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Hudson Valley Brief Year In Review, Minus COVID

Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, NY
WAMC, Allison Dunne
Indian Point nuclear power plant, Buchanan, NY

Though the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the airwaves most of the year, there were some other significant developments in 2020. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne highlights a few of them in an abbreviated year in review.

2020 began with finding ways to help the Rockand County community of Monsey following a December 28, 2019 machete attack during a Hannukah celebration at a rabbi’s home. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Rockland mid-January to announce funding for security infrastructure.

“I want everyone to know that we have learned from Monsey a painful lesson; we’ve learned from what’s going on; and we will respond and we will react and we will do everything in our power on every level to make sure this horrific act doesn’t happen again,” Cuomo says.

In February, opposition mounted against a proposed merger between the New York state Bridge Authority and state Thruway Authority, with many wanting to protect the Bridge Authority. Democratic Assemblymember Sandy Galef:

“It’s just a bad proposal,” Galef says. “I’m for change. This is a crazy, crazy change, and so we need to fight it at all avenues, and we will in Albany, in the Assembly and the Senate.”

They did, and the merger ultimately didn’t happen. COVID-19 began taking hold in the Hudson Valley in March, and every story that month focused on the virus. Ditto, April, well, pretty much. The night of April 30, control room operators permanently shut down Indian Point Unit 2. Unit 3 is scheduled to permanently shut down by April 30 in 2021. State Senator Pete Harckham’s 40th district includes the Buchanan-based nuclear plant.

“You think of the workers; you think of their families. You think of all the people who passed through that reactor and provided energy to all the homes and businesses in the Hudson Valley,” Harckham says. “And your hearts are with them. This has got to be a bittersweet moment. It’s really a bitter moment for many of them.”

In November, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the transfer of the Indian Point licenses from Entergy Nuclear Operations to Holtec International for decommissioning, despite calls for the NRC to first hold public hearings, which, the Commission says, it still could do.

A shared-used path opened across the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in June, and June 23 marked congressional primary voting. The spotlight was on the lower Hudson Valley, in the NY-16 and NY-17 House races. Progressive Jamaal Bowman unseated longtime Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel, and went on to win the general election. Progressive Mondaire Jones emerged the winner in a crowded Democratic primary field in the 17th District, where Democrat Nita Lowey did not seek re-election after 16 terms. After his win in November, Jones said his win is for many others.

“It’s for the little Black boy who couldn’t wait to take my picture at the Black Lives Matter rally in Croton because he had never seen someone who looked like him up on that podium,” Jones says. “It’s for the hundreds of thousands of young, queer kids from across New York-17 and throughout this country.”

On July 30, New York state adopted maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs, for three chemicals in drinking water — 10 parts per trillion each for PFOA and PFOS, emerging contaminants found in Hoosick Falls and Newburgh, respectively; and 1 part per billion for 1,4-Dioxane. Environmental and community advocates wanted to see lower levels adopted, and more PFAS chemicals included, but say it’s a good start. Brad Hutton is state Health Department deputy commissioner for the Office of Public Health.

“I think these are still historic and appropriate and protective drinking water standards that will protect New Yorkers for decades to come. And if there’s a change in science that warrants an additional review and modification in the future, of course we’ll always be open to that.”

Tropical Storm Isaias hit the first week in August, leaving a large portion of the region without power for several days at a time when tensions were already frayed from upended lives during a pandemic. The state Public Service Commission is in the middle of hearings as part of an investigation into electric utilities’ responses to the storm. Central Hudson, Con Edison and Orange & Rockland Utilities face millions of dollars in penalties.

Bard College set up a polling site on Election Day after a long legal battle. Jonathan Becker is Bard’s Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“So first, it went really well,” says Becker. “We had 20 people lined up to vote at 6 in the morning.”

Dutchess County officials announced in November that a former IBM site is a frontrunner for an Amazon warehouse. Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay is stepping down in June. And so went the year.

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