Monday, February 15, 2010

News That Matters - February 15, 2010

News That Matters

News That Matters
Brought to you (Almost Daily) by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Monday Morning,

Today is President's Day where we've relegated Washington and Lincoln to a forgotten Monday so no one will remember them. When I'm President we're going to give these guys back their own days.

Happy New Year!I trust everyone had a nice weekend? The weather service is once again promising snow from tonight through tomorrow evening. Three to six inches is forecast. Maybe. They're not sure.
The storm is currently making its way north and east through the Appalachians and should be here by around 6PM this evening making the evening and tomorrow morning's rush hours difficult. Stay tuned to your local TV weather stations so you can watch the hysteria.
What I don't understand is why people rush to the supermarkets on the first promise of snow buying out "basics" as if there will be no tomorrow and the world as we know it will end under a soft blanket of white.
I, along with ten thousand others went to the Chuang Yen monastery yesterday to celebrate the Year of the Tiger. There's a photo page from that visit at which you might want to take a look.

We lost power for several hours out here in the Free State of Western Kent early Saturday morning apparently for no reason other than it seemed an appropriate time. At times like this one of my pet joys is to stand outside and listen to the silence as that all-persistent 60 cycle hum is now absent. It's a sound you don't even notice, it's become such a part of our lives, until it's not there and then you revel, awash in its calm absence. But this small joy is no longer to be for everyone now sports generators that turn on automatically when the main lines go dark. Rather than quietude when the lights go out the world is now filled with a growling roar.
Do what's done at festivals like Burning Man: surround your generator with a hay-bale structure and roof it off with insulated panels. Please.

Collected from the 'net:
Many logical fallacies have names/terms. What's the one for 'I have an unconfirmed anonymous report XYZ happened; this is proof XYZ happened'.

FOX News
Collected from a chopstick wrapper: [verbatim]
Welcome to Chinese Restaurant
please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks
the traditional and typical of Chinese glanous history
and cultual.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is upset that the national Republican party is using the Tea Party movement as a cover for their own agenda. He'd prefer Tea Baggers focus on issues rather than personalities and party politics and complains, quite properly, that too many tea partiers are using the movement to elect Republicans and that too many of those are using the language to curry voters - falsely. Moreover, he suggests that when Republicans get elected on the promise of fiscal conservatism that they end up spending more than Democrats. And, when Democrats get elected on stopping wars they start new ones or expand old ones.

Remember when tens of millions of Americans took to the streets to protest the Bush Administration's policies, mostly the wars? Remember also how pundits at FOXNews called them traitors and expressed outrage that anyone would question the president during a time of 'war'? Well, thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to protest the Obama administration in the last 8 months or so and the same pundits at FOX call them patriots. What's with that?

The Hamas led government of Gaza arrested a British journalist the other day. They didn't say why, exactly. But the journalist had shown up at court to support a defendant charged with 'giving information to Israel'. Under Hamas' laws, that charge can come down for nothing more sinister than making a cell-phone call into Israel. In fact, Hamas has charged - and executed - hundreds of people with the same "crime" in show trials run by tribunals similar to what is being proposed for our guests at Guantanamo. Maybe we should just send them to Gaza?

And now, the News:

How Many Stars Can You See?

Down Peekskill Hollow Road at the intersection with Bryant Pond Road, Putnam Sports operates a soccer camp with 2 fields on 13.5 acres. They now have application before the Putnam Valley Planning Board (02/22/10) to build a third, regulation sized field, and to put up stadium lights for night games.
As many of you know I'm mixed mind about stadium lights in Putnam County. The darkest skies in the region run in a band from Adams' Corner northeastwards to Route 52 at the Kent, East Fishkill line. With long-held plans to put stadium lights at Farmer's Mills Park in Kent and now this plan for Peekskill Hollow Road, we'd be slowing squeezing that band into a smaller and smaller space. Many nights here at The Asylum we have what I call "milky way nights" for you can clearly see the band of our celestial arm in the galaxy - and for the NY Metro area we are very lucky.

Shielded Lighting SystemsEven with the best lighting designs there's an amount of "spillover" light that is not being used on the field, but to light the sky and the surrounding community, sometimes to a very annoying effect for neighbors and area astronomers, especially on nights with higher humidities.

However, there are a limited number of solutions and they are expensive to implement. And lighting technology has grown tremendously so we should keep our minds open and our options on the table and demand a full public vetting of the process and the end-product if there will be one. My advice, don't hire an engineer from anywhere within 100 miles of Putnam County if you want objectivity.

But there is also the addition of traffic on PHR and Bryant Pond Road at times that is not seeing it now and that traffic, combined with the addition of teams, fans and parents at the facility perhaps late into the evening will most certainly raise noise and dust levels - in addition to glare off the field - that will have a negative effect on homeowners in the area.

The problem in the end may be that those who like the skies dark at night may viewed as "those intellectuals" or, "those people hate children!" as we hear the sports mafias intone until we're ready to puke. But to vilify someone for wanting the skies dark, which may be the reason they moved here in the first place, is unfair and unjust. That the skies have been dark this long should speak to all of us. To make a change such as this is a decision that should not be based on brawn but on brains. And mark my words: it's not about the children.

Quick Poll Results: Reducing Municipal Budgets:

The quick poll we've been running since the middle of last week has been pretty interesting. Keep in mind that it is completely unscientific and has a margin of error of 139% but that's good enough for FOXNews so it might as well be good enough for us. Here are the raw tallies:
Recreation 22%
Town Courts 18%
Police 15%
Senior Services 13%
Other (see below) 12%
Highway 8%
Sanitation 7%
Snow Plowing 5%

Under Other we have one entry for each of the following (though several could be combined):

What would be the impact if everyone used the recycling center?
Govt staff
Get rid of Putnam County Goverment
Sanitation 1 pick up a week. I need more room
rises for all part time elected persons and and making them pay 35% health
all of the above should share in some cuts. somce they are all vital services
poorly designed heat-wasting buildings
Cut staff, last hired, first cut
Shielding the rich from taxation
Tax Collector, Assessor, either Local or County governments not both.

While I would love to analyze the findings I'll just let this sit out here and allow you to take these rough numbers to your local Town Hall and deal with it in your own way. Clearly, people who participated feel they're paying too much for law enforcement (33%) and recreation (22%). During the last campaign, successful town council candidate Lou Tartaro suggested that if he thought the community could be equally served he would consider looking at propositions to eliminate Kent's town police. It's a sensitive subject (Putnam Valley is still reeling from their decision to do this a decade ago!) but it's one that has come up time and again when I knocked on doors asking residents what services they think they're paying too much for. Carmel, Kent and Cold Spring sport their own police departments and for Kent, at least, it represents 1/3 of the town's budget. Someone needs to do a real cost analysis on just what it would cost to cover the county with a singular police department. Just don't touch snow plowing!

Our next poll will be on whom you would like to see be our next County Executive. Nominations are open.

Boil! Boil! Toil and Trouble!

Each year when Jews sit down at the Seder table on Passover, one of the many rituals is the recitation of the ten plagues that the Hebrew god brought upon the ancient Egyptians.
Dom. Tz'fardeah, kinim, arov, dever, sh'chin, barad, arbeh, chosech and makas b'choros.
With the uttering of each they dip a finger into a glass of wine and place a drop on their plates. The ritual is designed to remind adherents of both the power of their god as well as to sympathize (shed tears) with the common Egyptian who had to suffer for the hubris of his King.
One of the plagues was "boils" and for the life of me, and for most young children who are forced to endure this year after year, we have no idea what that means. Having frogs jumping all over the place sounds like fun, 'pestilence' does sound like something bad and rivers turning to blood we can understand. But boils, like 'shingles' and 'chilblains' are words that just aren't used any more - until you get one. Or two. The chilblains I've been dealing with every winter since I can remember. But it was the singular growth on my upper back that brought it all home:


It seems to be under control though I am running a low-level fever. What with hotpads and a poultice made from baking powder and water and three teaspoons a day of turmeric. And since there is no insurance nor money for a doctor, nor the county having a free clinic, the home remedies had better work and my immune system is hopefully strong enough to keep the staph infection in check. If not, fare thee well. It's been fun.

But now I can tell you how much I sympathize with the common Egyptians all those thousands of years ago. And so this spring at the Seder not only will I drop symbolic tears for their suffering but a shiver of recognition, too. But bring on those frogs!

How the Gazebo Got There:

A couple of weeks back I posted a hike to the gazebo atop Candlewood Hill in Putnam Valley and someone wrote to say that it had been burned by vandals last summer. But does anyone know how the gazebo got up there in the first place? Putnam Valley resident, Peter Rossi, who now resides in Kent, tells his story [edited] below.
The original intent in building the gazebo was related to the plan for a subdivision of that area. We were aware that an environmental impact statement had to be made in its consideration. One of the criteria, as we understood it, was to respect community use of an area being considered. We felt that the existing trail constituted a long established community use. Building a gazebo on the trail was to underscore that fact long before the designs of any developer. As I understand, there was a common use trail area proposed in the final development plans.

GazeboI'm not sure what kind of right of way it is. Yes, it may be private. It's a right of way used by property owners who do not have direct access to West Shore Drive. Randy and Thea Mueller own the property with the log home on it. They never minded people using the trail to get to the gazebo which they helped build as well. As I remember, the trail turns to the right where there used to be a pond, then went to the left of their property and on up an old trail up to the gazebo.

The gazebo was built on my driveway when I lived on West Shore Drive. We used screws instead of nails to hold the frame and trusses together. Fred Mellion, a retired architect living on West Shore Drive, helped design it.

A project involving about 50 or 60 neighbors and friends unscrewed it and reassembled it on the top of the mountain in the fall of 1989. Kathleen Devlin was one of the neighbors.  She had grown up vacationing on the lake and had retired in the family home and was in her late 80's at that time. We carried her up to the top of the mountain in a rickshaw device designed by Roy Volpe which he hooked up to her wheel chair.  John Allen was one of the Sherpas who carried the rickshaw. Kathleen used that trail as long as she could remember.  She said it was originally a logging trail dating back 100 years. She also said there was an Indian burial mound off the trail but never told me where it was. 

Originally the gazebo was located further down the hill and faced a more magnificent view above Bell Hollow Road towards the Hudson River. On a clear day one could see the NYC skyscrapers.

Ken Repetti lived below the gazebo on Belle Hollow Road and when the leaves fell, he looked up the hill behind his house and was horrified to see the gazebo perched on the crest way above his property. We were not less horrified to look down the mountain at the huge scar that he bulldozed to make a grazing area for his horses. When his demands to remove "that ugly monstrosity" were voted down by the group, Ken managed to get an army jeep of some sort up the mountain and that winter, he chain-sawed the four posts holding the gazebo and dragged it out of his line of sight.

Oscawana  viewPlanks forming the gazebo platform were inscribed with poems and personal messages written by those who participated in the event.  They were nailed in place facing the ground.  Ken was apparently thoughtful enough to return them, nails and all, to the driveways of people he could identify by their names. I remember crying when Ann and Paul Violi told me someone had tried to destroy the gazebo. I could not understand the kind of anger which would prompt such action.

The following spring, students from a class of gifted (but lazy) students from a Westchester HS were in danger of not graduating for failing to fulfill the school's requirement of community service. Avram Nathanson, their social worker, organized a redeeming class trip. The work party carried the gazebo over to the other side of the mountain to face Lake Oscawana.  Fortunately it was so well constructed that the roof trusses held to the four posts even after being dragged off its foundation. The new view of the Lake Oscawana valley was much less grand but felt more intimate and personal than the view facing the majestic Hudson, Indian Point and NYC. We were never able to replace the metal roof on the restored gazebo but it looked fine without it.

Over its 20 year plus life, there was very little vandalism except for its final demise by an arsonist. I hope he or she is not working his/her way up to more thoughtless actions. 

I forgot to mention that the gazebo was a project of The Night Kitchen II, a kind of counter culture community cultural center that existed on Lake Peekskill for about 10 years in the 70' and 80's.  If a more official agency ever wants to rebuild the gazebo, we do have the original plans. -- Peter Rossi

DEC Releases Draft Hudson River Estuary Action Plan

Public Comments Encouraged on 5-Year Blueprint for Hudson River Policies
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today announced the release of the draft "Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda 2010-2014" for public comment.

"The State's Hudson River Estuary Program is helping to revitalize the Hudson River and its Valley," Commissioner Grannis said. "The Action Agenda is our blueprint for the next five years to clean our water, protect fish and wildlife habitats, address the impacts of climate change, and promote Hudson River recreation. We urge all interested parties to study the Action Agenda and provide us with input."

DEC's draft Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda 2010-2014 has been substantially updated in response to public comments initiated with the Hudson River Summit held at West Point in June 2009. The widely-attended summit included input from community groups, local officials, businesses and other participants who focused on their vision for the future and how partnerships can be expanded to achieve common goals for the river.

The Draft Action Agenda is available for download on the DEC website. (Details below on how to comment.)

This historic Hudson River provides important resources to millions of people in the New York City metropolitan area and the Hudson Valley region, including drinking water, recreation and commercial opportunities. The estuary also provides unique habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species that are threatened or endangered, or of significant recreational and commercial value.

After years of declining quality, the Hudson has made a remarkable recovery over the last four decades, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis pointed out. Working with its partners, DEC Hudson River Estuary Program has taken action to protect and restore the estuary's natural resources and water quality. Wastewater treatment has been improved, globally rare wetland habitats have been protected, and new parks have given river access to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. "Yet more work is needed," the commissioner said, "from keeping toxics out of the estuary to upgrading water infrastructure to increasing citizen stewardship. Development of the Action Agenda will help New York continue the comeback."

New areas of focus in the 2010-2014 Draft Agenda include:

    * A new climate change goal that promotes the adoption of New York State's ClimateSmart Communities Pledge in Hudson Valley communities and identifies actions needed to help waterfront communities prepare for flooding from sea-level rise and strong storms.
    * A pilot watershed management project that will encourage protection of streams and drinking water sources.
    * A pilot project to improve coordination of management of existing state-owned property on or in sight of the Hudson to conserve scenery and habitats and support recreation.
    * River access facilities for underserved communities and support for the New York State Clean Marina Program and Clean Vessel Act Pumpout Program.
    * Incorporation of urban-greening, green infrastructure and smart-growth principles in local waterfront revitalization programs along with planning for future water and sewer infrastructure improvements and upgrades for aging systems in Hudson River Valley communities.
    * Improved management of river sediment to address navigation and safety needs, as well as the ecological health of the river.
    * Partnership in the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS), a network of continuous monitoring stations geographically distributed from Schodack Island to the New York/New Jersey harbor to monitor river conditions.

A final version of the Action Agenda is targeted for release in April 2010.

Written comments on the draft may be submitted until Feb. 22. Comments can be sent via e-mail to (please include the words "Draft Action Agenda" in the subject line) or by mail to: Action Agenda, Hudson River Estuary Program, NYSDEC Region 3 Office, 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY 12561.

More information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on the DEC website.

DEC Tree And Shrub Seedling Sale Underway

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Saratoga Tree Nursery has begun taking orders for its annual sale of tree and shrub seedlings.  Ordering will continue until mid-May through DEC’s Saratoga Nursery.

“The State Nursery has provided trees for erosion control and other uses since the early 1900s,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “With the challenges presented by global warming, planting trees is just as important today as it was 100 years ago.”

DEC's Saratoga Tree Nursery produces more than 50 species of trees and shrubs for planting on public and private land. The objective of the program is to provide low-cost, native planting materials from known New York sources to encourage landowners to enhance the state=s environment for future generations. The Saratoga Nursery also offers a few non-native species which can enhance wildlife planting. For instance, torengo crabapple provides a winter food source for wild turkey, grouse and deer.

The minimum order is 100 for conifers and wildlife shrubs, 25 for hardwoods, and 50 for container stock. Mixed species packets of 30-100 wildlife shrubs are also available for homeowners to attract wildlife.  The Saratoga Nursery sells primarily bare-root stock, but a few species are available as containerized stock (grown in a greenhouse).

Landowners can get planting advice from their nearest DEC forestry office or private forestry consultant. The brochure and order form "2010 Trees and Shrubs" can be found on the DEC’s website at: or by calling the Saratoga Tree Nursery at (518) 581-1439.

To order seedlings by phone, call the Saratoga Tree Nursery on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at (518) 581-1439. Call early for best selection. Mail orders are also accepted and can be sent to the Saratoga Tree Nursery, 2369 Route 50, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.  Orders may be placed through mid-May. Seedlings are shipped from mid-April to mid -May.

Free Riparian/Streamside Buffer Restoration Seedlings Available

Riparian restoration seedlings from DEC's Saratoga Nursery will be available again by mid April this year to watershed groups and allies to replant streamside buffer zones at risk of erosion from turbulent stream flow in your towns and communities. Preferably for public lands, but will consider moderate requests for private streamsides in the watershed. Planting bar may be available on loan, otherwise, a sturdy, narrow planting spade works as well. (7 to ~12+ day window to get planted; keep cool, dark, moist meanwhile). Supplied bare root in bags. Wildlife friendly as well. Bushy growth form. For moist sites, full to part sun, depending on species. Species: Red Osier and Silky Dogwoods, Wetland Rose, Sandbar Willow.

Contact: Lou Sebesta, Urban/Community Forester NYSDEC Region 3 - Stony Kill Environmental Education Ctr. 79 Farmstead Lane, Wappingers Falls, NY 12590 - (845) 831-8780 x316, (845) 831-3416 (fax)

Highlands Conservation Funding Gets Big Boost in President’s Budget

$ 5 Million requested for Highlands Conservation Act projects in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania

President Obama today released his Fiscal Year 2011 proposed federal budget, which included $5 million for Highlands Conservation Act (HCA) funding. The President’s budget more than doubles the amount in the budget for the HCA last year. While the proposed funding is less then the authorized amount for the Act, it is a step closer towards full funding of the legislation. The HCA authorizes $100 million in federal matching funds over ten years to assist the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut in conserving priority lands in the 3.5 million-acre Highlands region through public acquisition or purchase of development rights. The Highlands Coalition, a four-state alliance of nearly 200 organizations, has strongly supported and advocated for the HCA with the Administration and Congress and looks forward to seeing these funds realized for Fiscal Year 2011.

Proposed FY11 Highlands land conservation projects include:

Hopewell Big Woods – Pennsylvania
Northern Highlands -- New Jersey
Sterling Forest/Torne Valley Project – New York.
Naugatuck/Mad River Headwaters -- Connecticut

The Highlands Coalition is a project of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Founded in 1876, the Appalachian Mountain Club is America’s oldest conservation and recreation organization. With more than 100,000 members, advocates, and supporters in the Northeast and beyond, the nonprofit AMC promotes the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region. The AMC supports natural resource conservation while encouraging responsible recreation, based on the philosophy that successful, long-term conservation depends upon first-hand enjoyment of the natural environment.

For more information visit:

And that's the News That Matters for today.

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