As tensions simmer, Sullivan County seeks dialogue with summer Orthodox community

Above: Rabbi Irving Goodman at Monday’s forum in Monticello. Photo by Timothy Knight.  

Members of Sullivan County's Orthodox Jewish community and elected public officials came together in the Sullivan County village of Monticello on Monday, June 20 to strengthen relations between year-round county residents and vacationing Hasidic Jews as tensions simmer between the two communities.

Home to about 80,000 year-round residents, Sullivan County sees its population triple in the summer with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews from New York City, who stay in campsites, bungalow colonies and housing developments.

The forum was sponsored by the Human Rights Commission of Sullivan County (HRCSC). It was attended by an audience of about 50 people, which included an assortment of local residents, human rights advocates, Orthodox Jews and public officials, all of whom attempted to quell growing discord between the two communities.  Read more

Catskills resident who found rare Little Bighorn artifact to be honored

Above: A tribal dress that is believed to be made from the coats of Union soldiers who fell at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Photo courtesy of Delaware County resident Cliff Eaglefeathers, who rediscovered the artifact.

This weekend, June 24, 25 and 26, marks the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Little Big Horn, also known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” a crucial victory for Lakota and Cheyenne against invading U. S. Army Forces in Montana. In ceremonies to be held at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, in Crow Agency, Montana, Bloomville resident Cliff Eaglefeathers will play a special role.

Eaglefeathers, a full-blooded Northern Cheyenne and a teacher of Native American Studies at SUNY Empire State College in Saratoga, will present a rare artifact to tribal elders: a tribal dress made from the coats of Union soldiers who fell at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The dress will spend the summer at the National Monument, then return to the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, Washington.  Read more

Woodstock Writers Radio with Martha Frankel and guests

Schoharie County approves final design for new Blenheim Covered Bridge

Above: A rendering of the reconstruction of the Blenheim Covered Bridge.

Blenheim residents are one step closer to getting their beloved covered bridge back after the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to submit final design plans for the bridge to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday, June 17.

Swept away by the raging waters of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28, 2011, the loss of the Blenheim Covered Bridge, which had the longest span of any surviving single-span covered bridge in the world, became a symbol for all that the Schoharie Valley had lost as a result of the flood.

The design plans were presented on Friday by Ed Snyder of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., which is handling such projects as the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The designs for the new covered bridge are based on a mix of the original designs and necessary improvements.

Although the appearance of the structure itself will remain true to the original, Snyder detailed a number of changes, including the replacement of the bridge’s stone abutments with abutments made of reinforced concrete.  Read more

Schoharie still divided on mining settlement

Above: Dawn Johnson addresses the Schoharie Town Board about stone mining in Schoharie before a crowd of concerned residents in April 2016. Photo by Timothy Knight.

Members of the Schoharie Town Board voted down a motion to pull out of a proposed settlement with Cobleskill Stone Products (CSP) on Wednesday, June 8, according to a Times Journal article by reporter David Avitabile.

Proposed after 11 years of legal court battles between the municipality and the stone company that have cost the town more than $500,000, the settlement has been fiercely opposed by the public.

In April, over 100 Schoharie residents, including Village Mayor John Borst, packed into the United Presbyterian Church to signal their opposition to the deal in a public hearing.   Read more

Clandestine meth lab found in Ulster County town of Rochester, police say

A clandestine methamphetamine lab was found in the woods in the Ulster County town of Rochester on Sunday, June 20, according to the Ulster County Sheriff's Office.

Police found the meth lab in a "wooded area" on the property of 28-year-old Randall Lynch after responding to a domestic dispute in which Lynch allegedly assaulted his girlfriend and threatened her with a knife in the presence of a child, police said in a press release.

Police say that they found Lynch walking along Samsonville Rd., arrested him, and found "precursor ingredients used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine" in his possession.

Police searched Lynch's property and found the meth lab, and then called the the New York State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team, which removed the laboratory materials from the property, police say.

Lynch was charged with felony unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine and misdemeanor assault, menacing, criminal possession of a weapon, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal possession of a controlled substance, police say.  Read more

Two arrested in Walton drug raid

Above: Donald M. Debrock is arrested on Thursday, June 16 in Walton. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

Delaware County Sheriff's deputies raided an apartment on Benton Ave. in the town of Walton on Thursday, June 16 and arrested 32-year-old Donald M. Debrock and 21-year-old Nicolette M. Fischetti for possessing Suboxone and marijuana, according to a press release.

Left: Donald M. Debrock. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

Suboxone, an opioid, and marijuana was found inside the home, police say, and two "school-aged" children were found in the residence.

Both Debrock and Fischetti were charged with felony criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation, police say. They were arraigned in Walton Village Court on Thursday night and were sent to the Delaware County Correctional Facility on $75,000 cash bail, police say.  Read more

Man dies in Bethel apartment building fire

A man died on Thursday, June 16 in the Sullivan County town of Bethel when a two-story apartment building caught fire, according to the New York State Police. 

The fire, which fully engulfed a building located at 1240 Route 17B, possibly began in a downstairs apartment as a result of a cooking accident, police said in a press release.

When the first of nine fire departments and two EMS companies arrived at the scene, they found 45-year-old Richard Burke trapped in an upstairs apartment during the fire. Burke was pronounced dead a short time later at Catskill Regional Medical Center, police say. 

Another man was treated for minor burns and released, police say. 

Man on dirt bike struck and killed by Schoharie County patrol car after fleeing traffic stop

The New York State Police are investigating the death of a 31-year-old Middleburgh man who died after being struck by a Schoharie County Sheriff's Office patrol car on Friday, June 17 while fleeing from the deputy on an unregistered dirt-bike motorcycle.

The man, Joshua C. Camp, was stopped on his dirt bike in the village of Middleburgh by a Schoharie County Sheriff's deputy driving a marked patrol car around 7 p.m. on Friday night, according to a press release from the New York State Police.

Camp reportedly fled on the dirt bike from the deputy, who chased him in the patrol car to a lawn behind a residence on Griebel Lane in the village.

There, Camp reportedly "lost control of the dirt-bike, was ejected and subsequently struck by the deputy's marked patrol vehicle," according to the statement.

Camp was airlifted to Albany Medical Center, were he died of his injuries, police say.

The incident is being investigated by the New York State Police and the Schoharie County District Attorney’s office.

The road to ruins: 12 abandoned Catskills sites to explore

Above: The ruins of the Overlook Mountain House. Photo by Alan Via.

Trees growing in the ballroom? Porcupine teeth marks on the fuselage? In addition to scenic views and cascading waterfalls, many Catskills trails and roadways boast abandoned ruins and wrecks of times past. Hike, bike or drive past some of the more accessible abandoned places.

1. OVERLOOK MOUNTAIN HOUSE

The remains of the Overlook Mountain House on a Woodstock mountaintop offer dramatic photo opportunities. Two previous hotels occupied the site; both were destroyed by fire. Rebuilt in its concrete form, it was never completed. From Woodstock, take Route 212 to Rock City Road. Continue through the intersection. Mead’s Meadow Parking Area is two miles on the right. Hike 1.6 miles to the ruin. Note that the trail is extremely popular and parking is limited. If the parking area is full, try again in an hour or so. Be sure to carpool; leave additional vehicles in the municipal lot on Rock City Road.

Above: The stone foundations of Coykendall Lodge. Photo by Rebecca Andre. 

2. ALDER LAKE AND COYKENDALL LODGE

Samuel D. Coykendall, railroad magnate, built the lodge and Alder Lake in 1899. The stone foundations of the lodge and some outbuildings remain. From Livingston Manor, turn right from Old Route 17 onto Beaverkill Road. Continue 12 miles. Turn left onto Alder Road Continue 2.2 miles; enter through the gate on the left. The ruins are on the left, immediately past the parking area.

3. STOPPEL POINT PLANE CRASH

Hiking to Stoppel Point on the Escarpment Trail, you can’t miss the 1983 wreck of a small private plane. It’s a long and challenging hike, so plan for a full day’s outing. Turn onto Route 18 from Route 23A in Haines Falls. Turn right on Schutt Road; right again into the parking area. Walk up Schutt Road and across Route 18 to find the Rock Shelter Trail. Follow to the Escarpment Trail (approximately two miles). 7.5 miles round trip.

Above: The wreckage of a cargo plane on Kaaterskill High Peak. Photo by Heather Rolland. 

4. KAATERSKILL HIGH PEAK PLANE CRASH  Read more

Legislators and celebrities hope to expand film tax credits to Catskills and Hudson Valley

Above: Director Tansy Michaud and cinematographer Adam Carboni shoot “Enjoy Your Intermission," a film about the Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre in the Greene County town of Coxsackie, in 2014. Photo by Philip Doueihi.

Officials have spent years trying to build up the Catskill region's appeal to the film industry. Now new legislation might make things a whole lot easier.

The Hudson Valley Film Commission announced on Thursday, June 16 that state lawmakers have passed legislation this week that will extend tax credits for film productions to 12 upstate New York counties, including Greene, Sullivan and Ulster counties in the Catskills.  Read more

State Legislature seeks creation of Catskills land bank

Above: Finkle Road in the Delaware County town of Andes. Photo by Denick Herrin, entered in the 2016 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest.

With the 2016 legislative session drawing to an end in Albany, state lawmakers are pushing for the creation of two land banks in the Adirondacks and Catskills which would allow the state to approve small public projects within the forest preserves without amending the New York State Constitution.

Sponsored by Sen. Betty Little and a slew of her Adirondacks and Catskills colleagues, the proposed legislation would make 750 combined acres in the Adirondack Forest Preserve and the Catskill Forest Preserve available to small projects approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. No individual project would be allotted more than fives acres of state land.  Read more

Flag Day in Shokan

Above: Tim Cox shared this photo of a Flag Day observance at the American Legion in the Ulster County hamlet of Shokan on Tuesday, June 14 in the Watershed Post Flickr pool. 

Outrage in Walton over the state of the cemetery

Above: A video clip of the meeting of the Walton Cemetery Association on June 6, shot by the Walton Reporter and posted on Facebook.

Outraged over what they called the poor condition of the Walton Cemetery over Memorial Day weekend, dozens of cemetery plotholders protested at the annual meeting of the Walton Cemetery Association on Monday, June 6, according to the Walton Reporter.

Then they expressed their anger by voting out three of the association’s incumbent board members in the annual election that followed the meeting, the paper reported.  Read more

How to stay safe in Catskills black bear country

Above: A black bear in the Catskills. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Spring in the Catskills is a breathtaking season of roaring waterfalls, eagles taking flight and pastures covered in blooming wildflowers—and, thanks to our resident black bear population, of overturned trash cans, destroyed bird feeders and dented vehicles.

In May, Region 4 of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which covers a portion of the Catskills, received dozens of complaints about bears, according to Joshua Choquette, a DEC wildlife technician. By May 23, the agency had received 54 complaints about bears from its nine counties, Choquette said.

The majority of the complaints the DEC receives each year are calls from homeowners reporting that their trash or bird feeder is being feasted upon by a local black bear, according to Choquette.

But about 20 percent of the calls each year are of a more serious nature, with a bear causing damage to vehicles, property or agriculture, he said.

Above: A black bear and a cub stop traffic in the Ulster County hamlet of Phoenicia around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8. Photo by Burr Hubbell.  Read more

Animal rights group threatens to sue Margaretville school over donkey basketball

Above: A donkey basketball game at Margaretville Central School in April 2015. Photo by Pauline Liu, via Facebook.

A once-popular fundraiser will not happen at Margaretville Central School this year.

Donkey basketball, which involves students and teachers playing basketball in school gym while mounted on donkeys, was the subject of protests in the Delaware County village of Margaretville last year. This year, no game was planned. 

An animal rights group is taking credit for the change, while a school official simply says the event was not scheduled this year.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), a California-based organization, filed a notice of claim against the school last year, threatening a lawsuit to stop future “donkeyball” events.  Read more

This weekend, a new Catskills birding festival takes wing

Above: The logo for "Taking Flight: Birding in the Catskills." 

For over a century, birdwatchers have come to the Catskills to enjoy the staggering variety of feathered species on display. This weekend’s “Taking Flight: Birding in the Catskills,” held at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, is tailor made for them in more ways than one.

Presented by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, the three-day event, held from Friday, June 10 to Sunday, June 12, is both a festival and conference.

Speaking to the Watershed Post, co-organizer Peg DiBenedetto said, “For years, people have been saying that the Catskills needs its own bird festival or conference, to highlight both the birds and birders as important and significant to our environment and our economy. So we’ve created a first-class birding weekend. Instead of going for a festival, which is mainly bird watching, or a conference, which is more presentations and academic papers, we decided to combine the two.”  Read more

Democratic Congressional hopefuls debate in Woodstock; find little to disagree about

Above: Zephyr Teachout, left, debates Will Yandik, right, in a discussion moderated by Brian Hollander, center, in Woodstock on Tuesday. Photo by Timothy Knight. 

Over 100 Democrats squeezed into the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center in Woodstock on Tuesday, June 7, where they listened to the first of three scheduled debates between primary contenders Zephyr Teachout and Will Yandik, who are competing for the Democratic nomination in New York's 19th Congressional District race to replace the retiring Republican Congressman Chris Gibson.

Sponsored by the Woodstock and Kingston Democratic Committees, the debate was moderated by Woodstock Times editor Brian Hollander and lasted slightly less then two hours.

Little difference in ideals

Teachout and Yandik Both hail from rural progressive communities. The two candidates didn't debate each other so much as they offered slightly different visions of paths towards the same goals. The primary differences between the two on Tuesday night were of style, not substance.  Read more

Onteora School Board votes to replace controversial Indian mascot

Above: One of many depictions of the Onteora Indian at Onteora Central School. Photo via the Onteora Humans Rights Club. 

At a meeting on Tuesday, June 7, the Onteora Central School District Board of Education voted 5 to 2 to change the school’s mascot from the Onteora Indians to the Onteora Eagles.

This isn’t the first time the school district, which stretches across Ulster County from Pine Hill to Hurley, has tried to change its mascot, which many students consider offensive and racist.

In 2000, an attempt by some parents and board members to replace the Indian became a bitter culture war complete with death threats, vandalized tires and national media attention in outlets like the New York Times.  Read more

Heaney pushes forward in bid to top Faso in Republican Congressional race

Above: Andrew Heaney. Photo courtesy of the Heaney campaign. 

Unlike the other three candidates running to replace retiring Republican Congressman Chris Gibson in New York's 19th Congressional District, Dutchess County businessman Andrew Heaney has no experience in politics. 

The heating oil businessman, who lives in the town of Washington in Dutchess County, says that his lack of political experience is his most important credential for Congress as he seeks the Republican nomination in the primary on June 28.

Born into the family heating oil business in Queens, Heaney became president of a division of the company, Heating Energy Affordable Today (HEAT), at age 22 after his father died of lung cancer. Heaney, who had only recently graduated from Yale University, says that he grew the small heating oil cooperative into the largest heating oil buying group in the United States.  Read more

Hand cranked souvenir penny machine comes to Phoenicia

Above: Souvenir pennies made by the new machine in Phoenicia. Photo by Brett Barry. 

Kitsch-lovers rejoice! You can squish one of four Catskills-specific designs onto a souvenir penny in the Ulster County hamlet of Phoenicia using a hand-cranked machine that has been installed on Main Street.

The machine, which was manufactured by a company in Colorado, can emblazon pennies with one of four Phoenicia-specific designs: a Catskills black bear; a “Quill Gordon” fishing fly; a map of Ulster County and the logo of the Phoenicia Diner. The process is manual, using a hand crank and some elbow grease, and costs 50 cents per penny.

The project is the brainchild of Brett Barry, a Phoenicia resident who owns Silver Hollow Audio, an audio production that is also the force behind a series of audio tours and books that celebrate the Catskills region: “Afloat & Afoot by John Burroughs”  and “The Route 28 Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway Driving Guide.”  Read more