Americana: The Story of Grossinger’s

Americana: The Story of Grossinger’s

Tania Grossinger’s childhood was the stuff of modern fairytales. Like a version of Kay Thomson’s Plaza Hotel-dwelling Eloise by way of “Dirty Dancing,” Grossinger grew up largely unsupervised at the famed Catskills hotel that shares her family’s name. She catalogs her exploits, many of which involve some combination of mischief and Borscht Belt celebrities, in “Growing Up at Grossinger’s” (Skyhorse Publishing), a memoir first published in 1975 and reissued this year.

Grossinger was born in Chicago in 1937, and at age 8 was whisked away to the Catskills by her mother, a member of the hotelier clan first by marriage and then, after her husband died, by economic necessity. In Tania’s telling, the “owner Grossingers” treated her and her mother, who took a job at the hotel, as second-class citizens — but that rarely interfered with her penchant for hijacking rowboats, intercepting guests’ budding romances and palling around with such celebrity visitors as Eddy Fisher, Rocky Marciano and Jackie Robinson.

“Danny Kaye never tipped,” she writes in a typical anecdote about baby-sitting for the stars’ children. “In fact, he still owes me 75 cents.”

Robinson, on the other hand, presented her with a custom-made cake when she was accepted to Brandeis University.

According to Grossinger, her family’s hotel was, in its heyday, home to some 1,000 guests each week. But it dwindled in size and prestige by the late 1960s because of the rise of jet travel, increased opportunities for young, single Jews to meet without the support of an enormous hotel staff behind them, and the advent of television variety shows that paid entertainers more for a five-minute appearance than the hotel did for a whole weekend.

But Catskills hotel culture remains a source of fascination even for those who never experienced it, Grossinger told the Forward.

“It’s Americana,” she said, adding that the executive director of The Catskills Institute, who is also a professor at Brown University, taught a class on the subject several years ago. “And this was not in Jewish studies, it was in sociology. They used my book as part of the course — be still my heart.”

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Wed. Jun 18, 2008

Unemployment rises in the Hudson Valley

Unemployment rises in the Hudson Valley

WHITE PLAINS – Unemployment in the Hudson Valley in May rose 1.2 percent over May of last year, the state Labor Department reported Thursday. That is the highest May unemployment rate the region has seen in 14 years. It also rose substantially in the Catskills region.

New York joblessness was 4.9 percent in May, compared to 4.2 percent in May 2007.

Labor Department Analyst John Nelson said the higher numbers are a cause for concern.

“In our area in past year during the good times, we were an area that enjoyed very low unemployment rates,” he said. “In recent months, these rates have been going up so it’s definitely a cause for concern.” The May data reflects those concerns, said Nelson.

Sullivan County experienced the highest May unemployment at 6.2 percent compared to 4.9 percent in May of last year.

Delaware County unemployment rose from 3.9 percent to 5.8 percent.

Greene County unemployment rose from 4.5 percent in May 2007 to 5.7 percent this May.

Columbia County joblessness rose from 4.5 percent to 5.4 percent.

Ulster County unemployment in May was 5.1 percent compared to 3.9 percent in May 2007.

The Dutchess-Orange County area unemployment rate in May was 5.0 percent, up from 3.9 percent in May 2007.

The Putnam-Rockland-Westchester area came in at 4.6 percent unemployment in May, compared to 3.4 percent in May 2007.


Concord racino deal has big payoff

Concord racino deal has big payoff
Developer would get hundreds of millions back from state on $1B investment in former Catskills resort
By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Friday, June 20, 2008
ALBANY -- A Catskills developer planning to move the Monticello Raceway and build a bigger racino as part of a $1 billion investment in the former Concord resort would get hundreds of millions of dollars returned to him in a deal with the state.

A bill for a grand gaming and lodging facility, sponsored by majority members of the Senate and Assembly, is being readied for passage on Monday, the final scheduled day of this year's session. It is unclear whether Gov. David Paterson will go along with it.

The bill would give Louis Cappelli, known for his Westchester County office building and hotel projects with partner Donald Trump, a unique formula of revenues from video lottery terminal operations. Seven operators of other racinos would be getting VLT fees from the Division of Lottery under current statutes, but Cappelli's cuts would differ.

Under the 40-year deal of the new legislation, Cappelli would keep 75 percent of VLT revenues to help pay off his investment. He said his facility would outperform the current racino substantially and the horse racing would improve as well. Payments to the horse owners would come from Cappelli's share of the VLT revenues, Bonacic said.

The current racino provided $31.5 million to public education last year, but it gets to keep only about 42 percent of VLT revenues after expenses.

His money would come only after he invested $1 billion on the new project, which includes renovating and reopening the Concord hotel, golf courses, retail and relocating the Monticello Raceway and racino a few miles to his resort site.

Cappelli would not get funds unless the project employed at least 2,000 people full-time. He would also be expected to pay 50 percent more in school taxes, and and his properties would be responsible for at least $50 million in local taxes, said Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, the Senate sponsor.

"A lot of good things are happening in Sullivan County, but we need a signature resort," Bonacic he said.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, said the project is important for the entire region, and will benefit school children.

Cappelli, a major stakeholder of Empire Resorts, which owns the current raceway and racino, wants to move the facility and increase the number of machines to 2,500 from 1,600.

Cappelli has maintained that his facility would draw visitors from New York City, a roughly 90-minute drive away, and keep gamblers from taking their money to out of state venues. Cappelli envisions a facility on the scale of the popular Mohegan Sun, with a "world class" convention center and hotel.

But Jeff Gural, operator of track racinos at Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs, said Cappelli's project will fail unless it includes table games, not just video slots.

"Why would people drive 90 miles to the Concord, when they can drive 90 miles to Atlantic City or Connecticut?" said Gural. "The typical VLT customer is not interested in golf courses and a fancy hotel, but your typical casino customer is interested in those kinds of things."

Gural predicted Cappelli will be back in Albany in a few years asking for a constitutional amendment to allow casino games.

The state has been interested in spurring economic development in the Catskills and it needs revenues to help close a $21.5 billion projected budget gap over the next three years.

James M. Odato can be reached at 454-5083 or by e-mail at [email protected].


Natural Gas Drilling Bill would notably impact Sullivan County

Bill would notably impact Sullivan County
Horizontal drilling wells would be allowed for first time in N.Y.
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ALBANY — State lawmakers are pushing a bill that would set new spacing requirements for oil and gas drilling rigs, and amend state environmental law to allow horizontal drilling wells for the first time ever.

The bill — which passed the Senate and will likely reach a vote in the Assembly before its session ends Monday — would notably impact Sullivan County, where oil companies have solicited property owners for the rights to drill and excavate natural gas from their land. Oil companies would use horizontal drilling wells to retrieve the gas, which is trapped within the Marcellus Shale more than 6,000 feet below ground.

State law has not explicitly allowed or disallowed horizontal drilling, although some horizontal rigs have operated under special-use permits that slightly altered the boundaries set by law for vertical wells. Horizontal wells did not fit into those boundaries because they're dug horizontally on a plane beneath ground and impinge on vertical well setbacks in the current law.

Drilling info sessions

Several groups are hosting info sessions about gas drilling in the coming weeks. Experts will explain the drilling process and its pros and cons.

n Friday at 9:30 a.m., Sullivan Planning Commissioner William Pammer will discuss gas drilling with town supervisors in the County Government Center.

n June 27 at 7 p.m. in the CVI Building in Liberty, lawyers and environmental experts will discuss gas drilling in a forum moderated by Catskill Mountainkeeper.

The new bill says it would create two sets of parameters for horizontal drilling. The first would divvy the land into rectangles, allowing single drill wells on roughly 40-acre plots. The downside to this option is that each drill requires a 5-acre clearing, which would cut several holes in the wooded landscape, like an Afghan blanket.

Option No. 2 would limit that kind of development by allowing multiple drill wells at one centralized location. The drills pipes would fan out from the central location, like spokes on a bicycle wheel. This option would be allowed on parcels of land up to 640 acres.

Both options must maintain a 330-foot setback from the drill or end of the horizontal well. That's down from 660 feet that was required for vertical wells. The DEC said both drilling patterns also require a full environmental review for impacts on ground water, erosion, endangered species and more.

Some have criticized the bill because it lessens the setbacks and speeds up the permitting process for oil companies, who will no longer have to endure hearings before an administrative law judge and the public to get special use permits.

"In some ways, the existing law is probably better right now because it slows the process down a bit," said Wes Gillingham, program director for the Catskill Mountainkeeper environmental group. "The new law opens up the opportunity for oil companies to move at a faster pace."

Environmental groups are worried about water and air pollution that could result from drilling, the rigs and the powerful diesel engines they run on.

But state Sen. John Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope, said the environmental concerns have been sensationalized, and that the new law provides the DEC with new teeth and regulations. Bonacic voted in favor of the law when it passed the Senate this week.

"There have been 75,000 gas wells over decades in New York, and not one instance of damage to water or the environment," he said. "What we've done is give the DEC more powers on their checklist to make sure the environment is protected."

[email protected]


That Country Air

That Country Air
By: Larry Gordon
Published: Thursday, June 19, 2008

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Summer weather is here, and that’s a sure indication that the real thing—that is, summer itself—cannot be too far away. In fact, summer is not just sneaking up on us as we read these words, but lo and behold, before any of us knows it, we will be smack dab in the middle of those hot and sultry summer days.

I’ve carefully checked out my air-conditioning units, like a responsible captain of a ship or a 747 must do to make certain that all is in tip-top shape and perfect working order. After all, how would any of us survive without that miraculous cool air descending on our heads from our vented ceilings (in older homes) or blowing up at us toward our chins from the floor (in newer homes) to keep us cool.

Amongst the many lost arts that modern man need no longer interface with is the ability to suffer through hot weather without relief. Once upon a time when summer arrived and it was hot outside, it was just hot inside, too. My grandmother used to tell me about how in the Bronx—I guess it was in the 1930s or so—in order to stay cool in the high heat of summer they used to purchase a large block of ice, which, I guess, if placed in a room where it was a hundred degrees managed to bring the temperature down a bit. I guess the lost art I’m talking about here is sweating, though in its place we’ve seemed to create other ways to sweat things out.

No question that for many growing up in the ’60s and ’70s having air conditioning was new and innovative technology. In our case, the big step up was when my parents installed an air conditioner in the window of their bedroom. At around the same time, and perhaps to placate us so that we did not become too restless in the heat, my father also installed an exhaust fan in our kitchen window. It wasn’t real air conditioning, but it did contribute something to help alleviate the excessive heat we had to deal with.

The way it was explained to me was that the fan—which made lots of noise—managed to scientifically pull out the hot air from inside the house and somehow send cool air in through the other windows. Of course, those other windows had to be opened at least slightly so that the alleged air could come sailing through. Add to that the fact that in the 1960s and 70s leaving windows slightly open in Crown Heights created an assortment of additional problems. Those were tough and changing times; the very fabric of society as it had been known was being redefined. As a result, a slightly open window on the first floor of a home in those days was the equivalent to an invitation to whoever came across that window to climb through and help themselves as they deemed rightful and appropriate.

So if we kept the windows open on those hot nights, it was only slightly—and at our own risk.

That was until summer arrived and we got to go on our summer vacation to the Catskills. In those days, there was no need for air conditioning in bungalows or “summer homes” (as they are now known). The entire effort of uprooting ourselves from the streets and climate of Brooklyn was to enjoy and benefit from the cool and crisp mountain air, which meant that owning an air conditioner up there was a contradiction of sorts to the entire concept of going to “the country.”

The story of the mostly Orthodox Jewish migration to the Catskills is historically rooted in the fear associated with an outbreak of tuberculosis in inner-city communities in the early part of the 20th century. It did not take long for the annual trek to catch on, as the summertime communities grew there, even while simultaneously almost everything else about those areas of upstate New York deteriorated. That took a while, but today the old Catskills is a very poor shadow of what it once was.

Perhaps today it’s because of global warming—that is, if it actually exists—that the difference in the daily temperatures between the city environs and the country is not that great. It can be 99 degrees here and 96 upstate. The difference can only really be felt in the evenings, when it can get considerably colder up there than it does here and then still get extremely warm during the following day.

The Catskills also serve an important emotional purpose that helps facilitate the flow of the mostly beautiful days of summer. Being away at a summer home or (here we go again) a bungalow means that you spend most of the summer either arriving from or getting ready to go back upstate to that temporary non-sukkah dwelling. When my kids were very young and we relocated ourselves to Ferndale, New York, every summer for about a decade, the traveling to and from was the essence and most memorable aspect of those summers. There was always something very liberating about that moment on Thursday afternoon when all was done and you could point your car in the direction of the George Washington Bridge. There was an unspoken and unexpressed camaraderie between the men and sometimes women in the other cars on these superhighways, which may have been created for the sole purpose of allowing large numbers of Jews to enjoy an aspect of the fantastic material world in one of G-d’s greatest gifts—the season of summer.

Now, for many, the vibrancy that life in the Catskills once was is mostly gone but still making a valiant and gallant effort to hang on. The massive hotel structures like Grossinger’s and the Concord have long been vacant and desolate, though businesspeople still have hope for the future—and if not the future, then at least the real-estate market up there—that things will turn around. They are making a noble effort to keep the Catskills from going under and are no doubt driven by elements of sentimentality and the hope of massive economic profits.

The hotel business that once thrived over Shabbos, yom tov, and just general vacation times is now frail and teetering, though no “do not resuscitate” orders have been left. To that end, every now and then there arises someone with an astigmatic vision who sees hope and possibilities in revitalizing Jewish life up there. Who knows—with travel becoming so expensive, perhaps some day the Catskills will once again become an option.

Today clusters or communities of Jews in the Catskills are analyzed for their economics and tax base implications for different small towns and entire counties. ShopRite and Wal-Mart can’t wait for the population to swell over the summer, because of the significant way in which it bumps up their business. Some communities otherwise known as bungalow colonies are being incorporated as shuls or yeshivas and as a result are being removed from the tax rolls.

That may in fact be legal and proper, but it also causes consternation and creates criticism that does not cast a favorable light on us.

And to think that this all started because we were overheated and cramped and looking for a little fresh air and a country road without stoplights on which we could take a leisurely morning or evening stroll and feel free, if only for a fleeting few moments.
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Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at edi
[email protected].


Assembly near vote on gas-drilling bill

June 19, 2008

Speedup of permit process debated

By Tom Wilber
Press & Sun-Bulletin

A hotly contested bill that will help determine the future of gas drilling in the Southern Tier is expected to go to the floor of the state Assembly sometime between today and Monday.

On one side are regulators and economic proponents who say existing rules are ineffective for permitting horizontal drilling designed to extract gas from the Marcellus Shale Formation.

On the other side are those who say the bill would fast-track natural gas development at the expense of the environment.

Landowners are split on the issue.

Representatives of the Chenango County Farm Bureau claim the bill would threaten property owners' mineral rights. Others, including the New York State Farm Bureau, say it will encourage competition, leading to more lucrative lease offers.

Marcellus wells can still be permitted with current regulations, but they require a variance. That means additional paperwork, public comments and public hearings.

The current bill, A-10526, would standardize the process so regulators could spend more time monitoring environmental issues and less time working through red tape, said Assemblyman William Parment, D- North Harmony, the bill's author. Additionally, a more uniform approach would assure property owners owed royalties are not skipped over or missed, he said.

Bradd Vickers, president of the Chenango County Farm Bureau, fears the bill gives energy companies an opportunity to encroach on land they have not leased.

"The big question is, are we taking a big step backward?" he said.

Environmental groups, including the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Catskill Mountainkeeper, oppose the bill on different grounds. They say more time is needed to allow local governments, citizens and advocacy groups to develop safeguards to protect the environment and infrastructure.

Sen. Thomas W. Libous, R-Bingham-ton, co-sponsored a version of the bill that passed in the Senate last week by a vote of 45-16. To see the bill, go to

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City kids show green's good for ya

Wednesday, June 18th 2008, 11:06 PM

Smith for News

Third-graders from Public School 11 show off their greens.

Chelsea third-graders are going green.

The youngsters are in charge of a months-long farmers' market at Public School 11, where customers receive cooking tips along with their leafy purchases.

"For many students, this is the first time handling some of the vegetables," said grownup Deborah Osborne, the supervisor of the market, which opened Wednesday.

About 25 students managed a stall of bok choi, lettuce and fresh spices among other greens at the school on W.21st St. at Eighth Ave. Some handled change. Some kept the veggie crates full. Others advertised the goods at the top of their lungs.

"We don't use any chemicals here," said Stephanie Calderon, 9, offering rhubarb at $1.25 a bunch along with a complimentary recipe. "It's more healthy that way."

Garlic scapes and buttercrunch lettuce, priced $1 and $1.50, sold out within the first hour.

"Their prices are actually quite competitive with Union Square," said Christopher Gaddess, a private chef.

The young entrepreneurs will offer seasonal produce from Stoneledge Farm in the Catskills from 8 a.m. to noon every Wednesday until Thanksgiving. Proceeds will fund the market program - which hopes to break even - while unsold veggies will go to the little helpers.

link to article is here:


Bill would allow Catskill Park towns to remain in Hudson Valley Greenway

ALBANY – Legislation to permanently extend a law giving municipalities located within the Catskill Park the option of participating in the Hudson River Valley Greenway program has passed in the Assembly. It is sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston. If this bill is not enacted by the end of the year, the towns of Denning, Olive and Woodstock will lose their status as Greenway Communities.

"It is important that the Catskill Park towns continue to be afforded the same opportunities as other Greenway communities,” said Cahill. “This program provides our region with the tools and expertise to create a framework that allows economic progress and success without sacrificing the historic and natural treasures of the region. It would be a shame if these towns lost their local option to participate."

The towns in Ulster and Greene County which are in the Catskill Park were expressly prohibited from joining the Greenway under the 1991 law which created the program. In 2006, the Legislature passed legislation expanding the initiative to include the towns of Denning, Shandaken, Olive, Woodstock and Hardenburgh. After gaining eligibility, Woodstock, Olive and Denning all joined the program. This new bill is needed by the end of the year to allow these towns to continue to participate in the Greenway if they so choose.

The Senate has yet to take action on the measure.

link is here:


NYRI touts economic benefits of power line

In an effort to convince hostile communities of its apparent benefits, the huge power line proposed for our region says it will pay some $37.2 million in property taxes.
New York Regional Interconnect recently sent a letter to counties, municipalities and school districts along its 190-mile route outlining the estimated millions in taxes and lower electric rates its says the 10-story-tall power lines would bring.
The eight counties that would be sliced by NYRI all oppose the power line.
But while NYRI touts property tax benefits, opponents have said the line would actually lower land values. NYRI has also asked the federal government for reimbursement for construction costs, which would be passed to ratepayers.


Dirks: Vanishing brookies are a warning

A brook trout.

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It's Fathers Day weekend, and I've decided to fish for our local char, salvelinus fontinalis, or brook trout. There's still some water, although now private, that has an exceptionally healthy population of wild brook trout roaming about it. That's where my internal GPS wants me to go.

As I aim my car toward the northwestern Catskill peaks, I'm haunted by the reality that looms on the horizon for the bright and colorful char — near extinction. Yet ask the average angler what the status of this precious fish is and few know or even care. That's an even more haunting prospect.

The potential extinction of the native eastern brook trout is no exaggeration. For decades now, the traditional northeastern range of the brook trout — it's really a char, not a trout — has been dramatically reduced. A few years ago, an intensive study of more than 11,400 eastern watersheds in 17 states found that only 9 percent of those watersheds that held native brook trout still had intact populations.

More on Brook Trout

• For a copy of the "Eastern Brook Trout: Roadmap to Restoration," e-mail [email protected] and I'll send you a copy and an additional report on the status of brook trout in New York.

• Online resources:;;

• Suggested reading: Nick Karas, "Brook Trout," (Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2002). Probably the best and most complete history on North American brook trout.

Delaware River report

• Guide Mike Padua at reports trout fishing on the Upper East branch and Upper West branch just below the reservoirs has been going well. The best fly patterns are blue wing olives 14, 16, 18; caddis 16-18; isonychia 10-12 and some stoneflies. On the main stem of the Delaware, the smallmouth bass are providing plenty of action with surface poppers, Clouser minnows, woolly buggers and soft plastics, surface plugs and crankbaits.

Many of the remaining watersheds have been either "reduced" (14 percent) or "greatly reduced" (43 percent) as native char habitats. Even more alarming is that most large rivers no longer support reproducing populations, leaving the brookie relegated almost exclusively to small headwater streams.

Despite four angling teenagers in my household, I found no one to join me on this expedition, so I go it alone. Maybe the solitude of fishing these little threads of mountain water, with no other anglers in sight, will do me some good. I guess every father should have his day.

Arriving at my headwater destination, I quickly rig my rod, put on my daypack, and head into the woods. Looking upstream, there are countless little pockets and deep little runs with each having a brookie tucked into it. With my fly box open, the decision of what fly to use comes easily — my eyes are drawn to the reliable Parachute Adams, size 14.

These brookies are not picky and will lunge across a pool to get what they think is a tasty morsel of food. Most all of these Catskill headwaters are naturally poor in both minerals and insects. These little fish are trained to eat whatever they can find, including my fly.

My second cast has a 7-inch brookie tugging on the fly rod. He's not big, as most seem to prefer these days, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in fight and color. That's probably part of his problem. Since he doesn't grow to the large proportions of a brown or rainbow trout, he doesn't seem to get the respect or attention he deserves.

Most folks don't realize that this little brookie is on the frontlines of the battle for pure, clean water. He requires the cleanest and coolest water and will not tolerate anything less.

Whether you fish or not, you need to know about this little fish. You need to realize that when our local native char disappears, so goes our purest and cleanest water.

Despite its small size, the loss of salvelinus fontinalis carries a huge price.

[email protected] or P.O. Box 87, Westtown, NY 10998.

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