One of the Hudson Valley's best-known environmental organizations closed out the year with a bang. On December 27, 2017, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater was awarded a $1,962 grant from Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, Community Grant Fund – Putnam County to help purchase science equipment for Clearwater’s Sailing Classroom. This grant makes possible the curriculum’s aim to teach young people about the ecology of the Hudson River estuary, according to a news release from Clearwater.
"We are extremely grateful for this support from the Community Foundation of Putnam County," says Maija Niemisto, Clearwater's Education Director. "Students aboard the sloop Clearwater will now have access to the equipment needed for sampling the Hudson River water, fish, and plankton with their own hands. Clearwater’s Board joins me in thanking the Foundation for providing young people with the tools necessary to investigate the natural world around them on voyages of discovery aboard The Environmental Tallship of America.”
Clearwater anticipates that by the end of 2018, more than 600 students in Putnam County will have benefited from using this science equipment.
Launched in 1969 by legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater has been at the forefront of the environmental movement as champions of the Hudson River. To date, more than half a million people have experienced their first real look at an estuary’s ecosystem aboard the sloop Clearwater. Clearwater has become the grassroots model for producing positive changes to protect our planet. For more information, visit Clearwater's website.
Serving all of Dutchess, Putnam and Ulster counties, the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley is a driving force in philanthropy in the region, distributing funds from thousands of donors to connect people who care with causes that matter. Administering more than $60 million in assets, Community Foundations works with donors to provide grants and scholarships. The group also establishes endowment funds for nonprofits and other charitable causes, and collaborates with government, private foundations and local leaders to address current and emerging needs. Learn more at Community Foundations' website.
We're betting that you haven't seen these little copper critters yet, created at Beacon Fine Jewelers, Inc. in the middle of Beacon at 284 Main Street. The shop is in that nondescript part of Main Street across the street from the Howland Public Library, so you may have walked past their window several times, maybe making a mental note to see if that ruby ring in your jewelry collection is real or not.
That's how I first walked in - on the gemstone detective mission - but I was immediately distracted by these little copper critters created by Mitch Rios, the son of Elliot Rios. They both metalsmith from behind the torch in back of the shop. The duo have been working in Beacon since about 2003. They commute over the bridge from Newburgh to their shop here to repair jewelry or clocks on the spot.
Mitch started designing these...droids? copper critters? from old pennies. Fitted with a loop at the top, you could wear it as a charm, hang it from a window or rear-view mirror, or simply collect them as a little standing army. Several of the creative beings are available, each bearing different characteristics.
In addition to the copper charms (above), Mitch designs character charms out of silver (below), like the Batman ninja piece in this picture, or the Pokémon charm.
Is there a knife collector in your life? A precise charm may be just what he or she needs. Each of the different types is custom-designed and made by Mitch.
Of course, you'll also find traditional pieces of jewelry in rows of cases inside Beacon Fine Jewelers. Some items are pieces they have bought from estates, others are their own designs. Do you have an idea for a ring? Sketch it out and bring it to Elliot. He would love to make it for you as a custom piece.
Happy Thursday - the east end of Beacon by the mountain is open late! The Sip, Snack and Shop event is tonight, celebrating local shopping and support of neighbors, so sip something sweet in the holiday sparkle of the night as you find last-minute 🎁 gifts! Presented by the Beacon East End Association, this is their effort to help you see all of the amazing that is inside more than a dozen stores. You’re not just buying local for the sake of buying local. There is some really cool shizaz here!
There are 16 participating businesses, including:
Style Storehous, Utensil Kitchenwar, Lambs Hil, Echo Women's Boutique and Toystor, The Bra Fit Exper, Kaigh, The Blusher, Vintage:Beaco, Waddle n Swaddle, Beacon Bath & Bubble, The Chocolate Studi, Blackbird Attic Boutique, an King + Curate.
After 22 years of public service to Beacon, NY, the chairman of the Planning Board, Jay Sheers, has resigned his position. He previously served on the Zoning Board, and his time on the Planning Board has coincided with some of the biggest growth in Beacon's history.
He told the public of his decision during the December 12, 2017, Planning Board meeting, before the start of the meeting. The meeting was expected to be heavily attended, as development projects were on the agenda. Specifically, the meeting centered on a vote about a planned large apartment complex known as 22 Edgewater Place (see details about this in A Little Beacon Blog's Building and Development Guide), which is proposing 307 apartments in seven buildings, to be built in the woods above the train tracks near Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park. The Planning Board voted to allow the project to proceed to the next step in its development cycle.
Here is Jay's resignation message, thanking city workers and fellow volunteers. He shared this before larger proceedings of the meeting began:
“I’m debating a personal note, so I’ll do that now, because it may appear that I’m leaving the Board because of this [refers to the audience], but it’s not true. I’ve been thinking about leaving the Board for a long time. So and tonight is my last Planning Board Meeting. I’ve been on this Board since 1995 and I’ve been the Chair for 10 years. Before that I served on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
"It has been extremely gratifying to have worked with the many people who have given so much time and effort to bring about the large number of positive changes that have taken place in this fascinating and wonderful City over this period of time.
"Recently, demands on my time from my job and my growing extended family make it harder and harder to fully prepare for and attend meetings. I know that the City is in the middle of a lot of important work, but that’s pretty much always the case. Waiting for a good time to step out would mean that it would never happen.
"One of the most rewarding aspects of my time working on the Board has been with my fellow volunteer Board members both past and present, and I’d also like to thank Mayors Gould, Gold, and Casale for their support over the years, as well as Board consultants and attorneys, and a special thanks goes out to Ann Thomas, Etha Grogan, and Tim Dexter. Beacon would not be what it is today without their hard work and dedication. Thank you.”
You can watch the full video here, and see what was on the agenda.
Have you seen all of the scaffolding up around Beacon? For the past few years, greenlit development projects have been humming along, from concept to construction. Some of these projects are easily noticed around town, and some are less noticeable when on regularly traveled streets. As development and construction are becoming hot topics in all of the city meetings, including City Council, Planning Board, and Zoning Board of Appeals, it can be very hard to keep up with which property is which, and where, and owned by whom.
A Little Beacon Blog has started keeping a Guide of these projects. Reference it when you spy new bulldozers, or any time you want to get up to speed real quick as to where a project is, and what you need to know about it.
Building in Beacon is happening very quickly right now. While it seems overnight to people who have not followed the news about it, or attended meetings of the City Council, Zoning Board or Planning Board, it is very much the norm for Beacon residents who have followed those meetings.
The thing is, many buildings that you have been looking at for years and years are about to go away, to be replaced by new construction. In most cases, that will mean taller buildings. Arguments can be made about whether that's a good or a bad thing, but no matter what, when you eventually see them, those new structures will likely induce some feelings in you.
For instance: A project called Edgewater plans to have seven buildings and 307 apartment units, to be located in the woods along the Hudson River, slightly northeast of and uphill from Riverfront Park. The project has been granted a vote to go through the process of getting approvals to move forward and get closer to building. This project was held up for several months while attorneys for the Beacon City Schools' Board of Education argued that so many new residents would have a negative effect on the current school district, as the rapid influx of new kids would overwhelm classrooms. The development attorneys and the City Planner did not agree. Yesterday, finally, a vote was cast by Beacon's Planning Board, and it was voted that the impact would not negatively effect Beacon City School, and that the project could move forward. There are many other potential issues with this project. Among them: anticipated traffic impacts. The official projection is that vehicular traffic from this 307-unit collection of buildings (essentially a community) will not impact current traffic. This is just one example.
Up on Main Street, the old single-story building across from Homespun Foods was demolished this week; a new building is set to replace it. The empty factories at Madam Brett Park are proposed to be new apartment buildings. All of these projects are moving forward at the same time, and while it's exciting in theory to watch it all, people living in Beacon are feeling a desire to take a minute to catch up, to see how these are planned to progress, before it all happens, and to learn more about who owns these properties.
More and more residents are "coming online" about this issue. People who normally don't pay attention to boring Zoning Board meetings are starting to pay attention, so that they can know what to expect - what's coming down the pike. Because no matter what, when you see major construction happening, it can be surprising.
In Beacon, there are only a few local media sources. A Little Beacon Blog, The Beacon Free Press, and based in Philipstown but covering Beacon, The Highlands Current. Which sometimes makes it difficult to get information. Facebook groups often turn up leads, but are awash with emotion, speculation, facts, and everything else. Beacon beat reporter Jeff Simms has been covering these building projects for some time for The Highlands Current.
A Little Beacon Blog will begin covering development as well, and we will do so as carefully as we can. The learning curve is steep, and we are all in this learning process together. The feeling of Community is very strong in Beacon. That feeling does not exist in every community - it's something really special here. There is a desire to preserve that feeling, and continue living small, even while the city grows. Living smaller but bigger. It's possible, it's just a careful job.
This Saturday, The Beahive is hosting a public forum that focuses on zoning in Beacon. It seems to serve as a Zoning 101 for people who are unfamiliar with nuances in Beacon's code that could allow - or not allow - buildings to get built in a certain way. And exactly what that "certain way" is, is varied and can look like pretty much anything. To help see what that looks like, the forum this Saturday at Beahive will be facilitated by City Council Member Lee Kyriacou (who will be acting as a private citizen, not representing Beacon in any official capacity). Those who watch City Council meetings or other meetings know that Lee is one for detail, whose jam seems to be property issues. At a recent City Council meeting that had a very large public turnout to discuss the rezoning of Central Main Street, Lee commented that he was happy to see how many people were "nerding out" about issues that usually very few do. The whole City Council, the Mayor and the City Administrator are working together to address growth issues in Beacon.
A number of planning and zoning experts will be at the Beahive event to take questions from the audience.
The forum is on Saturday, December 15, from 9:30 to 11:30 am at Beahive, in the Telephone Building at 291 Main St., Beacon, NY.
Just when there seemed to be a settling in of the stores, a whole lot of movement happened in the storefront community on Main Street Beacon. Here are a few moves:
296 Main Street
Beacon, NY 12508
Trendy Tots Take Two, the kids consignment store in the sweet corner yellow house, has closed. Owned by a husband and wife team, this store had been a resource for parents who consigned gently used kids' stuff, and bought low-priced, high-quality items. Owner Jenn had a discerning eye for threads and did not accept everything that was brought into the store. Toward the end of summer 2017, the store posted a sign that said it would be closed until September. Small business owners often make personal choices like this - basing Open Hours around family needs. One time, Jenn was in a car accident and hurt her hip. Another time, the couple were caring for an aging parent and their open hours became inconsistent, but later returned to normal.
But September came and went, and the shop never reopened. In fact, the building and the grassy lot next to it, as well as the warehouse behind that which was known to be rented by artists from time to time, were put on the market to be sold. Asking price was $1 million. According to the realtor, there has been an offer on the property. The merchandise inside of the store has been removed, and we were unable to reach the owners to see if Trendy Tots is relocating.
178 Main Street
Beacon, NY 12508
Just in the nick of time, a local mom, Jenny Donovan, opened Wee Bitty Kids, LLC, near Artisan Wine Shop on the west end of town near Bank Square Coffee. This has replaced the vintage shop Classic Couture Fashion Boutique. The owner of Classic Couture, Leah, has said she will send us an update when she finds the next location for her collection of vintage fashions.
Note: The new shop, Wee Bitty Kids, has no connection to the volunteer-based nonprofit group, the Wee Play Project, who runs the annual Ree-Play Sale fundraiser every April to raise money for Beacon's parks and library projects.
500 Main Street
Beacon, NY 12508
Longtime oils concoction artist, Leah Quinn, maintained a storefront at this corner store. Inside, she carried anything you might need to solve most any ailment. If it wasn't there, Leah would tell you how to make it. Over the summer of 2017, Leah packed it in at the storefront and went digital all the way. She seems to be exploding from her website, offering Subscription Boxes, workshops, and what looks to be a new line of clothing, like this hoodie. Don't worry, you can still get Leah's Wonder Salve online here! It truly is wonderful, especially for eczema and sufferers of super chapped lips.
Loopy Mango has replaced the physical location of Heart & Soul, and ... all we can say is Wow. No stranger to retail, Loopy Mango has over 41,000 followers on Instagram, and has had a store in New York City since 2004. This location is all about "big loop" yarn, which is some really big and soft strands of yarn. They are so into it, they make their own in Key Largo, FL. Who is "they"? The business owners are corporate refugees who met in an art class, while "Loopy" is a German shepherd, and "Mango" is an orange cat. As for the people, according to their website:
Waejong Kim was born in Korea. She moved to Japan for college and after graduating from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies she worked as an interpreter and later opened a Korean fusion restaurant in Nagoya, Japan. She moved to New York after 9/11 and worked for a corporate housing company. She taught herself how to crochet, took a long vacation, and never returned to the corporate world. Waejong has a German shepherd named Loopy and and orange cat named Mango.
Anna Pulvermakher was born in Russia. She moved to Seattle, WA, with her family and after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Mathematics, she worked for Microsoft and Expedia as a Software Test Engineer. In 2003, she moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a professional artist.
Hudson Valley Fitness has rebranded to Zoned Fitness, and boy are they in the zone. We've watched their website for a number of years as we looked up information for A Little Beacon Blog's Adult Classes Guide, and the latest updates demonstrate that they are clearly in the zone, and are ready to transform your body. Their services Include food and nutrition training as well. Branding done by Beacon locals Rabe & Co.
Also on our radar! The Studio@Beacon, down near the Howland Public Library and Royal Crepes, is opening in January and will have a juice bar. Based on what drives the owners, the studio will likely specialize in boxing and cycling. With creative branding done by Kingston Creative.(P.S. Kingston Creative kind of has a thing for Beacon, and just released a 16 Most Instagrammed Places in Beacon, according to actual numbers. You'd be surprised who made the list!)
It is time once again... We are going Holiday House Lights Hunting in Beacon and want to know where your light display is. Submit cross streets or addresses here in the comments, or send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bring on the magic!
Beacon is Open Late on the East End! Sixteen shops have joined together to stay open till at least 9 pm tonight, Thursday. Happy shopping! Next Thursday, they'll offer another late night, in addition to being open extra days, to optimize local shopping convenience.
The Sip, Snack, & Shop is presented by the Beacon East End Association, a group of 16 stores working to bring more awareness - and people, especially local Beaconites - to follow Main Street's curve to explore all of the shops on the east end of town. Kitchenware, underwear, boots, skirts, jewelry, art - there's so much!
The Monday evening after Thanksgiving, Peter and Ruth Robillard were inside their home watching a movie when Peter heard a popping sound outside, and ran out to find his front porch on fire. At 7:13 pm, first responder units were dispatched "for trees on fire next to the residence," according to the Beacon Professional Firefighters - IAFF Local 3490 via their Facebook page. The couple got out of the home safely, and a fundraising page has been set up in their name, collecting over $8,000 so far from 109 people.
According to The Beacon Professional Firefighters - IAFF Local 3490, less than 2 minutes later, the first to arrive found a large blaze on the front of the house, with the fire reaching into the porch area and inside the home from the brush near the sidewalk.
"A second alarm was transmitted at 7:17 pm by Assistant Chief Lahey, which provides for station coverage and a callback of off-duty firefighters for assistance," according to The Beacon Professional Firefighters. At the scene were Career Firefighters, an Interior Volunteer Firefighter, and three Exterior Volunteers.
Beacon was also assisted by the Village of Fishkill, initially as FAST (Firefighter Assist and Search Team). They were used to assist with overhaul and ensuring that the fire was out. At 7:54 pm, the fire was declared under control, and the salvage and overhaul process got under way. By the end of the incident there were approximately four interior, four exterior, and four fire police volunteers, according to The Beacon Professional Firefighters - IAFF Local 3490 Facebook page, all of whom left by 11:08 pm.
From the Beacon Professional Firefighters: "Due to the fast actions by the Career Firefighters on the initial responding units, the fire extension and water/smoke damage was limited to a portion of the house. Remember, the Beacon Career Firefighters are dedicated to your safety 24/7."
You can donate to the Beacon Fire Department by responding to mailings that go out, and by purchasing a Christmas tree from their lot near Dogwood at 60 East Main Street. Donate to the Robillard Family by clicking here.
When the trees were taken down at 51 Orchard Place in Beacon, one resident who was watching them fall said she felt "scared." The home that sits up on the mini-hill at 51 Orchard Place, at the base of the Y that loops East Willow and West Willow to regular Willow Street, had recently come under new ownership by Fortress Enterprises, LLC, after being empty for quite some time, according to a parcel search with Dutchess County.
"I have watched this house deteriorate for over 6 years. I was really excited to see that someone had bought it and was beginning to bring it back to life," said Karen Nelson on December 4, 2017 at the City Council meeting. She spoke during the Public Comment portion of the meeting, where people can address the council members with anything on their minds.
Several mature trees were cut down at 51 Orchard Place - more than the three mature trees that are allotted for in Beacon's city code. "After all the trees fell, the light had changed. The noise level was higher," Karen said. "The sight lines into neighbors' houses across the street were clearer. And theirs into mine." The noticeable shift to the space, as well as the addition of a new driveway, prompted Karen to look into the matter. Word on the neighborhood circuit was that the house was being refurbished to be a $500/night Airbnb property. This house wouldn't be the first in Beacon to be used for Airbnb, but it seems to be in the first wave of properties used solely for different short-term renters without owner occupancy.
Beacon has yet to create regulations around Airbnbs, while New York City has addressed them. Fines of $1,000 per violation have already been issued. According to The Verge, "The law under which they were charged fines people who rent out entire apartments for fewer than 30 days. State lawmakers believe those rentals encourage property managers and owners to construct what essentially amount to hotels in residential buildings."
Airbnb sued New York City in 2016 over the law, according to The Verge, but dropped the lawsuit after it settled with the city in December. "Airbnb agreed to allow New York to pursue violators so long as prosecutors only went after hosts, as opposed to the company itself."
Airbnb has disrupted the travel and hotel industries, and now the change is coming to smaller destination communities as they decide how to fit vacation rentals alongside full-time residents. Beacon has yet to regulate the issue, but the easy access Airbnb gives to creative locations has spurred people from all over to visit Beacon. Personally, we have received an Airbnb's order of pizza (wrong address), and people from California one day came to our front porch and rifled through our mailbox looking for house keys - because they had the wrong address for their Airbnb.
"This is shocking to me," said Karen before the City Council. "In every Beacon zoning map I could find, it shows that this neighborhood is zoned for [Single-]Family Homes. And I emphasize the word 'homes.' It doesn’t say houses or structures or buildings. It is a residential neighborhood."
"Kids" here being the figurative word for the sudden attention on this private property and their choice to take down trees that were unhealthy, that did not produce full greenery anymore, and were gangly, virtually hiding the home from view. Depending on which side of the house you are on, one may even say there is now a better view of Mount Beacon as you drive around Orchard Place to turn onto any of the Willow streets.
Regardless, there are laws that homeowners must follow. Unless you are living in the Wild West on dusty land in a log cabin you built yourself, with trees you cut down yourself, surrounded by nothing but distant mountains and rolling weedy meadows, sometimes there are rules one must follow in one's city. Rules are more obvious when they are delivered from an apartment complex manager, or condo community homeowners association. When it's individual homes on acres of land, the rules can be little harder to anticipate, since it feels like land that you own, where you should be able to do what you want.
Rules can be tricky to know about! Unless, of course, you pore over every line item in the Zoning Code. Beacon voices spoke out first via Facebook to discuss the incident. During the City Council meeting, Mayor Randy Casale addressed some of the concern:
“They [the homeowners] didn’t go to the Planning Board. They didn’t go to the Zoning Board. We got an ordinance that says you can’t cut more than three mature trees down without getting a permit. They didn’t do that. The Building Department is over there. It’s probably going to wind up in court. That’s where we are right now. That’s the best I can tell you.”
To get clarification for this article on which ordinance the mayor was referring to, A Little Beacon Blog emailed the mayor's office to find out exactly which ordinance this is, but did not get a reply by the time this article published. There are sections of the code that refer to trees, but we want to link you to exactly the right one, as provided by a city official. We also emailed the Building Department for a report on the current status of their actions, as alluded to by the Mayor, but also did not receive a reply before publication.
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