For his 2003 documentary entitled "The Hudson: America's First River," journalist Bill Moyers interviewed Hudson River historian Roger Panetta on location at the Yonkers Power Station. Moyers used the power station to illustrate the Hudson's state of flux. To read the rest of the very insightful transcript, click here.

BILL MOYERS: Do you like to come to a place like this?

ROGER PANETTA: Yes. I find it recalls the history, brings it back to life. I to look at it before it’s completely covered. Because it reminds me if I look at a building like this that there’s a whole other history we tend to neglect.

BILL MOYERS: What was this?

ROGER PANETTA: This was the New York Central Yonkers Power Substation. It was built between 1896 and about 1906. And it housed the turbines which generated power for this whole section of the New York Central Railroad

BILL MOYERS: Well, this looks as if it were just left to die.


ROGER PANETTA: Yes. And when I look at this scene, it reminds me of one of the last in the series of paintings by Thomas Cole in the Course of Empire. In the last one, there’s a single classical column in which a vine is beginning to grow back over what is essentially the ruins of the great city. And I look at this, and this tells me that we’re really at a junction, a transition, between the old industrial Hudson and a different kind of Hudson. The question is: What are we going to do with this site and many other sites like that along the Hudson? And those are issues which all of these river communities are dealing with. And given the endurance of this first decision...this is a hundred-year decision we’re looking at, one can --

BILL MOYERS: You mean a hundred years ago they put this here and it’s lasted for a hundred years?

ROGER PANETTA: That’s right. As the industrial waterfront south and north of us, also dating to the 1880’s and the 1890’s. And in my mind, is the notion that the decisions being made now may also endure for a hundred years and they ought to be made with care. There’s pressure on this waterfront property now for development for improving the real estate base and the tax revenues of these communities The question is: What’s going to happen here in the future? What new future are we going to see?


© T.E. Rinaldi, 2006