Nyack Sketch Log: Farmers’ Market Doubles Down


The Orchards of Concklin

Since Nicholas Concklin sought to have the land that he farmed named Pomona after the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance, 11 generations of Concklins have tilled the soil in Rockland County. The Orchards of Concklin is the oldest family business in New York State and the eighth oldest in the country.

Read more.

by Bill Batson

Nyack Farmers’ Market has doubled down. Locally produced foods and eco-friendly services are now available Thursdays and Saturdays.

Four of the veggie vendors who participate in the Saturday market travel less than 100 miles to bring their fresh farm goods to your table.

“Compare this short distance to the 2,713 miles for an avocado from Mexico, or the 4,261 miles a kiwi fruit travels from Italy,” according to Pam Moskowitz, who manages the market on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. “How much fuel is used and pollution emitted to get these non-local products to a grocery store?”

From 8a until 2p on Thursdays and from 8a until 1p on Saturdays, residents of Nyack can radically reduce their carbon footprint by shopping in the main municipal parking lot. Local musicians will serenade you, your family will applaud you for the fresh ingredients you bring home and the planet will appreciate your environmental sensitivity.

Over the last three years, Nyack Sketch Log has profiled 8 Farmers’ Market vendors. They range from a family that started cultivating the soil in Rockland before the Revolutionary War, to a recently returned Iraq veteran who raises livestock in New Jersey.

Here is a digital introduction of some of the vendors of the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Nyack. (a complete list is available below)

PieLady&SonPie Lady & Son

Deborah Tyler had 300 pie orders to fill in the Fall of 2001. The single mother of three had converted her one floor rental into a Department of Health approved commercial kitchen.  A New York Times review and a Good Morning America segment were bringing in business from both sides of the Hudson River. It was at the height of her notoriety that Deborah sold her equipment and moved to Cooperstown.

Here is the story of how the popularity of their pies once imperiled the Pie Lady and now propels the Pie Lady & Son.

Read more.

Rockland Farm Alliance

NSL_CSA_featured imageThe Rockland Farm Alliance operates a Community Supported Agriculture program from Cropsey Farms Little Tor Road in New City. In addition to providing fresh produce weekly to almost 200 families and supporting other local farms, The RFA supplies local restaurants and health food stores and cooperatives with organic produce including Hudson House, Union Restaurant, Taste of Distinction, and Sweetpea’s Market.

Read more.

NSL_Powell Teagevity_featured ImageTeagevity

During his journey from Harlem to Martha’s Vineyard to Nyack, Preston Powell has melded a teacup, Karate and a tradition of the African American church from his childhood into his holistic and locally based business, Teagevity.

Read more.

NSL_Green Mountain Energy_Featured Thumbnail_ImageGreen Mountain Energy

Green Mountain Energy was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Austin, Texas. The renewable energy
company has been a presence at the Nyack Farmers’ market since the spring of 2012.

Read more.

X-calibur Knife Sharpening (Thurdays only)

Neighborhood Knifesharpener-Featured ImageUtilizing a panel truck that doubles as his workshop, Scott Jennings brings knife sharpening services to several neighborhoods, including Nyack at the Thursday Farmers’ Market. A life-long metal worker, Jennings has welded boats and ultralight wheelchairs, and installed ladders that scale 180 foot grain silos. But he’s happiest when grinding the perfect bevel on a dull blade.

Read more.

RevoluSunNSL_revolusun_featured image_revised

To paraphrase the musical “Annie,” and a report from an April 17 White House energy summit, you can bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be more solar power in America. From the stock market to the farmers’ market, renewable energy from the sun is gaining in popularity. From a corner storefront in Nyack, Revolusun is providing regional consumers the tools to harness the power of the sun.

Read more.

Southtown Farmsrooster_featured image (Thursdays Only)

During his military service, he saw “a lot of sheepherders in Iraq” with “not very good-looking sheep.” Today, Matt is a first generation livestock farmer, who provides non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed poultry at the Nyack Farmers’ Market every Thursday.

Read more.

Nyack Saturday Farmers Market Vendors

[full][half flow="start"]Acorn Hill Farms –  family farmed micro-creamery from a herd of organically raised and managed dairy goats, cheeses, yogurts, and fudge.

Aunt Vicky’s Bickys — homemade gourmet dog treats

Bill Batson Arts, LTDNyack cards, prints, tote bags and original art

Blue Lotus Botanicals skin care products, including soap, whipped shea butter, muscle rub, body powder

Cactus Pete’s Homemade Jerky Beef Jerky from grass fed beef

The Challah Fairy -fresh homemade challah made under the supervision from Rabbi Zushe Blech

Clean Ridge Soap Companybar soap, liquid soap, shampoo, lotion, soy candles, diffusers, diffuser oil, lip balm

Cropsey Community Farm, a project of Rockland Farm Alliance biodynamically grown produce, ground flour, dried beans

Gajeski Producelarge variety of seasonal produce

Green Meadow Waldorf School (Sponsor) – Rockland County’s only Waldorf School; located in Chestnut Ridge

Green Mountain Energy Company (Sponsor) – retailer of cleaner energy

Hummingbird Ranchhoney & related products, maple syrup, beeswax products (skin cream, lip balm, candles)[/half]

[half flow="end"]Jordan Brenner’s Sauces & Spices maple mango sauce, strawberry sauce, garlic lime sauce, sing splash, spice blend, pretzels

Kiernan Farmall cuts of grass fed Beef, all cuts of farm-raised pork

The Little Flower Shop of Nyackflowers

Maria’s Gourmet Edibles, perfect for appetizers or meals, Maria’s stuffed breads are great to serve anytime

Meredith’s Country Bakery fresh baked pies and breads, quiche, muffins, cookies, brownies, tarts, scones, biscotti

Mostly Myrtle’s Biskookysgluten free biscotti, muffins cupcakes,graham crackers, brownies; small batch coffee

Nico’s Chimi - Authentic Argentinian Chimichurri Steak

The Orchards of Concklinfruit, produce, eggs, pies, cookies, honey, seasonal plants

Pie Lady & Sonhomemade pies and cookies

R&G Producefarm fresh produce

Southtown FarmsOrganic feed chickens and eggs

Teagevityorganic loose tea, herbs & tea gear

Warwick Valley Winery — wine, hard cider, dessert cordials, liqueur, apple jack spirits[/half] [/full]

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Farmers’ Market Doubles Down“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: Hip Hopper Hooray!

Loads of Odes to Edward Hopper_Featured Image

Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine Nivison and their cat Arthur

by Bill Batson


“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper, 1942

Edward Hopper’s posthumous popularity continues to soar. In April 2014, Art Everywhere U.S. conducted a poll to see what paintings Americans wanted displayed nationally on billboards, bus shelters, and subway platforms. “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper received the most votes.

With Hopper’s childhood home converted to an arts center on North Broadway in Nyack, and his final resting place around the corner at Oak Hill cemetery, it’s time to roll out the welcome mat for the world to visit the village that nurtured the talent of our country’s favorite visual artist.

Other municipalities are seeking to mine the gold that is in the pigment of Hopper’s paintings. “Chicago is a world-class city with phenomenal cultural institutions that house iconic works of art,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I am proud that the Art Institute of Chicago…is providing 12 paintings [to the Art Everywhere outdoor exhibit] from its renowned collection, including the most popular painting ‘Nighthawks.'” If the mayor of the nation’s third largest city is dropping Edward Hopper’s name to attract tourists, maybe Nyack should stake a larger claim to our hometown hero.

Kris Burns presents “Chasing Edward Hopper”

LAI_Kris Burns_Hopper Happens A reception for Edward Hopper House Art Center Artist-in-Residence Kris Burns will be held on July 11. Her exhibit, Chasing Edward Hopper, is a selection of photographs and videos capturing Hopper Happens, her multi-media celebration of Edward Hopper’s lasting influence. In addition to images and videos of the flash mobs, pop-up projections and performances Burns staged on the streets of Nyack during Hopper Happens, she will present the entire series of original short films she created for her QR coded digital walking tour.

Homage To Hopper

Nyack Art Collective Celebrates First Anniversary on July 11

Nyack Art Collective Logo Also on Fri., July 11, from 5-8p, the Nyack Art Collective will celebrate their one year anniversary at the Edward Hopper House Art Center. “Homage to Hopper” is an evening of Hopper-inspired art, food and entertainment in the backyard of the Hopper House at 82 N. Broadway featuring High 5 Vocal Works and High Standards with special guest Sam Waymon.

Music in the Garden

The Edward Hopper House Art Center’s annual Music in the Garden jazz series begins July 10, at 7:30p.

  • July 10 – Dick Voigt and the Big Apple Jazz Band
  • July 17 – Mark Patterson Quintet
  • July 24 – Scott Reeves Jazz Big Band – Nyack Jazz Week
  • July 31 – Shirley Crabbe and Friends
  • August 7th – The Jeremy Wall Group

As interest in the artist grows, Nyack has the backstory to meet the unquenchable thirst for Hopper.  International art pilgrims make up an increasing segment of visitors to the Edward Hopper House Art Center at 82 North Broadway, according to Hopper House Director, Victoria Hertz. “I would say 75% of our daily visitors are from outside Rockland and half of those are from outside the United States. Just last week we had visitors from Germany and Australia,” Hertz said.

This significant cultural landmark was saved from destruction in the early 1970s by an ad-hoc coalition that included neighbors, Rotarians, labor unions, students and artists. Not many causes can assemble such a vast cross section of humanity; fewer can inspire the kind of contributions that were necessary to restore a structure that was literally a few signatures away from condemnation.

Born in Nyack in 1882, Hopper graduated from Liberty when it was a k-12 school.  He lived here into the 1920s,  but would return to visit his sister, Marion, wwho occupied the house he grew up in until her death in 1965. The artist died on May 15, 1967 and his wife of over 40 years, artist Josephine Verstille Nivison, passed away a year later. The demise of this entire cohort of the Hopper family over such a short span put the future of the family home in jeopardy. After Marion’s death, the house became an abandoned eyesore inhabited by squatters.

When Jeffrey and Barbara Arnold intervened to save the house of their late neighbor Marion in 1970, a real estate investor with plans to demolish the home and build apartments had already purchased the property from the Hopper Estate. The Arnolds were able to raise $15,000 from gifts and interest free loans from concerned citizens to buy back Hopper’s house.

That was just the beginning of what local architect and Chair of the Historical Society of the Nyacks Win Perry calls the greatest and most exciting adventure of his life. Perry volunteered to coordinate the restoration project. The steady stream of individuals and organizations that answered the call to save Hopper’s house and appeared at the work site to lend a hand must have resembled an Amish barn raising. This community-based volunteer initiative preserved a tourist destination of growing national and global interest.

There are two measures of status in the art world; the price an artist’s paintings fetch at auction and attendance at major exhibitions.In both arenas, Edward Hopper is an enduring heavy weight cultural champion:

  • In 2006, comedian Steve Martin sold Hopper’s painting “Hotel Window” for $26 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
  • In 2004, 420,000 people visited the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Tate Gallery in London, England in only three months.
  • Hopper's Hotel

    “Hotel Window” by Edward Hopper, 1955

    From July to Oct. 2011, a Hopper exhibit at Bowdoin College Museum,  broke attendance records.

  • From Oct. 2012 – Feb. 2013, Hopper’s retrospective at the Grand Palais, in Paris France had 780,000 visitors. The exhibit was so popular that the last few days the museum stayed open around the clock.
  • In the summer of 2012, Middlebury College, had 10,000 visit their Hopper exhibit. The population of Middlebury is 8,000.
Hopper House_Featured Thumbnail

Edward Hopper House Art Center by Bill Batson

The benefits of co-branding the Village of Nyack and one of the most popular painters on the planet, Edward Hopper, are compelling. Many towns have scenic views of the Hudson River, are convenient to transportation routes and have quaint downtowns that tempt travelers and tourists alike to stop to spend some time and money. But only Nyack has Edward Hopper.

Hopper’s legacy is an asset that continues to rise in value.  Three cheers for the artist whose talent is a gift that keeps on giving: Hip Hopper Hooray!

For more information about exhibitions and upcoming special events visit edwardhopperhouse.org.

The 58 works of art that were selected by the public in the Art Everywhere U.S. survey will “pop-up” on billboards, bus shelters and subway platforms around the country starting August 4.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Hip Hopper Hooray“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: Veteran-Owned Southtown Farms

rooster_featured imageby Bill Batson

In 2004, Marine Matt Saldano was deployed to Iraq, serving as a member of a quick reaction force. “We [were] deployed at the commander’s discretion to reinforce any part of the forward operating base.”

During his military service, he saw “a lot of sheepherders in Iraq” with “not very good-looking sheep.” Today, Matt is a first generation livestock farmer, who provides non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed poultry at the Nyack Farmers’ Market every Thursday.

Meet veteran, farmer, and entrepreneur Matt Saldano.

Do you wake the chickens or do the chickens wake you?

I wake the chickens, definitely. Sometimes they’ll wake my daughter from her nap though.


Matt at Nyack’ Farmers’ Market (art by his daughter)

Where is Southtown Farms?

We are located in Mahwah, New Jersey.

When did you become a farmer?

We started with chickens in 2010, and we add a little to the operation every year. As a livestock farmer, we raise chicken, turkeys, ducks, pigs, as well as beef cattle.

When did you serve in the military?


Where did you serve?

I assume you mean when did I head to Iraq.  It was August of 04-April of 05

Have you received all the services that you have earned from the Department of Veterans Affairs?

Yes. For as much bad press as the VA gets, they do the best they can, in New Jersey anyway.  People need to realize that the VA is a government organization like any other. They try to accomplish everything they are tasked with, but they are the equivalent of a very large ship in the ocean. It takes a long time to turn.

NSL_Southtown_PigWould you encourage any of your fellow veterans to go into your line of work?

Absolutely. The lifestyle and discipline required is very similar to the discipline of military service.

Was there someone in your family who introduced you to farming?

I’m a first generation farmer. Growing up, we were the typical Italian family with a large garden to feed ourselves all summer, but never any livestock. Actually, growing up we were raised vegetarian. Now I only eat meat that I grow myself.

NSL_Southtown_chickensHow many chickens are in your coops?

No more than 150 per pen. The pens are rotated through the yard twice daily, allowing the chickens free access to fresh pasture every day.

What is the toughest thing about raising chickens?

It’s more mentally demanding than physical. There is definitely a physical component to it, but I would say the hardest thing about chickens is the daily schedule. Come rain, snow, sleet, or dead of night (like the pony express), all the animals must be fed, watered, cleaned, and eggs collected. Every single day. Livestock don’t take holidays.

George Washington was a soldier, a farmer and a statesman. Any thoughts of running for public office?

The politicians of Washington’s era actually accomplished things. I feel these days, our politicians are no more than figureheads. I can accomplish many more noble tasks as a farmer than I ever could in politics. The people need to eat. We don’t need more politicians.

NSL_Southtown_IraqCan I post a picture taken during your military service?

I prefer a group photo instead of an individual one. It was never about ourselves. Everything we did was for the platoon. We ate, drank, slept, and fought together, 24/7. No one acted as an individual. I was the 3rd truck leader, and am in the lower left of this photo.

Are there any skills that you picked up in the military that help in raising chickens?


Nyack Farmers’ Market
New Vendors, 2nd Day to Shop

Southtown Farms joined the Nyack Farmers’ Market this spring. You can visit Matt at his booth every Thursday from 8a – 2p in the main municipal parking lot.

Starting on June 7, the Nyack Farmer’s Market launched a Saturday market. The Saturday market is open from 8a until 1p.

Each market session includes farm fresh produce, locally prepared baked goods, art and entertainment.

This Thursday, July 3, Susan Nevins-Roues and Billy Roues will offer their original spin on old-time country depression-era duos, featuring guitar, mandolin, banjo, national steel and close harmony.

On Saturday July 5, David Frye will perform his brand of acoustic and electric roots music & beyond.

For more information visit nyackfarmers’market.

What time did you wake up when you were in the military?

That depended on our training schedules. Sometimes 0200, sometimes you wouldn’t sleep at all. The mission dictates.

What time do you wake up now?

0400 on market days, 0500 on non market days.

How did you get the name Southtown Farms?

My wife, Deanna and I purchased our first property on Southtown Road. Hence the name.  Southtown Farms now owns, leases, or manages approximately 60 acres of land spread throughout Northern New Jersey.

Did you see any farms where you served?

I saw a lot of sheep herders in Iraq. Not very good looking sheep.

Do you cook chicken as well as raise them?

My wife and I both enjoy cooking. Generally, I’ll cook dinner all week, and she’ll cook and preserve the garden (canning) on the weekend.  This time of year, we usually don’t get done with work till 9 pm. Dinner is usually late in the summer, but we make sure to sit down as a family every night.

NSL_Southtown_ChickenWhat is your favorite chicken recipe?

Simply roasted, with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and tarragon.
Not exciting but it’s simple, easy, and delicious.

Tell me about the buildings in my sketch?

That’s the original barn on our property. It’s estimated that it was built in the late 1700’s. The small building next to it was the original one room schoolhouse for the town of Oakland, which was settled in the 1800’s.

Tell me about the chicken crossing sign?

My mother-in-law loves signs.

Do your chickens cross the road? And if so, do you know why?

Because the grass is always greener!

What else would you like people to know about Southtown Farms?

We are much more than just an egg producer. From chicken, to turkey, to pork to beef; we try to do it all.

You can visit Matt’s booth at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays, to thank him for his service and pick up some ethically and organically produced poultry products.

Learn more at SouthtownFarms.com.

Special thanks to Nancy Eisen.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Veteran-Owned Southtown Farms“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: O’Donoghue’s Tavern

O'Donoghue's_Featured_Revisedby Bill Batson

For 62 of the last 64 years, the pub near the corner of Main Street and Broadway in Nyack has been owned by an O’Donoghue. There has been an O’Donoghue behind the bar since 1949, when Paul O’Donoghue Sr. started working as a night barman for what was then called Charlie’s Bar & Grill. After Charlie Lindell’s death in 1960, his wife, Hilda, sold the bar to Paul. This May, Paul O’Donoghue’s son Kevin returned to the helm of the bar after a two year hiatus.

O’Donoghue’s Tavern is where many had their first drink or first date. For generations, 66 Main Street has been the venue for formal and informal bachelor and bachelorette parties, high school reunions and anniversaries. For over a century there has been an adult community center on this site serving liquid recreation and comfort food. If you wanted to go where everybody knew your name in Nyack, you went to O’D’s.

NSL147_Paul Sr.

Paul O’Donoghue, Sr.

“I’ve been going to O’D’s since I was in high school,” Pickwick Bookshop owner Jack Dunnigan reminisced. Dunnigan is well acquainted with the tavern business. His family operated the beloved Dunnigan’s Bar & Grill in West Haverstraw for decades.

NSL147_Drew Eastwick

Kevin O’Donoghue (r.) with Drew Eastwick

“I wanted to branch out from Haverstraw, so I came to Nyack” Dunnigan said. “Mr. and Mrs. O’Donoghue would treat you like family. There was a certain degree of decorum that was expected and if you went beyond that point, they would let you know. They never had to remind me, of course. And when you left, Paul Sr. would always say ‘G’night, G’night’ or ‘next time bring money,'” Dunnigan fondly recalled.

Upon hearing Jack’s recollection, Kevin O’Donoghue said, “He’s lying,” as he lifted the corner of his mouth to form a playful smile. “Jack started coming here in grade school.”

A more solemn example of the family feeling that many associate with O’Donoghue’s  is from the aftermath of the Brinks robbery in 1980 when Nyack Police Officers, Edward O’Grady and Waverly “Chip” Brown were shot down.

“Everything was closed in town the day after the shooting, but there were hundreds NSL147Shieldof firefighters and cops who came to Nyack and had no where to go, so my father opened the bar. He served them, but he wouldn’t take any money. When they left that first night, the bar was covered in cash, so he gathered it up, and brought it to the police station and told them to give it to the widows and orphans fund,” said O’Donoghue.

“A few weeks later, the Emerald Society Marching Band walked through our doors circling around my mother and father as they sat in the back.  I remember my mother crying. Phil Caruso, the Police Benevolent Association President, gave my father an honorary shield,” O’Donoghue continued.

Times may change, but a neighbor and a number stay the same.

O’D’s neighbor, Mazeppa Engine Co., No.2,  was established in 1852.

In the 19th century, alarms were raised by ringing a massive bell that once stood in front of the fire house.  When the bell was finally retired, it was installed in the tower of the North campus of Nyack College.

The name of the fire house is taken from a poem by Lord Byron. The poem describes a young man who is exiled from Poland for an affair. Mazeppa is strapped naked to a wild horse that is let loose.

Mazeppa eventually returns and becomes King and eventually defeats the Russians in what is now the Ukraine.

Historical records verify that an Ivan Mazeppa served in the Polish Court of John II Casimir.

ELmwood 8 – 0180

In the early to mid-20th century, words were used as mnemonic devices to help telephone company customer remember phone numbers.  The first two letters in the word corresponded to the first two digits in the number. Elmwood translated into 35.  The phone number for OD’s, 358-0180 has endured.

Nyack’s community theater, Elmwood Playhouse, took their name from the prefix

Kevin’s plans for the future are expressed in simple terms, “I am very happy to be back with all my friends. My plan is to enjoy life.”

With the brevity that is the soul of wit, a sign on the door says it all: “O’D’s is under ‘new’ old management.”

O’D’s: A Timeline


As early as 1909, a tavern has stood at this spot. A post card created on a gravure cylinder and printed in Germany captured the proud proprietor whose name has been lost to history.


Returning from the Great War, John “Butch” Logue has his first drink 66 Main St, Nyack.


Hilda and Charles Lindell open Charlie’s Bar & Grill.


Paul O’Donoghue Sr. works nights behind the bar at Charlie’s. During the days, he is the station manager at the Erie Railroad’s terminal in South Nyack.1949


After Charlie’s passing, Hilda offered the business to Paul O’Donoghue,  On August 26, 1960, the deed was transferred.  After over a decade as the night barman, a tavern owner and an institution was born.

NSL147_ButchO’Donoghue Sr. is known for a no-nonsense manner. When asked to mix a cocktail that he thought “frilly,” he would slap a shot glass hard on the bar and ask “will it fit in there?”  He was also known to summon a brogue and belt out his own rendition of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”


Paul Sr. retires and passes the reins to his eldest son, Kevin.


Butch passes away at 95.  To give some perspective about the length of his tenure, when he first started frequenting the tavern, women did not have the right to vote.  At that time, it was considered unladylike to be seen in a bar, so the servers would bring the drinks to the backyard, that is now the kitchen, for men and women who wanted to imbibe together.


Paul O’Donoghue Sr., passes away at the age of 84.


In November, Robert Lewis becomes the owner of O’D’s.


In May, Kevin O’Donoghue returns to the saloon’s saddle.

Much of the history on this timeline was drawn from a web page created by Barry Koch, Manager of Programs and Publicity at the Blauvelt Free Library.

O’Donoghue/Eastwick photo by Pete Cizweski.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: O’Donoghue’s Tavern“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: Liberty Elementary School

NSL146_Featured Image

Backdrop for Liberty Elementary School’s fifth grade play, American Dream

by Bill Batson

Last May, I became an insta-parent. One day I was childless, and the next, I was the parent of a fourth grader. With no handbook, or on-the-job-training, valuable time during these crucial developmental years may have been lost. However, from the moment our child stepped foot into Liberty Elementary School, the arc of her educational progress shot up like a rocket.

Evidence of Janae’s strong academic performance covers our refrigerator, where any test that she scores an A is displayed. We are running out of magnets and door space. The list of people we have to thank, including the principal, teachers and support staff would consume the 750 (or so) words I allow myself each week. So I’ve chosen to focus on just one component of Liberty’s excellent educational program; music.


Janae Peterson with eyes glued on her conductor, Ann Winze at the Spring Concert.

NSL146_Fridge revisedMusic is in Janae’s DNA. We witnessed that the first time she touched a keyboard. Her fingers were searching for chords, not simply pecking at notes. At eight years old, she joined the choir at Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Elaine Philhower, the music teacher at Liberty with two decades of experience, saw her talent right away.  “You could tell that she enjoyed singing. In third grade, when she came to Liberty, she started to play the drum kit. In fourth grade, she began violin. Now, she has moved onto the piano and has taught herself “We Shall Overcome.”  (As much as music has given her confidence in the classroom, Philhower credits Janae’s academic achievement to her homeroom teacher for the last three years, Patricia Crafts.)

Philhower conducting The American Dream

Philhower conducting The American Dream

“I’ve been teaching in Nyack since 1993, and music in the elementary schools has always been a strong component of the overall school program,” Philhower said. “There have been many strong elementary music teachers throughout the years. Judy Thomas taught at Upper Nyack for over 30 years, and she is internationally known as a leader in music education. She has been published and teaches in universities around the country. She was one of my mentors. Dru Pluhowski, our high school vocal teacher, student taught with Judy,” she continued.

A timeline of Liberty and Lake Road Elementary

NSL146_Lake Shore Road

Lake Road Elementary School under construction

  • Liberty was the name given to the first school in Nyack. Before Liberty School was built in  1852, schooling was private and only for families who could afford the fees.
  • The original Liberty School was built on Depew Avenue near Nyack Center, it evolved from a one room schoolhouse to a large building educating children from Kindergarten until 12th grade.
  • Until the High School was built in 1928, Liberty was the only school in Nyack.
  • As other schools were built, Liberty took on a variety of educational and community uses until it was demolished as part of the Urban Renewal Program in Nyack in 1979.
  • Lake Road Elementary School, which we now call Liberty, was built in 1960.
  • In 1968, portables in front of the main building were constructed to accommodate redistricted students transferred after the closing of Liberty School.
  • Fire destroyed a large portable in 1979.
  • The school was renamed Liberty Elementary School in 1983.

The current principal of Liberty, Ellen Rechenberger, taught at the school as a kindergarten teacher for eight years. She became principal of the 444 student elementary school in 2007.

Most of this timeline was constructed from notes created by John J. Lavaglio Jr..

As soon as Janae showed an interest music, an escalator of opportunity appeared in front of her.  She was asked to be a helper in the music room for younger students. Then, she was encouraged to attend the district’s summer music camp at Nyack High School. Now, she has received a scholarship for private violin lessons.

“Claudette Jimerson built the orchestra program up from nothing to what we have now. She was a contemporary of Judy Thomas. Claudette was the only string teacher in the district for years and years. When I started teaching in the district she was still the only string teacher, but a year or so after that we added another teacher.

“We had a very strong chairperson, Dr. Doug Bish, who took over as Music Department chair around 11 years ago, who also had very high standards, and then Christine Gero joined us as the high school orchestra teacher, who was also very demanding,” Philhower recounts.

Currently, Janae’s string teacher is Ann Winze. Matt Lucero, who has moved on to be the Orchestra Director at Nyack High School, was instrumental in getting Janae a slot in the orchestral program. Janae’s violin instructor is Anna Silarski, a student in the Master in Music Education program at New York University and a graduate of the Nyack music program.

NSL146_ Jimerson

Jimerson String Festival

This year, taking the stage has become a major part of Janae’s music education. This spring she participated in three major productions. In her school play, The American Dream, directed by Philhower, Janae had a speaking role as Harriet Tubman, she also sang and had a solo. Janae, one of her classmates and I created the backdrop for the play that serves as this week’s illustration.

At the annual Spring Concert, Janae performed on violin in three numbers, but the highlight of each year’s music season in Nyack is the Jimerson String Festival, which was held on May 18.

Music Works

MusicWorks is a works committee of the non-profit Arts Angels, supporting music within the Nyack schools.

To learn more, visit musicworksfornyack.com 

Mostly Music

The Nyack High School Jazz Band will kick off the mostly music jazz festival in Memorial Park on June 24th.

The evening will start with crafts & games at 5:30p and music at 6:30p.

For the tenth annual program, with Claudette seated in the front row, hundreds of students were conducted by Matt Lucero, Kristen Johnson and Ann Winze to a packed gymnasium at Nyack High School. The musicianship was exceptional.  Aaron Copland’s complex composition Hoe Down was made to look like child’s play by the High School Chamber Orchestra. Janae played with her elementary school peers, and then with the district’s string students in a piece called Tap Roots.

The dedication of a group of extraordinary parents was also on display at the festival. The recently appointed chair of the music department for the Nyack Public Schools, Joseph S. Piccirillo, asked for parents to stand who had attended all ten Jimerson String Festivals and the number that rose was substantial.  Organized as MusicWorks, district parents reach impressive fundraising goals to support Nyack’s music program.

This March, the work of students, parents, teachers and administrators was recognized nationally. The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation designated Nyack as one of the  376 best school districts for music education. There are 13,588  school districts in America.

Next week, Janae will graduate from Liberty Elementary School. In August, she’ll attend music camp and then join the sixth grade at Nyack Middle School.  We’ll always remember that the first chapter in Janae’s success story had a sound track. And even if music is not her ultimate calling, the rehearsal that she got at Liberty Elementary School has prepared her to perform in front of any audience life might assemble.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Liberty Elementary School“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: Defending the Honor of Women in the Military

NSL145_Women in the Military_Featured Imageby Bill Batson

Women make up 8% of U.S. veterans, a number that is expected to double by 2035. Nyack’s Anngela Vasser-Cooper is leading the charge to secure recognition and services for local women veterans. As part of that mission, Vasser-Cooper will lead a group from Hudson Valley to the Women’s Military Service Memorial in Washington, DC on June 19.

You might be surprised by what the former medical social worker for the Veteran’s Administration thinks about the resignation of Veteran’s Secretary General Eric Shinseki. You will be shocked to learn the cause of one of the most devastating and recurring wounds suffered by women who serve our nation in uniform and the culprits inflicting that injury.

NSL145_Anngela in UniformAnngela Vasser-Cooper enlisted in the Army in 1980 and served for six years in Korea, Japan and Alaska, following her father, uncle and two aunts into military service. After her service, Vasser-Cooper became a medical social worker and spent five years at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Manhattan. In 2011, she founded the Women Veterans Association of Hudson Valley.

Vasser-Cooper has strong feelings about the challenges facing women veterans like the scandal concerning wait times at the VA that forced the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary General Eric Shinseki, and the epidemic of  homelessness and suicides among men and women returning from military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, stitched into the fabric of almost every anecdote that she shares is the issue of sexual assaults against female soldiers by their male comrades in arms.

Women in the Military

Dates and statistics tell the story

According to the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013 there were 214,098 women in the military or 14.6 % of our armed forces and 1,853, 690 women veterans or 8%. Women make up 19.5% of the reserves and 15.5% of the National guard.

Until the Army and Navy Nurse Corps were established in 1901 and 1908 respectively, Women did not officially serve in the US military. Before that, women supported the armed forces as contract and volunteer nurses, cooks and laundresses. However, some women were so eager to serve, they impersonated men in order to enlist.

More than 150 women have been killed and 800 wounded during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 1 in 5 female service members reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact while serving in the military.

Only one woman has received the Congressional Medal of Honor , the highest medal awarded for service to the military, a civilian by the name of Dr. Mary Walker. Dr Walker was awarded the medal by President Andrew Johnson on Nov. 11, 1865 for her actions throughout the U.S. Civil War. It was rescinded in 1917 before being reinstated by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial was originally built in 1932 as the ceremonial entrance to Arlington Cemetery. The memorial, that includes the monument, meeting rooms and a gift shop, honors all women who have served in the U.S. armed forces beginning with the American Revolution. The memorial officially opened to the public on October 20, 1997.

“Many women who have returned home from Afghanistan and are unable to talk to others have shared their pain with me. They have mental health issues that need to be addressed. It can be overwhelming to be deployed to a foreign country where language, customs and religion are different. Some are reporting trauma, such as sexual abuse and rape,” Vasser-Cooper said.

A recent report released by the Defense Department  showed that more than 1 in 5 female service members reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact while serving in the military. If you factor in a culture of underreporting and the source of the statistic, the number could be disturbingly higher. There is even an acronym for the outrage, MST (Military Sexual Trauma.)

NSL145_Senator Gillibrand with victims of Sexual Assault

Senator Gillibrand, center, flanked by women who reported unwanted sexual contact during their military service.

The hopelessness many victims feel is compounded by a flaw in the military justice system. “When a rape is reported, we have to complain through the chain of command. So for many women, the person who raped them has the power to determine the outcome of their complaint.”

Vasser-Cooper is encouraged by the work of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on this issue. New York’s junior senator is sponsoring legislation called the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) S.1752. The law would move the decision whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors.

NSL145_Group Shot_w:Vaught

Vasser-Cooper, third from left, is joined by Brigadier General Vaught, Assemblymember Ellen Jaffe and her sisters-in-arms.

Even though Vasser-Cooper is well aware of the harm that the mismanagement of scheduling at the VA has caused veterans, she was disheartened by the resignation of General Shinseki  because “under his administration a lot of programs for women were enhanced.”

Women Veterans of Hudson Valley has two priorities.” I want to get every female veteran to be recognized for her contributions, sacrifice and dedication to her country. I also want to get women veterans assessed for their psychological and social needs so that they can receive the services they have earned.”

Support Women who Serve

Join Anngela Vasser-Cooper on June 19 to visit the Women in Military Service Memorial in Washington, DC and meet Brigadier General Wilma Vaught. $20 per person, seats are limited.

The trip is open to veterans, service men and women and the public.

The bus departs from the First Baptist Church, 3 Hoyt St. in Spring Valley at 5:45am and returns 10pm.

Contact Nancy at (845) 596-6267 or 480-5660 for more information.

Visit Women Veterans Association of Hudson Valley to learn more about their programs.

For the last three years, Vasser-Cooper has organized a conference on issues confronting women veterans in the Hudson Valley. Over 70 women veterans from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan attended her third annual conference in April, 2014.

“Each year, the event gets larger,” Vasser-Cooper said. The head of the Women’s Military Service Memorial in Washington, DC, Brigadier General Wilma Vaught  was the keynote speaker this spring. Brigadier General Vaught will meet the group that Vasser-Cooper is bringing to the memorial in Washington, DC on June 19.

Vasser-Cooper is currently looking for funding to open an office to conduct assessments and help women veterans with a full spectrum of assistance with housing, employment and to provide counseling to help them cope with traumas associated with their service.

“Women put their country first when they enlisted, just like men,” Vasser-Cooper reminds us.

If we as a nation tolerate a culture that permits women to be so despicably dishonored while trying to serve us honorably, we are putting women in the military last.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Defending the Honor of Women in the Army“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: VCS Gay Pride Rockland

NSL_Gay Pride_Featured Imageby Bill Batson

Over 1,000 people gathered for the first Gay Pride event in Nyack in 1999. As if to prove the positive force that this public affirmation of sexual identity can have, a Village of Nyack Trustee named John Shields, who would later serve four terms as Mayor, publicly came out of the closet that day. This pioneering local Gay Pride celebration will be held this Sunday.

VCS Gay Pride Events

Thurs -Sun, June 14
A Juried Art Exhibit & Sale to Benefit VCS Gay Pride Rockland at Rockland Center for the Arts( RoCA), 27 South Greenbush Road is on exhibit through  June 14, on Thurs – Sunday, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Friday, June 7
Well-Strung, a classically trained all-male string quartet takes the stage at Nyack Center, putting  their spin on the music of Mozart, Vivaldi, Rihanna, Adele, Lady Gaga, and more.

Nyack’s own award winning recording artists, Bobby Belfry & David Budway will open for Well-Strung.

The evening is co-Sponsored by the Rockland Conservatory of Music.

Doors Open 6pm ~ Show 7pm

Tickets $25 in advance | $30 at the door

Call 845.634.5729 x307 for more information.

Sunday June 8
The 15th annual VCS Gay Pride Rockland festival will be held  from 12 – 5p in the parking lot formerly known as Riverspace.  Festivities include:

  • vendors
  • supervised children’s activities
  • 22’ slide, bouncers,
  • balloons
  • face painting

Performances by:

  • The Nyack High School Marching Band
  • Autumn Hues
  • Laday Kenante,
  • Frankie Dee and the Boys

In the late 1990s, if you lived in Nyack and wanted to attend one of the major Gay Pride celebrations that are held around the country each June, you had to travel to Manhattan. Phyllis B. Frank, Associate Executive Director of VCS, Inc. enjoyed the annual pride pilgrimage to the city, but thought aloud to others that “even if we had just a group walking behind one sign, we needed to do something for Gay Pride here in Rockland.”

Today, over 150 non-profit agencies, community organizations, faith communities, municipalities and elected officials from across the county and beyond, co-sponsor VCS Gay Pride Rockland. This number continues to grow and is matched only by the scores of businesses and individuals who advertise in a Directory of LGBT Friendly Businesses, Services and Community Organizations published every June.

This year’s celebration comes at a time when countervailing global social currents reverberate through the gay rights arena. On May 21, a Federal Judge in Michigan declared that state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, bringing the number of states where gay marriage is legal to 19. However, governments in Russia and Uganda have passed laws that practically make it illegal to be gay.  In Uganda, sanctions include the death penalty.

Gay pride celebrations are held throughout the world this month to commemorate protests that followed a raid by New York City Police Offices on Stonewall Inn in June 28, 1969.  The uprising in Greenwich Village against a pattern and practice of harassment by public officials is widely regarded as the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement.

In another step toward the extension of full legal rights, The White House issued a proclamation by President Barack Obama on Friday, May 30, calling on Americans to eliminate prejudice “everywhere it exists,”  and declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.

Gay Pride Uganda

Gay Pride Uganda

Since 1970, VCS Inc has developed programs to confront heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia, racism and sexism with a particular focus on violence against women. A social justice thread is woven into the fabric of the work of VCS. The first words on their website describe the organization as “a family service agency with an anti-racist, social justice mission.”

Phyllis Frank joined VCS in 1974. Under her leadership, VCS has developed a wide range of LGBT family services, support programs and professional training including evolving expertise in relation to transgender children, youth and adults. Her exemplary efforts resulted in her being inducted into the Rockland County Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2012.

NSL_VCS_Phyllis Frank

Phyllis B. Frank

The premise behind VCS is that community lay people can provide high-level counseling for clients with a wide range of serious social problems.  The model called “Volunteer Family Counseling Project” was initiated by Dr. Stephen Shapiro and Martin Eisman of the Family Service Association of Rockland County and funded by The Ford Foundation in 1970. The first group of 16 volunteers were recruited, trained and assigned to work with 34 families. The program quickly  expanded to 426 families and individuals by 108 trained volunteers. Later that year, the agency moved into offices at 151 South Main Street in New City.

Over forty years later, VCS  provides an array of services including child abuse prevention programs, services to older adults and their families and low cost counseling to Rockland residents for a variety of life issues such as separation, co-parenting children, unemployment and domestic violence.  VCS conducts a widely acclaimed counselor training program, administers a nationally recognized NY Model for Batterer Programs,  federally supported Foster Grandparent program and various social justice programs including Gay Pride Rockland.

In August of last year, Sarah Goforth joined VCS as Executive Director. Since 2006, she had served as Senior Director of Integrated Behavorial Health Services for Central City Concern in Portland Oregon. Goforth was selected because of her work serving clients whose needs are often overlooked.  She is originally from New York City and graduated from Stuyvesant High School.

Of the many pressing issues that face the communities that VCS serves, Goforth sites the situation confronting students in the East Ramapo School district as a priority. “We are presently focusing on the virtual absence of mental health services in the East Ramapo School district. We are finding an increase in requests for our services from youth,” Goforth said. “It is unusual for youth to self-identify for mental health services, so we know there is a crisis in these schools.”

For more information visit VCS-Inc.org

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “VCS Gay Pride Rockland“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.



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