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TESTING cember 15, 2020BACKWARDS e D re slatu The science behind nasal swabs and saliva tests PAGE 5 1 T
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TREATS OUT Cornell archivist Apartment project Local stages light up Henry Stark details hits roadblock immigration inspiration with holiday shows reviews Red’s Place PAGE 4
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VOL.XLI / NO. 18 & 19 / December 23, 2020 Serving 47,125 readers week ly
The Cost of Covid�������������������������� 8 Pandemic moves into its tenth month
Holiday Treats����������������������������� 15 Creating theatre this year
6 more deaths at Oak Hill Manor
NE W S & OPINION Newsline��������������������������������������������������3-9 Sports�������������������������������������������������������� 10
he Tompkins County Health Department announced six more deaths of Oak Hill Manor Nursing Home residents from COVID-19, bringing the total to 11 since the end of November. These newly announced deaths were reported to the Health Department by Oak Hill on Dec. 21. Once a positive COVID-19 case is identified in a skilled nursing or long-term care facility, the New York State Department of Health manages contact investigations and testing. The deaths occurred between the dates of December 12 and December 21. The facility has been dealing with an outbreak for the past month or so that began with 39 residents and 13 staff members testing positive for the disease at the end of November. Oak Hill Manor administrators continue to partner with the state Department of Health to complete contact investigations and to isolate all positive cases to stop the spread. Tompkins County Health Department remains in close communication with area nursing homes through regular calls, with the state taking over all monitoring if positive cases occur in these long-term care and skilled nursing facilities. Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa stated, “Every death from COVID-19 in our community is heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with the families of those we lost and with those battling the disease. We continue to see those at highest risk having the most adverse health outcomes from COVID-19. We’re looking forward to having our seniors vaccinated in the coming months, but while we await the vaccines, we can’t stop doing what we know works — wearing masks, keeping distance from one another, and being patient before we visit with loved ones.”
ART S & E N T E RTAINME N T Dining���������������������������������������������������������16 Film��������������������������������������������������������������17 Stage�����������������������������������������������������������18 Stage���������������������������������������������������������� 19 TimesTable����������������������������������������������� 21 Classifieds������������������������������������������22-24 Cover: Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa, Dr. Martin Stallone of Cayuga Medical Center and Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino at a COVID-19 press conference at the beginning of the pandemic back in March.
ON T HE WE B Visit our website at www.ithaca.com for more news, arts, sports and photos. Call us at 607-277-7000 T a n n e r H a r d i n g , M a n a g i n g E d i t o r , x 224 E d i t o r @ I t h a c aTi m e s . c o m J a i m e C o n e , E d i t o r , x 232 SouthReporter@flcn.org C a s e y M a r t i n , S ta f f P h o t o g r a p h e r P h o t o g r a p h e r @ I t h a c aTi m e s . c o m C h r i s I b e r t , C a l e n d a r E d i t o r , x 217 A r t s @ I t h a c aTi m e s . c o m A n d r e w S u l l i v a n , S p o r t s E d i t o r , x 227 Sports@flcn.org Steve L awrence, Spo rts Co lumnist St e v e S p o r t sD u d e @ g m a i l .co m M a r s h a l l H o p k i n s , P r o d u c t i o n D i r ec t o r / D es i g n e r , x 216 P r o d u c t i o n @ I t h a c aTi m e s . c o m L i s a B i n g a m a n , A cc o u n t R ep r ese n ta t i v e , x 218 l i s a @ I t h a c aTi m e s . c o m T o n i C r o u ch , x 211 A d m i n i s t r a t i o n Sharon Davis, Distribution J i m B i l i n s k i , P u b l i s h e r , x 210 j b i l i n s k i @ I t h a c aTi m e s . c o m L a r r y H o ch b e r g e r , A ss o c i a t e P u b l i s h e r , x 214 l a r r y@ I t h a c aTi m e s . c o m F r e e l a n c e r s : Barbara Adams, Rick Blaisell, Steve Burke, Deirdre Cunningham, Jane Dieckmann, Amber Donofrio, Karen Gadiel, Charley Githler, Linda B. Glaser, Warren Greenwood, Ross Haarstad, Peggy Haine, Gay Huddle, Austin Lamb, Steve Lawrence, Marjorie Olds, Lori Sonken, Henry Stark, Dave Sit, Bryan VanCampen, and Arthur Whitman
Dr. Sushilkumar Satish Gupta, pulmonologist/critical care specialist, was one of the first Cayuga Medical Center staff to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 18. (Photo: Provided)
T a k e ▶ Vaccines- Cayuga Health officials announced that Dr. Keith Lambert, ER Physician, Kate Rosa, RN, and Dr. Sushilkumar Satish Gupta, Pulmonologist/Critical Care Specialist, were among the initial Cayuga Health employees to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The frontline
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providers received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Phase I approach, on Dec. 18 at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, NY. Vaccinations of additional Cayuga Health frontline providers will continue this week.
▶ Happy Holidays! The Ithaca Times will not be publishing an issue next week, Dec. 30, as the office is closed over the holidays. We’ll be back with the Year in Review issue on Jan. 6 where we look back at all the biggest news from this past year. See you in 2021!
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All rights reserved. Events are listed free of charge in TimesTable. All copy must be received by Friday at noon. The Ithaca Times is available free of charge from various locations around Ithaca. Additional copies may be purchased from the Ithaca Times offices for $1. SUBSCRIPTIONS: $89 one year. Include check or money order and mail to the Ithaca Times, PO Box 27, Ithaca, NY 14851. ADVERTISING: Deadlines are Monday 5 p.m. for display, Tuesday at noon for classified. Advertisers should check their ad on publication. The Ithaca Times will not be liable for failure to publish an ad, for typographical error, or errors in publication except to the extent of the cost of the space in which the actual error appeared in the first insertion. The publisher reserves the right to refuse advertising for any reason and to alter advertising copy or graphics deemed unacceptable for publication. The Ithaca Times is published weekly Wednesday mornings. Offices are located at 109 N. Cayuga Street, Ithaca, NY 14850 607-277-7000, FAX 607-277-1012, MAILING ADDRESS is PO Box 27, Ithaca, NY 14851. The Ithaca Times was preceded by the Ithaca New Times (1972-1978) and The Good Times Gazette (1973-1978), combined in 1978. F o u n d e r G o o d T i m e s G a z e tt e : Tom Newton
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PHOTOGRAPHER By C a se y Mar tin
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2021?
“In person classes.” -Daniel T.
“Back to school and packed restaurants!” -Peyton B. & Sarah B.
“Live music!” -Yessenia B. & Scott T.
“Getting back to regular college life at University of Buffalo.” -Connor G.
“The Vaccine…and traveling!” -Emma B. & Hamid R.
Ithac a Times
Planning Board takes issue with downtown apartment building, likes Collegetown one
he proposed apartment building at 401 E State St. took “a step backwards” at the Dec. 15 Planning Board meeting, developers and board members agreed. However, things were more positive for a proposed Collegetown apartment building. The six-story building Proposed on State Street by McKinley Development Company would have 240,000 square feet of residential space that includes 347 units, and 100,000 square feet of parking space, with 318 parking spots. The development team from McKinley Development Company was on hand to offer some updates on design, particularly about the creekside façade, which had received criticism at the last meeting. Designers added modulation to the height of the brick and added balconies to try to break up the façade and create a more residential look to the building; they also widened the pedestrian entrance to the building on the side that faces State Street. While this alleviated some of the concerns, overall board members were still hesitant about the scale of the building. “You look at the main perspective from the creek and the massiveness of it still concerns me,” board member Mitch Glass said. “It seems to me that those are bigger issues we
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really need to talk more about. This building is too big… maybe we can ask for it to be 90% as big to give the site more breathing room.” Board member Elisabete Godden agreed. “I do think that there’s a massing issue here,” she said. “I’d like to see more green space, more trees along the building façade.” Board member Emily Petrina added that she thinks not providing a connection from State Street to the creek walk through the building was a missed opportunity. “I know it’s difficult, but if there’s a way to chute people through a tunnel from State Street to a set of stairs down to the creek walk…” she said. Chair Rob Lewis agreed, and said that there had to be some give in the project to make it work. “It still seems huge,” he said. “It’s not defensible. There has to be a give […] As it stands now I don’t think I hear a consensus that it works, and I don’t believe it works. That said, I think it’s still an improvement from the last version, and I appreciate that.” A few board members suggested reducing the size of the fire access road to allow for more green space, but developers didn’t think there was a lot of room to budge on that. “The fire lane is a fire 20 2 0
Proposed State Street Apartments by McKinley Development Company
lane,” developer Jeff Githens said. “It’s a requirement […] if Chief [Tom] Parsons gave some liberty to the sidewalk being used, we’d certainly be open to it. And then connecting State Street to the creek walk […] the sheer elevation difference between the two, the most logical place to make that connection is between the Gateway Center building and our building, and that space is conveyed by Frost Travis for an Alpha Phi Alpha memorial. That is by far the most practical place, and we would be happy to provide an easement, but every other place would be physically impractical.” Githens went on to add that there’s a certain point where a project becomes financially impractical, and that there’s only so much compromising he can do before they reach that point. “If we’re at an impasse on what the building is, we’ve got real challenges as a developer,” he said. “I feel this might be a step backwards tonight.” Lewis agreed, but said there is a path forward. “I think it probably was,” he said. “I don’t think tonight was real successful for you guys […] We got pushback on things that were possibilities, and there’s a lack of any movement on massing at all, when the most consistent comment you’ve gotten was about massing […] But no, I don’t think we’re at an impasse. I think you can get a majority of this board to support this project. But you’re not there yet.” The board felt more positively about a proposed apartment building at 121 Oak Ave. The building would be
four stories, plus a basement, with 35 units and 40 beds. Most of the units are efficiency apartments, but there are five two-bedrooms. The building rendering showed a brightly colored building with teal, burgundy and yellow hues. “It’s a narrow lot, so we tried to create more interesting facades with color and patterning, as opposed to too much articulation in the facades themselves,” Craig Modisher, an architect from STREAM Collaborative, said. The first floor, which will house a gym, lounge, laundry facility, a few apartments and maintenance/trash/storage rooms, will have large glass panels to liven up the building at the street level. “I live in Collegetown,” developer Josh Lower said. “I want to make it as pedestrianfriendly as possible and as inviting and active as possible.” The building is all within code and requires no variances. The board didn’t have much in the way of criticism, though Godden did suggest exploring the possibility of relief and shading between colors on the façade to provide a bit more visual interest. There was also some brief discussion about protecting trees on the property as much as possible, as Collegetown is already lacking in greenery. The project otherwise moved forward and will be back in front of the board for a continued environmental review next month. -Ta n n e r H a r d i n g
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Snow Samaritan This editor’s car got stuck in a snowy parking lot on Monday evening, so I wanted to say a big thank you to the man who pushed it out for me. I couldn’t be more appreciative of this stranger’s kindness! Convergence The winter solstice was on Monday (and the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn!), which means the days will start getting longer. It’s practically summer again!
The ins and outs of COVID testing and how a local company fits in
ou’ve spit in a tube, undergone a nasal swab — now what? To learn more about how the COVID-19 testing process works, we spoke with Rheonix, a local biotechnology company whose diagnostic instruments process the majority of COVID-19 tests at Cayuga Medical Center. One of the major differences for how people get a test is whether they receive a nasopharyngeal test, where a swab is placed up the nose, or a saliva test, where patients spit in a sample tube. While nasopharyngeal tests were more common in the beginning of the pandemic, more organizations are starting to receive emergency FDA authorization to use saliva testing. Rheonix just received expanded emergency use authorization on its COVID-19 MDx assay to include saliva as a sample type this past week. “Saliva testing is much more comfortable and easier for patients, and healthcare professionals can stand six feet away, so they are not being exposed as directly if they were inserting a swab in someone’s nose,” said Brooke Schwartz, Rheonix’s vice president of strategy and marketing. Logistically, she also pointed out how saliva samples are easier to handle and store, and less expensive to collect. Where the materials for nasopharyngeal sample col-
lection can cost a few dollars per sample, saliva collection materials cost only around 15 cents. After the sample is collected, by either method, it is processed. But the sample contains your own DNA, the virus’ genetic material, which is RNA, and potentially other genetic material. It’s like trying to find a few strands of hair on the top of your head. So how do you find the genetic material for just the coronavirus? As with most COVID-19 diagnostic tests, Rheonix’s assay uses something called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). “PCR is a molecular method for copying [the] segments of DNA of interest,” said Hazel Higgins, PhD, a product application scientist at Rheonix. “More specifically, the reverse transcription part of the reaction converts the virus’s RNA to DNA, to enable the polymerase chain reaction.” The polymerase chain reaction uses primers, short sequences of DNA, that align with the start and end of the targeted DNA sequence. The reaction then copies the targeted DNA between these primers, in this case a specific part of the virus’s genetic material, over and over again. The logic is similar to if you copied the strand of hair over and over again, it will be easier
Shots Fired IPD responded to multiple reports from people who heard shots fired on Friday night in the Spencer Road traffic circle. Though they found 12 shell casings, there did not appear to be any victims. Anyone with info should contact the police.
Tompkins County COVID tests processd with the use of Rheonix diagnostic instruments (photos: Provided)
to find and detect. After the reaction is complete, Rheonix’s instrument uses end-point detection to differentiate between a positive and negative sample. The process for the machine is almost entirely automated, so laboratory technicians just have to prepare the samples, load them on the instrument, and wait for the results. “The instrument uses microfluidic and robotic liquid handling to replicate what lab bench equipment and highly trained scientists would be doing,” Schwartz explained. Processing time for a COVID-19 sample on a Rheonix instrument takes around 5 hours, and each instrument processes 22 samples and two controls. To be able to process more tests in a shorter amount of time, Cayuga Medical Center has also used something called pooling. Essentially, you put a few samples together and test all of those together as one sample. If the pooled sample comes back as positive, then you check each sample individually to isolate which was positive. Otherwise, you can conclude that if the pooled sample is negative, all the tests were negative. As of Dec. 15, Cayuga Health has processed over 700,000 COVID-19 tests and currently has 14 Rheonix instruments. In a video posted by Cayuga Health, Dr. Elizabeth Plocharczyk, medical director of the Cayuga Health Laboratories, states how crucial the partnership with Rheonix has been to be able to process po-
tentially thousands of samples each day. “We actually have three other types of analyzers in our laboratory that are capable of performing COVID-19 testing that we use for other diseases,” said Plocharczyk in the video. “To this date we've not been able to get enough reagents for any of those analyzers to be able to perform testing.” Schwartz said that Rheonix has also had to overcome major challenges accessing materials in the face of supply chain shortages, as well as scaling up manufacturing to meet the needs of the pandemic. The partnerships with New York State laboratories and companies have been very important to Rheonix. When one of their previous suppliers was experiencing shortages, they decided to switch to a New York-based company that has consistently delivered critical consumables to Rheonix. Despite these challenges, Schwartz said that it has been “incredibly invigorating and motivating” to work on the testing. “That was the dominating sentiment as we went into developing, seeking authorization, and launching this assay,” said Schwartz. “It was the drive to contribute to our community, to help Ithaca and Central New York, and eventually the broader U.S. get tested. This was the way we could contribute to fighting the pandemic.”
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Calling all Creators! We’ve gotten some Readers’ Writes submissions in our inbox, but we’d love to see even more. Send your poems, prose, essays, short stories, letters or anything else to editor@ ithacatimes.com with the subject line “Readers’ Writes submission.” The theme is struggle & gratitude and the deadline is Jan.1.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Will you now acknowledge Biden as the President Elect? 85.7% Already building back better. 14.3% Never! 1 My lawyers say “yes” but my treasonous sociopathic heart says “no.”
N ext Week ’s Q uestion :
What are you most looking forward to in 2021? Visit ithaca.com to submit your response.
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SURROUNDED BY REALITY
Steven Calco: Treasuring Our Family’s Story W
A Hero for Our Time
of the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, where many of Steven’s family first entered the U.S. Steven’s beautiful mother, Maria, was also the youngest child in her family of five siblings in Scrisera. Her father, also a farmer, was able to care for his large family until a natural disaster caused sudden poverty. Maria was first placed in a convent, amongst strangers, so that her parents and much older siblings could work long, arduous days as migrant laborers. Maria later recounted lonely and terrifying times, with no one to defend or comfort her in the convent. Steven’s parents were introduced when his mother was 18, and after their wedding they moved to Brooklyn. Maria, grateful to be hired in a clothing factory sewing kids’ dresses before she could speak English, was determined to learn English. She listened to television shows and studied the dictionary in order to become an American. Steven, the first-born American in his family, lived his whole life surrounded by 12 aunts and uncles and several cousins in continued on page 7
ecember 15, 2020: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory and referred to him as ‘President-elect," six weeks after election day, and in the face of President Trump’s continued refusal to accept defeat. “The electoral college has spoken,” McConnell said, in remarks from the Senate floor in the U.S. Capitol, adding, “Today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.” McConnell’s comments won wide praise, given that many Senate Republicans still don’t recognize Biden’s victory even after the electoral college made the win official. March 4, 2021: President Joe Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Senator Mitch McConnell today. This prestigious award is the nation’s highest civilian honor, which may be awarded by the President to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. McConnell is being recognized for his acknowledgement of the presence of raisins in Raisin Bran cereal. May 31, 2021: Breaking with longstanding tradition, Cornell University awarded its first honorary degree in 134 years to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. Cornell's faculty senate voted unanimously that it would be a travesty to NOT confer a docotor of science in economics in light of McConnell's conclusion in December
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of last year that "small business owners in America are struggling.” The senator's remark, made on the Senate floor, came several months after everyone else in America knew that to be the case. Still it was significant in that it put him in the unenviable position of agreeing with Democratic lawmakers. June 22, 2021: In the wake of his stunning proclamation that "they speak English there, just like us," United States Senator Mitch McConnell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for ser vices to the United Kingdom. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II called McConnell "a bit of a knob" in remarks from Buckingham Palace, adding that she was "bloody knackered" after the ceremony. August 16, 2021: The American Meteorological Society announced that the recipient of this year's Lionel P. Cornstarch Observation Award will be Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. The honor is granted to individuals in recognition of highly significant research or development achievement in the atmospheric or hydrologic sciences. McConnell's contribution to the understanding of the meteorological sciences stems from his statement on the Senate floor earlier this week: "It's so dang hot that I saw a hound dog chasing a rabbit — and they was both walking," adding, "it really is pretty hot outside." October 5, 2021: Göran K. Hansson, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced today that the Nobel Prize in Physics was being awarded to United States Senator Mitch McConnell, in recognition of his observation that "an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by a net external force," 333 years after that discovery was made by Isaac Newton in his “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.” "Shoot, I set a pencil on my desk, and the next day it was still just a-sittin' right there," McConnell said, in remarks from the Senate floor. His statements set him apart from fellow Republicans, apparently reluctant to break with ex-president Donald Trump, who has called Newton a "disaster." November 5, 2021: In an industry press release, Hotels.com announced the replacement of their spokesperson Captain Obvious with U. S. Senator Mitch McConnell.
Illustration by Marshall Hopkins
By M a rjor i e Z . O l d s hen Steven Calco was a child he would travel summers to be with his family in a tiny village, Scrisera, in the San Salvatore di Fitalia region in Sicily, Italy. Steven’s paternal great-grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1906 on the ship Perugia, and worked on building the railroads in Bronx, NY. After Steven’s great-grandfather was injured at work he had both legs amputated. With no worker’s compensation or disability programs yet created in this country, he was forced to return home to Sicily to seek care. Steven’s grandfather, Charlie, was a farmer in their village; he raised eight children — Steven’s father Joseph was the youngest. Over time, many of Joseph and his seven sisters and brothers immigrated to the U.S., so they could find jobs and raise their families in a land with opportunity for hard workers. They settled in Bensonhurst, an Italian enclave in Brooklyn, where Steven’s family still lives. A close family, during summers they would travel back to their beloved Scrisera. Steven’s father, a construction worker, was hired in 1984 for the refurbishment
By C h a r l ey G i t h l e r
YOUR LETTERS The aim of reimagining public safety
COMMUNITYCONNECTIONS Contin u ed From Page 6
Bensonhurst. Although his own mother had not experienced the comfort of a stable family life, over time she found solace creating a loving family life. When Steven went to college he majored in history at Brooklyn College. There he discovered, as a first-born American, that the struggles of workers to make their way out of poverty and to be treated justly with dignity, had special resonance for him. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college and felt a special connection to labor history through his own family’s history. “Everyone in my family, except me, was born in another country, working as farmers, railroad and construction workers, and garment makers,” he said. “I’m reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words ‘So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs [but] whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth.’” Listening to oral histories of his Sicilian relatives in the town of Scrisera, Steven treasured the details his family and community members shared. After Steven heard an archivist describe his profession, Steven became interested in the preservation and processing of archival collections. This motivated him to earn a master’s degree in library science, with a minor in archival management at Queens College. Working in the archival collections parttime, plus grad school, filled Steven’s days. He devoted his free time to organizing the underrepresented part-time librarians and archivists in CUNY and playing bass in a punk rock band. These days, Steven lives apart from his beloved family in Brooklyn, serving as
Steven Calco’s dad next to statue of liberty (Photo: provided)
research archivist at the Kheel Center in Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Only the perfect job which Steven now fills, had enough of a pull to land him here amongst us in 2018. “The Kheel Center at Cornell University is one of the largest archives in the world that documents both labor and management history. Here we provide access to documents from all perspectives in order to create a more comprehensive history for scholars and anyone researching our collections.” Created in 1949, the Kheel Center (https://catherwood.library. cornell.edu/kheel/) is a repository of over 200,000 linear feet of archival material, including rare books and pamphlets, photographs, oral history interviews, collective bargaining agreements, union constitutions, artifacts, posters, manuscript materials, and films.” Clients who have worked with Steven at the renowned center are impressed to work with such a professionally poised and competent research archivist, who is sensitive to the intersection of the professional and the personal lives of the person whose archives he helps create. Steven is preparing an exhibit highlighting Dr. King’s support for the working poor, organizing them to achieve just wages and conditions. Bringing his professional expertise to a story that resonates with his own family’s plight as migrant workers imbues this exhibit with special richness. Dr. King’s efforts have special value today as the gap between rich and poor grows larger, and immigrants face new obstacles as they seek to live in the land of freedom and opportunity. This exhibit will be traveling to John Henrik Clarke Africana Library at Cornell this spring 2021.
n recent months, a popular movement has arisen internationally—and right here in Ithaca—to challenge the entrenched racism and violence of policing. Now officials say they want to “reimagine” public safety. But “reimagining” is only the latest attempt to distract us from the popular demand for police defunding. We are not fooled by deceptive rebranding. The It haca Common Counci l has already ignored the people’s demands for a budget that defunds police AND expands the kind of community services that actually keep us safe. Now WE must reject cosmetic reforms designed to legitimize the rotten institution of policing. We need real change centered on restorative justice and rooted in communities, not superficial solutions that camouflage the destructive effects of criminalization and incarceration. Officials who uphold the punitive logic of policing cannot reform the police. Policing itself is the problem.We must reject all “reforms” that increase police presence, scope, surveillance, and budgets. Probation, reentry, and intervention/diversion programs should be removed from police control. We should also resist the idea that rooting out “bad cops” will lead to better policing. Bad cop/good cop narratives only disguise a rotten system. Conversations about local policing have included proposals to bring to Ithaca the intrusive “reforms” that have been implemented in places like Camden, NJ. But as Camden residents know well, such models of policing intensify profiling and mass surveillance and rely on invasive monitoring, frequent arrests, and routine violations of privacy, dignity and human rights. Even as city officials encourage residents to engage with the "Reimagining Public Safety" events and claim to be open to all ideas, the city clearly plans to adopt a model that continues to heavily involve the Ithaca Police Department in social matters, as in the case of recent funding for LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), created to "[respond] to low-level offenses such as drug possession, sales, and prostitution." While we support a focus on community involvement and positive alternatives to criminal justice/jail, we do not support LEAD’s central focus on strengthening police-community relations in Ithaca. Policing is an institution with a long history of brutality against marginalized and oppressed people. It was designed to protect a white supremacist, capitalist system by subordinating groups that were seen as threatening to the existing racial and economic order. Despite Ithaca’s idyllic image, local police routinely abuse people of color and poor people. If we’re serious about “public safety” we need to shrink bloated police budgets and invest in community services that help meet people’s needs, not policies that criminalize and incarcerate. The safest communities have the most resources, not the most cops! Why devote more energy to fixing the image De c e mb e r
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of the police? Why don’t we join people in our neighborhoods—and many parts of the world—who are pursuing restorative models of justice? Truly just alternatives to policing are community-led and community-affirming. They attempt to repair the social fabric. They exclude police entirely from responses to harm and insecurity. They rely on community action and healing to address instability and human need. Mutual aid is one model of community action that is closely linked to matters of public safety. Since the pandemic hit, thousands of people in Tompkins County have participated in mutual aid networks. Could the mutual aid model be expanded to help respond to addiction, suffering, and other forms of harm? Local residents have already offered useful ideas for rethinking “public safety,” including the demand to transform Ithaca’s SWAT truck into a mobile health clinic. With empathy, respect and human dignity as our goals, as well as depolicing, we might also consider public health approaches that center feminist and queer perspectives draw on methods used by organizations such as the Advocacy Center that respond to domestic and sexual violence. We can also look far beyond our community for inspiration. In places like Brazil and Puerto Rico, organizers are creating a vision of public security that sustains the rights of the most affected populations; demands protection instead of repression; and calls on legislators (not police) to equip communities with the material resources they need to pursue safety and stability. In Mexico and elsewhere, some communities have expelled police, gangs and corruption and enabled trusted, indigenous guards to help protect residents. Drawing on these and other models, people in Ithaca and Tompkins County could construct communal models of public safety that work for their own neighborhoods. Such positive approaches should be combined with measures that limit the ability of police to abuse, monitor, harass and detain vulnerable populations. Any community conversation about police reform that does not center the widespread demand for defunding is antidemocratic and dishonest. The shrinking of police is a first step. In recent months the Tompkins County Antiracist Coalition, an alliance of activist groups and individuals, has formed around a set of popular demands to shift funds from the ballooning Ithaca Police Department budget and reinvest in social programs. The Antiracist Coalition demand letter was signed by more than 500 people—the vast majority of them from a Tompkins County zip code. We realize that long-term alternatives to punitive policing require the construction of a new political and economic order—a society that devotes full resources to meeting the human need for food, housing, healthcare, education, employment, childcare, recreation, creativity and dignity. -Russell Rickford, Tompkins County Antiracist Coalition
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County Sponsored Community Testing Through CHS Week 9/1 - 9/5 9/6-9/12 9/13-9/19 9/20-9/26 9/27-10/3 10/4-10/10 10/11-10/17 10/18 - 10/24 10/25 - 10/31 11/1 - 11/8 11/9 - 11/15 11/22 - 11/28 11/29 - 12/6 12/7 - 12/13 Total Average per week
No sponsoring Total CHS W/o Sampling Site Tompkins organization FEMA Weekly cost TC % of total Tests (All (County County symptoms Counties) Covered) Only or exposure to TC tested Reimbursement Our Cost 1,310 1,045 575 354 $28,320 27% $21,240 $7,080 1,043 608 393 $31,440 28% $23,580 $7,860 1,412 1,483 1,040 735 359 $28,720 24% $21,540 $7,180 1,783 1,254 789 426 $34,080 24% $25,560 $8,520 1,685 1,069 835 389 $31,120 23% $23,340 $7,780 2,219 1,541 968 424 $33,920 19% $25,440 $8,480 1,632 1,151 532 $42,560 22% $31,920 $10,640 2,405 2,079 1,115 880 $70,400 31% $52,800 $17,600 2,834 2,671 1,922 1,145 848 $67,840 32% $50,880 $16,960 2,538 1,756 1,052 822 $65,760 32% $49,320 $16,440 2,149 1,180 968 $77,440 32% $58,080 $19,360 2,997 2,949 2,267 1,499 1,113 $89,040 38% $66,780 $22,260 3,360 1,826 1,432 $114,560 32% $85,920 $28,640 4,466 4,888 3,267 1,902 1,183 $94,640 24% $70,980 $23,660 38,661 27,677 16,872 11,140 $891,200 29% $668,400 $222,800 2,974 2,129 1,298 857 $59,413 29% $44,560 $14,853
Presentation to the Tompkins County Legislature - December 15, 2020
The cost of COVID County staff deals with an increase in costs and work as the pandemic moves into its tenth month
By Ta n n e r H a r di ng
housands of hours of overtime. Millions of dollars of accrued costs. Months without a day off. It’s been a long year for everyone as the weight of the pandemic has taken its toll over and over. But perhaps nobody in Tompkins County has felt the burden of a public health crisis more than the Health Department. As of Dec. 15, the COVID response team had worked 53,756 regular hours and 7,313 overtime hours — a feat Health Director Frank Kruppa commends his team for. 8 T
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“They’re working long hours, they’re working without days off,” he said. “They’ve stepped up every time we’ve asked them to. I’ve taken to saying that if you’re not going to follow the guidance for any other reason, do it for them. They’ve been working around the clock for 10 months now. They need a break.” The responsibilities of the emergency response team run the gamut, from case investigations to contact tracing to educating the public. It’s been a big change for a department that rarely makes the news. “Normally people only know about us if something goes wrong…if there’s a food-
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borne illness outbreak or sewage spill or a disease in the community,” Kruppa said. “We’re a prevention organization, so our goal is to prevent people from getting sick or having illness…If we’re doing our job, you don’t know that we’re there.” It’s safe to say that’s changed. Before COVID, Kruppa estimated the Health Department’s Twitter page had about 10 followers; it’s up to 2,800 at this point, as people check in nightly for the updated case statistics for the county and follow along for public exposure warnings. “I think we’re much more public facing at this point, but we’re still doing the same
work,” Kruppa said. “Our goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it’s not unlike what we do for tuberculosis or measles or mumps or any other communicable diseases. We’ve been able to take what we know, what we do, and amplify it and deal with COVID.” Of course, with the increased hours and workload comes an increase in costs. So far, the COVID response has cost the county $1,704,121 in regular pay, $72,173 in overtime pay, and $312,004 of comp time, which is the dollar equivalent of the hours earned by working.
“Even when [nurses] are scheduled to be off on weekends, we might end up calling them because we need more help,” Kruppa said. “This has been going on for 10 months. It’s a drain. It’s hard to keep morale up. But what makes people so amazing is they keep doing it. They do everything they’re asked.” Additionally, the county has paid $1,472,922 in COVID-related expenses. County Administrator Jason Molino said the community testing has been one of the most expensive portions of the public health response. “That will be probably close to a million or so dollars,” he said. “About 75% of that will be reimbursed through FEMA, but that’s a big cost in and of itself.” In a chart presented to Tompkins County Legislature on Dec. 15, data showed 27,677 county residents were tested between Sept. 1 and Dec. 13. Of those, 11,140 tests were not covered by insurance and would be paid for by the county. The cost of that is $891,200, with $668,400 expected to be reimbursed through FEMA, leaving the county with a $222,800 bill. And that’s to say nothing of the budgetary issues the pandemic has caused as businesses have been forced to shutter or reduce capacity to benefit public health. “Our sales tax revenue is at about a $4 million shortfall,” Molino said. Plus, the aid from the state government to cover mandated services will also see big cuts. “If the governor follows through with 20% cuts across the board, we could face a $5 million shortfall from state aid,” Molino said. County Legislature approved a $182,611,872 budget for 2021, which is down 5.64%, or $10,915,637 from 2020. “For next year’s budget we did budget a decrease in sales tax compared to
2020, so hopefully that will be much more in line with what we’re receiving,” Molino said. “Hopefully if we can get through the next few months we’ll see some growth again.” And for what it’s worth, Molino said he is feeling optimistic that the county will receive its FEMA reimbursements, and sooner rather than later. “We submit our expenditures weekly and are in the final phases of approval,” he said. However, budgetary constraints aside, county staff knows that the work needs to be done regardless. From the get-go, Kruppa said the county legislature has proved to be supportive in providing the Health Department in whatever funds it needs to deal with the pandemic. County Legislature Chair Leslyn McBean-Clairborne said that their priority was taking care of Tompkins County residents and making sure the legislature was doing everything in their power to protect the public. “People are working long hours, putting in overtime, coming up with policies and guidance and ideas, and then communicating this throughout the county and fielding questions day in and day out,” she said. “We’re figuring out all the ways to work together to keep our community safe.” At the beginning, McBean-Clairborne said the county took numerous measures as part of the response, including approving employee furloughs, reducing the number of employees working at the office, starting an Emergency Operations Center, working with people on early retirement plans, hiring a new communications director and investing in community testing. “We wanted to make sure that those members who were most
vulnerable and don’t have the resources to pay for testing or don’t have insurance can still get tested, because we value the health of this community,” she said. “Finances should not be a barrier to getting tested. And the more testing, the easier to mitigate the spread.” McBean-Clairborne said the legislature approved a $150,000 contract with Cayuga Medical Center to make sure people can be tested, and then spent another $100,000 to purchase a testing machine to get quicker, cheaper turnaround on testing results. “Yes there were costs, and there will continue to be costs,” she said. “But the legislature is poised to do anything they need to do to make sure we have the resources in place to protect our community.” Beyond the more obvious costs such as budget shortfalls and testing expenditures, COVID has made itself known in other ways. McBean-Clairborne pointed to law enforcement as one surprise cost, as the sheriff ’s department has had to take on the responsibility of addressing complaints about things like large gatherings, and then showing up and educating people. “That’s just more overtime that was incurred,” she said. Molino also pointed to the staff shake ups, as people have switched roles within county government to help out the Health Department. “A lot of departments are shorthanded,” he said. “If it weren’t a pandemic, other work would be getting done. But we’re focusing on COVID. All the departments are understanding, and some work is paused or slowed down, but they understand that the public health of the community is the priority.” Currently, Molinio said about 15 county staff members have been diverted from their usual duties to assist with the COVID response, a n d
over 50 staff members are trained as contact tracers. Kruppa added that the COVID response has had to take priority over other duties in the Health Department. “That’s been one of the biggest struggles,” he said. “We’re not able to do everything we usually do.” McBean-Clairborne agreed and said that one of the hardships of dealing with COVID is that the rest of the world didn’t stop. “It’s just a smorgasbord of issues that one has to be dealing with on a daily basis,” she said. “We can’t not deal with homelessness…We have to be dealing with all of that, all the safety net programs, we still have to be out there cleaning the snow when it comes, people are still going to be calling about potholes. It’s everything.” Molino added that while the immediate response is managing the disease, a lot of other departments have also seen an increase in their workloads because of COVID, such as the Department of Social Services receiving more requests for public assistance. “While they may not be directly involved with managing the disease, they are seeing the negative impacts from the pandemic,” he said. “Every department is experiencing some effect as a result of the pandemic and the need to respond to it.” Despite the challenges, Kruppa said he’s feeling optimistic. “I think there’s an awareness now of the importance of public health,” he said. “We’re at a crossroads here, and there’s a lot of change that’s going to be happening moving forward.” He’s also thankful that residents in Tompkins County have been receptive to his advice, despite the fact that everyone has struggled. “This has been a community effort,” he said. “All of our work would have been for naught if our community had accepted the guidance. I’m glad we live in a place where public health messaging is accepted.” And with two vaccines approved, Kruppa said he’s looking forward to a quieter future. “A weekend off would be good at this point,” he laughed.
Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa, Dr. Martin Stallone of Cayuga Medical Center and Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino (Photo: Casey Martin) De c e mb e r
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Curveballs aplenty in 2020 By Ste ve L aw re nc e
hese “Year in Review” columns — of which I have written 28 — normally follow a predictable arc. In January, February and March, winter sports are in full swing, and finding basketball, wrestling, gymnastics or hockey stories about which to write presents little challenge. April, May and June give us a smorgasbord of lacrosse, baseball, softball, track and field and the like. The summer months call for a bit more creativity in finding column ideas, but when the students return to the football and soccer fields in the fall, there is once again a bounty of ideas. Now I will apologize for using the word “normally” in a 2020 review. My bad... The year started out with some normalcy. I loved writing about Ithaca native Cheyenne Reynolds, who is an athletic trainer at Clemson and was once again in the middle of the monster spectacle known as the College Football National Championship Game. The Big Red hockey teams and wrestling program were — as usual — looking toward big things, not just in their own conferences, but nationally. Cornell
hosted a basketball reunion to honor their Ivy championship teams, and many of the guys from the 1988, 2008, 2009 and 2010 teams showed up. It was great to see all of them, and the packed gym was rocking again. I wrote about three local women — Chelsea Benson, Ellie Pell and Bailey Drewes — who were training for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Like wrestlers Once every six years (due to leap year, Kyle Dake and Vito Arujau, who were also I think) we publish on April 1, and I love hoping to compete on the international trying to pull the wool over the eyes of my stage, the women thought the 2020 Tokyo astute readers. I made up a fake motorOlympics would take place. (While Dake’s cycle club (one in which the men rode opportunity to realize his Olympic dream on the back while their wives piloted the was put on hold, he did win his secondGeorgia@ithacatimes.com x220(D.OB.B.ers: bike), gave it a607-277-7000 fake name World Title.) Dudes on Back of Bikes), and got several When COVID hit the fan in March,Newspaper: the of my friends to pose for the photos. It Ivy League led the way by canceling their was a blast to write that, it sucked a few winter sports post-season tournaments, people in, and the most entertaining part much of the rest of the country followed for me was observing how bent out of suit, and we used up a lot of column space shape some guys became when asked to interviewing league directors, athletic pose for a photo on the back of their bike directors, coaches and other insiders to try with their wife driving. It was as if I asked to get a sense of how long the apple cart to insert an I.V. and drain out half their would be upset. I admired much of the testosterone. optimism put forth, but it was clear that there was still much to be learned.
I loved writing about the many forms of creativity brought to personal exercise regimens and to big fundraisers. I loved writing about Maeve, a young girl facing a serious health challenge, and Moose, the horse that was her friend and a part of her healing team. A boat parade was organized to celebrate the end of Maeve’s treatments, and the inlet was lined with well-wishers. Moose was one of them. That story made me cry. I was inspired by Vicki and Michaela Brew and Amy and Elizabeth Dawson, the mother-daughter duos that refused to let the lockdown get them down. The Brews rode their bicycles around all 11 Finger Lakes and the Dawsons hiked 200 consecutive days. Damn… On Sept. 11, I accompanied Richie Moran to Schoellkopf Field where he would hang a wreath in Eamon McEneaney’s honor for the 19th consecutive year. Eamon played for Richie during the Big Red’s historic 42-game winning streak (including two undefeated seasons and two national championships), and he died in the World Trade Center. The Hall of Fame Client: the lacrosse team, coach usually addresses but this year, it was just Richie, Bill White and me. It was no less moving. If I have any regrets about my column in 2020, one would be the fact that I — after 39 years of friendship, misspelled Dave Wohlhueter’s last name throughout a recent story. Sorry, Dave. Thanks again for reading this year. Have a great holiday season, and I’ll see you in 2021. Appreciate ya.
Ithaca Times/Fingerlakes News
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County Legislature adds labor rep to IDA, gets COVID update ing pharmacies to contract with long-term care facilities for distribution.” Legislator Dan Klein made a plea for Tompkins County residents to consider applying for nursing and contact tracing roles at the Tompkins County Health Department. The County is bringing on short-term employees for these positions acknowledging the ebbs-and-flows in the need for contact tracing capacity. Members of the public interested in assisting in the effort can visit the County’s Human Resources website, https://www.tompkinscivilservice.org/civilservice/vacancies.
Member-Filed Resolution Changes Composition of Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency to Include a Local Labor Representative. A resolution to change the composition of Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) member-filed by Legislator Anna Kelles (D-Ithaca) passed unanimously at the Dec.15 County Legislature meeting. Kelles referenced the outpouring of interest from the public in this action. “This is to uphold and expand the intention of the IDA to create local jobs,” she said. Legislator Anne Koreman stated, “A silver lining to this pandemic is it has put everything back on the table. Think, ‘what if we were starting the IDA now,’ it would make perfect sense for labor to have a seat at the table.” Union leaders and public advocates for local labor joined privilege of the floor to express their support for the resolution. This resolution removes one legislature seat from the IDA, replacing it with a seat designated for a representative from local labor. The resolution as it was passed does not require New York State approval. Legislators debated a substitute resolution raised by Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) to expand the IDA to nine members. Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) challenged the motion, suggesting that it would need state-enabling legislation. County Attorney Jonathan Wood clarified his position that state statutes need to conform with law stating that IDAs need to have between three and seven members and that it would take State-enabling legislation to expand the IDA. The substitute failed 3-11, with Legislators Rich John, Mike Lane and Martha Robertson voting in favor. Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca), who serves as the current Chair of the IDA, clarified that he has seen the IDA respect the input of local labor, expelling the notion shared by community members that the IDA does not listen to or represent the perspectives of labor.
Legislator Kelles Celebrated as she Embarks on Term as New York State Assemblywoman
Legislator Anna Kelles Embarks on term as New York State Assemblywoman (Photo: Facebook)
Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Provides Legislature Update on COVID-19 Response Members of the EOC presented an update on the local COVID-19 response. County Administrator Jason Molino opened the presentation with details on the spike in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks in Tompkins County. Since the last presentation to the Legislature there have been 439 new positive cases, including a single day high of 61 on Dec. 7. Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa highlighted the effectiveness of local contact tracing efforts, explaining that 56% of local positive cases have been able to identify where they contracted the virus, compared to an estimated 20% at the state level. “A large component of that is the work that our staff does,” Kruppa said. “The nurses work closely with individuals to
find where the exposures are coming from.” Kruppa also clarified that the Health Department is shifting how it reports COVID-19 related data, as the department has streamlined internal data tracking within state systems. Demographic data shared during the presentation is inclusive of the last 1,406 cases since July 1. Regarding COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Kruppa stated, “We expect that once the Moderna vaccine is approved (which can be shipped in batches of 100) that we will start to see that coming directly into our community. New York State will be us-
A proclamation was read celebrating Legislator Anna Kelles (D-Ithaca) for her recent election to the New York State Assembly and for her work on the Legislature. Kelles reflected on her time on the Legislature and thanked her colleagues for the past five years, sharing “It has been such an honor to serve with every one of you — I can say to each one of you that you do this work with tremendous earnestness. You are truly public servants.” An additional proclamation was read acknowledging the service of retiring New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton. Legislators thanked Lifton for her commitment to the district and policies she helped pass at the State level.
Among Other Business
n increase in Legislator salaries was passed unanimously (14-0) and will go into effect in 2024. Legislators salaries are currently set at $21,400 and will increase to $22,050 in 2024 and $22,700 in 2025, reflecting a 3% (rounded) increase in
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BZA grants A&D council’s appeal, detox center will be ‘special care facility’
fter receiving the designation as a “hospital” use from Village Code Enforcement Officer Mike Scott last month for its detox center, the Tompkins County Alcohol & Drug Council (ADC) met with the Board of Zoning Appeals on Dec. 15, asking the board to consider reversing the characterization.
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The appeal eventually went to a vote. The BZA decided unanimously to reverse Scott’s designation as well as recategorize the center as a “special care facility.” The council is currently seeking a special use permit from the village to renovate the second floor of the center to install 40 beds for patients to sleep during their stay. However, a “hospital” use is not a permitted use in the village zoning code, and therefore the council cannot continue with the renovation so long as it is designated as such. According to the village code, a “hospital” is an “institution, private or public, that provides medical, surgical, or psychiatric care and treatment for the sick or the injured, which is typically open on
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a 24-hour basis and patients are allowed to stay for an extended period of time if needed (does not include nursing homes or veterinary hospital).” The ADC believes the center is better categorized as either a “special care facility” or an “assisted living facility.” In the village code, a “special care facility” is described as “convalescent, progressive care, senior housing, or nursing home, adolescent or outpatient housing.” An “assisted living facility” is described as a “supportive housing facility designed for those who need extra help in their day-to-day lives but who do not require the 24-hour skilled nursing care found in traditional nursing homes. Typically these facilities combine housing, personal care services, and light medical care in an atmosphere of safety and privacy. Based on a monthly fee, basic services typically include meals, laundry, housekeeping, recreation and transportation. Residents typically have private locking rooms and bathrooms and personal care services are available on a 24-hour-a-day basis.” Last Tuesday’s meeting began with comments from the public on the appeal. All who spoke shared their support for the appeal and the ADC’s project overall. “I feel like it’s a valuable asset to the village, to Tompkins County in general,” Planning Board member Monica Moll said. “I live just up the street from their current operation, and you would never know that they were there. They’re good neighbors. Haven’t had any issues. I feel that it’s a problem with the ambiguity of
our code rather than what they’re actually doing.” “This is a very necessary program in the community, and we hope that this gets considered appropriately,” Douglas Freeman, incoming president of the ADC’s Board of Directors, said. “We are not a hospital. We are a facility and a program that are going to get people well and healthy and keep them active, productive members of the community. We will be good neighbors; we will be good stewards.” Following the public comments, a couple of BZA members asked some questions about certain aspects of the center. Michael Powell asked if the ADC would consider the patients at the center to be “outpatient,” which Angela Sullivan, Executive Director of the ADC, said they would be best described as “ambulatory.” “The people who would be in here would be … able to move about, able to be vacated if there was an emergency on their own,” Sullivan said. “I think there’s also a discrepancy between, there’s the vernacular that we use and the definitions that we use. This was considered an ambulatory residential program.” Roy Hogben asked how the center manages patients who leave the facility prior to completing their treatment, a question that has been frequently asked by community members at previous public meetings. Sullivan said patients are simply allowed to leave the facility at any point. “These are people with mild-tomoderate diagnoses who want treatment,” she said. “People who are there want to be
ithaca.com/newsletters there. Second of all, they can’t just walk out of the building without a plan in place. They wouldn’t just walk out the door and they just walk across the street or whatever. They have to have a plan in place with some next-level care or someone to come and get them or a ride to take them home or wherever they’re going. They can’t just walk out.” Hogben said he was concerned about the possibility of individuals who were sent to the center on a court order being released and maybe committing crimes or presenting a general risk to the village. Sullivan clarified that what the ADC is offering is a “voluntary program,” so individuals will be coming to the facility on their own will, not from a court order. Village Attorney William Troy said a judge may offer the option to attend a treatment center as an alternative to incarceration to an individual in most cases, so again it would be that person’s decision, not someone else’s. The odds of an increase in crime because of the presence of a treatment center is unlikely as well. According to a 2016 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, crime rates around liquor and convenience stores were higher than the rate near drug treatment centers. After comparing the level of crime at 53 publicly funded treatment centers and 53 liquor and corner stories in Baltimore, MD, researchers found that the areas near the liquor and corner stores had “significantly more homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies per business than the areas around drug treatment centers.” Sue Romanczuk, Clinical Advisor for the ADC, said the center would notify the local police if they believe someone that was just released were “in a really agitated place, or are really angry or threaten some sort of violence or whatever,” or if staff thought “they could be violent.” At the end of the meeting, Chairperson Lynn Leopold gave thanks to Scott for the work he put into his designation for the project. “I think our code enforcement officer has done a splendid job doing his job,” Leopold said. “That was not an easy call that he made. He worked with the information that he had, and I just think that it’s clear that we should probably be revisiting our code and uses in the various commercial zones.” “I never even thought about a detox center back in 1992. Things have changed. Our world is changing. People’s needs are changing. … I certainly support what the Alcohol & Drug Council is trying to do, but I also – as a village appointed official – also feel like I’m walking the fine line between trying to listen to my own conscience and do what’s right for the village. And the village is much more than just a few neighbors. The village is all of us – our businesses, our residences, our institutions – and I’m hoping this will be a good, stable institution that we can rely on in years going forward.” - A n d r e w S u l l i va n
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Thankful for quality health care close to home. By Jean McPheeters
aking a gratitude list at this time each year reminds me of the good things in life that can get overlooked in each day’s distractions. High on my gratitude list this year is enjoying good health for me, my family and having quality health care close to home. I am thankful for the time and talent invested over many years in building a health-care system that is ready to provide care when my family and my neighbors need it. The importance of having the high-quality care Cayuga Health System provides 24/7 every day was underscored this past spring when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in our region. In some cases, lives depended on having local care because a trip to a distant hospital could have had life-ending consequences. Having sophisticated medical care close to home is near the top of my gratitude list. Also getting high places on this year’s list are five thank yous for Cayuga Health achievements that deserve an extra helping of gratitude.
Thank You #1. Two days after the first case of COVID-19 arrived in Tompkins County, Cayuga Health and the county’s health department began a collaboration to screen the public for the virus. The innovative partnership launched the Cayuga Health Sampling Center that has been the only mass testing program in our region, and it is essential for reducing the spread of COVID-19. The drivethrough Sampling Center at the Shops at Ithaca Mall each weekday allows residents of Tompkins and surrounding counties to get COVID tests close to their homes and avoid a long out-of-town trip. Thank You #2. Getting COVID test results rapidly so infected patients can be treated and quarantined prevents the spread of the virus. The medical laboratory at Cayuga Medical Center delivers next-day test results because of decisions made locally to upgrade the facility and develop a skilled lab staff equipped with state-of-the art diagnostic technology. When the pandemic arrived in our region, the lab was prepared to launch a COVID diagnostic program on a scale that few upstate hospitals could match. Nearly 500,000 patient samples have been tested at the lab for COVID-19 from mid-March to early November. Thank You #3. The Cayuga Cancer Center at Cayuga Medical Center began treating patients this fall with a new radiotherapy system. The advanced technology delivers more powerful cancer treatments with pinpoint accuracy and better precision than previous generations of medical linear accelerators. About two-thirds of local cancer patients have radiation therapy as part of their treatment. The new system reduces many treatment sessions to less than two minutes that had taken 10 to 30 minutes with the earlier system. The improved radiotherapy system at the Cancer Center combined with its collaboration with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo allows more patients to get the care they need at Cayuga Medical Center. Thank You #4. Robotic surgery programs for joint replacement and general surgeries offer surgeons high precision to the procedures done at Cayuga Medical Center. The DaVinci Surgical System for abdominal surgeries and the Navio System used for knee joint replacements each had rapid growth in 2020 during their first full year in service. The advanced robotic technology provides and extra margin of safety to patients and often result in less post-operative pain and faster recoveries. Thank You #5. Years of planning at Cayuga Health are improving health-care access in the City of Ithaca and developing the city’s economy. The Carpenter Park Medical Office Building opening in early 2021 brings a wide range of patient-care services supported by the extensive hospital care Cayuga Medical Center provides into the City of Ithaca. The 65,000-square-foot facility will have a walk-in clinic, laboratory services, physician offices, a primary care clinic for medically underserved neighborhoods, diagnostic imaging, an outpatient clinic and a comprehensive women’s health center. The Medical Office Building is part of a 10-acre project along Route 13 that also brings more affordable housing, market-rate residential units and retail space to the city. The Cayuga Health project is improving community health care, expanding the city’s tax base, creating local jobs and building more housing with this major investment. I wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday season. Jean McPheeters is a member of the Cayuga Health Board of Directors and a past president and CEO of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.
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I t h a c a T i m e s 13
Let’s Talk About
Local artist, writer creates ‘Activity Book’ on rural social justice Andre w Sullivan
Permanent exhibition at the Museum of the Earth
OPENING DECEMBER 26
OUR FUTURE, OUR CHOICE
Climate change is part of the story of life on Earth. To learn more about the exhibit and purchase tickets, please visit museumoftheearth.org 1259 Trumansburg Road Ithaca, NY 14850 607-273-6623
GIVE T H I S
H O L I DAY
S E A S O N
oug Baird has a lot to say about the way things run in Tompkins County. So much so that he took his talents as an artist and writer and published a book on it. In “Cornithaca County: One Thought, One Taught, One Voice, One Choice,” Baird illustrates and articulates how elitism is diminishing the livelihoods of rural communities in the county. The phrase “Cornithaca County” pokes fun at the fact that Ithaca as a municipality and Cornell University are the entities that truly run the county, according to Baird. “The consensus of residents is that there is a complete lack of meaningful representation in government here in the county,” Baird, a Lansing resident, said. “Also, my belief that we basically are living in a secular theocracy, which is why I have my subtitle as ‘One Thought, One Taught, One Voice, One Choice.’ There’s a remarkable lack of, what should I say, ‘dialogue.’ The things that we get are just basically handed down and announced, and I think to have a good government you need to really have a dialogue between the different interests and not cater to those who are most powerful and who have the ear and the, I guess, control to make it their life.”
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Aside from satisfying his passion to create, Baird said he wanted to create something that would start that dialogue. “I like to write poetry and write prose. Also, I love to work in artwork, graphics and things like that,” he said. “I wanted to make a book that would be both educational and provocative, and also would hopefully inspire people to think and create. I didn’t want a book that might just go on the bookshelf; I wanted a book that would be out that people would use. I thought a perfect vehicle would be an activity book because as a kid I remember those and they would have so many different things in it that really no matter what mood you were in you would find something interesting to do, whether it was just to read their limericks or poems, or whether to figure out puzzles or whether to color or do a maze, or anything like that.” The book encompasses a smorgasbord of genres and forms – humor, essays, prose, poetry, fables, riddles, among several others. There are even some sing-alongs as well as a musical Baird composed called “Bigotry: The Musical.” continued on page 20
Undaunted, creative theater folks bring quality entertainment month to everyone stuck at home
By Barbara Adams
yracuse Stage is streaming a fullout Broadway-style musical, “Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist,” with superb acting and Hollywood-worthy visuals using cutting-edge technology. This clever, updated take on Dickens’ classic –– originally workshopped in California and produced by Streaming Musicals –– is directed by Brit John Caird, of “Les Miserables,” “Nicolas Nickleby,” “Jane Eyre” and “Candide” musical fame. Caird co-wrote the book with his collaborator Paul Gordon, whose catchy music and lyrics will set you humming. In this tale for our age, Estella Scrooge is the ruthless New York CEO of Bleak House Capital (“a company of vast importance” reads her calling card), who’s come a long way since her orphan beginnings in Pickwick, Ohio. (The script gleefully bubbles over with Dickensian references.) She’s returned to Pickwick –– and on Christmas Eve, no less –– to foreclose on Harthouse, a community hostel for the down and out, the first step in her plan to demolish failing towns and build high rises and shopping malls across the Midwest. Managing Harthouse with infinite compassion and insufficient funds is Philip “Pip” Nickleby, her former childhood friend. When a snowstorm prevents Estella from leaving and compels her to overnight in the hotel’s haunted honeymoon suite, the predictable procession of phantom visitors begins: first her dead
aunt and business mentor, the manipulative Marla Havisham, then the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (this last none other than old Ebenezer himself). The traditional tale unfolds in a witty contemporary setting, and we’re hooked from the very first scene: a mass of office workers in strict black and white attire busy at their separate workstations, their frenzied song culminating in “we care almost as much about you as we do your money.” Throughout this wonderful production, the visuals are so fabulous that we have to pinch ourselves to remember this was rehearsed and recorded, as the credits say, “one day, one scene, one actor at a time.” Cut away to a stylish, arrogant Miss Scrooge at her vast circular desk, reproaching her assistant, Betty Cratchit, for only buying the company’s cheapest medical plan, which pays out virtually nothing. The solution for her sick Tiny Tammy? Stay healthy! Every moment is packed with engaging dialogue, alternately snappy and sincere, as the denizens of Harthouse count on Nickleby to save them. Actors Betsy Wolfe and Clifton Duncan simply glow in their roles of childhood friends separated by time, fortune, and values. The multiracial cast of 21 includes Em Grosland as Smike (heartbreakingly sweet waif manning the front desk), Danny Burstein (a stone-blue Ebenezer), Phoenix Best playing lovely twin sisters, and Lauren Patten as Dawkins, like her namesake The Artful Dodger a petty thief, now punked-out and saucy. Dawkins takes one look at Estella and nails her as “a pickpocket in a pantsuit” and “a walking talking Barbie –– are batteries included?” Songs are topical, moving and memorable –– “We’re Almost a Family,” “Trickle Down,”
“Great Expectations” and others will make you long for the album. Estella’s encounters with her personal demons are rendered as comical rollercoaster punk musical fantasies full of light and fury, signifying everything she’s ignored till now. She’s a cartoon capitalist whose slow redemption we enjoy. Estella’s sense of social responsibility progresses from “I love kindness, but only as a last resort” to “I’m humbled, I’m grateful.” In this new musical, past and present, old and new dissolve, and creatively, comically, sentimentally unite –– a perfect holiday entertainment. Syracuse Stage also has another, locally produced show, “Home for the Holidays,” as does Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre –– a “Seasonal Story Jam and Hootenanny.” Curated by interim artistic director Shirley Serotsky, this homey friends and family evening, filmed live in the Hangar, presents a medley of stories read by local personalities interspersed with songs by The Burns Sisters and band. Traditionals include “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” as well as more spiritual numbers, and we’re ushered out on a favorite: Sally Ramírez singing a gusty “Feliz Navidad.” The older stories (like the DuBois and Twain tales) feel a bit flat, and Ellen Orleans’ “How to Spell the Name of God” could be tightened. But newer, shorter pieces are timely (Sarah Jefferis’ “Food Shopping in Quarantine”), charming (Peggy Billings’ "Christmas Eve Falls on a Friday"), and insightful (Firoozah Dumas’ "T'was the Fight Before Christmas"). Familiar performers we now get to see again include Sylvia Yntema, Jahmar Ortiz, Susannah Berryman, and Colin Smith, among others.
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Clifton Duncan as Philip Nickleby, Betsy Wolfe as Estella Scrooge in Estella Scrooge (Photo: Tyler Milliron)
I t h a c a T i m e s 15
As the longest of nights gives way to everlengthening days,
Review: Red’s Place By He nr y Stark
remember … things will get better!
A message of hope from the following Ithaca area faith organizations whose (virtual) doors remain open to all desiring support and hope as we weather these difficult times:
Bread of Life Anglican Church • Christ Chapel • Community Faith Partners • First Baptist Church • First Congregational Church • HeartPath Mantras & Meditation • His Tabernacle • Light on the Hill Retreat Center • Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Ithaca College • Shared Journeys • St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church • St. Paul’s United Methodist Church • Temple Beth-El • The Church of Jesus Christ
110 North Cayuga St., Ithaca repstudio.com • 607-272-4292
Ithac a T imes
s the cold Ithaca winter weather settles in, the questions I get from Times readers have morphed from “What’s your favorite Ithaca restaurant?” (which for professional reasons I deflect), to “When you want a good bowl of soup, where do you go?” This I answer without hesitation: “Red’s Place.” Red’s changes their offerings frequently and knows how to combine both common and unusual ingredients in perfect proportions. During lunch several days after Thanksgiving, I ordered their then current offering, Creamy Chicken, Eggplant, and Parmesan Soup. It was amazing, with just the right amounts of veggies, spices, and dairy products. Without letting him know I was reviewing, I asked the chef if he would share with me the ingredients in this recipe and this is what I learned: chicken, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, spinach, parmesan stock, parmesan cheese, heavy cream, garlic, flour, oil, brown sugar, fresh oregano, fresh basil, salt and pepper. I’m impressed that the chefs here take so much time and make such an effort, just on the soup.
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Soups are sold à la carte for $3.50 and are included as a “side” with any entrée. When I’ve ordered soups made with veggies, it’s often difficult to find the broth until you’ve finished chewing generous portions of beans, corn, squash, etc. Often, a bowl of their soup could serve as a complete light meal. Although Red’s offers casual, comforttype fare like burgers, sandwiches and salads, it has a unique feel about it. The menu items themselves have cutesy names like “steak your claim,” “pb & jealousy,” “please romaine calm,” “clam down,” and “curry up.” Eating out should be fun and these menu touches, which could appear corny, don’t, and actually start the experience at Red’s on a light note. Among their entrées, they serve a variety of burgers and full-fledged meals. The Aurora Street Burger ($13.25) is an interesting version of a bacon cheeseburger with ancho-citrus flavored bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, arugula, and a roasted garlic aioli. It’s always delivered to the table cooked as ordered on a toasted bun. Another entrée I’ve enjoyed is Farm to Ciabatta, a vegetarian treat made with
Reds Auroara St. Burger (Photo: Casey Martin)
zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, red onion, fennel, fontina and arugula, in a roasted tomato aioli. An entrée that seems to have earned some longevity on the menu is “Mushroom Lovers Melt” with five different varieties of mushrooms, herbed goat cheese, caramelized onions, and provolone on an Ithaca Bakery roll. The different textures and melded flavors are most satisfying. Among the sandwich offerings, I like “The Plot Chickens” which features grilled chicken breast, cilantro, jalapeño cream cheese, cheddar cheese, lemon aioli, arugula, tomato, and ancho bacon on grilled ciabatta. The sandwich is hearty and offers a unique and flavorful set of complex ingredients with a generous slab of chicken. The restaurant is decorated in a casual fashion too, with walls constructed from reclaimed wood beams from a barn, lamps made from Ball jars, and striated copper tabletops. Another feature which helps to keep me happy is the relatively low and reasonable prices, most of which fall between $11 and $14. Adding to the value, sandwiches, burgers, and flatbreads all come with complimentary side dishes which are $3.50 if ordered separately There’s a wonderful selection of about 10 interesting domestic and imported craft beers on tap, including a few from Ithaca, and another almost three dozen beers in bottles. Since most of the craft beers are unique and mostly unfamiliar to us, Red’s goes to the trouble of listing them with amazingly detailed and helpful descriptions. For example, Sloop Beer from Sloop Brewery in New York State, has a description with 60 words including hazy, golden, unfiltered, citrusy juice bomb, IPA, low bitterness, late hopping with a full upfront h0p flavor, etc. I used to live in Maine and was happy to learn that Allagash beer was available, and was impressed that the bartender took the trouble to serve it with a glass imprinted with the brewery name and with a generous orange slice perched on the rim. Wines are available too but the list is short with only five whites and three reds. Wine by the glass is $7/$8 and $27-$31 by the bottle and they offer eight “signature” concoctions all at $8. I don’t think the limited wine menu should be a problem as the kind of food — burgers, sandwiches and flatbreads — served at Red’s matches really well with beer and they sure have plenty of varieties in that category.
TIDBIT Vegetarians, vegans, and diners uncomfortable with gluten won’t have any problems here. Red’s Place has a good selection of entrées and salads for vegetarians looking for something more special than the rather ordinary salads and soups that some restaurateurs cite as vegetarian fare.
Monday—Friday 10 a.m.—8 p.m.
(Non) Ithaca Celebrity Quarantine Film Festival #8: David Del Valle
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The Queen’s Gambit, True Detective, Better Call Saul By Br yan VanC ampe n
ith the world on lockdown, what are we all watching? I posed that question to film historian David Del Valle, recently seen in the Severin Films documentary “Tales of the Uncanny.” He is a regular contributor of DVD commentaries for Vincent Price films, “The Lineup” (1958) as part of a film noir box set from Indicator, and “Seven Sinners” (1940), starring Marlene Dietrich. Del Valle was also one of the first people to read Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire.” Here, he talks about what he’s watching in quarantine. Ithaca Times: What a pleasure to talk to you. Your voice is all over my Blu-Ray collection. David Del Valle: [Laughs] Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve done a few of ‘em at this point. IT: So your interest in film really cuts across all genres. DD: I’ve done every genre: Westerns, Charles Bronson movies. I owe a lot to Nick Redman at Twilight Time, the late Nick Redman, because he offered me a chance to do commentaries on movies. For me, the ideal thing doing audio commentary is to do the movies that you really feel passionate about, and that you know something about. There are so many bullet points they’re trying to put on these to compete. You know, the boutique market of DVDs is primarily about supplementals.
“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” (Photo: Ben Rothstein/Netf lix)
IT: So what are you watching in quarantine? DD: You know, I just got Netflix, [Bela Lugosi accent] and I drained it like a vampire! IT: [Laughs] DD: I’m watching f**king Polish detective things, you know? [Laughs] I kind of realized that Netflix is this vast dumping ground for a lot of crap as opposed to a lot of good stuff, too. Because whenever you tell it to click on “Horror Movies” or “Action Thrillers,” you get around 20 movies and then all of a sudden you’re looking at films from Turkey. I don’t dislike foreign movies, but you know what I’m saying. You’re gonna see a lot of dubbed stuff that’s generic, blah blah. It’s impossible to see everything. I caught up on a lot of movies that I’ve been avoiding. But I’ve been really enjoying the cable. I enjoyed “The Queen’s Gambit,” I think it’s really well done. It was written by Walter Tevis, who wrote “The Hustler” and “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” I thought the first two seasons of “True Detective” are possibly some of the best acting and writing I’ve seen ever. I love “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” and the movie they made to connect the two, “El Camino,” was very good.
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I t h a c a T i m e s 17
A different approach
Clockmaker Arts is a process-based theatre company for a post-COVID future By Ad am Me s s inge r
Clockmaker Arts made for zoom production. (photo: Provided)
ast weekend Clockmaker Arts stormed Zoom accounts across the county & country with their latest original play, “What If, In a Snowstorm…”. This new addition to the Ithaca theatre community has pumped some new blood onto the scene with a goal, according to its founders, of righting some of the wrongs that have pervaded theatre communities in the past. Elizabeth Seldin and Evie HammerLester formed the company as a way to heal and tell human stories while responding to the unsavory way of doing things that existed within theatre practices. “In a lot of theatres, we are expected to be perfect,” Seldin said. “But we aren’t perfect beings, we are human beings. Which is why our founding value is the idea of ‘human first.’” “What If ” is their second play put up during the pandemic after following this summer’s “What Haunts You,” a virtual adaptation of a previously released show
they put on in December of 2019 at the Kitchen Theatre. The duo teamed up again with Seldin writing and appearing in the show and Hammer-Lester taking the reins on directing. But this time, the Clockmakers created a show made entirely for the medium of Zoom. “We decided to embrace this new medium and adapt with it since we’re confined to using it,” Hammer-Lester said. “We’re still telling a story about the human experience, which is what we love to do, but now it’s through Zoom, which makes it a very particular experience for not only the audience but for our actors as well.” The show focused on four housemates who are living through the pandemic when a sudden snowstorm confines them even more from the outside world. Relationships are broadened and divided through a game, aptly titled: “What If?” that requires the group to open up and
connect with each other through virtual means, in the absence of physical touch and connection. Seldin’s writing is prone to play with magical realism. “What Haunts You” used ghosts as a motif to talk about past trauma, while her most recent work had the inclusion of “magic moments” in which time stops and the characters turn inward—an action that mirrors the passage of time during the pandemic. “My writing tends to have a lot of magical elements,” Seldin said. “And I think right now we are living in a version of magical reality. Now more than ever we have this six-foot-wide bubble around us and that energy of being in a space with people and connecting through touch has become so much more vibrant and palpable in retrospect. It feels like we’re living in a magic moment where time has stopped for some of us.” According to Seldin, each of the characters mirrored some of the ways she has noticed the people in her life have been handling the pandemic. Some characters had staunch rules while others began to disassociate and “numb themselves.” The writing process began in October and after two workshops the show was finally ready to begin rehearsals in early November. Hammer-Lester, in addition to being a director, also has a passion for choreography, an aspect of artistic expression she has not been able to continue virtually in the same way that she has been able to do with theatre. “I’m a very physical director and while putting together a Zoom show creates a lot of distance between me and my actors, it also creates an interesting form of trust,” Hammer-Lester said. “The actors are so much more exposed and putting themselves out there with a medium they don’t know about, and to gain the trust of them is so important.” One of the many challenges that the team had to face during rehearsals was creating the idea that all of the actions were taking place under one roof. Cameras were angled and intricately placed to not only get the impression that a snowstorm was raging on outside, but also to avoid things like the New York City skyline from popping into frame and ruining the
theatre magic they had created, according to Hammer-Lester. For both of them, perhaps the hardest struggle to helm together a virtual show has been the loss of community and socialization that occurs during a rehearsal process. To combat this and encourage not only connection, but also normalcy, Hammer-Lester set aside 10 minutes before and after rehearsals to chat with her actors about their lives outside of the virtual rehearsal room. “While Zoom fatigue is a very real thing, and sometimes I would dread having to tune in to this virtual…space,” Hammer-Lester said, “every time we began rehearsal and we started to do the work, it always hit me why I love to do this. Sometimes it even felt like a regular in-person rehearsal!” The pair knows better than anyone that Zoom theatre is not always perfect. It feels like a different ball game entirely and the results are not always enjoyable. And because of that, they have embraced their focus as a “process-based theatre company”, a sentiment that echoes through the escapist rehearsal ventures and into the performances. “We’re all looking to have space to cry and be human,” Seldin said. “You can walk away loving the show or hating it, but to walk away with nothing and forgetting it is the ultimate loss.” Seldin and the cast compared their latest work to something different than theatre. There’s an energy like a film where each of the actors is their own dresser, set designer, and stage manager. Cast member and co-founder Tyler Gardella compared the experience to the days of old soap operas being taped in front of live audiences. But whatever form of entertainment their work technically falls into, the Clockmakers couldn’t care less about sticking labels on it. As the world continues on, so will the Clockmakers. Plans for two more shows are percolating as 2021 approaches. Seldin has been working with Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) instructing a group of kids on how to write, direct, and act in a devised piece about the Black Lives Matter movement while also writing their next show, “Who’s Patrick?” which ideally will take place outside around a campfire.
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‘Cyber Nuts’ brings special flair
Call for Entries
residencies for New York State artists & writers
The COVID-era virtual version of ‘The Nutcracker’ brings new elements to freshen up the old classic
NEW! Accessible accommodations
By Tanne r Harding
he Nutcracker is one of, if not the single most, performed ballets in the modern era. A holiday classic, the sweet swell of strings of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music is everywhere this time of year. But with the COVID-19 pandemic putting the damper on a live performances, many ballet schools couldn’t go ahead with their usual winter performance. But the Ithaca Ballet made it work using an innovative combination of local sets, stage performance and green screens. It would have been easy for the school to just throw up a camera on a tripod in the State Theatre while the dancers performed on stage, but they really went the extra mile to make this year’s “The Nutcracker,” called “Cyber Nuts,” feel like its own entity. The performance was pre-recorded and then streamed on YouTube for those with tickets. The show opens with the party scene, where friends and family descend upon Clara’s (danced by Maria Sun) home for a Christmas party. This scene was filmed at the Treman Center, where natural light streamed in the window as partygoers danced together, opened presents and watched Drosselmeyer’s (danced by Kevin Olmsted) magical dolls take the floor. It’s at this party that Clara is gifted her nutcracker doll, though an ensuing fight with her brother Fitz sees the head ripped off the rest of the doll. Drosselmeyer again comes to the rescue, repairing the doll and hinting at the magic to come. The party winds down and Clara heads to bed, and when the next scene begins, we’re treated with views of downtown Ithaca. Clara shrinks down to the size of the toys, and before you know it, you’re watching Clara, the Nutcracker and toy soldiers battle mice and the Mouse King in front of Center Ithaca. There was something whimsical about the random passerby in the background stopping to watch the dancers perform. I have to mention here that all the dancers were wearing face masks, and that they were perfectly coordinated to their costumes. In the party scene the girls’ masks matched their dresses, and even more adorably, the toy soldiers’ masks
matched their skin color and had rosy red cheeks painted on them to enhance that doll-like look. It was the perfect way to incorporate 2020’s bizarre new normal into the show, and proved to be an enhancement rather than a distraction. Eventually the Nutcracker, Clara and the toy soldiers defeat the Mouse King, and leave him lying dead on his back directly in front of Center Ithaca. When the show moves on to the snow scene, the dancers are on stage at the State Theatre, where artificial snow falls gently throughout the scene — a staple of the show. The videography is something that stood out from the beginning, but here is where you really notice it as something unexpected. The unconventional locations of the party and combat scenes lend themselves to a more creative approach when it comes to filming, but to see the same creativity in scenes that are being danced on stage was great. Instead of just a wide shot of the stage from halfway back in the audience, there were close-ups and different angles and pans across the stage — it really made it feels professional and special. Clara and the Nutcracker venture their way through the Land of Sweets, all of which took place on stage. Again, the videography prevented it from becoming stale, and a couple of green screens sprinkled in added to the fun. The marzipan scene used a green screen to show the dancers in a pasture, and the sheep dancing in the background were a great touch. Much of the remaining adventure through the Land of Sweets was performed traditionally on stage, though the Waltz of the Flowers had a green screen of a rose garden. After the pas de deux with the Sugar Plum Fairy (danced by Maria Valencia), came the epilogue. Clara is brought back to bed, and you’re left wondering whether it was all just a dream. The show was beautifully choreographed and the dancers were all talented and professional. I’m impressed with the way Ithaca Ballet managed to take a classic like “The Nutcracker” and add modernday elements and creative twists using technology to turn it into something that felt familiar but still totally different for the COVID-era.
no cost to attend or apply deadline: Jan. 23 | saltonstall.org
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At Ithaca Tompkins International Airport, we’re dedicated to providing a clean and safe experience for all who set foot inside our terminal. Our mission is to remain a convenient method for safely connecting people around the world. We’ve been preparing for this new chapter of air travel, and we’re proud to say that we’re ready for takeoff. We look forward to serving your travel needs when you feel ready too.
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I t h a c a T i m e s 19
CORNITHACA Contin u ed From Page 14
“In this case, I simplified it to just 15 songs, which I think is the amount that you really need to make a legitimate musical, and to make it easier I used wellknown tunes for each of those songs, but created my own lyrics and kind of made an arch of the things that loosely tied them together,” he said. “The readers could make their own story, or if they want they could make their own songs. I really want to involve people if they want to add things or say, ‘Hey, I could do something like that.’ There’s nothing I would like better.” Baird likes to categorize the collection as an “activity book’ because of the assortment of interactive pieces packed into it. For instance, he created his own card game for readers to play called “Fake the Lake,” which is based off of a different game called “Mille Bornes.” In the game, an individual plays as a polluter with the goal of maximizing the amount of pollution that can be done to Finger Lakes. Baird said the games objective mirrors what the objectives of the state government are to combat pollution of its bodies of water. Currently, the state performs “total maximum daily load” (TMDL) plans, as part of The Clean Water Act, which seek to maximize the amount of pollution a body of water can handle before becoming impaired. “To my mind, that’s an outrageous way to deal with pollution to try and get below
the maximum,” Baird said. “The thing to do is try to eliminate it, but the actual committee from the governor actually states before this even started that they’re only trying to save some of the uses of the lake.” He also made a coloring page in the book that shows graphically the different sources of pollution in the lakes. “They claim — the governor — that they don’t really know what’s causing it, and yet when you look at the lakes you can see that the ones that have all this agriculture pollution are the ones that have the HAB’s in it, the harmful algal blooms, that cyanobacteria,” he said. “There’s a lot of evidence pointing in one direction and then there are a lot of people ignoring it or pointing in another direction because there’s power involved in it.” Baird also designed advertisements, such as “Ka Put,’ which is based on the board game “Kerplunk” where players pull out little rods and marbles fall down. His spin on it features the marbles falling into Cargill Salt mine shafts. “When they fill up they flood your mineshaft, and whenever your mineshaft is flooded you’re out of the game and you have to go look for another community to do your mine,” he said. “The one who can do the most excavation before they flood their mine is the winner.” With this piece, Baird strives to demonstrate the fact that Lansing residents do not have full knowledge of Cargill operations when mining under Cayuga Lake
and the fact that they do not share the information publicly. “We’re risking our lake on the fact that they would not lie to us, which has no basis and historical fact that people making a lot of money are not going to lie,” he said. “They really have no accountability. You get into that situation – what is going to happen with the lake? Because even if it’s a small chance, it’s a disaster. There’s no way that a lake they collapse would not be disastrous to the people around the lake. So the thing is, is a verbal assurance enough? I mean, what do we have in place except the people that approve it are the ones getting all the money. The state and the county divide up a considerable amount of money from Cargill. But what happens if things go south?” It’s pieces like these that Baird crafted with the intent of provoking thought in readers’ heads about what is taking place in their community. He also sees it as a book that people can pick up and begin at any page. “I think of it as the book that you can pick up and say, ‘I want to do a maze. Oh, I want to read a riddle. I got an hour or I’m not feeling well today, I want to look at this and look through it,’” he said.
For those interested in the book, one can purchase a paperback or Kindle version off of Amazon at https://www.amazon. com/Cornithaca-County-Thought-TaughtChoice-ebook/dp/B08KHY32M9.
Barbara Adams, a regional arts journalist, teaches writing at Ithaca College.
VISIONS PRESENTS THE TOMPKINS COUNTY DEBIT CARD
Contin u ed From Page 15
A lively video appears as well, a “Snow Phobia” musical number, with Rachel Lampert’s lyrics decrying winter sung lustily to Vivaldi. The entire 25-scene show streams through this weekend. In another venue, Lampert, former artistic director at the Kitchen, is offering her latest project for free online viewing. The holidays are a time for gifting, and in sharing this “labor of love,” Lampert is hoping viewers will be inspired to donate to any of the local artistic non-for-profit organizations. Reprising the adventures of Brooklynbased Aunt Mae, Lampert has created a delightful half-hour paper-puppet video, “The Memory Book.” A tale of multi-generational love and connection, it reminds us, as do all the other December productions, of what’s really most important. “Estella Scrooge” streams through Jan. 31. Tickets, $29.99, at syracusestage.org. “Seasonal Story Jam and Hootenanny” streams Dec. 23-27. Tickets, $25 per household, at hangartheatre.org. “Aunt Mae” can be viewed for free at https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvfJv8wEJ30.
Just take a photo that you think best captures Tompkins County and send it our way. The person with the best photo submission will win $250 and another $250 will be given to a nonprofit of their choice. The winning image will also become a featured photo on a Visions VISA debit card that all members can order! Entries will only be accepted through January 31, so get them in now at visionsfcu.org/contest
1234 5678 9012 3456
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New York | New Jersey | Pennsylvania *Individual must be at least 18 years of age or older and a resident of Tompkins County, NY. (1) entry per person. Photo must be original work, appropriate for all ages, not include people, be taken in horizontal position, and must be taken in Tompkins County, NY. Entries must be uploaded at visionsfcu.org/contest; no alternate methods of entry apply. (1) winner selected by likes/reacts via Facebook; entry with the most likes/reacts votes will win. Entry period Dec. 7, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021. Winner will be announced on Feb. 15, 2021 via social media and email. Winner must respond by Feb. 28, 2021 or prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be selected, based on the second highest number of likes/reacts. Winner will receive $250 and Visions will donate $250 to a nonprofit of their choice in Tompkins County, NY. Prize value may be reportable for tax purposes; must have valid US Social Security number to win. Winner must provide consent for their image to be reproduced in a variety of mediums and relinquishes ownership rights to the work. Winner will have a consent and release option for Visions Federal Credit Union to use their name, photo, or likeness in social media posts or future advertising and promotional materials. This contest sponsored solely by Visions Federal Credit Union, 24 McKinley Ave, Endicott, NY 13760, 800-242-2120. Federally insured by NCUA.
Virtual Music Bars/Bands/Clubs
12/26 Saturday The ElectroZone presents the Execution of 2020! Virtual 6-Day Music Event | 7:00 PM,
Stage Seasonal Story Jam & Hootenanny Ft. The Burns Sisters | All Day 12/25 Friday | Dec. 18-21 & 2327.Families can enjoy Hangar artists performing a variety of short stories by writers from Ithaca and beyond, as well as beautiful holiday music live streamed from the Hangar!Buy tickets now at hangartheatre.org/ story & 607.273.ARTS | 25
Art Annual Juried Show Online plus In-gallery Members Show at State of the Art Gallery | All Day 12/23 Wednesday | ‘December Show Goes National,’ an online juried exhibition of work by 62 artists from fifteen states at State of the Art, thru December. The show can be viewed ONLINE. Please see†www. soagithaca.org† or Facebook page for details. “Topography of Light,” by Brian Keeler | 11:00 AM, 12/25 Friday | North Star Art Gallery, 743 Snyder Hill Road, Ithaca | Fridays thru Sundays until 2/28/21. Separation of Art with a Capital ‘A’ | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Cayuga Museum, 203 Genesee Street, Auburn | Artist Victoria Fitzgerald explores the still profound lack of representation for women of all backgrounds in her art series on display at the Cayuga Museum through the end of the year. Masks and reservations required for museum entry.
Gallery Night Ithaca is back! Virtually! | 5:00 PM, 1/1 Friday | For more information, including artists information, visit gallerynightithaca.com.†
Movies Virtual Cinemapolis: Radium Girls | All Day 12/23 Wednesday | Ends 12/31. Based on true events, Radium Girls follows teen sisters, Bessie and Jo Cavallo, who dream of Hollywood and Egyptian pyramids as they paint luminous watch dials at the American Radium factory in New Jersey. When Jo loses a tooth, Bessieís world is turned upside down as a mystery slowly unravels. | 3 day rental available for $12 Virtual Cinemapolis: 76 Days | All Day 12/26 Saturday | On January 23rd, 2020, China locked down Wuhan, a city of 11 million, to combat the emerging COVID-19 outbreak. Set deep inside the frontlines of the crisis in four hospitals, 76 DAYS tells indelible human stories at the center of this pandemic. | 3 day rental available for $12 Virtual Cinemapolis: Another Round | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Ends 12/31. Four weary high school teachers embark on an experiment to maintain a constant level of intoxication throughout the workday. Initial results are positive, and the teachersí little project turns into a genuine academic study. | 3 day rental for $12 Virtual Cinemapolis: Born to Be | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Ends 12/31. Follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery. | 3 day rental for $12
inspires him to leave home. In Paris, Elias faces unstable work and financial hardship as an undocumented immigrant. | 48 hour rental available for $10
Virtual Cinemapolis: Louis van Beethoven | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Thru 12/31. Despite his great successes, most recently with the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven struggles with himself because his late work completely overwhelms his contemporaries. Now completely deaf, he looks back at missed opportunities. | 3 day rental available for $8 Virtual Cinemapolis: Monsoon | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Ends 12/31. Kit returns to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time since he was six years old when his family fled the country in the aftermath of the VietnamAmerican war. He embarks on a personal journey across the country that opens up the possibility for friendship, love and happiness. | 3 day rental available for $12 Virtual Cinemapolis: Tazzeka | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Ends 1/7. Growing up in the Moroccan village of Tazzeka, Elias learned the secrets of traditional Moroccan cuisine from his grandmother who raised him. Years later, meeting a top Paris chef and a young woman named Salma
Virtual Cinemapolis: The Library That Dolly Built | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Ends 12/31. Goes behind the scenes of Dolly Partonís Imagination Library, to show how one of the most famous and beloved performers in the world has partnered with thousands of local community organizations to develop an efficient and effective program for spreading the love of reading.† | 3 day rental available for $12 Virtual Cinemapolis: Zappa | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Ends 12/31. With unfettered access to the Zappa family trust and all archival footage, ZAPPA explores the private life behind the mammoth musical career that never shied away from the political turbulence of its time. | 3 day rental available for $12 Virtual Cinemapolis: Shadow in the Cloud | All Day 1/1 Friday | A female WWII pilot traveling with top secret documents on a B-17 Flying Fortress encounters an evil presence on board the flight. | 3 day rental for $12 Virtual Cinemapolis: 76 Days | All Day 1/2 Saturday | On January 23rd, 2020, China locked down Wuhan, a city of 11 million, to combat the emerging COVID-19 outbreak. Set deep inside the frontlines of
the crisis in four hospitals, 76 DAYS tells indelible human stories at the center of this pandemic. | 3 day rental available for $12
Special Events The Winter Wonder Wander at Tag’s | 5:00 PM, 12/25 Friday | Tag’s, 3037 State Route 352, Big Flats | A walk-through experience with over 500 wooden cut outs of favorite holiday characters. Vendors on site. Fridays thru Sundays from 5PM-9PM until January 2, 2021. 6th Annual Chill Challenge | 12:00 PM, 1/1 Friday | Ithaca Yacht Club, W Shore, Ithaca | What could be more of a fresh start than a chilly Dip?† Some participants will be there in person, going into the lake, and Dodgers, friends and family will be laughing at a livestream from their cozy living rooms. Visit our website at ithacachillchallenge.org, find a friend, and donate to ëDipí them in the lake. The Winter Wonder Wander at Tag’s | 5:00 PM, 1/1 Friday | Tag’s, 3037 State Route 352, Big Flats | A walk-through experience with over 500 wooden cut outs of favorite holiday characters. Vendors on site. Fridays thru Sundays from 5PM-9PM until January 2, 2021.
Books Ithaca Drag Story Hour - Christmas Reading ‘The Gingham Dog & the Calico Cat’ | 4:00 PM, 12/24 Thursday | Virtual - facebook.com/ tompkinshistory (No registration necessary) YA (Virtual) Book Club | 4:30 PM, 1/6 Wednesday | At this meeting we will be discussing New York Times bestseller The Grace Year by Kim Liggett. Register online at tcpl.org.
Kids Museum of the Earth and Cayuga Nature Center Holiday Break Online Programming | 9:00 AM, 12/26 Saturday | A variety of live and pre-recorded events will be available to anyone through our social media and website platforms. Events range from daily winter recreation videos to animal themed bedtime stories.†† Visitors can visit our webpage: (https://www. priweb.org) to register. Daily thru 12/31.
Health Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings | 9:00 AM, 12/28 Monday | Every day, 9:00am, Daily Ithaca Group, Zoom ID 567 306 773, Dial in: 929-205-6099. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the password.
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Virtual Cinemapolis: Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan | All Day 12/26 Saturday | Ends 12/31. A cinematic exploration of Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan from filmmaker Julien Temple. | 3 day rental available for $12 De c e mb e r
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ince 1981, the Ithaca Times has closed every year with the “Readers’ Writes” issue, featuring submissions from the most diverse writing staff at our disposal: you. Stories, poems, drawings and photographs are all welcome and complete artistic freedom is in your hands. It’s a platform for you to be heard beyond the letters page.
R E A DE R S ’
IS SU E D e a d li n e JA N 1
Ithac a T imes
This year’s theme is “Struggle & Gratitude”
As tradition dictates, any interpretation of what this prompt means to you is fair and, of course, a wide range of submissions will be accepted–just as long as you stay under 600 words. Send your submissions to Attn: Readers’ Writes, the Ithaca Times, PO Box 27, Ithaca, New York 14850 or email them in with a subject line of “Reader’s Writes” to email@example.com. Looking forward to seeing your stuff!
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