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Saturday outreach puts a 'friendly' face on cement plant opposition

Volunteers leaflet, gather signatures, and discuss the plant face-to-face all over Columbia County

Over 30 Friends of Hudson volunteers greeted their neighbors and engaged in face-to-face discussions on sidewalks all over Columbia County this Saturday morning, October 19th. Towns covered this weekend included Ancram, Claverack, Copake, Craryville, Germantown, Hollowville, Hudson, Kinderhook, Philmont, Spencertown, Stuyvesant and Valatie.

Volunteers found that opposition to the project had grown substantially in the two years since the organization mounted a more limited sidewalk campaign two Falls ago.

Claverack resident Ian Nitschke offered information and answered questions in the parking lot outside the Claverack post office and food market, along with fellow full-time residents Cyndy Hall, a teacher in the Hudson Middle School, and Dr. Jeffrey Monkash, former president of the Columbia Memorial Hospital medical staff.

Nitschke, who was part of the earlier effort, found that "many people who said they supported the plant two years ago were now eager to hear an update, and signed our petition." Before noon, Claverack and Hudson volunteers had already reported running out of petitions to fill and flyers to hand out, 900 of which were distributed among all the teams of volunteers. A one-page factsheet, a visualization of the proposed plant, and a copy of a recent New York Times editorial against the project were among the handouts offered.

Volunteer Jennifer Berne-Nickerson collected 36 new petition signatures in Ancram alone in a matter of two hours. Moisha Blechman, who leafletted in the center of Copake, reported that the opposition of Columbia Memorial Hospital doctors seemed to carry a lot of weight with some residents. "The doctors are against it, and that's all I need to know," one pedestrian told her.

"No one turned down our information, and everyone was friendly," said Allen Street resident Ellen Thurston, who was joined by Union Street residents Bill and Betsy Hamilton, and who spoke with pedestrians on South 4th Street.

Based on the success of this effort, Friends of Hudson plans to extend the effort to other County towns and into neighboring counties. Now with over 10,000 petiiton signers and over 3,000 donors, Friends of Hudson is the largest membership organization based in Columbia County.