Railroad supporters ready to battle Ulster County

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By Jay Braman Jr.
Catskill Mountain Railroad officials said this week that they are not afraid of or intimidated by Ulster County officials trying to remove them from the railroad tracks that stretch from Highmount all the way down to Kingston.

Instead, spokesman Harry Jameson borrowed, albeit loosely, a 234-year-old battle cry from John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy and the one-time temporary conqueror of England. “Nuts,” Jameson said, “We have not yet begun to fight! That is our official response to Executive Hein’s terms of unconditional surrender.”

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein drew attention to the CMRR last fall when he announced a plan to put and end to the railroad’s 25-year lease, rip up and sell the tracks for scrap and then build a rail trail for hikers and bikers to use instead.

To put some teeth in that plan, Hein last month took legal action against the railroad, informing the group that even though the lease expires in three years it faces immediate eviction from the county owned tracks unless several violations to the CMRR’s lease are corrected within 30 days.
When announcing that eviction notice on June 12, Hein added that he hoped the measure would lead to “meaningful discussions,” but Jameson said this week the county executive’s words have rung hollow.

Calling the county’s top officials, “a tyrant,” Jameson said a meeting last week was a failure. Hein, Jameson said, refused to discuss issues unless CMRR agreed to immediately vacate the tracks in Kingston.

“While his carefully-crafted press releases and public statements express a willingness to move forward in a positive manner, his character is marked by every act which may define a tyrant,” Jameson said. “Hein’s vindictive behavior pattern is very predictable. We expect that since we did not “rollover” and give up our company’s future, we will be bombarded with another round of frivolous legal or administrative bullying from either one of his department heads or one of his allies in city government.”
Now, it appears the matter is headed to court.
“We believe that as citizens, we should not have to be subjected to such oppressive treatment,” Jameson said. “As a corporation, we have a right to grow our business and to increase our positive economic impact on the county. To that end, we will enthusiastically defend ourselves against this nonsense and any future acts of aggression.”
Jameson said CMRR lawyers have reviewed Hein’s eviction notice and found it defective.