The Iron Horse (formerly known as the State Grill before the crew from Nobody’s Fool replaced the sign) is holding an estate sale today, Saturday, from 10-4 pm, and again tomorrow morning.
Free pens with the legend “Stolen from Frank Martino’s Iron Horse” are available.
The bar is rumored to have been sold to the same couple which bought The Warren Inn, who apparently have also bought a house on Willard Place.
Above: My purchase, the scuffed cue ball from the pool table. Below: Frank Martino with Paul Newman and Melanie Griffith during the shooting of Nobody’s Fool; Frank and Sue with the crew of The Cake Eaters; phone numbers written on a kitchen staircase wall for taxi services and other Hudson bars.
A third committee of the Board of Supervisors has now signed onto the decision earlier this week to move ahead with the “Porreca Plan” for the airport.
Finance Committee member Mike Benson of New Lebanon launched yet another last-minute campaign to derail the Plan’s momentum. (The Airport and Economic Development committees voted to advance it to the full Board earlier this week.)
Less than 24 hours before the meeting, Benson attempted to argue that the Porreca Plan, which would, slightly shorten the Ghent runway at the north end while lengthening it at the south end, was “go[ing] backward”—and somehow would “devalue a County asset.”
Benson, who missed some 75% of the meetings of the Airport Committee two which he was appointed, fired his salvo as usual via email. But Benson then skipped the actual meeting. Had he attended, he would have heard County comptroller Ron Caponera back up Airport chair Art Bassin in stating that the Porreca Plan would increase the airport’s value, not lessen it, as reported by Patti Matheney of GhentCANN who was present.
With all three key committees now in agreement, the resolution now proceeds to a vote in the next few weeks by the full Board of Supervisors. Will Benson try again to argue against it, and will he again use arguments he would have learned to be erroneous had he attended his meetings?
By a vote of 4-1 this afternoon, the Columbia County airport committee approved the referral of the draft resolution known as the Porreca Plan to the full Board of Supervisors.
Chair Art Bassin, Ghent Supervisor Mike Benvenuto, Hillsdale’s Art Baer and of course Greenport’s John Porreca voted yes. Only David Crawford of Crawford Engineering voted no. Hudson Supervisor Sarah Sterling asked how it was that others of her colleagues seemed empowered to negotiate independently with Mr. Nero, specifying emails from Benson as an example.
Vehement plan opponent Mike Benson, Supervisor of New Lebanon, was absent—prompting audience questions about his whereabouts.
Crawford was challenged by the audience about his vote. These included questions from attorney Ken Dow as to why he would want the County to shut down a viable, established business (the golf course) and take more property off the tax rolls.
Crawford replied, none too convincingly, that he suspected that committee estimates of future tax revenues from Meadowgreens were too high, and that the funds spent would be primarily Federal and State monies. Bassin blasted this second argument as “silly,” given that such funds are also taxpayer-funded, and that the matter had already been hashed out repeatedly.
In a surprise, Meadowgreens owner Carmen Nero announced at the start of the meeting that he, too, supports the Porreca Plan and hopes to work with the County to preserve his ability to develop the remainder of his property adjoining the airport.
With Mahlon Richards of Richmor Aviation also on board in prior meetings, and members of the public applauding the vote today, that leaves Crawford and Benson as inexplicable holdouts. (Are they members of a competing golf club or something?) At 5 pm, County’s Economic Development committee was scheduled to hear a presentation by Ken Flood about the airport’s potential if the entire property were acquired instead. But Flood too now thinks the “private sectors” is a better vehicle for promoting airport-related businesses.
According to two aldermen who had just left tonight’s meeting, the proposal to allow dogs in the Hudson Waterfront Park was shot down tonight by the Common Council meeting. Interestingly, 1st Ward Alderman Nick Haddad and his son Henry (now representing the 3rd Ward) were apparently on opposite sides of the issue, with the father in favor of dogs at the park, and son opposed.
According to one well-placed source, the Harney & Sons tea company may be the next occupant of the huge North Bay factory building recently abandoned by Phoenix Hudson.
Since the departure of the Emsig Button factory in 2001, the building has seen a long series of potential suitors and short-term tenants come and go. Harney & Sons would presumably use the space for production, storage and distribution.
However, the rumor is somewhat tempered by the fact that the company has long been ensconced in Millerton (and founded over the State line in Salisbury). In addition to its flagship retail store and café, Harney & Sons already has over 150 employees and a 90,000-square-foot warehouse in Millerton. So put this in the wait-and-see file.
Ken Dow, the former Columbia County Democratic Elections Commissioner and attorney representing neighbors of the airport in Ghent, has joined the ranks of those publicly criticizing the Register-Star’s incomplete and often slanted coverage of the issue.
This article gives an extremely misleading picture of what went on at the meeting. The article dutifully recites Mr. Benson's claims and talking points, but barely notes that the bulk of the meeting was one speaker after another—both members of the public and Supervisor members of the Airport Committee—questioning, criticizing, or downright ridiculing Mr. Benson's eleventh hour “proposals.”
The article does not mention that Mr. Benson's plan would require the elimination of the Meadowgreens Golf Course. That omission may be understandable, since Mr. Benson failed to mention that very undesirable aspect of his proposals, and it only came to light when raised by an audience member.
The article does not mention that meeting attendees sharply questioned Mr. Benson's remarkable feat of creating a plan that nearly copied a plan that has long been discussed and estimated by the Airport's long-time engineering firm to cost $3.38 million, except that Mr. Benson's two fantasy plans both called for buying more land than the $3.38 million plan and INCREASING the land acquisition costs by approximately $700,000 and $1,000,000, yet magically DECREASING the total costs to about $600,000 to $1,000,000 below the long-considered $3.38 million plan. What really had everyone rolling their eyes, however, was Mr. Benson's complete inability to explain how he was able to come up with these magical savings.
What really happened yesterday? Mr. Benson made a last-second attempt to derail the Airport Committee's work by offering fantasy "proposals" using made-up numbers that have the side effect of eliminating Meadowgreens, a local resource that is used and valued by hundreds, if not thousands, of local residents. Mr. Benson has had a pathetic attendance record at these Airport Committee meetings, blowing off his duties as a member and skipping all but one or two. It would have been far better if he had extended his record of absence for one more meeting and spared the Committee and public the nonsense he spewed to everyone at yesterday's meeting.
KENNETH J. DOW, ESQ. Mellenville (NY)
At prior meetings, the Register-Star’s coverage was specifically called out by residents such as Ghent’s Mark Johnson, who pointed out that their coverage of a previous meeting “made it seem like no one in the audience was here.
This site met with the paper’s new publisher and managing editor earlier this year to discuss its institutional habit of promoting and protecting officialdom, while minimizing contrary information—especially when it comes from well-informed but independent-minded members of the public.
Indeed, Gentile’s article omits numerous statements critical of Benson’s proposal from residents such as Peter Coan, Patti Matheney, Michael Singer, and myself, as well as stern questioning from Supervisors such as Mike Benvenuto (Ghent) and John Porreca (Greenport). Even officials previously supportive of other options, such as Hillsdale’s Art Baer, were poking holes in Benson’s presentation. But Gentile omits these in favor of a long description of Benson’s point of view. Some of those omitted statements can be found in Carole Osterink’s more balanced report for The Gossips of Rivertown, for instance:
Many at the meeting--both members of the audience and members of the committee--were not enthusiastic about Benson's eleventh hour proposals. Attorney Ken Dow questioned Benson's motivation. “If this were a serious effort,” said Dow, “it would have been made months ago. This, on its face, is ridiculous.” He went on to characterize Benson's proposals as “just an attempt to muck up the gears.” Supervisor John Porreca (Greenport), who had originally suggested the solution the committee was poised to recommend, dismissed Benson's proposals as “eleventh hour crap.”
Particularly sticky for Benson was a contretemps about the authorship of his proposal, another lengthy exchanged erased by Gentile’s piece. Research by this site indicated that the metadata on a key document circulated by Benson was not authored by him as he claimed, but by Christopher D. Brubach—representative of C&S, the firm which has been consulting to the County on the airport. Benson has stated in emails that his own firm, BCI Construction, has done extensive work with C&S.
Questions were raised about why the County’s own consultants would appear to be collaborating with a lone Supervisor to undermine the Committee’s hard-won compromise solution. Despite the evidence presented below, an uncomfortable-looking Benson continued to insist that he was the author of this document:
Document circulated by New Lebanon Supervisor Michael Benson as his own
This year’s 25th Annual Crystal Apple Award ceremony with be the last, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce director David Colby told me this week.
While there have been a few worthy winners in the past (such as FACE Stockholm and Camphill Ghent), the award has a spotty past of picking longterm success stories. As reported previously here, “nearly 40% of the 1992-2013 award winners either defunct, disappeared, or discredited.”
At times, the winner seemed to be whichever business had received the most government backing. A particularly weak pick of this type was the Chamber’s 2010 award to as-yet-unproven Local Ocean, which within a few years defaulted on its County PILOT plan, then then went out of business.
New Lebanon Supervisor Michael Benson missed 70% of Airport Committee meetings, but now expects to dictate the Committee’s decision.
Six Columbia County Supervisors were appointed last Fall to a new Airport Committee. Months of intense debate and research finally produced a compromise solution for the Ghent facility, slightly reducing the runway’s length while reducing costs to address potential hazards. The Columbia Papereditorialized last week that the so-called Porreca Plan presented “relevant facts, precise goals and a reasonable, affordable plan for making the airport safer.” Even Richmor president Mahlon Richards favors the plan.
But now, the Committee member with the worst attendance record is trying to re-wage the County Airport battle, well after it has reached the mopping-up stage.
New Lebanon Supervisor Michael Benson attended just two of the seven public meetings organized by chair Art Bassin. The following chart, assembled from Airport Committee minutes, tells the tale:
An eighth private meeting was also held with the FAA in November, with all Committee members in attendance—except, reportedly, Benson.
DPW chief David Robinson and County economic development czar Ken Flood are included in this chart, though they were not official committee members. Yet their attendance still exceeded that of Benson, who has not uttered a word in public on the topic since a less-than-stellar performance on December 11th.
In his single previous appearance, Benson called for the Committee to enter a secret Executive Session. At an informational session held on the 12th of this month for the Committee to brief the full Board of Supervisors, Benson made and appearance, but declined to comment when asked to do so.
But this lack of attendance and public silence has not stopped the New Lebanon Super (and BCI construction boss) from trying at the last minute to derail the outcome behind the scenes. Nor has a potential conflict-of-interest caused Benson to recuse himself from the deliberations, or given him qualms about trying to shut down the Airport Committee prematurely.
In a January 29th email to the Committee, Benson boasted that his firm has “worked with C&S ... on multiple projects.” C&S is the County’s controversial consulting firm which has reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars of fees, as it has encouraged the constant expansion of the airport. Like Benson, C&S representative Chris Brubach has bent over backward to argue against the Porreca Plan in favor of more expensive options.
Most recently, an 11th-hour proposal from Meadowgreens owner Carmen Nero to the Airport Committee, aimed at throwing a monkey wrench into a planned vote on the Porreca Plan, curiously was addressed to Benson rather than the Committee’s chair, Bassin.
Nero says it was a simple mistake. But the error has only fueled existing speculation that Benson has had a role in instigating the ploy. (Bassin generously treated the proposals as something new to consider, though in fact the County has known for many years that Nero would prefer to sell the whole property.)
Meanwhile, in emails circulated to the Committee and other County officials, Benson has been on the warpath against the Porreca Plan, favoring instead Nero’s preferred option: for the County to buy the entire property, while allowing Nero to retain development rights. (Nice deal if you can get it.)
Benson’s lack of participation in the Committee’s detailed deliberations has not deterred him from charging others with ignorance, and using fear tactics to try to cow fellow Supervisors into submission.
In a new email this past Sunday to fellow Supervisors, Benson attempted to wade into the Committee’s long-running debate about avigation easements over neighboring properties, as if he had just discovered the issue. His comments take a bullying tone which seeks to intimidate fellow Supervisors and public with the specter of “embarrassment” if the Porreca Plan is adopted:
I truly hope that there is a presence (on the committee) or otherwise that realizes; in any possible scenario, there is a need for additional easements and/or land to the north of the airport. I believe that there is. Not dealing with this reality would be a significant mistake and will ultimately be very embarrassing for the County and those caught up in the denial of that very simple fact. Unless I am missing something (and please tell me if I am) this is a reality that there doesn’t currently seem to be a plan for?
Had he been present more often, he would know that many issues about the number, location and cost of known and potential aviation easements were debated at length, over several meetings.
Likewise, the way in which such easements could shift, depending on which plan gets chosen, was another frequent topic of discussion—at meetings Benson skipped.
For the record, Patti Matheney, Michael Schrom, Kevin Delahanty, and Ken Dow were primarily responsible for bringing easementissues to the fore -- in spite of much obstruction by the County Attorney’s office in releasing the paperwork which fleshed the issue out. For example, Bassin’s notes for the 12/27 meeting, read as follows.
3. Dow/Schrom Conclusions - Mr. Dow and Mr. Schrom concluded that they supported a "modified Porreca Plan", which would reduce the runway to 5000 feet, but expand on the southern end and shorten on the northern end to achieve both the 5000 feet or runway and the needed 1000 foot safety zones on both ends. While avigation easements would still be necessary, Dow and Schrom believe they would be less intrusive and disruptive from a "modified Porreca" 5000 foot runway than from the proposed 1000 foot expansion of the northern safety zone from the current 5350 foot runway, using adjacent Meadowgreens land. […]
In short, not only was the issue “raised” by Benson an old one, it is one whose exploration revealed that the Porreca Plan would be significantly less complicated and cheaper than Benson’s apparent goal of a spendthrift purchase from CN Productions.
Benson’s Sunday email also discloses that he will be absent yet again from this afternoon’s 3 pm meeting of the Airport Committee at 401 State Street.
The group warns of potential harm to “millions of people” in the region due to spill plans which have been rendered “inadequate” by the huge increase in fuels running south down the River—as well as major new storage capacity at sites like the Port of Albany, which handled an estimated “one billion gallons of Bakken crude oil alone” in the past year.
“Given the unprecedented increase in rail and barge transport of oil through the planning area, and given the new products and wastes being transported, impacts to species hold far greater risk than was the case just a few years ago,” the Center writes in its memo to the Federal agencies.
Much of that increase comes from tracking and tar sands extraction in the Dakotas and Canada, fuel sources which the Center says pose even bigger risks to the fish, birds, mammals plants and habitats in and around the river than ordinary crude oil due to differing densities and properties which could make cleanup all the more difficult.
The memo arrives in the context of a protracted review of safety measures related to oil transportation which are supposed to be codified in the “New York and New Jersey Area Contingency Plan for multi-agency prevention of and response to oil and hazardous waste spills.”
The Center further notes that “until formal consultation is complete … harm to any listed species resulting from spill response activities could subject government employees or private workers to substantial civil and even criminal penalties” in the event of a disaster.
Governor Andrew Cuomo “recently signed an Executive Order attempting to address acknowledged deficiencies in the [Plan],” the Group points out. The Order requires “state agencies to petition the federal government to upgrade outdated and inadequate oil tanker safety regulations and further requires state agencies to provide a fresh assessment of the dangers of moving oil by rail through the State” in hopes of averting “a ‘catastrophic accident’ that would seriously damage the state’s natural resources.”
The group’s concerns are not limited only to fossil fuels, but also transport and disposal of fracking byproducts such as “toxic wastewater that must be heavily treated before it can be released into the environment.”