by Bill Batson
The only thing not central about the Nyack Center is their location. At the corner of Depew Avenue and South Broadway, their address is too southeast to claim the geographic middle of the village. But in all the measurements that matter, Nyack Center sets the civic standard.
It is a place where children find safety, support and a space to study and adults gather to experience art and culture and discuss public policy. The premises, with a distinguished historic pedigree, shelters small businesses creating an indoor market place.
The schedule of events for the next five days offers a window into the value that the Nyack Center adds to the community and provides several opportunities for you to support their important work.
Almost Two Centuries of Service
Nyack Center operates from the oldest surviving house of worship in our village, the First Presbyterian Church. The original sand stone building that stood on this spot was erected on land deeded by Peter Depew in 1816. It was torn down and replaced by today’s familiar wooden edifice in 1839.
If not for an enlightened congregation and a dynamic woman, this building would have been demolished in 1990. Jane Sherman knew that a dwindling number of congregants could no longer sustain the church. As a Presbyterian elder and the head of Nyack’s Park and Recreation committee, Sherman was also acutely aware of the need for space for young people in the community. Finding herself at the intersection of need and opportunity, Sherman was able to convince the Presbytery of New York to confer the church property to a non-profit for $1.
In response to Sherman’s bold leadership, the community stepped forward to help secure this legacy by donating funds and volunteering labor. People like Jo and Peter Baer made substantial contributions to help transform a 19th century church into a 21st century community center. The task of continuing the epic tradition of good works is now in the skilled hands of Nyack Center Executive Director Kim Cross.
Nyack Center serves the Nyacks and the larger community of Rockland County, with programs, facilities, and opportunities for service. Nyack Center administers breakfast and after-school programs, classes and camps nurture children, teens and families and provides space for others with similar goals.
Cultural tenants at the Nyack Center include Rivertown Film, who have offices and screens films and Associated Press courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, who organizes a weekly figure drawing class on Thursday evenings from 7:30-10p.
In this year’s annual appeal letter, Kim Cross quotes author Wes Strafford:
I have become convinced that the more wealth a country accumulates the more isolated and lonely its people become. The loneliest are usually the children and the elderly. Children learn what they live, and isolation in the ‘village’ is one of the most destructive messages we daily write on the tablets of their hearts.
A donor has committed to match up to $25,000 of donations to the Nyack Center.
To contribute, contact the Nyack Center at nyackcenter.org. or you can send a check to the Nyack Center, PO Box 764, Nyack, NY 10960
Wednesday, December 4, 6-9p
Maria Luisa & ML Gifts Shopping Extravaganza
An evening of friends, wine, hors d’oeuvres and shopping. There is a 10% discount off all purchases and an additional 10% will be donated to the programs of the Nyack Center. Food for this evening of shopping and giving has been donated by Art Cafe.
Thursday December 5, 8a-2p
Nyack Farmers’ Indoor Winter Market Opens with Special performance by Sam Waymon
The Nyack Farmers’ Indoor Winter Market starts their second indoor season on Thurs., Dec. 5 at the Nyack Center with a performance by Jazz/Blues legend, Sam Waymon. Waymon will play two sets; one at 11:30am and another at 12:30pm.
For years, locals who love fresh produce and family farm products had to go cold turkey when Nyack Farmers’ Market vendors packed up their tents each November. Now, veggies and other farm fresh goods are available year round in Nyack. The indoor Famers’ Market will be open every Thurs. from 8a-2p through April when the open air market reopens.
The timing and location of Waymon’s performance is very special. In 1973, Waymon was the lead actor in a scene from the cult classic Ganja & Hess, that was shot on the same stage where he will play on Thursday. Soon, you will be able to hear Sam’s music as the score for Spike Lee’s remake of the film that will be released shortly.
Friday, December 6, 6:15p
Winterfest with Sukey Molloy & Friends
Presented by The Nyack Center, Nyack Art Collective, organizers of First Friday, and PlayMove&Sing Inc. Enjoy a multicultural holiday concert for families and children (age birth to 7).
Sunday, December 8, 7p
Readings and Music in the Holiday Spirit
Get in the season’s spirit at the Nyack Center’s 18th annual holiday festival. The extravaganza of readings and music is co-produced & co-hosted by Broadway’s Kevin Pariseau& Elliott Forrest of WQXR/WNYC. The evening will be ushered in with Irish Rocker Sean Fleming, the sweet singing sounds of Annika with Sonya and Charlotte from Still Safire, saxophonist James Kimak with guitarist Jeff Doctorow and vocalist Lorena Mann – and a special reading by the best selling writer Alyssa Capucilli (author of the “Biscuit” series of children’s books).
The event benefits Nyack Center’s community and youth programs and is sponsored by The Hindin Center-Whole Health Dentistry. Adult tickets are $20, Children, $7. For more information call (845) 358-2600 or go to nyackcenter.org
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.
From 1995 until 2001, if you were in the know, or you stumbled upon the hand painted sign that said “Pie” on Piermont Avenue in Nyack, New York and followed the arrow, you would arrive at Tyler’s back porch. If it was a busy day, she might have her youngest daughter Carly under her arm as she took your order. If apple pie is the closest thing we have to a national dish, serving the iconic desert from a kitchen door is pure Americana. The scene on the corner of Spear and Burd Street, where Tyler sold her pies, was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Tyler calls her style of baking vintage. When it comes to cookbooks, she prefers the Betty Crocker era. She cuts butter with her hands and uses as few ingredients as possible. Her approach to cooking comes from her family, who emigrated from Europe in the early 20th century and settled in Montana. Baking was practiced as an essential prairie craft: Mondays were for washing, Tuesdays for ironing, Wednesdays for mending and Saturday was for baking. Tyler learned to bake from her mother, Maybelle, who was one of 11 children.
When she moved to Burd Street she was on her own with three young children. Baking was a way to earn Tyler some extra money. But as soon as the sign went up on the corner of Piermont and Burd, word of mouth drove business in her direction faster than Deborah could manage. Her brother helped her convert her son Wil’s bedroom into an extra kitchen. Her upstairs neighbor offered additional space.
The renovations and kitchen sharing were all done with the blessing of her landlord, Joe Lagana. Deborah acknowledges without the people of Nyack she would have never found success. The village even gave Tyler her name. She tried in vain to get people to call her business “the pie kitchen.” But from the moment she started selling baked goods from her back porch she would be affectionately known as the “Pie Lady.”
The Pie Lady would eventually become a victim of her own rapid growth. As the orders poured in, she wanted a business partner to appear: someone to handle the administration, leaving her to the baking. But a culinary comrade never emerged. The only thing that arrived was more business. By 2001, exhausted and unable to keep up with the demand, Tyler closed shop and moved to Cooperstown.
Her son Wil, who gave up his bedroom years to allow for kitchen expansion, immediately wanted his mother to reconsider. He took a job in marketing out of high school but his heart was with the family business. Wil converted his mother’s recipes from index card to computer files and traveled to Cooperstown for baking lessons. He also convinced his sister Brianna to help obtain a home food-processing certificate from the Dept. of Agriculture for his apartment in Upper Nyack.
Wil and Briana’s efforts were enthusiastically welcomed when baked goods labeled “Pie Lady” were spotted at The St. Ann’s Holiday Bazaar in 2009. Their next step in the rebirth of their brand was a booth at the Nyack Chamber of Commerce’s Farmer’s Market in 2010. Together the siblings were making 30 pies a week and were feeling quite proud of the results. They outgrew Wil’s apartment and were working out of rented kitchen space at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, when Deborah came to check on their progress. She was impressed by their zeal, but not as pleased with the product. Since that visit, Deborah has made a weekly trip back to Nyack to oversee production.
After a second successful season at the Farmer’s Market, Wil followed a tip from ACADA‘s Jack Dunnigan and found a rental space on North Highland near Nyack High School. The Pie Lady & Son now has a staff of five, operates a retail facility and sells their goods at several markets throughout the region.
The legacy of neighborhood support is baked into their menu. One item “Mrs. Cooke’s Sweet Potato Pie” is named after Burd Street neighbor Elizabeth Cooke. The wife of the late Commissioner of the Nyack Water Department Leonard Cooke, Mrs. Cooke lent the recipe for her namesake pie and helped look after Deborah’s daughter when the line at the back porch kitchen door got too long.
There is nothing secret about the Tyler recipe for baking or success. Community support is like yeast, the love of family is the filling and the crust is just the right proportion of flour, water, salt and fat. The reign of the Pie Lady is over: long live The Pie Lady & Son.
Be advised, Pie Lady & Son are booked to Thanksgiving Pie, but they are trying to make a few more above the orders they have already taken. Call before visiting their shop to see if there any available (845) 535-3290
The Pie Lady & Son also have a booth at the Nyack Farmers’ Market, which starts their second indoor season on Thursday, December 5th at the Nyack Center with a special concert by Jazz/Blue legend, Sam Waymon. The indoor Famers’ Market will be open every Thursday from 8a-2p thru April.
The last outdoor market will operate tomorrow, Wednesday, November 27th for those who still need farm fresh ingredients for the Thanksgiving.
by Bill Batson
America was only eight Presidents old when the First Reformed Church incorporated in Nyack in 1838. But, the congregation has more than just 175 years of worship at the corner of Burd Street and Broadway to celebrate in 2013. A new pastor, Dr. Fred Arzola, was commissioned in May, bringing a vigorous spiritual and intellectual presence to the oldest church in continuous service in the Village of Nyack.
Early followers of the Dutch Reformed faith in Nyack had to travel to the Clarkstown Reformed Church, founded in 1795, for services. But distance and terrain made the 18th century pilgrimage a challenging one. According to Nyack Library Local History Librarian and First Reformed congregant Brian Jennings, the advent of the Suffern Turnpike in 1830 made the trek across the West Nyack swamp only slightly less onerous.
On April 24, 1838, the Classis of Paramus approved the First Reformed Church of Nyack. The Classis is the governing body of the Reformed Church that was also responsible for creating what would become Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ in 1766.
Founding officers of the First Reformed Church of Nyack were drawn from a group of men who were transforming Nyack from a collection of homes to a mini-metropolis: Tunis and Peter Smith, Abram A. Tallman and Cornelius C. Blauvelt.
In 1851 and again in 1871 the building grew to accommodate a growing congregation. In 1901, a new church, featuring the bell and clock tower that are now a fixtures of the Nyack skyline, were erected. The building was designed by the Emery Brothers, the architects responsible for the YMCA, the original Nyack Library, and St. Ann’s Catholic Church, projects that all share a Romanesque revival style.
“Historically, the church has quietly been a spiritual and social anchor in the community throughout its 175 years, “ Said Pastor Fred in a recent interview. “Two core values that are important to us now, reflect the tradition of this congregation: Gracious Hospitality and Community Partnerships.
Those two values are on prominent display in the First Reformed Church’s support for Soup Angels. “Soup Angels is a non-sectarian program which provides free, homemade nutritious dinners to anyone who walks through the doors on Mondays and Wednesdays. The success – both wonderfully and sadly – is that it meets a very basic human need, food. We can all identify with this. First Reformed Church is honored to provide the space and support this important work.” Arzola said.
Dr. Arzola is the Dean of Arts & Sciences at Nyack College, obtaining his Ph.D. in Religious Education from Fordham University. Prior to Nyack College, he served in various leadership roles in several churches and faith-based institutions, including Director of Christians Education and Director of Spiritual Formation. Pastor Fred has been a substance-abuse counselor for five years and has over 20 years of youth related experience.
“I lived all my life in New York City until my wife, Jill, and I moved to the Village of Nyack in 2010. Jill also works at Nyack College. My daughter, Nicole, is a nursing student at Pace University. Being raised in The Bronx, I was baptized a Yankees fan! I love internet radio stations. And while my music taste is eclectic, recently, I tend to be drawn to contemporary folk/alt-country/classic rock music.”
Table for 2300
Soup Angels’ eighth “Come to the Table” Thanksgiving meal is November 27th. Anyone who needs a meal will be welcomed a delicious turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. This feast is made possible through the generous assistance of our community
This Thanksgiving, the not-for-profit, non-sectarian soup kitchen has received requests from Rockland County community organizations for 2000 meals in addition to the 300 sit-down dinners we serve the same day. This represents a 700-meal increase over last year.
For over seven years, the all-volunteer Soup Angels soup kitchen has served nutritious, hot meals every Monday and Wednesday in Nyack from 5:30 to 6:30, no questions asked. The group has never missed a meal, including during Hurricane Sandy, where our meals were provided out of Nyack’s Village Hall and fed both the needy and first-responders who were on call during that challenging time.
If you want to be “thankful” and “giving” this turkey day, help give someone the kind of holiday meal that many of us take for granted.
Donations in any amount are fully tax deductible and may be made via Paypal at Soup Angels or by check payable to Soup Angels FRC, PO Box 565, Nyack NY 10960.
Social welfare work of the Soup Angels is not the only way that the First Reformed Church engages with the community. Pastor Arzola describes his church as rich in musical talent, starting with their Music Director, James Rensink.
On Sunday, November 17 at 4:00pm, Jeremy Wall, founding member of Spyro Gyra, hosted “Spirit in Music” an afternoon music based on spiritual themes and original works at the church. On Sunday, December 8 at 10:30a, the church will host a Christmas Brass Worship Service.”
“We plan on more intentionally promoting our music ministry and hosting musical events. We also plan on nurturing more community partnerships and increasing our services to the poor and needy.”
Pastor Fred is the 18th spiritual leader of the historic Hudson Valley institution. His credentials and conviviality must be great comfort to the congregation, portending the extension of their longevity. But in a time when government aid has contracted and human need has increased many will benefit from the cultural and community programs that are an enduring part of the mission of First Reformed, a tradition that Pastor Fred seems determined to secure and nurture.
My sketch was based on an image from the Hudson Valley Heritage.
Special thanks to Chuck Travers
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ”Nyack Sketch Log: New Rector at First Reformed Church” © 2013 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com
by Bill Batson
Only providence kept the death toll low in the Garden State Plaza Mall shooting on Monday, November 4, 2013. The gunman had many targets, but chose to take only his own life. No security measure or piece of public policy kept anyone safe that day. With government abdicating any responsibility as these active shooter incidents proliferate, we seem to be at the mercy of mad men with guns.
The active shooter event at the Paramus, New Jersey mall was certainly less lethal than other recent shootings, like the September 16, 2013 attack at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC where 12 people died. However, my reaction to the local episode was visceral.
What is an “active shooter?”
According to the U.S Department of Homeland Security, an “active shooter” is ”an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm[s] and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”
Multiple shooting fatalities* 1999 - 2013
- 2013, Sept. 16, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., 12 fatalities
- 2012, Dec. 14, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, CT, 27 fatalities
- 2012, Aug. 5, Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Oak Creek, WI, 6 fatalities
- 2012, July 20, Century movie theater, Aurora, CO, 12 fatalities
- 2012, May 30, Café Racer, Seattle, WA, 5 fatalities
- 2012, April 2, Oikos University, Oakland, CA, 7 fatalities
- 2011, Oct. 12, Salon Meritage, Seal Beach, CA, 8 fatalities
- 2011, Sept. 6, IHOP, Carson City, NV, 4 fatalities
- 2011, Jan. 8, Constituents meeting at Safeway, Tucson, AZ, 6 fatalities
- 2009 April 3, American Civic Association, Binghamton, NY, 13 fatalities
- 2009 March 29, Pinelake Health and Rehab, Carthage, NC, 8 fatalities
- 2009 March 10, Geneva County, AL, 10 fatalities
- 2008, Feb. 14, North Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, 5 fatalities
- 2008 Feb. 7, Kirkwood City Hall, Kirkwood, MO, 6 fatalities
- 2007, Dec. 5, Westroads Mall, Omaha, NE, 8 fatalities
- 2007 April 16, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 32 fatalities
- 2007. February 12, Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, UT, 5 fatalities
- 2006, Oct. 2, West Nickel Mines School, Lancaster County, PA, 5 fatalities
- 2006, March 25, Capitol Hill neighborhood, Seattle, WA, 6 fatalities
- 2005 March 21, Red Lake, MN, 9 fatalities
- 2005 March 12, Location Living Church of God, Brookfield, WI , 7 fatalities
- 1999 Sept. 15, Wedgewood Baptist Church, Forth Worth, TX, 7 fatalities
- 1999 April 20, Columbine High School, Columbine, CO, 13 fatalities
Total fatalities 1999 - 2013: 221
*There were more active shooter incidents during this period. I have only listed shootings that resulted in four or more fatalities, which is the FBI definition of mass murder.
I grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, the town where the Garden State Plaza Mall shooter, Richard Shoop, lived. The complex of buildings that he shot up was the first shopping mall I ever roamed. Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard killer lived in Brooklyn, another one of my haunts. The neighborhoods that shaped me also spawn active shooters.
The Jersey incident, and the wall-to-wall media coverage that followed, was unnerving. A friend tells me he called the store manager in a regional mall where his daughter works to make sure they had their lock down procedures in place. This holiday season, shoppers must keep an eye out for shooters as well as sales.
In the last 18 months there have been multiple fatality active shooter incidents at a movie theater, a public school, and a well-guarded military facility. Many thought that the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut demonstrated the need for new national gun safety legislation. Our Congress saw no necessity to act.
In Colorado, on September 10, 2013, two Democratic state legislators that did act lost their seats in recall campaigns. They were targeted for supporting new gun safety laws. The measures, signed into law four months before the recall, were enacted in response to the movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012, that took 12 lives and injured 70. The successful recall election, that drew national support from gun-rights activists, was meant to be a shot across the bow for any public official who is contemplating gun reform.
A conservative Australian politician, former Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge was ousted for supporting gun control in 1998. After a deranged man killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania in 1996, Australia took aggressive steps to regulate the sale and storage of assault weapons, an initiative that Borbidge championed. Two years later, Borbidge lost his Premiership.
In April, a week after the United States Senate failed to pass watered down post-Sandy Hook federal gun control legislation, Borbidge said with pride and confidence on John Stewart’s Daily Show that in sacrificing his job, he saved lives. In the 18 years leading up to Austrailia’s sweeping gun reforms, there were 13 mass shootings (defined as more than four fatalities). Since the reforms, in the last 17 years, there have been no gun massacres in Australia.
The only appropriate commemoration for the one year anniversary of Sandy Hook this December 14, would have been the signing of gun safety legislation. It seems that in America, many Members of Congress are more concerned with job security than public safety. It’s hard to imagine the scale of carnage that will need to occur for our nation’s political leadership to act.
If the greatest minds of our democracy cannot explain and reverse this epidemic of senseless violence, then we need to drop the pretense of being an advanced civilization and a morally superior nation.
This list of multiple shooting fatalities was drawn from “Strategic Approaches to Preventing Multiple Casualty Violence: Report on the National Summit on Multiple Casualty Shootings.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, John Paparazzo, Christine Eith, and Jennifer Tocco, 2013.
- Daily Show’s John Oliver interview with former Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge.
- Nyack Sketch Log: 25 Days Since the Newtown Massacre
- Senate, Epic Fail on Gun Purchase Background Checks by by Gina Daschbach
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ”Nyack Sketch Log: Attention Shoppers, Active Shooter ” © 2013 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com
by Bill Batson
A year ago the lights were still out for some in the village, extinguished by the winds of Hurricane Sandy. Over 100,000 Rockland county households lost power, and here in Nyack, there was one storm-related fatality. Today, there are 11 families from Claremont Apartments that are still homeless. Are we ready for another super storm? What if a natural disaster occurs during a congressional hissy fit? Looking at what I posted then and what we know now, I examine what Hurricane Sandy taught us and what we learned about ourselves during her violent arrival and bitter aftermath.
On Nov 6, 2012, in a Nyack Sketch Log entry titled Brave New Normal, I wrote, “As a resident of a county declared a disaster area, I feel well represented by the federal, state, regional and local governments that are overseeing this natural catastrophe. But are we ready for the next storm, like the one that is coming literally and figuratively tomorrow?“
Today, Nov 5, 2013, I must say that the recent government shut down has left me feeling less well represented. After the Oct. 2012 storm, there was no swift relief from Washington. Quite the opposite, in fact. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner callously let 67 days pass before he allowed the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 to proceed to a vote. Did Boehner’s intransigence in 2012 presage the government shut down in 2013?
On Nov 6, 2012, I wrote, “Utilities, like Orange & Rockland need to demonstrate to consumers and public officials that they can cope with a hundred year storm every year. Since O & R has a virtual monopoly of delivering electricity, the legislature needs to find a way, through either incentive-based or punitive measures, to demand the improvements that corporations that face competition must undertake.”
Today, I can report that Senator David Carlucci, Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack, O&R and Laborers Local 754 announced new legislation on October 31, 2013 that will streamline the restoration of power in the wake of major future storms.
Much of the delay in post storm response is caused by the maze of downed live wires that halt emergency ground transportation. This legislation requires any gas or electric corporation in the state to annually submit an emergency response plan to the Public Service Commission for review and approval. The plan must address a number of criteria, including appropriate safety precautions regarding electrical hazards, including plans to promptly secure downed wires within 36 hours of notification of the location of such downed wires from a municipal emergency official. Utilities found to be in violation would face stiff new fines.
Mayor Jen White announced recently that the Village of Nyack has purchased two generators to power the department of Public Works and Village Hall. In the aftermath of Sandy, Village Hall became a spontaneous Town Meeting venue where residents gathered for information and mutual comfort and aid. Inside, officials huddled around a single lamp powered by a limited source of electricity connected by an extension cord. With the new generator, Village Hall can serve as a relief station for people to find warmth, sanitary facilities and a way to charge phones and computers.
On Nov 6, 2012, I wrote, “Since there are many in our community without the personal, physical and financial wherewithal to accumulate sufficient supplies, we need to develop a data base of the elderly and infirm on a community-by-community basis so that when storms hit, we can systematically reach out to these at-risk individuals. Yes, we need to be able to take care of ourselves when governments and utilities cannot supply a secure and uninterrupted power supply, but I don’t think any of us wants to concede that survival in a crisis should be strictly an every-man-for-himself affair.”
When I wrote that, I did not realize that the much beloved Bryce Kirk, who built many of our river villages’ docks had died in his apartment in the days following Sandy. He fell in his darkened apartment after a day of helping others and was unable to summon assistance. We need an emergency community-buddy system. This network could go into effect during any blackout or major storm. Able-bodied adults need to check on two or three elderly or ailing neighbors in the wake of any storm or power-outage. I get the impression that Bryce would have led such an initiative.
On November 4, 2012, I told the story of a resilient couple that ignored the hurricane-related obstacles and carried out their wedding plans despite the loss of a venue and the absence of guests who could not travel because of the storm. Today, I am pleased to introduce you to the product of Marqui and Antonia Julien’s unflappable devotion, their daughter, Marlena.
Sandy by the Numbers
186 lives lost
24 states impacted
943 miles of U.S. coastline affected
144,000 Insurance claims filed
155, 287 FEMA applications submitted (88,750 rejected for a 57% failure rate)
7.9 million households and businesses in 15 states lost power
Approximately 50 billion in property damage and lost business making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record.
67 days for Congress to vote on relief
Research courtesy Ashley Tedino
In the strange calculus that is modern American politics, two men, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, weathered Sandy quite well. Even though President Barack Obama was surging against an imperfect opponent, the storm gave him a chance to be comfort-and-relief-provider-in-chief, and he won re-election with a comfortable margin. Republican Governor Chris Christie welcomed the President to a storm-ravaged New Jersey for a photo-op that may have alienated his party, but constructed a bipartisan narrative for himself that might make him the first viable Republican presidential candidate in a decade.
How ironic would that be if the Republican Party accrues any benefit from the tragedy of Sandy. Congressional Republicans stalled rather than rushed aid to several critically distressed American states. And in an act of chutzpah that defines the term, US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against Sandy relief, showed up in the metropolitan area last week, a year to the day after the storm, to raise money. His re-election fundraiser was held at the Belle Haven Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, a venue that was heavily damaged by the storm.
When Sandy hit the northeast, some lost everything, others found electoral succor, some declared their love and others proved that they have no shame. But as a village, we should take her lessons seriously. Nature promises another pop quiz on any given tomorrow.
This sketch is of the remains of Jerry Donnellan’s Houseboat. Donnellan is the Director of the County of Rockland Veterans Service Agency and until Sandy, a Nyack harbor resident. The Claremont Apartments, where 11 families are still homeless, is in the background.
- An Outdoor Wedding, Courtesy Sandy
- Nyack Sketch Log: Brave New Normal
- Super Storm Sandy, One Year After by DJ Cracovia (This piece has some excellent storm preparation tips)
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ”Nyack Sketch Log: Sandy Still Stings, Save One Silver Lining “ © 2013 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com
by Bill Batson
Since the 1850s, only three families have called this address on South Franklin Street home. The first two families built and expanded what is in many ways a monument to American architectural and scientific innovation. The third family has sought to restore and preserve this significant piece of local and national history.
Architect and builder Azariah Ross acquired the land where he built this enduring great home from Garrett Tallman for $5,000 in 1856. Ross had interests in projects that shaped an American landscape being transformed by the materials and wealth of the Industrial Revolution. He was instrumental in extending the Northern Railroad to Nyack, erecting the stone bridges that transect New York City’s Central Park and the stone retaining wall surrounding the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The home that Ross built in Nyack is the product of the ideas and designs of the great landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing was hugely influential in American residential and public architecture in the early 19th century. Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead, who built and designed Central Park, met in Downing’s Newburgh home. The Gothic Revival style of the home that Ross built is animated by Downing’s belief that architecture and the fine arts could elevate the morals of a property’s owner.
Ultimately, Ross’s stonework in Central Park proved sturdier than his finances. From 1871 until 1882, the Franklin Street home was heavily mortgaged and became the subject of litigation between his heirs after his death. For a brief period during this interval, the property was operated as the Smithsonian Hotel, a name that may have been selected as homage to Downing and Vaux’s work on the Washington museum of the same name. In 1883, Mary H. Hand purchased the home at auction.
Mary’s husband, William H. Hand, was well suited to rebuild the property that had been turned into a near ruin by vandals. The son of a cabinet maker, William H. Hand established a firm that specialized in decorative woodwork that would eventually employ his sons William B. Roger and Walter. Together and separately they were engaged in construction projects including The Manhattan Beach Hotel in Coney Island, The Princeton Library, the Museum of the City of New York, The Fogg Museum at Harvard and numerous mansions in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island.
Mary H. Hand was a vigorous manager of the affairs of the house that included a working farm and a stable. She was known to carry payroll and supplies to her husband’s workers in Manhattan Beach by horse and buggy.
Upon her death in 1917, the home was left to her daughter Mary E. Hand, who lived there until 1955. Mary E. Hand left the house to her nieces and nephews, who shared the home. Raymond Hand was a photographer who documented the Dutch inspired architecture of Rockland County; Dorothy Hand Park Crawford earned a degree in Interior Design at the Parsons School of Design, and William H. Hand, was a noted scientist and inventor.
When William H. Hand died in 1978, he was described by the Historical Society of Rockland as the last surviving personal research assistant to Thomas Alva Edison.
From a laboratory in the barn where his great-aunt kept her horses, Hand improved on the standard battery design, creating a unique power source with a 15-year life. This significant technological development made his battery popular with the military and police and fire departments.
Before Hand’s innovation, batteries relied almost exclusively on the locomotion of the engine to generate and hold the charge. Hand’s research in electro-chemistry created a battery that held a charge allowing a vehicle to reliably go from a stationary position to high-speeds, a valuable asset in crime fighting and combat.
Sarah Porter and her husband Tom Watts purchased the house from Dorothy Hand Park Crawford’s daughter Adelma in 1999, continuing the legacy of female stewardship of the property. During the sale, Porter learned that there was another bidder that wanted to demolish the home and build over 30 condominiums. Subsequently, they initiated talks with the Village of South Nyack to preserve the historic house through new provisions in the local zoning ordinance.
As a result of Porter’s negotiations, the parcel cannot be broken into smaller lots and there are new economic uses permitted on site including the establishment of a bed and breakfast, art gallery, spa, conference or retreat center.
Because the property is now for sale, you can take this virtual tour, created by Wright Bros. Real Estate.
The length of Porter’s tenure might be significantly shorter than the previous two stewards, but it is of major consequence to the legacies of the Ross and Hand families and all of the ideas and inventions enshrined in the building and grounds. Unlike many who seek to leverage real estate investments for profits by selling to the highest bidder, Porter’s commitment is to preserve the Hand House for future generations.
Porter’s altruistic actions are consistent with Azariah Ross’s work on public projects and the philanthropic traditions of the Hand family. William Hand donated the land across from the Hand ancestral home where the Village of South Nyack built at public park and firehouse. This house provides evidence that Andrew Jackson Downing may have been right when he said, “If they can decorate and build their homes to symbolize the values they hope to embody, such as prosperity, education and patriotism, they will be happier people and better citizens.”
Parties interested in the Hand House can contact Ellen Hilburg of Wright Bros. Real Estate at (914) 772-5858.
Special thanks to Adelma Park, Sarah Porter, Elizabeth Turk, Roger and Sally Seiler, Winston Perry and Village of South Nyack historian Myra Starr.
Hand portrait and battery image courtesy Hudson River Valley Heritage.
by Bill Batson
The Reverend Owen C. Thompson celebrated his first service at Grace Episcopal Church on September 15. Last Friday, October 18, Father Thompson sat in on the bongos for a set at GraceMusic’s first concert of the season, sporting shades, a garland and a very hip hat. Apparently, the new rector at Grace Church is already keeping the beat for a congregation that has a rich tradition of communal creativity.
“I look forward to both ministering to and with God’s people there, and simply being a good neighbor who adds to the diversity and warmth of a beautiful town called Nyack,” said Father Thompson.
“The search for our new rector took 18 months,” says Senior Warden, Jeff McDowell. “Our committee interviewed many capable candidates. The entire parish is thrilled to have Father Owen begin his service with us as our new rector. It is an exciting time for Grace Church.”
Father Thompson is the son of the late Rt. Reverend Herbert Thompson Jr., Bishop of Southern Ohio (ret.), and the late Ruselle Thompson, a former operatic soprano. Father Thompson has adopted his father’s ministry motto his own, “To reconcile. To heal. To Liberate. To Serve.”
Father Thompson’s wife, Jonna, is a holistic health practitioner, and they have two young sons, Ridley and Carter.
Father Thompson succeeds the Reverend Richard Gressle, who retired as rector on January 1, 2012. The Reverend Alon White has served the church as interim rector during the transition and search process.
Grace Episcopal Church was founded in 1861 by Franklin Babbitt. When Babbitt crossed the Hudson on a sailing sloop from Tarrytown, some considered Nyack “an old Dutch place about fifty years behind the times.” At 32, Babbitt swiftly cobbled together a congregation. Two weeks after his arrival at the Burd Street dock, he held his first service and by the end of the month, he presided over a formal meeting where the parish was incorporated.
Babbitt was as much a creative force as a spiritual one during his 56 years as rector. In the early years, he played the roll of organist and choirmaster in addition to his duties as rector and sexton. The greatest legacy to his artistry however, and the enduring symbol of his organizational genius is Grace Church itself. The building functions like a hymn or a painting, elevating those who behold the exterior or experience the acoustics of the interior.
There are many wonderful cultural and community programs contained within the stone walls and stain glass windows of Grace Church. The music program has four choirs. GraceMusic produces events and festivals, including the annual Welles Crowther Concert of Remembrance , a performing arts tribute to a member of the congregation who sacrificed his life saving others on 9/11.
Amazing Grace Circus, a youth art and fitness program, is another response of the Grace community to the emotional abyss that followed September 11th. The youth circus has now touched the lives of thousands of students and families through programs in public and private schools throughout the region.
In a recent interview, Father Thompson described the harmony between his life-long interest in music and art and the cultural community that is Grace Church and Nyack.
GraceMusic 2013-2014 Schedule
Sun., Nov. 17, 2013 at 4p
Award-winning chamber ensemble, The Sebastians, commemorate the tricentennial of Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico concerti: almost wall-to wall Vivaldi, plus a newly commissioned companion piece by Robert Honstein.
44th Annual Messiah Sing
Sun., Dec. 8, 2013 at 4p
A Rockland holiday tradition, Grace provides the soloists, you sing the choruses. Listeners welcome. Conducted by Brandon Beachamp.
All tickets $10; children free.
Three Organists Extravaganza
Sun., Jan. 26, 2014 at 4p
A joyful event that welcomes back John Gregory Bate & Brian-Paul Thomas to join Brandon Beachamp in a “trio concert” & show off their Cassavant with music that spans the centuries.
Dona Nobis Pacem
Sun., March 16, 2014 at 4p
Grace Church Choir sings music of war and peace in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the First World War, featuring Duruflé’s beautiful and moving Requiem.
“Part of what drew me to Grace was its vibrant music program. I was thrilled when I learned that Nyack is a town that is filled with musicians and artists. Call me biased, but I view music and art as that which is rooted in the spirit and brings us closer to one another and points to the mystery that is God, as there is truly something ethereal and transcendental about music and art.
My mother was an operatic soprano who sang on a few occasions at Carnegie Hall, as well as leading roles in off-Broadway musicals such as Carousel, South Pacific, and Porgy and Bess. Our home was constantly filled with the sound and presence of music. When she would sing in the choir at the church we attended during my youth, I, as a toddler would wander up to the chancel and curl up at her feet just to hear her sing. It was my mother’s inspiration that led me to join the boys choir at our church and continues to fuel my love affair with music to this day.
Prior to being called to the priesthood, I was involved in the performing arts (actor) and in the visual arts (video production). The arts are a big part of my identity. I envision the Church hosting a variety of music concerts, spoken word poetry events, and art exhibits. It is therefore my hope and prayer that music and other forms of art can be a vehicle to build lasting and meaningful relationships between the church and the rest of the community.”