Letters (June 16-23)

mail-letter-sqNot Gambling?

Senator John J. Bonacic, chair of the New Senate’s gambling committee, announced on June 7 (NY Times) the Legislature is ready to legalize, regulate, and tax Daily Fantasy  Sports (DFS) betting. Leaving aside questions about the wisdom of  still more gambling expansion in the State, don’t new forms of gambling violate the State’s constitutional ban on gambling, except those permitted by virtue of Constitutional Amendments? It’s no problem, says Bonacic. “It’s not gambling” because DFS betting is a game of skill, not chance. What a brazen assault on common sense. Any sports fan knows of the inescapable role of chance and randomness in sports events and player performances.   Don’t activities commonly regarded  as gambling — poker, blackjack, betting on horses, involve skill, even great skill, without ceasing to be gambling?

Arnie Lieber, M.D.


CVS mess

It’s time for a public shaming of CVS corporate officials for putting a very hard-working pharmacy staff at their Saugerties store in an unacceptable situation. Saugerties CVS recently bought out the accounts of the former Village Apothecary. Since that time, chaos reigns supreme at CVS pharmacy. The pharmacy is very obviously understaffed and overworked creating long lines and irritated clients.

The pharmacy computers are not linked so if you get a prescription but have a question about another one, you then have to go and wait on another long line to get the information you need. The phone alert system has provided me with incorrect information each and every time it’s left me messages.


In addition, because of the pharmacy layout, HIPPA violations are common. I could tell you the name of a neighbor and every medication he currently takes just by standing near the checkout.

Corporate officials often chant the mantra of doing more with less and this appears to hold true in Saugerties. They have a very competent and hard-working staff who are being exploited and stressed. Corporate needs to know that their customers expect employees to be treated with respect.

And here’s a public challenge which I promise to fulfill. Don’t even try to put any complaints on the backs of your employees. This problem has been created because of corporate decisions. Know this — Saugerties is a small town with a very active grapevine. We will know if you try to harass your staff members and we will take action against you accordingly — think boycott or pickets for starters. Your employees are our family members, friends and neighbors and we will not allow you to continue their abuse.

And to the employees, I strongly encourage you to unionize!

Jo Galante Cicale


Cuomo Curtailing First Amendment

Sadly, Governor Cuomo’s recent Executive Order punishing BDS supporters shows that he is more interested in pandering to a small segment of his constituency rather than  supporting honest, open, and free political speech. Boycotts have always been a powerful vehicle for expressing political views and fostering change. Our nation has a long tradition of boycotts beginning with the boycott of British products which helped to spark the Revolutionary War which led to our independence. Recent boycotts have helped secure civil rights, labor rights, women’s rights, and animal rights.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is a non-violent call to address the deprivation of  Palestinian human rights. BDS calls for the end of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land. BDS calls for equal treatment of both Israelis and Palestinians. Lastly, BDS calls for the return of land, farms, and homes which were stolen from Palestinians. In recent years  BDS has gained momentum and hopefully  this peaceful movement will  result in  changes to Israel’s  apartheid policies. Governor Cuomo’s wrongheaded attempt at curtailing our First Amendment right of free speech (which includes the blacklisting of boycotters) is not only disgraceful and unconstitutional, it is downright embarrassing. I wonder if this shameless and illegal behavior by an elected official is grounds for impeachment? In a state with such rampant corruption among elected officials  perhaps it is not so surprising that  Governor Cuomo would stoop so low. Hopefully, the Governor will see the error in his ways and rescind the order.

Eli Kassirer
New Paltz


Informative Debate

As many people know, the congressional primary will be Tuesday, June 28, from noon to 9 p.m. All Democrats in New York’s 19th District will get to choose whether Will Yandik or Zephyr Teachout will represent us on the ballot as our candidate for congress in the November general election.

To help voters make this critical decision, the Woodstock Democratic Committee and City of Kingston Democratic Committee sponsored a debate between these candidates on June 7, 2016, at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center in Woodstock.

Thank you to the many people who contributed their time and talents to make this wonderfully informative event the great success that it was. Thank you to Brian Hollander, the debate moderator, for his thoughtful and insightful questions, and to Will Yandik and Zephyr Teachout. The NY-19 congressional district includes all of 7 counties, and part of 4 additional counties, touching 11 counties in all. These very busy candidates made themselves available to us, so that we could know first-hand who they are and what they stand for.

And a great thank you to everyone who came out to hear first-hand what our candidates had to say. We had a great turnout, with standing room only! Thank you Woodstock. Thank you Kingston. Thank you to the many towns throughout Ulster county, and beyond, that were so well represented in the audience. We all won.

Laura Ricci,
Chair of the Woodstock Democratic Committee

Joe Donaldson,
Chair of the City of Kingston Democratic Committee


CMRR Still Running Trains?

As Ulster County reviews proposals and considers contracts of tourist rail vendors for expanded rail operations in Kingston and Phoenicia (Shandakden), County officials have a legal and fiscal responsibility to scrutinize all proposals and companies carefully including the one from the Catskill Mountain Railroad Company (CMRR) if there is one.

In the final two years of its 25-year lease of the U&D corridor CMRR showed that themed train events can be successful in Kingston. But CMRR also has a well-documented history of flouting and ignoring contractual agreements with Ulster County. This includes both the terms of the 1991 Lease and now apparently the recent Litigation Settlement Agreement as well.

Recently, CMRR ran passenger trains (euphemistically called “non-revenue inspection trains”) on two separate occasions over 3-4 miles of defective, rotting ties and track — including into sections of the U&D corridor CMRR had just agreed it would not operate on — commercially or for maintenance operations. Shouldn’t elected and appointed county officials be wary of CMRR for endangering riders and defying agreements ?

That this occurred sends up monumental red flags. And it was done before the ink on the settlement agreement was even dry (Three days later), without prior notice or consultation with the County, and it coincided with a publicity campaign to pressure County officials to give CMRR a new lease and to undermine the Legislature’s U&D policy. Lastly, it occurred while CMRR was in the midst of submitting a proposal responding to the tourist train RFP.

Curiously, the press did not report on these “inspection” trains (filled with passengers eating pizza and listening to fiddle music) that were posted on multiple social media sites. But, let’s say, for arguments sake, these inadvisable train rides had resulted in an accident and injuries. Who would be to blame and who would be targeted if a legal claim resulted? The operator (CMRR) or the owner, Ulster County whose legal agreements forbade this…

A convoy of motorized “track” cars filled with people, observed traveling the corridor from Kingston and into Ashokan Reservoir lands after the lease (and presumably insurance) had expired, raises similar legal and liability red flags, further calling into question the trustworthiness and integrity of CMRR and its officials.


County officials and the public should be considered forewarned, and should exercise great care, as only now is the County beginning to exercise full and proper oversight of the U&D for the first time in 25 years. Protecting the taxpayers’ assets and interests, and ensuring the public’s safety must be paramount.

Irwin Rosenthal


Give The Trail 30 Years

After 30 years of exclusive monopoly on the use of the U&D rail corridor by the Catskill Mountain Railroad, its long term lease has now expired. The citizens of the County, as represented by both Legislative and Executive branches, have overwhelmingly decided that the optimal use of the corridor is for conversion into a world class rail trail, with possible train operations co-existent on segmented portions in Kingston and Shandaken.

Recently however, a small minority group of die-hard rail fans under the moniker Save the Rails, ignoring more than three years of exhaustive research and expert analysis, has mounted a concerted protest to that decision with signs, social media blitzes, rallies, and tying up the Legislature’s public comments time with ill-informed and unrealistic calls for a continuation of train operations for the entire corridor and no conversion of any part.

The public, and the County governing bodies, should not be fooled nor swayed by these belated and outsized clamors.

The data for the optimization of the use of the corridor by the citizens of the County as a key section of a world class county rail-trail system could not be more clear. Active tourism is a $345 billion industry growing at 65% a year, with multi-day spending of $947 per trip. The Erie Canalway Trail generates $55 million in non-local-visitor spending annually. The Great Alleghany Passage Rail Trail $24 million. The Walkway, already $24 million. The railroad-oriented Stone Consulting company, working for the County, concluded that the Ashokan section of the network will be one of the most stunning rail trails in the Northeast. $9 million in grant spending has already come into the county for trail construction alone.

In addition, the use of the U&D corridor by County and Kingston residents is projected to leap from the only 1000-2000 who rode the train annually in recent years, to more than 100,000 annual uses of the trail for health, recreation and transportation benefits.

Building the trail will produce enormously expanded benefits to the citizens of the county over the next 30 years.  But in order to realize those benefits, the work on design, construction and utilization must go forward. The County must move into a new and exciting future, rather than being impeded by limited nostalgia for an era that has passed.

William Sheldon


Modern times for Saugerties

As I began my family in Saugerties in the early 1970s, real estate was dirt cheap and this community was identified with its X-rated movie theater and a topless bar, in an era when these were still regarded by decent folk as indecent. We had a bad reputation from Fishkill to Hudson and New Paltz to Athens as a place only those looking for drugs called a destination.

This “wild scene” atmosphere left an impression on those that spent their youth believing this is what Saugerties is. But then there were those that had a different idea of what Saugerties is. They are what made a National Register Historic District and zoning and forced this dormant Saugerties with its lax moral footing to build a foundation as a place decent people wanted to live in. These were all initiatives of citizens groups.

It is not just improper but outright ignorance of the facts that comes out when “friends,” “alliances” and “concerned citizens” groups are treated with hostility by Bill Murphy. The government never was the responsible party in Saugerties. The Mayor and board members’ pretentious actions in defense of a businessman are old news. They have to get over their infatuation with the wild “scene” atmosphere of their youth and catch up with the times.

Michael Sullivan Smith