Phoenicia, NY – When Hurricane Irene struck the Hudson Valley, the media rushed to cover the story from the "devastation angle" --- a handful of locals in the Ulster County hamlet of Phoenicia are trying to get the word out that their little town has NOT reportedly been "swept away" --- Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.
Phoenicia, a beautiful little hamlet surrounded by mountains, is located in the northeast part of the Ulster County Town of Shandaken... it's a popular year-round tourist destination... the problem is, many of the tourists think Phoenicia has disappeared!
Michael Koegel owns Mama's Boy Restaurant along the town's Main Street: he says the rumour began with a television news story that suggested Phoenicia took a major hit from Hurricane Irene.
Koegel notes that one highway bridge and one house were damaged by the flood. On my trip through the area I saw smaller "driveway" bridges that had buckled and a trailer or two in low-lying areas that most certainly had taken on water. Koegel explained that the reporter didn't bother to check out the rest of the town. A reporter from the New York Times got wind of the story and made the trek to Phoenicia, again looking at the two affected sites.
The NY Times article that followed, according to Koegel, created a butterfly effect - which included derogatory posts on the social network, facebook. Shandaken Town Supervisor Rob Stanley admits that although some areas were hit very hard by Irene, most of Phoenicia is intact.
Robin Kirk owns the Nest Egg Gift Shop, a casualty of media attention. She says that after the news reports, customers stopped returning DVDs, thinking that the store was "gone" along with the town!
Harry Jameson, chairman of the Catskill Mountain Railroad Company, which lost some trackage in the storm, says the line bounced back and continues to run fall foliage trains. Jameson points out that the train ride now travels along a modified 5-mile round trip between Mt. Tremper and Boiceville, New York. Each ticket purchase helps in the regional recovery effort.
Alan White with the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development suggests financially-strapped property owners in areas hardest-hit by flooding consider moving. I invited New York Times reporter Kirk Semple and WABC-TV's Joe Torres to refute the accusations that their stories about Phoenicia did more damage to the town than the flooding. Semple replied by email, saying "I've moved well away from the topic and my head is elsewhere." Torres did not immediately return calls for comment.