The start of 2013 marked the first time in 38 years hometown boy Maurice Hinchey wasn’t representing Saugerties. In his 18 years in the State Assembly and 20 years in Congress, Hinchey was a crusader on the environment and government transparency. He was an early and vocal critic of the Iraq War and Patriot Act. The 19th Congressional District was redrawn following the 2010 census, and Republican Chris Gibson defeated would-be Democratic successor Julian Schreibman in 2012. His likely opponent in 2014 is Sean Eldridge, husband of Facebook millionaire Chris Hughes.
Gun law not popular in Saugerties
Gov. Cuomo’s gun control law was a hot issue in the first part of the year, particularly for the gun-rights crowd. Passed on Jan. 15 — just a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — the law’s provisions included a ban on high-capacity magazines and called for the creation of a database of assault rifle owners. Over 100 Saugertiesians attended a previously scheduled forum with State Assemblyman Pete Lopez two days later, most of them opposing the law. Later, dueling town resolutions condemning the law’s content and process further exacerbated tensions between the town supervisor and board majority, with each accusing the other of rushing a poorly worded document to public vote without sufficient debate — the very sin most agreed the governor had committed.
Dragon Inn’s fate
Throughout the first half of the year, a debate over the future of a once-stately mansion on the village’s south side raged. Built by 19th-century industrialist William Sheffield, the building was an inn and popular Chinese restaurant before suffering damage from a kitchen fire in the early ’90s. After years of stop and start renovations and the construction of a regrettable addition, owner Ching Ya Wu had decided to throw in the towel, demolish the building and develop the property. The Historic Review Board rejected the request for a demolition permit, and it was expected the matter would be appealed to the Village Board in June. But Wu didn’t appeal, and representative Don Snyder said he wasn’t sure what the owner’s intentions were. The next month, a newly formed group, the Friends of Clovelea (taking its name from the estate’s original name), was granted access to the property, and began cleaning it up with an eye toward finding an outside financial backer to help restore the building. According to Mark Smith of the group, that’s where it still stands as of December.
In February, the village received a letter that was surprising even in our litigious times: According to its insurer, nearly all the equipment at three village playgrounds would have to replaced. The expense of the new “kid-safe” equipment would be so great the playgrounds would have to be closed for the foreseeable future; maybe years. Public reaction was swift and the insurance company, citing outcry in the pages of this newspaper and on its website, met with the village and decided to back off on the initial inspector’s recommendations. With the spring snow melt, the playgrounds were once again opened; it was a good day for common sense.
St. Mary of the Snow closes
In June, 132 years of Catholic education in Saugerties came to an end. St. Mary of the Snow Elementary school was closed, along with 21 others in the Archdiocese of New York, due to low enrollment. A last-minute push for enrollment yielded 14 new families, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Families were faced with the choice of two Catholic elementary schools in Kingston or the local public school.