This sign on Route 9 south of Bell’s Pond announces the Livingston Colonial Mall, a concept with... possibilities. Say, hot-colored tricornered hats at Old Navy, happy hour Sazeracs at Hooters, and a musket section at Gander Mountain?
This photo of a mountain lion, found at a hunters’ discussion site, purports to have been taken in June of this year in Hillsdale; however, its authenticity can’t be verified. UPDATE: Thanks to web research by Alan Coon, it now appears that as suspected, the photo above is from another area—Michigan.
Several years ago, another photo said to be of a mountain lion dragging a deer past a local video camera circulated on Facebook, but that appears to have been a hoax using footage from a a faraway game preserve.
Anecdotally, this site has heard many accounts from residents of seeing both mountain lions and bobcats in the area—and I’ve seen what looked like one of the latter bound across 9G in Livingston earlier this year.
An acquaintance has also claimed to have seen a very large-tusked wild boar on her property in Hillsdale. About a decade ago, newspapers were awash with humorous stories about a Vietnamese pig that was running wild around Tivoli for much of one summer.
Certainly, there are black bear all over the County. And I’ve seen them twice in a dozen years right in downtown Hudson: once in the churchyard of the First Presbyterian Church sometime around 2004, and once in a neighbor’s garden in the 100 block of Warren Street in 1998. (In the latter case, law enforcement officers were actually seen tossing donuts over the fence to the bear until the game warden could show up with a tranquilizer.)
A 2008 About Townarticle by Arlene Wege discusses the range of possible or mythical sitings of various large beasts in the region. As she notes, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does not acknowledge mountain lions’ presence here, but some hunters at the site above note that DEC is often slow to make major changes in their inventories.
One of Columbia County’s most serene stretches of unspoiled open land can be found at the border of Claverack and Churchtown. County Route 12 bisects two vast, undeveloped fields—uncluttered by anything but one small barn, a handful of cows, a couple of Percheron horses, and clusters of grazing deer.
So when residents suddenly saw earthworks underway on the north side of CR12, there was naturally some alarm and upset.
However, it now appears that the plans for this valued landscape is not cause for alarm, and maybe something quite welcome. Minutes of the County Planning Board from last February reveal that the Rockefeller-backed Foundation for Agricultural Integrity is establishing a dairy farm there, to be limited to a hoop barn, greenhouse, and farm store/farmstand. “We’ll be able to walk in and get fresh milk and cheese,” said one enthusiastic neighbor on Taghkanic-Churchtown Road, who tipped me to the plan.
With Churchtown having lost its general store some years ago, it also may be nice for this sleepy corner of the County to have something of a gathering spot. It’s sort of a shame to see anything built on this greenspace, but at least this will maintain its pastoral character—rather than being littered with spec homes; and if they’ll serve their cream with a side of coffee, they’ll get my business...
These signs—posted when the Bells’ Pond Hannaford first opened, then removed due to complaints from green-eyed gas guzzlers—have returned to the supermarket’s parking lot—this time in shades of fern instead of fire engine red.
Tom Davis, an alum of the earliest Saturday Night Live classes and a neighbor here on Bell’s Pond Road, has died after a struggle of several years with cancer. He had a wicked sense of humor about even that, recommending his illness as a weight loss regimen; after his initial bout, I hardly recognized him in his usual spot at Swoon. Tom held on for so long, and seemed so well-adjusted to his fate, that it feels that much more surprising that the death he anticipated really did overtake him.
He did an installation last year in Maximillian Goldfarb’s revolving window gallery in Hudson's 300 block, consisting of objects he’d salvaged from the Taghkanic Creek. The Creek passes by his somewhat ramshackle house—on whose lawn a gold Grand Marquis has sat most days, like the embodiment of some inside, sardonic but jovial joke. Tom managed to be easygoing even at his most absurdly cynical moments. His text for the installation is required reading:
As an old-school Malthusian liberal, I’ve always believed that the source of all mankind’s problems is overpopulation. I’m finally going to do something about it.
One of the pleasures of living Upstate is getting to know people like Tom as people, at a distance from their fame. We’d shared space at various local bars for a long time before I cottoned to the fact that this guy was the other half of Al Franken’s team, or that he played one of the goofball workers on the train in Trading Places, among many other classic scenes he acted in or scripted.
My last chat with him was at a local sushi place, debating whether it was worse to grow up as a Vikings or a Red Sox fan. I’ll remember in particular Tom’s nasal yet rotund conversational voice, which added that much more wry force to his understated wit. Tom could look up and say “it’s raining,” and it would come out funny.
As first reported here, voter turnout for Tuesday’s Democratic Congressional primary contest between Julian Schreibman and Joel Tyner was dismal. Fewer than 1 in 10 registered Democrats bothered to participate in the new 11-county 19th District.
That sub-10% figure also applied to Democrats here in Columbia County. Below is a town-by-town chart of how each municipality in the County did, turnout-wise, correlating Board of Elections tallies and voter registration data obtained last March:
Remarkably, County Democratic Chair Cyndy Hall characterized these numbers as a “tremendous victory” for her party committee... If 9 out of 10 voters staying home is a tremendous victory, one wonders what a tremendous failure would look like.
UPDATE: Primaries 0f course tend to attract fewer voters than general elections. However, as a point of reference showing how poor Tuesday’s turnout was: More than 550 Democrats voted in the 2011 primary between Nick Haddad and Linda Mussmann; but this week, fewer than 150 voters cast ballots in Hudson.
Something I’ve never seen before in Columbia County... Checking out the new Hannaford market near Bell’s Pond, I was greeted by four parking spaces reserved for hybrid cars. Nice—though this seems sure to rankle those shoppers who get all their news from FOX and 810 AM out of Albany. (Sure enough, a grumpy-faced 50something guy in a V8 truck defiantly snagged one of the Low Emission Vehicle spots just as I was pulling out.)
The store seems smaller than Hannaford’s next-closest location in Red Hook, but is plenty big for this neighbor’s purposes, and was jam-packed on opening morning.
Note to bargain hunters: Hannaford employees were handing out a raft of in-store coupons, including one for $5 off any purchase and another $2 one for locally-grown products, on Saturday. While a supermarket is not likely to displace the local farmers’ markets in many locavores hearts, it was good to see a decent amount of organic and vegetarian options on the shelves.
The French dairy powerhosue Eurial International is said to be coming to Columbia County—opening a goat cheese operation in the former Entenmann’s warehouse on Route 9 in Livingston, according to three separate sources.
According to a description in Gourmet News in 2009, “Eurial produces Couturier/ Soignon fresh goat cheese from only the fresh milk it collects from their farmers.” According to one source, the company will initially import curd from France until it secures adequate supplies from regional sources.
Founded as Soignon in 1885, its Couturier division began distributing goat cheese (then a relatively recherché item here) in the U.S. in the early ’80s, and was subsumed into Eurial about 10 years later. The company currently markets its French cheeses in the U.S. through Couturier NA, based in Warwick, Rhode Island.
This continues a recent trend (exemplified by the arrival of 50 new jobs with Etsy in Hudson, 12 new jobs in Stuyvesant with Milk Thistle’s new facility, not to mention the proposed 65 associate positions at Hannaford in Livingston) of Columbia County managing to add blocks of new jobs steadily without any obvious environmental or other so-called “downside impacts.”
Businesses which make use of existing infrastructure, choose sensible locations, and are compatible with the character of the area find the region attractive—and arrive without controversy (unlike, say, the vast, coal-burning plant proposed by St. Lawrence Cement, which promised only one net new job for local residents, yet burned up tons of energy and resources to no purpose).
Over time, the addition of 10 jobs here, 50 jobs there, builds a stable economy, with risks distributed among dozens and dozens of employers—rather than relying on a handful of large industries, who either stay and destroy local residents’ health while chasing away cleaner business, or else stay only as long as they don’t get a sweeter tax deal or other incentive elsewhere. With Taconic’s “mouse farm” laying people off in Livingston, the rumored arrival there of Eurial would seem particularly timely.
Projects like the Americlean toxic waste processing plant (to which Hudson Mayor Scalera and County Development official wanted to give $600,000 to trash the City’s waterfront) or SLC (which would have burned 500 million pounds of coal annually, causing increased asthma, cancer and heart attacks among vulnerable residents) were opposed by citizens not merely on scenic or environmental grounds, but also because they would have diminished the appeal of the area for businesses like those now relocating here—in a beautiful, historic area, where high-tech business can occupy stunning warehouse buildings or agricultural businesses can find quality water and soil.
During the long SLC controversy, there were some who could not give up the 1950s notion that “real” economic development could only mean big smokestacks and giant corporations... even though such industries today only need handfuls of highly-trained engineers to perform work that once required hundreds of people doing manual labor. Growing up in a different era, it was perhaps understandable that some had a hard time accepting that a local economy does not have to rely on a handful of large corporations.
Instead, a community can stitch together lots and lots of smaller businesses—and that in the long run such economies are more diverse, enduring, and mutually-supportive. Even as the nation struggles to see its way out of a depression largely caused by reckless banking and investment practices, it would seem this part of the country is finding its footing on a new, 21st Century path.
After barely a year of operation under new ownership, and less than six months after being nominated for a Chamber “Crystal Apple” award, Blue Stores is closed again. Realty signs sprout from uncut grass on the Route 9 and Route 31 sides of the building, though the outdoor furniture is still in place, and flags still flutter as the traffic whips by at well over the 40 mph speed limit.
To be honest, something felt “off” about the new Blue Stores from the get-go.
The previous management kept things simple and no-nonsense. Probably a minor makeover was overdue. But the new owners clearly overspent on renovating the once down-home but perfectly functional interior. The glossily-painted main dining room seemed like something out of an overpriced Chinatown tourist trap, and contrasted sharply with the Ye Olde Taverne atmosphere of the bar area. Looking around, one tended to wonder if someone had a bunch of cash they needed to park somewhere in a hurry.
Still, the place was often packed on weeknights (a rarity around here), rollicking with live acts and karaoke singers. It seemed to be a new favorite venue for various civic organizations to host their banquets and meetings, and also a handy place for people in the south-central part of the county to catch a playoff game on TV, or just catch up with neighbors at the bar.
Unfortunately, the new Blue Stores was plagued by generic food, straight off some bland food service menu, made even less appealing by frequently amateur service.
It was clear to anyone who has ever bussed a table, scoured out a soup pot, or taken an order (this writer included) that most of the staff had little if any restaurant or bar experience—and the management was failing to train or supervise them. A lot of socializing was going on instead of attending to customers with their hands in the air, trying to order another round. Plus when a bartender doesn’t know what goes into a bourbon and soda or a waitress seems so high that she has to come back three times to clarify what you ordered, that’s eventually going to drive your bottom line into the red.
Ultimately that’s not the fault of some 17-year-old who’s landed his or her first real job; it’s the fault of management. In so many service businesses today, ownership forgets to invest in their staff, teaching them the ropes of the business so that they can excel and move up. (Bar/restaurant work is all about tips, so without that leg up few newbies will make a decent living.) Despite the strong support of the community, from the looks of things this venture was never likely to serve enough drinks or chicken parms fast enough to make back all the dough its backers poured into it.
Let’s hope this historic site gets snapped up by someone with a little more restaurant background, and maybe some hotel experience as well—something like a more affordable version of the Madalin Hotel in Tivoli. Given the history and the prime location, it ought to be a goldmine for the right person.