New Paltz tower hearing
The New Paltz town zoning board (ZBA) has scheduled a June 10 public hearing regarding a use variance for a proposed cellular tower at 60 Jansen Road. The applicant is Homeland Towers, LLC, along with Verizon Wireless. According to the paperwork available online, the relief requested is to site a tower outside the town’s existing wireless overlay district, which is largely along Route 299.
The applicants have stated at planning board meetings that they are pursuing a use variance to build a tower on Jansen Road because they can’t achieve the coverage they desire from anywhere within the wireless overlay district. Attorney Rick Golden said at the February 24 planning-board meeting that use variances are “almost impossible to get,” because the burden of proof is high.
— Terence P Ward
Sewer rehabilitation begun
The latest round of sewer main fixes in the Village of New Paltz was started on May 27, according to a notice posted to the village’s site. Work this season will be to rehabilitate older lines underneath South Chestnut, North Chestnut, Mulberry, Prospect and Grove streets, as well as North Oakwood Terrace and North Manheim Boulevard. In most cases, this will entail inserting a plastic liner into a leaking older main, with the bulk of the activity happening at the ends. Some of the work will require digging a trench.
The village’s sewer system has been subject a consent order since 2003, under which continual improvements must be made to resolve issues that included instances of untreated sewage running on local streets during periods of rain. That consent order has helped several mayors secure state funding for projects to replace or rehabilitate leaking old mains.
Park projects paused
The freeze on spending in Village of New Paltz government will slow but not entirely halt continuing changes in Hasbrouck Park. Leftover soil — 15 truckloads — from a project in Rosendale will be used to improve grading around the new playground and make it possible to grow grass there.
The original plans calling for the new playground in the same corner the old one had occupied, nearest to Mohonk and Elting avenues would have required heavy-duty rock drills that were provided through utility companies last time around. Instead, the new playground bumped the existing baseball field, and plans are to put it where the gazebo now stands, and relocate that bandstand between the playground and the new ball field.
With the potential for a substantial funding shortfall as a result of the pandemic shutdown, village officials have put an indefinite freeze on all but essential spending. Mayor Tim Rogers said that he does not expect to have clarity about the situation — including the amount of state and federal aid — until next year.
— Terence P Ward
Easing back open in New Paltz
Restaurateurs just venturing back into business are finding that people are supporting that transition. The topic came up during an online conversation last week with Doug and Teresa Thompson, who reopened Main Street Bistro in New Paltz two weeks ago for takeout and delivery only. The Thompsons and other local business owners chatted with village officials last week about the phased transition out of pandemic life, including what changes they’re making in their establishments and what changes they’d like to see coming from their elected leaders.
Doug Thompson purchased Main Street Bistro in 1993, six years after starting to work there. What he’s had to do in response to the global pandemic is unlike anything he’s faced before. Chairs have been pulled and booths reconfigured to accommodate social distancing guidelines, contact-free payments from the table are ready to go, and he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to allow 50% capacity inside by July. For now, the takeout and delivery business is much more robust than he and Teresa expected. The software they’ve adopted would even allow for customers to order without a server, but that’s a change they won’t make if they can avoid it. The Bistro’s servers are a core part of the experience, Doug feels, and it pains him that it’s not even part of the job description right now, with orders being taken curbside and only four days a week.
Jar’d owner Theresa Fall has also started providing takeout on the weekends, as tourists are starting to appear in Water Street Market again despite all the chairs being removed. She has found business also to be strong, but credits that to little competition at the moment for the limited visitors.
One way to safely increase seating in the warmer months is to use the outdoors. There’s no real space for that by the Bistro right now, but McGillicuddy’s Brian Keenan said that he’d like to explore borrowing the empty parking lot behind his establishment for that. Mayor Tim Rogers cautioned that such creative solutions might run into site-plan issues if handled on a case-by-case basis, but mused that trustees might consider legislation instead. Deputy Mayor KT Tobin said it was even suggested to her that Main Street parking spots could be co-opted to provide more seating area. The idea might have merit, but Teresa Thompson asked the age-old New Paltz question: “Where do you park?”
— Terence P Ward
Lucchesi takes NPPD reins during COVID-19 crisis
According to newly anointed New Paltz Police chief Rob Lucchesi, the department is seeing a decrease in DUIs and calls and arrests that might typically occur due to alcohol-related activity in and around the bar scene, which has been shut down since mid-March. On the flip side, the police have been seeing a noticeable increase in petty larceny in supermarkets and grocery stores, as well as car break-ins and person-to-person thefts, but a decrease in residential robberies.
“Countywide, we’re seeing an increase in substance-abuse-related calls and opioid overdoses,” said the chief, who noted that his staff is working closely with local and county agencies to provide information “on prevention, education and virtual training. We’ve been doing a lot of virtual courses on how to use Narcan, which we’ve had a great response to. Mental health calls are also up. People are struggling.” The chief said that his department is in constant contact with the New Paltz Emergency Preparedness Committee to address all communitywide issues brought on by the COVID-19 health crisis, including that of mental health, with the social isolation, loss of employment or school, fear and anxiety that have come hand-in-hand with the response to the virus.
In terms of domestic violence – a particular area of concern, with so many people either working from home or having been laid off due to the societal shutdown – the chief said that, while the numbers “of domestic calls have remained relatively the same, the nature of the calls have involved more physical assaults, obstruction of airways…Numbers are not always a reflection of what is actually happening.” To that end, he said, his staff “is being very thorough with every call.”
NPPD offices are still closed to the public, but according to Lucchesi, “We are doing our walking patrols, our bike patrols. We are actively engaged in the community, passing out masks, letting people know that we’re here. We’re not being as proactive with moving violations as we normally would be, but we’re reacting when we need to.”
Asked how he believes his department should move forward as we head towards Month Three of the COVID-19 health crisis and shelter-in-place orders, he said, “We need to approach people with compassion and understanding. These are very difficult times.”
— Erin Quinn
Online program for youth
The Maya Gold Foundation has developed an offering to specifically meet youth needs during stay-at-home orders. The foundation is offering the online program “Tools and Teachings for Trying Times” for middle schoolers. This four-week program is an offering to Hudson Valley youth designed to build resiliency, coping skills and inner peace.
The program is geared towards youth in sixth through eighth grade and will run on Wednesdays for four consecutive weeks in June (6/3, 6/10, 6/17, 6/24) from 4 to 5:30 p.m. It will be offered over Zoom, and enrollment will be limited to 15 participants per session. Applications will be accepted until the session is full. Commitment to all four sessions is expected.
To register, fill out the form on www.mayagoldfoundation.org/apply.
Jane Deyo Wynkoop online
A new online exhibit, “Jane Deyo Wynkoop,” is on display at Historic Huguenot Street. Wynkoop is believed to be the first African-American — man or woman — to buy land in New Paltz. Despite humble beginnings, Wynkoop’s diligence and determination resulted in a productive, inspiring life that included marriage and raising a family. As a result of her hard work and planning, Wynkoop’s purchase of land was the first step toward opening the door for her sons’ acquiring the right to vote. The exhibit explores her story from birth in 1803 to death in 1876, at age 73.
The exhibit’s launch in June also coincides with Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the effective ending of slavery in the United States.
The online exhibit is part of the museum’s pivot to digital programming while its doors are closed to the public during the health crisis. Joining other institutions across the country and abroad, Historic Huguenot Street has launched a new online programming initiative that includes videos, hands-on activities, special deals from the museum shop available for delivery, and new ways to participate and explore its exhibitions, archives and collection. These virtual experiences will be available on the museum’s website and shared through its social-media channels.
Ready to reopen!
Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz is reopening June 15. The golf course and hiking trails are already open, though everyone must get their temperature taken and undergo a wellness check at the gatehouse. Anyone exhibiting symptoms or admitting to having contact with someone who has Covid 19 will be turned away along with everyone in their party. All guests must sign a waiver stating they assume the risk of possibly contracting Covid 19 during their time on the grounds.
“There’s going to be a huge focus on outdoor recreation,” said Madeline Myslow, a public-relations representative for the resort. Evening entertainment and activities will be moved to outdoor venues whenever possible.
Three candidates, two seats
Voters residing in the New Paltz school district will have three candidates to choose from during the June 9 school board elections — Teresa Thompson, Brian Cournoyer and Edgar Rodriguez. There are two open seats.
Local school districts are sending paper ballots through the mail, with any vote returned by Tuesday, June 9 at 5 p.m. counting.
The district’s 2020-21 $64,940,103 budget proposal represents an increase of $1.3 million. or 2.04 percent, over the 2019-20 spending plan. The proposed budget includes a tax-levy increase of 2.20 percent, or $979,370.
Ballots cannot be opened until after the June 9 deadline.
Virtual wine tasting
Gardiner Library presents a four-class virtual wine-tasting series via Zoom with Melanie Young beginning Wednesday, June 17 from 7 to 8 p.m. The series costs $100 for all four or $30 per individual class. To register, email email@example.com for Zoom link and payment instruction. Pre-registration required by June 10 for series and one week before for individual classes.
Prior to each class, registrants will be sent a syllabus with notes and glossary of terms for class, suggested reading list and list of wines to buy with info and prices (they can choose to spend what they wish) from local retailers or online. Each class will cover a different variety of wine The first class is on whites. The class will continue to meet on June 24: reds, July 1: rosé and July 8: champagne and sparkling wines.
For information visit www.gardinerlibrary.org.
Robinson leaves New Paltz
Stuart Robinson is stepping down as SUNY New Paltz’s director of athletics, wellness and recreation and taking a new post at New York University, effective August 3. Robinson comes to NYU from SUNY New Paltz, where he was also head coach of the men’s soccer team for 15 years and an adjunct professor of English.
Robinson has had extensive experience in expanding and innovating sports programming. His tenure was notable for the introduction of creative support programs for students both within and outside the athletics program.
“Stuart has left a tremendous legacy of success through winning seasons and numerous championships for our athletics teams; growth in our athletic, recreation and wellness programs; and the impressive accomplishments of our student athletes,” said Donald Christian, president of SUNY New Paltz. “I admire and respect the high standards and expectations for both athletic and academic achievement he has established for players and coaches. Stuart has been an engaged leader on campus, in the community and among his peers.”
Matt Giufre, the Hawks’ women’s volleyball coach, has been named interim athletic director for the next school year effective, August 1. New Paltz will begin a search for a permanent AD next spring. Radu Petrus, the men’s volleyball head coach, will coach the women’s volleyball squad in the fall.
Robinson also coached the New Paltz High School soccer team for eight years. He was involved with boys’ basketball for nine seasons, the last six as head coach. His final season saw the Huguenots win a third consecutive section championship.