as its second director, and when
told that neither e nor the Olive town government
had any say in the organization’s inner decisions,
cut substantial funding to it. When Todd replaced
Gilbert, she was instrumental at finishing a number
of projects, especially Olive-based Tongore Pines,
that had been stalled for years.
But when Todd ran for and won a town board seat,
a split on the SHARP board occurred between those
thinking such actions represented a conflict of
interest, and those that supported Todd’s
Todd said this week that the achievement she remains
most proud of is the development and success of
Tongore Pines. Other achievements she touted include
the purchase and renovation of Church Street Apartments
in Phoenicia, an existing 4 Unit Rental Building,
with a $25,000 low interest Federal loan and a conventional
mortgage of $65,000 from Wilber Bank. The units
have been rehabilitated to provide decent, affordable
rentals, one of which is handicapped accessible.
SHARP Committee President Ernie Gardiner of Boiceville
said this week that he was planning a special tribute
to Todd to take place in the coming weeks, and noted
that the decision to hire Kibe as her replacement
was “unanimous” and did not require
any advertising for the job. He added that political
pressures had hurt Todd over the years, while the
Gales noted that the entry of politics into SHARP
matters had led to their resignation from the board
they helped found several years ago.
They and others have questioned whether the organization,
which has become increasingly partisan via the viewpoints
expressed by Kibe and others in local letters columns
in recent years, will be as adept at fundraising
in what many are expecting to be a much-changed
state and national political climate over the coming