Victory in Athens

Athens, NY from the air

Great news: A developer has withdrawn its application to create a construction and demolition debris processing facility along the Hudson River in the Town of Athens. The operation would have handled 6.4 tons of waste each week at a 6-acre site on the waterfront of this historic and charming Greene County community. Most of that waste would have come from downstate building sites. Hats off to the local activists, Keep it Greene and Friends of Athens for this victory!

Athens, NY from the air
Athens, New York (Photo: Jeff Anzevino)

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan strongly opposed the plan in this op-ed. He stressed how operations like this would set back efforts to make the  Hudson River the centerpiece of the region’s ongoing economic resurgence—case in point being  the opening last year of the Hudson River Skywalk. Our Board Chair Kristin Gamble also spoke out forcefully against the proposal at a March 1 community meeting in Athens that drew hundreds of concerned citizens.

Despite this victory, a great testament to the power of grassroots activism, there are still plans to create another facility that could hold 600,000 tons of construction waste in nearby Catskill. This would result in the creation of waste berms along the river in the hometown of Thomas Cole, whose paintings and essays warned of threats to the region from wanton development. The berms would also be visible from Olana, whose views help make it one of the region’s premier tourism destinations.

Not only could our region face adverse scenic and economic impacts; the environmental risks to the river and its tributaries from a flood of such facilities in our river towns could be a major setback to public health. 

We’ve called on the state to develop a comprehensive regulatory approach to construction and debris disposal. But one thing is clear: Facilities like this don’t belong on a beautiful stretch of the river recognized as the cradle of American art.