DEP Tax Flap...
The City of New York is challenging the assessment of
City lands all over the watershed, and there’s no
money for the towns to fight back.
This year the City gave notice to no less than ten towns
that it would sue to get taxes lowered. Those towns are:
Shandaken, Olive, Hurley, Middletown, Andes, Roxbury,
Hunter, Neversink, Tannersvillle and Thompkins.
By now, most know the game. Town assesses City land. City
challenges assessment. Town stands firm. City sues town,
and in the process unleashes an overwhelming battery of
resources that the Town can barely stand up to. A long
legal battle ensues and a compromise is reached.
No one knows this game more than the people in the neighboring
Town of Olive, where New York City owns half the land
and pays half the taxes.
But if the big apple gets it’s way this time, the
City will pay a smidgen compared to what it has been.
The City is currently challenging the Town of Olive’s
assessment of the Ashokan reservoir. The town values the
property at $650 million. The City has filed a grievance
claiming the property is only worth $105 million. If the
city wins, the rest of the town’s taxpayers in “low
tax Olive” would need to pick up the slack.
“That’s about what the new Ulster County jail
cost us,” quipped Olive Town Councilman Bruce LaMonda.
“I don’t see how they can say a whole reservoir
is worth the same.”
Olive is at a disadvantage this time around. In previous
bouts with the City the town was able to dip into a special
fund, ironically supplied by the City, to help pay the
costs of doing legal battle with the 900 pound gorilla.
But that fund, administered by the Catskill Watershed
Corporation, which in 1997 had $3 million in it, is almost
In Shandaken, the City doesn’t like the current
assessment on the massive Pine Hill sewer plant. The town
figures it to be worth $58 million, the City wants that
dropped to $25 million. In 2006 the City paid over $1
million in taxes on the sewer plant.
Supervisor Robert Cross Jr called the City’s request
“preposterous,” and said the town has already
retained an attorney for the case.
Kevin Young, the attorney for the Coalition of Watershed
Towns, says towns like Olive and Shandaken need resources
to fight these challenges but the U. S. Environmental
Protection Agency did not require the City to replenish
the fund when just last month EPA issued the city a 10
year waiver from filtering its water supply. Within the
waiver is a water protection package that includes a variety
of programs, all paid for by the city, to keep the water
clean and compensate the watershed region for the hardships
that come from protecting the streams, creeks, and reservoirs
from pollution. Despite demands from the Coalition, EPA
refused to require the city to refill the legal defense
“The City has initiated different lawsuits challenging
various assessments against local communities. The funds
provided (by the city) in 1997 to assist the communities
in defending those claims is almost exhausted,”
Young said. “The Coalition is demanding that that
fund be replenished and that the City agree to a roundtable
negotiation with the impacted communities and various
state agencies to develop an approach for resolving these
outstanding disputes and preventing future disputes.”
EPA has made it clear it has no plans to require the City
to come up with anything because tax squabbles don’t
affect water quality. But that $3 million put up in 1997
has proven to be a drop in the bucket, and there is no
way watershed communities can muster the resources any
Since 1999, in a region with almost 50 towns, Olive alone
has used over $1.2 million of the legal defense fund to
fight assessment challenges between that year and 2005.
Thanks to interest accrued; the fund has about $900,000
left in it, according to officials with the Catskill Watershed
Corporation, which administers the fund.
Alan Rosa, the Executive Director of the CWC, said this
week that all the towns have been warned that the kettle
“We’ve told them we can’t cover 2007
tax battles,” Rosa said.
Rosa was meeting with CWC Attorney Tim Cox Tuesday to
discuss the dilemma that Cox said is now rippling through
the watershed. To try and help all, Rosa said towns are
now required to pay for 50% of the battle and they must
attempt to get financial help from any entity that stands
to be effected by the result, such as school districts
As it stands now, CWC will only fund Shandakens tax battle
over the Pine Hill sewer plant for 2006. To get funds
for 2007 Shandaken must attempt to get financial help
from the Onteora School District and Ulster County. Even
then, CWC would only cover half the cost so Shandaken,
which is already embroiled in several other lawsuits,
would need to contribute as well.
28 Fatal Crash
A Roxbury man was killed and a Phoenicia woman was critically
injured in a two-car, head-on crash early Saturday on
state Route 28 in the Ulster County town of Olive, police
State police at Ulster said Carol Williams, 48, of Phoenicia
was westbound on Route 28 at 12:19 a.m. when she crossed
into the eastbound lane and collided head-on with a car
being driven by Jose Hurtado, 78, of Roxbury.
The Olive Fire Department extricated both drivers from
their vehicles. Hurtado was taken first to Benedictine
Hospital in Kingston and then died while being transferred
to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, police said.
Williams was treated at Kingston Hospital and then transferred
to Westchester, where she was admitted in critical condition,
Police did not disclose the nature of Williams' injuries
or say whether either driver was seat-belted.
Police said alcohol played a role in the accident and
that "charges are pending," suggesting Williams
is the one they suspect of driving under the influence.
The move to sidetrack federal approval of a new 10-year
Filtration Avoidance Determination that oversee New York
City water regulations, and development spending, within
the Catskills grew weaker after new not-for-profit endorsements
of the EPA’s FAD okay were announced last week.
The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development says
it supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
recent decision to let New York City go another 10 years
without filtering water at the city’s upstate reservoirs,
as does the regional Catskill Watershed Corporation set
up to administer watershed funds and oversee regulatory
“We have spent the past 10 years working on protecting
the quality of New York City’s water supply and
on the economic revitalization of communities in the watershed,”
Tom Alworth, executive director of the Catskill Center,
said in a prepared statement. “This new FAD (filtration
avoidance determination) affords a renewed opportunity
to provide economic and environmental benefits to the
communities and the people in the watershed while protecting
the drinking water for over 9 million New Yorkers. And
it helps maintain the water quality for Catskill communities,
The EPA ruled in late July that New York City could go
another decade without filtering water at the city’s
massive Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County and other reservoirs
in the Catskill/Delaware watershed. The ruling will save
New York the billions of dollars it would have cost to
build and operate filtration plants in the watershed.
The Coalition of Watershed Towns and the Delaware County
Board of Supervisors are seemingly the last two upstate
entities opposed to the filtration waiver, claiming the
EPA gave New York City too little incentive to listen
to local concerns. But the Catskill Center for Conservation
and Development believes the 10-year FAD is appropriate.
The new 10-year waiver includes, among other things, financial
assistance to small businesses in the watershed for septic
replacement; enhanced environmental education programs
and technical assistance for stormwater management; and
programs to protect riparian buffers and implement stream
corridor management plans.
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley also supports the
All drinking water taken from surface water sources must,
under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, be filtered
to remove tiny contaminants that can get past traditional
chlorination disinfection. The EPA, however, can grant
a waiver to water suppliers if they demonstrate they have
an effective watershed control program and that their
water meets strict quality standards.
Deborah Meyer DeWan, Special Advisor to The Catskill Center
who was with the organization during the MOA negotiations
and has served on the Board of the Catskill Watershed
Corporation (CWC) since 1997, said: “The issue was
and remains a complex balancing act of how to provide
and assure long-term least cost water quality for half
the population of NYS while providing for the viability
of the communities that lie in the resource area.”
The City of New York is gearing up to make repairs to
the crumbling Gilboa Dam, and have calmed concerns of
muddying the Esopus in the process. DEP came to Shandaken
town hall August 14 to discuss the plans.
“The reconstruction of the Gilboa dam will not rely
on the tunnel to draw the reservoir down,” said
DEP Project Engineer Paul Costn.
Supervisor Robert Cross Jr., who has been critical of
the City’s slow paced efforts to resolve turbidity
problems in the Esopus, liked what he heard.
“That’s good news,” he said.
For decades the Esopus has been fouled by muddy water
that drains from the Schoharie Reservoir through an 18
mile long underground tunnel into the creek. The City
has longer range repair plans to reduce the muck that
comes from the Schoharie, but for the time being the Esopus
will experience a clean, clear reprieve.
The repairs to the dam will take four years. During that
time the Gilboa reservoir will remain as empty as possible,
and will be drained off in another direction.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey announced last week that he
has secured $4 million for local technology companies
to help the research and development of solar energy for
commercial and military use. The money is coming from
the Defense Appropriations bill, which was approved by
Congress, and will be dispersed to the C-9 Corporation,
an Ulster County technology firm which is already contracted
by the Department of Defense for equipment improvements,
to find out how to make solar energy more cost-effective
for commercial use, and help their current attempts to
equip combat tanks and soldiers with solar tools and batteries.
Hinchey said during a news conference held at Fala Technologies,
another local firm that will be involved in the program
that solar energy has benefits on many different levels,
including short- and long-term jobs for Ulster County,
economic potential for the region, one more step towards
energy independence from oil, and a safer environment.
“It is an industry that, I think, has the greatest
potential for growth and development of any emerging industry
anywhere in the world,” he said.
The congressman is also working with the Empire State
Development Corporation for additional funding, in hopes
of making Ulster County a regional and national headquarters
for technology research and development.
Hinchey has secured a total of $5.5 million for solar
energy technology in Ulster County; a $1.5 million grant
to The Solar Energy Consortium was secured from the same
A real estate transfer tax of up to two dollars for each
$500 on a real property transfer as a tax-cutting means
was moved forward by the county legislature on an almost-party-line
Home Rule vote of 19 to 11 recently. The action does not
commit the legislature to actually voting for such a tax,
but sets the motion up for eventual passage.
Failing to make it through was a complex measure that
would gradually shift the cost of providing public assistance,
borne by cities and towns, to the county social services
department. The resolution was referred back to committee,
as was a resolution reauthorizing an Inter-Municipal Agreement
to have the county join with certain municipalities in
a defense against challenges, by New York City, to property
tax assessments on its huge reservoirs.
Related to that, the legislature failed to pass a resolution
adopting provisions of the so-called “Large Parcel”
tax act, offsetting the impact on the three host towns,
of keeping the Catskill reservoirs off the tax rolls.
The latter came despite lobbying efforts by some local
newspapers and municipal governments, and largely via
the effort’s of District 3 legislators Robert Parete
and Peter Kraft.
The world experienced a series of record-breaking weather
events in early 2007, from flooding in Asia to heat waves
in Europe and snowfall in South Africa, the World Meteorological
Organization (WMO) has reported, noting that global land
surface temperatures in January and April were likely
the warmest since records began in 1880, at more than
1 degree Celsius higher than average for those months.
While most scientists believe extreme weather events will
be more frequent as heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions
cause global temperatures to rise, the WMO said it was
impossible to say with certainty what the second half
of 2007 will bring.
Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), a U.N. umbrella group of hundreds of experts,
has noted an increasing trend in extreme weather events
over the past 50 years and said irregular patterns are
likely to intensify. South Asia’s worst monsoon
flooding in recent memory has affected 30 million people
in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, destroying croplands,
livestock and property and raising fears of a health crisis
in the densely-populated region. Heavy rains also doused
southern China in June, with nearly 14 million people
affected by floods and landslides that killed 120 people,
the WMO said.
England and Wales this year had their wettest May and
June since records began in 1766, resulting in extensive
flooding and more than $6 billion in damage, as well as
at least nine deaths. Germany swung from its driest April
since country-wide observations started in 1901 to its
wettest May on record.
The WMO and its 188 member states are working to set up
an early warning system for extreme weather events. The
agency is also seeking to improve monitoring of the impacts
of climate change, particularly in poorer countries which
are expected to bear the brunt of floods, droughts and
In other climate-related news, research aimed at disputing
the scientific consensus on global warming is part of
a huge public misinformation campaign funded by some of
the world’s largest carbon polluters, according
to former Vice President Al Gore.
“There has been an organized campaign, financed
to the tune of about $10 million a year from some of the
largest carbon polluters, to create the impression that
there is disagreement in the scientific community,”
Gore said at a forum in Singapore. “In actuality,
there is very little disagreement.”
Gore likened the campaign to the millions of dollars spent
by U.S. tobacco companies years ago on creating the appearance
of scientific debate on smoking’s harmful effects.
“This is one of the strongest of scientific consensus
views in the history of science,” Gore said. “We
live in a world where what used to be called propaganda
now has a major role to play in shaping public opinion.”
After the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
made up of the world’s top climate scientists, released
a report in February that warned that the cause of global
warming is “very likely” man-made, “the
deniers offered a bounty of $10,000 for each article disputing
the consensus that people could crank out and get published
somewhere,” Gore said.
No GI Bill?
The Bush administration opposes a Democratic effort to
restore full educational benefits for returning veterans.
Senate Democrats, led by Virginia’s Jim Webb, want
the government to pay every penny of veterans’ educational
costs, from tuition at a public university to books, housing
and a monthly stipend. Such a benefit was a major feature
of the historic 1944 G.I. Bill, which put more than eight
million U.S. soldiers through college and is now credited
by historians as fueling the expansion of America’s
middle class in the post-war era. But in recent years
the benefit has dwindled; under the current law, passed
in 1985, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan
can expect Uncle Sam to cover only 75 percent of their
tuition costs. That’s not enough, say Democrats
and veterans’ advocates.
More than 450,000 used the benefit last year, at a cost
to taxpayers of $2 billion, according to the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA), which administers the program.
The Democratic proposal would cost an additional $5.4
billion a year, the VA estimates - and that’s too
much, it says.
Patrick Campbell of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans
of America (IAVA) endorsed the increased coverage plan,
asserting that better educational benefits are essential
for attracting talented, ambitious recruits.
“If the Department of Defense said, ‘If you
serve your country, we’ll pay for school no questions
asked,’ ... [that] would increase the quality of
our recruits,” said Campbell, “instead of
what we’re doing now, which is lowering our standards.”
The 2007 Middle Class STAR Rebate Program is part of the
2007 New York State Budget, and is an expanded property
tax relief program that provides homeowners a benefit
in the form of a property tax rebate check. If you receive
the BASIC STAR Exemption or the ENHANCED STAR Exemption,
you are entitled to a rebate check. This year’s
rebate program provides benefits to taxpayers on a sliding
scale based on the taxpayer’s 2005 income. Income
information will be taken from the taxpayer’s filed
income tax return for 2005, and will not be processed
through the Assessor’s Office. The sliding scale
used to determine your rebate check will reflect declining
benefits for reported income over $90,000 for upstate
homeowners, and also varies between School Districts.
This program is based not only on your property tax burden,
but also on your ability to pay, factoring in your income
level. Taxpayers earning more than $250,000 are not eligible
to receive rebates. Qualifying income is determined by
the combined federal adjusted income less IRA distributions
for all resident property owners and their applicable
spouses, whether or not they are owners,
Senior Citizens (65 and older) who qualify for the Enhanced
STAR Exemption do not need to complete an application
form. They will automatically receive a check from the
State Dept. of Taxation. However, if you receive the BASIC
STAR Exemption (under 65 and/or over income limit for
Enhanced STAR), you must submit an application to the
Dept. of Taxation and Finance by November 30, 2007. Information
about the application process will be mailed to all eligible
property owners by the Taxation Dept. by mid-September.
You must have applied for the STAR Exemption by March
1, 2007 and have been approved to receive this exemption
to be eligible for this rebate check. The letters being
sent by mid-September have all the information you will
need to guide you through the application process. There
will be a designated STAR CODE that you will need to use
on your application, and this will be pre-printed on the
form that is being mailed out.
There are two methods of applying for this rebate check.
One is the DTF-179 form that will be mailed to you. The
other method is on-line, and this is the quickest way
to receive your rebate check. You can apply on-line at
www.nystax.gov. However, you will need specific information
that will be found in the form being sent to you, so please
wait for your letter and application information from
the State of New York Dept. of Taxation and Finance.
If you have any questions about this rebate program, including
concerns about not receiving the application by the end
of September, please contact the Dept. of Taxation and
Finance at 1-877-678-2769 or at www.nystatetaxes.gov .
In addition, you can contact Jim Mastrangelo or Tara Sullivan
at the Governor’s Regional Office at 845-437-5140.
Recordings that claim to stimulate baby brain development
may actually slow vocabulary development in infants if
they are overused, U.S. researchers have reported. For
every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos,
infants aged 8 to 16 months understood an average of six
to eight fewer words than babies who did not watch them,
Frederick Zimmerman of the University of Washington and
Older toddlers were not harmed or helped by the videos,
the researchers reported in the Journal of Pediatrics.
“The most important fact to come from this study
is there is no clear evidence of a benefit coming from
baby DVDs and videos, and there is some suggestion of
harm,” Zimmerman said in a statement. “The
bottom line is the more a child watches baby DVDs and
videos, the bigger the effect. The amount of viewing does
matter… Parents and caretakers are the baby’s
first and best teachers. They instinctively adjust their
speech, eye gaze and social signals to support language
acquisition. Watching attention-getting DVDs and TV may
not be an even swap for warm social human interaction
at this age. Old kids may be different, but the youngest
babies seem to learn language best from people.”
President George Bush has signed into law Senator Charles
Schumer’s bill to break the passport processing
log-jam. The bill was unanimously approved by both the
Senate and the House of Representatives. Schumer’s
legislation gives the Department of State flexibility
to rehire retired Foreign Service employees to staff overwhelmed
passport processing centers that are experiencing interminable
turnaround times for new passports. The State Department
will now have access to a long list of qualified retired
adjudicators who can be called up to help process passport
applications safely and efficiently. Schumer said that
fear and confusion over impending new passport rules have
led directly to the explosion in applications and processing
“Vacationers and honeymooners can breathe a sigh
of relief because help is on the way for thousands of
New Yorkers who have overseas trips looming,” Schumer
said. “My legislation will break through the logjam
and give the State Department access to the experienced
staff they need to get people the passports they are anxiously
Schumer’s legislation grants flexibility to the
State Department to rehire, on a temporary basis, retired
and fully trained processors to help manage the increased
passport demand caused by the Western Hemisphere Travel
Initiative. Currently, retirees from Foreign Service have
little incentive to assist in crises because they lose
retirement benefits if they exceed strict wage and hour
Reductions in the amount the federal government reimburses
pharmacists for Medicaid drugs, some effected and others
currently proposed in pending legislation, are starting
to have effects on the longstanding business. If the changes
proceed, critics warn, tens of thousands of Americans
who depend on Medicaid could be denied life-saving drugs
or forced to drive long distances to get them. Medicaid
is the federal-state program that subsidizes health costs
for 53 million low-income people and those with disabilities.
The legislation is a particular worry in rural states
like Kansas, where 36 counties have only one retail pharmacy
serving the entire population and seven counties have
no retail pharmacies at all. In the past six years alone,
Kansas has experienced a net loss of 22 independent pharmacies.
And five of them shut their doors last year, adding to
the alarm. Faced with growing competition from big chains
and mail-order pharmacies, 1,152 independent pharmacies
across the United States were sold or closed in 2006,
according to statistics gathered by the National Community
According to new rules tied in with cost-cutting measures
mandated by the Bush administration and okayed by the
Republican congress two years ago, retail pharmacies now
get reimbursed for federal health programs at an average
rate of 36 percent below cost, base reimbursal for more
than 500 generic drugs on the average manufacturer price.
Government officials are defending the new system, saying
it’s the only way of reigning in runaway health
The M-ARK Project, in collaboration with the Roxbury Arts
Group (RAG) is planning a cooperative sale of the works
of over 30 local artists during the August 18th at the
Pakatakan Farmer’s Market. This “art under
the tent” event will feature the work of area painters,
crafts people and other types of artisans and will be
held during the Market hours from 9 am to 2 pm. Funding
for the event has been provided through an O’Connor
Foundation Grant that was made to the M-ARK Project to
support the work of local artists and organizations that
The Coordinator for this project is Mark Pilato, a successful
sculptor who resides in Delaware County. There will also
be a variety of free samples of food products that are
typically sold at the market .
Among the more than 30 exhibitors, many of them from our
neck of the woods, are Alix Travis, Marilyn Silver, Tabitha
Gilmore Barnes, Richard Connelly, Sabra Segal, Margaret
Leveson, Joanne Primoff, Sharon Seuss, Michael Boyer,
Nat Thomas, Alyssum Pilato, Sara Gilbert, Kathy Catlin,
Phyllis Horowitz, Pauline Vos, Jack Yelle, John Hopkins
and many others.
In addition to art and food there will be an free concert
for children and families at 1:00 pm. by Source with Abdoulaye
Diabate from Mali & Guinean fula Flute Master Bailo
Bah. Children and adults will be able to see and touch
traditional African instruments up close as well as learning
about the diverse rhythms of traditional African music
More than half of Americans say US news organizations
are politically biased, inaccurate, and don’t care
about the people they report on. And poll respondents
who use the Internet as their main source of news - roughly
one quarter of all Americans - were even harsher with
their criticism, the poll conducted by the Pew Research
More than two-thirds of the Internet users said they felt
that news organizations don’t care about the people
they report on; 59 percent said their reporting was inaccurate;
and 64 percent they were politically biased. More than
half - 53 percent - of Internet users also faulted the
news organizations for “failing to stand up for
Among those who get their news from newspapers and television,
criticism of the news organizations was up to 20 percentage
points lower than among Internet news audiences, who tend
to be younger and better educated than the public as a
whole, according to Pew.
The poll indicates an across the board fall in the public’s
opinion on the news media since 1985, when a similar survey
was conducted by Times Mirror, Pew Research said.