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 On Saturday, August 20th WJFF will honor volunteers and community members who have made an extraordinary impact on the WJFF listening area at a special Awards Night at Mr. Willy's in Monticello, NY.  Read more


Summer Shortcuts V, a program of nine new ten-minute plays by nine playwrights, directed by five directors, and performed by fifteen actors, is coming to The Open Eye Theater, Margaretville, NY, August 20-30.   The Summer Shortcuts program has become a favorite at The Open Eye, with its up-to-the-minute comedy and drama (including the work of local playwrights), and providing a wide range of directing and acting opportunities.   Read more

Plant a row for the food pantry

Please add one plant or one row of veggies/fruits for the Community Pantry
We feed more than 400 households in the area, so please help
For more info, contact:
Joyce St George
  Read more

Fundraiser to support Family Fun Nights at the Catskill Recreation Center needs your help

Above: (Left to right) Patty Rudge and Taylor Diepold, both from Shandaken, Jason Stanton from Bovina, and Jo Bernhardt from Margaretville, on March 6, before begining their combined 25-mile swim. Photo by Beth Waterman.

On Friday, March 6, five intrepid swimmers swam 25 miles in the Arkville-based Catskill Recreation Center's pool in just five hours. Now they're hoping to raise $100 for every mile they swam, for a total of $2,500, by March 31.

The funds will benefit the Catskill Recreation Center's Family Fun Night program, a monthy event where community members will get to use the center's pool at a reduced rate.

Beth Waterman was onhand at the pool on Friday to watch the swimmers set out:

It was pretty inspiring watching them start their 5-hour swim this morning to the beats of 'Highway to Hell'. They hope to raise $2500 by March 31. Patty, Jo and Jason swam 5 miles each. Taylor swam 8 miles. Peter Manning swam 2 miles for a total of 25.

From the Catskill Recreation Center's director, Rebecca Manning:  Read more

Volunteers clean the Bush Kill in Fleischmanns

From cleanup organizer John Hoeko:
The project was a success.  About a dozen volunteers turned out.  The Project was co-sponsored by Fleischmanns 1st and the Ahokan-Pepacton Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a national org. dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of cold water fisheries in North America.
We filled a dumpster with debris from Irene and thoughtless litterers and our Bushkill is once again a jewel.  The CWC, thanks to Diane Galusha, provided bags, gloves, and gifts (refrigerator clips and rain gauges).  At the end of the day participants enjoyed free food, ice cream, and refreshments donated by La Cabana Restaurant, the Fleischmanns-Pine Hill Rotary, and the Fleischmanns Supemarket.  Mountain Valley Landscaping donated a dumpster for debris and trash disposal.  The Village of Fleischmanns allowed us to use their truck to transfer filled bags to the dumpster.
Below: Photo #1:  Mark Loete, John Hoeko, and Roy Todd. Photo #2: Peter Marx, Jody Hoyt, Winifred Zubin, and Vicky Szerko.
  Read more

Stream Cleanup on the Bush Kill Saturday, July 26

Stream Cleanup on the Bush Kill

On Saturday July 26th, there is a stream cleanup on Bush Kill Creek in Fleischmanns. Volunteers will meet at 10 AM in the municipal village parking lot. Work the cleanup, fish a bit afterwards, and get a free hot dog and ice cream for helping.  Read more

New York Invasive Species Awareness Week

The mission of New York Invasive Species Awareness Week is to promote knowledge and understanding of invasive species to h elp stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state and encouraging them to take action. Please join in the fun and help out with the effort!  Activities of all kinds take place July 6th- July 12th. Check out nyis.info and click on the logo for more information!

Alla Ilinsky DDS is delighted to announce her New Main Street Margaretville NY office location!

Alla Ilinsky DDS has relocated her dental office to 761 Main Street Margaretville NY.  To mark the occasion the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Ilinsky and her staff will hold a business mixer on Wednesday June 25 from 5 to 7 pm.  To RSVP please contact the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce at 845. 586. 3300.


Executive Assistant/Bookkeeper

We are currently seeking a highly-motivated, well-organized individual to provide administrative support to the President of a Family Foundation. Assignments are varied and complex and require an individual who can manage projects and work independently.

This full-time position is based out of The Erpf Center, located at 43355 Route 28 in Arkville, NY.


  • Bachelor’s degree and 5+years experience in finance, accounting, or related field.
  • Advanced skills in QuickBooks, Quicken, MS Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook) required.

Executive Assistant Responsibilities include:

  • Organizing and prioritizing incoming and outgoing communications, including mail, e-mail, telephone calls;
  • Coordinating invitations for President;
  • Handling travel arrangements;
  • Creating and editing correspondence and reports with minimal direction;
  • Organizing grant requests;
  • Preparing and distributing meeting agendas and presentation materials; and
  • Organizing and maintaining files.

Bookeeping Responsibilities include:  Read more

Vendor deadline for Pakatakan Farmers' Market is Feb. 2

Pakatakan Farmers' Market is now accepting vendor applications for the upcoming 2014 season. All interested farmers and artisans are asked to send an email to roundbarnmarket@gmail.com for an application. The deadline for all applicants is fast approaching, February 2nd. For more information please email roundbarnmarket@gmail.com.


Christmas Plays at The Open Eye Theater

Two Christmas plays, "Silent Night" and "Dulce Domum," will be performed at The Open Eye Theater, 960 Main Street, Margaretville December 21 and 22 at 2 pm.  Performances include caroling, cookies, and cocoa, and are for all ages.  No admission but tax-deductible donations to The Open Eye Theater's cultural and educational programming are welcome.  Phone 845-586-1660 or e-mail [email protected] for reservations.

Margaretville Central School Holiday Bazaar

The Margaretville Central School is holding it's annual Holiday Bazaar on Saturday, December 7th from 9am-3pm.

Come start, finish or work on your Holiday shopping. There will be crafts and activities for the kids. Homemade soups, sandwiches and baked goods will be avaliable for your lunch too!

We still have some spaces avaliable to vendors so please contact us today if you would like to participate! Please contact Cassandra Olin at [email protected] or 585-409-7661 for more information. 

Free Thanksgiving Day Dinner in Margaretville

The Interfaith Council is again sponsoring a free Thanksgiving Day Dinner on Thanksgiving day at the Purcell Center of the Sacred Heart Church on Academy Street in Margaretville. It will go from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. at the Center and takeouts will be available. Everyone is invited to this delicious meal. Bring your family or friends.

Reservations are not required but are helpful for planning. Call Iris Mead at 845-586-4689 to make a reservation or to volunteer to help serve or clean up. A tax deductible donation may also be made to the Interfaith Council, PO Box 702, Margaretville, 12455. Donations will also be welcome at the dinner.

Funeral Announcement: Bob Hubbell

Above: Bob Hubbell at the switch of his family's apple press in Kelly Corners in 2011. Photo by Julia Reischel.

There will be a Requiem Mass for Robert Burr Hubbell at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 7, 2013, at St. James Episcopal Church in Lake Delaware, Father R. L. Donahue officiating.

The Catskill Mountain News ran an obituary this week about Bob:

The light dimmed in our community last week. Bob Hubbell died. For nine decades, Bob Hubbell had been a leader in the community: the baby saved by the doctor’s wife; the fire-keeper at school; the student-leader and Eagle Scout; the pillar of the community who helped lead the hospital, fire departments, Rotary, ambulance squad, and countless community organizations and events.

Robert Burr Hubbell, of the Kelly Corners homestead that bears his family name, died Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 at Albany Medical Center.  Read more

Spring Concert: Community Chorale of the Catskills

 The Community Chorale of the Catskillsannounces itsSpring Concert,directed by Richard Tucker.Performances are at 7:30pm: Friday, June 7 at Margaretville Central School and Saturday June 8 at Roxbury Central School. The program includes a wide variety of styles including music from “Les Miserables”, a tribute to Duke Ellington, a salute to our Armed Forces and Peter Shickele’s “Go For Broke”, a comedy for chorus.  Read more

Tuesday Nights at the Theater - Thomas and the Rainbow

Tuesday, April 30th, at 7p.m., The Open Eye’s Tuesday Night at the Theater presents Thomas and the Rainbow. Written by Vic Sarin, Catherine Spear and Dennis Foon.  Directed by Vic Sarin.  Marie (Connie Nielsen) transforms an orphan boy's world when she brings him to live in her small island village off the coast of Ireland.  Her reticent husband Alec (Aidan Quinn) can barely hide his disappointment when he meets the frail, shy eight-year-old.  Undiscouraged, Marie introduces Thomas (John Bell) to the wonders of his new world, and shows him that you can find magic anywhere - if you really look.  A discussion about the movie’s characters’ growth and resonance with our lives will follow the presentation.

No admission charge but donations to the New Roof Fund gladly accepted. Refreshments will be served.  960 Main Street, Margaretville, NY, www.theopeneye.org, 845-586-1660.  Future movies will be announced.  Read more

"Janet's Class" to Appear on The Open Eye Screen

Tuesdays at the Theater continues on April 23, at 7:00 pm, with “Janet’s Class,” a documentary film by Dorothy Lyman of Andes.  This film follows a group of New York City retirees through their early preparation, rehearsal, and performance of a showcase directed by veteran stage, film, and TV actress Janet Sarno.  With humor and inspiration, the video looks at aging, and its opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment.

Janet Sarno appeared on Broadway opposite Danny Aiello in “Knockout,” by Louis LaRusso and off Broadway in his “Sweatshop.”  Her TV credits include “All My Children,” and “The Edge of Night”.  Films include “Rock the Paint,” “Reqiem, for a Dream,” “The Hard Way,” and “Power.”

Ms. Lyman lives on her chicken farm in Andes.  Before moving here in 2003, she lived in Los Angeles and worked in television as an actress and director.  In 2006 she produced and directed a film in Delaware County called “The Northern Kingdom.”   She will be present at the showing of her film at The Open Eye Theater, 960 Main Street, Margaretville, Tuesday evening, at 7:00, and will participate in the discussion afterwards.   Read more

Tuesday Nights at the Theater - Broken Hill

Tuesday, March 19th, at 7p.m., The Open Eye’s Tuesday Night at the Theater presents Broken Hill. Director: Dagen Merrill. Actors: Luke Arnold, Alexa Vega, Rhys Wakefield, Timothy Hutton. Tommy McAlpine lives on a rocky, drought-ridden sheep station in the Australian Outback with his tough, taciturn father George, a farmer and high school football coach. Tommy Dreams of becoming a classical composer, but his father believes his son's future is in the family farm. Will George ever hear the same music that Tommy does?  A discussion about the movie’s characters’ growth and resonance with our lives will follow the presentation.

No admission charge but donations to the New Roof Fund gladly accepted. Refreshments will be served.  960 Main Street, Margaretville, NY, www.theopeneye.org, 845-586-1660.  Future movies are April 23 and 30.

Tuesday Night at the Theater is co-produced and sponsored by the A.S.H.R.A.M. Center of Margaretville.  Contact Laura Battelani, PO Box 382, Margaretville, NY 12455 845-586-3101 [email protected]



Tuesday Night at The Theater - Musical Chairs - March 12

The Open Eye’s Tuesday Night at the Theater presents Musical Chairs, written by Marty Madden, directed by Susan Seidelman. Actors: Leah Pipes, E.J. Bonilla, Priscilla Lopez, Jaime Tirelli, Laverne Cox, Nelson Landrieu. Content warning: some adult language. A romantic tale of two New Yorkers, Armando from the Bronx, and Mia from the Upper East Side, who come together through their love of ballroom dancing. When his dance partner, Mia, is injured in an accident, Armando persuades her to train for a wheelchair ballroom dancing contest. It's a moving story about overcoming challenges.  A discussion about the movie’s characters’ growth and resonance with our lives will follow the presentation.

No admission charge but donations to the New Roof Fund gladly accepted. Refreshments will be served.  960 Main Street, Margaretville, NY, www.TheOpenEye.org, 845-586-1660.  Future movies are March 19, April 23 and 30.  Read more

Tuesdays at the Theater


Next on the big screen in Tuesdays at the Theater series at The Open Eye, 960 Main Street, Margaretville, is Ellen Wong’s “Face of Farming,” Tuesday, October 23, 7:00 pm.   This documentary video tells the story of five of the last operating dairy farm families in Delaware County, where once the dairy farming population was among the highest and most productive in the United States.  The video, made in collaboration with Anthony Marizo and Kent Garrett, memorializes the art of working the land and celebrates these families’ commitment to a fast disappearing lifestyle. 

“Face of Farming,” created in 2008, was part of a multi-media exhibit at The Roxbury Arts Group in July 2009, and was included in the recent Art & Soul of the Catskills Film Festival 2012 in Delhi.   Read more

George James Hendricks, Jr.: A lifelong love of one Catskills town

The following is a user-submitted obituary.

George James Hendricks, Jr., 57, was called home to be with our Lord and savior on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012.  He passed away peacefully with his family around him and the pride and joy of his life, his sons, Nathaniel and Adam, at his side.

George was a member of the Margaretville Fire Department for 38 years. He served as Fire Chief for five years and 16 years as an officer. He graduated from the Margaretville Central School in 1973. George loved the Catskill Mountains and was an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. A forever member of 'Camp Whitetail'.  Read more

Community Food Pantry Has Relocated

Big Changes for the Margaretville Food Pantry

The Margaretville Food Pantry is changing its name, location and hours, beginning Monday, August 20th, 2012.

New Name:

The Community Pantry of the Interfaith Council

New Location:

42838 Route 28, Suite 2, Arkville, NY

(It’s the Yellow building next to Bottini Fuel and Sanford Auto Parts)


New Hours:

The Pantry will be open to registered and new community members every Monday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, and Friday from 4:00 – 6:00 pm.


For more information, please call the Community Pantry at 845.586.2233.


The Open Eye Youth Theater Workshop "Read, Write, Play!" begins this Saturday, July 21, for children ages 5-9 and 10-18, at 960 Main Street, Margaretville.  The workshops will continue for six Saturdays, through August 25, and students may attend all six sessions, or as many as they can. The younger children will meet from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon, and the older students will meet from 12:30 - 3:30 pm.  The workshops will be led by Open Eye producing artistic director Amie Brockway, and teaching artist Elizabeth Sherr, with additional guest artists.   All fees are "Pay What You Will."

In the workshops for ages 5-9, students will read play scripts and stories together, assume various roles and learn to improvise, write dialogue, and create their own plays.  Parents, guardians, and friends are invited to the final few minutes of each session to see a presentation of the day's work.  Read more

Irene five years later: Eight untold stories from the Catskills flood

Above: Wilma Beers at the empty lot where her house once stood. Delaware County purchased her property as part of a flood buyout program and tore her house down. Photo by Rebecca Andre. To see a larger version, click here. 

On August 28, 2011, Irene, downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, arrived in the Catskills region of New York. The storm killed three people, destroyed entire towns and caused millions of dollars in damage.

In the days, weeks, months and years to follow, Catskills residents rose above the floodwaters, the mud and the broken bridges by relying heavily on each other.

Five years later, we explore eight untold stories about the flood and its aftermath.


Wilma "Nana" Beers, Arkville resident and flood buyout program participant

Above: Irene's water rising on the Beers' home. Photo courtesy of Wilma Beers.

Town: Arkville, Delaware County
Waterway: Dry Brook

"My house might be gone, but no one can take away the memories,” says Wilma Beers, a 66-year-old grandmother who is known as Nana to her friends and family.

There once was a house on Route 28 in Arkville, with robin’s-egg-blue siding and colorful annuals cheerfully facing the road. Wilma Beers lived there with her family for more then 40 years. They had seen more floods then she could count, she says.

"What they say was a flood and what I say was a flood were two different things,” she says.

According to the government, she says, there has only been three floods: 1996, 2006 and 2011.

"I've argued with FEMA, I have lived it,” she says. “There are a lot of people who have lived it, but you don't hear their stories.”

According to Beers, her property flooded "almost every other year."

In 2011, when Irene flooded her home, it was for the last time.

Beers and her husband John weren't youngsters anymore. This flood took a toll on their already deteriorating health.

"You could see the mold spores floating through the air," she says.

According to Beers, after the Irene flood many folks in the Margaretville and Arkville area suffered from upper respiratory infections.

Beers blames Irene and the storm's subsequent stresses for the death of her husband John, three Augusts later, in 2014.

Financially, Irene was the last flood that the Beers family could withstand. Beers remembers being told by a representative of FEMA: "We are not here to rebuild you, we are here to give you a hand up."

She needed a big hand. If she wanted to keep her house, FEMA required that it be raised up three feet on a new foundation.

"Who can afford that?” Beers says, still frustrated.

So, when Beers heard about the possibility of a Delaware County flood buyout program that would buy and demolish her flood-prone family home, she started attending meetings and looking for answers and hope.

Eventually, Beers sold her house to Delaware County and moved to higher ground in Arkville with her son John and his family.

She was required to continue paying taxes, the electric bill and homeowner's insurance until the sale went through, even though she was no longer living there, she says.

Then, worst of all, FEMA and the insurance company took back "every penny" they had given her. She ended up with about half of the money that her house had been assessed for, she says.

"It wasn't until the day I went to sign the papers that the deductions were fully explained to me," Beers says. By then, she was too tired and sick to fight anymore.

In January 2016, her house was leveled.

Is there anything positive to be gleaned from Nana Beers' story?

She takes a moment to answer, tears tugging at her voice.

"Even if I tried, I would never be able to thank everyone that helped us. All the volunteers, and the firefighters. Even local college kids, home on break, came over and shoveled eight inches of mud from my garage,” she says.

Beers also remembers driving to Roxbury, a town that had not been hit so hard by the storm. The United Methodist Church next to the school was distributing the basics to their neighbors. Simple things, like toothbrushes and combs.

Still in Arkville, Nana Beers now enjoys life above the floodplain, in a home where four generations of the Beers family share one roof.

"But I have a good bunch here, they take care of me," she says.

(Delaware County confirms Wilma Beers’ story. Kristin Janke Schneider from the Delaware County Planning Department says that the county bought Beers’ home with funds from FEMA and New York State. The purchase price was about half of the house’s assessed value before the flood. FEMA and flood insurance money that the Beers received was deducted from the final purchase price. The house’s pre-flood value was appraised at a lower value than its assessment price, which contributed to the reduced purchase price, Janke Schneider says.)


Shirley Van Valkenburgh, grandmother and lifelong Catskills resident

Above: Shirley Van Valkenburgh stands in front of her Lexington home of 54 years. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Town: Lexington, Greene County
Waterway: West Kill and the Schoharie Creek

"I hope I never live to see it again," says Shirley Van Valkenburgh, a bag of just-harvested elderberries in one hand, a shovel in the other.

Walking across her manicured lawn towards the house where she has lived for 54 years, she stops at a footbridge crossing a small drainage ditch. That became a stream during the storm, she says.

"But we were lucky," she says, echoing the words of so many folks remembering Tropical Storm Irene.

Van Valkenburgh recalls the morning of the storm, when an emergency services helicopter landed in a field just past her house. Her sick elderly neighbor up the road needed to be transported away from the danger zone. Van Valkenburgh remembers being urged to leave as well. She was told that she had 15 minutes to gather her belongings.

"We had to stay here,” she says.

She explained to the emergency responders that she had her own sick family member, a nephew. She wasn't sure if he would survive being uprooted, and the rising waters of the West Kill (a tributary of Schoharie Creek) did not threaten to reach her property, which was perched high above the banks.

Little did she know that her decision to stay was important for the entire town. Van Valkenburgh’s house became an unofficial restaurant that fed neighbors and strangers for more then a week in the Greene County town of Lexington.

"We had generators, we kept on the lights, and the stove,” she says. “But the freezers, we had to empty them out.”

And empty out the freezers she did. Along with her sister, she cooked and baked every day and night, feeding all the neighbors who found themselves trapped in Lexington between two collapsed bridges on Route 42.

"Strangers came to the door. 'Is this the place to eat?' they would ask," Van Valkenburgh says. Then they would hand the sisters their own rapidly-thawing frozen food, which would be turned into a hot meal.

Despite the camaraderie, it was a dark time.

"It was living hell," Van Valkenburgh says.

But there is no mistaking the pride Van Valkenburgh has in her family, her property, her community and her temporary role as a restaurateur during that first harrowing week after Irene.


Shirley and Mike Perpetua, New York State Fire Police with the Phoenicia Fire District

Above: Shirley Perpetua with four of her grandchildren on her daughter's porch in Shandaken. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Town: Shandaken, Ulster County
Waterway: Bushnellsville Creek and the Esopus Creek

"We lost everything," says Shirley Perpetua, "Fifty years of memories."

Standing on the porch of her daughter Tanya Morton's current home, surrounded by four of her grandchildren, Perpetua is just a few doors up from the first-floor apartment she shares with her husband, Mike. She vividly remembers the day that the flood forced them out of it, making them homeless for four months.

Shirley was next door at a neighbor's house when it became clear they were unprepared for the depths of Irene.

"I saw the water rising; it came up to the back porch, and went out the front door,” she says. Shirley ran to rescue her bird, a cockatiel named Penny, from inside the house.

The Perpetua family spent that first night at Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, which had quickly evolved into a shelter and provider of emergency services.

The next few nights were spent at a friend’s, and then, for three-and-a-half months, Shirley and Mike lived with another daughter, Theresa Jones, who then had a house in Fleischmanns.

During those months, because Irene's destruction in New York and beyond had been declared a disaster by the federal government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stepped in and helped the Perpetua family and their landlord rebuild.

Four months after the storm, the family moved back into that same Shandaken apartment where they had lived before the flood. The mud had been scraped off the walls and "new" used furniture had been provided by the Phoenicia Rotary Club.

"We have seen the community come together before, but never like this," recalls Mike, who has more than 20 years of experience serving with the Phoenicia Fire District under his belt.

His wife stands next to him, nodding her head.

"I am so thankful for all the help from friends, family and volunteers. And I just glad to be alive,” she says.

"But I still have nightmares when it rains.”


René and Carrie Garcia, managers of La Cabaña Mexican Restaurant in Fleischmanns, and brother Roberto Garcia

Above: Rene Garcia in front of his restaurant, La Cabana, in Fleischmanns. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Town: Fleischmanns, Delaware County
Waterway: Little Red Kill, Vly Creek and Bush Kill

"The storm took us by surprise," says Rene Garcia.


He remembers how all the focus was on New York City as weather reports predicted that Irene would hit hardest there. At 2 a.m. the evening before, he had closed up the bar and checked out Vly Creek, which runs right behind the restaurant.

"It was running low and clear," Garcia says.

By 6:15 a.m., his uncle called him, frantic. Garcia says his uncle warned him: "The bridges in Arkville are already closed, this is starting to look bad—worse than '96." (In 1996, a winter storm flooded parts of Margaretville and Fleischmanns, one of the worst disasters to affect the area before Irene.)

This time, Irene dumped more then two feet of water on Main Street Fleischmanns, Garcia says.

Tragedy struck the town that day when the roaring waters claimed the life of one visiting elderly woman, a Holocaust survivor named Rozalia (Leah) Stern-Gluck, who was washed away after being trapped in the Valkyrian Motel on Main Street. 

Above: The Bridge St. bridge in Fleischmanns is still closed five years after Irene. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

In comparison, Garcia and his business suffered what he considered to be minimal damage. Five-and-a-half feet of water flooded the the basement of the restaurant and three feet of water flooded his mother's adjoining apartment.

"It was amazing though,” he says. “We never lost power."

Garcia and friends spent a week making repairs to the restaurant. The damage mostly consisted of water damage from the leaking roof.

While they worked, the whole village of Fleischmanns, one of the most diverse communities in the Catskills, came together, Garcia says. The village has large populations of Mexican immigrants, vacationing Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn and a variety of other diverse communities. In the aftermath of the disaster, everyone in Fleischmanns looked past these differences, he remembers. The Methodist Church was handing out free meals to anyone who came through the doors, he says.

A week after Irene, Garcia re-opened his own doors.

"We have been family owned and operated since 1993,” says Roberto Garcia, Rene’s brother. “Our journey in Fleischmanns has been a story of adversity. We have endured two fires and two floods."

When the Garcias welcomed their customers back to their Mexican restaurant, they hosted dinner crowd after dinner crowd of "drawn faces,” they remember. Everyone was trying to make sense of the surreal experience that was Irene.


Kristi Trimboli, student and clerk at The Nest Egg

Above: Kristi Trimboli of Phoenicia sitting on the porch of the Nest Egg, where she works. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Town: Phoenicia, Ulster County
Waterway: Stony Clove Creek and the Esopus Creek

"I was terrified,” says Kristi Trimboli, who was 12 years old during Irene.

Living on Route 214 in Phoencia, Trimboli watched from inside her house as the swelling waters swept closer and closer to the windows.

"It was probably worse for others, though,” she says. “My friend Kara, who lives near the railroad museum, got flooded out completely."

Kara's mother, Tina Herdman, says, "Irene was the first time it flooded where the water actually came into the house."

She considers herself lucky. "At least we had flood insurance,” she says.

Herdman, who has lived on Station Road for over 20 years, points out that before Irene, there were nine families living on the road. Now she lives in one of the only three inhabitable dwellings on their road.

"We are the last family left," she says.

On Route 214, Timboli’s family was out of power for three weeks. Partway through that period, they decided to take a vacation for a week, to get away from the wreckage.

When they came back, Tropical Storm Lee was battering the Catskills with a second round of rain and wind.

Trimboli still works in Phoenicia, at the general store and candy shop The Nest Egg, where she has been employed for almost five years. Her best memory of Irene is how “our community came together during that tragedy.”

“Everybody just took care of each other,” she says.


Rayla-suzan Hart, guitar player, summer camp director, swim coach and retired teacher of children with autism

Above: Rayla-suzan Hart of West Shokan, by the Esopus Creek. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Town: West Shokan, Ulster County
Waterway: Esopus Creek

Irene was no match for Rayla-suzan Hart. As she sees it, there was an angel on her side.

"The night Irene hit, it was our turn to take care of a neighbor that needed round-the-clock end-of-life care,” Hart remembers. “At 2:45 a.m., we got a call that Lois had passed on. We went up to her house, and as we got to her driveway the wind picked up everywhere but around our two houses. The coroner came and we left around 6 a.m. We went to Bread Alone [Bakery] for coffee, and on [Route] 28 the water was at the bridge.”

Hart and her partner, who Hart asked us not to name, returned home just in time. Their property, just two miles from the Esopus Creek, become trapped between two downed bridges.

Through the storm, the couple sat calmly on their back porch, drinking coffee and watching “a little trickle becoming a washed-out road.”

"The wind was crazy, there were trees down all around us, but not in our yard,” Hart says. “We still believe it was Lois protecting us.”

Afterwards, things got worse. Hart’s house was out of power for five days. This was bad news for the 1967 Good Humor truck she owned, which was packed with thousands of dollars of ice cream destined to be served at an upcoming town celebration called Shandaken Day.

Hart called Tony Lanza, the superintendent of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center at the time.

"He allowed us to plug in our truck," says Hart, a tearful smile on her face.

Irene demonstrated how a catastrophe can unite a community, Hart says:

“People pulled together from all over, to help each other, to build, to rebuild."


Peter Halvorsen, plumber and fiddle player, and Julie Halvorsen, nurse

Above: Peter and Julie Halvorsen in front of “River Music” by Michael Bauermeister at the Mount Temper's Emerson Resort. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Town: Big Indian, Ulster County
Waterway: McKinley Hollow Brook

"It was a catastrophe of biblical proportions," says Peter, remembering Irene's violent visit to the Catskills.

His wife Julie agrees. "It was a travesty, devastating, shocking,” she says.

The road the couple lived on at the time, McKinley Hollow Road in the hamlet of Big Indian, was washed away. "There was no road, no recollection of the road," says Peter.

They watched as six of their neighbor's houses were completely taken by the water.

Miraculously, the Halvorsens sustained no water damage. They did lose power for a week.

They were trapped, like so many others, between two disintegrated bridges. They had to carry their bikes through a landslide on County Road 47 so that they could peddle to Pine Hill for supplies and cell phone service to call their bosses.

The two have several stories to tell of that dangerous time. This one is the best:

"Two community members ‘borrowed’ an excavator that had been left behind by the county,” Peter Halvorsen says. “Between the two bridges being gone and the landslide, people were trapped. So these guys, whomever they were, had heavy equipment experience.”

"They hot-wired the excavator and dug out the landslide so people could get through,” he says.

"Our community came together, more so then I have ever seen,” remembers Julie Halvorsen. “We met people that we have never met before. Police officers brought us our medication from the Phoenicia Pharmacy on an ATV."

Since then, the couple has moved from their home of 10 years to safer ground in Phoenicia.

"I just couldn't go through that again," says Julie.

Her husband nods.

"But we were lucky,” he says. “Windham and Prattsville, they were ground zero."


Nancy Barton, director of the Prattsville Art Center, and Maggie Uhalde, marketing assistant for the Catskill Mountain Foundation and lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the band Evvergreen

Above: Maggie Uhalde performing at the first Prattsville Music and Art Festival, held on July 24, 2016. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Town: Prattsville, Greene County
Waterway: Schoharie Creek

"It took a year to clear the mud from the homes still standing—you can still see its dusty residue five years after the storm," says Prattsville resident Nancy Barton.

According to Barton, Irene destroyed 40 percent of the buildings in the hamlet of Prattsville.

"No home or business on Main Street was spared," she says.

The rain filled up the narrow valley, and the three creeks that converge in the town rose 15 feet, Barton says. The streams became a six-feet-deep river that washed away buildings, vehicles and an entire trailer park at a rate faster than water flows over Niagara Falls.

"Those whose homes tilted or fell huddled in upper floor rooms or on rooftops for hours, fearing they might not survive,” Barton says. “Incredibly, no one in Prattsville was killed during the storm.”

Barton recalls the great sense of caring and community during those early weeks. Many families lost everything.

As military helicopters began to arrive with supplies, residents, neighbors and volunteers pulled together to help those dig out those hardest hit by the flood, she says.

"A thick sea of gooey mud covered streets and sidewalks, filling every basement and turning couches, kitchens and bedroom furniture into shapes rising from the dark muck like dinosaurs caught in a tar pit," she says.

Above: Prattsville’s floodwaters beginning to recede on August 28, 2011. Photo by Rev. Greg Town, MudFest organizer.

At the time of Irene, Maggie Uhalde was a student at Gilboa-Conesville Central School. She was the chief of the Conesville Explorers and was living in Conesville with her parents.

"That's the week I discovered my comfort food—beverage actually—is coffee,” says Uhalde, who is now a 19-year-old college graduate. “I could go on and on about that week.”

Both of Uhalde’s parents were firefighters with the Conesville Volunteer Fire Department, and her mom was also an EMT. Since the family's house wasn't affected by the storm, they spent that first week assisting their neighbors in nearby Prattsville.

"The first night we didn't even go home,” Uhalde says. “That night, my sister and I slept on tables, and my little brother slept on a gurney.”

Uhalde's job was to listen to the radio and report back to the fire chief when there was a call for help. She also helped distribute emergency supplies. There was a whiteboard to keep track of which roads in town were destroyed or impassable, but the list grew so fast that it was quickly abandoned, she remembers.

"At times, we were just completely helpless, listening to the tones go off over and over again, and all we could do was just sit there,” she says. “We could see huge trees floating down the creek behind the fire house.”

But something beautiful happened that night, in the midst of all the destruction.

"At some point, a call came in that a woman was going into labor,” says Uhalde. “And my mom, she helped deliver that baby on the way to the hospital.”

There were other amazing things born from the unforgettable storm.

Above: Prattsville the morning after the flood. Photo by Rev. Greg Town, MudFest organizer.

MudFest, a town-wide party, was inaugurated on the first anniversary of the flood to celebrate the Prattsville’s rebuilding process. It was also a symbol of the town’s refusal to be beaten by Irene and its muddy waters.

MudFest included a muck-boot parade, art exhibitions and truckloads of fresh clean mud brought into a local park for folks to play in, with a local fire truck hosing down the participants throughout the afternoon.

"Prattsville’s citizens were determined to fight to keep the town alive," says Barton.

MudFest was held annually for four years after the storm. But this year, complications with insurance and funding shut it down, Barton says.

"Perhaps there was also a sense that, for those who are still struggling with the aftermath of the storm, this was no longer the occasion they most wanted to celebrate," she says.

Also emerging from the recovery planning that followed Irene was the Prattsville Art Center and Residency. Along with MudFest, it was one of the first tangible signs of recovery in the town, Barton says.

Thanks to a “Creative Placemaking Grant” from ArtPlace America, one of the severely damaged historic buildings on Main Street was rebuilt as an art center to nurture creativity and resilience, "especially among rural youth," says Barton.

Uhalde was one of the rural youths who benefited from the new art center. She was one was one of the center’s original interns, and helped restore the building, which needed a "crazy amount of work,” she says.

The Prattsville Art Center’s first show, “The Art of Mudfest,” opened on August 27, 2012, on the one-year anniversary of the flood.

Above: NYC artist Jane Grissom, left and Nancy Barton, right, in front of the Prattsville Art Center. Photo by Katy Hamer, for the art blog “Eyes Towards the Dove.” 

"The art center is a place that I feel I belong to, but it also belongs to me, and to everyone else that's ever felt safe there," says Uhalde.

This year, although there is no MudFest, but there is a new 12-hour music festival in Prattsville.

"With the end of MudFest, the creation of a Prattsville Music and Art Festival in this beautiful mountain valley seemed like a natural evolution," says Barton.

Musician Patrick McGuinn came up with the idea to replace the MudFest with a music festival. He drew on his network of musicians and artists, and, on July 24, 2016, over 20 bands of local headliners and NYC musicians playing rock and roots music performed for free on the grassy lawn of Prattsville's town green. In the evening, the festival moved indoors to the Prattsville Art Center with electronic music, funk, rap and video art accompanied by a free barbecue and art events.

The artists called it the "Headin’ for the Hills” festival. Hundreds of people attended, according to Barton.

There are plans to make the festival an annual event. "As a nonprofit, we are seeking funding to be able to expand the festival across several sites and pay our musicians," she says.

To keep momentum going, the Prattsville Art Center will be hosting a free follow-up mini-festival in Prattsville on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, with headliners the Babes, JFP and Evvergreen—Uhalde’s band.

"There will always be more work to do, but I know we can do it," says Uhalde, "and we'll make it even better than before."

This article is part of our series of stories commemorating the five-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene in the Catskills.  

  Read more

Millions granted for broadband infrastructure in Catskills

Above: The podium at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's August 3 announcement about $54.2 million in grants slated for broadband internet service across New York State. Photo via the governor's Flickr page.

Hundreds of miles of remote rural roads and thousands of local homes, businesses and anchor institutions will be lifted from the telecommunications Dark Ages following the announcement of new NY Broadband Program grants

Round one award winners in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to connect every New Yorker to the fiber optic 21st century were announced on August 3.

The grants were part of an intensive $500 million plan from Governor Andrew Cuomo to modernize the entire state by the end of 2018.  Read more

Three busted for narcotics sales in Margaretville; pot plants discovered at home of one suspect, police say

Above: Christopher H. Fairbairn, Salvatore M. Esposito and Karen C. Certain. Photos via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

Three people were charged with selling narcotics in and near the Delaware County village of Margaretville on Friday, July 29, according to a press release from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.

Thirty-nine-year-old Christopher H. Fairbairn of Weaver Hollow Rd. was arrested for allegedly selling heroin three times in the town of Middletown in March 2016, police say. He was charged with three counts of felony criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Salvatore M. Esposito, a 69-year-old man who lives on Route 28 in Margaretville, was charged with allegedly selling Oxycodone and Fentanyl, both opioid prescription drugs, from his home in March, police say. He was charged with three counts of felony criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Karen C. Certain, a 62-year-old living on Austin St., was charged with allegedly selling hydrocodone tablets from her home on three occasions in June and July, police say. She was charged with three counts of felony criminal sale of a controlled substance.  Read more

One Catskills newspaper closes, two more cut reporters

Weekly newspapers in the Catskills region have had a bad month. One local weekly quit publishing entirely, while two more that are part of a regional chain laid off veteran reporters.

The Delaware County Times, a newspaper that traces its lineage back to 1839 in Delhi, published its last issue on Friday, July 8.

The paper employed three people in its Delhi office on a part-time basis and relied on a cadre of freelance journalists, including the author of this article, to cover local news. Contributors were notified on July 8 that the paper would cease publication.

Donald Bishop, the publisher of the paper, did not return a request for comment. Cathy Roloson, who coordinated the news gathering and layout of the paper, said that a companion publication, the semiannual Kaatskill Life magazine, will continue to be published online and that she will continue to work in the Delhi office. She also indicated that the Delaware County Times may resume publishing in the future.  Read more

New York Gov. Cuomo plugs Catskills with Robert De Niro

Above: A poster promoting Lake Wawaka in the Delaware County hamlet of Halcottsville, one of six ads that will promote the Catskills region in the NYC public transit system this summer. To see all six posters, click here. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulled out all the stops to promote the Catskills region this week. As his staff bombarded social media with a media blitz about the charms of the Catskills region, the governor spent a day hitting Catskills tourism hotspots, at one point appearing with movie star Robert De Niro at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Sullivan County, the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

De Niro, who owns 78 acres in the Ulster County town of Gardiner, cracked Borscht-Belt-style jokes while extolling his love of the Catskills.

“I wanted to change my name from Robert De Niro to Rugelach De Goldfarb De Niro Steinberg, and spend the summers in the Catskills telling jokes,” De Niro said, according to the Times Herald-Record.

Above: Robert De Niro delivers a tribute to Borscht Belt-style jokes. Video via New York Upstate.com.

“If there is a region of the state that has more potential for tourism activity, it is the Catskills,” Cuomo said, according to a transcript of his remarks issued by his office. “Mr. De Niro and I were talking on the way up, it is still basically a secret for generations of New Yorkers.”

Above: Actor Robert De Niro, who has a home in Ulster County, delivers one-liners at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on June 30 as part of the Catskills Challenge. Photo via the Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr page. 

On Wednesday, June 29, Cuomo was scheduled to take a “Ride the Catskills” motorcycle ride from Windham to Roscoe, stopping at Woodstock Harley-Davidson and Belleayre Mountain Ski Center along the way. But, according to the Catskill Mountain News, Cuomo himself wasn't in the convoy of bikers that made the trip. 

On Thursday, June 30, the governor did show up at the “Catskills Challenge,” a day of activities modeled after a similar event his administration launched in the Adirondacks three years ago.

The Catskills Challenge began with the appearance with Robert De Niro in Bethel and ended with the governor racing state legislators in rafts on the Delaware River. (Naturally, the governor won, according to the Times Herald-Record.)

  Read more

How to stay safe in Catskills black bear country

Above: A black bear in the Catskills. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Spring in the Catskills is a breathtaking season of roaring waterfalls, eagles taking flight and pastures covered in blooming wildflowers—and, thanks to our resident black bear population, of overturned trash cans, destroyed bird feeders and dented vehicles.

In May, Region 4 of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which covers a portion of the Catskills, received dozens of complaints about bears, according to Joshua Choquette, a DEC wildlife technician. By May 23, the agency had received 54 complaints about bears from its nine counties, Choquette said.

The majority of the complaints the DEC receives each year are calls from homeowners reporting that their trash or bird feeder is being feasted upon by a local black bear, according to Choquette.

But about 20 percent of the calls each year are of a more serious nature, with a bear causing damage to vehicles, property or agriculture, he said.

Above: A black bear and a cub stop traffic in the Ulster County hamlet of Phoenicia around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8. Photo by Burr Hubbell.  Read more

Animal rights group threatens to sue Margaretville school over donkey basketball

Above: A donkey basketball game at Margaretville Central School in April 2015. Photo by Pauline Liu, via Facebook.

A once-popular fundraiser will not happen at Margaretville Central School this year.

Donkey basketball, which involves students and teachers playing basketball in school gym while mounted on donkeys, was the subject of protests in the Delaware County village of Margaretville last year. This year, no game was planned. 

An animal rights group is taking credit for the change, while a school official simply says the event was not scheduled this year.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), a California-based organization, filed a notice of claim against the school last year, threatening a lawsuit to stop future “donkeyball” events.  Read more

Margaret "Peggy" O'Connell, den mother of the 1970s Catskills music scene, dies at 82

Above: Peggy O'Connell appeared on the back cover of “Oceans between Us,” a 1978 album by the Allen Harris Band, released by Tappan Zee Records/Columbia Records. Standing left to right are: Kim Wroble (bass) Mike Kimmel (guitar/vocals), Peggy O'Connell (in the middle, in background), Mandy Rosenblatt and far right standing Allen Harris (guitar/vocals). Sitting left to right: Larry Smith (piano/sax), Robert Rosenblatt (aka Blatts) (congas), Christine Cordone (guitar/vocals) and Rob Leon (lead guitar). Photo courtesy of Christine Cordone.

Margaret “Peggy” Grant O'Connell, the owner of the Pine Hill Tavern who was a patron of the 1970s Catskills music scene and a mother to many, died on Thursday, May 12 at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston after losing an 11-month battle with breast cancer. She was 82 years old. A celebration of her life is planned for Monday, June 6.

A lover of music, books and her dog Zorro, whose ashes will be buried alongside her, O'Connell dispensed motherly love and presided over a booming local music scene from behind the bar at the Pine Hill Tavern (now Zephyr Restaurant) in the Ulster County hamlet of Pine Hill from 1976 to 1982.

"We used to call her Mother Teresa," said her son, James Michael O'Connell, with whom Peggy lived with in the hamlet of Olivebridge for the last five years of her life.

"Mom was a people person,” he said. “She liked everybody; she never had a bad word to say about anyone."

During the 1970s, in the wake of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, bands performing original tunes flocked to the Catskills, looking for nurturing venues to host them as they honed their skills.

The Pine Hill Tavern, located on the westernmost edge of Ulster County just off Route 28, was often their last stop.

Often known just as "Peggy's Place,” the tavern was not just a bar—it was a home away from home for traveling musicians and others in need.  Read more

Dozens of Memorial Day events kick off summer in the Catskills

Above: An honor guard leads the 2015 Liberty Memorial Day Parade. Photo by John Kocijanski of Catskill Photography, shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr pool.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016 brings a flood of enticing opportunities to come together, celebrate, and get the Catskills summer season started off right. Here’s our five-county guide to what’s happening where from Friday, May 27 to Monday, May 30.


Parades and Ceremonies:


Parade: May 30, 9:30 a.m., Route 30 North

Grand Gorge 

Parade: May 30, 11 a.m., Route 23 West  Read more

John Faso: Experienced politician faces voters who are fed up with "insiders"

Above: John Faso. Image via the Faso campaign.

In the increasingly negative race to replace retiring Republican Congressman Chris Gibson in New York's 19th Congressional District, former State Assembly Minority Leader John Faso has all the hallmarks of a traditional general election contender. But that might not help him, because 2016 is no traditional election year.

Nationally, maverick candidate Donald Trump has ousted more traditional Republican candidates from the race for president. In the race for the 19th Congressional District, which represents the Catskills and Hudson Valley, Faso’s opponents hope to do the same to him.

Faso, a Republican, began his campaign for Congress with high name recognition and a time-tested fundraising apparatus. He spent 16 years in the New York State Assembly from 1987 to 2002 and made an unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial bid in 2006 against Democrat Elliot Spitzer.

Now, Faso's status as an experienced politician and elected official has become both a blessing and a curse.  Read more