Correspondence, dormant committees and the increasingly prickly
relationship between Superintendent Bob Cross Jr.'s Republican
majority and the local press were the main themes in an otherwise
perfunctory July town board meeting in Shandaken on Monday,
The town's big issues regarding the ongoing review of
Crossroad Ventures' Belleayre Resort project arose only
momentarily, albeit vociferously, in the form of veiled comments
from both the board and audience, which was lighter than usual.
After a calm meeting start, with Cross reading correspondence
that included congratulatory notecards and funding-oriented
form letters, the supervisor was asked about a letter given
to him on June 9 by environmental attorney Marc Gerstman that
seeks reversal of a 1999 zoning law change that allowed golf
courses in 5 acre residential zones, thus paving the way for
the resort proposal.
"No comment," Cross replied, temporarily moving
on to other questions.
But then the supervisor came back to the subject, like an itch.
"He attacked my wife," Cross said of the letter,
speaking about how he had trouble accepting anything using the
term "respectfully" while simultaneously bringing
up charges of conflict of interest tied to the fact that the
supervisor's wife works for the same group of companies
tied to the resort proposal. "It was a letter to me!"
When asked why he had not brought the letter up as official
business, or distributed it among other town board members,
Cross said he would read it a later date.
Board member Jane Todd asked how the press knew about the letter,
objecting that it involved "matters of privacy"
and should not be discussed publicly.
Several people said they'd either seen a copy of the Gerstman
correspondence in Cross' office, or heard references to
it, and quotes from it, at the ongoing state Department of Environmental
Conservation-adjudicated Hearings Conference on the resort project
underway in Margaretville.
Todd kept pressing for names of who had seen it, and when.
"How did you see this?" she said, noting that she
herself had not seen it.
Cross said that it was his decision not to circulate the letter.
According to Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York
State Department of State Committee on Open Government, it is
up to a supervisor to distribute a letter or not.
Todd mentioned that if Gerstman, a former lead counsel at the
state DEC and one of the nation's leading environmental
attorneys currently representing a coalition of national, state
and local organizations in opposition to the resort, had distributed
the letter in question, he would be hearing from her. She and
Cross each spoke of the letter in terms of its "privacy"
matters, and not its intent seeking a zoning law reconsideration.
Freeman later noted that town officials cannot call charges
of conflict of interest, as Gerstman has included for both Cross
and Todd, libelous or slanderous because of their positions
as public figures.
"These are personal issues!" Cross and Todd repeated
as audience members asked about the matter, and why a 50-plus
paged zoning request had not even been distributed as town business.
It was later learned that copies of the Gerstman letter have
been made available to a number of publications throughout the
region, including the Albany Times Union, Poughkeepsie Journal,
and New York Times.
A quick glance over the document showed a legalistic argument
for reversing the 1999 zoning change because of irregularities
around its passage, including pressure from the current resort
developer. It reads like a warning of later Article 78 material
in expected lawsuits aimed to stop the resort should it gain
permits in its current approval process.
"Address this memo when and as you want," noted
local Republican Club president Gerry Setchko from the back
of the room just before Cross closed discussion of the matter.
Later, when board members and the press asked for copies of
the letter in his office, Cross claimed he couldn't find
it, and then said that he would only release parts of it.
Freeman said all town correspondence is of the public record
and available to anyone in its entirety. He further pointed
out that it doesn't matter who a letter is addressed to.
If it is a request for town board action, the town board needs
to see it.
"What, is he (Cross) the judge of what should be seen?
I don't think so," Freeman said.
In a second imbroglio of the evening, a Daily Freeman and Catskill
Mountain News reporter asked a routine question about recent
old car pick-ups and was told by Cross that none of his questions
would ever be addressed by the town board again.
Jay Braman Jr., the reporter, surmised that the treatment was
the result of a recent editorial in the Daily Freeman taking
Cross to task for poor management skills.
The supervisor has routinely taken other members of the press
to task, including this reporter, for not getting his words
Freeman said, on behalf of the state, that single members of
the public, press or not, can never be singled out by a town
supervisor or board for such treatment. Equality must be maintained,
whether that means all get to talk, or as Cross has threatened
in the past, none.
In other business Monday, the town board lauded the Shandaken
Bicentennial Committee for its hard work and heard a presentation
on the coming weekend's festivities. Councilman Paul VanBlarcum
corrected an earlier resolution regarding his call for super-majority
votes on late resolutions, noting that Cross was correct in
rendering his measure moot because of wording problems.
There was discussion of the town's summer recreation program
and the problem that occurred with the town highway super's
refusal to mow Crossroad Ventures' lands used for soccer
in Mount Tremper. Cross stayed defensive throughout, chiding
Van Blarcum, a Democrat, for "setting him up."
At meeting's closed, the supervisor was asked what was
happening with his plan to form a new committee to look into
passage of a long-awaited cell tower law for Shandaken. Cross
said interest had been low, that he was getting around to it.
And what about the law that was already put together and awaiting
town board approval for the last seven months? The supervisor
said he was waiting to form a committee to look at that.
"I'd love to see it move forward," Cross said.
"I'd like to see a tower built tomorrow."
There was an unexpected presence at a recent special meeting
of the Shandaken Planning Board. Planners assembled to determine
how extensive an environmental review would be needed for a
17-lot subdivision, only to find they had lots of unrequested
Seated in the audience were several neighbors of the 38-acre
site where the homes are planned, along with attorney Marc Grunblatt
and Paul Rubin from a firm called Hydroquest.
As the Planners slowly moved through what is called an environmental
assessment form, both men frequently offered opinions on how
the questions should answered. Adding to the back and forth
were the developers team of Attorney Wayne Graff and engineer
While it is the planning boards job to complete the assessment,
it is not unusual to see lobbying from those who stand to gain
or lose from the results. The assessment is used to decide whether
the project requires a full blown environmental review, a costly
and time consuming process that is meant to identify and solve
problems the project would cause if built. Some projects never
get past the review stage, as it can make a project cost prohibitive.
Based on the results of the assessment, planners could also
decide that no such review is required.
For over an hour planners mulled issues like impact on the community,
the water table, stormwater containment, fire protection, how
steep roads would be, even how much blasting would be necessary
during the one year long construction of the project.
"I guess everything is environmental," said board
Chairman John Horn.
While filling out the assessment form there was much disagreement,
and it took several minutes to reach consensus on each issue.
A lighthearted moment came at the end when planners got to a
question about whether or not they thought the project would
experience public controversy. The entire room immediately shouted
In the end the assessment was incomplete. The developers need
to supply the planners with more details before they can render
a verdict. That information is not expected until august.
After the session Jan Albert, a neighbor of the project, said
she took issue with previous reports on the project and felt
compelled to help organize other neighbors who's quality
of life would be affected by the array of homes that might circle
"There's another side to this," she said.
Accustomed to scenic views unencumbered by other houses, Albert
noted that there is not yet any hint as to what the homes in
the new sub-division would look like.
Last month the developers of the project dropped the number
of homes slated for construction from 25 to 17.
According to Project engineer John Lehman the lots for each
unit would be one and a half acres.
Even though in the hamlet's water district, the subdivision
will rely on private wells drilled for each unit. Lehman said
the water districts current infrastructure could not supply
the project without adding an expensive pumping station to get
the water up the hillside to where the houses are planned.
This matter might be revisited, as Rubin produced a report claiming
that 17 drilled wells would have a harsh impact on the water
supply for the neighbors, some of which already have systems
that run dangerously low.
Onteora's new superintendent, Justine Winters, presided over
her first school board meeting last Monday, July 12, with considerable
calm and wit. She welcomed the re-election of attorney Marino
D'Orazio as the board's president and election of Tom Rosato
as Vice President, replacing Meg Carey, who did not win re-election
this Spring but was in the audience, pleased at the extra time
"It's been busy, but also very welcoming," Winters
said, seated where her predecessor, Dr. Hal Rowe, has presided
for the past 12 years. Resplendent in a light purple business
suit, the former Armenia, NY super said that she and her family
were in the process of moving to a new home in West Hurley,
where the elementary school is being closed down this coming
"We'll be moving in on Thursday," Winters said. "It's
been a busy time. I officially started on July 1, a little over
a week ago, but had already started working before then."
The July board meeting, which will be the last the town holds
on Mondays, now shifting its schedule to the first and third
Tuesdays of each month, was heavily-attended, as usual, but
low on debate and drama.
The main topic of discussion centered around the challenges
now facing the district because of its having been forced into
an austerity budget after two sizable defeats in recent months
that also saw West Hurley parent David Patterson elected to
the board as a freshman trustee.
"The most crucial thing facing the board is trying to get
through the year on a contingency budget with only three elementary
schools," D'Orazio said, introducing a long discussion
about ways in which the district can save on a number of necessary
Among suggestions raised were things such as the use of gravel
for new parking lots instead of asphalt, as well as bureaucratic
ways of allowing capital expenditures for projects deemed necessary
for the health and safety of students.
"We will look into how to somehow lower the costs that
the district has per-student," D'Orazio said. "Even
though we're number one in education in a lot of categories,
that seems to be the one that everyone seems to concentrate
It appeared that, with the new budget, the board will concentrate
on more minute detail over the coming year as a means of meeting
needs with inventive solutions that can still fit within fiscal
Most of the meeting was taken up with passage of routine first-of-fiscal
year business, from annual appointments and designations to
pay scales and the like.
Patterson raised a resolution to rescind the decision to close
the West Hurley school but was rebuffed, after lengthy discussion.
There was no official talk of the district's pending decision
regarding possible implementation of the controversial "Large
Parcel" tax bill that would re-distribute tax payments
from New York City for its Ashokan Reservoir holdings between
all towns in the district, raising taxes in Olive exponentially.
It was expected that subject would be coming up at the board's
next meetings later in July and early August.
It looks like there might a Head Start program in Phoenicia
again this fall. Last month the program was in jeopardy of shutting
down due to lack of enrollment, but according to Councilwoman
Jane Todd a meeting between Head Start officials and herself,
along with County legislator Michael Stock, produced a consensus
that recruitment would continue and Head Start would not close
Closure was threatened when recruitment efforts failed to get
the number of kids needed to make the program feasible, but
Todd said they now have 13 children signed up, and only a few
more are needed.
"We're going to make a push," she said about
upcoming recruitment efforts.
An STS Vote
The Shandaken Theatrical Society, which recently concluded a
successful run of the musical "The King and I,"
will hold it's annual open meeting on Thursday, July 22nd
at 7pm at their theater on Church street. At the meeting, according
to board of Directors president Dorothy Casey, will be an election
to fill four seats on the board.
There are five candidates in the running: Linda Burkhardt, Rene
Stanley, Loretta Jones, Violet Snow, and Robert Cruickshank.
Casey added that STS plans to produce a fashion show next month,
displaying costumes from different eras.
That Jail Mess
An estimate of the money necessary to finish construction of
the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center will not be released
this week, and will instead be given to lawmakers. County Legislature
Majority Leader Mike Stock stated he was comfortable with the
delay, since it will give the consultants, Hill International,
time to produce a more accurate estimate of costs. Representatives
of the project's construction manager, Bovis Lend Lease
of Ithaca, told county lawmakers in May that jail could go as
much as $21 million over budget. Hill International was hired
in part to get a second opinion on the cost of the project.
The Law Enforcement Project Committee's next meeting is
5:30 p.m. July 15 at the Ulster County Office Building, 244
Fair St. Done Him Wrong
An internal investigation conducted by the Department of Health
and Human Services has found that the top Medicare official
threatened to fire the program's chief actuary if he reported
to Congress that drug benefits would likely cost much more than
the White House had stated. A report issued last week says Medicare
administrator Thomas A. Scully made the threat to Richard S.
Foster while legislators were considering considerable changes
in the program last year. Because of this threat, Foster's
estimate did not become public until after the legislation had
been passed. However, the report finds that neither the threat
nor the withholding of data violated any criminal law. Scully
had denied threatening Foster but had admitted that he told
him to withhold the numbers from Congress. Scully resigned in
December, in part to become an lobbyist for health care companies.
When President Bush signed the Medicare bill on Dec. 8, he hailed
it as "the greatest advance in health care coverage for
America's seniors since the founding of Medicare."
Democrats have said the law is more beneficial to drug companies
and insurers than elderly and disabled people. Place Your Bets
Shortline Bus service running between Kingston and the new Mighty
M Gaming hall at Monticello raceway is scheduled to begin this
week. Three trips per day will run between Monticello and Kingston
via state Route 55 and U.S Route 209, with connections to other
destinations available via Adirondack and Pine Hill Trailways.
Round trip tickets cost $20 and include incentives paid upon
arrival at the gaming hall. Charles Degliomini, vice president
for corporate communications with Empire Resorts, which owns
the Mighty M, reported that opening day attendance numbered
22,845, with 650 people coming through the door when the hall
opened at 10 a.m. More On Plame
According to federal law enforcement sources Attorney General
John Ashcroft received several extensive briefings last year
involving the criminal investigation of the unauthorized disclosure
of a CIA agent's identity, during which he learned specific
information about the the potential culpability of several Bush
administration officials. Among other things, Ashcroft was privy
to the details of an FBI interview of Karl Rove, who is President
George W. Bush's chief political advisor. Rove and Ashcroft
have been close friends since Rove advised the A.G during the
course of three of Ashcroft's political campaigns. The
briefings raise questions about whether it is appropriate for
Ashcroft to be involved in the investigation, especially considering
his close ties to Rove. Some senior federal law-enforcement
officials have expressed concerns, stating that past Attorney
Generals have recused themselves in far more nebulous situations
than this. Rove denies that he leaked the name of CIA Agent
Valerie Plame, but admits to disseminating the information after
it was leaked to the news media, in an effort to discredit Plame's
husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.
Researchers said last week that the PSA blood test used to detect
prostate cancer can also predict who is most likely to die from
the disease. The study, which appears in the New England Journal
of Medicine, finds that the rate of increase in a prostate-specific
antigen level may be more important in predicting cancer than
the actual PSA number. The researchers said the results showed
that men need yearly PSA tests so that the year to year change
in the antigen level, called PSA velocity, can be measured.
This means that the yearly change in antigen level is likely
more significant than the actual level. The researchers recommend
men should have their first PSA test at age 35 or 40, to measure
their baseline level, to which subsequent tests would be compared
to. Prostate cancer affects 220,000 men a year and kills around
29,000. New Pressures
This spring, the administration stepped up its pressure on Pakistan
to kill or apprehend Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman Al Zawahiri,
or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed
to be hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Several high
level American officials have visited Pakistan recently to encourage
General Pervez Musharraf's government to increase its efforts
in the war on terrorism, including outgoing CIA Director George
Tenet, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Assistant Secretary
of State Christina Rocca and State Department counterterrorism
chief Cofer Black. However, some have criticized the Bush administration
for insisting that Pakistan captures these targets before this
November's election. The Bush administration denies pressuring
the Pakistanis to come up with these high value targets before
the election, but one source from Pakistan's Inter-Services
Intelligence reported that Pakistan security officials were
told they must deal with these targets before the election.
Congress recently overturned restrictions put in place by the
Bush administration on the contents of gift parcels that Americans
can send to family members in Cuba. The rules, which went into
effect on July 1, were blocked by Congress last week. Under
the restrictions, people could not send clothing, seeds, veterinary
medicine and soap-making ingredients. Bush administration
officials have stated the rules are meant to weaken Cuban leader
Fidel Castro and his government. Opponents say the restrictions
will not effect Castro, and are a politically driven action
meant to win over Florida's Cuban-American voters.
A new study finds that rats fed artificial sweeteners ingested
three times the calories of rats given sugar, which suggests
that sugar-free foods might play a large role in the nation's
obesity problem. The Purdue University study appears in the
July issue of the International Journal of Obesity, and suggests
that artificial sweeteners might disrupt people's natural ability
to regulate how much they eat by differentiating between high
and low calories. Other scientists have dismissed the study
however, stating that alternate studies on people do not suggest
A report released by the National Endowment for the Arts finds
that the number of non-reading adults rose by roughly 17 million
between 1992 and 2002. Only 47 percent of Americans read "literature",
which includes poems, plays, and narrative fiction. "We
have a lot of functionally literate people who are no longer
engaged readers," said NEA chairman Dana Gioia. According
to the report, television, movies and the internet are mostly
to blame. This decline comes despite the popularity of Oprah
Winfrey's book club, and the reading frenzy caused by the Harry
Potter books. In 1992, 72.6 million adults in the United States
did not read a book. In 2002 that number increased to 89.9 million
An analysis by the White House counsel's office has found that
Vice President Dick Cheney illegally stepped in to help his
former employer get a $7 million no-bid contract. Additionally,
Cheney faces criminal indictments for illegal actions conducted
when he was CEO of energy company Halliburton, and the U.S Securities
and Exchange commission is probing an $180 million "slush
fund" which may have been used for bribes. Cheney
is also under investigation by French authorities for bribery,
money laundering and misuse of corporate assets. Amidst
all of this, certain members of the GOP have called for Cheney
to step down as George W. Bush's running mate, including former
NY Senator Alfonse D'amato. Though the White House counsel analysis
has not been made public because of "attourney-client privilege",
those who have read the report say it presents a "devastating"
case against the Vice President.
A new study finds that two ingredients commonly included in
cough syrup are about as effective at preventing coughing as
sugar water. The ingredients are dextromethorphan and
diphenhydramine, an antihistamine. Dextromethorphan is the most
common over the counter cough suppressant, and is commonly abused
by teenagers who use the syrup to get high. "Consumers
spend billions of dollars each year on over-the-counter medications
for cough," said Ian Paul, assistant professor of pediatrics
at Penn State Children's Hospital. Paul was in main author of
the study, which appears in the July issue of Pediatrics, the
journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Delay Way
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has retained lawyers
to defend him in a congressional ethics probe and an investigation
involving Texas' 2002 legislative races. DeLay has rehired lawyer
Ed Bethune, who represented DeLay in a 2000 civil-racketeering
lawsuit against Texas Republicans. Bethune will represent DeLay
in an ethics complaint filed Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas). Additionally,
DeLay has officially retained two criminal defense attorneys,
Bill White and Steve Brittain. White and Brittain will represent
DeLay in an investigation lead by Travis County District Attorney
Ronnie Earle which is probing the actions of a DeLay-founded
PAC. Earle is investigating claims that TRMPAC, founded by DeLay,
illegally funneled corporate funds into the campaign.
The New York State Department of Environmental Protection has
planned more extensive expansion of its Midtown offices. In
December the Kingston Planning Board had approved a 3000 square
foot addition, but the Planning Board will now need to review
the revised plans. According to the new plans, pending approval,
major construction at the Smith Ave. facility will commence
in December and should be completed by 2006. The expansion would
add 150 jobs to the facility, which now has around 100 employees.
The positions would mostly be filled with employees working
elsewhere in the state.
According to Pentagon officials, Defense Department official
John "Jack" A. Shaw conducted unauthorized investigations
of the progress of Iraq reconstruction, and used his observations
to secure contracts for friends. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary
for international technology security, masqueraded as a Halliburton
employee and managed to gain access to Umm al Qasr port after
being denied access by the U.S Military. Shaw also claimed to
be a representative of Pentagon's Inspector General. Shaw
complained to government officials about the quality of operational
efficiency at Umm al Qasr, and also criticized a competition
sponsored by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to
award cell phone licenses in Iraq. In both instances, Shaw convinced
government officials to rectify these supposed problems by giving
multi-million dollar contracts to companies associated with
his friends. Shaw claims a special agreement with Pentagon Inspector
General Joseph E Schmitz allowed him "to wear an IG hat
in Iraq", but sources close to Schmitz state that "Jack
Shaw was never authorized to do any kind of investigation or
auditing on his own." The FBI is investigating these an
other allegations directed towards Shaw.
The Institute of Medicine has recently called for the formation
of a Peace Corp style organization devoted to the battle against
HIV and AIDS worldwide. In a new report IOM has called on international
aid groups to help developing nations prevent the spread of
AIDS and HIV. According to the United Nations, AIDS infected
a record 5 million people last year, and killed 3 million people.
The IOM report emphasizes the need for qualified health care
workers in poor countries where AIDS is prevalent.
Benedictine Hospital has turned down Kingston Hospital's proposal
for a merger. "It was just something that that the Benedictine
sisters don't feel they can do, period," said Kingston
Hospital's interim president and chief executive officer David
Buchmueller. Benedictine is a Catholic and Kingston Hospital
is non-sectarian. In 1998 a similar effort to merge the two
hospitals fell apart following objections to Kingston Hospital's
agreement to follow several Catholic health care directives,
such as the ban on elective abortions. Buchmueller has stated
that Kingston did not offer to abide by these directives in
the latest overture. Under this offer, the two hospitals would
have become non-sectarian. According to Buchmueller the two
hospitals may still reach a looser arrangement which would still
benefit both hospitals without merging.
Commissioner Christopher O. Ward of the New York City Department
of Environmental Protection this week that draft revisions to
the City's Rules and Regulations for the Recreational Use of
Water Supply Lands are now available on the DEP Web site at
www.nyc.gov/watershedrecreation. The proposed revisions will
be presented for comment at public hearings throughout the watershed
T he revisions
address hiking, hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities
on New York City water supply property throughout the Catskills
and in Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester Counties. The City owns
over 112,000 acres in the region for the purpose of providing
drinking water and protecting the drinking water supply for
over nine million New York State residents.
"The existing rules and regulations are outdated and don't
address many of the new opportunities for recreation now available
to the public," said Commissioner Ward. "The rules
were last revised in 1998. They cover fishing, but do not include
provisions for hiking and hunting ˆ activities which began
in the late 1990's ˆ or the multi-use DEP Access Permit,
which replaced the reservoir fishing permit in early 2002."
As part of the revision process, DEP sought comments from user
groups throughout the watershed, including the regional Sporting
Advisory Committees (SACs). The two SACs ˆ one for the
East and one for the West of Hudson watershed ˆ are composed
of representatives from local sporting organizations and recreational
groups, as well as the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
environmental groups and county representatives. Suggestions
from the general public, which were collected through surveys,
letters and comments were also considered and many were included
in the draft.
"We strive to balance water supply protection with providing
recreation benefits to watershed communities and the general
public," Commissioner Ward said. "Anglers, hikers
and hunters who use water supply lands tend to be good stewards
of the land and have been important contributors to the revisions.
We've incorporated a lot of the feedback from recreational users
over the years to improve and clarify the rules wherever we
Notable changes to the rules and regulations include: lowering
the age for recreational access from 16 to 14 years; lowering
the age requirement for adult supervision from 16 to 14 years;
allowing handguns for hunting;
creating a "Public Area" designation to allow access
without a Public Access Permit to areas that have historically
been open to the public in this manner.
Several regulations have been reworked to clarify their intentions,
including the use of waders for fishing, storage of rowboats,
renewal of permits, and the use of life jackets while boating.
Also, administrative fees for the replacement of lost permits
and tags have been added.
The complete proposed rules will be published prior to the hearings
in watershed and City newspapers. They are accessible now on
the DEP Web site at www.nyc.gov/watershedrecreation. Copies
may be obtained from the Department of Environmental Protection,
Bureau of Legal Affairs, 19th Floor, 59-17 Junction Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11373.
The DEP will hold a series of five public hearings to take comments
prior to enacting the proposed revisions. The earliest the new
rules could take effect is 30 days after the last public hearing.
The hearing schedule is:
Wednesday, September 1, 2004, 1-3:00 P.M., NYC DEP, 59-17
Junction Blvd., 6th Floor Lecture Room, Flushing;
Thursday, September 2, 2004, 7-9:00 P.M., Carmel Town Hall,
60 McAlpin Avenue, Mahopac;
Wednesday, September 8, 2004, 7-9:00 P.M., Walton Middle/High
School Auditorium, 47-49 Stockton Avenue, Walton;
Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 7-9:00 P.M., Shandaken Town Hall,
7209 Route 28, Shandaken;
Thursday, September 23, 2004, 7-9:00 P.M., Neversink Town Hall,
273 Main Street, Grahamsville