Fleeing driver shot by police on Route 28 in West Hurley

A driver fleeing police pursuit in a car reported stolen from a Marbletown home was shot by a police officer on Tuesday night, the Ulster County Sheriff's Office reports.

Around 10:40 p.m. on Tuesday, police say, Ulster County 911 received a call from a woman in Marbletown who said her car had been stolen from her driveway. State troopers spotted the car on Route 213 and pursued it, but were unable to get the driver to stop. The driver fled into the city of Kingston, where troopers lost sight of the car.

An Ulster County sheriff's deputy then spotted the car, and continued the pursuit. The chase ended on Route 28 in West Hurley, when the fleeing car swerved into an Ulster County sheriff's vehicle, taking both vehicles off the road. The driver was then shot by an Ulster County officer while being taken into custody, police say.

The driver is being treated at Albany Medical Center. Police have not identified the driver, or released any information about his or her condition.   Read more

Cold front sweeps through area, bringing rain, sleet and snow

Above: Temperatures around upstate New York around 8 a.m. this morning, showing a cold front moving east across the region. The National Weather Service in Albany writes: "Current 8 a.m. temperature in Albany is 63 degrees while behind the cold front in Buffalo, NY, it is 33 degrees with a rain/snow mix."

Watch out for April showers -- and a few bouts of sleet and snow. After a few days of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, the Catskills region is now bracing for the return of wintry weather as a cold front moves in from the west.   Read more

Armed Gardiner man arrested after eight-hour standoff

A 59-year-old Gardiner man who fired a gun near people on his neighbor's property held police at bay through the night on Friday and into Saturday morning, barricading himself in his house on Route 44/55 and refusing to come out. 

Police responded to a complaint of shots fired at the home of Michael Yukowiec around 9 p.m. on Friday. According to a police statement, Yukowiec fired several rounds from a rifle at three people on a neighboring property before barricading himself in his house and refusing to come to the door or answer the phone.

An eight-hour standoff began, during which a SWAT team stationed an armored vehicle outside Yukowiec's house and deployed a surveillance robot to go inside the house and find him. Roads in the area were shut down during the standoff.

Around 5 a.m., Yukowiec finally came out and surrendered. A search of the house found a rifle and a shotgun.   Read more

High art: Balloon sculptures made for the Guggenheim soar in Catskill

Above: Jason Hackenwerth's Aviary in its original form, as a one-night installation made for a gala at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. Photo by Kristopher McKay.

Latex balloons are generally considered to be more the stuff of children’s birthday parties than of high art, but one sculptor is out to put a pin in that idea. Jason Hackenwerth’s buoyant works, which are touching down in Catskill this weekend, look past the common balloon’s reputation to its transcendent power as an artistic medium.

Sinuous and colorful, Hackenwerth's sculptures can call to mind anything from exotic sea flora to alien life forms. Now, as part of Catskill’s Masters on Main Street program, three of his creations are touching down in locations throughout the town in a free exhibition called Aviary: Reimagined.

“The commonality of that material is so accessible and so easy to understand,” says Hackenwerth of his chosen medium. “Instead of people being frightened of the work, as a lot of people are for contemporary art, they seem to be joyous and happy.”  Read more

TAP New York celebrates the state's thriving craft beer industry

At the annual TAP New York fest, New York State craft brewers showcase a wide variety of local beers, from crisp lagers and hearty ales to rich, malty stouts and porters. Photo courtesy of Hunter Mountain.

There are lots of reasons to celebrate craft beer in the Catskills right now. Several new breweries and brew pubs are opening this year, and the growing market for crops such as hops and small grains offer new opportunities for local farmers.

Luckily for Catskills beer-lovers, the state’s biggest celebration of small-batch beer takes place right in the heart of Greene County’s mountaintop region every year, and this year it’s bigger than ever.

On Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27, nearly 100 breweries from Buffalo to Brooklyn will set up shop at the base of Hunter Mountain for the annual TAP New York festival. Offering about 300 beers and a wide variety of “beer-friendly” food, the festival was founded by veteran brewmaster Nat Collins and Bill Woodring 17 years ago. It has since grown from a few dozen beer-lovers geeking out over a handful of local brews into a two-day affair of tasting and competition for coveted awards. Judges anoint the best regional and statewide breweries, as well as the best individual beer in the state.

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Delaware County bank set to expand into Sullivan County

It's a familiar story in small-town America: Little community bank strikes a deal with a giant national corporation, and suddenly there's a new logo on your local bank branch.

Only this time it's the other way around. NBDC Bank -- also known as the National Bank of Delaware County, a small chain of community banks based in Walton -- announced recently that the company is acquiring six Bank of America branches in Sullivan County. 

The deal, which has yet to receive regulatory approval, is expected to go through by fall, according to a press release issued by NBDC Bank. Under the terms of the deal, NBDC will operate former Bank of America branches in Callicoon, Liberty, Monticello, Narrowsburg, Roscoe and Wurtsboro. 

The acquisition of the six Sullivan County branches will double the number of offices run by NBDC Bank, which currently runs branches in Walton, Andes, Franklin, Hamden, Stamford and Roxbury.   Read more

Stabbed in the backside: Windham woman arrested for knifing boyfriend

Should you write "butt" in a newspaper? Mid-Hudson News is doing it. Help us, AP Stylebook.

A 20-year-old Windham woman has been jailed on charges that she stabbed her live-in boyfriend in the aforementioned bit of his anatomy -- the right buttock, to be precise -- with a large survival knife. 

State police say they responded to a report of a domestic dispute at a Main Street apartment in Windham. Upon investigation, they recovered a knife from the scene, and arrested 20-year-old Erin Ratel, who is charged with second-degree assault (a felony) and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon (a misdemeanor). 

The victim was transported to Columbia Medical Center and treated for a puncture wound.   Read more

"Operation Spring Cleaning" nets dozens of drug arrests in Ulster County

Above: Images from a photo gallery of arrests made during the recent URGENT investigation "Operation Spring Cleaning," posted on the Ulster County Sheriff's Office's Facebook page

Over three dozen arrests were announced with great fanfare on Wednesday by the Ulster County Sheriff's Office, the result of a seven-month-long undercover investigation into drug sales by the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT) dubbed "Operation Spring Cleaning." 

The Sheriff's Office and other URGENT members held a press conference at the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center in Kingston at noon to discuss the arrests. Police believe many of the drugs targeted in the sweep were coming into Ulster County from the New York City area, said Ulster County Lieutenant Ed Brewster, according to the Daily Freeman, which sent several reporters to cover the event live with online video clips.  Read more

Judd Hirsch's wind turbine plans stall in Denning

Above: Members of the Denning Zoning Board of Appeals consider a wind turbine variance on February 25, 2014, before postponing the vote to March 25. From left: John Barnum, Mark Boncek, Frances Chewiwi, and Archie Ackerly, Jr. Photo by Julia Reischel. 

Actor Judd Hirsch's plans to install a 177-foot wind turbine on his land in the Ulster County town of Denning are stalled, perhaps for good.

On March 25, the Denning Zoning Board of Appeals voted 2 to 1 not to issue a variance for the project, which has been the center of controversy in Denning since the fall.

"It's a pretty clear death knell," said Sherret Chase Jr., the owner of Chase Wind, the engineering firm planning the project. "I was absolutely flabbergasted about the negative vote at the ZBA meeting."

Hirsch, a movie star and former regular on the TV show "Taxi" who has lived in Denning for 46 years, submitted plans last year to build a turbine on 96 acres he owns in Denning. A few miles away in the town of Neversink, Phil Coombe III has a similar private system that was installed without controversy in 2011. (See photos below.) 

But Hirsch's plan drew ire from his neighbors. Tiffany Wootten, who lives nearby, spearheaded a campaign to oppose the turbine, arguing that it would destroy the bucolic landscape, threaten birds and other wildlife, and create noise and flickering shadows. The controversy consumed the town for much of the fall and was covered by the New York Times in November. 

Below: A wind turbine that was installed in the town of Neversink in 2011. The turbine is similar in size and height to Judd Hirsch's proposed Denning turbine. Photo by James Hood for the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development. Used with permission.   

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Delaware Phoenix: Walton's one-woman absinthe factory

Above: Delaware Phoenix began with absinthe and has recently expanded into whiskey. Photo by Jacob Pucci. 

Delaware Phoenix Distillery grew out of a personal hobby and an 8-gallon still.

Proprietor Cheryl Lins, a pioneer among upstate New York spirits makers, began experimenting with making absinthe back in 2006, a couple of years after moving to Delaware County from New Mexico.

“I like to say I crash-landed here,” she said. “I needed a change of climate.”

She traded desert heat for long, snowy winters, and then decided to heed her friends, who, after tasting her spirits, urged her to trade in her careers as a computer programmer and an artist as well.

Today, Lins is still a one-woman show, but her absinthes, and more recently, whiskeys, have earned accolades far beyond her Catskills and New York City markets—and helped launch a mini-boom of upstate New York distilleries.

Left: Absinthe in the making. Photo by Lucille Huffman.

When Lins opened Delaware Phoenix in 2009 with two versions of absinthe, Meadow of Love and Walton Waters, she was the first in the Empire State to produce the formerly outlawed concoction, two years after the federal government relaxed its rules on sales of the “green fairy.” Lins’ products almost immediately made waves through the burgeoning absinthe community, both here and abroad.

In 2010, the New York International Spirits Competition awarded gold medals to her Walton Waters absinthe and her Rye Dog whiskey. Reviewers at the Wormwood Society, a consumer education and advocacy group named after one of the primary ingredients in absinthe, rate Meadow of Love as the second-best traditional absinthe worldwide. Both Walton Waters and Blues Cat, a limited-time product produced in 2011, rank in the group’s top 15.

The process to make Delaware Phoenix a reality began in earnest in 2007, soon after Lins’ new hometown of Walton was hit by a devastating flood. That event prompted the name for her distillery: “Delaware” for the county and the river that runs through it, and “Phoenix” from the mythical bird that rises from the ashes of its predecessors.

Lins applied for state and federal licenses, a process that took roughly 18 months and a sizable upfront financial commitment. Under current law, prospective distillers must obtain a workable commercial location that fits within certain guidelines and purchase and set up all the distilling equipment—all without the promise that the equipment can even be used. In addition, Lins had to get special permission to distill within the village of walton, as zoning did not permit it.  Read more