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Your Role in New York’s Climate Action

When New York’s draft scoping plan, written by the Climate Action Council, is finalized later this year, it will impact every New Yorker: our energy choices, the industries we work in, the communities we live in, the investments we make in affordable energy, and the ways we can protect ourselves and our neighborhoods against climate change.

Right now, that plan is still just a draft, and until June 10, the public has a chance to weigh in on it. How will climate action affect you, and how can you make your voice heard?

In this conversation, we spoke with people who have been following the state’s climate planning process closely about what the scoping plan means for all New Yorkers—and what action you can take.


  • Jen Metzger, PhD, served in the state Senate in 2019-20, and currently advises on climate and energy policy with the nonprofit organization New Yorkers for Clean Power. Prior to her election, she served for over a decade in local government in the town of Rosendale, and cofounded and directed Citizens for Local Power.
  • Raya Salter, Esq., is a member of the New York State Climate Action Council, founder of the newly launched Energy Justice Law and Policy Center, and a former policy organizer with NY Renews.
  • Rev. Dr. Gregory Simpson is the pastor of Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church in Pearl River and cofounder of the Hudson Valley Environmental Justice Coalition. A leader in local environmental and climate justice issues, Rev. Simpson is also a STEM educator and consultant with a doctorate in organic chemistry. Among other volunteer work, he serves on the boards of Riverkeeper, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and Ulster County Community College.

Moderated by Lissa Harris, climate reporter for The River.

No Way to Grow Up: A Conversation with Students and Teachers About COVID and Schools

The pandemic has pulled America’s education system into an unprecedented crisis. Students have fallen behind in school and missed out on key life rituals. Teachers, already stretched thin before COVID, must now also enforce ever-shifting health guidelines while dealing with staff shortages. Parents are frustrated and fearful. Rates of depression and anxiety in young people have skyrocketed. What are the long-term effects of this emergency?

In this virtual conversation, we talked with students and educators about learning loss and social isolation, the future of education, and what it’s like coming of age amid the cascading crises facing young people today.

Panelists: Dr. Karla Vermeulen, associate professor of psychology and deputy director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at SUNY New Paltz; Amayah Spence, a senior at SUNY New Paltz studying psychology and journalism, and the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, the Oracle; Sophie Frank, a senior at Onteora High School who has written for The River about virtual learning and teen mental health during the pandemic; Shanna Andrawis, a social studies teacher at Poughkeepsie High School; Alicia Curlew, a social studies teacher at Onteora High School.

Moderated by Phillip Pantuso and Rayan El Amine of The River

The Climate Act: Tackling the Hard Parts

New York’s Climate Leadership and Protection Act is one of the most ambitious climate laws in the world. It requires New York to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050. To get there, epochal shifts will need to happen across industries. On a practical level: What is it going to take actually to weatherize all those buildings? How are we going to get all that solar built? How can we ensure that underserved communities participate in the scoping of the CLCPA and benefit from its climate justice provisions?

Panelists: Melissa Everett of Sustainable Hudson Valley; Ryan Hawthorne of Central Hudson; Sameer Ranade of NYSERDA; and Luis Aguirre-Torres of the City of Ithaca.

Moderated by Lissa Harris of The River

How to Save Local News (We Hope)

It’s been a tough decade-plus for local media. Since 2008, US newsroom employment has fallen by 26 percent, a crisis that accelerated last year, when publications had to reduce their already meager staffs. One study estimates that journalism layoffs more than doubled in 2020, and dozens of outlets have ceased publication entirely since the start of the pandemic.

These cutbacks are hitting local media hardest. Here in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, the past few years have seen the shuttering of several longtime local newsweeklies and layoffs at larger daily papers. At the same time, the need for reliable local reporting has never been more clear—nor more urgent. Into the void of local news has flowed partisan hyperbole, unverified social media posts, and harmful disinformation. The ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the perilous threats posed by climate change, the reinvigorated struggle for social and racial equity: all of these are huge stories playing out on the community level.

Fortunately, there is a lot of energy being put toward ensuring local journalism remains alive and well. And that’s happening here, as well. In this roundtable discussion, we talk with journalists and publishers who are working on new models of journalism, or reimagining existing publications to ensure they remain vital to their readers.

Panelists: Tim Bruno, general manager, WJFF Radio Catskill; Chip Rowe, editor, The Highlands Current; Alex Shiffer, publisher, Kingston Wire; Genia Wickwire, associate publisher, Ulster Publishing; Pete Kramer, reporter, USA Today Network New York, and member of Hudson Valley News Guild.

Moderated by Phillip Pantuso and Lissa Harris of The River

How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Climate?

In this conversation, expert panelists working on a broad range of climate solutions throughout the region talk about their work—and the change that lies within our grasp, even in the midst of a complex global disaster.

Climate change isn’t coming—it’s here. Average temperatures are rising, and extreme weather is intensifying. The Hudson River has risen a foot over the past century, and is on track to rise six feet or more by 2100. To protect communities in the Hudson Valley and Catskills from the worst impacts, we need to decarbonize the economy. But we also need to adapt to the change that has already begun.

Panelists: Aaron Bennett, certified floodplain manager and environmental planner for Ulster County; Ben Dobson, founder of Hudson Carbon and farm manager of Stone House Grain; Melinda McKnight, vice president of Energy Conservation Services; Nava Tabak, director of science, climate, and stewardship at Scenic Hudson; Andrew Willner, sail freight advocate and founder of the Center for Post Carbon Logistics; Rich Winter, CEO of Delaware River Solar and grass-fed beef farmer.

Moderated by Lissa Harris, staff writer at The River, and Jen Metzger, former New York State senator and policy advisor for New Yorkers for Clean Power

A Forum on Affordable Housing Solutions in the Hudson Valley

There has been a lot of reporting—in our pages and elsewhere—and several events about the affordable housing crisis in the Hudson Valley. That problem, which predates the pandemic but has been exacerbated by it, is well-described and understood. More vexing is how to address it.

What are the most interesting ideas people have right now about housing? This conversation covers that topic, including: legislative and policy fixes, nonprofit solutions, progressive economic development initiatives, and more. Panelists present what they’re working on.

Panelists: Christa Hines, executive director, Hudson River Housing; Richard Heppner, Woodstock town board member, chair of short-term rental committee; Neil Bettez, New Paltz town supervisor; Revonda Smith, board chair, Hudson Housing Authority; John Cappello, Jacobowitz & Gubits; Guy Kempe, VP, community development, RUPCO; Jennifer Welles, executive director, Newburgh Community Land Bank; Anthony Tampone, Kingston Code Reform Advocates; Rashida Tyler, Real Kingston Tenants Union and Ulster County Coalition for Housing Justice.

Moderated by Phillip Pantuso, managing editor of The River, and Joe Czajka, senior vice president, Pattern for Progress

Future Forward: Envisioning Environmental Change in the Hudson Valley

Climate change calls for urgency—and as we saw with the global pandemic last year, big, rapid shifts really are possible. What could we do within just the next decade to make the Hudson Valley more resilient?

We’re asking local environmental leaders and activists what they envision in their areas over the next decade, and just as importantly, how we get there. From freezing produce from local farms for food pantries to ensuring that wildlife have sufficient habitat to prevent future pandemics, we’re inspired by their ideas.

Panelists: Barbara Han, disease ecologist, Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies; Stiles Najac, food security community liaison, Orange County Cooperative Extension; Hugo Jule-Quintanilla, electric vehicle advocate, Sustainable Hudson Valley; Vic Barrett, climate activist, Our Children’s Trust.

Moderated by Phillip Pantuso, managing editor of The River, and Hayley Carlock, director of environmental advocacy for Scenic Hudson

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About COVID—But Were Afraid to Ask

In 2020, we aggregated and contextualized COVID-19 news from the federal, state, and local levels, and we produced original enterprise reporting and feature writing on the myriad ways the pandemic is affecting the political, economic, and cultural life of our region.

But the situation is ever-evolving, and there are still a lot of unknowns. For this event, reporters from The River host a virtual conversation with panel guests from the public health, local business, and community service worlds, and answer reader questions about the pandemic—from its effects to what it’s like to cover it.

Panelists: Diana Mason, Senior Policy Service Professor for the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University School of Nursing and the host of “HealthCetera in the Catskills”; Jonathan Drapkin, President and CEO of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress; Marybeth Mills, owner and proprietor of Peekamoose; Wilfredo Morel, Director of Hispanic Health at Sun River Health; Lissa Harris, staff writer for The River.

Moderated by Phillip Pantuso, managing editor of The River

Immigration Advocacy in the Hudson Valley

Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are facing perilous conditions. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is targeting all undocumented immigrants, and has recently stepped up its efforts in the Hudson Valley. As Michael Frank reported for The River, this prompted community members to organize and fight back against what they view as unjust federal policies targeting immigrants. Groups like the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, the Worker Justice Center, the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, and others are working to aid immigrants on a daily basis.

Panelists: Father Frank Alagna, pastor of Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church and cofounder of the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network; Martha Tepepa, the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College; Diana Lopez Martinez, Community Organizer for Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson; Cecilia Cortina, Human Trafficking Specialist, Worker Justice Center of New York.

Moderated by Mariel Fiori, publisher of La Voz, host of “La Voz con Mariel Fiori on Radio Kingston”