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The Catskills: The "locally cured bacon" vacation destination

Above: Locally cured bacon from Fleisher's, the artisanal Catskills butcher shop that has outposts in Kingston and Park Slope, Brooklyn. Photo via the Fleisher's Facebook page

Another downstate media outlet is tackling our question: Is 2015 the year of the Catskills? According to a thoughtful article in the Daily Beast today, the answer is a great big yes.   Read more

January 2015 snowstorm updates

9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27: The travel ban in Ulster County (and in most other New York counties) has been lifted, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo this morning announced that the travel ban in the Hudson Valley (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster, Westchester counties), Nassau County, and New York City is lifted effective at 7:30 a.m. I-84 as well as the Thruway have been reopened. Drivers should use extreme caution and prepare properly as driving conditions remain poor and other states still may have travel bans in effect.

7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27: Snow much for that. Overnight, the storm tracked farther east than forecasters expected, and now the National Weather Service, Hudson Valley Weather and other forecasters have lowered their snowfall predictions for the Catskills and New York City. It'll be just another normal winter storm from here on out, with up to 6 inches possible in most parts of the Catskills. 

From the National Weather Service in Albany

This storm was east far enough by 50-100 miles to drastically alter the snowfall accumulations in the Albany forecast area. Some snow is still expected...but much lesser amounts at this time.

The team at Hudson Valley Weather has been up all night for this nailbiter:

While we are still under advisories and warnings for up to 6-12 inches of snow by the NWS, we fill that if the moisture does actually push west this morning into the afternoon, it will only produce light to possibly moderate snowfall totals. A general 2-6 inch snow fall with maybe a few higher spots seems much more logical at this point. No reason to believe this storm will discontinue its efforts to underperform the forecast.

HVW adds that it's been getting flack from irate readers: 

As a side note, attacks against HVW and forecasters alike will not bring the snow back, it would be much more productive for you to tackle your degree in meteorology. We realize that this was a major blow to the science and to forecasting in general and it will likely open the floodgates of criticism against what forecasters do. Kinda reminds me of the movie "The Weatherman" when Nicholas Cage is walking down the street and he gets hit with a milkshake, with that said, I prefer a chocolate frosty from Wendy's.

8:20 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26: There's some confusion about whether Gov. Cuomo's travel ban includes Sullivan County. The governor named Sullivan County as one of the counties with a travel ban in both press conferences he gave on Jan. 26, but his office's official list of 13 counties with travel bans does not include Sullivan County: 

For all local and state roads, a travel ban will go into effect at 11 p.m until further notice in the following 13 counties: Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Ulster, and Westchester.

Sullivan County Manager Joshua Potosek issued a statement at 7:15 p.m. saying that there is no travel ban in effect in Sullivan County: 

County Manger Joshua Potosek has announced that there are no current travel restrictions for Sullivan County ... County Manager Potosek urges all County residents during the storm to remain indoors and off roadways whenever possible. If residents must drive, they are advised to exercise extreme caution when driving through this storm.

It looks like the only Catskills county included in the travel ban is Ulster, where drivers have been ordered to stay off the roads after 11 p.m tonight.  

5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26: A travel ban on all roads will be in effect in Ulster and Sullivan counties, as well in more southern New York counties, beginning at 11 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26.

"It is a total travel restriction ban," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a 4:45 p.m. press conference. "If you are in your car, and you are on any road after 11 p.m., you will technically be committing a crime." 

"State roads, local roads, city roads, town roads except for emergency personnel," Cuomo said. "If you violate this state order it’s a possible misdemeanor, with fines up to $300."

12 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26: Ulster and Sullivan county are under a state of emergency due to the looming snowstorm that is forecasted to bring up to 18 inches of snow to the eastern Catskills tonight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference at noon on Monday, Jan. 26.

There will be a tractor-trailer ban on the New York Thruway beginning at 4 p.m., and Cuomo's administration is considering issuing a total travel ban on all traffic on all main roads tonight. 

"I'm declaring a state of emergency effective immediately from Sullivan and Ulster counties south," Cuomo said.

The governor also said that there will be a tractor trailer ban on the New York Thruway beginning at 4 p.m. 

"We are considering at this time a travel ban on all main roads starting at 11 p.m. tonight," Cuomo said.

That decision on the travel ban will be made after 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26, Cuomo said. 

"The closing of the roads is a safety precaution," he said. "It's never an easy decision." 

"This is not a storm to take lightly," he said. 

More updates below:

  Read more

Up to two feet of snow expected in Catskills during storm

Above: Projected snowfall totals in the Catskills and Hudson Valley by Hudson Valley Weather

Update, 1/26: We are tracking live updates on the progress of the storm through the Catskills and Hudson Valley. Click here to follow along.

The forecasters at the National Weather Service and Hudson Valley Weather say that up to 24 inches of snow could hit the Catskills during Winter Storm Juno (yes, it has a name) on Monday, Jan. 26 and Tuesday, Jan. 27. 

We're getting off easy. The predictions for New York City are dire.  Read more

Shandaken gets one more chance to weigh in on Belleayre Resort

See video

Above: The first of a three-part video from the Shandaken Planning Board's public hearing on Crossroads' proposed Belleayre Resort project. Source: Town of Shandaken's YouTube channel

For the past fifteen years, the public debate surrounding the Belleayre Resort project, a 629-unit luxury resort slated to straddle the line between the towns of Shandaken and Middletown next to the Belleayre Ski Center, has been fierce and bitter. 

But at a public hearing held Monday, Jan. 12 by the Town of Shandaken's Planning Board, at which the board took public comments about resort developer Crossroads Ventures' application for a special use permit from the town, little of that public acrimony was on display. There was plenty of standing and sitting room among the crowd of roughly 50 people who gathered for the hearing. Just 14 people spoke, there was little heckling, and the meeting lasted only about an hour.   Read more

Serial check bouncer left trail of larceny across New York and Pennsylvania, police say

Left: Lee S. McDonald. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

A Walton man allegedly bounced checks and stole large sums of money from victims across six counties in two states, police say.

Lee S. McDonald, a 35-year-old man who owns a contracting business called Blue Moon Construction, was arrested on Thursday, Jan. 15 by investigators from the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, according to a press release.

The Delaware County District Attorney's office charged McDonald with one count of grand larceny in the second degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree. The exact amount of money McDonald allegedly stole is hidden inside a sealed grand jury indictment, but it is at least $51,000, and probably much more.  

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. In Delaware County alone, McDonald has been arrested three more times for passing bad checks from the checking accounts of Blue Moon Construction and Dam Broke Farm, another business he owns.  Read more

New early bear hunting season may have led to record kill numbers 

Above: A bear snacks on birdseed after smashing a bird feeder at a home in Andes in 2006. Photo by Peter Possenti (using a telephoto lens.) Used with permission

The spot Tim Meservey found at the base of a tree early one Saturday morning in September was a hunter’s dream. On a rise, it faced a gully that is a country lane for wildlife. A few hundred yards away is a farm where bears strip sweet, young corn from the stalk when no one is looking. 

Usually, bears are not on Meservey’s big game list. Not as plentiful as deer, they are also elusive, and it was rare to see one in the woods by the time regular hunting season arrived in November in Greene County, where the 39-year-old hunter and middle school art teacher lives. 

“They tend to head back up in the mountains in fall,” Meservey said.

But when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) initiated an early bear season that started on Sept. 6 – the regular season opened Nov. 15 – Meservey said he finally saw an opportunity.  Read more

The New York Times jumps on the visit-the-Catskills bandwagon

Above: A double rainbow over the Ashokan Reservoir in July 2014. Photo by Rebecca Balzac, shared in the Watershed Post Flickr pool. 

Joining the likes of Travel + Leisure and Fodor's, the New York Times has listed the Catskills as one of "52 Places to Go in 2015."

"Not your Bubbie and Zadie’s getaway," the NYT writes, ranking the Catskills #39 on its list. The paper names a series of Catskills establishments that have been enjoying fantastic press recently, including The Graham & Co. and the Phoenicia Diner in Phoenicia and Cucina and Woodstock Way in Woodstock--all of which were also recently lauded in a feature in Vogue.

There's also the inevitable comparison to Brooklyn:   Read more

"Arctic Outbreak" prompts some schools to open late

Above: Forecasted windchill temperatures for Thursday, Jan. 8, from the National Weather Service's Binghamton office.

Several Catskills school districts have announced delays for Thursday, Jan. 7 because of frigid temperatures expected on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

In Greene County, the Greene, Catskill and Cairo-Durham schools have all announced two-hour delays, according to CBS 6's StormWatch page.

In Sullivan County, Sullivan County West is also on a two-hour delay, according to the school's website  Read more

Church strips accused priest's name from parish center

Above: Robert Purcell's name was removed from the sign in front of the Purcell Parish Center in Margaretville on Jan. 4, 2015. Photo by Julia Reischel.

For four years, the name of a priest found responsible for sexually abusing minors has adorned the front of his parish's community center in the Delaware County village of Margaretville. Even after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany removed Robert H. Purcell from the ministry and forbade him from using the title “Reverend,” the imposing metal letters that spelled out “Very Rev. Robert H. Purcell” remained set in stone.

Until Sunday, Jan. 4, six months after Purcell’s death, when church officials announced the sign would be removed. Steven Scarmozzino, the current priest, made the announcement at Mass on Sunday morning at the Sacred Heart Parish in Margaretville. By the end of the day, the letters were pried off, leaving only a rusty shadow on a blank stone behind.

Church officials did not give a specific reason for the sign’s removal, and have not linked it directly with Purcell’s stained legacy.

Six years, two sex abuse scandals  Read more

Chris Gibson won't run again for Congress in 2016

As Republican Congressman Chris Gibson was sworn into his third term in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Jan. 6, he announced that it would be his last.

In a statement, Gibson said that he will step down from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of his current two-year term:

"As I stated shortly after retiring from the US Army and first pursuing a seat in Congress in 2010, I planned to self-impose term limits. Accordingly, after much reflection and consultation with my family, this will be my third and final time taking the oath of office as a Representative in the US House. I thank the voters of Upstate NY for this privilege to serve and pledge to continue to work tirelessly on their behalf in this final term."  Read more