News of Otsego County

Harry Levine

LEVINE: Now’s Time To Invest In County

Now’s Time To Invest In County

Harry Levine is president of the Community Foundation of Otsego County.

We have only one week left in 2020, a remarkable year that hit us with surprises and painful disease. We lost jobs, got sick, and even died due to COVID-19.

But the year had its bright spots too.

One of them was the extraordinary efforts by all the front-line medical professionals and other essential workers who risked their own health to serve us.

Another is the amazing generosity that poured out from members of our community to help those in need.

A third was the extraordinary efforts of our nonprofit sector that rose to meet many challenges with fewer resources.

As the year draws to a close, there are a few days remaining when you might consider gifts to those very nonprofits which performed so well for us all.

Our tax policy rewards those who make charitable donations by allowing donors to reduce their taxable income and save on taxes.

But there is a hard deadline of Dec. 31 for taking advantage of some good ideas for 2020.

Here are a few of those ideas:

• Taxpayers who do not itemize deductions are entitled to reduce their taxable income by up to $300 by simply making gifts before the end of the year to qualified charities.

• If you do itemize your deductions and want to donate at least $10,000 but are not yet ready to decide which organizations you want to support, you can establish a donor-advised fund and benefit from the tax deduction this year, while deciding later how to allocate your gift.

• Those with IRAs who are at least 70½ can make gifts to charities (up to $100,000) directly from an IRA and the distribution comes out tax-free instead of taxable. Be careful, however, as 2020 is a year in which there is no required minimum distribution and the age for starting RMDs has been extended to 72.

• For 2020 only (thanks to the CARES Act), donors are permitted to deduct charitable gifts equal to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income (compared to the usual 60 percent for cash gifts and 30 percent for gifts of appreciated stock).

• Speaking of appreciated stock, this week may be a good time to donate highly appreciated stock (owned for at least one year) and save having to pay capital gains tax. But you will need to get any transfer in motion quickly as the year is running to its end.

• A charitable gift annuity is another way to generate a tax deduction in 2020 while securing a fixed annual income. At death, the funds in the annuity go to your designated charity. The charitable deduction is relatively high right now as interest rates used to calculate the amount of the deduction are very low.

Please consult your own tax advisers for specifics on these ideas.

Regardless of whether tax considerations are important to you, this is a great time to show your appreciation for those nonprofits in our community that work tirelessly to help us and our neighbors.

Donating today and supporting those organizations would be a very nice way to say thanks for being there for us.

The Community Foundation of Otsego County is here to help you invest in your community. For additional information, contact us a

Chamber Donates $1,500 To Community Foundation

Chamber Donates $1,500

To Community Foundation

Harry Levine, Community Foundation of Otsego County president, received a $1,500 check a few minutes ago in Cooperstown from Otsego County Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan, left, and Kathryn Dailey, the chamber’s director of special events, proceeds from the chamber’s recent annual golf tournament at the Oneonta Country Club.  “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the foundation and its programs,” said Heegan.   Levine said the money will go into CFOC’s COVID Relief Fund, which recently announced 22 grants to local entities and still has $50,000 – “now, $51,500,” he said – and is considering another round of grants right now.  Anyone looking for assistance should contact CFOC at  (Jim Kevlin/
LEVINE: Needs Met, But Much Left To Do


Needs Met, But

Much Left To Do

By HARRY LEVINE • Special to

We first announced the creation of the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund in this newspaper on April 21. We had not intended to start our public life this way, but the need for such a fund was obvious to us and we felt a deep responsibility to join those already fighting the pandemic.

What we can now report is that the community, the entire community, has risen to the same call and joined us.

Harry Levine,  board chairman of the Community Foundation former chairman of the Otsego Land Trust, lives in Springfield.

Here are a few points:

• You have contributed over $200,000 in less than two months.
• Awards have been granted to 12 nonprofits for a total of $60,000.
• Another 12 applications are being reviewed right now.
• More than 250 individuals and families have joined in supporting the fund.
• Another 20 organizations have endorsed the fund, including the county Board of Representatives, our Congressman (Antonio Delgado), our state Assemblyman (John Salka), our state Senator (Jim Seward), and six local town boards.

We are awarding every $1 received to help alleviate the crisis. The costs of the Fund are being absorbed entirely by the Community Foundation of Otsego County.

Some funds are being reserved to help small businesses restart. But even these funds will be allocated quickly as the need far exceeds the size of the Fund.

We wish we could award two or three times the amounts we have been able to distribute. We are encouraging applicants to return for more, if we have more. Certainly, the need is there.

This can be done if everyone of us helps out. If you have not yet contributed to the COVID-19 Fund or if you are able to make a second contribution (some donors have actually made three contributions), please do so now. Go to our website at for a list of awards and donation instructions.

We cannot write this report without noting that our local governments and our hospitals (and all those people who work at these institutions) have done a tremendous job meeting the pandemic head on.

They have prepared well. They have coordinated actions and publicized consistent messages, allowing all of us to behave with confidence and take personal actions to protect ourselves and our neighbors.

We see face masks in use more often than not. Spacing between us is generally in line with public health guidelines. Shoppers at grocery stores are respectful of proper distancing.

As a result, the health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been relatively under control.

We have had serious illnesses and even deaths. But our health system has not been overwhelmed as it has been in other parts of the country. And health workers have been there for us when they are needed.

Economically, however, we are likely to suffer worse than many other areas. Our economy is heavily dependent upon tourism and upon the summer season of public events. In financial terms,  this summer will be a disaster.

We already have seen the signs of closed businesses. Personal income is down. Small businesses are going to struggle to reopen. Sales taxes, bed taxes, allocations from State and Federal budgets are going to be cut back, putting budgetary pressure on our local governments. The future is going to be hard.

In this light, the Community Foundation of Otsego County sees an immediate need being addressed by the COVID-19 Fund and a longer-term mission to continue supportive efforts to tackle the challenges of our area.

Today, we are focused on fighting the pandemic, but there will be a tomorrow and we intend to be there to continue working to improve the lives of those who live in our community.

Please join us and donate today. Your money is being well spent and much appreciated. Stay with us tomorrow as we work to improve the quality of life in our area.

In 3 Days, Foundation Achieves $30K Target, Has $80K In COVID Aid

In 3 Days, Foundation

Achieves $30K Target,

Has $80K In COVID Aid

Ohio Foundation Offers $20K

In A Dollar-For-Dollar Match

COOPERSTOWN – By yesterday afternoon, less than 72 hours after the Community Foundation of Otsego County formally announced the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund, community members sent in checks and used credit card payments that succeeded in meeting the $30,000 challenge match.

“Good news,” said Harry Levine, foundation board chairman, in announcing the response, adding, “We now have $80,000 to distribute in awards.”

LEVINE: Building A Foundation, Together


A Foundation

– Together

Community Foundation

Takes Aim At COVID-19

By HARRY LEVINE • Special to

COVID-19 has changed our world. Our community faces dire health and economic shocks that have disrupted our way of life and will continue to affect us for the foreseeable future.

The Community Foundation of Otsego County was created in 2019 with the mission of improving the quality of life for all the Otsego County area. We were about to publicly announce our formation when COVID-19 attacked. Rather than wait until the emergency passes, the Board of the Foundation has decided now is the time of greatest need and the Foundation must take a leading role in addressing the challenge.

Harry Levine, former president of the Otsego Land Trust, is now leading the formation of The Community Foundatio of Otsego County.

For those not familiar with CFOC and how we have been building resources to announce our introduction to the Otsego County community, we are an IRS designated nonprofit public charity (501c3).

Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all in the Otsego County area primarily through gathering financial assets to direct to existing nonprofits in our county – to help them solve problems we all recognize and that are common to rural areas. We have an excellent Board of Directors with members dedicated to our mission.

Community foundations across the nation have taken leadership roles in establishing COVID-19 relief funds. Albany, Syracuse, Utica and Rochester all have established their funds through local community foundations. In each city, local governments, businesses, and service organizations have joined as sponsors, making these funds a central point for donations to meet the emergency needs of their communities.

CFOC has now set up a fund for Otsego County. Initially, the Fund will direct its resources to emergency relief. Once the crisis abates, and if resources remain, the Fund will shift its emphasis to recovery efforts.

The Fund will gather money to address immediate needs in Otsego County (the relief part of the Fund). We know that unemployment is rising and we are seeing growing numbers of
Please See NEW FUND, A6potentially fatal illnesses. The service sector of our economy will be faced with overwhelming assistance requests.

The Fund is a general fund. Every $1 donated will be disbursed as awards (CFOC will underwrite the administrative expenses). Awards will be made to existing organizations that have proven abilities to deliver services (CFOC does not currently have the expertise or time to evaluate new organizations).

The Fund will be a major county-wide effort to use private donations to address the COVID-19 emergency. To do this, CFOC must partner with many individuals, businesses, and other community organizations, and private foundations. We are asking you to join us as contributors to the Fund.

To be clear, this fund is an additional resource and cannot replace local, state or federal funding. Nor is it designed to shift funds away from existing nonprofits – in fact, awards by the Fund will go entirely to nonprofits to deliver services. Please do not support our efforts at the expense of your continuing support of existing and productive nonprofit organizations.


Our immediate concern is relief. We will rely upon existing nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines of responding to these needs. Awards will be issued to meet the following priorities:

• Support for medical workers, EMTs, police, firefighters, and others in essential industries who risk their own health to serve the community.
• Prevention measures such as education and sanitary supplies to limit the spread of the virus.
• Support for vulnerable populations, i.e. older adults with compromised immune systems, and people who are unhoused.
• Practical needs, in case of disruption in services to vulnerable populations, such as meal delivery and daily living support for homebound older adults.
• Food access and other practical support for people who have lost wages or are unable to stock up on food, specifically those who fall in the gaps of government-led responses.
• Support for workers, especially low-wage workers, to address lack of access to healthcare and paid sick leave, lack of proper safety equipment, economic impact of lost wages due to quarantines, cancelled activities, reduced hours/layoffs.
• Other emerging, immediate needs.

As we learn more about the impacts of the pandemic, priorities may change, but the overarching purpose of the Fund will remain the same.


The Fund has been organized to work smoothly. See our website at for more details and how to make a contribution. We can accept checks or credit card payments.

We are operating with unpaid volunteers and will underwrite all development and administrative costs. CFOC will not charge any fees to the Fund.

The Board of CFOC has authorized an initial investment of $50,000 to start the Fund, of which $30,000 is a $1 for $1 matching challenge to the community to participate.

Please join us as we work as One Community – One County to rise to the challenges created by this pandemic.

For More Details, See This Week’s
Freeman’s Journal, Hometown Oneonta




Levine, Herzig In Leadership Roles;

Public Asked To Assist Fundraising


COOPERSTOWN – Local citizens face “an emergency need” to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the new Community Foundation of Otsego County.  So at 2 p.m. today, the CFOC announced it has created the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund.

“Otsego County unemployment is rising and we are seeing growing numbers of potentially fatal illnesses,” CFOF announced in a statement.  “The nonprofit service sector of our economy is faced with overwhelming assistance requests, and we are going to help.”

The CFOC is chairman by Harry Levine, Town of Springfield, former president of the Otsego Land Trust.  The vice chair is Gary Herzig, Oneonta’s mayor; treasurer, Sarah Manchester, Oneonta, limited partner in Edward Jones, the financial advisers, and secretary, Bob Schlather, the Cooperstown attorney and accountant.





EDITORIAL: The Right Leader, At The Right Time?

Editorial, May 11, 2018



The Right Leader,
At The Right Time?

From the fields at the end of Graves Road, Cherry Valley, recently acquired by Caleb Wertenbaker’s Glensfoot farm, no human habitation is visible.

People generally recognize Otsego County’s geographic schizophrenia. (Schizophrenic, in the best possible way, of course.)
To the south, there are 10 Interstate exits – 11 if you count Sidney’s – largely undeveloped (except Exits 14-15, at Southside Oneonta), ideal for commerce, manufacturing, distribution and other job-creating uses.
To the north is the pristine Glimmerglass watershed, a national environmental icon, surrounded by pretty hamlets and villages, most of them in sad states of deterioration. (Wouldn’t Westford and Westville, to pick two, be delightful with an influx of young families and new incomes?)
Jobs on the highway. Homes amid lovely hills and valleys. An ideal future to contemplate.

The Otsego Land Trust, which achieved its goal of bringing 10,000 acres under conservation easements by 2010 (a little late, but no matter), is an important piece in achieving the happy equation: When the jobs inevitably arrive (fingers crossed), entities like the Land Trust, it is to be hoped, will have ensured sufficient protections are in place to avoid ruination.
So how nice, on the one hand, is it to reflect on Princeton, N.J., developer Harry Levine’s successful conclusion of 12 years as Land Trust president, and his succession by Caleb Wertenbaker, a ninth-generation member of a family that has tended Glensfoot farm in Cherry Valley since the 1790s. (Currently, Todd Gohde is managing production of certified organic hay there.)
Glensfoot now encompasses some 1,200 acres, and Wertenbaker underscored the importance of the Land Trust’s mission the other day during a walk on rolling hills at the top of Graves Road, the latest 500 acres added to the family’s holdings, now being placed under conservation easement.
At the top of a meadow, less than two miles from busy Route 20, and half that from the Village of Cherry Valley, there was no sign of human habitation in any direction, only fields, forest and blue sky.
“It’s always been here and will always be here,” said Wertenbaker, who since graduating from Oberlin in 1996 has made a living in set design in New York City and Boston, escaping up to these parts whenever he can.


Harry Levine, by all accounts, has been an activist Land Trust president. Foremost, he raised staffing from a sometimes half-time executive director to five professionals, including the latest executive director, Pat Szarpa, about to mark her first anniversary. She served for six years as executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, based in East Aurora, the Buffalo suburb, before moving to Cooperstown in 2012.
To the heartfelt thanks of many, Levine and the Land Trust board stepped up and saved Brookwood Gardens, 23 acres on Otsego Lake a mile north of Cooperstown, from falling into private hands and, thus, lost to the public forever. A businessman, though, he was particularly concerned about the P&L.
Making Brookwood financially sustainable requires $25,000-40,000 a year, depending what Land Trust overhead is assigned to it, Wertenbaker said. Shortterm, Levine had lined up a handful of donors to keep Brookwood going.
But it’s no surprise that Szarpa, when asked for her three top priorities, listed Brookwood as one of them. Some of that will be generated by giving a franchise to Brent Baysinger’s Canoe & Kayak Rentals of Portlandville to enable canoe rentals at Brookwood.
Additionally, the northern half of the property, the deteriorating home there razed, the two bridges over Leatherstocking Creek repaired, will soon be reopened, enhancing weddings and other uses on the southside – and, meanwhile, available for birding and other passive uses.
For the Land Trust to flourish, the general public has to care, and Szarpa is working with the national Land Trust Alliance “to create strong images so we can tell our story,” an outreach effort in its early stages. Plus, she is preparing for reaccreditation and taking other steps to make sure the organization is as strong as it might be.
(Plus, expect additions to the “Blueway,” a trail of publicly accessible sites from Deawongo Island in Canadarago Lake to where Oak Creek meets the Susquehanna, (near the site of David “Natty Bumppo” Shipman’s cabin.)

Whereas Levine, out of necessity, took the lead, Wertenbaker inherits a more mature organization, and sees his role as helping the Land Trust work. “I’m not going to be the driver. I’ll play a leadership role, but ‘leading from behind’,” he said. “The day-to-day business is 100 percent in the hands of the staff.”
As a set designer – and, mostly recently, as creative services director for productionglue, a New York City events company – Wertenbaker as manager helps “creative projects and creative people” accomplish their goals, rather than his agenda. “What I want (in the Land Trust) is a group of people to work together on a common goal.”
The right leader at this particular time, wouldn’t you say?




Otsego Land Trust Raises $243,000,

Seeks Long-Term Plan For Property

The view looking east from Brookwood Point across Otsego Lake. (Ed Rowley photo)
The view looking east from Brookwood Point across Otsego Lake. (Ed Rowley photo)
Harry Levine
Harry Levine

COOPERSTOWN – The Otsego Land Trust has obtained commitments totaling $243,000 to extend its ownership of Brookwood Point for at least the next seven years.

Chairman Harry Levine yesterday announced that several donors have combined to pledge funding for the 22-acre property.   “I am delighted that we now have enough financial stability to continue making this beautiful property available to the public,” Levine said.

With the new funding assuring the status quo for seven years, Levine said the Land Trust will invite the community to help develop a long-term vision and permanent funding sources.

To begin the process, community meetings are planned Sept. 29 and Oct. 25 at Templeton Hall.


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