Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where there's smoke . . .

About a month ago, the Village Planning Board reviewed an application for an unusual special use permit: two entrepreneurs want to turn the old Peak Performance building into a hookah and oxygen bar, combining the upscale tobacco scene of New York City with the purified oxygen venues popular in Los Angeles. A public hearing was set more than enough time in advance, and notice of the hearing was published in the local paper. The applicants didn't spring any last-minute information on the Board, and one could practically hear the crickets chirping at the meeting.

Last week the local paper covered the business, Zikibiki's, again as controvery finally stirred up.
Even with ventilator units, opponents of the hookah and oxygen bar are will worried about secondhand smoke, Prevention Connections Associate Director Heather Ohlson said.

Pity opponents weren't worried enough to show up at the public hearing, a vehicle designed to ensure that public concerns are addressed. In fact, member Thomas Rocco was very concerned about ventilation, and the Board required installation of a system which will be much more expensive than what the prevailing laws require.
Opponents are also suddenly concerned about the proximity to the Middle School - it's just a block away, and they feel this could encourage tobacco use among these impressionable youngsters in a way that the deli which sells cigarettes between the two locations doesn't.
On Zikibiki's Facebook group page, there are only a handful of comments. However, one comes from a teenage boy who asks "will this be the open to people of all ages, I would be very interested, but I'm 14."
For [Shari] Kanner that post alone proves that their point has merit. "There really is a concern about a 14-year-old smoking from a hookah."

Kanner may have been mollified if she spoken to the boy, like I did. Aaron Rudder is a New Paltz High School sophomore who speaks and writes eloquently, and plays several musical instruments. I asked Aaron about his comments on Zikibiki's page and his interest in the business. Turns out that Aaron has zero interest in using tobacco, ladies; he was asking because he's curious about the purified oxygen. Aaron points out on Zikibiki's group page that "according to New York State law, the only laws relating to tobacco, are that you cannot smoke indoors, and you must be 18 to purchase it" as opposed to an age restriction for admission, like bars use. His arguments are entirely in support of his interest in trying out the oxygen, something which took me about five minutes of work to determine.

When one puts together all the available information on this business, it's interesting to note that it appears the cart is driving the horse. A special use permit was approved, but the building itself still has a "for lease" sign in the window. This might be because there's no money yet to fund the project, as evidenced on the Facebook page, which is essentially a request for venture capital. A business selling tobacco near a school, but which doesn't have any money to mount a meaningful legal defense, is pretty low-hanging fruit to grab. Maybe if Susan Zimet had paid a fraction of that much of her attention to Woodland Pond, we'd have a senior community that wasn't a gigantic eyesore from ridge that draws most of New Paltz' tourist traffic.

People are asking why this went through so easily. Simply put, they followed the rules and didn't have a bunch of people lined up against them like the Main Course did. Public participation is vital to ensuring that a planning board makes the right decision for the community and within existing laws, and if no one raises a question it's much harder for the Planning Board to answer it.

Democratic Caucus Results

Uncontested Races
Town Board: Kitty Brown and Jeff Logan
Justice: Jonathan Katz

Contested Races

Town Supervisor
Toni Hokanson 152
Josh Honig (nominated from the floor) 80

Highway Superintendent
Mike Nielson 169
Phil Johnson 77

Worthy of note: Corrinne Nyquist was set to be Caucus Chair, but Brian Kimbiz and Jon Sennett were nominated from the floor. Sennett won by an overwhelming vote.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Paltz Film Competition Via Bill Mulcahy's Eyes

Check out Bill Mulcahy's pre-show visit at the New Paltz Second Annual Film Contest

and i quote, "kt flusher's going, oh that should be good!"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Update on the police accident

At the Police Commission meeting Thursday night, Chief Snyder gave some details about the July police collision that wounded two officers and killed a third. The accident report has been finalized, so the Chief was able to share some details that would have only been opinion prior.

View Larger Map

Officer Judge was proceeding northbound on North Putt Corners Lane, emergency lights on, responding to a call. Officer Knoth was responding to the same call, and was driving behind Officer Judge's vehicle in the same direction, without his emergency lights on. The distance between the two vehicles was not mentioned by the Chief, but my sense is that Officer Judge may have been aware that there was a vehicle behind his own.

Dispatch called Officer Judge off the original call to respond to a residential alarm, and he slowed to turn around by making a left turn into Erman Lane. Officer Knoth, aware that his fellow officer would be turning around to respond to a different call, assumed that Officer Judge would simply pull off to the right and thereafter make a U-turn. However, Officer Judge, unaware that the vehicle behind his was Officer Knoth's police cruiser, elected to make the left turn instead. Officer Knoth collided with Officer Judge essentially because he expected his fellow officer to zig, when in fact he zagged.

The Chief said that speed was a contributing factor, and that the emergency lights should have been operating on Officer Knoth's vehicle. I asked about the use of turn signals by police, but he declined to go into that much detail about the accident. I suspect that police officers in emergency conditions do not generally use turn signals, and have observed them declining to do so under non-emergency conditions a number of times. I don't know if using a signal would have prevented this accident, since I imagine that they aren't as easy to see with emergency lights on, but I hope the Department elects to require its officers to do so consistently in the future. Even for police officers, being aware of what other drivers plan on doing can prevent terrible accidents like this, and if using a signal increases accident avoidance by even .000005%, I think it would be well worth it.

May the injured officers recover and the deceased officer rest well after more than six years of service.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Republican Caucus Results

Town Supervisor: Toni Hokanson
Town Board: Kitty Brown, Jeff Logan
Highway Superintendent: Phil Johnson beat Mike Nielson by 1 vote, 24-23.

Mike was not there, this was not a nomination he was seeking. He was nominated from the floor by Terence Ward and seconded by Jerry Benjamin. (According to reports, there was a crowd of seconders.) This nomination was a complete surprise to Mike.

Turnout was the highest it has been in years. I don't have the actual numbers, but I do not think Toni, Jeff, or Kitty had any significant opposition.

Well, now we know who the Republican candidates are, on Monday we'll find out about the Democrats.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

School supplies don't have to break the bank

Second in an occasional series about Family of New Paltz.

Today's the first day of school in New Paltz, when parents and kids alike are filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. One thing that parents shouldn't have to worry about is making sure that their kids have adequate school supplies.

In addition to running a food pantry in New Paltz, Family accepts and distributes school supplies to people who are having trouble making ends meet, but not so much trouble that they received a check for school supplies from New York State. What they can give depends largely upon what's been donated by area businesses and residents, but depending on their ages children can get notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, crayons, and maybe even a book bag, although those are few and far between.

Interested families should find out what their teachers are asking for and stop in to Family to see what's available. Not every child will be able to be helped since these items are in short supply, so families should be willing to take the bare minimum that they need so as to leave as much for others as possible.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gadfly Caption Contest

Entries for this photo, taken of Terence by kt, will be accepted through Monday, September 14th.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is the plural of caucus? (3)

First off, I moved to New Paltz in 1989. By my math, that is 20 years ago, not a mere 20 minutes ago.*

A front page article in the New Paltz Times this week makes it sounds like Butch Dener is referring to me when he dismisses a critique of statements made here on the Gadfly because the comments were made by “someone who has lived in New Paltz for maybe 20 minutes” … but according to him he was referencing someone who made comments submitted to the blog, not the blogger (me). That is a significant distinction, don’t you think? (Sorry, I would like to link to the New Paltz Times article that makes this misrepresentation, but alas, it is NOT online.) That said, I do disagree with rejecting someone’s input based on the amount of the time they have spent in the community we all share.

Secondly, my last entry on this topic was NOT a correction.

Update, yes. Correction, no. At no time did I say in the original blog post that the incumbents went running to the Republican Party. And to evade the point that they did indeed interview – a first step that is clearly an explicit move towards seeking a nomination – with a party whose platform is in direct contrast with their party of registration - is smoke and mirrors. And the three incumbent candidates I have spoken to – Toni, Kitty, and Jeff – were all quite frank that they are quite open to the potential Republican nomination.

Again, it does remain to be seen whether or not they will get or inevitably accept a Republican nomination. However, I stand by my criticism of them even considering the idea. That is how I feel, what I believe. They feel differently. It is a disagreement among friends, among people who care about New Paltz. Nothing more, nothing less.

kt Tobin Flusser
*In 1989, I moved here to attend SUNY New Paltz, which I graduated from in 1992. When my husband and I were first married we had a brief sojourn to the “other side of the mountain” and northern Ulster from 1994 to 1996. In 1997, we moved back – we had our first child and wanted to be back in New Paltz, especially so we would be in this school district.