hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


News May 2021



Analysis tracks pandemic flight to local counties


A new analysis of postal data shows Columbia and Berkshire counties were among the top destinations in the United States for people who relocated amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The New York Times reviewed data from 30 million change-of-address requests filed with the postal service in 2020 and compared those with data from 2019. The analysis showed the Hudson, N.Y., metro area (Columbia County) had the biggest increase in the nation in net inbound migration between the two years, with an increase of 9.7 percentage points. The Pittsfield, Mass., metro area, which includes all of Berkshire County, was No. 6 nationally, up 3.9 percentage points.

The Times reported that the 2020 postal data overall showed the same broad migration patterns that existed before the pandemic, such as people leaving states in the Northeast and industrial Midwest and moving to the South and West. But when compared with 2019, the data also showed an unusually large outflow of urban residents from cities including San Francisco, New York and Boston where there are large numbers of jobs that could be done remotely.

An interactive map accompanying the online version of the Times story showed data by Zip code in the region north of New York. Among the postal zones in Columbia County with the biggest increases in net inbound migration from 2019 to 2020 were Canaan (up 31 percentage points), Copake and Ancramdale (each up 25 points), Ancram (up 23), East Chatham (up 19) and Craryville and Old Chatham (each up 18).

In Berkshire County, the postal zones with the biggest increases in net inbound migration between the two years were Ashley Falls (up 20 percentage points), Sandisfield (up 19 points), Richmond (up 17), West Stockbridge (up 15) and Great Barrington (up 10). The paper’s interactive map did not include towns north of Lanesborough in Massachusetts or southern Rensselaer County in New York.

In a separate report last month, the Times Union of Albany examined data on change-of-address requests from New York City to area counties and found large increases from 2019 to 2020 in the number of people moving to Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. The number of address changes from New York to postal zones in Rensselaer County went from 52 in 2019 to 460 in 2020, while the number of relocations to Saratoga County increased from 170 to 1,050.

Also in April, Realtor.com reported, based on mortgage data from the first three months of this year, that the Hudson, N.Y., area saw one of the biggest increases in the nation in second-home purchases when compared with data from the same period in 2020. The area posted the fifth-largest increase in the nation, with second-home sales up 18.7 percent from last year.

In other news from around the region in April:


Shooting school accused of ‘flagrant disregard’
The town of Pawlet is asking the Vermont Environmental Court to hold the operator of a paramilitary training center in contempt for disregarding a court order to cease operations.
The state court ruled in early March that Daniel Banyai must shut down his Slate Ridge center, which he has described as a school, and dismantle any buildings that were constructed without zoning permits. The court also directed Banyai to pay the town more than $46,000 in fines.
The Rutland Herald reported that in a motion filed with the court on April 21, a lawyer for the town claimed Banyai had done nothing to comply and was continuing to operate the center in “intentional and flagrant disregard of the court’s order.”

The Slate Ridge center was the focus of a lengthy investigative report published in October by the online news site VTDigger. The report, and subsequent stories by other regional and national news organizations, detailed the concerns of neighbors who say they’ve been menaced over the past few years by armed men connected with the center.

Slate Ridge has two shooting ranges on a 31-acre property near the New York state line, and some of its patrons have claimed in social media posts to have links to anti-government militia groups.

In the court’s March ruling, Judge Thomas Durkin supported the town’s view that the training center constitutes an unpermitted use of residential land under the town’s bylaws.


Mass MoCA employees vote to unionize
Workers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art have voted by a wide margin to be represented by a national labor union.

In an April election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, the museum’s employees voted 53-15 to affiliate with UAW Local 2110. NLRB officials counted the mail-in ballots April 28 in a videoconference that was open to union and management representatives.

Local 2110, also known as the Technical, Office and Professional Union, is based in New York City and represents more than 3,000 workers at universities, publishers, museums, law firms and other offices.

The Berkshire Eagle reported that the vote was set in motion in early March, when workers at Mass MoCA filed a petition with the NLRB seeking union representation. The employees cited concerns about low salaries and doubts about job security in the wake of pandemic-related layoffs.

Tracy Moore, the museum’s interim director, issued a statement pledging to respect the workers’ decision and to “build a culture where our employees feel valued and respected, and have the opportunity to contribute to the mission and grow as professionals.”
-- Compiled by Fred Daley