Hush... A Meeting!
identified by acronym, were the Catskill Preservation Coalition, an
ad hoc group of 13 local, regional, state and national environmental
organizations brought together to fight Dean Gitter?s proposed Belleayre
Resort project set to be built around the state-owned ski center of
the same name. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
The state Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer ? now Governor elect soon
to be Pataki?s successor. And Crossroads Ventures, Gitter?s company
developing the resort.
?Suffice it to say there WAS a meeting,? said Eric Goldstein of the
National Resources Defense Council. ?We all agreed on a very strict
gag order about the meeting. Suffice it to say there will be no lifting
of that, or any further action, within the coming two weeks.?
Spitzer?s election November 7, along with the defeat of Gitter?s chief
Congressional ally, Republican Rep. John Sweeney, had been deemed
by all surrounding the project to have cast the resort proposal in
limbo. Or at least the half of it, on the Big Indian plateau, up against
some very serious challenges.
Spitzer?s office, via a letter from the Attorney General?s Watershed
Inspector John Tiernry and his staff to federal EPA Regional Administrator
Alan Steinberg in late October, had basically said the state under
Spitzer ? a formidable legal foe if ever there was one ? would do
all in its power to keep Gitter from moving ahead with the eastern
half of his project.
Gitter?s lawyers had replied that Spitzer?s people had jumped too
soon, not taking into account the recent changes the developer had
proposed that would eschew a Big Indian plateau golf course for a
high end health spa? and drop the number of hotel rooms to be developed
Sweeney had unexpectedly pushed Steinberg, a Bush appointee who had
spoken in August of his wish to consider development needs in all
environmental equations, into the equation a few months earlier. But
his replacement, Kirsten Gillibrand, is seen as a strong environmentalist
and Spitzer ally.
Many were saying Gitter?s cards had been played out. That Pataki,
with announced presidential ambitions, could no longer afford to help
him along any way. As though he?d ever really helped.
On the most basic legal level, Gitter?s project has been stuck in
its own limbo for years already, awaiting a ruling on an appeal he
made to the state against a state Department of Environmental Conservation
Administrative Law Judge?s ruling that twelve key environmental review
issues needed to go to trial-like adjudication before any permits
could be given his proposal.
So what happened at the meeting? Who exactly was there?
All morning Wednesday, November 15 ? the day after everyone was supposed
to have gathered in lower Manhattan ? calls to involved persons came
up against the gag order. At 4 p.m., all parties from the CPC entered
a conference call.
A little after 5 pm, CPC head and Catskill Center Director Tom Alworth
answered his phone.
?You heard right,? he said. ?We all agreed on a very strict gag order
on the meeting.?
Was it an anyone?s request?
?It was at everyone?s request.?
Alworth said he?d given a speech to his staff about the seriousness
of the matter. No leaks.
Not just a little one for Shandaken?
?There was a meeting,? he replied with a laugh. ?That?s all I can
Goldstein?s comments came the following week.
?It wouldn?t do anybody any good to break the silence,? he said from
his lower Manhattan offices. ?That?s all I want to say.?
?You may be asking why would I be looking at New York,? she
said in introduction at the evening gathering. ?We have been opening
up both coasts to look for a real match for what we love ? the arts,
music. I would love to find education in a school district that?s
centered on the needs of individual children, which has been my passion
through my whole career. Onteora, I really think, is a match.?
By ?we? Ford was referencing her husband, a retired Episcopal priest
already living in the Hudson Valley area and active with the local
diocese ? they have been married for about a year ? and her 4 children,
one natural and three adopted, as well as the more than 20 kids she?s
fostered parented through the years, from newborns to teenagers.
Ford, who is currently superintendent at Kings River-Hardwick Charter
school district in Hanford, CA, near Fresno, noted how she began her
educational career as a music teacher. The Kindergarten-through-eight
school has approxmately 600 students with a $4.2 million budget. From
2000 to 2004, she worked as a middle school principal at Livermore
Valley Joint Unified school district, also in California. In addition
to music, Ford said she has also taught high school social studies
and English, and worked as a guidance counselor before becoming an
She told gathered parents at Friday?s meeting that she was aware of
the district?s three plans being proposed to deal with Onteora?s aging
facilities and changes in student population.
?Every district needs to have goals based on where they assess themselves
now, and where they see themselves ten or fifteen years in the future,?
she said. ?That is sometimes a difficult thing??
Ford added that she is accustomed to working on shoestring amounts.
Ford also noted that over the course of her day, she learned about
the district?s divisive issues, including the Onteora mascot and large
parcel legislation. But she added that she would not give any opinion
them except to say she has been in similarly difficult situations.
Ford has a Bachelor of Arts in vocal music, a Masters Degree in educational
counseling, a second Masters in Psychology with an emphasis in marriage,
family and child counseling, and a Doctorate of education in organizational
Back The Varsity
lower field, third and fourth graders in soccer-like uniforms of jerseys
and sweat pants with ribbon-styled flags streaming a foot or so out
of their sides do exercises and take practice running plays. On the
upper field, fifth and sixth graders face off in scrimmages before
the evening’s pair of games.
Keith McGlyn, who’s been organizing the league with help from
past president Pat Murphy, points out that we’re mid-season
at games five and six of a dozen total, including championships that
were to take place Sunday, November 19.
With two games running simultaneously each time slot, that makes for
a lot of football.
Onteora Junior Flag Football has six teams this year, and about 100
kids playing. Asked when everything started up, McGlyn looks over
to the upper field, where Onteora 12th grader Andrew Carroll is coaching
the older kids.
“How long you been at this,” McGlyn shouts across the
Andrew replies that he’s been playing since sixth grade. His
mom, Jane Carroll, started up the flag football league six years before
that as a means of giving her kids and their friends a sport to play.
“Twelve years now,” McGlyn muses.
The two fields, upper and lower, are surrounded with big signs advertising
all the top Olive businesses: Webers, Shokan Square, the supermarket
in Boiceville, Bread Alone. Funding for the kids uniforms, and the
handful of footballs in use, come from business contributions, such
as Belleayre lift tickets to be raffled off for cash, and loads of
donations from local individuals.
At least two thirds of those participating – and McGlyn predicts
attendance for the season’s finale, if not this evening, will
average about 500 people – are from Olive. The rest come in
from Shandaken, Hurley and Woodstock – even though the latter
has its own flag football league several years old.
McGlyn, fielding players’ requests for candy, drinks and warm
water to clean their mouth guards with, explains how Murphy, who used
to head the league before him, currently does all the complicated
team scheduling. Things started up in late October and have tended
to run on Sundays. But school’s out the next day.
A man behind McGlyn, helping out, notes that Murphy’s known
as “the mayor.” He’s on his way to ref half of the
evening’s games… but then Murphy’s kid runs up to
inform everyone that his dad’s run out of gas en route. A back-up
ref is called on.
Flag football is like tag football. There’s no tackling, and
the confusion experienced by kids on backlots claiming no one has
tagged them is decided by the flags. They’re out, you’re
down. There’s a very minimal amount of blocking.
“ Look at that kid, number three,” McGlyn says in explanation.
Scanning the upper field’s roster of running fifth and sixth
graders, an oversized boy dominates play.
“Now look for the other number three and you’ll see why
there’s no clocking,” McGlyn adds.
A petite blonde girl, half the size of her numeric doppelganger, is
running fast, enjoying herself immensely.
“The big kid doesn’t really need to block,” McGlyn
notes. “And our goal is to make it safe for the girl.”
Fumbles, he says, are deadballs. Quarters are 12 minutes long for
the older kids, ten minutes for the younger.
“Everything else is regular football,” McGlyn summarizes.
He talks a bit, as Murphy has earlier, about how this league has gained
new interest from parents – and students – hoping that
it will fuel enough interest in the All-American sport to allow Onteora
High the ability to bring back varsity football to the district’s
athletic and entertainment roster.
Last year, Onteora scuttled its varsity schedule because of lack of
interest and competitiveness. There just weren’t enough players
to maintain a strong team. Emphasis was shifted to intramural football
and junior varsity, which everyone I spoke to is showing a great deal
Murphy and McGlyn and others are hoping that the many kids being fueled
into flag football will hold their passion for the next six years
or so, like Andrew.
Or Onteora School Board trustee Cindy O’Connor, whose late older
son Kevin was a star varsity player at the time of his death, and
whose younger boy Troy is playing this evening in the lower field’s
She says she’s hoping to allow kids to train with equipment
and blocking as well as running and the game’s basics, which
dominate this league. Which would mean joining, maybe even setting
up, a Pop Warner League.
Pop Warner leagues, named for the legendary college football coach
of the Depression era who helped put a first-ever teenagers pigskin
league into the bigtime, field teams for similarly-aged kids. But
they get to wear shoulder pads, helmets and all the other traditional
football gladiatorial gear.
Over the years, Pop Warner football, which now involves over 350,000
kids under 16 nationwide, has been instrumental at pushing the sport
into its pre-eminence in high school athletics, as well as helped
keep it alive during times when enthusiasm waned during the World
War II years and just after.
The closest Pop Warner league, called the Kingston Area Junior Football
League, is in the county seat, and O’Connor says she’s
in the process of finding out what would be needed for Olive, maybe
even the entire Onteora district, to put forth a team for competitive
“Kevin played Pop Warner league. He was with the Titans in Kingston,”
O’Connor says of her late son, killed in a tragic accident along
Route 28 eight years ago. “You go to Pop Warner, you get a chance
to really learn the game of football”
Pop Warner, she adds, runs in late summer before the start of school.
“It’s pretty intense but as they say, ‘No pain,
no gain,’” O’Connor added. “That’s my
“The Onteora Football Team has been struggling to field a Varsity
and Junior Varsity teams for the last couple of years. This past season
our Athletic Director was forced to make a decision he didn’t
want to make, not to have a Varsity Team. Due to lack of numbers and
skill ability we had to respect this very difficult decision,”
O’Connor wrote in a November 14 letter to the Kingston League’s
Board of Directors. “The athletic department is now very committed
to building up our modify and JV teams with skill and confidence so
we can field a Varsity Team… I would like to ask the Kingston
Jr. Area Football League if they would be willing to accept another
team into your league from the Onteora area.”
Continuing, O’Connor noted how she had the support of Onteora
Athletic Director Michael Kocher and all involved, “truly believe
that this is a piece that is missing and is needed to rebuild our
varsity team and football program at Onteora. We need to start our
kids learning the skills of football earlier than 12 and 13 when they
are able to join the modified team.”
“We consider this a building block for the future Onteora High
School football teams,” wrote Carroll, OJFF founding mother.
“These children work very hard and our coaches are extremely
“You develop football at a young age and they become more involved.
It’s not just a thought,” McGlyn says. “We’ve
got two more years before we can even think of fielding a varsity
team. We’ve got some very talented kids coming up and they deserve
to have a way to build those talents.”
He excuses himself and runs off… it’s game time. Whistles
sound from the upper and lower fields and the kids fall into classic
formations… just like what they see on television, or remember
their older cousins and neighbors, maybe even their brothers, once
playing up at the high school.
I catch up with a youngster on the sidelines, cheering… waiting
his turn for the next round of games when he gets to play.
A roar comes from the field of older kids up above. It seems to bounce
off the blackness beyond the bright lights the growing crowd has gathered
“One of these days I’ll be up there too,” the kid
says, jumping up and down. “I can’t wait to get to the
According to McGlyn, Hickory BBQ turned out to be the winner of the
Upper Division on the 19th, with Tyler Frano getting the MVP trophy;
and Phoenicia Pharmacy won the lower, younger division.
Pete Friedel coached Hickory, with Lance Dubois assisting; Jameson
Morton coached Phoenicia Pharmacy, with Bobby Jones Jr.assisting.
The Arts Industry
At the first of the three
gatherings, a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, November 14 held at Saugerties?
New World Home Cooking, a majority of those in attendance were from
either Woodstock?s non-profit art institutions or the Kingston First
Saturday scene. According to Ulster Arts Director Sherri Brittain,
the arts groups on hand included the Center for Photography at Woodstock,
the Woodstock-Byrdcliffe Guild, the new munti-group Woodstock Consortium,
Saugerties? Opus 40, Rosendale-based Women?s Studio Workshop, and
the Arts Society of Kingston.
In addition, Brittain said, there were several individual artists
on hand as well as a Kingston landlord, Lee Wind, who ?has been turning
properties over to artists in Midtown? as a means of leading to the
renovation, and eventual gentrification, of one of the county seat?s
On Wednesday evening, November 15, attendees at the Highland Cultural
Center included representatives from Kingston repertory Theater, Playback
Theater, Union Arts and Learning, and individual artists from Marbletown,
Modena and New Paltz.
?We?re looking to create a strengthened arts council by learning about
and meeting the local arts community?s needs, while also offering
up the professional development skills of HCC Arts,? said Brittain,
seated at the bar in Ellenville?s Aroma Thyme restaurant before what
would turn into the best-attended and most boisterous of the three
gatherings Thursday night, November 17. ?We?re looking to help collaborate
for marketing and facilitation purposes.?
By we, Brittain was referencing the point that the three meetings
were being run jointly by she and HCC?s Elisa Pritzker, a visual artist
who has positioned she and her husband, Rob Luski, as key professional
development consultants to local artists.
?We?re doing this to help us write our mission statement and sharpen
our vision,? she added, after explaining how an older incarnation
of the Arts Council, founded in 1974, lost its ability to channel
Decentralization funds from the New York State Council for the Arts
in the late 1980s after it became artist-run and too oriented on the
politics of its own Kingston-based gallery. ?We want to explain why
a new organization might be needed for strengthening advocacy efforts
between business and government entities and our local art industry.?
She said the revived Ulster Arts she and Pritzker have envisioned,
and were holding the countywide meetings to introduce, would be ?like
a Chamber for the arts.?
?We see doing all art openings throughout the county. Offering tourist
deals matching arts events with hotel and restaurant deals,? Brittain
said, also noting her wish to provide a centralized data base for
nonprofit organizations, galleries and individual artists; zoning
incentives, and county grants, to help the ?industry;? a new county
cultural map with government-recognized ?cultural zones? embedded
within it; and maybe even a county museum.
?But to do all this,? Brittain said, before her partner?s, or audience?s,
arrival, ?We need more staffing??
At which point a crowd of the many movers and shakers who have been
making Ellenville an interesting new place focused on arts as its
revival engine started arriving. A crowd that would end up numbering
nearly forty artists and government officials, business people and
administrators all ready to talk up how the county?s best kept secret
(most forgotten municipality) reached a point where it had nothing
to lose by shifting its focus to arts development.
Village Manager Elliot Auerbach spoke about the two events they?d
run over the past summer and fall ? one filling vacant storefronts
with art installations by creative sorts from the length of the entire
valley, the other a ?happening? from Mt. Tremper based activist artist
Eeo Stubblefield ? that pleased local merchants who noticed their
business doubling, even tripling from such things. Unexpectedly. Others
talked about nearly-completed efforts to turn donated old business
and factory buildings into a ceramics studio, into artist studios
An older couple who owned a major SoHo arts supply store said they
were looking into coming out of retirement to start something new,
based on all the excitement. The editor of Ellenville?s new newspaper,
and the leading light of their new radio station, W-ELV, took notes
and acknowledged their community?s best wishes? and increasing energy.
?What we?re going through right now is really unique. Ellenville got
tired of waiting,? said Cragsmoor-based artist and one of the curators
of last year?s Kingston Sculpture Biennial. ?We?re going to be really
blunt. Why do we need you.?
As Brittain and Pritzker explained how arts funding worked, how mechanisms
needed to be put in place, the Ellenville community said it needed
to act quicker. They would go to other funding sources in business,
if need be. They were getting offers of help from Dutchess County
and other arts councils.
The meeting grew spirited and gradually, a real discuss of the county?s
arts future seemed to lurch into view.
Brittain and Pritzker noted how, despite great differences between
the county?s various communities, there were also shared needs.
Ellenville?s artists asked for a coordinated website listing all that
was going on around the county, the better for local publications
to list all that was happening in the arts.
Brittain and Pritzker talked of getting property tax abatements for
Auerbach said he was close to doing just that for Ellenville.
?WE have a synergy,? said Sigunick. ?WE?re almost European??
At which point Brittain and Pritzker drew the meeting to a close,
promising many more? with libraries and historical societies included.
?It?s a start,? said Pritzker, amid a babble of excited artist voices
at meeting?s end.
Circus Among Us
From Norman Cousins to
Patch Adams, people have celebrated the healing power of laughter,
and the youth troupe will be bringing their comedic talents to local
hospitals and senior centers, as well as parades, schools, and other
public venues. Furthermore, said Newcombe, ?They?ll be able to work
their way through college doing something that?s fun, not just flipping
burgers at McDonald?s.?
Besides the comedy magic shows she performs at birthday parties, fairs,
festivals, and other events, Newcombe does party planning and singing
telegrams. She trained her daughter, Isadora, as a clown, and they
have performed together at many events. ?People love clowns, but kid
clowns are really charming,? said Newcombe, whose resume includes
the ?Top Ten Clown? award from Clowns of America and the Silver Medal
A small group of homeschoolers just had their second afternoon class
at her home in Mt. Tremper, and she plans to add an evening session
for kids who attend school. As last Friday?s class began, Newcombe
was in full regalia, including dotted shirt, red vest, and big shoes,
aglow with primary colors, as she drew on her makeup in a cluttered
little dressing room. Twelve-year-old Jackie Simon was putting on
a grass skirt and paper lei when Dylan Niclas, 15, arrived with his
mother and 14-year-old Jasper Daniels. ?Hey, everybody, Jackie?s got
her clown name! Go ahead, announce it,? said Newcombe.
Jackie stepped into the living room and called out, ?Hu-La-La!? Dylan
reported that he was contemplating calling himself Pepper the Clown.
Both boys already had balls in their hands and were juggling crisply.
Jasper, a part-time student at Woodstock Day School, had taught himself
to juggle two years ago when he wanted to be a jester for Halloween.
He put down the balls and picked up three bright plastic clubs, then
went on to big neon-toned rings, handling them all adeptly. The rings
kept hitting the ceiling, so the boys went outside. With intense focus,
they began to work on tandem juggling, trying to pass balls between
them in a regular rhythm while keeping three balls each in motion.
Dylan, too, had been juggling for some time, but this was only their
second practice together.
His mother, Francesca, picked up three scarves and juggled them gracefully.
She used to teach physical education at the Woodstock Day School,
where she led a circus workshop. ?I?m a very physical person. I work
as a personal trainer,? she explained. ?I learned circus skills fifteen
years ago from Nikki Swarthout, who used to teach in Saugerties. I
met Melody last year, and we were talking about doing some kind of
circus class for Dylan and other homeschooled kids, but it didn?t
come together. Recently she called me and said she had found Jasper
and Jackie, and we got this going.? She picked a dowel from a box
of juggling items and swiftly set a plastic plate spinning on top
?Hey, we just did five passes in a row!? called Dylan.
?Of course, since I wasn?t watching,? his mother replied.
Jackie came out, her cheeks painted with red hearts, a pert pink ball
on the end of her nose. Unlike Dylan and Jasper, she had just started
juggling the week before, although she?s had a long-term interest
in the circus from her family?s friendship with a professional troupe
known as the Bella Family. She began tossing scarves, but the wind
had picked up and kept blowing them away from her hands. ?We?re really
going to need a big, open indoor space in the winter,? said Newcombe,
who is planning to check out other locations.
She stood facing Jackie, both with their hands out, waist-height,
elbows at their side. Jackie tossed a pair of balls awkwardly, and
Newcombe cut her back to one. ?If a ball is falling, don?t reach for
it. You have to get in the habit of keeping your hands right in front
of you. It?s the toss that?s important.? Jackie tossed the ball from
hand to hand, while the boys persevered at their tandem efforts.
?These are the kind of kids who, when they try something, they just
have to master it,? said Francesca.
The group returned to the living room for their first balloon-twisting
lesson. Each one made a competent dog or mouse, and Newcombe moved
on to giraffes. ?It?s the same technique, only you make the neck longer.?
?My giraffe has really short legs,? said Dylan ruefully, holding up
?Tell the kids it?s a brontosaurus,? said Newcombe. ?They?ll love
?It?s more of a triangulosaurus.?
?So you say, ?Wow, look at that, it?s a triangulosaurus!??
Jasper, having twisted his creatures up quickly, turns to balancing
them on his nose and rubbing them on his hair so the static electricity
will make them hang from his hand.
Newcombe shows them the ?fast dog?. ?This is for when you?re on a
street corner at a fair or festival, and you?ve got a line of 100
kids, and they all want balloons, and you?re only there for one hour.
It?s not as detailed as the other kind, but it looks fine, and you
can do a lot of them in a short time.?
The group discusses possible venues for their performances. ?We want
to have a list of places that would like us to come and perform. Eventually,
the kids will be booking the gigs,? said Newcombe, who emphasized
that adults are welcome to attend the free classes, help out with
transportation to performances, and pick up some circus skills of
For more information on the Circus Arts Youth Troupe, to enroll a
student, or to book a performance, call Melody May Productions at
(845) 688-5472. Free of charge; no experience necessary.