The holiday season diatribe by Dean Gitter against anyone who
contributed to the extended review of the draft environmental
impact statement (DEIS) of his proposed resort at Belleayre
should be directed at his own consultants. If they had fully
and accurately disclosed all conditions in the DEIS, there would
be no grounds under the State Environmental Quality Review Act
(SEQRA) to challenge the application at permit hearings by the
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In fact,
Crossroads used the lengthy DEC hearings to try to correct many
errors in the DEIS.
I am not opposed to development of Belleayre, but as a traffic
engineer and resident of Margaretville, I want to know that
the traffic impacts are honestly defined and mitigated.
Judging by the inadequate responses on transportation, the deficiencies
are so blatant, that if unaddressed, the mega-resort would doom
further development of the Belleayre Ski Center and harm all
residents and businesses in the Route 28 corridor.
To begin with, I showed that the traffic levels in the DEIS,
forecast for 2008, were already exceeded by my counts in 2003.
Crossroads’ traffic consultant agreed and increased them,
but based them on the lower skier volumes of 2004 (due to poorer
I showed that Crossroads had evaded accounting for the background
growth in both ski and non-ski traffic by selecting 2008 as
the year of completion of the resort that the rest of the DEIS
says will not occur before 2014. The traffic consultant for
Crossroads conceded and adjusted traffic for the additional
years, but disingenuously maintained that ski trips would be
limited by the parking prescribed in the existing 1998 Unit
Management Plan. This ignores the high likelihood that by 2014,
a new UMP would be in effect which allows a major increase of
parking consistent with the expanded Ski Center that would be
Crossroads’ principal attraction.
In not accounting for the planned growth of the Ski Center,
the consultant for Crossroads sets up an unnecessary competition
between the resort and the Ski Center for roadway capacity.
This is the result of a more fundamental flaw that jeopardizes
the validity of the entire DEIS: basing the traffic analysis
entirely on a single hour—4 to 5 pm on a winter Saturday—
without presenting any of the standard seasonal or hourly traffic
data now and in the future or providing any profile of the daily
travel patterns of resort guests.
If the consultants for Crossroads had consulted the NYS Department
of Transportation, they would have been told that on Route 28
summer traffic is about double the normal traffic during winter.
Moreover, during the summer, resort guests will travel off-site
more than during the ski season, creating a proportionally greater
impact all day. The need to examine summer conditions should
have been evident to Crossroads’ traffic consultant, who
reported in a transportation plan in 1995 for Lake Placid (in
which my environmental consulting firm participated) that “summer
traffic is much higher than in the winter” even in an
area that bills itself as the “Winter Sports Capital of
There are many other ways that resort trips continue to be under-reported
even with the adjustments made at the DEC hearings. Without
providing any supporting data from comparable resorts, the Crossroads
engineer defended low trip generation numbers by citing a resort
in Maine without revealing that every unit there is within walking
distance of all attractions. He acknowledged that although the
DEIS claims 80% of post-arrival trips will be on shuttle buses,
he had not shown any shuttle trips because he agreed with my
analysis that long waits and travel times for buses would induce
most skiers (and all non-skiers going off-site) to drive, but
then ignored altogether the resulting car trips.
All this adds up to future traffic volumes approximately twice
as great as reported in the DEIS and they would occur on many
weekends throughout the year all along the Route 28. The consequences
will be felt throughout the corridor in added travel time for
all users, more accidents and other indirect effects, like air
pollution. My analysis shows that the hidden cost of these effects
on everyone in the corridor would be as much as $40 million
a year, which is 20 times the annual property tax benefits that
the resort estimates it will pay to the two host towns in 2024
when 10 years of tax exemptions expire. This is equal to the
most optimistic projections in the DEIS of total direct economic
These deficiencies make it clear that the problem is not, as
Mr. Gitter contends, that SEQRA permits challenges to inadequate
EISs. Rather the problem is that both the public and even well-intentioned
developers are ill-served by a SEQRA process that allows too
many fawning consultants to get away with manipulating data
to promote projects. This forces the public to muster sufficient
resources to ferret out the truth, which occasionally reshapes
projects, but mostly sends consultants back (profitably) to
the drawing boards to build a stronger case.
Brian Ketcham, P.E.
This letter was sent to the Trustees of the Onteora Board of
The taxpayers of the Town of Olive have suffered a major financial
hit with both the Onteora School District and the Ulster County
Legislature choosing to enact the alternative assessment of
the Large Parcel Law. School taxes for Olive residents were
60% higher in September and the current 2005 county tax is 91%
higher while surrounding towns reaped minor decreases. With
your school budget process beginning in January, the Olive Town
Board would like assurance from you that this devastating imbalance
in taxation will not occur in the 2005-2006 school tax year.
Olive was advised by the Board of Education to do a town revaluation
of properties. That process is well underway. Only by recent
and updated revals can the tax burden of the six towns within
the Onteora School District remain “fair and equal.”
Certainly what was done to Olive was neither “fair”
nor “equal” as can be seen with Woodstock’s
tax structure in imbalance with the Saugerties and Kingston
school districts and with Shandaken silently sitting on a town-wide
reassessment done over thirty years ago. Based on the “wealth
of town” formula, in calculating a town’s “fair
share”, Shandaken has given itself a reduction in taxes
at the expense of Olive, Woodstock, and Hurley.
The Large Parcel Legislation will not help the school budget.
You should be aware that as long as the Ashokan Reservoir is
included, no matter who adopts the Large Parcel Legislation,
the resulting loss of tax revenue by our citizens will have
the same effect on your future budgets.
Are our neighbors in Shandaken and Woodstock cheering or are
they sympathetic and embarrassed that their small decrease of
tens of dollars caused some in Olive to raise thousands in a
We, the Town Board of Olive, would like to help the Onteora
School District pass a budget that will support students and
move Onteora back on the educational track as a leader in education.
To do that we need your assurance that this fiasco that took
Olive’s tax base and taxes away from our town will not
be the future direction of the Onteora School Board. If tax
assessment is tantamount to education, then the Onteora School
Board can use its power as assessing agency—a power that
it has always had. You can then reassess all the towns, not
just one, and by doing so, you will not just benefit some towns
at the expense of the Town of Olive.
We need your commitment to education now, not after the budget
process. Olive has historically been the constant supporter
of the school budget. We would like to return to that tradition.
Berndt Leifeld, Supervisor
Linda, Burkhardt, Helen K. Chase
Bruce La Monda, Henry Rank
Olive Town Board
In response to the article about the readiness of Route 28 to
handle 18,000 cars a day reported by the state Department of
Transportation, I strongly suspect that whoever cooked up that
idea doesn’t live around here. Each and every time we
have to pull out onto Route 28, we have a significant flirtation
With our increase in taxes, I don’t think it unreasonable
to expect an upgrade in our civic services. I am speaking of
the dire need for a traffic light at the Winchell’s Corner.
(Route 28 and Reservoir Road intersection). With the increase
in the traffic there has also been a noticeable decline in courtesy
at that intersection. While waiting my turn to pull out onto
Route 28 (pack a lunch, it’ll be a while), I have been
beeped at, flipped off, yelled at, people revving their engines,
etc. I can’t even count how many times I have almost been
rear-ended at that intersection. If there was a light there,
yes, it would slow down traffic but everyone would get a turn.
People might even patronize the local businesses more without
fear of getting killed trying to pull out onto Route 28. In
the summer it’s even worse, people don’t and won’t
grow manners on a weekend visit.
I can’t conceive any reason why there is money for giant
lights at the reservoir, ruining our night sky, only to illuminate
water. (Fish don’t need lights). There is money to build
a watchman’s hut, complete with air conditioner and generator,
with no watchman. And no money has been spent on a basic, common
sense, traffic light that we all need.
Whoever interprets the “traffic benchmarks” to determine
if a traffic light is needed should try to negotiate that intersection
for a day. As it stands now, it is an accident waiting to happen.
I hope that something will be done before someone is horribly
maimed or killed.
I had to read the article three times, just to make sure what
I thought I was reading was correct. In the article called,
“Guinea Pig?” It stated that the EPA had announced
plans to launch a new study where low income families would
have their young children, up to three years old, exposed to
toxic pesticides over the course of two years. For this amazing
act of parenthood they would receive $970, a free video camera,
a T -shirt and the most blatant proof of their ignorance: a
framed certificate of appreciation. People are outraged because
of testing on laboratory animals. How can this, in any way,
be acceptable? These young children have no say in this. Just
because they have parents that are willing to sell their children’s
lives for a few trinkets, they will be condemned to a life of
ill health and cancer. Can you imagine how these children, as
adults (if they even make it to adulthood), will feel when they
see this certificate of appreciation, knowing their parents
thought so little of them that they could compromise their health
for a pittance? If they are called toxic pesticides, then they
are toxic and we know they are poisonous. There is no need to
test them on innocent babies.
I feel this to be morally and ethically wrong. We cannot allow
this atrocity to take place. Please write to whomever you can
think of to stop this.
PS I want to thank the Phoenicia Times for these articles that
few other papers would expose. I read this paper because I feel
the people who produce this paper care enough to print important
information about our environment and our world.
From the desk of Richard A. Gerentine, Chairman, Ulster County
Late Monday night, December 13, 2004, the Ulster County Legislature
passed an amended version of the 2005 budget by a 19-14 vote.
The Republican majority and two members of the Democratic minority
supported the spending plan put together through countless hours
of negotiation by Legislator Sue Cummings (R), Chair of the
Ways and Means Committee. The initial plan had called for a
23.7 percent property tax increase, but through the cooperation
of County Administrator Art Smith, his staff, all the department
heads, and the other employees of the county, a final increase
of 11.02 percent was made. The overall increase in budget expenditures
from 2004 to 2005 was held to 3.32 percent. My original intention
to go with a mortgage tax increase did not gain enough support
to pass. The Hotel/Motel Occupancy tax proposed by the Democrats,
had support to pass, but in the final tally only two Democrats
voted for the budget. I had told hotel/motel owners years ago
that if the tax were reintroduced I would meet with them prior
to imposing it. Unfortunately, the proposal to reintroduce the
tax was made the night of our budget meeting, which eliminated
my ability to speak with Ulster County hotel/motel owners prior
to the vote. The Hotel/Motel Occupancy tax does help reduce
taxes for county residents. This tax is a less intrusive tax
and also benefits hotel/motel owners in that the property taxes
on their holdings will be reduced in 2005. The tax will be imposed
on people utilizing hotel rooms, travelers, and visitors, not
the residents and taxpayers of Ulster County.
The irony of the re-implementation of the Hotel/Motel Occupancy
tax is that it was introduced by the Democrats as a replacement
for the mortgage tax increase that was supposed to be implemented,
yet when the budget vote was called only two Democrats voted
in favor of the budget that contained the Hotel/Motel Occupancy
tax as part of their proposal. To avoid having the budget held
hostage, I decided to vote in favor. I feel this tax will be
less burdensome than a 23.7 percent increase in your property
taxes. The Democrats took the position of refusing to negotiate;
their proposal was all or nothing. In an effort to be reasonable
and show good judgment for ALL county taxpayers, the legislature
adopted a budget that kept spending at 3.32 percent increase.
Now that the 2005 budget is in place, I would hope that we can
work together in the coming year so that the 2006 budget process
is handled in a timely and bipartisan manner. Some of the highlights
of the 2005 budget include:
• No Layoffs
• Minimal impact on services to County residents
• An overall decrease in county taxes for five towns
• Nine towns with an increase of less than 6%
• Elimination of the Home Energy tax
• Revenues raised thorough the passage of the Hotel/Motel
Let's start 2005 off on the right foot and cooperate, communicate
and not agitate. My New Year's hope is that all 33 members of
our County Legislature will put aside partisan bickering and
work together for the residents and taxpayers of our great County.
That is one New Year's resolution we can all keep if we work
at it. Happy Holidays.
Richard A. Gerentine, Chairman Ulster County Legislature Dear
Editor, In my view, the best horse-puckey detector on earth
is the average working person. Our leaders in Albany claim that
those affected by the seizure and occupation of over half the
towns landmass are long gone, as if the numerous descendents
still clinging to the hillsides do not exist. In the next breath,
they award 290 or so million to an Oklahoma tribe that may have
lived here 300 years ago, to settle land claims. The root cause
of the so called Large Parcel Bill and ORPS frantic desire to
reval all towns around the state is decades of deficit spending
by our leaders in Albany and Kingston. Even if the Large Parcel
Bill were to be rolled back, it would only delay the inevitable
results of the coming reval. The Fed's flood of easy mortgage
money that has helped to cause our recent historic spike in
real estate values will only make the reval that much more painful.
Olive was settled and built by stalwart, highly skilled, working
class folks, a distinct culture that is still present and strong,
characterized by such attributes such as hard work, highly developed
practical skills, self sufficiency, thrift, mutual aid, and
respect for others. How ironic that the very class of folks
that not only built the town but also organized O.C.S.D., are
the same group that is facing a downward spiral of dispersal
to lower cost areas due to the actions of our leaders in Albany
Town Board members and a local group of citizens have visited
with our leaders in Albany and it is clear that there will be
no relief from that quarter. I have heard many voice the desire
to see Olive have it's own school district, and after ruminating
on it I heartily agree, if the majority agrees. I would like
to see Olive have a system that would support and advance the
unique culture that has existed here for over two hundred years.
A perusal of NYSED law reveals that the only barrier is a requirement
for 2000 students and 10,000 residents, hardly possible given
the unique history of Olive. It's possible we will be told that
we cannot do it, the law doesn't make allowance for extenuating
circumstances. Perusal of the U.S. Constitution tells me that
either negotiation with NYSED or litigation at the Federal level
would likely result in affirmation of our right to our own system,
if the majority desires. An excellent overview of the NY school
system and it's harvest is John Taylor Gatto's book titled "Dumbing
Us Down". Mr. Gatto taught for over 26 years in NY schools
and was named NYC Teacher of the Year twice, and NYS Teacher
of the Year once. He describes what is, and what could be. I
believe that no one can direct our education as well as we can
ourselves. A welcome side benefit would be fiscal savings for
all Olivians, given the local culture of thrift. If there was
ever a town that could do it, Olive is it.
Charlie Blumstein Olivebridge, NY
Two recent letters from “The Angry Angler” are filled
with errors and innuendo that need to be addressed.
The idea that New York City is somehow orchestrating the amount
of turbidity in the Esopus Creek to forward an agenda that promotes
one use of the stream over another is absurd. The silt and clay
in the Esopus this year is largely from the erosion along Birch
Creek, which occurred during a flash flood in May. Just ask
anyone who lives upstream of the Shandaken Tunnel for confirmation.
This has been a very wet year and discharge from the Shandaken
Tunnel was below average for most of the summer. However, the
flow in the Esopus for much of the first half of the summer
was lower than the 40-year average. During that period of low
flow, the discharge from the Shandaken Tunnel was increased
in order to meet state regulatory minimum flow requirements
to maintain the cold-water fishery.
The exceptions to the average discharge during this period were
the recreational releases that occur as part of a long-standing
arrangement between the DEC, DEP and the whitewater recreation
community. From late-July through the fall, the Tunnel discharge
was raised only as flows in the Esopus dropped below the regulatory
threshold. (Data on Esopus and tunnel flows are available in
real-time from the US Geological Survey Web site at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ny/nwis.)
It is also wrong to call DEP anti-fishing. DEP provides world-class
trout fishing in its reservoirs, and last year sponsored the
restoration project at the Esopus’ Woodland Valley confluence,
where considerable effort was expended to stabilize the stream
channel and improve trout habitat. The agency also co-sponsors
the “Trout in the Classroom” program, which brings
upstate and downstate students together to learn about trout,
their lifecycles and what they need to thrive. (See www.troutintheclassroom.com
for more information.)
DEP’s Stream Management Program has been working with
Shandaken, various government agencies, local groups (including
fishing and tubing interests) and landowners along the Esopus
to develop a plan that will enable us all to balance the use
and conservation of the Creek. We are also studying ways to
decrease the amount of turbidity that enters the Shandaken Tunnel,
and are committed to beginning a project to address that situation
as soon as the best alternative can be determined.
“The Angry Angler” also questions whether the DEP
is concerned about the effect of the proposed Crossroads project
on the Esopus. The DEP has taken the lead in highlighting the
potential dangers of this project and has submitted to the State
the most comprehensive evaluation to date of the project’s
7000-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We also spent
weeks at the DEC’s issues conference critiquing the EIS
and urging a more thorough review. Any reader of The Phoenicia
Times should know this.
“The Angry Angler” has a lot of issues, particularly
with the tubing industry. But any objective look at the facts
will show that the DEP has been fair and attentive in its efforts
to balance the interests of all the parties that have a stake
in the Esopus, including landowners, recreational users and
the millions of people who depend on it for their drinking water
David B. Tweedy,
New York City DEP
Though I’ve known Kit (Christopher) Evers since we were
not much more than striplings, it wasn’t until the celebration
of his father’s 90th birthday—a well attended do
held at the Bearsville Theater in February 1995—that I
finally met Alf. He was in fine fettle that cold winter day,
and was happily hawking yet another of his many books. In this
case it was a collection of essays titled IN CATSKILL COUNTRY.
In his introduction to that book, Heywood Hale Broun said, “Alf
Evers knows the Catskills as they were, as they are, and as
he hopes they’ll be.” Mr. Broun was right on the
Alf’s definitive work on the Catskills, a wonderfully
erudite and thick volume (heavy enough to crack black walnuts
with) is THE CATSKILLS FROM WILDERNESS TO WOODSTOCK. If you
don’t own a copy, you should.
I go into all this because some of you who receive this note
will not know much about Alf, and I want you to.
Let me cut to the chase. Alf died at midday, yesterday, on December
29th. He had eaten his lunch, served up by Tom O’Brien—his
faithful caregiver and friend for the last seven years—and
had settled in for a nice afternoon nap. He did not wake up.
Alf was nearly 100; he and his friends had looked forward to
celebrating his 100th birthday—an accomplishment of stubborn
longevity. When all things are tallied about him, it would merely
have been another statistic, for a fellow who’d done so
many more interesting things throughout his life.
Perhaps the most significant thing that kept Alf going these
last years, in spite of his loss of hearing and losing of sight,
was his intense desire to write one more important book about
the Catskills. That he did. It is a history of Kingston. I understand
his publishers love it, and it will be printed and on the bookshelves
sometime this coming spring or summer.
Kit wants you to know that on Sunday, January 9th, 2005 between
2 and 4 PM, there will be a memorial gathering for Alf at the
Bearsville Theater, Bearsville, New York, to celebrate that
wonderful man. There will be something to eat, to drink, and
music. Surely there will be talk too. Alf loved talk, and loved
to practice its art. It’s the kind of gathering he’d
Woodland Valley, NY
I send this poem I wrote after losing my husband a month ago.
I hope you can put it in your paper so others who may have lost
loved ones will know why they are never alone.
To My Love
My love is gone to the wind,
Swept up in a flash of light,
A whispered sigh of freedom,
His soul has taken flight.
We walked together for many days,
on this earth in beauty’s song,
We laughed, we cried, our tears as one,
In rivers that flow so long.
The mate to my soul, that he was,
At first glance we knew this truth,
And it beat in our hearts, flowing life,
Never aging, eternal youth.
I weep now in consuming sadness,
That holds me close to his face,
Memories of love’s depths fill me,
My whole being in his embrace.
As many tears that flow in sorrow,
Just as many fall from love,
Of what we shared and held so close,
On earth then, so now from above.
As deep as sorrow carves into
Our soul, so does the Love -
Which remains there forever.
Big Indian, NY
This is an Open Letter to Dean Gitter...
Dear Mr. Gitter,
Everyone in Shandaken (including you, Mr. Gitter) shares the
good fortune of
living in our incredibly beautiful mountain wilderness environment.
That is why the reports of the talk you delivered to the Ulster
County Chamber of Commerce on December 14 left me confused.
Please help the people of Shandaken to understand why we should
support your exclusive mega-resort development by explaining
why it is a bad thing to be a "self-appointed" guardian
of our wilderness, but it is a good thing to be a self-appointed
destroyer of our wilderness.