Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 February 2013 18:56
HAPPY AS A PIG IN A BLANKET: Lou Cassiniti is finally captain of his own ship.
By Franklin Crawford
Tiny Town, USA – Lou Cassaniti is such a familiar local figure that it takes a moment to notice the obvious when you see him downtown lately. First, Cassaniti is best known as “Lou the hot dog guy,” celebrated as much for his food as for his impassioned opinions. Cassaniti’s “hot dog rants” are peppered with lovely incivilities, a refreshing contrast to the neutered public discourse of our day. Second: he’s “Lou the hot dog guy” and hot dog guys disappear in January.
But there’s Cassaniti behind the food counter at the Tompkins County Area Transit (TCAT) hub on Green Street dishing it out in his signature style. A cold snap has broken, it’s raining and the dismal quench seems to give him a thrill. In summer, the weather is his friend or enemy. Not now. “This is a wonderful situation for me,” says Cassaniti, hoisting a sausage from a steam tray, setting it on a split bun and serving it up to a customer. “I’ve signed on for five years and the people at TCAT have just been super about everything. Look at that rain.”
The upscale bus shelter is located in Cayuga Green, a high-end complex with a retro-futurist façade implanted between the public library and the county mental health services building. The mixed-use space was opened in 2009 and TCAT leased the 1,400 foot site as a passenger amenity, in turn sub-leasing it to Gimme! Coffee, owners of a popular chain of cyber cafes. Late last fall, Gimme! closed shop, and TCAT officials needed a new tenant. Cassaniti was chosen from a number of applicants, according to a press release issued by the non-profit corportion.
“We are very excited about working with Lou and believe he will be a nice fit for our state-of-the-art downtown hub,” states Dan Tome, TCAT’s purchasing and project manager. “Lou’s coming on board is great for TCAT passengers and great for the community.”
Cassaniti boasts that he was born in Harlem and technically that’s true. He is one of five brothers, most notably Joe Cassaniti, an Ithaca character in his own right. Lou Cassaniti’s parents moved to Ithaca when he was just a month old. His father worked at Morse Chain [now the former Emerson building on South Hill] and his mother waited tables at the Lehigh Valley House for fifty years, he says. He graduated in 1960 from Ithaca High School, in the same building that is now DeWitt Mall on S. Cayuga Street.
In a synchronous moment common to anyone who has lived in Ithaca long enough, Faith Milton, a local resident, steps up to the counter.
“Can you believe this?” Cassaniti asks, pointing to Milton – “I sat next to her father in high school. Faith, tell this guy who your father was.”
Milton demurs for a second and that’s all the time Cassaniti needs. “Bernie Milton,” he says. “Bernie Milton and I sat next to one another.” Milton was a well-known local muscian, radio personality and songwriter, who recorded dance hits, “The Waddle” in the 1960s and “60/40” in 1985. He is honored by a plaque on the central pavilion of the Ithaca Commons.
Milton’s fame is discussed, as well as that of other Ithaca pop stars past as TCAT riders wander up to the counter for this or that. Cassaniti scolds a regular for his smoking habit as he helps another customer with a broke hand get his backpack strap under his good arm. Another friend comes up, orders two hot dogs and tells Cassaniti his catering services are desired by a local contractor of no small repute. Is he interested? That exchange is interrupted briefly when a group of men get a little loud. Cassaniti summarily hushes them and they obey. While it’s not his job to monitor the customer’s behavior, Cassaniti has an authoritative presence and he likes to keep the atmosphere in the station “congenial,” he says.
A veteran of the hospitality trade, Cassaniti met his wife Kathleen in the Catskills when he was running a resort called the Eldred Trout Preserve, a motel with freshly stocked fishing ponds and “and the best trout you ever ate.” His most famous customer? John Mitchell, former secretary of state under Richard Nixon.
Lou and Katheleen were married in 1975 and had one son, Louis Cassaniti, Jr., who happens to be his father’s right hand man in the family business. Together they run the Green Street Station, manning a spacious kitchen and counter area and serving coffee, baked goods, soft pretzels, cold beverages and hot dogs. They also sell T-card passes, as does the Green Street Pharmacy nextdoor.
The entire space is reminiscent of a mini-Automat, minus the vending machines, with floor-to-ceiling windows lined with countertops and tall chairs. There are tables as well, and, for those in need, public rest rooms, an amenity sorely lacking in the downtown area.
The shelter is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and TCAT officials emphasize that riders are not obligated to buy anything and are welcome to just enjoy the place.
The station was originally built as part of the Ithaca Center City Project, with major support from the federal government. During peak commuting hours the Green Street hub is a hive of activity. About 450,000 “boardings” are recorded there each year, according to the transit company.
Joe Turcotte, TCAT general manager, says Cassaniti’s presence in the station is a boon to passengers as well as bus drivers “who might need a quick bite to eat.”
That appeared to be the case last Tuesday as father and son swapped shifts in the mid-afternoon. It was only their fourth day on the job and if there were any glitches in the new operation, they weren’t as obvious as Cassaniti himself, Ithaca’s own lion in winter.
This piece originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2013 edition of the Tompkins Weekly
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2013 04:53
Tiny Town Satellite of Sapsucker Woods – With some powerful binoculars, an eye for birds and a lot of imagination you can almost see spring from here. Almost.
The Lab of Ornithology is offering its annual Spring Field Ornithology, an 8-week course, that will run from Weds, March 20, through May 12th.
The course is designed for the complete beginner as well as the most avid birder.
Wednesday night lectures are followed by Saturday and Sunday field trips to regional birding hotspots, such as: Braddock Bay Bird Observatory, Derby Hill Hawkwatch, Montezuma, Sapsucker Woods and Dryden Lake.
Course highlights include two overnight trips to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, and in the Cape May, N.J, area. The lecture section also includes two visits to the bird collection of the Cornell Museum of Vertebrates and a nighttime 'owl prowl.'
Among the lecturers is Steve Kress, Vice President for Bird Conservation for National Audubon with other lecturers from the Lab of O; weekend trips are led by local birding experts.
The weekly field trips are organized by beginning, intermediate and advanced birding levels, with instruction tailored to the interests and abilities of each group.
"There is a sense of community that builds throughout the course," says Marc , the field coordinator. "And many people enjoy the trips so much that they return to take them year after year with their friends."
Enrollment is open to the general public, ages 12 and older.
Guests may sign up for just the lectures, the 8 weeks of guided field trips, just the overnights or all course sections.
To see a video describing the course, view images, check scheduling or to enroll visit: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/sfo.
If you have questions, contact Devokaitis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 607-254-2453.
Last Updated on Sunday, 27 January 2013 00:00
←Humble Beginnings, humbler ends: Chad Coles in 2009 at the original tinytowntimes.com digs, a doll of a place in the DeWitt Mall.
Tiny Town, USA – A charming and innovative blog/website called tinytowntimes.com died at home Jan. 20. It was four years old. The site was developed by RS, a.k.a., Belinda Cho, in the Spring of 2009, as a gift for its future administrator, C. Penbroke Handy. Handy, an unemployed journalist and amateur shutterbug, proved unreliable and was replaced by a series of heteronyms under the watch of Franklin Crawford, also an unemployed journalist, public relations man and amateur shutterbug. Flush from the patronage of an offshore interest, Mr. Crawford hired Chad Coles, AdQ, accounts receivable and gay (pictured); Davey Weathercock and Olive the Weather Hen, Kensington Gore of Stench, NY, and others, and the site began to attract interest. In its first year, the tinytowntimes.com drew more than 30,000 actual viewers. Numbers grew and in December 2012, at the peak of a furious ad campaign headed by Mr. Coles, the site topped out at 160,000 authentic, absolutely unique viewers, according to Blue Host.com, a web management organization. This attracted a number of corporate interests, including The American Lynx1 and its sister power, The American Sphinxbot.com and Nose of The Sphinx.com. Takeover talks were openly discussed on the site and it looked like tinytowntimes.com would be subsumed into the larger of the two powers, at a substantial profit. With the onset of the Christian holidays, a recalcitrant Congress in over-time session, and an actual blackmailing of the American public called a "Fiscal Crisis," the purchase of tinytowntimes.com was stalled. This hiatus proved fatal to the small enterprise. Having borrowed heavily to cover expenditures needed to run its wildly successful campaign, there was "nothing left but our good name and it was not all that good after the ad campaign," opined Mr. Coles. Speaking from his family home in Oblige, Miss., Mr. Coles continued: "The Boss (Crawford) was extremely shrewd. He had cloaked the campaign and played the presidential election perfectly to our advantage and even succeeded in getting both major national parties to agree that tinytowntimes.com was a 'God-fearing American enterprise for Ithacan-Americans and lovers of Tiny Towns everywhere.' He won endorsements from Democratic as well as Republican supporters, and of course, the Independents, Libertarians and his own Columnist Party 9." Mr. Coles said he was shocked to learn that, some time in the waning hours of 2012, The American Sphinx and its sister company had withdrawn their offer to acquire tinytowntimes.com. "We had already filed many of the legal documents necessary to ensure a smooth transition – and at no small cost. Understand, this was a global acquisition and that means big bucks for world copyrights, etc. We assumed a debt that was perhaps disproportionate to the investment needed to place ourselves in a profitable square, but the results were there in the metrics: it was a risk worth running. The betrayal on the part of the Lynx and the Sphinx.bot killed us. The Boss notified all of us, after the holidays had passed, that the death knell had sounded and the site was doomed." Mr. Crawford conceded that "running with Lynx's and Sphinx's was probably unwise. We had a nice little thing going before that. We got too big too fast and that ran counter to our credo 'Keep it tight, keep it tiny.' " On Jan. 20, Mr. Crawford made final calls to his trusted advisers all of whom urged him to "go out and get a job." Mr. Crawford, still reeling from a pernicious flu bug, acquiesced. The site will continue to function, he said, "as a kind of repository for ideas and scallops, if we can find any fresh." But he said that content will no longer be organized under the same principles of "tiny" nor, with the inability to continue syndication with Adam Perl (creator of the popular Tiny Town Teasers), is there any longer a weekly, thematic coherence linking posts. He added there is a danger of the site drifting into pure fiction and possible surrealism. "It is a hard hard thing this. I don't like it, but Tiny Town is not Breezy Point and we must not whine. In closing, he said: "I blame Facebook for everything so I blame Facebook for this." A Memorial Service is being planned in the spring at the opening of the New Ithaca Aquarium. In lieu of flowers, Mr. Crawford asked that donations in the sum of five dollars be sent to "someone else who needs it as we need a helluva lot more than that to get us out of this jam."
Last Updated on Friday, 23 November 2012 23:12
Editor's Note: Re-posted from an email rec'd via Contact with The Sphynx. For attribution, contact Cayugadeer.org posted below. We understand how owners of Real Estate as well as gardeners feel. The Deer below was so Freaked-Out it turned prematurely white-haired. Think on that! Deer know s**it. We also are relieved to know We don't have to "booby-trap Gunmen in Our Tiny Town Refuges" as one citizen put it. "Not yet," they said, kind of echoing the Mayor's sentiments right back at her office and so forth. Maybe someone is upset about the Venison Sausages they ain't gonna get this year:
CITIZENS FOR SAFE, ETHICAL AND RATIONAL APPROACHES TO REDUCING DEER-HUMAN CONFLICT
Tiny Town Satellite of Cayuga Heights, USA – At a public meeting earlier this week, the Cayuga Heights government announced that they are suspending their plan to perform a mass slaughter of deer in Village! This unexpected turn of events comes only weeks before the killing was planned to begin. So the deer have been spared the barbarism -- and all of us spared the trauma -- that has threatened to destroy our community for the last four years. But how did this come about?
As many of you know, a judicial injunction is what blocked the killing from taking place last winter, based on a legal challenge that included a scientific critique from national-level experts at Harvard, Tufts, Yale, and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. These leaders in their fields roundly rejected the rationale for the killing plan, characterizing it as “misleading,” “deeply flawed,” “commits a serious oversight,” and having “insufficient evidence,” and “no site-specific data.” Furthermore, in the public comments that were collected during the official State-required comment period, there was overwhelming community opposition to the program, and comparatively little support.
Despite all this, the injunction was rescinded this past June by a NY state Appellate court. This disappointing ruling removed the last legal protection remaining for the deer, and Cayuga Heights Mayor Kate Supron announced in the media that the killing would begin in December.
For years now, Mayor Supron has insisted that Cayuga Heights residents are overwhelmingly in favor of her plan, and would support the mass shooting of animals in neighborhood yards, adjacent to countless homes, roadways, walking trails, and other highly populated areas. Thankfully, she turned out to be wrong. In the end, she and her fellow trustees were simply unable to convince, pressure, or cajole enough land owners to allow firearms to be discharged within 500 feet of their homes -- a permission that is required under New York state law. As a result, they were left with insufficient sites to lure in and kill the deer.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the village residents who resisted the pressure, disinformation and scare tactics, banding together to stop this tragedy from unfolding. Many thanks are also due to those on this list, and beyond, who participated in a multi-year effort to educate the community and stand against a plan that, from the get-go, was so clearly unscientific, unethical, and unsafe. In the end, our work together enabled reason, compassion, and common sense to prevail!
Many people gave of themselves during this long and sometimes agonizing struggle. People of all ages and walks of life came forward to help in ways almost too numerous to list. And not just from the local area, from which some truly courageous people showed up to peacefully protest and speak out at meeting after meeting, enduring the trustees’ disrespect, derision, and at times, outright suppression. People from hundreds, even thousands of miles away, and from dozens of countries, took time from their busy schedules to sign our petition (12,429 to date), to call elected officials, to write letters, to generate local, regional and national media coverage, to donate legal services, professional skills and funds, to organize international vigils, to work for political change within Cayuga Heights, and to offer much needed moral support.
An astounding worldwide effort came together to save deer families from being brutally exterminated, to spare children and other vulnerable members of this community from being traumatized by the senseless violence, and to prevent the horrific program being proposed in Cayuga Heights from being propagated in other municipalities in New York State. This is truly something to wonder over, and for which to give thanks. So many things distract us and divide us from each other in today’s world. Yet, in this case, the struggle for justice and non-violence, to preserve life and to tell the truth, brought so many of us together.
But our work is not over, not quite yet. While Mayor Supron has conceded that the killing cannot proceed, she qualifies her statement by adding, “for now.” [See: http://tinyurl.com/b7qmqan ]. The trustees’ new plan is to spend up to $180,000 to sterilize 145 deer over a period of two weeks, using the same contractor — White Buffalo — that was originally slated to kill the deer. You may recall White Buffalo’s founder and president, Anthony DeNicola, was reported in the media to have compared the mass slaughter of deer to brushing his teeth and mowing the lawn. Likewise, Prof. Paul Curtis of Cornell University, who conceived of the idea of capturing, tagging and sterilizing a core population of “survivor” deer and then exterminating all their herd-mates around them year after year, is slated to receive $30,000 as the first installment of what is expected to be a multi-year consulting contract.
Mayor Supron and her colleagues have publicly expressed an interest in reviving the killing plan if new laws can be passed that will enable the discharge of firearms closer than 500 feet to homes. In a meeting last week, the heinously cruel net & bolt option was also discussed by the trustees.
In short, while the killing has once again been blocked, we unfortunately cannot tell you that this battle is over for good. Incredibly, there is no indication that Mayor Supron or her fellow trustees have taken any of the extraordinary events of the last fours years as an indication that backyard mass slaughter is a bad idea.
We will not rest until the kill program is permanently rescinded, and a long-term, non-violent alternative is implemented in Cayuga Heights, enabling deer and humans to peacefully co-exist. In the coming days we will be providing more details of how we can all ensure that we make further progress toward that goal.
For now, let’s take this moment to appreciate what has been accomplished, knowing that our work together has once again averted an impending tragedy, and against the steepest odds. We are so very grateful to each person who supported this long, and often thankless-seeming effort. Together, we have made a real difference, not just for the people and animals of this community, but for all of those fighting wildlife killing campaigns in other communities around the globe.
A better world is possible. Working together, we can help create it!
Jenny, James and Eric, on behalf of CayugaDeer.org
CITIZENS FOR SAFE, ETHICAL AND RATIONAL APPROACHES TO REDUCING DEER-HUMAN CONFLICT