Relocating Phoenicia remarks spark controversy

By Jay Braman Jr.
Earlier last week State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill was quoted in The New York Times, suggesting that communities like Phoenicia should not rebuild in the same location it has been in for over 150 years.

The article suggests that Cahill said that allowing this cycle to continue, at least in some places, “seemed increasingly foolhardy. “Are there communities that simply can’t be protected adequately and should be relocated?” Mr. Cahill said in the September 5 article. “I hope and believe that rational thinking will prevail, as opposed to emotional thinking. Building on a flood plain — there ought to be some serious thinking about that. When you look around at communities with the toughest building codes, you will see that they are significantly far less hit. Common sense works.”

In that same article, Alan White, executive director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, is quoted as suggesting that the matter should be investigated. “Even though it’s an emotional issue, you have to ask: Do we have those structures in the right places?” said White.

“These are long-term policy questions that need to be answered. We have a new normal now.”
Within moments of the story arriving in Phoenicia, people were laughing the idea off.

The day before, some Phoenicia merchants, like Michael Koegel, who owns Mama’s Boy Market, were pointing out how quickly the hamlet was repaired. After taking a phone call from the National Guard, who reserved breakfast for 60 the next morning, Koegel said he was disappointed that there are still signs at the entrance to the Catskills that basically say “Go away,” because of how badly the region was hurt.

For Koegel, that seems like overkill at a time when an economic boost is needed most.

Labor Day weekend, he added, is a critical time for his business and others, and this year, because of that negative message, there was no one around.

“Phoenicia in not toast,” he said. “We are fine and open for business.”

In the same New York Times article, Shandaken Town Supervisor Rob Stanley said what has been on the minds of many locals.

“Historically, we’ve been the stewards of the environment, then state and city officials came up and imposed rules,” he said. “We’re not sitting in an office pushing a button. We live here. We know what water does.”