Goodbye, Joe

How often do we see an overgrown vacant lot full of crap and say, “Somebody ought to do something about that?” Most don’t.

Well, Joe Marchetti of Kingston’s Ravine Street in Wilbur did, specifically leading a neighborhood volunteer effort to restore an abandoned section of downtown’s Block Park some 30 years ago.

Included among refrigerators, stoves and junk cars, according to Marchetti, were 500 55-gallon oil drums. “We’d take out a dozen or so a shift, crush ‘em with Doc Vankleek’s bulldozer and ship them to the nearest junkyard,” he said. The park’s 1930s pavilion had collapsed from neglect that brutal winter; the new one was designed and built by local artisan Rob Hare. Artist Hank Dyck painted the mural on the new handball court.

If Joe and wife Mary Ann, a retired secondary school teacher, hadn’t recently announced they were moving to Lofton, S.C. (hard by the Georgia state line about 40 miles from Savannah), they might have left town this weekend without ever being properly recognized. Fifty-odd people turned out on a cold and rainy Nov. 1 Sunday afternoon for a plaque dedication and ceremony. For once in his life “the singing mailman” (as Joe was known during his Postal Service days), was at a loss for words. Kudos to good buddy Gail Bernard for putting together a most impressive ceremony.

Some may remember Joe as an outspoken independent candidate for Kingston mayor and alderman-at-large. A talented song writer and musician, one of his earlier works, “I’m on My Way” (ironically), was performed by the Boston Pops. 

Funded by a $90,000 grant left over from the Kingston Urban Renewal Agency (the outfit that decimated Rondout in the 60s), restoration of the former city dump, with upwards of 80 volunteers on site at one time, took almost two years. Concurrently, the Marchetti’s were busy raising their family and restoring buildings on their corner which in turn activated a neighborhood renaissance. One wonders how they found the time. 

In warm weather, the park’s a busy place with men’s and women’s softball and a basketball court on one side and what I think should be called Marchetti Park on the other.

Joe and Mary Ann Marchetti leave a special legacy few could match: a beautiful, functional section of a city park for generations to come.

MOOT POINT? – I hate to pick on Gov. Cuomo (again); he’s such a sensitive guy. But his calling the United States Supreme Court’s split decision on limiting religious worship in New York “irrelevant” cannot pass. “Irrelevant?” The Supreme Court? Every decision the court makes, for better or worse, is relevant. The arrogance of that man, a former state attorney general.

Religious leaders of several faiths had taken issue with the severe restrictions Cuomo had placed on religious gatherings, no more than 50 people in houses of worship that held upwards of 1,000. The policy was nuts on its face, unconstitutional said the Supreme Court to reverse it. Cuomo called the court’s 5-4 decision “moot” and “irrelevant” since just prior to the court’s decision the state had reduced the so-called “threat” from red (the worst) to who knows, pink?

Staying in character, he also charged the high court, now controlled by conservatives, was just playing politics.

And we’ve got this guy for at least another two years. (He’s already declared for a fourth term.)

EARLY BIRDS – For those inclined to roll out of bed early on a rainy start to the week, our Me and Mario show will feature state senator-elect Republican Mike Martucci in its 7 a.m. Monday segment on WGHQ (920 AM) and Democratic Esopus supervisor Kamala (whoops) Shannon Harris in the 8 a.m. slot.

Among other questions Martucci will face will be, “How the hell did you beat an incumbent senator (Jen Metzger of Rosendale) with a reported $1.4 million war chest in a presidential year?” Metzger, who was invited on our show before the election, might be asking the same question.

Harris is president of the Ulster Supervisors and Mayors Association, which on paper, should be an influential force in county politics. She’ll take us behind the scenes.