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Just over two weeks ago, an absurd feel good article appeared in the Financial Times, regarding the Hudson River, its preservation, and its cleanup. While noble in its intent, the article was not only scant on facts, it made fictional assertions that were ridiculous, such as the late Senator Robert Kennedy (1925-1968), helped save the valley from industrial development, litigation that ended with a legal settlement in 1981, a full thirteen years after said politician's life ended at the hands of a deranged assassin. The Editors of the Financial Times should be embarrassed over the time-line alleged within the article. Hopefully they fact check Financial Stories with better acumen and greater rigour than displayed in the afore-mentioned article.

For copyright reasons we can not reproduce the story in its entirety, but the offending passages appear below, followed by a measured response by the leading person who was responsible for the defeat of the proposed Consolidated Edison plant at Storm King, Robert H. Boyle:

For 20 years I’ve lived by the river, and every time I walk down the old-fashioned main street of Cold Spring to the water’s edge, I think how fortunate I am to be there. The village has not been tarnished, the landscape where the Hudson river has cut its way through a rocky ridge of mountains called the Highlands is a rare place just an hour by train north of New York City. Even in the early 19th century the village was known for its bucolic setting. This is where George Morris wrote “Woodman, Spare That Tree”, perhaps America’s first eco-protest song.

…..It also took the efforts in the 1960s of attorney-general Robert Kennedy and the activism of the great folk singer Pete Seeger, who renovated an old sailing ship and called it “Clearwater”, to urge that the land be saved and the river cleaned up. Seeger’s sloop still sails the river today, and he tells the tale of its saving most eloquently on the album The Storm King, which came out just after his death in 2014 at the age of 94, with the help of his local friends — percussionist Jeff Haynes and singer Dar Williams. “He is the wiser father,” Seeger sings of the mountain. “I am the Storm King now . . . May we grow better still.” ......I live half a mile from the river’s edge but I always feel it is there. Just north of Cold Spring is a beautiful beach that looks like it could be in South America….

David Rothenberg is a writer, musician and professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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One hopes that Prof. Rothenberg gives lectures based on facts to his students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology rather than make the ludicrous assertions that Sen. Robert F. Kennedy played important roles in the defeat of the Storm King power project and the cleanup of the Hudson River. In so doing Mr. Rothenberg overlooks the battle over Storm King long waged by the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference and the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association. In contrast, Sen. Kennedy sat on the fence straddling the Storm King issue when he testified at a 1965 hearing in Washington chaired by Representative John Dingell (D. Mich.) As for the battle to clean up the Hudson, credit for that belongs not to the senator but to the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association which in 1966 resurrected and dusted off the long forgotten Federal Refuse Act of 1899 in order to bring polluters to justice, starting with the Penn Central Railroad for its illegal discharges into the Hudson River from its diesel and electric shops in Harmon.

The late Pete Seeger certainly did a great deal to call attention to the plight of the Hudson and bless him for it. But Pete was not a major participant in the Storm King battle because at least one member of Scenic Hudson did not want Pete involved because of his politics.

If Prof. Rothenberg desires to be factually correct in his comments about the river, he should read Power on the Hudson (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014) by Prof. Robert Lifset, an environmental historian who teaches at the Honors College of the University of Oklahoma.

Robert H. Boyle, Cooperstown, NY

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11 Church OsbornCastleviewFrederic Church (1826-1900), View of West Point and Storm King from Osborn Castle, 1881

11 WestPoint RAB2009View of West Point from Osborn Castle, 2009

14cropseycwatercolor650Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900), Entrance to the Highlands, 1870

14DSC 1205bBreakneck Ridge and Storm King from Dennings Point, 2012

DSC 0726Samuel Colman (1832-1920), Storm King on the Hudson, 1866, collection Smithsonian Institution, Museum of American Art

DSC 0727Samuel Colman (1832-1920), Storm King (detail)

DSC 0728Robert H. Boyle circa 1968 sampling the fisheries to be affected by proposed Pump Storage Plant at Storm King, photo credit Robert Hoebermann 

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You may also like to read:

*  Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Resigns from his Post at Environmental Group, Founder says 'good riddance'

*  Eight at Riverkeeper Resign Over Kennedy's Hiring of a Rare-Egg Smuggler 

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