hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires

 

News September 2019

 

A MONTH IN THE HILLS

Owners say immigration crackdown killed eatery

 

A Mexican restaurant that had been a mainstay of Hudson, N.Y., for the past 16 years shut down abruptly last month after its owners said they lost a number of key employees to the ongoing federal immigration crackdown.


Mexican Radio, which occupied a 3,800-square-foot space on a prime block of Warren Street, closed its doors Aug. 11. Nine days later, the restaurant announced on its website that the closing would be permanent.


The Register-Star of Hudson reported that the restaurant’s owners, Mark Young and Lori Selden, posted a statement lamenting the loss of “our Mexican Culinary Brothers.”


“Many of those same Culinary Brothers, who worked right beside us for close to 20 years and who were key to helping us launch all three Mexican Radio locations, have now been forcibly and violently ejected from this country, tearing out the very soul of our kitchen staff,” the owners wrote.


Young and Selden didn’t respond to the newspaper’s interview requests, and a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the paper that there had been no enforcement actions at the restaurant.


But Bryan MacCormack, the executive director of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, said his organization had worked previously with Mexican Radio employees who were detained by immigration officials.


“There have been at least 12 businesses in Hudson and Columbia County whose employees have been impacted by ICE raids over the past two years,” MacCormack told the paper. “This is the first, to my knowledge, that has closed.”


Mexican Radio got its start in New York City and opened its Hudson location in 2003. It later added a third restaurant in Schenectady. Its Manhattan restaurant closed two years ago, so the loss of its Hudson location leaves only the Schenectady site still operating.


By late August, the restaurant’s owners had removed their initial statement from its website and posted a new message.


“Though we stand by our statements, it was not our intention to insult or divide our community,” they wrote. “It is, in fact, a united community that we have always looked to develop, be part of, and serve.”


Two days after Mexican Radio closed, ICE agents took a woman into custody outside another Hudson restaurant, Casa Latina, on Green Street. The Register-Star reported that local sanctuary activists helped the family of the woman, who didn’t work at the restaurant, to post $5,000 bond, which allowed her to be released rather than being sent to an ICE detention facility.
An ICE spokesman confirmed “an enforcement action” at the restaurant but wouldn’t provide more details. Local activists said the woman was not from Hudson and was visiting the area.
MacCormack later told the paper that ICE was “blatantly racially profiling people.”
“I talked to people in local businesses in Hudson who have been stopped in the streets, just walking, and asked to show their papers,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened at Casa Latina. A woman who was from out of town and who didn’t work at Casa Latina was just going there for lunch, and she was stopped on her way into the restaurant.”


In other news from around the region in August:

 

Judge allows class-action suit over PFOA
A federal judge has given a green light to a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Bennington residents who are seeking damages over local PFOA contamination.


The lawsuit against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics contends the contamination was released by former ChemFab plants that operated for three decades in the area, first in Bennington and later in North Bennington. Saint-Gobain acquired ChemFab in 2000 and ended its local operations two years later.


The Bennington Banner reported that U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford has allowed the lawsuit to go forward as a class action, allowing property owners in the contaminated area to join together rather than having to file individual lawsuits. The newspaper reported that, although the lawsuit currently names nine plaintiffs, there are hundreds more people in a state-identified contamination zone who could potentially join the class-action suit.


The PFOA lawsuit was filed in 2016, soon after perfluorooctanoic acid was found in about 400 drinking water wells in and around North Bennington. The chemical, which is suspected of being carcinogenic even at vanishingly small concentrations, also was discovered in 2015-16 in drinking water near current and former industrial facilities in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and Pownal.


Although its use was phased out about a decade ago, for much of the late 20th century PFOA was used in the manufacture of a wide range of products, including nonstick pans, stain-proof fabrics and heat-resistant wiring.


In Bennington and North Bennington, ChemFab applied Teflon coatings to fiberglass fabrics. The lawsuit claims ChemFab released PFOA into the air from its local plants, spreading through the environment and eventually contaminating underground water supplies over a wide area.
Many homes and businesses in the affected area are being connected to Bennington’s municipal water lines, which aren’t affected by the contamination. Saint-Gobain has agreed to pay $40 million, under two consent agreements with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, to cover the water line extensions.

 

Scenery-viewing train car won’t return
A scenic-dome railroad car that provided foliage-viewing trips through Saratoga and Washington counties for the past decade or more won’t be returning to the area this fall.


The Times Union of Albany reported that Amtrak, the national passenger railroad, has retired its Great Dome Car, which for years spent its Octobers traveling in Amtrak’s “Adirondack” train between Albany and Montreal.


The two-level passenger car had a glassed-in upper level that stretched the length of the car, offering travelers a commanding view of the fall foliage as the train rolled through the upper Hudson and Champlain valleys.


Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams told the newspaper that “due to the age and expense of maintaining this vintage car, the Great Dome Car will no longer operate as part of Amtrak’s fleet.”
Gary Prophet, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, said the car’s demise would be a big loss to travelers.


“I’m very sad and disappointed that they decided to retire it and not make the necessary repairs to bring it back into service so passengers could enjoy it during the autumn season,” Prophet said.

-- Compiled by Fred Daley