“This project morphed
from an idea I had a long time ago to have a mural painted on the pharmacy
wall by teenagers who were hanging around with nothing to do,”
explained Spark, who had worked with teens in the past but was unable
to get funding for the project and needed help to get it going. Over
the past few years, she has served on the Project Advisory Committee
of the Stream Management Council, which was formed to work in concert
with the Cornell Cooperative Extension and the NYC Department of Environmental
Preservation on a stream management plan for the Esopus Creek.
Cornell’s education and outreach group has sponsored a number
of workshops and speakers for adults on the subject of flood and erosion
control, but Spark was looking for ways to bring an understanding about
the stream to kids. “We integrated stream education with expressive
painting, which I think is fun and a great way to learn,” she
A mural painted directly onto a wall turned out to be technologically
challenging, so she decided to work with multiple panels, using a product
called Dibond. “It’s an acrylic-faced, lightweight aluminum
panel that can be painted on, it’s permanent, it won’t warp,
and it’s moveable. I needed a partner to work with, so I asked
Christie Scheele, and she’s fantastic—very go-getter, reliable,
and she’s worked with kids before. We got a huge donation from
Golden Artist Color, Inc., the best acrylic paint company in the country,
which happens to be in New York State. They gave us professional artist
quality paints.” Two teenagers, Viva Fraser and Tessa Morelli,
assisted with the kids, and the M.F. Whitney Hose Company provided the
firehouse for storage and a place to work during the one rainy day.
Major funding came from the Catskill Watershed Corporation, Kids in
the Kaatskills, the Neil Grant Foundation, Cornell Cooperative Extension,
Phoenicia Rotary, and Ulster Savings Bank, with additional donations
from numerous other local businesses and groups.
For a week in early August, the kids gathered daily in Simpson Park
along the Stony Clove Creek. Cornell educator Michael Courtney taught
them what keeps the stream water pure, how streams recover from erosion,
and what kinds of creatures live in the water. They collected and studied
stream insects, some of which made their way into the paintings, along
with fish eating bugs, bears eating fish, and other examples of the
food chain. “They learned not to put monkeys or lobsters in the
paintings,” noted Spark.
After the daily stream lesson, the kids sketched or played in the stream.
They learned to mix paint and collaborated on two large murals. Each
child got her or his own two-foot by four-foot panel to paint.
“They’re wonderful kids, and they learned fast,” Spark
said of the eleven participants. “Very creative and resourceful
and able to concentrate. One day we couldn’t tear them away from
On Saturday, August 11, the panels were hung around town, and an opening
was held, complete with food, live music, a ribbon-cutting, and a walking
tour. Each business has agreed to keep their panels up for at least
six months. Plans call for photos of the pieces to be displayed on the
Cornell website, esopuscreek.org. Spark hopes eventually to tour the
show to other venues. “It’s a good model for a program,”
At the opening, kids commented on what they liked best about the program,
citing the chance to use professional paints, learning to mix colors,
playing in the stream, working at their own pace, and one nine-year-old
remarked, “I’ve always just done art by myself. I didn’t
realize you could learn something [about the stream] and make it into
Complaints were also solicited. There were only two, said Spark: the
water was too cold, and the week was too short.
There’s good food
and lots of it, courtesy of a number of local restaurants. There’s
great music just about all day long. There’s games and contests
for kids, older kids, and for kids whose kids have kids. There’s
stuff to see, stuff to buy, stuff to win, and public officials to dunk
into bone-chilling water if your aim’s as true as your intention.
Best of all, there’s your neighbors and your friends you may not
have seen for a while, and everybody’s in a good mood and nobody’s
cranky. On Shandaken Day, it’s town law. Ok, well, it’s
not actually, but it feels like it might be.
The day’s nonstop schedule of events begins at 10:00AM with a
range of all-day activities throughout the hamlet. Vendors and Booths
will open for business at that time, historical treasure hunts will
be going on all, with separate kids and grown-up versions. Horse rides
and a kids bouncy gym will be open for business. Local folk musicians
will be providing acoustic background, and Belleayre Mountain is hosting
fishing throughout the day at Pine Hill Lake...equipment, bait and guidance
provided but bring your own luck.
At 11:00, the Friend of Snuffy sponsored Dog Fashion Show takes center
stage in the parking lot just west of the Community Center. Prizes will
be awarded for Best Costume, Best Trick, Worst Trick, and Dogs-Who-Look-Most-Like-Their-Owners.
Also at 11:00, the Dunking Booth opens for unfinished business from
throughout the rest of the year. Usually a big fund-raiser, that’s
the place good-natured public officials and others can be reliably expected
to take a dive for the public good at around $5 for three throws. It’s
also a good place to check out the ethical measure of passers-by, to
see who’s willing to pony up but let the little kids hanging around
actually throw the ball.
At Noon, Shandaken’s first Soap Box Derby will freewheel down
a quarter mile stretch of Main Street starting from the Community Center
and ending at the Lake Street finish line. Not a speed race, prizes
will be awarded for originality and creativity in design.
All entries must also be in at that time at the Community Center for
the town’s Homemade Cookie Contest, with separate categories for
those under and over 14 years old. Celebrity cookie judges including
actress and soap opera diva Ellen Parker will officiate.
From 1:30 to 3:30, a succession of brutally or perhaps less-than-brutally
competitive contests will play through, including a Potato Sack Race,
a Spoon and Egg Race, the ever-unpredictable Water Balloon Toss, and
the clearly Phoenicia-influenced Inner Tube Race, where contestants
must do improbable things with inflatable objects and otherwise make
contact with their inner tube.
The music, all provided by folks with ties to Pine Hill, cranks up starting
at 3:00, with a squaredance hosted by Earl Pardini and the Slide Mountain
At the stroke of 4:30, the Watermellon Eating Contest begins. Survivors
will be given special seating consideration for the big 5:00PM awards
ceremony at the Community Center, where the town will be honoring Prides
of Shandaken June LaMarca and Lonnie Gale and Hamlet Heroes of Pine
Hill Ralph Persons and Nancy Smith. Cookie contest and other prize winners
will also be announced at that time.
At 5:30 there’s a Classic Car Cruise down Pine Hill’s Main
At 6:00, the sound system cranks up again when Michaela Talley and The
Rubbaband take center stage with their Catskill Mountain High brand
of Reggae, which will go till 8:00. The last musical words will be provided
by the rock band Diva, which will play from 8:00 ‘till 10:00.
The weather report and local psychics have confirmed it’s going
to be sunny and beautiful till 10PM, nightfall notwithstanding. For
info on any events, call town hall at 688-7165.
Stay Or Be Razed?
“In the event the building
is not demolished by August 15th, 2007, the town will hold a special
town board meeting on that date,” the resolution stated. The resolution
would also “authorize the demolition of the building,” and
included a copy of the town appropriate town code allowing such action.
The resolution, drafted by Supervisor Robert Cross Jr., was pulled at
the beginning of the meeting by Deputy Supervisor Jane Todd and was
therefore not entertained. Todd presided over the meeting because Cross
“He doesn’t feel well,” Todd explained.
Todd was the Executive Director of the SHARP Committee at a time when
the non-profit agency issued substantial financing to Skillcat 2 Corporation
for renovations to the hotel several years ago. SHARP still holds a
mortgage on the property, as do Wilber National Bank and the Catskill
Watershed Corporation. The Bank and the Watershed Corporation had each
begun foreclosure proceedings prior to the July 29th blaze.
“This is definitely a legal matter and it has to be discussed
with attornies,” Todd said at the meeting.
Richard Stokes, the owner of Skillcat 2, agrees.
“They can’t just say a building needs to be torn down just
by looking at it. They need to get a structural engineer in there,”
he said Tuesday.
As far as Stokes is concerned, the building can be salvaged.
“It just needs a new roof system and the two back rooms done,”
Stokes also said that he remains in talks with Phoenicia businessman
Declan Feehan over the sale of the property. Before it burned, Feehan
was in contract to purchase the hotel with plans to remove the building
and erect a new hotel.
Shandaken Building Inspector Tom Burt said Tuesday that he did determine
that the hotel should be torn down and that he set an arbitrary date
of August 15th to do it because he didn’t want to see the relic
sitting there for a year or more. However the police have sent a letter
to the town asking that the tear down be delayed until their investigation
Furthermore Burt said if Stokes wants to prevent the town from tearing
the hotel down the issue will be debated, but ultimately the town board
has the power to decide what happens with the property.
“I have given my opinion,” Burt said. “Now it’s
up to the town board.”
Nine fire companies converged on Phoenicia’s main street just
after midnight to battle a blaze that ultimately destroyed the historic
hotel, established in 1854, which became a haunt for the likes of Legends
like Babe Ruth and Dutch Schultz.
Long considered the physical heart of the Phoenicia business district,
the hotel was the victim of an early-morning blaze that caused enough
damage for officials to declare the structure a total loss.
Stokes, who had no insurance on the property, has boarded up the first
floor openings where windows used to be. At present the property is
considered dangerous and is surrounded by yellow police tape. Barrels
and wooden horses are set all along the front of the structure preventing
use of the sidewalk and preventing vehicles from parking on the street.
In other news, the Board agreed unanimously to give the Coalition of
Watershed Towns $2000 to help fight the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency. The Coalition, which is all but broke, is suing the EPA over
its decision to award the city of New York a ten year long waiver from
filtering the city’s water supply.
Mount Tremper resident Kathy Nolan urged the board to delay the vote
until the Coalition supplied specifics as to just how much it would
cost. Nolan noted that if one is going to sue the Federal Government,
one had better have lots of resources. Nolan was not sure what $2000
would do in such a battle.
Also at the meeting, Highway Superintendent Keith Johnson had to defend
several decisions he made recently. He was accused of doing repairs
and maintenance on private property owned by local developer Dean Gitter
and was also accused of looking the other way after one town highway
employee put the town at risk of liability.
Johnson said that Andrew Lane in Mount Tremper, which leads to Gitter’s
office, was repaved. However, it is a town road and not a private drive.
As for removing ice from a parking lot Gitter owns on Highmount, Johnson
said the work was done on the public right of way portion of the property.
He also fielded complaints from Theresa Grant, who complained that Johnson
passed her over for employment to hire the boyfriend of his secretary,
Florence Stanley, and that the boyfriend was driving town vehicles without
Johnson said it was true that the man was driving with a suspended license,
but that he was unaware of that at the time he did the hiring. Once
he found out the matter was corrected. Now, Johnson said, all persons
hired need to produce proof of holding a valid license.
been running the department since taking over from Dick Merwin in 2006.
He’s being challenged this year by Eric Hofmeister. This November,
each candidate has at least one major party line on the election ballot.
Johnson, the GOP candidate this year, is a Shandaken native and a logger
and excavator by trade. He has served on the town’s Zoning Board
of Appeals since 1988, has chaired it since 2002, and has long been active
in community affairs.
Johnson says that for him “Running a highway department is basically
a continuation of 40 years of work in road maintenance, road construction,
logging, and trucking.” He cites as an asset his long working relationships
with DEC, DEP and town vendors, some of which he’s changed.
“We’ve gone proactive with the maintenance on all of our machines,”
he says, and “it’s working better. We’re not experiencing
machine failures.” The only budget increases, he says, are”
for things we have no control over like the cost of fuel, parts, &
Johnson says that he’s been focusing on ”improving the infrastructure”
through shoulder regrading, culvert replacement, and ditch stabilization,
in preparation for repaving as funds become available. “I think
I’ve made the department operate on a businesslike basis,”
he said. When asked how he saw the difference between himself and Hofmeister
in the Superintendent’s role, he said “for me, this is not
Hofmeister who’s running on the Democratic line, has lived in Chichester
for 34 years, went to school at Onteora, and has run a hardware business
in Phoenicia for about 20 years. He’s running, he says, because
“I think there could be a much better job done than our current
superintendent is doing.”
“The highway department is a big business,” he says. “It
needs to be managed better. And the job really requires more time spent
on it than people have been putting in. I sold auto parts to the highway
department for about 15 years, and when Lenny Van Valkenberg ran the department,
he was available all the time, which is what it takes,” he said.
“The job needs more time spent on it.”
Hofmester is also broadly critical of what he thinks we’re getting
for what we’re spending. “For the size of the highway budget,”
he says, “it doesn’t seem like much is being put into the
roads.” He’s also been critical of what he says has been Johnson’s
use of a town vehicle for personal use. “That’s not what taxpayer
money should be spent on,” he said. He also expressed concern over
the highway department’s apparent maintenance of the Highmount post
office parking lot on County Rt 49A.
“If there was a safety problem there it was a county problem,”
said Hofmeister. “The town had no business maintaining private property.”
As to any political aspects of the job, or at least of securing the job,
both candidates seemed equally emphatic that the role of Highway Superintendent
shouldn’t be a political one. “It definitely shouldn’t
be political” said Hofmeister, and Johnson agreed, saying “I
don’t want it to be.”
“I didn’t want to join a party to get a job” said Johnson,
who has long been registered as “No Enrolled Party.”
In this election he said, “I’m representing the Republican
Party but I’m still independent.”
Hofmeister, a lifelong Republican, told their caucus recently that he
was “the true Republican” in the race. He’s running
as a Democrat this election. Whether such things ultimately matter is
of course pure conjecture. Last time people voted, Johnson won without
a major party endorsement. This time with such endorsements and a record
to run on, it’s anyone’s guess what’ll happen in November.
Next Issue: Assessors!
The council nominations,
from a field of seven candidates, took two ballots to whittle down to
the second winner after native-born Malloy stepped away from the rest
of the pack with a clear majority plus one win first time around.
But the caucus’ biggest surprise, and sign of the new center-centric
focus of the party, came when lifelong Republican Eric Hofmeister, a
two-time candidate for his own party’s nomination, defeated incumbent
highway superintendent Keith Johnson to make a November election bid
for the town’s top roads job on the Democratic ticket.
The event was chaired with openness and efficiency by Phoenicia shopkeeper
Dave Pillard. The gathered crowd was courteous and appreciative of all
candidates, as well as demographically younger and generally more style-conscious
than that seen at the town’s better-attended but more tense Republican
caucus earlier this summer. Only a few people gathered around the edges
of the event, as is custom in Shandaken, smoking. Similarly, the event
hosted fewer curious onlookers from the GOP than the GOP hosted curious
Democrats a few weeks back.
Longstanding Planning Board member Beth Waterman opened the nominations
by trumpeting DiSclafani’s ability to weigh issues without partisanship,
his clear and concise manner of speaking, and his good sense of humor.
DiSclafani, with no challengers at the caucus (and GOP candidate Jane
Todd, a fellow boardmember, no where in sight) spoke about how Shandaken
“is at an apex, a time that is crucial.
The candidate spoke about how a town government that refuses to kisten
to its people, that refuses to tap the wealth of knowledge of its citizenry,
and shuns its minority members is bad government.
“Some people think the prize is at the top of the mountain; I
think the prize is the whole town,” DiSClafani said calmly, almost
quietly. “I promise to fight for our Phoenicia School, to seek
grant funding for needed infrastructure projects, and to find common
ground on the various issues facing Shandaken.
“Do right by people,” DiSclafani said. “We need to
do right by people in Shandaken again.”
In the council nominations, former Democratic Committee chairperson
Doris Bartlett nominated DiModica by speaking about his existing experience
in town government, which seconder Anne Beyer nicely summed up as “been
there and done that.”
DiModica, while acknowledging the battles against the Belleayre Resort
development many felt was his sole issue when supervisor, stressed not
only the viability of that issue, but also the other accomplishments
of his term, from bringing in Shandaken’s lowest tax increases
of an eight year period to the building up of the town’s Good
“I want to lend my help and experience to Peter,” he summarized.
Malloy, nominated by former councilwoman Edna Hoyt and Nola Gutmann,
spoke passionately about how he’d “made a living on Phoenicia’s
Main Street for 30 years. Shandaken’s given me a great life,”
and said he wanted “to give something back to the town.”
“If you can trust me feeding you for 30 years you can trust me
on the town board,” he said. “Let’s move ahead safely
and responsibly. Let’s be good stewards.”
Rolf Reiss of Woodland Valley nominated former planning board member
Howie McGowan, who also ran unsuccessfully for town council four years
ago, by citing his work organizing opposition to the controversial water
harvesting plan proposed by Woodland Valley resident Andrew Poncic and
approved by the planning board last year despite community uproar.
“I feel we have to have people on this town board that don’t
have to look over their shoulders to see how they should vote,”
McGowan said, after noting his belief that the current administration
had “declared war on Woodland Valley.” “I’m
a builder, and not anti-development, but I believe we need to think
carefully about every change we make in this town.”
Mary Herrmann of Pine Hill, a regular at town board meetings for years
who was nominated by Karen Charman, spoke about a return to core values
for the town, as well as being honored to be vying against a field of
such strong candidates.
Former town ambulance chief Jerry Pearlman, nominated by Susan Robertson,
gave a well-received speech about his years of service to the town and
decision to run for the council as a means of returning “the people’s
trust and respect” for town government.
We need to bring openness back to our government,” Pealman said,
noting how people’s frustrations at not being listened to was
“showing up as anger and disharmony.”
Vince Bernstein, the former DEC official and life-long Phoenicia native
who also got a nod from Shandaken Republicans this summer, spoke about
how he’s been a Conservative his whole life but shares core values
with town Democrats.
“I want to get the town board back on track and get it working
for and by the people,” he said.
Jane Warwick and Dot Casey nominated Lynn O’Brophy, a non-enrolled
resident who also tried for the GOP nod this summer until Bernstein
defeated her, by giving the evening’s only speech that noted the
tragedy of the recent Phoenicia Hotel fire, and the town’s need
to ensure that a Phoenicia sewer system get built, as well as some form
of cellular phone service assured..
“Do we want one third of our town to become a gaping hole?”
she asked of the hotel tragedy and what might happen if the lack of
a sewer now stops any rebuilding.
In the race for a highway superintendent candidate, Hofmeister spoke
about his years running the town’s hardware store, as well as
his wish to run his department more like a business. Johnson replied
that he was “not going to make a lot of silly promises. Anyone
who thinks this is not run as a business doesn’t understand business.”
Voting for DiSclafani and Town Clerk candidate Carol Shaleaw, a former
New York City businesswoman, was by unanimous voice acclaim.
In machine balloting, Malloy won a first round of voting for town council
with a tally of 67 to 42 for DiModica, 33 for Pearlman, 27 for McGowan,
26 for Herrmann, 25 for Bernstein and 22 for O’Brophy. In the
second round, DiModica won handily against Pearlman and McGowan.
Pearlman noted that he would still be on November’s ballot under
his own Equal Responsibility Party line, for which he was currently
accumulating needed signatures.
O’Brophy is also rumored to have cornered a line on the November
ballot, as well.
In the fight for Highway Super, Hofmeister, whose nomination was seconded
by Judy Wyman, bested Johnson 64 to 48. In a third contest for two town
assessor candidates, which could become moot should the town approve
a referendum item moving Shandaken to a sole appointed assessor come
the New Year, Heide Clark and Rose Rotella won out over Belinda Cowan
with 69, 68 and 59 votes, respectively.
Clark is also one of two GOP candidates for the position.
The other Republican candidates running for November election are councilwoman
Jane Todd, former head of the town’s SHARP Committee and wife
of former county legislative chairman Ward Todd, for town supervisor;
Bernstein and former Onteora Central School System interim superintendent
Jack Jordan for town council; longstanding incumbent Laurilyn Frasier
for town clerk; Johnson for highway superintendent; and Clark and Theresa
Grant for assessor.