on the News
To Be Heard
Goldstein, the legal brains behind the nation's "most effective
environmental action organization" that uses "law, science
and the support of more than one million members and online activists
to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe
and healthy environment for all living things," Worth Magazine
has named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities, and Charity Navigator
has given NRDC four stars (out of a possible four). said that the DEIS'
other battlefronts will likely be statewide, on a political level, and
national, on legal and possible policy fronts.
there's a major role in all of this for the governor to play, as well
as a major role for the mayor (of New York City)," he continued.
"We're already starting to see maneuvering at the highest political
Alworth, Executive Director of the Catskill Center for Conservation,
said before the hearings that much of his time, as well as his organization's,
has been focused on the preparation of public comments and written analysis
of the thousand-plus paged Crossroads DEIS.
bothers me most is how this project is the antithesis of the Memorandum
of Agreement between this region and New York City on how the future
of the Catskills should be handled," Alworth said. "It's absurd,
really, that this project has been put forward as something in line
with what's best for the region when in fact it's not. I just don't
accept their logic."
said that since the Catskills Watershed Corporation, the organization
founded in 1997 to oversee enactment of the MOA and coordinate city
funding for environmentally-sensitive development projects throughout
the region, is staying mum on the Crossroads' proposal, he is using
its own studies to counter the Belleayre Resort project's underlying
logic. In particular, he's been working with the half million dollar
economic development study by HRA (Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler)
that stressed concentrated developments in villages and hamlets, and
existing industries, over resorts like that being proposed by Crossroads
Venture's Dean Gitter.
have a great opportunity for the Catskills right now, without this resort,"
Alworth said, listing the amount of money that's been fed into the local
economy by the CWC in recent years, along with the resulting hikes in
real estate values and growth in small businesses.
Woodworth of the Adirondack Mountain Club, who said he will also be
representing the New York/New Jersey Trails Conference at the public
hearings this week, said that his own comments will focus on the character
of the Catskill Park the resort is hoping to be situated in the midst
of, within miles of two sensitive wilderness areas already under stress
said that he will be stressing stewardship issues that are supposed
to be within the purview of the state Department of Environmental Conservation,
who is also serving as lead agency for the current review.
is a very, very large project," he said. "One of our concerns
is that no one's analyzed the overall effects on the Park adequately∑
Lead agency or not, the DEC has a statutory and legal responsibility
for the forest preserve and there's no question that this will end up
putting the state DEC Commissioner in a tight spot. In the final rounds,(DEC
Commissioner) Erin Crotty will be the ultimate decision maker
on this. As a result, it is our view that the DEC has to be very careful
with their review here."
and Goldstein both noted that representatives from NRDC, the Sierra
Club, Trout Unlimited, the Adirondack Club, the Catskill Center, Riverkeeper
and the state Attorney General's office, as well as New York City, will
be offering commentary this week- and keeping close tabs on the project
over the coming months.
pointed out that there were hopes that the DEC would extend the review
period, now scheduled to close in late February, because of discrepancies
and difficulties that have arisen to date. In particular, he noted that
the developers' website had been down for a period of time and, furthermore,
that attempts to print from compact disks of the DEIS had been unsuccessful,
with Kinko's saying there were flaws in the disks that made printing
public should be given time to review this, just as the developers were
given time to fix their DEIS," Goldstein said. "At it's best,
the following weeks should prove a demonstration of our democracy in
"I thought everything was fairly civil" said Cross afterwards.
"I don't think anyone was trying to shoot anyone down or anything".
After an opening statement in which he promised a town board
"that gives all views equal time and equal respect as we move
through the first decade of this wonderful century," Cross also
promised an improved town website and greater emphasis on the town's
bicentennial and on issues related to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
Additionally, Cross announced changes in the way town meetings would
be run, ending Shandaken's tradition of public participation during
the decision-making portions of the meeting. Audience participation
will now be restricted to a public comment period following the conclusion
of official business.
Amongst the resolutions passed over Van Blarcum and Hoyt‚s objections
was one designating the Ulster County Townsman the town's official
newspaper for 2004. Van Blarcum had asked the matter be tabled for
a month to allow him to present evidence to the board in conjuction
with a possible lawsuit he was considering against that newspaper.
Van Blarcum similarly tried to table resolutions appointing Alan Berryann
to the Planning Board; Hope Luhman, Chuck Perez, Harry Jameson, Robert
Stanley, Jr., and Charles Frasier to the Comprehensive Plan Committee,
Steve Stettine to the Zoning Board of Appeals; and Keith Johnson as
Chair of the Zoning Board. "Everyone here campaigned on the issue
of open government," Van Blarcum pointed out, saying he had no
objection to the qualifications of Berryann, Stettine, or Johnson,
but he felt that on principle, the council should open up the appointments
to public input. "This is how it was done last year," Todd
responded, referring to the filling of the planning board vacancy.
Regarding the Comprehensive Plan Committee which Supervisor Cross
cast the deciding vote to re-establish, Cross said there were two
grants waiting to be used, many of the proposed members were already
well-informed on the process, and he had tried to "balance out
the committee" with two Democrats, two Republicans, and an Independent.
His comment drew significant laughter from the audience, as four of
the five members named are generally seen as supportive of the Crossroads
project. Luhman has not discussed her views publicly, but generally
voted with the previous committee‚s GOP faction.
Cross also, in not reappointing Jay Braman Sr., made a point of offering
his public thanks to him."Jay Braman as served this community
for more than 30 years" said Cross. "He brought forth
and pioneered zoning in this town. We will have a celebration, a party
for him. Some awards will be presented. We‚ll do this up right."
Braman stood to acknowledge applause from the crowd, but made no direct
Following the resolutions, Cross opened up the meeting for public
input. Topping the list of contentious issues was discussion following
Dennis Ladner's reading of a Jan 2 letter to counsel member Todd from
Friends of Catskill Park‚s lead counsel, Albany attorney Marc
Gerstman. Citing conflict-of-interest prohibitions in Shandaken"s
town code, supporting case law, and an opinion from the state Attorney
General's office, the group requested that Todd recuse herself from
"participating in, voting on, and in any way attempting to influence
the town board actions regarding the proposed Belleayre Resort project."
Friends of Catskill Park is a Phoenicia-based project of the not-for-profit
Open Space Institute. According to its chair Judy Wyman, the group
represents several hundred local members.
Gerstman‚s letter cited as the reason for the request Todd‚s
1998 purchase of property which he said puts the Todd‚s "in
a position to directly profit from the development of the proposed
resort". According to Gerstman, the property was purchased "just
19 days before a series of acquisitions were started for the proposed
project", and that "it appears that this parcel of land
lies within the proposed Crossroads Ventures project boundaries."
Gerstman said given the circumstances, "the test to be applied
is not whether there is a conflict but whether there might be",
and that regardless of whether either town law or state law may have
been violated, any possible appearance of impropriety requires her
recusal under both.
After some discussion, including a statement that she had never previously
been asked to recuse herself on this matter, Todd finally asked "that
the town board cease discussion of this until I contact an attorney".
Later in the meeting, Wyman said that Todd had in fact been asked
publicly to recuse herself and had refused to do so. Should her recusal
be required, Todd‚s abstention would likely set the stage for
potential conflict over what might in fact constitute Crossroads-related
issues. At the meeting, Supervisor Cross said that Gerstman"s
letter would be forwarded to the town's counsel for review.
However afterwards, by phone, Cross said "What I probably will
do is put it in a file, if it should be needed. I have to talk to
the town's attorney first. At the present time there is nothing before
us to vote on. I don‚t want to have to spend the town's money
because there is no project before the town board to even look at."
As the meeting drew to a close, Mary Hermann questioned the board‚s
choice designating Jane Todd its future contact to oversee the renovation
of Pine Hill's water system. "Given the animosity between Jane
and the people of Pine Hill, how can you appoint her liaison to the
Pine Hill Water District?" The question led to sharp words between
Todd and Hermann, and a brief uproar in the audience.
Phriday in Phoenicia
According to Ellie Ganci, a member of the Belleayre marketing team,
the Winterfest kicks off in Pine Hill. From noon until 6 pm this hamlet
will host a chili cook-off, have a bonfire and hot refreshments and
feature a winter playground. Sledding is welcome as long as you bring
On Monday night Ganci says Belleayre will host a glamorous dining
experience called "Taste of the Town," featuring area restaurants
offering their finest fare. The evening comes complete with complimentary
wine, a cash bar and live music. Cost is $25 per person and tickets
are available now at the Ski Center. The event, which benefits the
Belleayre Region Lodging and Tourism Association, promises to be a
classy one, Ganci said.
"Believe me, we"re not talking paper plastic and plastic
cups," she added.
After a "catch your breath night" on Tuesday, the Village
of Margaretville will host an event featuring ice-skating in the park,
a bonfire, and a snow sculpture contest. The fun begins at 3:30 and
runs till 8:30.
On Thursday it's Fleischmanns turn to roll out the red carpet for
visitors. Starting at dusk this Village will host a bonfire based
event in the park, featuring a unique pastime calle "Skijoring"
which Superintendent Tony Lanza said is basically skiing while being
pulled along by snowmobiles, similar to the way one water-skis. Lanza
added that Horses might be used as well.
The week wraps up with what is expected to be real party in Phoenicia,
where organizers are putting together a Mardi Gras Parade, complete
with the tank-like "Beast of Belleayre" rumbling through
Main Street. Many of the hamlet's establishments will have Mardi Gras
specials that evening as well.
"Yup, we'll be putting folks in costumes and sending them through
town, it's going to be great!" Kimberly said.
Kimberly and other organizers will meet soon to plan the specifics
of the parade. The event is still growing, with various groups wishing
continuing to call to be involved in the march. Anyone else interested
should contact Kimberly at (845) 688-5645.
In addition, Belleayre Mountain is offering $10 lift tickets all week
long as an attractive incentive to skiers.
Lanza, who believes the Winter Festival Week has the potential to
be an important boost to the region's economy, hopes the entire region
gets involved in the promotion.
"When you go Syracuse during the State fair, it‚s a big
deal in that area and its treated like that," he said,"
We could do something like that here."
Growing up with such emphases on the frailty and specialness of sight,
Spark says she was "allowed to draw and paint as much as I wanted."
As her eyes developed cataracts, and then glaucoma, she reached a
point where her college studies were diverted into an English Literature
major for a while. But then cataract surgery brought her back to her
Spark holds both a Masters of Fine Art in painting and an M.A. in
"Do you know Claude Monet's Water Lilies and their blurriness?"
she asks. It turns out Monet had cataracts during those influential
final years of his long career. And that's how Spark saw the world
for years, and still sees much of it to this day.
"No hard edges," she explains. "All glistening in an
almost psychedelic manner∑
Now, she adds, things have been worsening again. But such things don't
seem to daunt Spark, who says she's learned to work with whatever
small field of vision she's given to translate through her art.
"I'm trying to find ways to express what I see and how I see
it. I feel this has given my work a purer, direct means of expression."
Since moving upstate, she's found herself drawn to working with nature,
a process that forced her through a more classical form of depiction
as she found her way with such a vast, always re-creating subject
matter. Which is why she's so excited about her most recent works:
the fragment paintings.
"I'm just trying to draw attention to the way reality is a juxtaposition
of things that co-exist, and not necessarily in a linear way,"
she says of the new work.
Spark has shown throughout the Catskills part of our readership area,
with regularity at Phoenicia's Upstate Art, Hunter's Catskill Mountain
Foundation Gallery and Margaretville's Erpf Gallery. But she's also
been collected by years, with her works in major hospitals as well
as private homes.
To fuel herself, Spark has spent years regularly seeing as much art
as she can. When we speak she's excited about an afternoon to be spent
at The Whitney.
She also brings out some important lessons she's learned over the
First off, Spark taught art therapy for years, but also worked in
hospitals with handicapped clients who taught her "this startling
thing: that art can be a direct link between image making and what's
going on inside a person."
Secondly, the move Upstate, and the establishment of a strong connection
with Mt. Tremper's noted Zen Mountain Monastery, provided Spark with
"a big opening" that has allowed her to explore new ways
of looking and seeing via the world of nature's that has opened up
to her up hear. Which, among other things, has shifted her direction,
seasons-wise, to a new respect for the winter season we are in the
"I, like many artists I know, do a lot more work in winter,"
Spark says. "You see the structure of everything now that the
leaves are gone. All that green in the summer is like a carpet, and
somewhat stifling. But the current season brings out the uninterrupted
rawness of the landscape we inhabit here."
Finally, Spark says that her way of seeing, for all its faults, is
starting to match the landscape she's moved into. She talks about
being able to capture something in these mountains and valleys, these
ancient hills, that is rare.
This past summer she and her husband spent several weeks in an artist's
retreat - author Heinrich Boll's cabin by the sea - and were deeply
impressed by the sparseness of a landscape that had once held forest
as green as ours, until "men and women made some mistakes and
left things bare for the last 5,000 years."
"We have an opportunity to see what a landscape can look like
that's been revived, and avoid its second destruction," she says
in her matter-of-fact way.
Furthermore, Michelle Spark sees her art, with its new focus on her
skewed but precious vision of our landscape, as important because,
"It still helps us see something beyond our own constructed realities.
Nature is still the one place we can still learn new things from.
For further information on Michelle Spark's work, including whatever
new exhibits she may be having, visit her website at www.michellespark.com