They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore

Appreciating and collecting items from the past was instilled in me mostly by my father. Growing up, he would always point out objects that were handed down in the family and explain what it was and how it was used. It could be a simple snuff box, porcelain baby feeder or travelling inkwell. He also was famous for bringing home interesting objects that he would pick up from various sources. It was something he started doing early in his career as a Conductor on the NY Central Railroad. His layover periods between trips allowed him to explore different towns and their thrift shops. He especially enjoyed the military surplus shops that sprang up following WWII. It was a habit he continued until his death in 1988.


One of those interesting objects was a large ash splint woven basket. Besides his familiar “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore” reason for bringing something home he also saw practical value in them. I don’t remember exactly when the object arrived in the house but I think it was probably late 60’s or early 70’s. He could have obtained it from Peekskill Military Academy where he worked as a night watchman. The academy closed at the end of the 1968 school year so it could have possibly come as a result of that. More than likely it was used for laundry services.


It was larger than a typical basket used for a home but it was put to good use as a storage container for various things over the years, toys especially. It was built to be strong and was obviously of good quality. It held up perfectly. My father knew it would.

In the early 1980’s my parents sold our house on Walnut Street in Peekskill and decided to move out of town. With space limited and downsizing needed, the basket ended up in my garage rafters for the next 35 years. I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. Besides, they don’t make them like that anymore or if they do somewhere, they are surely very expensive. Now, all these years later, it was my turn to make space and downsize. With both of our adult children living on their own, my wife and I realized we had to begin the endless task of sorting through the piles of ‘things’ that have accumulated over the years. So, as we began sorting and organizing for the inevitable garage sale, it was time for the basket to once again see the light of day. Then I took a real close look at this object I took for granted the for last 50 years!

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J. Clinton Ballou (Courtesy of the Becket Historical Commission)

I saw the name and location of the manufacturer burned into the wood near one of the handle openings, Ballou Baskets Becket, Mass. and I decided to do some online research. It took a little work to get information but eventually an amazing history was discovered.

The Becket Historical Commission responded to my email submission to their website requesting information about our basket and the company that manufactured it. After starting as a small shop in 1888 the Ballou Basket Company grew to a larger factory producing quality products sold throughout the country. It was also a significant employer for the Becket area. Then it all came to an abrupt end.

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The Ballou Basket Shop, one of the buildings washed away the 1927 flood. (Courtesy of the Becket Historical Commission)

In November 1927, a torrential rainfall caused the local reservoir to give way and flood the area. Within minutes, the basket factory was washed away, along with the homes of the Ballou brothers Willis and J. Clinton. Many other homes were destroyed or badly damaged as well. The post office was gone, area stores were gone too. Although the family did their best to attempt a come-back for the company, the stock market crash of 1929 and the depression that followed made it virtually impossible. Ballou baskets finally came to an end when another family tragedy occurred and J. Clinton Ballou was killed by a locomotive in the early 1940’s.

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J.C. Ballou standing in the doorway of his shop with a few of his employees. (Courtesy of the Becket Historical Commission)

We discovered that samples of the Ballou Basket Company are not easy to find. Even in Becket, there are very few samples to show in their museum. Many families will temporarily loan their treasured possessions whenever the town looks to honor their basket manufacturing history.

My wife and I decided we should donate our basket to the historical commission. It was the right thing to do. However, given its size, we were not sure they would want it. To our delight, they were excited to be getting such a donation. Their permanent collection was minimal and there were no samples of baskets of the size we were offering.


Sandra Jarvis and Joy Lennartz of the Becket, MA Historical Commission happy to take possession of their new artifact.

So, just weeks later, representatives of the Becket Historical Commission travelled to our home in Peekskill to collect the new addition to their collection. They were thrilled and appreciative of the gift. While they were here I was able to give them a private tour of our very own Lincoln Depot Museum. Then, after lunch in the area, they were off back to Becket.

There was only one stipulation I gave for the gift, that the display described the gift as coming “From John and Nancy Testa in memory Joseph L. Testa.” It was an appropriate and fitting attribution to my father to which they wholeheartedly agreed.

So, if you are ever in Becket, Massachusetts stop by the Becket Historical Commission to learn more about Becket and Ballou, and look for our basket.


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Candidate Nancy Vann Violates NYS Election Law By Failing To File Financial Disclosure Report, Continues to Violate Campaign Ethics

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County Legislator candidate Nancy Vann has failed to follow NYS Election Law by not filing her Campaign Disclosure Report that was due on October 27, 2017. There are specific requirements set forth by the NY State Board of Elections to prevent unauthorized and improper collection and expenditure of campaign contributions. The filing that was due on October 27th was the last filing to be done before election day. Why didn’t Vann follow the law? What is she hiding?

According to the NYS Board of Elections: “There are significant consequences, for both treasurer and candidates, which may include penalties for failure to comply with the requirements of the NYS Election Law related to campaign finance.”

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This breech of campaign finance law comes on the heels of Vann’s continuing violation of ethical campaign practice by falsely advertising she is an endorsed candidate of the Working Families Party and advertising on literature she is an attorney, despite her license being suspended since 2013.

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Here is an actual sample of what the Working Families ballot line will look like on Election Day. Vann’s name will not appear since she is not the candidate for the party.

“If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical,” said incumbent Legislator John Testa. “There are rules and laws in place to ensure to the general public that a candidate is acting in a transparent, ethical and honest manner during a campaign. If someone is willing to blatantly violate ethical standards and NYS law, even after being discovered, what will they do if allowed to hold office? My opponent doesn’t seem to care”, added Testa.

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Campaign LH HeaderThe Only Candidate to Miss Cortlandt Event on October 17th
Did Not Show Up for October 25th Yorktown Debate
Claims to be Attorney Despite Law License Being Suspended Since 2013
Failed to Sign Fair Campaign Pledge

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County Legislator John G. Testa participating in the Yorktown Chamber Debate on October 25th.

Democratic candidate for county legislator opposing incumbent County Legislator John G. Testa, Nancy Vann, has neglected to participate in two crucial debates for the election. First, she failed to show up for the Town of Cortlandt Candidate Forum on October 17th and then she was a no-show for the Town of Yorktown Candidate Debate hosted by the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce on October 25th. When given the opportunity to commit to and sign a fair campaign pledge she refused that as well.

Speculation for the avoidance of public appearances stems from recent discovery of her law license being suspended since 2013. She was also thrown off the Working Families Party ballot line after it was discovered the petitions she submitted had a majority of invalid signatures. Despite these revelations, Vann continues to improperly claim she is endorsed by the Working Families Party and claim to be an acting attorney. By doing so Vann clearly is violating standard ethical campaign practice and in the case of claiming to be an attorney, possibly breaking the law. Her actions may explain her refusal to pledge to conducting a fair and ethical campaign.

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“Many lawyers from both sides of the political aisle contacted me during the summer upset to see Vann indicating she is an attorney on all her campaign literature since she has been prohibited from practicing for the last 4 years,” said Testa. “They were outraged that their profession was being mocked and tainted in that way. It is a clear violation of The Rules of Professional Conduct and all lawyers are well aware of it. Some indicated to me it was even illegal to proclaim to be an attorney with a suspended license and that the reason for the suspension does not matter,” added Testa.

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Given that these two very serious violations were bound to surface in a public debate, Vann has avoided the issues by not appearing before the public. Vann has also offered no concrete platform or reason for running against a very accomplished and experienced incumbent. Her only record is that of an anti-establishment activist.

“Nancy Vann has no idea what it takes to work in a bipartisan way to solve problems and work through issues, said Testa. “She seems to be against a lot of things but I haven’t been able to see anything she is actually in support of. That is not someone who could sit down and rationally work through issues and successfully work with others to solve problems. Protesting and holding signs seems to be her strong suit, she should stick with that,” said Testa.

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County Legislator Testa signing the Fair Campaign Pledge.

The two public forums that Vann avoided were the last of the campaign season. With less than two weeks left until election day, avoiding the debates was a missed opportunity to speak directly to the voters. “I always enjoy the discussion of issues and setting the record straight during the debates,” said Testa. “The citizens look forward to the exchange between candidates and hearing what they stand for; it is a slap in their face to simply not show up. I appreciate those who organize the debates and thank those in Cortlandt and Yorktown for the opportunity,” Testa said.


John G. Testa is a four-term incumbent of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and has served the last two terms as Minority Leader of the Board. He is a retired high school Technology and Social Studies teacher of 33 years and served 14 years as a member of the Westchester Community College Board of Trustees. Testa is also a former City of Peekskill Councilman and three term Mayor of the city. For more information visit: and
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Legislator John Testa Announces Three Major Infrastructure Projects for His Northern Westchester District

Major rehabilitation to Albany Post Road, George’s Island Park and Washington Street.

Follows Completed Projects to Rehabilitate Main Street (Rt. 6), Crompond Road/Division Street (Rt. 202) and Upgrades in Blue Mountain Reservation and George’s Island Park

In a continuation of his focus on Westchester County owned infrastructure in the northern portion of the county, Legislator John G. Testa announces three major projects to be completed over the next year.

The three new projects detailed below come following a multi-year focus by County Legislator Testa to finally address the long-neglected county infrastructure in the northern part of Westchester County. So far, the entire portions of County owned roads of Main St. (Rt. 6) and Crompond Road (202), North and South Division Streets in Peekskill (a total of approximately 4.5 miles), have been completed. These projects were not simple resurfacing but a complete rehabilitation of the entire roadway with milling, resurfacing, replacement or adjustment of utility castings, concrete curb replacement, installation of handicap ramps, new traffic loops, and new pavement markings.

The County Parks have also been a focus for Testa. Major improvements have been made in both Blue Mountain Reserve and George’s Island Park, both county owned. In 2014, $5.4 million of funding was allocated to provide for much needed infrastructure improvements at George’s Island Park and Blue Mountain Reservation, including road resurfacing, new guiderails, and new culverts and swales to reduce stormwater runoff in keeping with Westchester County’s Best Management Practices for stormwater management. George’s Island also had the boat launching area and docks rehabilitated along with the picnic areas, playground, sanitary sewers and landscaping.

“I have made it a priority to fight for the funding and approval for these long overdue projects,” said Testa. “Northern Westchester communities had not been getting their fair share of county infrastructure improvements and it was time to get the attention we deserve. It is not just about fairness but is a serious public safety and quality of life issue. The projects completed so far and the ones to start soon are a huge step towards catching up but there is more to be done. I will continue to advocate for these improvements and work closely with my colleagues, as we have done previously, to make them happen,” Testa added.

George’s Island Infrastructure (RGE04)

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Major water and electric upgrades are planned in 2018 at George’s Island Park. Along with being one of the few boat launching sites available for the public, the park contains two large picnic areas, pavilions and bathrooms. Many families and organizations utilize these facilities for gatherings and events. The supporting electric and water service are original to the park and are in poor condition and inadequate. A full replacement and upgrade will be done. A bond Act of $225,000 was unanimously approved to fund this project.

Old Albany Post Road Over Sprout Brook in Cortlandt (RB03P)

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The existing jack arch bridge that supports the Old Albany Post Road as it crosses over Sprout Brook in Cortlandt is in need of replacement. Originally constructed in 1929, the structure will be removed and replaced with a new precast concrete pile-supported bridge, waterproof membrane, asphalt wearing surface and steel bridge rail. The bridge has 9,200 vehicles a day travelling over it. The total cost of the project is $7.2 million with $4.9 million being provided by  NY State through the ‘Bridge NY’ Program. The project will require approximately 18 months to be completed.

Washington Street Rehabilitation (RB134)

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Approximately 1.23 miles of Washington Street from Welcher Avenue to South Street will be rehabilitated, including milling, resurfacing, stone curbing, ADA sidewalk ramp installation, traffic loops, new pavement markings and related work and repairs. With approximately 7,600 vehicles a day traversing this roadway, this work is long overdue. Engineering and design for the project is nearing completion with construction bonding to follow in 2018.

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Testa Challenger Nancy Vann Disqualified as Candidate on Working Families Line

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PEEKSKILL, NY – On August 3, 2017, the Westchester Board of Elections announced the disqualification of Nancy S. Vann, County Legislator Candidate for District 1, for the Working Families line in this year’s November election.

It was determined that 60% of the entries on her designating petitions were obtained from individuals not residing in the district. According to Board of Election figures for Westchester County Legislative District 1, a total of 7 qualified signatures/entries are needed to meet the minimum requirement for securing the line for the election. Vann submitted a total of 10. However, when reviewed, it was discovered that 6 of the 10 signatures were not from individuals residing within the district, thus invalidating her as a candidate for the Working Families Party.

“I was really hoping for an election where my opponent wouldn’t attempt some sort of scheme to cheat during the petition process,” County Legislator Testa said. “I am disappointed but not surprised,” Testa added.

When examining the petitions that Vann filed, it was discovered that 5 of the 10 signatures submitted were witnessed by Terence (T.J.) Rogers, the former Peekskill Democratic Party Chairman. The other 5 were obtained by Yorktown Town Board member Vishnu Patel. Incredibly, all 5 of Patel’s entries were invalid and one of Roger’s was also invalid.

“I wish I knew why cheating is such a common and acceptable method of campaigning by candidates supported by the Peekskill Democrats,” said Testa. “It seems to border on pathological at this point. I thought that after being humiliated with their failed scheme two years ago they would have learned their lesson,” said Testa.

In 2015, an elaborate plan to circumvent election law was unhatched by Testa’s then opponent, Derek Hartley. Hartley, along with a number of members of the Peekskill, Cortlandt and Yorktown and Democratic Parties were caught cheating on Democratic Designating Petitions for Hartley. Upon review, the Westchester Board of Elections invalidated the petitions and Hartley’s candidacy.

Sadly, a number of sitting elected Democratic officials, on both the local and county levels, were implicated in the 2015 scheme. Included in that group was Councilman Vishnu Patel of Yorktown, who was caught submitting invalid signatures again this year.Rogers was part of the 2015 scheme as well.

“Vishnu should know better than to attempt this sort of shenanigans again,” said Testa. “The number of valid signatures needed was low, so why cheat? It makes no sense. I think it all stems from the Democratic Party mantra of ‘the ends justifies the means.’ Regardless, I will move forward with a positive campaign and proudly run on my record of accomplishment during my tenure as County Legislator serving Cortlandt, Peekskill and Yorktown,” said Testa.

John G. Testa will appear on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform Party lines in November.

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Statement by Westchester County Legislator John G. Testa Regarding the Coast Guard’s Decision to Suspend the Barge Anchorage Sites Proposal

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Statement by Westchester County Legislator John G. Testa Regarding the Coast Guard’s Decision to Suspend the Barge Anchorage Sites Proposal

Peekskill, NY (June 28,2017) – “Today’s announcement by the Coast Guard that they are withdrawing the proposal to establish barge anchorage sites along the Hudson River is the right decision and shows how a strong bi-partisan effort on all levels of government can accomplish important goals for our citizens and the environment. It is hard to believe such a plan was proposed in the first place.

I was proud to spearhead a unanimously supported Westchester Board of Legislators Resolution opposing this ill-conceived plan. We were the first county to do so with our neighboring counties soon joining us with similar measures. We are all thankful the Coast Guard heeded the overwhelming opposition by not only elected official but the general public through their 10,000 comments made in response to the proposal.”

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Testa, A Leader on Protecting the Environment

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County Legislator John Testa has a been a leader on environmental issues for two decades and has a long record of initiatives he has supported and spearheaded. Testa’s record is well documented starting back from when he was Mayor of Peekskill. His active involvement in developing and promoting environmentally friendly policies continues to the present during his time as Westchester County Legislator for Cortlandt Manor, the City of Peekskill and the Town of Yorktown.

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Two of Testa’s former students at PHS performing lab tests on a electric generating wind turbine.

Testa was a high school teacher of Technology for over 30 years at Peekskill High School and used his interest in alternative energy sources as part of his curriculum. Before solar and wind energy use became commonplace, Testa used his classes to design, build and test various prototypes of alternative energy. “It was a very exciting time for the class because students would actually test their designs to see how well they generated power,” Testa said. “It became a friendly competition to see whose prototype worked best, whether it be a solar hot water unit or oven or a wind driven device. It was a way to have fun and learn at the same time,” Testa said.

Once becoming an elected official Testa was determined to use his position to advance pro-environmental policies. Let’s look closer at some of the major environmental successes Testa has had while in office.

As Mayor of Peekskill, John Testa…

instituted a comprehensive solid waste removal program with an emphasis on     increasing citywide recycling;

initiated a project to construct a new state-of-the-art water treatment facility;

worked jointly with Scenic Hudson on a 4.5-acre former industrial waterfront property called “Peekskill Landing” to clean up the land, the shoreline and preserve open space;

worked closely with the DEC to develop a remediation plan for a 4-acre area originally utilized as the city landfill;

secured a grant from The NY State Power Authority to replace 10 city owned fossil fuel vehicles with electric cars;

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Mayor Testa was a familiar sight driving through the city promoting the use of electric vehicles.

worked with representatives in Albany to establish a Conservation Easement with the State of New York that will permanently assure that the 500 acres of Peekskill owned property surrounding its reservoirs would be undevelopable;

secured an agreement to have a 45-acre parcel known as “Fort Hill” declared historic parkland;

instituted a Certified Local Government Landmarks Board that has helped to ensure the preservation of buildings within the Downtown Historic District;

encouraged adaptive re-use of buildings throughout the city resulting in a record number of preserved structures and National Register designations which led Peekskill to be recognized by the US Department of the Interior as a “Preserve America Community;”

Secured an agreement with the NYS Power Authority to install over 600 energy-efficient traffic and pedestrian signals within the Peekskill Business District.

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Legislator Testa has a record of working in a bi-partisan manner and with all levels of government across the Hudson Valley to promote environmental protection policies.

Since January of 2010 Testa has been a county legislator and has continued his dedication to presenting and supporting environmentally sensitive policies. During each term as legislator, Testa has been a member of the Environment and Energy Committee, which has recently been reconstituted as two separate committees, “Energy and Regional Efficiencies” and “Environment and Health.” Testa is an active member of both.

As Westchester County Legislator, Testa…

sponsored a County Resolution to oppose oil barge anchorages in Hudson River. Westchester was the first county to officially oppose with neighboring counties following suit, causing federal representatives to oppose the plan;

worked closely with the county’s partner, Energize NY, to complete major energy upgrade project for Drum Hill Senior Living Facility in Peekskill and solar panel installation at St. Christopher’s Church in Buchanan;

supported county law to eliminate #4 and #6 heating fuel;

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA developed and implemented land-use plans, stormwater and runoff management plans, public infrastructure standards and building codes to adapt to climate change risks (i.e., severe weather events, rising waters, extreme temperatures);

participated in creating a program to survey all county owned buildings to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels and the incorporation of alternative energy sources to any building projects and upgrades;
supported legislation that decreased the cost and simplified the process for small plumbing and electrical businesses to become solar installers in Westchester;

supported the implementation of a hybrid vehicle policy for county vehicles;

supported the implementation of an extended recycling law;

promoted home energy audits and tax breaks for solar panel installation in homes;

supported law to prevent the use of hydrofracking fluids in Westchester;

supported a County resolution regarding the Algonquin AIM Gas Pipeline project calling for various safety and risk assessments to be conducted by numerous Federal agencies involved in the project approval process;

secured the funding to totally rehabilitate close to 5 miles of county owned roads in the district. These roadways are the key east-west corridor for Northern Westchester and had not been brought up to standards for many decades. Now, these roads are up to 21st Century ADA and pedestrian safe standards;

directly involved in the review and approval of local farms and the expansion of the availability of locally grown and produced foods. He supported the creation and expansion of local Farmer’s Markets, including the recent addition by the City of Peekskill to establish an indoor market during the winter months and also the initiative by the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor (now known as the NY-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital) to create the “Harvest for Heath” program which includes a weekly Farmer’s Market, organic garden and a teaching kitchen;

supported the recently passed county legislation prohibiting the sale of toxic children’s products;

called for a full environmental assessment study on the effects of the plan to close Indian Point. In addition to no credible plan to replace the lost energy generated by the plant, the over $40 million in local economic devastation to municipalities, school district and small businesses was never considered;

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Legislator Testa appeared at the FERC Scoping Session in Cortlandt Manor on the EIS for the AIM project to present the resolution that he and his 16 legislative colleagues unanimously passed calling for safety and risk assessments be conducted by the involved agencies with the project.

Despite his long and consistent record in the area of environmental protection, Testa is not ready to slow down. “Yes, I am proud of my record protecting the environment but there is still much more to do,” Testa said. “I am very interested in the continuous advancements in solar and electric related power generation and how we can expand their use in homes and vehicles. Sustainable development initiatives are critical to the future of our communities,” Testa added.

NYLCV Endorse Ad.jpgWe are fortunate to have John Testa as a representative in Westchester County government as a strong advocate for policies focused on environmental protection, especially at this crucial time. There are always issues of concern regarding the environment but none larger than the two issues facing Westchester: the closure of Indian Point and the proposed Barge Anchorage sites along the Hudson River. Testa is in the forefront of both of these issues fighting to protect the communities he represents and the environment surrounding them.

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