COOPERSTOWN – A 100-year-old greenhouse behind Mohican Flowers was consumed last evening by what proprietor Carol B. Waller’s husband Bill described as “a ball of flame, an orange ball of flame.”
The Wallers – Carol is former Cooperstown mayor – had gone to bed when they heard over the scanner at about 10:30 p.m. that a house on Leatherstocking Street, behind the greenhouse, was on fire. Former fire chief Brian Clancy, who lives on Leatherstocking and made the original call, called in in a few moments later to correct the location: It was behind the flower shop.
The Wallers hurried to the scene to find the greenhouse fully engulfed.
However, firefighters with AirPacs went into the main building, which was attached to the greenhouse, closed the connecting door and opened the front upstairs windows to let the smoke out. That saved the building, and Carol said she expects to be open for business by Monday.
“The fire department did a marvelous job,” said Bill. “They saved the building.”
He said the fire started in a basement under the potting shed where the oil burner is located. The official cause of fire was still uncertain today. However, Bill said a state inspector had done a routine inspection of the burner just last week.
The Wallers’ Bayliner Classic boat, containing 50 gallons of gasoline, was parked about 10 feet from the greenhouse, and the tarp was melted onto the boat today. However, Bill said a firefighter stood by the boat, directing a spray of water against it, and little damage was done.
Some of the siding on Bieritz Insurance, close to Mohican Flowers on the west side, had melted, and associated Ben Novellano was on the roof this morning, trying to determine the extent of the damage.
In addition to Cooperstown’s firefighters, Fly Creek and Hartwick Seminary responded.
COOPERSTOWN – In the end, 170 – up from 125 a week ago, and 155 a couple of days ago – today listened for eight hours to presentations on the United States’ – and Otsego County’s – energy future from some of the most knowledgeable people in New York State.
The venue was the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s “Energy Summit: Energy & The Economy,” which finished up in late afternoon in The Otesaga’s pretty-close-to-full ballroom.
When it was over, Al Rubin, chairman of the chamber’s board, and chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan both said they were pleased by the amount of information the 19 varied presenters delivered in mostly 15-minute segments between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“This wasn’t about debate,” said Rubin. “This was about listening to what other people had to say. This event met and beat our expectations.” But, he added, “The work begins now.”
NEW YORK CITY – Governor Cuomo, during today’s briefing, announced that New York State will open 10 additional testing sites – one for each zip code – in New York City COVID hotspots.
Controlling the virus’ spread in the city’s hotspots, which are located in predominately low income and minority communities, is a top priority as it moves toward Phase 1 of reopening on June 8, the governor said. Six testing sites will be in the Bronx, three will be in Brooklyn and one will be in Queens.
COOPERSTOWN – Matt Phillips, CCS ’02, shared a poignant story of his family’s affection for Redskins (now Hawkeyes) football, and the 200 fans in the CCS high school auditorium applauded.
“If not for football,” said Phillips, today Clark Sports Center’s Activities & Group Reservations director, “I wouldn’t have come to school.”
Cooperstown varsity football has had bad years, for sure, but always rebounded. “My senior year,” he said, “we won one game. My senior year, we were undefeated.”
Today, his daughter Leah plays with the team, continuing a family tradition. “She even talks about playing in the NFL someday.”
The term “Life Births” – a term that floated through the room as the school board contemplated a wide round of cuts to the 2020-21 budget; the budget vote and school elections is May 19 – could trump the fans’ and others’ concerns.
“We are forced to make decisions that don’t feel great,” Superintendent of Schools Bill Crankshaw said that evening: In 2007, there were 1,048 K-12 pupils; today there are 850, a 19 percent drop.
“Life Births” are compiled annually by ONC BOCES Superintendent of Schools Nick Savin for all 19 school district in his purview, nine in Otsego County. Based on the number of births in a district any one year, he projects those numbers forward: for instance, babies born in 2015 will enter kindergarten this fall.
If fewer seniors are graduating in June than kindergarteners are arriving in September – and this goes on year after year – a school district is headed for trouble.
For the 2019-20 school year, CCS has 79 students graduating, and only 50 kindergartners entering, a 37 percent drop, by far the largest among the ONC BOCES schools.
“At base, if you want a school, you have to build housing,” CCS board President Tim Hayes said in an interview, “affordable, quality housing … Until we start to create places for people to live in the community, I’m worried about the future of the community.”
Hayes served on the task force that created the Village of Cooperstown’s new Comprehensive Master Plan, approved last fall, which – to some community concern – allows larger homes to be broken up into apartments.
If there are no exterior changes, sufficient parking and other standards are met, village Zoning Enforcement Officer Jane Gentile can simply issue a permit; a project doesn’t have to go through the H-PARB, planning or zoning boards, said Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, who has played a central role in the comp plan and resulting zoning code.
Apartment houses – the Railroad Avenue neighborhood, in particular, is designated as appropriate – still require a special permit from the Village Board, she said.
It’s only been a few months since the new zoning was approved, but Falk said she’s unaware of any house conversions or apartment complexes being proposed.
In the 1970s and ’80, Hayes said, homes were being built in the district, but in the 1990s “preserving open space was more important than building houses for people who wanted to live here.” Much of the surrounding towns of Otsego and Middlefield requires three-acre lots, he said.
That may be changing, Hayes said. In addition to Cooperstown’s new zoning, the Town of Hartwick has contracted with Delaware Engineering for a Route 28 study. The study wasn’t focused on housing, Falk said, but as survey results began coming in, housing needs were frequently mentioned.
With the largest employer in the county – Bassett Hospital, “a half-billion-dollar medical center” – just three blocks from Cooperstown Elementary, things should be different.
“Every day I see ads for employees at this medical center,” Hayes said. “We definitely don’t have enough housing for people who want to live here.”
At last week’s meeting, Hayes and Crankshaw repeatedly said no firm decisions have been made about football or anything else. The next of a series of “open budget discussions” is planned 6-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, in the high school library.
Savin, the BOCES superintendent, said that while CCS’ situation is the most dire this year, it’s not alone. “In Oneonta,” he said, “they seem to have some growth in the younger grades. Every other school in our region: They’re either staying flat or losing students.”
He continued, “In more schools, because we have declining enrollment, the school boards and communities are looking at more collaborative ways of keeping their teams. It’s appropriate, in my view.”
“That’s what the data does,” he said: “It causes the right kinds of conversations.”
ALBANY – Phase One of Governor Cuomo’s un-PAUSE New York isn’t a return to anything goes.
Today, in announcing Central New York (Syracuse) has joined four of the state’s other economic development regions – including Otsego County’s Mohawk Valley region – he also ticked off a few dozen measures, from masks to continued closings, aimed at preventing a coronavirus flare-up.
He also detailed parameters that must be met before beaches can be opened this summer.
“We expect to see an increase but that increase has to be monitored and has to be controlled,” he said. “We’ve talked about the infection rate, the rate of transmission. When the rate of transmission hits 1.1, you’re headed towards a bad place so monitor that rate daily and correct immediately if you see an increase in those numbers.”
Editor’s Note: Doug Davis, 72, of Windham, Maine, fulfilled a lifelong dream this fall: At 72, he pitched from the mound in Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field. This is republished from The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta newspapers of Nov. 5-6.
By DOUG DAVIS • Special to AllOTSEGO.com
On Sunday, Oct. 11, on Doubleday Field, I played my last baseball game.
For years I’d wanted to play a game on Doubleday, but for insurance reasons or unavailability it never happened.
I’d been coming up for years to see friends I played for or with, inducted into the hall, and learned to love this town. It is Baseball Heaven.
Last year, I invited a friend of mine, who had never been here, to come up with his wife and share a fall weekend with us in your town.
We came up Columbus Day weekend, and enjoyed the Cooperstown experience.
On Saturday morning, my wife Deb was walking our puppy when she spotted a group of guys in their late 50s, early 60s loading their cars with baseball equipment, and they began to talk.
Editor’s Note: Dan Larkin, the beloved former long-time provost and perhaps the last active faculty member who taught at Old Main, died Thursday, Oct. 2, at Fox Hospital. He was 76. He retired as provost at the end of June 2011, but continued to teach his popular course on New York State history until earlier this year. Raised in Rome, the Erie Canal was one of his professional specialties. Here is a profile published on May 27, 2011, when he stepped down at the campus’ top academic officer.
ONEONTA – When young Dan Larkin arrived at SUNY Oneonta in 1965, he spent his first year teaching history scholars inside the now-long-gone “Old Main.”
The next year, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller launched his uber-ambitious plans for the SUNY system and, between 1966 and 1971, the Oneonta campus we know today rose on a wooded hillside.
When locals asked young Larkin where he worked and he told them, they would reply, “Oh, you’re up at the Normal School,” the original 1889 teachers’ college replaced by today’s multi-department institution of higher education. (Cavernous “Old Main,” site of today’s Old Main Apartments at the top of Elm Street, was demolished in 1977.)
That, as you might imagine, is just a fraction of the institutional memory F. Daniel Larkin, provost and vice president of academic affairs, has absorbed during his 46-year career, all of it – except 13 months at SUNY headquarters in Albany – in the City of the Hills. He is retiring at the end of June.
In all that time, there were many personal flashpoints, but one institutional flashpoint in particular: That day in 1996, soon after Larkin had been promoted to dean of continuing education, when then-president Alan Donovan gathered his team together and declared, “We’ve got to make some changes around here.”
Donovan was reacting to new data showing that only 60 percent of the freshman class was returning – many due to poor grades. In other words, he said in a separate interview, 400 of every 1,000 students were disappearing. In the 15 years since, the retention rate has risen to 85 percent, Donovan said.
SYRACUSE – Governor Cuomo today announced New York is the first state to issue criteria to healthcare professionals defining the Kawasaki disease, a suspected COVID-related inflammatory illness in children.
The criteria establishes a new name for the syndrome – pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome – and a definition of what symptoms healthcare providers should look for. Case definitions also help standardize tracking and reporting and can help ensure a better health outcome.
COOPERSTOWN – Village elections, rescheduled to correspond with the Democratic presidential primary, have now been shifted back to a separate day, Village Administrator Teri Barown announced today.
In the first days of the coronavirus State of Emergency, elections in Cooperstown, and villages statewide, were rescheduled from March 18 to April 28, the same day of the Democratic primary.
Governor Cuomo announced over the weekend that the presidential primary has again been moved, to June 23. Today, it was announce village election will again been rescheduled. No firm date was set, except to say it will be June 1 at the earliest.
COOPERSTOWN – Trustee MacGuire Benton, who is running for reelection to the Village Board in the March 18 election, today endorse Joe Biden for president.
This election is about defeating Donald Trump, keeping a Democratic House majority, winning back the U.S. Senate and defending the Supreme Court from a complete takeover,” said Benton. “If we can’t do that, we’re sunk.”
COOPERSTOWN – County Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, (and Otsego Now then-President Sandy Mathes) must have been prescient.
A little over three years ago, they proposed 130 acres of level land on a rise to the north of I-88’s Exit 18 at Schenevus for a 250-500-job distribution center, the type used by Amazon, Dollar General, Walmart — virtually every major U.S. retailer.
Today, after months of study, Adam Frosino, an engineer from McFarland Johnson, Binghamton-based consulting engineers, told the county Board of Representatives that 86 potential sites had been identified within two miles of Otsego County’s nine I-88 exits. They had been winnowed down to 26, then 10, then five, then two.
Of those two, the reps selected … the site championed by Oberacker and Mathes at the outset.
Editor’s Note: This is the full text of Mayor Gary Herzig’s State of the City speech, delivered this evening to Common Council in Oneonta City Hall. It is Herzig fifth annual assessment of the city’s health.
By GARY HERZIG • Mayor of Oneonta
In 2018, Hartwick College’s president Margaret Drugovich introduced me to a young lady named Nadya Zhexembayeva, a 2001 graduate of Hartwick College. Nadya came to Hartwick College from Kazakhstan on a Freedom Support Act scholarship. She arrived, with $400 in her pocket, knowing very little English.
Today, as a consultant, she has helped companies such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Cisco, L’Oreal, and Dannon to thrive in today’s changing world by reinventing both their products and their business models. When asked what triggered her fascination with reinvention, she attributed it to her teenage years growing up in Kazakhstan. When the Soviet Union dissolved overnight, it left her society in shambles with no currency, constitution, police, or regulations. What she observed was that some panicked while others saw an opportunity – an opportunity for reinvention.