Last week’s editorial praised the local arts and culture scene, after Oneonta and Otsego County were identified as “eighth most vibrant arts community” in the U.S. by SMU’s DATA ARTS’ report.
Silas Huff’s conducting of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra Saturday evening, Sept. 7, added several exclamation marks to all of last week’s positive conclusions.
Huff is the first of three conductors competing to succeed Maestro Chuck Schneider as CSO conductor. Carolyn Watson conducts Oct. 12, and Maciej Żółtowski Nov. 16. The new conductor will lead the CSO at the annual cabaret concert next March.
Two of Huff’s selections – the bookends – a Strauss overture and Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” brought standing ovations. The centerpiece, a Haydn cello concerto, drew a more subdued response, although soloist Andrew Janss impressed.
As for Huff himself, his direction was tight, intense, authoritative, subtle but effective; no showy flourishes. First rate. A top candidate.
If you believe competition brings out the best in people, Watson and Żółtowski appearances will be gripping. Huff’s sure was. If you’ve never attended a CSO performance before, treat yourself. (Tickets available at www.catskillsymphony.net.)
From the moment I met Victoria Talbot Pressly she proved she was a serious connector whose impressive Rolodex has played an integral part in the growth and sustainability of Millennium Magazine.
I met Vicky while standing in line for drinks at a doctor’s summer penthouse party on Manhattan’s Eastside in 2011. She was standing in front of me when I stepped up and she turned around to say, “Hi,” and introduced herself. She told me she was a publicist and I told her that I was a magazine publisher and that we should talk.
Minutes later she introduced me to her friend Lauren, who covered the Hamptons for another magazine out East. I welcomed her to join my venture, and Vicky’s friend proved to be such an outstanding contributor to Millennium I later made her editor at large.
COOPERSTOWN – Cooperstown citizens may weigh in on proposed a co-branded Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins on the corner of Walnut and Chestnut streets when the Historic Preservation & Architectural Review Board at a public hearing at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8.
“We hope this will be attended by the people whose properties this will impact,” said board member Roger MacMillan. “And our board decision will be made based on the principles of compatibility.”
ONEONTA – A decade ago, Lois Newell felt hopeless.
“I was living in an apartment on Academy Street, my window faced the back of the Salvation Army,” she said. “I would look at that wall every day and cry. I was freshly divorced, I had no money and no resources. I wanted hope, a better life for my kids.”
Now, when she looks out her window, she sees an apple tree and the wildflower garden she’s cultivated in the yard of her Habitat For Humanity house, one of 35 the the nationwide organization’s local chapter has built locally over the last three decades.
This Sunday, Sept. 15, Habitat for Humanity of Otsego County will celebrate its 30th anniversary with an open house 2-4 p.m. at the Elm Park Methodist Church, Oneonta.
HIPPIE HOLLOW – Paradise, as Carlie and David Kindernedl see it, can be found just off Oxbow Road in the Town of Milford.
“Our vision has a lot to do with finding a haven,” she said. “We don’t want a posh existence, we just want to build something beautiful.”
Three years ago, the couple acquired almost four acres at the corner of Oxbow and Chlorinator roads – Carlie’s dad dubbed it “Hippie Hollow.”
“He wanted to turn it into a baseball camp,” she said. “We want to make this land into and edible forest garden, with plants for food and medicine.”
Carlie, a 2002 Cooperstown graduate, and David, a 2001 Gilbertsville graduate, met in 2014 when a mutual friend was moving and asked acquaintances for help.
“I had been traveling a lot and I was growing really weary,” said David. “I couldn’t find where I belonged, and I was ready to kill myself.
“Then I saw Carlie get out of the car, and I thought, ‘I’ve found my wife!’”
Later that day, he helped her with her garden, and by the end of it, the two had made a marriage pact. “We’ve been living as husband and wife ever since,” he said.
Down the ravine by Hinman Hollow Brook, they’ve erected a two-room tent with a generator-powered stove and solar-powered lights. They drink from the spring-fed stream.
Carlie collects the garlic mustard that grows wild to season their food. David cuts down the trees for firewood, and next year, they hope to build a 10 x 10 log cabin.
“We’re struggling to beat the winter,” said David. “It’s hard. I’m doing this all by hand. We’d trade work if someone would let us use some heavy equipment for a weekend. We’d have the cabin up in a few days if that was the case.”
Because there is no permanent structure, they have to vacate the land every winter. “We pack up everything and drive west,” he said. “We try to find work, but sometimes, we have to panhandle for food or gas.”
“It’s stressful,” said Carlie. “But sometimes we meet people who have less than us, and we always chose to help them, too, with whatever we have.”
In April, they’re able to return and continue building their paradise. “Right now, the land is inhospitable,” said David. “We need to eliminate a lot of the trees to get light in, and then we can terraform the land and replant.”
Once the land is clear, the couple hopes to plant fruit trees and make gardens of edible and medicinal plants.
David was diagnosed with Lyme disease 10 years ago, and Carlie, an herbalist, studied up on what herbal remedies might help. “We collected Japanese knotweed at Wilber Lake this spring,” she said. “I made three quarts of tincture of the roots, and he takes it every day. Ticks are a problem here, so I take it whenever I see a bullseye, and it seems to help.”
Carlie and David don’t intend to be the only people in Hippie Hollow. “Our dream is to find like-minded people to share this place with,” said David. “They would have to work hard and share our values, who want to escape the conundrum and stupidity.”
“No one should have to pay to lay down their head at night,” said Carlie. “We want to turn this place into a sanctuary where people can get counsel for their ailments and learn to use healing herbs.”
But for now, it’s just the two of them and their dog, Apollo.
“It’s been hard, and we’ve been through tough times,” said David. “But we wouldn’t change a thing.”
Editor’s Note: Cathy Raddatz of Cooperstown, sister of 9/11 victim George Morell, read this letter of reassurance from a firefighter to Morell’s widow Robbie at the Fly Creek Volunteer Fire Company’s 5-10K commemorative run Saturday, Sept. 7.
Dear Mrs. Morell:
First, let me say I know your family has suffered a devastating loss, you have my heartfelt condolences and prayers. While I cannot know your grief on a personal level. I sincerely offer my sympathy, compassion, love and respect.
I have been a firefighter for nine years now. I have seen what I thought was some of the worst things that any one human being could do to one another, until Sept. 11. I do not know the reason why I found your husband’s business card that Friday, Sept. 14.
Ever since that day I have felt I needed to find someone in Mr. Morell’s family to let them know how I found his card, where I found it and when I found it. To also let his family know that I felt an overwhelming presence and a calming feeling.
ONEONTA – The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Toya Lane Bowden, then a detective with the NYPD Internal Affairs, now living in Oneonta, was headed to the World Trade Center to drop off her department-issued beeper for repairs.
By first, she stopped by the stationery store in Long Island City to buy ribbon for a friend’s retirement party.
“I heard on the store radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center,” she said. “I went home, grabbed my bag of equipment and drove into the city. As I was coming over the bridge, I saw the second Tower go down. And I realized, if I hadn’t stopped to buy ribbon, I would probably have been in there.”
By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
I attended a hearing recently in Binghamton on rate increases proposed by NYSEG for a number of projects, including a nearly three-fold expansion in the capacity of the DeRuyter gas pipeline serving Oneonta.
The hearing was run by the Public Service Commission (PSC), a New York State agency which is supposed to regulate utilities like NYSEG.
The atmosphere wasn’t very promising. The deserted streets and empty storefronts of downtown Binghamton were a reminder that the city, like much of Upstate, is a shadow of what it once was. The brutalist architecture of City Hall, where the hearing was held, evoked a prison rather than a civic space.
I’m at ease on my front porch on a beautiful afternoon, admiring the perspective up tree-lined Delaware Avenue. As the long last block heads toward Chestnut Street, curbs and sidewalks seem to draw together, trees conspire more closely over the street, and the two rows of handsome house fronts, bedecked with flags and hanging planters, draw closer till the last ones opposite each other almost block sight of traffic flashing by on Chestnut.
But now, heading toward me down the sidewalk, is an old friend of my own age. She’s being led along by her leashed dog, Bijou, who, spotting me on the porch, speeds up, tail wagging. The old friend also sees me and waves. Defying perspective, she and Bijou grow larger and clearer as they approach.
By State Sen. JIM SEWARD • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Death by a thousand cuts. Nickel and dime. If those adages come to mind when you think of New York State government, you are not alone. Now the latest example: the governor’s push to require millions of drivers to buy new license plates, needed or not.
Recently, the governor’s office launched a statewide survey to select a new license plate design. On the surface, this appears to be a fun contest (although there are several questions regarding the plate designs) but the fine print reveals what this really is – a massive cash grab.
This is the language directly from the governor’s press release:
CHERRY VALLEY – Victoria Pressly’s agency promised models and actors all over the country she could get them into magazines and onto the red carpet, said Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl.
But it wasn’t always so, he said.
“She talks a good game, holds herself out as someone who has connections and can get models and actors onto the red carpet, exclusive events, photo shoots and interviews,” said Muehl. “But the complaint is she gets the retainer up front and doesn’t do anything.”
Pressly, 53, owner of Victoria Pressly PR Celebrity Agency and HYPEPRnow in Cherry Valley, was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny, third degree, and Scheme to Defraud, first degree, following an investigation by the District Attorney’s office.
According to the complaint, between Nov. 5, 2018, and Jan. 15, 2019, Pressly “did steal property valued in excess of $3,000.”
According to Muehl, aspiring models paid her a retainer with the understanding that she would be able to book them for photo shoots, red carpet appearances and interviews in national publications.
“She advertised herself as a PR person,” he said.
However, the clients alleged that she never delivered on any of the promised services, and when they complained, she blocked them on social media and stopped returning calls.
Emmy Adams, the 2016 Miss Nevada, claimed she was one of Pressly’s scammed clients in a post on her Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.
“Being new to Hollywood, this woman told me she could elevate my career but instead she SCAMMED me and has been scamming other models and actresses for thousands and thousands of dollars!!!” she wrote. “She scammed me out of $4,300!!!”
She also encouraged victims to share the post and report their experiences with Pressly. “She has been getting away with this for 20+ years and it’s time for her to stop.”
Pressly was also charged with scheming to defraud clients, with the indictment alleging that she “did engage in a scheme constituting a systematic ongoing course of conduct…by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises.”
At present, Muehl said, she is being charged with taking $4,500 from clients without booking them any of the promised promotional appearances.
Muehl said “several” of the clients have already come forward.
ONEONTA –At least three burglaries over the past week have been solved with the arrest of an Oneonta man.
Kyle A. Ives, 29, was charged in a series of break-ins – two homes and vehicle – in Center City. “With one arrest, we were able to solve three cases,” said OPD Chief Doug Brenner.
Last weekend, the two houses were broken into and credit cards taken, plus $100 in cash and personal items. “He took change from the cars and a jar of change,” said Brenner. “It’s a quick grab.”
The personal items were all recovered, said Brenner.
But police are still seeking a suspect in burglaries on Main Street around the same time. Both the Hospice and Super Heroes in Ripped Jeans thrift stories were broken into and items and money taken.
“We are truly disheartened to share that our thrift shop was burglarized over the weekend,” read a post on the Super Heroes in Ripped Jeans’ Facebook page. “This store is completely volunteer run and all the proceeds benefit the rescue. Not only did we sustain a loss, now we need to spend money on new equipment.”
“It’s sad that people are stealing from charitable organizations,” said Brenner. “They just ransacked the place.”
Two other locations in the Main Street area were also broken into, but Brenner declined to identify them, citing investigation protocol.
“We’re looking through the Main Street camera footage right now,” he said. “Trying to see if we got anything.”
For the Center Street burglaries, Ives was charged with two counts of burglary in the second degree, two counts of grand larceny – for the credit cards, said Brenner – and one count of petit larceny.
“We don’t believe Ives is tied to the Main Street burglaries,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Oneonta Police at (607) 432-1113.
The buzz from hemp is an economic one and Otsego County is starting to get it.
Last spring, the Canadian cannabis company, Canopy Growth, bought Stitzel’s Waterpoint Farm, which closed its dairy operations in 2017, and this fall will harvest its first hemp crop – 300 acres’ worth – in mid-October.
The hemp will be dried and milled at the farm, then sent off-site to be processed for its cannabinoid or CBD oil – the non-hallucinogenic chemical used for numerous medical conditions and ailments in mid-October.
With U.S. sales of CBD products projected to generate about $2 billion in sales by 2022, industrial hemp may play a role in reversing Otsego County’s economic decline.
“Hemp is a transformative crop for many reasons,” said Branson Skinner, Canopy Growth’s farm manager for New York State, who works out of Waterpoint. “It uses fewer resources than other crops, especially cotton, and you can get a greater biomass for paper than trees.”
According to Canopy Growth’s website, in 2014 it became the first cannabis company in North America to be publicly traded, and recently was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
It provides a full range of cannabis products, from hemp and medical marijuana to “adult-use cannabis.” In New York, the state Legislature failed to legalize marijuana, but the Democratic leadership plans to try again in the next session.
Meanwhile, there’s hemp: a strain of cannabis with much lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the chemical that gives users the high – 0.3 percent versus 2 to 19 percent in cannabis used for medical and recreational use.
Until Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 last December, which legalized the growing of hemp nationwide, farmers could only grow hemp in states with pilot programs.
“The 2018 Farm Bill allowed money to be moved legally, for banks to accept money from hemp sales,” Skinner said. “And that opened up the whole industry.”
Hemp plants cannot have THC concentration above .3 percent and farmers must regularly test hemp to ensure the THC stays below that level, which can make growing the crop labor-intensive.
“If you have one plant that tests above .3 percent, you have to throw out the entire field of hemp,” said Janice Degni, Cornell Cooperative Extension field crop expert.
Skinner said they had not detected any THC in Waterpoint’s hemp when testing it. The hemp varieties used at the farm are “CBD-heavy” ones, and CBD neutralizes THC.
“You could smoke this whole field and not get high,” he asserted.
CBD hemp can be labor-intensive as well because CBD only occurs in the female plants’ flowers, so hemp growers have to check for male plants in the field and clear them out.
While Skinner attests no male plants have grown at Waterpoint, he spoke of another phenomenon they have to watch out for.
“Some female plants will become hermaphrodites by pollenating themselves if they ‘sense’ male plants aren’t around or they’ve been stressed by, say, too much water,” Skinner explained. “So, we have to look for and remove pollen sacs from them.”
Skinner said “part of Canopy Growth’s mission is to support small farmers and communities, to improve local economies, and really, to transform agriculture.”
That transformation has already begun at Waterpoint Farm, with the conversion of the farm’s dairy structures into ones that will be used for the hemp.
“Canopy Growth purchased Waterpoint not just because it had the good land for hemp, but it also had the housing, electrical infrastructure, buildings, diesel tanks,” Skinner said. “We weren’t just buying 1,200 acres of land.”
An old bunker silo is already being converted, and other buildings and silos will be repurposed in the next 2-3 years, for storing, drying and milling the hemp. The dried hemp is then sent to a processing plant for CBD extraction.
Waterpoint has also gone from having one employee to about 20 during the peak of cultivating the hemp over the summer. There are now six full-time employees and eight temporary/seasonal ones. With plans to double the production of hemp next summer – from 300 to 600 acres – the farm will be hiring more.
And Waterpoint could become an agricultural “hub” for the region and boost dairy farmers, Skinner said.
“We have a network of smaller farms near Plattsburgh who contract with us,” he explained. “We provide them technical support and a guaranteed market for hemp they grow on their farms. It could give dairy farmers a major shot in the arm.”
Such a farm network has not formed in Otsego County yet, but Skinner said after the October harvest, he will begin developing one.
“I’m a community planner,” Skinner said. “I’m looking forward to working with local farmers next season.