A number of issues that garnered headlines in the Hudson Valley in 2019 continue this year. There will be a number of closely watched political contests, environmental issues and, most recently, attacks on religious institutions. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has a look at a few of the stories from 2019 that are carrying into 2020.
The first big political announcement in 2019 in the Hudson Valley came January 4, when Democrat Mike Hein, Ulster County’s first county executive, said he would leave the post after a decade for a job in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. His departure led to a special election April 30, in which Democrat Pat Ryan defeated Republican Jack Hayes. After his decisive win in April, Ryan said he was going on the road.
“So I’ll be doing a town hall in every one of the 24 towns ,which will both help me learn what’s going on in our communities to a greater degree, and also set us up to continue to have a successful campaign again in November.”
He held 24 town halls in less than 24 weeks, and then handily defeated Hayes in the November general election. On the congressional level, newly elected Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado was sworn in to serve New York’s 19th district. He had defeated one-term Republican John Faso in one of the most closely-watched races in the country. Delgado kicked off January by holding a few town halls, and ended the year having held 33, three in each of the district’s 11 counties. Immediately following an October town hall in Dutchess County’s Clinton Corners, and just hours after coming out in favor of impeachment proceedings, Delgado told reporters the importance of town halls.
“I bring folks together in these town halls across the political spectrum because I really hope that we can find some common ground in these incredibly divisive times that are not aided by actors who don’t see any point in assisting us in this way. I think there’s a role for us to play as public servants. Even if we can take positions that are divisive, how you communicate around those positions is just as important as the position itself.”
Over the summer, retired two-star General Tony German, a Republican, announced his plans to run against Delgado in 2020.
In March 2019, the measles outbreak in Rockland County that had begun in October 2018 prompted County Executive Ed Day to declare a state of emergency. A state Supreme Court justice issued a preliminary injunction against Day’s state of emergency that bared anyone under 18 years of age and unvaccinated against the measles from public places. Day and his health commissioner continued a vaccination campaign. Amid the nation’s worst measles outbreak in more than 25 years, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in June signed legislation removing non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements.
In April, high-ranking officials from the U.S. Department of Defense made their second trip to Newburgh since PFOS contamination was uncovered in 2016, and found to be emanating from Stewart Air National Guard Base. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force John Henderson said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was designing a carbon filtration system, with $2.4 million in federal funding, at the Recreation Pond outflow at the base, from where some of the highest concentrations of PFOS emanate.
“That filter will be in place while we do the rest of the assessment and determine what the final solution is. And then, and then it maybe, maybe that’s replaced with a permanent filter or maybe it’s replaced with a whole different technology. Maybe we can stop the flow out of those pipes altogether and there’ll be no need for a filter. That would be our goal,” says Henderson.
After delays, that temporary filtration went online in December. The issue of addressing PFOS in Newburgh and PFAS, in general, continues.
By April 30, the first of two reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan is slated to permanently shut down. Indian Point is the largest employer and taxpayer in the village and surrounding communities, which have been grappling with how to address replacements for both. Indian Point’s parent company Entergy announced it would sell the plant after the shutdown to a subsidiary of Holtec International. Jerry Nappi is spokesman for Entergy.
“So Holtec is confident it can decommission Indian Point decades sooner than Entergy could if we continue to own the plant. That’s really a good thing for the community. It basically enables the site to be redeveloped potentially decades sooner than if we, again, if we continue to hold it,” Nappi says.
Unit 3 is slated to shut down in April 2021. In August, state officials made good on their threat to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over General Electric’s PCB cleanup in the Hudson River. State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos:
“We’re taking the time to file a lawsuit so that we can prevail in court and ultimately have a judge tell EPA to get back to work. And there’s so much work that needs to be done on the Hudson River,” Seggos says.
In October, longtime lower Hudson Valley Congresswoman Nita Lowey announced she would not seek re-election. The Democrat from the 17th District who is the first woman to chair the House Appropriations Committee has been in Congress since 1989. Now, several Democrats and at least one Republican have announced runs for her seat. And it’s in the 17th District where residents are wrestling with the aftermath of stabbings that occurred during a Hanukkah celebration December 28 at a rabbi’s house in Monsey, in the Town of Ramapo, in Rockland County. Federal officials labelled the stabbings hate crimes. Court cases against the alleged attacker are in progress. And there is a larger police presence aiming to calm the Hasidic community. Rabbi Hersh Horowitz runs the Community Outreach Center in Ramapo.
“This town has been one of the safest towns and it will return that way,” Horowitz says. “We will be a safe town.”
Federal, state and local lawmakers vow to address the broader issue of hate and tolerance during this new year.