Up on the News
At a press
conference held in his Kingston offices about the nation’s growing
worries about an imminent recession, and what the White House isn’t
– and could be – doing about such matters, U.S. Congressman
Maurice Hinchey replied to several pointed questions Tuesday, January
15, by noting new trepidation about the direction a compromise plan
he helped initiate has taken.
In specific, Hinchey was quoted addressing the results of an Agreement
in Principal brokered and announced by Governor Eliot Spitzer as being
"much too intense" and talking of the Belleayre Resort’s
claims for regional economic development as benefiting only "the
investors and a few others."
"I see the billboards where they're talking about 525 jobs,"
he said. "Those are not real jobs. They're not full-time jobs."
Speaking from his Washington, D.C. office on Wednesday, January 16,
Hinchey clarified the previous day’s statements by noting, “It’s
not a change in tone at all… I’m not against what the governor
wants to do BUT insistent that it all be done in the context of the
State’s Environmental Quality Review Act laws. This all has to
be looked at very carefully and a lot of people have come to the same
conclusion as me that the density of development currently planned is
just too much.”
In October, 2005, Hinchey proposed elimination of all construction on
1,216 acres on the eastern side of Belleayre Mountain, the better to
protect the New York City Watershed’s sensitive Ashokan Reservoir
basin. When Spitzer came to Kingston in September of last year to announce
just such a compromise, along with that land’s agreed-upon sale
to the state to be preserved as forever wild, Hinchey sent out a statement
generally praising the compromise most felt had been based on his original
“I applaud Governor Spitzer for his leadership in developing a
solution for the Belleayre Resort project that will help to create new
jobs and spur economic growth while minimizing negative impacts to the
surrounding environment and protecting the integrity of the New York
City watershed,” Congressmember Hinchey said in that September
5 release. “When I introduced the lower build alternative for
this plan as a starting point for these negotiations almost two years
ago, I envisioned a final project that greatly resembled what was agreed
to today… While this project represents a dramatic improvement
from what was originally proposed, I still intend to follow the subsequent
review process carefully, particularly with regard to its size and potential
impacts on the hamlet of Pine Hill.”
This week, stressed his role as one of the initiators and original sponsors
of SEQRA, the state’s environmental review legislation, as a means
of noting that the resort project he’s been watchdogging for years
now will continue to be the recipient of close perusal.
Did that mean he had been listening to project opponents’ complaints,
summarized in a recent Article 78 lawsuit filed against all of the AIP’s
signers, that the governor’s agreement process was somehow shortchanging
the state’s review process?
Not at all, Hinchey said. Similarly, he noted that although there were
also complaints that the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s
service as lead agency on the resort as well as its own plans to expand
its Belleayre Ski Center holdings seemed to be muddying the review process,
“the process should work.”
As for other complaints, embodied in a recent Greene County legislative
resolution protesting the AIP and Belleayre expansion as unfair competition
with its own privately owned ski areas, all struggling, Hinchey said
simply, “That’s something the state has to examine. I’m
not part of state government…”
The jobs comments, he then added, had been made in the context of the
press conference’s topic calling for tax cuts to aid lower and
middle income families.
“I was talking about manufacturing and creative technology jobs
when I was asked about what the resort would involve,” he said.
“I said those sorts of jobs weren’t nearly as important
in terms of overall impact, wage security, and benefits.”
Finally, asked whether he had given any thought to the appearance of
the state investing in winter recreation at a time when Climate Change
and its economic effects are becoming a key subject. Hinchey started
by talking about his commitment to discussing Global Warming issues.
“One of the things I talked about yesterday was how important
it is for us to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, as well as how
climate change is now among our most important economic issues to address,”
he said. “That’s why I’m so vigorously pushing solar
energy in the Hudson Valley.”
But that investment in winter embodied in the governor’s AIP?
“We know from recent experience, a foot of snow one week and it’s
all melted a few days later,” he said. And then went silent.
At the same
time, the written comments put before the DEC included both a request
from the Ulster County Legislature’s Environmental Committee to
look more closely at the project’s investment proposals and secondary
growth impacts, as well as a formal protest from Greene County on behalf
of its Hunter and Windham ski resorts regarding the state’s unfair
competitive practices at Belleayre, exacerbated by the current expansion
The county comments suggested that the state pay closer attention to its
own Comptrollers’ report on the project issued over a year ago,
which questioned the Gitter proposal’s economics… during a
time when the overall economy was in much better shape.
According to state Departmental of Environmental Conservation Region 3
Director William C. Janeway, whose department is overseeing the review
process for Gitter’s project, and its own Belleayre expansion plans
as “lead agency” under SEQRA laws, over 80 persons spoke for
and against the joint proposals during two nights of scoping hearings
held at the ski center in early December.
A request for quantification of the number of written comments received
by the DEC to date as part of the process yielded a January 10 amount
of “about 200 items,” with Janeway later adding on January
15t, “No new numbers but I would not be surprised if we get another
50+/- at the deadline.”
The proposed Gitter project, which involves two hotels, a gold course,
spa, and ski center tie-in, plus major ski center expansion on the state’s
part, will be largely based in Shandaken, and subject to the town’s
Planning Board review… and approval.
By state law, the DEC must produce its scope of issues to be reviewed
in its and the resort applicants environmental impact statements by February
As for the lawsuit, has been filed by local citizens groups the Catskill
Heritage Alliance and Pine Hill Water District Coalition, along with private
landowners Benjamin and Edith Korman of Highmount
The suit, an Article 78 action seeking reversal of the governor’s
AIP announced and signed at a press conference in Kingston on September
5, was filed in Albany January 3 by the Catskill Heritage Alliance, the
Pine Hill Water District Coalition, and Benjamen and Edith Korman of Highmount
against everyone who signed the AIP including Spitzer, the state Department
of Environmental Conservation, the New York City Department of Environmental
Protection, and a host of national, state and regional environmental groups.
It alleges that the execution of the AIP was unlawful on 13 different
points of law or “causes of action.”
“The declaratory judgment action seeks a determination that the
Sept. 5, 2007, agreement in principal was entered into illegally, requires
illegal action by the units of the governments of the State of New York,
and requires the use of procedures that are illegal and therefore should
be declared null and void,” wrote the plaintiff’s attorney,
Robert H. Feller, of the Albany-based firm Bond, Schoeneck & King,
in a 28-page document still awaiting final servings to each of its named
“Any attempt by Petitioners to address these illegalities in the
context of any administrative proceeding is futile because of the binding
nature of the terms of the AIP,” reads the lawsuit, which also charges
the signatories, from the state DEC to the governor, as having acted “in
excess of” their jurisdictions by basically usurping the public
review process supposedly assured by SEQRA.
The suit notes how the AIP was reached only after a coalition of environmental
organizations, given “full party status” for commentary under
SEQRA laws, kept several local members out of final review processes and
subsequent negotiations led by Spitzer between Gitter’s Crossroads
Ventures development corporation and project opponents, then including
New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection.
In addition, the suit claims that the two organizations were caused injury
by the manner in which the September 5 AIP “improperly limits the
scope of the adjudicatory proceeding and the environmental review process
under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”)
which is a part thereof, and, as a result, its rights with respect to
continued participation in the adjudicatory proceeding have been adversely
affected; creates inherent and unavoidable conflicts of interest for the
decision-maker in the adjudicatory proceeding, making it impossible to
obtain the unbiased decision to which it is entitled to as a party; creates
illegal and improper procedures for resolving disputes that are binding
on the decision-maker in the adjudicatory proceeding; and impairs its
rights to participate in the public review of permits and entitlements
that will be required” from the City, which had originally been
seen as something of an environmental protector by the two groups at an
earlier stage in the review.
The plaintiffs also claim that capital improvements committed to the Belleayre
Mountain Ski Center under the AIP “improperly commit the state “to
provide a benefit to a private party” representing “an unconstitutional
gift of state funds.” The plaintiffs also claim the AIP “improperly
performed the balancing of economic considerations” required by
SEQRA, by making a finding of “significant economic benefit”
from the project before such issues had been publicly reviewed.
The Kormans, who own the historic stone mansion built by America’s
first great opera star, Amelita Galli Curci, in the 1920s, concurrently
claim that the AIP threatens their rights to maintain a property purchased
as a, “second home because of the physical beauty and tranquility
of the site, the surrounding area, its isolation and its historic significance”
by limiting their rights to oppose such a project in an open review process.
“The AIP illegally commits the agencies in the executive branch
of state government and DEP to a course of action without first complying
with SEQRA,” the action charges, noting that what the governor basically
approved via his AIP was notably differently, and hence in need of its
own separate review, from what Gitter had originally proposed years ago.
“Any attempt by the Petitioners to reverse or modify in any significant
way the decisions taken in the AIP is futile. Although the AIP references
the fact that the Project is still subject to additional review and approvals,
some of the most important decisions related to those approvals are already
made in the AIP.”
Basically speaking, the dense document charges the Governor, and his many
signatories, with having over-jumped their authorities and approved a
project before its approval process could be starting, essentially denying
everyone of their civil rights… an interesting case that will force
the environmental, and populist hands of all involved.
Also named in the suit are: the state of New York, state Department of
Health, state Department of Transportation, City of New York, Crossroads
Ventures, Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Natural Resources
Defense Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, Riverkeeper,
Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Trout Unlimited and Zen Environmental Studies.
“We have not been served with the papers for this suit so it is
premature for us to comment directly,” noted Crossroads Ventures
Vice President of Public Affairs Paul Rakov when asked about the much-publicized
new Article 78 action. “However, we join many local residents and
business owners in being frustrated with this suit. For eight long years
the area has been embroiled in a sometimes bitter battle regarding this
project. Finally, some sunlight has been shone on it in the form of the
Agreement in Principle. It is sad that a few people want to return our
area to an atmosphere of animosity and legal wranglings.”
According to Janeway, the DEC cannot make any comments on the lawsuit
at present. However, Spitzer spoke sharply about his continuing support
for “the development plans at Belleayre despite concerns voiced
by a few environmental groups” when visiting Kingston just before
For more information on the proposed projects, go to:
The new beginning,
of course, was due to a new Administration taking over Town Hall with
the departure of the Cross Administration and his Republican majority.
Whether the smoothness of the meeting was due to the switch, or due to
residents taking a wait and see attitude about their new batch of representatives,
remains to be seen. But all board matters were executed with ease, save
for only one or two.
Doris Bartlett, a former chair of the Shandaken Democratic party, was
appointed to the town board to fill the vacancy left by Councilman Peter
DiSclafani, who was sworn in as the new town supervisor that same evening.
At the town’s reorganization meeting DiSclafani ran things calmly
after the audience responded to the tone that was set following words
from Town Justice Tom Crucet. After swearing in new board members Tim
Malloy and Vincent Bernstein along with DiSclafani Crucet said “From
what I understand from what was said during the campaign you’re
going to bring this town together with great unity. I’m looking
forward to that.”
Applause followed, then the first order of business for the new town board
was to tackle the issue of who fill DiSclafani’s Council seat. Although
several names were considered in the past few weeks, including also-rans
Peter DiModica and Jack Jordan, Bartlett’s was the only name uttered
in the form of a motion.
Malloy, Bernstein and DiSclafani supported the motion, but councilman
Robert Stanley voted against Bartlett. His vote, he said, was not about
Bartlett personally but a matter of principle. Stanley wanted the town
to hold a special election to let voters decide whom to place in the vacant
seat. In doing it the way the board was, he said, the people were robbed
of making an important, democratic, decision.
“This is a pivotal board seat,” said Stanley, who is now the
Board’s lone Republican, having registered with the party to get
the GOP line in 2005.
It was in the same 2005 election that Bartlett ran for town council and
was beaten by Stanley by only one vote. An Accountant by trade and owner
of Mountain Business Services, Bartlett, who made no statement Wednesday,
was the Chairwoman of the town Democratic Party until last year. She has
also held the elected position of town tax assessor.
The rest of the two hour meeting was filled by a long list of resolutions
appointing people to various positions, ranging from part time police
officers and ambulance drivers to Deputy Supervisor for the year.
Stanley, who was appointed Deputy Supervisor, also had a problem with
another crucial appointment. He convinced the rest of the Board to table
the plan to appoint Maureen Millar to the towns planning board. Millar,
a former Trustee on the Onteora School District’s Board of Education,
was slated to replace Keith Holmquist, a planning board member that was
up for reappointment this year.
Stanley said he opposed the appointment on the same principle that he
pointed to while opposing the Bartlett appointment. Stanley said he would
have supported Holmquist's reappointment, but at least wants to see the
position advertised so applicants can be interviewed.
Millar’s appointment was tabled after it became clear that not all
town board members were familiar with her stance on planning matters.
Several other appointments were made with little or no discussion and
Deputy Town Clerk is Jackie Guglielmetti and part time deputy is Ginger
Byron, Daughter of town clerk Laurilyn Frasier. Byron also serves billing
clerk for the Pine Hill and Phoenicia Water Districts.
Long time secretary to the superintendent of highways, Florence Stanley,
was reappointed to the $23,407 a year position and Patricia Heinz will
stay in the Supervisors office as Secretary/Bookkeeper for $12,960.
Paul Kellar, another veteran of Shandaken Government, was again retained
as town attorney. Tom Burt will continue on as town Building Inspector
at a salary of $21,000. Replacing former Zoning Enforcement Officer/Flood
Plain Administrator Glenn Miller, who resigned last month, will be Gina
Riley. Riley, who was Miller’s secretary, will now do Miller’s
job and continue on as the secretary, plus act as Burt’s secretary,
all for $26,500.
Margarete De Soleil will be the Director of the Town’s Museum for
a salary of $9000. For volunteer positions of interest, Gerry Setchko
was reappointed as Chairman of the Planning Board and Keith Johnson was
reappointed as Chairman of the Zoning Board. Rolf Reese was also reappointed
as a member of the Zoning Board, with term that expires at the end of
The last order of business was for DiSclafani to abolish all committees
that had been in existence. The Supervisor is taking the month of January
to review what committees are needed and who to place on them.
One committee that has drawn interest is the one that would deal with
the Phoenicia Water District. The old one, which met privately despite
criticism for doing so, recommended significant changes to the districts
water rates last year which the town board agreed upon. As the results
of those changes become clear on water bills and tax bills those changes
are expected to be reviewed (see related article). DiSclafani said town
Board members Bernstein, who owns property in the water District, and
Bartlett have been assigned to be liaisons to the water district committee
and are now putting out feelers in the district for potential committee
DiSclafani added that anyone interested in volunteering for any committee
should contact him at (845) 688-7165 or drop off a resume at town hall.
One matter seemed to cause confusion at the meeting. A resolution to appoint
the Catskill Mountain News as official town paper was tabled after representatives
of the current official paper warned board members that the appointment
was illegal. While none of the board members, nor the audience, seemed
to take that claim very seriously, it was agreed that the matter would
be tabled while Board members checked the details out.
Away At Deceit
on December 16th was Scott Ritter, a former Marine intelligence officer
during the first Gulf War who had become the head of the United Nations
weapon inspection team in Iraq, and he was honoring a promise to visit
the class of English teacher Donna Bryan in Coxsackie. Author of six
books on recent military conflicts and producer of the documentary film
“In Shifting Sands: The Truth About Unscom and the Disarming of
Iraq,” Ritter had taped a radio program with Ms. Bryan’s
class on November 28, which is scheduled to be aired on WAMC’s
“Student Town Meetings” series during January, and pledged
to answer student questions squeezed out of the program’s time
For Bryan, a West Shokan resident since 1998, the program was the third
in the series she had participated in since the show’s inception
“The New York State English Council has conferences every year
with exhibitors of different educational programs designed to help teachers
enhance their curriculum,” explains Bryan, who earned an undergraduate
English degree from SUNY New Paltz in 2002 and a Master’s in Curriculum
and Instruction from the University of Scranton early last year. “WAMC
had a presenter there in November of 2005 with a program they were developing
for teachers and their students as part of their Youth Media Project.
For the program, the station’s Education Director, Maryanne Malecki,
works with teachers and students on researching and developing an issue
that’s important to them. Then, she’ll come into classrooms
to rehearse them for presentation of the issue on the radio show.”
The first show using students from Ms. Bryan’s classes was on
Corporate Control of the Media and was so well received that the program
directors would return to her students as a source in future broadcasts.
“The guests were Danny Schechter, a journalist who had been on
the inside of mainstream media (where he won two Emmy Awards as producer
of ABC’s 20/20, emerging to independently produce films and books
critical of the news industry), and Rex Smith, editor of the Times-Union
in Albany, who argued that corporate control was a non-issue. His position
was that corporate media takes an unfair beating from people because
they are objective and they do try to convey the news but, of course,
the evidence gathered by the students suggested otherwise.”
In February of 2006, students from one of Bryan’s classes were
featured with three other area schools participating in a forum centered
upon Byron Hurt’s documentary on the influence of Rap music on
youth culture, “Hip-Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes.” The topic
of the latest program in the series, however, was chosen by the Coxsackie
“Over the summer, I had the students read an autobiography by
Anne Hutchinson, a Puritan woman who defied the theocracy in Boston
in 1638,” Bryan recalls. “She was banished from the colony
and went on to found, with Roger Williams, what eventually became the
State of Rhode Island. The way the kids had written about dissent after
reading that book was so eloquent and they seemed to fasten on the idea
that dissent was absolutely necessary to moving any democratic society
forward that it just became a natural subject for them to research and
develop for a radio show. Maryanne Malecki felt that Scott Ritter would
be the ideal guest to discuss the topic with the kids and the other
participant, who spoke very strongly about how civil rights are being
eroded in this country in recent years, was a gentleman named Bob Keach,
a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union.”
Bryan speaks eloquently, herself, when asked about the tactic of using
historical points of view in an English class, highlighting the difficulty
of separating the literature of any given culture from its history “because
most often writers, poets, essayists and social critics are writing
about the times in which they live.” Effective and appropriate
standards of language usage are, of course, key elements of involvement
in one’s environment and culture..
“The ancient Greeks taught that rhetoric was absolutely vital
for participation in public life,” Bryan observed. “The
art of rhetoric naturally includes public speaking, an ability to interpret
text and use language for various purposes; private and public. The
object of having kids grasp this works toward an understanding of how
language constructs our reality. It’s not just for private communication.
It’s in every sphere of our lives.”
In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, which is part of her classroom
curriculum, Bryan finds examples of the power of language in how a state
with an interest in not keeping its populace well-informed is able to
construct realities through the use of language or deconstruct and manipulate
them. Her students are able to discern such tactics employed daily in
corporate media, particularly in television, which Bryan lists prominently
among obstacles which educators face in today’s environment.
“Mainstream popular culture has become the only culture and so
much of it is very pointedly directed at kids that they become fully
immersed in it,” said Bryan, who believes television undermines
the ability to think in young viewers. In October, she invited media
critic Jeff Cohen, founder of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Media),
to address a school-wide assembly on the techniques that language offers
its users to maneuver opinion in a media structure designed to serve
the needs of a corporate state. As a former mainstream television co-host
himself, Cohen shared his experiences and advice about how to consider
the ways in which our primary sources of information employ the use
of image and language.
“We’re a very verbal society and it’s important to
have an understanding of the language you speak in order to follow how
thought and, by extension, our social realities are constructed,”
notes Bryan, who voices the common concern among educators about the
erosion of reading skills in a society that regards tv as an ever-present
near deity. “The functional literacy rate in our country in the
last five years has consistently been around 65%.
The definition of functional illiteracy is not being able to sequence
events in a story; being able to read words without understanding them
in context and infer meaning- to identify implicit meaning from explicit
meaning. The flashy, quick-cut nature of all of the electronically transmitted
information children receive tends to corrupt their ability to sustain
the attention levels necessary for reading and thoughtful reflection.”
Bryan views the entrenched anti-intellectualism of some students, which
teachers must confront every school year, as related to a corporately-instilled
worship of money, celebrity and perpetually emerging technological products
(like this season’s “shock & awe” taser that also
plays music). She agrees with a huge and growing legion of teachers
that a narrowed curricula of reading and math programs mandated by the
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law (celebrating its 6th anniversary this
week in the face of a long overdue public revolt) can be applied at
cross-purposes to a well-rounded and functional education.
It has, in fact, “wreaked havoc on educational quality”
in the eyes of many.
While some might argue that the creation of educational curriculum is
best left to transnational business interests that have captured the
social order in recent years and desire to shape the perimeters of their
own workforce, what appears to be a clear majority of teachers on the
front lines are begging to differ and teachers’ organizations
are offering evidence of the deception and corruption in the current
approach to legislators across the country in an effort to repeal the
The global strategy of the test-makers and providers of the new educational
materials has begun to meet similar resistance in other nations to which
it has been exported by the half-dozen companies that control over 90%
of the NCLB-associated market of products and services.
“Those who argue most enthusiastically for it are a handful of
technology companies with political connections,” observes Bryan.
“When you look at the bottom of all these efforts, it always leads
back to some giant corporation who wants to sell more software, move
hardware. Undoubtedly, young people need to know about technology but
they already do. Nor is this the way to do it. The real agenda behind
these initiatives isn’t education. It’s about making money.”
Indeed, the debate about NCLB, which draws its critics from every shade
of the political spectrum- including the National Education Association
(NEA) and, notably this month, a fresh flock of Republican lawmakers
raising objections to an unprecedented big-brotherish federal intrusion
into the classroom to “fix” schools by punishing them for
failures to meet computerized standards of “adequate yearly progress”
Critics contend that, once you blow the smoke off the trendy “edu-babble”
of “data-driven” results and arrive at a factory-style standardization
of education, the all-too-obvious ideological subtext of NCLB is the
demolition of public education, the diversion of many billions in public
funds for education into private pockets and the forced privatization
of the school system. While largely neglected in major media, abundant
evidence of these objectives and their effect on schools is available
at websites like nclbchange.wordpress.com/, MilitaryFreeZone.org, RethinkingSchools.org,
the excellent articles archive at NoChildLeft.com, Mandevilla’s
comprehensive series at diatribune.com/bush-profiteers-collect-billions-nclb
and numerous other teacher-sourced sites.
The roots of NCLB can be found in Douglas D. Noble’s paper on
the New American Schools Development Corporation first published in
1992, also freely available on the World Wide Web and interested individuals
can find the profit logic of over-stressing school systems with underfunded
and unattainable goals of AYP explored in Naomi Klein’s recent
book “The Shock Syndrome.”.
Bryan finds that one way to cut through a maze of indifference-producing
corporatized fantasy enveloping young minds is to present them with
something genuine with which they can identify.
“What I find is that when students are given something that’s
real, when they have learned to analyze their own instincts, I see there’s
a real thirst in young people to hear the truth from adults- parents
and teachers, authority figures,” Bryan observes. “When
they get a taste of hearing true and relevant facts from people like
that and they realize that it’s possible to know how to know,
their engagement to knowledge just triples. It takes off like crazy.
Part of the reason for a passive lack of interest in reading, education
and natural curiosity springs from social causes that are never part
of the dialogue in current (NCLB) considerations- poverty, family issues,
overworked parents, added to the values the business world wants to
impose on education.
“When Scott Ritter spoke to the students, along with his experiences
as a marine and all he had been through in Iraq, he shared his reverence
for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as precious ideas to learn
and internalize without undue fear to become engaged in their own civic
lives. He told them that the truth was not something to be partitioned
to a select few, that seeking knowledge is a right and a duty.”
Coxsackie-Athens is not presently on the 34 page 2006-2007 Schools Not
In Good Standing “Accountability list” of school systems
in New York compelled to “teach to the test” devised by
software publishers or face punitive measures. But Onteora Central School
District is represented. Bryan, who taught at Onteora as a substitute,
taking leave replacement positions in English, Art and History before
she began full-time teaching at Coxsackie-Athens and had also taught
in a Montessori system in the late 1990s, takes a dim view of the costly
regimen of increased standardized testing. Pouring billions into programs
that don’t measurably improve anything beyond their maker’s
bottomline has been a disaster for education. It may work well in a
corporate boardroom, she muses, but in a classroom the requirements
of NCLB replaces a child’s understanding of the historical context
of their time and their potential with standards devised to NOT light
their intellectual fuse beyond the inquisitive phrase “Do you
want fries with that?”
The present writer has been privileged to closely follow accounts of
the NCLB law’s impact in recent years through his relationship
with the subject of this article and is indebted to her insightful and
informative accounts of its daily influence in schools over that course
“The forum will solely
be for the two options,” said OCS Superintendent Leslie Ford,
noting that other comments would be accepted only in written form. The
two options are a middle school either attached to the high school or
converting Bennett elementary. The forum will include all of KSQ Architects’
recent analysis on the studies with costs. Both options would close
an elementary school based on future declining population reports.
New demographic reports were released at the recent January 15 school
board meeting with information given by KSQ that focuses on the year
2014, instead of their past target of 2011. Currently the whole K-12
district houses 1420 and according to Ford by the year 2014, student
population will drop by 400. T
hree out of four elementary schools are open now, housing kindergarten-through-six
grades, with the new proposal housing kindergarten-through-4. KSQ will
not make recommendations on which model to use. All fields of curriculum
will be discussed in terms of updated educational standards, the placement
of the middle school and future capital projects.
The cost of proposed redistricting plans call for a total cost ranging
between $70 million and $86 million, with the lowest figure representing
the closing of Phoenicia School, and the new Middle School being part
of the high school, the high figure showing Bennett as a new Middle
School, and a middle figure of $75 million for the closing of Bennett
but placement of athe Middle School in the high school building.
Estimated costs, at present, do not include new technology, athletic
field, or closing of schools costs.
A call to the Albany-based
watchdog group Environmental Advocates this past week about the apparent
disconnect being displayed in the call for climate change responsibility
on the one hand, and Belleayre’s expansion on the other yielded
a reference to the groups 2006 study, “Forecast for New York:
Projected Global Warming Impacts and Next Steps,” as well as a
promise that any discrepancies in state policy would be looked at closely.
“It is essential that the public and decision makers in New York
understand the true risks posed by climate change,” read an introduction
to that report, which highlighted the potential loss of New York’s
ski industry, which holds the nation’s largest number of ski areas,
in the coming two to three decades.
Further questions were referred, for the moment, to the new Spitzer-appointed
Office of Climate Change and its director, Peter Iwanowicz.
Unfortunately, the fledgling entity has yet to get a website of its
own, or even a web page from its parent state agency, the Department
of Environmental Conservation. Repeated calls and e-mails to Iwanowicz,
the former chief policy officer and a clean air advocate for the American
Lung Association of New York State, got no answer as of press time.
In last summer’s “2007 Report to NYS Conservation Council
from Office of Climate Change,” the new director noted that his
office would, “Play a key role in carrying out the state’s
program to reduce climate-changing emissions, and to adapt where warming
is unavoidable… Most scientists today agree that the earth’s
temperature is growing warmer, that this warming is most likely caused
by burning fossil fuels, and that the climate changes from the increased
temperatures threaten our resources and our way of life.”
Continuing, the state report noted how winter temperatures were up as
much as 4.4 degrees in the past 30 years, Adirondack snowfall was down
by 40 to 60 inches per year and an average of 20 fewer days with snow
on the ground was being observed in some parts of the state, including
the Catskills… Significant change in our climate also threatens
New Yorkers’ economy and lifestyle. For this reason, Governor
Eliot Spitzer has assigned urgent priority to understanding and mitigating
global climate change, as well as to taking actions needed to accommodate
warming that cannot be avoided.
As part of his job, Iwanowicz is set to be part of a four day conference
unfolding at Fordham University next weekend, “Climate Change:
Science, Culture and the Regional Response,” where he will augment
talks about “The Gap between Science and Policy” and “Political
and Cultural Response: The Problem of the Problem” by addressing
“Impacts on the Hudson Valley” alongside a host of college
professors, including one from Bard College.
Following the Fordham conference will be similar events at Ulster County
Community College, SUNY New Paltz and Bard College as part of a nationwide
effort involving over 1,000 colleges and high schools across the nation
on Thursday, January 31, all part of the national awareness Focus the
Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America days.
UCCC will host an educational Expo in the Student Dining Center on its
Stone Ridge campus from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m on January 31 where local
nonprofit environmental groups will be on hand to help lead discussions
and hear concerns.On Friday, February 1, Bard College will participate
via a daylong series of events, “Stabilizing the Climate in the
21st Century—Global Warming Solutions for America,” including
panel discussions by 20 faculty members and community experts; an all-local
harvest lunch; alternate vehicle demonstration; exhibition; film screenings
; theater presentation; and a “green democracy” roundtable
with civic leaders and students.
The nationwide teach-in, billed as the largest such event ever, is also
to include members of Congress via live, video-conferencing technology
between campuses and Congress, and end with a “Choose Your Future”
vote in which student, faculty, and community participants are encouraged
to vote on what they think are the top five solutions to global warming
from a list of 10 to 15 available starting Monday, January 21, at www.focusthenation.org.
Results will be presented nationally in mid February.
So what’s happening in the Catskills to celebrate?
On the same day the new director of the state Office on Climate Change
is addressing the effects of global warming in the area, his peer Judith
Enck, the governor’s environmental consultant and the former director
of Environmental Advocates , will be accepting a “Spirit of the
Catskills” award on behalf of she and Iwamowicz’s boss,
the governor. For vision regarding climate change? Hardly… for
brokering a deal that will push the expansion of winter sports activities
at state-owned Belleayre Mountain.
“I have had to learn to temper things and remind myself that I’m
not a free agent,” said Ms. Enck in an interview with the New
York Times last October, after she and the governor started coming under
fire for their role in the local resort issue and other perceived missteps.
“Now I have to approach things with a different style, and spend
a lot more time looking at multiple sides of an issue.”
But not, apparently, all… quite yet.
As for the governor, he was also witnessed operating in at least two
directions of late, siding with California and 14 other states, on the
one hand, in a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection
Agency for its .refusal to allow states to write tougher laws than them
regarding emissions and signeing an Executive Order creating a Smart
Growth Cabinet, which will review spending by and policies of state
agencies to determine how best to discourage sprawl and promote smart
land-use practices… to be chaired by Enck. Locally, the initiative
is designed to look into the revitalizization of towns and hamlets along
the Route 28 corridor.
“The challenge of climate change is upon us, and is clearly worsening
with time,” he said in recent weeks, joining California’s
lawsuit. “Immediate and aggressive action is needed, and the nation’s
head environmental agency is not only sitting on the sidelines but denying
states the ability to take necessary action.”
And on the other?
“First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer announces launch of ‘I Love
NY’ winter tourism campaign and promotions,” read this week’s
headlines on the governor’s website, noting a new program promoting
“cosy inns” such as Kate’s Lazy Meadow, the Belleayre
Lodge and Catskill Rose as well as its skiing. “Due to the importance
of this vital industry to the New York State economy, the annual tourism
budget has increased by 50% to over $22 million thanks to Governor Spitzer.”
While meanwhile, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) is still
trumpeting last summer’s Sustainable Slopes Annual Report pressing
lawmakers to enact national legislation that will require aggressive
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions… as a means of saving its
industry over the coming decades.
And the Union of Concerned Scientists, a sponsor of the coming teach
in, notes, “Warmer winters mean trouble for New York, where winter
recreation has long been an integral part of people’s sense of
place. The communities and businesses dependent on revenues from cross-country
or downhill skiing, snowmobiling, and, especially, ice fishing, could
Guess there’ll be much to talk about next issue… after the
teach-ins. And after the Belleayre Snowball…