2020 in Hudson Valley marked by trials, perseverance

For most of the world, 2020 has been a year many would just as soon forget.

The COVID-19 pandemic in March turned life upside down. Closed businesses rendered tens of thousands of Hudson Valley residents unemployed. Loved ones could no longer safely visit each other. Masks became a necessary part of every outfit, as we all struggled to keep up with what is considered “safe.”

But while the year was marked with confusion and tragedy — which promises to continue into 2021 even as the gradual rollout of vaccines is underway — the year was also marked with perseverance and community support that began even before the virus’ reach became evident.

A massive fire in the Village of Wappingers Falls in February prompted thousands of dollars in donations to help more than 30 residents and four businesses survive losing their homes and storefronts.

Individuals and groups sought to help the COVID-19 relief efforts in any way they could, by sewing thousands of masks for first responders and other essential workers to use, in addition to fundraisers to help those in need.

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And, in the wake of a Black man’s death under the knee of a white Minnesota police officer, which reignited a national conversation regarding the urgent need to create true equality in the country, Hudson Valley residents banded together to be heard with marches, protests and demonstrations.

High school seniors missed out on traditional graduation ceremonies, but were given unique drive-in or distanced experiences at which to celebrate.

Dutchess County residents found success in the professional sports world, and the Hudson Valley Renegades expanded their footprint in the baseball world.

And, despite unprecedented hurdles regarding safety precautions, mid-Hudson Valley residents flocked to cast ballots and be heard in school budget and government elections.

These are the moments that made 2020:


Jan. 1: State Police Investigator Ryan Fortini, a former Dutchess County resident, dies of cancer believed to be caused by his work during the 9/11 response in Manhattan.

Jan. 1: Dutchess’ ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect, two months before a similar statewide ban.

Jan. 6: Vassar College graduate Shoshanah Bewlay is appointed executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government.

Jan. 8: Dover Greens, the Olivet system company tasked with maintaining and developing the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center, agrees to pay $575,000 in damages stemming from environmental violations during its cleanup of the Wingdale site in October 2013.

Jan. 15: The state Liquor Authority’s board approves Dutchess extending the hours county liquor and wine stores to remain open, allowing them to operate until 9 p.m. each day.

Jan. 22: Fishkill Police Chief James Schepperly is voted out of his position by the town board, less than two weeks after a lawsuit was filed against him alleging he violated an officer’s freedom of speech.

Jan. 26: Late former Dutchess Junction resident Pete Seeger wins a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Historical Album for “Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection.”

Jan. 30: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Big Blue’s first female CEO, announces her retirement. The Armonk-based company announces Arvind Krishna will take over when she steps down April 6.

Jan. 31: Nicholas Harris and Dimetri Mosely plead guilty to murder in the March 2016 death of Poughkeepsie High School senior Caval Haylett Jr. They followed Jaquez Hill, who pleaded guilty to murder the previous August.

Jan. 31: Robert Gropper, owner of “My Brother Bobby’s Salsa” announces the local company would stop operating after 27 years.


Beacon Engine Company #1 on East Main Street on February 04, 2020.

Feb. 4: Beacon City Mayor Lee Kyriacou announced the city would leave the historic Beacon Engine firehouse, which dates back more than 130 years, in favor of investing in its two remaining firehouses.

Feb. 5: The City of Poughkeepsie’s Italian Center, the home for Italian Americans of the Hudson Valley for 90 years, is put on the market, listed at $1.7 million.

Feb. 7: Roger Kahn, a Stone Ridge resident and author of “The Boys of Summer,” dies at the age of 92.

Feb. 10: The Village of New Paltz warns residents not to use its water while it investigates differences in taste and smell. Trace amounts of petroleum are later identified in the water, and residents are told they can resume drinking the water on Feb. 14.

Feb. 10: Sears, one of the Poughkeepsie Galleria’s longest-tenured stores, which had a location at the South Hills Mall before moving into the newer shopping center shortly after it opened, announces it is closing its Poughkeepsie location later in the year.

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Nicole Addimando reacts to Gail Grover's statement to Judge Edward McLoughlin on February 11, 2020. Addimando was found guilty of killing Gail's son, Christopher Grover in April 2019.

Feb. 11: Nicole Addimando, the Poughkeepsie woman convicted of killing her live-in boyfriend Christopher Grover, is sentenced to 19 years to life in prison. Addimando, who maintained throughout her trial that she killed Grover after suffering years of mental and physical abuse, was denied lenient sentencing under the state’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act on Feb. 5.

Feb. 14: The Town of Montgomery gives final approvals to allow Amazon to create a 1,010,880-square-foot warehouse.

Feb. 14: A jury awards Jerome Anderson, an inmate who was beaten by correction officers at Green Haven Correctional Facility, $650,000 in a civil trial at the federal courthouse in White Plains.

Feb. 25: A devastating fire at 10 Market St. in Wappingers Falls displaces all 32 of the building’s residents and four businesses. All residents escaped the three-alarm fire without injury. It’s later ruled the fire was caused by sparks created when a worker used a wheel grinder to replace a section of unsafe metal on a second-floor fire escape. In the aftermath, thousands of dollars are raised through online and in-person donations, spearheaded by local restaurants and Wappingers Falls government.

Feb. 28: The New Paltz boys basketball team and the Franklin D. Roosevelt girls basketball team each win Mid-Hudson Athletic League titles.

Feb. 29: Tyler Albis, a John Jay High School senior, wins the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division I 170-pound wrestling championship at the Times Union Center in Albany. He becomes the first Dutchess County wrestler to win a title in nine years.

John Jay-East Fishkill's Tyler Albis defeats Fox Lane's Quincy Downes in a 170-pound championship match at the NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championships at Times-Union Center in Albany on Saturday, February 29, 2020.


March 4: SUNY and CUNY announces it will return roughly 300 students and facility studying abroad in five countries due to growing concerns of the spread of COVID-19.

March 4: Maddy Siegrist, an Our Lady of Lourdes High School graduate, is named the Big East Women’s Basketball Freshman of the Year after averaging 19.1 points per game in her debut season at Villanova.

Lourdes alum Maddy Siegrist’s star continues to rise as she leads Villanova basketball

March 7:Wappingers Falls holds its St. Patrick’s Day parade days after the first COVID-19 case is diagnosed in New York.

March 7: Lourdes’ Michael Faughnan places third in the NYSPHSAA boys swimming and diving championships’ 500-yard freestyle at the Nassau County Aquatic Center on Long Island.

March 7: Franklin D. Roosevelt High School’s Sarah Trainor earns a NYSPHSAA indoor track and field championship in the 1,000-meter run in Staten Island.

FDR's Sarah Trainor crosses the finish line in the 1000-meter run during the NYSPHSAA Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island on Saturday, March 7, 2020.

March 11: Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 force state playoff high school basketball games to be played without spectators. Soon after, the state postpones the rest of its winter championships, and no more scholastic games are played until the fall.

March 12: State and county officials announce a Dutchess County resident has tested positive for COVID-19.

March 12: The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournaments are cancelled in advance of the Marist College women’s basketball team’s scheduled semifinal game abruptly midday, after tournament games were played in the morning.

March 13:Dutchess County declares a state of emergency after announcing its third confirmed case of COVID-19, and announces all schools will be closed for at least two weeks. No schools reopen for in-person instruction until the following fall.

March 22: All businesses deemed non-essential close in compliance with a state order. Restaurants are permitted to continue delivery and takeout operations with reduced staff and reduced hours.

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March 22: A 69-year-old man at MidHudson Regional Hospital becomes the first Dutchess County resident to die of reasons relating to COVID-19.

March 25: The Special Olympics New York Summer Games, scheduled to be held in Dutchess in June, are cancelled.


April 10: Anthony Molinaro, father of Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, dies at the age of 67 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

April 13: A storm that brought wind gusts exceeding 45 mph knocks out power for around 20,000 Dutchess residents.

April 16: The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health confirms there are nursing homes in the county that were assigned COVID-19 patients under a March 25 state mandate. To that point, there had been no confirmed instances of nursing homes taking in virus patients who were not already residents of the facilities.

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Sprout Creek Farm in the Town of Poughkeepsie on December 4, 2020.

April 17: Sprout Creek Farm, the longtime agriculture education site, announces it will close after Marist College announced it would pull funding of the LaGrange site.

April 17: “Friday Night In With The Morgans,” a virtual talk show hosted by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilarie Burton from their Dutchess County farm, debuts on AMC.

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April 21: Poughkeepsie Day School announces it will close after 86 years of operation due to declining enrollment and difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 22: Residents begin moving in to Hudson River Housing’s Fallkill Commons on Rose affordable housing development.

April 26: Beacon resident Bradley G. Pullman, 48, was shot and killed by police in Wayne, New Jersey after leading police on a high-speed chase through multiple municipalities.


May 1: Zeus Brewing Co. releases PK Bravest, a beer in honor of late Poughkeepsie firefighter Timothy Gunther and the city’s first responders.

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May 5: New York state reveals 4,813 nursing home residents died from COVID-19 to that point, about 1,700 more than previously disclosed.

Mark Ruffalo in HBO's

May 10:“I Know This Much Is True,” a limited series starring Mark Ruffalo, which filmed almost exclusively in the mid-Hudson Valley over six months, debuts on HBO. Ruffalo in September wins an Emmy for his work.

May 19: A Duane Street fire destroys and damages several buildings, displaces 12 residents.

May 21: Fishkill police charge Fishkill man Peter Churchill with second-degree attempted murder and vehicular manslaughter, among other charges, accusing him of stabbing his mother multiple times before striking and killing a pedestrian with his vehicle while attempting to flee.

May 23: Maurice Gordon, a Black Poughkeepsie resident and Dutchess Community College student, is shot six times and killed by Sgt. Randall Wetzel of the New Jersey State Police following a physical confrontation during a traffic stop in Bass River, New Jersey.

May 24: Longtime Dutchess County Legislature and City of Poughkeepsie Common Council member Barbara Jeter-Jackson dies at the age of 82.

May 25: Memorial Day celebrations are adapted amid the pandemic with socially distanced observances, including a countywide convoy of first responders and officials.

May 26: After a statewide shutdown of non-essential businesses, the Mid-Hudson Region enters the first phase of the state’s reopening protocols, which allow for construction and manufacturing to resume and curbside or in-store pickup for retailers.

May 27: Steven Ziskind, a six-year member of the Wiccopee Fire Company, is killed in a motorcycle crash at the age of 22.


June 2: Thousands attend the “We Can’t Breathe” march in the City of Poughkeepsie, one of several protests and marches in the Hudson Valley calling for an end to systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s Minnesota death under the knee of a white police officer. Roughly 100 people march across the Mid-Hudson Bridge in solidarity, and City of Poughkeepsie Police Chief Thomas Pape take a knee with 12-year-old protester Olivia Mima-Canadaon.

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June 4: The annual Dutchess County Fair is canceled over concerns relating to the pandemic.

June 11: Roy C. Ketcham product Ryan Murphy is picked in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the San Francisco Giants.

June 16: With all voting held through the mail, which led to three times as many ballots cast as the year before, every school district around Dutchess County passes their annual budgets.

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June 16: Webutuck High School holds its commencement at the school and Amenia’s Four Brothers Drive-in Theatre, kicking off a series of graduations around the mid-Hudson Valley adapted for safety amid the pandemic.

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June 20: Frederick Wells, a 16-year-old Poughkeepsie High School student, is shot and killed after a companion was stabbed in the area of North Bridge and Charles streets in the city.

June 21: A 24-year-old Red Hook mural that came under fire under accusations that it depicted slavery is painted over by the owner of the building on which it was painted.

June 29: Dutchess Community College announced Pamela Edington, the first female president in the school’s 63-year history, is retiring.

June 30: Dutchess County government offers employees incentives to leave their jobs amid a shortfall in the budget. Roughly 150 ultimately opt to accept the voluntary buyouts.


July 8: Rohan Stefon Brown, a City of Poughkeepsie resident who went missing in 2008, is found by state police in the Hudson River when his car is discovered during sonar training.

July 13: The City of Poughkeepsie approves the Right to Know Act, which will require police to explain to anyone they interact with who they are and why they were stopped, and guarantees that person can obtain a written record of the interaction. The following week, the City of Beacon announces a similar plan.

July 14: Fahim Saleh, a John Jay High School graduate and former Hopewell Junction resident turned internet mogul is found dismembered in his luxury Manhattan casino. His personal assistant, Tyrese Haspil, is charged in the murder three days later.

July 15: MidHudson Regional Hospital announces intentions to open a “satellite extension” of the Valhalla-based Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. It opens Sept. 2.

July 18: A protest in support of Black Lives Matter, and a counter protest in support of local police, sparks verbal abuse and physical violence in Pleasant Valley. Observations point to the physical interactions being racially motivated, as opposed to a difference of opinion toward law enforcement. Some participants in the law enforcement rally hurled slurs and stood in the path of the Black Lives protesters, and the two sides at times exchanged shoves and swings, with charges filed against individual parties in the aftermath.

July 21: Attorney William Wagstaff announces charges against sisters Jamelia Barnett and Julissa Dawkins stemming from a March 2019 incident in which police interacted with a scrum of teens in Poughkeepsie, have been adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.

July 30: The NBA resumes games for the first time since March in a “bubble” in Orlando that does not allow fans to attend. The sounds of fans and other game-like atmosphere used both in the arenas and on television broadcasts of the games is created by Red Hook company Firehouse Productions.


Aug. 4: Tropical Storm Isaias batters the mid-Hudson Valley with wind gusts ranging from 50-60 mpg and roughly an inch and a half of rain, knocking power out for more than 72,000 Dutchess residents. The region is under tornado and other storm watches through the day, and traffic and other means of travel are backed up by crashes and downed trees. Some do not regain power until the following Monday, with eastern Dutchess among the hardest-hit areas of the Hudson Valley.

Aug. 13: Wappingers Falls’ Tyler Adams becomes the first American soccer player to score a goal in Europe’s vaunted Champions League’s playoffs in the quarterfinals round or later. Adams’ goal in the 88th minute of his RB Leipzig’s quarterfinals match against Atletico Madrid gave his team a 2-1 win and a spot in the semifinals.

Aug. 14: After months of debate on the issue, Wappingers Central School District Board President John Lumia tells the Journal the question of renaming its use of the “Indians” mascot would be tabled for future consideration, as “We have more pressing issues that we have to address,” amid the pandemic. The school board the previous month agreed the mascot should be changed.

Aug. 15: Robert Trump, a Dutchess resident and older brother to President Donald Trump, dies at the age of 71. The cause of his death was not released.

Aug. 15: Tyshawn Crosslands, a 24-year-old Yonkers man, is shot and killed in King Street Park in the City of Poughkeepsie.

Aug. 16: The Journal reports on a United Way analysis that showed 37% of Dutchess County households did not make enough to meet the basic needs to survive or fell below the poverty line in 2018. The United Way’s ALICE report is filed every two years and examines income vs. cost of living.

The Sojourner Truth monument in Highland is dedicated on August 26, 2020. From left are, Erik Kulleseid, New York State commissioner of parks, recreation and historic preservation, Cory Mcliechey, fifth generation descendent of Truth, Vinnie Bagwell, monument sculptor and Kathy Hochul, New York State Lieutenant Governor.

Aug. 17: A statue of Sojourner Truth, a famed abolitionist and suffragist who was born into slavery in Ulster County and died in 1893, is placed at the Highland side of the Walkway Over the Hudson. The statue is unveiled nine days later in a ceremony.

Aug. 19: Dutchess County and City of Poughkeepsie officials announce they have signed a memorandum of understanding to redevelop the city’s former YMCA property into the “Youth Opportunity Center.”


Staff an administration welcome students as they arrive at Pawling Elementary School on September 10, 2020.

Sept. 9: Some Pawling Elementary School students attend school in person, marking the first return to classrooms for Dutchess County students since March. Rhinebeck follows with a limited reopening the following day, and other districts soon join. By the end of November, each district is offering hybrid learning, mixing remote instruction with in-person instruction for those who opt to go to class; Poughkeepsie is the only exception.

Sept. 9: The NYSPHSAA postpones football, volleyball and cheerleading to March, and Section 9 postpones all fall athletics to March.

Sept. 21: In a continuation of a rash of gun violence incidents seen throughout the summer in the City of Poughkeepsie, 15-year-old Jalani Jones is shot in the head and killed in broad daylight near the intersection of Main and Clinton streets.

Sept. 23: City of Beacon and Dutchess County officials reveal a COVID-19 outbreak at Hedgewood Home for Adults. Before the outbreak was completely controlled roughly 75 cases were confirmed and seven residents died.

Sept. 25: The Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival, delayed from early summer, is held with COVID-19 safety in mind. The spectators were asked to stay in or by their cars, and the festival aspects that have accompanied the balloon launches in recent years were scrapped.

Sept. 30: The annual Woodstock Film Festival begins with adjustments for safety amid the pandemic. One of them is, for the first time, holding events in Poughkeepsie at the Overlook Drive-in Theatre, with all events held at drive-ins around the region or streamed online.


Oct. 5: The City of Poughkeepsie Common Council gives developer Joseph Bonura Jr. a deadline to make progress on the long-gestating multimillion-dollar Poughkeepsie Landing Project and sign a lease that was negotiated before he petitioned to make changes to the project parameters. Though Bonura at the time says he intended to sign the lease, two of his development companies in November sue the city, claiming the council is illegally attempting to renege on its agreements regarding a site plan and payment in lieu of taxes. In December, Bonura charges the city $2.5 million to reimburse him for work done.

Oct. 8: IBM announces plan to spin off a $19 billion portion of its business to focus on cloud computing.

Oct. 13: Dutchess County releases four design concepts for how the exchange between routes 9 and 44/55 may be reworked in the next step in a long-range project that hopes to relieve traffic and confusion in the area.

Oct. 16: Anthony Gray, a 55-year-old Army veteran staying at Liberty Station veterans shelter in Poughkeepsie, is stabbed to death. Anthony Jackson Jr., a 21-year-old city resident, is charged with second-degree murder six days later.

Oct. 20: Poughkeepsie City School District voters approve two propositions totaling $98.79 million in capital improvements for renovations to all district school buildings and the implementation of facilities and infrastructure to update its curriculum.

Oct. 24: The first day of early voting in New York sees thousands of Dutchess County residents visit the polls, some waiting multiple hours to cast a ballot. For the nine-day period, 33,432 ballots are cast at the county’s five early voting sites.

Oct. 25: The Journal reports drug overdose deaths in Dutchess County in the first six months of the year increased by more than 50% over the same period in 2019, with experts telling the Journal the powerful drug fentanyl and isolation brought on by the pandemic are two key reasons.

Oct. 26: Wappingers Falls Mayor Matt Alexander announces his resignation, effective in December.

Oct. 27: Fishkill resident Joseph Reynolds receives medals earned serving during the Korean War for the first time in a ceremony with family and government officials in Newburgh.

Oct. 29: Hopewell Junction’s Spyros Panos, the former surgeon who previously went to prison after admitting to running a multimillion-dollar scheme that defrauded multiple health insurance providers and settled a medical malpractice suit with 255 plaintiffs for $140 million, again pleads guilty to health care fraud.


Nov. 3: Dutchess residents express relief after going to the polls on Election Day, however the process of counting the record-number of absentee ballots leave some races in doubt for weeks. Ultimately, local voters favor President-Elect Joe Biden over the incumbent Trump, maintain their existing Congressional leadership and broadly support incumbents.

Thomas Smith of the Village of Wappingers Falls brought a chair from home to make waiting on the long line to vote easier on November 3, 2020.

Nov. 4: Marist College school officials announce a campus lockdown amid its second outbreak of the fall involving at least 30 positive COVID-19 cases. The outbreak proves to be the biggest known incident throughout the county since the first surge of the virus ended, with more than 100 cases confirmed among its college community. The college lifted its pause after roughly two weeks.

Nov. 7: The New York Yankees announce Fishkill’s Hudson Valley Renegades will be its new full-season Class A team. The move ends the Renegades’ relationship of roughly 25 years with the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Nov. 11: Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation to designate a portion of Route 55 West in the City of Poughkeepsie “Firefighter Tim Gunther Memorial Highway,” after the Poughkeepsie firefighter who died in the line of duty responding to a call May 4, 2015.

Nov. 17: The Journal reports Amazon is planning to create a roughly 630,000 square-foot warehouse on part of the former IBM west campus in East Fishkill. The project had been moving through town and Industrial Development Agency approvals processes under code names for weeks leading up to the report, which was confirmed by Dutchess County and announced soon after.

In this March 11 photo, Beacon's Elijah Hughes celebrates a 3-pointer while playing for Syracuse against North Carolina in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was Hughes' last game, as the rest of the season was cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nov. 19:Beacon resident Elijah Hughes is picked in the second round of the NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, as part of a trade deal in which the Pelicans sent Hughes to the Utah Jazz.

Nov. 24: City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison tests positive for COVID-19. He recovers with non-serious symptoms.

Nov. 30: Village and Town of Pawling residents vote against consolidating into one municipality, but officials say the two entities will work together in the future on sharing services to reduce tax costs for residents.


Dec. 1: An indictment of 18 alleged members of the “Untouchable Gorilla Stone Nation” gang details robbery, racketeering and drug distribution activity across the Hudson Valley. One of the alleged members, Brandon Soto, is charged in the murder of Poughkeepsie’s Jalani Jones.

Dec. 11: The NYSPHSAA cancels winter sports state championships amid the rising cases of COVID-19 across the state. Winter high school sports in general will not be held in the Hudson Valley until at least January.

Dec. 15: Dr. Maqbool Murtuza, an intensive care physician at MidHudson Regional Hospital, receives the first COVID-19 vaccination at a Dutchess County hospital on a day when health staff across the Hudson Valley begin to receive doses.

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Dec. 15: Dutchess’ three hospitals have a total of 110 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, establishing a new all-time, single-day high count for the county.

Dec. 16:A nor’easter drops more than a foot of snow on most of Dutchess County, and in some parts upwards of 20 inches, but relatively few emergencies are reported resulting from the storm, which ended before noon the following day.

Dec. 16: Manny Blanco, the longtime Spackenkill High School boys soccer coach, dies after a nearly year-long battle with prostate cancer.

Dec. 18: The 10,000th case of COVID-19 for a Dutchess resident is confirmed.