I have always firmly believed in the value and beauty of the “salad” concept of relationships rather than the “melting pot”, hence have typically championed the “different is good” philosophy. My vision has been expanded -- and in a good way. For a room full of receptive and impressionable young people in Highland the efforts of the Similarities Project, as reported in the Dec. 16th issue of the New Paltz Times, put an amazing spin on appreciating their differences by finding their commonalities. I loved, loved, loved reading of this uplifting and inspirational effort. Kudos to SUNY Sociology Professor Peter Kaufman and Highland Elementary School Teacher Leigh Weaver for touching the hearts of those third graders in ways that will undoubtedly transform them forever.
The battle against hydro fracking: Defining Victory
With Governor David Paterson’s Executive Order this weekend, New York became the first state in the country to put a formal timeout on the dangerous new gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. This is a major victory for the citizens of New York and for people across the country who have been fighting this destructive practice.
The Governor’s Executive Order (EO) directs the DEC to conduct further comprehensive review and analysis of high-volume hydro-fracking in the Marcellus Shale, and to revise the fatally-flawed draft Supplemental Generic
Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS). Permits for high-volume horizontal hydro-fracking will not be issued until after a revised draft is released in June and the public has a chance to weigh in. This is a clear acknowledgment of the fundamental shortcomings in the existing draft regulations and a victory for the citizen movement to protect our water, air, land and future.
For the past year, thousands of New Yorkers have voiced concern over flaws in the proposed regulations and now we know that Paterson heard us. Paterson’s strong EO comes after many other victories these past few months.
It was a stunning accomplishment for the hydro-fracking moratorium to pass with a landslide bipartisan vote in the New York State Senate this summer and then another strong victory in the Assembly a few weeks ago -- both during special sessions with limited legislative agendas.
Elected officials from both parties, from upstate and downstate, are coming together to insist that the burden of proof should be on the industry to verify that its technologies are safe, not the other way around.
Especially while all the scientific studies are still conducted, we should insist that our priceless water supply be treated as “sacrosanct” (in Governor-elect Cuomo’s words) and that New York not make the same mistakes as other states like Pennsylvania, where fracking has been an unmitigated disaster on every level: for people’s health, for the environment, for the economy and for the over-burdened state and local governments.
There is a strong argument to be made that this process can never be done safely, but what is certain is that moving forward prematurely -- before the facts are all in -- would be unquestionably reckless and dangerous. It hasn’t been easy, but with a strong citizen movement supporting them, a majority of elected leaders in our state stood up this year to the massive spending of the gas industry.
And now New York is leading the nation on this issue. The only downside in the current freeze on drilling is that Governor Paterson excluded vertical hydro-fracking in his moratorium order, in contrast to bill passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature. The intentional inclusion of vertical wells in the legislation passed by both houses was in direct response to the gas industry’s threats to circumvent any moratorium on horizontal high-volume hydro-fracking. Under current spacing laws, as many as 16 vertical wells could be drilled per square mile in the Marcellus Shale, resulting in even greater environmental impacts than those being evaluated in the SGEIS.
In response to this threat, the Legislature intentionally added vertical hydro-fracking wells in those shale formations to protect the public from this “end-run” around the regulatory process.
In addition, the Legislature understood that it was vertical wells drilled into the Marcellus Shale in PA -- including in the much-publicized case of Dimock -- that resulted in serious environmental and health issues, including widespread groundwater contamination. Despite the industry-created distinction between vertical and horizontal, both carry many of the same devastating consequences.
With the election of a new governor, we are confident that this error will be corrected, that Cuomo will start on the right foot by closing the “Paterson loophole” and move forward to create a new energy paradigm for New York. We have moved mountains and we are not going away.
Ulster County Legislator
and Director of Frack Actions
Greg Finger: In Memorium
This month we all lost a Best Friend and Brother,
A fighter for Peace and Life’s greatest lover;
Whose contagious Caring spread Joy and Commitment,
A singer whose Song was the whole Human Race.
Tears and laments should not mar his passing;
He’d never desire us to darken the day—
His life was ablaze with the heat of his Passion;
He ran toward the Fires with an ardor to Aid
The wronged and the wretched, the ones in harm’s way,
The victims and voiceless, the young and the weak;
He fought for their Rights, he’d counsel and comfort,
Always meeting their Need when called on to Speak
On Behalf of the Planet, to Preserve and Protect;
In Justice’s name, when Truth faced its threat;
For Equal Protection of Races and Sexes,
For Compassion and Love in cold, lonely climes.
While others were scheming for power and glory,
For gold and for jewels, for sin and smooth skin,
A refuge he built for young people to share in,
Where Empathy’s Warmth melted hearts deep within.
He rescued the lonely from lives filled with pain,
Gave reason for Hope and a chance at Respect;
With others he fought back the forces of Fear,
Which threaten our Liberties once bought so dear—
But the day-to-day Dramas that bring so much grief
He faced from the Fire House, of which he was Chief;
Taught others to save lives, and when fire did threaten,
Joined brave first-responders to thwart Death’s beckon.
When his own Day of Reckoning loomed in his life,
He sang with his brother and played with his dog;
Joined meetings by Skype from his hospital bed,
Kept Living and Loving until he was dead.
Most of us sleep through the bulk of the week;
Never wake to the Others, never fight for the Weak—
Let Greg live inside you, each day and each night;
You’ll shine like the Sun, and you’ll dance with Delight!
A successful sale
The Friends of the Gardiner Library held their second annual jewelry sale in November and it was a big success.
The Friends would like to thank the community for the many beautiful donations of jewelry. Also, a thank you to all of the customers who supported this event.
Our appreciation goes to Colleen Rifkind of Tiger Lily Jewelers for donated hours of appraisals and repair, to Walter Marquez of Water Street Market Antique Center for use of display stands, to Jennifer Burch of lia Sophia Jewelry for advice and donations and to Jodi and Shawn Whitehead of Uptown Attic for their generous contributions.
Thank you to all who helped make this sale outstanding.
Friends of the Gardiner Library
His only law is love
Let us celebrate Christmas with real joy this year. Christmas is a lot more than a holiday. We cannot take Christ out of Christmas. When that happens, we only harm ourselves, especially our children. It is Christ who taught us to love one another. Every human being yearns for that love. He brought us the gospel of peace. His only law is love.
Two thousand years ago the angels brought this message to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Fear not I bring you good news. For today is born in Bethlehem a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” Christmas is more than bestowing gifts of material worth upon those we love. It is a time to look at your family and your neighbor and to tell them: “I love you and I wish you a Merry Christmas.” It is also a time to forgive those that have hurt you. Christmas is for our children. Let us have joy with them together. So I wish to all of you my friends and neighbors: “Have a Merry Christmas.”
Johann Christoph Arnold, Pastor
Alarmist statements by the landlords
As you read the alarmist statements by the landlords, please keep in mind that this proposed code amendment, updating the definition of ‘rooming house,’ is simply to bring our local code into compliance with the state code. The only result will be to make it possible to provide better oversight of these properties and to make sure that tenants have all of the amenities and protections that state law guarantees. There is no factual, substantive basis for the landlords’ opposition and they are relying on false or misleading statements.
For example, at our most recent board meeting, my previous statements regarding the record high rents in New Paltz was contested with the claim that their expenses were so high, but look at the numbers. There is currently a four-bedroom house for sale In the village for a little under $300,000. Total taxes on that house could be up to $7,000/year. Mortgage payments would be about $1,300/month. Or $15,600/year. Water and sewer charges could be as much as $1,200/year. As is often the case, if the house were leased to one individual -- the ‘over tenant’ -- who then had to find other tenants, they would pay all of the utilities, leaving the landlord with basic annual expenses of $23,800/year. If it was rented for $3,000/month, a common fee under these circumstances, the total income would be $36,000/year leaving a difference, after expenses, of $12,200/year. That’s pretty lucrative.
For landlords who have been in the business long enough to own multiple such properties and have paid off the initial mortgage, it is incredibly lucrative. One of the best ways to shelter such income is to keep the properties mortgaged to the max, with shorter term mortgages that have higher payments. Mortgages are a deductible business expense and anyone with the financial background to understand the use of mortgages as tax-free income, will understand that these high mortgage payments do not mean low profit; quite the contrary. Thus the landlord’s vehement, knee-jerk opposition to any attempt by the village to better regulate this aspect of the local housing industry, even though the rental housing shortage in New Paltz has created a “landlord’s market,” guaranteeing high rents and a secure demand for their units.
There being no substantive basis to oppose being compliant with the state law, the landlords have decided that their best strategy is to panic their tenants with dire predictions of alleged harmful consequences of the cost and availability of their housing if this, or any regulatory change, is adopted. What most tenants may not realize is that the landlords, who own multiple properties in the village, are organized and previously sued the village in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn previous regulatory code amendments. The village’s action was emphatically upheld by the court, with no harmful consequences for the tenants.
As to the landlords’ suggestion that this proposed code amendment is a threat to student housing needs, I believe everyone in this administration is sensitive to the impact of the housing shortage in New Paltz on students’ housing needs and no one would support an action that would be harmful to these tenants. The most serious danger to the tenants may be that such a consortium could choose to raise rents so that it would appear that village code had a financial impact, even though that was not the case.
Terry Dungan, Mayor
Village of New Paltz
A war on Christmas
Anyone who doubts there is a war on Christmas need look no further for proof than the New Paltz school system.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the fourth and fifth grade “Winter Concert” at Lenape School. The singing portion of the concert contained five songs about winter, punctuated with a song about celebrating Hanukkah; it was introduced by a music teacher who wished the audience a happy belated Hanukkah.
None of the other songs contained any mention of Christmas. At the end of the concert, Lenape’s principal conveyed to the audience, in a wilting tone, her good wishes for the “coming holidays.” Since I know of no other major holiday coming up, I can only assume she was referring to Christmas. But clearly, the word “Christmas” must be forbidden in the New Paltz school district.
This behavior is not something limited to this year’s fourth and fifth grade Winter Concert. I have seen this done at other winter concerts over the years. Once at New Paltz High School, a music teacher even apologized for having the word “Christmas” mentioned in the only Christmas song featured in his concert’s program.
Another year, while having an opportunity to be at the Duzine School during the month of December, I noticed a sign wishing students a “Happy Ramadan”; that same year, students were told to avoid bringing to school parties any kind of plateware or napkins featuring Christmas symbols.
While I have no objections to educating children about the cultural significance of Hanukkah or Ramadan in our public schools (in fact, I think it’s a great idea), I do not see why Christian children are purposefully being marginalized by the school district.
Certainly, if New Paltz is a reflection of our nation’s overall population, the majority of children in New Paltz schools come from Christian families. And many Christian families are likewise shouldering the tax burden to support the very same institutions which show contempt for their beliefs and traditions.
I hope that Superintendent Rice will put an end to these discriminatory practices now that they are out in the open. And I hope she takes action soon, before her cash-strapped district ends up facing a lawsuit.
This is for everyone who keeps comparing auto insurance to the mandatory provision of Obamacare. For one thing, auto insurance is state by state, not federal. Second, registration and insurance only applies to vehicles driven on public roads. There are pickup trucks and other motor vehicles driven on farms and ranches that are never registered or insured. In fact, you can drive on your own property at any age without a driver’s license. Further, you are only required to carry liability insurance to protect the other driver not yourself.
Happy 35th birthday to Unison
Unison, a much admired and respected center for art, music and the performing arts, has for 35 years been leading our community in their stated mission of “celebrating the arts.” Stuart Bigley, the Executive Director and an accomplished artist himself, has amassed an amazing volunteer board year after year and together they continue to offer new and exciting programs. They also provide a wide range of classes, workshops and opportunities to become calm and relaxed, as well as children’s performances, arts and summer camp programs.
For myself, I cannot thank them enough for presenting local actors, artists and musicians, as well as those from all over the world. Look for the new catalog next month and find a concert, gallery opening, performance or class to lift your spirits and inspire your creative energy. Why not start the new year off with a Harry Belafonte Tribute on Jan. 15 at 8 p.m.? Let’s all continue to support Unison so they can continue to bring our community together to share and enjoy the unique gifts each of their programs provide. Info at www.unisonarts.org or 255-1559.
Open space concerns
The Gardiner Republican Committee would like to respond to a recent letter and article on open space in Gardiner. While we support the VOLUNTARY OPEN SPACE AND FARMLAND PRESERVATION FUND, we are against the town using tax dollars for future open space projects. The $1.5 bond authorization which passed in 2006, during much better economic conditions, passed by one vote when an absentee ballot was invalidated when the voter wrote a comment on the ballot. To borrow $50,000 would cost the town $86,000 in interest and administrative cost. We have had tax increases the last two years and at the budget hearing, members of the board expressed the view that 2011 would be worse. Given the present economy and the financial struggles of many taxpayers, we don’t think this is a good use of limited town resources. We should also point out that the new zoning law requiring 20 acres per residence on the upper ridge, ten acres on the rest of the ridge and five acres in the rest of the town, there should be no danger of being overdeveloped. We fully support organizations and individuals who wish to participate in open space projects, but don’t think Gardiner taxpayers should be further burdened.
To contribute to the Voluntary Open Space and Farm Preservation Fund, mail a check payable to: The Town of Gardiner “Open Space Fund,” P.O. Box 1, Gardiner, NY 12525” or through PayPal at www.townofgardiner.org. All donations will go into a dedicated account and are tax deductible.
The Gardiner Republican Committee