Tread On Us!
the meeting may go down as something of a local watermark, when the
Phoenicia Elementary community and its increasingly effective PTA
let the rest of the district know its little school wasn’t anything
to be trifled with.
It all started after school principal Linda Sella’s greetings
and presentation on new teacher opportunities, when public comment
– an area given over to Olive complaints about Large Parcel
issues of late – yielded the standing up of a large group of
Phoenicia PTA members behind their president, Tina Harp.
Harp read a formal letter expressing the local group’s unease
with a recent statement by OCS Board President David Patterson, made
at Olive’s Bennett School, in which he went out of his way to
commend the one school while also referring to the newness of the
principals at the Woodstock and Phoenicia schools and suggested that
they follow the positive example created at Bennett.
“The statements Mr. Patterson made are the kind that continue
to divide our school communities,” Harp read. “It will
cause hurt among the many that don’t understand that what was
said was not necessarily intended or accurate.”
Further on in her letter, which takes on the assumption “that
the other two elementary schools do not have community support,”
Harp notes, “The PTAs have been working towards unifying our
three strong, unique and diverse elementary schools to help create
a community within our district. Our goal is to provide excellent
educational opportunities for all students.”
And to the board in particular, now made up of all Olive members,
excepting one Woodstocker: “We hope that as the year progresses,
each of you will get to know all of our school communities and recognize
what each one offers to our district… Together we can stand
strong. Divided we may fail.”
Vanacore, who chaired the meeting, said after Harp’s reading,
“I cannot speak for President Patterson, but I was at the meeting
and I do not believe there was an injurious intent, but all of your
comments are duly noted and Mr. Patterson will get the minutes.”
Harp said she understood what Patterson meant, and said, but kept
at her point regarding the need for boardmembers to be more careful
about their words. After all, they serve an entire district, and not
just one school… or town.
“Our intent was not to say you cannot praise another school,
we do not want schools to be praised and make it sound like the other
schools are not up to par,” said Harp to Vanacore. “Bennett
is a great school, but so is ours.”
Finally, after more back and forth, Trustee Herb Rosenfeld of Woodstock
ended the discussion elegantly.
“I would like to apologize if you were affronted in some way
by the board,” he said.
Later, after the meeting, Sella said that she felt her school PTA’s
presentation was professional and showed strength.
“They do a lot of fundraising for the school and are justly
proud of it,” she said. “They deserve to be acknowledged
for all their efforts.”
She said Harp and others had spoken with her about their anger over
Patterson’s statements and what they were seeing as an unspoken
bias on the part of the new board towards their own town’s elementary
“They felt strongly that if they didn’t respond strongly,
they would in essence saying such statements were okay,” Sella
said. “To compliment is okay. To not compliment is not okay.”
Harp, for her part, later said that there had been discussion about
co-signing the letter with members of the Woodstock PTA, who felt
similarly about Patterson’s statements, and the board’s
directions. But when they wanted to wait for a Woodstock meeting to
make the statement, Harp and the Phoenicia PTA decided to go ahead
at their own meeting.
“We knew Patterson wasn’t going to be there but felt that
was okay because it wasn’t supposed to be embarrassing to him.
We were making a point,” she said.
After the meeting, she added, Vanacore came up to her to thank Harp
and the PTA for not being accusatory.
“But she still didn’t apologize,” Harp added.
The PTA President added that she thought Patterson’s praise
for Bennett was partly an unconscious attempt on the new board president’s
wish to impress his new Olive boardmembers.
But she added that people seem happy to have aired their grievances.
“People were saying we now had an Olive school board,”
she said. “I think the big question, now, is how best to represent
the different parts of this school district.”
That is a question Sella has raised too, talking in recent months
about finding ways of better involving the local community in Phoenicia
“We’re doing well, but we still have this reputation,”
she said. “That can hurt in many ways unless it’s addressed.”
Which seems to have begun…
In other Onteora business, it was announced that the Phoenicia PTA
has created a school-wide effort to help the children affected by
Hurricane Katrina. In a program called “Kids helping Kids,”
beginning September 26, students of the school will collect new children’s
books and send them to New Orleans where the books will be distributed
to shelters in the area.
Up His Allies
With a Coalition appeal probable, the regional entity’s
executive Committee decided last week to up the dues for all its member
communities from $100 a year to $500. They also plan to seek substantial
funding from State legislative representatives.
Right now they only have enough money to stay afloat for the next
year and a half… without any substantial legal battles. With
$117,000 in the bank, and regular bills amounting to $6000 a month,
the funding is needed to get the Coalition out of the financial hole
it has found itself.
The Coalition was once a well-funded organization. When it came together
to fight New York City’s proposed new watershed regulations
in the 1990s, the late Senator Charles Cook (R-Delhi) handed over
his entire budgetary member’s item to the entity for several
years to pay for its fight. Many said it was partly a thank you for
having saved his own position during a grueling three way race for
re-election at the time the issue first arose.
When Governor Pataki helped broker a deal between Upstate and Downstate
New York to avert an expensive legal battle and bring benefits to
both entities in 1997, the Coalition remained in existence primarily
as a watchdog entity and advisory board to the Catskill Watershed
Corporation, which has overseen development projects for the region.
It was essentially re-awakened as a newsworthy organization only last
year when Gitter started going to it to seek its involvement in the
review of his Belleayre Resort proposal.
The Coalition subsequently claimed its inclusion in the Gitter project’s
review process was needed because it believed New York City was overstepping
its authority in the region by fully participating in the review of
The Coalition, like Gitter, maintains that many elements of the project’s
review are home rule issues, and should stay that way, with outsiders
keeping their noses out of local business.
To get the funding needed to launch an attack against DEC Administrative
Law Judge Richard Wissler’s ruling, it is expected that the
Coalitions hopes rest with funding from Cook replacement John Bonacic,
a long time advocate of home rule and apparent resort project supporter.
There are rumblings that any attempts to draw too much attention to
their fight, and funding needs, from member counties and towns will
decimate its membership and effectively dilute its power as a regional
While Gitter has stated publicly that he had no knowledge of the Coalition’s
plans to appeal the state’s decision on his behalf, it’s
likely that his counsel has some indication of what the advocacy group
plans. Jeffrey Baker, the Coalition’s attorney who recommended
his clients consider appeal, is a former associate of Whitemen, Osterman
and Hanna, the law firm handling Gitter’s side of things.
At its annual meeting on Monday, September 19, the Coalition’s
Executive Committee was ready to adjourn when Baker urged them to
discuss the resort and related ruling by Wissler. With no public direction
from any board member, and with no project representative in sight,
the lawyer urged the committee to go into an executive session to
discuss the appeal.
In the end, it was decided that the Coalition would challenge Wissler’s
ruling on what are called Community Character issues, but only if
the municipal planning boards asked them to.
Why the planning boards? Shandaken Supervisor Robert Cross Jr., a
member of the Coalition’s executive committee (whose wife works
for one of Gitter’s companies), said that he believed that Community
Character issues are the planning board’s bailiwick. Therefore,
if the ruling were successfully appealed, he added, they would be
the ones that would review such matters if and when the project comes
before the town for review.
“I’ve talked to (Planning Board chair) John Horn about
it,” Cross said.
The Shandaken Planning Board is expected to discuss the matter at
its October 4th workshop session, slated for 7 pm at town hall.
All entities have until October 18th to file said appeals.
Gitter, too, has said that he plans an appeal of the Community Character
ruling as well.
In the meantime, the pressure caused by Wissler’s ruling seems
to be getting to the usually collected developer and restaurateur,
who spit venom at project opponents in a recent article in the Daily
Freeman, calling them “neo-socialist carpetbaggers who are attempting
to high-jack and re-define our community character and pointy-headed
nerds who spend their lives in cyberspace and not in the real world
In his ruling, Wissler said the following questions about Community
Character remain unanswered: 1. Will the project, an upscale resort
featuring two 18 hole golf courses, two hotels and hundreds of residential
units, overwhelm the existing hamlets and villages to the detriment
of their present quality of life? 2. Should the proposed resort be
reduced in scale or its elements be reconfigured in a manner so as
to avoid this consequence? 3. What, if any, alternative configuration
of the proposed resort can be achieved to assure the resort’s
success and drive the economic revitalization of the hamlets and villages?
Also included in Wissler’s 107 page ruling, which could take
up to two years to receive an appeal decision by the state DEC Commissioner,
was a strong recommendation that the project be “bifurcated,”
or re-thought in terms of its Wildacres/Highmount and Big Indian/Lost
And so, out of tragic
beginnings, was born the Pine Hill Community Center, , a publicly
supported (non-municipal) not-for-profit serving a region that spreads
from Margaretville and Roxbury to Boiceville and beyond. An example
of how alternatives can be set aside for our community's kids... like
Phoenicia once tried. Like Woodstock keeps trying. Doing what our
libraries also do... providing a place of classes and get-togethers,
and not just competitive sports.
"I think it's a good thing to be celebrating this place that's
done so much for the community and provides a place where children
like my Curtis can now go, to keep them occupied," said that
ten-year old's father, Shawn Burnsworth, this week. "Finally,
after five years, what's been created there is being acknowledged.
I think it's a great thing."
After getting up and running in 2000 with the help of such locally
involved residents as Jackie Early and Florence Hemling, who agreed
to rent the fledgling PHCC its home for $1 a year, the Center hired
a director, the much-beloved “Storie Laurie” Barrata.
When Barrata later left, to get married and move to Andes, she was
replaced by local singer/songwriter James Krueger, who has helped
establish the warm, welcoming place as a refuge for kids of all ages,
a place to continue one’s education, and a great venue for concerts,
films and other activities.
Now, five years old, the PHCC provides a year-round calendar of innovative
and diverse programming from workshops and classes in the arts, self-improvement,
dog training, health and more; lectures; concerts; after-school and
summer children's programs; inter-generational programs such as an
oral history project that resulted in the production of a full length
CD and a video; a Farmers' and Artisans' Market every Saturday in
the summer; and now its own web-based community radio station (WCCC
- Central Catskills Community Radio) where youth and adults can develop
and produce their own radio shows.
Among the latest group of volunteers come on board to get the later
effort underway is Julie Greenwood, who recently helped start a Mt.
Tremper based internet broadcast facility and has hosted radio shows
on WKZE and other commercial stations.
They've worked with Margaretville Central School, Phoenicia Elementary,
and Onteora High Schools, as well as collaborating with local organizations
such as the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Kids
in the Catskills, and more. Other future plans include programs that
provide support to those who suffer with depression.
The Pine Hill Community Center's mission statement reads: "The
Pine Hill Community Center is dedicated to enriching the lives of
the people in the Central Catskills Region by providing community-building
activities that nurture creativity and life-long growth."
But more than anything, it's keeping a focus on kids...
"Curtis was a big part of that village," said Burnsworth,
now living in Mt. Tremper, of the impetus behind the Pine Hill Community
Center. "I think every little hamlet and village up here has
got to start thinking what they can do for their children. They should
always remember that things aren't just about adults. What do our
children have, too?"
To celebrate its five years of success, the Pine Hill Community Center
will be hosting an anniversary celebration on Sunday, October 2 from
1 to 3 p.m.. All are welcome to attend. During the celebration a memorial
plaque will be dedicated to Curtis Burnsworth, the ten year old who
tragically took his life in 2000. Attending will be Shawn and Iris
Burnsworth, Curtis' parents.
Please contact the Pine Hill Community Center at 254-5469 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for further information. Food and light refreshments will be served.
And to think... All this from a dream over a cup of tea!
Gulf Coast reconstruction, in figures well over the equally taboo
$150 billion mark.
We wanted to find out what Kunstler felt, seeing things he’d
predicted reported as news.
“How should I put this, it isn’t the end of the world
as we know it but we can see that end from here” he said by
phone from his Saratoga home, where he’s been fielding a slew
of radio interviews all week. “Americans can now feel the pain.
The issues I’ve been raising about us all being nearer the end
of the Easy Motoring era are getting a lot of attention.”
As for the hike in prices, Kunstler feels there will likely be a correction,
albeit not one going under the $3 benchmark again.
“Once that psychological level was breached, retailers won’t
go back,” he said. “Besides, all this reserve material
they’re releasing, sour crude versus sweet crude, can’t
be handled by most of our existing refineries.”
Kunstler, whose book caused its first big stir when excerpted in Rolling
Stone, then heavily blogged, this past Spring, sighed for a moment
before going on.
“More to the point, I think what you’re going to see is
that the natural gas prices – and you have to remember that
50 percent of our housing is heated in such a way these days –
that’s the area where these costs will really be hitting in
three or four months,” he added. “That’ll end up
combining with the high pump prices to really knock the middle class
on its ass.”
Explaining the natural gas market, Kunstler (who regularly blogs himself
at www.kunstler.com) pointed out how such prices have already risen
from a 2003 level of $3 a unit to a current price of $12 a unit, now
expected to jump another $4 in the coming weeks.
“Watching all this unfold, I’m not sitting here trying
to prove I’m right,” he says. “But what’s
happening is an exqulisite example of what the subtitle of my book’s
He talks about how our lack of planning for a future beyond oil dependence,
along with suburban sprawl and bad environmental policies, has left
us all susceptible to a vortex of problems that will just keep getting
“It would be tragic, for example, for the people along the Gulf
Coast to now be led into re-investing whatever wealth they have left
in this same form of infrastructure that has no future,” Kunstler
says, in measured words. “People have to start re-thinking where
they live, not in terms of regions but in terms of how far they commute
each day, how far they are from both essential services and agriculture.”
“There’s just so much potential right now for disruptive
events of so many kinds,” he added. “Maybe we shouldn’t
expect a slow and steady march into the Long Emergency of our oil
supplies ending any more. Maybe, once we get past this blame-orama
phase, we need to really start looking at how we all live in this
Kunstler pauses, before entering a new subject we’ll not go
into here: the liquidity, or lack of same, of our nation’s mortgage-based
“What it all adds up to,” he says, “Is the end of
this Easy Motoring age. Get ready...”
Out With A Heart
“They were about
in inch long and weighed less than an ounce, eyes closed, mostly bald,”
Rowley said. By early September, she was cuddling the now furry, sharp-snouted
creatures, letting them climb onto her shoulders and around her neck,
as possum babies do on their mother’s back. Now that they are
almost three months old, she is preparing them for release. “Now
I have to unsocialize them. It’s painful, but they don’t
need a cuddly mommy any more. I handle them very little, and when
I do, I wear gloves.” In the daytime they stay outside in a
dog kennel furnished with a chunk of wood and a potted plant. At night
they have to come back to their indoor cage because of the danger
from passing bears and raccoons. In mid-October, they will be released
in the woods.
Earlier in life, Rowley lavished her nurturing skills on a daughter,
who now lives in Colorado, and the patients she tended as a nurse
at the University of Colorado Hospital for twenty-five years. She
now works part-time as a home health nurse. She has always loved animals.
Two years ago she saw in the newspaper that a test for licensing wildlife
rehabilitators was being given in three weeks. She called the state
Department of Environmental Conservation, ordered the study materials,
and passed the test.
For a while, she assisted Kristine Flones of Ravensbeard Wildlife
Center in Bearsville. Flones, an experienced rehabilitator, is her
mentor but is no longer taking animals. Rescued creatures need such
intensive care that most rehabilitators eventually burn out, but their
advice becomes indispensable to the next wave of caregivers. Denise
Edelson of Woodstock is another such mentor. When Rowley called a
vet for help with a sick robin, the vet advised her to take it to
Baby birds are among the most labor-intensive patients. This spring,
Rowley received seven baby wrens from a woman who had been monitoring
their nest. She had heard the screaming of the nestlings between feedings,
interspersed with periods of well-fed quiet. When the screaming didn’t
stop for twelve hours, she knew something had happened to the mother.
“Never take the babies away if the parents are still alive,”
cautioned Rowley. “Parents will leave babies for periods of
time. With fawns, it could be eight hours or more.”
In this case, it was clear the infants were no longer being fed. The
woman took the nest from the nest box and brought it to Rowley. There
were three babies on top, and four hidden beneath them, all in a nest
smaller than a teacup. “This lady has white hair,” Rowley
said, “and there was white hair woven into the nest, along with
little pieces of feather.”
The tiny wrens were in grave danger. “They had no feathers,
their eyes were closed, and they were all mouth—gaping, screaming
mouth. It was touch and go for a while.” Using a complex recipe,
she made a special formula of food to make sure they got enough calcium
and phosphorus, and then fed them individually by putting a dab of
food on the end of a thin wooden stick and inserting it into each
gaping mouth—every twenty minutes, around the clock. “You
don’t have a life,” she recalled.
A mistake many people make is to feed baby birds liquids, which can
easily be diverted into their prominent tracheas and slip into the
lungs, killing the birds, she said. Another important requirement
is to keep the nest warm.
After ten days, when the wrens were flourishing, she put the nest
in a cage and set it on her porch in the daytime. Across the street
a mother wren had a nest and could be seen flying in and out with
food for her own babies. She began to visit the porch and throw bugs
and crickets into the cage for the squawking orphans. As they grew
and began to flutter and perch near the bars of the cage, she would
put food directly into their mouths.
Rowley took the little wrens to her sister’s fenced-in garden
so they could practice flying, which they learned to do readily. Once
she was sure they could fly and could pick up food on their own, she
released them in front of her house with the mother wren in attendance.
She still leaves a bowl of mealworms on her porch, and her former
charges visit for snacks.