Wasting Away Margaretville

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The above is a piece of road outside of Margaretville, New York, post-Irene.

I have not yet been to Margaretville since Irene, largely because of sections of road like the one above. However, I heard two very disturbing bits of news today: first, that much of Margaretville will be demolished given the hazardous conditions created by buildings damaged by Irene. Two, that some Republican congressmen such as Eric Cantor have discussed mounting an effort to withhold funds for FEMA assistance to disaster ravaged areas in the absence of further budget cuts.

The village of Margaretville had the distinction, prior to this demolition, of being a true town. The historically difficult economic conditions of Upstate New York have, perhaps, discouraged the abundance of Walmart’s. As a result, Margaretville was an actual center, with a grocery store, a couple of pharmacies, ice cream parlors, a cheese store, a sports shop, a library, a jewelers, antique store (in an old movie theater), a relatively nice restaurant, greasy spoon, bar, liquor store, thrift shop, children’s/art and clothing store, and (occasional) hair cutters. There was even the “Department Store”–a place where you could (at different times in its history) buy work pants, boots, and rare coins. Canning jars!

Everything was in walking distance, connected by sidewalks. There were a couple of parking lots, one near a stream that sported ducks! (One of them bit my daughter’s finger.) There was an old and somewhat grandiose school building built, I think, from WPA funds.

Huge ice cream cones. (Perry’s.)

Winters are long up here and there is no legalized gambling. This may be another way of saying that it was not a tremendously prosperous town, although lately, owing in part to a popular farmers’ market, local farm businesses and dairies seemed to be coming back.

Not only is Main Street being demolished, but the local trailer park (in Arkville, the adjacent town) has washed away. People who lived there have lost all they owned.

The local road crew has been working very hard, filling in crevices, removing rubble, redirecting new creeks and stream bits, arranging for milk and food to reach families still cut-off. One worker mentioned, when we spoke to him today, that he hadn’t been able to sleep even when he’d finally gotten home each night. If we wanted to donate clothes or food to those in Margaretville, he said, we could take them down to the local fire station. (This assumes we had a large vehicle that could get through the still-ravaged roads. We don’t, but still it’s a big improvement on being stranded.) I didn’t get a chance to ask him what he thought about protecting tax breaks for private jet owners.

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