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
by Bill Batson
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” says the King of England in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II. After 20 years as the director of the Children’s Shakespeare Theater, Diana Green will stage Henry Part II starting on May 10th as her 90th production. For that accomplishment, Green should be crowned, and after that coronation, she could deservedly feel a bit weary, if not uneasy.
But Diana Green, like spring, and her beloved bard, “hath put a spirit of youth in every thing.” (Sonnet 98, 1-3)
Meet the founder of Rockland’s Children Shakespeare Theater and recent recipient of awards from both the Rockland County Legislature and the Rockland Arts Council, Diana Green.
When did you meet the bard?
I began reading Shakespeare around a kitchen table with my mom’s friend, Jean Brock of Palisades, and her 5 kids. They were going to see a production of Macbeth and wanted to know the play better before going. I loved the show and we went to see many together over the years, at the Delacourte Theater in Central Park. In those days, you could just walk up at 6:30pm and get a handful of tickets.
After a few such readings (maybe a year of this?), I raised my hand and asked “Why can’t we do a play?” And the first CST was born in in 1972 with Jean Brock directing. She did 5 plays over the course of 5 years, but then the group fizzled out and Jean went on to direct the shows at Tappan Zee High School. She died in 2003, but got to see a couple of productions of the new CST before she went. I started CST in 1999 because I wanted to provide this experience for my own kids. It has grown far beyond the dreams we had in 1972 or in 1999.
What brought you to Rockland County?
My mother moved us to Palisades in 1966 after divorcing my dad. Her mother, my grandmother, lived in Nyack since 1949. I have lived in Rockland for almost all my life, excepting years away at college and a brief move to North Carolina.
Heard you’ve been busy lately?
Yes, I thought I’d be living the life of Riley by this point in the season, but that’s never realistic. I had to take over our final production, Henry IV, Part 2, for one of my directors who just had a baby. Henry IV.2 is the final show in the Season of Our History, our 20th season of plays.
It’s a coming-of-age story of a prince growing into a king. I think that’s appropriate for our 20th season. We have come a long way and learned so much. We just won the Arts Leadership Award from ACOR and it’s great to feel that our peers see our progress and reward our efforts! CST is also a hugely collaborative entity, sending kids and directors to teach and perform in many venues and for many groups. I am currently teaching a short workshop for the NYC Allstars, a group that offers free theater instruction to kids from the 5 boroughs.
I have also partnered with the Hopper House to bring a workshop to alumni from an organization called Rehabilitation Through the Arts. I’ll be guiding a group of formerly incarcerated adults to write, direct and act a series of monologues and scenes based on Hopper paintings for a performance on June 9 at the Hopper House.
I just met the new kids in town, The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, when their founders came to see our most recent show and were bowled over by the professional quality of our production. They recruited several of our actors for a reading at the Nyack Library and I will be directing a staged reading for them on June 6th starring their two founders.
Lastly…for now… I am working toward my director qualification at The Elmwood Playhouse. To that end I’m assistant stage managing for the upcoming show Little Foxes which opens in July. Whew! I’m exhausted just reading this…
Being so multi-talented, this must change all the time for you, but currently, what do you like to do most, act, write, direct, teach, lead your non-profit?
My favorite part of the whole elaborate machine is and always will be directing. I love the collaboration with other energies in the rehearsal room, the discoveries, the text work and the cooperative camaraderie. The actors inspire me to want to help them with all of my resources and that is an exciting challenge.
How do these different skill sets/passions overlap?
I do love acting as well and much of my method for directing comes from stepping into the shoes of a character. Lately I’ve returned to writing and I find that playwriting seems the most natural extension of all that I’ve done in the past 20 years. I wrote and directed a series of monologues for last year’s Artwalk. I did the same for 2 presentations at the Hopper House. I hope to continue as a playwright as I figure out my next move.
Have many of your students become professional thespians?
We’ve had maybe 10% of our kids go on to careers in the theater. Perhaps the most notable is Anna Baryshnikov, who has been in films and on TV. She gave CST a great shout-out during her appearance on Colbert’s Late Night The others are working in technical theater or in small theaters around the country. They have done such cool things as start Shakespeare companies on their college campuses, direct productions in abandoned sections of Kosovo, and joined Renaissance faires. They’re still young. Give them time.
For those that don’t, how do student benefit from drama education?
My step-brother is a partner in a Wall Street firm and he swears that all his salesmanship comes from his early training with CST. Most report, like him, that they are far above the herd in their comfort in speaking with others, be it in an interview or in front of an audience. The ones who are still in High School report elevated scores in English classes and on SATs, not to mention an ease in the Shakespeare units that no one else has.
What are some of your memories from the first year of CST?
We really did not know what we were doing, but with an army of volunteers we got it all done. We rehearsed for 6 months (which I would never do again) and took it slow with lots of games and time spent outside. In the end we put together a charming show. I loved how much the kids loved doing it.
How many productions have you staged?
CST will be completing its 90th production with Henry IV, Part 2. I, myself, have directed 65 of those.
How do you manage to stage all of these plays? Who are your key supporters?
We have wonderful venues – The Palisades Presbyterian Church and The Tappan Manse – who are beautifully cooperative. The key supporters are always the parents who help in so many ways. As far as the financial end, the kids pay tuition, just like any other after-school entity, and we receive some assistance from The Jerome Robbins Foundation and The Kent-Allan Foundation, among other one-time donors over the years. It’s always the biggest part of the challenge of doing community theater – to get those who are not actually participating in the creative end to come out to support us, be it as donors or just audience members.
I saw this incredible set of 20 pins that celebrate your anniversary. Can you tell me who made them?
Daniela Pescher and Greg Falkner are jewelry makers. Their daughter, Emilia, joined us 3 years ago and has been a passionate company member ever since. When her parents heard we were going into our 20th season they wanted to do something to celebrate that in a lasting way. They have come up with a gorgeous line of custom-made pendants and charms that supporters and alumni of the company can buy as commemorative keepsakes.
What is your favorite play by Shakespeare?
Ha! Don’t make me choose. But usually I respond “The one I’m currently working on.” Funnily enough the history series has been so exciting. Of course my long-term favorites are probably Macbeth, Hamlet, Richard 3, Midsummer, Winter’s Tale…OK that’s too many favorites.
Favorite non-Shakespeare play?
I just saw Burn This and loved it so much. I also love Lettice and Lovage and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
Queen Margaret currently…although she’s usually not so likeable. Richard 3. Benedick. Rosalind.
Nope. Too many.
Boy…also hard to choose… Malvolio coming to Olivia in yellow stockings? Othello and Iago in a battle of wits? The lovers in the forest? Almost anything from Twelfth Night…Margaret & Suffolk’s parting scene in Henry VI, Part 2! So romantic!
Favorite CST production?
Also impossible to choose. I think they just keep getting better. OG companies – Midwinter Night’s Dream, King Lear, Measure for Measure. Current companies – our most recent Romeo & Juliet and Winter’s Tale.
Favorite Shakespeare company production?
Hudson Valley Shakespeare’s 5-person Midsummer!! (3 years ago?)
Favorite Shakespeare inspired movie?
Shakespeare In Love!
Have you been to Stratford on Avon?
Yes, 15 years ago! We saw a 4.5-hour Hamlet at the RSC. My son was 11 and may have nodded off a little. But seeing the town was magical!
What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned from the bard?
Take a risk. Speak truth to power and hope you have the autonomy of the Fool.
I have been renovating a school bus into a tiny home and will be traveling the country as a visiting artist in other companies. I hope to find collaborators who want me to write, direct, teach or make costumes. I will be directing for CST in the fall (starting with Othello next season) and then off on my nomadic adventures winter/spring/summer. Look out for my upcoming Kickstarter this summer!
Henry IV, Part 2 will be performed Fridays and Saturdays, May 10, 11, 17 & 18 at 7:00pm at the Palisades Presbyterian Church, 117 Washington Spring Rd, Palisades, NY. Tickets are available at brown paper ticket
by Bill Batson
Pat Hickman allows us to communicate with rivers, volcanoes, and wind, forces that shape our physical existence. Fabric, steel, wood, membrane, the ubiquitous material that surround us, have become mostly silent to western ears. As materialistic as we have become, oddly, we are not on speaking terms with the natural world. Pat Hickman can translate.
Her work reveals the universe that exists beneath the bark of a tree or below the surface of water, or the language a muslim woman in Turkey speaks through the edging of her scarf. Like the creative process that John Updike described in the Blessed Man from Boston, as an artist, Hickman walks through volumes of the unexpressed and like a snail leave(s) behind a faint thread.
Meet Pat Hickman.
Could you say a few words about your current show at Ray Lagstein’s Galllery, Floodlines: Water Rises?
I live above the Hudson, in Dutchtown, high enough that I don’t expect the Hudson to rise to the level of my house. But after recent hurricanes, here and there, and frequent news of water rising, ice melting, and many subsequent disasters due to climate change in so many parts of the world, I feel that we must heed the warning and not ignore what is happening. My installation of river teeth suggests water surging with rivulets of river teeth pouring across the gallery floor. Drawings of individual river teeth fill the walls. These drawings are not treated as precious, but layered and attached in an almost helter-skelter way, disordered and confused, almost as birds flying in retreat, as water rises. The bottom two layers of drawings have been sprayed with water, establishing the floodline, allowing the walnut ink of some of the drawings to drip down, tear-like.
When did you first discover river teeth? How long have they been featured in your work?
When I was at Haystack Mountain School in Deer Isle, Maine in 2008, I overlapped with artist Dorothy Gill Barnes, who introduced me to a river tooth found there in the woods. She had used a very few river teeth in her sculptural baskets. She also pointed me to the writer, David James Duncan, and his “River Teeth: Stories and Writings.” I became intrigued with the idea, function, shape and potential meaning of river teeth and collected them on subsequent times at Haystack when I was there either teaching a workshop or as part of an open studio residency. I exhibited my first installation of them at the Tovin Gallery in Nyack in 2011. Over the past eight years, I have created several reconfigured, different installations, of river teeth at other venues.
Was your studio at Garnerville damaged by the floods after Hurricane Irene?
No, my studio on the second floor of my building was not damaged, but the impact was felt. Images of water rushing through the complex from Minisceongo Creek overflowing were shocking and meant damage for so many tenants there—loss of equipment, of artwork, of work space, of the gallery. For two months, we had no water or heat. Even if we didn’t know all those affected, it had a huge influence on the community and that historic site. We wondered if flooding could happen again, if Garner could bounce back. There was a sense of loss.
Did you acquire any material for your work from that flood?
When water was released upstream from Harriman Park, debris from higher up the creek jammed up the flow, causing damage below. By the time it surged through the Garner complex, this debris was crashing against the old brick walls and buildings. Before that, I had molded gut (skin membrane) over a 19th century elevator door that had been saved and attached to the outside wall in Brick Alley. I loved that door and wanted to pick up (transfer onto the gut) the memory of the rust marks, making reference to the history of Garner. I created a piece I called “Calicoed by Rust”, thinking of the rust marks almost like small printed designs as on the calico the factory made. After the hurricane, after the damage—even though that elevator door survived, I felt the piece needed to reflect what had happened with water pouring through that narrow alleyway. On top of the calicoed surface, I added layers of molded shapes of rusty railroad plates, for holding down railroad ties—as heavy metal had come loose and floated down the creek. I didn’t literally acquire those railroad plates from the flood, but what I did with them made reference to the flood damage, changing that place forever. I entitled the reworked piece, “Downriver Ravages”
What are some of the other seen and unseen natural forces that shape your work?
I think about “life force” and the miracle of bodies working mostly as well as they do. When I first saw a gut parka from Alaska, made of seal or walrus intestine, I found the idea of the translucent membrane beautiful, transformed into a wearable, protective outer waterproof garment. I became interested in that which is unseen, in the interior of a body, that it can become seen, given new life. I wanted to experiment with skin membrane that might be accessible to me. I started exploring what I might do with sausage casings (hog casings) which I now get from http://www.sausagemaker.com A lot of my work addresses the fragility of life, bringing ideas of life and death together with the use of this skin membrane. In covering river teeth with skin membrane, I take that which is inside a tree, invisible from the outside—the river tooth which is holding a branch to the tree trunk—and make it visible, combining the unseen from the plant world with the unseen from the animal world, bringing them together, making both visible. My father was a butcher. As a child growing up in small town in rural CO, I had trouble watching dad butcher animals for relatives who raised cattle. Perhaps the idea of giving another chance for life grew out of those childhood memories of such family gatherings.
Having lived and taught in Hawaii for 16 years, I remain awed by the force of the volcano on the Big Island and massive flowing lava, resulting in incredible formations in black lava fields. I’m moved by that unseen power and energy when it’s made visible, sometimes in horrific, destructive ways. I have not found ways to have this shape my work, as it seems impossible to imitate or duplicate the beauty and power of nature, though designing the monumental entrance gates for the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (1991-1994) and working with the foundry at the University of Tasmania, is the closest I’ve come to fire and molten metal in casting.
In addition to Updike’s quote about the “volumes of the unexpressed,” that you shared at the Nyack Center Pecha Kucha event in 2016, who are some of the artists that inspire you?
At the University of CA, Berkeley, where I did my graduate work, I was fortunate to study with and have as mentors: Ed Rossbach and Lillian Elliott. They and their work had an impact on my thinking, my way of working. I also consider Katherine Westphal a mentor.
I’m inspired by the work of Ann Hamilton, Doris Salcedo, Kimsooja, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Sonya Clark, Joyce Scott, Jim Bassler, etc. The list could go on much longer.
What are some of the places that inspire you?
Where I live by the Hudson. Istanbul (on the Bosphorus) and Cappadocia in Turkey; the Big Island of Hawaii, the Northern CA coast, the Maine woods AND cities and museums almost everywhere.
What are some of the materials that inspire you?
I come out of a textile tradition and respond to the expressiveness of cloth, of fibrous materials, of flexible linear materials, of making something out of seemingly nothing, of forgiving materials. I use natural materials, reeds and branches, found materials, rusted materials, paper—that which speaks of time and memory, of materials which feel close to life. I create structure out of stiff materials which I can manipulate, sometimes covering structures with skin membrane. I find materials which express what I’m trying to say in my artwork.
who are some of the people that inspire you?
James Baldwin, Nelson Mandela, Jacinda Ardern
In addition to termites, who are some of your other collaborators?
I consider “Ripples”, a piece I created with found or gifted dead geckoes in Hawaii, to be in collaboration with them, with their tiny life-like gestural bodies which I stitched around and which led to the shape and meaning of the work. And yes, responding to the work of termites, I have created a couple of pieces responding to their creations—to the beauty of chewed lace-like wooden beams (above piece is entitled “Hunger”) or to a mound I found termites had made in the bush in Australia. I had a long term eleven year artistic collaboration in the ‘80s & early ‘90s with Lillian Elliott, a mentor and colleague in Berkeley, CA. We exhibited collaborative work for those many years but always did our own individual work during that time, sharing a studio. I sometimes now collaborate with David Bacharach, an artist in Baltimore, who creates structures in metal which I cover with skin membrane, each bringing our own materials and way of working to the artwork.
You’ve referenced Hawaiian and Alaskan myths and practices in your work, could you describe those two and a few others cultures that inspire you?
In Hawaii, from native Hawaiian students and others, especially from the Pacific Islands, I came to understand a deep connection to the living earth, and all that is on it—knowledge that has been understood by indigenous peoples from the beginning—but I had not experienced it or taken it in, as much as I did the years I lived and taught at the University of Hawaii. I became much more aware of non Western ways of thinking, realizing how my own perspective was from a Western point of view, from Western based education central to my view of the world. I saw first hand what damage colonization had done in Hawaii and the complicated history of that place, still burdened by tourist stereotypes of “paradise” and needing to believe a place like Hawaii exists. I learned a lot by living there.
Over several summers, I taught workshops in Alaska at the University of AK Fairbanks. For the San Francisco Craft & Folk Art Museum, I guest curated an exhibition “Innerskins/Outerskins: Gut and Fishskin”, borrowing objects from provincial museums in AK. Through my research for that exhibit and catalogue, I gained a keen sense of respect native Alaskans have for other animals, for example when seals gave their lives to a community, Yu’piks saved and inflated the bladders from those animals and ceremoniously offered them back to the sea as a thank you for those animals who had given their lives to sustain the life of the community.
I am fortunate to have lived in Turkey for seven years, going there originally to teach in a Turkish Girl’s school. I became very interested in the language of communication, silent communication among women, understood from the edging on their headscarves—needlelace edging in tiny shapes—which conveyed innermost feelings of the wearer. For example, edging a woman wore could say that she was pregnant, that she was arguing with her husband, that her son was going to the army, etc. Meaning could be communicated through barely visible 3 dimensional minuscule net-like structures.
I have taught textile history and world textiles, believing that to be the core foundation for any program in Art in the Fiber Medium. There are cultures in so many places in the world that I/we learned from. Through their textiles and what was conveyed in others’ making and the role their work played in their own lives, I believe there are strong connections to the present.
What are some of the things on your current to do list?
I am a list maker, have daily lists, things that get checked off, things that get moved to the next day’s list. I actually have saved and used those lists as art materials. I still save them. The black crossed off lines remind me of running stitches, lists become almost like a daily log, a diary of comings and goings throughout a day—a plan of what “to do”. Not always urgent, just how I think through what I might do each day. It’s a mark making habit—black/white pattern on a little notepad, pages then tucked away, for something that might come in the future. Mostly to anyone else, these appear as scraps of paper to be thrown away. I see them as “pure potential”, waiting to see what’s next. This phase of my life is about seeing what I can do with my time in my artwork, in the studio, in relationships with family and friends, finding my way in a place that still seems new to me, traveling, going into the City as an adventure, experiencing new things, new places, new people. Even though those don’t get put down on a “to do” list, that’s what is there, unwritten.
Are there more peoples and places that you wish to learn from?
Yes, always, wherever I go, whenever I have the opportunity to experience something new.
I have a solo exhibit opening May 3 at Buster Levi Gallery in Cold Spring.I have a residency scheduled for two weeks in July in Monson, Maine. I’m going, not knowing what I’ll do there but want to use that time to find the next direction, possibly new materials, just to see what will happen when I have uninterrupted time, without the distractions of daily life. Even though that’s a bit scary, I trust something will happen with this gift of time.
Pat Hickman: Floodlines: Water Rises is on display at the Lagstein Gallery until May 13. Founded by painter Ray Lagstein in 2014, the contemporary art gallery is located at 85 South Broadway. For more information visit lagsteingallery.com
by Bill Batson
When Hillary Clinton came to Nyack last February for the first public event at the Rockland Pride Center, she stood next to Phyllis B. Frank. On Thursday, April 25, 2019 at the 60th annual NAACP membership gala, Nyack Branch President Frances Pratt will call Phyllis B. Frank to stand next to her to be recognized. Why do leaders like Clinton and Pratt stand next to Frank? Because for over 40 years, Frank has stood on the side victims of domestic violence and people of color in their pursuit of racial justice and equity in America.
“As an organizer of undoing racism workshops, founding board member of Rockland Pride and Associate Director of VCS, Phyllis Frank is an institution in this county. She has added so much to our beloved community,” said Pratt. Frank is not only an institution, she’s an institution builder. “If you think about it, Phyllis had a hand in creating the first domestic violence agency and the first pride center in the Rockland county and is instrumental in bringing an analysis of racial justice here. Remarkable isn’t even the word'” said Rockland Pride Executive Director Brooke Malloy.
Frank joined VCS in 1979. The organization promotes social justice for individuals, families and communities through mental health counseling and community change. VCS has developed programs to confront heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia, racism and sexism with a particular focus on violence against women. Under Franks leadership, VCS has launched a wide range of LGBT family services, support programs and professional training including evolving expertise in relation to transgender children, youth and adults.
Nyack Branch NAACP 60th Anniversary Membership Recruitment and Renewal DinnerEvents
Tickets still available for the 60th Anniversary NAACP membership gala at the Pearl River Hilton on April 25th at 6p. Phyllis B. Frank, Dustin Hausner, Lonnie Leonard and Lynnette Eubanks Marshall are some of the honorees. For reservations contact Voncile Oliver at (845) 268-6626 ASAP.
Donations are welcome and are not tax deductible.
The premise behind VCS is that community lay people can provide high-level counseling for clients with a wide range of serious social problems. The model called “Volunteer Family Counseling Project” was initiated by Dr. Stephen Shapiro and Martin Eisman of the Family Service Association of Rockland County and funded by The Ford Foundation in 1970. The first group of 16 volunteers were recruited, trained and assigned to work with 34 families. The program quickly expanded to 426 families and individuals by 108 trained volunteers. Later that year, the agency moved into offices at 151 South Main Street in New City.
Over forty years later, VCS provides an array of services including child abuse prevention programs, services to older adults and their families and low cost counseling to Rockland residents for a variety of life issues such as separation, co-parenting children, unemployment and domestic violence. VCS conducts a widely acclaimed counselor training program, administers a nationally recognized NY Model for Batterer Programs, and various social justice programs that included launching Rockland County Pride.
In the late 1990s, if you lived in Nyack and wanted to attend one of the major Gay Pride celebrations that are held around the country each June, you had to travel to Manhattan. Frank enjoyed the annual pride pilgrimage to the city, but thought aloud to others that “even if we had just a group walking behind one sign, we needed to do something for Gay Pride here in Rockland.”
Over 1,000 people gathered for the first Gay Pride Rockland event in Nyack in 1999. As if to prove the positive force that this public affirmation of sexual identity can have, a Village of Nyack Trustee named John Shields, who would later serve four terms as Mayor, publicly came out of the closet that day.
The Pride celebrations that are held throughout the world each June commemorate protests that followed a raid by New York City Police Officers on The Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. The uprising in Greenwich Village against a pattern and practice of harassment by public officials is widely regarded as the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement. On May 9, 2016, a meeting was held in New York State concerning the status of an important landmark in the LGBT community. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis met with New York officials to advance a proposal to make The Stonewall Inn a national monument.
On Wednesday, May 31, 2017, New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and the Board of the Rockland County Pride Center celebrated the fact that the center had received a $250,000 grant from New York state. “Phyllis is a founding board member and she’s on the Executive Committee. She played a lead role in putting the board together. She went to various people in the community and asked it they wanted to do this. She put it together,” said Malloy.
A thread that runs through both VCS and Rockland Pride is a proactive and exhaustive effort to apply a racial justice analysis to civil rights work. “Shortly after bringing the ground breaking documentary on race, “The Color of Fear” to Rockland, I attended an “Undoing Racism Workshop, presented by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond,” said Frank “That was in 1995. Since then, VCS has administered Undoing Racism Workshops in Rockland County, at least once a year, and in some recent years as many as six times.”
Executive directors, police, non-profit personnel, community members, students, public and private school administration, teaching staff and other educators, and faith community leaders have attended the Undoing Racism Workshop. VCS estimates that we have presented the workshop approximately 35- 40 times. Each workshop has between 40 and 45 participants. Some session have had 60 in attendance. VCS estimates that nearly 2000 Rockland residents have participated.
“The reason I have my job as Rockland Pride Executive Director is because I chased down Phyllis after taking the Undoing Racism workshop over ten years ago. I was so drawn to her conviction. She’s has an unwavering approach to her work, ” said Malloy
Her exemplary efforts over the years resulted in her being inducted into the Rockland County Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2012. And on Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the 60th annual NAACP gala, another honor will be added to Frank’s distinguished resume.
Hillary Clinton photo credit: George Pejoves
by Bill Batson
Science tells us, unequivocally, that the behavior of billions of humans has created an existential threat to the earth called climate change. According to Professor Karl Coplan, if humans change their behavior and reduce their carbon footprint, we might have a chance to bequeath a living planet to future generations. Coplan also demonstrates through his life style, that the journey to a lower carbon footprint can be a cool ride.
In November 2019, Coplan will release Living Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life. His credentials, academic, legal and practical, are extremely impressive. A professor at Pace University School of Law, he directs their Environmental Law Center and has been outside counsel for Riverkeeper, and clerked for United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger. And to practice what he preaches, he has kayaked and biked to work, retrofitted his home, and found a way to make vacations intermittent energy fasts for over 30 year, reducing his carbon footprint to half of the average American.
Tonight, April 16 at 6:30p at the Nyack Center, Karl will present some of what he’s doing to reduce his carbon footprint. If the weather’s good, Coplan may ride his Zero Series S electric motorcycle to the venue, navigating through the crowded crossroads of the environment, science and the law. For the sake of our future, stop by and learn to walk a mile in Karl’s low carbon shoes (or ride a mile on his low carbon motorcycle, or row…you get the picture!)
Where does your passion for the planet come from?
How can anyone not have a passion for the system that sustains all life? But, more personally – growing up as the skinny kid who was not very good at sports, I found in nature both an inner peace and physical challenges and confidence that sustain me to this day.
What was it like clerking for United States Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger?
It was a very heady experience to be on the inside of every Supreme Court case and discussion for a year, just one year out of law school. Not only were there the conversations with the Chief, but the give and take discussions in the clerks’ network of law clerks for all nine Justices. No other legal experience in my career has been at that level.
What are some of the most important cases that you have brought to protect the planet?
The great thing about working with Riverkeeper and other Watekeeper organizations is working from the ground up to protect the ecosystem one stream, wetland, or watershed at a time. So instead of counting national cases, I can look around the Hudson River Valley and point to individual ecosystem battles that are interconnected to the global whole, like the hillside in Fort Montgomery we protected from development, or the nitrogen discharges to Long Island Sound we restricted, the toxic lead shotgun pellets we got removed from Long Island Sound, or the permits we forced the state to issue to limit the pollution of a trout stream in the Catskills. Some of these efforts are still ongoing, like the environmental cleanups we sued to force in Newtown Creek and Hastings on Hudson.
The fossil fuel industry has a huge war chest, are there enough law students choosing environmental law?
There are plenty of law students – but they need jobs that allow them to support themselves and pay their student loans. Litigating NGOs like Riverkeeper here in the Hudson River Valley and NRDC and EarthJustice at the national level play an important role providing a career path for lawyers who don’t want to represent the ExxonMobils of the world. But they rely on contributions from supporters.
Karl Coplan Speaks at the Knowledge Market at the Nyack Center
April 16, at 6:30p at Nyack Center, Karl will give a presentation based on his book, Living Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life, offering practical advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint, including everything from how you eat, commute, and run your house, to life enriching travel and recreation.
A meet-and-greet reception with light refreshment follows the program.
The Knowledge Market is sponsored by Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, NyackNewsAndViews.com, Nyack Center and La Talaye Catering and Event Design.
Tickets are $20. Students tickets are $5. Scholarships are available. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Nyack Center. For more information visit NyackKnows.com.
Students take the Stage
A younger, hipper generation are stepping up to the carbon foot print plate. Emmy Urdy, one of the organizers of Nyack’s participation in the global student climate strike on March 15 has joined the planning of the village’s Earth Day celebration. She is also one of the founders of the Rockland Climate Alliance (RCA). Already her group has helped the village move more smoothly towards full compliance with up coming bans on single use plastic bags.
If you’d like to learn more about future plans of the RCA email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to get on their mailing list.
Sons of Science Perform at Earth Day 2019 in Nyack
Calvin D’Andrea 16, bass, vocals
Miles D’Andrea 14, drums, vocals
Augie Davi-Fiondella 13, keys, vocals
Johnan Pollisar 13, guitar, vocals.
Earth Day 2019
For the seventh year running, Nyack will honor Mother Earth on Saturday, April 27 (Rain date 4/28) from 12 to 4p in the heart of the village at the Main Street Gazebo, Cedar Street and surrounding parking area. Kids’ activities will include arts and crafts as well as a fun, interactive Summer Play Camp sponsored by Blue Rock School. There is also live music going on all day, and vendors selling everything from jewelry to plants.
Keep Rockland Beautiful will begin and end their Community Clean-up project at the Earth Day Nyack event site. Interested participants should meet at 9:00am to join a clean-up crew at the Gazebo before Earth Day Nyack kicks off later in the day. Check keeprocklandbeautiful.org for details.
Hosted by The Nyack Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Nyack. Sponsored by Blue Rock School’s Summer Play Camp, Green Mountain Energy, and Casa del Sol restaurant.
Tell us about Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace?
The Clinic was founded 30 years ago as a partnership between Pace Law School and the then-new Hudson Riverkeeper program. Law students need practical experience practicing law, and John Cronin, the first Riverkeeper, needed legal representation to take on the entrenched companies polluting the Hudson River. Bobby Kennedy was working on his legal masters degree at Pace at the time as well as working pro bono as a Riverkeeper attorney, so it was natural for him to take over running the Clinic.
For over thirty years now, eight to ten Pace law students each semester get real litigation experience representing Riverkeeper in its environmental cleanup battles. They are allowed to appear in court without having passed the bar yet by special permission of the New York court system. I have been co-directing the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic for twenty five years now – since 1994 – and joining the Clinic was the best break of my life, since it has allowed me to combine my passion for the environment with the practice of law and the deep satisfaction of training and mentoring students for careers in environmental law. My former students include DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi, and scores of other students who have gone into environmental law careers ranging from private firms to government enforcement agencies.
Is it true that climate deniers are filing Freedom of Information Requests to harass scientists?
Yes, this is one of many ways that industry funded groups are working to harass climate scientists and prevent public acceptance of climate science. The problem is that in some states, the courts have taken the position that scientists at state universities are public officials, so that their email communications are subject to public disclosure under Freedom of Information laws. Most recently, Michael Mann at Penn State was forced to publish all of the emails from his university account. You probably did not hear much about this, because there was absolutely nothing embarrassing about them. Columbia Law School’s Mike Gerrard has started a climate scientist defense fund project to provide legal representation to climate scientists being subjected to this sort of harassment.
I understand you had an extremely low carbon foot print commute from your home to work, what was it?
For over twenty years now, I have commuted to work in White Plains by paddling kayak across the river from the Nyack Boat Club, then riding a bicycle the eight miles from Tarrytown. I built the kayak myself in 1997 as a project to take my mind off of the monumentally frustrating Pyramid Mall battle we were fighting at the time. It seemed then like a simple antidote to the car culture the mall exemplified. Of course, I could only make my paddle & pedal commute in the warm and light months of the year, and then only two or three days a week. Now that the bike lane on the new Tappan Zee bridge is supposed to open, I will probably hang up my kayak paddle and just bike to work. We need to make sure the Thruway Authority keeps the bike path open late at night – it will be a great non-car commuting option, but not if they close it at dusk like they have threatened to.
If part of having a low carbon foot print being multi-modal, what are some of your transportation modalities?
Cars are killing the planet, so I have tried my best to avoid using them where possible. I went for about a decade without owning my own car (I borrowed Robin’s Prius when I really needed one). When I couldn’t paddle across the Hudson to work, I was a regular rider on the Tappan Zee Express bus, then I bought an electric motorcycle when Zero came out with the first practical model in 2012. When I totaled that motorcycle, Robin prevailed on me to look at an EV- so I ended up with a very affordable Smart Fortwo in 2015. But I bought another Zero e-moto too – they are just too much fun.
Your life partner is a scientist and polar explorer. Who is she and what are some of the things you enjoy doing together?
Robin Bell has been my life partner for pretty much my entire adult life – we started dating at Middlebury College. When we graduated, we built a small sailing dory together with a rudimentary cabin and sailed it down the Champlain Canal and Hudson River, ending up in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where Robin got her first job as a geologist for the US Geological Survey. Robin came to NewYork to get her PhD in geophysics at Columbia while I studied law there, and Robin has gone on to become a leading polar regions science researcher. We both enjoy life, we’re together, so we enjoy life together – Robin shares my love of nature, adventure, and wild places.
One of our first dates was to go winter camping in the Adirondacks. Our love of sailing and the ocean eventually led us to buying an ocean-capable sailboat, the Mabel Rose. We named the boat after Robin’s great aunt Mabel who lived on Nantucket Island and whose partner Liz taught Robin to sail when she was growing up.
The Mabel Rose usually lives at the Nyack Boat Club. We have sailed the boat on two round trip transatlantic voyages – including a sabbatical trip to Barcelona in 2006-2007.
In Barcelona, I leaned what real paella is supposed to look like, and I brought several paella pans back with me. I make myself popular on camping trips and with our neighbors by cooking a wood-fired paella the traditional Spanish way from time to time.
How early were your children introduced to the low-carbon life style?
Since environmental consciousness has been part of my life since childhood, my own children were introduced to it from birth, of course. That meant they grew up in a house where we kept the heat down in the winter, but a nice crackling fire in the fireplace drew the family together in the living room, especially since there was no television anywhere in the house. Not having television, ironically, may be the biggest thing you can do to reduce your footprint – not because of the juice used by the television, but because television programming and advertising is designed to make us consume more. Every image we see n TV makes us think that we are missing out on a bigger fancier house or a faster car that will somehow raise our status. Skip the television and save the consumption dollars for something more fulfilling and smaller footprint – like used sailboat or something. Both our children were sailing with us from before they could walk. |
My daughter grew up thinking that the only way you could get to the Jersey Shore was by sailboat – when one of her elementary school friends told her their family had been to the beach, Beryl’s natural response was “I didn’t know you had a sailboat, too.”
Your book Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life is coming out in the Fall, can you share one tip with us?
It’s easy to make big dents in your footprint without a major change in your lifestyle. If you live in a household with two conventional gas powered cars, when it comes time to trade them in replace one with a hybrid and the other with an electric vehicle. If you purchase your electricity from renewable sources, you can cut you transportation footprint by three quarters this way. The EV will have plenty of range for a typical commute, and the hybrid is available for longer family trips when needed.
What is the average American’s carbon footprint?
The most recent numbers are about 16 tons per capita
What is a good laymans explanation of carbon foot?
Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases you are responsible for, converted into the equivalent amount of CO2 (the primary human greenhouse gas).
Your direct footprint is what you emit directly in your activities (burning gas to drive or jet fuel to fly, burning oil or natural gas for heat, buying fossil fuel electricity).
Your indirect footprint includes your share of government activities and the greenhouse gas impacts embedded in stuff you buy.
There is no one definition of direct vs indirect – most people include food choices as a direct impact, some calculators now include goos and service purchases as direct.
By how much have your reduced carbon footprint?
Indirect impacts are roughly equal to direct impacts. My goal is to keep my direct GHG footprint to <4 tons per year – but I include high impact foods (beef and lamb) in this tally. 4 tons per year direct is roughly 8 tons per year total – about half the US average.
Do any municipalities award people who reduce their footprint?
There are no municipal awards or tax credits specifically for lowering your footprint, but there are tax credits for solar panels, heat pumps, and electric vehicles that tend to lower your footprint.
I read that oil companies are betting on carbon capture. Any future in it?
Carbon capture is much more expensive than avoiding the emissions in the first place, so it only has a future if we get desperate.
Have you used the charging ports in Nyack? Do you see the program expanding locally?
Since Nyack is pretty much home for us (we live in West Nyack), I never need to charge so nearby. But the availability of municipal charging stations really extends the range of an EV. Having that charging port in Nyack means that someone driving up from New Jersey to visit our shops and try one of the great restaurants knows they can get home without worry. Smart municipalities recognize that EV sales are increasing, and that having a charging station available is just a plus for the local economy.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Karl Coplan’s Cool Ride (to a Lower Carbon Footprint)” © 2019 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com