Follow Up on the
That meeting was ended at 12:48 AM on the
22nd by DEC Administrative Law Judge Richard Wissler after
nearly 6 hours of comment by some 47 speakers, with a large additional
number yet to be heard. The hearing will resume at 4 PM on Feb
3 and will end at midnight, irrespective of whether all may or
may not have been heard- and with no break.
Cross said this week that he would have someone record both meetings,
and possibly air each on public access television at a future
" Right now, all we have to look at is the 3,500 pages of
document," Cross said. "I haven't had time to sit down
and give it my full attention for a couple of days."
He said he expected to be able to go through it in three to four
days, given that "most of it I'll be able to leaf right over,"
but was looking forward to the coming presentations because, "We
all have questions."
" At least we'll hear one side of it," he explained
of the format he's set up which will allow the public to attend,
but not be heard from. "The advantage of this format is that
it will give us the questions to get answers to."
Cross refused to comment on the two hearings he attended in Margaretville
and Boiceville over the last two weeks, with over 850 others in
attendance, 10 speaking in favor of the project and 82 in opposition
" I'm an interested spectator," is all he would say.
"You know I can't make a comment."
On January 14, one count had seven speaking in favor of the project,
and 39 opposed. After introductory remarks by Gitter, who spoke
of how his project was developed out of a sense of caring for
the employment needs of the Catskills, several Delaware County
governmental officials and businessmen, including the owner of
the Margaretville area's largest real estate company, spoke enthusiastically
about the region needing a large shot of development money.
Eric Wedemeyer, the owner and founder of Timberland Realty, went
so far as to plead with project opponents to "let the rest
of us have a piece of the pie."
Others derided the gathering of "bogus environmentalists,"
who had held a press conference about the possibility of the project
setting a bad precedent for Catskill Park development on the eve
of its centennial.
Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, the
Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, the New York Public Interest Group
(NYPIRG), the Adirondack Mountain Club, Riverkeeper, state Attorney
General Elliot Spitzer‚s office, the Catskill Center for
Conservation and Development, and several smaller groups that
have popped up to fight the proposed project spent the rest of
the evening outlining their concerns. All noted that more than
just a skirmish over a development, the battle over the Belleayre
Resort was at the forefront of a statewide and national war to
maintain environmental concerns in the face of unrelenting attacks
over the last three years.
A letter was read from U.S. Congressman John
Sweeney, a close friend and former aide to Governor Pataki, expressing
his support for the project, "a winner," because of
its job production promises. Several local businessmen and real
estate agents said the area had been waiting for an opportunity
like that being offered by Gitter and his deep-pocketed investors.
But then the roster of project opponents started
in, raising questions about the environmental safety of what was
being proposed, the economic hazards of doubling the local population,
and most effectively, the fashion in which the DEIS was accepted
without question and apparently fast-tracked into the current
hearings without proper dissemination.
"I think this all comes down to a question of precedent,"
said James Tierney, Watershed Inspector General for the state
Attorney General's office. He got applause from half of the room.
"Promises of jobs and money are not worth two cents. I lived
in New Jersey and saw what those casino resorts did," said
an older woman, her voice rising with anger. "This is a nice
quiet place. What they‚re offering the locals here is a
joke. Don't ruin the land; it's good enough as it is."
Her comments got a standing ovation, and resounding clapping from
two thirds of the 250 or so gathered in the gymnasium.
The presence of a reporter/photographer team from the New York
Times indicated the deeper waters into which the review
had sailed by the second, January 21 hearing at which Gitter's
introductory remarks were summarily booed, forcing him off script
as his press agent, Fred Winters, tried retrieving press releases
he'd handed out before the hearing's official start.
According to the Times' Anthony DePalma, who came up from New
York with photographer Stewart Cairn, much of his publication's
growing interest in what's been happening locally has been fed
by growing interest in the review on the part of the New York
City Department of Environmental Protection, which will be required
to grant or deny permits to the project farther along in the process.
The city made a brief statement at the January 14 hearing, later
released to the press in the form of a letter addressed to Wissler.
" The proposal by Crossroads Ventures is the largest development
proposed in the Catskills in decades -possibly ever - and as proposed
has many different potential impacts on the quality of the water
flowing into the reservoirs," reads the statement written
and delivered by Kurt Rieke, First Deputy Director of the DEP‚s
Bureau of Water Supply. "DEP is an involved agency under
the State Environmental Quality Review Act, because certain components
of the project require DEP permits but more importantly due to
our responsibility for protection of this extraordinary water
supply under state law, which is shared by all Parties to the
MOA. We are devoting both in-house and consultant resources
to a thorough evaluation of the draft EIS that is the subject
of this hearing. We will be providing comments in detail,
in writing, before the close of the comment period."
While declining to list specific elements of its written review
comments, currently bring worked on with half a million dollars
of review funding at DEP headquarters in Queens, Rieke did outline
generic problems with, "the sufficiency of pollutant removal
by the proposed wastewater treatment plant design and performance;
the baseline data employed for design, and the efficacy of the
proposed stormwater management controls in achieving required
levels of pollutant control; the nature and severity of wetlands
impacts from the modifications that will be made to topography
throughout the development; the accuracy, sufficiency and reliability
of hydrologic analyses and water balance calculations used in
the design of the project; inaccurate depiction of baseline conditions,
optimistic projections of economic benefits, insufficient identification
and analysis of regional socio-economic and growth-inducing effects;
and economic, environmental and regional impacts during construction."
Ian Michaels added on Wednesday that no further comments on the
Belleayre Resort review would be made by the city until release
of their review documents in late February, which he noted would
be "very specific and very pointed."
At the Onteora High School auditorium DePalma was covering, filled
to its 600-seat capacity, those few speakers who expressed support
for the development drew boos and hisses throughout the hearing‚s
six hour length, while many of its critics were greeted by swells
of applause and cheering, with an occasional standing ovation.
Many speakers had done extensive homework, either by reading meticulously
through sections of the 3,500-page Draft Environmental Impact
Study (DEIS) supplied by Gitter‚s organization, Crossroads
Ventures, or by researching potential effects of such features
as application of chemicals to the two proposed golf courses and
deforestation of 500 acres of mountainside. Numerous local officials
spoke or had statements read in opposition to the project, including
county legislator Brian Shapiro, Congressman Maurice Hinchey,
State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Town of Woodstock councilman Steve
Knight, Town of Olive councilwomen Helen Chase and Linda Burkhardt,
and Richard Hochman of the Olive Planning Board.
Gitter, as the evening‚s first speaker, referred to a sign
carried by a high school student with the legend "Save Our
Catskills." "Save it from what?" he asked, provoking
loud jeers from the audience. "I want to save it from economic
decline and loss of jobs. We‚re all interested in saving
the Catskills, but we all have different points of view about
how we‚ll do this. I know you are passionately committed.
So are we."
Many opponents of the project spoke on familiar themes such as
danger to the purity of water resources, the impact of a predicted
traffic increase of 500 cars per hour, the prospect that the resorts
would compete with, rather than encourage, local businesses, the
possible infiltration of casino gambling, the difficulty of access
of the DEIS, demands that the DEC extend the period of public
comment, complaints that the project is on too large a scale for
Further details came from speakers such as Steven Dawes, who described
his experiences working at three golf courses, where he observed
application of chemicals to greens and fairways. He quoted the
DEIS as claiming that pesticide use will be limited through a
"curative rather than preventive approach." Dawes questioned
the meaning of this statement, saying that resort owners can hardly
be expected to wait for the appearance of brown patches before
applying pesticides when customers are "paying top dollar"
to play golf on immaculate lawns. In his experience, the first
appearance of any pest on a single green resulted in the prompt
spraying of all greens, and it was common for chemicals to be
used in higher than legal concentrations. He also reported that
unexpected storms occurring soon after chemical applications resulted
in the death of fish in lakes on the golf courses.
Environmental reporter Karen Charman read off negative health
effects documented for some of the pesticides, herbicides and
fungicides to be used, effects ranging from nervous system damage
to cancer. "It's true these are legal," she said. "That
does not make them safe." She also cited a New York Times
article of November 1998 about Vail, Colorado, which was suffering
from a labor shortage due to elevated housing prices that prevented
workers from living in the town. She said that when Gitter first
announced his proposal, he stated that his vision was to make
Shandaken resemble Vail.
Bruce Duffy of the Catskill-Delaware Water Alliance said that
the cutting of thousands of trees could "severely impact
the normal discharge curve" of rainwater runoff, altering
the course of the Esopus Creek and possibly causing floods, as
well as endangering the $900,000 stream stabilization project
recently completed outside Phoenicia. Several members of Trout
Unlimited stated that a more direct impact would manifest on the
smaller and more fragile Birch Creek, which would be affected
by the higher temperatures of runoff and higher silt content without
the benefit of restraining vegetation, possible pesticide and
fertilizer contamination and resultant danger to trout populations.
Sherret Chase, a founding member of the Catskill Center for Conservation
and Development, called Crossroads "a high-risk venture"
and the project a resort "built for sale, perhaps a young
Monte Carlo or Las Vegas, with the potential to pollute both the
Delaware and the Esopus Rivers. We do not need more speculative
ventures that take away more from the region than they give. Contrary
to project hype, we are not a poor, downtrodden people, needing
a knight in silver armor. We do not need to strike a Faustian
bargain. We do not need a shining, gated city on our ridge."
He recommended that New York City "buy out Crossroads' land
at a price that enables the developer to recoup his costs. If
he won't sell, they should condemn the property and incorporate
it into the forest preserve." The audience gave Chase a standing
Officials with a number of key
national, state and regional environmental organizations, who
have all spoken against the proposed project and are submitting
their own detailed reviews of Gitter‚s DEIS, have repeatedely
stated their beliefs that the final battleground for the Belleayre
Resort plan will be between city and state entities, possibly
coming down to a power struggle between the governor and mayor.
They've further noted that the DEC is paying close attention to
the numbers lining up pro and con the result, as well as the issues
Simultaneous to its current review of the Belleayre Resort proposal,
which Gitter has described as being a means of fulfilling long-proposed
goals to make the state-run Belleayre Mountain Ski Center a year-round
destination, the state Department of Environmental Conservation
has also been putting the finishing touches on its own multi-million
dollar expansion plans. On Wednesday, Belleayre‚s DEC Superintendent,
Tony Lanza, said that a final state proposal should be out in
the next 60 days.
The new Executive Budget proposal put out by Governor Pataki on
the same day as the Gitter review at Onteora lists an increase
of $30.6 million for 2004 DEC capital improvement projects amongst
a litany of cuts in most other areas.
It is expected that the current review will be discussed as part
of the expected budget battles set to start waging between Albany
and New York City over the coming six months.
Pickering will be at Onteora High School on Wednesday, February
4, to meet with administrators, the Student Affairs Council,
teaching and non-teaching staff, and PTA members. On Thursday,
February 5, at 7:00 p.m., the public is invited to make her
acquaintance in the high school cafeteria, where she will
answer questions. All groups will be asked to fill out evaluation
Winters is scheduled to meet with staff and students on Tuesday,
February 10, and with the public on Wednesday, February 11,
at 7:00 p.m.
Of the 33 applicants, there were 15 sitting superintendents,
nine assistant superintendents, three central office employees,
one principal, one adjunct professor, one consultant, one
unemployed superintendent, and one vice president of a non-profit
organization. Twelve had doctorates, and 21 had masters degrees.
There were eight women and 25 men. Educational search consultant
Richard Lerer selected eight candidates for the board to consider.
From those, four semi-finalists, all from New York State,
were chosen for interviews.
The new superintendent will replace retiring Hal Rowe, who
has served in his current position for eleven years. Although
his contract expired last June, the board voted to extend
it for a year so Rowe could assist with two difficult transitions,
staff contract negotiations and the reorganization of two
elementary schools in a stiff budget year. The new superintendent
will take over in July.
"Although the school board‚s function is to hire
the superintendent, we welcome a lot of input from all stakeholders
and the public at large," said D‚Orazio. "Please
come and participate."
It To Albany
"I commend the O'Connors for the courage, determination,
strength and perseverance they have demonstrated in their
efforts to turn a deeply sad personal tragedy into a mission
for the betterment of society," said Assemblyman Kevin
Cahill (D-Kingston), who was present at the hearing. "New
York has made significant progress in recent years in reducing
deaths and serious injuries caused by motor vehicles, but
it is clear that much more needs to be done."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
over 100,000 automobile crashes, 40,000 injuries, and 1550
fatalities a year are caused by driver fatigue. In an effort
to combat these statistics, state lawmakers, as a first step,
have introduced a bill that targets those who operate a motor
vehicle while impaired by fatigue.
Sponsored by state Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing (D-Manhattan)
and state Senator John J. Bonacic (R-Mount Hope),the proposed
legislation defines the offense of operating a motor vehicle
while driving ability is impaired by fatigue, a class A misdemeanor,
and the crime of vehicular homicide caused by driving while
ability is impaired by fatigue, a class E felony subject to
an indeterminate term of imprisonment of up to three years
and license revocation. "A person is guilty of driving
while ability is impaired by fatigue" the bill reads,
"when he or she operates any motor vehicle while having
been without sleep for a period in excess of 24 consecutive
But as Cindy O‚Connor pointed out to Assembly members
who listened to her testimony last Wednesday, driver fatigue
can be caused by many other factors: driving a long time without
a break; driving late at night or early in the morning when
one would normally be asleep; drinking alcohol; taking medications
such as antihistamines, sedatives, or even diuretics; and
health problems such as chronic hay fever or asthma, diabetes
and congestive heart failure.
"Limiting legislation to dangerous and reckless drivers
who have not slept in 24 hours, leaves loop holes," said
Cindy O‚Connor, speaking by telephone a week after the
public hearing. "But it's a start. In the beginning the
drunk driving laws weren't as strict as they now are."
"I guess I'm over-sensitive to the fact that there's
poverty in our nation, that there are homeless," Nazzaro
explains over coffee and a salad at the Phoenicia Diner, where
he worked as a teenager soon after its opening. "This
is simply a heinous place to get caught with nothing. I feel
this is what I'm supposed to accomplish in my lifetime∑
to help as much as I can."
He speaks, with deep empathy and understanding, about how
a broken car or heater problems can start a downward spiral
in a local household. Of how someone will turn down a $7 an
hour job in Kingston to hold out for something that's minimum
wage and closer to home. Of how a lot of locals he know wouldn't
mind cleaning rooms for rich people because otherwise they'd
never see how they lived. He called it all a "reality
show," a way of looking at life that compares everyday
hardships to what's available on the tube.
So he will help someone who asks with what money he can spare.
Or a ride to somewhere where better help can be found.
He took over the annual Holiday dinner at the Phoenicia Parish
Hall this past Christmas, bringing in donations and supplying
the overflow - enough for 500, should that many have come
out - all from his own larder.
Nazzaro's got a big enough heart that his grandparents used
to worry that he was operating on nothing but love. And even
his wife, an accountant, worries about where all this giving
"I'm starting to feel bled out. I'm having to learn where
to set limits and how to do this better," Nazzaro admits,
He makes his money, as best he can, from organic farming.
Nazzaro's been keeping gardens, he says, since he was five.
He's currently got two acres cultivated using French Intensive
farming methods that utilize intercropping, compressed farming
techniques to heioghten the yield of his 88,000 square feet
of tillable land. He grows vegetables and fruit, keeps various
poultry and rabbits, taps numerous maple trees and makes a
fine syrup, and sells his own honey. He's a truly hard-working
man with a loyal clientele of weekenders, local restaurants,
and those who stop in at his own farm stand, where he also
sells newspapers, despite some ongoing friction with local
zoning authorities over the nature of his business.
On the side, Nazzaro still takes jobs installing garage doors
and doing construction jobs throughout the Northeast.
He shows off a notebook filled with calculations on how to
take the eight cents he makes selling a single copy of the
Daily Freeman and turn it into a half pound of food for the
needy. And then extrapolates from there.
Nazzaro can also speak knowledgably about the many gaps in
the current social services net, including non-profit agencies,
especially in rural areas like ours. It's hard for people
to get to the centers in Kingston. Sometimes they just don't
know. Or are too proud to take such steps. As a result, many
are falling through the cracks. And with proposed cuts on
a statewide and national basis, those cracks seem poised to
"I'm just trying to help people like me get out of the
situation's they've found themselves slipped into," he
He talks lovingly of his grandfather, local builder Rudy Frank,
who emigrated from Germany in the 1930s, and his three children,
Christopher, Hailey and Calista, who he'd hoping will get
the altruism bug he caught.
"I guess you could say I'm into surviving," Nazzaro
says. "I'm into finding ways of surviving in the Catskills."
He adds that his satisfaction comes from knowing he's making
a difference. He calls it a way of mortgaging his future.
After a fashion, Nazzaro seems to believe in the Eastern concept
of Karma∑ that everything comes back full circle.
Yet he also admits to being bled dry by his growing need to
fill others' needs.
"I give 'til it hurts," he says. "I'm hoping
to start getting some help now, to find a way of passing what
I do on. You know, there are others who do as I do - businesses,
private individuals. But they do it on the sly, by letting
a bill slide, by turning their head the other way."
"I guess you could say I have a hobby that grew horns,"
More like a halo, we think.
Those wishing to help with Nazzaro's endeavors are encouraged
to contact him regarding donations or food and goods, volunteer
time, money and whatever else they can think of. He lives
in the large farmhouse at the corner of Routes 28 and 42 in
Shandaken. His number is 688-7210.
Growing up with such emphases on the frailty and specialness of
sight, Spark says she was "allowed to draw and paint as much
as I wanted." As her eyes developed cataracts, and then glaucoma,
she reached a point where her college studies were diverted into
an English Literature major for a while. But then cataract surgery
brought her back to her first love.
Spark holds both a Masters of Fine Art in painting and an M.A.
in Art Therapy.
"Do you know Claude Monet's Water Lilies and their blurriness?"
she asks. It turns out Monet had cataracts during those influential
final years of his long career. And that's how Spark saw the world
for years, and still sees much of it to this day.
"No hard edges," she explains. "All glistening
in an almost psychedelic manner∑
Now, she adds, things have been worsening again. But such things
don't seem to daunt Spark, who says she's learned to work with
whatever small field of vision she's given to translate through
"I'm trying to find ways to express what I see and how I
see it. I feel this has given my work a purer, direct means of
Since moving upstate, she's found herself drawn to working with
nature, a process that forced her through a more classical form
of depiction as she found her way with such a vast, always re-creating
subject matter. Which is why she's so excited about her most recent
works: the fragment paintings.
"I'm just trying to draw attention to the way reality is
a juxtaposition of things that co-exist, and not necessarily in
a linear way," she says of the new work.
Spark has shown throughout the Catskills part of our readership
area, with regularity at Phoenicia's Upstate Art, Hunter's Catskill
Mountain Foundation Gallery and Margaretville's Erpf Gallery.
But she's also been collected by years, with her works in major
hospitals as well as private homes.
To fuel herself, Spark has spent years regularly seeing as much
art as she can. When we speak she's excited about an afternoon
to be spent at The Whitney.
She also brings out some important lessons she's learned over
First off, Spark taught art therapy for years, but also worked
in hospitals with handicapped clients who taught her "this
startling thing: that art can be a direct link between image making
and what's going on inside a person."
Secondly, the move Upstate, and the establishment of a strong
connection with Mt. Tremper's noted Zen Mountain Monastery, provided
Spark with "a big opening" that has allowed her to explore
new ways of looking and seeing via the world of nature's that
has opened up to her up hear. Which, among other things, has shifted
her direction, seasons-wise, to a new respect for the winter season
we are in the midst of.
"I, like many artists I know, do a lot more work in winter,"
Spark says. "You see the structure of everything now that
the leaves are gone. All that green in the summer is like a carpet,
and somewhat stifling. But the current season brings out the uninterrupted
rawness of the landscape we inhabit here."
Finally, Spark says that her way of seeing, for all its faults,
is starting to match the landscape she's moved into. She talks
about being able to capture something in these mountains and valleys,
these ancient hills, that is rare.
This past summer she and her husband spent several weeks in an
artist's retreat - author Heinrich Boll's cabin by the sea - and
were deeply impressed by the sparseness of a landscape that had
once held forest as green as ours, until "men and women made
some mistakes and left things bare for the last 5,000 years."
"We have an opportunity to see what a landscape can look
like that's been revived, and avoid its second destruction,"
she says in her matter-of-fact way.
Furthermore, Michelle Spark sees her art, with its new focus on
her skewed but precious vision of our landscape, as important
because, "It still helps us see something beyond our own
constructed realities. Nature is still the one place we can still
learn new things from.
For further information on Michelle Spark's work, including whatever
new exhibits she may be having, visit her website at www.michellespark.com