by Bill Batson
According to the most recent reports, Nelson Mandela’s health is improving, but his condition is still serious. I spent the entire week leading up to Father’s Day thinking about South Africa’s first democratically elected President. Mandela and my father are about the same age. Just this January, my father was hospitalized for a week with a lung infection similar to the one that Mandela is fighting.
Having lived in South Africa for two years in the 90s, I was privileged to meet Mandela and some of the men who served time with him during the 27 years of captivity that preceded his presidency. Here are two illuminating anecdotes about Mandela that I meditated on this Father’s Day weekend.
In his 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela chronicles how a black prisoner of a racist white apartheid government became the president of a multiracial nation. But the story of how the book was produced is worthy of its own chapter.
During my time in South Africa, I got to visit Robben Island, where Mandela was held as a political prisoner from 1963 until 1982 (He spent 82’-88’ at Pollsmoor and 88’–90′ at Victor Verster). That day, I met two of his former cellmates and leaders in the African National Congress, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada. Kathrada described to me the collective process by which portions of the book were written, concealed and smuggled off Robben Island.
“As the president wrote, he passed on the pages to me for my comments. I then read them to Tata Sisulu; I wrote both our comments and handed them back to the President. He then wrote the final version. This was then handed over to Mac Maharaj (currently the official spokesperson for South African President Jacob Zuma) and Laloo Chiba (who served as a member of Parliament.) These two fellow prisoners then wrote the manuscript in tiny handwriting. I think the 500-600 pages were reduced to 50. These pages were concealed in the covers of an “album” which was constructed by Chiba. Maharaj who was released after twelve years, in 1976, carried the album out of Robben Island and sent it abroad.”
When the original text of the autobiography was discovered by prison authorities in a garden on Robben Island, the punishment was swift and cruel. Mandela, Sisulu and Kathrada lost their access to paper and ballpoints for a period of approximately four years.
On Mandela’s 80th birthday, I conducted a workshop with students from NYC who reduced the pages of Long Walk to Freedom back into the smallest script possible. Even without the hardships of incarceration, the students struggled to legibly reduce the text to the 10 to 1 ratio that the prisoners accomplished. We mailed our “Tiny Writing Project” to Mandela as a birthday present.
When first published, Long Walk to Freedom revealed previously unknown details about Mandela the lawyer, boxer, military leader and diplomat, but to the surprise of some, he was also an actor.
“Our amateur drama society made its yearly offering at Christmas. Our productions were what might now be called minimalist: no stage, no scenery, and no costumes. All we had was the text of the play,” Mandela wrote in his autobiography of how he and his colleagues passed their time on Robben Island. “I performed in only a few dramas, but I had one memorable role: that of Creon, the king of Thebes, in Sophocles’ Antigone.”
Apparently, Mandela found the work of Greek playwrights “enormously elevating.” “What I took out of them was that character was measured by facing up to difficult situations and that a hero was a man who would not break down even under the most trying circumstances.”
In the play, King Creon must decide whether or not to give a proper burial to one of his sons, Polynices, who had been killed during a rebellion against his father’s throne. Antigone, Creon’s daughter, rejects her father’s decision and buries her brother. Creon’s response was merciless.
“At the outset, Creon is sincere and patriotic, and there is wisdom in the early speeches when he suggests that experience is the foundation of leadership and the obligations to the people take precedence over loyalty to an individual,” Mandela wrote.
But ultimately, Mandela sided with Antigone. “Creon’s inflexibility and blindness ill become a leader, for a leader must temper justice with mercy. It was Antigone who symbolized our struggle; she was, in her own way, a freedom fighter, for she defied the law on the grounds that it was unjust.”
In 1998, on a return trip to South Africa, I shook hands with Mandela on a rope line, but was unable to ask him to sign the copy of Antigone that I had brought with me. The manner in which I eventually got his autograph demonstrates the profound sweep of South Africa’s transformation.
A member of the President’s security team saw the book in my hand and asked me if I wanted Mandela’s signature. The towering bodyguard could have been a body double for Dolph Lundgren. He had the bearing of a seasoned member of the South African Defense Force, which meant that a few short years before he was assigned to protect President Mandela, he was part of a government determined to hold him captive, and extinguish his dream of South African multiracial democracy. He may have even served as a guard on Robben Island.
Three months after the anonymous security official made his unsolicited and magnanimous offer, I received Mandela’s autograph on my copy of Antigone in the mail.
Life is always fragile, but never as much as during an illness in our advanced years. A friend who lives in South Africa holds her breath each time she says or hears Mandela’s name. Another friend, who met Mandela in New York during his 1990 visit, which included an incredible Yankee Stadium rally and a ticker tape parade, is bracing for the loss of his leadership in the world. “He gives us our moral center,” she declared.
So I spent father’s Day 2013, contemplating the mortality of two ninety-some-odd-year-old-men. Viva! William Prime Batson. Viva! Nelson Mandela. Viva: to these tough and decent men! Viva!
- Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela will be 95 on July 18.
- William Prime Batson will be 92 on October 22.
Special thanks to Jerry Dunfey and Nadine Hack for making all three of my trips to South Africa possible.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: Father’s Day Mandela Meditation” ©: 2013 Bill Batson.
by Bill Batson
Every month for two years, she guided parents and their children through Harriman State Park, sometimes for full moon hikes. Those forays into nature flowed into Strawtown Art & Garden Studio, a popular camp and afterschool program on the banks of the Hudson River. Now, centered on 5 acres on South Mountain in New City, enrollment is open for the Earth Art Summer Waterways program. Meet environmental artist, advocate and educator Laurie Seeman. (and learn about this tipi too!)
How did you become a nature and art educator?
When I first arrived in Rockland County in 1997 with my two small children, 5 and 7, I wanted to gather folks to spend time together outdoors. The Little Feet Hiking Club was started for children and parents. For two years, we went out for hikes every month of the year into Harriman State Park during the day, and also at night under the full moon. I saw how much it meant to the children to have creative exploration time in nature with community. And I saw their natural sense for artistry.
What was the first step?
My hiking club came to the attention of the Director of the Nature Place Day Camp in Chestnut Ridge, and I was invited to become the summer Art Director there. Over three years I developed the first Earth Art with Children programming with contributions from a talented staff. Based on the great success of the Earth Art program, and the camp leadership training I gained, I saw the need to take it further and turn it into a full summer program.
In 2002, I formed Strawtown Art & Garden Studio and held the first summer nature arts program on the grounds of the Marydell convent in Upper Nyack. We also held family workshops, and an after-school program there. The setting was a real marvel for us and really informed our work: Hook Mountain, woods, grassy meadows, wetland habitat, and the Hudson River and beach.
This is where I met Joanna Dickey. She first came on board as a summer staff artist, and now 11 years later we have spent thousands of hours outdoors together leading programs and developing Strawtown.
Joanna grew up in Upper Nyack within blocks of the river and she always says that she never knew the amazing things about the river before she came to Strawtown.
Why do you call your program Strawtown Art & Garden Studio?
I was living on Strawtown Road for many years. I liked the word Strawtown. Straw has since become symbolic for us. When you peel the dry outer layer off straw you find shining gold inside! Garden, this means for us that the whole world is a garden.
What life experiences informed your environmentalism?
When I was 7 we moved to a neighborhood in Endwell, NY on the edge of a meadow where a creek meandered below. The creek became my best friend.
A half-mile south there was a shale ravine with tons of fossils. I now have come to realize I grew up in the Marcellus Shale area.
When I was 10 bulldozers appeared one day and they engineered my creek to accommodate a big tunnel for a nearby road overpass. It was shocking. I don’t remember having anyone to talk to about it.
I have since learned a whole lot about creeks and waterways, and that straightening a stream is detrimental to the health of the stream. I advocate for two streams in Rockland in particular right now. The Sparkill Creek, with the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance, and the Minisceongo Creek, with the citizen science project in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation Eel Migration Monitoring program.
Recently you submitted comments challenging the re-licensing of Indian Point, issued warnings about the impact of desalination on the Haverstraw Bay and you successfully advocated against the introduction of fracking waste on our roads. How does your teaching impact your advocacy?
Spending so much time with children makes my feeling for the future heart centered. I feel a personal responsibility to be an awake adult to look out for the children and the next children. The native people call this the 7 generations we must look out for. That is a real core of life experience and decision making for me.
The New York State school curriculum mandates our young people, from 2nd to 12th grades learn about watersheds, sustainability, run off, aquatic insects and stream health. I see that some adults who are decision makers today know so little about all of this. When I see all of the degradation that is coming from lack of understanding, I think, Not on my watch!
I understand that you were in the art world before you became an educator?
I worked as a contemporary Art Dealer and Curator with my life long friend Wendy Cooper during the art boom in the 80’s and 90’s. Known as Cooper Seeman, we curated shows, and helped clients to build art collections. It was the greatest work in the world, but does not compare to working outdoors with children.
What kind of art do you make?
My own art comes from my touching the world around me. I create forms from plants, make pigments from rocks, and shape the outdoor studios that we spend time in. It is all about listening and responding to the world around me. I experience creating the programs we run also as my artwork.
Describe the work you are doing with children of the Ramapough nation?
We are in the very beginning of creating Strawtown programs in partnership with elders from the Ramapough Nation so that their children will discover the beauty and workings of the lands and waterways of their inheritance. We were invited by Chief Dwaine Perry to show their children and adults the “abundance” of nature.
What role will the tipi play in your workshop?
The tipi was a gift. It is 20 feet wide and has a firepit in the center. In the few weeks we have had it up it has already had a rich life with many visitors. The first day it was up it was blessed by a Lakota elder, Willie Black Cat, who held a pipe ceremony within.
We anticipate the tipi being a great gathering place for the children of our summer program, and also a place for community to circle up and talk and sit with each other and the fire. Our art studio is close by, so I can also see sitting in the tipi and making braided rope of dog bane, and beading, and painting.
What are your plans for this year’s Strawtown’s Earth Art Summer Waterways program?
The summer days at Strawtown are filled with playful exploration in the beautiful woods and waterways that surround us and this year we have a new large teaching garden. Through this fun-in-learning field experiences, children and young teens will:
- learn to read the landscape
- create art from natural materials
- practice wilderness skills
- hike and learn geography
- study the waterways and aquatic life
- learn more about amazing earth processes
- make new friends in a kind and supportive summer learning community
We truly believe that teaching young people leadership and problem solving skills for the future begins with understanding the natural world around them today.
Being surrounded by waterways and seeing the ruins from former times, the old mills and stonework, takes us back to the early days of the first settlers. The history in our waterways is amazing!
Space is still available for the Strawtown Earth Art Summer Waterways program for children ages 7 – 12 and young teens ages 12 -15. The program runs for four weeks from July 1 through July 25: Mon. – Thurs., 9:30a-4:30p. The young teens program runs July 29 to August 9: Mon. – Fri., 9:30a-4:30p
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: Kids Explore Art & Nature at Strawtown Studio” ©: 2013 Bill Batson.
by Bill Batson
Last month, there were two dramatically different cycling events in Rockland County. On May 19, 7000 cyclists rode through Nyack as part of the Gran Fondo, a competition that demonstrates the growing popularity of the sport. The other, a Ride of Silence on May 21 sponsored by the Rockland Bicycling Club, commemorated the injury and loss of life that happens too often when human and motor powered vehicles collide.
From the euphoria of the Gran Fondo to the tragedy that inspired the Ride of Silence, bicycles have become an ever-present feature of the Hudson River Valley landscape. A steady stream of nearly 5,000 bikes pass through Nyack each weekend during the busiest part of the bicycle season. That’s only 25 percent less than the total population of the village.
Heidi Broecking, a local cycling enthusiast, believes that simple topography is a major reason the village is a popular destination on this two-wheel migration route. Broecking says if you want a long ride and you live in New York City you ‘gotta go north.’ “Route 9W is the easiest access point from the George Washington Bridge. Plus, we have beautiful river scenery, great hill climbing and interesting rest stops like Nyack, Piermont and Haverstraw.”
When Broecking moved to Nyack 15 years ago, she would see fewer bikes on the road. Broecking reluctantly attributes the explosion in the number of cyclists to the sport’s disgraced former champion. “Before Lance Armstrong, you wouldn’t see 60 cyclists sitting outside the Runcible Spoon on North Broadway.”
Broecking rapidly evolved from a recreational to competitive cyclist. At first, she rode for fun with her son and husband, former Village of Nyack Trustee Steven Knowlton. “It was something that the three of us could do together without a baby sitter. We bought a trailer that hitches on the back of the bike. It was a rolling living room. We would put our son Devon in there with juice, crackers and toys. He would yell, ‘Daddy, go faster.’”
But Heidi had a real need for speed and began to ride more seriously. Broecking is now a member of the Gruppo Sportivo, an eight member Ambassador team for Gran Fondo New York. A world class event imported from Italy, the three year old Gran Fondo New York is a grueling 105-mile course which starts at the George Washington Bridge, heads North along the Hudson to Bear Mountain and then turns South to finish in Weehawken, NJ. Broecking finished last month’s event with a personal best time of 7 hours and 20 minutes.
Broecking also teaches a yoga class that is geared toward cyclists. “Yoga compliments cycling. It provides release and relief. It helps me with my bike handling skills and it gives me a real understanding of how I manipulate my body and bicycle while I’m riding.
Whether riding competitively, for recreation or just to get around town, peril is the constant companion of cyclists on our roads. On June 10, 2012, Pomona resident and recreational cyclist Janet Martinez was struck and killed by a car traveling South on Route 9w. “When you are wearing Lyrca and a helmet and a driver is wearing two tons of metal, the cyclist doesn’t have a chance,” Broecking said.
The Rockland Bicycling Club held the May 21 Ride of Silence to honor Martinez’ memory and to call for respect from motorists by sharing the road with bicyclists. Board member Rita Joachim says bike safety is one of the club’s priorities. “Improving traffic and road conditions in the county is essential for the safety of cyclists and all road users,” she says.
Joachim started cycling as a way to get to school and socialize as a teen. The quaint notion of children riding their bikes to school is now a distant Norman Rockwell-era memory: carpools and buses are more likely to take kids to school on congested roads shared with cars driving a little too fast, often by distracted drivers.
Safety Tips from Rockland Bicycle Club
Motorists must remember the tremendous responsibility they assume every time they’re behind the wheel. New York Vehicle & Traffic Law requires that drivers heed posted speed limits and traffic control devices and exercise due care. They must regard bicyclists with respect and courtesy. Expect bicycles on the roadways. Pass bicyclists with at least 3-4 ft. of space.
Don’t turn right or left in front of a moving bicycle. Where a travel lane is too narrow for a bike and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side, it’s lawful and safer for bicycles to use the entire lane.
Bicyclists must ride predictably and remain alert to the many dangers they might confront on the roads. Like motorists, cyclists must be familiar with the regulations and laws that govern their conduct on the roads. They must comply with traffic control devices and speed limits and be familiar with local regulations that may be in force in the areas where they ride. Cyclists should yield to pedestrians. When many cars have accumulated behind a cyclist, he can pull off the road at a safe spot to allow motorists to pass.
There were 677 cycling deaths in the US in 2011, representing just over two percent of all traffic fatalities, according to bicyclinginfo.org. Yet bicycles account for one percent of all trips in the United States. Further, the advocacy group suggests that police departments record as few as ten percent of bicycle accidents that produce injuries.
In 2010 New York State enacted “Merrill’s Law” to prevent tragedies like the accident that took the life of cycling advocate Merrill Cassell, who died from fatal injuries suffered after he was side-swiped by a bus in Westchester in 2009. Merrill’s Law mandates that motorists must allow a safe distance when passing cyclists; three feet is recommended.
Each weekend, there will be more bikes, cars and pedestrians on the roads of our village. No matter what your mode of transport, please share the roads safely.
Local Bike Resources:
Sales and Repairs
- Nyack Bicycle Outfitters, 2 N. Broadway (845) 353-0268
- Toga Bike Shop, 530 N. Higland, (845) 358-3455
Bike Friendly Restaurants
- Art Café, 65 S Broadway (845) 353-4230
- Didier Dumas, 163 Main St (845) 353-2031
- Gypsy Donut , 8 N Franklin St (845) 353-5300
- Runcible Spoon, 37 N. Broadway (845) 358-9398
Rockland Bicycling Club organizes regular rides all year long for cyclists of all levels and participates in local, regional and national cycling advocacy programs. For more information visit Rockland Bicycling Club.
The great American painter Edward Hopper’s wooden-wheeled bike is on display at his childhood home, now The Edward Hopper House Art Center at 82 N. Broadway.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: It’s Bike Season, Be Safe” ©: 2013 Bill Batson.
by Bill Batson
John McDowell admired this big barn every time he drove down Little Tor Road in New City. The award- winning composer/musician and his wife Alexandra moved to Pomona in 1999 to a property that had been a farm as early as 1780. One fateful day, he noticed the greenhouses adjacent to the red barn were being dismantled. “I feared that another farm was being lost to suburban development,” he said. Fortunately, his fears were eventually allayed. Because of the enlightenment of the property’s owner, incentives from local government and a non-profit now led by McDowell, instead of a field of forty private homes, we have productive public farmland.
Jim and Pat Cropsey owned the barn that caught McDowell’s eye. Jim’s grandfather had purchased the farm in 1893 as a place to get away from New York City. “He was a lawyer and loved to buy real estate,” explained Mr. Cropsey in a 2012 interview.
“There were over 500 working farms in Rockland County before WW II,” he went on, “most were apple or apple and vegetable farms and a few dairy.” Cropsey’s father, William Wallace or ”Wally” as he was known, started his career as a bookkeeper at the Chevy plant in Tarrytown, but always wanted to farm. His neighbors at the George F. Smith and Sons farm taught him how to till the soil. Jim Cropsey continued the family farming cycle, but by 1999, the land was no longer being farmed and developers were circling the ample acreage.
Ironically, it was the sale of the old Smith farm to developers that motivated McDowell. His response to the possible loss of one of the region’s remaining family farms was shaped at meeting with Rockland County officials in 2006. McDowell and another emerging farmer, Joy Macy of Bluefield Flower Farm in Blauvelt, were in the offices of the Rockland County Soil & Water Conservation District at the Environmental Resources Department, the branch of local government that has jurisdiction over small farms. After hearing about community enthusiasm for small farms, the directors, Allan Beers and Jim Dean said, “you guys should band together and form some kind of alliance.”
This farmland was saved in two phases. In 2003, instead of selling to a developer, the Cropseys sold their acreage to the Town of Clarkstown and the County through the County’s Open Space program. This protected farmland from development, but the fields laid fallow for many years. Once the Rockland Farm Alliance was incorporated, the non-profit entered into an agreement with Rockland County and the town in 2012, launching the Cropsey Community Farm on five of the 25 acres.
At a recent event at the Orchards of Conklin, outgoing County Executive Scott Vanderhoff told McDowell that preserving open space for farming is one of his biggest achievements. When RFA was founded, Rockland was down to four farms. Now there are over ten.
In the first week in June, Cropsey Community Farm will harvest the first crop of their third season. A partial list of the organically grown yield includes:
- collard greens
- sugar snap peas
Followed later in June by:
- Swiss chard
Cropsey Community Farm Manager Shane Hardy cautions that the yield is never guaranteed. “There can be crop failure, insects and weather events. We try to do everything to protect the crops except using pesticides and herbicides,” Hardy said.
The programs that Rockland Farm Alliance operate from Cropsey Community Farm include a Community Supported Agriculture component and educational and internship initiatives. A portion of the harvest of organic vegetables that they grow are shared by 170 families. There is a waiting list of 30 families.
CSA members can elect for a working or non-working membership. Working members can contribute 15 hours each season to reduce their membership fee. Their time can be spent planting, cultivating, pounding tomato stakes, stringing peas and tomatoes, picking up rocks, helping plant in the greenhouse, mending fences and cleaning the barn and the walk-in refrigerator according to farm manager Shane Hardy.
Hardy, a graduate of Nyack High School and Ithaca College worked on a variety of farms in New York State and Montana before becoming the farm manager this year. His experience included managing the crops on a 500-acre grain and bean farm in Tompkins County, New York.
Managing the Cropsey Community Farm is a dream come true for Hardy. “I never thought I’d be farming in Rockland, ten minutes from the house where I grew up.
John McDowell wrote the soundtrack for the academy award-winning film, Born Into Brothels. His signature sound combines world music with western classical and pop idioms. He has a masters in composition for Northwestern University, produced albums and performed with Sting and Santana. He is currently scoring Jeffrey Brown’s, Sold.
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, Back to Earth –Nyack, Hungry Hollow Co-op and a Matter of Health. They also have a booth at the Piermont Farmer’s Market on Sundays.
Hardy’s interest in agriculture goes beyond the operation of the farm. “People are losing the knowledge of how to grow their own food. That could be catastrophic.” To preserve the tradition and techniques of farming, Cropsey Community Farm offers a Junior Farmers Summer Program, led by RFA Program Director Jessica Kesselman. The half-day week long program is available in two sessions from July 8 – 12 and August 5 - 9 for children 6 – 12 years of age.
Working with the soil can benefit young people in many ways according to Hardy: “Engagement with the natural world will expand and indulge their curiosity. They can get an idea of the work it takes to get food. We know some of the science behind it, but that does not take away the magic of a seed turning into a plant.”
With Shane overseeing the growing edge of the operation, McDowell, and RFA co-executive directors Melinda and Mitch Darer focus on the administration of the organization and public policy. McDowell and Linda Concklin, of the 300-year-old Orchards of Concklin have revived the Farmland Protection Board, which they co-chair.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway Project recently cited RFA’s farming on public land a “cutting edge model.” “When we started out the American Farm Land Trust would not work with farms less than twenty acres in size. Now they do,” McDowell said.
When asked which is more difficult, raising cash or crops, McDowell quickly answered that fundraising is harder. So if you care about the food supply, or the environment or you want to see more open space go to farming and not overdevelopment, plant some cash into this growing agricultural initiative.
To learn more about RFA’s work to save and create farms in Rockland, make a donation, enroll a child in the Junior Famers Summer Program or join the Community Supported Agriculture waiting list at Cropsey Community Farm visit rocklandfarm.org
Special thanks to Donna Bisesto-Schmidt for sharing her 2012 interview with Jim and Pat Cropsey and for suggesting the topic.
John McDowell photo credit: Donna Bisesto-Schmidt
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: Community Supports Agriculture in New City” ©: 2013 Bill Batson.
by Bill Batson
At the request of the Chamber of Commerce, three local artists have put Nyack on the map. Literally.
Last Friday, 45 boxes were delivered to Back to Earth Natural Foods containing 20,000 copies of a freshly minted Nyack Map & Guide. The full-color, four-fold comprehensive commercial map celebrates the cultural and historic significance of our handsome Hudson River village.
Nyack has been on the figurative map as a tourist destination for over a century. Even though our downtown commercial district has expanded and contracted, it is arguably the largest non-mall shopping option in Rockland County. Since the early 1970s, tens of thousands of visitors have descended on the village annually to attend spring, summer and autumn street fairs. More recently, our location on an increasingly popular bicycle route has increased tourist traffic. The map and guide is a tool to welcome and direct these constant arrivals and to entice them to return.
“We wanted a document that would be useful to first time visitors as well as long time residents,” said Nyack Chamber of Commerce President Scott Baird. The Chamber, which sponsors two annual street fairs, the largest Halloween parade after NYC’s and the year-round Farmers’ Market, commissioned three local artists to create the map. I was honored to be on that creative team.
“Before 2008, The Chamber produced The Guide to the Nyacks…a complete handbook of local resources that was a staple of visitors and residents alike. But when the recession came the revenue for the map dried up,” recalled Carlo Pellegrini, the long-time Chamber officer who chaired the map committee. “You cannot imagine how many phone calls we would get year after year for current and back copies of The Guide. Real estate agencies in the area clamored for it.”
Landmarks & Points of Interest Featured on Map & Guide
- Carson McCuller’s House
- Nyack Library
- Nyack Center
- Edward Hopper House Arts Center
- Pretty Penny
- Undeground Railroad
- Couch Court
- F.O.R. HQ, Shadowcliff
- Historical Society of the Nyacks
- Nyack Post Office
- Old Stone Church
- Van Houten’s Landing
- Oak Hill Cemetery
In 2009, Gina Cambre of Casa del Sol proposed that the chamber provide visitors a parking map. “We started researching companies to take on the project for us, but nothing fit,” Pellegrini said. “Then we realized we had a reservoir of local talent that was already working to put Nyack on the cultural map.”
According to Pellegrini, “Kris Burns was reinvigorating the legacy of Edward Hopper as the artist-in-residence at the Edward Hopper House Arts Center and the organizer of the Hopper Happens Festival. Loraine Machlin had designed the Hopper Happens logo and had been the go-to-graphic-artist for many local non-profit organizations and arts groups and Bill Batson was the artist-residence for the Farmers’ Market and was publishing his weekly Nyack Sketch Log. Each was dedicated to Nyack, local to Nyack and capable of producing a map for Nyack.”
Map & Guide Features
- Local history resources
- Local recreational information
- Parking information
- How to get to Nyack via car, bus, train and bike
- Display ads and business listings
- Universal list of businesses in downtown commercial district
- Farmers’ Market guide
- Landmarks and points of interest
- QR codes that link to information about parking, the Farmers’ Market and the Nyack Chamber of Commerce
The goal of the creative team was to produce a map that was easy to use for the visitor seeking parking, shopping and recreational information, but would also showcase the cultural and historic relevance of the village. The year-long map project was shepherded by Kris Burns. The bold, colorful design and easy functionality of the map is the work of Loraine Machlin. I contributed text and illustrations. We hope that you will see the map in the hands of tourists as they navigate Nyack and that they will hang on to their copies and take them home as keepsakes, leading them to return again and again.
“Without Carlo Pellegrini and his Map Committee members Roger Cohen and Paul J. Curley, this unique collaboration between the arts and the commercial community would not have been possible,” said Baird. “The local economy will benefit from our Nyack Map & Guide, and the village’s reputation will be enhanced by the dissemination of this impressive document.”
Where to find the Map and Guide:
- Nyack Chamber of Commerce Members (look for a copy of the map in their window)
- The Chamber of Commerce booth at Street Fairs
- Every Thursday at the Farmers’ Market
- Or, contact the Chamber at nyackchamber.org, (845) 353- 2221
Map and Guide cover photo credit: Richard Kavesh
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log Art Puts Nyack on the Map” ©: 2013 Bill Batson.
by Bill Batson
Former South Nyack Mayor Patricia “Tish” DuBow was honored by residents and local elected officials at a community celebration in Franklin Street Park on Friday May 9. After nine years in the Mayor’s office, DuBow chose not to run for another term. However, DuBow’s 23 years of public service are not over. She has been appointed to complete the un-expired Trustee term of Bonnie Christian, who was elected Mayor on March 19th. This week’s sketch log is dedicated to DuBow’s service to the citizens of South Nyack.
Before her formal role in government, DuBow was a long time activist serving on the boards of Planned Parenthood and Friends of the Nyacks. DuBow began her public service in 1990 as a member of South Nyack’s Zoning Board of Appeals. She was elected a Trustee in 1994 and 12 years later, she became Mayor.
During her tenure, she was active with the Rockland County Conference of Mayors, and a zealous advocate for and protector of her village. As Trustee DuBow can continue to insist that the concerns for the village are incorporated into the planning and implementation of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Tish DuBow was not interviewed for this column, so this Nyack Sketch Log will be a surprise to her. The reflections and well wishes that follow are from her colleagues in local government. To paraphrase a show from the golden age of television, Tish DuBow, this is your public life!
Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee
In working with Tish DuBow, I’ve witnessed firsthand her tireless commitment and dedicated service to the Village of South Nyack. Throughout the many years of discussion and planning for a new Tappan Zee Bridge, Tish has been a vocal advocate for the village and its residents, determined to ensure that they receive maximum protection and benefits during and after construction. Tish has made her mark on the Village of South Nyack, improving the quality of life and enhancing her community. I have no doubt as Trustee she will continue in that role.
Undersheriff Robert Van Cura also Honored
After a 32 year career in law enforcement in South Nyack, retiring Chief Bob Van Cura has been appointed Undersheriff for the County of Rockland. Van Cura was honored and thanked by South Nyack residents and local elected officials at the community celebration on May 9. In addition to his service as a law enforcement officer, Van Cura has held the position of Rockland County Police Benevolent Association President and has served on the New York State Executive Committee on Counter Terrorism.
Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart
When I think of Tish DuBow, on the occasion of her retirement from service as Mayor of South Nyack, I remember walking door-to-door in South Nyack with her, doing the essential political work of democracy – collecting signatures, activating voters, answering questions about local government and listening to peoples’ concerns.
I remember standing side by side with Tish at so many Tappan Zee Bridge and Thruway meetings, nudging each other with our elbows to register our frustration with the usual formulaic responses of bureaucrats putting on a show of gathering public input when they are already convinced they have the right answer. Supporting her calls for a redesigned Thruway exit 10 with allocation of vacant land to community benefit, whether as open space, commercial development or “lid park.” I think of sitting at her kitchen table talking with Gene DuBow, whose mighty pen has made the letters to the editor page of local papers much more interesting to read so many times. Tish has served well, she will continue to inspire and lead and I’m looking forward to working together during the year to come! Thank you Tish for all you have done for South Nyack, and for Orangetown!
Rockland Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell
South Nyack is known for its extraordinary vistas, its diverse lively population, and the indomitable spirit of Patricia DuBow. As a long-time mayor and village leader, Tish never stops fighting for the interests of the people. Her voice has been heard loud and clear for over a decade protecting the land and residents of South Nyack from adverse impacts of a new Tappan Zee Bridge. As a leader of Friends of the Nyacks, she helped develop the concert series in Memorial Park and much more. Thankfully, Tish will remain in Village government continuing to champion causes that enhance the quality of life for all residents.
Former Rockland County Legislator, midwife Connie Coker
When I was running for Rockland County Legislature in 2006, Tish DuBow was very involved in helping me to get elected. Ever since, I have appreciated just how effective she is as a campaigner for Democratic Party candidates. I would jokingly call her the “ward boss of South Nyack”. But most importantly she would still work graciously and cooperatively with elected officials from other political parties. She is an inspiring role model in how to put political party differences aside to work for the good of all residents.
Village of Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White
Tish DuBow is one of the kindest most respectful and respected public servants I have ever met. Her decency, quiet intelligence and her quick bursts of humor will be sorely missed in the world of Rockland politics. Her dedication to both her community of South Nyack and to the greater good of all of Rockland were impressive and forced her to take complicated and difficult positions when faced with the enormity of the Tappan Zee Bridge project. It was her vision that imagined that the unwieldy Exit 10 loop could be put to greater and more beneficial use. She and I schemed on all sorts of projects, from recreation and parks to shared community and commercial services.
One incredibly great thing about Tish was she always saw the possibility in any idea and was quick to say “yes, let’s explore it” rather than succumb to the “no’s”. She has been an excellent Mayor for her village. Boy will she be missed. And her earmuffs too!
Community celebration photo credits: Nicole DuBow
Special thanks to South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian, South Nyack Village Clerk Sally Seiler and Deputy Village Clerk Denise Mishkel
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log Honors Outgoing South Nyack Mayor Tish DuBow” ©: 2013 Bill Batson.
by Bill Batson
Nyack was a stop on The Trip to Bountiful. The play of that name was just nominated for a Tony Award for best revival, and its author, Horton Foote, lived in this house in Upper Nyack in the 1950s. Foote joined theater greats Helen Hayes, Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht and Carson McCullers who called our village home. For a moment in time, if you wanted to find some of the most important figures in American theater, you need only take a stroll down Broadway – in Nyack.
Foote moved to Nyack from New York City with his wife, Lillian and three children. His fourth child was born at Nyack Hospital. When Foote arrived, he was already a prolific and successful playwright and a major force in the new media of the day, television.
The Trip to Bountiful originally aired on NBC on March 1, 1953. Lillian Gish and Eva Marie Saint reprised their roles on Broadway a year later at what was then Henry Miller’s Theater. The recent revival of that play, directed by Michael Wilson, opened 60 years later at the same venue, which has been extensively renovated and is now named for Stephen Sondheim.
Nyack resident and composer John Gromada, who was nominated for Best Sound Design for the revival of Bountiful, first worked with Horton Foote on the 2000 production of The Carpetbaggers Children with Jean Stapleton at Lincoln Center Theater.
Although Foote no longer lived in Nyack when they met, Gromada said that he and the playwright bonded over their mutual affection for our river village. Over the years, Gromada has worked on six Horton Foote projects.
According to Gromada, Foote attended every single rehearsal for his productions before his death in 2009. Gromada watched as Horton’s daughter, Hallie, who is now executor of the Foote Estate, continued her father’s tradition and attended all of the rehearsals for The Trip To Bountiful.
Hallie was six when the family arrived in Nyack. She remembers her transplanted city cat eating the heads off all of her mother’s tulips at their first home on North Broadway and family picnics on the banks of the Hudson River.
Several years after moving to Nyack, Foote would craft a script that not only won him an Academy Award; but also helped create a national discussion about racial injustice. That screenplay, To Kill a Mockingbird, was written at the family’s second Nyack home.
Hallie describes a procession of creative heavy weights visiting their house on Ferris Lane in South Nyack. “Alan Pakula who went on to direct All the President’s Men, was the producer for To Kill a Mockingbird and spent a lot of time meeting with my father. He needed to have a strong sense that a script was in as good shape as possible before he would start shooting. Bob Mulligan, the director, was there and I believe that Harper Lee came once.” Lee wrote the best selling book the inspired the film.
Soon after winning the Academy Award for the script, the Footes relocated to New Hampshire. As a 16 year-old at the time of the move, Hallie was crushed. “I told my father that he had ruined my life. But I think he wanted to get further away from the pressures of business.”
The Trip to Bountiful Gets 4 Tony Award Nominations
Michael Wilson’s production of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful received a total of four Tony Award nominations:
- Nyack resident John Gromada for Best Sound Design in a Play
- Cicely Tyson for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
- Condola Rashad for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
- Best Revival of a Play.
The Tony Awards will be announced on June 9, 2013.
The artistic and creative demands of the Horton Foote estate now fall on Hallie’s shoulders. She recently formed the Horton Foote Legacy Foundation to promote her father’s work as well as his craft. “We provide access to my father’s childhood home in Wharton, Texas as a residence for writers.” A great deal of the content of Foote’s work, including the Orphan’s Home Cycle and The Trip to Bountiful, is drawn from that region. Recent recipients of the foundation’s support include Susan Blackburn Smith award winner Annie Baker, author of Circle Mirror Transformation (2009) and The Flick (2013) and David Lindsey-Abaire, author of Good People (2011).
Hallie works on and off the stage to preserve her father’s legacy. An accomplished actor, she starred in Dividing the Estate, produced by Lincoln Center on Broadway in 2008 and will perform the role of Sybil in The Old Friends, which will open at the Signature Theater in 2013. Along with director Michael Wilson, composer John Gromada and her husband, actor Devon Abner, she has created an ensemble that is interpreting the work Horton Foote for new and expanding audiences.
According to some Broadway insiders, Cicely Tyson is a sentimental favorite to win the Tony for best actress in The Trip to Bountiful. The 88 year-old actor achieved national prominence, and an Emmy, for her role as a freed slave in the 1974 made-for-TV-movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Tyson has enjoyed glowing reviews for Bountiful, her first appearance on stage in thirty years.
A Tony Award nomination alone has returned Tyson to the pinnacle of her profession and demonstrates the continued relevance and popularity of the work of Horton Foote. A Tony would be a trip beyond bountiful for both.
See also: Local Arts Index: John Gromada
Photo Credit: The Tony Awards
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ” Our Village Was A Stop on the Trip to Bountiful” ©: 2013 Bill Batson.