On sturgeon, we demand better
We appreciate the Kingston Times’ detailed coverage of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project and its impact on endangered Hudson River sturgeon. Regarding the New York State Thruway Authority’s Sept. 2 letter to the editor “Off base on sturgeon,” again the Thruway Authority denies there is any evidence that the project has killed endangered sturgeon. We have only to look at the Biological Opinion of June 20, 2016, the exhaustive, 202-page review by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). In the document, NMFS now acknowledges and predicts mortality from project vessel strikes. Given the evidence, according to the agency, we should expect six sturgeon to be killed by project vessels during the remaining years of the project. And that estimate is artificially low because of flawed assumptions on how far a mortally wounded fish might travel before dying. The fact remains: In the four years before the project started, six sturgeon were found dead. Then, in the first four years of construction (2012-2015), 124 sturgeon were found dead. When the location of all the dead fish is geographically averaged, the center of mortality is very close to the project. Nothing in the Thruway’s rebuttal can change those numbers.
Again the Thruway Authority presents a number of nearly 35,000 sturgeon Atlantic sturgeon in the New York Bight, including the Hudson River. As explained in detail in Lynn Woods’ article, this is not an estimate but a stock assessment of Atlantic sturgeon that has been discredited by scientists. And as explained by researcher Dewayne Fox in the article, “They’re coming up the river in the order of hundreds, not thousands.”
Again the Thruway Authority lists protective measures taken, such as the use of bubble curtains during pile driving to reduce underwater noise; sturgeon tracking and habitat studies, and water quality monitoring. But as we know, these measures were not taken voluntarily, they were ordered by the Fisheries Service in light of the threat from construction.
And not surprisingly, the Thruway Authority continues to ignore the gravity of killing individual endangered sturgeon. The Thruway Authority reminds us that NMFS has determined the project will not jeopardize the existence of these species. We, the public, demand better. Just because the population is deemed viable doesn’t mean the fish should be needlessly killed.
Imagine if a contractor, building high rises along the river, killed 100 bald eagles and then said, “But there are plenty. The population is coming back, and we’re not jeopardizing the eagles’ existence in the Hudson Valley.” How would the public react?
NMFS’ Biological Opinion both acknowledges that the project is killing endangered fish and increases the allowed kill, or “take.” We find that outrageous and tragic. As one senior sturgeon researcher told us, there’s nothing in the document that protects the fish. Raising the allowed kill has protected the bridge project — not the fish.
Riverkeeper patrol boat captain
Wrong on Patriot House
Shame on Hugh Reynolds for politicizing our County’s homeless Veteran program Sept. 8 Kingston Times, through which dozens of veterans went from homeless to stable housing and improved lives since its opening only two years ago.
Mr. Reynolds misleads his readers with concocted facts. Patriot House has been open two years, not three. It has eight beds, not a dozen. And the car with Massachusetts plates is posted at the house to transport vets to their case appointments. He implies low utilization of the house, but in truth (if he bothered to check) the beds have been full or near full for over a year. He wrote that helping homeless vets is “nothing to brag about.” Really? As the only facility of its kind in a six-county radius, there is plenty to brag about and be proud of.
Reynolds calls them “ghost vets” because he doesn’t see them hanging out on the front porch. In a transitional housing program, vets are not supposed to be hanging out. They are out working on the issues at the root of their homelessness. The cause of homelessness varies from vet to vet, and they are out and about every day receiving program services and case management to help them transition to stable and affordable housing. Most of them succeed with the transition within 90 days of coming to Patriot House!
As a veteran, Reynolds should be ashamed of plying a false narrative that harms public perception of a veteran program that has been hugely successful, and which is being considered for replication elsewhere in the state. In doing so he insults my family of veterans (multiple generations), as well as the dozens of groups (including my own, the Kingston Sunrise Rotary and Rotary clubs across Ulster County) and county officials, who did the hard work of getting Patriot House off the ground. So many people made contributions to this project … from widows of World War II vets to small children. Donations were as small as $5 and as big as thousands. This is a project of the people of Ulster County who care about our veterans. Reynolds should apologize for his callous disrespect toward a program that serves veterans so well.
Past president, Kingston Sunrise Rotary
Member of the advisory committee for the Patriots Project
(Hugh Reynolds’ response: The three-year cycle referenced the county executive’s announcement of the plan in July 2013. I also stand corrected on the number of beds. I remain unconvinced that this facility has been full or near full for over a year. I again call on the legislature, or perhaps the county comptroller, to issue a full accounting of this program, including the cost of renovating and equipping the building, to include volunteer contributions. As a Navy veteran and a four-term American Legion commander, I take exception to the writer’s allegation of my so-called “callous disrespect” toward those who honorably served our country in times of war and peace.)
Thin layer of protection gone
I attended the Stop Smart Meters Woodstock NY Forum at the Woodstock Library on Sept. 10. Even though the room was warm and heavy with humidity there was a recognizable sense of purpose in the eyes of all who gathered together that evening. The ongoing forum brought together people from all across the Hudson Valley region who share strong beliefs about protecting our environment. Weston Blelock was a gracious and able facilitator of the evening’s program, “Impacts of the 5G Spectrum Smart Phones” by Dafna Tachover. (She is a practicing attorney at law in New York and Israel and a former officer in the Israeli Defense Forces.)
Ms. Tachover, a victim of overexposure to electromagnetic hypersensitivity radiation, related her experience. She clearly outlined the difficulty in tracing sources of pain and discomfort when said source is an invisible electronic wave. She identified the conflicting body of literature regarding the threat of electromagnetic exposure.
The fact that our federal and state governments seem to have partnered with the wireless industry is troubling. I am concerned that we the people have lost our thin layer of protection. There was a time when I may have been skeptical of Ms. Tachover’s claims but a lifetime of manipulation by corporate America has changed my perspective. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy I served in the boiler room. I was exposed to extremely high levels of asbestos on a daily basis. I was able to buy cigarettes for 10 cents a pack. My brother was in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange. I saw my government deny the toxic effects of these exposers for decades as veterans were denied medical treatment. I witness young men and women return from military service in the Middle East suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and overmedication. I listen to reports of their suicides and drug addiction and incarceration
We must be ever vigilant of whether our food has been genetically modified and if it is coming from countries that have laws protecting the quality of food. So yes, I am a more skeptical person than I was 50 years ago and yes, I appreciate people coming together like Weston Blelock, to protect other people who they have never met from Invisible Toxic Exposure. The Smart Meters Forum at Woodstock is a dedicated group of people who deserve more support from their elected officials. If I am chosen to be the New York State assemblyman from the 103rd District, I will work to insure the highest levels of safety and protection for all New Yorkers.
(Editor’s note: The writer is the Conservative Party candidate for the 103rd Assembly District seat.)
Jill Stein or planetary death
Our Earth cannot endure four or eight years of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Climate change is a global emergency, yet neither of these candidates mention this catastrophe.
The Sept. 5-18 issue of New York magazine contains an article entitled, “This is New York in the Not-So-Distant Future.” In the article Ben Strauss, climate scientist with the research organization Climate Central states, “In Antarctica enormous glaciers appear to be melting faster than previously estimated, making the current worst-case projections look more and more like probabilities.” The example is given, using the corner of Canal and Varick Streets as a point of reference, as to what parts of New York would look like given a certain amount of sea-level rise. At three feet, Hudson River Park and West Street are partially submerged under water. At four to five feet, the water covers more of Canal Street, moving toward the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. According to William Solecki, a Hunter College geography professor, the port of New York is more vulnerable to sea-level rise than almost any other place on earth. This is because concurrently, the northeastern coast of the United States is sinking, owing to natural processes. A temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius would eventually translate to around 10 feet of sea-level rise. At two degrees, the eventuality would be about 15 feet in sea-level rise, which would completely surround the pools of the 9/11 memorial.
Given these disturbing probable outcomes if we ignore the problem, Hillary Clinton has still chosen Ken Salazar, former senator and Interior secretary to head her transition team if she is elected president. Salazar advocates for fracking with no apologies or acknowledgement that water sources could be adversely affected. Fracking is also associated with earthquakes, like the quake that occurred in Oklahoma on Sept. 3 and has been upgraded to a magnitude 5.8, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This is the state’s largest quake on record. Fracking is associated with increased seismic activity as well as with contributing to overall climate change.
Jill Stein, our Green Party candidate for president of the United States, is the only national candidate, on the ballot in almost every state, who sees climate change as a global emergency and talks about it each time she speaks to the American people. If elected president, Jill Stein advocates for a Green New Deal. Like FDR’s New Deal, Jill would create jobs, specifically 20 million green jobs. This would solve the problem of climate change and the crisis of the economy at the same time. Jill Stein would also make wars for oil obsolete by ensuring that we have 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030. After traveling hundreds of miles through Canada this summer and observing thousands of wind turbines, I know that this can be done.
Jill Stein is also the only presidential candidate who has visited the site of the proposed Dakota Access pipeline. She has protested with Native Americans and other protectors there, showing her solidarity and her commitment to protecting their water. Jill was at the site before the media was covering the story.
I urge all voters to visit Jill Stein’s website, Jill2016.com. Climate change is an issue we can no longer ignore. We must vote as if our lives depended upon it because in fact they do.
It’s just too big
In reading support letters for the Irish Cultural Center (ICCHV), let’s recall the facts surrounding concerns over the current proposal.
As the proposal’s designs and uses have evolved, the available parking has shrunk. ICCHV representatives point to the city, but the inability to meet the parking needs is caused by the ICCHV’s vast size.
An influx of cars for 400 people goes far beyond the impact of a new restaurant or event space in an historic building. The ICCHV building doesn’t exist. The other businesses on the Rondout are in existing buildings, so use the existing parking. To insist the ICCHV be evaluated with adaptable reuse parking requirements rather than those for new builds is asking for special favors.
Parking is not the only problem, however. The city is also being asked to change laws, zoning codes, and even addresses to accommodate this proposal, despite the overwhelming burden that would place on businesses, home owners, residents, and visitors to the Rondout, all while taxpayers are asked to fund the project.
Too, with the governor’s recent designation of the Kingston waterfront as a Brownfield Opportunity Area, ICCHV representatives have recently begun to link the ICCHV with the Hudson Riverport and to imply that this means the proposal has been vetted and/or approved by the city. While the project is mentioned as something that could happen, the ICCHV property is not included in the Brownfield Opportunity Area.
Letters about ethnic legacy or who has historic claim to the Rondout don’t address any of these concerns. And the question hasn’t been answered how a wedding venue and bar relates to Irish culture, other than as profitable enterprises for the membership organizations that would run them.
Let’s not allow this proposal to set a precedent for future developers to rewrite our laws and zoning, stripping our neighborhoods of the protections those provide.
In the end, the ICCHV is just too big.
Hillary and Owen Harvey
After living in the area on and off for years, I recently purchased a home here in Kingston. I am so excited to be a part of the community! A few months ago I attended my first Climate Smart Kingston Commission meeting, which is held on the fourth Wednesday of each month and is open to the public. There I joined a committee to help organize a sustainability/electric vehicle test drive event for the public, and now it’s finally happening! This week is National Drive Electric Week — all around the country, family-fun events will showcase the many rewards of driving an electric vehicle. Here in the Hudson Valley, there’s the Sustainable Saturday Parking Lot Party on Sept. 17 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Ulster County Building Parking Lot in Kingston. There will be free test-drives with a variety of different EV auto-makers along with music, information about sustainable initiatives in our area and free children’s crafts and activities. There will be free test-drives with a variety of different EV auto-makers along with music, information about sustainable initiatives and free children’s crafts and activities.
I’m gradually moving towards purchasing an EV, but finances are the biggest hurdle for me. I’ve driven jalopy cars my whole life. (Which most recently included replacing a clutch and brakes only to have the check engine light turn on because of the catalytic converter …) But this week I heard music to my ears; maintenance for EVs costs much less than for gasoline vehicles because they don’t require oil changes and have 10 times fewer moving parts than a gas vehicle. This means no engine, transmission, spark plugs, valves, fuel tank, tailpipe, distributor, starter, muffler, clutch or catalytic converter. And fuel-wise, EVs are the way to go since the car runs on a battery charge for a certain amount of miles and uses gas as a backup. Ulster County has nine free charging stations — the most municipally-sponsored stations in the state. In Kingston one can charge an EV for free at a few places, including the County Office Building, the county Law Enforcement Center, the county courthouse and the Kingston Center of SUNY Ulster. For the occasions where the battery charge is not enough, gas mileage is the best out there and costs are three to four times less than that of a traditional car. Additionally, there’s a $7,500 federal tax credit when purchasing an EV, and New York State is about to announce another sizeable rebate so keep your eyes peeled!
Then there are the environmental benefits of an electric vehicle. Transportation accounts for a third of the U.S. pollution. Traditional vehicles on the road today account for about 20 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, but since EVs have no tailpipe emissions, it’s a better route to choose when it comes to curbing one’s carbon footprint. And since Ulster County buys green electricity from sustainable sources, charging at many of the free stations is a win-win!