October 10, 2014

Snakes, Pancakes, and Demolition at Varna

The next two weeks at the Varna Community Center, 943 Dryden Road, will be pretty exciting:

  • On Saturday, October 11th, from 2:00pm to 5:00pm, the Cornell Herpetological Society will be showing and discussing reptiles and amphibians. My kids loved this last year!

  • On Sunday, October 12th, from 8:00am to noon, we'll be serving our Pancake (and French Toast and Waffle) Breakfast. We also have bacon, sausage, potatoes, scrambled eggs, fruit, cake, orange juice, and of course coffee. It's $7.50 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for kids 5-12.

  • On Saturday, October 25th, we'll be tearing down the old playground behind the Community Center to get ready to install a new one next year:

Varna 's Playground: Down With the Old, Up With the New

Varna residents and friends will gather on Saturday October 25 at 9am to take down the existing play structures behind the Varna Community Center, 943 Dryden Rd. (NYS Rte. 366). Although kids have spent many happy hours on the old equipment, safety concerns mean it is time to take it down.

Next spring, volunteers will come together again to put up new, safe play equipment that will satisfy all the climbing, swinging, balancing and exploring desires of Varna's youngsters and their friends.

United Way of Tompkins County, Jim Ray Homes, and The Strebel Planning Group have contributed major gifts toward the project. Individual donations have also been received, but we are still $8000 short of the amount needed to purchase new equipment and establish a fund for ongoing maintenance. Tax-deductible donations in any amount will be much appreciated. Send to:

Varna Community Association
P.O. Box 4771
Ithaca NY 14852-4771

Please put "playground" on the memo line of your check. Volunteers to help take down the existing playground are also needed. Many hands will make the work go fast, so consider joining this worthy effort on October 25th. Children are welcome, but must be under a parent's supervision at all times. Snacks will be available for volunteers. Have questions? Contact: Sue Heath (607-272-8919).

Posted by simon at 7:57 AM in

October 8, 2014

Dominion wants to expand natural gas pipeline capacity

Energy company Dominion wants to push more natural gas through the pipeline that crossed Dryden in the 1960s. The E. M. Borger station on Ellis Hollow Creek Road is the most visible (and sometimes loudest) local piece of the pipeline system.


Specifically, the New Market Project would consist of the following proposed facilities:

  • construction of the new Horseheads CS in Chemung County;
  • installation of gas coolers and filter/separator at the existing Borger CS in Tompkins County;
  • construction of the new Sheds CS in Madison County;
  • installation of gas coolers and filter/separator at the existing Utica CS in Herkimer County;
  • installation of additional engine and turbine driven compressor units at the existing Brookman CS in Montgomery County; and
  • modifications to the existing West Schenectady Meter Station in Schenectady County.

The Public Scoping Meeting is tonight at the Georgetown Town Hall at 7:30pm, and the scoping period is open through the 20th for written comment. The full docket is available online as well, including the original application.

These are more excerpts from the original application.

Specifically, as described more fully herein, DTI requests Commission authorization of the "New Market Project" (Project), pursuant to which DTI will provide 112,000 dekatherms per day (Dt/d) of firm transportation service....

DTI proposes to commence construction of the Project facilities in September 2015 in order to meet an in-service date for the contracted firm transportation service on or before November 1, 2016.

Natural gas produced from the Marcellus and Utica shales in the Appalachian region of West Virginia and Ohio is expected to continue its strong and rapid growth. DTI's natural gas pipeline system is uniquely positioned to transport Appalachian production, as its pipelines traverse the areas of significant supply growth. DTI is proposing the Project in response to customer requests for incremental pipeline capacity to increase supply diversity while meeting growing market demand for natural gas. The additional firm transportation capacity for the new gas supplies will also alleviate the possibility of shortages by providing more gas to market....

DTI executed precedent agreements with both Brooklyn Union and Niagara Mohawk (hereinafter, referred to as the "Customers") for firm transportation service totaling 112,000 Dt/d....

1. Horseheads Station: DTI proposes to construct a new compressor station with a new 11,010 horsepower (hp) gas turbine/compressor package and auxiliary equipment near Horseheads, Chemung Co., NY.

2. Sheds Station: DTI proposes to construct a new compressor station with a new 10,880 hp gas turbine/compressor package and auxiliary equipment in Madison Co., NY.

3. Brookman Corners Station: DTI proposes to install a new 6,393 hp gas turbine/compressor package, two 2,370 hp reciprocating compressors, and auxiliary equipment at its existing Brookman Corners Station in Montgomery Co., NY. The compression facilities will be housed in an addition to the existing compressor building within the fenced limits of the existing station site. DTI also proposes to construct a new M&R facility at this station.

4. Borger Station: DTI proposes to modify station piping at its existing Borger Station in Tompkins Co., NY.

5. Station Coolers: DTI proposes to install station coolers at its existing Brookman Corners Station in Montgomery Co., Borger Station in Tompkins Co., and Utica Station in Herkimer Co., NY.

6. West Schenectady Metering and Regulating (M&R) Facilities: DTI proposes to modify its existing West Schenectady M&R in Schenectady Co., NY.

7. Suction and Discharge Pipeline: Pipeline facilities required for this Project are limited to approximately 1,425 feet of new 42-inch diameter suction and discharge pipelines at Horseheads Station.

...the estimated total cost for DTI's construction of the Project is $158,960,570.

NY Friends of Clean Air and Water has a reference page on the proposal as well.

Posted by simon at 6:32 AM in

September 9, 2014

Cuomo wins primary, but gets stomped in Tompkins

Tompkins County was the one place I was pretty certain Zephyr Teachout could win when she first announced she'd be challenging Governor Cuomo. I'm sure there are Cuomo fans here, but apparently not very many:

Zephyr Teachout 3266 70.8%
Andrew Cuomo 1274 27.6%
Randy Credico 67 1.45%
Lieutenant Governor
Tim Wu 3034 69.17%
Kathy Hochul 1346 30.69%

Much crazier, though, are the New York Times results maps. Cuomo lost most of the Hudson Valley, and a swathe of counties through Upstate west to Ontario County. Kathy Hochul held the far west of the state for him.

I know it's a Democratic primary with a limited number of voters participating, but I never thought I'd see a map like that.

I'll update this post with final statewide numbers when they're settled.

Posted by simon at 11:08 PM in

Political ballet if today's primary breaks unexpectedly

Because I should indulge in fantasy NYS politics before the polls close -

(and I may have made mistakes, lacking a complete election law guide, but...)

In New York, 50,000 votes on a party's line for Governor ensure that party has official status - people can register for that party, the party has control over the name and logo, and so on. The two parties that get the most votes get lines A and B, plus ALL OF THE PATRONAGE JOBS AT THE BOARDS OF ELECTIONS in the state. The others lines are assigned by numbers of votes, but have minimal or no patronage.

Usually that's the Democrats and the Republicans. The patronage splits almost equally, and those are the only parties that have held those lines in a long while, so it's been very stable.

If Zephyr Teachout´╗┐ wins today's Democratic primary for Governor, Cuomo is still on the ballot - Independence, Working Families, and Women's Equality Party. Rob Astorino has the Republican and Conservative lines. Howie Hawkins has the Green Party line.

The Conservatives are probably fine. Their core voters will vote the line anyway, so I'd be be very surprised if anything happened to their ballot status.

The Green Party has won 50,000+ votes for a while, since "Grampa Al" Munster I mean Lewis helped them cross the threshold. A lot of voters who keep them there would have a hard choice to make if Teachout is the Democratic nominee. Howie Hawkins is not an attorney, and I don't think the Greens have an easy way to nominate him for a judgeship, so I don't think they could replace him with Teachout on the ballot. It's conceivable _though unlikely_ that the Greens could lose their official ballot status.

The Republican Party would have a new challenge: making sure Astorino came in second and not third, and with enough of those votes on the Republican rather than Conservative line to maintain Line B. It's also conceivable that Teachout and Cuomo destroy each other and Astorino wins, getting the Republicans Line A. However, I suspect that too large a chunk of Republicans would prefer Cuomo to Astorino to make that anything like a safe bet.

The Independence and Working Families Parties would probably both be fine as far as ballot status, but there would be a very strange scramble between them to try to get line A or B. I have no real idea how that would work out - perhaps the one that promises to be most Cuomonian would get the nod.

(The Women's Equality Party is currently a figment of Cuomo's imagination. Cuomo could pour everything into that line and make it a party.)

The Democrats would face another challenge. The NYS Democratic Committee suddenly won't be able to help Cuomo, at least not directly. Would they switch to wholeheartedly support Teachout? Would the patronage employees fight to make sure she got at least line B? If she came in third, behind Cuomo and Astorino, the Democratic patronage machine would vanish for four long years.

Odds on all of these are small, but it's possible this year to imagine either the Democrats or the Republicans losing their top line ballot status and patronage positions. That's a first in a long while.

If Tim Wu wins today's Democratic primary for Governor, and Teachout doesn't, then the Independence Party and Working Families Party have to fear for their ballot existence. (The Republicans, Greens, and Conservatives are fine.)

On the Election Day ballot, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor run as a single line. Votes only accumulate if both names on the line are the same across parties. Votes for Cuomo/Wu don't add up with votes for Cuomo/Hochul, and effectively the Cuomo/Hochul votes would be discarded.

Theoretically, Kathy Hochul could be nominated for a judgeship, removed from the ballot, and replaced with Wu. That seems to require Wu's consent however, and he's already said that he wouldn't mind killing the Independence Party. He's not in a mood to cooperate with Cuomo, and the WFP rejected Teachout earlier, so it's conceivable that the Independence, WFP, and Women's Equality Parties would be stuck with a dud ballot.

If that happens, the WFP would probably be in the strongest position to hold its line with pointless ballots, as they have a voter turnout machine already in place. I don't know what would happen if Cuomo/Astorino became a close race.

I'm not sure what the Independence Party could do to promote itself in that situation. They're kind of the middle party without a personality, or with multiple personalities, and haven't built a strong operation that I'm aware of. Wu's refusal to take their line might well cost them their ballot status.

Teachout winning and Wu losing to Hochul doesn't create additional chaos beyond Teachout winning that I can see.

I'll leave this up here whatever the results of the race because it's been an interesting exercise, showing what's at stake beyond the obvious questions of who runs New York State. A lot of this is doubtless wishful thinking, but may become more important in future races.

Posted by simon at 8:32 PM in

September 8, 2014

Vote Teachout/Wu Tuesday, September 9th

New York State Democrats have a unique opportunity to improve the political culture of our state tomorrow. Zephyr Teachout's run challenges not just Governor Cuomo, but a culture of power in Albany that has drained New York State too long.

Vote Teachout/Wu on September 9th.

I'm supporting Teachout and Wu because they understand power. I don't mean that they understand how to twist arms, raise money, and gin up popular support for things they wanted to do anyway. I mean that they understand that political power works best when it is widely distributed and its workings are visible.

Their campaign has already revived a lot of us.

Yes, they're both professors, and yes, they're both from Downstate, though Teachout grew up on a farm in Vermont. I can live with that easily. They're hardly political neophytes, having worked on campaigns, clerked for judges, been cited in Supreme Court opinions, and testified before Congress.

They won't fit in Albany at all. That's exactly what we need today.

(If you have the time, explore Teachout's Cornell Law Review paper, The Anti-Corruption Principle. It's about the federal government, but it all applies to New York State too neatly. We've built a legal system with a high tolerance for backroom deals, and it will strangle us if we let it.)

Polls will be open in Dryden from noon to 9:00pm.

Current election district boundaries in the Town of Dryden.

Once you figure out what district you're in, you can figure out your polling place:

  1. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  2. Freeville Fire Station - 21 Union Street, Freeville (map).
  3. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  4. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  5. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  6. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  7. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  8. Bethel Grove Church Activity Center - 1749 Slaterville Road, Bethel Grove (map).
  9. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  10. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).

If you'd like to see a sample ballot before going in, the Board of Elections has them.

Most of all, vote!

Posted by simon at 8:43 PM in

September 5, 2014

Remembering how hard it was to get broadband

Claire Perez writes on the challenges of getting broadband:

I researched and dug: why did our cable company wire 50 miles in Maine for the same price as 12 miles in upstate? why isn't there a comprehensive plan to connect the country? and really what is the problem: is it that we can't put the collective brains in the US together to solve this problem or is that the invisible hand of the free market keeps pushing the heads of those trying under water as they keep rising to the surface to gasp for air.

There's more on her blog and much more in her book.

Posted by simon at 6:50 AM in

August 23, 2014

Sold sign at Saunders Greenhouse

This could be great, fine, or terrible for our immediate neighborhood. I guess we'll see.

Sold sign at Saunders.

Sign and a bit of the former store.

(And yes, we have property adjacent to that parcel. I keep hearing about damage done to other people's properties by trespassing development folks, not to mention previous concerns from neighbors about past issues with drainage coming from that property, so I'm feeling cautious. Hopefully I don't need to be.)

Posted by simon at 10:59 AM in

August 16, 2014

Bandfest (and crepes) in Varna 8/23


WHAT: A showcase of talented musicians from the hamlet of Varna:

  • Gabe Tavares (indie/alternative rock)
  • See Horse Run (Americana/folk)
  • Symphony of the End (melodic metal)

Each band will play a 45 minute set.

WHEN: Saturday August 23 starting at 8pm

WHERE: Varna Community Center, 943 Dryden Rd. (NY Rte. 366)

DETAILS: Admission is $5 per teen and adult. Children are welcome, but must be accompanied by an adult. The "Collegetown Crepes" food truck will be onsite during the evening. This new business plans to sell tasty crepes after-hours in Collegetown starting in September, but they are launching their business at the Varna Band Fest. You can be one of their first customers!

The Varna Band Fest is hosted by the Varna Community Association & supported by a grant from the Town of Dryden.

Posted by simon at 4:22 AM in

June 18, 2014

Why I support the IDC (and not Cuomo)

I've been a vocal supporter of the Independent Democratic Caucus since their initial formation. I don't always agree with them, and I frequently don't love the results of a Republican-controlled State Senate. Nonetheless, I think they're pretty much the only glimmer of hope in Albany. Why?

Because the last thing New York State needs right now is party discipline.

On the one hand, the state is absolutely trending Democratic. On the other hand, party discipline is what has kept the Senate Republicans in power. Both parties took the 2010 redistricting of legislative districts to mean "grab everything we possibly can for our party", and Governor Cuomo let it sail through.

Promises of change? Discarded.

I gag when I hear "The Assembly works by consensus" when the people claiming that it's a good thing leave out "of the majority party, behind closed doors." I regularly despair over systems that are meant to reward loyalty to party and party leaders rather than listening to voters. I try not to pay attention to the wanderings of the party leadership - in any party - because their rhetoric about the will of the people never turns up when it's time to structure the government.

Perhaps worst, lately, are the ever-clearer outlines of "Cuomonian" New York. Jimmy Vielkind listed them brilliantly:

  1. Chaos is NOT Cuomonian

  2. Always take the deal

  3. Cuomo only respects force

Rule 2 is the bright spot, occasionally making it possible for things to happen that Cuomo and his donors don't love. Rule 1 is the catastrophe, and rule 3 is the sign of how difficult change may be.

The IDC violates rule 1 just enough to create possibilities for rule 2. The IDC seems to go out of its way to present itself as orderly if different. However, its very existence has become the friction point that opens new possibilities, perhaps even possibilities that will let us out of the current logjam. I want to see a lot of IDCs, in both parties and in both houses.

I dream - right now I don't dare hope - of a New York where elections are contested, and where no party leader or governor hopes to control the government by fiat or favors. I dream of a legislature where members are free to vote as they want on every vote, not just the ones where their votes don't matter. I dream of a governor who listens rather than tells.

Negotiation will never disappear. I understand politics involves pragmatism. We do, however, need to abolish the structures of control that keep New York bound in the chains of money and institutional intertia.

Posted by simon at 6:52 AM in

June 6, 2014

Dryden Solar Tour Saturday, June 7th

The first Dryden Solar Tour of 2014 will be held THIS SATURDAY, June 7th, at 1:00pm at 8 Genung Rd.

This is the home of Craig Higgins and Jacque Lopez, who have 4 ground mounted arrays that were installed in March of 2007. Each array consists of 10 Sharp model 170 panels. The total system production is 6800 watts. This event is being held in conjunction with the 2014 program of Solar Tompkins.

Please visit SolarTompkins.org for the full schedule of Solar Tour dates in all the towns in the county. That web site will also show you the dates for our Community education meetings. There will be two in each town. You are welcome to come to one or several meetings to get the information you need to make the switch to solar this year. The dates for Dryden Community meetings are June 18 (Varna Community Center, 7:00) and July 1 (Dryden Fire Hall, 7:00).

Posted by simon at 7:35 AM in

April 22, 2014

Former Mount Varna stirs, take two

Poster about 16-unit development planned for 5 Freese Road.

It's not nearly as nice as the last proposal, but this may be as much as is possible on that awful fill site.

Site Plan review is at 7:00pm, Dryden Town Hall, this Thursday, April 24th. (It was rescheduled because the plans weren't in for March 27th.)

Posted by simon at 8:18 PM in

March 30, 2014

History Under Foot

Wednesday - April 9th - 7PM - Dryden Village Hall (corner of George and South streets)

It all began when David Waterman's dog started digging up patent medicine bottles in the yard. Suddenly, he noticed there were artifacts all over and realized, with the help of the Dryden Town Historical Society, he could discover their origins. But Waterman didn't stop there. He traced the time line of his property - within the area designated as Lot 59 on the New Military Tract - back to the Revolutionary War soldier who was originally granted ownership of the property and the grandson who inherited it.

Join the Dryden Town Historical Society on Wednesday, April 9th, beginning at 7 PM in the Dryden Village Hall (at the corner of George and South Streets) to watch a PowerPoint presentation on Waterman's research and learn how to go about digging up the history of your own property .

The doors will open at 6:30 PM to view dispiays and, as always, this event is free and open to all with donations gratefully accepted.

Posted by simon at 8:43 AM in

March 24, 2014

Former Mount Varna stirs

Poster about 16-unit development planned for 5 Freese Road.

It's not nearly as nice as the last proposal, but this may be as much as is possible on that awful fill site.

Site Plan review is at 7:00pm, Dryden Town Hall, this Thursday, March 27th. (I can't make it because it's Sungiva's sixth birthday.)

Posted by simon at 8:21 AM in

February 8, 2014

14850, 13068, and 13053: Colors Don't Quite Tell the Story

I was surprised a couple of months ago by a story on "Super Zips" in the Washington Post. The story was mostly about the concentration of wealthy well-educated people in neighborhoods around Washington, DC, but the map showed some interesting data for around here.

As I expected, we have no "Super Zips", places in the top 5% of wealth and education (calculated in some strange way to produce a spread across a range). Tompkins County does stand out from its neighbors, as do many collegetowns:

Tompkins County-ish.
Zip code data on wealth and education for the Tompkins County area.

The part that's most interesting to me, though, is that the Freeville and Dryden zip codes are in the same band as the Ithaca zip code. The local standouts are Lansing, which is just wealthier to reach the next color band, and Newfield, which isn't.

Zip CodeMedian Household Income% College graduatesPosition
Dryden (13053)$63,32639%73
Freeville (13068)$61,75030%65
Ithaca (14850)$45,31162%65
Groton (13073)$53,57822%49
Brooktondale (14817)$49,56739%61
Lansing (14882)$67,60947%80
Newfield (14867)$44,66320%36
Trumansburg (14886)$55,54337%66
Cortland (13045)$44,40328%46

Looking at the data, though, it's pretty clear that the Dryden and Freeville zip codes are similar, but even though the Ithaca zip code is in the same color band, it's more about what the Post chose to value than deep similarity. Lansing changes color - but its rank of exactly 80 was the bottom score needed to do that.

Maps don't always tell stories as neatly as they promise.

Posted by simon at 5:28 PM in