John Cronin

Thinks like a politician, talks like a poet. ~ Time Magazine

“We all have a right-to-know the quality of our water before we drink it. Protection of human health on our rapidly changing planet demands it. Innovations in technology and policy will make it a reality, and prevent tens of millions of illnesses and deaths.” ~ John Cronin

Cronin to Congress: “Reform the Safe Drinking Water Act”/The Hill:

Cronin to Hochul: “Water Shouldn’t be a State Secret” /Times Union:

John is an acclaimed environmental advocate named a “Hero for the Planet” by Time Magazine for his groundbreaking work on New York’s Hudson River. He is executive director of the Center for Technology Policy and the Environment and its Blue Colab program at Pace University’s Seidenberg School for Computer Science and Information Systems. The Center is devoted to advancing technologies and policies that assure the public’s right-to-know the quality of their water. 

John’s environmental career began with the urging of folksinger Pete Seeger, whom he met at a dock restoration project on Beacon, NY’s Hudson River waterfront in 1973 (Photo: Pete and John discussing a Hudson River map display in Beacon). John began as a volunteer co-editor with Pete and Ed Renehan of the North River Navigator, Clearwater’s monthly newsletter at the time, and then was appointed a “River Rat” in the Pipewatch program under the direction of the first Hudson Riverkeeper, Tom Whyatt, appointed by the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA) in 1971. John’s Pipewatch investigations helped bring the first enforcement actions in New York State under the two-year old 1972 Federal Clean Water Act. John became Clearwater’s Environmental Action Coordintator, continuing his investigative work and helping to organize the first citizen movement to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, NY. 

John served as district project coordinator and environmental advisor for Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr., but resigned over Fish’s support for an anti-choice constitutional amendment. He joined the staff of the New York State Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, under its chairperson, state Assemblyman Maurice Hinchey where he advanced legislation and policies on coastal zone management, river protection, and closure of toxic waste sites. He served on a special staff investigating U.S. Army involvement in Love Canal, where his research into the history of secret Manhattan Project contractors in New York State revealed that Linde Air Products discharged uncontrolled radioactive wastes into the underlying aquifer in Tonawanda, NY. The Department of Energy subsequently ordered a cleanup. He left his state legislative job to spend three seasons as a Hudson River commercial fisherman and business agent for the New York State Commercial Fisherman’s Association.

In 1983, HRFA named John the second Hudson Riverkeeeper, after having served on the HRFA board since 1976. His 17-year stint as the pollution-fighting Riverkeeper began with a landmark victory against the Exxon Company which he caught sending oil tankers to rinse their holds in the Hudson, and pirate fresh river water for the company’s Lago refinery in Aruba. That year, John founded the Hudson Riverkeeper Fund, Inc. (HRF), with HRFA president Robert H. Boyle and environmental attorney Neal Brown, and served as executive director for both HRF and HRFA.  In 1992, on behalf of both boards of directors, Cronin and Brown formally consolidated the two organizations into Riverkeeper, Inc., a unique pairing of environmental and fishing interests. Together with the Environmental Litigation Clinic and its senior attorneys, Professors Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Steven Solow, and Karl Coplan, John helped bring a string of successful cases against corporations and government agencies that resulted in more than $25 million for river restoration.

The nation’s only water “Keeper,” John travelled the country helping to found Keeper programs on other waterways, and provided funds for some of the startups, incluging for Long Island Soundkeeper Terry Backer, and NY-NJ Harbor Naykeeper Andy Wilner. He and Backer co-founded the National Alliance of River, Sound and Bay Keepers, which Kennedy later reorganized and incorporated in 2000 as the Waterkeeper Alliance. Today, 360 water keepers work on six continents. (Pictured are the first WaterKeepers, attending an annual meeting of the National Alliance of River, Sound and Bay Keepers in Portland Maine, circa 1990. Rear, L-R: Michael Herz, San Francisco Baykeeper; Terry Backer, Long Island Soundkeeper; Joe Payne, Casco Baykeeper; John Cronin, Hudson Riverkeeper; Terry Tamminen, Santa Monica Baykeeper; Rick Dove, Neuse Riverkeeper. Front, L – R: Andy Wilner, NY-NJ Harbor Baykeeper; Cynthia Poten, Delaware Riverkeeper; Sally Bethea,Chattahoochee Riverkeeper; Ken Moser, Puget Soundkeeper; John Torgan, Narragansett Baykeeper.)

A multi-talented advocate, John was chief author and lobbyist for three major Hudson River laws including, while Riverkeeper, the Hudson River Estuary Management Act, considered a model for ecological management. He and Kennedy were chief environmental negotiators for the historic New York City Watershed Agreement, spurred by Kennedy’s research into the city’s non-compliance with the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.

Cronin and oil tanker
Cronin tracking an Exxon oil tanker off Hyde Park, NY. His investigations documented more than two dozen tanker rinsing events, including 1,500 ft. from the Port Ewen drinking water intake.
Watershed signing ceremony. L to R, seated, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, Governor George Pataki, Cronin, Westchester Executive Andrew O’Rourke. Rear, center: Pataki counsel Mike Finnegan, and Kennedy.

John’s affiliation with Pace University dates to 1986 when he co-founded the Environmental Litigation Clinic with Professors Nicholas Robinson, Richard Ottinger and Kennedy. In 1991, the Law School awarded him an Honorary Juris Doctor for his work on the Hudson and with the Clinic. In 1999, he was inducted as the university’s first Resident Scholar in Environmental Studies. Later, as full-time Senior Fellow for Environmental Affairs, he taught environmental policy, and co-founded the Environmental Policy Clinic with Professor Michelle D. Land, which, among many achievements, wrote and succcessfully lobbied the New York Elephant Protection Act prohibiting the use of elephants in circuses and other forms of entertainment. At present, in addition to directing Blue CoLab, he teaches advocacy skills in the Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy program, and is Land’s co-instructor in the Animal Advocacy Clinic, which helped lead passage of state legislation banning wildlife killing contests in New York.

Among John’s many honors are: Time Magazine Hero for the Planet; Honorary J.D., Pace University School of Law; Jefferson Gold Award for Public Service; Thomas Berry Environmental Award; American Fisheries Society William E. Ricker Award; EPA Region I Environmental Merit Award; EPA Region II Environmental Quality Award; Top 100 Irish-Americans; and Vanity Fair Hall of Fame.

John is co-author with Kennedy of the 1999 book The Riverkeepers, with an introduction by Vice-President Al Gore. His other writings include many popular and academic articles, and Op Eds on environmental policy for The New York Times, USA Today, The Hill, HuffPost, Times Union, LoHud, and the Earthdesk blog, where he was chief contributor and editor. He wrote and co-produced The Last Rivermen, a documentary film about the demise of the Hudson River commercial fishing industry, short-listed as a runner-up in 1992 Academy Award voting.

John has been profiled by many broadcast outlets, including: Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, CNN, Charlie Rose, Bill Moyers Reports, History Channel, Outdoor Channel, and more.

He has been the subject of three books and scores of print articles, including::

~ The Wall St. Journal: “A unique presence on America’s major waterways.
People Magazine: “Equal parts detective, scientist and public advocate.”
The New Yorker: “Professional responsibility and personal obsession meet on the river in John Cronin.”
Knight Ridder Newspapers: “A hero in one of the great success stories of the modern environmental movement.”

Honors and Awards
Honorary Juris Doctor, Pace University School of Law
Time Magazine Hero for the Planet
Jefferson Gold Award for Public Service
Thomas Berry Environmental Award
American Fisheries Society Wiilam E. Ricker Resource Conservation Award
EPA Region I Environmental Merit Award
EPA Region II Environmental Quality Award
Founders Award, Santa Monica Baykeeper
Peconic Baykeeper Environmental Award
Outstanding Documentary Short of 1991, Motion Picture Academy Foundation (The Last Rivermen)
EarthWatch Documentary Film Award (The Last Rivermen)
Governor’s Parks and Open Space Award (New York)
Vanity Fair Hall of Fame
Westchester Magazine Top 8 Leaders
Top 100 Irish-Americans of 1999

Books, Chapters
Cronin, John, Kennedy, Robert F., Jr. The Riverkeepers, Scribner, 1997. Touchstone Paperback, 1999.
Cronin, John. Estuaries: Where Human and Nature Meet. In Bowermaster, John (Ed.). Oceans: The Threats to Our Seas and What You Can Do About It (pp 117 – 130). Participant Media, 2010.
Cronin, John. Duty Bound: A Conversation with Henry Gourdine. In Land, Michelle D. and Rogers, Susan Fox (Eds.). A River’s Pleasure. (pp 37 – 48). Pace University Press, 2009.
Cronin, John. Foreword. In Weigold, Marilyn. Peconic Bay: Four Centuries of History on Long Island’s North and South Forks (pp xi – xiii). Syracuse University Press, 2015.
Cronin, John. Foreword. In Heron, Jim. Denning’s Point, A Hudson River History (pp ix — xi). Black Dome Press, 2006.
Cronin, John. Introduction. In Van Zandt, Roland. Chronicles of the Hudson: Three Centuries of Travel & Adventure (pp ix – xi) Black Dome Press, 1992.

Cronin, J. (2019) The Cuyahoga Fire at Fifty: A False History Obscures the Real Water Crisis that Never Ceased. J Environ Stud Sci. DOI: 10.1007/s13412-019-00550-3. (Peer reviewed)
Birney, L., Cronin, J. (2019) Environmental habitat restoration and inquiry-based learning with New York City public schools—an urban model in STEM education. J Environ Stud Sci 9, 322–326 
Cronin, J. (2015). Michel Jarraud: Presidente de ONU-Agua. Diplomacia, No. 129.
Kolar H., Cronin J., Hartswick P., Sanderson, A. C., Bonner, J. S., Hotaling, L. Ambrosio, R. F., Liu, Z., Passow, M. L. (2009) Complex real-time environmental monitoring of the Hudson River and estuary system. IBM Journal of Research and Development. #dblp .
Pfirman, S, Kenna, T, Cronin, J, Land, M. (2005) A “River Summer” on the Hudson. Transactions American Geophysical Union. 86(43):414-414.

The New York Times
Cronin, John. “Don’t Let the Hudson Be Despoiled Again.” The New York Times, 20 Dec 1999.
Cronin, John. “It’s Time We Got Smart About Drought.” The New York Times, 5 Aug. 1999.
Cronin John. “Power Plant Overload.” The New York Times, 20 May 1999.
Cronin John, “The Hudson Still Waits for Help.” The New York Times, 12 Feb.1998.
Cronin, John and Kennedy, Robert F., Jr. “It’s Our River Let Us Get to It.” The New York Times, 26 Jul. 1997.
Cronin John. “The Cost of Electricity Per Species.” The New York Times, 7 Sep.1996.
Cronin, John and Kennedy, Robert F., Jr., “Losing Our Day in Court.” The New York Times, 4 Apr. 1996.
Cronin, John. “Water, Power and the Drought of 1995.” The New York Times, 30 Aug.1995.
Cronin, John. “Save the Hudson’s Fishermen.” The New York Times, 9 May 1992.
Cronin, John. “Legally Blind on the Hudson.” The New York Times, 1 Dec. 1990.
Cronin, John. “Who Cares About the Hudson?” The New York Times, 18 Apr. 1987.
Cronin, John J. “The Hudson’s Fishermen.” The New York Times, 18 Apr. 1981.

Cronin, John. “Puerto Rico After Maria: When Resiliencia Humana is the Only Resilience That Remains.” HuffPost, 9 Oct. 2017.
Cronin, John. “A Post-Election Prescription: Environmentalism Without Borders” HuffPost, 30 Nov. 2016.
Cronin, John. “Local Waterways as Classrooms and Laboratories: A Conversation with Professor Joseph Rachlin.” HuffPost, 2 Nov. 2015.
Cronin, John. “S.T.E.M.+O = Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Oysters.”
HuffPost, 26 Oct. 2015.
Cronin, John. “The Problem with Hillary’s Arctic Flip-Flop.” HuffPost, 16 Oct. 2015.
Cronin, John. “American Environmentalism Should Embrace the Cause of Homelessness.” HuffPost, 8 Oct. 2015.
Cronin, John. “Pope Francis Pointed the World’s Attention to Its Largest Environmental Problem: Poverty.” HuffPost, 2 Oct. 2015.

Regional Interest

Cronin, John. “Irene Dickinson: The woman who shut down Indian Point.” USA TODAY Network, 10 May, 2021.
Cronin, John, Land, Michelle, D. “Coast Guard Must Fully Review on Hudson Anchorages.” The Journal News, 13 Aug. 2017.
Cronin, John. “Hudson River’s Abuse Continues.” The Journal News, 12 Sep. 2016.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: A River’s Pleasure.” InsideOut, 14 Dec. 2010.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: Crabbing with Bob.” InsideOut, 17 Aug. 2009.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: The Power of Film: An Interview with Filmmaker Jim Brown.” InsideOut, 14 Jun. 2009.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: The Future.” InsideOut, 27 Sep. 2008.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: Why Care?” InsideOut, 31 Jul. 2008.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: Hope Swims.” InsideOut, 9 Feb. 2008.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: River Love.” InsideOut, 5 Dec. 2007.
Cronin, John. “Earth Diary: Sturgeon.” InsideOut, 8 Oct. 2007.
Cronin, John. “The Riverkeeper’s Creed.” Hudson Valley Magazine, Jan. 2000
Cronin John. “Make GE Pay for Hudson Clean-Up.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 29 Mar. 1998.

Invited Lectures and Presentations 
American Fisheries Society
American Littoral Society
Bard College Environmental and Urban Studies Colloquium
Barnard College
Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change (Marion, MA)
Cabrini University
Columbia University Business School
Earth and Religion: Seeking a Common Ground (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Erie Hack 2.0: Rock the Lake (Cleveland, OH)
IBM Smarter Cities Conference (NY, NY)
International Thomas Merton Society General Meeting (Memphis, TN)
International Union for the Conservation of Nature Colloquium (White Plains, NY)
Lafayette College
Lamont Dougherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Manhattanville College
Marist College Undergraduate Research Symposium
McHenry County College
Millikin University
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Mote Marine Laboratory
Mount St. Vincent College
National Association of College Stores
National Public Gardens Association (formerly AABGA)
New School University
New York Harbor School Commencement
New York State Bar Environmental Law Section
Northern Michigan University
NYSERDA Tidal Power Conference
Oklahoma State University
Pace University School of Law
Penn State Altoona Commencement
Princeton University Geosciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/Lally School of Management
Rollins College Winter Park Institute
Salisbury University Convocation
Siena College
Skidmore College
Steven’s Institute of Technology
SUNY Empire State College
SUNY New Paltz
SUNY Oneonta
SUNY Purchase
Syracuse University Center of Excellence
Union College
Universidade Norte do Paraná (Brazil)
USEPA Citizen Volunteers in Environmental Monitoring (Narragansett, RI)
Water Cooperation and Conflict (Pace University NYC)
Water Matters! Global Water Conference (Pittsburgh, PA)
Webster University
Westchester Community College