Suspected vandal arrested amidst anger over Hasidic development in Bloomingburg

Above: Bloomingburg in 2008. Photo by Daniel Case, via Wikimedia Commons.

A man has been arrested for allegedly vandalizing a building in the village of Bloomingburg owned by Shalom Lamm, a developer at the center of a heated controversy over a Hasidic housing development in the tiny Sullivan County village. 

The man, 38-year-old Michael Essig (left) of Wurtsboro, was arrested on August 3 on charges of breaking of a large plate glass window at 79 Main St., according to the New York State Police.

The store is a former hardware store owned by Lamm that has been vandalized repeatedly in recent months, according to the Times Herald-Record. Lamm has called the vandalism a "hate crime."   Read more

Tannersville bets big on arts; launches third season of Jazz Factory

Above: Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts at the 2013 Catskill Jazz Factory. Photo courtesy of the 23Arts initiative.

Piers Playfair and his wife Lucy believe that the arts are the key to economic development in the Catskills.

“It’s important we have a strong artistic spine,” Playfair said.

The couple decided to bring renowned jazz musicians to the Catskills two years ago, when they founded the Catskill Jazz Factory -- a series of performances, workshops, and master classes -- in the Greene County hamlet of Tannersville.

The Jazz Factory, which kicks off its 2014 season tomorrow night, was such a success that the Playfairs are making it the highlight of new organization that plans to run year-round arts programming in and around Tannersville.

The new initiative, which launched this summer, is called the 23Arts Initiative (23Ai for short), and is named after Route 23A, which runs through Tannersville.  Read more

This Weekend: Trail maintenance workshop, forest hike and farm tour

Above: The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference's Willowemoc Trail Crew work around Frick Pond in June 2014. Photo via the NYNJC's Facebook page.

It's high season for the Catskills outdoors, and this Saturday there are two hiking events that should get your boots on the trail. 

Learn how to lead a team of volunteers on a trail maintainance hike during a hands-on workshop on Saturday at the Mountain Top Historical Society in Haines Falls in Greene County. From the NYNYC's press release:

The workshop will be led by experienced volunteer trail leaders of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. This free, one-day workshop is a great opportunity to sharpen your leadership skills and learn how to manage volunteers. It is open to anyone interested in learning more about how to lead volunteers on volunteer stewardship activities in the Catskill Park.  Read more

Cyclist heading to Tour of the Catskills ends up in high-speed car chase instead

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Above: Tour of the Catskills racers riding the grueling Devil's Kitchen climb in 2010. 

Cyclists from around the world hit the roads in Greene County over the weekend for the Tour of the Catskills, three days of racing that feature some of the steepest mileage in the northeast.

Not all the contestants made it to the race, however. Herb Jiminez, a cyclist from Montclair, New Jersey, missed the Tour of the Catskills entirely when his car was stolen on Friday, the morning he was setting out for Tannersville.

But Jiminez got his endorphin fix anyway when he spotted the car thieves later that day while driving a newly-acquired rental car, according to Baristanet:

Jimenez reacted immediately, making a crazy U-Turn, then calling 911, all while following his stolen car.

“I stayed close to them for about 10 blocks, making turns into different streets in Montclair while giving the police directions as to where they were turning and heading,” says Jimenez[.]  Read more

Hudson hotel wins internet infamy for threatening to fine whiners

Screenshot of the Union Street Guest House's website.

The Union Street Guest House, an inn in Hudson that caters to the Catskills country wedding set, set off an internet firestorm today when the New York Post's Page Six wrote an article about the inn's strategy for keeping negative reviews off of Yelp: fining the whiners. 

The hotel's policy, which has since been removed from its website, threatened to fine newlyweds $500 each time one of their wedding guests complained about the hotel on review sites, according to TIME, which has the text of the policy.  Read more

A spate of ATV accidents keeps first responders busy

An ATV that was involved in a crash on Saturday in Schoharie County. Photo courtesy of the Schoharie County Sheriff's Department.

A 28-year-old woman from Staten Island slammed her all terrain vehicle (ATV) into a tree at Bates State Forest in the Schoharie County town of Broome on Saturday, August 2, according to Tony Desmond, the Schoharie County Sheriff.

The woman, Lauren Galante, was taken by helicopter to Albany Medical Center in "serious condition with numerous injuries," according to a press release issued by Desmond. Galante had been riding the ATV without a helmet when she struck a tree and was ejected into two other trees.

That's just one of several ATV incidents that made headlines in New York this weekend. Also on Saturday, a 6-year-old boy with autism drove a battery-powered ATV onto the Bronx River Parkway in Westchester County, according to the Times Herald-Record:    Read more

The Catskills with a dog in tow

Writer Heather Rolland with a few four-legged hiking companions. Photo by Candid Canine Photography.

Outdoor recreation opportunities abound in the Catskills, running the gamut from strolling on rail trails to expert-only wilderness bushwhacks. Whatever your adventure level — or your dog’s — there’s plenty to do with a pup in tow here in the Catskills.

What to do

HIKE. Most dogs love to hike, and the many trails that wend through Catskills forests are wonderful places for you to enjoy nature: balsam firs, bald eagles, tumbling cascades and vistas that have inspired generations. Be sure to match your outing to your buddy’s current level of fitness.

Catskill Park regulations do not require dogs to be leashed at all times. Voice control is acceptable in many areas; check the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s website (dec.ny.gov) for details. Some great trails to try are Overlook Mountain (watch out for timber rattlesnakes), Slide Mountain, Giant Ledge and Rochester Hollow.  Read more

Boat the Cannonsville Reservoir in August, earn a badge

Above: The Cannonsville Reservoir in 2012. Photo by Flickr user David, shared in the Watershed Post Flickr pool

This summer, the Catskills Outdoor Guide is partnering with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Catskill Watershed Corporation to bring you our new Catskill Reservoir Paddler embroidered badge, which you can only earn by paddling a specific reservoir each month.

In August, the spotlight is on the Cannonsville Reservoir. Paddle the Cannonsville anytime between August 1 and 31, send in your proof, and a Catskill Reservoir Paddler badge will be yours. Click here or scroll down for full redemption instructions. 

The Cannonsville reservoir is the most remote of the Catskill reservoirs. At the northwestern edge of Delaware County, it's in the middle of nowhere, just the destination for someone looking for a little on-the-water solitude.

The Cannonsville also has a whopping seven boat launches studding its 61-mile shoreline, which makes it the easiest reservoir to thoroughly explore. That's because the recreational boating program made its debut on the Cannonsville in 2009 before expanding to the other reservoirs in NYC's Catskill system. There's been lots of time to build out the infrastructure. 

For a detailed map of the Cannonsville and its boat launches, click here.

The Cannonsville was the last of the city's Catskills reservoirs to be constructed. It was finished in the 1960s, forcing five communities to evacuate.

Some reminders remain under the waters. A twin-span iron bridge that once spanned the West Branch of the Delaware River was submerged along with the abandoned towns, according to a newspaper clipping reproduced on the blog Ghost Lakes

You can get your boat steam-cleaned for the Cannonsville at Rainbow Lodge (607-865-7534, 440 Rainbow Lodge Road, Walton), JMT Enterprises (607-865-7801, 1724 Chamberlain Brook Road, Walton), Backus Farms (607-865-6639, 7377 County Highway 27, Trout Creek), and Warner Enterprises (607-349-5105, 69 Main Street, Deposit). And you can rent a boat or get it steam-cleaned at Hawk Mountain Guide Service (607-865-7830, 751 McLaughlin Road, Sidney Center). 

For our five-step guide to boating NYC's Catskills reservoirs, click here. 

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Rudi's Big Indian ashram to reincarnate as retreat center

Above: A ten-foot-tall granite statue of Mariamma, a south Indian rain goddess, at a dedication ceremony at the former ashram in Big Indian on Sunday, July 27. Photos courtesy of the Bodhivastu Foundation.

A ten-foot-tall, 10,000-pound statue of a Hindu rain goddess arrived in Big Indian on Sunday celebrate the reopening of a long-dormant Catskills ashram.

The Poughquag-based Bodhivastu Foundation is planning to open a Buddhist spiritual retreat center at the site of an ashram founded by legendary Catskills guru Swami Rudrananda -- known as Rudi -- in 1968.

John Mann, the owner of the parcel located at 126 Lost Clove Road in the Ulster County town of Shandaken, donated it to the foundation, according to Lama Rangbar Nyimai Özer, the spiritual leader of the Bodhivastu Foundation.

According to Ulster County real estate records, the property was sold on February 25.

"We explained our intention to him about making [it] a spiritual sanctuary retreat and healing center," said Lama Rangbar, who is also known as Adam Friedensohn. "It was very much in line with Rudi's original intention."  Read more

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Police: Oneonta man raped acquaintance in Davenport

An Oneonta man was arrested yesterday on several charges, including rape, following an investigation into a sexual assault that occurred early Monday in the Delaware County town of Davenport, according to a press release from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.

On Wednesday afternoon, July 30, Delaware County Sheriff's deputies arrested 19-year-old William J. Hilgers, who is accused of engaging in sex with an acquaintance by “forcible compulsion” while the victim was "physically helpless," according to the press release. 

Police said that Hilgers restrained the victim in an attempt to prevent the person from fleeing or ending the assault.

Hilgers was charged with rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree, a class B felony, sexual abuse in the first degree, also a class B felony, and unlawful imprisonment in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor.

He was arraigned in the Town of Davenport Court and remanded to the Delaware County Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond.

  Read more