Up on the News
The big news, as a result,
was that the Onteora Middle/High school auditorium will close its doors
before the winter break as the administration prepares for renovations.
At Tuesday night’s December 16 school board meeting at Phoenicia
Elementary, KSQ architect Armond Quadrini gave a series of presentations
including a time line between the auditorium bid process and a projected
completion time. Bidding begins December 23 with construction targeted
Quadrini said that he expects many bids to come in because of the downturn
in the economy.
“We’ll get the best bids possible,” he said.
The renovations were approved by voters nearly two-years ago by an EXCEL
State aid package. But because of a backlog of requests throughout the
state, the aid was stalled. Quadrini said he doesn’t expect an
aid package like this to come through again.
“If we get any more EXCEL aid, consider it a blessing,”
Completion is expected by the end of the summer. All fingers crossed,
students will find a new auditorium by the new school year in September
The school board unanimously approved the transfer of transportation
contracts from Mulligan Bus Company to Birnie Bus Company based out
of Utica, NY beginning January 1, 2009.
The transfer was listed in the consent agenda and this led Trustee Donna
Flayhan to request that specialized items be placed separate from the
“I just want to make sure the consent agenda is used for routine
approvals,” she said.
The district switched from using multiple bus contractors to a single
company in 2006. Initially the single bid was awarded to Hoyt Bus Company
on a one-year contract. Voters rejected a three-year contract with Hoyt
on a locked in price. Hoyt was sold to Mulligan Bus Company in 2007.
Later during an audit report, tempers flared between Flayhan and School
board president Ralph Legnini over the process of requesting information.
Flayhan requested that a comparison be done on bus contractors based
on information she learned from an auditor report. But her point came
to an abrupt end when Legnini learned she did not make a recommendation
and banged his gavel, calling a five-minute break.
Flayhan continued to speak, but her microphone was cut off.
That Season Again?
According to Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani, that timing question
was raised last week when he and other town officials were asked to meet
with the state Department of Environmental Conservation official who is
overseeing the Belleayre Resort’s review process.
And that official, Daniel Whitehead of the DEC’s Division of Environmental
Permits, told DiSClafani and others at the December 5 meeting in Shandaken
last week that as far as he could tell, the only thing he could think
for such timing was that it might have something to do with State Environmental
Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations. Although he couldn’t be
The meeting was called by Whitehead, DiSclafani noted in a press release,
to discuss the local towns’ ability to review the imminent Suplemental
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), awaited since former governor
Eliot Spitzer announced his controversial Agreement in Principal at a
Kingston press conference in September 2007, as well as specific socio-economic
and environmental impacts for the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill
Park and adjacent build-out at the ski center.
Also in attendance, according to the supervisor, were Andrew Labruzzo
and Jaime Ether of the New York Department of State’s Division of
Coastal Resources, Ulster County Legislator Brian Shapiro, and recently
re-elected Shandaken board member Doris Bartlett.
“Among the concerns discussed was the importance of our zoning laws
and comprehensive plan being in conformity, which would give the planning
board a stronger planning foundation; and the ability of the Town to have
enough funding to properly review and/or proceed with the permitting process…
Funding that could hire professional guidance and technical support for
the volume of material needed to be reviewed,” DiSclafani noted
in his Friday press release, written soon after the closed-door meeting.
“Another concern was that the town understood the importance of
having an adequate fee schedule to cover the zoning and building aspects
for a project of this size and scope.
The pending SDEIS everyone’s been awaiting for over a year, DiSclafani
added, involves plans and possible impacts from (and alternative proposals
for) the construction and operation of the Wildacres Resort and Highmount
Spa Resort complex by Crossroads Ventures; expansion of the Belleayre
Mountain Ski Center by the state DEC, including ski-in-ski-out public
access to the proposed Highmount Spa Resort; DEC acquisition of approximately
1200 acres of Crossroads property; and similar acquisition of a 78 acre
parcel known as the Former Highmount Ski Center, along with a related
21 acre Highmount Spa Easement.
“The initial idea for the meeting was that this thing (The multi-volume
SDEIS) would be dropping onto our desks in the next few weeks,”
DiSclafani said in a separate interview about the ratcheting back up of
Belleayre Resort concerns after such long dormancy. “Now, though,
it’s looking more like February or March, according to Whitehead,
before anyone sees anything.”
Hold ups in the submission process, he added, seemed to be coming more
from the state. Not only does the DEC need to add to the existing Crossroads
DEIS ample documentation regarding its own Belleayre plans as well as
a new Unit Management Plan that addresses the Spitzer AIP, but word is
that it’s also wrestling with possible changes to those plans arising
alongside the major budget cut discussions currently underway in Albany.
The latter are not expected to reach any form of conclusion for weeks
yet, and maybe even months.
“I think the deal is that the state wants us to realize that the
distant future is fast approaching,” the supervisor said. “They
want us to be ready.”
Whitehead held similar meetings with officials at the neighboring Delaware
County Town of Middletown, as well as with representatives of a number
of the environmental non-profits that signed on to the Spitzer AIP last
The question of paying for consultants, though, seems to have been left
up in the air, at least in official terms The DEC says it can’t
cover such costs, after its own review, and has no way of forcing the
developer to do so, even though Crossroads has said it would pay. Meanwhile,
the town has no money budgeted for consultants on such a scale.
At the same time, DiSclafani has said that he’s worried that his
town’s planners might lack the collective will to take on the giant
project, given its current make-up. With one new appointment expected
in January, no one expects a majority to be willing to dig deeply into
a process that has already split the town and region politically over
the past decade.
“That’s my fear,” he said when asked whether there was
a chance the town would skip its own review of its largest project, ever.
As for when all this kicks off, on a local basis, the supervisor said
no one was sure. Once an SDEIS is formally submitted, it will be subject
to full review by the state DEC, which is serving as lead agency on the
SEQRA process. That will require public hearings, public commentary and
the possibility for issues conferences and adjudication, as happened with
the resort’s first DEIS three years ago.
“Apparently, this is all very much up in the air,” DiSclafani
said. “Whitehead was unsure where it would go. And he noted that
all the side questions regarding funding issues don’t come under
the review’s purview.”
Middletown Supervisor Len Utter, meanwhile, recently answered questions
about his own interactions with Whitehead by stating that primarily, the
questions he was asked were about community character, which he answered
by describing how his town was 50 years ago.
No word was released, as of press time, from any of the environmental
groups Whitehead was purported to have spoken to. Whitehead himself was
on vacation through next week.
“We were neither invited nor did we know they were happening,”
Crossroads spokesperson Joan Lawrence-Bauer said this week of the recent
meetings. “As to progress on the SDEIS, we are months away from
Later, in a separate press release, she indicated that, despite the worries
expressed by DiSclafani, the Belleayre Resort developers would pay for
local review if needed.
“The taxpayers of Shandaken and Middletown can rest easy that every
relevant environmental detail and regulation will be enforced by the appropriate
state and city agencies,” Lawrence-Bauer wrote. “There will
come a time in the next year when the Belleayre Resort project will apply
to the planning boards of Shandaken and Middletown for requisite permits
to build the project. Crossroads has for years assured the towns that
at the point when their respective planning boards are called upon to
commence their review of the project the developer will provide the funds
necessary for them to engage appropriate consultants.”
As to all questions and discussion regarding the holiday happenstances,
the spokeswoman was terse.
“There is nothing, to our knowledge, hitting,” she wrote in
an e-mail. “So that is a comment without merit.
is more precisely $91,417 in grant funds to be provided by the State’s
Environmental Protection Fund, through the Esopus-Delaware Corridor Revitalization
Strategy. The project will involve a “regional visioning process”
that will be facilitated by conspirators in the towns of Andes, Hurley,
Middletown, Olive and Shandaken as well as the villages of Fleishmanns
and Margaretville, with the aid of the landscape architecture program
at the SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry. (ESF)
“Part of (the grant) will go to The Catskill Center (for Conservation
and Development), part will go to SUNY ESF because design students are
going to help municipalities come up with individual plans along the corridor,”
explains Chase, who is also a vice president of the Catskill Center. “For
Olive, we’d like to go through a ‘visioning.’ We’ve
not done that, although some of our neighbors have. (The Center’s
former Regional Planner) Helen Budrock did this for Phoenicia, Middletown,
Fleishmanns, Arkville and Margaretville, trying to help the community
decide for itself what it is they want to have help with, what they want
to change and, yes, beautify.”
What is meant by “Visioning” here would appear to be a study
of certain areas along 28 and the Esopus Creek to imagine what they might
look like after some creative improvements are made. Olive supervisor
Brendt Leifeld thought immediately of sidewalks when the topic was brought
up, “so people could park their car and walk around a little community
“In Boiceville, we don’t have any sidewalks,” Chase
concurs, mentioning the Boiceville area as a prime focus of attention
for several reasons. “We’re getting a new sewage treatment
plant. There are a lot of things we can do for ourselves, with a little
help. I need to put together a group of community people who have an interest
in the Boiceville area to conceive new project ideas to bring the community
together. We don’t even have a main street. An idea in mind goes
toward having one in the Boiceville area. I’d like to have something
develop both there and the Shokan area but we only have money for along
Sorting out the organizations and programs involved is a bit like trying
to figure out the number of transgenic species in your breakfast cereal.
Possibly because of linkage to the NYS Dept. of State’s Local Waterfront
Revitalization Program, a focus on water seems to be an ingredient, as
it is in Margaretville’s make-over.
“We’ve got a number of things happening here,” Chase
observed. “We’ve got the ‘scenic byway’ portion.
We’ve got the (intermunicipal) Central Catskills Collaborative (CCC),
which is to work together under the DOS grant and that’s the $90
k (sic) oriented to the east branch of the Delaware and the Esopus...”
The CCC was formed to protect the regional assets held in common by the
7 villages and towns along the 28 corridor which passed resolutions this
year to commit representatives to the endeavor. Part of the idea is to
form a regional consciousness and pride although there may be a Hegelian
dialectical twist in the inevitable competition for funds, there’s
no sign, yet, of a “Long Road Law” to share the grant money
with other towns not directly situated on the east-west highway and compliment
the “Large Parcel Law.” That may only be because Albany legislators
have been too busy polishing their rat skills to think about the Catskills.
Partnering with neighbors, Olive with Shandaken and Hurley, Shandaken
with Fleishmanns and Olive, and so on, may in fact help forge a greater
regional identity than the United Nations’ designation of the Catskills
as a world “biosphere region.” Or, at least that’s one
of the desired future outcomes for the Collaborative. Some dreams can
come true. One of SUNY’s ESF “Vision 20/20” goals, for
instance, conceived in April 2001, included as a “major target to
achieve” by the year 2020, was to “(b)e a major player for
environmental consultation by business, government, grantmakers and the
like.” Their role in this project seems to confirm that they’re
well on their way to achieving that goal.
An ESF aim of coaching “stewardship of both the natural and designed
environment” echoes the Catskill Center’s description of “community
visioning” with themselves as a “third neutral party”
working “(t)hrough a series of facilitated workshops, our staff
leads communities through a process that helps them formulate a broad
vision for the future, pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, develop a series
of specific project ideas and prioritize those projects for implementation.”
Helen Chase has been mulling a few raw ideas about presenting an attractive
face to Route 28, herself, considering the former Trail Nursery property
that the town is now testing on the real estate market and behind which
the treatment plant is scheduled to reside.
“I’d like the town to keep (the property),” she muses.
“Personally, I would like to see a new town office there.”
That’s not all. She sees enough open space for a community garden,
a “meandering sidewalk” through the businesses, along the
shoreline of the Esopus, past the plant and the new town office. A perfect
place to stroll and dream about a better economy.
More will be learned about the possibilities at the next meeting of the
CCC at the Pine Hill Community Center, a “central location for wintery
weather,” as Chase points out.
If there was a walkway along the Esopus bank now, with benches along the
way, we might see our neighbors and visitors sitting there pondering questions
like “Why don’t grants come in round numbers?” or “When
will the Wall Street evangelists on the NPR Marketplace radio show admit
that their bosses’ economic claptraps are collapsing in a crescendo
of corruption while our no account federation of elected high officials
are erasing the word ‘accountability’ from the statutes?”
Thoughts like that, maybe. Perhaps just sitting, feeling relieved that
the President-elect’s internal investigation cleared him and his
organization of any involvement in that messy “buy a seat in Illinois”
affair. Or maybe just watching the water go by. There’s a lot of
things you can do when you have a scenic walkway by the water.
If the walk is covered by snow, there’s an alternative, according
to Olive councilman Peter Friedel, who has just announced that he’s
arranged for discounts at the Belleayre Ski Center for Olive residents.
An excellent opportunity to meet our partners in open conspiracy at the
western end of the Central Catskills region.
get it,” one churchgoeer was heard telling another outside of the
remaining parish church in Phoenicia last Sunday. “The archdiocese
doesn’t get rid of anything.”
The current sell-off comes after years of changes, though.
Earlier this decade, the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, who founded
the parish with the building of the Phoenicia parish church in 1902, handed
over control of their parish to the Archdiocese of New York after an indiscrete
case involving a former pastor forced a settlement.
In January 2007, the archdiocese announced plans for a major realignment
that called for closing some churches, parishes and schools. St. Francis
De Sales was listed as a parish that would disappear once the plan was
finalized. That would have meant the closure of the main church in Phoenicia
and its two mission churches, one in Boiceville and one in Allaben.
Upon hearing word of a plan to eliminate the parish, members of the congregation
formed a committee to convince the archdiocese to reconsider and the archdiocese
ultimately decided to close the parish’s two mission churches, Our
Lady of Lourdes in Allaben and Our Lady of La Salette in Boiceville, but
retain the parish and a full complement of daily services at the Phoenicia
At the time of the decision, there were no plans to sell the mission churches,
but the Rev. Phillip Tran, pastor at St. Francis De Sales, said the archdiocese
had eventually reversed itself.
Our Lady of La Salette is on 1.1 acres and has a list price of $179,000.
Our Lady of Lourdes is on three-fourths of an acre and has a price of
$129,000. The church, built in 1879, is listed as one of the town of Shandaken’s
While no one wants to see the churches sold, Tran said, the parish will
at least reap some benefits of the sales.
“Part of the money would come back to our church,” he said.
“I’m not sure what percentage, though.”
Father Christopher Berean of St. Mary’s of the Snow Parish in Saugerties,
who oversaw the parish for several years after its shift from the Missionaries
to the Archdiocese, based in New York City, said that he felt for those
who were hurting because of the loss of their home churches, but understood
the main office’s decision to sell.
“They were wonderful, nice things, but also a financial burden,”
Father Berean said, remembering how he used to feel traveling from his
main church three miles in either direction to the mission churches also
under his wing. “It was like having a second home that you paid
to keep heated and clean so you could have lunch there once a week.”
Continuing, Berean pointed out that the idea of mission churches, and
the increasing number of ecclesiastical buildings becoming residential
homes or businesses in recent years, comes as the result of the changes
of the last century… just as some of the old-timers have been saying.
“These churches were all built during a day when people walked or
rode horses to get places. Things have changed,” he said. “They
were nice, but it’s like losing that time when doctors made house
calls. I feel bad for the people who loved their church but have to also
see this from a practical point of view.”
Father Berean paused, as if in memory of his Sundays past.
“They were nice,” he said. “But they were luxuries for
a poor parish.”