Briefly noted in New Paltz (12/15/21)

Art & Nature at Gardiner Library

The Gardiner Library will present a five-week Art and Nature Series starting on Tuesday, January 18 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. for grades K to 2 and Thursday, January 20 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. for grades 3 to 5. Children will join local floral artisan Elissa Rinaldo Cimino to create works of art based on nature using a mix of media, with materials supplied.

Juice will be provided and snacks are welcome. Masks are required. Prepaid registration is necessary and limited. The cost is $120 for the series. Contact Nicole at nlane@rcls.org to register. Registration is required by January 11 for K-2 and January 13 for 3-5.

The Library is located at 133 Farmers’ Turnpike. Call (845) 255-1255 or visit www.gardinerlibrary.org.

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Take-home craft for teens: Hot Cocoa Bombs

The Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz is offering teen “grab-and-go” kits with all of the ingredients needed to make hot cocoa bombs. Teens interested in participating can register online to reserve a kit and then pick it up starting Wednesday, December 15. They will be available while supplies last. Instructions will be included.

To register, visit https://events.getlocalhop.com/hot-cocoa-bombs-take-home-kits/event/XdTA9RQqEZ.

Slow Jam at Gardiner Library

The Gardiner Library hosts a Slow Jam on Sunday, December 19 from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. All musicians and acoustic instruments are welcome. The Slow Jam allows those new to playing an acoustic instrument to practice with some friendly local musicians. Musicians gather to play old-time, folksongs, bluegrass, Western and other homespun-type songs. Participants play at a slower pace, so everyone is given the chance to learn the songs. There is no audience and no pressure.

The Slow Jam takes place on the third Sunday of every month and is held indoors, with masks required. The Library is located at 133 Farmers’ Turnpike. For more information, call (845) 255-1255 or visit www.gardinerlibrary.org.

Bridge Creek restaurant to be opened near Stewart’s

Phil and Justine Leger, owners of Bridge Creek Catering, have been given leave to put a new restaurant in at 1-3 Henry W. Dubois Drive in New Paltz, across that street from Stewart’s and across North Chestnut Street from Zero Place. This will be the second time the Legers will run a restaurant with the “Bridge Creek” name; the first one was at Water Street Market in the space now used for the Parish. According to the letter attached to the special-use permit application, the Legers “have learned that keeping food prep in one place is best for quality control and efficiency,” and also that, “we really do not want to be open for breakfast or lunch.”

There won’t be any changes to the footprint of the commercial building at 1-3 Henry W. Dubois Drive, which the Legers own through Bridge Creek Properties, but a special-use permit was necessary to operate a restaurant therein. New signage will be provided for the eatery, the name of which was not asked about or offered during the Village of New Paltz Planning Board meeting on December 7. Board members determined that there is enough parking on the property to accommodate this new use. No one testified at the public hearing, which is generally taken as tacit support.

— Terence P Ward

Next NBR project approved

Radi Serdah has secured permission to construct another mixed-use project in the neighborhood-business-residential (NBR) zone along North Chestnut Street in New Paltz, furthering the transformation of this part of the Village from something with an industrial feel into an area where people might walk from shop to shop. The property at 85 North Chestnut Street will have a path that connects the sidewalk to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail on the other side, enhancing that pedestrian feel. The three-story structure will have roof peaks to aid the visual transition from the converted historic homes to the south, and Zero Place directly north of this lot. Pursuant with NBR planning criteria, the upper two floors will be apartments; there will also be ground-floor residences behind the commercial spaces on the ground floor.

— Terence P Ward

Home restoration

Bruce Moor purchased the house at 62 South Chestnut Street, and told Village of New Paltz Planning Board members on December 7 that the intent is to take it off the Village rental registry and restore it as a private residence. As part of that work, Moor hopes to resolve longstanding issues with ice building up on the asphalt sidewalk along the road, by replacing the driveway with gravel and converting part of the back yard from lawn to meadow. That is intended also to offset taking down the ramshackle 120-year-old garage with a somewhat larger structure with space to two cars and also to engage in woodworking and sculpting.

This all appears to be proposed with best of intentions, but in performing their due diligence, board members asked probing questions to determine if the results would be as beneficial as Moor believes. Eliminating the runoff that goes under the asphalt driveway and results in a sidewalk often covered with ice several inches thick is a laudable goal, for example, but gravel can be just as impermeable to water as blacktop, once it’s mashed down by driving atop it. A building inspector will be asked for advice on how to avoid that issue. If that works, then the new garage may not cause the site to have more coverage with impervious surfaces than is allowed in the code. Even if that’s the case, it may be too close to the property lines to be approved without a variance. However, Moor’s initial plans didn’t include enough detail to make that clear. Once those questions are answered, a public hearing will be set for this application.

— Terence P Ward

Better cause

Village of New Paltz trustees have set a public hearing on a retooled “good-cause eviction” law, and agreed to leave open a hearing on another law about unconscionable rent, at their December 8 meeting. The idea of guaranteeing tenants the right to renew a lease has proven to be a contentious one; the board members have faced sharp criticism from local landlords and regional tenant advocates alike. Those landlords feared that this law could trap them in long-term relationships with intolerable tenants, with limited options to get someone to move out short of paying them off or engaging in a court process that was said to be ambiguous. When trustees decided to tackle just one aspect first — the idea that high rent increases ought to be justified by more than market forces — they were threatened with replacement when their terms expired. Neither group was engaging in heated rhetoric at this meeting.

Under this unconscionable rent law, an increase of more than five percent requires some kind of justification in terms of increased expenses. It’s intended to give a town justice enough specifics to decide if a rent increase really is “unconscionable” or not. The new good-cause draft would only trigger a right to renew if the landlord has renewed the lease at least once.

Justin Haines, of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, told trustees that when the statewide eviction moratorium expires January 15, many tenants could be left vulnerable in part because of the housing shortage and increased demand that have driven up prices locally. State rent control wouldn’t help much, even if the stringent vacancy criteria are met, because it only applies to the small percentage of buildings that have six units or more. State law does require notice for larger rent increases, but that doesn’t keep tenants from being evicted as “holdovers” after a lease expires.

Landlord Adele Ruger shared personal experience as a way of expressing skepticism in this idea. Ruger explained that during the pandemic, eleven tenants didn’t pay rent, but only two were impacted by the pandemic. Ruger did not specify how that was measured, but urged trustees to consider the impact on the small, local landlords that appear to be preferred over distant, corporate rent-collectors. Another landlord, Matt Eyler, suggested some tweaks to the process and expressed hope that when these issues do end up in court, that they will be addressed “within a few weeks.”

Mayor Tim Rogers sees these laws as part of a larger strategy to encourage communication directly between landlords and their tenants. Should that come to pass, then perhaps not many of these conflicts will end up in court at all. Another part of that larger picture was suggested by William Wheeler Murray, that members of the Landlord-Tenant Relations Council be given training in arbitration to allow them to more effectively help work through issues that not only contribute to an ongoing housing crisis, but result in the costly process of marketing a vacancy and readying an apartment for new residents. It’s not clear if any of the strategies considered would improve communication when the “landlord” is a distant corporation rather than a living person.

— Terence P Ward