The views and opinions expressed in our letters section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Hudson Valley One. You can submit a letter to the editor here.
Dear supporters of The Pantry at SUNY Ulster
It’s been almost a year since I was called to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in New Paltz and to campus ministry at SUNY Ulster and SUNY New Paltz. Plans for how to gracefully enter the work of The Pantry at SUNY Ulster, whose organization I admire greatly, were upended by the pandemic. And yet, many good things happened: People were served! People were generous! Some next steps were taken to strengthen the pantry. Here’s a brief report of 2020:
Before the pandemic, we developed an online order form and began to offer food at the Kingston campus to participants of New Start for Women, where women living below the federal poverty level receive funds for tuition, fees and books to earn a one-year SUNY Ulster business certificate. The program helps women find living-wage employment and economic mobility.
In March, while most classwork moved online, The Pantry continued to serve students who could get to either the Stone Ridge or Kingston campus, with appropriate safety modifications. Our biggest problem has been access for students who have no other reason to come to campus, especially early in the pandemic when bus service was significantly reduced.
We continued offering food every other week over the summer and over the winter break, an expansion of services. In 2020, we served 82 people (students and staff), an average of 26 guests and their households each week, for a total of 800 people. We purchase supplies through the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, supplemented by donations and other purchases. The Episcopal Diocese of New York funds my position and the pantry is staffed by volunteers. We received a $5,000 grant from the Mid-Hudson Board of Managers and are awaiting news of an Episcopal Charities grant. We often used reusable bags donated by Ulster Savings Bank, as we are weaning ourselves from plastic bags.
The fall was a time to begin to expand ministry. Holy Cross Monastery in West Park donated their gently used minivan to Campus Ministry to facilitate food pickup and delivery. We hope to connect students at Ulster and New Paltz with volunteer opportunities in local Episcopal food ministries.
Thank you to Cathy Kelly and Sarah Gardner who have walked me through the way The Pantry works; to acting dean Meg Sheeley for her support in this Diocese of New York Campus Ministry/SUNY Ulster partnership; to Claudia Cline, who placed Food Bank orders regularly; to Barbara and Bill Terpening who met the Food Bank deliveries; to Elizabeth Broyles, Linda Colwell, Sarah Gardner, Tana Miller, Shane Phelan, Barbara Terpening and Dardan Ukaj, who helped prepare orders; to Jane Conger, who writes thank-you notes; to a host of St. Andrew’s parishioners who collect food from local grocery stores. Thank you for your interest in and support. The Pantry provides a valuable safety net for students working to improve their skills and earning capacity.
The Rev. Dr. Allison Moore
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Short-term rental law
Like many municipalities have done or are working on, the Village of New Paltz has developed its own law to regulate short-term rental use. The Village board’s legally noticed public hearing for the law was open for over three months to incorporate public feedback. We have also alerted the public about our board’s deliberations using social media and letters to Hudson Valley One as well via coverage in Kingston’s Daily Freeman.
The law intends to protect the health and safety of village residents and visitors, and aims to stop absentee landlords/investors from buying homes in residentially zoned neighborhoods and turning them into the equivalent of full-time mini hotels.
However, this short-term rental law shall not apply to permanently occupied residential dwellings or one’s “permanent place of abode” if operation of a short-term rental is secondary and incidental to the use of the property as a primary residence. If hosting remotely or staying on premises with short-term rental guests, permanent residents must be able to demonstrate with written documentation in a form acceptable to the village code enforcement officer or other building department official, such as voter registration or utility bills, that such individual(s) occupy the property in question.
Additionally, the law on short-term rentals shall not apply in commercially-zoned districts within the village (including zones B1, B2, and G).
We reviewed drafts and in-place laws from other communities and felt strongly that ours made the most sense for the Village of New Paltz. We sought to safeguard residents and visitors by protecting and preserving housing affordability, our culture of volunteerism, the village’s balance of commercial and residential neighborhoods as enacted by zoning and related local laws and with regular code enforcement safety inspections.
Both short-term rentals (defined as rentals of less than 30 days) AND long-term rentals located in all commercial and/or residential-districts require annual inspections per Village Code Chapter 129, Article II.
The board of trustees indicated at their last meeting that they will be voting on whether to pass this law at their upcoming meeting on February 10. Proposed law found here: https://tinyurl.com/y3jyfot9
Mayor Tim Rogers
Who was minding the store?
According to Hudson Valley One: [Bill] McKenna received a call from a Woodstock resident at approximately 8 a.m. regarding a bear cub wandering in her yard. Quoting McKenna, “though it took us the day, we finally did catch the little guy.”
Since this incident took place on the day of the Town Board end-of-year meeting or even on any other workday, one would think that McKenna would have called on Woodstock’s Finest to handle the issue rather than be involved himself. Almost $60,000 a year in salary and thousands of dollars in benefits, and this is how our town supervisor spends his time. Why?
Waiter, reality check, please!
We have a Jewish Space Laser? Yes, give ’em a light, a narrow, intense beam produced and developed by a Jew and we’ll follow it blindly אֶלְעָזָ (El‘azar or Eleazar), meaning ‘God has helped’. In space, no one can hear you kvetch! Why were we not told, why did I have to Google it and why am I not surprised at the source?
Yeah, GOP Rep beast Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Right-wing extremist who’s the new poster girl for all things Republican Party, is not only a dangerous QAnon conspiracy-addled ‘full-out-freaking’ whack job and a racist anti-Semite who not only thinks the slaughter of children and the worst terrorist attack on US soil were staged, she’s also firmly wrapped tight in her belief system that an investment bank owns a space laser! Congresswoman MTG is something else indeed, however, you can’t prove there are no Jewish banker space lasers right? So there.
Is she propagating ignorance, stupidity and hate? Her views about wildfires in California are nothing short of surreal. According to her: Forests don’t just catch fire, you know. Rather, the blazes had been started by PG&E, in conjunction with the Rothschild’s, using a space laser, in order to clear room for a high-speed rail project. Hey, not just a laser but a ‘forest fire starting space laser’, which of course is way cooler. The Rothschild family has featured heavily in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories since at least the 19th century. I knew there was something fishy about those fires. Now it all makes sense. Well not exactly, but someone will get to the bottom of this soon and I do mean bottom.
If pitiful human MTG is an outlier on the conservative fringe (and I don’t think she is), she won’t be for long. And just calling her crazy and irrelevant won’t be enough to stop her and her cohorts, the elected GOP lunatic hordes called ‘them’. Sadly, I don’t know how we counter it when the two sides (Democrats and Republicans) live in completely different realities. Just one more thing:
We were supposed to get our lasers after our bar/bat mitzvahs. It’s been 59 years and I am still waiting on mine.
God has an algorithm for generating algae.
Black eye and speech suppression
January 6 will be a day of shame that will be remembered for a long time. The rioting by apparent right-wing extremists was a condemnable atrocity. And it was quickly condemned by the president and all members of Congress. There were known demonstrations about the alleged election fraud. Security was light. The reason security was light was because up until that day, political violence was almost completely owned by the Left, Marxist BLM and antifa. Trump supporters rarely acted this way. Now the 74 million people who voted for Trump are being equated with the 200 or so organized rioters, mostly radical fringe and wacky QAnon conspiracy nuts and their ineffective insurgency.
Five people died. One was a policeman and Trump supporter apparently injured during the riot. One was an unarmed Air Force veteran shot and killed by law enforcement, also a Trump supporter and an extremist. So far, the other three were medical emergencies, but this is not clear. Again, we don’t have all the facts.
Accusations without proof or facts were made that President Trump incited the riot with his statement to the rally at the Ellipse, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” and to “go to the Capitol peacefully and patriotically and make your voices heard.” Where’s the insurrection part? Peacefully and patriotically. And politicians use the word “fight” all the time. Now, as the rioters are being arrested and investigated, investigators are finding there was conspiracy to storm the Capitol days before. They bought airline tickets and flew to DC. The rioting started before Trump finished his rally, according to timestamps on security camera footage. By the way, the rioters arrested in the 2017 inauguration riots had all charges dropped. Do you think that will happen after this riot?
Congress can still impeach Trump simply because they don’t like him. And they are afraid he could come back. This must be their biggest fear. Trump’s behavior after the election was unpresidential and wrong, but he did not commit any kind of crime.
We are accustomed to hypocrisy and double standards by politicians, but something followed the riot that is scary, sinister. Twitter and Facebook permanently banned Trump and anyone mentioning election fraud using the smokescreen of the riot “to keep us safe.” At the same time, Twitter warned Uganda that they could not censor news and opinion on the Internet there in their national election. There’s a total lack of self-awareness. A new and very popular platform, Parler, had their Internet services withdrawn by Amazon. Parler has an open policy for opinion and messages and was very popular for conservatives. Parler does block any messages promoting violence and other illegal activities. Remember that the Hunter Biden story by the New York Post was blocked before the election. Trump got banned by these platforms, but the mullahs in Iran and the Chinese communists are not banned.
At this point in time with the new administration, the press and Big Tech all aligned, the First Amendment will be under attack. Buckle up.
Kingstonian PILOT disrupts needed addiction recovery services
The following views do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.
As a social worker in Kingston, I am dismayed by the cruelty of the Kingstonian PILOT program.
Ulster County continues to be affected by the opioid crisis – a crisis that intensifies as the Covid-19 pandemic restricts in-person recovery services, increases the need for mental health and addiction treatment and increases economic and housing insecurity. The city’s focus should be on providing additional clinical resources and housing for this population. Instead, Mayor Noble has bent over backwards to accommodate the Kingstonian PILOT program, which will make millions for capitalist developers, pay no property taxes and bring in people from out of town who will likely work remotely.
Tax revenue from this project could be used to restore recently lost community inpatient clinical services and strengthen existing services. Instead, the empty promises of wealthy developers have been prioritized over the needs of community members with substance use disorders and mental health disorders desperate to reconstruct their lives.
Further, the Kingstonian represents an increase in private property and an influx of new residents. Therefore, it is reasonable to speculate that this will create a perceived need for increased policing. At a time when Ulster County activists are advocating adjusting police budgeting to reform responses to mental health and addiction crises, the Kingstonian all but ensures no successful reform.
The Kingstonian will be a shining symbol of this city’s increasing disregard for the needs of its working-class citizens.
We appreciate Neal Smoller
We got our Covid-19 vaccine shots today at the Village Apothecary at the Woodstock Community Center. Pharmacist Neal Smoller made it happen by bringing the vaccine close to our community.
We were very impressed with the superb organization of the effort, filled with both professionals and volunteers. The experience was efficient, supportive, safe and easy.
We honor Neal Smoller who fought to bring this lifesaving vaccine to us.
If you qualify due to age or essential worker category, go to drnealsmoller.com/vax to sign up for an appointment when the next vaccines become available. We encourage you to help your friends and family who have difficulty negotiating online applications.
NY recycling at a crossroads
New Yorkers set out three billion pounds of recyclables annually, delivering many environmental benefits including waste reduction, conservation of precious natural resources and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. From an economic standpoint, recycling supports thousands of green-sector jobs across the state and preserves limited landfill space.
But today, local recycling programs in New York are on the ropes and are struggling to survive. The value of curbside recyclables is insufficient to cover the costs to sort and process the recyclables. Statewide, these costs for municipalities and recycling-system ratepayers are estimated to exceed $80 million in 2021.
The catalyst for this financial dilemma? Severely reduced demand, as China no longer accepts much of the world’s recyclables. On a local level, the challenge to municipal officials to maintain recycling programs is made even more difficult because of budget challenges due to Covid-19 and tax-cap limitations.
To respond to this challenge, New York senator Todd Kaminsky and assemblyman Steve Englebright are teaming up to propose legislation (S.1185) that would require consumer product manufacturers to finance the recycling of their packaging materials. Municipalities could continue to recycle, much as they have been for the past 30 years. But consumer product brand-owners would be required to reimburse municipalities for the collection and processing of their packaging, as well as costs for public recycling education. Product producers control the type/quantity of their packaging and need to be part of the recycling solution.
Requiring corporate producers to chip into end-of-life costs for their products will help municipalities sustain recycling. It will also help protect our planet for future generations. The legislation incentivizes manufacturers to reduce packaging, increase the packaging’s recycled content and make the packaging easier to recycle. New York has a choice: remain stuck at the crossroads marked by unsustainable costs, stagnant recycling rates and aging infrastructure, or pass Senate Bill 1185 and lead the nation in establishing the recycling management system of the future.
Recycling Coordinator, Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency
Time and Covid
My focus is on how I feel about the passing of time. I am endlessly waiting for a vaccination appointment. I calculate the time when I can go to the grocery with the fewest people in the store. I wonder how much precious time I lose worrying about getting the virus. I am confused that the slowing of time by hunkering down is actually time I am wasting, or have I finally stopped running the rat race? What can I do to get Covid-19 out of the driver’s seat of my emotions?
When I step back from my internal diatribe, I ask myself, “In reality, has time changed?” My answer is, “No. Time is as true as the hands on the clock. My emotions about Covid-19 and the death it brings are causing my misperception of time. I know this because I watched myself when I was at the airport and saw my beloved when I got off the plane: Time grew wings and flew. I contrast that to when I got off the plane and met someone unexpected whom I did not like. When they approached me to talk, time’s wings seemed to stop flapping.
My timeframe for how I was living sped up last March. That’s when my pendulum of emotions began to swing between fear of dying and feeling guilty for not squeezing all my life juice out of every minute I am alive.
There are moments of balance when I am aware my overall health is better than it’s been in years. I’ve had no colds and no flu because the handwashing and mask have protected me. I’ve lost weight from not eating out. I exercise daily and I feel the reward every time I have to bend to pick something up. I am making art, carving wood, painting, writing and cooking. I am developing computer skills I would have never sat still long enough to learn before March 2020.
Is the dark of night the only reason I feel the fullness of the sunlit day? Is death revealing its face daily, actually a gift that is difficult to unwrap? When the Zen masters went to the mountains isolating for years, was their discovery of themselves the reward we all hope for, before death? These questions float in me like dandelion seeds on spring breezes. The rat that stops racing loves itself more than the rat that wins. Covid-19 is the messenger, the vaccine the warrior, wanting to slay. The sun sets, so that dawn can be born. Time is nothing more than an illusion that we have placed into a machine we call a clock. In reality I am finding my timepiece beats in my chest.
Incitement and excitement to insurrection
I am deeply disappointed and dejected daily, actually, that many radio and TV commentators — even those I trust and respect — have taken to calling the planned assault on the Congress a riot. It was not a riot! It was an insurrection!
It was a planned attempt by Donald Trump to bring together insurrectionist, MAGA and white supremacy groups – Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnon et cetera — to use mob violence to throw over and throw out the US government. An insurrection to interrupt and disrupt the Congress counting the Electoral College votes in a presidential election. It was an insurrection to kidnap, take hostage, to kill, maim and murder members of Congress…. even to lynch Vice President Pence. It was an insurrection to go from mob violence to mob rule! So, this was no riot! To call it so, to label it is to trivialize it…to make it easier for the Republican Party and Trump supporters and enablers to miss and dismiss it.
How close did this insurrectionist mob come to throwing over and throwing out the US government? Five minutes? Three minutes? One minute? As the mob pounded and pounded on the doors and smashed windows?
An insurrection is not a riot! Call it what it is and was: not a riot – but an insurrection.
True to his word
True to his word, President Biden has, in his first weeks in office, addressed all of the major concerns of most of the American public. And what makes us especially excited is, despite pressure from the other side of the aisle, he still considers climate change one of his most critical concerns.
The number of regulations that Trump rolled back during his term is impressive, and as we mentioned last week, Biden is “rolling back the rollbacks.”
Limiting the extent of public land that is up for grabs by fossil fuel companies is relatively easy. To stop the desecration of public lands is one thing, but to cancel fossil fuel leases is another.
A fossil fuel spokeswoman acknowledged the importance of climate change and argued that fracking was the best climate change mitigation. Clearly, that is an “alternative fact,” maybe the greatest oxymoron of the Trump era.
The reality is that fracking wells leak methane (CH4), which is 86 times more damaging than C02 (although its life cycle in the atmosphere is much shorter).
Experts say that if fracking wells leak two percent or more of methane, their overall impact is similar to that of burning coal! Methane leakage from fracking pipes varies widely, but some operations leak 12 percent! No one has been able to accurately measure the additional methane leakage from the soil during fracking, but the IPCC is noting that there are large quantities of methane inexplicably entering our atmosphere.
So thanks, President Biden, for getting us off to an impressive start – but please do not assume that fracking is either a form of clean energy or a bridge fuel to the future.
Dan and Ann Guenther
Patience is a virtue
Yesterday I heard a few different radio stations interviewing Democratic activists. The activists were boldly and passionately speaking in terms of pressuring the Biden administration and insisting and demanding their specific issues get immediate attention. I was embarrassed by their adolescent gyrations and felt sad for our newly elected Democratic president. How quickly we forget.
How quickly some of us forget how horrible the last four years were, while we watched helplessly as Trump and his cronies fleeced our country in a myriad of different ways. We just went through four long and painful years of a living hell and how very close did we come to witnessing the demise of our cherished democracy. And we are still dealing with major problems, on top of an out-of-control pandemic, with millions of people out of work who are feeling more and more desperate every day.
I know how ecstatic I felt as I watched the inauguration on January 20. But that took place only two weeks after the insurrection of the Capitol. Only two weeks after a crazed mob, incited by a deranged president, attacked our sacred Capitol with deadly force, with horrific plans to kill many of our leaders. Our fragile democracy was on the brink, and, thank God, we barely survived the surprise onslaught. We’re now counting our blessings and doing our best to round up, indict and hopefully imprison many of the leaders of the insurrection. However, we are not out of the woods just yet. It’s going to take a while for President Biden and his administration to clean up a lot of the damage and right a lot of the wrongs that have taken place over the last four years. At this point, I personally think that President Biden is doing great. But he needs some time, and he needs to be trusted.
It has been a known fact that, in the past, because of the diversity in the Democratic party, the zealous activists with special interests have caused much dissension among the ranks, whenever the Democrats have reclaimed power. The “me-first” attitude just does not work. It’s never been a successful approach, and it certainly is a bad choice at this crucial time. So, I think that now is a perfect time for a change of attitude.
I totally understand the relief and the subsequent surge of enthusiasm that so many of us have experienced with the finality of the destructive Trump administration. Good riddance to bad rubbish! Now we have a much healthier and much more responsible Biden administration at the helm. My enthusiasm is over-the-top as well, totally believing that great things could be right around the corner for our nation. But pressuring the Biden administration now, after only ten days, is exactly the wrong approach. We need to at least give them the first hundred days to show the country how they can be trusted to “build back better,” which is their motto. Biden’s already promised to tackle the dreaded virus first, along with helping the millions who are out of work, hungry and in fear of being evicted from their homes. This is clearly an emergency and everything else must take a back seat…for a while.
So, I am strongly recommending everybody to take a few deep breaths. Do your best to remain thrilled and delighted about the election results. We’re finally in good hands and that’s very exciting. And remember that the urgency was to get rid of Trump. We succeeded. Now it’s time to let go of that urgency and relax a little. Yes, we do need to stay focused and it certainly is not a time to go back to sleep. We must remain active and vigilant if we want a vibrant and healthy democracy. That’s up to all of us to step up. But we also need to show a little patience. Will you?
Who are the puppeteers?
After telling us during the campaign that governing by executive order was for dictatorships, not democracies, President Biden signs 17 on his first day. As of January 29, he has now issued 40. So, do you think he wants to be called King Joe or maybe Beloved Leader? He campaigned as a unifier who had a history of working across the isle with Republicans. He has not made one attempt at passing bipartisan legislation.
I watched him announce two of the latest executive orders on climate control and federal funding for women’s health. Why couldn’t he say abortion? It took him about five minutes to read the announcement off index cards, and even with that little text he couldn’t be trusted to speak. It had to be written for him lest he bungle it. When he finished, he walked off to be put back in hiding – again no questions from the press, as his handlers know he won’t be able to answer anything more complex than what flavor ice cream he prefers.
We now know President Biden is the puppet. It would be illuminating to know who the puppeteers are. Given the number of the executive orders and the size of some of the text, you know he didn’t write them. Watching him read the short statement on the last two, there’s no way he read them. I wonder how long it will be before the Democratic leaders get him to resign due to health or remove him using the 25th Amendment.
Cleaning up our act
Thank you for covering Judith Enck’s Mohonk Consultations presentation, which I attended. I’m writing in strong support of both her organization, Beyond Plastic, which has a national scope and impact (including legislation now proposed in the US Congress), and of local efforts to reduce, in fact eliminate, single-use plastic in our lives.
This is not the place to convince anyone who doesn’t already know that we have a huge plastic problem. Those people need to become aware of what’s happening around them at a level I won’t be able to help them with here. May I suggest The Story of Plastic, on Discovery Channel, to get you up to speed.
It’s all of us who get it but don’t “get it” are whom I’m talking to. We know, but we don’t change our behavior. We continue to accept and use throwaway cutlery, straws and cups because it’s “convenient.” Never mind its destructive impact, including devastation of life in the sea and the discovery of its presence in our food chain and our very internal organs. And that we got along quite well without any of this stuff until very recently in our history (like the 1950s, when, God forgive us, we didn’t know what we’d invented and unleashed).
We know, but we continue to buy all kinds of products packaged in completely unnecessary plastic, especially those we buy online and have shipped to us. Tell Amazon to cut it out! We know, but we buy and “recycle” plastic food packaging – also completely unnecessary, when we have alternatives. But they’re not as “convenient,” this time for producers, who like the nice neat way all those containers stack up and fit into boxes for shipping across the country and world. Besides, they may be less expensive than responsible packaging, and we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that cheap food, clothing and everything else is a good thing, when in fact it’s part of the consumer madness that is leading us down the road to a very unpleasant future.
Convenience and “saving a buck” look more and more like what the road to Hell is paved with. I am begging everyone to stop just for a minute and reconsider the tradeoff between cheap, convenient consumer goods and devastation to the environment. Is there anyone who doesn’t know where that is leading us? Plastic production is even part of the climate-busting fossil fuel industry, being a most profitable use of fracking byproducts. And instead of slowing it down or stopping it altogether, they’re ramping it up. Doubling down, as they say.
Here in Ulster County, the UC Resource Recovery Agency “will launch a countywide community engagement campaign, the UCRRA Zero Waste Seminar Project, to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of single-use plastics, and how waste reduction and reuse can be practical strategies for pollution prevention” in July of this year. More information is available at their website: https://ucrra.org/ucrra-zero-waste-seminar-project.
That’s a great start to cleaning up our act here in Ulster County.
Reply about school taxes
To the reader that thought her January property tax bill did not have enough school taxes included, I implore her to wait until September. The school tax portion of the property tax is so large that to combine them would be overwhelming for most homeowners, so the school tax is sent separately six months later. Typically, the school tax will be much more than the entire town, county and local taxes. If you find after paying your school tax in September that you still feel shorted, most local schools have accommodation so you can make private donations as well.