Year in Review: The Hudson Valley’s Most Unforgettable Moments in 2015

From tragic deaths to Hudson Valley firsts, we take a look back at the year’s most memorable moments

From tragic deaths to Hudson Valley firsts, we take a look back at the year’s most memorable moments. Begin slideshow »


Mario Cuomo being sworn in as Governor of New York State, 1987

Photograph by Kenneth C. Zirkel

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He wasn’t from the Hudson Valley, of course, and he never lived here (unless you count the Governor’s Mansion in Albany), but Mario Cuomo — who passed away on January 1 at the age of 83 — left a legacy that touches every New Yorker. After all, he was longtime governor, would-be presidential candidate, inspiring orator, and father of our current governor, Andrew Cuomo. As President Barack Obama said, he “paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service — and we are all better for it. He rose to be chief executive of the state he loved, a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity. His own story taught him that as Americans, we are bound together as one people, and our country’s success rests on the success of all of us, not just a fortunate few.”


Ward Gate at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson

Measles, once thought to be eradicated in the US, returned with a vengeance in 2015, and Bard College was almost an epicenter. Between January 1 and September 18, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 189 people from 24 states and the District of Columbia contracted measles, and one of those was a student at the Annandale-on-Hudson campus. The student, who had traveled to Penn Station by Amtrak, was put in quarantine, and local, county, state, and federal health officials responded effectively to contain the disease to this one case. In fact, the county Department of Health held a measles vaccination clinic for Bard students, faculty, and staff, vaccinating more than 120 people on campus. Vaccination is the best protection against the virus, which can lead to complications that include encephalitis and pneumonia, and is potentially fatal.

Related: After Measles Case at Bard College, Should We Be Worried?


On February 3, a passenger train on Metro-North’s Harlem Line crashed into an SUV at a grade crossing between the Valhalla and Mount Pleasant stations, killing six people and injuring 15 others. At that point in 2015, it was the deadliest passenger-train accident in the US since a crash on the Washington Metro in 2009. It’s also considered the deadliest collision in Metro-North’s history, though it came only 14 months after the first Metro-North train crash to result in passenger fatalities. So, what happened? After an accident earlier in the evening on the Taconic State Parkway, traffic was detoured to alternate routes, one of which was through the train crossing. The driver in the SUV became stuck inside the crossing gates when they descended. The crash tore loose more than 450 feet of third rail, which pierced the car and continued into the train.

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Related: Metro-North Crash: 6 Killed, More Than 15 Injured in Collision Between Train and SUV


Tali Lennox Fruchtmann and boyfriend Ian Jones, who drowned in a kayak accident

It was a bad year for kayakers. On April 19, Angelika Graswald, 35, and her fiancé, Vincent Viafore, 46, were paddling back from Bannerman Castle when his kayak capsized and he drowned. Ten days later, she was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The police say she tampered with his kayak, made conflicting statements about his death, pulled a potentially lifesaving paddle away from him, and “felt happiness” about his death — perhaps because of the $250,000 in life insurance she stood to collect.

In August, Ian Jones, 32, the boyfriend of singer Annie Lennox’s daughter, Tali Lennox Fruchtmann, drowned near the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club. Fruchtmann, 22, who is known as Tali Lennox, was rescued after their kayak capsized. There was no suspicion of foul play.

Related: Daughter of Annie Lennox Rescued; Boyfriend Confirmed Dead in Kayak Accident

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Photograph by Charlotte Kopp

The Walkway became a runway on June 13, when the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park hosted its first series of races — a marathon, half-marathon, and a 5K — each of which crossed the 1.28-mile-long pedestrian bridge. The event drew more than 2,500 athletes from 31 states and six countries, and an equal number of spectators, supporters, and volunteers. It also followed 13 “committed practices” set by Athletes for a Fit Planet, in order to be deemed the first “Green Race” in New York State. The event further demonstrates just how meaningful the Walkway is to the quality of life in the mid-Hudson Valley.

Related: Walkway Over the Hudson Prepares For Its First Marathon


On Sunday, June 28, Bannerman Castle was transformed from mysterious water-bound derelict to magical light show when Constellation, a large-scale public art project, debuted over the ruins on Pollepel Island, just south of Beacon. The work of Melissa McGill — a Rhode Island School of Design grad who, in 2014, became the first artist-in-residence at Manitoga in Cold Spring — comprised 17 points of light, all at different heights, appearing one by one in the night sky, complementing the natural stars with a new constellation.


“My work has always been about absence and presence, what is there and what is not,” McGill said. “So, these stars mark a path that refers to the original complete structure that was once there. It also refers to a Lenape belief [that spoke of] the White Road, or Milky Way, which connects this world to the next. The project connects the two sides of the river; it connects the sky to the water; it connects the past to the present. It acts as a path of stars connecting all these different ideas.”

Constellation, which will remain in place for two years, wasn’t the only “happening” at Bannerman Castle this year. On August 7 and 8, the Newburgh-based company Just Off Broadway presented the musical Man of La Mancha, and the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival offered An Iliad on August 22 and 23.

Related: Bannerman’s Big Year


Photograph by Phil Mansfield/Culinary Institute of America

Beer has grown up. Once the ugly stepchild of the food world, beer is now so snobbishly trendy, even the estimable Culinary Institute of America recognized its worth when it opened a new on-campus brewery this fall. Situated in the equally new student facility and recreation center known as The Egg, the sleek brewery will not only provide suds to the CIA’s four on-campus restaurants, but it will serve as a classroom for students to learn the yeasty arts in a course called the Art and Science of Brewing. The CIA is teaching students how to craft their own brews, which you can take home in growlers to sample.

Related: Culinary Institute of America Opens New Student Facility, The Egg


We in the Hudson Valley sometimes like to think we’re the center of the universe, but on September 27, the universe disabused us of that notion with one of the rarest and most spectacular celestial shows in recent memory — the total eclipse of the Harvest Moon. It occurred near the moon’s perigee, the point on its orbit when it’s closest to Earth, making it appear larger and redder and earning its nickname, the “Super Blood Moon.” If you missed it, don’t worry: You’ll have another chance for a Supermoon eclipse in 2033. Weather permitting.

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