meetings are being held at Al’s Restaurant to accomplish the
goal. Owner Paul Pettinato said this week that the idea is to get
enough property owners in Phoenicia to go to the upcoming town board
meeting on May 1st to convince the board that the sewer project is
not wanted. Should that fail, then those same landowners may launch
a petition drive to force the matter to a referendum vote. Pettinato
figures 90 votes would be needed to kill the project.
While Pettinato has been crying long and loud about the plan, it remains
unclear just how many sympathize with the local businessman, who inherited
the restaurant from his father, the late Al Pettinato, many years
ago. The sewer project is seen as a boon for homeowners but a burden
for businesses. While residents get what supporters say is a sweetheart
deal of paying only $100 a year for sewer service, there is no such
cap on the expense for commercial users.
That doesn’t sit well with the hamlets two main restaurateurs
and largest water users, Pettinato and Mike Ricciardella. Both sat
on a town appointed committee that for two years met every other week
to iron out the details of a deal with New York City, which intends
to pay over $11 million dollars to build the system for Phoenicia
as a way of protecting the City’s drinking water. That water
flows past Phoenicia only a couple hundred feet from the septic systems
that service Pettinato and Ricciardella’s establishments plus
hundreds of cesspools built for homes in the early part of last century.
Ricciardella said the meeting came about because he and Pettinato
wanted to see how many people remain concerned about sewer issues.
“There were about 35 people there,” he said Wednesday.
Two weeks ago the majority of the committee, most of whom support
the sewer plan, abolished it because it had accomplished the tasks
it was given. But Pettinato, Ricciardella and his brother Ric Ricciardella,
the hamlet’s water commissioner, believe the committee shut
down because those same supporters of the plan didn’t like the
shadow of doubt the three were casting over the plan.
“Our theme is that we still have a lot of unanswered questions…..and
we still think the City should pay for all of it,” Ricciardella
Still working to get the message out, Pettinato quietly set up the
meeting on a night his restaurant was closed.
“We had some people there that had never been to those committee
meetings. They learned a lot,” Pettinato said.
Supporters of the sewer project are unhappy with the move. They believe
the opponents’ real hope is to convince enough Phoenicia voters
to kill the project by forcing it to a referendum vote and defeating
it at the polls.
The real issue of the opposition, according to project supporter Steve
Stettine, is the increased competition in the restaurant industry
a sewer system would allow.
Stettine, a former sewer committee member, said he was aware of people
that were invited to the meeting after being told “horror stories”
about what would happen if Phoenicia went along with the plan. Stettine
and others, like Declan Feehan, another former committee member, say
they will continue to try and thwart what they say are simple scare
tactics, but fear the project remains at risk.
Feehan, who owns several parcels in the hamlet, is also a commercial
user but is in a different fix than the restaurant owners. He fears
some of his properties might not have room for replacement septic’s
if they are needed. For him, the sewer system will help, not hurt,
and he wants to see it come to town.
“These guys are setting themselves up like they’re the
saviors of the community,” Feehan said,” “But who’s
going to save the community from them?”
For A May 16 Vote
A third write-in candidate, George Haug of Shokan, was announced
by Olive Superintendent and Olive Matters founder Berndt Leifeld at
an April 23 Olive Democratic Party meeting, to run on the same anti-Large
Parcel issue that brought in three Olive candidates last year.
At the current board’s April 18 meeting at Onteora Middle/High
School, a budget lower than what was previously recommended was voted
in, despite concern from several board members that the further cuts
were made without presentations or proper public input.
School board trustee Lev Flournoy, who will not be seeking reelection
this year, said he would vote on the budget but felt “uncomfortable
with the process.” School board president Dave Patterson assured
everyone that the line item cuts were a directive at the last school
board meeting and the cuts did not effect education.
Business administrator Victoria McAllen said the additional cuts she
came up with totalled $255,000. Reductions were made to unemployment
insurance, and health insurance cost estimates was slightly lowered.
The vote was six-to-one, with trustee Herb Rosenfeld, the only no
vote, stating the cuts ran too deep.
The most controversial part of the budget consists of dramatic cuts
made to special education at a reduction of $355,258. This includes
the dropping of five special education teachers, speech/language therapist,
teacher of the deaf, four teaching assistants and a part time social
worker. The high school cafeteria was filled with concerned parents,
special education professionals and Onteora teachers trying to make
one last effort to convince the school board that they should reconsider…
to no avail. A vote to reinstate a popular Teacher of the Deaf position
failed by a four to three vote, with Bernholtz, O’Connor, Patterson
and Vanacore voting against.
Trustee Mary Jane Bernholtz explained that if the capital reserve
fund receives voter approval, it would eventually take care of repairs
and other district needs.
As the budget was approved, members of the audience booed with many
then leaving quietly, many wiping away tears.
In other business, the board approved Jeff Hanna as acting superintendent
of the district in the absence of Superintendent Justine Winters,
effective immediately for approximately thirty days.
Patterson said, “Justine’s health is her primary concern
at this point, she spent a few days in the hospital last week and
she is home and she is alert and talking to us, she misses us and
we all miss her, so lets continue to keep her in our thoughts.”
Winters recently announced that she would be resigning as superintendent
in June, due to illness. Hanna was acting assistant superintendent
two years ago and also helped fill in for Barbara Boyce in 2005 during
her leave of absence. In related news, the board approved $18,000
to hire Dr. Richard Lerer as an educational consultant to help search
for a new superintendent (see news brief inside).
Director of the Transportation Department Maureen Stancage resigned
effective May 12, stating personal reasons for her departure. Hired
last August, she is the third transportation director in three years.
The future of the district committee disbanded and when trustee Vanacore
asked why she was told it was in large part due to the board asking
its consulting architects for possible restructuring to look at other
options already turned down by the committee.
An Olive Matters rally about their new write-in candidate, who did
not answer calls from the press before press time, has been set for
May 10 at the Olive Library.
Be In The New Jail?
The state’s auditors,
who came under fire from GOP legislators for meeting with Democrats
behind closed doors during their investigation last year, pointed
out that deficiencies in several key construction contracts led to
delays in the constrction, which then led to rocketing expenses as
the project’s overall cost rose from $71.8 million to$100 million
“There were no incentive or penalty clauses in any of the contracts,”
state auditors wrote. “As a result, contractors had no incentive
to finish their portion of the project on time and within budget.
In fact, some contracts actually provided incentives to delay the
Furthermore, the legislature failed to look out for rampant doubling-up
of costs over the years the project has been underway. And worse were
the number of gifts purchased for consultants – and legislators,
in some cases — with public money.
New Majority Leader David Donaldson faulted his predecessors for failing
to write their contracts for the jail correctly, for establishing
strong oversight over the project, and
The jail project was first proposed under then-Legislature Chairman
Ward Todd, who left office in June 2003 to become president of the
Ulster County Chamber of Commerce. Reports say the cigars in question
were a gift to him.
Todd, who was later succeeded by Richard Gerentine as chairman, has
also come under fire in recent months for a deal he brokered for a
casino in the Route 209 corridor without any public input. There has
been growing talk of criminal investigations in that case, as well.
Todd, a former head of the Shandaken Republican Party, did not answer
calls for this or other stories about the audit and Donaldson’s
call for investigation.
Gerentine said he would not comment on the state audit until the final
version is issued while new Legislature Minority Leader Glenn Noonan
said the draft of the audit should have remained secret because the
information in it, according to his beliefs, could possibly be used
against the county in litigation.
Back in January, soon after taking new new position, Donaldson said
the county Legislature should begin a probe and issue subpoenas for
testimony from the jail’s lead characters, including Todd.
Meanwhile, officials with the state Comptroller’s Office said
this week that the early, unauthorized release of the draft audit
could undermine furture investigations.
“Those who leak an unfinished audit to the news media usually
have some reason to undermine the process, usually because they are
pursuing some personal political agenda,” said David Neustadt
in a letter to the local press. “Such leaks committed by public
officials are unprofessional and often intended to mislead the public.”
State audits are initially issued as draft documents, and local officials
are given 30 days to comment before a final version is released. The
draft contains a standard request by the state comptroller asking
“that to the extent permitted by law the information contained
in this document be kept confidential.”
United... For Now
“The meeting went
really well. I told everyone I will take it upon myself to distribute
agendas to all Ulster member towns before each meeting,” Cross
said. “I’m even getting a scanner in my town office to
do it on.”
He said that with all towns represented except for Warwarsing, who
couldn’t make it because of a time change announced by Cross
at the last minute, and Hardenburgh, whose supervisor has taken his
town out of the Coalition for at least the coming year – and
who spoke with Cross in a private session after the main meeting in
Hurley – the general consensus was that although the Coalition
needed improvement, and long-needed executive changes, it was better
to stay united than to quit.
“We’re back on track… our strength lies in unity,”
As for problems others, including Shultis, brought up about Cross’
having changed the meeting’s time without proper warning several
times, the Shandaken supervisor said he was forced to do what he did
because of a changing schedule by state Senator John Bonacic, who
scheduled a press conference at Belleayre Mountain, in Cross’
home town, at the same time he had originally asked Shultis for use
of his office.
“It did get a little confusing,” Cross admitted.
Shultis said that that Rochester supervisor Pam Duke and he actually
raised the Benjamin Franklin quote about unity in the meeting, and
noted that much of the gathering was focused on keeping Woodstock
and Marbletown from leaving the Coalition as Hardenburgh had.
“Their biggest problem, as (Woodstock Supervisor) Jeremy (Wilber)
put it, is that there’s been no communication about anything
from the executive committee or chairman for years,” Shultis
said. “Cross offered to put information on his Town of Shandaken
website but then Bert Leifeld (supervisor of the town of Olive) said
that wasn’t any good… the Coalition should really have
its own website and do its own communicating.”
Leifeld had been a member of the Coalition’s executive committee
for years until being named as one of two Ulster County representatives
to the less-political Catskill Watershed Corporation last year. His
fellow representative, former county legislator and current Chamber
of Commerce director Ward Todd, loses his seat this May because only
elected representatives can serve on the CWC board, according to its
bylaws. Leifeld was replaced by his fellow board-member Bruce LaMonda.
His seat, along with all representation at the CWT, comes up for election
The Coalition of Watershed Towns first came to light in the early
1990s after the late state Senator Charles Cook provided seed money
to fund a coordinated fight against proposed watershed regulations
being put forth by New York City, which has controlled the region’s
water supply since being granted such authority by the state in the
early 20th century. After the CWT’s efforts resulted in the
reaching of a 1997 Memorandum of Agreement between the City and Upstate
communities, brokered by Governor Pataki, the CWC was formed to administer
upstate regulations and negotiated grant-giving by the city, and the
Coalition lived on as a quiet “watchdog” entity run, for
nearly a decade now, by Windham town supervisor (and former CWC member)
The CWT stayed out of the news until recent years when its Executive
Committee elected first to back involvement in the Belleayre Resort
battles involving Shandaken, and then more recently, to call for a
state legislative amendment removing the word “reservoirs”
from its controversial “Large Parcel” legislature of recent
Cross said neither issue came up at the recent meeting of town supervisors,
with Leifeld saying he’d take the blame for the Coalition’s
involvement in the Large Parcel issue and Cross himself sidelining
into a defense of the Coalition’s involvement in the Belleayre
Resort issue, which came largely at his instigation.
Shultis said that although neither issue was a hot topic at the meeting,
the Coalition’s decision to weigh in on each was what brought
the idea of the entity’s splintering to a head.
As for Cross’ meeting with Fairbairn, designed to try and bring
the renegade long-term supervisor and his town “back into the
fold,” the Shandaken supervisor said that his assurances that
Meehan would be leaving his chairmanship in December seemed to make
Fairbairn, for his part, said he was still declining to join for this
year, and would see how things shook out for the coming year before
making a decision regarding his town’s future relationship with
“I just don’t feel that Pat and the executive committee
are fulfilling the demands of their positions at this time,”
Fairbairn said. “Some changes are needed, especially in terms
The Hardenburgh supervisor faxed over copies of letters he had sent
the Coalition over a two year period about his concerns and noted
that none had ever been answered, or even read into the entity’s
“Considering the exclusionary treatment and lack of explanatiuon
of the CWT toward some of its membership we are curious if its decisions
are truly representative of the majority of its constituency,”
Fairbairn wrote this past winter, declining his town’s continuing
Previous letters complained about the Coalition’s partisanship
regarding the Belleayre Resort project and refusal to listen to other
opinions. They also mentioned that the ongoing New York City-bashing
by the Coalition was counterproductive, given that the City was still,
and would continue to be, a player in local politics.
“We suggest more direct dialog and communications with your
membership. Entities working in concert with each other can negotiate
stronger compromises from all parties from which it seeks concessions,”
he wrote, outlining a request for information on how the Coalition
ever contacted its membership about some of the controversial positions
its taken in recent years, including input regarding Gitter’s
Belleayre Resort project. “I strongly resent Chairman Meehan’s
implication that I do not attend to communications sent to our Town
Board. It is ludicrous that Chairman Meehan places the blame for his
administrative shortcomings on the organization members.”
Meehan noted at the Coalition’s recent April 17 meeting, when
the Town of Halcott also decried his and the organization’s
actions, that the problem was that towns had forgotten what the CWT
did a dozen years ago.
“Women Walking with Chairs” was Mt. Tremper performance
artist Eeo Stubblefield’s first public piece to be presented
locally, and the first of her works to use the element of women in
costumes resembling Muslim burkhas, a potent symbol in the West since
the events of 9/11, when Stubblefield’s art turned political
in response to a war she finds unjust and abhorrent.
On Friday, April 28, her latest creation will hit Woodstock, where
musicians will sing protest songs on the streets while women in black
shrouds, pushing shopping carts and reading newspapers, washing and
hanging pieces of cloth bearing images of Iraqi civilian casualties,
mingle with pedestrians in artist Eeo Stubblefield’s performance
piece, “Oh Say Can You See”. Friday’s performance
will be part of the “Politikai” exhibit opening that evening
at the Varga Gallery. On Saturday, the piece will continue as black-shrouded
performers walk to Kingston along Route 28, arriving at the 2:00 Rally
for Peace, Justice and Democracy, where they will perform around Academy
Stubblefield had created public performances at other locations around
the country and with her teacher, Anna Halprin, in California, but
her local performance pieces were originally private rituals with
small groups of women, designed to generate in the performers experiences
of self-exploration and connection to nature and to each other. The
surreal photographs of the events, which incorporated body paint,
props, costumes, and formalized actions, were sold at galleries, providing
the artist with an income from her art. (She does not make any income
from her anti-war pieces. Any donations she collects are used to buy
materials for performances or sent to organizations caring for civilians
When a Phoenicia gallery owner urged her to do a public event, she
was in the process of “researching the beauty myth,” she
said. “I started contrasting their forced covering with our
forced exposure—how girls are faced with all the imagery of
being a woman, ads showing the ideal of scantily clad women. We have
this concept that in the grand march for freedom, we’re going
to liberate the Muslim women from ‘those godawful burkhas’.
But not all the women behind burkhas want to take them off. I have
done a lot of reading from women in the cultures that wear the burkha
and have found many different points of view. By being behind the
veil, watching reactions of witnesses to my pieces and getting feedback
from other performers, my understanding has been enriched.”
After being traumatized by watching the TV broadcasts of the World
Trade Center burning, Stubblefield turned her attention from women’s
place in society to America’s place in world events. Feeling
that the demonization of Muslims and military attack on Muslim countries
was the wrong response to the 9/11 attacks, she began to conduct research
on the Internet and encountered photographs of civilian casualties
that have been consistently suppressed in the mainstream media. These
images brought her back to the women, now coping with death and destruction
in Iraqi towns. The burkhas took on a new range of symbolic meanings.
“I feel in the last five years, the media has been doing its
best to make Muslims and their dress very controversial,” said
Stubblefied, “as if there’s a terrorist beneath that shroud—either
literally, that they’ve got a bomb under there, or figuratively,
that their husband or child has a bomb. The image of a shrouded woman,
up here in the mountains, where it is not seen, reading a newspaper
in public is exciting to me. It provokes people to feel. What they
feel may startle them into a desire for a deeper understanding, I
Like “Silence is Betrayal”, the Woodstock event will feature
front pages of the New York Times since 9/11, contrasting with images
of civilian casualties printed on white cloths, which the burkha-clad
women will wash and hang on strings reminiscent of both laundry lines
and prayer flags.
“In this kind of performance art, there are no rehearsals or
auditions, so what happens is always a surprise to me, like what weather
will do to a piece,” Stubblefield remarked. As part of the performance
of “All is Lost” in the summer of 2003, she and several
other women in burkhas pushed shopping carts down country highways,
producing what she calls “drive-by art”, imprinting passing
motorists with quick, startling images that linger thought-provokingly.
Outside of Tannersville, the women could see rain approaching. “We
got out a huge tarp that covered all of us and the carts,” she
recounted. “After a while, we realized we were going to be staying
there a long time. We ran across the street to an abandoned building
that was being rehabbed. A worker came out and offered us food, towels,
a roof. The response of the community is part of the piece, and you
can’t predict that. You have to prepare for the worst, what
it might evoke in terms of anger, and plan how to protect yourself
and your performers.”
Friday’s performance will begin at 1:00 p.m. outside the Varga
Gallery, next to the cinema on Tinker Street, where the women will
create a home base with the sense of a village by performing everyday
activities of cooking, eating, resting, washing, as well as reading
newspapers. From their home base, the small tribe will wander into
the town to shop for items the village needs–food, water, clothespins,
newspapers. They will also wash and hang out the printed pieces of
cloth. As in most of Stubblefield’s events, the women will not
speak, the better to immerse themselves in their roles. At the same
time, musicians will set up at locations around the town, singing
In the evening, the women will return to the gallery for the 6:00-9:00
p.m. opening, which will include the movement piece “Bath”
by S.B. Woods, a performance artist based in New York City and Phoenicia.
Woods, shrouded in white, will gradually cover herself in red. Musicians
will continue to play outside the gallery.
By midweek, 13 women had agreed to perform, and Stubblefield was looking
for still more. She notes that the musicians who have joined the piece
are spreading the word, and surprise guests are a possibility. Performers
for either the Woodstock event or the Kingston rally are welcome to
join up to the eleventh hour and may contact Stubblefield at 679-7943.