Up on the News
might have done it a little earlier and we might have done a few more,
but we do this every year," he said.
Those let go, Lanza said, were what are called seasonal employees. Each
year the lay offs begin in March and continue through the end of the
season, which runs until mid April. The rest of the time Belleayre is
manned by a skeleton crew of full time workers.
"In eight weeks we're gonna lay off 400 more," Lanza said.
But one cannot view the recent lay offs without wondering what lies
ahead for the ski center.
In the news last week was an announcement that New York State plans
on closing or drastically reducing the operation of many of its state
parks this year. Belleayre does not fall within the State Park system,
but beginning last year it has suffered from budget cuts of its own
supplied by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, under
whose aegis it operates, along with most of the parks we know in our
area, including Wilson, in Woodstock, Woodland Valley, outside Phoenicia,
and Devil's Tombstone and North-South Lake in neighboring Hunter.
Asked what is in store for Belleayre in 2010, Lanza said only that nothing
has been decided.
"The next fiscal year begins on April 1," he noted.
In question will be whether or not the DEC will open the popular Belleayre
Day Use Center, otherwise known as the Pine Hill beach, a warm weather
attraction at the base of the ski mountain. Then there is the equally
popular fall festival, which two years ago suffered under the budget
axe and had to be moved to Arkville. That same year Belleayre opened
late in the season, and then closed early. It remains unclear whether
DEC will issue a similar directive for the 2010-2011 ski season.
The following list indicates the number of state park proposed to be
closed within specific regions of the state: Six parks on Long Island;
One park in New York City region; Two parks in Palisades Region; Two
parks in Taconic Region; Four parks in Capital Region; Eight parks in
Central Region; Six parks in Finger Lakes Region; Seven parks in Thousand
Islands Region; One park in Genesee Region; Four parks in Niagara Region;
One park in Allegany Region.
And that's not looking at the details, which include the closing down
of some treasures, such as the New Windsor Cantonment outside Newburgh,
where Washington harbored the Continental Army for a season after defeating
the British; and the Clark Reservation in the western p[art of the state,
once the crown jewel of the entire system.
In addition to the park closings there are numerous historic site closings
as well as reduced park hours, closures of public swimming pools and
On the plus side, much discussion is underway about ways to keep such
recreation opportunities open, as well as the meager savings to be had.
It's turning out to be a harsher winter than any of us quite expected.
But let's see what happens during the upcoming round of state budget
With no new pronouncement of immanent ground-breaking and fewer references
than usual to public opposition to the project, Gitter's tone seemed
uncharacteristically subdued, verging on noncombative. He outlined at
length his company's projections of the project's economic benefits,
essentially unchanged in the many years since they were first presented
for public review. And in addressing the controversial Agreement in
Principal reached in 2007 between his company Crossroads Ventures, state
and city regulators and other parties under former Governor Spitzer's
executive authority, Gitter reiterated its basic sobriety, saying "Spitzer
may have taken the tabloid train out of town but nobody ever accused
him of being dumb."
He further described that agreement by saying "we are in partnership
in the design and operation of the project" with seven of the environmental
groups which signed on to the non-binding agreement conceptually allowing
expanded development on the company's western landholdings in exchange
for selling its eastern ones to the state. According to Gitter that
acquisition is "almost complete." DEC has confirmed that dedicated
funds from the state's Environmental Protection Fund will be available,
with the expected price in the $6 million range for just over 1,200
acres. Whether state acquisition of the former Highmount ski area will
be included in that transaction remains unclear.
On the larger issue of potential regulatory progress for the project,
as of press time DEC indicated it has still not received any submissions
from Crossroads subsequent to its 2008 scoping for the Spitzer-AIP proposal.
Accordingly, the entire project remains on hold, including public release
of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center's long awaited Unit Management
Plan, pending receipt of the company's response to questions raised
at that time and the resumption of its SEQRA process.
But according to Gitter "we are now completing a totally new SDEIS
(Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement)." What that
document will contain remains for the moment conjectural, though Gitter
has previously indicated it will reflect "as envisioned" the
2007 AIP. While many in attendance at last week's breakfast had expected
a preview of at least some modifications to that plan, the only one
announced was a design change for the proposed Highmount Spa and hotel
complex. New plans as indicated by an artist's rendering shown for the
first time, call for that complex to be rendered as an underground,
earth-sheltered multistory building, to be blasted from and constructed
within nearly the existing profile of Belleayre Ridge. The change appears
intended to render it "virtually invisible" from the Dry Brook
Valley to the south, in response to residents concerns there. According
to Gitter, the spa-hotel's design includes an interior space constructed
and planted to reflect "the original mountain as it might have
The Spitzer-AIP plan, in total, calls for two major building sites on
760 acres, containing 928 guest and lodging rooms in approximately 55
buildings and entailing about 1.2 million square feet of construction.
Both complexes would be directly served by new lifts and trails to be
built and operated by the state-owned ski center. Total anticipated
costs for the taxpayer-funded portions of the proposed joint project
are currently about $69 million. If ultimately permitted, private investment
in the project would exceed $400 million, with Gitter indicating he
expected to see a reduction in construction costs based on weakness
in the regional economy. He also asserted that by the time it was required,
"institutional funding will be available."
"I do not intend to move on," said Gitter, "until I have
seen the completion of the Belleayre Resort."
In response, the Catskill Heritage Alliance issued a statement saying
that Gitter's remarks contained little new substance and lacked specifics,
and holding the company directly responsible for the project's delays.
The group asserts that claimed economic benefits are unsubstantiated
and that Crossroads has never addressed 2006 findings by the State Comptroller
that it underestimated both environmental impacts and economic risks
because of faulty assumptions. It recommends that regulators discontinue
actions related to the Spitzer-AIP's permitting process, pending a market
& financial analysis that corrects deficiencies noted by the Comptroller,
and pending the public release of commitments both for project financing
and from a nationally recognized resort operator.
The group also recommends that DEC move forward promptly with proposed
uncontroversial improvements to the ski center that are unrelated to
the Crossroads project.
"The issues involved, from new precedents for mountaintop development
to construction traffic and municipal tax compensation, they're all
issues of local community impact, and those are our primary concern"
said Aaron Bennett, new Regional Director for Catskill Mountainkeeper.
"Thus far, Crossroads refusal to consider parameters of scale more
appropriate to our local communities remains a real issue for us. But
we'll just have to wait and see what the company's really proposing
when the SDEIS is finally submitted."
A second outing of Gitter's current presentation will occur at the Ulster
County Legislative Chambers on Tuesday, March 9 at 6:00 PM, under the
aegis of the body's new Tourism Committee head. The presentation has
been allotted a full half hour for both discussion and any questions
and answers that might ensue.
At The Catskill Center
director Lisa Rainwater resigned abruptly after less than two years
in her position, and a major staff downsizing ordered by the 40-year
old organization's Board of Directors. Former CCCD Program Director
Aaron Bennett is now serving as Regional Director for Catskill Mountainkeeper,
based in Sullivan County.
H. Claude Shostal, President of the Catskill Center Board, stated that
White 's selection was made after an extensive search that resulted
in numerous qualified candidates. "Alan was selected because of
his extensive executive experience working for non profit organizations
in the Catskill region, his deep commitment to the Catskills and his
understanding of the issues currently being faced by the residents of
the area," Shostal said. "We feel extremely fortunate that
someone of Alan's unique background and stature will be taking over
the leadership of our organization." "It's kind of a humbling
experience to be given an opportunity like this," said White, noting
his commitment to maintaining the organization's role as a leading force
for regional advocacy in "a balanced way. "This pulls from
my entire background in the Catskills since 1982."
White noted that he had no intention of pushing land policy matters
over other projects, and looks to be pulling from his having worked
with so many of the key players in the area to help make the Catskill
Center more effective. He added that he would take a couple of months,
now, to get to know the organization before setting a new agenda. He
added that, with his experience, he has no qualms about meeting the
not-for-profit's fundraising needs. As for the recent upheavals, White
was circumspect. "I think the board has made some very difficult
decisions that position us to move in a stronger forward direction,"
he noted. "The Catskills are a big region... I don't look at things
in terms of competition but in terms of the challenges to be faced.
The region benefits from new organizations." "The appointment
of Alan ensures the leadership needed to keep the Catskill Center competitive
during these economic times, added Interim Executive Director Daniel
Palm. "His ability to think strategically and build partnerships,
combined with his intimate knowledge of the region, bode well for the
future of the Catskill Center and the region," For more information
on the Catskill Center and its activities, call 586-2611 or visit www.catskillcenter.org.
Welcome aboard, Alan!
the pellets... CWC Board of Directors was recently briefed on the status
of their project by Paul Cerosaletti of Cornell Cooperative Extension
(CCE) Delaware County, which was contracted by CWC to conduct the study.
Five indoor stoves and five outdoor, biomass hydronic furnaces have
been installed at six sites in Delaware, Greene and Ulster Counties.
The three-year pilot project, funded by $195,500 from the Catskill Fund
for the Future, has installed units in offices and highway garages at
Franklin, Andes, Hunter and Jewett, and at and the Ashokan Center in
Olivebridge. A unit will soon be installed at Brookside Hardware in
Margaretville, as well.
The Harmon P68 pellet stove in a recreation and dining hall at the Ashokan
Center will be demonstrated from 11 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 6, with
Cerosaletti giving a presentation on grass pellet technology at 2 p.m.
The pilot project is monitoring all ten devices for effectiveness, efficiency,
and operation and maintenance issues. Air quality impacts will also
be evaluated. Preliminary results have been positive, according to Cerosaletti.
The first device, a biomass furnace installed to heat the Town of Franklin
highway garage, has used half a ton of grass pellets per week since
October 2009, supplemented by only 75 gallons of fuel oil during this
period. Historically, the building has required up to 125 gallons per
week (up to 200 gallons during especially cold weather).
Grass pellets, which cost $225 per ton, represent a significant potential
savings to the town, and can reduce the town's reliance on fossil fuels
and foreign energy sources, while keeping all of the municipality's
energy dollars in the local economy. Testing stoves, tweaking them to
work well with grass biomass, perfecting pellet production and conducting
cost-benefit analyses will help propel the development of grass pellets
as a low-tech, small-scale, environmentally-friendly, renewable energy
source that can be locally produced, processed and consumed, allowing
unused or underutilized agricultural land to once again be a source
of revenue and jobs.
Said Cerosaletti, "We are in the infancy of understanding and developing
robust, high efficiency, residential scale biomass combustion technology
in the United States. I am confident we will be able to make the technology
work. Pellet stoves and furnaces in general are extremely efficient,
Added CWC Executive Director Alan Rosa, "Once it's perfected, this
technology will give residents and businesses alternatives to heating
their home, stores or offices. CWC believes that this may be cost effective
and at the same time give farms another source of income in these challenging
Pellets for these stoves are being produced by EnviroEnergy LLC (www.enviroenergyny.com),
a firm started in 2008 by Bob and May Miller and son and daughter-in-law
Mike and Mary Lou in Wells Bridge, Otsego County. They have been purchasing
hay from farmers within a 40-mile radius. Working part time, the plant
has been producing about three tons of pellets a day. In addition to
supplying the CWC project, they sell pellets by the 40-pound bag to
individual homeowners who had primarily used wood pellets in their pellet
The Millers, former dairy farmers, have made great strides in developing
a durable, optimum pellet size with consistent energy content with a
BTU comparable to wood pellets, Cerosaletti says. The company has become
a registered biomass processor under the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance
Program, which will offer subsidies to farmers to produce biomass.
Already, two other entrepreneurs have expressed interest in establishing
pellet plants locally, Cerosaletti said. But first, the demand for pellet
stoves that can work with a variety of biomass sources needs to be proved....
As for the rest of the upcoming Maple Fest... The highlight of the 11:00
AM to 6:00 PM event will be a trip to Ashokan's hand-hewn pine sugar
shack. After participants receive their fill of maple sugar for the
day, a shuttle will return them to the main campus for other Fest events
in the Center's 19th century setting including crafts demonstrations,
old-time music, contests, and loads of "Living History." For
more info visit www.AshokanCenter.org or call 657-8333.
aside, the district continues to provide budget information for 2010/2011
on its website. The latest installment, a six-page budget outline from
Superintendent Leslie Ford, was posted in the past week.
The board asked the administration to look at the following areas to
reduce: administration, textbooks, conferences, field trip, athletic
teams, salary freezes and transportation. By page four, Ford presents
proposed cuts, with some not fully in line with the board requests.
Programs that she cites for elimination include: after school homework
help, INDIE, Gifted and Talented and summer school. Special Education
instruction cuts that Ford lists includes in-house GED (replaced by
BOCES), two special educators and one speech therapist through attrition,
and an estimated seven teacher aides. Music cuts would include the reduction
of one part time teacher. Athletics, field trips and conferences have
no specific reductions to date.
Salary freezes will need board consensus, according to Ford. The board
is also considering shuttering West Hurley elementary for a savings
Administrative cuts include the consolidation of the Middle/High school
offices, eliminating one typist. Ford does not recommend larger cuts
mulled over in past board discussions, including merging the Director
of Pupil Personnel and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.
The administrative cabinet also does not recommend the elimination of
the District Assessment Team (DAT) and returning the responsibilities
back to teachers and special educators, as the board has discussed.
Eliminating textbook purchases are also not a recommendation.
The board is targeting a $1.5 million reduction in budget in order to
present voters with a four percent levy increase. If the budget is rejected
two times by voters, the district could face a projected $3 million
Ford wrote that the budget challenges extend over the "next two
years regarding Federal, State and district revenue sources."
She listed the three largest areas of concern as a $685,000 reduction
in State aid, elimination of the Federal stimulus money by 2012, and
a projected loss of $100,000 in interest earned through Onteora's financial
accounts. Increased costs include fuel, electricity, benefits, contractual
obligations and additional State mandates which commonly carry insufficient
A wealth of information can be found by going to the district website
at Onteora.k12.ny.us. To the left of the page is a Board Doc listing
where all budget information can be found.
Not included as part of the budget process, but currently on the district's
agenda for discussion is the consolidation of all Kindergarten-through-grade
two, mainstreamed special education classes. Beginning next school year,
special education students who have Individual Education Plans (IEP)
that require consultant teacher services will be transferred from their
home school of either Woodstock or Phoenicia to Bennett Elementary.
Consultant teacher services are special educators who act as part of
a mainstream classroom that offer help to students with special education
needs. Under section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
students with disabilities are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public
Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive setting. According to district
policy. students with disabilities attend school, "as close as
possible to the student's home."
This policy appears to be refuted by a letter posted on the district's
website from Neelanjan Choudhury, Esq. of Donoghue, Thomas, Auslander
and Drohan, LLP. The letter states that unless it is specified in the
students IEP, "a student's placement is usually not confined to
a geographic location."
Choudhury wrote, "I believe the district has the authority to consolidate
all the co-teaching to Bennett if it so chooses."
Phoenicia gallery owner Tim Slowinski now runs the Limner Gallery in
Hudson. Woodland Valley resident Tom Luciano makes the cross-river commute
to his art/antique store Historical Materialism. Andrea Cabane has shown
artists she's discovered in Hudson at her gallery in Phoenicia.
Posie Strenz of Mt. Tremper opened the Posie Kviat Gallery with a partner,
Cynthia Fetty, on Hudson's Warren Street in May 2009, and it's still
going strong, stocked partially by artists she's met at The Arts Upstairs
in Phoenicia and other places on this side of the river.
Strenz is the manager of a Hudson building that lost a gallery last
year, and she had the idea to put her friends' paintings in the window
while trying to find a new tenant. It got her thinking. She was contacted
by Fetty, a Saugerties resident who wanted to start a gallery in Hudson
but was hesitant to run it by herself. "We gelled," Strenz
recalls. "We had a couple of long talks. It's not often that someone
you feel a good connection with comes along, and you feel like you can
trust them and work with them."
Despite the recession, she made a decision to go in with Fetty. "It's
better to try something than not do it and regret you didn't when you
had the chance," she muses. "We went into it knowing we could
stop if we needed to, since we both have families and need to contribute
to paying the bills. But it's gratifying, going to visit artists' studios,
learning about their histories, seeing their bodies of work and being
able to share that with other people. Of course, in the long run, you
have to make sure you don't lose your shirt."
Work has been selling, and slowly but surely, the gallery's reputation
is growing. Strenz partly attributes its success to the complementary
nature of her partnership with Fetty. "We have different kinds
of tastes, but that works well," she says. "Cynthia has more
of a modern art school kind of eye. She likes new and unusual media
and has contacts from pretty far afield. My eye is geared more toward
sharing the wonderful artists we have in this area. People come in excited
to see new media, and there are people who are thrilled to become acquainted
with artists from the area they wouldn't necessarily see-and they can
find a great piece of art to take home."
She described how the gallery came to share her first name: "Cynthia
was going to be the main director. I didn't want my name on it. Her
husband's name is Kwiatkowski, which means 'flower' in Polish. Cynthia
suggested the name because it has two flowers. According to a Polish
artist, Olek, who showed with us, Posie Kwiat means 'planting flowers'.
Cynthia changed the 'w' to a 'v' for graphic reasons. And I love gardening,
too. Maybe we're planting flowers, and a lot of the enjoyment is in
the process. It would be nice if we get to the point of culling flowers
from the garden, but if not, that's okay too."
Locals who have shown at Posie Kviat include painters Ric Dragon of
Chichester, Anique Taylor of Phoenicia, Dave Channon of Shandaken, Robert
Selkowitz of Ashokan, Lora Shelley and Mary Ann Erickson of Saugerties.
The gallery's craft show included Mt. Tremper potter Sally Rothschild
and ceramacist Astrid Nordness. Pat Horner of Willow is featured in
the current show, which opened on February 20.
Strenz brought in an artist friend from Brooklyn who doesn't get much
attention in New York City but is more successful in California. "A
New York City buyer walked in and bought a couple of his paintings,"
says Strenz. "The city is so packed and intense, people's work
can be overlooked. But when you bring them to Warren Street, and city
people are up for the weekend, they're more relaxed-it's a different
kind of exposure."
The gallery made a big splash with a three-part event in October, when
Strenz's husband, music writer Tony Fletcher, had just published his
book, All Hopped Up and Ready to Go: Music from Streets of New York,
1927-1977. Fletcher read from the book at The Spotty Dog Books and Ale,
while the gallery held an opening for "Redux", with all the
artists they'd shown in their first six months. Then Fletcher deejayed
music from the era of his book at Jason's Upstairs Bar.
For the long haul, Posie Kviat does need more buyers, but so far, says
Strenz, "We've had a lot of positive feedback, even from people
who've been in Hudson a long time. We've brought a different vision
and new blood. It's been a nice welcome."
Posie Kviat Gallery is located at 437 Warren Street in Hudson and can
be contacted at (518) 653-5407. Also see their website, http://posiekviat.com.