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December 30, 2013


Fragile Egos Make Empty Threats

I’ll just present the facts in all their hilarity. I’ll spare the commentary except to say that some people are so caught up in themselves that they fail to notice that there are indeed other people living on this planet. The word for this phenomenon is immaturity.

Below is an email exchange directed at the blogger by two minor local public figures. All the emails are exactly as I received them with only contact information deleted.

One person is Don Rittner who is mentioned in the article. He is in charge of publicity and fundraising for the Onrust, the very cool replica of a wooden sailing ship originally built in 1614. Mr. Rittner also appears to the outsider as the person who currently is in effective control of the project.

Susan Holland is the director of Historic Albany (HAF,) a non-governmental agency in the City of Albany. After all these years I’m forced to admit that I’m not sure what exactly HAF does other than help uphold the status quo in Albany..

Apparently at issue is my reposting of this Daily Gazette article which explains that there have been disputes within the Onrust organization. It appears that neither Rittner nor Holland like the Gazette article either.

The Wife posted Paddling To Waterford on Thursday night, September 20. Late Friday morning at 11:02 I received this from Rittner:


I would suggest you call me immediately or take the slanderous information you have written about the onrust and myself out of your article. We have given this to our legal firm and will initiate a legal action against your slanderous and completely erroneous statements.

Don Rittner, president
the Onrust Project


Seventeen minutes later at 11:19 Rittner sent me this:


Hey Dan. The onrust is parked because the construction is not completed. We are working on the interior museum and classroom space. We would rather have it parked where people can see it instead of a boatyard that has no public access. There is no dispute. There were a couple of x volunteers who have not seen the boat for two years who complained in that article. I do not own the boat. It is property of the onrust project a non profit org. If you would like a tour of the boat let me know. but please take the erroneous info off your blog. If you had attended the tugboat roundup last week you would have heard the cannons

Don Rittner, president
The Onrust Project


According to the Onrust site, the ship has been parked in Waterford since May. Rittner’s reaction didn’t surprise me, but the following email from Susan Holland did, which was also sent to The Wife. It came in at 5:19 PM Friday:


Hello Dan and Lynne,

I tried to contact both of you today in hopes we can head this off at the pass, so to speak.

The latest blog about Waterford, but in particular, the part about the Onrust, is very misleading and false. I am not sure what the purpose of your blog was and for a group that has been putting all their energies, time, fundraising into the boat, it is very damaging to their purpose. For starters, the Gazette article was EXTREMELY misleading and actually, according to the reporter, written to get people to give, believe it or not. There were subsequent letters to the editor refuting her claims and her “facts” which were untrue. Please refer to them.

Unfortunately, the reporter also decided to interview a few disgruntled volunteers who have since pulled away from the project. As you both know, working on community projects can bear all sorts of disagreements and such, and it’s a shame that people with an ax to grind, get media time with their personal peeves. I deal with this issue every day.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the fact is that Don and the Onrust organization have contacted their lawyers about a possible lawsuit unless the offensive part of the blog is removed.

I am acting as go-between, yes and as a Friend of the Onrust. I’ve been on the boat, visited it, saw it being built and am aware of just how hard work on this endeavor with all volunteer labor. To have it maligned by inaccuracies and available for the public to see on your blog, is really a detriment to us in the history field, people who believe in that mission and others who are interested.

Please remove that part of the blog. I appreciate your attention to this matter.

Thank you for listening and please feel free to call me if you need further information.


Susan Herlands Holland
Executive Director
Historic Albany Foundation, Inc.


I didn’t read any of this until evening and then decided to go to bed. Early Saturday morning I replied (somewhat ungrammatically) to Holland only:



Mr. Rittner has already contacted me and threatened to sue me for slander. A few minutes later he sent me a note offering to take me on a tour of the boat. So you are not "the bearer of bad news" as you claim.

As for the viability of the Gazette article, what I wrote on Albanyweblog is primarily based on that article. If you or Mr. Rittner feel that the Gazette article is "misleading" etc. then I suggest that you take up this matter with the owners of the Daily Gazette. If the Daily Gazette disavows the article at some point in the future then I will be sure to take note of that on the blog.

If you or Mr. Rittner have any objections to what I wrote or feel that my interpretation of published information is inaccurate, feel free to post a comment to the article.

Thanks to both of you for reading Albanyweblog. I am always appreciative of having an audience and of being read.

Daniel W. Van Riper


Oooh, she didn’t like that. I guess that’s not the kind of reaction she was hoping for. She replied at late Saturday at 11:39 PM, and revealed that the editors of the Daily Gazette also told her and Rittner the same exact thing that I did, that they are welcome to reply to the article:


Get this straight—I don’t read your blog. I don’t have time to read people’s blogs who are not reporting facts and continually slander others for no apparent reason. It is amazing to me that anyone gets their “news” from any of us; I include myself in that mix since I write a blog for the Times Union.

In speaking with Don, please don’t misread the invitation to tour the boat. He and the rest of the volunteers give tours all the time to the public. Two weekends ago, was Tugboat Fest and in fact, 3,000 (yes, three thousand) people toured the boat. I was one of them.

Volunteers work on the boat every week and there are many donors and contributors. You also have no clue about who “owns the boat.” The 501c3 does and leaders include Don Rittner and Greta Wagle. There is also a Board of Directors.

Everything you have written is without merit, wrong and slanderous not only to Don but also to the entire organization and their dedicated volunteers and donors. Don vehemently denies the accusations and will defend his reputation in court. The lawyers have already drawn up the paperwork.

The Gazette reporter and Don spoke after her article came out; that is how we know she was trying to help, not hinder the cause. The editor’s response? He asked Don to write a letter to the editor and it was published. (I don't have a subscription to the Gazette and cannot put the link here.) Another visitor wrote one as well, in support of the Onrust.

The picture that you painted was specifically to slander Don’s reputation. The fact is that the Onrust website and Facebook page are very active. The organization continues to successfully raise money and volunteers continue to offer their help and support.

Today, at John’s party, Don spoke to Lynne and tried to reason with her; again, he is giving you an opportunity to retract your blog. I sincerely hope you do.



Holland is referring to an event on Saturday where Rittner started to repeat his legal threats to The Wife, but she blew him off unconcerned. By Sunday morning The Wife and I were laughing out loud. I sent this reply:



It appears that you are consulting closely with Mr. Rittner on this non-issue. I will save you some trouble and cc this thread to him.

As I said before, if you have any dispute with what I wrote, please comment in the comments section. You may display as much fury as you wish, but please refrain from four letter words which I will edit. Or perhaps one or both of you can publish your own rebuttals elsewhere.

You say that the editors of the Daily Gazette told you and Mr. Rittner precisely the same thing that I have, this is not at all a surprise for me. Susan, that's how freedom of speech works in this country. I suggest, for your own sake, that you grow up and accept the prevailing reality.

Again, thanks to both of you for taking an interest in what I write.

-Daniel W. Van Riper


No reply from Holland, but Rittner sent this:


See you in court Dan.


And I let him have the last word. So here it stands, with the two of us trembling in terror waiting to be served with a frivolous lawsuit. I’m certainly no lawyer, but I guess these two will have to find some way to overturn the First Amendment. That will certainly be interesting. And I’m still waiting for their rebuttals to show up in the comments.