SWAN Wars

By Edie Johnson

After an unusually hot Summer left most area ponds and lakes with a thick cover of toxic algae, most of our area’s swans have left for cleaner waters.  Efforts to clean these waterways with environmentally safe treatment dropped to a low priority with the COVID crisis, with most of the lakes being privately owned and everyone struggling just to complete daily activities. A few that have fountains which discourage algae have remaining swan families. But sadly, many of this year’s cygnets (baby swans) perished due to  toxic cyanobacteria.

Meanwhile, swan advocate and protector Sharon Scheer (AKA The Swan Lady) desperately went from lake to pond trying to check on their safety, and asking for help from state wildlife officials and the DEC. Swans are extremely sensative to environmental changes and as such are an important indicator of the health (or lack of it) of a region.  Just when she had made some headway with verbal agreement on some new state swan policies, COVID came, and priorities scattered.

This year during her checks of swan families at Walton Lake in Chester, Orange Lake in Monroe, Lake Hildegard in Blooming Grove, Brown’s Pond in Campbell Hall and Greenwood Lake in Warwick and across the border into Sussex, what she found was numerous nesting moves and lack of young,  It’s not unusual for swans to move their young once they are half grown and starting to fly, but this year some faced much more urgent dangers than usual, including the algae and some very irresponsible boaters and jet skiers.

The swan families barely survived,  At least one of the two swan families in Campbell Hall were not able to hatch their eggs. Another may have sought safety from the increasing stench of the marshland.  Lake Hildegard in Blooming Grove (also privately owned), which had thriving swan populations each of the past 18 years had a pair in the rushes where they usually nest in early Spring, but they then disappeared.  Even IF the lake environment was not toxic enough to kill them, it has likely killed all of it’s food resources. Orange Lake had a successful nest, but has been tested positive for coliform. 

Unfortunately there are reasonable economic solutions, but at present not the will to implement them.   A company called “Lake and Ponds Works Pond and Lake company he can  come in and uses phoslock and its a natural clay product that binds the phosphorus.Phosphorus is what seeps from lawn treatments …laundry…and septic systems. (800 305-3277)

Encroachment Brings Grave Danger

But at Greenwood Lake all hell broke loose when buoys were missing that keep water recreation enthusiasts away from the shore.  First a pontoon boat nearly drowned the nest and its very young inhabitants. Just when it seemed like attempts to educate the lake visitors were making a difference jet skiers zoomed through the channel at high speeds and terrified the cygnets, prompting Dad Swan to flap his wings in an attempt to make them back up. It became a daily war zone, and Sharon Scheer came out daily to protect them while seeking warnings from DEC and area police who told the ‘agitators’ that swans are protected, and harming them is illegal. Scheer sat in her boat for hours protecting them. The Greenwood Lake Commission made a unanimous decision to remove the swans from Greenwood lake due from being provoked.  Last week the situation became even more urgent when the boaters tried to have the swans labeled as “aggressive” and in need of “culling”. It would not have been the first time that swans have been “harvested” because of a man-made problem.  Ms. Scheer wept daily throughout the week and when they disappeared for 5 days was convinced that they had been killed.  But on Sunday, after searching every nook and cranny of the Lake she found them hiding in a remote cove.  The swans had taken the matter into their own hands.

New buoys were placed last week to keep the shoreline protected and all of the jeopardized swans are safe for now, but a Swan Protection Bill that is just about ready to sign in Albany will need to become law in order for  their very precarious safety to last. This bill will also be needed to be pushed at the local level.

Caption:  Swans went to hide in a cove to get away from boaters and jet skiers who were harassing them and trying to have them “culled” due to aggressive behavior that the people incited

Town Historian Recounts History & Future Of School House


Town of Newburgh – The Town has begun another change to a building which has had many incarnations over the past years, and which I have previously written of, the Gardnertown School. It was most recently the home of our Town of Newburgh Code Compliance Office. Our Code Compliance Office, has been relocated to a large, more modern building over on 21 Hudson Valley Professional Plaza, off Gidney Avenue, across from Market 32, or Price Chopper. Included in this building are the Building Department, Fire Inspection Department, Zoning Department, and Planning Department.  So, what’s to become of the little, old school house which has been modified, repurposed, and renovated many times? It will begin a new life as the home of the Town’s Water, Sewer, and Engineering Departments. Inside, the renovations have begun to dress it up to accommodate these new demands along with new furniture, and phone system.

The weather vanes date back centuries. Some of the oldest text references are found around 139 B.C. in China. And, they were independently invented and adorned buildings in ancient Greece. These were decorated with different ornamentation, characters, and art based on the customs at those times.The word vane comes from the Old English word “fana”, meaning “flag”. Most early communities would place a weather vane on the highest building in the center of the town so everyone could see which way the wind was blowing and help predict weather changes.

A ninth century Papal Decree commanded all European churches have a dome, steeple, or figural cock weathervane or weathercock atop their roofs. This was done as a reminder of the story told in the Gospel according to Luke 22: 34-35 that notes how the cock uncharacteristically remained silent on the morning after the Last Supper.

Story by Alan Crawford

Caption 1 – Town of Newburgh Supervisor Gil Piaquadio admires historic weathervane

Caption 2 – Code Compliance Office relocated; Schoolhouse becomes home of Water, Sewer, and Engineering departments

Middletown Officer Barone Is Cleared & Gets Hero’s Welcome

Man Charged with Attempting to Murder City Middletown Police Officer

At a lengthy press conference in Middletown on Tuesday, District Attorney David Hoovler announced that Officer Evan Barone has been cleared of any wrongdoing when he returned fire after being shot while on patrole on Friday, August 29.  Even better, Barone was released on from the hospital on Wednesday to a large crowd of cheering and saluting well-wishers from state and local police, fire departments and other well-wishers. 

Barone was flagged down by a woman in distress in Middletown on August 29 on Myrtle Avenue and exited his patrol vehicle to determine the problem.  She pointed to a man on a porch in front of them.  Someone yelled “He’s got a gun”, and within about 25 seconds  DeSean Owen , 29, from the Bronx, raised the gun and shot Barone in the forearm. Barone, standing between the shooter and a car full of children returned fire, hitting Owens in his lower body.  Assistance from other units had already been requested and the assailant was taken into custody and later arraigned on charges of Attempted Murder in the First Degree, Criminal Use of a Firearm in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, along with felony complaints alleging that Owens attempted to kill a City of Middletown Police officer by shooting him with a 9 mm pistol.

Owens was remanded to the custody of the Orange County Sheriff without bail. The case was adjourned to September 11, 2020, in the City of Middletown Court, although the District Attorney’s Office stated on the record that the matter would be presented to the Grand Jury before that date.

The entire incident was recorded on a neighbor’s video camera.  Hoovler showed the video during his press conference, and showed it in 3 different views, including slow motion at 50% speed. The videos are also available to watch online.

As the Press Conference continued, DA Hoovler discussed relations between police and the communities in Orange County.  Stating that out of 140,000 calls by the community over the year there were only 9 complaints by callers.  He added that while no one is perfect, and there certainly have at times been officers that acted improperly in the County in situations that must be dealt with, he stands by their record, and thinks that much of their success is due to the ongoing efforts of police for improving community relations, along with recent advisory boards that are set up for dialogue between area community members and police departments.

As is protocol in Orange County for any officer involved shooting,  there is a District Attorney and State Police review of whether the officer’s actions were called for.  Both Hoovler and Middletown Police Chief John Ewanciw, as well as Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano called Barone’s actions heroic, and said that his quick action may well have saved numerous injuries or possibly even deaths.  When asked about the other individuals in and around the house, Chief Ewanciw said they had been very cooperative.

“The attempted murder of a police officer is a crime which strikes at the very heart of public safety and the criminal justice system,” said District Attorney David M. Hoovler. “Now, more than ever, it is essential that those who illegally use weapons are held accountable and it is equally important that the public has confidence in the integrity of the investigation and the prosecutorial process utilized in these cases.” 

During the incident Barone had self-administered a tourniquet on the injured arm, called for backup, and followed up on securing the situation.  Both he and the assailant, Owens, were brought to local hospitals for treatment in stable condition.  Officer Barone, upon arriving at the hospital refused to be brought in, and insisted on walking in “on his own two feet”.

Washingtonville School District Says “We’re Ready”

After months of design and redesign, planning dozens of ways to keep students safe, and trying to jockeying a balance of in-school days and at home virtual learning, WCSD announced on Wednesday “HERE WE GO! We are READY for you! “

The district is still putting a few final touches, but plans to officially open schools next week.
Check our issue next week for the final plan.

Washingtonville Goes Teal

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and this year Washingtonville was asked to Turn the Town Teal a little differently. On August 31, a team of volunteers set up their chairs across from Betty’s Country Kitchen, and with masks and social distancing, handed out teal ribbons to community members. They were asked to display their ribbons on their own private property. Approximately 50 ribbons were given out by Mary Spear, Karen Goldsmith Mastropietro and Janice Valentino. If you were not able to get your ribbons, please consider putting up your own teal ribbon on your mailbox or front door.

Jerry, Charlote and Abby Peterson with Karen Goldsmith Mastropietra, Ovarian Cancer Warrior

Ribbons were provided by Nicole Feller Lee, founder of the Corinne Feller Memorial Fund for Ovarian Cancer Research and Awareness. For more information about Ovarian Cancer and symptoms, go to www.corinnefeller.org.

Assemblyman Schmitt Letter Opposing Ag District Modifications

Assemblyman Schmitt Letter Opposing Ag District Modifications

Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt has sent written testimony to the Orange County Planning Department opposing the negative proposed modifications to Orange County’s agricultural districts.

Local farmers have reached out to Assemblyman Schmitt’s office after being notified that their properties have been slated for removal from it’s agricultural district. 

Text of letter: *********************************

Dear Commissioner Sorensen:

I write with grave concerns over the proposed changes to Orange County’s agriculture districts.

Farm owners across my district have recently been notified of the intent to modify their parcel(s) designation(s) within their current agricultural district. Many prominent active farms have been recommended for removal per notification they received.

According to the proposed modifications removals account for a 13% reduction of the agricultural district in Orange County for an elimination of over 22,000+ acres.  This is unacceptable.

At a time when development pressures are at historic highs and farms are facing unprecedented pressure to be able to continue to operate we need to do all in our power to mitigate the number of parcel removals and status changes.

I understand COVID-19 closures and delays impacted this redistricting process, which only heightens the need to make sure this process is done the right way.

On behalf of the farms of the 99th District who face negative impacts I urge you to delay final action on the redistricting process within statutory limits until parcels with negative proposed modifications can have their status reviewed and reconsidered.

Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt stated, “At a time when development pressures are at historic highs and farms are facing unprecedented pressure to be able to continue to operate we need to do all in our power to mitigate the number of parcel removals and status changes. The 13% reduction is unacceptable and no action should be taken until all parcels with negative proposed modifications have their status reviewed and reconsidered.” 

(Photo by Chris Pawelski)

Village Of South Blooming Grove Election Looms

An important election for this small village is coming up on Tuesday, September 15.  Mayor Jim LoFranco is seeking another term, along with 2-term Trustee Sue Anne Vogelsburg.  Patricia Morrice is looking to fill the 3rd spot on their “People First” ticket.  She was appointed last year when Trustee Jim Mullany passed away. Several candidates who had tried to have Lo Franco and Vogelsburgh’s names removed from  the ballot lost their case and while they had signs up near the entrance to the Village for some months and are said to be electioneering house to house without any advertising or online information.

Candidate Abraham Weiss is still on the ballot to be running for the Mayoral spot; however, no contact information or information about his candidacy could be found online.

The election was postponed because of COVID concerns and the Village’s State of Emergency, but will be held on September 15, 2020 at the South Blooming Grove Independence Firehouse from 12:00pm to 9:00 pm. LoFranco points to his Trustees’ accomplishments including:
Merriewold Water Filtration Project approved and started:


• $1M in Grant monies secured for the village.
• Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grant awarded for drainage project.
• Annual budget consistently under NYS 2% tax cap.
• Actively pursuing and identifying water sources for the village.
• Village Hall upgrade completed in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Sears and Green Roads, Michael Court, and Galveston Drive repaved.
• Increased police patrol to ensure the safety of residents.

During Covid 19 Pandemic – Lo Franco says they have:

Constantly updated residents with information received from Orange County and New York State, distributed water to residents during the pandemic, coordinated with local municipalities to ensure the health and safety of the residents. and while practicing social distancing and safety protocols, kept a village staff member available to assist residents.

Newburgh Community Feeds Body & Soul

Newburgh Community Is Feeding Body & Soul

The ravages of COVID-19’s intrusion into our lives can be measured in many ways and looks very different in each community.  But who would have thought that a line more than half a mile long of families needing to get food  would be seen at no less than 4 schools in the Newburgh area.  This need for supplemental food became urgent this Summer and is one of the reasons that the Newburg Extended School District has worked so hard to begin reopening, since children at risk receive food at school through grants.  This distribution program to drive and pick up meals for home actually ran out of food at Meadow Hill School this past week, and other than one more delivery the food pick-up program will be ending in the coming week. But Newburgh is not the only community with some urgent needs.  Other school districts have been delivering meals, often 5 at a time, to children whose families continue to struggle because this State of Emergency may be less harsh, but continues

The people of Newburgh are fighting hard to take care of their own.  Sure they get outside help, and family support to add to their work income, some of which has been hard to get because of COVID closures. But no one is giving up around here.

Many Community Events are held at the beautiful and historic Downing Park, but on Tuesday it was peaceful with one mom and her child feeding the geese.

Just attend a Sunday Funday or watch videos of the extreme support system this community is offering each other.  Ask Natasha Dennis, who not only helps keep the young people’s spirits up with uplifting cheers, high-fives, a little singing, some dance moves and  games.  She and the other inspiring Sunday Funday volunteers are working with other community groups  to make sure people get registered to vote, fill out census forms so that Newburgh get maximum funding, enjoy recreation in things like Kings & Queens, Hook Elite Boxing, Crafting, Naacp and Save our Children.  And of course birthdays in the City still deserve a lavish party. The leadership shown is astounding.

This past weekend included a Census March and a book bag and clothing collection event.  By the look of the smiles on the children’s faces they had plenty of fun, and are geared and eager  to return to school.

(Photos provided)