Two devastating floods in six years. In the past year alone, three storms that sent water sloshing into stores on Phoenicia’s Main Street. Is industry to blame, for provoking climate change? Are state and New York City regulators to blame for letting streams grow shallow and wide?
Many local residents say the streams were dredged every year or two in the past, as a means of preventing flooding. But since 1996, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has prohibited dredging except in specific cases, and then only through an extensive approval process.
“Our mission statement is to figure out what we can do as a group to stop the intense regulation against dredging our streams,” said Shandaken resident Faye Storms on September 10, as she opened the launch meeting of Save Our Shandaken (SOS) at the Copperhood Retreat and Spa on Route 28, west of Phoenicia. “We want to work with the DEP and DEC as partners, not as dictators, so we can get into the streams when we need to maintain them. And they need to be responsible for paying for it.”
Storms, who owns Blue Barn Antiques and Interiors, and Copperhood owner Elizabeth Winograd chaired the meeting, which was attended by about 30 people. Although representatives from DEC and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were invited to the impromptu gathering, none showed up.
Storms cited the success of the Stony Clove dredging, which appears to have prevented flooding on Main Street during Tropical Storm Lee on Wednesday, September 7. “Margaretville and Arkville had flooding again,” she asserted. “We didn’t flood. John Kilb, who lives on the corner of Main Street by the Stony Clove, came to me and said there was no water in his basement for the first time. If we maintain our streams, preventing floods is a no-brainer. I’m sick of watching my land go away. The next flood, or the one after, may take my foundation.”
“It’s nothing new — in Europe, they do it,” added Winograd, whose property was undercut and strewn with massive amounts of rubble by the flood. “We know what one neighbor does can affect another. We need the authorities to oversee what’s done, but they have to communicate with us.”
Among those present was Elizabeth Higgins of Ashokan Watershed Stream Management (AWSM), a DEP-funded group whose agenda is to work with local residents and government agencies to address the community’s water-related needs. Higgins pointed out that the town government has been working with her organization on the Shandaken Area Flood Assessment and Remediation Initiative (SAFARI), which has just finished taking bids from consultants for devising a town-wide flood mitigation plan.
Winograd protested that the DEP official she had spoken to was afraid to come to the meeting, while others would not speak to her.
“Well, I came to the meeting,” Higgins pointed out. “We understand people’s frustration, and we do need the help of people in the community to report where the problems are.”
Larry Brill observed that at a recent watershed conference at the Emerson Inn, sponsored by AWSM, “They said, ‘The stream will go where it wants to go, and dredging makes it worse.’”
Higgins replied, “It’s complex. There are some areas where it would cost so much more to do anything. I’m sorry you heard it that way. But you can’t control everything. This was the flood of record, and our perception is that this kind of weather is increasing. Fifty years ago, we did not have the climate we have today. If the Stony Clove dredging had been done in February, so much sediment would have come down since then, it would not have helped in this flood. ”
Doris Nieves proposed that the group undertake a class action suit against DEP and DEC. Maria Todaro suggested that an engineer be invited to address the group. Nieves offered to get in touch with an engineer and a lawyer of her acquaintance to request their help.
A second meeting of SOS has been scheduled for Saturday, September 24, 9:30 a.m., tentatively at the Copperhood. Flyers with further information will be posted around Phoenicia.++
Don’t shun us
Phoenicia’s Main Street is alive and well
The roads into Phoenicia have been restored, and popular eateries, including Sweet Sue’s, Al’s, and Brio’s, are open, as are the shops, art galleries, and other businesses. But where are the customers?
“The rumors about us being underwater, washed away, condemned, gone, etc., keep coming,” says Michael Koegel, proprietor of Mama’s Boy Cafe and Market in the center of town. “Even people in Kingston seem to think that we’ve all lost everything and that the roads are closed.”
Not a single building on Main Street was destroyed or condemned. A week without power was hard on the business owners, but those with mud on the floor and damage outside took advantage of the lapse to clean and repair. At this point, walking down Main Street, you wouldn’t know there had been a flood. The stores look spiffy as ever, and restaurant patrons sit both indoors and at sidewalk tables. But too many of them are staying away.
“We were voted one of America’s coolest towns recently in Budget Travel magazine,” comments Koegel, “and I thought that was a wonderful honor. But I really believe it now that I see how the people in this town have come to each other’s aid in such an amazing way. A few days after the flood, there were scores of people sweeping debris off Main Street and helping out all over Shandaken. It’s a really cool town, and it’s ironic that the biggest problem is the media’s perception that we’re gone. But we’re here, and we’re as good as ever.”
Although the Bridge Street bridge is closed, motorists may reach Main Street easily via Old Plank Road or by turning off Route 28 at Route 214, a quarter mile past the main Phoenicia entrance.
Cleanup goes on
Meanwhile, the cleanup continues. The tangle of massive tree trunks has been cleared from the Bridge Street bridge, which remains closed, one of its supports having been knocked out in the hurricane. Structural damage is severe enough to warrant rebuilding the bridge.
As of Wednesday, September 14, the water in the Phoenicia Water District had been tested as safe to drink.
With relief workers and residents alike aching from hauling trash and shoveling mud, the local healing community is offering help of another kind. The Hurricane Irene Holistic Outreach Clinic will take place on Sundays through October 2 from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. at the Parish Hall in Phoenicia. There is no fee for treatments, and appointments are not required. Practitioners will offer massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, EFT, reiki, matrix energetics, Shambala energy healing, and more.
Jay Jacobs, owner of Timber Lake Camp in Shandaken, announced that he and his wife, Mindy, are starting a fund for rebuilding the town, beginning with a $100,000 donation by the Jacobs family.
Phoenicia Rotary has taken down its table on Main Street, but president Ken Jacobs is still recruiting and directing volunteers for further cleanup operations of homes. Jacobs reported that of the roughly $16,000 collected by Woodstockers as a donation to the Rotary’s relief efforts, $1700 was in singles and $500 was in change. One anonymous donor gave $5000.
Donations may be sent to Phoenicia Rotary Flood Relief Fund, PO Box 660, Phoenicia NY 12464. All donations will be distributed to flood victims.++
Picking up the pieces
Storm stories, information and items of significance
Artist Rita Schwab’s house is on Route 212 in Mount Tremper, around the corner from the Zen Monastery. It is located near the juncture of the Beaverkill and the Esopus, where a number of homes were inundated by the flood, and a Route 28 bridge was damaged. Here is Rita’s story in her own words. —Violet Snow
We were prepared for a storm. We had supplies and flashlights, we made sure the sump pump was good. We knew we’d have water in the basement, maybe a little water inside the rental next to the house. I was in the rental house, trying to save the floor, bucketing water out, and I see this giant water gushing over the edge of the river. It pushed the mobile home of my neighbor off its base. An elderly woman lives there, and she passed out. My neighbor, a firefighter, rescued her. When I saw him carrying the woman in water up to his chest, I knew it was bad.
My son and I started putting things up to a higher level. We were walking in water, and it got deeper, and we kept putting things higher up. When it was waist-deep, I said, we have to get out. I got a little frantic — where’s the computer, the car keys, my purse? Having put everything on top, I couldn’t find the basics. Finally I got them, put the computer on my head, and dashed out at the last minute.
My son was still inside. The back of the property is higher, so I went around back, getting hysterical, screaming at my son to get out. He waded out neck-deep. We stood outside and watched the water fill the house almost to the ceiling of the first floor. We went to the neighbor’s house. I didn’t know what to do. We borrowed clothes — I was soaked and had no shoes.
By evening, the water had receded, and we went in the house. The water had ripped out kitchen cabinets, the refrigerator was on its side, furniture had moved from room to room.
Monday morning, I went out really early and went to Phoenicia, even though the roads were kind of dangerous. I had a show up at Arts Upstairs — eerily enough, it was about the Esopus Creek. I needed to see if my artwork was still okay. Luckily it was okay. I had the notion of getting rubber boots. I just grabbed them and asked, can I pay you later — I didn’t have shoes. I’ve been living in those rubber boots ever since.
The cleanup has been ever since. The house is right where all this activity was happening. It felt like a war zone: fire trucks, dump trucks, sirens, construction workers with orange outfits and hard hats, police. The Red Cross was wonderful — they brought us lunch and snacks. The monastery opened their doors for people to come for food and quiet. We all just got away with the clothes on our backs — wet clothes.
Then everybody in the neighborhood was going into the mud, pulling out whatever could be salvaged. I saved some kitchen stuff, pots and pans. I have never washed so much stuff in my life. I’m still washing two weeks later. I had to wash clothes three times. For the first nine days, we didn’t have water. I went to a neighbor’s and filled up her kiddie pool and rinsed out the mud by hand. When roads were opened, I did laundry in Kingston.
Eight people from the monastery pulled everything out of the house and put it outside to be hauled off. It got picked up with a backhoe this weekend. I had just bought new appliances this summer, and I was hoping to rescue them, so I put them outside to dry out. The next day, they were gone.
I applied with FEMA and got an emergency fund of $837. I have $150,000 of damage in the house. My flood insurance doesn’t cover contents. My homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. My buildings are in the flood zone, but I’m responsible for taxes and the mortgage. I’m thinking of walking because even if I was to rebuild, what sense does it make? This may come again. If I get any kind of money, it will have to go to the mortgage company, or I’ll be forced to rebuild. The money is not looking too pretty.
I’m staying in little apartment. I had a couple of rentals, which gave me a chance to live and be an artist. Now I don’t have rental income, but I still have to pay rent, mortgage, taxes. I don’t know what to do. I try not to worry about it, but it’s been pretty stressful. I just need to get away a little bit, get some healing. I’m waiting for a sign from heaven.++
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
Many, many stories have been told of the aftermath of the Irene-ic hurricane; I’ve a short one. On the Sunday when the rains stopped, I walked outside to assess what, if any damage, we had incurred. I found that a 40-foot hickory tree had fallen across our front lawn into the drive lane. What to do? I don’t have or use a chain saw because I prefer saving my limbs and digits; a chain saw is almost anathema to my prior city-born existence. I called the town to report the downage.
About an hour later, my wife, Julie, and I heard a chain saw sound; upon going to see the source, we asked if the person was from the town. “No,” he responded. “I’m just driving around to see if anyone needs help getting in or out.”
The guy, whose name is Chris Kerr (or so he told us), cut the trunk and large branches and moved them to the side of the lane. When Julie tried to give him some money, he refused it, noting that we should donate any monies to the Humane Society.
Julie donated money to the Humane Society when the power was restored. When Chris left after much arduous labor, he lent his sympathy for the loss of the tree. And we were left, for the next five days, smiles that brightened otherwise dark days and nights.
Proof there is a God: Woodstock was without electricity for five days, yet fortuitously it has the highest number of candle shops per capita of any town on earth.
HURRICANE RELIEF SUPPLIES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
The United Methodist Church in Phoenicia is well stocked and hoping that the community will take advantage of all that has been donated to help those who were affected by hurricane Irene.
They have an ample supply of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing in all sizes plus a well stocked food pantry. But they are not turning anything away. Diligent volunteers said people are finally starting to stop in and stock up on many items they lost during the storm.
They continue to accept non-perishable food items as well as clothing and are in particular need of: Sheets, towels, blankets, pillows and cleaning supplies.
The church is located on Church Street in Phoenicia one block off Main Street. It is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Olive Free Library is offering, to those in need, non-perishable food items and toiletries. It is continuing to accept donations of the same for distribution. It was noted that most area churches are collecting and distributing clothing.
FREE HOLISTIC CLINIC
The Hurricane Irene Holistic Outreach Clinic will take place for the next four Sundays (9/11-10/2) from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. at Parish Hall in Phoenicia. There is no fee for treatments. No appointments required. There will be a mix of different practitioners each Sunday including but not limited to massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, EFT, reiki, relexology, matrix energetics, Shambala energy healing, and more.
...brought to you by Family of Woodstock and Healthcare is a Human Right, and your local healers.
The Woodstock Flood Relief Committee is working in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity by providing support for our neighboring towns still a long way from recovery.
On Friday morning, September 16, we need a few able bodied volunteers to assist assembling shelf storage units for the purposes of maintaining the food and tools being donated for distribution to the areas in need. Tools and training will be provided.
The volunteers are needed at the Habitat for Humanity re-store located at 406 Route 28, Kingston (next to the Hess station on the westbound side of Route 28).
The time for the volunteer assignment will be from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
If you are available to assist, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
RECEIVED BY EMAIL AT THE PAPER
Come to the beach on Martha’s Vineyard!
In thanks to the great community of Woodstock for a fabulous summer, I am offering rooms in my B&B on Martha’s Vineyard at half price through Columbus Day. That would be $50/night for a room. Shared bath and continental breakfast. Would you please spread the word? The island has a lovely Indian summer this time of year. The ocean is even still inviting. Come bask in salt air and sun, get some sand between your toes. You deserve a trip to the sea.
Offer good for Woodstock residents and environs only. Sliding scale available for others.
Call or Email: Harriet Bernstein, 508-696-7186 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 508-696-7186 end_of_the_skype_highlighting home; harriet@TheRedHat.com; www.TheRedHat.com
BELLEAYRE MUSIC FESTIVAL BENEFIT
When the magnitude of the August 28 flooding became apparent, the board of directors of the Belleayre Conservatory quickly decided to turn the final show of the Belleayre Music Festival’s 20th anniversary season into a benefit for flood victims. As of midday on Monday, net proceeds from the show plus received contributions totaled more than $32,500 with more donations still arriving to be turned over to the flood relief effort. The support of concert-goers did not end with their tickets purchases. Many visitors generously made additional donations to the conservatory’s fund-raising efforts. Anyone wishing to make additional donations should send them to the Belleayre Conservatory (memo Flood Relief Fund) at P.O. Box 198 Highmount NY 12441. Checks, Master Card and Visa are accepted. For more information call 845-254-5600, ext. 1344.
GOLDEN NOTEBOOK BENEFIT FOR PHOENICIA ROTARY
The Golden Notebook is holding a special benefit event to raise money for the Phoenicia Rotary’s Irene Relief Fund at 4 p.m. Sunday, September 18 at the Kleinert/James Arts Center. There will be a reading and panel with Gail Godwin, Abby Thomas, and Jenny Allen. Suggested donation at the door is $5 and 20 percent of all book sales will be donated. Refreshments will be served.
For more information contact email@example.com.
TRAUM, SEBASTIAN, DUPREE, HUDSON IN ARTISTS HURRICANE RELIEF CONCERT AT BEARSVILLE
The Hudson Valley Artists Hurricane Relief Concert will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday, Saturday 18 (doors open at 6 p.m.) at The Bearsville Theater. Performers include Happy Traum, Stew Cutler, John Sebastian, Robbie Dupree, Garth Hudson, Donna Lewis, Marc Black, Bruce Katz Machan Taylor, Charlie Knicely, Roswell Rudd and many, many more. General Admission is $20. All donations will go to the American Red Cross of the Mid Hudson Valley.
Plus, you can bid on front row tickets to see Stephen Stills at the Bearsville Theater on October 14, with all proceeds going to support local Hudson Valley Residents affected by Hurricane Irene. The auction will run until Friday, September 16 at 5 p.m.
CAULIFLOWER FESTIVAL CANCELLED
The Ninth Annual Margaretville Cauliflower Festival which was to have been held Saturday, September 24 in the Village Park, Margaretville has been cancelled. “Our community is recovering from catastrophic flooding. Clearly this is not the time to host a festival,” explained Carol O’Beirne, Director of the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce which sponsors the popular annual event. O’Beirne thanked the artisans, vendors, entertainers and presenters who had planned to attend and the businesses that offered their support, including Coldwell/Banker Timberland Properties, MTC, Directive, Inc., Frank Lumia Real Estate Plus, HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, Margaretville Liquor Store, the Sluiter Agency and NBT of Margaretville.
“We’ll be back in 2012 to celebrate this resilient community and Middletown’s agricultural heritage,” she added.
SHANDAKEN FOOD PANTRY
The Shandaken Food Pantry, in cooperation with the Phoenicia Methodist Church is currently open 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. daily and is distributing the following to residents of the area who lost their homes or possessions as a result of Tropical Storm Irene: non-perishable food, toiletries, personal care items, clothing-men, women and children, bedding-sheets, blankets, comforters, shoes, sneakers and boots, furniture and Home items-kitchen, living room, bedroom.
For more information call 845-688-5828.
FEDERAL FLOOD AID PROGRAMS EXPLAINED
Representatives of three federal agencies will be on hand Friday, September 16 to explain programs designed to help businesses and individuals recover from natural disasters at the Middletown Town Hall between Margaretville and Arkville. A panel made up of a senior official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), along with those from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will deliver information targeted towards small businesses at 4 p.m. A second presentation for individuals and property owners will be held at 7 p.m. Explained will be the many programs offered by the federal government to help pay for physical damages, lost work time, temporary housing costs, replacement of household items and other flood-related expenses. Low-interest loans for small businesses, farms and non-profit organizations are also available. For more information visit www.middletownfloodrecovery.wordpress.com.++