Ulster County property values have continued to climb in recent
months, particularly in the southern part of the county. The
total value of properties in the county stands at $14.25 billion
this year, 16.3 percent higher than the $12.25 billion recorded
in 2003 and 72.3 percent higher than just five years ago. According
Dorthy Martins, who overseas valuation in the county for tax
purposes, Woodstock, Marbletown and the Olive area have been
growing at a steady pace with prices advancing faster than the
rest of the county. Downsides to the county’s property
value growth include a growing gap between county incomes and
home prices. The median sale price of a single-family home in
Ulster County is around $220,000, according to officials, while
the median family income is just under $57,000 a year. Depending
on a home buyer’s debt and credit history, he or she may
be able to secure a mortgage in the $130,000-$160,000 range
at that income level, but not the $200,000.
Gov. George Pataki is so optimistic about land claim negotiations
with two Wisconsin tribes that he is now proposing an expansion
of casinos in the Catskills. Currently, three casinos are authorized
for the Catskills. Now the governor is talking about raising
the number to five.
“I think five makes perfectly good sense,” Pataki
said Monday. “It’s something I would consider.”
Deals with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans and the Oneida
Nation of Wisconsin were announced recently, giving the tribes
the rights to gambling compacts in the Catskills in return for
their dropping lawsuits over the state’s illegal taking
of reservation land 200 years ago. The deals also come with
the tribes promising to share gambling revenues with the state
and agreeing to either pay taxes on cigarettes and gasoline
or to price products sold at stores at off-reservation rates.
Pataki would need legislation amending a law that was hurriedly
passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the state was hit with
multibillion-dollar budget gaps. That law allowed for up to
three tribal gambling halls in the Catskills plus three in western
New York operated by the Seneca Indian Nation. The Seneca have
since opened two, but nothing has happened in the Catskills.
Pataki is making some headway now with five tribes looking to
build large casinos in the Monticello area. The governor has
secured a tentative land claim agreement with the St. Regis
Mohawk Tribe, which still needs tribal ratification. More recently,
he reached deals with the Cayuga Nation of New York and the
Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.
Two weeks ago, Pataki denied he was looking at such an expansion.
His turnaround this past week points to how close he is to sealing
more deals, a source close to negotiations said.
Lawmakers were unenthusiastic this week about amending the casino
laws. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he would first like
to see movement on the three casinos authorized three years
ago. Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said his chamber
is “going to wait and see what’s in the best interests
of people in the Catskills and in New York state.”
Lawmakers from the Catskills were also less than supportive.
Sen. John Bonacic said Catskills residents should have a say
in any expansion beyond three casinos. The economy isn’t
as bad in the region as it was in 2001 when the three were authorized,
A 3 inch by 3 inch advertisement announcing the availability
of some long-boarded-up old storefronts on Kerhonksen’s
Main Street in another local newspaper, The Blue Stone Press,
recently pulled a major story in the New York Times when its
taunting local vs. newcomer talk turned out to be written by
a top national advertising firm. Describing Kerhonkson as a
“real town - not like some of the other quaint towns around
these parts” the ad warned potential takers, “If
you want to open a coffee shop, don’t make us learn new
words for small, medium and large is all we’re saying.”
“Jews, Blacks, Italians (and all others) Welcome,”
it supposedly added, according to the Paper of Record, “No
Artists or Canadians.”
It later turned out that the company that placing the ad, which
generated local complaint, called itself Kerhonkson General,
which was really a pseudonym for Harris
Silver, the president of a New York City advertising agency
called Think Tank 3, which has created sleek campaigns for products
like Georgi Vodka and several environmentally friendly causes.
Silver, who owns a weekend house in Kerhonkson for years, had
gotten together with some friends to buy the three empty stores
and some vacant apartments as part of a plan to revive the town.
Silver later said he was trying to take a swipe at New Paltz.
“Do your brothers-in-flannel up here who read these ads
realize that your thinly veiled ‘Think Tank’ is
really a N.Y.C.-based ad agency with a slick and pseudo-intellectual
Web site peddling freshman philosophy about, among other
things, art?” the Times reported an irate e-mailer writing.
“Get real, you
self-important fakes. I’d be willing to bet you drink
fancy coffee drinks every day. In short, you have no authority
to speak as one of us, and no business pretending to be from
the other side of the tracks.”
The state Department of Transportation says state Route 28 could
handle 18,000 vehicles a day, or 1,800 an hour (thirty vehicles
a minute), and was designed for such when built more than 40
years ago. But many are now saying that if traffic ever got
close to that level, the result would disastrous, with the corridor
taking on the feel of Route 17 in Paramus, N.J. With Route 28
now being used at about half its rated capacity, according to
data, local residents have asked to have recently hired consultants
preparing a comprehensive plan for the town to consider how
bad traffic could become along the corridor with new development.
Traffic currently reaches about half the maximum capacity in
the eastern end of town, with about 8,000 vehicles per day coming
as far as Phoenicia. West of the hamlet, traffic drops substantially,
to 4,000 vehicles per day at state Route 42 and about 2,500
per day at the Ulster County/Delaware County line in Highmount.
Paula Benway of Stantec Corp., the firm hired to prepare Shandaken’s
comprehensive plan, has said there are state Department of Transportation
benchmarks used to determine if the time it takes to get onto
Route 28 becomes unacceptable. If it does, she said, the agency
would install traffic-control devices to correct the problem.
Benway is expected to address the potential problem when she
returns for her next local meeting with the Town of Shandaken
Comprehensive Planning Committee in February.
The Catskill Watershed Corp.’s board of directors recently
approved a $27.93 million budget for 2005, a spending increase
of 36.7 percent, or $7.5 million, over the current year, mostly
for sewage treatment projects and various programs related to
water quality improvements. Funding is primarily through the
New York City Department of Environmental Protection, with additional
funds from state and federal government. The CWC uses the funds
to manage a variety of programs and special projects to protect
water quality in the New York City watershed west of the Hudson
River, and to assist residents and communities within the region.
The agency was born on Jan. 17, 1997 with the signing of the
landmark Watershed Memorandum of Agreement, a watershed land
use pact between New York City, state, federal and local governments.
To help offset the costs and restrictions of increased regulations
and land purchases by the city, the Watershed Corp. was charged
with developing and implementing several city-funded programs,
including residential septic rehabilitation, economic development,
education, stormwater controls and salt storage improvements.
In 2002, the federal government reviewed the first five years
of the watershed protection effort, and agreed to allow the
city to continue to avoid building a multibillion-dollar water
filtration system in exchange for more funding for existing
Watershed Corp. programs and for new programs.
Yet while funding is up, the CWC’s economic development
fund has stalled at millions of dollars below anticipated amounts,
leading the corporation to suspend the grant portion of the
fund until interest rates start allowing it to grow at a higher
rate. With interest rates starting to creep up, the grant program
may be reactivated, CWC executive director Rosa has said.
The Ulster County Legislature is seeking to replace the longstanding
director of the county Resource Recovery Agency board on December
13, aiming at removal of three board members who have supported
local “trash czar” Charles Shaw, who has served
for 15 years. The bi-partisan move comes after years of runaway
cost increases hit a nadir this past year. Shaw’s contract
expires Dec. 31, 2007. County lawmakers have been wrestling
with ways to cut the county subsidy to the trash agency since
September, when it requested $3.21 million, an increase of $713,176,
or 28.55 percent. Other resolutions the county is looking at
include the exploration of “options” for the trash
agency that include privatization, a joint venture with the
private sector, or “reduction or elimination of taxpayer
funds” for the agency. Legislators have said they are
not impressed with the agency’s efforts to control costs.
Under the charter establishing the Ulster County Resource Recovery
Agency, a five-member board is appointed by the full Legislature
and approves a contract for an executive director. The agency,
established by the state Legislature in 1988, moved to consolidate
landfills and set up a countywide trash-collection operation.
A decade after IBM left the area as part of its controversial
downsizing, Ulster County is being urged not to go looking for
other “600-pound gorilla” type economic fixes in
the form of large companies or development projects, choosing
instead to foster small businesses and entrepreneurs through
technical and financial support, the Special Commission on the
Economic Future of Ulster County, formed by the Ulster County
Development Corp., has concluded. The commission recently released
a 255-page transcript of an October 5 public hearing it held
on local development at the Community College, along with copies
of comments submitted following the hearing. “The key
is going to clearly articulate what it is the communities would
like to see happen,” said UCDC Director Chester Straub
of the commission’s findings. “There are going to
be locations in the county where you cannot or should not develop.
Additional information on the commission and the Ulster County
Development Corp., along with a copy of the transcript and report,
is available at www.ulsterny.com.
For the second time in two months, the completion date for the
already much-delayed “new” county jail has been
pushed back by the construction management firm overseeing the
project several more months… with indications that not
even that new date is realistic. In a letter to county officials,
Dick White of Bovis Lend Lease said the facility won’t
be ready to accept prisoners until Aug. 12, 2005 - two months
later than the June 7 completion date announced in October and
16 months later than the original target date of April 2004.
But even the August 2005 target seems tentative, according to
White’s letter to county Legislature Majority Leader Michael
Stock, who chairs the Law Enforcement Center Project Committee.
According to the most recent schedule, the building will be
fully enclosed by Dec. 10; roughly 95 percent complete by June
10; have all systems complete, tested and approved by the state
Commission on Corrections by Aug. 10; and be ready to accept
inmates from the current jail on nearby Golden Hill on Aug.
But some members of the Law Enforcement Center Project Committee
doubt the Aug. 12 forecast. The new Law Enforcement Center,
which will house the jail and the Ulster County Sheriff’s
Office, originally was to cost $71.8 million but could cost
up to $21 million more: $4.7 million to complete construction
and the remainder to settle claims and cover related legal fees.
A new study from the University of Arizona in Tucson indicates
that forty to fifty percent of all food ready for harvest never
gets eaten. What researchers found was that not only is edible
food discarded that could feed people who need it, but the rate
of loss, even partially corrected, could save U.S. consumers
and corporations tens of billions of dollars each year. These
losses, the report says, also can be framed in terms of environmental
degradation and national security.
Research included archaeologists measuring garbage from the
1970s on to see what was being thrown away and discovering that
people were not fully aware of what they were using and discarding.
On average, households waste 14 percent of their food purchases.
Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their
expiration date but never opened. Researchers estimate an average
family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat,
fruits, vegetables and grain products.
There are three simple ways most people can significantly reduce
their own food waste. One is careful purchase planning: devise
menus and make up grocery lists accordingly. Another is knowing
what lurks in the refrigerator and pantry that needs to be used
while it is still useable. And understand that many kinds of
food can be refrigerated or frozen and eaten later.
Nationwide, household food waste alone adds up to $43 billion,
making it a serious economic problem.
China, India and Russia are on the brink of an Africa-style
Aids epidemic that could devastate the global economy and international
security, the head of the UN Aids project has warned. Peter
Piot, head of UNAIDS, said that the three countries are “perilously
close to a tipping point” that could see localized outbreaks
explode into national epidemics. Aids in all three countries
was on the verge of breaking out of high risk groups made up
of prostitutes and drug addicts, and into the general population,
a situation mirrored in Africa 20 years ago. The condition could
then spread “like wildfire” and “no country
on earth will escape the impact,” he said.
People worry that the global resources now available for Africa
could easily diminish, perhaps even vanish.
The HIV infection rate among adults in China, the most heavily
populated country in the world, is 0.1 per cent, compared with
7.5 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Infection rates are also
relatively low in India, the planet’s second most populated
Drugs companies have little incentive to pursue an Aids vaccine
because the poorer countries that need it most cannot realistically
afford to pay for it.
Although the US Government has spent money in the three risk
countries highlighted by Mr Piot, including $50 million in India,
none of them is among 15 “focus countries” targeted
by President Bush’s $30 billion emergency Aids relief
plan that includes 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti,
Guyana and Vietnam.
During a routine sale of U.S. Treasury bonds in early September,
one of the essential pillars holding up the economy suddenly
disappeared. Foreigners who have been regularly buying nearly
half of all debt issued by the U.S. government suddenly stopped
buying. The foreigners returned in force at the next Treasury
auction, and the instance was quickly dismissed as an aberration.
But the episode demonstrated how much the U.S. economy is dependent
on other countries to bankroll its free-spending ways. That
fragility is becoming even more precarious because of recent
declines in the U.S. dollar to multiyear lows, some economists
say. And many analysts don’t see anything that will stop
A cheaper dollar reduces the value of American securities, making
them less attractive to foreign investors. That could eventually
precipitate what some have called “the doomsday scenario”
- Japan and China not only refusing to buy U.S. bonds, but selling
some of their $1.3 trillion in reserves. The only way Uncle
Sam could then find new customers for its IOUs would be by raising
interest rates. And although higher rates are good for savers,
they would be disastrous for a country weaned on cheap credit.
Ultimately, economists say, the solution is for the U.S. government
to reduce its massive budget deficit. That would curb the need
for Uncle Sam to issue so many Treasury notes. And the dollar
would rise on its own, because the deficit is the main reason
it continues to fall.
A Pentagon spokesman said recently that Red Cross officials
have “made their view known” that the indefinite
detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, amounts
to torture, noting that “It’s their point of view,”
but one not shared by the Bush administration. Lawrence Di Rita,
spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, reiterated
that the administration believes it has the legal right to detain
such suspects until the end of the war on terrorism because
they are unlawful combatants not subject to the protections
of the Geneva conventions.
The New York Times reported recently that the International
Committee of the Red Cross has accused the American military
of using techniques “tantamount to torture” on prisoners
at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans
to launch a new study in which participating low income families
will have their children exposed to toxic pesticides over the
course of two years. For taking part in these studies, each
family will receive $970, a free video camera, a T-shirt, and
a framed certificate of appreciation. The study entitled CHEERS
(Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study) will
look at how chemicals can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed by
from babies to 3 years old.
Talk about paying off one’s Holiday debts!
Canada has started talking tough about a possible trade war
with the United States over American duties which allows American
companies to receive anti-dumping and countervailing reimbursal
funds, a law that the World Trade Organization has ruled is
“Retaliation is not the preferred course of action, but
this is about respecting international trade laws,” Canadian
Trade Minister Jim Peterson said.
Canadian lumber exports to the U.S., worth about $10 billion
annually, have been subject to heavy duties since May 2002.
The U.S. maintains Canadian producers have an unfair advantage
over their American counterparts through lower stumpage fees
- the fee to cut wood on government land. Canadian producers
have paid more than $3 billion US in cash deposits - mostly
held in trust - and the Americans want to give that money to
On Aug. 31, the WTO ruled that Canada, Brazil, Chile, the European
Union, India, Japan, Mexico and South Korea could retaliate
by up to 72 per cent of the annual anti-dumping and countervailing
duties on exports disbursed to U.S. companies in a given year.
On Nov. 10, Canada joined in submitting to the WTO the final
retaliation authorization request, which is required by the
WTO before any retaliatory measures can be applied.
America’s religious scored a major legislative victory
recently by inserting a clause into a spending bill to undermine
state laws requiring hospitals to provide abortions. The provision,
a last-minute addition to a $388bn budget bill, was approved
by Congress without debate caps a two-year campaign by Catholic
bishops and anti-abortion organisations to give legal cover
to hospitals that refuse to perform terminations, or to even
refer women to abortion providers.
After an uproar from Democrats, it was agreed that the Senate
would hold a vote to repeal the measure in April. Until then
women’s activists were trying to assess what impact the
measure would have on those seeking abortions. Although US women
have a guaranteed right to legal abortion under the supreme
court’s landmark Roe v Wade verdict, hospitals and insurance
companies are not compelled to provide the service, and individual
doctors can refuse to perform abortions as a matter of conscience.
But the law in some states does require hospitals and insurance
companies to provide abortion services, and it is these legal
requirements that are the target of the latest federal measure,
officially known as the Abortion Anti-Discrimination Act.
Women’s activists fear that the sweeping language in the
provision will discourage hospitals from providing information
on abortion services, and also expose insurance companies to
pressure from the Christian right, which has proved itself a
formidable lobbying force.
The measure is the first of several provisions seeking to restrict
abortion rights, due before Congress in the new year. Among
them is a bill that would prevent minors from traveling outside
their states to seek abortion counseling, as well as a measure
that would require doctors to lecture patients on the pain felt
by the fetus during an abortion, although scientists have not
established whether a fetus does feel pain.
An ingredient in chocolate could be used to stop persistent
coughs and lead to more effective medicines says a new study
which found that theobromine, found in cocoa, was nearly a third
more effective in stopping persistent coughs than codeine, currently
considered the best cough medicine. The researchers, from Imperial
College London (ICL), said the discovery could lead to more
effective cough treatments. It was also found that unlike standard
cough treatments, theobromine caused no adverse effects on the
cardiovascular or central nervous systems, such as drowsiness.
Having sex is the high point of most women’s’ days,
while commuting is the low point. And most women like being
with their kids less than they will admit, according to a new
study. While the results may not appear startling, the method
used to assess mood represents a new and more accurate way of
figuring out how happy people are, the researchers report in
the journal Science. They propose that their tool could be used
to plan social policy.
“Current measures of well-being and quality of life need
to be significantly improved,” said Richard Suzman of
the National Institute on Aging, which helped fund the study.
“In the future I predict that this approach will become
an essential part of national surveys seeking to assess the
quality of life.”
For the study, David Schkade of the University of California
San Diego and colleagues at Princeton University, University
of Michigan and elsewhere studied more than 900 women. Usually,
people are asked about their feelings in general for questionnaires
on mood. The new method, called the Day Reconstruction Method,
involves breaking the day into a sequence of episodes and rating
each activity or moment as a kind of snapshot.
“‘Think of your day as a continuous series of scenes
or episodes in a film. Give each episode a brief name that will
help you remember it (for example, commuting to work, or at
lunch with B’,” the women were told. The women rated
each activity for positive and negative associations, with 6
being the strongest and 0 the weakest. Then the researchers
analyzed the numbers.
“Grocery shopping and cleaning the house were rated lowest
among 28 activities,” the researchers wrote. On average,
the 900 women gave “Intimate relations” a positive
score of 5.10, compared to 4.59 for socializing. Housework scored
3.73, which was better at least than working at 3.62 and commuting
with a lowly score of 3.45. As for who the women preferred to
be with, friends clearly won out with a positive score of 4.36.
Children landed in the middle, after relatives and spouses.
The boss scored just 3.52.
Sleep quality had a large effect on the enjoyment of life, the
researchers found. Women who slept poorly, on average, enjoyed
their day as little as a typical person enjoys commuting. Women
who said they slept well enjoyed their day as much as most people
enjoy watching television. And women who earned more were not
necessarily happier, the survey found.
New research provides further evidence that substances in kale,
spinach and other green vegetables help protect aging eyes from
cataracts. In an experiment, investigators found that human
eye cells treated with antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin
showed less damage after being exposed to ultraviolet rays,
the sunlight ingredient considered a major contributor to cataracts.
Cataracts occur when proteins in the eye’s lens begin
to clump together, forming a milky cloud that obscures vision.
Currently, around 20 million Americans have cataracts, and research
suggests that the more sunlight you are exposed to in life,
the greater your risk.
It’s hard to say how much of each antioxidant people should
get in their diets, given that little is known about how antioxidants
in the bloodstream reach the eyes, study author Dr. Joshua A.
Bomser said. “While the specific experiments haven’t
been done...we know generally: eat more fruits and vegetables,”
Foods that contain particularly high doses of lutein and zeaxanthin
include kale, collard greens, broccoli, turnip greens and spinach.
Researchers at a British manufacturing firm have devised a novel
way to recycle discarded mobile telephones - bury them and watch
them transform into the flower of your choice. The team have
created a mobile telephone case or cover that when discarded
can simply be placed in compost in such a way that just weeks
later the case will begin to disintegrate and turn into a flower.
Mobile telephones are one of the most quickly discarded items
of consumer electronics. Rapid changes in technology and taste
means customers constantly upgrade their phones leaving behind
more and more discarded phones. However there is increasing
pressure on all manufacturers by policy makers to find ways
of recycling discarded goods, and also pressure from some customers
who want to feel they are making an environmentally sensitive
purchase. This new research by engineers a novel way that a
mobile telephone manufacturer can meet these demands. For the
first prototype telephones they have used dwarf sunflower seeds.