In 2013, the quaint Town of Gardiner saw a major project come to fruition, increased attendance at its signature community events, the preservation of a 74-acre historical farm, a challenging fiscal year and a robust municipal campaign with a large voter turnout.
After nearly eight years of revisions, delays and juggling start dates for an approximately $1.5 million sidewalk and landscaping project, approved and funded by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), the project finally got off (or on) the ground. Last spring the Town Board, with the approval of the DOT, awarded the two-sidewalk contract to local boy Paul Colucci. The project called for two sidewalks to be constructed: one from the Town Hall to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and a second sidewalk from the Gardiner Reformed Church to the rail trail. Both included colorful pavers, 27 decorative lampposts, landscaping and vegetation. The work was completed this August.
What started in 2011 as a grassroots effort to purchase the development rights (PDR) of the bucolic 74-acre Albert Hess farm located in Gardiner came to fruition this summer. The effort to save the Hess Farm and keep it as agricultural land and open space and prevent it from being developed has been supported by the Gardiner Open Space Commission, the Gardiner Town Board, the Open Space Institute (OSI), its land trust affiliate the Open Space Conservancy (OSC) and an ad hoc citizens’ group. The rights for development were purchased for the fair market value of $375,000 — an amount that was raised by local residents, businesses, the OSI, grants and private donations and foundations. This was heralded by open space champions as a great community-wide achievement.
The Gardiner Cupcake Festival hosted at Wright’s Farm continued to bring in thousands of visitors to the small farming town, as did the Hudson Valley Wine Trail’s annual event, the 24th annual Gardiner Day and various fundraising 5K run/walks along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.
When it came around to budget time, the Town Board faced a big hit as it lost three of its small fleet at the Highway Garage and had to go out for a bond to purchase three new trucks at once. The board had to override the two percent tax cap in order to pass its 2014 budget.
While Gardiner is a quaint, bucolic town tucked in the bosom of the Shawangunk Ridge, it is hardly an apathetic town. In fact, residents are voraciously political, and as such, the November elections for various municipal positions — including those of town supervisor, town justice, two Town Board members and the superintendent of highways — were all contested, with the exception of the town clerk. Democratic incumbent town supervisor Carl Zatz won by a significant margin against his Republican challenger, councilman Rich Koenig. Brian Stiscia, a longtime employee of the Highway Department, won handily against Republican challenger Gary Upright for highway superintendent.
The race for town justice and the four-way race for two seats on the Town Board were so close that they could not be called officially until the Ulster County Board of Elections (BOE) had tallied every absentee and affidavit ballot. In the end it was Democrat Bob Rich who won a seat on the judicial bench over his opponent, Republican Carmine Mele, who had been serving as a town councilman. Political newcomer John Hinson, endorsed by the Republican Party, who teamed up with Koenig as part of the P4G (People for Gardiner) Party, ended up being the top vote-getter for Town Board, followed by Democrat and former New Paltz School Board president David Dukler.
Asked what he believes to be the biggest challenges facing Gardiner now and in the near future, Supervisor Zatz said, “Issues regarding parallel parking, crosswalks and snow are all presenting new challenges. The financial and maintenance strategies for highway equipment, funding and building infrastructure in Gardiner will be an ongoing challenge we’ll have to focus on.”
In terms of what he felt most proud of having accomplished or had a part in accomplishing this past year, Zatz said, “I’m most proud of my participation in the life and events of my community. I’m part of the pulse of the town, the library, the events, Gardiner Day, the businesses, the farming and so much more. I’ve got a great job and I’m proud to have been reelected.”
Town of Gardiner: Looking forward
Looking forward, the supervisor reflected on his top three goals or projects for 2014. Number one, he said, was to “significantly increase the amount of funding we receive by way of federal, state and foundation grants — grants that will help create quality services and recreation for Gardiner’s seniors and kids, to name a few. Next is making UCAT transportation available in the Gardiner hamlet. Can you imagine cycling to Gardiner or New Paltz, shopping a bit and busing back? Finally, I would say, increasing communications and safety channels throughout Gardiner, from live broadcasts of board meetings to weather and safety alerts.”