ONEONTA — In a two and a half hour meeting, the issue of housing was forefront as the Common Council struggled to come to agree on the choice of an out-of-city resident as part of the housing commission on Tuesday, July 20.
This appointment was narrowly approved, 4-3, with Kaytee Lipari Shue, Len Carson and Scott Harrington being the dissenting votes.
The motion to appoint Audrey Benkenstein, with the addition of Oneonta resident Peter Friedman, was brought up for a second time after being voted down during the last common council meeting, something that Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig told AllOtsego.com last week was “mystifying,” since Lipari Shue had pushed for a non-city resident to be on the Arts Commission.
The main point of contention was that Benkenstein was not a Oneonta resident. However Herzig pointed out her appointment was voted down “only minutes after approving a Cherry Valley artist” for the Arts Commission.
Herzig said the Arts Commission held real power whereas the Housing Commission was an advisory position, and therefore those appointed to the Housing Commission were not considered officials with any kind capacity to approve anything.
After 32 years, local radio legend Chuck D’Imperio turned off the microphone on his WDOS morning show for the last time Tuesday, June 29.
The retiring radio host got his start in 1988 at what was then Hastings Broadcasting in Oneonta. The best offer owner Gordon Hastings had for D’Imperio was an unpaid position changing tape reels and monitoring the station during three-hour broadcasts for the Boston Pops.
D’Imperio said the time around the station early on was enough to further his radio interest.
Soon after, Hastings sold the broadcast company to Jan Laytham and paid opportunities for D’Imperio emerged. There was mutual respect between the two, and D’Imperio soon became the morning host on AM 730, WDOS.
Laytham coined D’Imperio’s radio name “Big Chuck.”
COOPERSTOWN — More than 50 people packed the Cooperstown Central School cafeteria for a public hearing on the proposed Chestnut Crossing apartment complex at 10 Chestnut St.
The Cooperstown Village Board of Trustees moved the meeting to the middle/high school because of the public hearing, the first official chance for residents to speak for or against the 13-unit apartment complex proposed by Josh Edmonds and Francesca Zambello for two pieces of land they own on Chestnut Street and a third on Pine Boulevard.
The overflow crowd did not disappoint, with about 30 people speaking on the issue and two more speaking about a proposed licensing law for village-owned Cooperstown icons. Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh lifted the typical one-hour limit length for public hearings, gave each speaker five minutes to speak on each issue, and even allowed a handful of people to speak a second time or ask limited questions.
The public hearing portion of the meeting took more than two hours and the meeting itself wrapped up after 11 p.m, but Tillapaugh said she expected as much.
Larissa Ryan Business Manager Stagecoach Coffee
If you’re walking around downtown Cooperstown and get a bit hungry (or just need a coffee or tea or other beverage), take a left at the flagpole going toward the lake and on your right will be Stagecoach Coffee. They are primarily a coffee shop but they have been steadily expanding their food menu over the years.
I recently stopped by for lunch and decided to try the smoked salmon on a toasted whole wheat bagel with cream cheese (of course), tomato, onion and capers. For a drink I ordered the frozen hot chocolate (made with Ghirardelli chocolate according to the menu). The smoked salmon bagel is a very savory meal, with the capers and onion giving a zest that keeps me coming back for more. A great lunch for a hot day of wandering around our little town.
New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019. The law will propel New York towards a climate change friendly economy that will rely much less on burning fossil fuels for energy by 2050.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan is ambitious. It calls for an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, and 70% renewable energy by 2030.
In 2020, New York derived approximately 0.1% of its electricity from petroleum, 1% from coal, 36% from natural gas, 30% from nuclear, 26% hydroelectric, 5% wind and solar and 2% biomass.
The shut down of the Indian Point nuclear plant on the Hudson River, completed in April 2021, decreases carbon-free nuclear power to 20% of the state total and increases greenhouse gas emitting natural gas to 46%, with two new natural gas plants in Orange and Dutchess Counties now operating.
This doesn’t make sense if carbon-free electricity is the goal.
COOPERSTOWN — Following last week’s announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that lifted significant COVID-19 restrictions, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced Monday, June 21, that tickets will not be needed for free lawn seating for the Wednesday, Sept. 8, induction ceremony.
The ceremony was rescheduled from its traditional last Sunday in July to an event at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 8, on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center in the town of Middlefield.
The event will celebrate the inductions of Class of 2020 members Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker and will be broadcast live exclusively on MLB Network.
Since 1992, the event has been held on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center, with estimated crowds approaching and surpassing 50,000 at five of the last six ceremonies, from 2014 to 2019. The second-largest crowd on record – an estimated 55,000 people – attended the Hall of Fame’s last induction, July 21, 2019.
One would like to believe that Cooperstown, once referred to as “America’s Favorite Hometown,” is a thriving, dynamic community.
A walk down Main Street in July or August, with crowds of people swarming the streets and shops, would suggest that it is indeed as billed. The same walk in January or February, with darkened, shuttered store fronts and empty parking spaces, would offer a very different impression.
When the remarkable increase in the country’s taste for baseball and its memorabilia in the late ’80s and ’90s dramatically altered Cooperstown’s Main Street, with baseball-themed shops largely established and managed by non-local proprietors replacing the mixed-use, community-based businesses run by local residents for 200 years, Cooperstown’s business district turned a very unfortunate corner.
With the advent of the “Cooperstown” baseball camps, located in Hartwick and Oneonta, people began to buy, convert and even build area housing to cash in on an extremely lucrative weekly summer rental market. That housing is in many cases owned by non-local, absentee landlords who make enough of a killing in the summer to allow them to sit vacant for the long off-season months. In a few years, the availability of housing in and around the Village became as hopeless as a Main Street parking space in summer.
By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — It has been a dark time for theater in Otsego County.
In 2020, the Glimmerglass Festival and Fenimore Art Museum each canceled its summer performance seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Oneonta, Foothills Performing Arts Center went 14 months without a live show, according to Operations Manager Geoff Doyle.
High schools and both Oneonta colleges experimented with streaming virtual theater, performed live without an audience. Local troupes such as the Catskill Puppet Theater and Orpheus Theatre cancelled shows, while Stuff of Dreams Productions pre-recorded performances for later broadcast.
This summer, stage by stage, the lights are back on and theaters are reopening — albeit with some modifications for COVID safety. Theaters have been operating at 33% capacity, with mask requirements in place, but that will change going forward, with an easing of most pandemic requirements from the state.
A professor of material culture at SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown graduate program, Dr. Cindy Falk, will be available to answer questions about architecture, things to consider when renovating, when the home was constructed and other questions about houses by bringing photos of the home, either historic or current.
Falk will be available between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 19 at the Cooperstown Farmer’s Market tent, to the left of the entrance.
In addition, Otsego2000’s Emily Pope will be on hand to answer questions about whether homeowners could qualify for a Homeowner’s Preservation Tax Credit program if your house is in an Otsego County historical district.
The Cooperstown Farmer’s Market is run by Otsego 2000. Go to otsego2000.org for more information.
The Smithy art gallery at 55 Pioneer Street in Cooperstown is opening for its first showing, running through July 27.
The exhibition, entitled ‘Air’, will feature artwork by both members and guests of the Smithy.
The theme of ‘Air’, as the title suggests, is all about capturing the “invisible force in our daily lives” the Smithy wrote in an email. “Apart from its literal importance, our artists have been able to take inspiration from the many things we have come to associate with AIR.”
Some of the artists featured include Joyce Cabral, Willie Marlowe, Colleen O’Hara, Kathy Van Loan and more.
The gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday, June 15, that he will ending most COVID restrictions affecting businesses, after hitting the threshhold 70% of New Yorkers vaccinated with at least one dose.
As a result, concerts, sports, nights clubs and other businesses can return to normal operations without the need for social distancing, masks or limits on capacity.
“It means we can return to life as we know it,” Cuomo said at a press conference in front of One World Trade Center in Manhattan. “We have the highest vaccination rate in the country.”
Businesses can now set their own rules on vaccine passes and social distancing.
Separately, the city of Oneonta announced that all public buildings will be open to the public again as of Monday, June 14.
State Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, said he welcomed the news but was critical of Cuomo in a statement.
“Is he lifting the state’s emergency declaration and ending his extraordinary powers?” Oberacker said. “Once again, the governor makes grand claims and leaves everyone scrambling to sort out the details.”
COOPERSTOWN – The mood was jovial Saturday, June 12, as about 60 people, including elected officials state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, gathered outside the Cooperstown Distillery on Railroad Avenue for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the expansion to celebrate what is considered a big success for local businesses in particular and a revitalization of Railroad Avenue specifically.
Eugene Marra, the founder of Cooperstown Distillery, began with an emotional moment on losing his dad to the coronavirus. He said his dad was his “biggest fan and number one investor in this opportunity.”
However, the atmosphere was celebratory.
“It’s an auspicious occasion for sure,” Marra said. “As much as I want to claim it as my own, I want to share it all with you because you have made it possible,” Marra said.
Marra spoke at length about the trials and tribulations of opening the expanded brewery on Railroad Avenue. He talked about how COVID had delayed the opening a year and how the distillery was tasked with producing hand sanitizer during that time.
He also mentioned how he was initially told by real estate agents that opening a distillery in Cooperstown was not possible.
“I like to believe we are responsible for what has become a revitalization of Railroad Avenue,” Marra said, saying that industry on that street in years past, “appeared to be dead.”
Marra said that Cooperstown Distillery, which has been around for eight years, is the “story about how it takes a village … the village of Cooperstown.”
Marra said he was loaned about $100,000 and received state fund grants of about $80,000, citing that his success was thanks to “local money.”
“We all hear these phrases, buy local, shop local, stay local. We are all of that,” Marra said, calling the Cooperstown Distillery the “fabric of this community on a very local, grassroots level.”
“We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than the village of Cooperstown,” Marra said.
Tillapaugh said the Cooperstown Distillery is a business “in which the village takes a great deal of pride.”
She noted how the village implemented zoning law changes in order to help grow businesses.
“I certainly know what this Railroad Avenue looked like for decades,” Tillapaugh said.
She noted it was once not considered industrially viable, but that developments on the street, including the distillery and the Railroad Inn, created “positive synergy.”
DiNapoli joked he didn’t accept the invitation “because of the complimentary drinks,” but was happy to come because of how difficult a year it had been.
DiNapoli said that while Cooperstown is known for its Baseball Hall of Fame and Fenimore art museum that “the distillery becomes yet another reason to visit.”
“This really was an incredible effort with all stakeholders playing their role. That’s usually not how it happens,” DiNapoli said. “This is the model that should be replicated.”
DiNapoli said he was going to go back to Albany and tell other lawmakers to “look to what happened in Cooperstown as an example of how it should work” in terms of state funding for local businesses.
After the ceremony, people took a tour of the distillery.
Affordable and available housing remains an issue in Otsego County in general, but particular issues have come up recently in both Cooperstown and Oneonta.
However, both areas are doing their part to amend this issue. Although there has been some backlash, elected officials acknowledge the necessity of creating affordable housing in the area.
A planned development at 10 Chestnut St. in Cooperstown is being considered by the village’s boards.
Francesca Zambello, who partnered with Josh Edmonds of Simple Integrity on the Chestnut Street project, described herself as a “concerned citizen” who was worried about the “really dire housing situation.” Zambello and Edmonds own three connecting lots and have formed their own company, not associated with Glimmerglass or Simple Integrity, to build on the site.
The sound of bees humming is audible all around at the Straight from the Hive bee farm where a number of hives are literally buzzing with activity.
Richard Lercari, the beekeeper who runs Straight from the Hive, is very much a bee person. He has a bee hat and wears bee socks and speaks about his interest in bees.
“I’m totally fascinated by bees,” Lercari said. “I can spend all day just watching the entrance to the hive.”
Lercari used smoke in order to make the bees think about abandoning the hive, which makes it easier to check the combs. The potential of a thunderstorm that day, he said, also makes them more likely to be placid because they can sense weather.
He said the bees won’t sting unless they feel threatened by somebody taking a swipe at one of them.
Dressed in his heavy bee suit on a hot morning, Tuesday, June 8, Lercari is checking each individual hive component for the queen. He goes through each individual panel until he finds her and points out the white dot on the bee marking her out. The panels are covered with bees and there are close to a hundred in that hive alone.
But Lercari said that bees will safely coexist with him until he has to start extracting honeycombs.
“They are not pets and they have only one thing in mind: survival of the colony,” Lercari said.
He says that he checks the hives frequently to see if the queen is laying eggs and how much of the brood, the male bees, have hatched.
“You’re supposed to talk to the bees. You’re supposed to confide in them about important parts of your life,” Lercari said, saying that doing so was a beekeeping tradition.
Lercari said he got started beekeeping because he got interested in using honeycomb for cooking.
“It wasn’t that big of a stretch to go from cooking food to making honeycomb,” Lercari said.