The Bears in Bearsville Poop Mainly on the Beds

Big story in yesterday’s paper was how a family of bears keeps breaking into this poor guy’s house in … believe it or not … Bearsville, Ulster County. They totally trash the house every time they get in, and one of them even pooped on his 7-year-old son’s bed. (Like Goldilocks, only in reverse! “This bed is too hard! This bed is too soft! Ah, but THIS bed is juuuuust right!”) The guy, who moved to the Catskills from London, was frantic, and called the state DEC, which promptly sent in The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight; they fired shots at the mama bear, but missed.

Anyway, best line of the day was from my pal Greg Buff, a mountain-man if ever there was one, who said: “Hey, he moved to BEARSVILLE; what did he expect? That’s like moving to New York and being pissed off because there’s so many New Yorkers.”

R.I.P., Kitty Wells

i was so sad to read the big story yesterday: Kitty Wells had died at age 92. She and her husband, Johnny Wright, who died just last fall, had been married for 73 years! What a great life.

People know her as a County Music Hall of Famer, of course, singer of, among her greatest hits, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.” She had a knack for singing “retort” songs like that — responses to the stupider songs of male country artists. But i must admit that she’s probably just as famous for her appearance in the lyrics of Willie Nelson’s “Me and Paul”:

“On a package show in Buffalo/with us and Kitty Wells and Charlie Pride/the show was long and we’re just sittin’ there/and we’d come to play and not just for the ride…” Well, it goes on about a night of drinking to the point of blacking out — a typical evening for Willie. Kitty was exactly the opposite type of person from him– faithful and sober — and G-d bless her for that.

i’m playing her songs this morning, and lifting a strong cup of coffee to her memory.

Finally! Community Garden Grows in the ‘burgh

On Sunday, July 15, 2012, the Newburgh Preservation Association will plant the seeds of a summer-long effort, “Harvesting History: The Community Gardens at the Dutch Reformed Church.”  The goal is to raise awareness of the group’s preservation activities at the historic church on Grand Street, next door to the Newburgh Free Library, while setting aside a portion of its grounds for a series of community gardens that will yield organic vegetables to help sustain and nourish the City’s poor and hungry.  The planting event will run from 1:30-5:30 p.m. and will include a display of church artifacts as well as brief remarks by NPA’S leaders, nonprofit partners and government officials.  
The event is the culmination of efforts by many local government and nonprofit organizations.  The City of Newburgh, which owns the DRC, surveyed the property.  Chad Wade, a landscape architect with Orange County Planning, designed the garden. PathStone, a nonprofit regional community development and human service organization overseeing a number of sustainable farm projects in Newburgh, assisted in planning and implementing the garden beds.  The Greater Newburgh Partnership donated the funds to build a protective wooden fence, and the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union donated the funds for a bench. The gardens will be tended by volunteers from St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Newburgh, and NPA will donate whatever foods are grown on the property to the church’s thriving food pantry and soup kitchen.

“I can’t imagine a better or more productive use of these historic and too-long forgotten grounds,” said NPA Vice President and Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee Chairman Giovanni Palladino, a Newburgh native and architect.  What better symbolizes the revitalization of this architectural treasure than a community garden?”      

“We are thrilled to be partnering with NPA on ‘Harvesting History,’” said Allan Atzrott, Chair of the Greater Newburgh Partnership.  “Our goal is to instill pride in those who call the City of Newburgh home.  With these community gardens, we will do that, while taking care of those in the greatest need.”

“Gardens aren’t just for the country, they are vital in urban areas as well,” said Pathstone-Newburgh Executive Director Madeline Fletcher.  “We are committed to fostering sustainable farming practices in the City of Newburgh, and these gardens will not only help train people to grow their own food but to beautify one of their most sacred treasures.  That’s sustainability at its best.”   

The Dutch Reformed Church is an outstanding Greek Revival building designed in 1835 by world-renowned architect Alexander Jackson Davis.  The monumental structure borrows proportions, siting and details from classical Greek precedents. Intended as a symbol of the community’s enlightened taste, it commands a dominant view over the Hudson. The DRC is “the greatest surviving ecclesiastical commission of America’s greatest architect of the era,” according to J. Winthrop Aldrich, former New York Deputy Commissioner of Historic Preservation.  In 2001, the United States government designated it a National Historic Landmark.  
For more information on “Harvesting History,” including how to sponsor a plot or volunteer, please or call (845) 562-8076.
To support NPA’s mission, including contributing to The Newburgh Lyceum at the Dutch Reformed Church, please visit


The NPA, an all-volunteer organization founded in 1978, is the only local nonprofit exclusively committed to rebuilding, preserving and promoting the architectural heritage and historic viewsheds of the City of Newburgh.  In 2010, NPA helped facilitate the sale of the 1914 West Shore Train Station to Ray Yannone of Storm King Builders, and earlier this year, NPA announced its plans to re-launch Alexander Jackson Davis’s historic 1835 American Reformed Church as The Newburgh Lyceum at the Dutch Reformed Church, part of a broader effort by the group to stabilize, restore and rededicate the landmark building as the heart of Newburgh’s public square.

The Greater Newburgh Partnership is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization of business leaders and community stakeholders dedicated to transforming the City of Newburgh into a thriving community that is safe, secure, and desirable. The Partnership aligns goals with others in the community to instill pride in where they live, take ownership of their neighborhoods, and attract new residents, students and professionals.

Begun in 1969, PathStone is a private, not-for-profit regional community development and human service organization providing services to farmworkers, low-income families and economically depressed communities throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Vermont, Virginia and Puerto Rico.  PathStone has successfully operated a wide array of programs funded by federal, state, local, faith-based and private sources. 

Fireworks, 2012

Newburgh paid for those fireworks, and by G-d, they were going to set them off! Despite the rain. Despite the 100% humidity, when it wasn’t raining. And despite the fact that the sky was putting on a much better show.

i raced home from work as fast as i could a couple of hours ago, after earning my time-and-a-half at the Record, but as i rounded the corner onto Bay View, some big, fat drops were already beginning to hit my windshield, and i knew any explosives set off tonight would be duds. There were plenty of parking spots near my house, as we ‘burghers have learned from hard experience that rain means a lousy Fourth of July show.

Sure enough, the fireworks were struggling to climb from the barge on the river to a height, i’d say, just barely above the deck of the Newburgh-Beacon bridge. They reminded me of my grandpa when he had arthritis and used a cane, trying to get out of a too-soft chair.

But the sky! The lightning mocked us, outlining the black clouds every few seconds. And the thunder! By contrast, it made the muffled sounds of the city’s fireworks sound like a girl snapping her gum. The fireflies, the cigarette lighters of the ‘burghers watching from the bluff, the cars’ white headlights and red taillights sailing past on Water Street as glimpsed through the foliage bordering the hill– everything was exploding, showing the city how to do it.

That reminds me: I’m 63. i’ve hit the three-quarters pole. It’s time for me to light the rest of my own fireworks, if i’ve any left to set off.


Best Commentary on Supreme Court Decision

My friend Ken Hall wrote the following about the recent Supreme Court Decision upholding the Affordable Health Care Act. I couldn’t agree more, and I thank him for agreeing to allow me to put it up on my blog. Here it is. What do YOU think?


Affordable Care, If We Can Keep It

For millions of Americans the Supreme Court ruling Thursday upholding
the Affordable Care Act means that they will have access to the kind
of health care they have not been able to obtain.
Among those are millions who once had coverage through employers but
lost it when they lost their jobs, millions who had the bad luck to
become ill and could no longer obtain coverage even if they could
afford high premiums, millions of young people unable to find jobs and
too old to stay on a parent’s policy.
They and others will be able to get the care they need because
Congress in 2010 finally reached a goal that had eluded others for
decades, a goal that was once bipartisan but that has succumbed to the
nasty and divisive politics that today substitutes for reasoned debate
and compromise.
At the heart of the law and the court ruling is something that has
become distorted almost beyond recognition — the mandate requiring
people to have health insurance. A mandate was an essential part of
the health care reform Massachusetts enacted with the support of
then-Gov. Mitt Romney. It was included not to expand government power,
as he and his supporters would like you to believe, but for a much
more conservative purpose.
When people have some skin in the game, as Romney and others used to
argue, they have an incentive to act wisely. In health care, the
mandate is the obligation that gets everyone involved and provides the
broad participation that allows a program to be truly universal.
The mandate came not from some leftist fringe group but from the
Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that proposed it as an
alternative to the desires of some more progressive politicians who
preferred a single-payer system. That would have provided coverage
through an expansion of Medicare beyond the elderly and disabled.
Those who actually deal with patients know that this reform is both
necessary and long overdue.
The Healthcare Association of New York State, representing 500
non-profit and public hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies,
and other health care organizations, quickly welcomed the court
decision noting that it will not only expand care to those who need it
but help reduce costs when fully implemented.
Between now and November, voters will be subjected to a barrage of
misleading propaganda from those who would have us believe that the
United State has the best health care system in the world and that
this court ruling and the law it upholds will destroy that.
They will be very loud in their denunciations because they know that
they do not have the facts on their side, the facts that show out
nation leading the world in only one health care statistic — the high
cost that comes when so many are not able to get the care they need to
stay well.
Non-partisan analysis has shown clearly that this major reform of our
health care system will eventually save money, not waste it. That’s
why conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, had been
working to pass similar legislation for more than a century.