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Bashing the Borscht Belt: A Catskills rebranding effort ladles it on

Above: A screenshot from the website of the Catskill Park Resource Foundation, which is seeking to mount a $5 million campaign to rebrand the Catskills region. The CPRF is currently running a contest seeking Catskills slogans; the winner will receive $1,500.

All press is good press, or so the saying goes.  By that logic, Catskills denizens ought to be pleased with the results of a high-profile effort by a group of local businesspeople to rebrand the region.

But after a recent New York Times story about the rebranding effort featured a lot of handwringing about how tarnished the region's reputation is, some local tourism promoters are wondering if dwelling publicly on the image of crumbling Borscht Belt hotels and schlocky comedy is doing more harm than good.  Read more

125 years of firefighting in Margaretville

The Margaretville Fire Department was founded way back in 1887, 125 years ago. To celebrate, firefighters old and very young (see above) marched in a parade through Margaretville on Saturday, July 7. Reader Sharon Goldstein sent us these photos from the parade. 

DEP plays Whac-A-Mole with Pepacton contamination

Above: A cleanup team at work at the site of a diesel fuel spill in the Pepacton reservoir. Photo by DEP regional manager Mark Danvetz.

No sooner had the New York City Department of Environmental Protection finished cleaning up 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel from the Pepacton Reservoir than another source of contamination was found at the bottom of the reservoir.

The cleanup of the Pepacton has been going on for over two months. Evidence of an oil spill near the East Delaware Tunnel intake was first found on Sunday, April 29, according to an article in the Walton Reporter. On Friday, May 18, the DEP announced that the source of the leak had been found: a pipe protruding from a large object buried in sediment at the bottom of the reservoir.  Read more

Letter to the editor: Bravo to Hurley for saying no to the byway

Background: Last week, after the Town of Hurley voted to withdraw from the Catskill Scenic Byway project, the Watershed Post ran a letter to the editor from Melinda McKnight blasting the town board for their decision. McKnight is Hurley's representative to the Central Catskills Collaborative, a group that represents five towns and two villages, and that is spearheading the byway project.

McKnight's letter refers to Olive resident Glenda McGee, a prominent opponent of the byway, citing McGee's "irrational arguments." The letter below is McGee's response.

Dear Editor,

Melinda McKnight's emotional reaction to Hurley's meticulous assessment of the Byway Plan's pitfalls and expenses warrants a response.

The Town of Hurley has saved their taxpayers untold sums of money and unforeseen consequences by saying no to the Byway Plan. It included no cost analysis, doesn’t grandfather in pre-existing non conforming homes and businesses, and suggests a stunning array of infrastructure projects that are urban-styled, exorbitant and often far- fetched.  Read more

DEC loosens firewood transport rules

Above: Photo of cut log by Flickr user EasyPickle. Published under Creative Commons license.

This afternoon, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that they are loosening the regulations that govern transportation of firewood in the state.

According to a press release from the DEC, wood being transported to sawmills and other facilities for processing will no longer be considered "firewood," and is not covered by the regulations.

Also, under the revision, homeowners and other firewood users will not have to keep documentation of where their wood came from, unless they are burning it on state land.

The regulations, which are intended to prevent the spread of invasive tree-killing insects like emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, still prevent the transport of untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source.

From the press release:  Read more

Greatwoods Farm: A grocery store fresh from the Victorian era

Above and bottom: Tony and Elizabeth Ruiz and their children, Zed and Evie. Photos by Mellisa Misner.

As we work on relaunching our Catskills-wide business directory, we're beefing up our coverage of local businesses. This is the first installment of a series of interviews with Catskills merchants, retailers, and mom-and-pops that we'll be running this year. -- Julia Reischel

"Customers appreciate it when they come in, ask if I have Dijon mustard, and I say 'No, but I can make you some.'"

So says Tony Ruiz of Greatwoods Farm, on Route 28 between Arkville and Margaretville. Greatwoods is a grocery, cafe, and bakery that Ruiz has been running with his wife Elizabeth and their two kids, 2-year-old Evie and 1-year-old Zed, since last year. (There's a third baby, nicknamed "Chopper," due in August.)  Read more

Supreme Court upholds healthcare law (mostly)

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 in favor of letting most provisions of the healthcare reform law stand. (The ruling did strike down a provision that imposed federal penalties on states if they refuse to expand their Medicaid programs.)

The New York Times has a good explanation of the decision, which was complicated -- and had Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. siding with the four more liberal members of the court in favor of the law, though he disagreed with their reasons:

The key provision that 26 states opposing the law had challenged – popularly known as the individual mandate – requires virtually all citizens to buy health insurance meeting minimum federal standards, or to pay a penalty if they refuse.  Read more

Schreibman, Long win Congressional primaries

With most districts reporting, the Associated Press called the Democratic primary in New York's 19th Congressional District in favor of attorney Julian Schreibman, shortly after 11pm. Schreibman, a first-time candidate, defeated Dutchess County legislator Joel Tyner in the primary.

It was an early night for poll-watchers. About two hours after the polls closed, Schreibman was already making his victory speech -- and looking forward to this November's contest against incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, writes the Times-Union:

“Congressman Gibson may be a nice guy, but his votes are out of step with the values of our communities,” said Schreibman. “If you send me to Congress, I will be absolutely focused on the needs of our citizens.”  Read more

Tyner and Schreibman face off in Democratic primary today

Joel Tyner (left) and Julian Schreibman, candidates seeking to run on the Democratic ticket for New York State's 19th Congressional District this year.

Voters, don't forget to go to the polls: New York State holds its statewide primaries today.

Here in the new 19th Congressional District, the race is on between Joel Tyner and Julian Schreibman, both vying for the Democratic ticket. The Republican nominee, incumbent Congressman Chris Gibson, has no challenger on the ballot.

Edited to add: Local GOP voters also have a U.S. Senate race to vote in. Three challengers are seeking to run on the Republican ticket against U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand this fall: Manhattan lawyer Wendy Long, Nassau County comptroller George Maragos and Congressman Bob Turner (R-Queens).

The Associated Press is predicting abysmally low turnout in this race. Get out there and prove 'em wrong, folks.