County Executive Rob Astorino kicked off his Town Hall series in the northern Westchester town of Cortlandt last night, where the planned closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant will have an impact. And though Indian Point was a topic on his agenda, area residents who overflowed into hallways brought up a number of other subjects — to both groans and applause.
After talking about the 2017 budget, federal housing settlement, and more, County Executive Astorino turned to the topic presumed to be responsible for the overflow crowd.
“Now let’s get to the biggie,” said Astorino.
Astorino, a Republican, then spent about eight minutes giving a brief overview of the closure plans for Indian Point and anticipated impacts, such as on tax revenues. The official announcement came January 9 that the plant would close by 2021 per an agreement reached by parent company Entergy, New York state and Riverkeeper. This resident went down a list of replacement power sites she called ready.
(back and forth between woman and Astorino)
Astorino, who ran against Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014, questions Cuomo’s plans to replace the 2,000 megawatts put out by Indian Point.
“Raise your hand if you believe a politician who…(interruption) Raise your hand if you believe a politician who says your rates will not go up because of Indian Point closing,” Astorino said.
Another resident voiced concern about pipelines, especially Spectra Energy’s AIM pipeline that runs through a portion of the Indian Point property.
“Let me take one last question, make it a friendly one, c’mon, we want to go out on a nice way. Are you friendly?” Astorino asked?
“Okay, we’ll go to her,” Astorino says.
“What are you doing to address pipelines that are being built near Indian Point…?”
“You said you were friendly,” Astorino said. “No, I’m kidding. I’m fine, I’m fine.’
Cortlandt resident Stephanie Condaxis is also concerned about the AIM pipeline.
“More than that, though, is the overarching, conservative, authoritarian trend that we’re seeing in all politics,” says Condaxis. “We really wanted to start at home and make sure that our local legislator knew that we were paying attention, that we will not stand for hate, we will not stand for overreaching, that we are here, that we’re paying attention. That’s the main reason I came out tonight.”
The emotions and divisiveness from politics on the national level were evident in the audience, with a question about refugees on the day President Donald Trump signed executive orders clamping down on immigration. There were comments regarding former President Obama and President Trump, with residents splitting among cheers and jeers. But it seemed to wind back to Indian Point.
“First I want to thank you for all your hard work standing up for the residents of Westchester County and New York state. I personally voted for you and I think if everybody did we wouldn’t be in this position talking about Indian point right now.”
She then urged Westchester residents to unite across party lines. The Village of Buchanan, where Indian Point is located, stands to lose nearly half of its revenue from the plant’s closure. Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker says she is looking at what land on the plant’s property could be developed to provide tax revenues.
“So it’s really sitting down with the board and saying, going forward, what would we like to see developed there and what would help us with our tax base,” Knickerbocker says. “The problem is we need to replace $3 million.”
That’s $3 million annually. But any potential development is a long way off so Knickerbocker says she’ll focus on other ways to address revenue shortfalls in the meantime.
“It’s a combination of what do we look at, what we can cut back on, what we can do more efficiently and things like that,” says Knickerbocker.
Meanwhile, a coalition of parents, including Cortlandt resident Jenean Eichenholtz, just formed a community group to address issues related to the closure of Indian Point.
“Our PTA parent advocacy council had a meeting last week. We had about 30 parents show up and, out of that, we’ve decided to create a community group to hopefully work with other community organizations,” Eichenholtz says. “We’re going to look for businesses that would like to be involved, parents obviously, senior groups, anyone who’s interested as a member of the community in working together to make sure that our community is made whole after Indian Point does close. So we’re Power Through Cortlandt.”
She says community members have voiced concern about a potential decline in home values and services, increase in property taxes, and impacts on area businesses.