Thoughts on historic oversight shakeup hearing
I was surprised by the account of the meeting concerning the fate of the Historic Review Board in the village — not by the coverage, which I assume was accurate, but by the revisionist history that was suggested or inferred in some of the comments.
The Flamingo was never in the village, and never had topless dancing (nor do I recall that form of entertainment ever having been here). Yes, the Orpheum did show porn and that was disgraceful, but it wasn’t the community that ushered that in if that is the inference to be drawn from that comment. It was a contract problem that the owner had, and most of the people who attended did not live in Saugerties — as is usually the case with these types of venues. That was one of the jokes that went around when it was doing that; the community reacted as it might today: with outrage.
I didn’t quite get what all that had to do with the historic preservation law, unless the inference was that there were fewer moral people here in George Thornton’s day. That’s preposterous. Certainly crime was less in those days, traffic laws were better enforced, and there were fewer pretentious people than there are now, but by and large people were pretty much the same. The tough economic times created a lower standard of living, but did not lower their values or their respect for their community.
The benefit of the historic preservation law is exactly what it intended: to preserve the heritage as expressed in its architectural richness and variety. The law is a good thing for Saugerties, but the problem is that it is implemented by a volunteer citizen review committee. The board should set policy and the policy should be carried out by the village administration, as is done with other laws. The village is as lax on this as the town is, and as we can see we reap the harvest we sow. As a result of this misapplication of law the community’s intentions become misdirected, egos become overblown, power becomes abusive, the people who are affected feel preyed upon, and questionable contentions arise at public forums like this one.
I don’t know the whole story about the Partition St. building in question, but I was surprised to read that the Historic Review Board did not seem to know that the house was outside the boundaries of their charge. (That can’t be right.) I always thought it was a nice house but too big; probably the price is too high, but I don’t wish to dispute a person’s interest in securing the fullest value they can from real estate. On the surface, it did seem to me absurd that an entrance to a parking lot should be allowed in a fire zone.
As far as merging the Planning and Historic Review boards, that would not resolve the misadministration problem, but doing away with a part of the village bureaucracy could help. It all has to do with good intentions, doesn’t it? The suggestion was made that a healthier mix of membership might arise from a merger.
I write to protest a quote that the reporter, Robert Ford, attributed to me in the front page article “Residents weigh in on historic oversight shakeup,” in the Dec. 4 edition. I have sent the editor of the Saugerties Times a copy of my prepared speech so that he could confirm that nowhere in my statement that I read did I call the mayor a dictator.
This false attribution of my words is an important point because the public statement I read was based on Mr. Ford’s reporting — especially of Mayor Murphy’s quoted words that were included by Mr. Ford in two previous editions of the Saugerties Times. Mayor Murphy’s statements that were quoted by Mr. Ford galvanized me to protest what I thought was the mayor’s vision of the Village Historic Review Board.
Thus to find that Mr. Ford put a word in quotes in an article, a word that I never uttered, is deeply troubling. It makes me question the veracity of the quotes that he attributed to Mayor Murphy and I now even wonder about quotes that have appeared in other articles that he has written. Did the people actually say the things that Mr. Ford says they said?
His actions are highly irregular and reflect poor journalism… and he should be held accountable for them.
Change the way history is taught
An open letter to the history teachers in our schools:
During the recent unpleasantness a lot of public attention has been brought to both the terms “historic” and “preservation.”
In this, one recurring statement has been “that is not historic.”
In our local Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Review Board something is historic if it is part of the story of our community’s past.
Here in Saugerties we have over 200 years of documentation centered on the built environment; that is to say, our houses, mills and our transportation systems on both the water and the land. These documents are in the form of maps and surveys and artworks and, beginning as early as the 1850s, photographs. There are records, diaries and newspaper stories that are equally as old. This documentation is so thorough that we often know who lived where and what their times were like where they lived and worked.
There is somehow a common understanding that history is about people, not artifacts. That is probably because this is the way history is taught in school. School tells us that history is about important people, not the house they lived in.
In local history the people we regard as important are those that we find in our own documentation of our past. They are the people that built mills and roads and schools and churches and stores and public works, the remnants of which tell the story of their time and our community’s heritage. What they built is the way we remember them.
Many justify being unresponsive to preservation by the belief that this local history is insignificant. They believe our past is not up to the standards of what they were taught in school. Why, it’s not even history!
In many places that may be true. But not here.
Saugerties has a much more illustrious past when compared to most other communities and our reminders of those that made that history, and the times they lived in, are more than worthy of preservation.
There is not one person that knows our history that is not for preservation. Those that have this knowledge all hope that in the future they will not be so much in the minority. For now their indignation is the only thing that stands between those that don’t know history and Saugerties becoming just like any other insignificant place. It is their willingness to fight for the preservation of the fabric of our history that should be recognized as a community asset and learned from, not the forces in education, government and commerce that disregard our local history for the sake of expedience.
I have been trying to connect and communicate on the importance of instilling this knowledge into the makeup of our future citizens for the past half decade and there’s been no interest. Respect for our heritage must begin in our education system and I am calling on the schools to do their duty.
Michael Sullivan Smith
Town ignores noise complaints
I heard my neighbor’s band played their music within the decibel limits of the proposed noise ordinance. Do you really think they played their music at that level when they blasted their music for over a year? When they played not only Monday night but two to three times a week with their garage door open most of the time? All the neighbors, Ferine and myself are not too sensitive and I wouldn’t call it pettiness when the neighbors suffered for a year, listening to their extremely loud music. Where was the meter then?
The Town Board refuses to pass a noise law so the people of the town will have to suffer needlessly when a neighbor makes excessive noise and it will happen over and over again because it is completely legal to make as much noise as you want any time of the day or night.
Board members change and in the future the town may have a noise ordinance like the village.