Stamford rallies around family who lost everything to fire

Above: Where the Mattice home stood on River Street in Stamford, only the chimney is left standing. Photo by Nick Mattice.

As Nick Mattice jumped from the second story of the home he’d live in his whole life, the only thing running through his head was: Get down and put out the fire.

At around 7:50 p.m. on March 18, Mattice, 24, awoke from a nap to a smell like a burnt candle. The hallway outside his room was filled with smoke. When he ran downstairs and opened the kitchen door, flames burst out at him.

His sister Sarah ran inside and let their four dogs out. Their father Charles went in and pulled her out after. When the fire started, they were in their freestanding garage away from the house.

Once Nick was on the ground, he broke into a side door and got a fire extinguisher, which didn’t work. Desperate, he threw snow at the fire.

Within five minutes, the fire roared out of the house.  Read more

Margaretville and Sidney win $3 million awards for NY Rising plans

Above: Photo of the Bull Run culvert passing under Main Street in Margaretville, the site of a proposed flood mitigation project that may be carried out with funds from the NY Rising program. Photo by Tetra Tech; from the Margaretville NY Rising Committee's Community Reconstruction Plan.

Two communities in Delaware County that were heavily damaged in the Irene and Lee floods -- the villages of Margaretville and Sidney -- have won $3 million bonus awards from Gov. Cuomo's NY Rising program, in a competition among flood-affected communities for state funding.   Read more

Arrest made in New Paltz shooting

Above: Police announce the arrest of 21-year-old Basheem Bennett for a 2 a.m. shooting at Murphy's Restaurant and Pub in New Paltz that left one man dead and a woman injured. Left to right: Lt. Perry Soule of the Ulster County Sheriff's Office, Chief Joseph Snyder of the New Paltz P.D., and Ulster County D.A. Holley Carnright. Photo by Katherine Speller.

New Paltz police have arrested a suspect for a 2 a.m. shooting at Murphy's Restaurant and Pub on Sunday morning, which left 29-year-old Poughkeepsie resident Ryan Gray dead and a 26-year-old woman wounded.

In a Wednesday morning press conference held at the New Paltz Police Department, chief Joseph Snyder announced the arrest of 21-year-old Poughkeepsie resident Basheem Bennett on second-degree murder and first-degree assault charges.  

Days before Bennett's arrest, New Paltz police chief Joseph Snyder told reporters and local residents that the shooting was not random. Snyder writes in a press release issued Monday:

"This is not a random act of violence nor the act of an active shooter running around town. We believe that the victims and perpetrator were known to each other. This incident is a spillover from some incidents in the City of Poughkeepsie," Snyder wrote. "This incident did not take place due to an overcrowed bar, filled with intoxicated people that began to fight and resulted in this shooting incident. This act just happened to take place where it did based on window of opportunity."

Our correspondent Katherine Speller was on hand for this morning's press conference. Below: Tweets from Speller and other reporters at the conference.


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Happy Earth Day, Catskills

Nature's always close at hand in the Catskills, on Earth Day and every day. Photo by Kellsey Buerge; submitted to our 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest

Earth Day turns 44 this year. In cities across America, environmentally-minded citizens are celebrating the holiday with big green-themed fests, parties and exhibit fairs. 

Not so in the Catskills, where Earth Day celebrations tend to be more low-key. Here, Mother Nature isn't an occasional guest to fête; she's a full-time resident. But this week, the local area holds a few special events in honor of the planet. 

Today, the Arkville-based Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and the MARK Project are setting up shop outside a few local stores to give away reusable shopping bags: The Freshtown and the Dollar Store in Margaretville, and the Great American in Prattsville. Stop by to get a grocery bag that won't end up in a landfill -- or, better yet, bring your own. 

Sullivan County's digital library of maps for hiking trails and public lands,, is celebrating today with a family scavenger hunt at Turtle Spring Nature Trail, at 64 Ferndale-Loomis Road in Liberty. Treasure hunters of all ages will get a chance to try geocaching, in which hikers hunt for hidden capsules with the help of GPS receivers. The scavenger hunt runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m. To pre-register for the event, call the Sullivan County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 845-292-6180, or email Nicole Slevin at 

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New York's top court to hear Palenville Pagan tax case

Above: A goddess on an altar at the Maetreum of Cybele in 2010. Photo by Julia Reischel.

The question of whether a tiny Pagan group's Palenville headquarters qualifies for a religious tax exemption will be heard by the highest court in New York State this year, according to lawyers on both sides of the case.

Left: The Maetreum of Cybele. Photo by Julia Reischel. 

The New York State Court of Appeals has granted the town of Catskill's motion for leave to appeal in its case against the Maetreum of Cybele, a three-story former inn in the Catskill hamlet of Palenville that is the worldwide headquarters of the Cybeline Revival, a monastic branch of Paganism founded by Cathryn Platine in the 1990s.

Platine, whose religious title is Reverend Mother Battakes, lives at the Maetreum, along with a small group of the religion's followers.  Read more

Cairo woman arrested after hotel knife fight

A South Cairo woman faces assault charges after a fight at the New Baltimore Best Western, in which police say she cut someone with a utility knife. 

The suspect is 26-year-old Paula Werenczak, who has been charged with second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and possessing a controlled substance not in the original container.

Police say Werenczak got into a dispute at the Best Western on Route 9W on Wednesday, April 14 in which she injured another person with the knife, then fled the scene. 

State troopers found and arrested Werenczak on Friday, April 16. She was arraigned in Athens town court and remanded to the Greene County Jail on $15,000 cash bail or $30,000 bond.   Read more

Two shot, one dead at Murphy's pub in New Paltz

A 2 a.m. shooting at Murphy's Restaurant and Pub, a popular Main Street pub in New Paltz, left one victim dead and another seriously injured, New Paltz police announced Sunday morning. The shooter is still at large.

The identities of the victims have not yet been released. So far, police have released few details on the incident, and no description of the suspect. From a police statement published today by the New Paltz Times

Officers on patrol observed a disturbance in front of Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub and upon investigation learned two people were shot while inside the bar. Both victims were transported to a local hospital where one of the victims was pronounced dead.

The investigation is continuing and police ask anyone with information regarding this incident to contact the New Paltz Police Detective Division at (845) 255-1323. All information will be kept confidential.  Read more

Hein: Open Space Institute to fund plans for Ashokan rail trail

Above: A map of a proposed 11.5-mile walking and biking trail near the Ashokan Reservoir, on an Ulster County-owned railroad track that was once part of the Ulster & Delaware railroad and is currently leased to the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Map from Ulster County's website

The Open Space Institute (OSI) will use private funds to create plans for an 11.5-mile multi-use rail trail near the Ashokan Reservoir, according to an announcement issued Thursday by Ulster County executive Mike Hein  Read more

Margaretville teens' paper peacock dress wins state arts competition

Above: Katlynn Shamro models Margaretville's winning dress design at the competition in Saratoga Springs on April 10, 2014. Photo by Michele Dietz.

A team of high school fashion designers from Margaretville Central School took top honors at the New York State Olympics of the Visual Arts last week with an elaborate Art Nouveau dress made entirely out of paper.  The dress, pictured above and below, featured a hand-painted design featuring peacocks and a Tiffany lamp motif. 

The Margaretville high school team beat 18 other teams from across New York State to win the fashion competition -- the most competitive category, according to Michele Dietz, the art teacher who coached them. Their challenge was to create a "big, bold, colorful pattern" that was inspired by a period in art history, and Margaretville's high school team chose Art Nouveau.  Read more

Parole-jumping sex offender arrested in Hamden

A Level 3 sex offender from Walton who was found hiding in a Hamden garage earlier this week has been charged with removing a GPS device that tracks his location and committing several break-ins. 

Police say 32-year-old John Cumo took off his GPS device early on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, a parole warrant was issued for Cumo's arrest.

On Wednesday, police found Cumo hiding in the garage of a seasonal home on Back River Lane in Hamden. The search for Cumo involved Delaware County sheriff's deputies, New York State Police parole officers and members of the U.S. Marshal's New York/New Jersey Fugitives Task Force.

During the investigation, police found that another nearby seasonal home in Hamden had been broken into as well. Cumo faces a charge of parole violation, one count of second-degree criminal trespass, one count of third-degree criminal trespass and two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief.   Read more