Saugerties 2017 year in review

Jan. 26

Saugerties crime statistics for 2016 show considerable improvement

For the fourth year in a row, crime in Saugerties was down, according to the year-end crime report released by police chief Joseph Sinagra. Arrests were also down from 583 in 2015 to 410 last year. Of those, felony arrests decreased from 48 to 43, misdemeanors from 266 to 176 and violations from 269 to 191. Burglaries increased from 31 in 2015 to 39 last year, while larcenies decreased from 30 to 17. Sinagra pointed out that in 2015 there were no murders, but in 2016 there were two, both the result of domestic violence incidents. In both cases, Sinagra said they were either committed by a non-resident or by someone who had recently moved to Saugerties.

Feb. 2

Chorvas responds Town official denies charges he pressured employees to vote a certain way at 2015 GOP Caucus

A town official facing an ethics board investigation said this week he didn’t pressure subordinates to vote for a slate of Democrats seeking a cross endorsement at a 2015 Republican caucus. Town Parks and Buildings Superintendent Greg Chorvas said this week the complaint was filed by a former employee who left the department “angry” and “disgruntled” after he was demoted last year. “I encouraged [employees to attend the caucus] and I encouraged them to vote, but never once did I tell them who to vote for,” said Chorvas. “I would be  nuts to do that after 35 years on the job.” The allegations are contained in a letter written by former Saugerties Parks and Buildings field supervisor Brett Baschnagel in December.


Feb. 16

Thruway water deal inked 

The town board has approved a 40-year agreement between Saugerties and the New York State Thruway Authority to provide water to the Malden service area. According to town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel, the deal should save the customers in the Malden Water District money on their bills. The agreement called for the authority to pay the town $92,000 up front for the design and construction of about 3000 feet of water line along Malden Turnpike to the service area and for the installation of a water meter. The remainder of the cost for the work will be paid when the job is completed and has been accepted by the Thruway. The deal calls for the town to be paid a total of $750,000 for the work. The town has agreed to provide between 6000 and 18,000 gallons of water a day to the service area.

Feb. 23

Generous Jimmy Fallon donates $100,000 to Saugerties High School 

The Tonight Show host and Saugerties High School Class of 1992 alum Jimmy Fallon has donated $100,000 to his alma mater, much of which has been earmarked for technology in the arts.

According to Turner, the donation is to benefit the high school’s television studio and computer video production courses; will bring new keyboards, software, and MIDI [musical instrument digital interface] to the music department; and will bolster the technology in the fine art program with cameras, computers, software and professional development.

Feb. 23

Deadly tracks

A county lawmaker said this week Saugerties officials had tried for years to convince CSX to install safety equipment or build an alternate access road at a railroad crossing where a woman was killed and two men injured when a train struck a taxicab last week. The incident occurred around 11:47 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16 around 11:47 a.m. According to town police, CSX train traveling southbound struck a 2008 Chevy van operated by Kingston Kabs as it passed through an ungated crossing onto Doyle’s Lane, a private road off of Kings Highway. Backseat passenger Bertha Whispell, 50, of Saugerties was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.

Driver Phillip Prindle, no age given, and front seat passenger Rodney Smith, 52, suffered non-life threatening injuries in the collision, police said.

March 16

Anti-Semitism in school

The mother of a Saugerties teen who says she was the victim of anti-Semitic harassment at the junior high school is calling on Saugerties Central School District officials to take a stronger stand against racial, religious and ethnic bias. “Susan,” who asked that her real name not be used out of concern for her daughter’s privacy, said the incident occurred on March 2 in an eighth-grade math class at the junior high school after her daughter mentioned in conversation that she was Jewish. Susan said that a female classmate then asked a boy for coin, then flung it towards her daughter. When her daughter picked it up and handed it back to her, Susan said the girl responded, “Don’t you want it you grimy Jew?” Susan said that when she learned of the incident, she immediately contacted school officials.

The next day, she said, she met with high school Vice Principal Lee Molyneaux and a school social worker who coordinates the school’s compliance with the state’s anti-bullying Dignity for All Students Act. Susan said the administrators expressed concern over the incident and appeared receptive to her request that more be done to combat bias harassment in the school. But, she said, they also seemed to view the incident in isolation, as a single occurrence rather than part of a larger problem. In further conversations with her daughter, Susan said, she learned that anti-Semitic and racist comments were common at the school. “This isn’t an isolated occurrence that just slipped through the cracks,” said Susan. “This is going on every day in the cafeteria.”

The following week, March 23, Junior/Senior High School Principal Tom Averill addressed the board to defend his administration’s handling of bullying, harassment and bias in the school. Averill said that all instances reported were thoroughly investigated documented and tracked.

March 30:

Clovelea back on the market

If you have an extra $375,000 lying around, you could own the dilapidated former Chinese restaurant on Barclay Heights that was once Clovelea, the majestic manor home of Saugerties industrialist William Sheffield. The Dragon Inn has been listed for sale by Win Morrison Realty for that price, a far cry from the more than $800,000 that former owner Ching Ya Wu was looking to get before he lost the property for unpaid taxes and mortgage payments. Members of the village of Saugerties Historic Review Board (HRB) said at their March 22 meeting that they were happy to see the deteriorating building back on the market. They hope that someone with a plan to restore the historic property might be interested.

April 13

The immortals Sports community honors Hall of Fame class of 2017 

The Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame held its 54th annual induction ceremony last weekend, with five new members taking their places alongside the hundreds of local sports legends that came before them. The enshrinement, which took place at Diamond Mills, saw many of those legends join in the celebration in the large banquet hall for the nearly sold-out event. Rick Andreassen, Randy Dodig, Steven Freer, Ed Short and Derek Whittaker were there to represent the Class of 2017 on a night that wasn’t just about honoring athletic prowess, but also family and community. “There was one constant in all speeches,” said Freer following the event. “Support by the Saugerties community.”

May 25

Chorvas proposes half-million-dollar expenditure to replace iconic ice-arena building 

“We’re in a unique position,” said Greg Chorvas, town of Saugerties superintendent of parks and recreation. The fabric membrane roof at the Kiwanis Ice Arena is slowly deteriorating, Chorvas told the town board’s May 17 meeting, and needs to be replaced. In another eight years, so will the trusses that support it, Chorvas said. Chorvas said it would cost an estimated $260,000 to replace the roof. Why not replace the whole structure now? The entire building, including the roof, could be replaced for about $510,000, Chorvas said. The notable Saugerties sports facility would then have a 40-year lifespan. A new building could be metal, rather than the existing concrete-block structure. The ice rink would remain, but the entire structure around it would be replaced.

A more formal presentation to the town is expected in the coming months.

June 15

Well that provides water to the Comfort Inn is contaminated, DEC finds

State officials are not sure when a leak of what is currently being called a “petroleum product” occurred. The leak led them to issue a ‘Do Not Drink the Water’ order to the Comfort Inn on Route 32. Peter LaScala, general manager of the inn, said state Department of Environmental Conservation officials entered the facility on June 2 and said they were there to test the water from the well, located on Route 32 in the town of Saugerties. The Comfort Inn is not near any of the village-owned water lines. It has its own well. LaScala said the tests showed some sort of petroleum product had gotten into the well, and he was told that no one could drink the water. “We immediately went out and brought up lots of bottled water and stocked all the rooms,” LaScala said, “ so guest would not be inconvenienced.”

June 29

Saugerties commencement offers a little more time to figure stuff out

The commencement ceremony for the Saugerties High School class of 2017 started an hour late so the ceremony could be held outdoors. The ground needed to dry after a morning rain. The sky was blue. There were 203 members of the graduating class.

July 13


Rain may have spoiled the pre-party for the annual Sawyer Motors Car Show, but by the time show-day arrived on Saturday the weather was fabulous, with low humidity and plenty of sunshine. More than 500 cars, trucks and motorcycles, and an estimated 12,000 people jammed Main and Partition streets.

July 27

Prison-bound crime family scion is Saugerties businessman 

To the Saugerties business community, Michael Persico is known as a sharp investor in the local real estate market and a community-minded business owner who held Chamber of Commerce mixers at his 50 acre estate in West Saugerties and donated the use of a building in the heart of the village for use as a visitor’s center. But federal prosecutors paint a very different picture of the 60-year-old Brooklyn native. In a 2010 indictment and other documents from the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of New York, Persico is described as an “associate” of the Colombo crime family, a venerable mob organization allegedly headed by his father Carmine “The Snake” Persico from a federal prison where he’s serving a 139-year sentence on racketeering charges. In that capacity, prosecutors allege, Michael Persico engaged in criminal activities ranging from participating in a video game theft scheme to facilitating a 1993 hit on a rival mobster during a bloody civil war within the Colombo family. At the heart of the 2010 indictment is a scheme by Michael Persico and his cousin, alleged Colombo soldier Theodore Persico Jr., to extort money from a Boston-area demolition contractor. The indictment also alleged that Michael Persico participated in taking over the business of a Brooklyn furniture dealer who fell behind on loanshark payments to an associate. In June 2012, Persico pleaded guilty to a single count of “extortionate extension of credit” as part of a plea agreement. As part of the deal prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of between 36 and 47 months in federal prison. But on July 21, a federal judge in Brooklyn handed down a five-year sentence.

July 27

Chorvas cleared 

The town’s ethics committee has cleared Parks and Recreation Department chief Greg Chorvas of any wrongdoing in connection with a complaint that he pressured subordinates to attend a 2015 Republican caucus and urged them to vote for town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel and other Democrats seeking crossendorsement. The board ruled that the evidence did not support the allegation and even if it did, the alleged conduct did not constitute a violation of the town’s ethics code. The complaint by former Parks and Rec employee Brett Baschnagel was filed January 2016. The board met to take testimony on May 23 and discuss the allegations on June 19. The decision is dated July 11.

August 24

Bus-stop brouhaha 

A few people were not be happy their children’s school-bus-stop information at the beginning of the school year. One of them is former member of the school board Angie Minew, who claims an issue about an unsatisfactory bus stop has not been addressed by school officials. There’s an elementary-school bus pickup in a church parking lot along State Route 9W in West Camp, which she says her new neighbors have informed her has only been in use for the past two years. Efforts to leave the stop along Patterson Road, where it was previously located, reportedly went unheeded. Minew said that a bus headed to and from the junior-senior high school still stops at the Patterson Road location.


“What happened was the bus driver didn’t like doing the route this way, and that was the end of it for the elementary kids,” Minew reported. “What happens now is a large bus comes, and it drops off and picks up a high-school boy exactly where we’re asking for our stop to return to. And it then it turns around and goes to the school like it’s supposed to.” For elementary-school students, Minew explained, walking to the bus stop involves crossing three streets, including Route 9W, that they wouldn’t have to cross if they were picked up at Patterson Road.

Saugerties schools superintendent Seth Turner said he wasn’t able to address specific parent concerns. He did speak about how bus routes are created and said they’re not often changed. Much of the planning for a given school year happens during the spring and summer, he said.

Recent reports state that the issue is still unresolved.

August 31

Clovelea — Demolished by neglect 

Work was to begin to clean up the piles of wood and remove the underbrush at the Clovelea (Dragon Inn) property on Route 9W. Village code officer Eyal Saad and the village’s historic review board had recently issued a demolition permit to Brooklyn-based broker Jason Moskowitz to clean up the debris that surrounds the former majestic mansion of nineteenth-century industrialist William Sheffield. The mansion, which was built by one of the more prominent Saugerties families, has sat in ruin since a fire gutted what was at the time the Dragon Inn Chinese restaurant in the 1990s. During the last two years, additions, which had rotted, collapsed under the weight of heavy snowfalls. At the time of the purchase in a tax sale, Moskowitz said he planned on forming a partnership and developing the mansion as a boutique hotel. Those plans never materialized.

While cleaning up the debris will help, board member David Minch said the building was still being “demolished by neglect.” Board chair Jonathan Shapiro said Moskowitz has not disclosed his plans for the future of the building. Cleaning it up was a start, Shapiro said.

October 5

Another successful celebration of the powers of garlic

The air was rife at Cantine Field this weekend with sounds and pungent smells:   the buzzing of bees, the sizzling of grills, the calls of carnival barkers peddling their foodstuffs, and the ambient chatter of hundreds of festiva-lgoers.

It was the twenty-eighth iteration of the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival:

October 12

Celebrating the arts

Shout Out Saugerties, a month-long exhibition of local art and ideas, began last weekend with a proclamation from mayor Bill Murphy and the unveiling of a community wall where residents can write suggestions for bettering the community. Each weekend for the next three weeks, 35 events will be staged within the village, including art installations, lectures, creative workshops and performances. will be staged within the village. The events have primarily been funded through the generosity of local groups, including Sawyer Motors and the Chamber of Commerce.

October 26

Even with a 12% proposed raise for Sinagra, Saugerties budget is up only 1.15% 

“He’s way, way, way underpaid,” said town of Saugerties supervisor Greg Helsmoortel about chief of police Joseph Sinagra when asked about a line item in the proposed 2018 town budget that would give the chief a 12 percent raise from $86,381 to $100,000. “Saugerties is the largest town in Ulster County and the chief is one of the lowest paid police chiefs,” Helsmoortel saids. A quick check with the neighboring town of Ulster shows its newly hired chief is being paid a base salary of $113,000 that with benefits brings that number closer to $200,000.

The town’s spending plan for 2018, discussed at the October 18 Town Board meeting, calls for an increase from last year’s budget of 1.15 percent, from $6,706,099 to $6,783,392. “We’ve been cutting and cutting over a number of years,” Helsmoortel says of the less than 2 percent increase in this year’s budget.

November 9

Costello buries Bruno; Andreassen, Schoonmaker to join town board; Maloney, Wawro win legislator seats 

Four-term Democratic Councilman Fred Costello Jr. scored a massive win over his fellow town board member, friend — and, according to his vanquished foe, distant cousin — Republican Jimmy Bruno 3,254-2,131 for town supervisor.

With a veritable grand slam of 4,056 votes, Democrat Paul Andreassen garnered the most support in the town council race, followed by 26-year-old Democrat John Schoonmaker with 2,175 votes.

Should his victory stand the test of the absentee ballots, Schoonmaker will be the youngest local councilman that anyone can remember.

Incumbent county legislator Mary Wawro eked out a win with a 1,138-1,104 split over Democratic foe Mike MacIsaac.

District 2 incumbent Chris Allen lost by 1,186-1,101 to challenger Joe Maloney.

MacIsaac was later appointed to a vacant seat on the town board for 2018.

November 23

Ready Freddy

After the absentee ballots were counted, Fred Costello Jr. was ready to celebrate his sweeping 58 percent win in the race for Saugerties town supervisor race. But the supervisor-elect needed to begin to consider what he might be able to accomplish during his two-year term. “I’m excited,” he said. “I think [our newly elected town board has] a nice representation of experience and perspective, and I think it’ll be nice when we create public policy to represent what the town may want,” said Costello. “Their perspective is about Saugerties’ future, and they’re willing to work towards that. I’m willing to move that ball forward for as long as we can.”

Ready Freddy Costello says he’s the best man to take the top spot in town government. Of the 13 and a half years that he has been on the town board, eleven were spent as the town’s deputy supervisor. He served on the town’s economic development committee. He is the owner of Sue’s Restaurant in Barclay Heights and of several apartments in Glasco, a barber shop and a car wash. He studied international relations and economics at SUNY New Paltz, and is married. He and his wife have a 14-yearold daughter.

November 30

Maurice Hinchey, Ulster’s champion in Albany and Washington, dies at 79

Maurice Hinchey, the area’s beloved former congressman and assemblyman, died at home on Nov. 22, surrounded by his family after succumbing to his long battle with frontotemporal degeneration. Hinchey retired from Congress at the end of his term in January 2013; he had served 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and 18 in the state Assembly. Once hailed as the “environmental conscience of New York State” by Gov. Mario Cuomo, the progressive was the first Democrat from Ulster County to be elected to the state legislature since 1912.

A funeral was held at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday, Nov. 29, followed by a private burial ceremony. Hinchey is survived by his wife, Ilene Marder Hinchey; his children Michelle, Josef and Maurice S. Hinchey; his brothers Michael and John; his sister Patricia Hinchey; and four grandchildren. His first wife, Erika Hinchey, died previously.

December 7

Family of fallen Mount Marion firefighter will get insurance money 

A $400,000 settlement has been offered to the family of Captain Jack Henry Rose, 19, a volunteer firefighter with the Mount Marion Fire Department who died almost two years ago in a house fire at 11 Fel Qui Road. Homeowner Mary Alice Mark, whose home caught fire as the result of an incorrectly installed wood stove, has agreed to pay the full value of her insurance coverage to Gary and Linda Rose. Their representing attorney, Joseph O’Connor, says that the family is likely Rose settlement Family of fallen Mount Marion firefighter will get insurance money to accept the offer, which will probably be approved early next year. The settlement would have to be approved by surrogate court and would be paid entirely by the homeowner’s insurance company. One-third will go for attorney’s fees. The petitions are being drafted.

December 21

What Christmas lights can do 

Since he was fourteen years old, Zach Sussin has been fascinated by holiday decorations. After gaining regional notoriety over the past five years, his family’s 215,000-bulb display on Patch Road in Saugerties was seen by millions on December 11 on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” a seasonal televised yuletide decorating competition. While the Sussins didn’t win the competition, they are elated that their pet project of small beginnings became a nationally recognized work of art. “One year I went to Walmart to get a Halloween costume and I came out with a box of lights,” said Sussin. “That’s how it all started.” l