Shandaken recovery to take years

By Jay Braman Jr.
In Shandaken, the community psyche is upbeat after the last year of turmoil, but the reality is that it is going to take years and years to rebuild.

That is according to Supervisor Rob Stanley, who says that post Irene issues continue to be the main business in his office every day.

Stanley pointed to the recent success of the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, which brought thousands of people to the hamlet for the first weekend of August, as being the bright light that really showed just how much healing has occurred.

“It was a wonderful event,” he said. “People are coming back.”
While some came to town to hear music, others are returning just to see how things are a year later. Stanley said many recall the devastation in town and have come back just to see if it was possible to make repairs.

In some cases the repairs have been made. In others not.
“It’s going to take us years to rebuild,” Stanley said. “We’ve got three years of work ahead of us to do $3.5 million worth of FEMA projects. Then we have 20 other projects, worth millions and millions more, that FEMA did not fund. We are still are working on getting the funding for them.”
Many of the projects, he warned, are stream bank stabilization ones that are critical to the future well being of the town. It is inevitable, Stanley said, that flooding will return, and the damage caused by Ireneand Lee have made many acres of streamside land more vulnerable to damage.

One of the biggest problems is that much of the funding was only available for one year after the flooding last August. Like all the small towns around here, there is only so much that could be accomplished by the town’s staff.

“There was no way we could do all of this in one year,” he said. “No way.”
As a result, Shandaken is trying to get time extensions from some funding sources.
Even though, much of the town remains broken, physically anyway, Stanley said the people of the community have rebounded well.

“There’s always going to be things that fall through the cracks,” he said. “But for the most part, people are now positive.”
He notes the repair of the Bridge Street bridge in Phoenicia as being one big psychological boost to the community at large, and Stanley thanked Ulster County Executive Mike Hein for making that project happen.

“I want to express thanks and gratitude to Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and the Ulster County Department of Public Works for their expediency in finishing the Phoenicia Bridge Street bridge well ahead of schedule. We were originally looking forward to the bridge opening midsummer and are thrilled that it opened for Memorial Day Weekend,” Stanley said.

“As you are well aware, Hurricane Irene was the worst natural disaster in our county’s history, causing over $15 million in damages to county infrastructure, said Hein.