What's in a Name No.8: Unadilla

One of my favorite place names upstate is Unadilla; it rolls off the tongue nicely, like a song, and gives the impression of a beautiful isolated town that time forgot.* The word 'unadilla' is and Iroquois word meaning "place of meeting" and lends its name to the Unadilla River, which has two branches that meet in the hamlet of Unadilla Forks. The original Unadilla, first settled in 1770 in what is now the town of Sidney, was destroyed in the Revolutionary War, and then rebuilt in its current location. Unadilla is the name of a village as well as the township, the river, the valley, and the hamlet (Unadilla Forks) The Unadilla area is not only home to the meeting of both branches of the Unadilla River and the Unadilla and the Susquehanna River, but also the meeting of Otsego, Delaware, and Chenango counties.
There are several other Unadillas in the country, deriving their name from the upstate Unadilla.

Having successfully used the word 'Unadilla' in every sentence of this brief installment of "What's in a Name," I will leave you with this 1915 map of the aformentioned village.
Posted by Natalie
*I must confess, I have yet to visit Unadilla, so I can't say one way or the other if the impression the name gives me is accurate.


The Peoples Republic of Crumm Mountain Mystery

By Wild Turkey Desire
August 26th, 2006

The Peoples Republic of Crumm Mountain is one of those strange Upstate New York mysteries that each day goes unsolved. According to The Peoples Republic of Crumm Mountain website, Crumm Mountain is

“Wedged uncomfortably in the mountains of Upstate NY's Central Leatherstocking region, Crumm Mountain has become notorious as a mecca for freaks, intellectuals, punk rockers, anarchists, and just about anyone disaffected with society in some way, shape, or form. With a rich history steeped in working class action, including several general strikes, and a highly active socialist party, the city continues to lead the proletariat to its destiny with it's current Mayor Stan Grossman, of the Social Democratic Labor Party.”

And so, the website which supposedly “is the product of a joint effort by the City of Crumm Mountain and various community organizations” begins with a vivid depiction of The Peoples Republic of Crumm Mountain.

However, from the very start one begins to doubt if this is actually a town located in Upstate New York. It seemed strange to me that after a Google Maps search for “Crumm Mountain” I couldn’t find anything and it got even weirder when I took a look at the rest of the website for Crumm Mountain.

There are certain things like their “Socio-economic Development” plan, which says that Upstate New York’s model of growth has “pitted cities against one another in an economically devastating race to the bottom.” It goes on to say that:

“The effects of these policy's are embarrassingly on display in upstate NY cities like Schenectady, Amsterdam, Hudson, and Newburgh, among many others. City governments grovel at the feet of business and industry leaders, sparing no effort to accommodate each and every demand they might come up with. Crumm Mountain takes the opposite approach. We are actually enacting policies designed to deter and drive out businesses.”

Then I looked at Crumm Mountains policy towards tourists, which states:

“Well, our policy toward tourists is simple. They suck. They're stupid, they're ugly, and did I mention they SUCK! They walk around cluttering up streets, restaurants, and shops looking for lame little souvenirs to bring back to their lame little homes in their lame little towns, they're just an utter nuisance. Several times I have proposed a city law banning entrance to our city for tourists.”

Does this sound like any town in Upstate New York to you?

So then, the curious minds ask Crumm Mountain – “Who, what, where, when, and why?”
The website for Crumm Mountain contains, almost everything one would ever want to know about the town, except for its exact whereabouts.

If you have any information leading to the further exploration into the depths of Crumm Mountain, the Upstate Community would be happy to hear from you. Perhaps someday, we will be able to unlock the mystery of The Peoples Republic of Crumm Mountain.


Trying something new: the Community Store in Saranac Lake

"[Community stores] are locally owned by community members in contrast to the distant, corporate shareholders of national retailers...Everyone in the community is given the opportunity to invest in the store by buying shares. Community owned stores support local economies by keeping locally generated dollars recycling in the community, creating a benefit for the store, the shopper and the local community...

...Local consumer spending. Stronger local business. More jobs and income. A vibrant downtown economy."

-From The Saranac Lake Community Store homepage

The struggles against the Big-Boxes, especially the despised goliath-- Walmart- seem to have the same trajectories across the nation: a Big Box, often through sneaky means, acquires land and tries to get it rezoned for its needs. In some places, the store is built before anyone knows what happened. In other places, the local community hears about it and, sometimes, debate is begun. Hearings are had and questions are raised. In general, the middle-class (especially liberals) and old-guard preservationist types are up in arms against the encroacher while poorer folk and those who pursue growth-at-any-cost are supportive. However, in general, anti-Big Box campaigns tend to be just that: anti. No development, no change, no thought of the genuine needs of the poor who need jobs and access to affordable goods.

Saranac Lake, near Lake Placid in the Adirondacks, is one of those true battlegrounds. The recent closing of the Ames store has created a retail "hole" in the area and there is a genuine need for affordable clothes and similar items; Wal-Mart has acquired land and sought for re-zoning. However, there is a strong local historic preservationist and conservationist culture that has risen up against the arrival of the Big Box. Organizations like the Sound Adirondack Growth Alliance (SAGA) and the Save Saranac Lake Coalition have grown up around this debate (SAGA is more moderate than Save Saranac) in the way that similar organizations appear where ever Wal-Mart arrives. However, in Saranac there is a new wrinkle in the fabric of debate that shows great promise for responding to the fears of the anti-Wal Mart lobby and the practical needs of the pro-Wal Mart crowd. This new idea is the Saranac Lake Community Store.

Originally an out-growth of Save Saranac, this independent organization seeks to create a community-owned department store in the heart of Saranac Lake. Ownership shares are available for community members to invest in the project and to have a voting stake in its outcome. The store would then be responsive to the needs of locals and keep money circulating within the community. By keeping the store in Downtown Saranac, it is a force combatting sprawl and keeping Saranac from being completely touristified (is that a word?). The organization has stated a vested interest in creating good-paying jobs with benefits and being governed democratically.

Based off of a model already in place in Powell, WY, a community organization has hired a business consultant to put together a plan of action and has held successful public interest meetings.

I have always been an advocate for community economic action as the best plan for rebuilding our Upstate Communities (check out my older posts on The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, the Ithaca Hour local currency and the Battenkill Cooperative Kitchen). To quote the folks from a CBS story about Powell: "Don't expect corporate America to take care of you... Don't expect the government to take care of you. …People know that, if they want to get something done, you do it yourself. And you have better solutions that way. …That's the thing with leaving your ego at the door." It's high time we learned something from those folks in Wyoming and take matters into our own hands; I salute the work of the Saranac Lake Community Store and wish them the best in all their endeavors.


PS: The Saranac Store needs your help:

"At present we need help from people that have some expertise in certain areas: law, buying, retail management, etc. When we are ready to sell shares, that is when we will need financial help to get things rolling and a team of volunteers to help with that. If you have further questions, please check the "Frequently Asked Questions" section, or call 518-891-7230."


What I've Been Reading Lately, Part Deux

Time for a sequel to Jesse's "What I've Been Reading Lately" It probably won't be as wildly successful as the original, but I though I ought to share some of the interesting Upstate-related websites I've been exploring lately that you may or may not be familiar with.

Syacuse: Then and Now and The Freedom Trail: Two excellent websites from the Preservation Association of Central New York that are easy to get lost in. Syracuse: Then and Now is a compendium of histories and photographs, from the Old Onondaga County Courthouse to Aunt Jemima's Syracuse connection. The Freedom Trail is a great resource for learning more about Central New York in the Underground Railroad and the abolition movement.

Buffalo Architecture and History
: This site is excellent for exploring Buffalo's architectural landmarks and to brush up on you architectural terminology with the Illustrated Architecture Dictionary. Can't remember what quoining is? Or the difference between a mansard roof and a metope? Check out the Dictionary for a quick answer, or a more involved definition and understanding of something like the Italianate style, using Buffalo examples.

Historic USGS Maps of New York
: The home page looks a bit daunting, with a large grided map of the state, but pick a town, click on the quadrangle, and snoop around. Some US Geological Survey quadrangles only go as far back as the 1950s, some go to the late 1800s. Check out how much of Syracuse was covered with salt sheds, or find your hometown.

Okay, those three were excellent, no-frills, interesting and enlightening reference. Now on to some slightly more fluffy places to visit:

Jim "The Hammer" Shapiro videos
: Okay, I know this doesn't count as reading, but it's worth a trip down memory lane to visit your favorite 90s TV lawyer. Anyone within earshot of a television in Rochester or Syracuse and environs recalls his bold pronouncments and violent fist-shaking. Remember, he may be an S.O.B., but he's your S.O.B.!

The Perry Bible Fellowship
: An amazing comic that got its start in the Syracuse University Daily Orange when creator Nicholas Gurewitch was an undergrad. The strip is now syndicated in major papers all over the country, but you can read it online, and I defy you not to sit down and look at every single one.

New York Apple Country
: Some people endeavor to be beer tasters, others strive for expert knowledge of fine wine. I want to become an apple connoisseur.

I've also been keeping my eye on Sean Kirst's Upstate Rebellion, back issues of The Preservationist, New York Swimming Holes, and some great recent articles at the Adirondack Almanac.

Happy reading!

Posted by Natalie


Syracuse and Bilbao, a comparison of public transport

It is a well known fact that American public transportation is woefully poor, even in comparison to far-poorer nations.[1] Especially when the transportation systems of Europe are mentioned, Americans often simply throw up their hands and give up. We seem to believe that there is something categorically different between America and ‘Europe’ that prevents us from ever developing systems that even come close to theirs.

Yet, this surrender is simply that and by throwing up our hands we continue to perpetuate a system that is agreed to be economically inefficient,
socially isolating and environmentally disastrous. In fact, when we say ‘Europe’ we are in fact often lumping together an incredible variety of societies, from the Finns to the Turks to the Portuguese, each of which had to approach the problem of mass transportation from a unique standpoint and find its own solutions. It was never inevitable that the European continent would enjoy well-developed public transport and the American continent would revel in its automobiles and it is not inevitable that it will continue to be so.

So, for the purposes of education, discussion and perhaps change, I am going to compare two relatively similar metropolitan areas, one American and one European, and their choices in public transportation. The cities of Syracuse, NY and Bilbao in the Basque Country of northern Spain are similar in many ways. Gran Bilbao had a 2004 population of 946,829 and Greater Syracuse had 732,117 in 2005 (77% of Bilbao). Both are declining industrial centers with similar four-season temperate climates.
[2] However, in the area of public transportation the gulf between them yawns.

Most public transportation in Greater Syracuse is provided by the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (CENTRO) which has
43 bus lines in Onondaga County with a base fare of $1. The city also has a commuter rail line, Ontrack, which has four stops; Syracuse is the smallest city in America with light commuter rail. Amtrack serves the city with three trains: the Empire Service, the Lake Shore Limited and the Maple Leaf Line.[3] Both Greyhound and Trailways has long distance bus service from the Regional Transport Center (this is also the train station for Amtrack and, someday, Ontrack).

The pride of Bilbao’s public transportation service is its subway system, it is the smallest city in Spain to have one.
Metro Bilbao opened in 1995 with 23 stations. Today it has two lines and 34 stations. The unique aesthetic design of the system has won several national and international awards. According to Wikipedia:

“Metro Bilbao is used by more than 77 million people every year. Since it serves about 630,000, each citizen travels about 120 times a year. That is one of the highest rates of usage in Europe.”

Supplementing the Metro are the national cercanías, or commuter trains, of which there are three lines and a total of 41 stations, and one light rail line. The Basque rail company EuskoTren has three further lines and also operates EuskoTran, a tramway with one line. The train and metro system is further interconnected by 30 city bus lines (five of which are “microbuses” that go into the old city where large buses cannot fit) and over 100 provincial bus lines.

Quite frankly, it’s an almost embarrassing comparison,
[4] but one that can be rectified with time. The situation of Bilbao is relatively new, the tramway dates all the way back to 2002 and the Metro was inaugurated in 1995 and grown considerably since then[5]. The great difference, as I see it, is that the government of Gran Bilbao has decided that all of its people will be able to enjoy all of modern life without needing a car. From the little buses that serve the outlying areas to soaring atrium of the Sarriko metro station, the system is fully interlocked, attractive, affordable and efficient (having ridden it myself).

So what can we do here in Syracuse, or in any other Upstate City for that matter? Some might argue that a change in attitude is necessary before we can develop the will to create more infrastructure. Yet our car-aholic attitudes will not alter without good examples and at least a basic infrastructure to rely upon. In Syracuse, the beginnings are already in place with the creation of Ontrack.

However, Ontrack languishes. Reports I’ve read say that there are only 60 passengers per day! Part of the problem is the fact that the final destinations of the line-- the Regional Market, the Sky Chief’s Stadium and the Amtrack Station- cannot be accessed since they are on the far side of an unfinished bridge. It is shameful that in the past 12 years
[6] the Basques of Bilbao have built a tram service, 34 train stations and one of Europe's most popular metro systems and we cannot finish a bridge. The money has even been earmarked for the project since 2004 and all of the other stations are complete.

With the completion of the full line, OnTrack is going to have to work on it’s PR. For one, their website,
www.syracuseontrack.com, is difficult to read and looks like it was made up as a Geocities site. Better advertisement on campus and in the neighborhoods and improved signage in those areas might also increase usage. However, eventually, OnTrack is going to need to expand the number of stops it operates. These days all but one of the stops are “destinations” like Armory Square and the Carousel Mall, not residential areas. The train does travel through residential areas, however, and stops would be relatively easy to add.

Beyond this, the inspiration of places like Bilbao can continue to inspire us to create more human-centric, not car-centric landscapes. We must continue to think creatively and be willing to take risks. As the cost of gas continues to rise in the coming years, those cities that are able to continue to move people around without cars will be those who succeed and those who don't will find the cost of doing business driving them out. The last thing our Upstate cities need is another strike against them.

-Posted by Jesse

[1] Which I can attest to from my travels to Turkey and southern Europe.
[2] Syracuse gets a bit more snow.
[3] To put a little national perspective on this, Las Vegas does not even have a train station.
[4] Though our superhighways blow theirs out of the water. Does that make us happier?
[5] Two new stations are slated to open in December.
[6] OnTrack opened in 1994, the year before Bilbao’s Metro opened.

Old Jamesville Penitentiary, Jamesville NY

A view of the Onondaga County (Jamesville) Penitentiary (date unknown), a building I vividly remember in it's much more deteriorated state. Built from 1899-1901, the building served until 1983. It was eventually torn down in 1999 after being replaced with a new facility. Thanks to my brother Dan for sending the photo.

Posted by Natalie

Unrelated Editor's Note: We've spruced up the blog a bit, adding some new links, reordering things on the sidebar, and under our banner we've added our definition of the term York Staters. Take a moment to check it out, and feel free to email us with any questions, comments, or article submissions at york.staters@gmail.com. Thanks! - Natalie


Eden, New York: Home of the Kazoo

The soundtrack to paradise is the gentle humming of kazoos.

Few of you may know, but the editors of York Staters are somewhat musical. Jesse can play a mean reel on the fiddle, and I can (kind of) play the ukulele. This afternoon I was doing a little searching on the internet for a place to find a good kazoo, because what instument would be a more perfect compliment to the ukulele than the kazoo?

It turns out that if you live in New York State you needn't look far for the finest in kazoos. Eden, New York, a town whose name evokes a paradise, is home to the only metal kazoo factory in the world. The Original American Kazoo Company factory was built in 1916, and still uses the same machines and processes to make kazoos today. It is also a museum, which exhibits the history of kazoos and kazoo trivia as well as the manufacturing operation. The company website makes the excellent point that "the kazoo is the most democratic of instuments because anyone can play."

The website offers information on the products they sell, showcasing the classic metal kazoo. Or if you're up for something a bit more elaborate, there's also the trombone kazoo, the trumpet kazoo, or the French horn kazoo. You can't order online, but you can call "the kazoo hotline" (which I plan on doing if only to be able to say that I called something called the kazoo hotline.) A metal kazoo is only $1.99, so if you're feeling musical, pick up that phone and call Eden for you slice of democracy.

Posted by Natalie


Wild Center: The Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks

On a recent trip to the Adirondacks, Co-Editor Jesse, myself, and friend and Sagamore Tour Supervisior Maria took a drive to Tupper Lake to visit The Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (it's short name is The Wild Center) which opened July 4th weekend.

Compared to other Adirondack communities, Tupper Lake is not so touristy; born from the lumber industry, it has a decidedly different feel to it than Saranac Lake or Old Forge. Interestingly, the Wild Center builds over a piece of Tupper Lake's industrial past. The museum site is a repurposed abandoned gravel pit, the lake that abuts the museum is artificial.

A museum in the Adirondacks compiling all the natural wonders of the Adirondacks in a one-stop, climate controled building seemed, upon first contemplation, a little bit odd. (The thinking was: just go outside and look around!) But The Wild Center is clearly a well thought out, deliberate endeavor, and when we visited it became clear that it allowed an access to environments that many people rarely experience. Many of the museum's patrons were small children and the elderly, people who wouldn't otherwise be able to experience the windswept summit of a high peak or the diversity of life inside a bog. With a plethora of informational signs (in a somewhat gimmicky post-it note format) The Wild Center proves to be an excellent compliment to spending time in the woods for those who are able as well.

Another questions coming in was how this shiny new museum would stack up against, and perhaps rival, The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. The Adirondack Museum, which has been called "The Smithsonian of the Adirondacks" deals primarily with the colorful human history of the park, and we were glad to see very little overlap between the two institutions.

The Wild Center as a museum is the antithesis of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, that time-honored nineteenth century institution cataloguing the history of life on all continents. Memorable to most for exhibits such as the Hall of African Mammals, where taxidermied specimens are displayed in elaborate and brilliantly painted facsimiles of their native environments, The Wild Center takes a different approach, displaying live animals in versions of their habitats, and keeping animal bones, skins, and other objects of curiosity (including owl droppings) in a lab-like setting, a room called the Naturalist's Cabinet.

The rest of the Wild Center functions more like a living, breathing thing. The focus of most of the Museum is on water and water habitats, and a "river", like an uber-fish tank, extends along the wall, a new home for a variety of fish. There is also a special tank devoted to trout, which Jesse is pictured with above (he has a serious look on his face, but he was having fun. Trust me. Most of the museum interiors are very difficult to photograph) The most popular attraction was the otter, who comes out to play at specific times by an indoor waterfall. Besides these living creatures, visitors are encouraged to touch just about everything, exploring the sights, sounds, textures, and even smells of the Adirondacks in slick, high tech displays.

The displays could easily lecture excessively or make dire environmental threat the overriding theme. But they seek to inspire a love of the ecosystems, and are not without their humor. My favorite element of the display was a plastic hemisphere of a human brain places next to one of a trout brain, pointing out that humans have written thousands of books and spend a lot of time and money determining how to catch fish. My only qualm was with the video that runs on the half hour in the museum theater. I was expecting it to be educational, or to at least have words. But it was roughly 20 minutes of panning in and out on still photographs to a rousing soundtrack (think "Chariots of Fire") and while the photographs were beautiful, it was a tad too long and didn't seem like the best use of resources.

While The Wild Center is up and running, many elements are still under construction: paths through the grounds are not yet open, landscaping of the building is in its early stages, and a section of the museums interior devoted to temporary exhibits will not open for another year at least. But there is plenty to see and do at this new museum, and if only to satisfy your curiosity, it is definitely worth a visit.

The Wild Center is open 7 days a week through Columbus Day, and open on weekends during the winter. More information is available at the website, wildcenter.org.

Other stories about the Wild Center can be found at Adirondack Life Magazine and The New York Times.

Posted by Natalie

Note: The exterior photo of the building used above is from the New York Times article.


What I've been reading lately

The Saranac Community Store: This organization is trying to create a community-owned department store in Saranac Lake (in the Adirondacks) to counter-balance the demands of the pro-Wal Mart crowd. It's a great idea and I think I'm going to devote an entire post to this one soon.

Amor Fati: An always intruiging blog by my friend Wild Turkey Desire, a fellow Yorkstater.

Chenango Talks: Rarely do we hear from Chenango County, but here is a blog entirely dedicated to news from that corner of the world.

315 Hardcore: For and by Hardcore fans from the 315 area code. For those of you not familiar with the world of hardcore, one's area code is a deeply important self-identifier.

New England Almanack: A beautiful site dedicated to celebrating New England the way we celebrate Upstate New York. I wish I was as good a site designer as that guy.

Foraging.com: For those of you for whom my post on foraging was not enough, this site is a collection of great links about finding your food in the wild.

The Starbucks Delocator: Find the nearest non-Starbucks, independent coffee joint at this easy-to-use search engine.

And this is just hilarious.

-Posted by Jesse


What’s in a Name no.7: Tipperary Hill, Syracuse

To the west of the Syracuse’s Downtown the land rises up to a spot called Tipperary Hill (or “Tipp Hill”). It was here on this rise that perhaps the first immigrant community to live in the City settled: the Irish. In the 1820s, after constructing the Erie Canal, many Irish-men and –women settled on a hill overlooking the new canal. The name “Tipperary” comes from County Tipperary in southern Ireland, where many of the immigrants were said to have originated. Perhaps it is fitting as County Tipperary is famous for its Irish nationalism: “The Nation newspaper in the 1840s as a tribute to the nationalistic feeling in Tipperary and said that ‘where Tipperary leads, Ireland follows’”

Perhaps it is amazing, but the Irish character of the area lives on, some 180 years later. People live on Ulster Street, attend St. Patrick’s church or send their children to St. Patrick’s school, drink at Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub or O’Dea’s, race in the “Shamrock Run” and every St. Patrick’s Day, someone paints the yellow line on Tompkin’s Street green.

However, perhaps the most unique tribute to the neighborhood’s history is the stoplight at the corner of Tompkins and Milton. According to Wikipedia:
When the city first started to install traffic signal lights in the 1920s they put one at a major intersection on Tipperary Hill, on the corner of Tompkins Street and Milton Avenue. Some Irish youths, incensed that anyone would dare to put the "British" red above the "Irish" green, broke the light. The city replaced it but the Irish broke the replacement. After a few rounds of this the city decided that if they wanted a light at that intersection, they had better put the signal up inverted, and so they did.

And so it stands to this very day: green on top, yellow in the middle and red on the bottom; here is a tribute site to the light (you might want to mute your sound as the background MIDI grates on the ear).

Of late, it appears that there has been a resurgence of Irish pride on the hills to the west of Downtown. Perhaps it begins in 1979 when Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub remade itself from a college bar into a “into a first class restaurant and pub with appeal to people of all ages.” In 1997, the recently formed Tipperary Hill Neighborhood Association (led by the owner of Coleman’s) convinced the City to tear down an old building at the corner of Tompkins and Milton for the purposes of building a park. The Association sold commemorative bricks off to the city’s Irish community and erected a small public square including a statue of a modern Irish-American family. The father points up at the light, telling the story of how the Irish beat City Hall, while the young hides a sling shot in his back pocket—perhaps a promise that the Irish haven’t forgotten. Somehow, they even got Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern to visit in 2005. This year, the Association held the first annual Shamrock Run which had an amazing turnout of 905 runners.

The story of Tipperary Hill, and its traffic light, is an amusing one but I think that it may be indicative of developments occurring throughout Upstate New York’s urban ethnic communities. In several places I have seen the revival of old ethnic identities and the rebirth of ethnic neighborhoods, in name if not in practice. For instance, in Endicott there has recently been a highly successful move to revitalize “Little Italy.” The park has been beautified, Italy-themed businesses have been opened, new banners decorate the lamp-posts and old houses have been renovated. Whether this is accompanied by a large number of Italian-Americans is unknown (of course, Endicott is pretty much made up of Italian-Americans and IBM engineers). In 2003, Syracuse officially designated Little Italy as such and put aside monies for renovation.

In contrast to actual ethnic neighborhoods (filled with people of one ethnicity), this seems to largely an attempt to capitalize on a theme for purposes of bringing in business. However, it is an interesting trend of people identifying with ethnic origins that may be more than 180 years old in some cases. Why do people feel the need for this identity? Why does Irish-American, Polish-American or Italian-American still matter? Do we speak Polish or Gaelic? Do we attend Italian Catholic churches? Why does the attraction still hold and what meaning does it give to people’s lives?

-By Jesse


York Stater of the Month, August 2006: Rachael Ray

Believe it or not, but America's most popular and most frequently disparaged television chef is actually a native Adirondacker. Growing up in Lake Luzerne, she had a difficult childhood and young adulthood-- her parents divorced when she was 13, she worked a supermarkets for years and barely made the rent payments on the family house that she shared with her mother. She finally took the step that so many of our young people do: she moved south. To New York City.
In the City she found herself distinctly out of her element and after a bad breakup and a violent mugging, she returned home. It was here that the story of the "30 Minute Meal" begins, in a Safeway in Schenectady. She began giving cooking classes at supermarkets and then on the local CBS affiliate. Finally, after self-publishing her first cook book, she's was "discovered" by Food Network.
Today, Ray has three shows on food network, her own line of cooking tools, a magazine, an extensive website and four of the ten bestselling cookbooks of last year. Not too bad for a girl from Lake Luzerne.
Of course, Rachael has drawn her detractors who disparage her for a lack of elegance in her food, which uses short-cuts and common ingredients (well, she has to do it in 30 minutes). Some even blast her for having a "regional accent," which is, of course, probably the one that she shares with the rest of us rubes here in Upstate New York. There are entire blogs dedicated to attacking Rachael Ray.
I, despite my love for elaborate, time-consuming food, am a big fan of Rachael Ray. This admiration stemmed from the fact that she cooked the kmind of food that normal people eat; yes, I love to make big dishes for special events, but let's face it, most people are pressed for time, tired and hungry at night and don't want to create some French delicacy. Rachael Ray, like Julia Child, democratizes and humanizes cooking. She does her best to make food, cooking it and enjoying it, available for all people, not just those with the time and money to have well-equipped kitchens and use them properly.
As an Upstater, Ray has remained ever loyal to her local town. She does fundraisers for local charities and has bought the family home, where she spends as much time as she can. She knows where she's from and isn't ashamed or afraid of her community. For all those reasons, plus the fact that she's so dammed cute, I would like to salute Rachael Ray as York Stater of the Month.


Nuclear Power and its Effect on Lake Ontario: Better Turn Up the AC!*

By Wild Turkey Desire!

On Lake Ontario there are currently sixteen nuclear power plants. Of those sixteen, twelve of them are located on Canada’s side of the border, leaving the remaining four on the United State’s side. Lake Ontario is also home to an uranium refining plant, two low level radioactive waste disposal sites located along the shoreline, and it also sits down stream from the high level rad waste site of West Valley located in Western NY. These nuclear plants and components make Lake Ontario one of the largest nuclear zones in the in the entire world.

Canada posses most of the nuclear facilities located on Lake Ontario therefore any study of the effects of nuclear power on the lake would be incomplete without looking at Canada’s infrastructure. Port Hope, located almost due North of Rochester, NY is home to the CAMECO uranium refinery. Port Hope converts “yellow cake” into uranium dioxide and uranium hexafluoride using a variety of industrial strength chemicals to do so. Over the years large amounts of radioactive material have managed to escape through the refinery in turn causing the entire basin in Port Hope harbor to be declared a low level rad waste site. The material at Port Hope that is stored there is located along the shoreline of Lake Ontario.

Past Port Hope lies Darlington, which is home to four 935-megawatt power reactors and a tritium recovery facility. Close to Darlington sits the Pickering station along the east side entrance to Frenchmen’s Bay, which
possesses eight nuclear reactors. All of the reactors located on the Canadian side are CANDU’s, or heavy water reactors. The difference between Canadian and American reactors is that the Canadian heavy water reactors require less refined fuel, thus making them theoretically less expensive to maintain.

One of the main effects on the environment that these heavy water reactors accomplish is that they release vast amounts of tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a 12.3 year half life). These Canadian reactors
release far more tritium into the environment than the US reactors. It is estimated that at the Pickering Station about 32,000 curies of tritium can be released into the air annually. In 1992 at Frenchmen’s Bay 80,000 curies of tritium flowed into Lake Ontario after a massive spill there. Low doses of tritium have caused sterility, microcephaly, stunting, reduced litter sizes, and influenced early mammalian development in rats.
Among the known effects of tritium on biological life forms there also remains many unknowns like if there is increased rates of cancer and Down syndrome cases. It is difficult to analyze and prove scientifically that
the nuclear reactors on Lake Ontario have any negative effects on the environment. This is due to the fact that health studies don’t incorporate into their studies specific enough data to pin point a possible linkage with the patient’s environment. Canada currently allows 7,000 bequerels per liter of water to be discharged into Lake Ontario, while individuals and various groups like Durham Nuclear Awareness have recommended that only 20 becquerels per liter of water be released into the lake. 20 becquerels per liter in drinking water is around 10 times greater than the amount of tritium found in rainwater collected surrounding the lake.

According to the Citizens Awareness Network nuclear reactors frequently release radioactive waste into the environment in the form of dust, mist, fumes, vapors/gases, and liquid waste (water). Krypton-89 with a half-life of 3.2 minutes decays into strontium-89, which has a 52-day half-life. Xenon-137, which has a 3.9-minute half-life, decays into cesium-137, which has a 30-year half-life. Xenon-135, which has a half-life of 9.17 hours decays into cesium-135 with a half-life of 3 million years. It is believed that these radioactive elements when released into the environment cause drastic health problems due to the radioactivity of them.

Another cause for concern regarding Canada’s reactors is that the eight units at Pickering sit directly above a fault line that runs underneath Lake Ontario. It has been estimated that a quake of 7 on the Richter scale, which is more than possible in that area, could cause ground sways more than the Darlington and Pickering reactors were designed to withstand.

Traveling back to the US side, the four reactors are located in Wayne and Oswego county. The reactor in Wayne is called Ginna and is a pressurized water reactor. One of the problems faced by a pressurized water reactor is that since the metal undergoes extreme amounts of pressure and for other reasons not fully understood the metal pipes transporting the steam becomes very brittle over time, in turn greatly weakening it. If these metal pipes become weak enough and break then a serious problem could

The three reactors located in Oswego County are all boiling water reactors (BWR’s) and it is believed that these reactors are the cheapest to construct, yet also the dirtiest to maintain. The BWR’s are simpler systems with fewer parts that might go wrong, but this also means that if something does go wrong inside the reactor there is one less physical barrier to the outside world. The older BWR’s like Nile Mile One and Fitzpatrick also have the problem of cracking core shrouds. The core shrouds are cylinders of 1.5-inch thick stainless shell 17 feet high and 15 feet in diameter. The problem is that the curved plates are welded together and over time cracks have started to appear in the curved plates, with Nile Mile One having one of the worst cases of cracking seen in America.

Nuclear plants pose huge targets to terrorism related activities. One of the largest concerns is that of the spent fuel rod storage pools. These pools are frequently located outside of the main reactor core and thus have little structural protection. These pools are the most venerable to terrorist attacks since they pose the least amount of protection. If the pool was to crack and the water drained these spent fuel rods could potentially release more radiation into the environment than a nuclear meltdown. After the spent fuel rods are removed from the cooling pool they are stored in containers located in the ground for the rest of time, or until they are moved to a central storage area, like Yucca Mountain (SW USA).

In all of this there is the public and its influence over the future. However in the case of nuclear power, the public’s comments have taken little priority and instead the decisions affecting the industry have been left up to those with the money to privatize the reactors and the government. This is where there is a drastic conflict of interest since both the government and the private companies want to maintain ‘business as usual’ while disregarding input from the public sector. Largly due to the fact that, in a capitalist market, environmental effects are frequently overlooked in desire for greater profits.

*The jokes on us, not them.


Moving to the 'Cuse

For the last month or two, I've been living up in the North Country at Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake. I've had some good times, but summers always come to an end. Next week I will be moving to my new home in Syracuse to attend the graduate anthropology department in the Maxwell School at SU. I've got an apartment lined up in the Westcott neighborhood and I'm very excited to be moving.
However, though I've lived the majority of my life in Johnson City just down Route 81, I'm afraid I don't know much about living in Syracuse. Thus I'm asking for the help of all Syracusians and ex-Syracusians (even people from Solvay, Manlius, East Syracuse, Fayetteville, etc):
What does a brand-new Syracusian need to know about his new home?
Where are the good eats? Entertainment? Neat stores? Excellent events?
What sites need to be visited, what foods tried?
Should I avoid anything?
What is important and unique about Syracuse culture, politics and economics that I should try to understand?
I appreciate any help that you old hands can give and I'm looking forward to immersing myself in a new community, becoming a productive member for the (at least) next 5 years that I'm hanging around. I appreciate all the help you give and if we're lucky, maybe you can learn something from each other about the city that you live in. I look forward to responses.



Oh, Cannonsville

My name is Gary Teed. I am a singer/songwriter/guitarist who lives in the upstate area around Afton, NY and was a one-time resident of Cannonsville, NY before NYC destroyed it and many other nearby communities.

I was at a celebration over the weekend at Trout Creek where they were celebrating 200 years of Tompkins. I met some of the former residents of Cannonsville. I bought a book on the history which helped tie together much of what I have read on the Delaware County genology website. It has inspired a song which is well along towards completion. I hope to finish it soon and record it. I am sending you the words I have so far. I hope you like it. It is a poignant poem.

"Oh, Cannonsville"

Oh, Cannonsville I see you,
Through the teardrops in my eyes.
Though you lie beneath the waves now,
In my heart you'll never die.

They came from NY city,
To the land where beauty lies.
And what they did to people here,
Would make a grown man cry

They wanted our water,
So they pushed us all aside.
They took away our livelyhood,
And the county slowly died.

I was just a boy of seven,
When we were forced from the land.
They came and took our home away.
I couldn't understand.

Oh, Cannonsville I see you,
Through the teardrops in my eyes.
Though you lie beneath the waves now,
In my heart you'll never die.

And all of the farmers there,
Were dealt a heavy blow.
Fifty cents on the dollar was all they would give,
You couldn't tell them "no"!

I hope I never see this again,
Please don't put me through that pain.
They even have a word for it.
They call it emmenent domain.

Oh, Cannonsville I see you,
Through the teardrops in my eyes.
Though you lie beneath the waves now,
In my heart you'll never die.

Editor's Note: Thank you to Gary for submitting these moving lyrics. We look forward to hearing the recording when it's complete. For photographs and more information about Cannonsville, please see Cannonsville: A town that was sacrificed for New York City. While Cannonsville's fate has been sealed, the greater issues behind its fate remain. For a discussion of the contemporary vulnerability of Upstate's water resources, visit The Power of Water at NYCO's blog. And for Gary's music, visit his site on SongPlanet. - Natalie