Hoosick Falls is a village in Rensselaer County, New York, United States. The population was 3,501 at the 2010 census. During its peak, in 1900, the village had a population of approximately 7,000.
The village of Hoosick Falls is near the center of the town of Hoosick on NY 22. The village center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Hoosick Falls Historic District. The village has a thriving early-20th century downtown commercial district, and many of the buildings have been restored. Recent commercial additions include a bakery/sandwich shop, a French restaurant, a coffee roastery, an art gallery and bistro, and a barbecue joint with a live music venue.
Painter Grandma Moses is buried in the village. The site of the British entrenchments at the Battle of Bennington, 6 August 1777, is nearby and is maintained as Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site.
Although this has been an issue of considerable debate, it's believed the first documented settlers came to Hoosick Falls, on the Hoosic River, around 1746. The French drove the settlers out in 1754 and most of the settlement was burned, but they returned and rebuilt after the French & Indian War ended. Hoosick Falls was incorporated as a village in 1827.
In 1852, a blacksmith named Walter A. Wood began manufacturing a reaper in Hoosick Falls. By the 1890s, the Walter A. Wood Mowing & Reaping Company was the largest farm machinery manufacturer in the world, taking up 85 acres (340,000 m2) on the west bank of the river. The Wood Company closed in 1924, mainly due to the introduction of John Deere's revolutionary self propelled farm equipment. Most of these facilities were used by the Colasta Corporation from the mid 1920s until the late 1950s. This company manufactured radio parts. Later, parts of this site were used as a lumber yard/hardware store. A rash of arson fires in the mid and late 1970s consumed the entire complex. The only buildings still in use today are outside of the main complex, the Interface Solutions Plant (formerly the Wood-Flong Paper Mill), which was Walter A Wood's steel foundry. The original Office Building is still present also.
Along with the Walter Wood plant, Hoosick Falls was a boomtown in the 19th century. Many other businesses came to town, creating growth and prosperity. Hoosick Falls once had factories that made paper, small numbers of appliances, glass, and some nominal soda and beer bottling plants. A large number of rich Victorian homes were built during this period and are still there today, most in good shape. Hoosick Falls also served as a regional center of trade and export. Local farmers and manufacturers would come to town to sell their goods and load them on rail cars bound for New York City or abroad. These goods consisted of manufacturers, grain, milk, livestock, construction materials (mostly slate and brick), paper & pulp, timber and beverages.
The Estabrook Octagon House, Hoosick Falls Armory, Hoosick Falls Historic District, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, and United States Post Office are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hoosick Falls and the region has long been a landing place for artists of various interests. Grandma Moses, the American folk artists who rose to fame after her work was discovered in Thorpe's Pharmacy in downtown Hoosick Falls by a passing New York City art dealer, was born close by and is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery. Jose De Creeft, the Spanish-born artist and sculptor best known for his sculpture of Alice in Wonderland in New York's Central Park kept a home in the village and is buried there. Jenny Holzer, the American conceptual artist, has lived just outside of the Village for years. Yucel Erdogan, the NYC artist and photographer, operates the 3rd Eye Gallery in a renovated department store in the downtown commercial district.
Hoosick Falls is noted for its murals and outdoors art displays. The downtown hosts two significant murals, one by local artist Roger Weeden, that depicts the Grandma Moses painting, "Wagon Repair Shop". The second is by regional artist Katie May Erskine, depicting an owl, reflecting the indigenous people's name for the location of the village: The Valley of the Owl.
A local company, Dodge Fibers Corporation, started producing Teflon-based products in 1955. This business was quite successful and later sold to larger companies. However, the industry generated chemical pollution, especially PFOA. Concern developed locally in 2014, and in December, 2015, the Village advised residents to use bottled water provided for free by Saint-Gobain, the current owner of the plastics facilities. In 2017, the Village constructed a reverse-osmosis carbon filtration water treatment system, and has since provided PFOA-free water to all residents, The NYSDEC unveiled a proposal on December 3, 2021 to construct two new water wells for the town at an estimated cost of $9.7 million. These wells will be located to the south of the town and connected to the existing water treatment plant.
The contamination of Hoosick Falls’ water was originally discovered by resident Michael Hickey following the death of his father from an aggressive kidney cancer, which was diagnosed after his retirement from the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant. Hickey noted the elevated rate of cancer diagnoses and deaths in their village, and began looking into the effects of the chemicals used in local manufacturing plants.
Over the years, several manufacturing plants in the area released waste containing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) into the surrounding environment. PFOA, which belongs to a group of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used to make household and commercial products, has been shown to cause reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Much of the focus of investigation and litigation has been on the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility, which is located next to the village water treatment plant and began manufacturing with PFOA in 1999.
Hickey tested water samples from his kitchen sink and businesses in the village, and discovered a PFOA level of 540 parts per trillion, exceeding the existing EPA guideline at the time of 400 ppt by 35%. In 2016, the EPA guideline was updated to 70 ppt following updated studies of the effects on animals and exposed human populations, the amounts in Hoosick exceeded this by 671%. As of June 2022, the EPA lowered the advised levels for PFOA to .004 ppt. The levels of PFOA present in Hoosick Falls’ water in 2014 exceeded this level by almost 135,000%.
The Village Board, which had allegedly denied requests from Hickey to test the water, did not issue a warning to the citizens of Hoosick Falls about the water until 16 months after Hickey’s findings. The EPA issued an advisory against drinking or cooking with the public water supply in November of 2015. In December 2015, the Village advised residents to use bottled water provided for free by Saint-Gobain, the current owner of the plastics facilities and the party responsible for the pollution mitigation.
In February of 2016 New York State added the Saint-Gobain facility to their Registry of Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites as a Class 2 site. In July of 2017, the EPA added the site to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), which lists priority sites in the United States in need of long-term cleanup efforts.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is leading the investigation and cleanup of the McCaffrey Street site, with support from the EPA. In June 2016 Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International were deemed “potentially responsible parties” for the contamination, and entered into a consent order with the NYSDEC. As an interim remedial measure to address the contamination, the two companies installed a granulated activated carbon (GAC) filtration system on the public water supply wells to treat the water in 2016. In 2019, they built a groundwater interceptor trench at the McCaffrey Street site to prevent contaminated groundwater from reaching public water wells.
In order to address the contamination to over 800 private wells, the state installed point-of-entry treatment systems (POET), which treat the water entering the building, reducing contaminants for safe drinking.
While the interim remedial measures addressed the immediate concerns of contaminated water, the corporations were also required to perform a remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) at the site in order to determine the nature and extent of the contamination and identify and evaluate cleanup alternatives. The NYSDEC reviewed a study submitted by the companies, which proposed five potential long-term water supplies, and opened up the proposal to public comment in the fall of 2019 through email, letters, and two public meetings. On December 3rd, 2021, the NYSDEC published their decision regarding the long-term water replacement, with two new groundwater supply wells to be developed and existing test wells south of Hoosick Falls to be converted to production wells at an estimated cost of $9.7 million.
In addition to the consent order, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Saint-Gobain and Honeywell, with 3M and DuPont Co. later being accused as well. In July of 2021 a preliminary settlement of $65.25 million was reached with Saint-Gobain, which provides current and former residents with compensation for potential health impacts due to exposure, compensation for the loss of property value following the addition of the area to the Superfund National Priorities List, compensation to those who had a private well contaminated ($7.7 million, 12% of total), case expenses and attorney fees ($13.4 million, 20% of total), compensation for the ten main plaintiffs that contributed significantly to the case ($250,000, .4% of total), and establishes a 10-year medical monitoring program ($23 million, 35% of total).
Throughout the court proceedings attorneys for Saint-Gobain and Honeywell moved for the case to be dismissed, claiming that “mere accumulation of elevated levels of PFOA in the blood did not constitute physical injury” and that “in the absence of physical damage, 532 Madison, 96 N.Y.2d 280, 727 9 N.Y.S.2d 49, precludes recovery in tort for harm that is exclusively economic, and that because ‘groundwater is not private property,’ plaintiffs could not base property damage claims on ‘alleged injury to groundwater’. Defendants also urged dismissal of all property claims of plaintiffs who rented their homes, on the theory that they lacked ownership interest, and dismissal of all claims of nuisance, on the theory that private nuisance is by definition a tort that threatens one or a few persons, not one that impacts the whole community”. These motions were denied by U.S. District Senior Judge Lawrence E. Kahn, when the defendants appealed, the denials were upheld by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Following the settlement, Lia T. LoBello, as spokesperson for the company, submitted the following statement:
"Saint-Gobain is pleased to have reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in the New York class action lawsuit. Since first learning about the issue of PFAS in Hoosick Falls, the company took a leadership position on this issue and we believe this agreement is indicative of that commitment. The health, safety and wellbeing of both our employees and the communities in which we operate are important to us, and we take that responsibility very seriously."
According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 1.7 square miles (4.4 km2), all land.
The village is divided by the Hoosic River.
Hoosick Falls is bisected by NY Route 22. Public transportation to and from the village is provided between Albany and Bennington, Vermont by Yankee Trails World Travel's weekday-running Albany-Bennington Shuttle bus.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,436 people, 1,382 households, and 880 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,998.8 persons per square mile (771.3/km2). There were 1,553 housing units at an average density of 903.4 per square mile (348.8/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 97.58% White, 0.55% African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.49% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.32% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.99% of the population.
There were 1,382 households, out of which 32.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.5% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.05. In the village, the population was spread out, with 25.9% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 19.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $36,731, and the median income for a family was $45,829. Males had a median income of $33,750 versus $23,313 for females. The per capita income for the village was $18,062. About 5.1% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.6% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.
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