Fire Causes Evacuation At New Windsor Yeshiva

Vails Gate FD was dispatched to reported structure fire 701 Blooming Grove Turnpike Yeshiva School on September 18. Vails Gate Command requested Newburgh FD to scene. Fire was contained to one room quickly put out,firefighters checked for extensions and set up fans to exhaust smoke in building. Town of New Windsor Police and EMS were at scene. One person was treated for smoke inhalation be EMS. Town of New Windsor Fire Inspector was called to scene and is handling the investigation along with New Windsor PD.

Message From Chabad Orange

From our family to yours – wishing you a Shana Tova Umetukah – a year overflowing with the sweetness of honey, a year bursting with good deeds like the seeds of the beautiful pomegranate and a year full of bountiful blessings! At this time of year, Hashem is waiting for each of us to connect to Him through good deeds and prayers. Connect in your own way, and feel the blessings being poured upon you! Shana tova!

KAPLAN FOUNDATION SAVES HISTORIC DESMOND HOUSE & 26 ACRES For Parkland & Educational Enrichment

By Edie Johnson

Town of Newburgh – As he has done many times before, philanthropist Bill Kaplan saw a pressing need, and stepped up to the plate, to the tune of $1M . After hearing about Mount Saint Mary College’s plan to sell the Desmond House, a long revered site that has offered continuing education for Seniors and enrichment programs along with trips for everyone, Kaplan and the Town of Newburgh received dozens of calls lamenting its expected loss. Letters to the Editor were added to the plea’s for someone to save the special site along with its 26 acres so it could continue  filling the important need it has accomplished for 30 years.

Bill and his daughter, Joan Kaplan, who is President of the Kaplan Foundation, discussed the possibility of a purchase and met with the Town of Newburgh, where the Desmond House and property are located, so the town could determine whether receiving the house and property as a Parkland addition would be a reasonable proposition given the need for future upkeep as parkland, as well as redevelopment of the educational and enrichment programs that have been so popular. They then asked Mount St. Mary College what it would cost.

A Grant Was Written & Intent to Apply was voted On by Town of Newburgh at Monday’s Town Board Session.

Bill Kaplan wants to emphasize the importance of “The Gift” (see Reader’s Corner, page 7) as a moral issue, saying that it was the intent of Alice Curtis Desmond for the property to be used this way when it was given in 1990.  The issue of changing its use had been brought to Surrogate’s Court which decided that the college could sell the property for a different use if so desired. Kaplan said he felt that was misuse of the intent in which the gift was given.

Kaplan’s grant offerings have been many, including the Newburgh Armory, SUNY’s Kaplan Hall, multiple grants to Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, Mount St. Mary College, Cornerstone Healthcare and Kaplan Hospice Center, among others, these totalling about  forty ($40M) million dollars.

The Grant that the  Kaplan family wrote for the house and property to be used as part of the Town’s Parkland, was structured so that town officials could vote to apply quickly, and indeed they did.  The vote on Monday night was taken within about 5 minutes of discussion. As a Parkland addition it will also have a better chance at permanent preservation.  Several board members and attendees (including former Desmond House program leaders) attending the session by ZOOM, and were holding back tears of joy as they spoke of the great opportunity this will give them, and the community at large, to rebuild the Center’s programs.

Town Supervisor, Gil Piaquadio said he believes this may allow Desmond House programs to resume by Spring. He added that he thought it would be a wonderful addition to the town’s Parkland as well as good for the environment.

In the past the Desmond House has offered dozens of courses, some of which included “Life Experience Credits”, others included full-length and short courses along with art, social, exercise programs and trips. 

“The Spirit Of The Gift”

The Spirit of the Gift

The Kaplan Family Foundation was recently made aware that the property now known as the Desmond Center for Adult Enrichment will be put on the market for sale by Mount Saint Mary College. The reason given was that the financial burden that the property upkeep and maintenance causes for the college was no longer viable.  Given the Foundation’s decades long involvement with the college we were surprised and displeased to hear the news.

Over the course of several decades the Foundation has issued grants to multiple not-for-profits and other worthy causes. Prior to awarding these grants there is a process of rigorous due diligence to ascertain that the grant recipient’s mission coincides with that of the Foundation.  We occasionally discover after the fact that the grantee has not performed to the original intent of the grant. 

As a family foundation we believe that in accepting a generous gift of this sort there is a moral and possibly legal obligation to live up to the spirit of the gift.

Following the 1990 death of owner Alice Curtis Desmond, this property was donated to the college for parkland and educational purposes along with a $2 million endowment for maintenance. Over the past three decades, thousands of grateful area residents have taken more than 100 courses of instruction in the arts, sciences, fitness and more. In 2018 alone more than 2,000 people attended classes. To sell this property solely for the purpose of alleviating financial burden on the college, with no consideration of maintaining the spirit of the original bequest, would not only be a travesty, but also a breach of trust. 

The Kaplan Family and the Kaplan Foundation believes that any dispersal of this estate should continue to honor the wishes of Alice Curtis Desmond for the mission of adult education and use as a parkland and environmental education center.

Joan Kaplan
President, Kaplan Family Foundation

NEW WINDSOR SUPERVISOR GEORGE MEYERS ENDORSES SARITA BHANDARKAR FOR NY ASSEMBLY

Republican Supervisor of Largest Town in the 99thDistrict Speaks Out, Calls for Better Representation in State Assembly New Windsor, NY –September 15, 2020 –George Meyers, Supervisor of the Town of New Windsor,today issued the following statement, reaching across party lines to endorse Sarita Bhandarkar (D, WFP –Cornwall) in the race to represent the 99thDistrict in the New York State Assembly:“Today, I announce my endorsement of Sarita Bhandarkar for Assemblymember in the 99th District.As a Republican who works to represent all of my New Windsor constituents faithfully and equitably, I recognize the importance of assembling the best team, regardless of party label. Sarita is thoughtful, intelligent,and fair, and is passionate about improving the lives and livelihoods of everyone in our community. From day one, she will have a strong voice in the legislature, and will ensure that New Windsor is heard.“For the past two years, our District and our Town have been ignored in the Assembly. Our current Assemblyman,Colin Schmitt, has not been the primary sponsor of any law that has benefited New Windsor. And unlike other productive Republicans in the Assembly, he has been simply unable to work with the majority to deliver for his constituents. This is not a surprise to New Windsor. Our Town’s prior administration invented an ineffective Chief of Staff position for Colin that cost our taxpayers $100,000 annually. Although my first act as Supervisor was to eliminate this role since it had no function, Colin had already used the title to position himself for future office. It’s time for all of us to stop funding his vanity and, instead,invest in representation who will work hard for us.“I will be voting for Sarita Bhandarkar on November 3rd and encourage my community to do the same.

Skoufis Grants $50,000 to Village of Chester for New Fuel Tanks

Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) recently presented Village of Chester Mayor Tom Bell with a check for $50,000 for the village to upgrade its municipal fuel tank system. Senator Skoufis secured the grant through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. 

The previous fuel tank was antiquated and inaccessible to local first responders and essential workers. The new fuel system, including two tanks, is larger, more up-to-date, and, importantly, accessible to fire trucks, the highway department, police department, and water department. The new fuel system is located at the Highway Department garage on Vadala Road, adjacent to the local firehouse. 

“Investing in much-needed improvements to municipal services will continue to be a top priority of mine, especially now when local governments and taxpayers need all the relief they can get,” said Senator Skoufis. “Securing reliable fuel tanks that our first responders can depend on in times of need is a common-sense project that I was glad to help make happen.” 

Village of Chester Mayor Bell said, “On behalf of the Village of Chester, I thank Senator Skoufis for securing a $50,000 grant for the Village of Chester Fuel Station and for putting in motion several other grants. We greatly appreciate the support he has provided to our community. The Village of Chester Fuel Station not only services the Village of Chester Police, Street and Water Departments, it also services the Walton Engine and Hose Fire Department. Our Village thanks Senator Skoufis for his continued contributions of his time and public service.” 

Senator Skoufis will be making additional funding announcements in the coming weeks as he continues to prioritize bringing back our taxpayer dollars from Albany. 

Think Your Vote Doesn’t Count? Village Of South Blooming Grove Incumbent Candidates Ousted!

By Edie Johnson

Residents of the Village of South Blooming Grove are in shock this morning as the new Hasidic residents in their village succeeded last night in becoming a majority of the  Village Board.  Mayor Jim LoFranco said they will definitely be doing a recount and will check the validity of every single vote. But there would have to be 113 votes invalidated to even get to a tie.  Two Trustees, John Ross and Johnny Belfast were not yet up for re-election.

Mayoral & Trustee Votes
Mayor Jim LoFranco – 433
George Kalaj – 546

Vitzchok Feldman – 518
Abraham Weiss – 522

Sue Anne Vogelsburg – 426
Patricia Morrice – 369
LaShanta Stevens- 15

Residents lined up in front of the VSBG Independence  Fire Department adjacent to the Village of Blooming Grove Town Hall all afternoon and evening, at times reaching Route 208.  Several chairs were set out for seniors to rest during the long wait.   At 11:30 pm the line still continued to the end of the Fire Department lot.

At 11am this morning  Mayor LoFranco called and said that the count was done and the news was not good for him and his fellow board members.  He said he is proud of the work he has done in getting a filtration system to solve the village’s water problems, renovating the Village Hall, and all that he has done to care of his residents during the pandemic.

Was COVID-19 a factor in keeping other residents at home or unable to register to vote?  Did residents think their vote didn’t matter? In the end there were at least 2,000 residents in the village who did not come out to vote. With campaign teams having visited just about every residence in the Village, and the date and time well publicized,  it is unlikely that anyone did not vote because they did not know that the election was happening.

Apparently nearly every Hasidic resident went to the effort to get register, to get to the polls, and they voted. Unless over 100 votes are invalidated, the Hasidic community will have the major say in future decisions of the Village of South Blooming Grove. 

Rabbi Yoel Loeb and other members of his “Peace and Justice Coalition” were at the voting site several times on election day to support Mayor Jim LoFranco and encourage cooperation.

Blooming Grove Receives $50,000 For ADA Inclusive Playground

 Assemblyman Colin Schmitt delivered a $50,000 grant thisTuesday to the Town of Blooming Grove for the purchase and installation of a new inclusive ADA compliant playground at Lasser Park.  Supervisor Jeroloman reached out to Assemblyman Schmitt seeking grant assistance to offset the costs of completing the purchase and installation of the an inclusive playground at Lasser Park. Jeroloman said the Town had already received funding toward a lengthy ramp entrance that will improve access to the inclusive playground area through a Community Block Grant they had applied for last year.This $50,000 grant will ensure that the  area is fully ADA compliant and will allow purchase of the needed playground equipment.

Assemblyman Schmitt stated, “I feel blessed to serve as Assemblyman and be able to deliver a $50,000 grant so that children of all abilities will have the opportunity to play together at Lasser Park. This grant funding will help the Town government complete the playground project and provide state of the art ADA compliant equipment for all to enjoy. The people of our district deserve the very best and I will continue to deliver that for our communities with wonderful projects like this.” 

Town of Blooming Grove Supervisor Robert Jeroloman stated, “With Assemblyman Schmitt’s help, we will finally have an all inclusive playground in the Town of Blooming Grove Park System. Blooming Grove has been working toward an all inclusive playground for some time now and we are thrilled that Assemblyman Schmitt has stepped up to help us get this funding. Assemblyman Schmitt has always done his best to help the Town of Blooming Grove and we are grateful for his continued support.” 

Town of Blooming Grove Highway Superintendent Wayne Kirkpatrick added,“I’d like to thank Assemblyman Schmitt for his continued commitment and partnership with the Blooming Grove community. We are thankful for his leadership and providing the Town of Blooming Grove with this grant so that we can have an all inclusive playground for the children!”

Caption 1: Assemblyman Colin Schmitt holding check in center with Supervisor Rob Jeroloman and from left to right Blooming Grove Building and Grounds Director Dave Keller, Councilman Amante, Deputy Supervisor Doering, Councilman Quick, Councilman Devinko and Highway Superintendent Kirkpatrick

Caption 2: Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, Highway Supervisor Wayne Kirkpatrick, Building and Grounds Director Dave Keller

BREAKING NEWS: Town Of Newburgh Re. Desmond House

By Edie Johnson

The Town Board of the Town of Newburgh just passed a resolution to seek a $1M grant being offered by Bill Kaplan of the Kaplan Foundation . The grant is being offered to the Town of Newburgh for the purpose of acquiring the historic Desmond House in Balmville, which has been and will now be able to continue to be used for continuing education, including art and programs that will enable seniors as well as others to better themselves and their community. Town of Newburgh Supervisor Gil Piaquadio said this acquisition will be a huge benefit to the town’s park system, and will enable it to grow additional programs, some that will be a wonderful addition to their parks environment, and will also likely include additional related trips that their Parks Department system currently offers.

In an interview this morning, Mr. Kaplan emphasized that while his numerous philanthropic gifts have usually benefited mainly health and educational programs in the City of Newburgh, this time it is meant also to ensure that the original intent of the “Gift of the Desmond House”, located at the North end of the Town of Newburgh, is honored, and that it will not be put on the general real estate market for sale. (See Bill Kaplan’s comments about “The Gift” below.) Mount Saint Mary College recently decided to sell the house and property due to falling income during the Pandemic. When Kaplan and his daughter, Joan, who is President of the Kaplan Foundation, heard of the plan to sell and the outcry from dozens of area residents who have enjoyed the programs there, they decided to act.

Several councilmembers along with ZOOM meeting attendees who have participated in learning activities there over the years said they could hardly contain their joy that this is happening.

THE SPIRIT OF THE GIFT

The Kaplan Family Foundation was recently made aware that the property now known as the Desmond Center for Adult Enrichment will be put on the market for sale by Mount Saint Mary College. The reason given was that the financial burden that the property upkeep and maintenance causes for the college was no longer viable.  Given the Foundation’s decades long involvement with the college we were surprised and displeased to hear the news.
Over the course of several decades the Foundation has issued grants to multiple not-for-profits and other worthy causes. Prior to awarding these grants there is a process of rigorous due diligence to ascertain that the grant recipient’s mission coincides with that of the Foundation.  We occasionally discover after the fact that the grantee has not performed to the original intent of the grant. 
As a family foundation we believe that in accepting a generous gift of this sort there is a moral and possibly legal obligation to live up to the spirit of the gift.
Following the 1990 death of owner Alice Curtis Desmond, this property was donated to the college for parkland and educational purposes along with a $2 million endowment for maintenance. Over the past three decades, thousands of grateful area residents have taken more than 100 courses of instruction in the arts, sciences, fitness and more. In 2018 alone more than 2,000 people attended classes. To sell this property solely for the purpose of alleviating financial burden on the college, with no consideration of maintaining the spirit of the original bequest, would not only be a travesty, but also a breach of trust. 
The Kaplan Family and the Kaplan Foundation believes that any dispersal of this estate should continue to honor the wishes of Alice Curtis Desmond for the mission of adult education and use as a parkland and environmental education center.

Joan KaplanPresident,
Kaplan Family Foundation

See more on this story tomorrow online and in this week’s Orange County Post published on Friday.

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