Weekday top 5: Cuomo eyes more NY prison closures, new Auburn studio, Skaneateles Brewery opens
The Citizen staff
The Citizen's top five most-read stories of the work week.
Cuomo wants to close more NY prisons; corrections officers' union blasts plan
For the second consecutive year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking authority from the state Legislature to close correctional facilities.
Cuomo included additional prison closures in his 2020-21 executive budget proposal. The legislation would allow him to close facilities "as he determines to be necessary for the cost-effective and efficient operation of the correctional system," according to the text of the budget bill. He would be required to give state legislative leaders at least 90 days' notice before closing prisons.
Prison closures were part of Cuomo's budget plan last year. While the state Legislature initially rejected the proposal, the final 2019-20 budget gave the governor authority to close up to three prisons.
Ultimately, Cuomo closed two prisons: Lincoln Correctional Facility, a minimum-security prison in New York City, and Livingston Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in western New York. The closures eliminated nearly 1,200 beds and will save the state an estimated $35 million.
Cuomo has closed 17 prisons since taking office in 2011. The closures affected minimum-security and medium-security facilities. No maximum-security prisons have been closed.
The New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, the union representing corrections officers, criticized Cuomo's proposal. Michael Powers, the union's president, claimed that while the inmate population has declined by 39% over a 20-year period, prison violence is at record levels.
Powers cited data from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which oversees the state prison system. Inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults were the highest reported by the agency, according to NYSCOPBA.
"At a time when prison violence is at an all-time high, the governor and the legislature should be working with us and our members to find solutions to make our prisons safer," Powers said. "The last thing we need is incarcerated individuals tightly crammed into prisons, creating nothing more than a powder keg of violence."
Cuomo, who outlined his budget proposal Tuesday, will negotiate a final budget with the state Legislature. The artificial deadline is March 31 — the final day of the current fiscal year. The governor and state lawmakers hope to have a spending plan in place when the new fiscal year begins April 1.
'Rejuvenate and refresh': New Auburn studio focuses on mental wellness
Katie Stott-Dennis wants to give others the help she wanted when she was a child.
In August, Stott-Dennis opened Little House of Shine, a family wellness and learning center, at 2115 W. Genesee St. Road in Aurelius in August. At the core of the business is the importance of emotional intelligence, wellness and growth, focusing on one thing at a time, and processing life's tribulations in a healthy way, she said.
Stott-Dennis said she could have used that kind of support when she was a student.
"I want to to be the person that I needed when I was younger, and I think about that every single day when I go into Little House of Shine," she said.
Classes at the studio include yoga and singing for children ages 2-4 with parents, and monthly workshops for young women ages 7-11 to love themselves. Classes for adults include mediation sessions. One-on-one sessions are also available.
Stott-Dennis was previously a teacher for 16 years, and a Union Springs Central School District special education teacher for seven. She said the studio was inspired by the state Education Department requiring mental health education in schools, which went into effect in July 2018. She believes her work complements the efforts made by schools, adding that teachers, counselors, social workers and others work extremely hard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five youth experience a mental disorder in a given year.
While training can cover how to teach a child, Stott-Dennis said, many teachers around the country may not have been trained to contend with the mental, social and emotional issues students bring with them to the classroom. In trying to handle these challenges, she continued, teachers can find themselves dealing with their own mental health issues. She said the studio assists children, parents, teachers, caregivers "and any human who wants to grow and evolve."
One of the events the studio holds for adults, Stott-Dennis said, are group sessions called Love Me Days centered on people loving and helping themselves. She is planning Love Me Days targeting those in specific careers, such as education or mental wellness, though she stressed that no one would be turned away.
"They need to have a place where they can come and rejuvenate and refresh with like-minded and like-valued people," she said.
A separate business, called Mind, Body, Meta, shares the same building as Little House of Shine. Owned by Monique Moshaty, the holistic skin care business offers a custom and handmade product line, and skin care treatments.
Stott-Dennis said she adores seeing the apprehension and anxiety melt away from a client's face before her very eyes. She felt she didn't see enough ways for the public to address their mental and emotional needs either locally or beyond, she continued, so she created one. She said she was thrilled to create a business that can help people.
"It feels incredible to see the smiling faces on the folks that I work with," she said. "Every time there's an event and they leave, we all become friends, they become part of a tribe."
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Fair Haven winery building ballroom
Colloca Estate Winery has started construction on a 7,000-square-foot ballroom that will be completed in time for the 2020 wedding season, the company announced this week.
The winery in Fair Haven said the facility will allow it to host events throughout the year. Last year, Colloca Estate built a 3,600-square-foot commercial catering kitchen to support the outdoor white-tent weddings and other events, and demand has skyrocketed.
“We have been sold-out of every available Saturday over a year in advance,” General Manager Monica Canale said in a press release.
The new ballroom will feature post-and-beam construction and is modeled after the Onteora Mountain House in the Catskill Mountains, a world-class banquet facility first developed as a summer home by mayonnaise mogul Richard Hellmann. The Colloca ballroom will be able to seat more than 400 guests, and will be adaptable to host conferences, concerts and other events besides weddings.
Colloca Estate Winery was founded by Dr. Chris and Mindy Colloca on land overlooking Little Sodus Bay 10 years ago. More than 30 weddings and about other events and festivals are planned at the site in 2020.
Chris Colloca pointed to the impact the business is having on tourism.
“More visitors to Fair Haven equates with more tourism and more traffic for the area businesses,” he said in the press release. “Fair Haven and surrounding area gift shops, restaurants, B&B’s, and area pubs all benefit from more weddings and events at the winery."
Local lager: Inside Skaneateles Brewery, now open
SKANEATELES — The partners behind Skaneateles Brewing thought for awhile how to name, and brand, their new business.
In time, though, they turned to the lakeside town where it's located.
Open since Dec. 13, Skaneateles Brewery celebrates that town in many ways. From its beer to its bar, the brewery is as local as can be.
The idea began with John Menapace, operations manager of Last Shot Distillery in the same building. Since opening that business in 2015, he's felt it would only be natural to add beer, he said.
Menapace soon recruited longtime friend Dan Welch and his partner, Dorothy Krause, as well as Sal and Hope Strods, into the project. All live in Skaneateles. Though the five are the brewery's partners, Sal is not officially an owner, making the brewery a majority women-owned business. The brewery is applying to be certified as such, the partners said.
Planning began toward the end of 2017. By the following summer, walls at the vast 4022 Mill Road space were being torn down. The partners worked with several artisans to transform the humble drywall office across from Last Shot's tasting room into a bar with rustic and industrial finishes. The bar itself is lined with thick steel cable, which Menapace said was leftover from milfoil removal efforts at the creek behind the building. Chandler Dickinson of Old School Forge welded the cable to the bar, while Jim Heuber fabricated the structure's copper surface.
"We put a lot of time and craftsmanship into making it happen," Sal said. "Making this feel like a warm and inviting environment, versus just a box you sit in."
The taproom gives way to a second seating area with a shuffleboard and a view overlooking the brewery. There, the brewery's look becomes more modern.
Friend Mary Wiles, a beer industry veteran who now works for Brooklyn Brewery and F.X. Matt Brewing Co. (Saranac), steered the Skaneateles Brewery partners through their buildout. On her recommendation, they installed a "state-of-the-art" 7-barrel Prospero system, and the floors and walls were coated with urethane so as to minimize the risk of any bacteria infecting the beer.
The partners also heeded the advice of local brewers and built a spacious cold room that sits below the seating area overlooking the brewery.
Dan and Sal, who has home-brewing experience, make the beer. They're aiming for a variety of light-drinking styles, which include Hunsiker Hefeweizen, Lightning Lager and Short Line Stout.
"There's a lot of demand for just a nice-drinking lager," Sal said. "We're trying to get something that's going to draw in people who may not go to a microbrewery because they think it's all IPAs."
Those beer names pay tribute to Skaneateles as well. Hunsiker was the name of a brewery located a mile away in the 1800s, Lightning comes from the popular sailboat built in the area and launched on Skaneateles Lake in 1938, and Short Line references the rail line behind the brewery. The partners plan to build an outdoor seating area there with a view of the creek, they said.
Skaneateles also has an India pale ale, Willow Glen IPA, named for the hamlet where the brewery is located. That and the brewery's other beers are also local in the literal sense, as they're made with Skaneateles Lake water. Other ingredients are sourced exclusively from New York state per the terms of Skaneateles' farm brewery license.
With a Crowler machine in the taproom, customers can take beers like Lightning Lager home. The brewery also plans to distribute kegs to area bars in the near future, the partners said. Further down the line are canning and bottling, plus adding more fermenters. The brewery currently has a few, including one 15-barrel fermenter for double batches.
But before Skaneateles Brewery focuses on bringing its beer to people, it wants to work on doing the opposite. The partners feel their location away from the bustling village gives it an advantage with locals who want to go someplace quiet, with ample parking. When its creekside area opens, the brewery will offer one of the few outdoor drinking spots in the town as well.
The brewery currently offers snacks like pretzels and Chex Mix, though customers are welcome to bring takeout. Other menu items and food truck visits are in the works, Krause said. And in addition to its own beers, the brewery pours a few guest taps that include 1911 Hard Cider, and wines from local producers Anyela's and White Birch.
Taproom visitors will probably notice a wooden floor inlay, crafted by Ryan Goetzmann, that features Anita Dore's lake-inspired logo for the brewery. But the serene logo doesn't just evoke the setting of the business, Krause said. It also sets a tone the brewery wants its customers to feel as soon as they walk through the doors, she said.
"It's really important to us that people enjoy coming here and relaxing," Krause said. "It's just got that warmth."
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Auburn man to serve prison time for violating order of protection
AUBURN — An Auburn man will likely spend one to three years in prison for violating an order of protection by banging on the door of the victim's residence.
Lee Potter, 30, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Cayuga County Court to one count of first-degree criminal contempt with a prior, a class E felony — which satisfied a second identical charge.
Potter decided to move forward with a plea bargain following a conference with Judge Mark Fandrich, defense attorney Jonis Strods and Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann.
Holbrook was initially promised a conditional sentence of five years on probation with the possibility of participating in drug court. But — as Budelmann and defense attorney Ben Susman noted in court on Tuesday — Holbrook didn't follow through on starting treatment after he was released from jail later in August.
"I don't know that prison is the right answer at this point. I think he's got to be forced to be sober for a period of time," Budelmann said.
Though prison would not be "inappropriate," Fandrich said, he sentenced Holbrook to six months in jail with the possibility to start treatment court after his release.