Florida man charged with murder of state trooper on I-81

Trooper Christopher Skinner, a 13-year veteran of the New York State Police, was killed on duty shortly after noon on Thursday, May 29 after he was struck by a car during a traffic stop on I-81 in Broome County. 

Police say the man driving the car -- a resident of Melrose, Florida -- hit Skinner intentionally, after first striking two other cars. The man, 60-year-old Almond Upton, has been charged with first-degree murder in Skinner's death.

According to an account from the New York State Police, Upton struck two cars traveling northbound on I-81, causing minor injuries to one driver. He then spotted Skinner conducting a traffic stop, veered over from the passing lane into the driving lane, and struck Skinner, sideswiping the car that had been stopped by the trooper. 

Skinner was killed instantly. 

Police say Upton then abandoned his car and fled into the woods. He was found and taken into custody about an hour later.  Read more

Two Esopus men arrested after home invasion burglary

Two Esopus men have been arrested after they allegedly entered a house and attacked people inside, damaging the house and causing minor injuries to the victims.

On Sunday, May 25, police responded to a report of an altercation at a residence in Esopus around 11:25 p.m., according to the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office. Police said victims reported that two males, later identified as Jurgen J. Ladstetter, 43, and Jerry Barnes-Payne, 19, both of 20 Rifton Terrace, Esopus, attacked them and “caused damage to the building.”

According to police, the two allegedly held “cutting instruments” while they threatened the victims.

The victims sustained “minor injuries” after a brief struggle with Ladstetter and Barnes-Payne, who then fled the scene.

Barnes-Payne was apprehended near the residence and Ladstetter several hours later, according to police. The two were charged with first-degree burglary, a felony.  Read more

Kerhonkson man arrested on crack, heroin and marijuana charges

A traffic stop on Route 209 in Wawarsing on Wednesday led to the arrest of a Kerhonkson man on multiple drug charges, police say.

Members of the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT) and Ulster County Sheriff’s Office K-9 team arrested Troy Blackwell, 39, of 74 Minnewaska Trail, Kerhonkson, for possession of crack cocaine packaged for sale, heroin and marijuana on Wednesday, May 28 in Wawarsing, according to police. Blackwell was also found with $4,000 cash.

The arrest was made after they stopped a vehicle in which Blackwell was a passenger on Route 209 in Wawarsing at 2:15 p.m.

After his arrest, Blackwell was taken to the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a class B felony, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, a class C felony and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, according to police.

Blackwell was arraigned in the Town of Ulster Justice Court and sent to Ulster County Jail without bail.

This weekend: Rails to the Catskills premiere

Engine number 49 on the New York Ontario and Western Railway, taken around 1872. Photo courtesy of the Cornell University Library.
See video

Forgotten history is what interests filmmaker Tobe Carey most. His latest film, the documentary Rails to the Catskills, is an attempt to encapsulate the history of the railroad lines that abounded in the Catskills area for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"I had been asked for years to make a film about the railroads," Carey said. “Many people don’t have a sense of the vibrant railroad industry.”  

The 95-minute film, which will premiere on Sunday, June 1 at 4 p.m. at the Mountain Cinema, Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter, highlights the cultural and economic impact the railroads had on the area.

According to Carey, the film tells the story of the railroads in chronological order — beginning with its predecessor, the Delaware and Hudson Canal — and its original intent to “connect waterways.”  Read more

Fresh: Goods Luncheonette

Goods Luncheonette in Boiceville. Photo by Jennifer Strom.

After five years as executive chef at Full Moon Resort and a career in traditional restaurants before that, Adam Kowalsky knew he wanted to do something different when he finally opened his own place. Living in West Hurley and raising three kids, the Chinese food and pizza options did not impress him.

“I wanted to come up with scratch-made fast food, where a family could come in, eat a nice healthy lunch, and move on,” he said. 

Last week, Kowalsky and co-owner and partner Zach Johnan, who also lives in West Hurley, opened Goods Luncheonette in Boiceville, where everything on the small menu costs less than $10 and can be prepared in less than 10 minutes. 

Above: Zach Johnan mans the stove at Goods Luncheonette. Photo by Jennifer Strom.   Read more

Baby black bear tours SUNY New Paltz campus

Above:  The young black bear climbed a tree outside a campus residence hall before DEC officials were able to tranquilize it and send it home. Photo Courtesy of SUNY New Paltz University Police. 

A black bear — roughly one year old and the size of a large German shepherd — made its way around the classroom buildings of the SUNY New Paltz campus before scurrying up a tree on Tuesday night. As expected in a college town, folks were on hand to tweet through the saga.

Bà & Me, Vietnamese cuisine, holds grand opening in Sullivan County

Above: Vietnamese Restaurant Bà & Me will celebrate its grand opening tomorrow in Callicoon. Photos courtesy of Nhi Nguyen. 

The name of the first Vietnamese restaurant in Sullivan County, Bà & Me, is a play on words: In Vietnamese, it means “grandmother and mother,” while, in English, it sounds just like the banh mi sandwiches served there. 

Owner Nhi Nguyen said it’s a fitting name, as she’s scoured through her mother’s recipes to organize the perfect menu for her new restaurant, which celebrates its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony tomorrow at 26 Upper Main St. in Callicoon. 

Left: Nhi Nguyen, the owner of Bà & Me.

Nguyen, who was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and immigrated to the United States in 1980 after the Vietnam War, grew up working in her parent’s Vietnamese restaurant in the midwest before moving to New York to pursue her marketing degree. 

“I hated working there as a kid,” she said. “In hindsight, that experience taught me the importance of hard work and a love for Vietnamese cooking.”  

She was living in New York City with her three kids and her fiancé when Hurricane Sandy hit. Their Manhattan apartment flooded, forcing the family to relocate to Sullivan County. Soon after, she and her partner Michael Mundy began mulling over ideas for businesses that would contribute to the community. 

“We realized that people around here were literally starving for good, healthy food choices,” Nguyen said. “So it was clear that I had to open up a Vietnamese restaurant.” 

  Read more

Scout's Honor: Earn Catskills Badges

This summer, channel your inner Eagle Scout in the Catskills: Earn one of our outdoor badges by hiking a fire tower or paddling a reservoir. (That’s right, “earn”: Our Catskills badges can’t be bought.)

The 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide is proud to present our 2014 Catskills Badge Program, which features two limited-edition embroidered badges: the brand-new Catskill Reservoir Paddler Badge and the popular Catskill Fire Towers Badge. They’re perfect for sewing onto a sash, a backpack or your favorite pair of Carhartts.

The badge program is simple: Boat a New York City reservoir or hike a fire tower in the Catskills, send us proof of your adventure (see details below), and you get your very own real-deal badge. You can’t buy these beauties in a store; you’ll have to earn them the old-fashioned way. So get out there and show us what you can do.  Read more

Parksville music fest breathes new life into the Dead End Cafe

The Lyric Quartet takes a bow at the 2013 Parksville USA Music Festival. Left to right: Mariano Vidal, Evgeniya Krachmarova, Tom Caltabellotta, Leslie Swanson.

Music lovers of all ages can come out to hear local groups perform opera, jazz, Broadway and more once a month at the Dead End Café in Parksville as part of the Parksville USA Music Festival.

Performances are held on the first or second Sundays of each month, and feature a variety of local artists: the Coyote Anderson Quartet, the Hudson Valley String Quartet, Lydia Adams Davis and the Lyric Quartet. The festival line-up includes a few special themed shows, including a November tribute to the late Pete Seeger called “Folk and Country Music That Made a Difference.” 

The next performance in the lineup will be on Saturday, June 7, and will feature the Lyric Quartet -- now with a few new members -- singing Viennese operetta and Broadway musical numbers.   Read more

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for western Catskills

Above: The National Weather Service in Binghamton warns of an eastward-bound line of thunderstorms moving across the New York-Pennsylvania border.

A severe thunderstorm watch was issued Tuesday afternoon for central New York and the western Catskills region, including Delaware and Sullivan counties. The watch is in effect until 9 p.m.

Hudson Valley Weather writes that the storms in the forecast are the result of an incoming cold front that could send temperatures plunging for the next week or so. 

The Catskills region may be in for some fierce storms this evening, which could bring hail as well as rain. But the approaching thunderstorms aren't likely to top 2013's Memorial Day weekend weather, when snowstorms blanketed the highest peaks of the Catskills in white.