Profiles, continued

(Chelsea Streifeneder, cont’d)

Four years later, her busy studio on Main Street shows just how smart a move it was. While her expertise has attracted celebrities, athletes and dancers to her studios, she also teaches lots of “just folks”. She and her expert instructors (including sister Shannon as well as their mom) are all highly trained and tailor sessions to each client. “No two bodies are the same, and our mission is to work with each student as an individual with unique needs and goals, ” she says.

Whether continuing her Pilates studies, imparting her expertise to the next generation of instructors as a Pilates Sports Center faculty member, or hosting workshops at her studio, Streifeneder’s commitment is clear. Her writing skills have gotten a workout, too, with articles featured in several publications targeted to instructors and exercise enthusiasts.

Today, she owns the building that houses her studio, typical of many creative entrepreneurs here. “I truly believe Catskill is the next big thing.” And we couldn’t agree more.

(Nina Sklansky, cont’d)

on the west side of the Hudson River. “I was merely ‘in like’ this time,” she says of the house she purchased, but nevertheless plunged into yet another restoration project. Since then, there have been other fixer-uppers along the way, most recently the huge undertaking of restoring an historic 7500 sq. ft. commercial building on Main Street. An award-winning copywriter and former associate creative director at BBDO NY, her passion since 2012 has also been creating and sustaining a marketing campaign (on a shoestring) for her adopted village of Catskill, entirely on a volunteer basis. That included gaining the skills to create all the campaign materials herself, including this website – an often exasperating but always rewarding process.

Not surprisingly, she has a long and impressive track record as a volunteer, whether working with the blind (“until I found out the woman whose awful manuscript I spent months editing could actually see”), participating in a school literacy program in East Harlem, volunteering at Ground Zero Food Services after 9/11, teaching English to the Haitian community in Hudson, serving on the Friends of Beattie-Powers board and as a member of the Greene County Democratic Committee. Sklansky finds enormous satisfaction in sharing her enthusiasm for the village and the opportunities it presents for those seeking reinvention, or even just an affordable weekend getaway. What, specifically, does this woman who classically reinvented herself love about the place? “Just take a look at every page on this website,” she says.

(Brad Rappleyea, cont’d)

the technical and academic,” says Rappleyea. He loved – and still does – the stimulation and variety he found in Boston and NYC, but returned to find lots to love in Catskill. “Money didn’t go far in the city. My quality of life is better here.” He also points out that it’s entirely possible to make a good living upstate. “This area can support people with talent, skills, ideas – and a good work ethic.” That’s something Rappleyea certainly possesses; the guy almost never stops working, although he insists that, “it’s not work if you love it.” A variety of challenging projects and exacting clients keeps him busy all year. “I love seeing an idea come to fruition that impacts people in such a major way, even if it’s on a subconscious level. I enjoy creating beautiful spaces that improve quality of life.”

In his hard-to-come-by off hours, you’ll find this young historic preservationist on the river or hiking and climbing the nearby mountains.  Rappleyea also enjoys the area’s arts heritage, cooking, and the freedom he enjoys here. ” I can go canoeing with my dog on a whim three minutes from my house. Try that in NY harbor.”

What did he love about growing up here? “Knowing all your neighbors. Being close to nature and still in a village setting. And it’s beautiful, including the architectural mix.” The same holds true today, even through fluctuations in the village’s fortunes, and even if some of those neighbors are transplants. But then, Rappleyea values the new energy and fresh viewpoints of new arrivals. “Catskill has had its struggles, but is heading in the right direction. There’s a new sense of community. There’s also great value here in real estate. I think in a few years, Main Street will be red hot.”

(Kristi Gibson, cont’d)

she fell in love with the natural beauty of the area. The Catskill Mountains reminded her a bit of the foothills of the Rockies, where Gibson lived and worked during her stint at National Geographic over a decade ago. Factor in the charm of this classic “main street” village, coupled with the easy access to New York City, and, “Catskill gives you the best of all worlds.”

As a full-time resident, Gibson staked her claim on that historic Main Street with the launch of Magpie Bookshop in 2014. The shop sells “nearly-new used books.” In addition to fiction, Magpie specializes in books on history, society, nature, geography, travel and food writing.

Books have always been a passion for Gibson, including writing them. Street Kids: Homeless Youth, Outreach and Policing New York’s Streets, NYU Press 2011, focuses on the plight of at-risk kids. “Being able to get down to the city so easily has allowed me to volunteer and keep in contact with street and homeless youth organizations that are important to me.” She is currently working on a second book about the history of the American street child.

Ever the explorer, Gibson’s forays into the Catskills and the Hudson Valley’s old rural landscapes inspired her to begin photographing and documenting some of the area’s disappearing rural geography. Her photographs of abandoned farmhouses are currently on display at a guesthouse in Hudson, at Lovely on Main Street in Catskill, and here, for all to admire (our word, not hers).

(Ann Forbes Cooper, cont’d)

freelance journalist, fiction writer,  playwright, actor, curator and consultant (who had also danced in a cage, sold double glazing, been a croupier, and done quality control in a fish processing house) had lived in some of the world’s great cities including Edinburgh, London, and, most recently, New York. Yet she found her creative muse in Catskill. As she points out, “Catskill is filled with opportunities, but like many things you only get out of it what you put in.”

Which is why, shortly after moving here, she began volunteering for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill. As well as providing a network of friends, it resulted in a paid PR project. And having done some radio journalism years earlier, she signed on as volunteer programmer for local community radio station WGXC where she hosted the monthly interview show, “Between the Lines.” Another first was fulfilling long dormant acting ambitions, and seeing her play, Single Room Occupancy, staged in Albany and Hudson.

Her short fiction has been published in many print magazines and zines, she’s written two novels, which lie lonely as shrouds in a drawer, and she is writing not one, but two memoirs. (“Why write just one when you can write two.”) And when not wielding her metaphoric pen, she can be found wielding skis down a mountain, locally at Hunter or Windham or further afield, or kayaking on the creek behind her house. “I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to do the things I’ve done here if I’d stayed in Manhattan,” she says. “Catskill allows whatever’s in you to come out. I think the place is ripe for a creative explosion. And I’m glad I’m one of the forerunners.”

(Janet Riccobono, cont’d)

activity. “Catskill was vibrant,” she says. “Every church, every street was busy; not one shop was empty. Your doctors and dentists were on Main Street, and most raised their families in the apartments above. There were accountants and lawyers, women’s and men’s stores, a meat and produce market, a fruit and veg market, a fish market, a butcher, a gas station and an ice cream parlor. There was a lumber yard, a hardware store and a nickel and dime store.”

“It was always very comfortable living in Catskill. I loved my job and had a lot of friends. It was pretty perfect for a long while.” Then came the ’80s, and the kind of urban blight that affected many towns up and down the Hudson Valley. People left, businesses shuttered and the resulting unemployment, disrepair and apathy fostered a rising drug trade. “The people of my parents’ generation were retiring and moving on; malls were being built; people didn’t walk so many places.” She could have left, like many others, but chose to stay.

Fast forward and Riccobono sees herself as a bridge from the old Catskill, to today’s ever-evolving Village, and welcomes the influx of energy, ideas, and talent that new businesses and homeowners bring. “Catskill is underdeveloped and underutilized,” she says, and likes it that there’s no shortage of ideas or opinions from both the old and new guard, who all have an investment in the future of the Village of Catskill.

She and her partner, photographer Rob Shannon, live on residential Liberty Street in a handsome Italianate brick house. “I’m in this incredible place that is finally getting the recognition it deserves and there’s a great sense of pride and enjoyment in the Village now. My appreciation of it is heightened because I share my life with someone who didn’t grow up here. When I can look out the front window and see the river, and look out the back window and see the mountains, and walk to both, it’s pretty spectacular. And it’s home.”


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