Reeling From It All
The petition, containing around a thousand signatures,
was mailed to Senator John C. Bonacic, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill,
Trustees of the Onteora School District and Senator Larkin, himself.
An attached letter asks the cooperation of all parties in amending
the law to its original intent, pointing out that "school
taxes in Olive ROSE HUNDREDS TO THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS in an instant.
The result of this divisive legislation is seen in the defeated
school budget, in the animosity among towns within the Onteora
School District created by this ger and frustration of a town
that has had over half of its tax base taken away."
In reference to the complex factors which structure the concerned
evaluations which the town feels has been ignored, the letter
stresses that, "Instead of equalizing a tax base, the legislation
has created wide swings in assessment based on antiquated assessment
Without mentioning other methods to address the situation being
town officials and energetically urged by residents, the letter
proposes that "the only way to equalize assessment is to
have a total DISTRICT reval."
Anecdotal information, meanwhile, shows that many Town of Olive
residents are hurting since the receipt of Onteora Central School
District tax bills early in September, incorporating a 59 percent
tax hike for the town due to the school board's decision to invoke
the large-parcel tax legislation for this year.
"It's very difficult here," said Olive town council
member Linda Burkhardt. "There have been a lot of phone calls
to the town clerk, people calling in tears, afraid they're not
going to be able to live here any more." Despite letters
in local newspapers from Olive residents calling for a tax revolt,
Burkhardt said, "That doesn't make sense. It's not going
to help, so we're telling people to pay, or it will end up costing
them more. I'm recommending they write on the bill 'Paid under
According to Onteora's tax bills, an Olive homeowner who paid
$635 last year had to pay $1022 this year, on a house whose market
value was estimated at $86,000, while the assessed value was $950.
Onteora treasurer Bill Thornton cautioned that both values would
go up once Olive does its planned reval, which will probably not
be completed until 2006.
Added Burkhardt, "The people I'm worried about are the young
families who are just getting by. You hit them with a tax bill
that is doubling, and where are they going to get the money? They
have to stop spending on something else, and what's it going to
be? Food? It's created quite a hardship. It makes you wonder,
is this what they wanted? For the amount people are saving in
other towns, is it worth it?"
"We're all very upset," continued Burkhardt. "We're
doing everything they asked us to do, and to no avail. We met
with ORPS and got them to raise the assessment on the reservoir,
not as high as it should be, but it's a step in the right direction.
We're in the process of doing a reval. But they still hit us with
Olive deputy supervisor Bruce La Monda feels that the school board
made an error in caving in to pressure from Woodstock. "There's
a lot of resentment in town. If you weigh their decision, in what
they gained in being the tax equalizer versus what's going to
happen to school budgets, it seems like a mistake." This
year's defeat of the school budget was attributed partly to Olive
taxpayers disgruntled about the impending large parcel vote or
fearful of a substantial tax hike.
La Monda said, "When we won the ORPS appeal to get
the reservoir value increased, that made Olive a richer town,
so we picked up a share of the school tax, going up 49 percent."
La Monda was frustrated that the board was not satisfied with
this increase but went on to apply the large-parcel law, upping
Olive's taxes another ten percent.
Conducting a reval is a slow process in a town that hasn't seen
one in decades, and the contracts with the firm doing the assessment
were received on Tuesday. "We had the idea the reval was
well accepted within the town," observed La Monda. "People
were ready for it. Now people are saying, 'Why are we doing a
reval when our taxes just went up 59 percent?' We have to start
the public relations aspect of the reval all over again."
On a hopeful note, La Monda said he had just come from a meeting
with ORPS regarding changes in their procedures for overall assessments
of watershed towns, and he was pleased with a new willingness
on the part of ORPS to accept input from towns on the valuation
of large properties like the reservoir. In the recent negotiations
with ORPS over the reservoir, Olive officials were able to marshal
extensive evidence from their lawsuits with New York City regarding
the reservoir's value, including "things they had never considered˜roads
and bridges." Apparently recognizing the validity of such
data, ORPS is turning to a more cooperative approach to assessment.
"We'll continue with the reval," said La Monda, "and
hopefully, with the new approach ORPS is taking, by 2005 we may
see some results."
Up On Dean's Call
The original resolution introduced by Democratic legislator Hector
Rodriguez of New Paltz and passed on Thursday, September 9 recommended
that the numerous issues which were the focus of three months
of Issues Conference hearings before Department of Environmental
Conservation Administrative Law Judge Richard Wissler all be treated
to full adjudication because of the size of the project and the
seriousness of the raised issues. Wissler is set to decide over
the coming months, after legal briefs are exchanged between lawyers
for and against the project, which issues should move to a full
trial-like setting to decide whether mitigation is necessary.
His decisions can be appealed to DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty.
Language for the resolution was prepared with the help of Marc
Gerstman, attorney for the Catskill Preservation Corporation,
an ad hoc consortium of environmental groups that have been raising
issues at the recent Issues Conference. Gerstman was formerly
lead counsel to the state DEC.
According to Republican legislator Wayne Harris of Clintondale,
chairman of the legislature's Economic Development/ Education,
Tourism and Cultural Affairs Committee, he decided to look into
rescinding the resolution he originally okayed after he received
a call directly from Gitter on Monday, September 13.
"I'd never heard from the man before," Harris said last
week. "He described the impact his attorney had told him
that full adjudication would have and asked if that was how I
saw the case. What he was saying was that we were now asking for
a trial on every single item'- and then he asked if he could address
At the next meeting of Harris' Economic Development/ Education,
Tourism and Cultural Affairs Committee on Wednesday, September
15, Theresa Bakker of Whiteman, Osterman Hanna, attorneys for
Crossroad Ventures, Gitter's development company, addressed the
committee's six members. But a vote to rescind the Rodriguez resolution
stalled along party lines, 3-3.
Harris later said that he would reintroduce the resolution for
amendment at the next full meeting of the Legislature on Thursday,
Oddly, the Daily Freeman ran an editorial asking for similar measures
in an editorial on Sunday, September 19, even though it had never
reported the story.
Harris said he started re-thinking his vote on the Rodriguez resolution
after speaking with Gitter. He said he immediately phoned County
Attorney Frank Murray, who said he concurred with Gitter's point
of view. A decision was made not to go back to the environmental
organizations, and to seek a second opinion, in time for the next
legislative meeting, from the DEC.
"That was my misunderstanding," Harris, said about his
initial okaying of the resolution. "I didn't realize that
this term, full adjudication, had the significance of what was
presented to us the other night, and to me, it seems like while
we were trying to support the process, this kind of puts us in
the process, and I didn't think that's where we wanted to be."
"For them to have made such a determination would mean that
each and every one of these issues are a substantive and significant
issue that should to go a trial-type hearing ... and we believe
that what the Legislature meant to say is what they've said before,
that they want the process to proceed forward, and want the DEC
law judge to make that determination, not that they want to tell
him what to do," Bakker said of her presentation.
The issues she was referring to include water quality, wildlife,
pesticide use, visual impacts, noise, traffic, and community character,
The resolution originally passed by the Legislature on September
9 pointed out that the body, "will not take a position in
favor or opposition to the project until a thorough review of
all environmental issues has been completed," but adds that
the resort's potential impacts on local community character, water
quality, and other issues need to be fully addressed. It further
noted the county's historical support for the protection of its
open space and natural resources and supported full adjudication,
"to ensure a thorough review that protects the quality of
the Watershed drinking supply, the rural character of the Catskill
region, and the residents of Ulster County and New York State."
County Legislative Chairman Richard Gerentine, one of the three
lawmakers who originally voted against the move, explained that
"The resolution asks the judge to adjudicate all issues connected
with the resort. That's something I would hope he would do; it's
his job anyway. I agree that (DEC) should carefully adjudicate
all of these issues, but I feel it was a little offensive to the
Legislative majority leader Mike Stock of Woodstock, however,
voted in support of what he termed "a memorializing resolution."
But this past week, Stock was whistling a different tune.
"This is a process we shouldn't be involved in. We support
the economic development side of the project but shouldn't be
giving the court any direction on this," he said.
In December 2002, before legislative chairman Ward Todd resigned
his position to become head of the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce,
the Legislature passed a resolution in support of the Belleayre
Resort project. Todd and his wife Jane, a Town of Shandaken board
member, have since been accused by opponents of the project of
having conflicts of interest with any review of it, due to land
purchases made at the time the project was being put together
involving possible rights of way tied to the development.
"We never expected to get pulled into this thing like this,"
Lark In The Park!
"I encourage all New Yorkers and visitors
to begin planning now to participate in the many educational activities
and outdoor adventures that are a fitting way to celebrate the
centennial of this unique Park."
Those options include more than 60 free guided hikes, walks, paddles,
biking tours, and fly-fishing events, as well as exhibits, book
signings and festivals. Co-sponsors range from The Catskill Center
for Conservation and Development and Adirondack Mountain Club,
to the Catskill 3500 Club, for all those who have had the stamina
to scale the region's top peaks, and the New York City Department
of Environmental Protection.
There will be fly-fishing lessons at Pine Hill Lake and the Frost
Valley YMCA up past Big Indian and Olivera , as well as a spin-casting
fishing derby for kids up at Lake Cole in distant Claryville.
The Winnesook Club, a private residential community founded in
1886 as a gentleman's fly-fishing club, will open its doors on
Sunday, October 3, for an illustrated program about the club's
history followed by a walk around the lake near the range's highest
peak, Slide Mountain. There will be tours of the Catskill Fish
Hatchery at Mongaup Pond in Sullivan County, as well as the state
Department of Environmental Conservation's spawning beds at Trout
Pond in Delaware County.
35 different walks and hikes are being offered, from a gentle,
one-mile nature walk around Alder Lake to strenuous hikes
of several of the 98 Catskill high peaks over 3,000 feet, including
a "triple header" over Slide, Wittenberg and Cornell
Mountains. Sunday, October 10, is being termed "Catskill
Fire Tower Day," with more hikes to all five of the recently
restored historic fire towers on the summits of Overlook, Tremper,
Hunter, Red Hill and Balsam Lake mountains.
The City is leading special watershed and reservoir walks. There
will be a trio of biking tours to choose from, including a 10-mile
ride through the Bluestone Wild Forest, a 20-mile scenic pedal
around the Pepacton Reservoir, and what is being described by
organizers as, "the Catskill Park's version of the Tour de
France," a 100-mile, 10-hour Centennial Century Ride led
by DEC Region 3 Natural Resources Supervisor Bill Rudge.
And then there's the historic and cultural side of things-
For the former, there will be walk and talks illustrating the
history of bluestone quarrying in the region, as well as the legacy
of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps' (CCC) local
efforts. The Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony in Woodstock, which
celebrated its own centennial last year, will be offering a tour
of its Arts and Crafts-style cottages and studios. The Second
Annual Cauliflower Festival on Saturday, October 2, in the Route
28 Delaware County town of Margaretville, will celebrate those
olden days when the flowering white vegetable was the reigning
cash crop of the area.
On October 2, the Town of Lexington Historical Society in one
of Greene County's more scenic western towns will be hosting a
slide lecture and book signing to celebrate the release of "Cool
Cascades: A Celebration of Catskill Mountain Waterfalls"
from 2 to 5 p.m., a new book from Black Dome Press by author/photographer
The weekend of October 9 and 10 will witness the 25th annual Belleayre
Mountain Fall Festival, with sky rides and live music, crafts
and fine food. That Sunday, October 10, will also witness the
Third Annual Catskill Mountain Ginseng Festival, also at Catskill
For more information about the Catskill Park Centennial, go to:
or call 877-426-0323 (or e-mail CatskillLark@aol.com)
for a free program guide with a listing of all Centennial events.
Luppino says her earliest memories evoke the abundance of her
grandfather's garden in Brooklyn, where figs ripened beside
sweetly-scented yellow roses. At a point, she shifted her life
to go back to school to learn horticulture. A career resulted.
Then she realized she wanted a deeper education with more breadth
to it. So she then went back again for a liberal arts degree from
Bard College, where she started taking photography.
Ever since, she's been mingling her two loves.
"What I do in photography is all about revealing nature,"
she says. "It's the same when I am creating a garden. It's
about educating the viewer to see."
Just as she feels so many American yards have been overtaken by
the idea of lawns, she works, in her art, to better portray the
beauty of nature at its wildest. Like a means of preservation.
As a result, she's gotten ever-more direct with her photography.
And working, recently, in a new format that mixes traditional;
means of shooting with new digital types of printing, she's been
able to explore complex elements of subtle toning and texture
that are lending her subjects both an added monumentality and
a deeper sense of intimacy.
"It's all felt like a natural process," Luppino says
of the growth visible in the recent works. She speaks about her
pleasure at seeing people really looking closely at the photographs
during the new show's July opening. "People seemed particularly
drawn to the more abstract pieces, working with them until they
could see what they were."
Now that the two halves of Luppino's creative and working lives
have started to shape themselves so well, she's starting to think
of ways of fusing them. As we all want to do with our lives, in
Although the sales from her new show, all primarily priced in
the moderate $350 to $600 range, have been sparser than she might
have liked, the artist is pleased to see some of her gardening
clients starting to buy art. She's hoping now for the opposite
to occur- for some of her art followers to change the way they
But about that fusion?
Luppino says she may work color into some pieces, albeit not via
color film, but through surface manipulation. Maybe encaustics.
She's also starting to dream of much larger works that mingle
the two worlds she's been living in. The two dimensional work
of photographs and the vibrant three-dimensionality of her gardening.
Maybe a simulation garden. Or photos in the wild.
"These images live within me," Luppino said, in her
quiet, humble but ultimately strong fashion. "They match
my inspiration, and the warmth I feel making them."
In other words, they are as natural as her gardens. As well as
being just as beautiful as the glory of weeds.
For further information on Virginia Luppino's work, visit her
website at www.vluppinophoto.com.