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December 07, 2016
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Gan-Eden no paradise

Lori Schneider-Wendt

My grandfather, Sam Kaminsky, bought 50 acres of land in Hurleyville in 1918. He and my grandmother, Lily, had a farm and built Kaminsky’s Luzon Lodge, a rooming house, a kuchaleyn—where people came every summer to avoid the heat of the city. As a young widow, my grandmother raised her family there. My mother went to the little red school house and to the Hurleyville High School, which is about to celebrate its centennial and now houses the Sullivan County Museum. My parents met at Kaminsky’s in the ‘40s. Grammie ran Kaminsky’s until 1975, when she sold the property.

To me, Hurleyville has always been home. I lived here only six months a year growing up—going to school in both Fallsburg and Queens in elementary school, summers only thru college, full time since 1983. When most of my counterparts were looking for the fastest way out of Sullivan County, I high-tailed it back to Hurleyville.

An EMT, I was a member of the Hurleyville Emergency Relief Squad serving as lieutenant and captain. Involved with the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop since 1983, for the county’s bicentennial, I directed a production of “The Third Violet” based on the Stephen Crane novella, set in Sullivan County during the summer of 1895. I belong to Congregation Ansche Hurleyville. I make my living as the executive director of the Sullivan County Mental Health Association.

In 1999, my then-husband and I purchased 38.55 acres on Old Liberty Road in the Town of Thompson, across from Hadley Stables—technically, in Monticello, but just up the hill and close enough to Hurleyville for me. I have my horses in a beautiful pasture. From it, I can see Pennsylvania. At night, I drink in the sights and sounds of stars too bountiful to count and a chorus of peep frogs and crickets.

My property is my sanctuary, my home, my haven. Across the road and to my right, my neighbors are now the Center for Discovery. Their property is clean and neat and remains rural. Add the sound of sheep bleating to the chorus. To my left, across the stone wall is Gan-Eden. Years ago, I heard rumors of a proposed 500-home development on the piece of about 200 acres. But there was talk of the land not supporting so many homes, water being an issue. I know from digging fence posts that my property is full of shale and my 500-foot well puts out only two gallons a minute, so that seemed legitimate.

I learned recently that Gan-Eden was once again on the radar—now with an 885 home proposal: town houses, garden apartments, senior housing, a convenience store (is this zoned commercially – or is that change next?). In 2007, without so much as a letter to adjoining property owners, its zoning was reclassified by the Town of Thompson from rural to suburban. How many people does 885 units translate to—a small village, in and of itself. Coupled with Kelli Woods on Anawana Lake Road, a proposed 160 units on 90 acres (more than a third of which are wetlands), there is significant, devastating change on the horizon for the Towns of Thompson and Fallsburg.

I do not wish to see our rural area become suburbia. Gan-Eden translates to “the Garden of Eden” or “paradise.” I’m reminded of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi:” Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone/They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.” I ask my neighbors and our elected officials not to allow this to happen. We can’t forestall progress—but let’s not rush headlong into unbridled development that will forever change the face of the area we choose to call home.

[Lori Schneider-Wendt is a resident of the Town of Thompson, NY.]