A mid-term election year with several key races in the Hudson Valley grabbed a lot of air time, while PCBs and PFOS continued to dominate environmental headlines in 2018. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne looks back at some significant stories in her region during the first half of the year.
In January, women’s marches continued following their 2017 kickoff. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during his state-of-the-state speech raised the prospect of building a tunnel between Long Island and Westchester, an idea the state dropped in June. Cuomo and state lawmakers also began fighting back against a new federal tax law that caps state and local tax, or SALT, deductions at $10,000.
“We believe it is illegal, and we will challenge it in court as unconstitutional,” Cuomo said.
But some lawmakers were concerned about how to proceed in unchartered waters.
Democratic primary candidates in the 19th congressional district began their campaigns to take on Republican freshman John Faso in what remained a nationally watched seat.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would work with the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation to evaluate sediment samples from the upper Hudson River ahead of any decision about whether General Electric’s PCB cleanup is complete. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos…
“Listen, very importantly, EPA should not deem the project complete, the dredging project is not complete,” Seggos said.
Seggos reiterated these comments in December. In February, doors opened at Resorts World Catskills, a $1.2 billion casino, in Sullivan County, where Charles Degliomini is executive vice president.
“The resurgence of Sullivan County and the Catskills starts today,” Degliomini said.
However, the casino has experienced financial struggles.
New York state officials were in Newburgh to update city residents and officials on the testing timeline and procedure for a new PFOS carbon filtration system. Residents sounded off about health concerns following the state’s first round of a PFOS blood testing program.
In March, powerful winter storms left parts of the region in the dark. Both state and local lawmakers endeavored to get to the bottom of why area utility companies took so long to respond to the outages. There was a state Senate hearing on storm response and preparedness, for starters, and the state Department of Public Service held hearings in April.
Also in April, Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro kicked off his campaign for governor.
“I know we can restore New York,” Molinaro said. “And I’m running for governor to make our government more accountable and our state more accessible and affordable for its people.”
Two Democratic pillars of the Hudson Valley community lost their battles to cancer, the same day, April 15. Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy died from ovarian cancer while New York state Assemblyman Frank Skartados died from pancreatic cancer. Newburgh community activist Omari Shakur says he and Kennedy evolved to a meeting of the minds.
“She didn’t pull no punches. She told you how it was and what she was there for. Like I said, we never had a plan, but we had a vision. And she stayed true to that vision to the very end, she stayed true to it,” Shakur said.
Democratic 18th District Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney paid his respects to Kennedy and Skartados.
“He was a bulldog for what he thought was right. And he was always sticking up for people who were shut out and who didn’t have everything lined up for them in this world,” Maloney said. “And I loved working with him. And we’re going to miss him a lot. He was a great, decent, passionate, honest public servant.”
In a special election, Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer defeated Republican Julie Killian for the 37th District state Senate seat left vacant after Democrat George Latimer became Westchester County executive. And after serving 20 years in the state Senate, Republican John Bonacic of the 42nd District announced he would retire. In November, his seat turned blue with the victory of Rosendale Council member Jen Metzger. Then, an even longer time Hudson Valley state lawmaker announced he, too, would not seek re-election – Republican Bill Larkin of the 39th District.
Later in May, Democratic state Assemblyman James Skoufis kicked off his campaign to run for Larkin’s seat, which he won in November.
In June, New York State said it was suing six manufacturers of hazardous firefighting foam that contained the dangerous chemicals PFOA and/or PFOS, the latter which was the contamination culprit in Newburgh’s drinking water.
And seven Democratic primary candidates kicked their campaigns into high gear ahead of the June 26 primary. Voters selected Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck to run for the 11-county swing district.
“I want us to believe in our power, believe in our power, ok, and we will see this thing through. I love you,” Delgado said.
He defeated Congressman Faso, the Green Party’s Steve Greenfield and Independent Diane Neal.