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The CWT is distinct from the Catskill Watershed Corporation, , following
the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement brokered by New York Governor George
Pataki between New York City and the Coalition for Watershed Towns,
which had been formed by town supervisors from throughout the New York
City watershed as a means of fighting New York over its proposed watershed
regulations on a legal basis in 1995. The CWT has continued under the
direction of former CWC board member Pat Meehan for the last eight years,
holding monthly meetings and occasionally providing larger support to
Catskills towns facing issues bigger than they feel they can handle
alone. To date, that has included chiming in on the 5-year reassessment
of the MOA three years ago, and a lot of advice that has not beget action.
to Meehan, Gitter met with Coalition directors in an unpublicized meeting
in the Delaware County village of Margaretville last Friday, May 14.
On Monday, May 17, the Coalition then passed resolutions in support
of the project, and said they would ratchet up their ongoing dialogue
with New York City Department of Environmental Protection officials
by threatening lawsuits and trying to bring the Governor's office in
to mediate a compromise that would allow developments such as Gitter's
in the Catskills.
Coalition was referring to official comments submitted by the City DEP
to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for consideration
in an official Issues Conference, which will determine areas for adjudication
over the coming months, as well as to unofficial statements made by
DEP Commissioner Christopher Ward that he could not see the city ever
permitting Gitter's project as presently proposed.
also referred, at their official monthly meeting at CWC headquarters,
to similar comments from the federal Environmental Protection Agency
as "overstepping bounds" and promised to censure the federal
government for stepping on "Home Rule" as well.
our part to provide a counterweight to all the environmental groups
that have lined up with the City and EPA against this project,"
CWT attorney Jeff Baker said of the need for "drastic moves,"
and referring to a Coalition of 11 national, state and local environmental
groups that has formed to seek full party status at the upcoming hearings.
in the project-specific Catskill Preservation Coalition are the
Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited,
Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Inc., Hudson Riverkeeper, Friends of Catskill
Park, Zen Environmental Studies Institute, Inc., the New York Public
Interest Group (NYPIRG), Catskill Heritage Alliance, the Pine Hill Water
District Coalition, and the Catskill Center.
Issues Conference everyone is referring to begins May 25 with discussion
of procedural matters, wastewater issues and mining permit issues; continues
on May 26 with site visits by Administrative Law Judge Richard Wissler
and his staff; and finishes its first round on May 27 with discussion
of traffic issues. The conference continues on June 8 with discussion
of visual and noise impacts; talk about community character issues and
alternatives to Gitter's plans on June 9, and discussion of possible
impacts to the Catskill Forest Preserve, wildlife and habitat, and general
forest conditions on June 10 and 11. The current round of conferencing
is currently set to finish up June 23 to 25, with discussion topics
currently scheduled to include various water issues.
conference dates and scheduling is open to change, and many feel the
entire process could be extended into the summer.
week, Gitter and his consultants submitted hundreds of pages of new
Draft Environmental Impact Statement material answering problems raised
by the City DEP and other agencies to date, causing considerable concern
from project opponents who claimed that they were changing the playing
the environmental Coalition's attorney, Marc Gerstman, said this week
that such moves are simply "par for the course." "Projects
evolve," he added, saying he had sent on the changes for review
long-time supervisor of the Greene County town of Windham, said that
he had recently held a meeting with Ward to go over issues including
a long list of brewing complaints from the last few years, as well as
the Belleayre Resort project. Those included DEP policing jurisdiction,
which Meehan said both parties would take to the courts to decide; city
land acquisition policies, which he felt were resulting in the DEP buying
too much; hunting and snowmobiling rights on city lands, which he doesn't
feel New York appreciates as "an historic use;" and a whole
set of issues brought up in private calls from Gitter and his staff
to Coalition members.
latter were reflected in the resolution passed Monday night, which read,
portions of the DEP comments on the Crossroads Ventures DEIS on the
Belleayre Resort are beyond the original scope of the DEIS, unreasonable
by insisting the project eliminate all golf courses which are the major
component of the project, and are an infringement on the authority of
local municipal comprehensive plans, regulations and their consideration
in relationship to SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) and
therefore a direct attack on Home Rule; and whereas the DEP comments
also represent an emerging pattern of economic development restrictions
by: inaccurately asserting that the 1997 Watershed Regulations prohibit
post-development water quantity and quality loadings from exceeding
pre-development levels; by further falsely asseting that the MOA (Memorandum
of Agreement) sought to prevent growth 'on steep slopes or at locations
outside of population centers on large tracts of undeveloped land with
mature forests;' and by exaggerating the environmental significance
of potential additional growth from the project; and whereas these actions
are a threat to the intended spirit of the MOA whereby water quality
protection and economic development 'are not inconsistent'' Now, therefore
be it resolved, that the Coalition of Watershed Towns gives notice of
its opposition of the DEP DEIS comments that use the SEQRA process and
non-water quality-related issues to impede development and considers
this a serious breach of the intent of our partnership and a continued
obstruction to economic development."
comments ask the state DEC to reject all of the DEP's comments for overreaching.
whether the CWT was serious about suing New York City over the Belleayre
Project, Meehan spoke about there being many issues and added that the
subject was discussed at the "executive session" attended
by Gitter on May 14.
how we got where we are today," said Meehan.
haven't seen what they passed yet," said City DEP spokesman Ian
Michaels on Tuesday. "However, we would be hardpressed to understand
what their concerns might be. We are fulfilling our responsibilities
under the MOA and to half the people in the state."
to Gitter went unanswered.
supervisor Berndt Leifeld, the only official Ulster County representative
at both meetings (Shandaken supervisor Bob Cross Jr. having no official
role in the CWT as of now), questioned whether fighting the City, and
by extension the federal EPA, might not break the Golden Egg that's
brought millions in economic development funds to the region in recent
years. He also asked if it wouldn't be prudent to allow individual towns
to discuss the resolution before passing it, noting that his home, and
neighboring Woodstock, would likely go against such a move.
the final round, Leifeld went along with the rest of the CWT on both
the resolution and the move to apply for party status, even though the
deadline had passed a month ago. Baker said he would argue that the
CWT could not have known it would need to be involved until the City's
comments were released the day before the deadline.
you don't look all that enthusiastic," Meehan said to the Coalition
board at meeting's close. "Let's all see if we have some fight
left in us now'"
At the high school on Tuesday, a clutch of West Hurley
parents, who will be losing their school in the coming year, was gleeful
at the outcome of the day's voting.
Town by town, the proposed budget received 188 yes votes versus 353
nays in Shandaken, 304 yeses to 696 nays in Olive, 379 yeas versus 449
nays in Woodstock, and 319 yeses against 529 nos in West Hurley.
The specter of the large parcel issue drew a much larger-than-usual
electorate in Olive this year. The proposed closing of the West Hurley
had a similar effect on voting turnout in that part of the district.
"It's a big mistake for people to vote down a budget as an expression
of dissatisfaction with the board because it only hurts the students,"said
retiring Superintendent Hal Rowe, who finishes his years of work at
Onteora on July 1.
Budgets also went down in 2000 and 2001.
The budget recommended by the school board and administrators represented
a projected average tax increase estimated at nine percent. Cost increases
came from hikes in required contributions to employee retirement funds,
whose investments are performing poorly due to last year's stock market
decline; rising health insurance costs; contracted staff salary increases;
and the need to restore repairs and upgrades cut from last year's budget.
Augmenting the financial stress, Governor Pataki has recommended adding
only $12,000 to the state aid package, as compared to last year's increase
of almost $1 million, while state mandates for special education and
standardized test performance also go up. The closing of the West Hurley
school is estimated to save a total of $781,000, although parents at
the budget hearing noted that $200,000 of that amount, accounting for
the salaries of four teachers, will be eliminated due to the elementary
enrollment decline in any case.
alternative budget with a lesser increase of 4.3 percent eliminates
the same items as the six percent budget, as well as cuts in academic
intervention for students in danger of failing, elementary summer school,
afterschool programs, and field trips.
both budgets are defeated by voters, the district will be forced to
a contingency budget with a maximum increase of 2.76 percent. In addition
to the cuts listed above, probable reductions will include the middle
school assistant principal, more remedial programs, the high school
G.E.D. program, sports, the enhanced nutritional lunch program, maintenance
and secretarial staff, and all equipment purchases.
school board meetings have been stormy, with a group of West Hurley
parents repeatedly accusing the board and administrators of mismanaging
the district and spending excessive amounts in per-pupil costs, particularly
in the area of special education, which is slated to go up by 12.8 percent
or almost $1 million. Business administrator Chuck Snyder has promised
to present, in June, a detailed comparison of Onteora budget figures
with those of nearby districts.
her qualifications, Carey had cited six years' experience on the school
board, participation in the Woodstock PTA and shared decision-making
teams, and her previous work as a teacher.
school boardmemberDavid Patterson said he had combed the budget and
come up with $1.2 million in cuts that would allow the West Hurley school
to remain open without eliminating any programs. With the drop in enrollments,
he suggested that fewer administrators would be needed, and he questioned
line items that referred to textbooks for West Hurley students and for
directors of secondary and elementary education.
a father of seven, is a communications products salesman who has spoken
out against the closing of the West Hurley school and has accused the
administration of fiscal mismanagement and poor communication with the
public and with staff. His goals are to make sure the consolidation
of elementary schools is properly handled, institute long-range planning,
and repair divisions in the community.
He started out being funny kid
who turned into a funny man. When he was in high school, the only
way he survived was with the help of his English teacher, who saw
he had "a gift and a talent for something." The teacher
also taught drama and encouraged Raiola to do what he loved. And what
he loved was combining theater and comedy. Raiola would write pieces
and have people (including himself) perform them.
He started writing comedy pieces for a living.
Then his partner saw an ad for writers in the back of The National
Lampoon "Playboy" Parody, calling for new comedy writers.
Raiola's partner answered the ad and was hired on the spot. When he
found out there was another opening, he landed a job for Raiola. The
parodies were Raiola's first professional magazine work, where he
was both writer and editor. He stayed with National Lampoon for a
few years and then, around 1984, saw an ad in the New York Times and
the Village Voice, calling for writers for MAD.
He had honed his sense of humor before starting
to read MAD, and his sensibilities just clicked with the magazine.
But he had never imagined writing for them.
"I was a good audience for MAD,"says
Raiola, referring to the magazines bent for combining sarcasm and
political insights. "And it was,
ŒWow, man, let's see if I can write for MAD.'" His friend
and he started submitting material and their pieces were bought.
"I was like, okay, here's another place to
sell my work," Raiola recalls. And he was in the right place
at the right time. The longtime editor, Ed Alfalstein, who'd been
at MAD roughly thirty years, stepped down and Raiola and his partner
were hired because they had magazine experience with National Lampoon.
After writing for MAD for about a year, they were urged to make the
staff younger. Eventually Raiola made his way up the ladder and is
currently a senior editor.
Which brings up another MAD topic:
"Who in the world is Alfred E. Newman?"
He laughs, "No one knows. I will show you..."
He gets up and goes to get a book about tarot cards from his bookshelf.
"I can give you the uninteresting answer, which is that the character
goes back to the nineteenth century. He originally appeared in an
ad for a dentist that said What Me Worry? Painless Dentistry. That's
as far as MAD can trace it back. He became Alfred E. Newman when MAD
adopted him in 1954. Someone at the magazine was a fan of the movie
composer Alfred E. Newman (who is Randy Newman's dad), and he named
the mascot. To me, what Alfred is, is a modern imagine of the fool.
That's what that character is. No one knows where that gap-toothed
kid originated--- MAD didn't invent him. The fool is an interesting
character. The thing about the fool is he dances on the edge of a
cliff seemingly unaware that he's about to go off and this dog is
warning him, Œhey, be careful.' But there is always a wisdom
to the fool. There's a famous (William) Blake quote that the
fool who persists in his follies shall become wise. There always seems
to be a method to the character's madness, a certain kind of sensibility,
a MAD sensibility, if you will, in the character itself that hopefully
inspires us." With that, Raoila starts laughing... has he answered
Along with MAD, Raiola is best known for his comedic
and theatrical pieces, The Joy of Censorship and Almost Obscene, which
he describes as "passionate, angry, honest, and funny."The
Joy of Censorship began when a librarian needed someone to come in
a give a talk about the first amendment. Almost Obscene is based upon
many different elements, including God, politics, and since it sprang
from the Joy of Censorship, censorship.
The thing about Joe Raiola is that no matter how
much rage is in this man, what really shines through are the other
elements--- the appreciation, the love and the joy pop like a sundae
If one day you decide to go hiking in the Shawangunk
Mountains and happen upon a man who seems extremely at peace, chances
are you've just met Joe Raiola.
You can catch Joe Raiola in Stockbridge, Massachusetts,
Memorial Day weekend (Sunday, May 30 at 3:00 pm at the Main Stage
of the Berkshire Theatre Festival) where he will be performing the
Joy of Censorship. Starting on July 29-31 and running weekends
for three weeks at the Unicorn Theatre of the Berkshire Theater Festival,
you can catch him doing Almost Obscene. www.berkshiretheatre.org