Reopening the economy
In the second virtual community meeting to discuss the process of reopening daily life in New Paltz, local officials responded to questions. How might retail stores be safely operated? Was it possible or prudent to keep out-of-town visitors away? Is there aid for those unable to pay the rent?
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on May 23 that the mid-Hudson region was on track to begin the first phase of re-opening May 26.
One online participant wondered why it was possible to shop in a wine store but not an art store. While alcohol is deemed an essential intoxicant, owners of other retail businesses are allowed to accept online orders for delivery, with restrictions. In some cases, the delivery happens to be right outside a door or window of the business.
A number of questions had to do with keeping outsiders on the outside: limiting tourists, and other county residents to the pool, for example. Town supervisor Neil Bettez confirmed that admittance to Moriello Pool, if it is opened at all, would likely be limited to locals.
Tourists are another matter. “It’s important to be able to get outside, no matter where you live,” said deputy mayor KT Tobin. Bettez said that social-distance rules should be observed at all times. Those guidelines are posted clearly throughout the community, including in recreation areas such as the rail trail. Face masks are also being handed out by elected officials and police officers, and are available at the police station at any time. They can be included in a food delivery via Food not Bombs.
When will anyone be able to get a haircut again? Some have opted to give home hair-cutting a go. Jackie Cosh, owner of Jem Hair Studio, has been working since the shutdown to reconfigure her salon’s space with new safety concerns in mind.
“I began to remodel the guest experience immediately,” she said. “I switched computer software companies in order to create a contact-less approach [which] will start with an automated text 15 minutes before the booked appointment.” That software will also allow for reservations to be made in advance, which will now be expected.
Many other changes will be implemented, said Cosh. All Jem stylists have been certified in the latest industry sanitation standards, and Cosh is watching new regulations and recommendations closely.
-Terence P Ward
A member of the New Paltz village’s Landlord-Tenant Relations Council, Nadia Mulvihill, recently asked about “cancelling rent.”
“It’s the first thing I think of every morning,” agreed village trustee Alex Wojcik. Bills on the topic have been circulating in Albany. Wojcik was not specific on how rent might be “cancelled” in these bills.
Her concern was that eviction, in her experience, can lead to greater challenges in renting for years to come. After what she characterized as a “wrongful eviction” that happened to her “a long time ago,” Wojcik said she had to get five references to secure her current apartment.
Ed Burke, another member of the Landlord-Tenant Relations Council, gave a landlord’s perspective. He noted that there were already protections in place, such as a halt on evictions statewide and the use of security deposits can be used to pay rent if one is experiencing hardship. He also noted that cancelling rent “would have a negative impact on tax collections, and put municipalities and school districts in an even tougher position.
Ulster County executive Pat Ryan has announced an initiative to provide rental assistance to those of low and moderate income.
“I’m on both sides of this coin,” said Burke. Two of his sons with apartments in other parts of the state have been using them for the past two months as “expensive storage units.” Even when the goal is “to do right by people” in dire circumstance, some would use this situation to promote political agendas. “This is not an issue that can be viewed in a silo or a vacuum,” Burke said.
-Terence P Ward
New signage at River-2-Ridge Trail
The Open Space Institute, in coordination with Wallkill View Farms and the Town of New Paltz, have posted additional signage along Route 299 to clarify the designated parking for trail users and reinforce guidelines for responsible recreation during this public-health crisis.
OSI reinforced to users that the Wallkill View Farm’s parking lot is not a River-2-Ridge Trail parking area and should not be used by visitors looking to access the trail. The River-2-Ridge Trail’s designated trailhead and parking area at 41 Springtown Road has a 45-vehicle capacity. If the parking area is full, visitors should return at another time or day.
The newly posted signage emphasizes guidelines:
- When on the trail, wear masks, observe the recommended six-foot social distance from others, avoid contact with high-touch surfaces, and don’t gather at trail kiosks, gates, or parking areas.
- Park in the River-2-Ridge Trail’s designated parking area. If the trail is busy or the parking area on Springtown Road is full, please come back at a different day or time.
- All users must stay on the trail at all times and respect trail neighbors and their property.
- All dogs must be leashed, and owners should arrive prepared to pick up after their pets.
Tulips for Family
New Paltz-based artist Ryan Cronin earlier this year to create an original piece for the annual Mohonk Mountain House Tulip Festival, a celebration of 20,000 tulips bulbs blooming in its show garden. A signed print of the original piece is being raffled off via the Mohonk Mountain House’s Facebook page to benefit Family of Woodstock.
“It’s super-easy to participate,” according to Lauren Peress, director of marketing for Mohonk.
“Donations are being collected through our Facebook page. All proceeds go directly to Family.” The fundraiser will run through May 31, and the winner will be announced via Facebook direct message on June 1.
“So far we have raised $3900, with a goal of reaching $5000 in donations,” said Cronin. “We have raised the funds in just a few days. It really shows how the community rallies together.”
How to regulate village’s historic appearance
The Village of New Paltz trustees, wrestling with the longstanding problem of how to fairly regulate the look of buildings in the community, want to tap into the expertise on the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The chair of the planning board, for his part, is concerned that the law as proposed wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.
The idea of running architecture past HPC members was first floated by that commission’s chair, Tom Olsen, in 2018. “We don’t want the power to say no,” he told trustees at the time. Instead, the HPC wanted to provide input into the look of new construction and renovations as a “consultation.”
What was agreed during the May 6 virtual workshop meeting when this matter was discussed is that making suggestions earlier makes them more likely to be implemented, and that it’s preferable for developers and officials alike if no one ends up building a structure that is widely seen as unattractive or out of place. How to do that in a way that passes judicial review and doesn’t unfairly suppress the rights of landowners to develop their property is less clear.
-Terence P Ward
Where have the flowers gone?
New Paltz’s Community Improvement Team (CIT) will be raising money and hanging banners on Main Street this year. But there may be no hanging baskets of flowers, however, if there aren’t enough volunteers to water them all summer long.
According to town councilperson Alexandra Baer, this project involves not only the CIT, but also SUNY government classes, the New Paltz Community Foundation and town workers.
The students are designing the banners and raising funds for their printing, which will be collected in Community Foundation accounts. Highway department staff will see them hung. Permission from the town board was given to hang the banners and organize the fundraising.
Details on what the banners will depict were not immediately available. Baer and Sue Stegen of the CIT will write a press release.
Flower baskets have been a common sight along Main Street for many years, but this year the volunteers to keep them watered are apparently hard to come by. The baskets along the village portion of the street have in the past been watered by a public-works employee. That may not come to pass. Village mayor Tim Rogers has warned about dire fiscal problems for village government this coming year.
-Terence P. Ward
Solar signups benefit Family
New Paltz residents may be more amenable to tapping into community solar now that their signups will benefit Family of New Paltz. Community solar is a way for homeowners who don’t have solar panels on their properties to take advantage of the renewable power source. They sign up with a local solar farm and get billed directly for their use of the electricity.
Current law results in two bills: one for the electricity itself, the other — from Central Hudson — for the distribution. For nearly every other arrangement, all the billing comes via Central Hudson. Town supervisor Neil Bettez anticipates this becoming the case for community solar at some point.
The town board has now cleared the way to combine community solar with Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), the system that ensures most residential customers in New Paltz save money on their electricity while getting it from renewable sources by negotiating with providers. Those negotiations are handled through Joule Community Power, the administrator for the local CCA plan.
Residents will soon be able to sign up for community solar directly through Joule, rather than making arrangements directly with community solar-farm representatives.
Users will save more money on their electricity use. Bettez, who participates in community solar, reports that he gets another ten percent off his bill for that reason alone.
Signing up also results in bonus money, which in this case goes through Joule rather than to the customer. Instead of putting that $50 for each household into the town budget, the town board chose to give it to a charitable organization instead, selecting Family of New Paltz as the recipient.
Residents should expect more details about how to sign up from Joule representatives.
-Terence P Ward