The controversy in the Onteora School District and Ulster County
over the so-called “Large Parcel Law” has been presented
to the public through a filter of distortion, anger and even
outright lies. Recently, your newspaper printed a Letter to
the Editor penned by a group of Town of Olive residents that
gave a decidedly one-sided and biased review of a meeting held
in my Kingston District Office on November 9, 2004.
This gathering was scheduled at the request of a few constituents
to discuss their concerns with the Large Parcel Law. A significantly
larger group arrived. Immediately upon commencing the meeting,
it became apparent that some visitors were more interested in
using this forum to hurl accusations and angry statements than
to calmly converse and share thoughts. I let my guests know
in no uncertain terms that abusive behavior would not be tolerated,
and if that were to be their game plan, we would conclude the
appointment. After that, the tone changed for the most part
with the exception of one individual. The meeting continued
for nearly an hour and a half. The conversation ensued with
folks from various walks of life who shared an important mission
— relaying their thoughts and experiences as Olive homeowners
affected by local decisions to adopt the Large Parcel method
of apportioning school district and county taxes. For my part,
I explained the history, details and reasoning behind the law.
As our talk concluded, the group left on a cordial note. In
an effort to address questions raised during our discussion,
I followed up with a letter to each attendee summarizing the
content of our meeting and providing answers to their queries.
A generic copy of this correspondence is available for review
at www.assembly.state.ny.us on my home page under “Publications.”
I urge all readers to visit this site or phone my District Office
at 845-338-9610 with questions or concerns.
Accusations that “a more articulate and wealthy community
in the Onteora School District have applied pressure and that
I am following rather than leading” are pure fiction.
I have in the past and will forever diligently and proactively
represent each and every individual, community and entity in
the 101st Assembly District based on my convictions, beliefs
and the facts surrounding the issue. Tirades and charges, even
when cloaked in the protective anonymity of unnamed third parties,
as one person sought to do, will not advance understanding in
I remain committed to serving the needs of all in my constituency.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond.
Kevin A. Cahill
NYS Assembly 101st District
In early October the Town of Olive sent over one thousand signatures
in a petition asking for help in amending the Large Parcel Bill.
By deleting the word “reservoirs” or by adding the
phrase “all concerned municipalities would have to agree
to this alternate means of assessment,” the Large Parcel
legislation would return to its Legislative intent as stated
in Senator Larkin’s letter.
Copies of all these 1,000+ signatures of citizens of Onteora
of voting age were sent to Assemblyman Kevin Cahil1 (D), Senator
John C. Bonacic (R), and to School Board President Marino D’Orazio.
Luckily these petitions and signatures were sent certified mail
from the Town Office in West Shokan; otherwise we would never
know that they reached their intended destinations. To this
date none of the three have even had the courtesy to respond.
Are these representatives embarrassed in the parts they played
in raising Olive’s school taxes 60% and county taxes 91.3
%? Aren’t the citizens, and voters, of Olive at least
We are waiting for your responses.
Hopefully, the Board of Education realizes the damage it has
wreaked upon the budget and is regretting its meddling in local
assessment. Otherwise, Shandaken with 75 % of its land under-assessed
by the State of New York might be next. Why did the
Board not request Shandaken, whose reval was a decade older
than Olive’s, to give its fair share?
By the way, the Onteora School Board has always had the right
to be the assessing agent of all towns in the School District.
Why just use the power against Olive’?
Neglectfully, our legislative representatives have opened a
can of worms that has towns greedily lusting after state land
in Shandaken and revenue sharing of the Ulster Mall Complex.
Whatever happened to Home Rule? Doesn’t “sharing
of wealth” smack of socialism’?
Bruce La Monda
Olive Town Board
An Open Letter to Kevin Cahill: A few things do not add up concerning
the oppressive Large Parcel Bill enacted by the Onteora School
Board. State Senator John Larkin is generally known as the prime
sponsor of the Large Parcel Bill and was directly quoted as
saying in a written letter dated June 1, 2004 "that the
law was not intended to apply to reservoirs..." The other
co-sponsor is Assemblyman Paul Tonko who is head of the energy
office (and not head of reservoirs, or water supply). The Large
Parcel Bill itself states that its purpose "...is to reduce
the wild swings both up and down that occur for all assessed
properties when a municipality has a high value property whose
assessed evaluation is in flux from year to year". THIS
IS NOT THE CASE WITH PUBLICALLY OWNED RESERVOIR PROPERTIES WHOSE
EVALUATION STATUS IS STABLE. Why was the bill changed? Who forced
the Onteora School Board to make this terrible decision which
by causing a huge rise in Olive's School Taxes is hurting our
children, the townspeople of Olive, and is straining community
relations with our neighboring towns?
Mr. Cahill, you were once a true representative of all the people.
Some say that a more articulate and wealthy community in the
Onteora School District applies more pressure and that you,
Mr. Cahill, are following rather than leading. Please reconsider
your position on the Large Parcel Bill and realize that the
Town of Olive bears a tremendous burden that is NOT shared equally
by the other towns in the Onteora School District. Let us please
keep in mind that only a few other school boards in the ENTIRE
state of New York elected to even use the Large Parcel Bill!!
None involved reservoirs!
Helen M. Boice, Marlene Colgate
Joe Piscopo, Henrietta Wise
On December 14, I attended the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce
breakfast at which Dean Gitter of Belleayre Resort notoriety
was the featured speaker. I have witnessed Mr. Gitter’s
angry rants many times; this time he crossed a new line.
Playing on a terrorist theme, he claimed resort opponents were
conducting a “holy war” against him, called them
“environmental jihadists”, made reference to “fundamentalist
environmentalists”, called the New York City DEP’s
representatives “hired assassins”, and apologized
if he had offended any members of the Taliban present.
After this full, frontal attack on everyone who doesn’t
agree with him, he proceeded to list ways in which “they”
have “misused” the environmental review process,
which, of course, is the only reason his resort isn’t
built yet. Right? Wrong.
For example, he made every effort to leave audience members
believing that the DEC had already given a green light to his
project, but were then thwarted when those apparently omnipotent
“environmental holy warriors” intervened. (Note:
the DEC has given no such green light to this project.) And
Gitter cried foul because the all-volunteer Shandaken Planning
Board was not chosen as lead agency, despite their complete
lack of experience reviewing anything much larger than a house.
He dismisses the fact that reviewing this massive and complex
development proposal, sited on a mountaintop in the middle of
the NYC watershed and the Catskill Park, might be beyond the
planning board’s abilities. He claimed the board had never
taken more than a few months to review a project, implying that
his development would be well on it’s way by now (I wonder
why?) if that wicked NYCDEP and those “environmental fundamentalists”
hadn’t gotten in the way.
Gitter cited grievance after grievance and for each he created
a story which not only omitted relevant information, but misrepresented
the facts, the process, and the people involved.
He concluded by claiming that the SEQR (State Environmental
Quality Review) process had been “broken” through
“misuse” and attributed that to the “environmentalist
holy warriors”, agencies such as the NYCDEP, and the dreaded
public having wangled their way into the process.
It is clear that his outrage is not because SEQR is not working,
but because it IS working. It is just not working to his advantage.
SEQR, in this case, is providing the checks and balances it
was designed to provide, and which are critical to determining
the impacts of a project of this size and complexity. And it
is just those checks and balances that people like Dean Gitter
would love to eliminate.
I was frankly astonished the other morning to hear Dean Gitter
characterize the opponents of his Bellayre project as zealots
and to compare them with terrorist organizations. I hardly think
that failing to conform to Mr. Gitter’s vision of the
future merits that type of comparison. I think his project is
on too large a scale, will pollute the Esopus creek, create
a traffic nightmare along Route 28 and will have a very limited
economic impact on the area. This does not qualify me as a Bin
I fear Mr. Gitter is making the same mistake in this region
as the current administration is making in determining our foreign
policies: isolating those who don’t agree with us, branding
them as enemies and then attempting to force our will upon them.
This strategy will have no better success regionally than it
has nationally. Perhaps Mr. Gitter should consider choosing
dialogue over division.
I sat through the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce breakfast
and listened to Dean Gitter refer to opponents of the proposed
Belleayre Resort as 'environmental jihadists', make reference
to New York City Department of Environmental Protection's 'hired
assassins' and apologize to any members of the Taliban who might
Is this the level of dialogue that the Ulster County Chamber
of Commerce wants to promote? There was no opportunity to question
Mr. Gitter about his relentless accusations and no announcements
to indicate that other points of view on the subject would be
presented at future breakfasts.
Let us hope that the Chamber makes certain that those Mr. Gitter
vilified are given equal opportunity to present their side of
the matter in question. There is a need here for civil and balanced
After reading the two articles on the death of high school student
Jaimison Wooten I felt compelled to write.
When the death of a student occurs, no matter what the situation
and circumstances, I suggest school districts and superintendents
concentrate more on finding why and what happened and less on
immediately stating, “No fault of ours.” For the
family it gives comfort knowing something is being done. To
the community it builds trust and for the district its shows
Hyde Park School District, please focus on finding out the facts
and truth. Only the truth will set you free.
To the family of Jamison Wooten, I am so sorry for the sudden
loss of your precious son. I know your pain. May God give you
the strength to take one day at a time - and many days’
moments at a time.
On the white plastic fence that borders a field on Route 28,
between Riseley Road and Mount Pleasant Road: It is quite an
absurdity and affront to our Catskill Mountain sensibility.
Gitter doesn’t have to see it, but we do. The view is
over a half mile of white plastic fence bordering a field with
Mount Tremper in the background. I would call it surrealistic
if it wasn’t so tacky, 1ike a movie set for a Hollywood
musical. Are the people whose idea this was afraid of the beauty
and mystery of the Catskill Mountains? The fence is saying,
“this is not a field in the Catskill Mountains, this is
This is an attempt to suburbanize the Catskill Mountains. It
is a microcosm of what will happen to the mountain in Gitter’s
Belleayre Resort. Destroy the mountain, plasticize it, suburbanize
it, that way we will control it and he will call that progress.
Is there a parallel here with Bush trying to force his idea
of democracy on the Iraqi people?
Gerard Manley Hopkins ends a poem with, “Let them be left,
wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
Mount Tremper, NY
At a recent meeting of the Ulster County Legislature it was
proposed that the Ulster County Health Department's 2005 Tobacco
Mini-Grant Program funding be radically reduced from its current
level of $150,000 to $44,500. This proposed action would have
devastating effects on the health and well being of our most
precious resources, our children. The artistic and educational
anti-tobacco programs of over a dozen direct service providers
would be curtailed or sharply reduced.
These tobacco education mini-grant funded programs have provided
creative and innovative approaches to educating young children
about the hazards of smoking and have benefited thousands of
elementary school students throughout Ulster County in an extremely
cost effective manner. As Ulster County has chosen to utilize
its tobacco settlement funds for other ventures and projects,
the Health Department Tobacco Mini-Grant Program was one of
the few methods for distribution of county funds that directly
went to tobacco education programming for our children.
As a tobacco education Mini-Grant recipient for the past four
years, Smoke Out Productions has provided educational anti-smoking
puppet productions in dozens of our county elementary schools
and community functions. We have educated and entertained thousands
of students, teachers and parents about the hazards of smoking
and of second hand smoke with our carefully researched shows.
Smoke Out Productions and the other Tobacco Mini-Grant recipients
are proud of their contributions to the anti-smoking efforts
of the Ulster County Health Department and the Ulster County
Legislature and we look forward to producing and providing in-school
educational programs for the students of Ulster County in 2005.
We ask that the Tobacco Education Mini-Grant Program budget
not be reduced.
Steven Gottlieb, Director
Smoke Out Productions
A Ball of Gold
( With apologies to Stephen Crane)
A man was pursuing the reservoir.
He stopped a stranger in Woodstock
“Where is the Ashokan Reservoir?’
Turn right and then left onto Route 375,
Then go west for ten miles or so.
When you are in the Town of Olive,
Make any left hand turn and there it is.
Another man was pursuing the reservoir.
He stopped a villager in Shandaken
“Where is the Ashokan Reservoir?”
Turn left onto Route 28
And go east for ten miles or so.
When you are in the Town of Olive,
Make any right hand turn and there it is.
Another man was pursuing the reservoir.
He stopped a gentleman in Olive
“Where is the Ashokan Reservoir?”
Well, if you turn left or right,
Your will see the Ashokan Reservoir,
For it is the heart and soul of our town.
And when you cannot see it any longer,
You will be in either Woodstock or Shandaken!
In a recent editorial, The Olive Press complimented former DEP
Commissioner, Chris Ward with getting the value of the Ashokan
Reservoir raised by the Office Of Real Property Service (ORPS)
and stated that the “local politicians” did nothing.
Well, from someone who attended every meeting with ORPS both
locally and in Albany, I can tell you nothing is further from
the truth. It was the Town of Olive Town Board who initiated
the appeal process that got the value or the reservoir raised.
In fact, the New York City DEP sent their attorney to Albany
to vigorously oppose our appeal. I know this for a fact because
I was there with Supervisor Leifcld. This appeal was carried
out by our attorneys, and I don’t recall Woodstock or
Shandaken offering to help with any legal fees as long as they
“coveted”’ our tax revenue.
Even though we feel the value of the Ashokan Reservoir is still
too low, we have made some headway and are continuing to give
ORPS current information about property values done by the NYC
DEP’s own appraisals. Throughout last year’s process,
we felt the Onteora School Board would realize the progress
we were making with ORPS and with our institution of Olive’s
reval and not enact the “Large Parcel Bill.” However,
the school board decided to become the “equalizcr of taxes”
and consequently suffered a failed budget this past year and,
in all likelihood, will as long as the “Large Parcel Bill”
exists for the Ashokan Reservoir.
In closing, I can tell you that NO ONE has helped the Town of
Olive except for the Town of Olive itself. We feel we are no
longer a town, but a Colony of citizens suffering under “Taxation
Bruce La Monda
Councilman Town of Olive
Editor’s Note: In our attempt to wish Mr. Ward well on
his departure, we overshot our enthusiasm. Thank you for bringing
our attention to the oversight. We stand with our community
and keep working to report this painful story as it evolves,
hopefully towards an eventual denouement better than the current
It is with pleasure that we wish the residents of the Olive
area a joyous and peaceful holiday season. This time of year,
individuals throughout our community will renew honored traditions
with family and friends. Our thoughts turn gratefully to those
who give so much to our communities.
Please accept our warmest and most heartfelt wishes for a safe
and happy holiday season and may the New Year bring success
and fulfillment to all.
Ulster County Legislators
Towns of Olive, Marbletown and Hurley