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Villages: Understanding Juneteenth

Asking questions and searching for answers about Juneteenth is exactly the point of this new national holiday. (Photo from National Museum of African American History and Culture – Gift from Princetta R. Newman)

by Alex Kratz

This week in the Villages: We look into the history and significance of Juneteenth, our newest national holiday. Meanwhile, a West Nyack man was charged with murder, a look at the best tacos in Rockland, an Airmont religious bathhouse comes under scrutiny, and kids as young as six months will now be eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Plus, more news, your weekly weather forecast, Covid updates, upcoming meetings and much more!

Editor’s Note: Send us all your feedback, ideas, news tips, meeting details and event announcements at

The History of Juneteenth

Whether or not you have today off for Juneteenth — now officially known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday — you should be asking yourself a couple of questions: What is Juneteenth? Why are we celebrating this day in our nation’s history?

Asking these questions and exploring their answers is entirely the point of creating the holiday, according to Frank Smith, the director of the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, DC.

Simply put, Juneteenth represents the day, June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas were officially read President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — effectively granting enslaved people their freedom some two and a half years after the proclamation was signed into law.

Here’s Smith discussing the significance of Juneteenth:

Here’s National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Oral History Specialist Kelly Navies explaining how the end of slavery didn’t become a reality for many enslaved people until the proclamation was enforced militarily and more about the significance of the Juneteenth holiday:

Here’s a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, also known as the “Negro National Anthem”:

For more on Juneteenth:

  • NPR explains four enduring myths about Juneteenth. The number one myth is about how crazy it seems that the last slaves in Galveston, Texas weren’t freed until June 19, 1965, two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1963. Yes, this is crazy. But the reality, according to NPR, is that everyone knew slaves were technically “free”, but that it didn’t become reality until the military finally made it to Texas to enforce the law. Navies discusses this phenomenon in more detail in the above video.
  • Check out the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Juneteenth reading list.
  • How to teach your children about Juneteenth and America’s legacy of slavery.
  • Casey Gerald writes in the NY Times about how people, especially Black people, should celebrate Juneteenth, at a time when racial equality remains elusive: “Instead of holding our breath, let us find the freshest air we can find and breathe it as deeply as we can, with joy. Let us grieve for our forebears and feel deep gratitude as we think of the enormous price our people paid so we could be free. Let us remember that despite the degradation of slavery, they lived fully human lives, too. They laughed. They loved. They dreamed. They ate sweet treats. Let us pray to them and say, this year and always: Thank you.”

In Other Local News . . .

  • A West Nyack man was arrested and charged with killing a man from Greenwood Lake. [LoHud]
  • The best tacos in Rockland County can be found at Craft Taqueria in New City, according to a new LoHud readers’ poll. Other receiving votes included Cielito Lindo in Valley Cottage, Taco Boys in Nyack, Sangria’s in Congers, and Tacos Marianita in Haverstraw.
  • State environmental inspectors and New Jersey officials are concerned about contaminated water runoff from a new religious bathhouse, known as a mikvah, being built in Airmont. [LoHud]
  • Paul Adler, the chief strategy officer for Rand Commercial, makes the case for “going green”, saying it’s not just about tree hugging, it’s just good business practice. [Rockland Biz Journal]

Weather Forecast

Looks like it will remain cooler — 60s and 70s — with rain possible for most of the week; with the sun breaking through and temps rising into 80s by Friday and staying there through Sunday. [National Weather Service]

Covid Update

Severe Covid cases and hospitalizations in Rockland County risen slightly the past week. As of June 17, the CDC is now classifying Rockland County at a “low” Covid threat level (we were in the “medium” zone from February through May). 

  • The “early warning” detector for Rockland is showing that the percentage of positive tests per day is up to 6.75% (up from 5.68% last week), with 59 new cases per 100,000 people, down from about 27 cases per 100K last week.
  • Severity of the cases remains low with 1.84 gross hospitalization per 100,000 people (up from 0.92 last week).
  • Hospital capacity in Rockland is not threatened.
  • A total of 17 people (up from 13 last week) in Rockland county were hospitalized for Covid related issues; 10 out of 17 of those patients were symptomatic.
  • With one new life lost over the past week, Rockland’s Covid-related death total is now up 1,189.
  • To find out what case and hospitalization trends look like in your town, click here.
  • Here’s the CDC’s data on Rockland.

Covid Testing and Vaccine Info

Kids as young as 6 months old are now eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

Get free at-home Covid tests sent to your home, visit Or pick them up at Village Hall in Nyack, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

More than 81.2% of eligible people in Rockland County are vaccinated with at least one dose. To schedule an appointment for a 1st dose, 3rd dose (for immunocompromised), or booster COVID-19 vaccine from any Rockland County Department of Health Clinic visit To search for additional COVID-19 vaccination opportunities nearby visit

Find a COVID-19 testing site near you, by visiting Individuals who have questions regarding eligibility or access for testing should call the New York State COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-364-3065 or visit the NYSDOH website

Village of Nyack Updates

The Board of Trustees meets on Thursday, June 23, from 7:30 – 10 pm. Here’s the agenda. Here’s the Zoom link.

If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the second draft of Nyack’s Appropriations budget (what they plan to spend). And the second draft of their Revenue budget (how they make their money). Not clear how or if it all those numbers have changed, but we’ll keep you updated. As of now, the budget is $6,055,600.91 coming in and going out 2022-2023.

Drop off humanitarian aid for victims of the war in Ukraine (, including first aid, painkillers, blankets, baby food, diapers, non-perishable food, antibiotics and more, at Village Hall, 9 N. Broadway (or at the Orangetown town hall, 26 W. Orangeburg Rd.).

Here’s the list of all upcoming meetings posted for the Village of Nyack.

Village of Upper Nyack Updates

Click here for updates from the Village of Upper Nyack.

Nyack Public Schools Updates

Let your voice be heard about Nyack public schools by filling out this “Community Pulse” survey.

Applications are now being accepted for universal pre-K and full-day kindergarten.

Masks are currently optional for all students and staff in all Nyack district schools.

However, they posted this notice on circumstances where masking would be required, including close contacts and other scenarios.

The district also posted a listing of resources for parents:

NYSED Social Emotional Wellness

NY Project Hope

Social Emotional Learning Parent Resources (Fordham University)

Find out what else is going on in Nyack-area schools at Home Page – Nyack Public Schools (

Town of Orangetown Updates

There are several meetings this week in Orangetown, click here to find out what, when and where.

Check out the draft chapters of Orangetown’s new 2022 Comprehensive Plan.

ICYMI: Here’s the official resolution Orangetown enacted with regards to the sale of two South Nyack properties, which appears to say the proceeds will go toward wiping out South Nyack’s debt, which is what South Nyack officials were lobbying for as the dissolution date approached.

Help limit greenhouse gasses and curb pollution by joining this new food scraps recycling program.

Check out the Orangetown YouTube channel, and this video of a recent special town board meeting, which included renderings of a new town hall.

Town of Clarkstown Updates

The Technical Advisory Committee, which “evaluates the technical adequacy of land development applications and decides their readiness for Planning Board review,” meets most Wednesdays, including Wednesday June 22, from 10 am to noon, in the town hall’s Historic Map Room.

Ambulance Corp Volunteers Needed

There is currently a nationwide shortage of EMTs and Ambulance volunteers. Within Clarkstown, there are five ambulance corps serving the community that are in dire need of volunteers. If you are interested, or know someone who may be please consider contacting and volunteering with one of these great organizations: Nyack, Congers/Valley Cottage, Nanuet, New City, or Spring Hill.

Rockland County Updates

Reviving Rockland Restaurants Grant Program

The Reviving Rockland Restaurants Grant Program will reimburse businesses between $5,000 and $25,000 for past expenses or fund future expenses for eligible outdoor dining COVID-19 mitigation equipment. Eligible entities include restaurants, food stands, food trucks, bars, saloons, lounges, taverns, bakeries, delis, cafes, breweries, wineries, and other similar places of business.

Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Tents
  • Heat Lamps or other electric heating equipment
  • Additional tables and chairs for outdoor dining
  • Market Umbrellas
  • Plexiglass Shields
  • Tarps
  • Patio Fencing

For more information and to download an application visit

The Dissolution of the Village of South Nyack

The Village of South Nyack officially dissolved on Thursday, March 31, 2022. All municipal services are now provided by the Town of Orangetown after that date. Police and DPW services transitioned to Orangetown on January 1, 2022. For more info on dissolution plans, visit here or here. No word yet on any movement to revive South Nyack’s villagehood. Please email us if you hear anything:

Editor’s Note: We want to hear from you! Send thoughts, ideas, news tips, as well as meeting and events announcements to us at


Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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