Davenport judge barred from bench

Edie M. Halstead, the former justice for the town of Davenport who resigned from the bench last October, blew off her own traffic tickets and withheld thousands of dollars in collected court fines from the court's bank account, according to a Commission on Judicial Conduct decision made public yesterday.

Halstead, who served as the court clerk in Davenport before becoming the town justice in January 2009, has been barred from holding judicial office as a result of her misconduct. She has until May 4 to appeal the CJC's decision.

According to the ruling, which you can read in full below, Halstead repeatedly failed to deposit court fines that she collected as Davenport's judge into the court's bank account. At one point, the town's bank account was missing over $5,000. For seven cases in which fines were collected, Halstead reported to the State Comptroller that no money had been received. When she became the town justice in 2009, Halstead attempted to fix discrepancies in the court's account -- which she had handled for her predecessor as court clerk -- with a deposit of $1,248 of her own money.  Read more

Flooding in the Catskills: The bad news about climate change

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On Saturday, the Watershed Post attended the Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program's annual Ashokan Watershed Conference. The subject this year was a timely one: "Flood Resilience for Towns, Businesses and Landowners." We'll be posting about what we learned in various conference sessions all week. This first post focuses the effect of climate change on weather, "extreme precipitation events," and flooding. 

Storms are getting more severe, rainfall is getting heavier, droughts are getting dryer, and flooding, a great Catskills bugaboo, is getting worse. That was the message that Dan Zarrow, a meteorologist at Cornell University's Northeast Regional Climate Center, told a packed room of landowners and municipal authorities at the Emerson Resort on Saturday.  Read more

Botched cat cremation leads to suspicions

On Saturday, the Daily Freeman ran a story good enough to appear in a fine satirical publication like The Onion. The headline itself is a gem: "Cat wasn't burned alive, New Paltz police say."

As you may have guessed, this is a follow-up story to a story than ran in the paper two weeks ago, in which a New Paltz resident described how she had found a cat in her backyard that had "burned to death on a pile of wood:"

That woman, Linda Kennedy, offered a reward for information about the feline's killer, and spoke to the Freeman at length about her horror at the crime:

“Its claws were curled up really tight, so I knew that something traumatic and painful had happened to it,” she said. “That poor thing must have suffered.

But in fact, according to Saturday's follow-up story, the cat died of natural causes. It was then the beneficiary of an amateur's attempt at cremation:  Read more

Beefstock 2011: Ten years of rocking in Oliverea

Last weekend, the Full Moon Resort in Oliverea played host to the wonderfully-named Beefstock music festival -- an annual get-together of musicians that has been going for ten years now. 

Beefstock, which has been called "Bonnaroo for great obscure New York bands," began as a tribute to Darren Bohan, a musician who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

We dropped by on Saturday to catch some of the Beefstockers doing a raucous set of "crash course karaoke," complete with instruments. Above, you can see, from left to right. Fred Gillen Jr. (vocals), Joe Filosa (drums), Loren Mattina (vocals), Andy Mattina (bass), Kate Fitzpatrick (vocals), Alan Bigelow (guitar), Joe Mitch (drums), and John Sharples (keys), doing a rousing version of "Love Shack."  Read more

Drilling opponents gather in Albany

Anti-frackers from across the state are expected to rally in Albany this morning as part of a massive protest organized by a coalition of New York environmental groups. By last week, 500 people had already registered to participate, according to a press release from the Environmental Advocates of New York.

Citizens Campaign and the Catskill Mountainkeeper are two of the event's organizers, and they're asking protesters to wear blue, to "signify the need to protect New York’s water." Citizens Campaign is orchestrating appointments with Albany legislators to take place throughout the day.

Protesters are being bused to Albany to take part, the Daily Star reports:

Hundreds of fracking opponents from around New York state will be meeting with state legislators Monday, according to Adrian Kuzminski of Fly Creek, moderator of Sustainable Otsego.

"From what I've been told, the people going to Albany plan to meet with 80 percent of the state's legislators and tell them of our concerns, tell them about the science," he said. "Hundreds of people are going."

WGXC has more, including an interview with a organizer of Capital District Against Fracking.

In more fracking news, Steve Israel at the Times Herald-Record has an interview with former Department of Environmental Conservation fracking point-man Stuart Gruskin on the odds of the DEC banning fracking in the near future.  Read more

Mount Tremper man charged with abusing one-year-old

The Daily Freeman has the story:

LIVINGSTON – A Mount Tremper man has been arrested and charged with four counts of felony second-degree assault and one count of misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child in connection with injuries to his girlfriend’s one-year-old child.

Shane Kitchen, 38, was charged after a four- month investigation by state police, Columbia County Child Protective Services and the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office after the infant was brought to the emergency room at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson on Nov. 26, 2010.

DEP agrees to keep reservoirs a little less full

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to make a bunch of changes to the way it manages its NYC watershed reservoirs, according to a press release sent out yesterday. The changes will have a big impact on the Delaware River, which was just designated a "Great Water" by a national coalition of environmental groups

Using its new multi-million-dollar computer program, the DEP plans to release more water from its reservoirs, which, it says, will help prevent flooding, help fisheries, and keep saltwater out of the Delaware River:  Read more

Hurley can't keep NYC from buying more watershed land

The Ashokan Reservoir, looking towards West Hurley. Photo by Flickr user Nick Stenning.

File under: Wishful Thinking. According to a couple of stories in the Daily Freeman – one this Wednesday, one a week ago – the town of Hurley is considering banning New York City from buying any more land in the town.

The catch? The town doesn't have the legal power to do that.

From Wednesday's story:

The Town Board is reviewing an option to ban the New York City Department of Environmental Protection from making further land acquisitions in the town.

Hurley supervisor Gary Bellows, who's quoted in the Freeman story, wants to put an end to city land purchases in the town.  Read more

Pages from the book of love

An image from Zena Gurbo's exhibit ,"The Book of Love: Three-dimensional Stories of the Whole-hearted." At the Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell until April 22.

Wondering how the book of love, as sung about by the Magnetic Fields, is illustrated? Otsego County artist Zena Gurbo has created a series of "three-dimensional paintings" inspired by the song, which is likely to make you quietly tear up -- especially if you listen to this Peter Gabriel version. 

The results are on view until April 22 at the Word and Image Gallery in the Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell -- and a sample "page" is above. Here's what Gurbo says about her project on the Bright Hill Press website:  Read more