Michelle T. Gramoglia

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After starting her career as an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Michelle Gramoglia joined Woodland Pond at New Paltz in 2007 to help guide its expansion. She rose to executive director in 2013 and president/CEO in 2016, leading the not-for-profit, upscale continuing-care retirement community to become a noted center of culture, wellness, and services for those aged 62 and older.

In 2019, she was elected president of the LeadingAge CCRC Cabinet, giving her voting rights within LeadingAgeNY, the state’s association of advocacy for continuing-care providers. Born in Kingston and now living in Saugerties, Gramoglia embraces the Woodland Pond mission of “Opportunity. Care. Connections.” She makes a point of walking through campus, maintaining an open-door policy, and bringing her own family for visits.

She also builds strong community partnerships by hiring students from New Paltz High School and SUNY New Paltz, hosting local performance groups on campus and sending staff to assist in town projects. “While I certainly never expected that my accounting degree would bring me to the world of senior living,” she says, “I cannot imagine myself being anywhere else.”

How do you balance compassion and care with practical business decisions in your role?

It’s a challenge! But the foundation of Woodland Pond, in every aspect, is our people: our residents, their families, our staff, our board members. I try to live and lead with empathy, and that has been an adjustment over the last 10 years. Having a background in corporate finance, I have had to learn to tone down the black and white, and let every other color shine through.

Do you have a mentor?

I grew up in a household where having a strong work ethic wasn’t optional. I had my first job at Deising’s Bakery [in Kingston] when I was 14, and by the time I was a senior in high school had three jobs. I had seen my parents work hard my whole life. So yes, my mom and dad were mentors from the start. But I must also give so much credit to the residents for my transformation here over the last 10 years. When you spend your days with people that have lived a lifetime, you cannot help but be inspired, impacted, driven to be better.

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Eliza Bozenski

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For the past 13 years, Eliza Bozenski has worked to advance Anderson Center for Autism’s mission of autism treatment and care for children and families. She directs all fundraising and public relations initiatives, oversees the admissions department at the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg, and works with community stakeholders to create new partnerships and programs. This year, she guided Anderson in partnering with the Village of Rhinebeck to create the first autism supportive community in the Hudson Valley.

She also hosts a weekly talk show and podcast, 1 in 59, interviewing authors, artists, therapists, and medical professionals to explore challenges and opportunities for those impacted by autism spectrum disorder. “The podcast is a fantastic platform for me to highlight the extraordinary work occurring in the autism community all over the world,” says Bozenski, who was raised in Tuxedo.

Having begun her career as a teacher and services coordinator for children, Bozenski values working with families. “I have never veered from the path of human service; and I am happiest and do my best work when I am collaborating with others.”

Which relationship or partnership that you’ve built has been the most meaningful to you? 

The development of my relationships with Anderson families through our Anderson Family Partners group definitely ranks high on the list. Spending time with the parents, grandparents, and siblings of Anderson students and adults has impacted me in wonderful ways. I am touched by the challenges they have faced and awed by the actions they have taken.

I am humbled by their willingness to share their incredibly personal stories and experiences in order to pave the way for a more welcoming, supportive, and loving world for the next generation of families living with and loving someone with autism.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

‘Nervous means you’re ready’ stands out because of its simplicity and truth. Whether it be a new job, a new friend, public speaking, asking someone for something, even choosing to take care of yourself, nervous means you are ready to move forward. Feeling nervous gets a bad reputation, but it shouldn’t; it’s a sign that it is time to grow.

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Eliza Bozenski

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For the past 13 years, Eliza Bozenski has worked to advance Anderson Center for Autism’s mission of autism treatment and care for children and families. She directs all fundraising and public relations initiatives, oversees the admissions department at the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg, and works with community stakeholders to create new partnerships and programs. This year, she guided Anderson in partnering with the Village of Rhinebeck to create the first autism supportive community in the Hudson Valley.

She also hosts a weekly talk show and podcast, 1 in 59, interviewing authors, artists, therapists, and medical professionals to explore challenges and opportunities for those impacted by autism spectrum disorder. “The podcast is a fantastic platform for me to highlight the extraordinary work occurring in the autism community all over the world,” says Bozenski, who was raised in Tuxedo.

Having begun her career as a teacher and services coordinator for children, Bozenski values working with families. “I have never veered from the path of human service; and I am happiest and do my best work when I am collaborating with others.”

Which relationship or partnership that you’ve built has been the most meaningful to you? 

The development of my relationships with Anderson families through our Anderson Family Partners group definitely ranks high on the list. Spending time with the parents, grandparents, and siblings of Anderson students and adults has impacted me in wonderful ways. I am touched by the challenges they have faced and awed by the actions they have taken.

I am humbled by their willingness to share their incredibly personal stories and experiences in order to pave the way for a more welcoming, supportive, and loving world for the next generation of families living with and loving someone with autism.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

‘Nervous means you’re ready’ stands out because of its simplicity and truth. Whether it be a new job, a new friend, public speaking, asking someone for something, even choosing to take care of yourself, nervous means you are ready to move forward. Feeling nervous gets a bad reputation, but it shouldn’t; it’s a sign that it is time to grow.

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The Gourmet Newburgh Coffee Shop With a Bike-Powered Coffee Machine

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It’s easy to get lost in a whirlwind of barely pronounceable words if you’re unseasoned to the modern day coffee shop. Maybe you order what the person in front of you did or you get lucky enough to recognize something on the menu. Otherwise, you order the first thing that catches your eye and brace yourself for embarrassment.

When Rob and Stephanie Popper opened up Rob’s Roast Coffees in Newburgh just over one month ago, they decided to turn that blush-inducing experience into a fun experiment. Just because the drinks get fancy doesn’t mean they don’t stay simple.

“I think we do less than your average coffee shop,” Rob told me. “I think that your average coffee shop tries to do a lot more and maybe it’s too much. I would rather there were more places that did a little bit really well. I think that’s what we do differently.”

That feeling starts to sink in when you first step foot into the shop. It’s small, with just enough room for three small tables and one big one. Bicycles hang from the ceiling and old photos of cyclists adorn the walls. The one thing that opposes that feeling is a line of gadgets on a shelf behind the big table. It almost looks like a chemistry lab. A shiny 1952 Faema espresso machine serves as the centerpiece.

Stephanie handles many of the interior design choices, including the paint job, and was heavily involved in the decision to open up shop in Newburgh. That big table that takes up most of the shop is one of her most successful ideas so far.

“This thing has happened that I personally didn’t anticipate at all. People come to the table and they talk to their neighbor,” she said. “They’ll talk politics or ‘I live on this end of Liberty Street, oh you live on that end?’ and it’s crazy. That was totally unexpected.”

As unexpected as it was, finding connections in a coffee shop isn’t a foreign concept to Stephanie and Rob. They got married in one after all.

Everything about this particular coffee shop shouts efficiency — from the space management to a drink menu with only three options: a $3 regular coffee, a $10 espresso flight, and an option to “make it fancy” for $4.50. Each one is made with beans Rob roasts himself.

Making it fancy is a nebulous option that ranges from lattes to mochas made with Hudson Valley Fresh chocolate milk. The menu lists a few more popular options like cortados but it doesn’t stop there. If you can describe it, it can be made fancy.

Of course, you aren’t limited to your imagination. A handful of helpful signs around the shop break down the espresso lineage, depicting what goes into making every branch on the family tree. If you want something outside the realms of the norm or have no idea what you’re doing, Rob can recommend something. In these ways, Rob’s Roast Coffees isn’t too dissimilar from your average coffee shop. What makes this ordering process differ is the way Rob goes about using his specialized knowledge of beverages.

“I don’t know a lot about medium roast coffee. I don’t have a lot of passion for that subject,” he said. “If I just did textbook medium roast coffee for you, I wouldn’t be able to say to you ‘I think this is an awesome medium roast,’ because I don’t actually know what that means. If I say to you, ‘I think this is a really awesome dark roast,’ it comes from my deepest commitment to that subject.”

Rob’s nearly exclusive interest in dark roast coffee comes from his boyhood. He helped his father prepare for work as a child by making him the darkest and strongest cup of coffee he could. To him, that’s what a real cup of coffee still is. It’s this singular approach to making coffee that keeps even his fanciest drinks simple and efficiently made. It’s also what brought him to the United States, and more specifically, to the Hudson Valley.

He worked as a triathlete coach in London prior to arriving stateside — a profession he still tries to keep up with today. He eventually got into the coffee-making business but London was a hub for light roasts. His interests clashed with the market and he moved on.

Newburgh remains the first location where he’s owned a coffee shop. Instead, he operated in London solely using a Velopresso — a tricycle that makes coffee as you peddle. Less than 30 existed in the world when he spent about $20,000 on the 500-pound traveling shop. The investment made sense to him. Bicycles and tricycles are, like most things in his life, efficient.

He still has the trike in his possession and plans on riding it around the Hudson Valley to compliment his little shop on Liberty Street — the street where he and Stephanie found their place in the neighborhood.

Rob’s Roast Coffees
42 Liberty St, Newburgh
Open Mon-Sat 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


Related: This Welcoming Hang-Out Dishes Tasty Meals and Karaoke in New Paltz

The Hudson Valley’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow Enchants for 200-Plus Years

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The haunting folktale by Washington Irving follows the twists and turns of Ichabod Crane’s encounter with the Headless Horseman.

The tale of Rip Van Winkle, the man who famously fell asleep for years and years and awoke to a changed, unfamiliar world, is about as familiar as it gets when it comes to American folklore. Likewise is the famously tall and gaunt Ichabod Crane (“…one might have mistaken him for… some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield”), scared out of his wits in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by the terrifying, blood-curdling sight of the Headless Horseman.

As rooted in folklore as “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” are, they are not, in fact, popular legends and myths that sprang up during the early years of the United States — they are works of fiction penned by Washington Irving.

Largely forgotten today, Washington Irving has an odd historical legacy. His literary output has long been a part of the American vernacular, yet the actual source of these writings — the author himself — has basically fallen into obscurity. If this were not influence enough, the term knickerbocker — a denizen of New York City — also springs from Irving’s pen. (New York Knicks, anyone?)

Ichabod Crane
Ichabod crane flees from a ghostly figure in Frederic Simpson Coburn’s What Fearful Shapes and Shadows Beset His Path (1899)

2019 was the bicentennial of the publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which was serialized between 1819–1820. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was published as part of The Sketch Book in March 1820. Because of the serialization, the anniversary of the Sleepy Hollow-based story was celebrated throughout 2019–2020, and with that came an opportunity to restore Washington Irving to his rightful stature.

The physical and psychological landscape of the Hudson Valley are part and parcel of Irving’s most famous fictional creations. “Sleepy Hollow” transpires near “Tarry Town” (as Irving styled it), “a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions and dream quietly away…”

Washington Irving lived and worked here in the Hudson Valley, and the region’s beauty and mystery remain forever linked to his writing output. Sleepy Hollow is a real place, of course, as is Tarrytown. Irving is the namesake of the Village of Irvington. Local drivers can avail themselves of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. It doesn’t take much to ascertain his regional influence.

As a town, “the legacy of Sleepy Hollow and that of Washington Irving are closely shared,” according to Henry Steiner, official historian for the Village of Sleepy Hollow. “Sleepy Hollow has been influenced by Irving, and Irving by Sleepy Hollow. One legacy would not be the same without the other. Irving was a prolific writer, but his two most famous, iconic works were ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle.’ Sleepy Hollow is the real place that inspired Irving’s best work, and the reception of this short masterpiece was instrumental in establishing Irving’s great fame. He returned the favor by making Sleepy Hollow, the place, world-famous.”

Sunnyside
An image of Irving’s estate Sunnyside

Irving’s expansive estate, Sunnyside, is located in Tarrytown and is an active historical and educational site that hosts a wide range of visitors. Sunnyside, according to Historic Hudson Valley’s Karen Clark, celebrates Washington Irving “and his impact on the region and on literature in general. He had a lasting impact on our culture.”

Which makes his general unfamiliarity today all the more puzzling. The young United States of the early 19th century, flush with independence, nevertheless struggled with a deep-seated inferiority complex. Europe was the fount of culture and knowledge. “Writing in New York at the beginning of the 19th century,” according to scholar William L. Hedges, “meant writing for an audience bent on viewing itself as sophisticated.”


“Sleepy Hollow,” with its innovative mixture of the American colloquial inflected with a good dose of spooky German folklore, pushed [Irving] into the rank of literary celebrity, one of the first hugely acclaimed writers to come out of the United States.


And Irving did not disappoint. “Sleepy Hollow,” with its innovative mixture of the American colloquial inflected with a good dose of spooky German folklore, pushed him into the rank of literary celebrity, one of the first hugely acclaimed writers to come out of the United States. Other writers of the time — like Edgar Allan Poe — were eager for his approval. The public clamored for his autograph. He broke bread with President Martin Van Buren. Irving’s friendly letter to Charles Dickens thrilled the British writer to no end — such was the international renown of Washington Irving.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the beautiful Sunnyside offered tours from May through November (check the website for current tour offerings). Irving, according to Karen Clark, “actually designed his home and designed the landscape as well, creating ponds, vistas, a garden.” Besides being a place of striking visual attractiveness, Sunnyside also functions as a student-friendly educational resource, with school group tours and events specifically geared toward the younger set.

Irving's Legend
Irving’s Legend presented by Historic Hudson Valley / Photo by Jennifer Mitchell for Historic Hudson Valley

Irving spent many, many years in Europe (duly noted and criticized in some quarters) and, in the 1840s, served as American minister to Spain. Sunnyside, though, was eventually his permanent home, where he wrangled with publishers, lived amid his large extended family, and over a lifetime produced an astonishingly varied, prodigious output that ran the gamut from fiction, essays, biographies, travelogue, and — most surprisingly — a work on the Prophet Muhammad.

The Headless Horseman is a true staple of the fantastic. Not surprisingly, interest in ‘Sleepy Hollow’ spikes during the Halloween season, and with that are added visitors to the village and the Historic Hudson Valley properties. Popular events “Horseman’s Hollow” and “Irving’s Legend” celebrated a decade in existence in 2019, and newcomer The Unsilent Picture returned for its second year.

“Visitation has doubled in this time frame, now approaching 50,000 just for these events alone,” says Clark. “In all, we’ll welcome well more than 250,000 people from all 50 states and several countries to greater Sleepy Hollow country this fall. We are proud to help drive this tremendous economic engine for the area.” (For more on events, visit www.historichudson.org/events).

Irving headstone
Irving’s headstone at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery / Photo by James P. Fisher III

In 2019, Historic Hudson Valley launched a brand-new event. “The Sleepy Hollow Experience” was “an outdoor, immersive theatrical experience” that’s “a retelling of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’ There was music, and visitors could follow the characters from scene to scene around the grounds,” according to Clark. Historic Hudson Valley also had experts on hand during another event named “Home of the ‘Legend’” at Sunnyside for those who preferred some historical context amid the spookiness.

Two hundred years ago, the world read the jolting words that “Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that [the horseman] was headless! but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him…” And generation upon generation has collectively shivered. Washington Irving’s considerable legacy endures and should only be deepened with each year that follows the bicentennial celebration.


Related: The Hudson Valley Was Benedict Arnold’s Downfall

This Luxury Waterfront Condo Development Boasts River Views in Haverstraw

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Ginsburg Development Companies, LLC (GDC) and Town, Village and County officials recently celebrated the completion of construction of phase one on Haverstraw’s next luxury waterfront development.

The Waterfront at Harbors will be part of GDC’s award winning Harbors-at-Haverstraw condominium community. The Waterfront will feature two and three bedroom single level residences, boasting beautiful river views. The completed phase one includes two buildings, with a total of sixteen units. At completion, the final phases will result in 40 total units in five buildings.

While the project is still awaiting approval of the offering plan from the NYS Attorney General’s office, introductory pricing is estimated between $400,000 and $600,000.


Read More: In 2019, Condos Are the Way to Go


The residences will feature many amenities, including a two-way fireplace between living and dining rooms and direct river views. Moreover, The Waterfront will include an indoor basketball court, two swimming pools, a fully equipped fitness center, massage room, and café. Those looking to enjoy the serenity of the Hudson River but still work in New York City are in luck, as the next-door ferry landing brings you to the Ossining train station in just 12 minutes, and then a 40-minute train ride to Grand Central gets you in the center of Manhattan. 

 

 

Haverstraw town supervisor Howard Phillips adds, “We are looking forward to the new waterfront development at The Harbors residential complex. This vibrant lifestyle of living has attracted many new people to the Town and Village of Haverstraw which we welcome with open arms. We would like to commend GDC on their new endeavor in the Town of Haverstraw.”

For more information about The Waterfront at Harbors, please visit www.harborswaterfront.com.


Related: Do You Recognize This Incredible Nyack Estate From the Movies?

This Was the Highest Paid Performer at Woodstock

Santana

$1,500, split (presumably) among the band members

Ravi Shankar

$4,500

Arlo Guthrie

$5,000

Richie Havens

$6,000

The Grateful Dead

$7,500

 


photo by © Baron Wolman

 

Joan Baez

$10,000

The Band

$15,000

Janis Joplin

$15,000

Jimi Hendrix

$30,000 for two sets (highest paid act)

Source: The Road to Woodstock, by Michael Lang

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The Road from Woodstock to Wallkill to White Lake

How the most famous music festival in the world, Woodstock, traveled all around the Hudson Valley before one note was played.

This month is — incredibly — the 50th anniversary of Woodstock Music & Art Fair’s Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music. The world knows this, of course, as simply Woodstock. This one word is loaded with connotations: It can convey a history-making music festival. It can serve as shorthand for a generation, for an ethos and spirit — or all of these in various combinations.

For residents of the Hudson Valley, there’s a unique, added resonance to this anniversary. Along with the metaphoric meanings, there’s the regional significance unique to this area. In the Hudson Valley, Woodstock is not simply shorthand for the 1960s, but a real town.

The actual festival, of course, was held in the Sullivan County town of Bethel, near the hamlet of White Lake, on the farm of Max Yasgur — and again, these are not merely folkloric touchstones, but familiar places and sites. Woodstock (the festival, not the town) was the brainchild of Michael Lang, real-life denizen of the Hudson Valley and still an active presence here.

 

Hudson Valley Roots

The fact that the concert would be held in this region was almost preordained. A Brooklyn boy, Lang and his family had often visited the Hudson Valley and Catskills on vacation, and it was where he went to summer camp. This was very familiar territory, filled with pleasant memories. There was also the imprimatur of bohemianism and culture embedded in the region, which had long been a magnet for the creative and the iconoclastic.

In the 1960s, Lang — like so many others — was drawn to the town of Woodstock, a haven for artists of all stripes. By the ’60s, the “quaint village nestled in the arms of lush green and blue mountains,” as Lang describes it in his book The Road to Woodstock, had become a pivotal locale: home of Bob Dylan, The Band, and assorted other musicians and artists, with a flourishing culture of art, music, and cafés. As the decade grew increasingly turbulent and violent, Woodstock, Lang writes — deliberately echoing Bob Dylan’s lyrics — seemed like a “shelter from the storm.” His intent, in undertaking a music festival on such a massive scale, was to replicate Woodstock’s peaceful, healing vibe. The oddity was that the town of Woodstock lacked the infrastructure to handle such an endeavor. Woodstock, the festival, could not be held in Woodstock, the town.

 

Looking Beyond Woodstock

Lang and company’s road to putting on the Woodstock festival was, to say the least, not very smooth. Most of the country was adamantly hostile to the very concept of a days-long rock festival. In essence, Lang had to operate in the heart of enemy territory. Even if the festival had somehow managed to fit into the groovy town of Woodstock, he would still have faced intense opposition from residents and authority figures who were unmoved by being in proximity to Bob Dylan or Levon Helm.

There was a mountain of logistics to work out, none of them for the faint of heart. In an irony probably not lost on anyone, it was decided at some point to consult an organization with a proven history of setting up functioning mass encampments: the Pentagon. That information, not surprisingly, was not forthcoming.

Ulster County was the first choice. An expansive open field on Route 212 was bandied about as a potential site, as was the village of Krumville. Lang’s team scouted out the Saugerties area. All of these, for one reason or another, were deemed unsuitable. Eventually, the focus gravitated from Ulster County to Orange.

 

On to Wallkill

The Woodstock generation was very nearly the Wallkill generation. That Orange County town seemed almost certain to be the site of the music extravaganza. The fact that there is also a Wallkill in Ulster County caused no end of confusion, with the Ulster County hamlet flooded with misdirected queries. (The hamlet of Wallkill, Ulster County, is still confused with the town of Wallkill, Orange County, and receives steady, ongoing queries about its nonexistent role in turning down the concert.) “We started working there [in Orange County],” Lang recalls in a recent interview with Hudson Valley, “and as my crew came up and as my partners actually went and presented to the town…people started to get uptight.”

Lang is understating it: The potential festival caused an uproar in Wallkill and laid bare the generational fissures. The youth of Wallkill, not surprisingly, yearned for what Lang was offering. The town officials, though, were another story. People in authority were not, as a rule, kindly disposed to the burgeoning counterculture and its amped-up music. The New York Times, in its relatively polite coverage of Lang, referenced his “leather Indian clothing” and took pains to helpfully inform its readers that he was a “college dropout.”

Wallkill’s town fathers raised legitimate concerns about a massive influx of concertgoers and the attendant issues of sanitation, parking, food, etc. The rest of the concerns were pure invective, according to Bob Spitz’s Barefoot in Babylon (Penguin Random House), featuring revulsion and panic at the thought of “those hippie-type people” and the expected “large increase in hepatitis, venereal disease, and drug abuse.”

 


In Lang’s book, The Road to Woodstock, he takes readers behind the scenes; local posters from 1969.

book cover courtesy of Ecco; posters courtesy of the Bethel Woods Collection

 

Taking on the Town Board

In actuality, Lang — leather Indian garb and all — and his associates at Woodstock Ventures were thorough and organized in their detailed presentation to the town board. Yet, as per Spitz, when “Michael Lang rose and walked to the front of the room, the gallery erupted with a barrage of insults and hissing. ‘Isn’t he pretty?’ one man called, cupping his hand around his mouth, and then falling back in hysterics.”

Threats, warning, and censures against the music festival soon became the order of the day. Lang and company got it from all sides. According to The Road to Woodstock, the “Middletown Fire Department had unanimously turned down a proposal to supply personnel to run Nathan’s food concessions. The fire companies’ membership objected” — not unreasonably, to be fair — “to the long hours Nathan’s had required…of their workers and the low wages they offered ($1.75 per hour).”

And so on July 15, with the planned festival date just one month away, Wallkill gave an emphatic thumbs-down to what Lang was proposing. And quite suddenly, there were musicians and thousands and thousands of eager fans with no place to go.

 

Help from a Friendly Farmer in Sullivan County

According to Lang, on the day they lost the site, they put out an urgent message via radio, alternative media, and word of mouth that they needed a new locale. And they needed it immediately.

With a combination of never-say-die and desperation, attention quickly shifted to Sullivan County, the thoroughly un-groovy home to Catskills resorts and farmland. While surveying the terrain, a festival-friendly vista of expansive farmland — as if in a vision — presented itself to Michael Lang: “There it was. That’s how it came to be.” That vista, located in the town of Bethel near White Lake, was owned by a 49-year-old dairy farmer named Max Yasgur. “Max was willing to rent to us to give us a fair chance to accomplish our dream,” explains Lang in his book.

Sullivan County — as in much of the country — matched Wallkill’s open hostility to the invading hordes of hippies and their weirdo music. It is hard to imagine the open hostility that the Woodstock festival engendered. “We had a champion in Max Yasgur,” Lang recalls. “He really stood up for us and he stood up to the town.”

And the fabled three days of peace and music did, of course, transpire, with this region at the epicenter. In no other part of the country was Woodstock local news; no other part of the country had to face the flood of people and barrage of issues. Local police were instructed to go easy: Obeying the letter of the law and arresting any and all for drug usage was simply an impossibility. Local hospitals were filled to capacity. More than 50 regional doctors were put on stand-by. The Orange County Airport maintained a constant flow of flights, with doctors and nurses shuttling to Yasgur’s farm. Bus terminals were jammed. The Woodstock festival generated a historic traffic jam, never seen before or since. The Monticello Raceway pleaded with its regulars from Pennsylvania to find alternate routes. Even the mayor of New York City, the telegenic John Lindsay, had to cancel a scheduled appearance in Monticello.

“We had a champion in Max Yasgur. He really stood up for us and he stood up to the town.”

—Michael Lang

 

Reporting from the Homefront

The Times Herald-Record in Middletown enjoys the distinction of being the local paper of record during the festivities, often referred to in its pages as the Aquarian Exposition. Its coverage of the ongoing events occupies a unique perch: These were vital, close-to-home issues. A truck “loaded with psychedelic equipment…flipped over and turned” on Route 17B near the Monticello Raceway. There was an inordinate amount of coverage devoted to what these young concertgoers were ingesting, much of it in explicit detail: “Several varieties of LSD have been widely sold — at $5 for a one trip tablet, $9 for two trips…” Grass “was selling for the usual $5 a bag, soaring to $15 by Saturday night…” A headline informed that 85 to 90 percent of the attendees used pot and 50 percent utilized strong chemicals, although one wonders how this was all quantified.

The newspaper took to printing direct, ongoing reports via teletype, as if they were reporting on a war or natural disaster. Occasionally, the general reportage fell flat on its establishment face: There was a brief piece on “England’s ‘The Who’” (The Who in quotes, akin to styling a foreign word) and its lead guitarist, “Peter Thompson.”

On the whole, though — considering the intense local opposition and hostility — the coverage was surprisingly conciliatory. “Private groups in the county, which at one time were verging on washing their hands of the entire endeavor, pitched in to relieve the desperate food and medical situation.” And great pains were taken to point out how nonviolent the hippie hordes turned out to be.

 

The Aftermath

The Woodstock festival altered the region in many different ways. It generated an involuntary, symbiotic relationship between the towns of Woodstock and Bethel, like two siblings who don’t like each other much but are bound together forever. As detailed by journalist Steve Israel for the Times Herald-Record, the enduring paradox was that Woodstock was not the actual host of, well, Woodstock. That distinction went to Bethel.

As the ’60s’ generation aged, the town of Woodstock, for a variety of reasons, began to embrace its legacy and soon began to profit from it. In Bethel, the hostility lingered for a longer period of time. The 1969 festival was seen as a blot, not a golden chapter. “The owners (post-Max Yasgur) of the Bethel site that many still consider hallowed ground,” Israel wrote, “were spreading chicken manure on that fertile soil to keep the pilgrims and plain curious from visiting. One year, tractors and state police cars formed roadblocks.” As the ’60s morphed into historical respectability, and old wounds faded, Bethel too embraced its legacy. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which opened on the site of the festival in 2006, can be seen as an indication of coming full circle.

Does the town of Wallkill feel any regret in turning down Woodstock?  Just the opposite, according to Orange County Historian Johanna Porr Yaun: “There’s certainly no regrets, rather a sense of pride about having ousted Woodstock Ventures from Orange County.”

But as per the original spirit of the Woodstock festival, most hard feelings on the part of Wallkill have mellowed out considerably. Judge Joseph Owen — Walkill’s town attorney in 1969 and one of the voices against the potential festival — and others, says Porr Yaun, “are also happy that Sullivan County was able to capitalize on it and turn it into a source of identity for themselves. Judge Owen and I attended the opening of the 50th anniversary exhibit…and he was impressed with the venue and museum at Bethel Woods.” In actuality, old wounds don’t always die hard.

Perhaps the most fitting conclusion comes from the decidedly mainstream Times Herald-Record, representing a constituency that was not exactly inclined to put flowers in their hair or visit an ashram. “Perhaps the most amazing, but understated, fact of the Aquarian phenomenon,” the newspaper wrote at the conclusion of the festivities, “has been the transformation of a disaster-potent situation into what may be best described as a victory for the human spirit.”


Related: Read Firsthand Festival Accounts From the Woodstock Generation

An Inside Look at the History of Clearwater

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The length and breadth of the late Pete Seeger’s musical activism — in terms of impact and sheer longevity — is without precedent: front and center in the cause of justice and human rights for a good seven decades. “I’ve been planting seeds all my life,” he once said. “And you know the parable in the Bible: Some seeds fall on the pathway and get stomped on; they don’t grow.  Some fall on stones — they don’t even sprout. And I have a song — but some seeds fall on hallowed ground/they grow and multiply a thousandfold.”

One seed that has taken root, grown, and multiplied a thousandfold is Clearwater, the multi-tiered organization launched by Seeger in 1966 and still, all these years later, thriving and cross-pollinating.

The original impetus behind Clearwater was an effort to purge Pete Seeger’s beloved Hudson River of the rampant, unfettered pollution that was steadily choking the life out of the river. “We want people to love the Hudson,” Seeger said, “not to think of it as a convenient sewer.”


The Clearwater sloop takes passengers on educational sails.

Photo by Dorice Arden

Pete Seeger was never one for the purely symbolic gesture. The centerpiece of this activism to restore the Hudson River was and is the Clearwater, a boat lovingly constructed to resemble the once-ubiquitous Dutch sloops that sailed up and down the Hudson. The Clearwater is a rarity — a floating educational center and activist hub that hosts some 12,000 people a year. Most of these visitors are schoolkids, who get the opportunity to partake in hands-on lessons in sustainability and planetary survival: aquatic activism.

Clearwater’s renown is such that it also is the de facto name for the Great Hudson River Revival. Chances are that the Great Hudson River Revival may not strike much of a responsive chord. It is its unofficial, widely used name — the Clearwater Festival — that engenders the familiarity.

This ongoing, annual event that first commenced in 1978, during the midpoint of the administration of Jimmy Carter, is one of the country’s longest-running musical festivals. (And earlier incarnations of the festival actually date back to the 1960s.) The one year the festival wasn’t held was in 2016; the reason was to ensure the boat’s longevity.

“The sloop,” relates Maija Niemisto, Clearwater’s former education director, “was under a huge hull restoration and it was determined that focusing our efforts on ensuring that the boat could sail safely into the foreseeable future was a higher priority than hosting the festival that year.”


Seeger performing at The Great Hudson River Revival.

Photo by Econosmith, Provided by Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

 

The 2019 Clearwater Festival will be held on Father’s Day weekend (June 15 and 16) in Croton-on-Hudson’s Croton Point Park. Two important anniversaries undergird this year’s festivities: It’s the 50th anniversary of the launch of the sloop Clearwater. And had he lived, Pete Seeger would have turned 100 this year. (And he came very close. He died in 2014, at age 94.)

It was an article of faith for Seeger that music could and did reach across barriers and societal fault lines. And he believed that art itself — in all its various manifestations — could “save the world. Visual arts, dancing, acting arts, cooking arts… and I would include sports. Joe DiMaggio reaching for a fly ball — that was great dancing!”

The Clearwater Festival does not include baseball, but Pete Seeger’s ethos of a broad-based, inclusive community is an integral component to the annual goings-on. Niemisto estimates that total attendance for the two-day festival will be 10,000, aided and assisted by hundreds of volunteers. The festival bills itself as a family-friendly gathering, and this is not mere rubric: the festival is often a multi-generational affair.

Whole families have been known to camp out for the entire weekend. Children in attendance are engaged and kept safe in a specially designated children’s area “that teaches, engages, and challenges.” The festival is wheelchair accessible; sign-language interpreters are on hand. There is an activist area in the form of tents, in which a plethora of organizations avail themselves to festivalgoers in a special sort of outreach.


Left: A young Pete Seeger playing the banjo; right: the keel-laying ceremony of America’s environmental flagship, the sloop Clearwater.

Right photo provided by Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

Pete Seeger, of course, looms large in the Clearwater Festival’s firmament, but as Niemisto relates, much of the festival’s guiding ethos is owed to Toshi Seeger — the “driving force” and Pete Seeger’s wife for almost 70 years: a formidable, behind-the-scenes figure in her own right. Zero waste, a legacy of Toshi Seeger, is another festival constant, with recycling and composting an integral part.

But it should be remembered that the Clearwater is a festival, a celebration. There have been displays and demonstrations of crafts — handcrafted soaps, wood-turned bowls, hand-painted glass jewelry and wall art — and a green-living expo, including the likes of toxin-free personal-care products, info on green energy, and much in the way of health and wellness. There is an abundance of food vendors who offer an eclectic selection.

A cursory perusal of last year’s gastronomic offerings included food from Ecuador and Puerto Rico, vegan platters, falafel, strawberry rhubarb ice cream — and the plebeian Philly cheesesteak. And given Pete Seeger’s strong belief in the universality of art, the Clearwater Festival offers dance performances, storytelling, sing-alongs… and jugglers, whose attendance seems to be de rigueur for any self-respecting outdoor festival.


The Great Hudson River Revival offers incredible performances all weekend long. Some past performers include Joe Purdy (above) and Valerie June (below).

photo by Augusto F. Menezes

 

And, of course, music. It is music that was the connecting thread in all of Pete Seeger’s activism, and music is the bulwark of the revival. There are five stages and dozens upon dozens of musicians. Arlo Guthrie, Natalie Merchant, and the Indigo Girls have all graced its stages. Its musical spectrum encompasses some intriguing territory; performances have included the alt-folk of Ani DiFranco (who returns this year), the eccentricity of They Might Be Giants, and more jazz and blues than one would imagine, including Mavis Staples this year, and in previous years, the legendary Sonny Rollins and drummer extraordinaire Jack DeJohnette.


Photo by Econosmith

 

The Great Hudson River Revival/Clearwater Festival’s longevity is astounding, but ultimately not that much of a surprise. Pete Seeger felt that enjoyable activism was not a contradiction: It was an essential. His music was made to be listened to and sung along with. Nobody attends a festival to have a bad time. The Revival, with its bucolic setting, boat rides, storytelling, food, creative offerings, humor, and music, has been a case in point for a good 40 years.


Information on the 2019 festival — and the Clearwater organization in general — can be found at www.clearwater.org.

Westchester's New Ambulatory Care Pavilion Is a Huge Step Forward for Patient Care

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Our society is laden with technology-driven improvements. These innovations exist in transportation, home appliances, environmental efficiency, and of course, healthcare.

The health and safety of each individual is (or should be) a top priority, so it’s only fitting that we have access to the best possible resources in this field. To this end, Westchester Medical Center is nearing completion on a 280,000 sq. ft., eight-story Ambulatory Care Pavilion at the provider’s Valhalla campus, which the public should have access to by the end of May.

The venture is Westchester County’s largest healthcare construction project since 1977 and has cost roughly $230 million, financed by the Westchester County Local Development Corporation. 

President and CEO of Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) Michael D. Israel explains the significance of this launch, saying “Westchester Medical Center has traditionally been the centerpiece for the Hudson Valley’s advanced care services…. The Ambulatory Care Pavilion is not just an investment in steel and glass, but a true investment by Westchester Medical Center in the physical and mental health of Hudson Valley residents, putting Westchester County and the entire Hudson Valley at the forefront of Healthcare delivery.”

 

Westchester Medical Center

 

The new medical facility intends to promote an “environment of care,” using the latest developments in healthcare technology to treat patients in a way that reduces stress and anxiety. This concept utilizes elements that the patient can manipulate, like relaxing lights and sounds, so each healthcare experience is catered to one’s personal preference.

Over 300 people are working on the construction of this project to ensure it is finished in a timely manner. The first and second floors of the medical center are expected to be fully functional within the next few weeks, while floors three through eight will remain in construction over the next several months. The first floor will deal with patients that require Advanced Imaging and Heart & Vascular services, while the second floor hosts the Ambulatory Surgery Program.

All of these improvements are essential, according to Westchester Medical Center, in achieving the organization’s main goal: providing the best possible outpatient care so Hudson Valley residents can be treated effectively and recover comfortably.


Related: See All the Photos From Our 12th Annual Excellence in Nursing Awards

Our Excellence in Nursing Awards take place on May 1!

Our Best of Hudson Valley ballot is open through March 31!

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