Nyack Sketch Log: Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center

by Bill Batson

By 2030, The U.S. Census Bureau projects 74 million Americans will be seniors citizens, nearly one quarter of the population. Increasingly, families will require facilities that can meet the needs of the more frail elderly by providing residential settings that include medical, therapeutic and recreational services. Michael Braunstein took the helm of Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Valley Cottage in January 2018 cognizant of the challenge at the heart of this trend. Paraphrasing the 90’s rock band REM, Braunstein works to make Nyack Ridge a place full of “smiley, happy people,” by pursuing clinical excellence and a strong connection to the community.

Michael Braunstein with scissors, with George Hoehmann to his right and Edward Braunstein, Administrator Josh Lowinger and Village of Nyack Mayor Don Hammond to his left

Braunstein is a third generation nursing home operator. His grandfather bought a Nursing Home in the Bronx in 1956, serving as administrator. His grandmother was the cook. As a self-described nursing home brat, Michael would play bingo with the residents and serve tea. When Michael graduated from college, he took a position at a nursing home owned by his father, who had followed in his father into the family business. “From those early years, I’ve learned that its important to communicate with the staff and residents. To try to understand what their needs are. For the residents, this is their home. You want to make them as comfortable as possible,” Braunstein said.

Michael Braunstein and Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski giving a citation to 102-year old Nyack Ridge resident Assunta Lombardi

Braunstein’s father was on hand at recent ribbon cutting ceremony organized by his son to inaugurate the new management team at what was formerly Nyack Manor Nursing Home. Residents sat under a clear blue sky, serenaded by the African drums of local percussionist Arthur Lorde and were treated to sweets from an ice cream truck. Setting the tone with brief remarks, Braunstein welcomed Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann and Nyack Mayor Don Hammond to officially launch the new name Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

Michael Braunstein, Mike McWilliams, Veteran Services of Rockland County, Josh Lowinger, Edward Braunstein

In his remarks, Mayor Hammond listed the various events and local recreational programs that Nyack Ridge is actively supporting. “Michael is a very impressive corporate citizen, said Mayor Hammond. “He didn’t call up and asked what we could do for Nyack Ridge. He called me to ask what they could do for the community.” Apparently, Braunstein wants the residents to feel like Nyack Ridge is their home, and the community to think of Nyack Ridge as a good neighbor.

Josephine Andaloro, Director of Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteers

Braunstein has noted that the character of Nyack Ridge is shaped by a staff that includes members that have reported to work for decades. The facility manager and one of the receptionists has been on the job since the 1970s.  The date of the ribbon cutting was chosen to coincide with skilled nursing week to acknowledge the pivotal role good staff play in the successful operation of any health care facility. At Nyack Ridge a staff of approximately 200 men and women work tirelessly to provide health care, food, housing and recreation up to 160 residents.

“When we came to Nyack Ridge, we wanted to make sure that the public knew that we provide more than long term care,” said Administrator Josh Lowinger in explaining why the word rehabilitation comes before nursing in the facilities title. “Whether you require intense rehab or can only handle a more gentle approach – our therapists individualize your program to facilitate and encourage independence and to make your stay as short as possible.”

Nyack Football Team with a Nyack Ridge logo on their uniforms

One staffer that touches the lives of all the residents and helps cement the tie between Nyack Ridge and the community is Josephine Andaloro, Director of Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteers. Andaloro engages the interests and talents of the residents and gives them opportunities to interact with each other and the community at large. In February, Andaloro continued a civically-minded Valentine’s Day tradition that she started when she arrived five years ago.

Nyack Ridge is a sponsor of the Nyack Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming Thursday, July 12th Classic Car Night

Partnering with local schools, charities, churches and veterans’ organizations, Nyack Ridge and its residents created over 3,600 hand-crafted hearts that were delivered to active duty and returning soldiers. As part of the ceremony when the hearts where given to Mike McWilliams, Veteran Services of Rockland County, New York State Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski presented a resolution celebrating the life of 102-year old Nyack Ridge resident Assunta Lombardi.

When Clarkstown Supervisor Hoehmann spoke at the ribbon cutting in May, he noted the significance of the fact that Nyack Ridge has received a five star rating from the Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services. CMS is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Nursing homes with 5 stars are considered to have much above average quality and nursing homes with 1 star are considered to have quality much below average,” according to their website. Maintaining that five star rating and keeping everyone smiley and happy are Braunstein’s goals. As our population ages, having an award winning, upbeat, community oriented institution like Nyack Ridge is something to smile about.

Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is located at 476 Christian Herald Road, Valley Cottage. To learn more click here.

Bill Batson is an artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 



Nyack Sketch Log: Tickets to Time Travel at Tiny Train Station

NSL_Station_Revised Featured Image_A by Bill Batson

Once a waiting room for commuters, this tiny train station in Piermont is now an exhibition space for time travelers, a history museum.  Open every other Sunday from June through October, the public is welcome and the tickets are free.

The sounds of steam driven engines and horns echo in the memory of a dwindling few who lived in Piermont when the village was connected via rail to a national transportation grid. But this Saturday, June 16, thanks to the talents of scenic artists Betsy Franco Feeny and Gary Tannenbaum, a replica of a locomotive will pull into this station, as part of Family Fun Day, an effort to get young people on board the local history express.

Piermont Historical Society Presents Family Fun Day

June 16, 2 -5p

  • Reading by Brian Floca, Author and Illustrator of Caldecott winning book “Locomotive.”
  • Games and prizes
  • Learn Morse Code
  • Be a junior station master
  • Get your picture taken on the Piermont Express

Admission free

Piermont Historical Society Museum is located at 50 Ash St.

The historic territory to explore from this debarkation point is vast. When former Piermont Historical Society President Richard Esnard led the battle to acquire the lease for the station, he argued that preserving this history of this community  satisfied more than just parochial needs. “The story of Piermont told on the walls of this building is of historic significance to the political and economic evolution of this nation.” Specifically, Esnard was referring to the end of the war that birthed our nation and the beginning of the industrial era that resulted in the wealthy world power that we have become.

America Saluted for the First Time in Piermont

The Revolutionary War came to an end in this southeastern corner of Rockland County.  In May 1783, George Washington arrived at what was then called The Slote (Dutch for ‘the ditch’) to meet Sir Guy Carleton, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in America. After resolving matters relating to the cessation of hostilities at the American Army’s Headquarters in Tappan, Washington returned for a dinner on Carleton’s ship, the HMS Perseverance, and a 17-gun salute. The gesture was the first official recognition of the United States of America as a new sovereign nation.

The Name Remains, the Trains Came and Went 

The first President of the New York and Erie Railroad, Eleazar Lord, had substantial holdings in what was still called The Slote in the 1830s.  It is said that he used his clout to have the terminus of the railroad built on a pier near his land. He also renamed the village Piermont, combining a reference to the pier where his railroad ended and the mountain that abutted his estate, where Lord lived in a structure one could only describe as a castle

President Millard Fillmore and Secretary of State Daniel Webster traveled to the newly minted Piermont on the steamboat Erie on May 14, 1851, to take the inaugural trip by rail back to Dunkirk on Lake Erie.  Although the railroad put the American industrial revolution on the fast track, the fortunes of the railroad in Piermont were more fleeting.

The Fixture Called Flywheel

The unmovable object that is the center piece of one of Piermont’s rover parks is the part of a steam driven generator called a flywheel. The generator was installed in 1902 by Robert Gair to power the production of paper from his mill that was built on Lord’s Erie Railroad pier.

In an epic example of the phrase, they don’t build them like they used to, the decline of the local paper industry, the designs of luxury real estate developers and the full force of a wrecking ball could not persuade this flywheel to budge. So it now stands as a symbol to the durability of American workmanship and provides a place name for a park and an art gallery that have sprung up in its stubborn shadow.

Belle Kelly

She sold them tickets to ride

Belle Kelly moved to Piermont from Watkins Glen, NY, and served as a station master, ticket agent and telegraph clerk from 1908 until 1940. For decades, commuters using the Northern Branch Railroad that brought them to Jersey City and then eventually, New York City, were welcomed and aided by Belle Kelly. (The Erie Railroad was not served by this station.)

Three years after the railroad ceased operations in 1966, Kelly’s son, Tom, purchased the station. Belle died in 1976 and Tom continued to live there until his death in 1996, whereupon title eventually passed to the Village of Piermont. In 1975, the railroad right-of-way was deeded to Piermont and designated a public park by the Village of Piermont.

The memories of generals, presidents, industrialists and a dedicated station clerk now occupy this erstwhile waiting room. Visit one Sunday for a short trip trip through Piermont’s significant past.

See also

Bill Batson is an artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Tickets to Time Travel at Tiny Train Station“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 



Nyack Sketch Log: Bell-ans Exhibit Features Couples As Creative Collaborators

by Bill Batson

In almost 300 Nyack Sketch Logs, this is my first guest sketch. The schematic diagram is by my fiancé, Marisol Diaz, and depicts an idea I had for a piece called “Bistylus Built for Two.” Working in tandem, we have created three works for an exhibit entitled “Dynamics: Partners in Life and Art.” Our efforts, along with collaborations from 10 other couples, will be unveiled on Saturday at 7pm at the Volition Gallery at Bell-ans in Orangeburg. Come to the opening reception to sample a visual feast from kitchens with two cooks.

Speaking of food, the concept for this exhibit emerged during a discussion Marisol and I had over Indian Food in Nyack in 2016 with James and Phyllis Dodge. “We started to consider the number of friends that we have that are both life partners and artists and James, who can not resist a pun, saw that you can’t spell partners with out a.r.t.,” Phyllis remembered recently.

James & Phyllis have worked together establishing Bell-ans as a regional creative arts center since 2007. The hive of buildings in Orangeburg that once produced a popular indigestion tablet known as Bell-ans is the location of the Volition gallery, where the Dynamic exhibit will open on Saturday, June 9 at 7:00pm.

Founded in 1897 by John Lanphere Dodge, the son of a Civil War Union Army Surgeon, Bell-ans became a national pharmaceutical brand. One hundred and nineteen years later, the structures shelter the Shakespeare Children’s theater, a yoga study, horse stables, dozens of artist studios and Volition.

“This exhibition of works by couples and partners will show the results of togetherness and collaboration with one’s closest connection, reveling a new side of their expression or current connection to each other and the outside world,” said Co-curator Kristin Bowler, who partners with husband Spencer Tunick.

“Dynamics are what we experience when we come face to face with an outer catalyst in the form of another being who is ultimately our teacher through relationship,” said co-curator Lauren Rudolph, who will exhibit in the show in collaboration with her husband Jay Schick. “Through the vehicle of creative expression we will explore the nature of our partner dynamics and that which makes us choose to share this life and grow together.”

Meet the eleven creative couples cooking up compelling collaborations in Dynamic: Partners in Life & Art

Beto & Rob 

Beto is my artist name. Everything that I am right now happened by
accident. It all started by helping my brother attend art classes as
his interpreter, from that moment I found my passion for art.
In my work I try to incorporate different materials – clay, plaster,
steal, wax, metal powder, wood, recycled glass, pigment, silicon, etc. All my inspiration comes from the things I see every day.

Rob Kovacs: I received my first camera, a Kodak Disc, nearly 30 years ago, and I have
never stopped looking at life through the lens of a camera since.
I consider myself an “old school” photographer, or some would say a photo
purist. I have no formal photography training, but I do have the
“photographer’s eye” and I feel it is way too easy for anyone to be a
photographer in today’s world using all the editing and cutting and pasting,
adding and removing. I do not use Photoshop or any post production editing,
I want everyone to see what I saw through the camera; What you see is
what I saw.

My favorite photography subjects are animals and pets, especially my dogs,
nature, vacation, and landscapes. I love black and whites. I have recently
started to shoot photos of people, but still prefer my animals.

Kristin & Spencer

Kristin Bowler has been posing for Spencer’s photographs for 23 years. In Dynamics – Partners in Life and Art, Kristin once again poses for Spencer but this time she poses with 15 friends in the intimacy of their home. In the spirit of female inspiration and a strong and powerful tribe, Bowler and Tunick gathered friends to pose nude with her paintings.  Bowler and Tunick have previously collaborated to produce the all-women nude art action, Everything She Says Means Everything, at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland Ohio against the hateful rhetoric and actions spewed by Donald Trump and many in the GOP.

Kristin Bowler’s paintings are inspired by nature and fantasy, the realm of dreams and secrets, mysterious beings and lost worlds. In an ongoing series she explores the idea of the female muse as guide. In Bowler’s words, “My muses are a tribe of mysterious beings that accompany me to a place where time does not exist. When I paint or create I lose any sense of time and I see the muses as my guides into a hidden dimension of color, magic and nature.”  kristinbowler.com

Spencer Tunick’s body of work explores and expands the social, political and legal issues surrounding art in the public sphere. Spencer Tunick stages scenes in which the battle of nature against culture is played out against various backdrops, from civic center to desert sandstorm, man and woman are returned to a preindustrial, pre-everything state of existence. Tunick has traveled the globe to create these still and video images of multiple nude figures in public settings, from a handful of participants to tens of thousands, all volunteers. spencertunick.com

Marisol & Bill

Bistylus built for two is a machine with few moving parts that is extremely complicated to operate effectively, with printed instructions, in two parts, each written on the far side of your partners heart. In Wave Science, the landscape is deceptively permanent. The elements of chemistry and physics that we call our home by the river, water, earth, flora, fauna, and invisible air hurling through space around the sun is never resting. In the waves, the energy is tangible, constantly transferable, pushing us constantly up and down. On her sometimes tranquil, often tempestuous surface, we make our home.

Marisol Diaz is a graduate of the high school of Art & Design in NYC. She received her B.A. from Antioch College in Painting & Sculpture, and an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland,  where she studied with Grace Hartigan one of the only female American Abstract Expressionist painters of the New York School in the 1950s. Marisol is primarily an illustrator, and figurative artist, with prolific sculptural and glass-technique. She often uses mixed media and the-more-accessible-than-glass, ‘bar-top resin’ to tackle universal women’s issues. Her work concepts speak specifically to her Puerto Rican Diaspora. See and learn more @ http://www.amarettogirl.com

Bill Batson has published a weekly sketch and short essay about the village of Nyack since August 2011on NyackNewsAndViews. A selection of his sketch log entries were published as a book in 2014. A second volume will be released in 2018. Batson serves as a Trustee of the Historical Society of the Nyacks, the Communications Chair for the Nyack Branch of the NAACP. Batson chaired an effort that successfully create a monument to the Underground Railroad with the Toni Morrison Foundation in 2015 honoring local abolitionist Cynthia Hesdra.  billbatsonarts.com

Phyllis & James

Feeling as if their souls have been together throughout lifetimes, James & Phyllis Dodge along with their son Andrew translate their inner wounds and pain into their artwork— traveling on a path where they’re each others guides. “Prying” is the collective sentiment of freedom, taking steps with their first piece to stand and be seen heard & freed.

Their second piece “Parallel” channels lighter emotions of the humor that has brought them this far, gluing them together through their love for classic American and European vehicles. Working together as a cohesive force, their work at Bell-ans is truly greater than anything that could be accomplished alone.

As partners both in life and art, James & Phyllis have spent thirty-six years together; years both mirrored and paralleled. Finally, able to express themselves fully, and presenting it to the public at large, the couple has worked together at Bell-ans since 2007. The dynamic and productivity as a couple inspired this exhibition.

Phyllis Dodge has consistently demonstrated interests in the arts, participating in theater, singing, and acting, reflecting her family history of art and music instruction in Italy. As a designer, director and producer, Phyllis is fortunate to work with a team of talented artists to orchestrate creative events, art exhibits and educational programs at Bell-ans. Taking on the role of a catalyst, she strives to inspire those around her, guiding their expression to shape dreams & expression into form. http://www.bellans.com/

James Dodge: Installation artists, Renovation expert , father and animal lover. Studying film and installation, James has worked in 8mm producing and directing short films including Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Collegiate Nightmare, Nuke Van Winkle and Time Travelers. Managing Bell-ans since 1986, his work as an expert in restoration proved beneficial to keeping the former industrial now cultural park true to its authentic self, in addition to being a release value for his artistic passions.

Melissa & Jamey 

How do we combine such uniquely different approaches into a cohesive, engaging expression? Our pieces are artistic manifestations of that. Playing our different techniques and skills off each other, sometimes harmonizing, other time clashing. This is our truth — independent and unique, but merging into one.

Melissa Lovstrom Inspired by the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley, she grew up making art. Combining formal training and self-exploration, Melissa finds enjoyment in photography, drawing, painting and sculpture. She especially relishes working mediums with her hands – being in direct contact with the piece. A world traveler and certified underwater photographer, Melissa has a special connection with the ocean.

Jamey Jackson has worked as an illustrator and graphic designer. Currently he works as an art director, spending much of his free time following personal artistic pursuits. Jamey practices many mediums and techniques but lately has been exploring heavily textured acrylic painting.He is an active member of the Nyack Art Collective and Edward Hopper House, Volition Gallery in Orangeburg, NY hosted his first solo show in the spring of 2017.

Suzette Marie & J. Alexander

Suzette Marie & J. Alexander are collaborating for the first time with individually produced mash-ups of each other’s works. Suzette Marie, whose work focuses on the intimacy of sharing a bed, moves her sleeping figures from bedroom to landscape by directly drawing and painting onto prints of Alex’s photographs. Alex, a photographer who transforms misty fields and rivers into mysterious, romantic settings through post-production techniques, digitally combines elements from each of their distinct art forms into new compositions with layers of unexpected juxtapositions.

Through images that combine drawing and painting, Suzette Marie Martin explores how body language reveals the complexities, vulnerabilities and conflicts of intimate relationships. Awards include a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA and The National Gallery of Art Teacher Institute Fellowship in Washington, DC. http://suzettemartin.com

John Alexander Baker is a fine art photographer whose extensive portfolio began during his twenty year career as an actor, lighting designer, technical director and stage manager in theater and film. His transition to digital photography coincided with a career change to Information Technology software and network development.  To see more visit: http://alexbakerphotoz.com

Lauren & Jay 

As children we sketched constantly, we loved to express visually.  We share this sensitivity however we took two separate paths. I stayed on the path of creating art because I cannot imagine a life without it and Jay who happens to be an artist who is great at math took that route and put his art to the side for a bit. His grounded presence allows me to fly and yet he also inspires me to be more grounded. I hope I inspire him to fly a bit. He sees all of the details, I sail through the sky and other realms. I am so happy to work on this together and explore our dynamic in whatever incarnation it takes. It’s fascinating to connect in this way and to get back to our roots…Two creative kids who love to express.

Lauren Rudolph has always had a pencil in her hand and she sketched and perceived the world through creative eyes. She has created in many facets including painting, sculpture, puppetry and all sorts of mixed media, but her heart is with portraiture. Lauren is also a teacher of art because she believes that creative energy working from both sides of learner and instructor inspires her to grow and expand every day.

Jason Schick is one of those artists who is actually great at math. This skill took him down another path of business and finance. In this world it sometimes seems that you have to take one road or the other and Jay chose to take the latter and hoped to find time here and there to create. Jay met Lauren, an artist too and felt that connection to his deeply held passion, but with kids, a job and life, time seemed to grow thin. Now with the universe knocking on his door from a few different directions, it’s apparent that it’s time to pull out the pencils and create once again.

Susan & Joe

Susan & Joe collaborated on many artistic projects together when our decorative painting company was operating. Having two people work on the same mural allowed us to find our individual artistic strengths. For this project they are incorporating Joe’s scenic images and Susan’s collage skills.

Susan Strange has always envisioned herself as an artist and majored in art history at university.  Years later, she worked as a designer and later a decorative painter.  Currently, Strange is a collage artist.

As a high school earth science teacher, Joe LeBlanc finds art in nature. He has enjoyed capturing the world through photography and explores area of the Hudson Valley in a kayak. Recently he has become fascinated with how reflections catch light, creating abstract images as the light is warped by the small waves on the surface.

Donna & Bob 

Donna Davies & Bob Timm are two individuals who have built a life together through miles distance and miles of words.Their love story began with an entire ocean between them, Bob in New York and Donna in the UK., until the moment when the universe matched them up as pen pals through a school program almost 40 years ago.

In their early years, worlds apart, their letters were the foundation of their relationship.

This early and fruitful correspondence forms the basis of their collaboration.

Donna Davies Timm, a native of Great Britain, has lived and worked in New York for the past 20 years. She studied Surface Pattern and Textiles at Cumbria University, UK, specializing in Tapestry Weaving. She has exhibited work in the Royal Academy of Art, London, as well as many private galleries throughout England. Donna expanded her creativity into other forms of textile art, designing, constructing and embellishing customized garments and costumes for historical re-enactment, theater and performance. She is currently the director of the Nyack Art Collective.

Bob Timm is a poet, musician and family man. He is a founding editor of Poetry New York and founder of the New York College Poetry Slam. Bob studied American poetry at the CUNY Graduate Center with Allen Ginsberg and was a regular featured poet at the original Nuyorican Poetry Slams hosted by slam legend Bob Holman. Musically, Bob plays drums and piano, and has performed and recorded in NY with ska/reggae bands Orange Street and The Hard Times and performed several years with New York’s premier samba drumming school, Samba New York! He is presently a contributing editor for River River Journal,

Sona & Rob 

Music and art have always been significant influences for us as individuals, and was a huge component in bringing us together.  These pieces are manipulated images of digital music, combining technology and analog for both music and photography ultimately creating a visual representation of the sounds and feelings we share.

Sona Viola is a portrait and commercial photographer. After years of  in Marketing and Event planning for companies such as Fujifilm, she now exhibits her Fine Art is photography throughout the NY/NJ area and curated her first exhibit this year.

After years of playing in local bands, Rob Viola built a home recording studio, the featured a laptop powered by Reason/Pro-Tools. As his career has switched into the technology of television broadcast recording and live sports replays, his original love of music and the art of recording music remains.

Barbara & Ray 

Ray & Barbara spent countless hours together observing and recording nature. From their porches in Nyack and the Adirondacks, and on the road following migration routes in Rockland from Lake Tappan to Stoney Point, they watched hummingbirds, butterflies, loons, egrets, and eagles and other wild life. Barbara passed away last year, just shy of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The objects and images on display, made by their hands, represent a life dedicated to making art and celebrating nature and each other.

Barbara Wright, a well regarded master gardener, once won the coveted Edward Hopper House best commercial garden competition. Barbara enjoyed painting, quilting, basket weaving, stain glass and needle point. She loved kayaking, canoeing, bird and mink watching on her beloved Schroon Lake with her husband Ray.

Ray Wright was primarily a commercial photographer for his Real Estate and Insurance business, Wright Bros., until he and his wife Barbara bought a converted boat house on Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks in 1971. Ray worked with former Nyack High School music teacher Bert Hughes to launch Jazz in the Garden summer concert series at the Edward Hopper House in 1981. His work has appeared on the cover of the Villager and he has exhibited his work and lectured on nature photography at the Nyack, Orangeburg and Valley Cottage Libraries. This January, Ray was the Artist of Month at the Edward Hopper House.

Dynamics, Partners in Life and Art will be held at Volition Gallery on Saturday, June 9th from 7pm until 10pm. The exhibit is on display through July 14th.  Volition is located at Bell-ans Center of Creative Arts, 103 South Greenbush Road, Orangeburg, NY. Volition is open on Saturdays from 2 – 5pm and by appointment. For more information visit bellans.com

Bill Batson is an artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Bell-ans Exhibit Features Couples As Creative Collaborators“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


Nyack Sketch Log: Oratamin Swim and Tennis Club

Oratamin Featured Imageby Bill Batson

Nestled in a grove of maple and tulip trees off Route 303 in Blauvelt, the Oratamin Swin and Tennis Club opened for the summer on Memorial Day and is actively seeking new members. Splashing water and children’s laughter are not the usual sounds that one equates with an office park. But before the warehouses and corporate suites of Bradley Park were erected, Oratamin took root in these woods.

Barbara Valente joined the club seven years ago. “We had been going up to The Pond in Chestnut Ridge, NY. We liked the organic atmosphere, but it was too far away.  Someone had suggested that we check out Oratamin, so we did.  It had the same comfy feel. It’s very laid back and non regimented,  like your own back yard. You come, plop your stuff down, and feel right at home. The only set in stone rule is that kids can’t run by the pool.  It’s like hanging out with your friends and family all summer long.”

Enjoying the fruits of summer at Camp Oratamin

Along with 40 other families, the Valentes enjoy the pool and diving board, that sits on 5 acres of grounds which also includes a playing field, tennis court, nature path, a pavilion with picnic tables and a barbecue plus locker rooms with showers. “The pool itself is fenced in so when it closes at 7p, the rest of the grounds are still  open. If you want to stay and hang out, you can.”

Valente was also attracted to Oratamin because it is operated as a cooperative. “Everyone feels ownership and helps out.  We clean up after ourselves and take great pride in our club. You’ll say, hey, I planted those flowers and feel proud.” The dynamic that Valente describes seem to be in the organizational DNA of the club.

Pre-school Party/Oratamin Open House

Saturday June 2nd 1pm – 4pm, the pool will be open and we will have bounce houses, crafts, play structures, baby pools and sprinklers.  The grills will be on and picnic tables available for the afternoon.

Click here for more information.

Camp Oratamin

Established in 2016, Camp Oratamin is a small (9 kids max), very relaxed program intended to serve Oratamin Pool Club members (who have lower prices and priority in registration) but also open to a few non-members if they don’t fill up.

The camp runs from when school is out at end of June through to Labor Day and this year is already full. It is all outside and led by the kids with fun ad hoc activities brought in by counselors and members such as tie dying, legos, soccer, crafts, and the science of the stream the runs along the property.

To learn more visit oratamin.com.

The club was founded in 1949 by 12 couples, on a woodland track, leased by Robert Leber.  Leber was made a member for life in appreciation for the modest rent he charged and later deeded the entire property to the club as a gift. Leder had already used the name of Chief Oratamin for several of his properties.  Oratamin was chief of the Hackensacks and negotiated treaties with Dutch settlers in the early 1600s.

After constructing a pool that opened on Labor Day in 1949, succeeding members built the kitchen, bath houses, pavilion (1957) fire place (1971).  The tennis court was proposed in 1950 but took a decade to complete.  The grill featured in this week’s sketch is a recreational marvel and can accommodate up to four dozen hamburgers!

In March of 2015, Valente stepped down as president of the club at the end of her three year term of office.  She is now heading up the club’s membership effort. “We are one of the best kept secrets in Rockland County. Families traditionally become members because their friends are members, but we want to reach out even further.”

According to the forecasters, we can expect a hot summer, with above average temperatures in the northeast.  Oratamin Swim and Tennis Club is one a local option, that according to Valente, is comparable in price to the newly opened Tappan Pool and Beach Club and the Palisades Swim Club.

Photo Credit: Ken Goodman Photography

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Oratamin Swim and Tennis Club” © 2018 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: Our Segregated Cemetery

by Bill BatsonMount Moor Cemetery

Cemeteries were segregated in America until the mid-20th century. Even black veterans of America’s armed conflicts were dishonored when buried. Today, Mount Moor Cemetery stands as a monument to the twisted logic of racial discrimination. But the cemetery of approximately 90 veterans and civilians also serves as a symbol of perseverance and defiance. The gravestones at Mount Moor endure, despite the initial efforts of the developers of the Palisades Mall to obliterate the burial ground.NSL136_Hezekiah Easter Jr & Sr

(l.-r.) Hezekiah Easter Jr., Ruth Easter, Hezekiah Easter Sr.

The exploits of men who fought and died to preserve a democracy that did not grant them citizenship is one of the greatest tales of self-sacrifice in American history. Hollywood attempted to tell the story in the 1989 film “Glory,” staring Denzel Washington. However, our monument to this expression of epic heroism, Mount Moor, would not exist if not for a hometown hero, the late Hezekiah Easter, Jr.

United in BattleDivided in Burial

There are 28 Civil War veterans known to be buried in Mount Moor. They served in the 26th and 45th New York Regiments of Colored Volunteers and the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The 54th was the regiment that was recognized for their valor in the assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina on July 18, 1863, the battle that was depicted in the movie “Glory.”Daniel Ullman, one of the Union Army officers who convinced President Abraham Lincoln to mobilize African America troops during the Civil War, is buried in Nyack’s Oak Hill Cemetery. He organized  five regiments known as the Corps d’Afrique and was elevated to the rank of Brigadier General.

Hezekiah Easter, Jr. became the first African American elected to public office in Rockland County when he won a seat on the Village of Nyack Board of Trustees in 1965.  His connection to Mount Moor Cemetery was deeply personal. In 1945, he helped bury his brother Linwood, who died from a ruptured appendix at age 15. His father, Hezekiah Easter, Sr., a World War I veteran who owned a wood yard near the cemetery, was buried there in 1986.  If the developers of the Palisades Mall had had their way, Hezekiah Easter, Sr. would have been the last burial at Mount Moor.A copy of Mount Moor’s successful application for placement on the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places documents how the cemetery was a significant landmark for  a black community that has called Rockland County home for over three hundred years.The recorded presence of African Americans in Rockland County began at the same time that Europeans arrived in the region. African slaves and free blacks were a part of the Dutch community that settled here in 1687. According to census records from 1723, nearly one fifth of the 1,244 inhabitants of the county were African slaves. Mount Moor was established in 1849, 22 years after the New York State Legislature abolished slavery in 1827 and 13 years before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.NSL136_Mt Moor historical markerJames and Jane Benson deeded the land that became Mount Moor Cemetery to William H. Moore, Stephen Samuels and Isaac Williams on July 7, 1849. The land was purchased for the purpose of creating of a non-denominational final resting place for black families that were excluded from cemeteries where whites were buried. The name of cemetery captures the rugged topography of the location and the language of racial exclusion. The property is a wedge-shaped parcel on a steep hill and the term Moor was commonly used in the 18th and 19th century to described people of African descent.The area around the cemetery had been, until recently, undesirable marsh land. So much private and commercial refuse was dumped nearby,  the site was eventually dubbed Toxic Alley. Lacking the revenue and resources of traditional cemeteries, and with only a meager budget for maintenance, the grounds became overgrown. A lack of complete records and missing headstones have made determination of the exact population of the cemetery impossible.

The Gulfields

The cast zinc obelisk monument that is the subject of this week’s sketch is an example of the funerary arts that helped secure Mount Moor a place on the National Register of Historic Places.  Also called a catalogue monument, the ornate marker elegantly records evidence of life, death and tragedy.  Two of the people buried under the tall metal sculpture died as children, one as a young adult.  This is also the resting place of one of the Civil War veterans, Samuel Gulfield, Private Corporal in the 26th Regiment and his wife, Christina.

  • Gulfield, Charles P.4/18/1873 –  8/26/1877
  • Gulfield, Christina1/29/1841 – 3/1/1907
  • Gulfield, Jane F12/9/1870 – 8/24/1884
  • Gulfield, Samuel10/14/1831 – 5/18/1886
  • Gulfield, Susan O2/4/1863 –  7/28/1884

In 1940, a group of leading African American Rocklanders established the Mount Moor Cemetery Association to maintain the burial ground. The first president was Rev. William Clyde Taylor, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church. Hezekiah Easter, Jr., who had been elected to the Rockland County Legislature in 1970, became president of the association in 1977.Easter’s tenure as President of the Mount Moor Association coincided with the beginning of the battle against over-development chronicled in the documentary film Mega Mall.  A Syracuse, New York based developer, the Pyramid Companies,  announced their plan to build the second largest shopping mall in America next door to the cemetery in 1985. Using his extensive experience in public office, Easter sought to secure local, state and federal recognition of the historically important site. As a World War II vet, Easter helped coalesce support of his brothers-in-arms to protect and maintain the site. Veterans from every major American conflict are buried in Mount Moor including the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I and II and the Korean War.Even though the Pyramid Companies had amassed their own army of lawyers and public relations specialists to overcome community opposition to the mall, Easter did not relent. Joined by his colleagues Jacqueline L. Holland, Leonard Cooke, Wilbur Folkes, Charlene Dunbar, Bea Fountain and their attorney Alicia Crowe, the group stood their ground, even when confronted by bulldozers and belligerent security guards.“The families told me they did not want the Pyramid Companies to dig up their ancestors,” said Attorney Crowe. Proposals from the company included burying the plots under 100 feet of soil or disinterring the bodies for reburial elsewhere. “We were not going to allow them to disturb these rightful resting places in order to accommodate more parking spaces,” Crowe recalled.136NSL_Hezekiah Easter gravestone revisedAt a meeting at Depew Manor in 1994, a representative of the Pyramid company surrendered to the group’s demands. Once it was granted a place on the Federal Register, the cemetery could not be buried or dug up. The Pyramid company agreed to construct a fence around the original wedge-shaped survey lines from the 1849 deed, and also agreed to maintain the grounds of the cemetery.There would also be one final tombstone.On March 13, 2007, Hezekiah Easter, Jr. was laid to rest beside his brother and his father. The man who saved the cemetery is the last man buried at Mount Moor. A parking structure and the facades of box stores loom in the distance, held at bay by a solider and statesman who will forever keep his silent and solemn vigil over these hallowed grounds.

Color photos by Jennifer Rothschild

Special thanks to Brian Jennings, the Local History Librarian at New City Library.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Our Segregated Cemetery” © 2018 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.Weld-Sponsor-Graphic_Final

Nyack Sketch Log: Dying to Bloom

by Bill Batson

“Dying to Bloom is the first of its kind – Natural Burial Boutique!” According to owner and green burial advocate Kerry Potter. The retail store at 48 Burd Street in Nyack specializes in natural burial products for people and pets. Items include biodegradable caskets, urns, cremation jewelry, tear bottles and unique sympathy gifts.

This week’s Nyack Sketch Log interview with Potter explores issues that are both of public interest and deeply personal. The weight of the ecological and economic implications of funerals and burials are shattering the taboos that prevent candid conversations about death. For those ready to confront the inevitable, Dying to Bloom has options for those who want to be better custodians of the planet that we all inherit and must bequeath to future generations and for people looking for alternatives to the traditional funeral service industry.

kerry Potter, Owner, Dying to Bloom

What’s the definition of a green burial?

A green burial is returning to earth naturally, which means a body is buried in a biodegradable casket or shroud without embalming. It is going back to they way we used to bury our deceased and it is the most environmentally considerate way to go. This is in contrast to being embalmed with formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), sealed in a steel or varnished wood casket, placed in a leak-proof concrete vault.

biodegradable casket

Are green burials an option for low-income families?

Absolutely! The average funeral costs approximately $10,000. By foregoing the embalming process, which usually means forgoing a viewing of the deceased (a funeral home rule) that cuts on the expense. In addition, many green cemetery plots are more affordable. Greensprings in Newfield NY is an amazing majestic natural cemetery with plots costing $1,000. Rosendale Cemetery in Rosendale, NY is a hybrid that offers plots for $800. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and Maryrest in Mahwah also have natural sections. Dying to Bloom sells simple white cardboard caskets that can be painted or decorated by the family for $365. We also have shrouds, hand woven willow caskets, simple pine and artistically made Greenman Casket (which is poplar bark with a live edge cherry lid). You do not need to purchase the casket from the funeral home. Even though it is an emotional purchase, people should price shop! Prices can vary tremendously from funeral home to funeral home. Know your consumer rights – visit the National Funeral Consumers Alliance at funerals.org In lieu of a viewing you can create your own memorial service at home, at a park or at the cemetery. The amount of money you spend DOES NOT reflect the amount of love you have for your beloved family member.

The Ecology And Economics of Funerals and Burials by the Numbers:

Current day Funeral Bier used at Steelmantown Cemetery, Woodbine NJ

Each year we bury:

  • 8 olympic-sized swimming pools of embalming fluid
  • Enough metal to build the golden gate bridge
  • Enough concrete in burial vaults to pave a two-line highway from New York to Detroit

Funeral Cost:

  • The average funeral costs $10,000
  • There are 109,000 cemeteries in the United States
  • There are 93 registered green cemeteries
  •  76 million Americans are projected to reach the current age of average life expectancy, 78 years, between 2024 and 2042.
  • If they were all buried in standard burial plots, it would require roughly 130 square miles of pure grave space, not counting roads, trees or pathways. That’s an area about the size of Las Vegas.


City Lab 

What brought you to Nyack?

When I wrote my business plan I knew, if I was going to stay in Rockland County, the boutique had to be located in Nyack! Nyack has a reputation for being earth-friendly, open-minded and progressive. Nyack is also the center of Rockland’s art community, many of our products are handmade works of art themselves.

What were you doing before you became a green burial advocate?

I have been a green burial advocate for over 10 years. I incorporated my passion for it into my previous work at WRCR radio by hosting a monthly show called “Dying to Bloom”. Topics included cremation, donating your body to science, consumer rights and related issues. In addition to being a mother of 3, I have held various administrative & marketing positions that have helped prepare me for running a business.

How long have you had the shop and what can we find inside?

Dying to Bloom has been open for a little over a year! The boutique is in the historic St. George Building in Nyack. It is a small quaint shop charmed with a lovely antique funeral bier and late period morning dress. They reflect the concept of going back to simpler days when families cared for their own deceased in the home. The gentle sounds of water flowing from the wall fountain represents a connection with nature. Several caskets are on display including burial shrouds, Sweet Goodbye Pet Burial Kits, Urns and cremation jewelry.

Are people sometimes shocked to hear that you run a burial shop?

We live in a culture that denies death, we have distanced ourselves from it. With many dying in hospitals and nursing homes followed by a move to a funeral home we have become unfamiliar with what it looks like. It is a taboo topic and many reformers are working to change that. Some people seem very intrigued by my business. I try to encourage & reflect the benefits of acknowledging our own mortality – live in the present, take chances, keep things in perspective – be happy for life is temporary – you will die.

What’s the most popular product that you sell?

A tear bottle

With cremations now outnumbering burials, our most popular product is Scatter Tubes. They are biodegradable urns that come in a variety of sizes and prints engineered to help scatter ashes. Basically like a large salt shaker. Our biodegradable water urns are also popular. They float for a while then sink and biodegrade in the water.

Have you always been interested in the funeral industry?

From early childhood, I have had a fascination with defining life and the supernatural. I wish I was capable of understanding quantum physics and the string theory. Meanwhile, losing my parents to cancer in my 20s inspired me to become a Hospice Volunteer. Years after they died I learned about green burial and became passionate about wanting to bring a land conservation green cemetery closer to Rockland County.

Could you describe some of your products and how they are different to what you get in a traditional funeral home?

We offer a lovely selection of caskets from willow, bamboo, cardboard, pine in addition to a selection of burial shrouds. We encourage creative personal choices that reflect the deceased and compliment nature. I am not a funeral director. New York is one of ten states that require the use of a funeral director for issuing a death certificate and transporting the body. I think it is important for consumers to know FTC regulations state that all funeral homes must accept a coffin from a third-party seller without additional charge or penalty to you. Even though NY has some of the stricter regulations, home funerals (caring for your own deceased) is legal and possible for most situations. Visit the Home Funeral Alliance (homefuneralalliance.org) for more information.

Do you have eco pods available? If so, could you describe how they work?

eco burial pod

Eco pods are caskets made from recycled paper. While I do have access to them, I think you are referring to the Bios Urn. Many folks are talking about turning into a tree when buried. There are quite a few concepts out on the internet and some of them are still in the concept phase. Currently, we do have the Bios Urn. That is an urn where you put cremated remains in the bottom half with a tree seed on the top half. We have Pine, beech, maple & red maple in stock. We also have a product called “Let your Love Grow”. Created by a funeral director that realized cremated remains do not break down and nourish the earth. This product neutralizes the cremains and helps them become nutrient rich so you can produce your own memorial planting.

Do most cemeteries permit green burials?

Bio degradable urn

No, however, the interest in going out green is on the rise. We do carry several books including “The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide” by Ann Hoffner. Ann’s book is a state-by-state directory of where, how and why to choose green burial. There are different levels of green cemeteries. A land conservation cemetery is all preserved open space that also serves as a burial ground utilizing the income to continue preservation. A natural burial ground follows the principle of green burial and a Hybrid cemetery is an existing cemetery with headstones that opened a green burial section. Our caskets are suitable for all cemeteries as well as cremation.

Are you still planning on opening a green cemetery in Rockland County?

Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve

I did initiate “The Green Cemetery Fund” through the Rockland Community Foundation (rocklandgives.org) to help bring a land conservation green cemetery to our area. I also have a donation box in the store and I will continue to pursue this mission. Of course a land donation of 30 acres would be nice or an alliance with corporate owned land or parkland. Remember the land remains natural and continues to serve the wildlife as well as enjoyment for nature lovers. It just also happens to serve as a final resting place for those that choose to nourish the earth.

I heard you have studied how to do home funerals. Is that something you plan to do in the future?

cremation jewelry

I did take a course on home funerals by Olivia Bareham from Sacred Crossings. I am interested in continuing to learn from current practicing home funeral guides and would consider working with funeral homes willing to help families that want to experience the sacred act of a family led funeral. We have an array of home funeral guides and death doulas in our area and the field is growing. I am also pursing a certification as a Funeral Celebrant and will graduate in August!

Do you just have products for humans or do you make arrangements for animals as well?

We do carry products for pets as well. We recognize pets as family members and believe they deserve the same respect with final disposition. We are proud to be the first US retailer to offer the “Sweet Goodbye Pet Burial Kits”. These are lovely handmade wool biodegradable shrouds. The kit includes a burial guide with ceremony ideas and an up-cycled wood marker. They can be used for burial or cremation and are the most dignified option I have come across. That is why I also became a US wholesale representative. Additional services include pet shrouding and delivery to the crematory.

How do you open up conversations about death in a society where it is taboo?

As I mentioned earlier, there is a growing movement in the US to become “Deathpostive” (popularized by Caitlin Doughty & “The Order of the Good Death”). In addition, a growing number of Death Cafes are taking place all over the world (56 countries so far)! We host the Nyack Death Cafe, here at Dying to Bloom on the first Sunday of every month. Death Cafes were started in the UK by John Underwood per deathcafe.com “Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.” At a Death Cafe people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. As a host, I found them to be intriguing and no two have been alike! This is a free event with interesting conversation! You can find out more and learn about Nyack Death Cafe by visiting deathcafe.com.

For more information, visit Dyingtobloom.com

48 Burd Street, Suite 101
Nyack, NY 10960
(845) 535-1567

Boutique Hours:
Thursday-Sunday 12:00 noon -5:00pm
Also by appointment

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Dying to Bloom“ © 2018 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


Nyack Sketch Log: Gardens of Civic Virtue

NSL143_Civic Garden_Featured Imageby Bill Batson

Cultivating vegetation and historic preservation are two of the organizing principals of Florence Katzenstein’s life. As the founder of historical societies on both sides of the Hudson River, Katzenstein has dedicated the last 45 years to preserving the region’s past for the benefit of future generations. On May 19th, Katzenstein will host the annual plant sale of the Nyack Garden Club, welcoming the public to view her picturesque property and support the club’s public planting projects.

Walter and Florence Katzenstein moved to their Upper Nyack home in 1985, so that Walter could be closer to his factory in Congers. Florence founded the Hastings Historical Society in 1970. When she saw that no such organization existed in Nyack, she founded The Historical Society of the Nyacks in 1994.

Garden Club of Nyack
Annual Plant Sale

NSL143_Civic Garden_cedum garden

Saturday, May 19
507 N. Broadway, Upper Nyack
10a – 2p

Every May since 1993, the Nyack Garden Club has held a plant sale.

Proceeds from the sale fund the public gardens that the club maintains that include:

  • the Butterfly Garden,
  • Hopper House,
  • the Old Stone Meeting House
  • as well as maintaining a plot in the community garden to help feed the hungry.

A selection of annuals and perennials from Bumps nursery and bulbs from the International Bulb Company will be available.

There is a bake sale table with home-baked goods.

For more information visit the Nyack Garden Club.

Historical Society Yard Sale

Also on Saturday, May 19 from 10a – 3p the Historical Society of the Nyacks will hold their annual Yard Sale at the corner of South Broadway and Clinton Avenue.

History and horticulture have found fertile soil on this riverfront estate. From 1751 to 1905, six generations of the Williamson family occupied the land that is now the 500 block of North Broadway. The land yielded fruit, flowers and vegetables that, for a period, were harvested by slaves.

In 1905, the property was purchased by Joseph Hilton. Hilton’s wife, Ida, founded the Nyack Garden Club in 1912. The Hiltons added cottages for their two daughters.

In 1925, Pierre Bernard, also known as the Great Oom, started an ashram utilizing half a dozen old estates in the Nyacks that his devotees bought for him, including the Hilton estate, called “The Moorings”, with its main house, two cottages and carriage house.  The South Cottage is now the Katzenstein home.

Those who attend the plant sale will see a landscape of man-made and natural features that have been immortalized in a major Hollywood film. The Katzenstein home caught the eye of  Woody Allen. Scenes shot in the garden and patio appear in Allen’s 2014 oscar winning effort, “Blue Jasmine.”

In a recent interview, Florence Katzenstein reflected on her garden, some local history and the mercurial movie director.

How did you create your oriental garden?

The garden area was the previous owner’s garbage dump. There were old tires, branches, leaves, no steps, just clay soil. The trees were so overgrown, you could not see the river from the house.

I looked at the stone bridge, waterfall and stream and thought it had an oriental aspect. I started with a plain old privet. It’s a plant people use for hedges. It had grown to about 12 feet high high so I cut it into an oriental shape.  It was the start of my version of an oriental garden.

How many hours a day do you garden?

I could not begin to tell you. I can come down meaning to pick a flower and three hours later, I realize I am still in the garden, hot and dirty.

NSL143_Civic Garden_waterfallWere you aware of the story of Pierre Bernard when you moved here?

No. I did not even know that Upper Nyack existed. We moved here from Hastings. Back then, people in Westchester thought of Rockland as someplace you go through on your way to get somewhere else.

My husband built a factory in Congers after leaving the South Bronx. He wanted to shorten his commute. His company, Star Kay White, is 125 years old. Their first location was where the World Trade Center once stood. He makes flavoring for ice creams. If you eat vanilla ice cream and there is a chocolate ripple, he made the chocolate ripple. He’s 84 years old and he still goes to work everyday.

NSL106_Blanche DeVries

Blanche DeVries

Pierre Bernard was a total phony. His wife, Blanch DeVries, saw the potential in what were white elephant properties that no one could pay the taxes on.

He made up quite a history for himself. But he really did own elephants and monkeys. Many celebrities of his time thought he was terrific. Greta Garbo and Leopold Stokowski paid him to teach them yoga. He then gave them a rake and a scythe and said ‘go out and cut the grass.’

What is your favorite plant?

I like rose gardens, but  I
NSL143_Civic Garden_French Poodle tree_reviseddon’t like the formal look they often have. I’m a messy gardener. I like plants that self-seed. However, some plants overdo that and can easily take over.

NSL143_Civic Garden_CherubWhen did you start gardening?

My father gardened and my grandfather gardened. One of my earliest memories of gardening is when I was four and a half, either my father or my grandfather helped me grow corn. You had to put the fish guts and fish head in the hole first and then add four kernels of corn. They corn started to grow right away. Everyday, I would race home from Kindergarten. I was thrilled. Then one day they were gone and a neat row of flowers were in their place.

NSL143_Civic Garden_pruning shearsWe were living in a two family house in Mount Vernon and the landlord came by and he said that corn was not a good thing for a little girl to grow, so he planted me some pretty flowers. I remember the feeling of rage to this day. That was my first memory of gardening and my attachment to it.

I understand that you started the Butterfly garden?

NSL143_Civic Garden_Butterfly Garden-Revised

Butterfly Garden

In 1999, the Nyack Garden Club wanted to celebrate the new millennium. Trish Schroer and I thought we should do something that was
permanent. The Hudson is a flyway for butterflies from Canada on their way Mexico. It is a long journey and they need places to rest along the way. We chose the spot near the river that had a large glacial boulder, and planned our garden around it. When the rock heats up, butterflies land on it to rest and dry their wings.

So you must have some Woody Allen stories?

NSL143_Civic Garden_Katzenstein Patio_revised

Scene from Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine

I had agreed to let them come on to the property, to film “Blue Jasmine.” They were filming in the fall and I said they could not go into the garden past a certain point. Then I see that two men are walking past that point. I said, ‘excuse me, but you can’t go down there,’ and they said, ‘Woody told us to go down there.’ So I said, ‘Florence says you can’t.’

I explained that they were standing underneath a sixty foot high black walnut tree. The walnuts fall like bombs. They come down with a bang, almost burying themselves in the ground. All I need is for Woody to be hit in the head. So, I said, ‘unless you’re wearing hard hats, you are not going down there.’

Within an hour, six or seven men, and Woody Allen were all walking around wearing yellow hard hats. They left the hats when they were done filming.

NSL143_Civic Garden_planting shedLittle Louie

On Monday, May 19th, 2013, one of Florence’s garden companions, her 110 pound American bulldog, Little Louie, passed away. “I called him ‘Little Louie’ because he was rescued from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Louie was short for Louisiana.”

In a secluded area that she can see from her home, Little Louie joined five other family dogs and one cat in repose.

Florence is now shadowed by her surviving pet and planting partner, her dog Punjik.

When I asked Florence her favorite spot in the garden to sit and reflect, she replied “I don’t sit.”

Surrounded by projects that need her attention, Katzenstein keeps busy, with Punjik at her side, considering what tree or plant needs pruning, or what civic organization needs cultivation.

Garden photos by Jennifer Rothschild

Special thanks to Betty Perry.

The Nyack Garden Club‘s annual plant sale will be held at the Katzenstein home at 507 North Broadway, Upper Nyack on Saturday, May 19th from 10a – 2p.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Gardens of Civic Virtue“ © 2018 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.