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On the brink of a buyout, junkyard burns in Fleischmanns

Above: The VW Parts junkyard on fire in Fleischmanns. Photos by Julia Reischel.

The VW Parts building owned by infamous Fleischmanns junkyard operator William Hrazanek caught fire around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 26. The former junkyard, located at 717 Wagner Avenue, is in the process of being purchased with federal disaster funds as part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) buyout program. 

"FEMA is going to tear it down anyway," said Hrazanek as he stood watching the flames. "It's less work for them."

The fire was in full swing at 5:30 p.m. A tall column of smoke loomed over a crowd of students who were watching the fire from the grounds of a yeshiva next door. Multiple fire departments were on the scene.  

Hrazanek said that he has no idea what started the fire, and that he was in the process of selling the contents of the building, mostly auto parts, to Euro Nutz Inc. in Saugerties.  He said that he believed that workers from Euro Nutz had been inside the building earlier today, but that when he arrived at the scene, the door was locked and the fire was in progress.   Read more

Lightning strikes Fleischmanns church

Above: Pastor Adrian Todd looks out of a broken window in the bell tower of the Fleischmanns United Methodist Church on Thursday, August 21. The windows were blown out when lightning struck the building that morning. Photo by Larry Dunlap.

Lighting struck the bell tower of the United Methodist Church in Fleischmanns at 8:45 a.m. on August 21, blasting off siding and blowing out six windows.

"Somebody said it sounded like a bomb went off," said Adrian Todd, the pastor of the church, which is also known as the Fleischmanns Community Church. "It was loud."

Todd wasn't at the church at the time of the strike, but several people were driving by and witnessed it.

"The windows blew out just as they were right in front of the church," Todd said.

The windows were plain glass, not stained glass. Todd said that the church's insurance company is investigating and determining whether it will cover the damage. 

There were no injuries. Todd said that the tenants who live in the adjacent building were not affected.

Volunteers helped clean up the shattered glass off the church lawn yesterday, and today the broken windows are covered with plywood.

The church building dates from 1884, and as far as Todd knows, this is the first time it has been struck by lightning.

Is there a theological explanation?  Read more

Flash flood watch for eastern Catskills

Above: A post from the Albany office of the National Weather Service's Facebook page today. 

Parts of the Catskills could get "torrential" rainfall of as much to 1 to 2 inches per hour tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

The eastern Catskills -- Ulster, Schoharie and Greene counties -- are under a flash flood watch issued by the NWS's Albany office. The rains are expected to begin close to midnight tonight, Tuesday, August 12. The flood watch expires at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 13.   Read more

Letter to the Editor: Condition of Routes 10 and 28 "an embarrassment"

The following is a letter that was sent to the NYS Department of Transporation, and forwarded to the Watershed Post. -- Ed.

August 5, 2014

Joan McDonald, Commissioner
NYS Department of Transportation
50 Wolf Road
Albany, NY 12232

Re: NYS Routes #10 and #28

Dear Commissioner McDonald:  Read more

The Catskills are hot (again)

The cover of August's Hudson Valley Magazine.

Brace yourselves: The Catskills are having their biggest moment since the height of the Borscht Belt resorts in the '50s.

Hudson Valley Magazine has dedicated its entire August issue to the region, declaring that "The Catskills Are Back," and featuring the pool at Phoenicia's The Graham & Co. hotel on its cover.  

[T]he big story of the day is that the Catskills have seemingly overnight transformed from a sleepy, somewhat rundown region to a hip ’n happening hangout for all types of urban culture vultures and — dare we say it — hipsters.

What is this we hear? It seems that every season, at least one new boutique hotel throws open its doors — and more and more city folk flee upstate to the forest. Cultural offerings abound, gastropubs serve up farm-to-table fare, you can even stay in a luxury yurt. Yes, glamping has come to the Catskills.  Read more

Next Week: The Delaware County Fair

Above: The demolition derby at the Delaware County Fair. Photo by Ann Roberti.

The Delaware County Fair, the Catskills' annual bacchanal of butter statuary, demolition derbies, livestock, and country pride, kicks off Monday, August 11, and runs through Saturday, August 16. 

The Delaware County Fair. August 11 - 16. Walton fairgrounds, Fair Street, Walton. Tickets $8. delawarecountyfair.org.

Below: Carriage racing at the 2012 Delaware County Fair. Photo by Ann Roberti. 

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

Belleayre Resort will fail unless scaled back, Catskill Heritage Alliance claims

Above: A rendering of the planned hotel and lodge buildings at Highmount -- part of the proposed Belleayre Resort project -- from a supplemental draft environmental impact statement released in April 2014 by the DEC.

The Catskill Heritage Alliance, a local environmental group that has long been critical of the proposed Belleayre Resort project in Highmount, has released a study that claims the resort will fail unless scaled back.

The study, commissioned by Washington, D.C.-based firm Public and Environmental Finance Associates, takes aim at another study commissioned last year from national hotel consultants HVS by resort developer Crossroads Ventures. In documents prepared in 2013 for the state's ongoing review of the project, Crossroads relied on the HVS study to make a case for the resort's financial viability and economic benefits to the region.   Read more

Transition Catskills proposes 'Catskills dollars,' tool libraries, and farmers' markets

Above: A design for a local Catskills currency created by members of Transition Catskills.

About two dozen people attended the first public forum of Transition Catskills, a group dedicated to making the Catskills more economically resilient, on Wednesday night at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville.

“This was our first effort to organize a conversation,” said Jeff Tomasi, a former partner at Goldman Sachs who helped found the group.

There will be another film screening and public forum for the Transition Catskills movement on Saturday, July 26, at 4 p.m. at the Roxbury Arts Center in Roxbury.

Tomasi, who owns a second home in the Delaware County town of Middletown, also lives in London, where he first got word of Transition, an initiative that began in England around 2006 and addressed issues of oil dependence and economic instability.

“I’m not a leader, I’m a facilitator,” Tomasi told the group. “I’m not here to tell people how to live. Just here to start the dialogue.”  Read more

Albany Diocese condemns obituary and mass for accused former priest

In an unusual move, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany condemned an obituary and mass for a former priest who died last week as "highly insensitive" to the people he is accused of sexually abusing while he was a minister.

Former priest Robert H. Purcell, who died in the Delaware County village of Margaretville on Thursday, July 17, was permanently removed from the ministry in 2011 after an investigation by the Albany Diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board into charges that he had sexually abused minors.

In its investigation, the Diocese "found reasonable grounds to believe" that Purcell sexually abused minors, including a victim in Margaretville from 1995 to 2001, according to Ken Goldfarb, the director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, in a statement emailed to the Watershed Post today.  Read more