by Bill Batson
Every summer, we ask what our water can do for us: Hydration for our selves, our pets and our plants, a recreational venue for swimming, boating and fishing. And when frozen and cubed as ice, our H2O is the ultimate refreshment that makes the hottest day bearable. But when will we ask, what can we do for our water?
This July 4th, as we celebrate our independence, residents of Nyack can also applaud the fact that we have public control over our water supply. In Clarkstown, our neighbors have been doing battle with Suez Water Company, a monopoly utility that controls the flow of water. An ill-conceived desalinization proposal was defeated, but public opposition to their efforts to relocate their headquarters to a site uphill from a regional water source, Lake DeForest, continues. And then there’s the 18.6% rate increase Suez has requested from the Public Service Commission.
Excerpt from Earth Matters:
The Suez Saga and Why You Care
By Susan Hellauer
Suez announced plans to relocated their headquarters from 360 Clarkstown Road, in West Nyack, to a 26-acre site at 162 Old Mill Road, in Valley Cottage, leased from Tilcon.
Local residents, along with the county’s most diligent water-watchers were present at three recent meetings of the Clarkstown Planning Board, which needs to review and decide whether to green light Suez’s plan. Concerned citizens voiced objections to removal of 270+ mature trees, as well as to asphalt paving of extensive parking areas, increased traffic, a pair of on-site fuel storage tanks, and a diesel generator. All of these parts of the plan could create both everyday pollution in the reservoir from stormwater runoff, and a disaster for the county’s drinking water in a superstorm. Suez agreed to nix the above-ground fuel-storage tanks, but public comment at these meetings harped on the same refrain: Find a better place for all this stuff!
The process is now stalled in a disagreement over the generator, a traffic study of local roads, and the need—or not—for a State Environmental Site Assessment.
By Susan Hellauer
Nyack Sketch Log Suggestion!
Contact Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann and ask that he does everything in his power to make sure that Suez Water Company acts responsibly in their capacity as the steward of Lake DeForest.
You can reach Supervisor Hoehmann at email@example.com
The overreach and arrogance that Suez has shown toward local government and rate payers should only redouble the resistance of those who live in Nyack to even consider the privatization of the life giving and sustaining resource of water.
Here’s a short history of the Nyack Water Department and an update on the status of the Suez Lake DeForest site building permit process.
The Source of our Water
When we turn on the faucet or flush the toilet, the water always flows. We may not know the exact source, or where the mains and pipes are buried, but we can reliably depend on the quality and availability of water in our village. Nyack is fortunate to have a publicly controlled water department that has met our needs for 116 years.
From 18th century cisterns to the controversy over fluoridation, from political intrigue in the Leonard Cooke era to the desalination proposal of Suez Water (formerly United Water,) here is brief history of the water supply in Nyack.
Our water is drawn from the Hackensack River after it passes through Lake Deforest Reservoir. The reservoir has a capacity of five billion gallons. The water filtration plant that treats our water is operated by the Nyack Water Department and is located approximately one mile from the reservoir in West Nyack.
For ten years my father, William Prime Batson, worked for the Nyack Water Department, which supplies water to Nyack, South Nyack, Central Nyack and part of West Nyack. (Currently, I live in Upper Nyack and make a monthly payment to Suez Water.)
Nyack uses approximately 1.5 million gallons of water per day. This number rises in the summer and drops in the winter.
The treatment plant cost one million dollars to construct when it was built in 1970.
Cooke named, unnamed and renamed
Leonard Cooke, an African American civic leader, was the chairman of the Nyack Water Department when the treatment plant was constructed. Cooke was widely recognized for securing a grant of over a half a million dollars from the US Dept of Housing and Urban Development that made the project possible. The deal was negotiated between Cooke and HUD Secretary Robert Weaver, the first African American cabinet member. Cooke and Weaver first met through their work with the NAACP.
Although the plant was named for Cooke when it opened in 1970, the Nyack Village Board removed his name from the building and refused to reappoint Cooke, a long time Democratic Committeeman, when a newly elected Republican majority assumed control of the Village Board in 1973.
In a subsequent electoral cycle, Cooke was returned to his position and his name restored to the filtration plant.
From Private to Public to Almost Private Again
The Honorable William Voorhis chartered the Nyack Water Works Company on March 28, 1873. At first, the company provided water from springs and wells. As demand grew the water company added capacity with three reservoirs. Eventually, population growth required the construction of a steam powered pump house to take water from the Hackensack River near the location of today’s treatment plant.
Before Voorhis, water was obtained through wells that were sometimes shared with neighbors or cisterns that collected rainwater. Many health and conservation conscious people today are promoting a return to the cistern.
The village established the Nyack Water Department after using eminent domain to purchase the Nyack Water Works Company from the heirs of Voorhis in 1896 for $107,000.
In the early 1960’s, the Nyack Civic Association, with Leonard Cooke at the vanguard, successfully fought off efforts to sell Nyack’s water supply to the Spring Valley Water and Supply Company. Opponents argued that the sale would drive up rates. Spring Valley Water was eventually taken over by United Water.
To fluoridate or not to fluoridate
In 1980, Nyack failed to comply with a Rockland County Health Department mandate to fluoridate the water supply. Ignoring pleas from then Mayor Alex Caglione, the Village Board refused to approve fluoridation. Legal maneuvering ensued, but the Village Board eventually prevailed.
In Stanly Kubrick’s epic work of political satire, Dr. Strangelove, a deranged General Jack D. Ripper, suggests fluoridation was a communist plot. I am not sure that Kubrick and Ripper are to blame for our fluoride free water, but the wound of the battle is still evident. In a Q & A on the Rockland County Department of Health the question, “is my water fluoridated,”is answered: NO!
The safety of our water supply made headlines when sides were drawn over Suez 2012 (then United Water) plan to open a desalination plant on the Hudson River in Haverstraw.
According to the Nyack Water Department, Nyack residents would not consume desalinated water if the plan were adopted because our water supply is separate from the United Water system. However, during emergencies, we do rely on United Water’s reservoir.
The Rockland Water Coalition argued that the adverse health effects from exposure to desalinated water are not the only issue for the people of Nyack. The generation of unlimited river water through desalination would spur over development jeopardizing our water supply through increased pollution and run off.
There was also concern about the environmental impact of a desalination plant. There is concern over how the removal of millions of gallons of water per day for desalination will impact the Hudson River. Haverstraw Bay is a major nursery for many species, some of which are endangered. Finally, the large amounts of electricity required to power the plant will pollute the air and warm the globe.
In December 2015, the NYS Public Service Commission agreed with the activists and said the plant was no longer needed, directing Suez, the company formerly known as United Water to focus, on conservation instead of desalination.
To keep informed about the unfolding Suez saga, visit the Sierra Club.
Thanks to Brian Jennings, the Librarian Supervisor at the Nyack Library for his time, energy and insight. Special thanks to Win Perry and Harry Williams, Nyack Water Department Superintendent.
by Bill Batson
Nyack has its own super group. Playing from a reggae and ska song book, JLP and The Very Bad Ideas are drawn for different bands, including some well known figures on the local music scene. After rave reviews from gigs at Casa del Sol, Nyack Earth Day and some charity events at RoCA and Grace Church it is time you meet JLP and The Very Bad Ideas, introduced by the man who formed the band, Bob Timm.
Who are JLP and the Very Bad Ideas?
The Very Bad Ideas is a new assembly of Nyack musicians who all share a love of foundation era reggae music, all the pre-Rasta, 60s/70s sounds of rocksteady, ska and old school, pre-digital reggae. It’s myself, Bob Timm, on piano, Jeff Rubin and Jason “Big Dread” Smith on guitars, Joanne Louise-Paul on bass, Brian Bongo Davis on drums, and Jason Torres bringing it together out front on lead vocals. Key to the music we play is we all get microphones and try our best to get those sweet harmonies.
What are some of your other favorite reggae bands?
We love mixing it up with our Nyack reggae compadres in I Anbassa and the Word Sound Power Movement. The great thing about reggae is the universe is so diverse. If you ask all of us, you’ll get 6 different sets of favorites just from NY/NJ area.
My personal favorite New York bands are my brothers and sisters in the NYC ska/rocksteady family: The Slackers, Far East, The Frightnrs, Jah Point and Boomshot.
When did you develop a love for reggae?
I absorbed Bob Marley like everyone else in the modern world, but my entry point was more from Two Tone ska, then digging original Jamaican ska and coming at reggae from the early days. I love all the mashup from mid-60s/70s as all these studios popped up and they took soul/motown and rock from the pop charts and blew it up with Jamaican flavor.
Did you ever attend the world famous Reggae Lounge in the lower east side?
No, I was still too suburb fanboy to hang there at its height. My favorite spots were Wetlands for regular ska/reggae bills and the Ritz to check bigger touring bands.
What was your first reggae band and what instrument did you play?
JLP And The Very Bad Ideas
Live at Olive’s
Thursday, June 27
Nyack has a new collective. The Reggae collective premiers on Thursday, June 27 at 8p at Olive’s. Supporting the release of 86 Supreme’s new banger 18 Strikes.
The Nyack Reggae Collective includes:
- I Anbassa
- JlP And The Very Bad Ideas
- Wadada the Love Movement
Brooklyn based 86 Supreme brings high intensity reggae and hip hop. There arrival occasions the first ever of the Nyack Reggae Collective.
Olive’s is located 118a Main Street, Nyack
I’ve been drumming most of my life, and my first reggae-flavored band was a ska band called The DeFactos. We were one of a gazillion NY ska bands in the Moon Ska Records community that flourished here most of the 90s. The New York Times had declared ska music as “the sound of New York“and you couldn’t throw a piece of corn in the city on a weekend without hitting a checker-shirted trumpet player in the head.
What are the origins of Ska?
Original ska music is essentially Jamaican jazz music. It developed in early 60s around the time Jamaica was moving toward independence and musicians were looking to forge a distinct new Jamaican sound of their own. It’s a brilliant mix of jazz, New Orleans, Latin and Caribbean flavors. Ska then evolved into rocksteady style and then reggae, and has its own distinct branches in British Two Tone and 90s/Third Wave.
What are some of the challenges of getting a band off the ground?
The toughest is always scheduling and communications, especially when all of you are balancing music and life. What makes The Very Bad Ideas especially enjoyable is that we are friends and neighbors first, and we just happen to all love reggae. It’s a true Nyack-So-Nyack story.
In JLP you play keyboards, but your were formerly a percussionist. How was that transition?
Still in progress. Piano is essentially a percussion instrument, especially for the music we play, so my focus is mainly on learning a lot of chord inversions and then finding the right style of chops, bubbles and flavors for each tune.
Horns anytime soon?
Possibly. We’re mainly a guitar-based sounds, but would love to get some extra flavors in there soon.
Any plans to take the show on the road?
No plans to “get in the van” regularly, but we’ve got some offers we’re working on to take the show out of Rockland later in the summer. We’re booking private parties, festivals, day and evening gigs. Excited to see what mess we can get into over the next year, and just mainly enjoy the Very Bad Ideas vibe.
What’s in the water at Casa? There seems to be so much great music coming out of there.
Casa del Sol is so great for music in Nyack. Tom Lynch supports all different styles of music and art, sharing the Casa space with the community. And it’s become a beacon for bringing more people into town.
How often do you rehearse?
We try to meet up once a week, either for full band rehearsal or just acoustic guitars and vocals.
Is it true you have Bongo Fries after every performance?
No, I think Bongo is quite happy to switch gears and just play the drums when it’s VBI time.
Have you seen Bongo skank?
Mostly on his Facebook selfies. We keep him chained to the drum stool so everyone else can dance.
Is it true that Jeff Rubin builds pedals that make grown men cry?
Jeff Rubin is a musical treasure chest in so many wonderful ways. His artistry with Jeff Rubin Electronics is like a whole other level of magic.
Tell me the journey of Big Dread to Nyack?
Big Dread comes down to us from the mountain. Bear Mountain by way of Japan, Texas and Cape Cod. He brings us this whole other energy from countless reggae journeys around the world and I’ve heard rumors that local high school kids are already forming some kind of “spirit animal” cult around him.
Who’s out front?
Jason Torres, a great afro-cuban percussionist, and has a great voice with a lot of sweetness and style.
The JLP in your name is your bass player. How did she join the band?
We have Dave Reiss to thank. He plays bass for I Anbassa, and I asked him for another reggae bass in the area. Joanne was his first and immediate reference and she’s a powerhouse on both the bass and when she takes the mic.
What is your favorite song in your set?
Selections like My Conversation or the Answer. “Riddim” that brings all the best elements of what we do together.
Favorite Reggae lyric
“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.”
I want to avoid a knee-jerk Bob Marley reference, but he’s hard to beat.
Favorite Reggae group
Favorite show you’ve attended
Favorite recent show was seeing Toots Hibbert front and center for his acoustic show in New York. All-time favorite probably Skavoovie tours from early 90s where you had all history on stage in one night: the original Skatalites, members of The Specials and The Beat, and some of the best American ska legends. Those kinds of shows are never gonna happen again.
I understand you are a poet, so I’ll let you conclude this interview in verse
A Nyack Reggae Haiku
For pure joy run come
dance with JLP and the
Very Bad Ideas
You can follow Nyack’s “Homegrown” reggae/ska band on instagram @jlpandtheverybadideas or on Facebook.
by Bill Batson
On Thursday, June 20, The Rotary Club of Nyack will install a new President, a former teacher and Special Education School District Administrator Renae Leeming. Recent past presidents, including Jane Marino, Russell Grant, Kim Cross and Jo Lore, names familiar to all who interact with the business and non-profit sectors in Nyack, will be on hand at 6:30p at Joe and Joe’s Restaurant on Main Street. Together, these professional colleagues form a network for commercial and civc advancement, unknown by many, yet hiding in plain sight.
Here’s the story of this 95 year old organization, that gathers each week, asking of its members four profoundly simple questions, seemingly absent from our modern public discourse: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
These questions, known as the four way test, are spoken aloud at each meeting of the Rotary, a global organization that is both ubiquitous, and to some, mysterious. A survey by Rotary International found that in some countries, up to 90% of the population have heard of the Rotary, but know little of the purpose and history of one of the world’s oldest service organizations.
Attorney Paul F. Harris founded the Rotary Club on February 23, 1905 in Chicago. The group’s name comes from the practice of rotating meetings among the offices of its founding members. Harris wanted to establish a professional association that would reflect the spirit of mutual support and friendship that he remembered from the small town America of his youth. These ideals found an ardent following in Nyack, where a Rotary Club was established in 1923.
Rotary Club of Nyack Annual Installation Dinner
Thursday, June 20 6:30p
Joe and Joe’s Main Street, Nyack
Former teacher and Special Education School District Administrator, Renae Leeming will take the helm from former Nyack Library Director, Jane Marion at an installation ceremony on June 20, 2019.
Leeming lived on the West Coast for 62 years before moving to Nyack to be closer to her daughters. After traveling and living in Alaska (in a bush Eskimo village), Montana and Nebraska she settled in Seattle, Washington where she raised her three children for 25 years
Moving to Nyack 3 years ago without knowing anyone, Leeming started attending Rotary meetings. “Best thing I did, as it helped me build connections to my new community,” said Leeming.
- Heather Haera, President Elect
- Barry Dorfman, Vice President
- Johnnie Malloy, Secretary
- Julie Wendholt, Treasurer
- Jane Marino, Senior Director
- Kim Cross, Director
- Glen Keene, Director
- Alan Englander, Director
- Wayne Henry, Director
Tickets for the installation are $60 per person/$95 per couple and includes dinner, drinks, fellowship, awards & prizes.
Reserve your spot by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Some things about Rotary are timeless. A similarly scripted agenda is acted out in 34,000 service clubs by 1.2 million members around the world when Rotary clubs meet for a weekly lunch. In Nyack, the meeting is held on Tuesdays at 12:15 at La Fontana.
Members, who are business owners, employees, community and civic leaders, proceed with a meeting that seeks to focus their combined energy, talents and finances into four avenues of service:
- Club Service: the maintenance of the organization
- Community Service: the support of worthy community groups (recipients of Rotary support include the , the Nyack Center, People to People, Soup Angels, Nyack Basics, Nyack Hospital Foundation and Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center and the YMCA)
- Vocational Service: programs to support the educational and professional advancement of young people
- International Service: programs that support the eradication of polio, the provision of clean water, the promotion of literacy and Shelter Boxes. a program that assists in the aftermath of disasters, among others.
In other ways, today’s Rotary is radically different. For more than three quarters of the organization’s first century, it was a males only club. Women were relegated to a wives auxiliary called Rotary Anns. The surreptitious acceptance of a woman into a California club with an androgynous first name brought about a lawsuit that eventually overturned the Rotary International ban on female membership in early 1980’s, at least in United States.
Howard Hellman, past Nyack club President and owner of All Bright Electric, will tell you that his greatest claim to fame was recruiting Judy Martin into the Rotary. She was not the first woman to join, that was Joan Moffett, but Martin’s tenure is legendary.
Several years ago, Martin received a pin for 19 years of perfect weekly attendance. This feat of dedication and discipline was not accomplished without some very close calls. Since the Rotary is international, you can make up a missed local meeting by attending a session any where in the world. When in Rome with her husband Mac, Judy had to make a quick change in a restroom to make herself presentable for the only meeting available. In Rome, the Rotary’s weekly lunch is attended by the cabinet ministers of the Italian government.
Howard Hellman has a second claim to fame. He was the driving force behind the Rotary clock in Veterans’ Park. During a trip to Cape May, New Jersey, Hellman saw a stately time keeping monument. The Mayor of Nyack at the time, Terry Hekker, informed Hellman that there had once been a public timepiece in Nyack. The Rotarians collectively raised the funds and the fixture was dedicated in September 2001. Hellman thought the clock would hearken back to Nyack’s past grandeur and promote the service philosophy of Rotary.
Current Rotary programs that the clock symbol celebrates include the organization’s decade long commitment to introduce every Headstart and elementary student in Nyack to the joy of reading by giving each child their first book. Barnes and Nobles now donates the books that they distribute. Rotarians also engage middle school students through their partnership with Junior Achievement, a program that stresses the importance of financial literacy through a Rotary-modeled Interact Club.and Rotarians distribute food through Meals on Wheels to seniors in Depew Manor and Nyack Plaza.
The clock in Veteran’s Park is a perfect metaphor for the Rotary club. During the last nine decades, the Rotary has been a constant servant, looking out for the interests of the Village of Nyack. We can only hope that like the inner workings of this landmark, the heart of service that beats within Rotary will keep on ticking.
Special thanks to Win Perry
Photo of founding Rotarians Courtesy of Rotary Images
by Bill Batson
History surrounds the McCourty twins. Devin and Jason are the first twins to win a Super Bowl after the New England Patriots were victorious in 2018. In May, 2019, they gave the commencement address at their alma mater, Rutgers University on the 100th anniversary Paul Robeson’s graduation. And next week, on June 15, 2019, they will be Grand Marshalls for the African American Day Parade in their hometown of Nyack, New York as their community commemorates the 400th anniversary of the introduction of slavery in America. The celebration of the McCourty’s achievement and the remembrance of the first slaves arriving in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 captures the breathtaking sweep of American history, from land of oppression to opportunity, on parade in one procession.
For the last eleven years, Nyack has commemorated the presence of a substantial African American community with a parade. The African American Parade Committee is chaired by Village of Nyack Trustee Louis Parker.
The African American history in Rockland County that parade organizers acknowledge goes back to the arrival of the first non-Native Americans to this part of the world in the late 1600s. In his seminal volume, Nyack in Black and White, Carl Nordstrum writes that three original shareholders of the Tappan Patent, the earliest legal document from this county were designated as “free Negro” and named John De Vries, his son John Jr. and Nicohlas Manuels.
According to census records from 1723, nearly one fifth of the 1,244 inhabitants of the county were African slaves. Mount Moor Cemetery, a segregated burial ground islandized by the Palisades Mall, 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.
The celebration of the McCourty twins in Nyack, for their achievements on and off the football field, reflects the pride of a community that is centuries old.
Regarding family history, the person responsible for the athletic careers being heralded never stepped on the field of play. After her husband Calvin died in 1990 at the age of 34 from a heart attack related to complication from asthma, Phyllis McCourty became the sole guardian of the twins, Devin and Jason and an older brother Larry. Phyllis guided the twins through Upper Nyack Elementary and a move to Nanuet where the the boys eventually played football for St. Joseph High in Montvale. They were both recruited to Rutgers University from St. Joseph’s.
11th Annual African American Day Parade in Nyack
Saturday, June 15th at noon
The McCourty Twins will serve as Grand Marshalls for the 11th annual African American Day Parade that steps off at noon on Saturday, June 15th
The parade route, which passes through the neighborhood where the McCourty twins lived as children is:
- West on Depew Avenue from Memorial Park
- north on Franklin Street,
- East on Main Street,
- south on Broadway,
- east on Depew Avenue back to Memorial Park
Excellent viewing opportunities along the route
The twins will march with nearly 100 children who participate in after-school programs at the
Nyack Center, who will be carrying McCourty-inspired posters they created for the event
The procession will include marching bands, classic cars, elected officials, community leaders and village residents.
The parade is followed by a festival in Memorial Park, including food trucks, jewelry and clothing vendors, and African art — along with live music throughout the afternoon. Bounce house, face painting and other activities will be available for the children
In their commencement remarks at Rutgers on May 19, 2019, the twins name-checked Paul Robeson, Bill Belichick, Cardi B and Jay-Z among others. The procession of graduates marked the 100th anniversary of Robeson’s 1919 graduation from Rutgers.
Paul Robeson was world famous for his cultural, civic and athletic contributions to America. Not only was Robeson a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, he was literally a renaissance man. Robeson graduated with a Law Degree from Columbia University, played in the National Football League, recorded and released 276 songs, and performed an iconic version of Old Man River in the 1936 production of the film Show Boat. Robeson’s career was tragically curtailed by the racism of his time and controversies that swirled around him relating to his outspoken political positions on race and economic inequality
From the podium, the McCourty’s reflected on their path from Nyack to the national stage and on the significance of what Robeson accomplished 100 years earlier. “I know chasing goals can be scary. You may be doing things for the first time in your family’s history. You may be following in the footsteps of someone great. But do you think we’d be standing here, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Paul Robeson’s graduation, if he let fear and doubt step in the way of being great?, said Devin.
The McCourty’s are exceptionally qualified to lecture on the topic of success. Jointly, they are the first set of twins to play in a Super Bowl together, and the first to win, as they did in Super Bowl LIII.
Individually, Jason played for the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns before joining the New England Patriots. He graduated from Rutgers with a degree in information technology. Devin was selected by The New England Patriots in the first round in 2010 after graduating with a degree in Sociology. Devin has won three super bowl rings with the Patriots.
Working with the New Brunswick, New Jersey based Embrace Kids foundation, the McCouty’s have established the “Tackle Sickle Cell” initiative in honor of their late aunt, Winnie. They are also active participants in the NFL Players Coalition and speak out on issues ranging from criminal justice reform, fair educational funding and racial equity.
During their Rutger’s address, Jason said, ““when they mention our legacy, I sure hope they don’t only mention football.” Their appreciation for history suggests not.
by Bill Batson
On May 22, at around 11:00p, I rose to the podium in the auditorium of Clarkstown Town Hall to invoke the name of June Sundvik. As a first time author at 88, June had published Life on Old Mill Road from 1750 to 1950. She had given her last measure to complete a book about the road that she was born on in 1929. As I sat at a forum where the fate of Old Mill Road was being decided, I knew she would want her work to speak for her, and in defense of the homes, families and habitat that she so loved.
The idea for the book started when she came across old books and artifacts removed from the basement of a home that was condemned to create Lake DeForest. Sundvik’s volume chronicles her families history as well as stories of her neighbors, some of whom were note worthy creatives including stain glass artists Clement and Maurice Heaton, illustrator Noel Sickles and the actor George MacReady. Her father, Gustav Svahn, was a very prominent builder responsible for 10 homes on Old Mill Road and many others throughout the region.
From the Clarkstown Planning Board webpage
PLANNING BOARD MEETING
JUNE 5, 2019
a) Salute to the Flag
6:30 P.M. CONTINUATION OF REVIEW UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF S.E.Q.R. & PUBLIC HEARING AT PRELIMINARY: SUEZ WATER NEW YORK HEADQUARTERS, SL 59.10-1-1 (FKA 91A8) WEST NYACK (Proposal for the relocation of the SUEZ administrative offices, storage yard and associated site improvements. The parcel is located on 26 acres of LO zoned land on the east side of Old Mill Road, approximately 685 feet south of (sic) Fulle Drive in West Nyack).
10 Maple Avenue, New City
Clarkstown Planning Board
Edward J. Guardaro
As evidence, June’s book provides the base line comparison to show the impact of decades of development on Old Mill Road. The 2019 State Envirnomental Quality Review Act (SEQR) handbook states that “changes in population patterns or community character likely to be induced by a project have been held by the courts to be relevant concerns in environmental review”(see Chinese Staff and Workers Association et al., v. City of New York et al,1986).
One of the structures that June describes in Chapter 17 of her book is the John Tourner house, which is possibly the oldest in the County. The structure, which Tourner was removed from for being a Tory, is part of a local network of historic sites on or near Old Mill Road that include Storms Tavern, and the historic markers at the 4 corners in West Nyack at the other end of Old Mill, one discussing Washington’s encampment, another identifying the corners as Pye’s Corner, and a 3rd on Colonial Clarkstown that states “Ancient Indian Trails intersected at this place.”
Local historic homes and markers, along with the experience of local residents who live and/or drive on the Old Mill Road should give us the common sense to prevent excessive truck traffic anywhere near this location.
A hastily called meeting of the Clarkstown Planning Board is now scheduled for June 5 at 6:30p to discuss a traffic study on the Suez proposal. I urge all interested in Rockland history, and its future, to attend.
This will be the third meeting in a month on Suez Water Company’s plan to build to their headquarters, and stationing over 100 vehicles, on the banks of Lake Deforest, our source of drinking water.
At a contentions meeting on May 29th, Planning Board Members were visibly surprised to learn that a year-long repair of Snake Hill Bridge would occur at the same time that Suez would be staging their fleet of commercial vehicles on Old Mill Road. The resulting traffic from Suez would be redirected through residential streets, including historic Old Mill Road.
After publicly expressing their frustration at the news of contemporaneous bridge construction, the planning board demanded a traffic study. After on-the-spot community input suggested an interval for public review, the board announced a meeting date of June 19th.
While meeting with Clarsktown Supervisor George Hoehmann on June 1, activists expressed their own shock that the meeting date had been precipitously switched to June 5th. The community would not have two weeks, but two days to review the traffic study.
Residents began to receive the 169 page report by email on Monday, June 3rd. Neighbors of this site had less than 48 hours to work, sleep, care for their families and read this report. One resident wrote “The community would like to have an independent consultant review this study as well but we find ourselves in a situation where that can hardly be possible since the planning board has rescheduled the meeting from June 19th to June 5th, less than 44 hours away.”
In the pursuit of meeting the lowest rung of legal requirements, Suez has abandoned any pretense of making a good faith effort to inform the public. Legitimate concerns and rights are being trampled in the rush to build a facility inappropriately close to a critical natural resource. Clear cutting trees in one of the few remaining pristine natural habitats near the reservoir adds arboreal injury to this civic assault.
It is said that the most deadly place in Africa is between a hippo and the watering hole. The only thing standing between Suez and our watering hole, Lake DeForest, is the public, the seven members of the planning board and every elected official in Rockland County whose constituents need access to safe drinking water.
The only difference between Suez and the hippo in my analogy is that hippos don’t need permission to stampede. Suez can be turned back through the courts of law and public opinion. Join this fight before it’s too late and the only watering hole in Rockland County is no longer safe for anyone, hippo or human, to drink.
Here’s my column about June, her book, and Old Mill Road from November 14, 2017. Copies of her book are hard to find. However, after June 5, the Planning Board of Clarkstown will have a copy.
Nyack Sketch Log: 1st time Author at 88 Chronicles Old Mill Road
I met Rockland County’s newest author when she was 85 at a book talk I gave at Valley Cottage Library. “I’m writing a book and you’re going to help me self-publish,” she informed me. “Sure,” I replied, thinking I would never hear from her again. Two years later, I answered a call from an unknown number and heard the party say, “I’m done writing. Let’s get this published. You promised.” That determined voice was a force of nature named June Sundvik.
My bluff had been called I never expected June to call back. The way forward required acknowledging a tragedy. June sought my guidance because I had self-published Nyack Sketch Log Volume I. However, without the wisdom and dry wit of Jim Hershberger, my tome would have never made the book store shelf. Jim was a retired executive who made it his second life’s mission to provide tech support to historical societies and non profits and tail-gate every Giants home game. Jim vetted printers, compared notes with other self-published authors and helped me organize my sketches, essays and thoughts. The only way that I was able to help June was by reverse engineering what Jim did for me. Jim passed away on November 11, 2016. His loss is profound, but so is the continued resonance of his generosity.
June Sundvik was able to draft like a cyclist in the wake of Jim’s hard and smart work, channeled through me, to publish an exceptional local history entitled Life on Old Mill Road from 1750 to 1950. Her family moved to Valley Cottage from Teaneck, New Jersey to a property that her grandfather, Carl Anderson, purchased in 1927. Her father, Gustav Svahn, was a very prominent builder responsible for 10 homes on Old Mill Road and many others throughout the region.
With the help of fellow Swedish immigrants, Svahn built a garage, a flat-roofed four-bedroom house, dug a pond, created a cause way and an island in the pond, and expanded the original flat-roofed house to three-stories with a cathedral ceiling living room, among other structures, for his family. The man-made and augmented natural features were so impressive that Charles and Ann Lindbergh were seen admiring the property from the road.
In July of 1928 Gustav and his wife Clara made June, the youngest of three. June’s personality was clearly shaped by her father’s blizzard of building. In how she wrote about her father, you can see the genesis of June’s aesthetics, resourcefulness and resilience. “Besides being a builder, he loved gardening and flowers,” she wrote of her father. “He landscaped the property with plantings; some were formal, but most were placed in natural settings. The hillsides were dotted with daffodils, climbing roses grew around the pond, and rock gardens were tucked away along the paths.”
His prolific construction projects also betrayed a playful aspect. He built a miniature lighthouse, a shed for their beloved swans, Hansel and Gretel to winter in, a playhouse for the children, houses for the dogs. June’s hobby horse was deployed as a weather vane on a barn. His daughter June, pictured here playing at the base of the lighthouse, would go on to become an accomplished weaver and water colorist and now, a published author.
Life on Old Mill Road
by June Sundvik
June gave a book talk at the Valley Cottage Library, 110 NY-303 on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 that was extremely well attended.
She described her research process, read some passages, took questions and sign and sell her book.
June never presented herself as a historian, but a memoirist. I will be forever inspired by her dogged determination to complete her memoir before her body betrayed her, extinguishing one of the brightest minds I have had the good fortune to encounter.
Editing her thin volume is one of the weightiest honors of my life.
June has witnessed the steady migration of families through the many homes that her father built along Old Mill Road. Like a builder, she has constructed her narrative on a strong foundation of primary source research.
This story started many years ago when I was taking home an old neighbor friend, Catherine Daniels, who had been helping me clean house,” June said. “She asked me if I was interested in some old books and artifacts from the old Fisher farm, which also had been torn down in 1933. She began writing in earnest when she was given a wooden chest full of old deeds and title search from her sister, Stina. Because I lived on Old Mill Road almost all my life, and remembered many of the families I decided to tell the story about their lives and the history of the homes they lived in. Although I included a few homes on the West Nyack part of the road, I concentrated on those that were in Valley Cottage, beginning where the Kill Von Beaste flows into the Hackensack River, north to Kings Highway.
The result is, like June, artistic and sturdy. Her words are illuminated by historic family photos, many carefully restored by Dr. Arnold Roufa. She narrates with the economy of a no-nonsense story teller who gets out of the way of her subjects. One of my favorite extended passages (1,144 words) is a an oral history taken by a granddaughter, Dotty Larson describing her grandmother’s somewhat scandalous, poignant and epic love affair with a man she was hired to serve as a housekeeper and cook.
Her final job was when she became the housekeeper/cook for Lester Polhemus on Old Mill Road in Valley Cottage. They became something of a love match between two adults who had buffeted in life and were happy to be in each other’s company for the final stretch.
The little house where Susan and Lester lived had only two rooms with an attached summer kitchen. It was full circle for Susan because it was similar to the one she lived in as a child in Glen Cove. It had no electricity, no running water, and was heated by a large iron wood stove that had become popular after open-hearth cooking became outdated. For furniture, there was an oak gate leg table, straight back chairs and a large floor to ceiling wooden breakfront with glass doors and drawers below for storage. A daybed was used for sleeping or seating in the main room. The bedroom had a large feather bed draped in white quilts and pillows. There was a hand-crafted blanket chest made of pine by local artisans.
There is a contemporary photo of their love shack taken by June’s son, Carl Sundivk. The structure still stands off Old Mill Road and should have a plaque.
As much as one might find a strong influence of the father in June’s life, Old Mill Road it self became her mentor. A litany of creatives seems to gravitated to the spot that the Lindberghs found so alluring.
During the last 50 years, these extraordinary artists live on Old Mill Road:
Clement and Maurice Heaton
Clement Heaton was born in England to a family of glass makers, and decorators and had connections with William Morris. He works were sold in London, Paris,Vienna and Berlin. He bought mill house he was able to build the framework for his stained glass windows, and there he was able to make important windows for St John’s Cathedral in New York.
His son Maurice continued the art of glass making and develops a method of enameling on glass. With a group of fellow artists he founded the Rockland Center for the Arts, and even had a studio named for him. He was honored by the Smithsonian by having a piece of his work in their glass collection.
A renowned stained glass maker, moved from France to the US in 1951. Pinart transformed darker stained glass images by creating new glass scenes that allowed light to enter the churches. His works can be seen in the National Cathedral in Washington.
George was an artist who studied in Paris and Florence. He was fascinated with the mountains in Norway and spent many summers there, painting them. He was the son of the famous Rube Goldberg, and while living on Old Mill Road had a large celebration for his father’s 80th birthday in the field across the stream from the house
Sickles shared a studio with Milton Caniff who was working for the Columbus Dispatch. Both men moved to New York City and worked for the Associated Press, where they worked together for two years, often drawing each other’s comic strips. He had an impressionist style of inking and proved to be adept at using a shading called zipatone. When LIFE published Hemmingway’s Old Man of the Sea, Sickles was the illustrator. Some say he was the best illustrator ever.
George was an actor on Broadway and Hollywood. He was a good friend of Vincent Price, and at one time they had an art gallery together. George was well known for his part as Rita Hayworth’s husband in Gilda.
There are too many stories that surround us and not enough story tellers. From my experience sketch logging in the effort to preserve and animate local history, I met June and other Rocklanders who share their tales full of pathos and profundity.
I invited June to meet my class the Learning Collaborative at the New City on six different occasions, but she had to cancel each visit because of her health. Her well attended book talk on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 was her first and last.
I am hoping that June’s example will encourage others to liberate their family photos from dusty albums, dare to scribble down some thoughts, or sketch out some memories and cook up some books full of the recipes for living that we all inherit or invent, but often fail to pass down.
I’ll let June have the last word:
“Every road and every house has a story, which is ongoing, and what I have written is only a small window into the lives of the neighbors that lived on Old Mill Road starting with the early settlers of the 1850s and through the changes that were made and homes that were added for the next 100 years to the time that the reservoir was built. Much of this information came from old records, and the fact that I knew many of the families, as we were a neighborhood, often depending on each other.”
by Bill Batson
When the Shared Use Path over the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge opens in September, the population and the purpose of the people who pedal across the Hudson could see a revolutionary shift. If policy makers listen to cycling and sustainability advocates and provide 24 hour access to this publicly-funded road, bicycles could become another important, environmentally-friendly vehicle for people to enter the economy.
Since Italian engineer, Giovanni de la Fontana connected wheels together with a piece of rope in 1418, the bicycle has become ubiquitous, especially in Nyack. From artisanal curiosity to a child’s toy, from a piece of equipment for elite athlete’s to a transportation alternative, how we roll is determined by who we are and what we need.
The increased interest in cycling to the river villages started 15 years ago. “Before Lance Armstrong, you wouldn’t see 60 cyclists sitting outside the Runcible Spoon on North Broadway,” said cycling enthusiast Heidi Broeking. Although most of that traffic today is north/south, with serious cyclists riding to Nyack and beyond from North Jersey and NYC, the new shared use bike and pedestrian path will add an east/west axis over the Hudson River as well as new uses and new users.
The new route in and out of Nyack will offer additional public health benefits in terms of active transportation exercise and decreased greenhouse gas emissions. Rockland residents will be able to bike commute to Metro North trains in Tarrytown or jobs in Westchester, an important toll- free, human-powered lane without having to wait for buses. which run infrequently late at night and on weekends.
However, some elected officials want to stifle bicycle commuting before it can take off, asking the NYS Thruway to close the bike and foot path when the sun goes down. “There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding about the path,” says e-bike advocate Elizabeth Fischer. “The SUP certainly has recreation and tourism benefits. But principally, it’s a transportation corridor, just like the adjacent roadway. For this reason, the SUP needs to be open 24/7 for bicycle commuters,” she says. Fischer has started an online petition at Change.org called which asks NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS Thruway Exec Director Matthew Driscoll not to limit the SUP’s hours of operation.
“Census data suggest that people with lower incomes are more likely to rely on bicycle commuting than the general population,” says Dave Zornow, a media research consultant who is also a board member of the Rockland Bicycling Club. “When setting the hours for the Shared Use Path, the NYS Thruway should take this into consideration, and make sure that the needs of all of residents are considered.” Zornow says it could make a big difference for many families in Nyack, where more than 13% of residents live in poverty.
Zornow says extended SUP hours can create economic opportunities for both employers and employees. “Operating the Shared Use Path without hourly restrictions will be a boost for people who don’t have cars — especially service and shift workers who commute during times of the day when buses run infrequently,” says Zornow.
Do you have a bicycle in your garage that you rarely ride? Can’t find the time? Don’t feel comfortable “sharing the road” cycling by yourself? Then mark June 2 at 2p on your calendar for a Sunday afternoon “slow roll” cycling event when family, friends and neighbors near the Nyacks and Piermont can join “Rolling By The River.”
What’s a Slow Roll? It’s a bicycle ride for everyone. All ages (8 and up) and experience levels are welcome. The slow pace keeps the group safe and gives riders a unique perspective of our villages and their neighborhoods. It’s a chance to socialize, meet up and ride safely as a group.
The Rockland Bicycling Club is teaming up the Village of Nyack Recreation Department, Upper Nyack, Piermont, the Edward Hopper House, R2M Realty and Nyack News And Views for “Rolling By The River,” the first of what hopefully will be regular “slow roll” community bicycle rides through the Nyack river villages and Piermont. It’s a family friendly, group event intended to teach safe cycling practices while encouraging local residents to get some exercise with their friends and neighbors.
Meetup at Upper Nyack Elementary School on June 2 at 2p. HELMETS ARE REQUIRED. Participants must sign an event waiver. Route is flat and about 3 miles round trip to Nyack Beach State Park.
In 2018, the three Nyack river villages and the school district developed the Greater Nyack Bike Walk Master Plan, a study funded by the New NY Bridge Community Benefits Fund. One of the plan’s recommendations was to hold community outreach programs that encourage more bicycling along with safety instruction for cyclists and motorists. On Sun June 2 at 2p, the Rockland Bicycling Club along with the three river villages, the Hopper House and a local realtor will partner to produce, Rolling By The River, a “slow roll” family-friendly, community cycling event, a first step to encouraging more people to get around the villages on two wheels for short trips and safer streets for all residents and visitors.If your typical image of cycling consists of endurance athletes who regularly ride to Nyack and beyond from the NYC, Rochester cycling enthusiast and advocate Karen Rogers sees a a different future for bicycling on the banks of the Hudson.
“I am an African American women who absolutely loves riding my bike,” says Rogers, a local business owner and one of the founders of the Rochester Women’s Bike Festival. Rogers says that riding a bicycle can change lives by increasing independence, improving health and signaling that neighborhoods are safe places to eat, shop and live.
“I want to educate minorities in particular women that biking is a viable form of transportation,” says Rogers. “Safety is first. We want them to get the right bikes and have an understanding of the rules of the road. The Rochester Women’s Bike Festival includes workshops to teach how to shop for groceries, transport kids and even get to work on a bike. Biking has so many great benefits and I want all women to experience what I have experienced. The exciting part is that I can tell my story and be a mentor for those that have an interest.”
Drop By Before You Buy and Take Nyack Out For a Ride
Nyack’s R2M Realty (“Ready To Move”) lets prospective buyers and curious visitors borrow bikes from its Piermont and Nyack locations to ride around each community and get a sense of each village. The agency’s owner came up with the free pike share service that is akin to NYC’s Citibike program, after returning from a convention in New Orleans.
“We biked everywhere and it was awesome!” says R2M’s Kenyatta Arietta. “We rode along side the Mississippi River, taking in the river views and sites along the way. We were able to take in quite a bit of NOLA via cycling… and burn calories from all of the wonderful foods we ate while we were at it.” Arietta says prospective Nyack home buyers can learn what makes Nyack unique, on two wheels, and that it’s a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short time. Nyack residents are welcome to share a bike as well, just call ahead of time and be prepared to sign a waiver.
Policy makers must seek ways to expand, not limit access to the pedestrian and cycle path on the new bridge, as well as make our local streets, sidewalks and crosswalks safer for pedestrians. Our economic and physical health, and the well-being of the planet, depends on it.
Local Bike Resources:
- The Rockland Bicycling Club and the BTCNJ (Bike Touring Club of North Jersey) offer weekly group rides ranging for everyone from beginners and “fast enough” riders to something for the fastest and farthest on two wheels.
- The 2018 Greater Nyack Bike Walk Master Plan, a $120,000 study funded by the New NY Bridge, included recommendations for improving safety, engagement and infrastructure after the Share Use Path opens. This weekend’s Rolling By The River slow roll was one of the consultant’s recommendations.
Sales and Repairs
- Nyack Bicycle Outfitters, 2 N. Broadway (845) 353-0268
- 9W Bikes, 530 N. Higland, (845) 358-3455
- Crankworks, 19 N Broadway, (845) 358-0101
- Op Ed: Mario Cuomo Bridge Shared Use Path Hours Should Be 24/7, 3/3/2019
- 24/7 Commuter Bicycle Access for the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge, Change.org petition
- Village of Nyack Sustainability Committee Endorses 24/7 Access to the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge Shared Use Path, 4/26/2019
- Rochester Women’s Bike Festival: June 15, 2019
- Rolling By The River: June 2, 2019
- Not ready for that ride yet: Cuomo bridge bike path months away, LoHud 4/5/2019
- US Census QuickFacts for Nyack, New York
Today illustration is American painter, and Nyack native Edward Hopper’s wooden-wheeled bicycle, on display at his childhood home, now The Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center at 82 N. Broadway.
This week, Nyack Sketch Log has its first guest writer in our 8 year history.
I have lent this space to my friend Ray Wright, a passionate naturalist, who wants to put his opposition to a proposal by the Suez Water Company to build a new headquarters near Lake DeForest on the record.
This Nyack Sketch Log will be submitted as testimony at a public hearing at Clarkstown Town Hall on Wed May 22 at 7:30p. We are hoping to others will attend and share their concerns.
Ray joined Wright Bros. Realty in 1962, a firm founded by his father and uncle in 1929. In addition to expanding the company’s stake in the real estate and insurance business, Ray became the official photographer. After selling Wright Bros. in 2000, Ray has dedicated himself full-time to wild life and jazz photography and wooden boat building.
Lake DeForest, Where Eagles Have Landed
by Ray Wright
In 2012, I was one of a first photographers to witness the return of the bald eagle to Rockland County. For many years, there were no eagle sightings in here. The reemergence of the eagle was made possible by the federal government banning the pesticide, DDT.
Every year from January until early March, eagles come to the lower Hudson Valley. During these winter months, eagles come south so they can hunt for fish in unfrozen waters. A small number of eagles decide to stay year-round. I saw one carrying a fish over High Avenue at the corner of Midland just yesterday.
Attend the public hearing on Suez Water Company’s proposed new headquarters on Lake DeForest
Please attend the next planning board hearing at Clarkstown Town Hall scheduled for Wed. May 22 at 7:30p.
Suez is proposing to clear cut and pave over 60,000 square feet of forest for parking lots and accessory buildings.
This development would cause contaminated storm water and fuel to enter Lake DeForest Reservoir during catastrophic storms, and also, in typical showers from leaking trucks and vehicles.
The development will also adversely impact historic Old Mill Road and the bucolic character of our community.
I have photographed eagles in West Nyack, Lake Tappan and throughout North Rockland. However, some of the most exquisite images I have captured have been around Lake DeForest, including an eagle perched on a tree stump, turning his head as if shouting a command, and another, about to lunch on a fish caught near the outflow of the dam.
One day, I photographed an eagle’s nest off Strawtown Road, on land owned by Suez. The photograph also documented an Orange & Rockland employee cutting trees within approximately 200 feet of an eagles nest, something that should not have happened.
I gave a copy of the photograph to some residents who live across from the lake and were protesting the extension of some fencing. They gave the photo to the Clarkstown Supervisor at the time, who passed it on to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Over the years, I have taken close to a thousand photos of eagles. In many pictures, you can see the state and federal bands affixed with an expandable sleeve to their legs. Occasionally, I have seen a small antennae that allows GPS tracking. The eagle population is tracked because they are protected under federal law.
I photograph eagles because I am drawn to their majesty and grace. But I am aware that as a nature photographer, I also have a civic role to play. My photos help document the habitat that eagles, and all of us, depend on for our survival. The photos I take have to speak for the eagles, who do not have a vote in our elections or a say at our public hearings.
From what I have witnessed at Lake DeForest, any development of parking lots and buildings near this pristine area, the habitat for the eagle and other birds and wild life, is inappropriate. A rigorous environmental impact review should arrive at that same conclusion.
We lost our eagles once before, let’s not let that happen again.
Eagle Photos by Ray Wright.
Sketch by Bill Batson based on a photo of an eagle over Lake DeForest by Ray Wright
See more of Ray’s nature photography at these upcoming events:
New City Library, Wednesday July 24, from 7:30 – 9p. The New City Library is located at 220 N. Main Street, New City, NY 10956-4000
Nyack Public Library, Thursday, August 22, from 6:30 – 8pm. The Nyack Library is located 59 South Broadway, Nyack. Registration begins June 22nd at 8:00a
Protect Our Water from Proposed Suez Construction on Lake DeForest by Laurie Seeman
Nyack Sketch Log: Wright Bros. Real Estate by Bill Batson
Local Arts Index: Ray Wright by Bill Batson
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Lake DeForest, Where Eagles Have Landed” © 2019 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com