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Displaying blog entries 1-8 of 8

Kingston Night Life

by Rebecca Rothbaum, The New York Times

FROM its menu of pre-Prohibition-era tipples concocted with house-made syrups to its setting in a painstakingly restored 1880s sewing machine factory, the year-and-a-half-old Stockade Tavern is the epitome of cocktail chic. But you won’t find it in downtown Manhattan or across the river in Brooklyn; instead, head about two hours north to Kingston, a modest-size city in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Although home to some of the state’s most beautiful and historic architecture, Kingston has been a mostly sleepy spot since I.B.M. closed its plant there in the mid-1990s. But that’s changing, thanks to a fresh crop of bars and restaurants inspired by the city’s old-time charms, as well as its growing population of young artists and its farm-rich location.

“We just felt like country people could use a decent drink, too,” said Giovanna Vis, who owns Stockade Tavern (313 Fair Street; 845-514-2649); with her husband, Paul Maloney, and their business partner, Don Johnson. The bar is named for the Stockade District, also called uptown, which dates back to the mid-17th century.

Another recent addition is Boitson’s (47 North Front Street; 845-339-2333), a stylish American bistro with leather banquettes and marble-topped tables, which opened uptown in June 2010. Maria Philippis, the owner, named it for its benefactor, her former Brooklyn landlord, who died in 2007 and left Ms. Philippis money to pursue her dream of opening a restaurant.

“Mr. Boitson was a sailor in World War II, and I wanted the restaurant to look like the kind of place he would have hung out in,” she said. It offers comfort foods like fried chicken and steak frites, and has an all-New York State beer list and a wide selection of American wines.
A 1927 diner in midtown is home to the recently revamped Old Trolley Kitchen (336 East Chester Street; 845-340-0797). Sylvan Perez, the chef and an owner, with Joy Roman, sees a connection between the building and his culinary mission. “We really respect the idea of local food,” he said. “When the diner first opened, the food would have tended toward the seasonal and fresh because there wasn’t any other choice back then.” (Dinner is served only a few nights a week, so it’s best to call ahead.)

Then there’s Elephant (310 Wall Street; 845-339-9310), a wine and tapas bar around the corner from the Stockade in Kingston’s uptown, and a pioneer of sorts: it opened five years ago in the former recording studio of the cult-indie band Mercury Rev. When the space became available, the landlords, Joe Concra and Denise Orzo, a couple (both are artists), called their friend Rich Reeve, a chef. At the time, it seemed like “the middle of nowhere,” recalled Mr. Reeve, who now runs the business with his wife, Maya Karrol. But the rent was low, so they took a risk. “We just decided we would do what we wanted, and play punk rock and serve beef-heart tacos and pig tails,” Ms. Karrol said.

The restaurant is kept in offal by Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats (307 Wall Street; 845-338-6666), the locavore butcher across the street, which opened a second shop in Brooklyn last month and plans to open a burger place in Kingston called Grass next spring.
On a Saturday night last spring, Jesse Van Note, a local musician, was enjoying a drink at Elephant after a local band had finished its set. “We’re in a tapas bar where you can hear surf rock,” he said. “Where else are you going to find that?”



For a Few Weeks, Horse Shows Alter a River Town

by SARAH MASLIN, New York Times

Every year, the elite competitive equestrian circuit makes its way around the country, from Ocala, Fla., to Culpeper, Va., to Thermal, Calif. These traveling troupes of privilege and skill also take with them small armies — of trainers, grooms, farriers, veterinarians, even equine acupuncturists and masseuses.

And for the last eight years, this band of competitors and assorted adjuncts have added a somewhat surprising destination to their junket: Saugerties, N.Y., a blue-collar town on the Hudson River about 110 miles north of New York City.

Eight years ago, HITS Incorporated, a company that produces equestrian competitions, built a $15 million showground here; the riders came. More than 3,000 horses and 2,200 competitive equestrians and their entourages descend on this village every summer. And the influx of a moneyed demographic and their free-flowing cash has played a part in transforming the town.

“I feel like Saugerties has won the lottery,” says Daisy Bolle who owns Dig, a high-end clothing shop on Partition Street in the village, which has 3,971 residents, according to the 2010 United States Census.

“When we first came to town, there were a lot of empty stores,” she says. “And now it feels really vibrant. It’s like having the Hamptons in your backyard.”

The Saugerties stage of the circuit has about 300 competitive heats, or classes, at various levels for riders to compete or show in per week, and it runs in three three-week bursts, beginning May 25 and ending Sunday. Olympians like Peter Leone, Nona Garson and Anne Kursinski, as well as top amateurs like Georgina Bloomberg, the daughter of New York City’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, have been regular competitors. Thomas G. Struzzieri, 52, the president and chief executive of HITS, has lived in Saugerties for 13 years and brought the state-of-the-art show grounds here, with its 12 giant barns equipped to hold 1,200 horses on 240 acres, five minutes from town.

“It had a charm I thought my customers might like,” he said of the town. Not to mention that it was also personally convenient. “When you run horse shows around the country, it’s nice to sleep in your own bed once in a while,” he said.

But unlike places like Culpeper, Saugerties is not traditionally horse country.

“It’s a blue-collar community for sure,” Struzzieri said, “but they’ve been really accepting of the horse clients, and they look at it as a great resource.”

But figuring out just how to roll out the welcome mat for the horse set has taken some trial and error.

At Inquiring Minds Bookstore and Cafe, Cheryl Rice, the store’s manager, set up a prominent display of books and manuals on all things equine in May. As of August, few had sold. “Maybe they didn’t have such a need for horse knowledge in book form,” she said, “because they’re already in the business.” Next year she may try horse novels.

At Dig, Bolle filled the shelves with horse-themed jewelry and equestrian print clothes her first year open. None sold, she says. “I think they don’t need the horsey stuff because they have horses,” she said. “What’s better than that?”

What did work was extending her store hours late into the night, a move followed by many other businesses, after realizing the riders’ competition schedules left little room for daytime shopping. On a particularly bustling Saturday night, she says, she has made up to an additional $10,000 from 6 to 11 p.m. “You have to make hay while the sun shines,” she said with a laugh.

The gingerbread ponies with white manes of royal icing flew off the shelves at Hudson Valley Dessert Company on Main Street at twice the rate of cookies shaped like the rest of the barnyard, Constance Bailey, the owner, said. Bailey goes through 150 of the $1 cookies on a horse show weekend, “which doesn’t exactly make us rich, but it makes us friends,” she said.
The influx of athletes, many with citified low-fat and low-carbohydrate tastes, has led her to change her menu. Bailey serves a salad with lime juice instead of dressing and whips up a cream-free soup specifically for when the riders are in town. On show weeks, she orders 300 extra pounds of flour, 45 dozen more eggs and 10 gallons of extra syrup from Breezy Maples Farms.

The riders’ presence accounts for $3,000 in extra business a week, Bailey says.
Down the street at Flanigans Cleaners, decals on the window spell out We Groom the Rider, a slogan the owner, Michael Flanigan, adopted after he realized that he too had a corner to grab in the riding market: the equestrian uniform, a dark jacket with a cotton blouse with a collar called a rat catcher, needs to be always sparkling. He dry cleans more than 2,000 of the shirts alone, at $4.50 apiece, every summer.

It would be difficult to find a business owner in town who does not sing the praises of the summer horse invasion, Flanigan said, but he acknowledged that conflicts had arisen.

Hulking pickup trucks hauling horse trailers caused knots of traffic in the early years and sparked local complaints until places like the hardware store took it upon themselves to hand out maps to the newcomers.

There are also less tangible tensions. The median per capita income in Saugerties is a little more than $20,000, and equestrian competitions are famously the sport of kings.

On a personal level, there can arise the same types of resentments that crop up between working-class residents of the Hamptons and the deep-pocketed set that goes there to play.
In October, Struzzieri plans to open Diamond Mills Hotel and Tavern, a boutique hotel and conference center overlooking the Esopus Creek waterfall, which cost $12 million to $14 million to build and will charge guests up to $400 a night.

“Do I believe that the horse show changed the town? I think it’s worked well in this town,” he said, pointing to economic blows the area has weathered like the shutting in 1994 of the I.B.M. plant in nearby Kingston, N.Y., which employed around 1,500 people. “I think the horse show has been a part of this community finding its way.”

On a Saturday night this summer, clumps of women and girls in pastel polo shirts, tall polished black boots and tan britches with suede patches jammed Stella’s Station, an ice cream parlor on Partition Street. On the opposite side of the counter, a team of young female employees scooped frozen treats, sweating. In the parking lot of the fully-booked Comfort Inn on Route 32 North, off-duty grooms smoked and traded horse stories in Spanish.

Around 10 p.m. two customers lingered at Emiliani Ristorante on Ulster Avenue, huddled close over a plate of linguine, discussing the merits of a chestnut-colored mare. “People will say, Ugh, the restaurants are so crowded when they’re here,” said Bolle, the owner of Dig. “But I say, Yes, but we get to have that restaurant all year round. And if they weren’t here, I don’t know if we would or not.”

Williamsburg on the Hudson

by Peter Applebome
google map to real pro systems

Call it the Brooklynization of the Hudson Valley, the steady hipness creep with its locavore cuisine, its Williamsburgian bars, its Gyrotonic exercise, feng shui consultants and deep clay art therapy and, most of all, its recent arrivals from New York City.

Jenifer Constantine and Trippy Thompson, bartenders in Williamsburg, found the adventurous loft life there a bit too precarious after the birth of their first child in 2007, and moved to New Paltz to open their own minimalist, Brooklynesque bar and restaurant in Rosendale, Market Market, with a locavore menu and weekly spoken-word slams.

Dave Lerner, a musician, found the Brooklyn life getting claustrophobic and moved to West Saugerties, a placed that seemed different but part of a familiar universe, where there was music and culture but you could bike, hike and breathe.
John Friedman, a lawyer who lived in Greenwich Village, fell in love with Hudson and went from making mostly telecom deals in Manhattan to making mostly agriculture deals in the Hudson Valley.

Kate Doris left her hometown of Kingston as it skidded downward after I.B.M. left in the ’90s. Now she’s back, plugged into the local art scene, amused at the number of her Brooklyn friends who have also moved up.

The greening of the Hudson Valley did not begin yesterday. It’s as revealing for what it’s not as for what it is. And given the comatose national economy, many grains of salt should be added to any rosy projections.

Still, in the best case, it adds up to more than refugees from the city, fair-trade coffeehouses in every far-flung town and unexpectedly cool places and culture — the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, the Last Bite in High Falls, the Wassaic Project arts organization in a refurbished mill and animal auction house.

Instead, you could argue, it’s a new chapter in an old story — Henry Hudson’s voyage of discovery, the Hudson Valley School’s attempt to capture an American Eden, updated for the Twitter era and based around sustainable, human-scale agriculture; manageable towns that are neither giant cities nor cookie-cutter suburbs; a $4.7 billion tourism industry; and the mountains, valleys and rivers of one of America’s unspoiled places.

“We’re in the early stages of a green economic revitalization of the Hudson Valley,” said Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, which half a century ago was at the heart of a battle to save Storm King Mountain, spurring on modern environmentalism.

“The land is being preserved,” he said. “Waterfront parks are being created. Water supplies are being protected. There’s a green economy that’s being born.”

IN the beginning was the river, which the Indians called Muhheakantuck — “river that flows two ways” — because for about half its 315 miles it is also a tidal estuary, where salty water meets fresh.

Life on the shore has flowed two ways, too, through culture and commerce. For almost a century, beginning around 1825, the Hudson Valley was the nation’s first industrial heartland, an incessant bustle of shipbuilding, ironworks, railroad lines, shipping docks, cement, stone, iron, lumber, weaponry and even whaling industries.

The valley was also a seminal creator of American culture, from Washington Irving, who became America’s first international literary celebrity, to the Hudson Valley School and later to artist colonies and the Woodstock Festival. The factories are almost all gone. The cultural buzz remains.

You can pick your favorite current image of industrial past and creative present. The stunning Dia: Beacon collection of massive modernism in an old factory on the Hudson? The exhilarating Walkway Over the Hudson that turned an abandoned railroad bridge into the world’s longest pedestrian bridge? The industrial spaces turned into artists’ studios in uptown Kingston?

But the Basilica Hudson seems as good a snapshot as any. Built in 1884 as a foundry and forge for manufacturing steel railway wheels, it finally shut down as a glue factory using rabbit hide in the ’90s. Almost a decade ago, its 18,000 square feet were reimagined as a local gathering and performance space for ska concerts, avant-garde movies, art exhibits, filming and recording.
Like almost everything in the Hudson Valley, it’s still a work in progress. But its owners, Melissa Auf der Maur, a seriously glamorous Montreal native who has played bass for bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, and Tony Stone, a filmmaker, come from central casting as exemplars of the new, hip Hudson Valley.

The Basilica is the kind of space and scene that the artist and musician Patti Smith (no stranger to Hudson) had in mind a few months ago when she advised young artists that “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling” and that they should find their futures someplace else, like Poughkeepsie.

“A bunch of my friends from Montreal came to visit and they said, ‘You told us you moved to a small town, but you didn’t tell us you moved to a magic David Lynch town. What is this place?’ ” Ms. Auf der Maur said.

Hudson, she added, has the feel of SoHo decades ago. “There’s the sense that it’s manageable, it’s beautiful, it has infrastructure that can inspire you and facilitate your needs and get you to feel like you’re part of a moment of discovery.”

Not long ago, Hudson was notorious for drugs, prostitution and post-industrial torpor. Now, Warren Street, with its antique stores, galleries and hip restaurants, is a vision of the Hudson Valley reborn. And it was the scene of perhaps the last great battle between the old industrial Hudson Valley and the new one, when a coalition of interest groups came together to defeat a proposed coal-fired cement plant with a 40-story smokestack capable of producing two million tons of cement a year. Opponents said it would be an environmental disaster that would cut off access to the river and go against everything Hudson was becoming. They made an overwhelming case. But in the housing projects and poor neighborhoods just off Warren Street, strangers in the new landscape, it doesn’t seem so clear.

Sitting in a downtown park, Calvin Wilson Sr., 63, said it was nice to see the revival on Warren Street, but it didn’t offer much for him or for young people growing up in a town whose population is almost a third black and Latino, and in which one in five residents is living below the poverty level. “All those old factory jobs, they’ve all dried up,” Mr. Wilson said. “So, where those people going to work? Me, I wished they’d built that cement plant.”

THERE is a parlor game people sometimes play, comparing Hudson Valley towns with New York neighborhoods, said Sari Botton, a freelance writer in Rosendale.

For instance, Rhinebeck might be the Upper East Side, Woodstock the West Village, New Paltz the Upper West Side, Beacon the East Village, Rosendale and High Falls different parts of Williamsburg. Tivoli could be compared to Greenpoint, Hudson to Chelsea, Catskill to Bushwick, Kingston to a mix of Fort Greene and Carroll Gardens.

The migration north began with the weekender incursions in the ’80s and ’90s, gained a more urgent and permanent tone after 9/11, stumbled during the real estate bust and is now finding its way again. But, for all the images of upstate decay, the population of the Hudson Valley is growing more than twice as fast as that of the rest of the state — 5.8 percent over the past decade, compared with 2.1 percent for New York State and New York City. (While there are no universally accepted boundaries to the Hudson Valley, this reference includes the counties north of suburban Rockland and Westchester and south of the capital region: Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene.)

Add in disparate institutions with some shared sensibilities — Bard, Vassar and SUNY New Paltz; the Culinary Institute of America and the sustainable agriculture Glynwood Institute; the New Age Omega Institute, Dia:Beacon, the Storm King Art Center, the green, hip and upscale Chronogram Magazine — you can posit a synergy that is gaining critical mass.

Some of the growth is an extension of suburban New York into Putnam and Orange Counties. The rest is an exurban phenomenon facilitated at least in part by new technology, the limitations of space and cost in the five boroughs and the natural search for something new.

For some it’s generational. The Hudson Valley seems a cooler and more affordable alternative to the suburbs. David Clark moved to Beacon seeking space for his ceramic tile business, ModCraft, in a place that felt familiar and creative. At 43, he also felt he had outgrown Williamsburg. “At some point you look around and find yourself surrounded by club kids and feel, well, maybe I’ve done this already,” he said.

For others, the Hudson Valley just seemed a natural fit. Amber Rubarth, 28, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who used to carve wood sculptures with chainsaws, figured she could make music and live a creative life just as easily in Rosendale as in Brooklyn, and more sanely. “I go into the city once or twice a week,” she said, “but there’s nothing I can’t do living here, and it’s nice to fall asleep and wake up to birds singing rather than trash trucks rolling down the street.”
Still, as with everywhere else in America, the question remains: All right, but where are the jobs? Mr. Sullivan of Scenic Hudson said one answer could be the abandoned I.B.M. complex now called Tech City in Kingston. Its 258 acres, 28 buildings and 2.5 million square feet of industrial and office space are envisioned as a state-of-the-art locale for solar, green energy and sustainable agricultural businesses, like bakeries and fish hatcheries. Across the street is the ambitious nonprofit Solar Energy Consortium, formed in 2007 to assist and incubate solar and green companies. It’s an alluring vision.

Whether it becomes reality is another matter. Todd Roberts, chief executive of one of the firms there already, Solartech Renewables, is enthusiastic about the site and the industrial solar panels his company makes, but realistic about the obstacles ahead.

“We know it’s going to take root somewhere, but if the market doesn’t grow here, and the subsidies don’t change in China, that’s where it’s going to be,” he said.

If you were an investor wagering on any Hudson Valley city, it might be Beacon, with a world-class attraction in Dia:Beacon, its walkable downtown, and an emerging art scene a 90-minute train ride from Grand Central Terminal.

But you would still be hoping for the best, as you would with almost every place in the area. Maybe the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, a proposed 58-room hotel and spa, with a fancy restaurant and living and work space for artists, will succeed, and revitalize an area of shuttered factories and warehouses. Maybe the historic downtown theater will reopen, and the old incline railroad will be rebuilt. But maybe not.

On a summer Tuesday afternoon, it’s still a ghost town.

Tim Davis, 48, in Chicago Bulls cap and colors, has lived in Beacon almost all his life, but he is moving to Atlanta. “There’s no work here,” he said. “Basically they’ve turned this place into Antiqueworld. When we had the factories, this was a money-making town. Now it’s not. Everyone I know is moving to the South.”

At the Morphicism gallery, the proprietor, Jay Palefsky, offered a cheerful greeting: “A customer! In Beacon!”

So many people have moved to Beacon from Brooklyn that people now call it NoBro, he said. He would like to buy into the hype, but he doesn’t see it. The economy is dead. The Internet has killed downtown commerce. He has seen well over a dozen businesses come and go in the five years he has been in business. “People want the access to the city without the craziness of the city,” Mr. Palefsky said. “But this just needs a lot of variables to make it work. One is the economy, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry to be so negative. I just don’t grasp the optimism.”

But optimism is one thing you find in the Hudson Valley, to an extent not seen elsewhere. It is true that, even here, it takes more than art, farm stands and caffeine to make an economy work — especially for those who don’t make a living with a laptop or a paintbrush. But in a culture sometimes whipsawed between a desire to be in the middle of the storm and to be a million miles away, the Hudson Valley offers the promise of both, the upstate hills and quirky towns just 90 minutes from Manhattan, said Bradley Thomason, who moved his small technology and organizational development consultancy, Miraclelabb, from Manhattan to the mighty metropolis of Accord last year.

“This isn’t like the tech revolution,” he said. “I’d be worried if there were some big kaboom Hudson Valley moment. But I think what you’re seeing is a slow progression toward something that can sustain itself.”


By Peter Applebome, The New York Times


From the year 2000 to 2010, the Ulster County population, as determined by the US Census Bureau, increased from 177,749 to 182,493, a 2.7% increase.  That was a slightly larger increase than for all of New York State, where the increase was 2.1%.  From the year 2000 to 2010, 10 of the towns and the one city had an increase in population, and 10 of the towns had a decrease in population.

From the year 2000 to 2010, the number of housing units in Ulster County increased from 77,646 to 83,638, a 7.7% increase.  All of the 20 towns and the one city in Ulster County had an increase in the number of housing units.

If you look at the chart that accompanies this article, you will see that in 19 of the 20 towns and one city that make up Ulster County, the percentage increase in housing units was larger than the percentage increase in population.  Only in New Paltz and Shawangunk, did the population increase at a higher rate than did the number of housing units.  For New Paltz, the probable reason for this difference is that students are counted in the Census as Ulster County residents, and the number of students attending SUNY New Paltz has increased over the past 10 years.

You may be wondering why the number of housing units increased 5% more than the population increased, which resulted in the number of persons per housing unit in Ulster County decreasing from 2.29 to 2.18.

I suspect that one of the reasons the number of persons per housing unit has decreased is that the birth rate has been decreasing.  I think the main reason for the increase is that many more people are living in Ulster County on a part-time basis.  Ulster County has become a prime location for weekend homes, and the occupants of these homes are not counted in the population statistics, as their primary residence is out of county.  As the birth rate continues to decline, and the number of part-time residents increases, there will continue to be a higher increase in the number of housing units compared to the growth of the population. 

2010 Ulster County Real Estate Statistics

by Team Ulster

The following statistics were taken from the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service (MLS). These statistics include all single family homes sold in Ulster County that were listed on the Ulster County MLS. We will be comparing statistics for the full 2010 year with the previous year’s statistics.

There was little change in Ulster County real estate statistics from 2009 through 2010. Average and median prices for single family homes changed very little, as did the number of listings, number of listings sold, days-on-market, and the sale price to list price ratio.

The average sold price for single family homes decreased by about 1% from 2009 to 2010, from $246,729 to $243,537.

The median sold price for single family homes stayed the same from 2009 to 2010, at $215,000.

The number of days a sold house was on the market from the time it was listed until the closing date, increased by 3 days (about 2%) from 2009 to 2010, from 171 to 174.

The sale price to list price ratio increased by less than 1% from 2009 to 2010, from 93.33% to 93.68%. That means that in 2010 the average single family home sold for about 6% less than the final listing price for that home.

The number of single family homes listed in 2010 increased by about 1% from 2009, from 2,798 to 2,826.

The number of single family homes sold in 2010 increased by about 2% from 2009, from 972 to 989.

In 2011, with stable prices for single family homes and low interest rates that are slowly on the rise, this is a good time to buy.

The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) recently released the first annual Regional Well-Being Report for Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster County.  The eight well-being categories covered in this report are Economy, Education, Environment, Community & Equity, Governance, Health, Arts & Culture and Safety. 

The categories are rated from 0 to 100.  Ulster County scored very well in three categories, with an 80 in Arts & Culture, 71 in Safety, and 70 in Governance.  Dutchess County was the only other county that scored at least a 70 in any category, scoring a 71 in Governance.  To see the full report CLICK HERE.

Regional Snapshot

The region has a total land area of 3,715 square miles. It is nearly twice the size of the state of Delaware. Ulster County alone is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Nearly one million people reside in our four-county region.

Dutchess County has almost a third (31%) of the region’s people, but less than a quarter (22%) of the land area. About two in five (41%) regional residents live in Orange County, where there is a land area about the same as in Dutchess (22%).

Sullivan County, with more than a quarter of the land (26%), is the least populous (8%). Ulster County has 30% of the land in the region and 20% of the population.

Age: About one quarter (23%) of our region’s residents are under the age of eighteen. Twenty-three percent are age 18 to 34, 30% are age 35 to 54 and 24% are 55 years of age or older.

Children, those under age 18, live in 36% percent of regional households. Seniors, those age 65 or older, reside in 23% of the households in the region.

Race: Seventy-five percent of residents in our region are white, 12% are Hispanic or Latino, 8% are Black or African-American, 3% are Asian and 2% reported some other race.

Land Use: Approximately one third (32%) of the region’s land is classified as residential. Just under a quarter (24%) of the land is deemed vacant and about one in every five acres (21%) is wild, forested, conservation lands or public parks.

Agricultural lands comprise 10% of the region. Each of the remaining categories – Commercial, Public Services, Recreation and Entertainment, and Industrial represent less than 5% of land use in our region.

Of the four counties, Dutchess County has the most land dedicated to residential development (41%) and agriculture (18%). Sullivan County has the most vacant land (30%). In Ulster County, home of the Catskill Forest Preserve, over one third (34%) of the acreage is wild.

To see the full report CLICK HERE.

Kerhonkson Farm a Space for Film Magic

by Deborah Medenbach, Times Herald-Record

Three years ago, biochemist Claude Dal Farra was developing anti-aging creams for a cosmetic company in the French Rivera town of Sophia Antipolis. Nearby roads led to Cannes, but when the company was sold, Dal Farra left the coastal film Mecca for a job in New Jersey.

“I was used to living in the countryside in the south of France and New Jersey was too crowded, so I started looking in upstate New York,” Dal Farra said. A real estate agent showed him a former Arabian horse farm with a spacious house adjacent to a large stable and indoor riding ring. The only drawback were the other houses near enough to hinder his privacy. The real estate agent explained that he would own those houses as well. The entire property was 30 acres.

“You have to understand, this is unheard of in France. No one has 30 acres to themselves. I signed for it that very day,” Dal Farra said.

As he settled into his new job and upstate home, his brother Brice came to him with a dilemma. They had started a non-profit organization with some physician friends called the Anthropedia Foundation to create mental health and wellness videos, but they needed a better place for production. Claude offered some rooms in the barn as a makeshift studio.

“Then the economy took a downturn,” Claude said. Donations to the foundation dropped significantly and the brothers brainstormed last year about other ways they could support Anthropedia. What if they created another company to make for-profit films and used some of that to support the foundation work?

Brice, adept with finances, studied the business end of independent films to create movies with high production value while limiting costs. They obtained the needed permits to organize Claude’s Vinci Farm into a state-of-the art film production facility.

BCDF Pictures, the for-profit production company, with producer Jonathan Burkhart at the helm, filmed Vera Farmiga’s “Higher Ground” early this summer and is currently filming “Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding” directed by Academy Award-winning director Bruce Beresford and starring Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener. A third film goes into production sometime this fall.

Vinci Farm now has three state-of-the-art editing suites, a screening room, wardrobe department, art department, production offices and an acoustically engineered music studio with a control room, isolation booth and virtual orchestra feed room. There’s room for future growth.

“There’s nothing in the same stratosphere to what they have there,” said Laurent Rejto of the Hudson Valley Film Commission. “They could easily do three feature films a year there,” Rejto said. “They have 30 full-time jobs for people working in the film industry. We’re talking millions in revenue in a little place like Kerhonkson.”

A family philosophy the Dal Farras abide by in France and now in New York is to serve the communities they live in. “What’s good for Kerhonkson?” Claude asked. “I try to conduct all of our business within 15 miles of Vinci Farm.”

Crews are housed in area apartments and hotels, eat at local restaurants or have regional farm products catered to the set and use nearby businesses for supplies. The farm has a solar array for energy efficiency and adopts sustainable “green” practices keep waste to a minimum.

“If each person did the same thing, we’d all be happier,” Claude said. “For me it’s great to have access to local products and services. Perhaps in the future, we’ll be able to offer more housing in Kerhonkson.”

Vinci Farm is a key asset in a growing film industry infrastructure that turns producer’s weekend “getaways” to workweek “get tos.”

“We have the best designers in the country working in our art department for a chance to work with Bruce Beresford and Jane Fonda,” BCDF Pictures producer’s assistant Jason Nicholson said during a walk at the farm.

Beresford paused on his way through Vinci Farm’s flagstone lobby on his way to a meeting. “I love this script. I wouldn’t be working on it if I didn’t,” Beresford said. “What I didn’t expect was that upstate New York would be so beautiful to work in. Who knew?”

Shawangunk Preserves Have Major Impact

by Mohonk Preserve

Three Shawangunk Ridge Park Preserves (Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point) Have Local Impact of
$12.3 Million and More Than 350 Jobs

Conclusion: A study commissioned by the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the Mohonk Preserve and the Sam’s Point Preserve determined that tourism and park/preserve operations generate a positive economic impact on the local area of $12.3 million and support 358 local jobs.  The study was conducted by Business Opportunities Management Consulting using economic impact models used by the National Park Service.

Background: The Shawangunk Ridge (Gunks) is a geologically unique branch of the Appalachian Mountains regionally famous as a destination for world-class rock climbing and other outdoor recreational activities.  In Ulster County, over 30,000 acres of the Gunks are protected, primarily as part of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve.  These three entities have commissioned this economic impact study to quantify the benefits to the region associated with their operations and the tens of thousands of tourists that come to the Gunks each year.

To determine the impact that Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point have on the region, the Money Generation Models (MGM) that were developed for estimating economic impacts for the National Parks Service were used.  The MGM models are able to estimate spending by visitors based on information about the number of visitors to each of the three preserves.  With additional information about local spending on park/preserve employees, operations and capital expenses, the models are able to calculate the economic impact and number of jobs supported in the local area.  

Economic impact is quantified in the form of the value added to the local economy.  The value added represents the sum total of the increased value to goods and services that is generated by the local activities being evaluated.  In so doing, the model captures those flows of money that go to local businesses and residents and backs out flows that go to businesses and individuals outside of the local area.  The MGM models also use sophisticated multipliers based on studies of national park operations to take into account the secondary effects resulting from recirculation of money spent by tourists, the park/preserves and park/preserve employees.  This includes the number of jobs supported by these secondary effects.  

Results: Using information from the three entities and applying the MGM models provided the following information about the impact of Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point on the local economy:

  • Annual visitors to Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point: 392,695
  • Annual spending by visitors to Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point: $13,051,000
  • Annual local sales taxes generated by visitors to Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point: $459,000
  • Total economic impact of Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point on the local economy: $12,307,593
  • Number of local jobs supported by Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point: 358

Of the total $12.3 million in economic impact, $4.5 million is from the effects of spending on park/preserve operations by the three organizations and $7.8 million is generated by the spending of visitors to the three entities.

Economic Impact

Of the total 358 jobs supported by the three entities, 242 are the result of visitors to the area, 63 are employed by the park/preserves and 53 are supported by park/preserve operations spending.

Local Jobs

The above economic impact estimates were generated by the Money Generation Models (MGM) using 2009 visitor and financial information (most recent available fiscal year) from Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve.

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