After 25 Years, Tom Honohan Steps Down From Library Board

Longtime Mahopac resident Tom Honohan will pull up stakes later this summer to move to Wappingers in Dutchess County, leaving behind a legacy of service and volunteerism.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride,” Honohan said. “I have a lot of friends here, but I can still come to visit them. [The move] is a little bittersweet.”

One thing Honohan looks forward to with the move is condo living—no more backbreaking outdoor chores.

“They do all the work for you,” he laughed. “No more shoveling sidewalks or mowing lawns.”

Honohan and his wife moved to Mahopac in 1979. He had grown up in the Parkchester area of the Bronx and remembers a happy childhood there.

“There were lots of playgrounds; it was a great place to grow up,” he said. “The rents were unbelievable, which was great for the parents.”

He went to high school at Manhattan Prep (part of Manhattan College) and then to Notre Dame University where he earned degrees in electrical engineering and liberal arts.

His first job out of college was with Westinghouse Electric.

“My whole career was in sales—industrial field sales. I had a series of assignments that kept me in the New York area,” he recalled.

Then he received a job offer from General Electric of England (no relation to the American GE), which had its headquarters in Elmsford in Westchester County. He was living on Long Island at the time, so he began looking for a new home to better his commute.

“Mahopac was about a half an hour away [from Elmsford],” he said. “It happened to work out because we had friends there and we found a piece of property with lots of woods.”

Honohan was introduced to community volunteerism through his children and their interest in sports. He has four kids—two are now teachers, one a computer programmer and the other a mechanical engineer. He also boasts nine grandchildren.

“My son got involved in soccer when we were still on Long Island and I knew nothing about it,” he said. “So, I volunteered to coach and I studied it and got heavily involved. All my kids got involved in sports. So, when we moved to Mahopac, I brought that knowledge with me.”

Honohan got involved with the Mahopac Sports Association (MSA) to help get them more organized and he ran the soccer program for about two years. His work with the MSA led him indirectly to the library.

“When I was coaching, the guy who was helping had a wife on the library board and they were going through some renovation programs,” he said. “They were doing some relatively large renovations—lots of electrical work and I had some expertise in that area and felt I could help them with that. I was eventually appointed to the board and within two years I was president.”

Honohan was part of the board that oversaw the construction of the new library building, which was completed in 2002.

“I was involved with most of the process,” he said. “There are always a number of people who, no matter what, will say no. But people voted on it and said yes and we have always prided ourselves on that.”

Honohan said the nature of libraries has changed dramatically since he first joined the board of trustees.

“My motto is that the library ain’t just books anymore,” he said. “There are so many other things.”

Honohan cited the BAMM concerts, children and teen programs, blood drives and the Third Floor Gallery as just some examples of what the library provides to the community. He also noted that the staff has expertise on computers and other technology that they’ll share with the public.

“We have PCs, tablets, laptops,” he said. “Bring it in and people will answer your questions.”

Honohan said his wife once exhibited her artwork at the library’s art gallery and the space has been evolving ever since.

“We have fined tuned it over time,” he said. “We have a committee to make sure the exhibit is representable.”

Honohan has also been a volunteer for Putnam County’s Office for Senior Resources by driving seniors and veterans to doctors’ appointments and other activities.

“Putnam County has superb services for seniors and I found out they have a program where you drive to the county center and use a county car to visit older seniors,” he said. “Some are vets and there are some who just can’t drive anymore; I drive them to doctors’ appointments or to veteran facilities like Castle Point.

I found that to be a very rewarding thing for me,” he continued. “Instead of trying to solve their problems, I just listen and let them vent. I think that’s the medicine they need. I think it’s great that the county can do this. I felt it was spiritually uplifting and found it kind of rewarding.”

But now, Honohan says it is time to move in another direction and find some new challenges.

“It’s been 25 years now and a lot has happened,” he said. “I feel the need to do something else. I need to devote my volunteer life in another direction.”

And after signing the papers for his new home in Wappingers, he said he’s finally ready for that maintenance-free lifestyle.

“The pen is mightier than the lawnmower,” he chuckled.

Blue-Green Algal Blooms Persist; County Opens Beach for Affected Community Residents

BREWSTER, NY— Blue-green algal blooms have dashed many summer plans this year. Dozens of repeated beach closures have disappointed residents who enjoy cooling off in their neighborhood lake on a hot and humid summer day. While funding is coming from New York State to research solutions for the long term, County Executive MaryEllen Odell has taken immediate steps to open the Putnam County beach in Veterans Memorial Park on Gypsy Trail Road in Kent, free of charge to those residents living in affected lake communities.

“We wanted to do something right now for our community members who are dealing with these algal blooms on a daily basis,” says County Executive Odell. “This is a difficult situation. The blooms pose a serious health problem. Swimming, and even boating, can put you at risk.”

“Our public county beach at Veterans Memorial Park has fortunately remained unaffected by the blue-green algal blooms that have plagued many other Putnam beaches,” says Christopher Ruthven, deputy commissioner of parks and recreation for Putnam County. “We’re open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until Labor Day, and for residents affected by the harmful algal blooms in their community lakes, the usual $8 fee for a day pass is being waived.”

Odell adds, “Being able to use the beach at Veterans Memorial Park provides a silver lining to an unfortunate situation. At the park individuals and families can enjoy the swimming in the lake, relaxing on the beach, barbecuing, hiking the trails, visiting the Veterans Museum or admiring the Gold Star Mothers statue or the military helicopter and tank.”

The increasing number of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Putnam and around New York State is not completely understood. Staff at the Putnam County Department of Health have been busier than ever collecting and sending lake water samples for testing.

“We are working closely with town and beach personnel,” explains Michael Nesheiwat, MD, interim commissioner of health. “They are well-informed and able to quickly recognize these harmful algal blooms. When there is an overabundance, or bloom, of this cyanobacteria, the onsite personnel are able to shut down the beaches directly without a confirmatory visit by the health department. This is important as blooms can present a serious health hazard and these microscopic organisms are toxic to humans and animals if swallowed. At high levels, ingestion may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, along with irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract.

“Needless to say, we are grateful to the County Executive who has stepped in to waive the park fee for residents in the affected communities,” continues Dr. Nesheiwat.

Toxic bacteria are naturally present in low numbers in lakes and streams. However, in warm, shallow, undisturbed surface water that gets a lot of sunlight, the bacteria can grow quickly and easily, creating a bloom. When this happens, floating scums on the water surface may appear, along with discolored water covering all or portions of a lake.

The Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) continues to monitor the county’s 32 permitted bathing beaches, while also responding to calls from town, village and summer camp personnel. Blue-green algae can range in color from green, blue, brown, yellow, grey, or even red. Contact should be avoided with any discolored water, with or without a floating covering or unpleasant odor. When the water clears, either naturally or by treatment, follow-up water testing must be conducted. Toxins can still be present even after the bloom looks like it has passed.

“After a satisfactory result on a water test, town and beach personnel can re-open the beach,” explains associate public health sanitarian Shawn Rogan. “And we work closely with the towns to reopen as soon as possible. The problem we are seeing more and more of is that the algae can ‘re-bloom’ shortly thereafter, making it necessary to close the beach once again.”

Some towns choose to apply an algaecide, but they have the same precautions as any pesticide.  Treatment methods, if any, are strictly a town decision, and application of an algaecide requires approval by the Department of Environmental Conservation.  Prevention efforts focus on ways to control the level of nutrients the algae receive. These include reducing plant fertilizer use, promoting efficient septic systems operations, and managing storm water. These tactics are supported by the DEC, but much is still unknown about the causes of HABs.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

Putnam Arts Councils and Southeast Museum bring art and history to Tilly’s Table

The Putnam Arts Council in partnership with the Southeast Museum and Putnam County Government, is proud to bring art and history to Tilly’s Table Restaurant at Tilly Foster Farm on Rt. 312 in Brewster.  Featured at the restaurant are reproductions of historic photographs and maps from the collection of the Southeast Museum along with artwork from two area artists, curated by the Putnam Arts Council.

The bistro area of the restaurant features a collection of prints and mixed media pieces inspired by farms along the Hudson River by area plein air painter Laura Martinez-Bianco. As well as painting in the United States, Ms. Martinez-Bianco has traveled to Italy, Canada and Africa to paint.  Although painting and traveling are passions, painting at home is still paramount.  The Hudson Valley has always been her home and her primary inspiration. Ms. Martinez-Bianco has been accepted to many national groups and has exhibited extensively throughout the region.

An abstract, three-dimensional wall piece titled Carp, created with steel tiles and paint by Garrison artist Herman Roggeman, is featured in the restaurantMr. Roggeman, originally from Belgium, works in all art forms, is in many private collections and has exhibited widely throughout the region.  He is a founder of Collaborative Concepts, a nonprofit organization that supports the work of the individual artist and presents an annual, juried, site specific sculpture show on a farm in Garrison each fall.

All artworks created by Ms. Martinez-Bianco and Mr. Roggeman are temporarily on loan through the Putnam Arts Council and are available for purchase.

The Putnam Arts Council and the Southeast Museum are not-for-profit organizations that each received their charters from the New York State Department of Education in 1963.  Both organizations serve the community through programs and services in art and history and are pleased to partner with Putnam County Government to bring art and history to Tilly’s Table, a lovely farm-to-table restaurant on the farm.

The Southeast Museum presents exhibitions on regional history, family programming and houses an extensive local history archive and is located on Main Street in Brewster. For more information visit www.southeastmuseum.org

The Arts Council supports, presents, funds and promotes arts and cultural events and activities throughout Putnam County and is an outside agency of Putnam County and an umbrella organization of the New York State Council on the Arts.  The Council is located in the Belle Levine Art Center at 521 Kennicut Hill Road in Mahopac where it offers programs in the visual, literary and performing arts, including classes, exhibits and performances. Visit www.putnamartscouncil.org for information on our programs and services.

Tilly’s Table is open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday Nights starting at 5 p.m. It is also open for Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sunday dinner from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. For reservations, call 845-808-1840 or visit www.tillystablerestaurant.com.