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Letters to the Editor - August 16 2012
We support the Watershed Center proposal
To: Julie Schroeder and members of the Zoning Board of Appeals:
We purchased our home on Boston Corners Road 32 years ago and have spent increasingly more time up here. We are actively engaged in the village of Millerton and have watched the careful and thoughtful decision making that has protected this beautiful valley while at the same time enabling it to keep pace with the 21st century.
Our house is adjacent to a hang gliding school which, when first proposed, also generated some opposition. Each weekend there are many hang gliders being trained, camping out next door, and the school has become part of the community and our neighborhood. While this is no longer an active dairy farm, it still remains agriculturally productive and serves a dual function.
We have been following The Watershed Center issue that is before you and as longtime residents whose house is slightly further north of Kaye Road we would like to add our voices in support of this proposal. We believe that there will be absolutely no negative impact on our road, and on the neighbors, if this proposal is approved. We have purchased produce from Sol Flower Farm and believe that it will be an excellent addition to what is currently available at our farmers market. Although it is unlikely that we would take advantage of holistic retreats, because we have our own retreat here, we do not believe that small retreats, workshops and programming that will appeal to locals such as ourselves will have a negative impact on this community. It will allow for continued farming and appears to be a sound adaptive reuse of this beautiful property that will provide jobs and will benefit our town.
It is unfortunate that accusations are being made that have nothing to do with the application before you. Proposed change seems to bring out the worst in people. We hope that the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals will thoughtfully consider the application on its merits and grant the requested change. We believe that the proposed Watershed Center will benefit this community as have other changes that have taken place over the past 30 years.
More information wanted about project
The Millerton News had an opportunity to clear the air (“Clearing the air: Sustainability key for Watershed Center,” Aug. 9), but instead of real substance there was more newspeak. Brooke Lehman (the ZBA applicant, property purchaser, co-director and board member of The Watershed Centaer) says in the article that her political training is in “social ecology.” She was a teacher and board member at the Institute for Social Ecology.
The Millerton News reporter could have asked, “What is social ecology?” That would have opened an unimaginable realm of information relevant to the application of The Watershed Center and its purpose. While most of us think that a farm-based education center for sustainability means growing vegetables on a farm to sustain us, Ms. Lehman’s social ecology and sustainability always refers to the need for an anti-capitalist revolution in politics, economics, society and the very fabric of our government. This is well-documented fact, not rumor or innuendo. Read her ISE colleague’s “Notes on an Ecology of Everyday Life” at www.social-ecology.org/1999/01/notes-on-an-ecology-of-everyday-life/ for an interpretation of what Ms. Lehman’s and Mr. Osofsky’s terms mean.
Here is a sample from the ISE website: “To fulfill its revolutionary potential, ecology ... means recasting many of the values often associated with nature within social terms, seizing the power to create new political institutions...”, i.e., direct democracy. Or read “What Is Social Ecology?” by Murray Bookchin (founder of ISE) at dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/bookchin/socecol.html. Hold on to your seat, you’re in for a ride. It becomes apparent with a little reading that “sustainability” to a social ecologist encompasses more than one would think possible and makes all these questions about terminology and purpose critically important.
People are free to study, teach and espouse their views, even redefine words until they have no meaning. But they are not free to submit an application that misleads.
The issue at hand is the misrepresentation in the application for a special permit before North East’s Zoning Board of Appeals describing the proposed project as “a farm-based educational center for sustainable living.” We have learned that groups staying overnight will be as large as 60 people, many of them young, arriving from New York City by van and staying in dormitories. We ought to have been given the same program description these participants hear when they are recruited. We have to wake up to the fact it will bear no resemblance to anything we have been told thus far.
North East and Malvern, Penn.
Editor’s note: Social ecology was defined in the aforementioned article, as “a vision of an ecological society based on the local community making democratic decisions about the future they want to create.”
Recently while driving around Pine Plains I noticed there are still many signs that read GROW SMART. With all the things that have been happening in Pine Plains I believe the signs should be changed to STOP GROWTH!
It used to be said that in order for developers to come to this town we needed zoning. Well, we now have that and are still chasing prospective developers away with unending legal battles. If anyone can observe this, the town is slowly dying, and for those of us who care it is very sad.
Ann C. Noone
Lehman, Osofsky deserve special permit
My son, Gregg, and his partner, Brooke, are partners in The Watershed Center, which is applying for a special use permit for an educational center at the old Kaye Ranch. They have run retreats at my previous farm in Ancramdale and their home in Pine Plains (situated next to my business, Hammertown Barn) over the past three years. They have been focused, peaceful and enriching retreats, where the quiet beauty of the valley we live in sets the tone for fulfilling and meaningful work. I have seen and felt the peaceful and passionate nature of the participants. And throughout, we have never had any concerns or complaints from our neighbors.
I am deeply inspired by the budding partnership of The Watershed Center and Sol Flower Farm. Just as The Horse Institute in Ancramdale use horses to improve the personal and professional skills of their clients, Watershed and Sol Flower will work with the land and with nature to inspire and empower their participants. They have found a magnificent piece of property for retreats and I am positive that their work will enrich, not detract, from this beautiful part of the world. They will be good neighbors. I say that without any hesitation.
Twenty-eight years ago I came to Pine Plains with a vision. Most of my family and the community at large thought I was crazy to begin Hammertown. Who would ever come... who would ever shop there? But my passion pushed me to succeed. Now, years later, I look at three young people with another vision. It is forward thinking and progressive, but most importantly, it is driven by their passion and commitment. They have presented their plans with honesty, integrity and thoughtfulness. Under the steady leadership of the town boards, the law will guide the project from the onset. But more importantly, their commitment and integrity will shape this project over time.
Over the years, Gregg has helped me to manage and sustain my business in countless ways. Beyond his operational skills and steady leadership, he has helped to shape our community orientation and, through our impressive website, provide a platform for communication and engagement. This is his passion and I’m so excited to see where he can take this work with The Watershed Center.
As a respected member of the local community, and a successful businessperson who supports and gives back to the local economy, I urge the board to grant Brooke Lehman and Gregg Osofsky the special permit needed to move The Watershed Center to Millerton. As a mother, I hope those who have expressed their concerns in this forum, in time, will come to see Gregg and Brooke as kind, respectful and cherished members of their community.
Finleys generous to library
The Friends of the Pine Plains Free Library wish to thank Denise and Matt Finley for their wonderful generosity at our recent concert. Not only did they entertain almost 70 people with their music and stories, but they contributed the proceeds from the sales of their CDs back to us. What a wonderful surprise that was and it will help us this fall as we host five new free programs at the library. Again, many thanks to Denise and Matt.
Janet Fitzgerald, President
Friends of the Pine Plains Free Library
I documented all of my sources
My Aug. 2 letter to The Millerton News about Brooke Lehman was edited. Qualifiers like “according to my research,” and “I believe” were added, even though I documented my facts. Lehman’s established membership in Bluestockings bookstore’s workers collective was edited out (brechtforum.org/events/grassroots-fundraising-conference). Last week the paper ran an article with quotes from my letter that included the extra words they had put in my mouth.
In that article, Lehman attempted to distance herself from the Brecht Forum (formerly the N.Y. Marxist School). According to the Institute for Anarchist Studies Lehman was on the Brecht Forum’s Board of Directors as recently as March of this year (www.anarchiststudies.org/node/536). Her associate Mr. Osofsky stated that Marxism is not “a bad word.” Millions of Cambodians who died under Marxist-educated Pol Pot would probably disagree.
Lehman is a high profile Occupy Wall Street leader. Her Direct Action Network helped organize the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests. Before those protests Lehman attended a Ruckus Society training camp, learning to scale buildings for banner-hanging (www.democracynow.org/1999/12/13/seattle_wto_aftermath). During Lehman’s ownership, Bluestockings bookstore participated in events supporting eco-terrorist arsonist Daniel McGowan (indymedia.us/en/2006/12/25410.shtml).
A letter in last week’s Millerton News pointed out that Rosendale, N.Y., where Lehman’s Watershed Center has conducted workshops, now has its own Occupy movement. An article on www.thedaily.com website (Dec. 14, 2011) titled “Grassroots: Upstate NY commune may be start of ‘Occupy Farms’” stated “The revolution is heading out to pasture.” It explained that protesters from New York City were buying a dairy farm in the Catskill foothills, and quoted one of the protesters saying “The movement has occupied urban areas, and now we’re moving into more natural settings.”
Go to www.occupythefarm.net. You’ll see a green fist logo and read “We believe the Occupy movement must connect people in cities to people in small towns and the countryside.” One of Lehman’s associates from the Institute for Anarchist Studies runs workshops entitled “Occupy Outside Metropolis: Small Town and Rural Occupations.”
At www.occupyourfoodsupply.org you’ll find another militant fist logo and learn how Lehman’s causes (Occupy, sustainable farming, buy local) are uniting to defeat Monsanto. I also hate Monsanto. Occupy our food supply boasts support from singer Willie Nelson. I like Willie Nelson. Unfortunately, from Brooke Lehman’s in the Occupy/sustainable development movement to the United Nations’ Agenda 21 dupes at all levels of government, the green agenda is directed by far left collectivists. The sustainable/Occupy movement and your local Greenway plan will both take you to the same totalitarian destination.
The town of North East Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and Planning Board maintain Lehman’s history isn’t relevant. The Aug. 8 Planning Board meeting was inadequately advertised. Families who live near this proposed project and their lawyers nearly missed it. The Planning Board then granted lead agency status to the ZBA, which is, in my opinion, overwhelmingly friendly to Lehman. The next Watershed public hearing will be on Aug. 16 at the Library Annex. Please show up and help stop this.
Boy Scouts of America and their resolution
On June 7, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), a private membership corporation, released a statement clarifying their membership policy as a result of a resolution submitted by one voting member of the organization for consideration at its annual meeting.
As quoted in the press release, “In April, a single individual submitted a resolution asking the Boy Scouts to consider amending its policy on not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals. The resolution asked that the policy be amended to allow local units to determine their own standards.”
In its statement of purpose, BSA states it is a “values-based youth organization.” Toward that end, BSA membership policy includes the following: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.
“Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.
“The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization. The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path”.
I applaud the Boy Scouts of America for not letting local units determine membership standards.
Having been a Boy Scout in my youth, a staff noncommissioned officer of the U.S. Marine Corps and a regular participant of my own religious tradition, I understand that the Boy Scouts, like this nation, was built on a set of core values and inimitable truths which transcend individual wants and needs.
Similarly, acceptance of these values and truths are what bind us as a people together as we seek our destiny. G.K. Chesterton said there were 1,000 reasons he converted to Catholicism and at the same time there was just one: It was true! The Boy Scouts of America I would guess share a similar ethos: Our values are true and don’t need to be changed to suit those who don’t share our truths.
Boy Scout Law’s 12 points include “Clean” and “Reverent.” Included in the definition of the first is the call to choose the company of those who live by high standards; included in the latter is the instruction to maintain faithfulness to one’s religious duties.
As a private membership organization, BSA has the right to set and maintain its own standards of membership and conduct. Just as the American Legion requires allegiance to this great nation, so do both organizations maintain faithfulness to their “core values. To paraphrase Chesterton, “when you believe in everything, you believe in nothing.... ”
Alec A. Pandaleon III
Internet is only one source, and can mislead
I read Barbara Schlesinger’s letter (as well as others who oppose The Watershed Project) in last week’s Millerton News. I was troubled that they constantly refer to the Internet as their prime source of information.
As an exercise, I Googled Barbara Schlesinger. Had I relied on the information that I found on the Internet about “a Barbara Schlesinger” (obviously not the one who wrote the letter to the editor of The Millerton News), this might be the misinformed letter I would have written:
“I just performed a search on the Internet and learned that Barbara Schlesinger played a very convincing prostitute in ‘Hot L Baltimore’ and hung out with Charlie Sheen while he was still employed in ‘Two and a Half Men.’ Granted, the prostitute role was years ago, and produced by the famous liberal writer/director/producer (and probably Marxist) Norman Lear, but by gosh — there must be a connection. She associated with Charlie Sheen! I wonder if they committed any vices together? I mean, she did know Charlie Sheen and it was, after all, on the Internet so it must be true!
“Why is Barbara trying to hide this information? I wonder if The Millerton News will soon be reporting that Charlie Sheen is hanging out with Barbara in downtown Millerton and encouraging our youth to become prostitutes?”
Of course, none of the above is really about our Barbara Schlesinger, but my point is the Internet is not necessarily a reliable place to go to find absolute truths or facts about anybody or anything.
If I believed that it was, I could lose 10 pounds overnight by wearing a magic weight-loss belt.
The proposed Watershed Project is exactly what our local communities want and need: agriculturally based businesses that look toward the future.
The witch hunt concerning Brooke Lehman and Gregg Osofksy would be ridiculous if it weren’t so paranoid, backward and sad. Every town in our area complains that young people don’t stay here to start businesses or come back with the skills they’ve learned after going to college. The behavior of a small segment of the citizens of North East has just given us the answer.
Shame on you!
Watershed Center suffers credibility gap
Yet again, Ms. Lehman and her associates have either changed their story or used sugarcoated words that only they understand — before the Planning Board on Aug. 8 and in their recent interview by The Millerton News. This project suffers from a credibility gap.
In the Aug. 9, Millerton News, Mr. Osofsky, one of the three principals of The Watershed Center, stated that economic sustainability is “implicit to our mission.” He is interested in work “generating a future for the next generation... ” Yet, “generating a future” already applies to the Benekes, a family that has been farming in North East for three generations. The Benekes have leased the subject property’s fields for over 20 years. We see their heifers grazing in the field near Kaye Road. In a nearby field, the Benekes grow alfalfa. If this application is approved, the Benekes will suffer a loss of income and resources. Don’t we want to preserve the stability of our own local family farms?
The Watershed Center says it has a “Good Neighbor Policy.” Yet how many other neighbors will be negatively impacted by The Watershed Center and Sol Flower Farm? Two would lose their affordable housing, and four others would be constantly exposed to traffic, noise, transient activity and loss of privacy because of their proximity to these two businesses. The Millerton News interview noted that Ms. Lehman and Mr. Osofsky will live on the property “in the beginning.” Mr. Szymanowicz does not intend to live on the property. Yet their businesses would irrevocably change the lives of North East residents along Kaye Road, Rudd Pond Road and Boston Corners Road. Who would want this to happen to their neighbors?
Ms. Lehman’s application says that The Watershed Center will have up to 30 participants in Phase I and up to 60 participants in Phase II. Yet, in The Millerton News article, Ms. Lehman is now calling her retreats “relatively small” and Phase II “a dream.” In the real world, the town of North East needs to know. A number as high as 60 will have consequences for the town’s fire, police and ambulance resources and, therefore, the town’s budget.
The Lehman application before the Zoning Board of Appeals states that the special permit is going to be for a “farm-related educational center.” Now, according to The Millerton News interview, Ms. Lehman says that The Watershed Center is going to be “a center for education and empowerment around sustainability.” At the Aug. 8 Planning Board meeting, Ms. Lehman said they were going to focus on “transformation using meditation techniques to deal with conflict resolution,” “positive visioning” and the “global state of democracy and democratic organizations.” Yes, this we certainly can believe, but, once again, Ms. Lehman’s application does not match her public statements. Ms. Lehman should be held accountable by our public officials.
Mary De Pasquale