by Kieron Kramer
This spring some perverse person or persons nailed 13 Barbie Dolls to utility poles on Bly Hollow Road in Cherry Plain. The dolls, all female, all new, were nailed through their belly buttons about seven feet up the poles. Two of the dolls were black, and one of the black dolls had its legs cut off. The dolls were noticed by Stephanie Hindes, who lives with her husband Mike and her two black daughters, one in a wheelchair, near the top of Bly Hollow Road. Mrs. Hindes reported this apparently cruel and threatening act to the State Police.
[private]The State Police interviewed some residents on Bly Hollow Road, but their investigation, although ongoing, seems to have stalled since there are no witnesses and since no fingerprints were found on the dolls. The investigating officer speculated that the perpetrator wore gloves while unwrapping the dolls and then while affixing them to the poles. Anyone who watches one of the many crime shows on TV would know enough to do this. But the intentionality, and the awareness on the part of the perpetrator that there would be severe punishment if caught, underscores the seriousness of this event. It’s not a childish prank, but rather an attack on gender and race that violates civil rights not to mention common decency. Perhaps the worst part is that there are now fearful adults and frightened children living on Bly Hollow Road.
The appearance of the Barbies is not a figment of Stephanie Hindes’ imagination or a baseless rumor. They were seen by travellers on the road, including Berlin Highway Superintendent Jim Winn. But it was not until Julie Harrell, a close friend of the Hindes, reported the incident with Stephanie Hindes during the public comment period at the Berlin Town Board meeting on Thursday, June 14, that it became public knowledge. Thanks to them it is now an issue for the entire community to resolve.
Students at Berlin Central School and residents of Cherry Plain will remember the tragic death of the Hindes’ son, Tony, when he lost control of his car on a snowy road on Monday, December 13, 2010. The accident occurred on Bly Hollow Road near Brook Road. Tony was beloved by many students at BCS, but on Wednesday following the accident a lock down of the school was ordered. At that time Interim Superintendent Brian Howard sent out a letter to parents and posted it on the District’s website advising them that, “The Middle School/High School was in an emotionally charged state today because of the death of a much beloved former student. Tensions were heightened when inappropriate statements were made by a few individuals. We became concerned that altercations may take place. The Middle School/High School was in a temporary lockdown. Students were escorted to their busses to go home. All after school and evening activities are canceled for today.” Tony Hindes was black. So, there are probably many suspects in the area who could be responsible for the racist act of placing Barbie Dolls near the Hindes’ residence on Bly Hollow Road.
Who Do Voo Doo
Ostensibly, Harrell and Hindes came to the meeting Thursday to object to a property tax abatement applied for by Robert Walker, President of the Ancestral Wisdom Bridge Foundation. The activities of this foundation, which Walker characterized in a telephone interview as educational in nature, take place on his property on lower Bly Hollow Road. Berlin Assessor Allan Yerton confirmed that the Foundation has applied for a property tax abatement. A decision will be made when and if the Foundation attains 501c3 status as a non-profit organization. Yerton said he has consulted with County officials and was told that if the Ancestral Wisdom Bridge Foundation attains 501c3 status from the State then they must be given a tax abatement. Such property tax abatements are given to educational as well as religious organizations.
Unfortunately, in arguing against the tax abatement for the Ancestral Wisdom Bridge Foundation Harrell and Hindes wove a wide web of innuendo, guilt by association and accusation attacking the foundation’s leader Malidoma Some, a writer and lecturer on the ancient traditions of his village and tribe in Burkina Faso, a country in west Africa, the Ancestral Wisdom Bridge Foundation (formerly known as East Coast Village) and even the country of Burkina Faso itself. Xenophobic in nature, many of the incidents they described could be interpreted by a neutral as legal, harmless, coincidental or even educational. Walker said that the Foundation is trying “to create a place where the teaching of Malidoma Some can be established.” Some comes to Cherry Plain to give presentations on the culture and rituals of his west African village. “A number of these rituals include animal sacrifice,” admitted Walker, “which are part of the African tradition and is not meant to be offensive to anyone. In these rituals we respect the spirit of the animals that are sacrificed and then eaten. Compare that to the animals that are slaughtered by the hundreds for human consumption in the US and other western countries without concern for the spirit of the animal.” It is through the rituals that Some presents that bridges between such very different cultures and traditions can be built, Walker added.
Somehow, Harrell and Hindes made a connection between the foundation and the Barbie Dolls on Bly Hollow Road as if the long arm of Mattel had reached into a west African nation and provided an instrument for satanic witchcraft. The Barbie Doll was invented in 1959 as a teenage fashion doll by Ruth Handler (co-founder of Mattel), whose own daughter was called Barbara.
The reader can decide for him or herself about The Ancestral Bridge Foundation, Malidoma Some and Burkina Faso by Googling them on the world wide web.
The Sea Of Tranquility
Up to the public comment time, the meeting was as calm as a high mountain lake. The only real news was the announcement by Town Supervisor Rob Jaeger, after an 18 minute executive session, that the Town’s contract with the United Public Service Employees Union (UPSEU), representing the three Town highway employees, has been successfully negotiated and was ratified by the union. As is usual with contracts like these the details will not be made public easily. The Board voted unanimously at this meeting to accept the contract. Jaeger estimated that the Town will end up paying about $20,000 in legal fees for the union negotiations.
Len Clapp reported that “everything is running great in Water District #1.” Water District #2 Supervisor Jim Winn reported that the mysterious leak near the fire house was finally located when the water came to the surface while the repair crew was present. The water pipe was repaired. “Other than that everything is quiet,” Winn declared.
As Highway Superintendent, Jim Winn reported that the Department has been mowing alongside the roads and thinning brush on 56 Road, Old Post Road and Watson Road. CC Dam Road is taking a hit now, he said, and added, “We put a pile of bear s**t on Bly Hollow two weeks ago and are still patching other roads.” Having taken Winn literally Pam Gerstel found it hysterically funny when she was told later that bear s**t is a slang term for blacktop patch.
Winn said that he has finished applying for $106,000 of FEMA reimbursements for the flooding damage done last fall with another $250,000 or so to go. The culvert/bridge replacements on 56 Road and Walnut Lane are finished, but “They need to be paved back in,” he said. When that is done he will put in for those reimbursements.
Dog Control Officer Doug Goodermote reported that he had picked up three stray dogs this month. One was from Averill Park, one from Petersburgh and one from Stephentown. “It looks like Berlin dogs like it here,” he said. There was one dog bite reported this month; Board Member Rich deLeon’s sister was bitten by a neighbor’s dog on Old Route 22. Goodermote said the dog had its rabies shots. De Leon said his sister was not seriously hurt, and the owner of the dog, a good friend of his sister, has already gotten rid of the dog. Goodermote added that the kennel contract needs to be renewed. “Other than that it has been pretty quiet,” he said.
Building Inspector Allan Yerton said that Verizon had applied for a permit to put equipment on the cell tower in Cherry Plain. Doug Goodermote, on whose property the tower was erected, said, “There’s lots of activity there this last week; they put in the telephone wires.” Jaeger added, “The sooner the better.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board are still meeting together on the third Thursday of the month at 6 pm to work on the land use regulations. Jaeger suggested that a Town Board member sit in on these meetings. “It will come to us eventually,” he said.
Tammy Osterhout reported that the summer youth programs are ready to go. Applications can be picked up at the Bank of America and at the Town Clerk’s office. They are also available on the Town website (http://berlin-ny.us/). The deadline to apply for these summer programs is June 29. Osterhout said that 10 kids have already enrolled; she anticipates a total enrollment of 50. Four people have applied for the five counselor positions needed for the arts and recreation program. Later in the meeting the Board voted to accept Osterhout’s recommendation and hire the four applicants for the counselor positions.
When Jaeger began thanking the Beautification Committee for its work on the gladioli beds and the barrels of flowers placed throughout the village, JoAnn Kellar informed the Board and the audience that the people replacing the sign at Stewart’s had dropped the old sign on the gladioli bed there on Wednesday, breaking the stalks. “It’s too late to replace them [the gladioli] so it will not look good there,” she said. Jaeger thanked the “early morning crew,” who have been meeting at 5:30 to 6 am to work on the plantings. He named Sandi Slattery and her husband, Rebekah Hartman and Taureg and Tara Cinney. He also thanked Sean Gallivan at Green Renewable for providing the topsoil and mulch and Mara Murphy for providing the flowers for the barrels.
Jaeger said that he had received a letter from Gallivan thanking the Board for its support. The entire Board attended the event with Congressman Chris Gibson at Green Renewable on May 23, Jaeger said.
Jaeger also said that he was informed by the two District 5 County Legislators, Stan Brownell and Lester Goodermote, that they had sent a letter to the NYS DOT and the County Highway Engineer regarding the crosswalk and the subsequent lowering of the speed limit at the Berlin Middle School/High School on Route 22 in Cherry Plain. The Legislators asked the DOT to expedite the study. Jaeger added that the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted on September 8, 2011, includes the possibility of crosswalks at the corners of Park Avenue and Elm Street and on the side streets there. “There are a lot of poor people that are walking around the town now, trying to get across the highway,” he said.
A letter was also received regarding the Lifeline Telephone System, which provides cell phone service for low income individuals. People should look into the Lifeline System. Jaeger said that in order to be considered for the program some personal information will have to be submitted.
Odds and Ends
• Ivan Wager was not present but wrote that “everything is smooth, and there are no problems at the transfer station.”
• Chairman of Assessors Allan Yerton said, “We got through Grievance Day; all the BAR (Board of Assessment Review) members showed up but were kind of bored since no one else showed up.”
• Jim Winn asked that more money be put on the Highway Department’s gas card at Stewart’s. Gas is bought there for the mowers and other small machines. The Board voted unanimously to do so.
• Jaeger announced that there will be a Board workshop meeting on Thursday, June 28, but no workshop meeting in July.
• Board Member Dean Maxon thanked the Berlin Ambulance crew for their good work during his daughter’s “mishap the other day.”
• A commemoration of the propane truck explosion that destroyed many dwellings in the middle of Berlin and killed 10 people on July 25, 1962 is being organized by former Town Supervisor Sandi Slattery among others. The event will take place from 1 to 4 pm at the Berlin Fire House on July 28.
The meeting had started on a somber note when Supervisor Jaeger announced that Jane Fitzgerald, known to some as Auntie Jane, died on Sunday morning, June 10. “We recognize the loss of Jane Fitzgerald this week; she will be sorely missed,” he said. Auntie Jane was central to the Berlin Fourth of July Parade, which she organized for 18 years starting in 1993. “I remember her there [at the Parade] with her shillelagh,” Jaeger said.[/private]
by Kieron Kramer