Snake Hill Cemetery: Waiting, waiting …

A quick update on the old cemetery at Newburgh’s Crystal Lake, at the foot of Snake Hill.

Three Hasidim fell on us from the sky during the Jewish month of Elul, just before the High Holy Days, intent on doing a “big mitzvah.” Seems one of them, a youngish fellow named Chuna Jakobits (i know, it looks like an anagram, but that’s how he spells it) had been walking around (that’s his story) and came upon the cemetery … which is pretty much what happened to me, exactly a year ago. Anyway, he got in touch with the Newburgh City Historian, Mary McTamaney, and she got in touch with me, and we were all off to the races. Just before Rosh HaShanah, Temple Beth Jacob’s Cemetery Committee chairman, Ken Packer, and i met at the temple with Chuna and two of his compatriots from Kiryas Joel. His two pals share the last name Weinstock, though they are not related — one is “Abe,” and one is “Rabbi” (don’t ask), and the three of them claimed they wanted to help us put a solid “rock” wall around the cemetery that couldn’t be knocked down by falling trees like the chain-link fence that’s there now, all crumpled and toppled in two or three large places. They would pay for this renovation. We said yes.

Now the differences between the way our congregation works and the way these guys are used to working kicks in. They said, “OK, we’ll pay for it, we have a builder who will do it, when can we get those Jersey walls out of the way so we can get a truck in there and get started?” Apparently, in Kiryas Joel, there’s no Planning Board, no Architectural Review Commission, no Building Department. We said, we have to get a building permit from the City of Newburgh. They said, “OK, get it, and then we’ll start.” We said, “It costs money.” They said, “OK, we’ll pay whatever it costs; if you can get it tomorrow, we’ll get started the day after tomorrow.” i went to the city’s Buildings Department, otherwise known as the Immovable Object, and got the permit, which is 16 pages of PURE crap. Example: You have to specify the type, number, thickness, depth, width and height of all the footings you will use and what material they’ll be made of; then you must draw the wall “to scale” and provide a copy of  the builder’s workers’ compensation insurance and disability insurance policies, naming the City as the “certificate holder.”

i gave our temple president, Rissa Cutler, the 7 pages she’d have to fill out, and faxed to “Abe” the 9 pages his builder would have to fill out. Abe got back to me as soon as the High Holy Days were over, saying his builder had everything filled out and was ready to start. i said i’d need him to give me the 9 pages, so i could put them together with the 7 pages from Rissa and bring the whole shebang to the Building Department. That’s when Abe, otherwise known as the Irresistable Force, said he’d come right over, along with his builders, who turned out to be two Jamaican guys named Clifton and Renford who can’t speak English any better than he can. But the three of them showed up at my house last week. Thank G-d, Tim was there, and he could kind of understand them. They had left out, among other things, the drawings. i told them that, and Abe yanked the pen from my hand and said, “It’s a wall! Here!” And drew a rectangle. Basically, they were saying, “OK, now we’ve done all the paperwork, so we’d like to start building it tomorrow.” Here’s why the hurry: Right now, we’re enjoying a weirdly warm, almost summer-like week. When the temperature drops, they won’t be able to sink footings in the frosty ground and have the concrete set properly, and then winter will come, and then they’ll have to wait til next spring. If they’re still willing to deal with us.

i said i’d have to get the 9 pages back from Rissa, signed by her. They said, “OK, get them tomorrow, and we’ll start the day after tomorrow.” Bottom line: Rissa took the pages to a lawyer to look at before she signed anything, and the lawyer decided he’d need to draw up some additional papers for the builders and/or the Hasidim to sign, and that will take another week.

i took a deep breath and called “Abe” and told him this news, and he told me to call him as soon as “everything is ready.” He sounded a little ticked off.

ABRAMS PREDICTS: Some or all of the following now transpire:

1. The lawyer turns this into a big nightmare with 12 more pages for the Jamaicans to sign, and they and/or the Hasidim get so mad they quit on the whole project, which essentially means that TBJ has screwed up a $25,000 gift (that’s how much the Hasidim have to pay the builder to construct this cinder-block wall — i asked them);

2. The Newburgh Building Department sends us back to re-do the entire building permit application;

3. The Hasidim just start building the wall without permission from the City, figuring they’ll pay any fines as part of the high cost of living (this is my personal favorite, and the one i’m hoping for);

4. The City refuses to move the Jersey walls so no truck can get onto the path to the cemetery anyway; or

5. The City makes us get approval from the Zoning Board, Planning Board and/or Architectural Review Commission and one or all of them puts the kibosh on the whole thing, and/or puts us on their agenda for their meeting of, like, July 24, 2010, at which point the Hasidim give up on the whole project and i go off to a nice rubber-walled room to have my nervous breakdown.

Kicked Out!

Our last Newburgh Lyceum candidates forum was Saturday, Oct. 17. Only 25 people showed up, and i’m about to compose an e-mail to my 180-member mailing list asking why so few of them attended. The forum we had on Aug. 29, just before the primaries, drew 130 attendees, packing the meeting room at the LIBRARY, WHERE WE HAVE BEEN HOLDING OUR MONTHLY MEETINGS SINCE FEB 7.
i don’t blame anybody for not attending; i woudn’t have gone myself, if i didn’t have to moderate the darn thing. Here’s my guess as to why attendance was so low: Except for the County Exec candidates, we invited the exact same candidates that everyone had already heard on Aug. 29 — the candidates for Newburgh City Council and County Legislature!! Duh. Bad tactical error on my part, which will not be repeated in future election years.
However, i called a few respected confidantes afterwards to ask why THEY thought so few people came, and here’s what they said: It confused everyone when i had to send out an e-mail just 3 days before the meeting, saying that the location had changed and we now were going to meet in the sanctuary of St. George’s Church, because THE NEWBURGH ENLARGED CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT HAD KICKED US OUT OF THE LIBRARY!! So far i’ve called the district three times to ask why they kicked us out, and whether our expulsion is temporary or permanent, but so far i’ve gotten no reply.
Today is a gorgeous, warm fall day, maybe one of the last warm days we’ll see ’til spring, and i can’t wait to get back outside to finish mowing. But i thought, before i do that, i would drop a line to my blog readers, as well as to my pals in the Lyceum, informing everyone that the school district’s phone number is 845-563-3400 and that they might want to call in … oh, twice a day or so … until we find out why the Lyceum, an informal, nonpartisan, good-government group of civic-minded TAXPAYERS and VOTERS who meet to see how we can improve our city, was kicked out of the library, A FACILITY WE OWN, by a bunch of school-district functionaries WHOSE SALARIES WE PAY!!
Superintendent Annette Saturnelli has five (5) assistant superintendents, a deputy superintendent, and three (3) “executive directors” on her staff; the one who seems to me to be most directly responsible for the library is Dr. David Noriega, at 845-563-3410. But feel free to call the main number and ask for any of them … and report back.
Good luck, and let me know how you make out!