Soon-to-be-retiring Congressman Maurice Hinchey came home to Saugerties for a party celebrating his career as a lawmaker on Sunday, July 29, and a crowd of more than 200 people turned out to greet him.
The occasion featured music, food and a warm welcome that included many Republican political leaders as well as the Democrats who have supported Hinchey over the years.
Hinchey, while not a Saugerties native, moved to the town when he was nine years old. He attended St. Mary of the Snow in primary school, then Saugerties High School. “Many of you may remember that I was a bit rough around the edges as a kid,” he said. However, he added, “my military tour in the Navy took care of that, straightened me out.”
While he has had surgery and treatment for cancer, which he said nearly killed him, Hinchey said he is now healthy, and he is doing better and looking ahead.
The people of Saugerties contributed to his political success, Hinchey said, and that was not just because they voted for him, but because they were forthcoming with ideas and information that were invaluable to his work. “As I look around Saugerties, I see all the things we have done together,” he said. “All the help you have given me, all the ideas you have given me, the instruction you have given me; all these things that we have accomplished together.”
The occasion honored Hinchey’s 38 years of public service: 18 years in the New York State Assembly and 20 in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was planned as a non-partisan tribute, and financed by donations, largely from Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum, who suggested that the event be free as well as non-partisan, said Beth Murphy, a principal organizer.
Murphy had booked the pavilion in Cantine Field in January for a Democratic Party picnic, but when Hinchey announced his retirement, she changed the focus to a celebration for him.
The contributions for the event also included a discount price on the food from the Stone Pony on Kings Highway and a huge cake from Hudson Valley Dessert Co., along with many other desserts donated by participants. Murphy also had kudos for Paul Andreassen, who organized the music, and Marjorie Block, who coordinated the volunteers.
A source of pride – and influence
Murphy praised Hinchey for the many grants and government help the town and village received through his office, but said he also stood for things that are important to people, such as environmental protection and government help for those in need.
People are well aware of the large-scale projects Congressman Hinchey supported, said Greg Chorvas, the town’s director of Parks and Recreation. However, he said, few are aware of the small ways he helped get things done. For instance, when the Army Corps of Engineers held up work on the Glasco mini park for nearly two years, an appeal to Hinchey moved the project along and the park was completed in two months, said Chorvas.
Former village mayor Robert Yerick said he met Maurice Hinchey when he first moved to Saugerties and played softball. Since then, he said, “Hinchey has done a lot for Saugerties.” For instance, “he was instrumental in getting funding for street revitalization,” the former mayor said. “Without him I would not have been successful in the projects I did. Saugerties would not be what it is today without help from Maurice Hinchey.”
“He has been a tremendous asset to Saugerties and to the whole district,” former supervisor Greg Helsmoortel said. “He remained a homeboy at heart,” he added, recalling Hinchey’s days as a baseball player.