My Nyack view (preferable to Tappan Zee Bridge)                                                                AHGunther photo

By Arthur H. Gunther III

  Nyack, N.Y. — There’s a new bridge a-building across the Hudson River just 20 miles from New York City, though the original is nearing a really short but stressed 59 years. Some in these parts, a village in Rockland County, N.Y., never wanted the first crossing.
You see, growth came rapidly post-1955, so quickly that profit rather than wise planning ruled the day, then the months and years. Natural drainage areas were filled in, downtowns abandoned, endless strip shopping appeared and municipal services expanded so much that now they are cost-prohibitive, especially with no relief from the state on mandated costs such as health care and pensions.
These days the suburbs, surely this one, are graying, and seniors, so many of them, live in houses too large and few smaller properties to be had, if enough sales could be made anyway. School taxes, also with federal and state mandates, are reaching breaking point, and it is clear that income must also be a factor in the levy rather than just property wealth, often just a paper figure.
Many of our young prefer living not in suburban development with its anonymity and sameness but in walkable areas such as the once-abandoned villages. So, it’s back to the future a bit, a theme that could have been kept in place and beautifully expanded when the first post-World War II housing was constructed. Houses could have and should have risen around existing villages and hamlets, renewing the downtowns and keeping car travel down.
This time around, the new Tappan Zee Bridge will not add much to suburban development, which in this area is maxed out save for over-density building, a new worry. No, the crossing, which will continue to be fed by an under-maintained Thruway on both sides of the Hudson, will simply be a safer bridge, with walking and biking provision, but existing principally as an interstate, quite unsuitably for trucks, the freight of which would proceed more efficiently on railroads. Gotham-bound commuters and other travelers  should have that option as well. But money, big money, long ago went to the highway lobby, with drastic effect for suburban hurly-burly growth at the expense of community strengthening.
Ah, progress, which can be another way of saying, “Ouch, who pinched me and told me it was for my own good?”
As one who wished the first Tappan Zee had never been built where it was, who as native son will forever rail against bad area planning, who hopes against hope that whatever growth lies ahead will be better, I prefer to drive down Memorial Park way, in  Nyack, and stare out not at the bridge but toward a very old barge, now moored for marine life, and view even that in the abstract, as the accompanying photo shows.
Reality denial? You bet.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


New carriage, old Central Park  (AHGunther photo).
By Arthur H. Gunther III

MANHATTAN — On a snowy Saturday that did not seem to bother hardened Gothamites and assorted visitors, a trip to the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library to see the near end of “The Armory Show at 100”  was art in itself.
The original 1913 installation at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue offered about 1,250 paintings, sculptures and decorative works by more than 300 European and American artists. The new exhibition, “The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution,” features approximately 100 masterworks from the first show, which was a watershed art event, introducing work that swung to the avant-garde and which shook up American audiences, critics and the art establishment.
1913 Armory provided the path for  baby steps toward the abstractionism that would increasingly rule into the 1970s and so affect every other art form, continuing through today.
Since the Historical Society is about, well, history, the new exhibition revisits the original from an art-historical point of view, spotlighting artists, audiences, political and economic themes, music and literature.
Radical for its time, on the doorstep of the cataclysmic Great War, the unregulated greed of the 1920s and the subsequent Great Depression, 1913 Armory offered a look at the early works of such painters as Picasso, Renoir, Duchamp, Cezanne, Bellows, Henri, Hopper, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat, Matisse, many others and that of the 1913 co-organizer Arthur B. Davies. The theme was that times were a-changin.’ The installation of living American and foreign artists, favoring works ignored or rejected by past exhibitions, however shocking in 1913,  would embolden American artists and give them voice, independence and “artistic language” of their own. The logo for the International Exhibition of Modern Art show was “The New Spirit,” and that it was.
The present armory show, which closes Feb. 23 and is a tribute to such Historical Society officials as Brian Allen, director of the Museum Division, and
Marilyn Satin Kushner, PhD, curator and head, Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections, is set in intimate rooms reminiscent of the paneled sections of the original installation. You see up close what the fuss was all about as you look at this challenging art.
When visitors left the Historical Society Saturday, they faced even more history, literally, as snow pushed against face and a carriage could be seen in the old Central Park, not unlike that of a Saturday in 1913 or long before. That there has been both continuity in human affairs, in ordinary living, in the daily goings-on of a metropolis such as New York City while culture constantly changes and evolves gives proof that you can grow, as the 1913 Armory Show implored, but also stray grounded, as Central Park and the Historical Society show us every day.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman. He can be contacted at This essay may be reproduced.


Color at Tallman Mt. copy

At Tallman Mt. State Park (AH Gunther photo)


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Snow — pristine, fresh, covering all the warts of ordinary land — is a childhood delight that we don’t give away to growing older, though the demands of getting to work and to the store and to the shovel and to utter humanity and the inhumanity of that, too, make us think twice.
Yet we must fight against that tide, for in the end the child grown very old, it is hoped, again becomes the child, as if by natural cleansing there is preparation for the innocence of eternity.
When a youngster finds there is no school, that a snow day has been declared, though his/her parents may fret over child care, the youngster knows that the point isn’t escaping class, for education may well be fascinating. No, this snow day is a treat, a sudden gift, a ticket to explore.
Time to build a snowman, throw snow balls, walk to the hot chocolate shop, stay in pajamas all day, hearing the furnace turn on, adding to the warmth of a blanket on the couch.
It is a moment to daydream, to use unscheduled time for whatever, even nothing, for out of nothing often comes something.
Maybe adult-dom ought to have its snow days, too, releasing the minions from the treadmill, from encapsulated thinking, from the usual choices.
Just as long as the child and the adult never share the same day “off,” for the twain should rarely meet.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be contacted via This essay may be reproduced.


ImageCOLOR IN THE HILLS, a view off Bear Mountain (Arthur H. Gunther photo)

February 3, 2014

     Bear Mountain, N.Y. — You would have to be close — about 48 or so miles from New York City — to hear, even in this verdant wonderland of forestation, an urban fellow say to his four year old: “They call Bear Mountain that because it is bare on top.” Well, it is bare, but that’s not the reason for the moniker. We hayseeds know that.
     This beautiful part of the heavy mountain ranges off the Hudson River, so close to Gotham, is part of the New York State parks system and specifically in the Palisades Interstate Park network. Despite being underfunded for decades (in tougher times, libraries and parks always get the shaft), Bear Mt. State Park, its umbrella the Harriman State Park, and other New York parks in the Hudson Valley region are full of trails, famous stone structures crafted by Depression-era men, some pools, quite a few lakes and the historic Bear Mountain Inn, itself awaiting fuller restoration when the money is there. A hotel, cafe and trading post are now in place in the inn, as is a continuing gallery operated by Artists in the Parks, a non-profit collection of artists who share sale proceeds with the park system.
     For decades, at least since the inn’s construction in 1915, we locals have driven or hiked or, once upon a time, taken the West Shore Line train to Bear Mountain on weekdays, when the city crowds were back at work. No complaint about urban folks, of course — they help keep the parks going, too, and what a weekend respite, but it’s like when company goes home. You have the house to yourself once again — it is a delight.
     Bear Mountain Inn  was designed in the Adirondack Great Camps style, and it never goes out of style, literally. Even a poorly done 1970s retrofit with blonde wood, now removed, could not wither the great oaks and other dark woodwork of this monumental building.
     My hope is that the Palisades Parks Conservancy, properly formed to aid “the improvement of and activities in the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and for the purposes of promoting and expanding the preservation of natural, historical, and cultural resources in the Park for the benefit of the public”  will some day be successful in specifically restoring Bear Mountain State Park, its parking lots, its trails, its zoo, its inn, its skating rink and many other features so that the “great masses” will continue to visit, from New York City and beyond and from local communities, too. That is what was intended so long ago in the Teddy Roosevelt-style founding of the parks.

Arthur H. Gunther is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

A recent New York Times edition unintentionally offered proof of the growing American economic contrast in this topsy-turvy world of post-recession stall.
On its Opinion Page January 6 was a third-position editorial, “Republican Disdain for the Jobless,” which rightly castigated the GOP for not extending temporary unemployment benefits for 1.3 million. Just two pages later, on the back cover of the first section, in obvious, deliberate and expensive “paid position” advertising, was a call by the famous Bonhams auction house for a very rare and expensive automobile.
Such contrast between the rich and those who are not. Collector car prices continue to rise, almost exponentially, as Wall Street investments pay off and as corporate salaries/bonuses increase, while permanent unemployment and under-employment escalate, too, but not in the same fun way.
It is irony that with the same newspaper, the front section of The Times, January 6, 2014, a relative few but nevertheless expanding class of our people could read the classic car ad and ponder offering a bid for such needless luxury while others, also a growing number of our people, might glance in nothingness at the same ad as they wrap themselves against the overnight cold on the streets or in the ever-longer employment line.
This isn’t a liberal’s lament, for this columnist believes in the promise of individualism, even if it must be rugged. There are enough without responsibility for self, and government programs cannot prove a lifetime — sometimes generational — parent.
Yet in a more enlightened time, and that is what America is supposed to be in 2014 — it is not 1914, nor 1814 — economic, and, so, social progress must depend as much on those with resources as it does on pulling yourself up with bootstraps. Otherwise, what is the purpose of democracy? Isn’t it a progression of betterment for all?
A modest parting of the super-rich’s riches, aka a “trickle,” could begin a re-employment boom in this once middle-class-led nation. Dare we say, the rich would be even richer?
Now, you can get fancy with this argument, and so probably stall it, which seems Congress’ way these days. For example, you can say that big government costs too much and that reducing it — its reach into our lives —  would prompt investment in new or modified industry and business. Doesn’t work that way, so proclaimed  bully pulpit Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who waited and waited for a “trickle,” and when he saw no tap open, offered the “Square Deal,” anti-trust actions and improvement of urban working and living conditions to fuel a progression that made solid the nation’s emerging middle class. And the rich made even more money.
You can and should argue that big government is its own enemy, for even in good intention, large bureaucracy is ripe for overcharging, waste, corruption by special interests and most fertile for endless red tape. Involving responsible, government-checked private business is better for employment and cost control than government-run bureaucracies. (This may prove true for Obamacare, largely a private system, once the government application end of it runs better.)
The road to less government spending, and, so more money for all  taxpayers, is jobs in new-world business, technology, industry. That requires seed money, as surely as did the lift out of the Great Depression that World War II spending and then the great G.I. Bill brought to our nation. Think of how many professionals came out of the G.I. Bill, how much growth there was in the middle class. Less government regulation can be the result of greater, meaningful employment.
The popular Pope Francis says his grandmother would say that “burial shrouds have no pockets.” You cannot take your money with you, and if you are super-rich, you don’t even know your worth. Why not do good with some of it, “pay it forward” as it were? Invest in re-shoring the middle class. There would then be less of a need for government programs. And have greater faith that people will better themselves if you also invest in their dignity, their humanity. Contrast that with the greed that now exists, with “A Christmas Carol” playing all year long.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact him at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. GuntherIII

My Colorado pal writes on a subject that many of us recall — clothes drying not in a metal machine but on a line. Elaine Muise Calabro, once of Rockland County, N.Y., says she “preferred to line-dry clothes, and always did when weather allowed while the kids were young. Nowadays, many subdivisions will not allow clotheslines of any sort. Ridiculous, when we are forced to recycle, pay for ‘alternative’ renewable power sources in our bills, etc. If solar-powered heating/cooling is such a great thing, why isn’t solar-powered clothes-drying actively encouraged? …”
Her remarks recall a column I originally wrote, on July 15, 1997, for The Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y. Entitled “Stringing ideas on a line,” it went like this:

Remember the laugh your mother gave when, as a youngster, you took in the stiff-as-a-board wash from the backyard clothesline? The pants looked as if they had been in a press.
We do not see many clotheslines anymore, and my guess is that there are more busy psychiatrists and pharmacies these days partly because of that fact.
In a slower age (although my mother, who always worked as well as kept house, never had a ‘‘slow’’ day), everyone seemed to have a clothesline. In my youth, I lived in several sections of Rockland, including Sloatsburg, Tallman, Airmont, Pearl River and, mostly, Spring Valley and Hillcrest, and in each neighborhood there were many clotheslines or clothes poles, usually homemade contraptions built with whatever lumber was handy.
My mother’s line was the ubiquitous white cotton twill, drawn through two pulleys and knotted. There was a line keeper, which helped prevent sag, and, of course, the usual canvas bag full of clothespins, preferably spring-loaded. Trees served as poles.
Every Saturday morning in the 1950s, on what was everyone’s main wash day in Hillcrest, this lazy fellow would be awakened by the squeak-squeak of the pulleys as my mother hung the wash. It is a sound that, to this day, recalls the peaceful weekend lounging of a teen-ager. Lazy me rolled over and went back to sleep.
My mother would take her time hanging the wash. It almost seemed like therapy of a sort, time to get out of the house, to feel the fresh breeze, to smell a new morning and to let her mind wander. As she sorted the wash, she also seemed to sort her thoughts, and I do not doubt that it gave her a sanity boost.
At other homes, where the clotheslines might be closer together, there was over-the-line talk between neighbors, and for many this became a ritual not to be missed. Gossip was exchanged, hopes were defined, news was spread. If a photographer could have spent some time at such a clothesline gathering, he could have captured facial expressions ranging from interest to skepticism, to wonder, to joy, to sadness. But almost never boredom.
I’m told that in the old New York City neighborhoods, where buildings’ rears met in a courtyard, there would be a central pole to which were attached many pulleys carrying lines from second-story-unit windows. What gathering spots they must have been, with enough news daily to fill a weekly paper.
And, of course, everyone would know everyone else’s fashion. When you hang it all out, including your underwear, that’s not hard to miss.
My mother used to carry the wash in a straw basket, which she had for many years until it literally fell apart. When I first carried it out for her, as a little fellow, it was so heavy that I could hardly do so. By the time I was a senior in high school, it was light, and I was aware that I would not be doing the chore much longer. I wished for the old moment when it had been heavy.
You do not see many clotheslines anymore, with dryers in homes and with people too busy to take time for such labor. Life seems too quick for passing, even absent, thoughts, strung along a line ready to evaporate, as with the water in the clothes.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H.Gunther III

“LEAN ON ME,” said the healthy pine to its brother, the roots of which were torn from the earth during Superstorm Sandy in fall 2012.   In a metaphor, how many Rockland County, N.Y., residents required help as they did without power and heat, some for weeks?
The mighty pine, a symbol of the Northeast and a non-deciduous offering to get us through sometimes harsh and colorless winters, has shallow roots, a reminder that life is fragile but enduring. That some pines grow and stand for decades is due to the closeness of their neighbors in a forest buddy system.
But Sandy was extra-mean, and this poor pine at the Nanuet School District park off Convent Road in the Town of Clarkstown had just one brother, to its left, and none to the right, making it vulnerable. It tilted in a great burst of wind and could not be righted. Nothing could “put this Humpty-Dumpty together again.”
And so the metaphor went for Rockland in the Sandy aftermath. Not all came back as they were, but in the troubles, there was certain and sure neighborly help.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. Reach him at This essay may be reproduced.


For some years, my son Arthur IV, a writer too, offered a holiday story published in this space. Reprinted here is his Dec. 24, 2007, piece.

Franklin was a man of routine. Perhaps such a person had become an antiquated notion in this day and age, the very word “routine” summoning visions of safe havens and early dinners. Someone for whom risks were akin to strangers at your night door. What a shame to reduce a person to such a narrow universe. There had been a time where Franklin would have been moved to debate and argument over such labeling of his being.

He was older now and less ready to argue. So old in fact that he would rather not seek new memories for fear of crowding out the old ones which kept him warm, the ones that had made him who he still was. This was easier than it sounded. The year itself, with its familiar cycle, cooperated nicely. The ebb and flow of the seasons lent a rhythm to his days that evoked memory at every turn. Despite the changes that had settled around his town, there was still so much to remind him of his past days.

Which brings us to Christmas. Here it wasn’t so easy. Franklin himself had never been what most would call religious. He never attended a church or other religious house, even on the most popular of churchgoing days, Christmas. His wife had been another story. Molly had been a regular churchgoer, attending church every Sunday morning for the entire 55 years of their marriage. She rarely spoke of her beliefs, preferring to let the way she lived her life do the talking.

Franklin did not label himself some kind of heathen. He had plenty of belief in God. Proof was everywhere. Franklin saw God in snowstorms and surprises, laughter, nature and seeming coincidence. Franklin had seen God every day for 55 years in his wife. Church just was never a place where he sought Him. 

     Franklin’s wife had been accepting of his ways. She never asked him to attend church with her. On Christmas Eve, she may have dressed a bit nicer and left a little earlier, but she still attended alone. When Molly died a few years back, Franklin was stunned, as he knew he would be, though her passing was not unexpected. Slowly, however, he found those familiar routines and let the memory of all the sweet days before settle in more deeply than ever. In his own way, Franklin’s wife walked with him through his days.

It was on Christmas that Franklin was at a loss. He had depended more on living vicariously through Molly’s routine on that day than he had realized. Franklin first tried ignoring the holiday, but that didn’t seem right. He had never ignored religion, just celebrated it in his own way.

The second year after his wife’s passing, Franklin instead sought distraction and tried hiking in the woods, but this wasn’t much better. Before he knew it, here came the season again.

By Christmas Eve, Franklin was restless. After trying to distract himself with some of the old Christmas movies that his wife and he had always appreciated, he put on his coat and went for a walk. He decided to head toward town and maybe see if he could find a place open where he could drink hot chocolate. As he walked south on Broadway, he noticed more cars than usual parked on the side streets. People left and right were emerging from their cars dressed quite nicely. Slowly Franklin realized that these must be the extra people who always attended Christmas Mass. Without consciously making a decision, Franklin found himself following the crowds up the hill toward the church. As he crested the rise, he was taken with how the building flooded the normally quiet Tuesday night of the street with light. This was a street where Franklin rarely found himself, never having a reason to walk here. He couldn’t remember the last time he walked this way.

Franklin stopped at the corner adjacent to the church and stood still. As he contemplated whether to go inside, he suddenly was startled by the noise of a collective standing up. An organ note rang out as all the lights around him went out. His first thought was that a blackout had occurred, but then Franklin saw that inside the church candles were being distributed and lit. Candles were soon being passed around for those who stood outside on the steps, too. Franklin guessed that the church must have been filled to capacity. Thinking his decision had been made for him, he turned and was about to walk home when a little girl ran up to him with a candle. “Here you go,” she said and was quickly gone.

Franklin had forgotten to wear gloves, and his cold hands dropped the candle as quickly as it was handed to him. Bending down to pick it up, he noticed that he was standing not on a sidewalk but on a brick walkway. The bricks were all engraved with dedications. Franklin read the ones he could see illuminated by his candle: “John, with love from Elaine.” Then another: “Margaret and Stuart, 45 years” and finally: “For Franklin, thank you for your faith, always, Molly”.

Franklin was frozen in place. He read the brick again to make sure he wasn’t seeing things and then slowly stood up. He could hear the church choir start to sing as he turned to walk away. Maybe next year he would return and go inside, Franklin thought. Maybe tomorrow he would walk down this street again. For once, Franklin was glad he had changed his routine.

   Arthur H. Gunther IV, a schoolteacher, lives in Upper Nyack, N.Y., with his wife Laura, son Sam and daughter Beatrice. His e-mail is


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Nanuet, N.Y. — There’s a shopping center here that’s never been without parking vehicles since it was built in the later 1950s, a remarkable thing because such strips in suburbia — actually almost all of America — just seem to multiply, knocking one another off, their inevitable fate weed- and litter-covered lots and empty storefronts. But not the old E.J. Korvette complex.
This large discount chain of mostly Northeast stores, some with supermarkets, furniture outlets and tire centers, operated in Nanuet, a hamlet 20 miles out of New York City, for about two decades, until bankruptcy in 1980. Ever since, the site has been home to various retailers operating in divided E.J. Korvette space. That means the huge parking lot, about the size of three football fields, has always been used. And therein lies the heart of this essay.
Since the old Korvette store is a long building, it has a fire lane stretching about 60 percent of the length of the parking lot. And it is usually blocked. Maybe it’s a Clarkstown, N.Y., thing, or a Northeast habit, but the cars are ignored by the local gendarmes, at least the ones I have observed.
A run into Posa Posa pizza, or A.C. Moore or the UPS store or other shops means some irresponsible motorists leave the motor running in a lane clearly marked by the traditional yellow lines and painted curb. Newly painted.
Should there be a fire, which certainly is a possibility given the age of the old department store and the modifications made over the years, volunteer firefighters might not be be able to park their rigs, wasting valuable, life-saving moments  setting up  the “job.”
Motorists park illegally since they are not challenged, at least not often enough. I am in that center about once a week, have been for years, and there is just about always a vehicle or more in the fire lane.
Nearby, in another shopping center, the same situation. I once asked a state trooper, who was also parked in the fire lane while getting a bagel, why he didn’t  ask the fellow sitting in the car in front of him to move out of the lane. He said that it wasn’t his “jurisdiction.” Did not know that fire hazards were defined by jurisdiction.
A suggestion beyond the obvious, which is to use common sense and not park in fire lanes, and for police to enforce the law: Keep the fire lane yellow, with diagonal lines and curb in that color, but overlay with deep red markings. This would make the lane more noticeable and make the offenders stand out. It would also pay tribute to our firefighters, volunteer and hired. Red is their color.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. He is reachable directly at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

In this time of holiday parties, we went to see Jerry Donnellan at his West Nyack, N.Y., home. For decades now, he has been the veterans guru for Rockland County, and Jerry’s daily, weekend and evening life is centered around helping his fellow comrades. It is a God-given thing he does, and though Jerry is a local government employee, his job is to muddle through the red tape officialdom creates so that the ordinary soul receives his/her due, sometimes in an extraordinary fashion.
The holiday affair was just fine at Jerry and MariEllyn’s place, as it always is since they are humble, gracious hosts. What made this year special, though, was that Jerry told us more than half a million souls have now been afforded treatment at special veterans clinics throughout the U.S., apart from the usual veterans hospitals. Not too many years ago, there were no veterans clinics, and those who served under our flag often endured the indignity of the bureaucracy in getting an appointment and/or treatment at the vets hospitals. Not enough funding, insufficient staff, long trips  and the indifference of any large organization made our veterans wait and suffer even more. Government can sure shoot itself in the foot and then trip up its citizens.
Jerry saw the need for change, and he made his voice quite clear, calling upon a willing C. Scott Vanderhoef, the Rockland County executive, to help provide limited funding for a local clinic in New City. Almost immediately the walk-in was a success, assisting vets in getting checkups, prescriptions and care. It has proven a blessing to thousands of ex-servicemen and women.
And the idea took off, spreading nationwide from Rockland in great numbers. All without a big fuss. All without D.C. direction, all without legislation that today surely would be debated, filibustered or somehow labeled anti-American.
Jerry Donnellan saw a need, and he and Scott acted on it, homegrown-style, can-do style, the sort that won a world war in the 1940s when creative Yanks took bulls by the horn and made things work on the  battlefield even as the generals debated tactics.
Good work, fellows — those guys then and Jerry and Scott now.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. He is reachable at This essay may be reproduced.