An Open Letter to the Newburgh Board of Ed

Dear Education Officials:

I am a Newburgh School District taxpayer, I and want my money back.

In 2009-10 my school-tax bill was $5,000.

Now it turns out that some of our high-school officials willfully, knowingly and deliberately allowed six of NFA’s basketball players to cut classes. Specifically, they were allowed to miss a mind-boggling 1,187 classes. As a result, none of them got the education that we taxpayers paid for them to get.

Granted, an education is not something you buy; it’s something you get a chance to earn, and if you don’t earn it, you don’t get it. But in this case, it was our education officials who didn’t “get it”; they didn’t get that you can’t inspire students to want to earn an education, if you let them goof off when they’re supposed to be in class.

And granted, their parents either didn’t know or didn’t care if their kids skipped all those classes. So, the parents get a share of the blame, too. (Whatever happened to asking your children what they learned in school today?) But it’s you, our Board of Education, that hires and fires (or in this case, fails to fire) the administrators who are supposed to be recording and reporting student absences.

There’s no question that the students themselves were guilty of taking the easy route, perhaps letting their “hoops dreams” prevent them from attending class, paying attention to teachers, asking questions, doing homework all the hard work that students everywhere would love to get out of.

But here’s the funny thing: These former players, when asked, not only admitted skipping classes, but admitted regretting it. In this, they showed that they had become men. They should be on the “inspirational speaker” circuit. That’s in contrast to the NFA administrators and then-coaches who “knew nothing about” the class-cutting. Here, the students in question are adults; the people in charge are the children. In our district, everything’s upside-down.

Since these six athletes made up about one two-thousandth of the 11,644 students in the district, please refund that proportion of my tax bill $2.50 – as soon as possible. A check or money order will be fine.

p.s. Please also send refunds to all other district taxpayers whom you cheated by not educating these students.

p.p.s. Please write an essay telling what you’ve learned from this scandal, and how you’ll prevent it from happening again.

p.p.p.s. Please say it was just a coincidence that all those whom you cheated out of their educations were black. Because if it wasn’t, then the Newburgh School District has a much bigger problem than class-cutting.


Genie Abrams

Minnewaska, Meet High Point

Introductions will soon be in order: High Point, New Jersey, meet Minnewaska State Park; Fahnestock State Park, meet Hudson Highlands State Park. And meet they will, after years of effort on both sides of the Hudson to create unbroken greenways linking one famous outdoor paradise to another.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Land Trust Alliance, on April 23 in Rochester’s Seneca Park, announced 53 Conservation Partnership Program grants, totaling $1.4 million. The grants, funded through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund, will be matched by $1.2 million in private and local funding.
Notably among these gifts, a $27,000 EPF grant to the New York New Jersey Trail Conference will support a major project in the Southern Gunks. This project will create an unbroken recreation and wildlife corridor linking the Catskill Forest Preserve and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The Southern Gunks, part of the Shawangunk Ridge, stretch about 25 miles northeast from High Point, N.J., to the Northern Gunks, which comprise Sam’s Point Preserve, Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve. The Shawangunk Ridge, as it is called in New York, is a geologic feature stretching hundreds of miles. In New Jersey, it’s called the Kittatinny Ridge; in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Blue Mountain; and inVirginia, North Mountain. In all five states, the ridge is protected from development — except in the Southern Gunks.

 The announcement of the grants came just 20 days after the Conservation Alliance, a national group of outdoor-industry companies, announced its own grant of $35,000 to the NYNJTC for the Southern Gunks project.
The biggest unprotected areas of the Southern Gunks are in their most southerly 10 miles, between High Point and Otisville. Now, the acquisition of just 13 parcels and/or easements is needed to complete a continuous protected corridor.

The NYNJTC sees its 1,600 members who live in Orange County as an important asset for the grassroots advocacy needed to purchase, and thereby protect, these parcels.

Another grant of local interest was a $16,000 grant to the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, a local land conservation organization based in Garrison, for its Jaycox Park-to-Park Connection Project. Those monies will facilitate a joint effort between the HHLT, New YorkState, and other partners to permanently protect a 50-acre parcel of land and create a long sought-after link between Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve and Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.

Recent research underscores how investments in land conservation and open space boost property values, support local businesses, save taxpayer dollars, and protect public health. A study released in February by the Trust for Public Land found that every dollar of investment fromNew York’s Environmental Protection Fund generates seven dollars in additional economic benefits from tourism, reduced government costs and improved public health. A 2010 report on the economic benefits of open space from the New York State Comptroller recommended the Conservation Partnership Program as a model for public- private collaboration because it leverages substantial resources for local efforts to preserve clean air and water resources, agriculture, and outdoor recreational.

The Hudson Highlands Land Trust is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the natural resources, rural character, and scenic beauty of the Hudson Highlands. For more information on the HHLT, call 845-424-3358 or visit

Join Me at Trail U!

Here’s something we all should have taken in college but somehow overlooked: “Trail U 558 – Intro to Trail Maintenance.”

Offered by the wonderful New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the group that procures and protects some of the best hiking trails in the Northeast U.S., it’s a FREE one-day training session covering the skills needed to maintain hiking trail so they’re easily passable and harmonious with their surroundings. Students will learn assessment of trail conditions, clearing, blazing, proper use of tools, and how to report trail problems.

The description at says no previous experience is necessary, and beginners are welcome. That’s me! Students will spend the morning in a classroom and then head out into woods for hands-on instruction. The Trail Conference advises that students wear boots, and bring work gloves, water, and a bag lunch.

Date: Saturday, May 12, 2012 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Place: Port Jervis Public Library, Port Jervis, N.Y.

Maximum Number of Attendees: 25

Level: Introductory

Coordinator: Larry Wheelock; instructors: Jakob Franke and Andy Garrison

To register or to get more information, email Larry Wheelock or call him at 201-512-9348 x16.

You don’t have to be a member of the NYNJTC to take this course (for some of their offerings, you do), but consider joining anyway. Your $30 tax-deductible membership fee goes to help this great nonprofit save open space and map, clear and maintain trails throughout New York and New Jersey. It also gets you discounts on their excellent, waterproof topo maps; hiking books; and cool gear.

Hope to see you in Port Jervis on May 12!


A shameless copy-and-paste to help Team Sapsucker

Everything below this paragraph was copied and pasted from the website of one of my favorite places: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which Tim and i visited on April 12 and 13 of this month. i looooved everything about it, especially our guides Linda and Larry and the “bird walk” they took us on, around their beautiful woods. Tim was SUCH a good sport about it, and more than once wryly noted that he could see with his naked eyes birds that we “birders” then tried — sometimes vainly — to see with our — in some cases rather expensive — binoculars. Anyway, April 27 is Team Sapsucker’s day to go for the world record for bird-species sighted in 24 hours, and they’re in Texas to give it a try. Try to support them with a donation. It’s strictly for the birds!

Big Day is our biggest conservation fundraiser of the year. If you have already made a pledge to support bird conservation, thank you! If not, please click here to make your pledge today or contribute a flat donation if you prefer. Your gift will provide much-needed support to help the birds.

The team has been in Texas all week scouting in their new Texas Triangle: San Antonio to the Hill Country, then east to Galveston instead of Corpus Christi.

After a test run of this new triangle, their hopes are high. The biggest find was a Rufous-capped Warbler in the Hill Country. This is a species typically found from Mexico south into Central America, with fewer than 50 records ever in Texas. Bonus birds like that could be crucial in tipping the Sapsuckers over the 264 species mark for a new North American single-day birding record.

Help spur on the team as they attempt to break the all-time Big Day record for the United States (264 species) and raise $250,000 for bird conservation.

Please make a pledge today.