Hudson Valley recovers from impact of Hurricane Ida
New York found itself in the path of a tropical storm last week as the remnants of Hurricane Ida made their way to the Northeast. Ida, which pummeled the New York Metropolitan area with over three inches of rain an hour, left at least 46 dead in the region—including 23 in New Jersey and 16 in New York (The New York Times, “The Storm Warnings Were Dire. Why Couldn’t New York Be Protected?”, 09.03.2021). While Dutchess County was spared much of the devastation that befell New York City, Westchester and Rockland, many residents found themselves without power and several major roads remained closed from damage (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Ida leaves mark on Dutchess,” 09.03.2021). In the wake of the storm, Governor Kathy Hochul requested a federal emergency declaration for 14 downstate counties, including Dutchess. “We are still in the process of uncovering the true depth of the destruction that was done by this historic weather event,” said Hochul, who hopes to see federal support come in the form of temporary housing and funeral assistance for those affected (New York State, “Governor Hochul Requests Federal Emergency Declaration for 14 Downstate Counties,” 09.02.2021).
COVID’s grip on Dutchess tightens, but vaccination rate climbs
As of the end of August, Dutchess County recorded over 1,970 new COVID cases, the most since April (during which they recorded 2,544). Poughkeepsie currently has 97 active cases of COVID (DutchessNY.Gov, “COVID-19 Dashboard,” 09.05.2021). With 17 residents dying of COVID in August, tying April’s total, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro implored residents to recognize that the virus is still taking lives. Currently, four out of five new recorded cases are individuals who are not yet fully vaccinated (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “COVID in Dutchess: New cases climb in August, but rate of vaccination increases, too,” 08.30.2021). Dutchess, however, is reporting an uptick in vaccination rates, with 57.33 percent of the population fully vaccinated and 64.44 percent having received at least one dose (DutchessNY.Gov, “COVID-19 Dashboard,” 09.05.2021).
Legislative reapportionment committee in chaos
This summer, the seven-person Dutchess County Independent Reapportionment Commission, appointed in February to redraw county legislative district lines in accordance with 2020 census data, was disbanded amidst an accusation of an illegal appointment (Mid Hudson News, “Democratic Dutchess legislators oppose move to “disband” independent redistricting commission,” 06.28.2021). Democratic legislators, which included Minority Leader (and Vassar professor) Rebecca Edwards and Legislator Brendan Lawler, blasted the disbanding as an attempt to keep gerrymandering Dutchess, while Republican Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver doubled-down on the decision, announcing a ballot proposal to shrink the GOP-led legislature from 25 seats to 21, which would likely lead to the drawing of a GOP-leaning map. Last week, members of the disbanded commission argued before Dutchess County Supreme Court Justice Hal Greenwald to have the decision overturned. The suit takes aim at the July legislation signed by Republican County Executive Molinaro which created a new independent commission, and the current disqualification of all former members from serving in the new body (Mid Hudson News, “Members of disbanded reapportionment commission seek court ruling to overturn new law,” 08.26.2021).
Dutchess healthcare workers plan to sue Governor Hochul over vaccine mandate
Last week, the New York State Department of Health approved a vaccine mandate for all New York healthcare workers and removed a previously planned religious exemption. Hospital and nursing employees must receive their first dose by Sept. 27, while all others must do so by Oct. 7. At the end of August, 88 percent of workers at Midhudson Regional, a public hospital, were fully vaccinated, whereas only 53 percent of employees at Vassar Brothers Medical Center were. Nuvance Health, which operates Vassar Brothers, has also set their own vaccination deadline of Oct. 1. Patricia Finn, a Hudson Valley attorney, announced last Thursday her intent to take legal action against Gov. Kathy Hochul, the State Department of Health, Nuvance Health group and Vassar Brothers Medical Center. A GoFundMe supporting the potential suit claimed that the mandate brought about unnecessary difficulties. While dissidents of the mandate protested outside of Vassar Brothers, proponents maintained that the mandate is nothing new, as inoculation against diseases including polio and measles has been required in the state for years. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Dutchess health care workers planning suit over vaccine mandate: Lawyer,” 09.03.2021)
Dangerous Poughkeepsie interchange under review
The area of the local Route 9/44/55 interchange at the Route 44/55 arterials is the site of about 460 crashes each year, and according to the Dutchess County Transportation Council (DCTC), the arterials’ crash rates are about twice as high as the statewide average for similar roadways. However, by the end of the year the DCTC may arrive at a recommendation on how to increase safety and connectivity while preserving traffic efficiency. The council is currently considering two proposals: reducing the three-lane expressway to a two-lane in order to make room for more curb space or returning the arterials to a two-way traffic pattern that was in place prior to 1979. However, funding for construction—including a conservative $25 million estimate for the interchange—is still not in sight.
(Times Union, “One of Hudson Valley’s most dangerous highway interchanges is under review,” 08.31.2021)