NewsShed: Trains, chains, and conspiracy to commit voter fraud

Heads up, Catskills: We're bringing back NewsShed, our recurring roundup of what's new, what's hot, and what's just plain weird in local news. (Love it? Hate it? Got a news tip for us? Let us know at

-Big story this week in the little village of Bloomingburg (pop. 423): FBI agents have arrested real estate developer Shalom Lamm and two of his associates on charges of conspiring to commit voter fraud. A fourth co-conspirator, former Town of Mamakating supervisor Harold Baird, has pleaded guilty to charges that he was involved in the scheme, which was described in colorful detail in a press release issued Thursday by the office of go-getting U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Federal prosecutors say the developers bribed and falsely registered out-of-town voters in an effort to pack the Bloomingburg village board with supporters of Lamm's planned 396-unit Hasidic development complex, even going so far as to backdate leases and plant toothbrushes and toothpaste in apartments supposedly occupied by newly-registered voters. 

Further reading: "What Does Developer's Arrest Mean For The Future of Hasidic Bloomingburg?" [The Forward]

-The little engine that couldn't: The embattled Catskill Mountain Railroad missed a tight deadline for moving its equipment off Ulster County-owned tracks in Shandaken this week. Last month, the town of Shandaken threw a wrench into the railroad's planned move, when neighbors of a railroad-owned land parcel succesfully lobbied to block the construction of the new tracks needed to shift trains and equipment from county property to railroad-owned land.

Further reading: "Tracks to nowhere: Will Catskill Mt. trains float away in a flood?" [Woodstock Times]

-Baby, it's cold outside. With wind chills plunging far below zero across the Catskills, local officials have opened several warming centers in the area. In Sullivan County, both the Ted Stroebele Center in Monticello and the United Methodist Church in Liberty are open til mid-day Saturday. In Kingston, the Clinton Ave. United Methodist Church will be open through Saturday morning.

-A group of black corrections officers at the Ulster County Jail is suing county sheriff Paul VanBlarcum and top jail officials in federal court, claiming years of racial discrimination, abuse and harassment by white jail officials.

-The town of Rosendale is installing an electric car charging station. (Those are sprouting up all over the Catskills -- see our story from October.)

-In Tannersville, the Hunter Foundation is rehabbing the old Fromer House into an agritourism farm

-In Treadwell, American Ginseng Pharm has bought the old elementary school, and is going to use it to make supplements and grow mushrooms.

-There's a new Stewart's in Middleburgh. The Schoharie News sent a reporter to check it out. It looks like a Stewart's.

-Itching to do some local historical research at the Vedder Library in Coxsackie? It'll cost ya -- $5 a day, according to the Greene County Historical Society, who literally need some help keeping the lights on.

-A Georgia-based company plans to buy the Hudson Valley Mall. (No word on the rumored upcoming sale of local supermarket chain Price Chopper.)

-Our incoming Congressman, Republican John Faso (NY-19), is worried about the cyber. Faso told the Freeman recently that he thinks there should be more investigation into foreign hacking efforts, both with regard to the election and more generally. 

-New York State has extended the deadline for registering for 2017 health insurance through New York State of Health by a couple of days. New deadline: Dec. 17. 

-Sobering news from the rural opiate epidemic: The rate of drug dependency in newborn babies is rising faster in rural America, and outstripping rates in urban populations. A new study from JAMA Pediatrics states that in 2013, 7.5 out of every 1000 rural babies were born drug-dependent -- a rise of nearly sevenfold compared to 2004, and almost double the 2013 rate for urban babies.