Ulster’s Fauxhenge is no more

 

The area is now under construction

Last week it was reported that a circle of stone pillars in the Town of Ulster believed by some to have been built in prehistoric times was more likely to have been erected in the mid-20th century. This week, town officials revealed “Fauxhenge” had been even newer than they thought.

A request for the extension of site plan approval for a retail plaza in the Town of Ulster during a meeting held February 15 brought the issue to the fore. Kingwood Park Plaza is a 14,400-square-foot retail building proposed by developer Pasquale Iovieno which would also include ancillary driveways and 58 on-site parking spaces. The parcel at 1204 Ulster Avenue is directly behind Five Guys Burgers & Fries, and on that property is the circle of stone pillars roughly 75 feet in circumference.

Town supervisor James E. Quigley, III described it as resembling Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, believed to have been constructed somewhere between 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C. In mid-February, Quigley said he’d been told by “two attorneys and a former town supervisor” that the structure was built approximately 60 years ago by former town attorney Lou DiDonna “as a park to take his girlfriend to.”

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This week, Quigley said further research indicated the structure was more likely built in the 1990s. “I have aerial photographs of the property from 1979 from the town engineer: There were no rocks there,” he said. “And then after I got that map, I said, wait a second, there’s a map outside the town clerk’s office on the wall, an aerial photograph from approximately 1982. There were no rocks. In talking around town I’m getting feedback that says he did it in the early Nineties. So at the end of the day, it’s not 50 or 60 years old. It’s 25 years old.”

Quigley said some local residents believed the structure was prehistoric and because it held significant historic and cultural value should therefore be protected.

One woman had started a Facebook petition to save the circle of stones. “I explained it to her,” Quigley said. “I said, ‘This is not what you’re purporting it to be on Facebook, would you please remove the Facebook post?’ And she did.”

Another call came from a local man who recalled playing on the stones as a child. “And as we talked it through and I asked him to establish a timeline,” Quigley said. “I got to the point where we agreed on a range of time where he would have been playing there, which happened to be the mid-Seventies. And I said, ‘What would you say if I showed you an aerial photograph that proves the rocks were not there in 1979?’”

Quigley said he believed the matter has finally been settled, even if some area residents may not be as sure. Plans for hire an archaeologist from SUNY New Paltz to review the structure were canceled in light of the new information, and the property owner has since removed the stone pillars. Fauxhenge is no more.

“Citizens are asking me to protect the rocks,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s a matter of private property rights. It is not a culturally significant artifact. So the owner has removed them.”

There are 3 comments

  1. ExpectMore

    Pausing. Now, this public cry for preservation and the ensuing ‘drama’ around it are demonstrative of so much
    of the hysteria that happens in this area that is simply not based in truth, fact, or reality. The rocks were not
    historic, not important, not of value other than a curiosity. YET, our local ‘activism’ spun out wildly…reminds me of the hysteria around:

    CVS / 5 Guys in New Paltz
    Irish Cultural Center in Kingston
    Proposed Parking Lots at Mohonk Conservation Area
    Cattle Fences at Mohonk Conservation Area
    (The previous hysteria) regarding Williams Lake
    Public Zoning AFTER THE FACT for the new building on Main Street in New Paltz > (Town engineers, had they actually reviewed the plans before the entire building was built…might have noticed that it was a foot too tall?)
    Zero Place
    Waterfront Residential in Kingston

    My point — we fight, argue, and destroy so much economic opportunity here — When We Shouldn’t!!!
    Our NIMBY’S exaggerate and blow proposals to seismically out of proportion when in fact they ALL will dovetail perfectly, as they should, into our existing commercial, residential, and recreational areas.

    Can we PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE, take it down about 10-notches…and just know that the folks designing these things, and investing their money into these things, aren’t stupid! They ACTUALLY FACTUALLY know what they are doing!!!

    And, just imagine those several thousand jobs that don’t exist right now…because NIMBY’s are the ones who kill those jobs. Huh, that’s real progressive.

  2. planeteer

    how dare they thoughtlessly destroy a circle of rocks created in the 90s. thank you for covering this important story.

  3. Steven L Fornal

    Of course, the obvious point seems to have escaped ExpectMore. The process worked. The project went forward. To use this example as indicative of “…this public cry for preservation and the ensuing ‘drama’ around it are demonstrative of so much of the hysteria that happens in this area that is simply not based in truth, fact, or reality” so that one can segue into pet peeves doesn’t work.

    Every example listed DOES have concerns that the process must address. It seems the default position of so many anti-NIMBY’s, if you will, is that no process should happen at all and if people object to impacts caused by a project they’re being unreasonable.

    The New Paltz Five Guys/CVS was proposed for a very hectic traffic area the impacts of which needed to be explored. That’s on the project sponsors.

    The ICC in Kingston as proposed is hugely out of character and outsized for the historic surround. That’s on the project sponsors.

    The proposed parking lots at Mohonk Conservation Area do carry risks re stormwater runoff, especially if the parking areas are salted or otherwise treated for icing. The cattle fences can be seen to mar the views (I don’t personally share that opinion but as tourism is on the ascendant viewsheds must be considered. But, again, these aspects have been handled quite well by Mohonk. Evidence of their past practices certainly will allow for the project to move forward pretty much as presented.

    The Williams lake project? Yeah, okay, score one for your side. I thought the attitude of townspeople as to it basically being their property via decades of allowed use by the owners seemed overblown for sure.

    Your claim of “zoning after the fact” isn’t true. The builder went to maximum height without considering the placement of AC mechanicals on the roof. That’s not the fault of the process. The roof coverage of those mechanicals is also one hundred percent beyond what is allowed. Again, that’s not the fault of the process. Realize that doubling the mechanicals could very well increase the noise produced as well as create an aesthetic problem by not fitting in with contiguous housing. Again, not the fault of the process.

    Zero Place, the roof deck issue re noise, parking and density are valid concerns. Again, that’s on the project sponsors. They could have presented a plan with all details worked out to code specifications but, apparently, didn’t.

    Finally, Waterfront residential proposal has a lot to do with density and absence of parking in the Rondout area. Again, bonafide impacts that must be addressed via the process.

    I’ve spent quite a few years involved with zoning issues and can tell you without any equivocation whatsoever that usually it’s the project sponsors that want more than the code will allow or design a project to minimize cost rather than produce a project that fits the code, the neighborhood and presents itself as an asset and not a detriment.

    I also have seen countless times people basing their public hearing comments on irrational fears and/or their desire to keep things as they are. But, guess what? The process allows projects to go forward despite that.

    It’s a balancing act, for sure. But, to eliminate the zoning process or to create a process that is simply about lessening initial startup costs is to imperil neighboring properties and the taxpayers that own them.

    Residential means something in zoning. The problems arise when projects propose to disrupt the residential quality of life within a residential zone. The process is supposed to assure that doesn’t happen.

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