New Shandaken Code Officer begins cleanup

By Jay Braman Jr.
“There’s a new code officer in town.”

That’s how Phoenicia resident Ritchie Stokes put it last week as backhoes and bulldozers began leveling a massive eyesore that has plagued the Oliverea Valley for two decades.

As the demolition project, on Deer Lane just a stone’s throw form the Cold Spring Lodge, moved forward, Stokes was straight faced and no nonsense when he said this was just the beginning.
“I’m taking care of Fox Hollow next,” he said, referring to the property at the entrance of that Shandaken hamlet.

Asked how it was that he was able to get the Deer Lane site cleaned up after nearly 20 years of complaints, Stokes just shrugged and said he didn’t know why it wasn’t done sooner, but at least it is finally happening.

On Tuesday Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley said he was pleased with the action.

“This is big,” said Stanley, who, as a veteran of town government, is well aware of the Oliverea community’s struggle with getting satisfaction. “Ritchie just kept pushing and prodding and finally the owner just started.”

Stanley said Stokes was brought on board quickly in September as interim code enforcement officer. The previous code officer, Gina Reilly, has resigned to relocate to Long Island.
Timing, as they say, is everything.

“Her last day was like two days before Irene hit,” Stanley said.

With structures damaged all over town, someone was needed with the experience and knowledge to inspect all the broken buildings and determine their safety. The need was immediate and Stokes stepped up to the plate, Stanley said.

Now Stokes, who was sworn in as official code enforcement officer on January 2, is reviewing all properties in town that suffered damage during Irene and those that must go will go.

“I want to put the devastation in Shandaken behind us,” Stokes said.

He also vows to handle things fairly and evenly.
“I’m just going to go by the code book,” he said. “No selective enforcement.”