Hinchey “passed away peacefully at his home in Saugerties this afternoon,” his wife, Ilene Marder, posted on Facebook shortly before 6 p.m. “He was a beloved statesman and cherished for his work in the community and nationwide.”GALLERY: Photos from Maurice Hinchey’s political career RELATED: ‘Reaction to the death of former U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey’...Marder issued a statement in June that said the former congressman had frontotemporal degeneration, a rare and terminal neurological disorder. She said he had been living with the diagnosis for some time.
a statement in June that said the former congressman had frontotemporal degeneration According to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, the disease results in progressive damage to the temporal and/or frontal lobes of the brain. The hallmark of the disease is a gradual, progressive decline in behavior and/or the use of language. As the disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult for those who have it to plan or organize activities, behave appropriately in social or work settings, interact with others and care for themselves.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said in a statement on Facebook Wednesday evening that Hinchey, a fellow Democrat, “was an extremely rare individual who fought tirelessly for all of us as well as our environment and courageously spoke truth to power in an unending effort to move our nation towards its full potential.”
“Ultimately, he transcended his position as congressman to not only positively impact generations within his district but indeed citizens all across America,” Hein wrote. “Though his loss is immense, his lessons and legacy will live on.”
Hein said he has ordered that flags at county building be lowered to half staff in memory of Hinchey, who he called “my dear friend and mentor.”
Ulster County Legislator David Donaldson, D-Kingston, said he learned of Hinchey’s passing from a nephew they had in common.
“Maurice was the best congressman we ever had,” Donaldson wrote on Facebook. “... A true hero has passed.”
Hinchey first ran to represent what then was a heavily Republican Ulster County in the state Assembly in 1972, but lost to incumbent H. Clark Bell. In 1974, Hinchey defeated Bell, a three-term incumbent, and soon after began serving on the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee. He was appointed chairman of the committee in 1979, a position he kept until he ran for Congress in 1992.
In 1992, Hinchey defeated Republican Robert Moppert of Broome County to begin his tenure in Congress. He retired from Congress at the end of 2012, citing health reasons as part of his reason for leaving office. In early 2011, Hinchey had been diagnosed with colon cancer and had at least two surgeries.
He retired from Congress at the end of 2012 Following his retirement, the city of Kingston named its Rondout Creek promenade for the congressman. Hinchey’s congressional district, originally the 26th and later the 22nd, always included the city of Kingston.
named its Rondout Creek promenade for the congressman The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development also named an interpretive center on state Route 28 in Mount Tremper in Hinchey’s honor.
named an interpretive center on state Route 28 in Mount Tremper in Hinchey’s honor Hinchey was born Oct. 27, 1938, in New York City and was raised in Manhattan and Saugerties. After graduating from high school, he served in the U.S. Navy and, after being honorably discharged, worked as a laborer for several years in a Hudson Valley cement plant before attending college. He worked his way through college as a toll collector for the New York State Thruway Authority. Hinchey earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1968 and a master’s degree in education in 1970, both from SUNY New Paltz. In 2012, the college awarded Hinchey an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
As chairman of the state Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, Hinchey led an investigation into Love Canal, the site of a 40-acre chemical landfill in the city of Niagara Falls, N.Y., that Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corp. sold to the local school board for $1 in 1953. An elementary school subsequently was built there, and a nearby residential neighborhood grew.
The Love Canal saga was the catalyst for the national legislation known as the Superfund Act, which requires polluters to pay taxes that are used to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites.
Hinchey also helped secure a $1 billion bond in the state Legislature as New York began its own Superfund program and he led the fight in Albany as an assemblyman, and later as a congressman, to force General Electric to pay for and carry out the cleanup of 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that the company had dumped into the Hudson River north of Albany from 1947 to 1977.
Hinchey also was instrumental in many other environmental initiatives and investigations while he was in the Assembly, including creating the Hudson River Valley Greenway to protect and preserve land along the river, promoting regulations to protect the New York City watershed, helping pass the nation’s first law to control acid rain and eliminating local landfills while increasing recycling and composting.
He also led an investigation into organized crime’s control of the garbage-hauling industry that led to the conviction of more than 20 criminal figures, including one for murder, between 1982 and 1992.
In his first year in Congress, Hinchey helped spearhead an effort to preserve more than 15,000 acres in Orange County’s Sterling Forest, which he described as “the last significant area of open space in the New York metropolitan region and an important watershed for southeastern New York and northern New Jersey.” Later, he wrote and pushed for the passage of legislation creating the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, which he has described as building on the Greenway legislation and giving the area more access to federal money.
One of Hinchey’s other environmental-related accomplishments was securing nearly $4 million in federal funding to help convert the old Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge into the Walkway Over the Hudson pedestrian park.
In 2009, Hinchey authored the appropriations language that initiated the Environmental Protection Agency’s study of hydrofracturing.
In addition to his environmental work, Hinchey also in 1999 pushed through an amendment that required the CIA to report to Congress on its involvement in the 1973 coup of Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. He also, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, secured billions of dollars in federal aid to, as he put it, spur job growth, improve public infrastructure, advance education and the arts, improve health-care facilities and services and support economic development in communities throughout his congressional district.
Hinchey also was opposed to President George W. Bush’s efforts to invade Iraq in 2003 and was an outspoken critic of the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program that was instituted under Bush.
In 2007, Hinchey led the effort to establish The Solar Energy Consortium, based in Ulster County.
The former congressman faced questions about whether a property he partly owned and on which the Diamond Mills Hotel and Conference Center sits in Saugerties could benefit from funding he secured for town of Saugerties infrastructure improvements.
The Washington Post reported in February 2012 that Hinchey was among “33 members of Congress who have steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or within about two miles of the lawmakers’ own property,” but Hinchey’s staff denied there was any conflict of interest regarding the hotel project.
Mike Morosi, Hinchey’s spokesman at the time, issued a statement to the Post saying the property in which Hinchey had less than a 1 percent stake did not connect to any sewer lines that were being repaired and that it was several blocks from crosswalks that were being repaired.
Hinchey also came under fire for, but was never implicated in, a scandal involving former Besicorp owner Michael Zinn, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to bypassing federal election laws by giving Besicorp employees $27,000 in cash and bonuses with the understanding that the employees, in turn, would donate the money to Hinchey’s 1992 congressional campaign. Zinn, who was Hinchey’s campaign finance chairman, served six months in federal prison and was fined $36,673. He died in a 2005 plane crash.
Early in his tenure as congressman, Hinchey was arrested for having a .32-caliber handgun in a carry-on bag at a Washington, D.C.-area airport. He pleaded “no contest” to the crime and was given a suspended sentence.
More recently, Hinchey was accused of striking a National Rifle Association member at the Rosendale Street Festival in 2008. A harassment charge stemming from the incident ultimately was dropped.
Read the full story