Ventures’ Belleayre Resort proposalhas already been in the DEC’s
SEQRA review process for approximately five years, a record according
to Crossroads’ Dean Gitter, a Shandaken developer who is also
the main mover behind Mt. Tremper’s Emerson Place and the new
Emerson at Woodstock.
Judge Wissler started his review of the issues involved in the Belleayre
Resort proposal in January, 2004, shortly after the state DEC finally
accepted an Environmental Impact Statement for review after several
years back and forth over draft EISes that numbered in the thousands
of pages. Following a series of heavily-attended public hearings during
the winter of 2004, Wissler heard testimony from attorneys representing
Crossroads Ventures, a consortium of national, regional and local
environmental groups, and several local towns and counties throughout
He reopened the “Issues Conference” briefly this past
January to include two late pieces of information submitted by the
Catskill Preservation Coalition: a “Future of Belleayre Mountain"
document from 1995 with an introductory letter from the former Route
28 Corridor Committee, chaired by Gitter; and the text of a DEC declaration
regarding growth plans for the state-run ski center, which Gitter’s
resort would abut. The CPC has sought to prove that environmental
effects for the Belleayre Resort need to be considered in tandem with
growth plans for the state-run facility.
“We have learned that Wissler will be handing down a decision
this month,” said Michaels this week, after speaking with New
York City Senior Counsel Hilary Meltzer, who represented the New York
DEP throughout the months-long issues conference last summer. “We’d
all be very surprised if there is no adjudication, and the only issue
Judge Wissler has been mulling is which issues will need to be adjudicated.”
Michaels added that, according to Meltzer, any decision by Wissler
can be appealed, to the acting state DEC Commissioner, by either party.
Following completion of the appeals process, or if none occurs, Wissler
will then set a series of hearings for adjudication within four months…
a process that could then take several more months before he adjourns
to make a final decision on the issues being adjudicated.
CPC Attorney Marc Gerstman, former lead counsel for the DEC, said
this week that he’d heard a decision was coming down from Wissler
this month, as well.
“WE’ve heard that it will be anytime from now to the end
of the month,” Gerstman said from his Albany offices. “I
think what’s taken so long is that Wissler’s had to go
through a very complex and lengthy record. As for my expectations
at this point, I think the record supports adjudication for a number
of issues on which there was significant disagreement between experts.”
Those issues, he continued, would likely include concerns regarding
possible effects on, and mitigation of, stormwater runoff, city water
supply impacts, and traffic, among others.
“We’re hopeful,” Gesrtman added. “It was a
good sign that the judge didn’t feel pressured by the applicant
to move quickly through the issues before him.”
Calls regarding the Wissler decision to Crossroads attorneys at Whiteman,
Osterman and Hanna, as well as to Gitter, were not answered.
According to DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach, “There’s
been no decision from the ALJ yet. There were a lot of transcripts
to go through… we haven’t heard anything yet.”
In the past year since the close of the Issues Conference, the Ulster
County Chamber of Commerce and Ulster County Development Corporation
each passed resolutions supporting speedy resolution of all issues,
and no adjudication, which they sent on to Wissler and Governor George
Pataki. Both created considerable controversy in the way they were
brought forth and decided upon.
At the same time, the county legislature passed a resolution seeking
full adjudication of all issues last autumn, then retracted the resolution
after pressure was applied by Crossroads Ventures and its attorneys.
Also causing considerable controversy throughout the last year have
been Gitter’s frequent forays into the local press to decry
the length of Wissler’s decision-making, the entire review process,
and his many opponents.
Back when the Crossroads’ DEIS was first accepted by the DEC
as final, the city DEP countered by stating, in no uncertain terms,
that it would not grant permits that would allow the building of Gitter’s
resort as planned. They have not changed that stance since. Nor has
the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which backed the city’s
position in a formal memo last winter.
Back and forth over the Belleayre Resort proposal has notched up the
heat on Shandaken town board elections for the past six years, as
most recently evidenced by Gitter’s recent outburst at a town
board meeting waving a private e-mail between his detractors, as well
as his ongoing characterization of the loss of his Emerson Inn to
fire as a consequence of “incendiary rhetoric.”
It has also fueled a return to widespread tension between New York
City and the upstate communities that provide it with a majority of
its drinking water, ever since Gitter and his attorneys, who have
deep ties to the Coalition of Watershed Towns and Catskill Watershed
Corporation, held a series of meetings outlining their fears should
his proposal be blocked during the spring of 2004.
Soon after the Issues Conference officially started at 10:14 a.m.
on May 25, 2004, Wissler noted how discussion would likely not end
until late June of last year, with a decision likely by late summer,
or mid-fall at the latest. Appeals of whatever decision was reached,
he added, would likely last into the autumn of 2004, bringing the
whole process to an end in mid-winter, at the latest.
Tom Alworth, director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and
Preservation, as well as de facto head of the ad hoc CPC, said he’d
be surprised for “a project of this size, in this location,
not ending up in adjudication,” and complimented Wissler on
the thoroughness of his review of the recod to date.
“This is how the process is supposed to work,” he said.
Membership in the Catskill Preservation Coalition includes 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.
“Dress up in your best country lass costume, and you
may be a winner,” said Fair Committee spokesperson Maureen Nagy
to Shandaken’s fairer sex, “Contestants will be judged
on imagination and presentation in keeping with the country fair theme.
As for those entering the contest for Mr. Shandaken, Nagy says “contestants
should dress up in "country swain" costume.
Both contests, she adds, are open to contestants of all ages.
Other traditional fair activities are scheduled. The day kicks off
with a parade at 10 am through Phoenicia led by the Ancient Order
of Hibernians Pipes and Drums. Also on the itinerary are a baking
contest, pie-eating contest, face-painting, sack races, horseshoes,
a petting zoo for the kids, and a silent auction. Crafters and local
restaurants alike will be offering their best creations. For music
lovers, Earl Pardini’s band, rock band “Second Nature”,
the Catskill Mountain Pickers, and others will serenade.
A true Shandaken original will be the tube relay race, with tubes
supplied by Town Tinker Tube Rental.
Called Shandaken Day, the idea for the fair came after last year’s
town bicentennial celebration was such a success. Not wanting to wait
another 200 years for a town party, a small group of volunteers got
to work on mounting what it is hoped to be an annual event. The Committee
members are: June LaMarca, Maureen Nagy, Joe Munster, Bob Cross,
Jr., Declan Feehan, Harry Jameson, Laurilyn Frasier,Gene Gormley,
Dakin Morehouse and Robert Stanley.
Like the Bicentennial bash, St. Francis de Sales Parish Field in Phoenicia
will become the fair grounds for a day.
Last week a banner appeared across Main Street in Phoenicia announcing
The organizers are looking for people to set up and help with other
duties. Call June LaMarca at (845) 254-5318.
The break-in marks the
latest turn of events involving a private correspondence between previous
town supervisor Peter DiModica and his advisors. The correspondence
recently resurfaced in the hands of local developer Dean Gitter, soon
after DiModica’s announcement that he is running for the town’s
top job again.
Cross, who notified police of the break in on August 5, spoke about
having made other copies of the correspondence in question, wherein
the possibility of eminent domain was raised in regards to then in-progress
negotiations between DiModica and Gitter over the town’s purchase
of the Pine Hill Water System. Those negotiations ended up successful,
with both parties expressing satisfaction at the outcome, even after
talk of eminent domain came up frequently at the time.
Cross, while showing off a large dead bolt recently installed on his
door, said a file containing the e-mail from Zoning Board of Appeals
member Kathy Nolan to DiModica selectively read by Gitter at the August
1 town board meeting had disappeared. In that file, Cross said, were
copies of another 15 to 20 e-mails written while DiModica was in office
in 2002 and 2003. The supervisor added that nothing else was taken,
although he said he noticed that “things had been moved on my
“The Supervisor’s door was jimmied open,” said Shandaken’s
Officer in Charge James McGrath, who described the crime as a felony
burglary. The break-in, McGrath added, occurred sometime between August
2 and August 5. Police have not yet questioned anyone and have no
“Someone heading back to Big Indian said they saw a light on
in my office window Wednesday night,” Cross said, referring
to August 3. “On Friday, I realized the door handle was loose.”
Cross volunteered that Gitter had gotten his copy of the DiModica
e-mail from his employee Al Frisenda, a former town councilman, who
“found a copy while looking through the Pine Hill sewer extension
file.” Frisenda used to work for the Pine Hill Water Company
when Gitter owned it.
Town Democrats reacted with a mix of concern and disbelief to the
break-in news, as well as a quote in the Ulster County Townsman, the
only paper officially notified of the alleged felony by town police,
wherein Cross noted, “I guess this is our own little Watergate.”
“What a coincidence,” said DiModica of the purportedly
missing e-mails addressed to him. “That’s the very file
that was foiled by us.”
“Foiled” stands for Freedom Of Information law, a federal
statute which says the public is entitled to access to certain documents
or other Government information.
Democrats requested the file, using the FOIL law, after the August
1 town board meeting where Gitter read portions of an e-mail Nolan
sent to DiModica’s private account. On August 5, the day the
break-in was reported, Nolan also attempted to obtain the file containing
the e-mail read by Gitter using FOIL. She also wanted whatever else
might be in the file, which Cross has said he discovered over a year
ago in the presence of his secretary, Ann Davenport, while the two
were moving the location of the Supervisors office. The file was delivered
to Nolan on August 11.
Nolan believes the e-mails are private. Cross insists they are not.
DiModica said last week that he takes issue with an August 11 editorial
in the Townsman, the town’s official paper, suggesting he may
know who committed the crime and urging DiModica to turn the culprits
“Why would we steal a file we knew we going to get anyway?”
DiModica stopped short of accusing Cross or his supporters of staging
the break-in for political gain, as Bush advisor Karl Rove has repeatedly
been reported to have done several times in his career.
“But look who benefited from this… not me,” he said.
“I walked into the diner today and was looked at like a criminal.”
Two weeks after the purported crime, the town’s investigation
continues, though it appears to be hampered by inconsistent and ill-timed
reports on the matter from Cross.
According to McGrath, Cross told police the incident occurred between
August 2 and 5. Cross told reporters, however, it could have really
been on August 1, after the town meeting. Furthermore, Cross told
the Townsman that his secretary, Ann Davenport, had made copies of
the file before it was stolen, but Davenport later told reporters
she did not.
Muddying the case even more is the late reporting of the incident
and resulting contamination of the crime scene. As for an explanation
as to why Cross didn’t report it earlier, he claims he didn’t
notice the file was gone until he went to get it on Friday, but he
also reported that it was clear that things on his desk had been moved
around. Unclear is when Cross, who had been in his office throughout
the week, determined his door had been jimmied, but according to sources,
he had the locks changed before police were even notified so they
could not determine the claim’s accuracy.
A physical inspection of the door showed no signs of forced entry.
All Of One’s Talents
amid the bright colors of her living room, Taylor shaped pieces of clay
for her latest project while she described working as an artist in the
Catskills and the significance of that black-and-white self-portrait.
“One of the hardest things about being an artist is that you spend
such long hours in the studio,” she mused. “It’s very
isolating. You make choices that are counter to the middle-class nuclear
family. It can be difficult and painful. In Phoenicia, many people have
made lifestyle choices to follow their heart and what matters most to
them. I find people here extraordinarily wonderful, both the ones who’ve
lived here forever and the newcomers.”
Having grown up in Connecticut, Taylor spent many years in Manhattan,
which she loved, until her chemical sensitivities drove her out of the
city to Teaneck, New Jersey. There the suburban mindset left her feeling
lonely. On a visit to Phoenicia in January 2001, she fell in love with
the town. Within four months she had bought an old Victorian on Church
Street, and two years later, she moved up full-time.
Her nuclear family consists of herself and Nesha, the tiny black poodle
that goes everywhere with her. “People here cross the street to
tell me how cute my little dog is,” she said. “In other
places, they tell me, ‘Leave the dog home.’ Here they talk
to her. Also people stop by when I’m working. I keep art supplies
here for the kids, and they sit down and work with me. In the winter,
I have a pot of soup on the woodstove for people who drop in. It’s
made being an artist and working alone a lot more comfortable.”
Taylor, who also performs as a clown at children’s birthday parties,
began to have commercial success with her art while living in New Jersey,
where her work has been featured in numerous gallery shows. Here she
shows work at the Phoeniciarts co-op that was created last year and
mounts open shows at their gallery on Main Street. “I feel it
has contributed wildly to the well-being of all artists in the area.
They’ve welcomed everyone to participate in an equal way. People
hang out and get ideas from each other. They’ve broken down the
She first turned to art when she was going through a difficult period.
“I needed to go toward the things that inspired me the most. I
was working with kids and found myself spending nights and weekends
planning art projects for them. I finally dropped out of college and
went to art school. I couldn’t draw at all, but what I had was
a fascination and devotion that has never faded. As I worked, my skills
grew—it’s been hard work and my love for art that made me
Although she is also a writer and musician, with published poetry, several
book projects, and a love for performing, art has been her mainstay,
with work ranging from painting and drawing to sculpture and linoleum
prints. Her Women on Wheels series consists of kiddie cars with the
steering wheels replaced by long necks and heads, covered with papier-mache
and brightly painted. She is currently working on bas-relief sculptures
that she plans to cast in cement, although, typically, she doesn’t
know yet how she is going to do it.
And still that pencil portrait of self and mother, drawn twenty years
ago, remains important. She wanted to capture both the casual tenderness
of the moment and “the less happy shades underneath. There were
difficulties between my mom and me at the time she died. While I was
working on her face, fifteen years later, she came to me in a dream
and said she had been watching me and that she loved me deeply and was
proud of me. People have always responded strongly to this picture.”
An aunt forbid her to show it to her father because of the startling
likeness and the cigarette—she had died of cancer. Strangers have
been deeply touched by it. For the artist, the loving message of the
dream stays with her. It has become part of the drawing.