News of Otsego County

Oneonta news

THIS WEEK — February 25, 2021
Herzig To Retire

Herzig To Retire

Despite COVID-19, Much Let To Do,
Mayor’s Decision Firm: It’s Time To Go

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

With would-be successors able to circulate petitions in the next few days, six-year Mayor Gary Herzig Tuesday, Feb. 23, announced what many expected and others anticipated with regret: He will retire when his term ends on Dec. 31, 2021.

“During the past six years, by working together, the people of Oneonta have achieved remarkable progress,” he said in a statement, “in developing new housing options, supporting our local businesses, and strengthening our infrastructure while continuously improving upon our high quality of life.

“Even an unprecedented pandemic was not able to slow us down,” he said.

He vowed to spend his final “10 months working harder than ever” on opportunities that “will certainly present themselves in the post-COVID world.”

The political community was prepared for the announcement, with Common Council member Luke Murphy, in charge of the Democratic campaign, saying he expects a candidate, perhaps a woman, will announce by the end of the week.

Village, County, City Completing Review Of Police Procedures

Village, County, City Completing

Review Of Police Procedures

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

With April 1 a few weeks away, it’s crunch time.

Following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last spring, Governor Cuomo issued an order requiring all 330 communities in New York State with police departments to form Community Advisory Boards to review “policies and procedures” by that date.

That covers three governments in Otsego County:

• The Village of Cooperstown: Monday, Feb. 22, the Village Board approved its “Police Reform Plan” more than a month ahead of schedule, having completed the review and taking it to public hearing. The findings can now be forwarded to the Governor’s Office.

Dreams Park Seeks OK For 2021 Opening

Dreams Park Seeks

OK For 2021 Opening

With Tests, Reduced Capacity, NY State Asked For Go-Ahead

Cooperstown Dreams Park will be submitting plans to the state Department of Health to allow it to field a 2021 youth-baseball season at its Hartwick Seminary campus this summer, it announced today.

The plan asks the DOH to take “into consideration camp testing and reduced capacity,” according to the statement from Attorney Garo Gozigian, the company’s local lawyer.

Dreams Park said it is awaiting “clarification and direction from DOH and Governor Cuomo.

For the 2021 season, the park would be closed to the general public.

“Our plan will require that all camp participants and registered family members provide proof of negative testing or inoculation in accordance with New York State guidelines,” the statement said.

The statement said “the plan to expand the season at reduced capacity is in the best interest, safety, health and wellbeing of Cooperstown and the surrounding community.”

Oneonta Sculptors ‘Terrible Beauty’ Opens
With Airy Mesh, Richard Friedberg Captures…

Nature’s Might

Oneonta Sculptors ‘Terrible Beauty’ Opens At Munson-Williams-Proctor

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

(Jim Kevlin/

As 2010 arrived, Richard Friedberg was feeling “dispirited, unhappy that we did not have a great chance of solving our environmental problems, our climate problems.”

“I needed a change,” said Friedberg, who has a studio in a Harpersfield barn, halfway from Oneonta to Stamford.

Richard Friedberg, above, discusses “Oil Fire,” inspired by Isis’ 2017 bombing of Iraqi oil wells. At right, he pauses in front of “Fire Storm.” Both are in “Terrible Beauty,” at the M-W-P.

Then, on April 20, change arrived: BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded; 11 workers died, 17 more were injured. After two days of billowing flames, the rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico, and oil – 60,000 barrels a day at the peak – began to pour through a ruptured riser.

What resulted was the largest oil spill in history.

The artist had found his muse.

Friedberg had watched “the incredible fire.” He was “compelled by the awesomeness of the catastrophe.”

In the Atrium of Utica’s Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute the other day, where his show, “Terrible Beauty,” will run from Saturday, Feb. 27, through May 30, he searched for the right word to describe the disaster.

“Apocalyptic,” he said.

IN MEMORIAM: Francesco Basile, 99; Opened Mama Nina’s in 1970

Francesco Basile, 99;

Opened Mama Nina’s in 1970


Francesco Basile, 99, who opened Mama Nina’s in Oneonta in 1970, passed away on Jan. 17, 2021, in Naples, Fla.

He was born on Oct. 16, 1921, to Giuseppa Lombardo from Castelvetrano and Antonino Basile from Carini, Sicily. Francesco was the eighth of 14 children and the last sibling to pass away.

Francesco was 34 years old when he immigrated from Sicily to the United States with his wife, Maria Ruffino, 27, and their children, Antonino, 9, Giuseppa, 6, and Rose, 4. They sailed out of Palermo on the ship called Saturnia on Dec. 24, 1955, and arrived on Jan. 4, 1956. In 1970, Francesco and Maria opened Mama Nina’s without any knowledge of the food industry. At the age of 65, when most people are retiring, Francesco and Maria opened their second restaurant, Mama Maria’s in Stamford.

Francesco enjoyed his garden of tomatoes, zucchinis and more. Every autumn, he made his homemade wine. Francesco and Maria enjoyed many expeditions and cruises to Greece, France, Portugal, Spain, Israel, Hawaii and their beloved country, Italy.

At age 75, Francesco and Maria retired in Naples, Fla. His wife of 54 years, Maria, predeceased him in 2010.

Baseball, Politics, Community Defined His Contribution
ALBERT ‘SAM’ NADER • 1919-2021

Baseball, Politics, Community

Defined His Contribution

The Nader family chose this photo of their patriarch, Sam Nader, with Damaschke Field, home of his Oneonta Yankees, in the background.

Editor’s Note: Here is the obituary prepared by Sam Nader’s family.

Albert S. “Sam” Nader passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, at his home as he wished, surrounded by members of his family.

He was born on July 8, 1919, in Oneonta, the son of Elias Andrew Nader and Rose Rajah Nader (Nassar). He was one of six Nader children. Sam Nader spent nearly his entire life in Oneonta. He was a proud lifelong resident of the 6th Ward and became an integral member of the community.

He graduated from Oneonta High School in 1938, where he excelled as a lefthanded pitcher. Mr. Nader attended Bates College and later Hartwick College and played baseball at both institutions.

As World War II approached, Mr. Nader began working for the Scintilla Magneto division of the Bendix Corp. in Sidney.



97 Ill, 12 Dead At Nursing Home


Arie Hillis-Brunson, Hobart, a driver for Circle of Life Ambulette Service, returns an empty wheelchair to his van. (Michael Forster Rothbart/

A coronavirus outbreak swept through Fox Nursing Home mid-January, sickening 97 staff and residents, and ultimately killing 12 of the residents.

“After more than 10 months with no resident cases, the outbreak occurred suddenly with half of the total cases occurring within a week of onset,” Fox Hospital spokesperson Gabrielle Argo confirmed.

The first COVID cases among residents were confirmed on Jan. 14, and the first death occurred two days later.

Among the victims were Patricia O’Brien of Oneonta, who died Jan. 24 in the nursing home’s Unit One, after living there seven years.

Another was Bernice Marlette, Mount Vision, three days later on her 99th birthday.

Charles Rizzo, a World War II Navy veteran and later a nurse in Oneonta, died Jan. 30 at age 97.

Frances Sokol, a Quaker activist from Unadilla who once met Eleanor Roosevelt, turned 100 in December. Before she died with COVID on Feb. 4, she complained to her daughter how the oxygen made her throat feel so dry.

The most recent death was this Monday, Feb. 8.

With Tests, Mandatory Masks, SUNY Takes Aim At C-19

With Tests, Mandatory Masks,
SUNY Takes Aim At C-19

Professors Deny They Were
Pressured To Return To Classroom


They’re back!

Monday, Feb. 1, the first day of in-person classes, the SUNY Oneonta campus appeared almost deserted. (Ian Austin/

Monday, Feb. 1, SUNY Oneonta students began in-person, mask-to-mask learning following the start of the virtual spring semester one week prior.

Last fall, the campus made national news for its more than 700-student outbreak that happened almost immediately after undergraduates returned in August.’

With comprehensive testing, mandatory masks and a new campus president, Dennis Craig, with a track record of halting COVID-19 at SUNY Purchase, the hope is things will go much better.

“Of the 64 SUNY schools, 61 did not test students for the virus as they came back to campus,” Assistant Director of Business Services Graig Eichler said.

Not testing is not a good idea, this campus has learned, Eichler said, and a full testing regimen is being applied this semester.

So far, 99.22 percent of tests have been negative, he said.

THIS WEEK — January 28, 2021
MORKAL-WILLIAMS: College Campuses Opening Again. Are We Sure It’s A Good Idea?

College Campuses Opening Again.

Are We Sure It’s A Good Idea?

To the Editor:

This week, Hartwick College began moving students onto campus. SUNY Oneonta will begin the same process on the 22nd.

I am sure that many area residents are wondering the same thing that I am: Why are we opening campuses at all?

Last semester at SUNY Oneonta can be called nothing but a failure, (although the “Retrospective on Fall 2020” on, through a showcase of passive voice and pivoting, says not
everything went poorly!)

Hartwick fared much better, but is easier to manage due to a smaller student population that is almost entirely residential. The two schools were just one patch in a diverse quilt of successes and failures in campus management across the country.

Nobody was sure whether to open campuses in the fall as the country braced for an imminent winter of suffering through increased cases and deaths.

Fresh Energy’s Needed To Implement Reforms

Fresh Energy’s Needed

To Implement Reforms

Chief Brenner Explains

Surprise Retirement


Chief Brenner

The City of Oneonta’s Citizen Advisory Board – Governor Cuomo mandated such entities statewide after George Floyd’s death – is due to report back April 1 with recommendations.

“All of them seem reasonable,” said OPD Chief Doug Brenner in an interview after announcing his retirement. “They now need to be refined and implemented.”

A new chief with time ahead of him to work the reforms through would better serve the city than Brenner, who at 56, is coming to the end of his career.

That was his explanation of his surprise retirement, announced last weekend and due to take effect on Thursday, Feb. 18, after a 35-year career.

Brenner started his career in June 1986, just weeks short of his 22nd birthday, as a guard in the old county jail, now the District Attorney’s Office.

In March 1988, Brenner was promoted to road patrol and attended the Herkimer County Police Academy.

In Cooperstown, Brenner assumed many roles, including firearms instructor, among others and even found himself with “job perks” such as meeting Hall of Famers like Jim Palmer and Yogi Berra.

Hartwick Goal: Thriving Grads With Lifelong Loyalty

Journey To Success

Hartwick Goal: Thriving Grads With Lifelong Loyalty

By Jim Kevlin • Special to

“The number of college-bound students was declining, students’ needs and interests were shifting, and families’ ability to pay for education was diminishing. Hartwick had to adapt and evolve.”

From The Wick, Spring 2021

Margaret L. Drugovich, FlightPath captain.

Sure, life can be random.

But at Hartwick College, your higher education doesn’t have to be; (or your son’s or daughter’s.)

Just get on the right flight path. Or FlightPath, that is, Hartwick’s innovative new structure designd to ensure students get optimum value from their four years on Oyaron Hill.

It works like this.

Arriving on campus with dreams for the future, you take the Clifton StrengthFinder test – the best of its kind – to help identify your strengths and careers you might best pursue.

You’ll be welcomed by a Personal Guidance Team, including a professional “Success Coach,” as well as a career coach, faculty adviser and alumni mentor who will collaborate in your success.

Over the next four years, classroom studies, J-terms (locally, in the U.S. or internationally), and internships. will lead you to the first job in your optimal career.

By graduation, you’ve also become a full member of the Hartwick community. Its far-flung network of fellow alumni will support you, advise you and open new opportunities to you over the rest of your life.

“What’s special about FlightPath is our commitment to every student, every time,” said Karen McGrath, senior vice president/enrollment & student success. “It’s not optional: It’s the Hartwick Experience.”

HERZIG: After COVID, Many Projects Will Happen

After COVID, Many Projects Will Happen

Oneonta Ford Demolition, Renovations
On Upper Floors Planned, Mayor Says

Editor’s Note: Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig delivered his sixth annual “State of the City” speech to Common Council Tuesday, Jan. 19. This is the text.

Mayor Herzig addresses Oneonta’s MLK Jr. commemoration
Sunday, Jan. 10.

Good evening, Oneonta – We have been tested these past 10 months; however, I can tell you that the state of the City of Oneonta is one of Strength, Resilience, and Caring 2020 was a year that Oneonta will always remember – not only for the unprecedented challenges it brought – but also for the way we came together to overcome them.  From the shutdown of the spring, to the SUNY outbreak of the Fall, and now the second wave of the Winter, we have stuck together and we are getting to the other side.

I know that Oneontans are independent-minded folks – never shy about letting you know when they disagree with you – but we come together as one when times are tough. I could not be more proud of your doing so this past year.

THIS WEEK — January 14, 2021
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