We moved to New Paltz some 35 years ago. I love this town. It is my home now.
I have a great respect for the police force and our fire fighters.
But I deplore the move of the police department to South Putt. Was there REALLY no way to expand and improve their space in the location where they have been all these years?
In private conversations I refer rather rudely to the decision to move the force so far from the business and residential district. Publicly, let me say that I think it is both imprudent, and impudent, to relocate the headquarters so far away from where the action is. I hope we residents and our businesses will not suffer damages from this action.
Veils of smoke
Protecting the environment and promoting public health and safety are fundamental responsibilities of government. This basic principle applies even to such a seemingly unimportant local issue as the permit for a hookah bar -- a smoking lounge -- on Main Street in New Paltz. This seemingly minor issue takes on great urgency when we realize that the New York State Legislature adopted the Clean Indoor Air Act to protect nonsmokers from exposure to second-hand smoke (“environmental tobacco smoke”) indoors. Moreover, the Ulster County Legislature, in keeping with strong evidence that it is a serious hazard even in cases of outdoor exposure, enacted a smoking ban at all county-owned facilities, indoors and out.
We can now ask: Can the village’s Planning Board review a permit for a smoking lounge that may have been issued in error? At its first hearing on the proposal for a hookah bar (in 2009), the only speakers in attendance testified on behalf of the landlord and the tenants. It is striking to note who was absent from the hearing. Families living in nearby homes within the plume created by the bar’s smoke emissions were absent. Health professionals and New Paltz Middle School teachers and administrators were absent. Local voters and taxpayers, dismayed by the prospect of onlookers beholding a stand-alone “magic cottage” with the enticing name of “Aladdin Café and Hookah Lounge,” were absent. Representatives from local and regional organizations, engaged in health education to reduce the rates of heart disease, cancer and other afflictions caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, were absent. Residents concerned about the quality of life in the village were absent. Why were these speakers conspicuously absent from the first hearing, yet present at the second one? The trouble with the first hearing was that the address on the application for a permit was incorrect. Although not legally required to elicit comments from adjacent homeowners and residents, the Village Planning Board sent out notifications, but not to those living in close proximity to 184 Main Street. The notifications were sent to homeowners next to 189 Main Street -- some distance away from the actual site and on the opposite side of the street.
At the second hearing, attorneys for the owner and management took the position that the incorrect address stated on the application was “only a typo.” In fact, it had profound consequences for the applicants, for the adjacent homeowners and nearby residents, and for the integrity of the Planning Board’s own decision-making process. What seems to be a mere technicality actually prevented the applicants themselves from hearing (1) the intense objections to their plans among families in the immediate vicinity of their prospective place of business; (2) the testimony from health researchers about the hazards associated with exposure to secondhand smoke -- even when occurring outdoors; (3) educators and school administrators concerned with the psychological, cultural and legal issues inherent in the building’s close proximity to the New Paltz Middle School; and (4) local and regional organizations concerned with synchronizing the village’s policies with the declared objectives of New York State and Ulster County to promote smoking cessation. This “mere technicality” prevented the concerned individuals and groups just noted from presenting their testimony at the first hearing on the application. Last but not least, it also prevented the Planning Board itself from hearing crucial and well-informed testimony against the proposal.
The Planning Board’s only rational and responsible recourse was to do exactly what it did: reconsider the application process at a second hearing and ensure that proper notifications were sent out so that all interested parties would be aware of the hearing and have an opportunity to state their views. The Planning Board acted in good faith as a component of democracy at the grass roots level. At the second hearing, attorneys for the applicants made some remarkable declarations to the Planning Board. They declared that (1) the Planning Board did not have the authority to conduct a second hearing about the application, for its review of the application process and the consideration of additional testimony were illegal. (2) The Zoning Board of Appeals did not have the authority to revoke the permit for the hookah bar despite inaccuracies and deficiencies in the application process. (3) The New Paltz Police did not have the authority to close the bar even though adjacent homeowners were having verified and demonstrable health problems due to the bar’s emissions of second-hand smoke. (4) The homeowners, concerned parents, school administrators, teachers at the middle school, medical technologists and representatives from local and regional organizations devoted to smoking cessation, however well intended they might be, were wasting their time by testifying against an enterprise that was already a done deal, an irrevocable fact of life. Indeed, major sectors of the larger community (public agencies, homeowners, educators, school administrators, health professionals and representatives from local and regional organizations) were being told that they don’t know what they are doing. The members of the Planning Board were extremely gracious to listen to this extensive and outrageous tongue-lashing without responding in kind.
What appears at first glance to be a legalistic controversy about a building permit, then, is really an issue at the heart of democratic governance: Does a lawfully constituted village agency have the authority to protect children from enticements (e.g., to consume tobacco products) that are harmful even when used in the customary and usual manner? Or can commercial developers and investors ride roughshod over laws aimed at protecting public health and safety? Have the hookah bar owners considered the possibility of establishing a business that would enjoy local support and be consistent with public policy? What about a fresh fruit and vegetable juice bar at that location, for example? Although this question is posed in the spirit of reconciliation, it seems that they, like the Marlboro Man who succumbed to lung cancer, would rather fight than switch. This controversy is therefore a test case as to whether this community does have control over its own destiny.
King of the pork
It’s sometimes nice to know that your federal representative in Congress shines at something, but not when it’s being tops at bringing home the pork in the form of earmarks. Maurice Hinchey ranked 38th out of 435 congressmen in bringing home over $55 million in taxpayer-funded bacon in fiscal year 2010. It’s time to turn off the money faucet and stop Maurice from using our hard-earned tax dollars to buy votes. George Phillips vows to shun unethical earmarks, and I ask you to stand with me to support him at www.electgeorgephillips.com and retire Maurice Hinchey.
I would like to offer my congratulations to New Paltz Police Chief Joe Snyder, Lieutenant Steven Osarczuk and the entire New Paltz Police Department on their new headquarters. It was a long time coming and much more than well-deserved.
Finally, let’s pay our respect to those on the front line protecting us from the worst of society and the large share of them that find their way to our community. Now this finely trained police department has a clean, safe, airy and proper environment.
Kudos also to Supervisor Toni Hokanson, who in my opinion walks the walk and talks the talk.
Many before Chief Snyder and Supervisor Hokanson bemoaned the poor facilities our police department had to suffer through, but under these two leaders and the support of the more sensible Town Board members and community voices, we now have a police headquarters to be proud of, finally.
Hats off to Sam Granieri and the rest of Mike Nielson’s highway department, who labored in this intense heat to finish the parking lot and driveway blacktop. Bravo and a cold water for all of you good community workers.
Enjoy the new digs, fellas, you have certainly earned my respect and the respect of a grateful community.
This leadership by the Town Board should serve as a prime example to the dysfunctional “government” in the village on how to improve morale, support loyalty, encourage professionalism, so the village “government” can repair our fractured volunteer fire department, too.
Neighbors helping neighbors
In the June 17 issue of the New Paltz Times, there was a letter of thanks from Laurie Hedlund entitled “Community Cares.” I have to whole heartedly agree! I have been a Paltzian for my whole life, (with a few moments in the surrounding towns). I love my hometown and I have always appreciated the wide variety of eclecticism of interests and ideas, concerns and causes that our citizens have.
We are very lucky that we have neighbors that care enough about their community to volunteer to protect our town. To only name a few -- there are those that volunteer for the Town Board, the Planning Board, the volunteers that join in for the town clean-up, the volunteers of our Fire Department and those that volunteer for our New Paltz Rescue Squad.
I am sure that it was merely an oversight that Laurie did not mention that Jim, David, Deb, Beth and Dom are members of New Paltz Rescue Squad. NPRS has come to the “rescue” for myself and my family, for many friends and their families. They have always been professional, courteous and calming in what can be the most frightening situations that we find ourselves in. It is nice to know that our neighbors care.
“Neighbors helping Neighbors.” It’s a good motto for the citizens of New Paltz.
A thinking universe
In the July 1 issue of the Almanac, an article appeared by Bob Berman. The author gives three explanations for the mystery of the universe.
However, he gives little credit to God for his creation. I am called to answer the author’s article as follows:
Most of us know that out there is a thinking universe. Whatever name we want to give it: God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, Allah, The Great Spirit, etc. is irrelevant. The universe was and is created through the “Law of Mind.” The law under which all things are brought forth. The Divine Mind created by thought, through ideas. Creation takes place through the logos or word. God is thinking the universe into manifestation right now. The beginning is always now, since it has to do with the eternal, and not with time. The law of the Divine creation is the order and harmony of perfect thought. The mind that has begotten the idea, of course, is greater than the idea. When one ceases to cling to worldly ideas -- the overcomer finds the one luminous presence left with him. It is then that new mental qualities come to take the place of the old ideas.
We sometimes find within ourselves states of consciousness that have been inherited from the human side. In the subconscious region of our own nature we find these inherited conditions holding in abeyance some natural function, these, when released by the word of truth, liberate waves of emotion, which are not always wise or stable. The emotions are not to be depended on. They pour out a flood of praise and adoration one moment and a whirlwind of censure the next. When they are not trained and established in Divine understanding, they are moved by every passing thought.
Let’s meditate in peace on one profound testimony that all religious beliefs hold. “Be still and know that “I AM.”
To Marlborough residents
As a councilwoman, I read a statement at the July 13, 2009 Marlborough Town Board meeting. At the Town Board meeting of June 28, it appears that my suggestions are finally being taken to heart as Mr. Cerone announced he will be working with Newburgh to investigate keeping our aqueduct source, as well as working with Lloyd. He said he plans on traveling to Albany to see what is available to fund our efforts. I don’t know if Mr. Cerone read the past minutes or just heard the many voices of concerned water users over the past few weeks. That matters not. I appreciate the fact that the Town Board is moving forward and pursuing a bigger study on the issue. Part of my July 13, 2009 statement read:
“The decision we make at this point in time regarding Marlborough’s water source will affect our residents for decades to come, if not forever. I am sure that every board member will agree that this is not a decision to be made lightly. I maintain that our main question should be: “How can Marlborough become self-sufficient in its water supply?”
I need more information, as I’m sure the rest of you do, to make informed decisions on this issue. Our residents deserve to know we have investigated all of the possibilities and the costs associated with each one. While we pursue our relationship in working with Highland in the possibility of linking with them for a primary and/or a primary and secondary water source, we should continue our research on providing water to our residents.
I need to know how the State will be conducting the shutdown of the aqueduct and what provisions they will be making to insure adequate water supply to all of its present users. The Delaware aqueduct serves many more towns than Marlborough and Newburgh. Ultimately, it delivers water to New York City. Because of this, I see our position as only part of a regional situation. It seems logical that other towns will need to be investing millions of dollars in solutions for providing water when the shutdown occurs, proving my supposition that this issue merits a regional outlook and a regional investment in its handling. Perhaps if we can approach it from a regional viewpoint, we could obtain much more funding AND maintain our present water supply from the aqueduct. Then we can make informed decisions on how we can best provide secondary water supply to Marlborough and be less dependent on another township for our total water supply.
I propose a meeting, hosted by Marlborough, to find out more information and to work on a regional approach that would save every town money in providing this essential service. I ask the board to consider my suggestion.”
A year later, my concerns and questions remain. But I am encouraged and I look forward to the board’s next report on their progress with Newburgh and Lloyd. Perhaps Marlborough can have it all, after all.
Addressing an important environmental issue
At the urging of Julia Walsh -- activist and project director of Frack Attack -- I contacted New York State Senator Thompson’s office to speak at the State Senate Environmental Commission meeting in Albany. Public comment is not allowed on a bill that is not on the agenda. However, I was fortunate enough to be given special privilege to speak on behalf of environmental groups on the need for a moratorium on issuing DEC permits for hydro fracking.
I would like to share what I said at the meeting. It is imperative that people start to educate themselves on a critically important environmental issue confronting the state and nation.
“I am here on behalf of many organizations to speak about a bill that is not on the agenda but should be: The Englebright/Addabbo bill, which would put a moratorium in place on issuing gas drilling permits until the federal government concludes their scientific study.
Last week a New York City public school had antifreeze fed into the school’s water system causing the children to drink contaminated water out of the fountains. The children were rushed to the hospital.
Now imagine that the water was contaminated with toluene, ethylene, methane and 500+ other undisclosed chemicals that are used in horizontal gas drilling. If this were to happen, I am not so sure these kids would get out of the hospital.
Yesterday, Congressman Hinchey spoke about 14 homes in Pennsylvania that had their wells closed due to water contamination from hydro fracking.
And recently there were explosions from gas wells in Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia that killed and burned many workers and produced flames to shoot up over 70-feet high and seen for miles
Six states have documented a total of approximately 1,000 specific cases of water pollution attributable to hydro fracking technology. The former administration in Washington declared the practice -- and the toxic water -- off limits to the scrutiny of the EPA.
This action led the states to fend for themselves, despite the limited financial resources.
Hudson Valley Business Journal states that if industry plans are ultimately approved, an estimated 200,000 wells will be sunk in central New York and Sullivan County.
New York has a total of 17 inspectors to cover all safe water enforcement investigations throughout the state.
The EPA has agreed to take another look at the potential adverse impacts that hydro fracking may have on water quality and public health.
We owe it to the people of New York to let the experts conduct their study.
We all understand New York is in a fiscal crisis. However, selling out our most precious commodity -- our liquid gold -- is not the answer.
As a matter of fact, New York’s fiscal crisis makes it more imperative that you enact this bill. Without the resources to manage this activity, there is a pretty good chance that disaster will happen, causing the state additional massive financial burden.
The potential destruction of New York’s drinking water is too important to play politics with.
Our children’s health and future cannot be for sale.
I am asking on behalf of all the organizations I am here representing to put your name on this bill and do everything in your power to bring this to the floor this legislative session and see it become law. With the Assembly already stepping up to the plate, it is now up to all of you.
On behalf of all of the following organizations and myself, thank you for giving us this time.
Ulster County Legislator Susan Zimet
on behalf of
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter; NYH20; Damascus Citizens; Riverkeeper; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Powershift New York; Earth Day NY; Sustainable Otsego; Otsego 2000 of Cooperstown, New York; People for a Healthy Environment, Inc.; The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes; Keep Cochecton Green; Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition; New Yorkers for Sustainable Energy Solutions Statewide; ROUSE -- Residents Opposing Unsafe Shale-Gas Extraction
Find out about fracking!
What you don’t know can hurt you. Vast “reserves” of natural gas have been identified under many parts of the U.S., including New York and Pennsylvania. In order to profit from these reserves, gas companies increasingly use hydrofracturing, also known as “fracking.” This is a problem getting ready to happen in our own back yard!
What is “fracking?” It is a process that “frees” natural gas “trapped” in rock by hydrofracturing shale substrate. Essentially, the underground rock is fractured by the high-pressure injection of vast volumes of toxin-laden water to release the gases contained in them. Private water wells, including in Pennsylvania, have become contaminated through this process and the water has become undrinkable. In some cases, water wells have literally exploded due to gases being forced up through them by the fracking process.
In a process that takes place underground, how can we ever know how far these bedrock fractures extend and into whose property? Worse yet, water -- a precious natural resource -- knows no boundaries. Once this bedrock has been fractured and an aquifer contaminated, how can this terrible damage ever be undone?
Find out about fracking and work to halt gas exploitation using this method. Gasland, a movie about fracking, will be playing at Onteora High School in Boiceville on July 17 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Woodstock Film Festival. We will be car pooling from Village Hall at 25 Plattekill Avenue -- meet at 6:25 p.m. to leave at 6:30 p.m. Join Congressman Maurice Hinchey and director Josh Fox for post screening Q&A. And an informative website can be found at www.ogap.org.
Some big thank-you’s are in order to many people for having made this year’s New Paltz celebration of National Bicycle Month a great success.
First to the wonderful and varied New Paltz restaurants who made Ride to Eat! Eat to Ride! such a great success. Participating restaurants were: Bacchus Restaurant, The Bakery, Burger King, College Diner, EveL’s Sweets, Gadaleto’s Seafood Restaurant, Genesis Restaurant Diner, Gomen Kudasai, Gourmet Pizza, Harvest Café, Karma Road, LaBella Pizza Bistro, La Stazione, Lemon Grass, Main Course Market Place, McDonald’s, Mexicali Blue, Mudd Puddle Coffee Roasters & Café, Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub, My Hero, Neko Sushi, New Paltz Bagel Café, P & G’s Restaurant, Pasquale’s Pizza & Restaurant, Paul’s Kitchen, Picnic Pizza, Plaza Diner, Rino’s Pizza, Rock Da Pasta, Subway of New Paltz, Sweets, Taco Shack, 36 Main, Tommy C’s Deli, Upstairs on 9 Cafe (formerly New Paltz Publick House), Village Grill, Village Pizza, The Village Tearoom and Yanni. New Paltz is a culinary wonderland!
A big thank-you goes to Beth Croughan, reporter for the Time-Warner affiliate in Kingston for doing a piece on Eat to Ride. I’m sure it brought more cyclists to town in search of great eating. And a huge shout-out goes to WDST’s Greg Gattine, who interviewed the committee about Eat to Ride! for the second year running. Greg, your generosity to give us a second year of airtime is deeply appreciated. Yet another thank-you goes to Hudson Valley Magazine, which listed Eat to Ride! as a fun Hudson Valley activity at: http://www.hvmag.com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine/May-2010/Sale-of-the-Week-May-20-26/. Another thank-you goes to the New Paltz Times for its hand in telling the community about our bike-month happenings. And yet more thanks to the Chamber of Commerce for helping us get the word out!
The committee members who worked on Eat to Ride! Ride to Eat! were Justin Dates, Matt Flusser, Peter Kaufman, Judy Reichler and Alan Stout. Former committee member Eric Kollenberg rejoined us for the project. It was Eric’s idea, three years ago, to stage the event, by the way. Clark Peaslee provided critical background support.
A big thank-you as well goes to Doug Havnaer for having posted our bike month miles and to Alan Stout for his website support.
Guy Visk at the New Paltz Town Supervisor’s office graciously and efficiently printed publicity materials for the committee. Thank you, Guy! And thanks as well to Mayor Terry Dungan and Supervisor Toni Hokanson for their ongoing support of our work.
Finally, thank you New Paltz for supporting Eat to Ride! and other bike-month events, and for supporting the ongoing work of the bike-ped committee.
on behalf of the New Paltz Bicycle
and Pedestrian Committee