Dear Editor, By calling opponents of his development project
“environmental jihadists” (The Freeman, December
15, 2004), Mr. Gitter has succeeded in reminding us once again
that being wealthy and well-educated and being a gentleman are
by no means the same thing. I only hope Mr. Gitter’s words
are not the opening salvo of the 2005 Republican campaign for
Town Board in Shandaken. If so, the voters of Shandaken are
in for an 11-month ordeal in 2005.
Patricia L. Ellison
On December 14, I attended the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce
breakfast at which Dean Gitter of Belleayre Resort notoriety
was the featured speaker. I have witnessed Mr. Gitter’s
angry rants many times; this time he crossed a new line.
Playing on a terrorist theme, he claimed resort opponents were
conducting a “holy war” against him, called them
“environmental jihadists”, made reference to “fundamentalist
environmentalists”, called the New York City DEP’s
representatives “hired assassins”, and apologized
if he had offended any members of the Taliban present.
After this full, frontal attack on everyone who doesn’t
agree with him, he proceeded to list ways in which “they”
have “misused” the environmental review process,
which, according to him, is the only reason his resort isn’t
For example, he implied that the DEC had given a green light
to his project, but were thwarted when the apparently omnipotent
“environmental holy warriors” intervened. (Note:
the DEC has given no such green light.) And Gitter cried foul
because the all-volunteer Shandaken Planning Board was not chosen
as lead agency, despite their complete lack of experience reviewing
anything much larger than a house. He dismisses the fact that
reviewing this massive and complex mountaintop development proposal,
sited in the middle of the NYC watershed and Catskill Park,
might be beyond the planning board’s expertise. He claimed
that the board had never taken more than a few months to review
a project, implying that his development would be well on it’s
way by now (I wonder why?) if those “environmental fundamentalists”
and that pesky NYCDEP hadn’t gotten in the way.
Gitter sited grievance after grievance and for each he created
a story which not only omitted relevant information, but misrepresented
the facts, the process, and the people involved.
He concluded by claiming that the SEQR (State Environmental
Quality Review) process had been “broken” through
“misuse” and attributed that to the “environmentalist
holy warriors”, agencies such as the NYCDEP, and the dreaded
public having wangled their way into the process.
It is clear that his outrage is not because SEQR is not working,
but because it is not working to his advantage. SEQR, in this
case, is providing the checks and balances it was designed to
provide, and which are critical to determining the impacts of
a project of this size and complexity. And it seems to be just
those checks and balances that Dean Gitter and company would
love to eliminate.
I was frankly astonished the other morning to hear Dean Gitter
characterize the opponents of his Bellayre project as zealots
and to compare them with terrorist organizations. I hardly think
that failing to conform to Mr. Gitter’s vision of the
future merits that type of comparison. I think his project is
on too large a scale, will pollute the Esopus creek, create
a traffic nightmare along Route 28 and will have a very limited
economic impact on the area. This does not qualify me as a Bin
I fear Mr. Gitter is making the same mistake in this region
as the current administration is making in determining our foreign
policies: isolating those who don’t agree with us, branding
them as enemies and then attempting to force our will upon them.
This strategy will have no better success regionally than it
has nationally. Perhaps Mr. Gitter should consider choosing
dialogue over division.
I sat through the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce breakfast
and listened to Dean Gitter refer to opponents of the proposed
Belleayre Resort as 'environmental jihadists', make reference
to New York City Department of Environmental Protection's 'hired
assassins' and apologize to any members of the Taliban who might
Is this the level of dialogue that the Ulster County Chamber
of Commerce wants to promote? There was no opportunity to question
Mr. Gitter about his relentless accusations and no announcements
to indicate that other points of view on the subject would be
presented at future breakfasts.
Let us hope that the Chamber makes certain that those Mr. Gitter
vilified are given equal opportunity to present their side of
the matter in question. There is a need here for civil and balanced
The controversy in the Onteora School District and Ulster County
over the so-called “Large Parcel Law” has been presented
to the public through a filter of distortion, anger and even
outright lies. Recently, your newspaper printed a Letter to
the Editor penned by a group of Town of Olive residents that
gave a decidedly one-sided and biased review of a meeting held
in my Kingston District Office on November 9, 2004.
This gathering was scheduled at the request of a few constituents
to discuss their concerns with the Large Parcel Law. A significantly
larger group arrived. Immediately upon commencing the meeting,
it became apparent that some visitors were more interested in
using this forum to hurl accusations and angry statements than
to calmly converse and share thoughts. I let my guests know
in no uncertain terms that abusive behavior would not be tolerated,
and if that were to be their game plan, we would conclude the
appointment. After that, the tone changed for the most part
with the exception of one individual. The meeting continued
for nearly an hour and a half. The conversation ensued with
folks from various walks of life who shared an important mission
— relaying their thoughts and experiences as Olive homeowners
affected by local decisions to adopt the Large Parcel method
of apportioning school district and county taxes. For my part,
I explained the history, details and reasoning behind the law.
As our talk concluded, the group left on a cordial note. In
an effort to address questions raised during our discussion,
I followed up with a letter to each attendee summarizing the
content of our meeting and providing answers to their queries.
A generic copy of this correspondence is available for review
at www.assembly.state.ny.us on my home page under “Publications.”
I urge all readers to visit this site or phone my District Office
at 845-338-9610 with questions or concerns.
Accusations that “a more articulate and wealthy community
in the Onteora School District have applied pressure and that
I am following rather than leading” are pure fiction.
I have in the past and will forever diligently and proactively
represent each and every individual, community and entity in
the 101st Assembly District based on my convictions, beliefs
and the facts surrounding the issue. Tirades and charges, even
when cloaked in the protective anonymity of unnamed third parties,
as one person sought to do, will not advance understanding in
I remain committed to serving the needs of all in my constituency.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond.
Kevin A. Cahill
NYS Assembly 101st District
An Open Letter to Kevin Cahill: A few things do not add up concerning
the oppressive Large Parcel Bill enacted by the Onteora School
Board. State Senator John Larkin is generally known as the prime
sponsor of the Large Parcel Bill and was directly quoted as
saying in a written letter dated June 1, 2004 "that the
law was not intended to apply to reservoirs..." The other
co-sponsor is Assemblyman Paul Tonko who is head of the energy
office (and not head of reservoirs, or water supply). The Large
Parcel Bill itself states that its purpose "...is to reduce
the wild swings both up and down that occur for all assessed
properties when a municipality has a high value property whose
assessed evaluation is in flux from year to year". THIS
IS NOT THE CASE WITH PUBLICALLY OWNED RESERVOIR PROPERTIES WHOSE
EVALUATION STATUS IS STABLE. Why was the bill changed? Who forced
the Onteora School Board to make this terrible decision which
by causing a huge rise in Olive's School Taxes is hurting our
children, the townspeople of Olive, and is straining community
relations with our neighboring towns?
Mr. Cahill, you were once a true representative of all the people.
Some say that a more articulate and wealthy community in the
Onteora School District applies more pressure and that you,
Mr. Cahill, are following rather than leading. Please reconsider
your position on the Large Parcel Bill and realize that the
Town of Olive bears a tremendous burden that is NOT shared equally
by the other towns in the Onteora School District. Let us please
keep in mind that only a few other school boards in the ENTIRE
state of New York elected to even use the Large Parcel Bill!!
None involved reservoirs!
Helen M. Boice, Marlene Colgate
Joe Piscopo, Henrietta Wise
In early October the Town of Olive sent over one thousand signatures
in a petition asking for help in amending the Large Parcel Bill.
By deleting the word “reservoirs” or by adding the
phrase “all concerned municipalities would have to agree
to this alternate means of assessment,” the Large Parcel
legislation would return to its Legislative intent as stated
in Senator Larkin’s letter.
Copies of all these 1,000+ signatures of citizens of Onteora
of voting age were sent to Assemblyman Kevin Cahil1 (D), Senator
John C. Bonacic (R), and to School Board President Marino D’Orazio.
Luckily these petitions and signatures were sent certified mail
from the Town Office in West Shokan; otherwise we would never
know that they reached their intended destinations. To this
date none of the three have even had the courtesy to respond.
Are these representatives embarrassed in the parts they played
in raising Olive’s school taxes 60% and county taxes 91.3
%? Aren’t the citizens, and voters, of Olive at least
We are waiting for your responses.
Hopefully, the Board of Education realizes the damage it has
wreaked upon the budget and is regretting its meddling in local
assessment. Otherwise, Shandaken with 75 % of its land under-assessed
by the State of New York might be next. Why did the
Board not request Shandaken, whose reval was a decade older
than Olive’s, to give its fair share?
By the way, the Onteora School Board has always had the right
to be the assessing agent of all towns in the School District.
Why just use the power against Olive’?
Neglectfully, our legislative representatives have opened a
can of worms that has towns greedily lusting after state land
in Shandaken and revenue sharing of the Ulster Mall Complex.
Whatever happened to Home Rule? Doesn’t “sharing
of wealth” smack of socialism’?
Bruce La Monda
Olive Town Board
As Shandaken’s Democratic representatives on the Town
Board, we want to thank the people of Shandaken for the opportunity
to work for you this past year. We have tried hard to ensure
that your tax dollars are well spent, and that the people of
Shandaken are getting the services they need and deserve from
their Town government.
We are pleased that there has been progress in the past year
with the Phoenicia and Pine Hill water systems, repairs to the
Town Museum, and a more humane dog shelter. But many other longstanding
problems remain unsolved. As a New Year approaches, it is time
to think those problems through, roll up our sleeves and get
to work on them.
At the top of the list should be the needs of the youth here
in Shandaken. Every summer for a long time, our recreation program
has bussed kids all the way to Mine Kill to swim. It is a long,
hot, uncomfortable ride for the kids. We call on the entire
town board to help solve this problem by working out arrangements
for our recreation program to use the New York State Day Use
Area at Pine Hill Lake. Tony Lanza has always bent over backwards
for the Town and in the past has assured us he can accommodate
In 2005, we also call on the entire Town Board to take another
look at how our Town Police Department operates. The Board majority
recently voted to add another full time police officer to the
department. We feel this addition to the force was ill advised
and puts a strain on the already over burdened town budget.
The additional pay for this officer equated to 1/3 of the increase
in the 2005 budget. Additionally, the board of police commissioners
had not even made a recommendation to hire another officer.
Decisions of this kind should only be made after gathering all
the information that is available and only after seeking any
and all alternatives.
We hope people will let us know their views and concerns, and
share with us any ideas they have to move our Town forward in
2005. Best wishes to all for a safe, happy, and healthy holiday
season and a joyous New Year!
Edna Hoyt, Paul Van Blarcum
Town Council Members
After reading the two articles on the death of high school student
Jaimison Wooten I felt compelled to write.
When the death of a student occurs, no matter what the situation
and circumstances, I suggest school districts and superintendents
concentrate more on finding why and what happened and less on
immediately stating, “No fault of ours.” For the
family it gives comfort knowing something is being done. To
the community it builds trust and for the district its shows
Hyde Park School District, please focus on finding out the facts
and truth. Only the truth will set you free.
To the family of Jamison Wooten, I am so sorry for the sudden
loss of your precious son. I know your pain. May God give you
the strength to take one day at a time - and many days’
moments at a time.
On the white plastic fence that borders a field on Route 28,
between Riseley Road and Mount Pleasant Road: It is quite an
absurdity and affront to our Catskill Mountain sensibility.
Gitter doesn’t have to see it, but we do. The view is
over a half mile of white plastic fence bordering a field with
Mount Tremper in the background. I would call it surrealistic
if it wasn’t so tacky, 1ike a movie set for a Hollywood
musical. Are the people whose idea this was afraid of the beauty
and mystery of the Catskill Mountains? The fence is saying,
“this is not a field in the Catskill Mountains, this is
This is an attempt to suburbanize the Catskill Mountains. It
is a microcosm of what will happen to the mountain in Gitter’s
Belleayre Resort. Destroy the mountain, plasticize it, suburbanize
it, that way we will control it and he will call that progress.
Is there a parallel here with Bush trying to force his idea
of democracy on the Iraqi people?
Gerard Manley Hopkins ends a poem with, “Let them be left,
wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
Mount Tremper, NY
What a fabulous tree lighting!! I would like to thank the Phoenicia
Rotary Club for providing the lights and dealing with all the
necessary electric stuff. Special thanks to Adam Steen for braving
several hours of cold in his bucket truck to attach the lights.
Thanks to the American Café and Kathy Neal for making
wonderful cookies. Thanks also to the Country Store, the Phoenicia
Market and the Sportsman’s for providing beverages.
Recently Paul Smart and I attended an award ceremony and dinner
at the Emerson Inn. Had I not seen him in the room, I would
have concluded we were at different events.
The occasion was an award presentation by international travel
publishers Conde Nast Johansen for the MOST OUTSTANDING Inn
in North America, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Mexico and the Pacific.
Whatever your views on development, most folks agree that tourism
is essential to our town’s economic survival. This was
an opportunity to come together, to set aside our differences—for
the moment—and toast success.
What I experienced was a celebration of excellence, a recognition
that here in our town we have an extraordinary asset. Those
gathered, including the Lt. Governor of the State, came to praise
a job well done, to acknowledge a delightful inn, to experience
superb food, and world-class hospitality.
It would have been refreshing if just once Mr. Smart could write
an article that succeeded in illuminating rather than ridiculing
that sought to bring our community together rather than divide
Big Indian, NY
Editor’s Note: I was reporting the proceedings. When Mr.
Gitter started speaking in political terms, it seemed appropriate
to cover his speech accordingly. What division occured happened
with the invitation list.