Larkin Poe Perform Son House’s “Preachin’ Blues”

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Adverse Possession vs. The Diocese of Rochester

This local story has me siding with ancient Anglo-Saxon law and against the Church — Diocese sells ‘heaven’ to Henrietta neighbors.

There’s an old saying in real estate: “Never buy a house for the view unless you own the view.” The premise being that a view can change on the whim of its owner.

Heeding the adage would have served well those Penfield and Webster residents whose backyards line golf courses being eyed for housing developments. Their knickers are in a knot over the idea of losing fairways they don’t own.

The same might have been said of the homeowners of Beckwith Park in Henrietta, too, had it not been for an obscure legal doctrine and, some of them believe, divine intervention.

Beckwith Park isn’t really a park. It’s about 13 acres of mostly overgrown, vacant land off Beckwith Road ringed by a few dozen homes.

The homeowners call it a park because the land is brimming with vegetation — ash, cherry, elm, maple, oak and walnut trees — that offers refuge for wildlife including deer, foxes and skunks. There are thickets, meadows and a wild blackberry patch.

“You really can’t tell you’re in an urban community with streets on three sides and a Thruway less than a mile away,” said resident Tobin Foryt, who with his wife Kristie has raised four boys on the park. “This is like a little sanctuary, a little piece of heaven.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester bought the land in 1965 and never touched it. “The initial thought was to hold onto the property in the event there was a need or desire to build a church at that location,” said diocese spokesman Doug Mandelaro.

For all intents and purposes, though, the neighbors owned Beckwith Park. Over the decades, they carved footpaths in there and a lawn for football games and birthday parties. Countless children have played games in this secret garden.

Many of the roughly 100 residents ringing the park claim their real estate agents promised the land would be forever wild, just like residents around the golf courses recall having been told their backyards would be forever fairways.

But three years ago, unbeknownst to Beckwith Park residents, the real owner sold the land. The diocese signed a contract to sell the park for $76,800 to a developer with a portfolio of student rental houses who planned to level the park and erect 18 houses.

Residents found out when they were notified about a public hearing on the matter at Town Hall.

“A lot of people felt betrayed,” said resident Naomi Pless. “The attorney for the town planning board was like, ‘It’s going to happen and you guys better get used to it.’”

They couldn’t get used to it, just like the families on the fairways. So, they organized. They built a website, started an online petition and hunkered down searching for ways to stop the development.

Nothing worked until they threatened the diocese with a claim for adverse possession. Rooted in centuries-old English common law, adverse possession is basically a means of acquiring ownership of someone else’s property by simply using it for a long time.

In New York, there are a number of criteria that must be met for adverse possession to be established and they must exist for at least 10 years. But the essential yardsticks are the continuous use of the property and the real owner showing no indication of caring.

That was good enough for the diocese to alert the developer that it couldn’t close the deal, according to paperwork the diocese filed in state Supreme Court seeking permission from the state to sell the land.

(All nonprofit corporations, like churches, require permission from the state attorney general to dispose of real property.)

For nearly two years, the diocese and the developer tried to work out a resolution before they mutually agreed to terminate the contract.

Meanwhile, Pless and her husband, James Burdick, offered the diocese $37,000 for the land, a price based on the assessed value. Not wanting the property or a legal fight for adverse possession, the diocese agreed. The paperwork was signed Wednesday.

Pless said she and her husband intend to transfer their ownership of Beckwith Park to a land trust to be overseen by the neighborhood in perpetuity.

“Home to the people who live here is having this in the backyard,” Pless said. “It’s nature and it’s home and what it means is we’ve protected our home and that is an amazing feeling.…It’s like this miracle that dropped down.”

A miracle, perhaps. Or the practical application of another old real estate saying: “Use it or lose it.”

Posted in Uncategorized, Albion, Rachacha, The Catholic Faith | Leave a comment

Western New York’s Confederate Outpost, 1861-1946

I had no idea that I grew up about fifteen minutes from “the only secessionist town north of the Mason Dixon Line” during the War of Northern Aggression, until stumbling across this article — The history of New York’s secessionist town. The article tells of the novelization of “the story of outcast and outspoken abolitionist Mary Willis who defies the town full of hunters and anti-Union farmers by helping runaways.” Sounds like a Hollywood movie, so I’ll pass.

Far more interesting is the story of Town Line, New York:

Oral lore says that in 1861, 125 men supposedly gathered in an informal meeting and passed by 85 to 40 a resolution to secede from the United States. Because Town Line was never an incorporated municipal entity in the first place and had no well-defined boundaries, the resolution had no legal effect; neither the Confederacy nor the Union ever formally recognized the action. The town historian says there are no written records of what happened. Several members of the German-American community fled to Canada; five residents crossed the Mason–Dixon line to fight with the Confederates in their Army of Northern Virginia, and twenty residents fought for the Union Army. Town Line held a ceremony on January 24, 1946, to “rejoin” the Union, along with a vote (overseen by Hollywood celebrity Cesar Romero) in which the residents voted, 90 to 23, to rescind the old vote.

Posted in America the Beautiful, The Empire State, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Support of Black Students United at Cornell University

And the group’s “calls on the university to disfavor immigrants,” reported on here — Cornell’s Black Student Disunion.

The BSU’s statement, noting “the Black student population at Cornell disproportionately represents international or first-generation African or Caribbean students,” calls for “a plan to actively increase the presence of underrepresented Black students” and “define[s] underrepresented Black students as Black Americans who have several generations (more than two) in this country.” WSJ Naomi Schaefer Riley author summarizes thusly:

A century ago, colleges cared if your ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Now some are demanding that when universities admit black students, they give preference to descendants of those who arrived on slave ships.

This blogger sees nothing wrong with that. What nonsense is it that preferences designed to help those seen as descendants of victims of historical injustices perpetrated on these shores benefit recent arrivals who chose to come here? Ms. Schaefer Riley, however, is right to pint out the “contradiction here,” arguing:

For years liberal writers have blamed black poverty and undereducation on racism—the experience of being more likely to be pulled over by police, to be looked at suspiciously in department stores, to be discriminated against in schools and the workplace.

But it doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not to the same degree, among immigrants. “The more strongly black immigrant students identify with their specific ethnic origins, the better they perform [academically],” Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld observed in their 2014 book, “The Triple Package.”


Why does racism not seem to keep black immigrants down? The answer is obvious: Black immigrant culture tends to value academic achievement and believe it is possible no matter what happened to your ancestors. As one business school graduate born to Nigerian parents tells Ms. Chua and Mr. Rubenfeld: “If you start thinking about or becoming absorbed in the mentality that the whole system is against us then you cannot succeed.”

Groups like the Cornell BSU insist that the system is out to get them and they cannot succeed. This makes the presence of high-achieving immigrant black students inconvenient. Between diversity and victimhood as the highest good in today’s academia, it’s hard to know where to place your money.

That duly noted, the BSU has a point in decrying what it sees “a lack of investment in Black students whose families were affected directly by the African Holocaust in America.” What we call “racism” in America has long been less about “the color of one’s skin” dissimulation than about culture and even language. A movement for Black American to “act white” might likely be the most realistic and effective “investment in Black students whose families were affected directly by the African Holocaust in America.” We might positively call this “racial biculturalism” to avoid calls of “cultural genocide.” The only other scenario I can working would be the separatism advocated by Louis Farrakhan and Richard B. Spencer.

Posted in America the Beautiful, Race Matters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Night Skies Tonight and this Weekend

Lots to look for:

  • Watch for Taurid fireballs
  • Orionid meteor shower peak tonight!
  • See it! Elusive Uranus at opposition
  • Posted in Astronomy Domine, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

    Proposal: The D.I.N.K. Tax & Natalist Tax Exemption Acts

    This post proposes two interrelated changes to the tax code. The first is to raise the income tax on DINKs (“Dual Income, No Kids”) to 40% with no deductions. The second is to exempt single income natalists (couples reproducing above the replacement rate of three kids) from all federal and state income taxes as well as state and local sales taxes. The rationale behind this is that the latter’s time and money is expended to raise the future taxpayers and income earners who will provide for the former’s Medicare and Social Security payments.

    Posted in America the Beautiful, Family, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

    Proposal: The Re-Constitutionalization of American Defense Act (a.k.a. The Swissification of the American Military Act)

    This post proposes the return of the American defense infrastructure to one that the Founder’s would recognize.

    1. The Army & Marine Corps would be disbanded as standing armies and their assets and materiel would be given over proportionally to the National Guard, which would be renamed and reconstructed as constitutionally-mandated State Militias. Those wishing to bear arms other than those used for hunting and self-defense would do so within these well-regulated militias.

    2. The Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard would merge, with the assets and materiel of the Navy and Air Force, including all nuclear capabilities, under the constitutionally-mandated name of the Navy, but with the mission and command structure of the Coast Guard.

    3. Declarations of war and all military action would be the sole provenance of Congress. Living presidents and ex-presidents who have violated this principle would be tried for both treason under the Constitution and war crimes under the Nuremberg principles, and publicly executed if found guilty. Dead presidents who have violated this principle would have their names and images removed from any federal recognition, ranging from currency to monuments.

    Posted in America the Beautiful, The Military-Industrial Complex, Uncategorized | Leave a comment