Best known for portraying a career cabbie, a disco-dancing Count Dracula, and an alien-fighting schlemiel, it would appear that Bronx-born actor Judd Hirsch is now, like Alec Baldwin before him, trying out for the role of villainized wind turbine-erecting neighbor.

The scene of this heated round of turbine-centric NIMBYist outrage is the rugged — and as the New York Times is quick to emphasize, quiet — Ulster County, N.Y. community of Denning, a mountainous outpost of about 550 residents located entirely within the "forever wild" boundaries of Catskill State Park. Hirsch, 78, has owned a home in the Denning area for more than 40 years and is eager to commit what he believes to be an act of green do-goodery: producing his own clean energy on his own property with the assistance of a 177-foot tall wind turbine. The electric bill-eliminating project comes with a price tag in the ballpark of $132,000 after federal tax credits and state grants.

The neighbors (if you could even call them that considering the geography involved) aren’t having it. A number of up-in-arms Denning residents have cited noise, bird deaths, fires, and decreased property values as reasons that Hirsch should reconsider embarking on the project and install solar arrays on his property instead.

Tiffany Gillman, 34, has lived in the area for over a decade on a fruit orchard — "our everything, our heart and soul, is in this place" — located a little over a mile away from the site of Hirsch’s proposed turbine. She has helped to organize a petition opposing the project and lays it on real thick:

“We didn’t move here expecting to live underneath this giant turbine. I think until studies can be done, sometimes we think something is a great idea, and then when we do it, we’re like, ‘Oops.’"

A choked-up Gillman adds in reference to her 2-year-old son: “I just think of him and I think about us being up there in that orchard, and those blades spinning, and this thing coming out of the landscape for the rest of our lives now. It feels like everything that we worked for, and everything we sacrificed for, is at risk.”

Richard Benkwitt, a Denning resident who also lives about a mile away from Hirsch’s 96-acre property near Yeagerville Road, relies less on histrionics than Gillman but is no less perturbed about a 17-story wind turbine that could “ruin the beauty of the location.”

Reads part of the petition that's been published on

We believe that allowing the installation of a turbine of this scale in this area for the benefit of one, would unjustly disrupt the lives of all the people who live in its proximity, and in addition to the well documented issues of noise, sunlight flickering, health concerns, impact on wildlife, the approval of its installation and the change of the land use codes would open the door to all types of repercussions, including commercial enterprises that would bring nothing more than a marred landscape to the residents of the Town of Denning. 
Hirsch, who was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in the 1980 mega-tearjerker “Ordinary People” and who also starred in what Gothamist very accurately hails as the most depressing television sitcom of all time, thinks that the tears and the tumult is completely unfounded. 

“Their fears, in my estimation, are baloney," says Hirsch, who also holds a degree in physics. "Behind it, I believe, is the pollution of jealousy and the pollution of stupidity. This one annoys the hell out of me because these people are making up stories that don’t have any relevance to anything in this world. You can’t hear it, and it can’t harm you, and you can’t see it, and if you did it would be beautiful.”

The contractor hired by Hirsch to erect the turbine, Sherret Chase of Chase Wind, notes that the sound produced by the turbine is a hardly-detectable 43 decibels or “four decibels over the sound of wind.” He adds: “Normal hearing won’t detect the difference, and that’s at 100 yards. The closest house is about 500 yards away.”

He adds: “There are misinformed or intentionally uninformed people who just want to obstruct anything new or different and I got a village of them there in Denning.”

Ouch. Chase keeps on digging the hole deeper while speaking about the "big to-do about nothing" to the Times Herald-Record: "They (opponents) have gotten a knot in their knickers and are throwing a hissy fit over nothing."

Despite Chase's rough words directed toward the people of Denning, the battle will be carried out in a civilized manner as the Ulster County Planning Board prepares to review Hirsch’s proposal next month. After that, the proposal will be passed on to the Denning Zoning Board of Appeals for further review as the town's zoning regulations do not cover wind turbines. And keep in mind that Hirsch's wind turbine will be technically located within the Blue Lines of Catskill Park. The chairman of the zoning board, Mark Boncek, claims to be taking the concerns of area residents very seriously — “I feel for the man and I also feel for the people" — although he does find that “… some of the people carrying on, they will never see or hear the thing — like most of them. So what do you say?” 

Via [NYT], [The Daily Freeman]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Judd Hirsch: Neighborly fuss over wind turbine is 'baloney'
Residents in the New York town of Denning rally against 'Taxi' actor Judd Hirsch's proposed wind turbine project.