Philanthropist helps repair Fleischmanns park

By Jay Braman Jr.
If anyone reading this thinks that the repair work being done to restore the Fleischmanns Village Park has begun courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they should read on.
The confusion is understandable. Village officials have been negotiating with FEMA ever since the Irene/Lee storms destroyed the park last August, telling anxious residents that the behemoth federal agency will soon help.

Now it turns out they won’t, but more on that later.
Last month local philanthropist Kingdon Gould Jr. read about the village’s struggle with FEMA in the Catskill Mountain News and decided to speed things up.

According to Fleischmanns Mayor Todd Pascarella, Gould contacted him with an offer to help expedite the rebuilding of the park.

Pascarella was shocked when he got the phone call. “After reading the article in the paper about FEMA holding up the work, I wanted to see what I can do to help,” Gould said to the mayor.
After some thought, it was decided that Gould would team up with Hubbell Inc. to do all of the work to clean up the remaining debris, and get the grass growing again and Mr. Gould would compensate them for it directly. Gould’s contribution is expected to be north of $100,000, but there is no way of knowing yet. In contrast with FEMA’s foot-dragging style, Gould’s approach is, get the work done first and ask questions later.

Following Gould’s lead, Hubbell Inc. is donating all of their administrative costs associated with the project. The local excavating firm has a history of pitching in at the ball field, Pascarella said, noting that in 2009 they donated the use of two pieces of their equipment to resurface the park’s baseball diamond.

This week Rudd Hubbell was enthusiastic about the situation saying, “We are glad to be a part of this effort and fortunate to have a partner like Mr. Gould to help make it happen.”

This turns out to be an understatement. At the same time Gould and Hubbell were taking matters into their own hands, FEMA, after months of delay, sent word to Pascarella that it has been concluded that the Federal government is only concerned with paying for minor repairs in the park.

“The project worksheet the village was presented with by FEMA only encompasses one third of the costs that the village indicated were necessary to fully restore what was destroyed by Hurricane Irene,” Pascarella said. “The village is now appealing the work scope on the state level with hope that the state agency that handles the appeals process will see eye to eye with village representatives about what it will really take to completely recreate the public amenities that were lost.”

Convinced that FEMA will not come through with much of anything, Pascarella is now working with the MARK Project to line up the various funding sources needed to finish up where Gould and Hubbell leave off.

So, for now, there will still be an uninviting chain link fence that surrounds the park and offends the people that have waited and waited for a chance to return to the lush green lawn that was always the village’s centerpiece. But at least it will come down much sooner thanks to Gould.

“This remarkable action ensures that the ball field will indeed be restored this summer and have ample time for the new grass to take root while the weather is warm.” Pascarella said. “The reconstruction of the ball field that is the heart and soul of Fleischmanns will now proceed apart from the continued bureaucratic wrangling thanks to some very thoughtful neighbors.”