Up on the News
had originally been looking at the space that Cabane Studios are in
now," Koegel is saying about the genesis of his new establishment,
which is set to open at 8:00 AM on Friday, May 28 and then host a concert
featuring "The Real Men," from West Shokan, in a free opening
party at 5:00 PM on Sunday, May 30. "But then this place came in
view and I started asking why no one had done anything here?"
Around Mama Boy's revived lawn, and re-stained deck and main indoor
market rooms, the hamlet of Phoenicia seems to whirl with activity.
There's the Country Store, Home and The Arts Upstairs, the outdoor tables
at Brio's and The Sportsman, all abuzz with people. A squad of bikers
revs off. The scene feels urban, for a moment, except for the surrounding
mountains, the birds. It all makes one want to sit down and have a nice
big cup of coffee, maybe a smoothie and a snack. Something local...
Which is just what Koegel says he'll be serving... some basic coffee
shop fare, wireless internet service and the ability to hang out for
hours, and a potpourri of handmade delicacies created in the area, from
smoked trout and artisinal breads to special desserts and entire take-out
To keep everyone cool with what he's doing, Koegel - who lived in New
York before moving to the area as first a part-timer and then a full-timer
over the last decade - has been going to every other business in town,
and the area, to ensure he's not planning to be competitive with them...
and would love to carry something of theirs, if they wanted. He says
the whole idea came from spending long weekends up here wishing for
a place to just hang out and possibly pick up meals without having to
go to a restaurant. A place that would reflect all that's best about
the Catskills, the Route 28 corridor, and Phoenicia.
"I've taken a five year lease on the place and am putting in way
too much money for one summer," Koegel added, dismissing opinions
he's heard that he'll be yet another fly-by-night operation. "I'm
going to be killing myself keeping it going but I'll make it fun. And
already, I'm starting to hear a little buzz that this might be the tipping
point thee town's been needing..."
Koegel, originally from Syracuse and a lifetime New Yorker excepting
a stint at grad school in Pittsburgh, has worked as a construction manager,
a television producer and writer for Nickelodeon, Fox and PBS, and,
most recently, helping start up a chain of health clubs across the country.
His time in the area has included stints in Westkill, where he wrote
for a local newspaper, in Big Indian, and now in Pine Hill.
He likes the idea that he'll only be able to have so many seats... yet
lots of surrounding room. And a very small space for winter, so he'll
always be looking busy.
"We'll be dog and smoker friendly," he says. Then adds, with
the roar of another group of bikers passing, that they'd be welcome,
"We'll have pumpkin decorating events around Halloween, music,
whatever people want to do," Koegel added. "I was always that
guy who had the parties. I love to entertain. To a certain extent, this
is an extension of that..."
And the name, Mama's Boy?
Koegel laughs and says it came out of the blue... and he doesn't mean
it in purely camp terms.
"I think any guy at some point in his life has made the decision
that his mother was either the best or the worst cook in the world,"
he explains, adding a vignette about how much he liked watching his
own mother make lasagna when he was a kid. "I think we all still
crave some of that food our mother's made for us. Every guy's a mama's
boy, to some extent... if only they can admit it. I'm working off that
sort of nostalgia here."
He pauses before having to head back to renovations and he turns my
"I have a very good feeling about all of this," he says. "It's
starting to feel kind of cool."
All around, Phoenicia feels alive. We guess no one did anything here
because they just forgot to see it for what it wasn't, instead of for
what it wasn't.
""This is like the town square," Michael Koegel adds.
"I'm going to treat it right."
Hours at Mama's Boy Market, located across from the STS Theater on Church
and Main in Phoenicia, will be from 8:00 AM until late, with exact times
to be determined as Koegel figures what works.
For further info, call 688-3050 or visit www.mamasboymarket.com.
Price May Not Be Right
As for the pricing... a
recently-released letter from state Comptroller Arthur DiNapoli to
state Department of Environmental Conservation officials noted disapproval
of the high price the state had agreed to pay for approximately 1,200
acres in lands in the Big Indian area as part of a 2007 Agreement
in Principal designed to push the mega-development forward after its
review process had stalled.
But Gitter himself has said that DiNapoli's letter was simply a new
challenge, and that all the developers would need to do was better
justify the agreed-upon cost.
"While I understand that you have identified this as a priority
project important to the Catskills economy, environment and watershed,
you have not provided justification that adequately supports such
a large premium over the fair-market value calculation done by your
staff after gathering information, which included professional appraisals,"
wrote the Comptroller's Director of Contracts, Charlotte Breeyear,
in the May 5 letter to the DEC. "You may resubmit this contract
for further review if value factors change significantly."
In dispute was the agreed-upon $6.3 million DEC was asking to pay
Gitter's Crossroads Ventures for property that the DEC had previously
valued at $4.9 million, a 29 percent raise over assessment.
. "We don't have enough justification for a contract that pays
this much over the fair market value," said DiNapoli spokesman
Dennis Tompkins in a recent statement.
The land sale, which had originally been set at over $12 million for
the Big Indian acreage as well as what had once been the Highmount
Ski Center, was a key component of the 2007 deal brokered by then-Governor
Eliot Spitzer and his staff to establish the $400 million Belleayre
Resort at Catskill Park in Delaware and Ulster counties. In exchange
for allowing Gitter to build hotels adjacent to state-owned Belleayre
Mountain Ski Center, including ski-in and ski-out functions, a gold
course, a high end spa, and individual town houses, the developer
would sell the state the property so it could be added to the Catskill
The members of a consortium of national, state and regional environmental
organizations who signed off on Spitzer's AIP said at the time that
they did so because of the agreed-upon land deal. Last year, several,
including the powerful National Resources Defense Council, threatened
to pull back their support for the AIP, and pursue environmental opposition
to the resort, should the land deal fall through.
Also last year, Gitter went before the Ulster County Legislature to
ask for a special right-of-way over county-owned railway tracks as
a means of increasing the value of his lands. The request was not
"We cannot comment on the Comptroller's recent communication
to the DEC: it is an internal matter between two state agencies,"
Gitter noted in a new missive released this past Tuesday, May 10.
"It should be noted, however, that the Comptroller did not reject
the sale of the Big Indian property to the DEC. He simply returned
the contract to the DEC, unapproved, requesting them to supply further
information justifying the price which had been agreed upon.
"For our part, we continue to abide by the Agreement in Principle
and expect the other parties will do the same," Gitter continued.
"We have been trying for eleven years to bring a desperately
needed economic development asset to this region. We have encountered
many delays and obstacles. But, along the way, we have also earned
the support of the two counties involved, all the building trades
unions, and major environmental groups."
"Safeguarding this 1,220 acre forested parcel as 'forever wild'
for water quality and conservation purposes remains the top priority,"
responded NRDC's Eric Goldstein in a statement released May 11 to
the news that there would be "further negotiations," as
he put it. "We are encouraged that both DEC and the developer
have indicated their intention to continue working to complete this
long-promised land transfer."
A call to the state DEC for clarification of just how much of the
original $12 million purchase deal was involved in the Highmount land
purchase, and where that process stood in light of current state budget
difficulties, resulted in cross statements... and an indication of
major bureaucratic soupiness.
"Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) was the entity tasked
with negotiating for Highmount, not DEC (because the expansion is
economic development)," noted DEC Director of Public Information
Yancey Ray of the Highmount portion of the sale. "Nothing regarding
the potential acquisition of Highmount can go forward until the UMP
for the Belleayre Ski Center is completed and approved. There have
been no appraisals."
Roy was referring to a long-awaited Unit Management Plan for growth
at the ski center designed to move forward, for the review process
as well as possible development, in tandem with the Resort proposal.
Meanwhile, at ESDC, press officer Jola Szubielski noted that she couldn't
find any mention of a Belleayre, Highmount, or even DEC project listed
in her agency's files. But then she noted that she was able to find
out that "this in fact a project that comes out of the Southern
Tier office," based in Binghamton and dealing with Delaware County,
even though the slopes in question are primarily in Ulster County.
After almost a week of inquiries into the project in the Southern
Tier administration for UCDC, Szubielski finally added a final note:
"Our regional office was not able to find anything on this. I've
contacted DEC to see if we can iron this out."
"This is simply another obstacle to overcome," concluded
Gitter of the pricing matter, without making any comment to previous
statements he'd made that there had been no problems highlighted by
the comptroller's office. "This project is moving forward. We
Unlimited is a national organization with more than 150,000 volunteers
organized into about 400 chapters from Maine to Montana to Alaska. With
a mission to conserve, protect and restore North America's coldwater
fisheries and their watersheds, this dedicated grassroots army is matched
by a staff of lawyers, policy experts and scientists, who work out of
more than 30 offices nationwide. These conservation professionals ensure
that Trout Unlimited is at the forefront of fisheries restoration work
at the local, state and national levels.
The Catskills Mountains Chapter has been in discussions with State Department
of Conservation about making a section of the Esopus Creek, from Phoenicia
downstream to Boiceville, a "catch and release" section of
On Wednesday, May 19th at the Gander Mountain Lodge in Kingston, at
the Catskills Mountains Chapters monthly meeting, the proposal was expected
to be under discussion with special guest speaker Mike Flaherty, DEC's
regional fisheries manager.
Flaherty, according to information provided by the Catskills Mountains
Chapter, has been polling anglers in the area and reports that his agents
on the Esopus are asking people about their opinion about a catch and
release only section on the Esopus. The Catskills Mountain Chapter believes
that word is starting to spread that catch and release is now a serious
consideration for future management of the creek.
To aid the discussion, Flaherty will also have available some information
from his most recent studies.
Expected to attend the session are members of the Ashokan-Pepacton Watershed
Chapter of Trout Unlimted.
That Chapter is not so sure the catch and release plan is a good one,
according to Vice President Kathy Nolan.
"Our Ashokan-Pepacton Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited was
alerted to the issue, and we addressed it at the monthly meeting of
our Board of Directors' she said Monday. "As a result, our Board
is drafting a formal position statement on Catch and Release, specifically
related to this proposal. At this time we do not support catch and release
on the mainstream Esopus due to the unique character of the communities,
watershed and fisheries. We do not believe catch and release is the
best management system given these considerations."
Some fisherman feel that catch and release cannot be practiced while
bait fishing for trout. Bait caught trout are much more likely to swallow
the offering and have higher mortality rates after release.
Others feel that sensible fisheries management needs to be based on
reliable scientific data on the system under consideration and that
DEC would need to be flexible in the approach to catch and release laws,
using trial and error to arrive at a solution which the vast majority
of anglers are happy with.
Still others want to simply enjoy a good trout dinner after a day of
fishing, and are prepared to go elsewhere to fish to maintain that tradition.
Nothing has been decided yet. DEC is the agency that will rule on the
matter, and public hearings on the topic are expected.
surprising to see so few in attendance, given the fact that the stakes
are high. Lawsuits are threatened. The fabric of the community might
be stake. Friendships might end depending on the outcome.
Such is the backdrop against which Tuesday night's May 18 meeting played
out, and while there was no definitive outcome it was at least clear
that one was on the horizon. Unclear, however, is what that outcome
After spending some time looking at existing law and proposed laws,
mulling over every word and phrase, the group of planning board members,
zoning board members, town councilfolk and the town's code enforcement
officer turned to Ulster County Planner Dennis Doyle for some advice.
Doyle, who has come to town before to talk this issue over, let the
group know that if there was consensus on what the town wanted, then
a law could be written to allow it.
Everyone knows the genesis for these discussions is the farm stand operated
by the father and son team of Al and Alfie Higley on Route 28 in Mount
Tremper. A highly successful and popular operation since its inception
several years ago, the legality of the business has been in dispute,
with the town believing it violates local law, while the owners contend
they are in good standing. Violations have been issued. Lawyers have
been involved. Solutions have been considered.
Doyle jumped into the fray after Planner Maureen Millar noted that allowing
farm stands would be opening the floodgates.
"It is a new commercial use territory...for every district in Town,"
But Doyle, a consensus builder if there ever was one, asked several
questions about the issue to try and gauge what the town was looking
for when it comes to whether to encourage or discourage farm stands.
"The general consensus is this is good for the community,"
he said after the exercise.
As for the major concern that any new law would allow for farm stands
to pop up all over the place, Doyle suggested that they could be allowed
in all zoning districts, provided that they have road frontage along
either a state or county roadway. This, he said, would keep the farm
stands off the small, residential town roads and the neighborhoods they
Another concern is that farm stands might expand. Doyle warned that
agriculture is changing in Ulster County, so the town should be careful
about what it restricts. Unlike the days gone by of large farms, Doyle
said that "intense farming" on lots as small as two to four
acres can provide enough income to sustain the family that operates
it. Add in the potential for businesses such as cheese making, and you
have a whole industry that may be in development.
"This might be something the town could encourage rather than discourage,"
There were other issues discussed, like what goods a farm stand could
sell or not sell, whether someone that stops at a farmstand is actually
parking their car or only standing, etc., but Doyle kept bringing the
group back to the main question that he raised at the beginning of the
"Is this beneficial to the community," he asked.
In closing the meeting, supervisor Rob Stanley said that he felt the
debate has narrowed in focus, and that the group is moving toward a
"We're not trying to push anything, but to move forward,"
said Stanley,." Maybe another meeting in a month or so."
He suggested that all involved go and talk to their constituents about
Every third house, someone
comes to the door with a shotgun, a machete, or a whistling 3/4 horse
weed whacker. Everybody's miffed. I like to call this the "Miffed
Myth". It's not true! Oh, sure a NRFU runs into a few grouchy
folks but mostly everybody that's home likes to talk. About them.
Some people believe the darndest things. Like refusing to answer a
couple of questions will protect your privacy. Hah! A NRFU on computer
can watch you from the sky. See, for example, if a car is parked in
the driveway. Privacy? We lost that a long time ago. Ironically, with
all this information we are getting dumber. The census can't simply
get all it needs from the Post Office, IRS and telephone company.
Sort of like how the CIA can't talk to the FBI. The answers you give
to a NRFU are between you and NRFU and God. $150,000 fine and years
in the pokey for the unfortunate NRFU that spills the beans.
But with responsibility comes privilege. Did I mention my G-Man status?
The NRFU always rings twice. I can ignore private property signs more
confidently than Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger put together.
A big myth is that "This is costing too damn much money."
I truthfully don't even know how many millions or billions. But every
census that comes back marked "occupied" gets something
like 1500 Federal bucks for the hometown to help with schools and
roads and such. I estimate that so far, I've raised about 60 grand
for Shandaken. Yeah, it costs the Feds about $65 to follow up on every
household that didn't mail back the census. However, a good chunk
of that money goes back into the community in the form of decent wages,
$16.50 per hour and 50 cents a mile. The NRFU enumerator also helps
the economy by buying local shock absorbers and transmissions after
criss-crossing Cross Mountain Road and the Shin Creek Expressway.
The economics are mostly good.
Not a myth: The census makes a difference. NY State and California
will probably lose representation and Texas is likely to gain. Some
people might think getting rid of a few politicians is a good thing.
I tend to go along with that. But it will surely change the balance
of power of the mightiest military machine on the face of the Earth.
So by failing to cooperate with your confident, sunny, persistent
yet polite neighborhood NRFU, you might help determine which country
gets bombed next. Think about it.
A big part of the training is in safety. A NRFU must avoid becoming
dog chow. We are advised to wear comfortable running shoes for the
spontaneous 23 skiddoo, but never to run from dogs or mountain lions
as that will make it more likely for one to get partially consumed.
Our area has just about the worst response rate in the country. So
we must be a bunch of refuseniks, right? Nope. Half or more homes
around here are second homes where no one's home. The sun bleached
red & white census bag still hangs on the knob, only to be found
in spring after the glacier has retreated. But we can't simply assume
no one's living there, as common sensical as it might sound. We have
to talk a human being first. Which I don't mind doing. Can we talk?
Thanks, Joan Rivers. Seems like a lot of people have lost their Census.
For example, why didn't Mrs. McGillicuddy get counted? The Enumer
It really helps to have a sense of humor. See you soon!
Total number of yes votes
came to 1179 versus 925 no votes. The only town to reject the budget
was Olive/Marbletown, 296 yes to 353 no. Other towns saw Shandaken/Lexington
go 236 yes to 163 no; Woodstock, 358 yes to 200 no; and West Hurley,
289 yes to 209 no.
The proposition requesting $35,000 for the purchase of a vehicle passed
a narrow 1058 to 1015. Once again, Olive/Marbletown was the only town
to defeat the purchase, 244 yes to 402 no. Other town tallies were
Shandaken/Lexington, 215 yes to 178 no; Woostock, 331 yes to 214 no;
and West Hurley, 268 yes to 221 no.
With the exception of last year's 2009 budget vote, the town of Olive
has traditionally voted against the school budget over the last decade.
In the Middle/High School Teachers conference room, there were very
few people awaiting results, mostly administrators and board of education
With the budget passed, Superintendent Leslie Ford said, "I would
like to thank the community for coming out to vote, this means a lot
to the students to have this budget pass during these difficult economic
times and I really appreciate their support." This is Ford's
third successful budget year.
Tom Hickey and Rob Kurnit, the two candidates on the ballot running
uncontested, enjoyed voter support. Hickey gathered 1257 votes in
his favor with Kurnit coming in second at 1150. There were also a
few write-in candidates.
In Shandaken/Lexington, Hickey received 230 and Kurnit 193. Past school
board member Rita Vanacore had one write-in vote and Edward Cahill
also received one write-in vote. I
n Olive/Marbletown, Hickey received 354 and Kurnit 322. Vanacore received
one write-in vote and Richard Wolff, who resigned from the board last
year, gained seven write-in votes.
In Woodstock, Hickey received 365 votes and Kurnit 335. In Hurley
Hickey received 318 votes and Kurnit 300.
Board members congratulated the two. Trustee Tony Fletcher said, "You
are now officially elected." The two were appointed following
the resignation of Michelle Friedel and Wolff in July 2009.
As the results were coming in, Fletcher noticed that the turnout increased
compared to 2009 results. By the end of the evening all four polling
stations revealed voter town out at a slight increase. Olive/Marbletown
showed the highest increase, an additional 137 (99 of those in no
votes) compared to the previous year.
The Onteora School district has approximately 11,560 registered voters
in Ulster County, not including the small slice of voters in Greene
As part of procedure, School board president Laurie Osmond called
a board meeting for the acceptance of the election results.
It was passed by a unanimous vote.