Up on the News
time as acting president, Dakin Morehouse has become president of the
museum board, now that Lonnie Gale has officially retired. On a recent
tour of the station, Morehouse showed off a special anniversary exhibit
of photos, starting with pictures of the first trains to transport tubing
enthusiasts from Mt. Pleasant back to Phoenicia after their ride down
the Esopus Creek. Other photos show volunteers restoring the interior
and exterior of railway coaches in the Phoenicia yard; a saddle steam
engine that board member Earl Pardini’s wife bought him as a birthday
present some years back; volunteers repairing track washouts from floods,
replacing ties, gauging and spiking track.
Several photos depict a line of colorful little railway cars: a Speeder
Club in 2007. Speeders, Morehouse explained, are small crew cars used
for making repairs. Rarely used nowadays, people have bought them up and
formed Speeder Clubs, which rent tracks and cruise around on weekends.
“You can go from Phoenicia to Kingston in a speeder,” Morehouse
says, although the trestle at Boiceville and the tracks around the Ashokan
Reservoir have to be shored up before they will support the weight of
a real train. Plans call for the gradual restoration of those stretches,
and Morehouse feels that eventually, “We’ll have one of the
finest railroads in the country,” with spectacular reservoir views
not accessible from any road.
The museum, a non-profit organization, has a contract with Ulster County,
which owns the track bed, to refurbish a specified number of miles of
track per year. This schedule has been set back by the need to make repairs
since the 2005 flood. With its volunteer work force, the museum’s
resources are limited. The Catskill Mountain Railroad is a separate entity
that operates the trains as a for-profit business, although it, too, is
a volunteer organization.
Morehouse showed off a model of the Phoenicia station and vicinity from
the turn of the century, created from railroad blueprints of the period.
“My parents and grandparents used to take the trolley from Brooklyn
to 42nd Street in Manhattan, where the steamers took off,” he related.
“At Kingston Point, the train met the steamer and brought passengers
to Phoenicia. Caretakers for the land colonies—Roxmor, Woodland
Valley Park Association, Winisook Lodge—would meet the train and
bring people to their country homes.”
Besides passengers, trains carried Pennsylvania coal through Phoenicia
enroute to Boston. Products shipped to New York City included bluestone
curbs, milk, bottled water, lumber, furniture, fresh produce—especially
cauliflower—and the mail. “Records from 1913 show over 600,000
people rode the train in one season,” Morehouse said.
He pointed out a display case containing two branching metal objects.
“These are called crow’s feet, made of zinc. They were dropped
into a beaker of acid to create a battery that ran the teletype.”
Plans call for the battery and teletype to be demonstrated, along with
other paraphernalia, in an interactive exhibit in a refurbished boxcar,
which currently stands outside the museum, along with several other cars.
Once restored, the baggage car will house the model railroads now inside
the station, while the caboose will become a library of railroad-related
books. First they have to move out the cars and shift the tracks closer
to the platform for easier access, explained Morehouse casually, as if
moving track were a routine task.
Across the yard is a mini railroad under construction, with fresh 7-1/4-gauge
track shining in the sun. (Standard gauge is 56-1/2 inches.) “This
is going to be a ride-on railroad,” said Morehouse. “We have
someone donating an eight-foot-long coal-fired live steam locomotive.”
Where did Morehouse get his fascination with trains? “I grew up
in a railroad town in West Virginia. The railroad yard, which was thirty
or forty tracks wide, was between my house and the school. I was often
late to school, and I’d crawl through the trains to get there on
time. Sometimes we’d ride our bicycles alongside the tracks and
race the switch engines. Once the engineer stopped and—” he
crooked his finger, showing how the engineer had summoned him. He expected
trouble, but instead, “He let me drive the engine! That did it!
When I moved up here 35 years ago, I tried my darnedest not to get involved,
because I knew I’d get hooked.”
The station has also been a place for community events, such as the annual
Christmas party and Santa train ride and a recent book signing by the
author of a history of Catskill hotels. (“We sold a mess of books!”
Morehouse reported.) Musicians in the Thursday night picking circle now
play at the station. A workshop on traditional Catskill music by folksinger
Bob Lusk will take place on Wednesday evenings, July 9-30, at a cost of
only $40 for four sessions. To register for the workshop, call (845) 338-8587.
Volunteers are always needed to run the museum and gift shop or to help
out with trains, tracks, and maintenance. The museum is open on weekends
and holidays from Memorial Day through Columbus Day from 11:00 a.m. to
4:00 p.m. It is located on Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Call (845)
688-7501 for information or to volunteer.
concerning Dean Gitter’s recent legal filing:
this kind of legal action is called a SLAPP suit and it’s illegal
in New York and many other states. SLAPP stands for Strategic Legal Action
Against Public Participation and is defined by the law as a proceeding
brought for the purpose of harassing, intimidating, punishing or otherwise
maliciously inhibiting the free exercise of speech, petition or association
rights. This law was passed to protect New Yorkers from those who seek
to use the courts, the costs of legal defense, and their superior economic
position to intimidate the public, environmental and community activists,
and, in this case, the press from commenting on or printing the public’s
comments concerning their actions.
The Phoenicia Times and its sister publication The Olive Press are community
newspapers which for seven years have provided comprehensive news, editorial
and public comment on all the local issues that matters to their readers,
including Mr. Gitter’s proposed Belleayre Resort. That project,
as most residents of the region know, is the largest and most controversial
development ever proposed for the Route 28 corridor, Ulster County, New
York City’s West of Hudson Watershed, and the central Catskills
region. Because of the depth of our coverage, many regard The Phoenicia
Times as a newspaper of record for that project. Many have long used our
website as a primary source of information, and to download some of the
thousands of pages posted there comprising its lengthy and evolving regulatory
history. This action by Mr. Gitter will not in any way alter our commitment
to providing the best coverage we can on this matter of significant impact
to our community. To the extent Mr. Gitter’s action may be a message
to others that they should tread lightly or face the same consequences,
we remind them that the right to fair comment was the very first to be
protected in our Constitution. We intend to aggressively defend ourselves
against Mr. Gitter’s charges, to seek dismissal of the matter, and
to counterfile for costs and damages under New York State’s anti-SLAPP
The Phoenicia Times
Brian Powers, Publisher
Paul Smart, Editor
For additional information, contact: Rod Futerfas, Esq., Wapner, Koplovitz,
& Futerfas PLLC
With all of the ‘For Sale’ signs going up in the area, it’s
natural to wonder just how directly related they are to the dramatic shift
in the economic landscape within the past year and signs along that trail
are alarming at a glance, to say the least and even more so the closer
you look. With the dollar shrinking under huge budget and trade deficits,
food and fuel prices climbing expeditiously, even moderate income families
are reaching limits already breeched by those in less fortunate circumstances
as economic forecasters speak of a "foreclosure tsunami" bearing
down on us.
Chief Deputy Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack reports that judgments
of foreclosure in the county, from January to June 16th this year, have
swelled to 143, compared to 82 in 2007 and the sharply upward trend seems
to be just getting started after holding to a reasonably gradual increase
since 2003, which, she said, is as far back as the system currently in
place would allow her to check. (There were 71 in 2006; 69 in 2005; 70
in 2004 and 65 in 2003.)
For homeowners in Olive, with a pressured reval inflating their properties
near the height of the last real estate bubble, the current deflation
in true value doesn’t paint a pretty picture but there are much
more threatening situations developing which deserve urgent attention.
Since national media has been soft-pedaling or ignoring these developments
(for reasons which will become apparent), some readers may be as shocked
as if NASA suddenly discovered parking tickets on its Mars rovers but
the evidence and indications are too abundant and substantial for us to
ignore any longer. So, this report will outline them as simply and concisely
as space will permit.
Cutting through a forest of financial opinion from experts with vested
interests is a bothersome chore for anyone who wants to know what’s
really going on and how it is destined to impact our region, so I’m
going to distill the views to a few representative examples.
Trends Research Institute is described by The Economist magazine as "a
network of 25 experts whose range of specialties would rival many university
faculties" and its CEO, Gerald Celente, has a perspective on the
current situation widely shared on Wall Street. A Dutchess County resident
since 1979, Celente maintains an office in Kingston as part of the firm’s
operation which strives "to see where we are, understand how we got
here and forecast where we're going and to provide insights and directions
to help better prepare for what the future may bring."
"It’s more than the Northeast. This is a global meltdown. Every
stock market around the world is involved," Celente said on Monday.
"The New York markets started to unravel almost a year ago-July 24th,
to be precise-when the subprime problems hit. But, it’s much bigger
than subprime; it’s all of these leveraged buy-outs- the Blackstones,
the Carlyle Groups, Cerberus (Capital Management LP) that have been buying
all these multi-billion dollar companies, Chrysler, Hilton, with virtually
no money down. The subprime is an easy one to blame- ‘the little
people went in over their heads, hee hee’-but how about all of this
commercial development- the malls, office buildings, condominiums? Now
you have a credit squeeze and foreclosures are just a part of a huge problem
that’s not going to go away. It’s only going to get much worse,
When Celente returned from a trip to South Africa last week, he said he
found a notice of a fuel oil delivery on his doorknob and had to wonder
"How are people going to afford this? How are elderly people on fixed
incomes; people that are living from paycheck to paycheck now- how are
they going to be able to make it?"
T old that was the answer being sought by the present phone call, Celente
bluntly responded, "They’re not going to...This is what people
don’t want to face and they’re not talking about it. ‘Well,
maybe things will chanage around.’ Yeah, maybe Santa Claus will
come, too... People are not prepared. They’re not standing up, taking
precautionary actions. No one is. Every community should be cutting back
now. Every community should have contingency plans and they’re not
doing it. They don’t want to face it. ‘The future is off limits’
is what it basically comes down to. If there’s a cabinet position
that’s missing, it should be, as Kurt Vonnegut said, a Minister
of the Future."
Celente wasn’t one to be shocked by Martian parking tickets, as
he points out, his Trends Journal newsletter forecast the coming "Panic
of ‘08" before the fact and his projections for the near future
are as grim as a Diogenes searching for an honest man in the U.S. Senate.
Recent trips to Rome and Paris showed him first-hand how swiftly rates
of exchange, based on the "petro dollar," are shifting to make
up for the loss in value of the American dollar.
"What they’re going to have to do in order to salvage the dollar
is raise interest rates," said Celente, reciting a familiar see-saw
theory of economics. "They’re going to start doing that after
the election and slow down an already slowed down economy even more. When
you lower interest rates to juice the economy, you devalue the dollar
and that’s part of what got us into this in the first place, following
the phoney ‘Dot-com’ bubble burst of 2000. After 9/11 they
lowered the interest rates 17 consecutive times, flooding the marketplace
with cheap dollars, building on speculation instead of letting the decline
of excess take its course. Anybody who thinks these Presidential candidates
are coming up with a solution, don’t know the first thing they’re
There are other strong indications to suggest that a political solution
isn’t in the offing and, more than that, when you look closely at
the precise mechanisms which produced the crisis and the deliberate structuring
of current situation, a political and economic landscape becomes visible
which is infinitely more alarming.
To do that, we’ll need to look at views which diverge from Celente’s
on certain key issues, like the allegations that energy and food prices
are being driven up by major speculators at the Wall Street casino; allegations
that were the subject of hearings by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
last week with New York Mercantile Exchange President James Newsome and
others testifying in regard to possible regulation of energy futures markets.
An examination of this and other issues will help to explain exactly what
is happening to the economy, how and why it’s happening and what
we can expect in our future.
As we will see in the second part of this report, when we look at author
William Engdahl’s detailed analysis (as representative of a school
of thought apart from Celente’s understandably defensive stance
as a commodity trader, himself, since 1978), of how the creation of what
is now called the "Enron loophole" eight years ago and a crucial
change in the way oil is traded has led, deliberately, to today’s
situation. We’ll also engage in some obvious and nonpartisan speculation
of our own as to where it’s leading us and justify the call of an
"alarmist" when an alarm needs to be sounded.
For The New...
the board included rescinding of the 5-8 middle school plan and election
of a new board president and vice president. By a unanimous decision,
newly elected board member Ralph Legnini was chosen as the board president.
Trustees Michelle Friedel and Rick Wolff nominated Maxanne Resnick as
Vice President, but she was defeated by Laurie Osmond, approved by newly
elected menbers Donna Flayhan, Ann McGillicuddy, Osmond and Legnini.
Legnini explained in a written statement that board members and the public
don’t always have to agree, but everyone’s voice will be heard.
He added that he appreciated the school board’s unanimous decision
to elect him.
“Considering the divisiveness over the past number of years it was
a real nice, classy gesture by everyone,” he said.
In a 5-2 vote, the school board rescinded the middle school plan that
would have closed Phoenicia elementary school and create a 5-8 middle
school. Legnini, Osmond, Flayhan, Resnick and McGillicuddy all voted in
favor of rescinding the plan, with Friedel and Wolff voting against.
The board debated over the last sentence of the resolution that placed
the 5-8 option in a moratorium for further discussion. Resnick, who initially
voted in favor of the Middle School plan, voted to rescind… but
wanted more wording.
“I can support this just so long as it doesn’t preclude that
discussion of a five-eight going forward or some of the other things,”
Ford said it was written so it does not prevent anyone from discussing
“It indicates that there will be further discussion,” said
But trustee Flayhan voiced concerns with the wording because they were
elected to specifically rescind the plan and move forward.
Trustee Wolff said, “Now we don’t have any plan right now,
but as we go forward we don’t know how long it’s going to
be; you don’t want the question raised at all?”
Flayhan explained that the subject could still be raised, but feared that
the additional sentence was too specific.
“What we want to discuss as a body is all the options, not just
this particular configuration,” she explained.
The school board changed the wording of the last sentence to include the
5-8 Middle school plan, along with all other options that will be up for
In other business, the school board got into a lengthy discussion over
the creation and continuation of six committees. The audit committee is
state mandated; it’s only current member, Sante Moesle, reminded
the board that they must attend the next meeting on July 7th and appoint
a chairperson. The facilities, policy, technology, audit, communication
and green committees were up for debate.
Flayhan said that too many committees creates a lack of transparency and
results in more bureaucracy. Friedel added that when she attended the
New York State School board training, she discovered that, “committees
can be very controversial, there are pros and cons to each side, as we
are finding out.” She said that they should look at what the district
“The reason you have committees is for the board to give committees
a charge, look at the goals, look at our policies and come back to us,
so we are not overburdened,” Friedel said.
All the committees were eventually approved, but Osmond and Flayhan abstained
from the communication committee vote. They were not specifically against
the committee but concerned about specific responsibilities, costs of
calendars, purposes and newsletters. Wolff explained that former board
member Dave Patterson started the communications committee in order to
get more information out to people in the district. Flayhan said communication
to the public should be the responsibility of hired administrators. Ford
said the newsletter began with the communication committee but has become
more student centered with the help of administrators.
Other Side Of Memoirs
even mean stories that they might be saving for their therapists--- tales
of obsessive love, days of sorrow and despair, bad nights filled with
suicidal thoughts or murderous rages,.
Oh, no, I mean full-on, BIG stories, huge secrets that they have never
shared with a soul before. Stories about cheating and binging and lying
and more. Stories about bags of stolen money stashed in the basement behind
the boiler, or husbands that are secretly gay, or how they are sleeping
around, binging on drugs and alcohol, lying to their friends and families.
Accounts of spouses who hit them, or spouses they hit. Stories of elderly
parents who are being mistreated, or parents who are knocking around their
Stories that, frankly, make me blush, which is no easy feat. Oftentimes
I am scared, because the stories come from so deep in the heart, so filled
with fear and shame, that I don’t know what to say. I’m not
a therapist, and have been known to be greatly unawares, going through
my life on only a wing and a prayer.
But when someone tells me one of their secrets, there’s only one
thing I know for sure--- I will take these stories to my grave. And I
think that’s why people are sharing these anecdotes with me--- because
they know I will never, ever tell a soul.
Because I was honest in my memoir, Hats & Eyeglasses, because I told
about my own addiction and how horribly it affected my life, and, most
importantly, because I admitted that I had never told anyone about my
own demons, people feel that they can share anything with me. And because
the book is funny, because I made them laugh in between cringing for me,
they feel that there might be something lighthearted and utterly human
in what I did. They always start off by telling me that what they’re
doing is worse than what I did, which I often doubt. But because they
cannot see anything remotely humorous in their own stories, it does seem
like mine was a combination of the horrific and the hysterical, like Lucy
becoming a kleptomaniac or an overeater while at the chocolate factory.
Cue up the laugh track!
So people have been emailing and telling me that they are staying up all
night for 5 days in a row playing online poker and then walking into the
operating room to do surgery, or that they have stolen their kids college
fund and put it into a slot machine in the local casino. They stop me
at the post office and ask if they can meet me for lunch. I can see the
look in their eyes, the furtiveness, the tears welling up. And part of
me wants to run away. I'm afraid that their secrets will overwhelm me,
that I'll take on their problems as my own. But I don’t run away.
I meet them at Bread Alone, and over grilled portobelo mushroom paninis
I listen, because I wish that when I was in trouble--- when I was playing
poker online and lying and afraid all the time--- that there might have
been someone, anyone, that I could have opened up to.
Do I think that would have changed the outcome for me? No, not at all.
But I think that it might have moved things along quicker, that I might
have stopped earlier than I did, and that when people tell me their dirty
little (and big) secrets, it brings them one step closer to stopping the
downward spiral of their own lives. I hope that by telling me they are
taking the first step to getting help, or telling the truth to their families,
or maybe even telling the truth to themselves..
At least that's what I tell myself. So if you see me at the supermarket,
please don’t hesitate. I’m dying to know what’s on your
Martha Frankel’s great book, Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love
Affair With Gambling, is available in bookstores and online... and is
a real blast. Get it!
Declaration Of War?
“I am urging Ulster County residents to stick together and defend
Belleayre against unjustified criticism and if they continue, I urge Ulster
residents to boycott Hunter and Windham,” Donaldson said at the
county legislative offices in Kingston, standing alone despite invitations
to his fellow legislators to join him. “It’s all about money…
I say we take a stance here in Ulster County.”
Donaldson’s attacks against his neighboring county, and the state,
came after he and the legislature were called to the carpet by Coalition
to Save Belleayre Chairman Joe Kelly in a June 24 press release for not
being supportive enough of its major ski area.
Kelly’s angry missive reacted to news that a bill proposed by state
Sen. James Seward to set up a commission to study unfair competitive practice’s
on the state’s part in the outdoor recreation industry had passed
both the state Assembly and Senate and was awaiting the governor’s
Officials in Greene County have complained that Belleayre and similar
facilities have an unfair advantage because they can charge lower prices
than private businesses and, thanks to taxpayer funding, not have to worry
about losing money.
“The Ulster County Legislature has been totally AWOL on this issue,”
wrote Kelly in his call to action aimed directly at Donaldson, Chairman
of that body. “The inattention of this county administration to
this issue is mind-boggling to me. These governmental officials say tourism
is important to the county, but they sit back silently while Greene County
relentlessly attacks the biggest attraction in western Ulster County.
If they aren’t willing to fight for a property that pulls 200,000
visitors a year across the county from Kingston to Highmount, what will
they fight for?”