Letter from Woodstock #1
of you who are reading this and don't live in Woodstock
probably know this beautiful bluestone creeked place
on the edge of the Catskills as a art/music colony with
a flavor of liberality and tolerance. It's true in some
ways, but more and more Woodstock is being taken over
by those who would transform it into an overdeveloped
tourist trap with a faint patina of residual art colony
gloss. Its thousands of acres of open space would be
converted into subdivisions. There are hundreds of millions
of dollars to be made through forging a dense and overdeveloped
Post-9/11 Climate of Development
estate values in the mid-Hudson area zoomed upward after
the attack on the World Trade Center. In a way, Osama
gave Woodstock property owners about $100,000, because
the Hudson River Valley, and particularly the art colony
known as Woodstock experienced a big real estate boom
after the horror of September of 2001.
There are hundreds and hundreds of beautiful open meadows
in the hamlets of Woodstock. Driving out the Bearsville-Wittenburg
road toward Wilson State Park one can see how hundreds
upon hundreds of tract houses and their attendant service
station/minimalls could be built if water supplies and
a sewer system were supplied to developers. This was
the plan we sniffed out over a year ago, and which will
cause great nonviolent battles in Woodstock, we feel,
in upcoming years.
Protecting the Aquifer
is the greatest of all things," the ancient poet
Pindar once wrote. And it's true. Water is the gold
of the next decades. And it's also the gold of the developers.
But on the one hand while developers hunger to grab
the water, on the other hand they want to prevent laws
which protect the water supplies of Woodstockers who
already live here.
If you protect your water supplies— really protect
them, then you have to control development. My first
suspicions about the recent Woodstock town board began
when it refused to protect the current downtown aquifer,
even when good volunteers such as Jerry Washington did
the research on how to do it legally and adequately.
through the 19th century and through much of the 20th
the Republican Party controlled Woodstock. More and
more Democrats began to move to Woodstock after the
Woodstock Festival of 1969, so that by 1984 the Democrats
became the majority. In 2003, there are over 2,200 registered
Democrats in Woodstock and well under 1,000 registered
Developer forces realize that to win their goal of building
hundreds and hundreds of houses plus increased commercial
development in Woodstock they have to split the Democrats.
They know too they can't do the split in the name of
development, so they work relentlessly behind the scenes
creating fissures and fractures. They'll all deny it.
But the issue is not the issue, the issue is making
oodles of money through the taking of open space.
The Patriot Act
board at first refused in 2003 to take any stance at
all against the excessive surveillance aspects of the
Patriot Act. Towns all around the U.S. took stances,
but Woodstock's Democratic board was sleeping through
it. Through the work of local attorneys such as Alan
Sussman and Jerry Wapner, plus the research work of
Michael Veitch and a few others, a draft resolution
against the Patriot Act was presented to the board which,
only after an angry meeting with residents, finally
passed it. But it didn't want to. Such is the do-nothing
nigh onto Know Nothing drift of current times.
Not Allowing a Farmers Market
Farmers Markets a Communist plot to prevent cancer through
healthy food? You'd think so if you pondered why the
Woodstock town board refuses to allow a Farmers Market
in Woodstock. Towns up and down the Hudson Valley just
love their outdoor Farmers Markets but the neocon Democrats
that rule Woodstock have successfully blocked all attempts
to have such a market, even on private property downtown.
Farmers Markets are a good source of healthy nonpolluting
food, good for warding off cancer researchers say. Perhaps
neocon Woodstock leaders don't have friends and family
who suffer cancer.
Censorship Regulations for the Public Access Station
Woodstock board during its 2002-2003 incarnation was
known for its lack of getting anything done. When, however,
a documentary on AIDS was shown on the public access
television station which contained some raw language,
it managed, in just a few days, to write censorship
regulations for programming.
If only it had shown the same quickness in allowing
a Farmers Market, or in protecting the aquifer, or in
building a highway garage.
The Beautiful Comeau Property Likely Not to Be Protected
voters in November of 2003 voted in a landslide to set
aside the downtown Comeau property, a beautiful place
of meadows and hiking trails, as forever undeveloped,
and to turn over its stewardship to the Woodstock Land
Conservancy. Woodstock ultraconservatives view the Land
Conservancy as suspect. They hate the type of social
planning such a stewardship implies. To the right, it
smacks of, shudder shudder, socialism and Franklyn Roosevelt--like
meddling in the sacred concepts of laissez-faire economics.
The town was sued by rightwingers in the fall to stop
the Comeau referendum, and the town board, which did
not want the Comeau set aside (kowtowing to developers
who don't want any land set aside) anyway, made a deal
BEFORE THE VOTE with those suing which in effect will
prevent the protecting of the Comeau for years, maybe
Water, Sewers, Zoning Gutting
who want to turn Woodstock into more of a Westchester
type suburb need four things to realize their dreams:
access to water, access to a sewer system, the gutting
of zoning and a compliant town board to pass the laws,
tap into Cooper Lake, extend the downtown sewer to the
fields of Bearsville toward Wittenburg and up toward
Shady, or build a new smaller sewage plant which perhaps
could serve as a feeder line into the existing sewer
plant on 212 toward Saugerties.
It's a plan which we helped to stall in the summer of
2002 when we got wind of it. A clear perhaps overwhelming
majority of Woodstockers don't want the town ruined
by excessive development. So the "water/sewers/zoning
gutting" scheme won't occur without a huge struggle
and a great expenditure of anger, leaflets, rallies
The 2003 Elections
Election results up and down the Hudson River Valley,
from Troy to Woodstock, showed the strength of the right
wing pro-development drift of Bush-era America. In Woodstock,
a strange amalgam of neocons, would-be gentry, developers,
developer-helpers plus friends of those defeated in
the August 2003 Democratic caucus helped vote into place
a group of board members who seem hellbent on promoting
The 2004-2005 term of the new Woodstock board will be
critical in helping shape what happens to water quality,
open space, and the rural/small town mix that a clear
majority of Woodstockers cherish.
and more Democrats are moving to the Hudson Valley from
the megapolis to the South. Sometimes a Democrat who's
fiercely progressive in a Manhattan block will morph
after a few years in the country into a semi- or actual
neocon. This process I call neocongenesis.
It hasn't happened too much yet in Woodstock, but I
have watched friends swing to the right. One instance
happened in the 2003 Woodstock elections, when a person
who ought to know better suggested that Michael Veitch
and David Menzies (the board candidates selected at
the Democratic Caucus) were "ideologues" and
therefore unworthy of right thinking voters' votes.
Ideologue is a current right wing term you hear on right
wing chat shows on Fox and MSNBC denoting fuzzy quasi-pinko
environmentalists, Commie promulgators of nationalized
banks, peaceniks against Bush's wars, or someone, say,
excessively eager to protect the water against the interests
of the bulldozer and the onslaught of e-coli.
Woodstock has one or two former drug dealers that are
somewhat powerful and lurk in the background promoting
development. Drug dealers bring a kind of sneaky, querulous
mind-set to a small town, especially if they are behind
excessive development. And so part of the current unpleasantness
in the visually pleasing, still forested town of Woodstock
is a ripple effect from such as these.
This is the first of our letters from Woodstock. And
we shall exercise our constitutional right now and then
to give readers around the nation and world a sense
of what's going on in the art/music/writing/second home/216
year old township..