Cynthia Nixon Pledges to Value Human Lives over Corporate Ties

By Jorja Rose '18

 Cynthia Nixon speaks at today's press conference. Photo by Jorja Rose.

Cynthia Nixon speaks at today's press conference. Photo by Jorja Rose.

 From left to right: Hoosick activist Michele Baker, former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, and candidate Cynthia Nixon.

From left to right: Hoosick activist Michele Baker, former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, and candidate Cynthia Nixon.

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon stopped just west of Bennington College today to address the issue of PFOA contamination in the Village of Hoosick Falls. Nixon, the Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress best known for her role as Miranda Hobbes in Sex and the City, announced her candidacy March 19 and will challenge Governor Andrew Cuomo in the state’s Democratic primary this June.

Hoosick Falls residents discovered perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in their groundwater nearly four years ago. The chemical is a byproduct of plastics manufacturing, and studies have linked it to several forms of cancer. The state response to the contamination has been slow, and many locals blame Cuomo and his administration for not releasing information about the pollutant soon enough, or pushing Saint-Gobain, the corporation responsible for the contamination, to pay for damages.

Nixon connected with members of the community today, many of whom have come to distrust the Cuomo administration and are looking for change. She also received an official endorsement from former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, who served in the agency under Obama. She became a local hero when, in 2015, she broke the news of PFOA contamination to Hoosick Falls residents and advised them to stop drinking the village water immediately. Since leaving the EPA, she has remained vocal about water contamination in and around Hoosick Falls, and even gave a lecture at Bennington College last month.

“I’m here to endorse Cynthia Nixon in her candidacy,” Enck announced this afternoon while standing on a staircase inside the historic Delaney Inn, now a private residence, at the junction of Routes 22 and 67 in North Hoosick. “I’m endorsing Cynthia Nixon to be your next governor for three reasons: one is, she will be an extraordinary environmental leader, and she’ll take the lessons we’ve heard today and translate that into more protective policies for children. Secondly, she’s honest. You don’t have to worry about her staff being indicted felons, which I think is a really good thing in government. And third, I think it’s really time for a woman to be governor in New York. I am tired of waiting.”

Nixon graciously accepted the endorsement and praised the work Enck has done in the area, remarking that the community might still be in the dark about PFOA if it weren’t for her. Nixon also criticized the slow pace at which the state seems to be moving on the issue.

“You are looking at a situation where the town of Hoosick Falls is now a Superfund site, which means that it is so incredibly polluted that it is both a state toxic site and a federal toxic site,” Nixon told the audience, which consisted of local residents and press. “The truth of the matter, though, is that the clean-up, despite those two designations, is not happening nearly fast enough. And we need to see the factory that’s responsible, Saint-Gobain, be responsible.”

Continuing her critique, Nixon added, “Our state government, not only were they slow to move. What was discovered was that our State Department of Health already knew that the water was contaminated for more than a year, that residents were unknowingly poisoning themselves and their animals and their children, sometimes their children in utero, and rather than warning people about this, rather than saying, ‘Don’t drink the water, it’s poison,’ they were actually in back rooms trying to negotiate with Saint-Gobain, the corporate polluter.”

As first steps to addressing the problem, Nixon suggested medical monitoring and putting pressure on Saint-Gobain to pay up. “We need Saint-Gobain to foot the bill for fixing the problem, for fixing their own mess,” Nixon said. “Lest we shed a tear for them and the very large amount of money that this will cost, we should remember that they are an international corporation that makes around one and a half billion dollars per year. They can afford to clean up their own mess. And if they can’t, I would suggest that State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman look into this and hold them legally accountable.”

She continued, “What we need next is medical monitoring, because we’ve only really been publicly aware of this problem for a few years, but this pollution has been going on for literally generations. And some of the health effects have come out, but we really have no idea what health effects will be coming out in the future.”

Driving home her point, Nixon finished, “We need a government that prioritizes the health and opportunity and well-being and happiness of its everyday people, not jeopardizes everything in their lives for the sake of cozying up to corporations, be they polluters or not. We have to weigh human life more heavily than we do the agendas of corporations.”

Student engagement with the PFOA issue continues here at Bennington College, where Professors David Bond and Janet Foley are teaching a class on the chemical for the third year in a row. Several students (myself included) doing projects on the topic will present their research at Bennington Works on Sunday, April 15.