Fleischmanns marks 100th year

By Joe Moskowitz
Thursday was a day to celebrate birthdays and rebirth in Fleischmanns. The village is 100 years old, the Town of Middletown is 250 years old, and Fleischmanns was selected as the site for the second annual community picnic to celebrate both events and the recovery from recent flooding.
The picnic was spawned by the most significant local event in recent history, Hurricane Irene. The inaugural community picnic was held last year in Margaretville. Because of how much damage Irene caused, the Thursday celebration in Fleischmanns was of particular importance. It was held in Fleischmanns’ pride and joy, the ballpark on Wagner Avenue. It was the first public event in the park since the park was totally destroyed by Hurricane Irene.

There is still much recovery work to be done, but Fleischmanns Mayor Todd Pascarella said, “ We’re obviously happy to be back.” He was also happy to announce that the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has approved spending $350,000 to complete the repairs. But it has been a long, hard battle to get FEMA to come to the table.

Assemblyman Pete Lopez attended the festivities and had some very harsh words for FEMA. Lopez said FEMA is a very difficult agency to work with because there are so many layers to the bureaucracy and places most of the blame on middle management. Lopez, a Republican, says it has been difficult getting FEMA to help pay the bills and it requires constantly nagging, as well as having some insider help, including that of Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat, and the New York State Emergency Management Office, to get things done.

Lopez says he knows FEMA is a cash-strapped agency, but he says most of the money for local assistance was appropriated long ago and again blamed middle management, but said the state management office knows, “how to call their bluff” and get the checks written. Lopez did acknowledge that the FEMA middle management people are trying to make sure that the money is not misspent.

It has been nearly two years and the check to pay for park repairs is not yet in the mail. But stream restoration work in Fleischmanns is well underway. Before long, a temporary fence preventing use of about one third of the park will be removed. People will soon be able to play tennis again and there will be a baseball diamond.

They still played ball on the field that was built for Honus Wagner. Pascarella donned his Mountain Athletic Club uniform. They stepped off a diamond and played vintage baseball, just like back in the good old days of 2011.