On Wednesday night, the public hearing on the draft LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program/Plan) and GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Study) was held at John L. Edwards School. The turnout was estimated by one attendee to be about 150, but only ten people signed up to speak.
Since the Common Council is the lead agency for the LWRP and will ultimately make the decision to adopt it, comments at the hearing were addressed to the Council, whose members were seated at the front of the room--except for Fifth Ward Alderman Bob Donahue, who chose to sit not with his colleagues on the Council but with the mayor in the audience.
Among the ten speakers was a representative of the Hudson Power Boat Association who expressed concern about the expense of realizing the plans for the waterfront outlined in the LWRP. He talked about the declining population and declining tax base in Hudson and urged that a feasibility study be done before a position for a harbor master was created.
There appeared to be a large contingent of representatives from the Fugary Boat Club, the settlement of sporting shacks at the north end of Front Street, but they had designated one person to speak on their behalf. He appealed to the Council to let the Fugary Boat Club stay. Claiming that the squatters' settlement is "documented to have been there for a hundred years," he predicted that its destruction would be as great a loss to Hudson's heritage as the demolition, in the late 1960s, of the General Worth Hotel.
There was also a spokesperson for Hendrick von Ritter, who has an ongoing lawsuit against the City of Hudson, blaming the City for the flooding that occurs on his Tanners Lane property during major rain events. The spokesperson said that von Ritter is opposed to rezoning his property and warned that if the new zoning of the Waterfront Revitalization Area is adopted before the litigation is resolved, von Ritter will seek an injunction against the City.
The other seven speakers--Elsa Leviseur; Patrick Doyle, owner of Basilica Industria and unofficial "sheriff of the South Bay"; Peter Jung; Christopher Reed, board president of Friends of Hudson; Hilary Hillman; Mark Wildonger, planner for Scenic Hudson; and this writer--made statements that shared, with variations, a common theme: a private road through the South Bay for heavy gravel trucks is not a good idea. Some called for a hydrology study to be completed before any kind of road through the wetland is considered. Others stressed the scenic and recreational possibilities of the South Bay and its potential to help with storm water management. All advocated for a new route to the deep-water dock for gravel trucks that avoids both the residential neighborhoods and the South Bay, and some--this writer among them--supported specifically a public road to the waterfront that is being called "Alternative 3B Nuanced," making reference to the designation of alternatives to the "causeway" route identified in the GEIS.
Several of the speakers made reference to last summer's Namesake Celebration, Hudson's very successful Quadricentennial event, and called for a committed effort by the City to make Hudson the home port of the replica Half Moon and turn the old warehouse building across from Henry Hudson Riverfront Park into a maritime museum celebrating the history of Hudson and the Hudson River, an idea put forward by Mayor Scalera in his speech at the dedication of the park in July 2009.
In commenting on the proposed new zoning, Leviseur suggested that there should be an "arts overlay," which, similar to the inclusionary zoning being proposed for the current site of Hudson Terrace requiring that 10 percent of any new development be low-income housing, would designate areas within the Waterfront Revitalization Area where 10 percent of any new development would have to be set aside for artists' studios.
In his statement, Reed made the point that finding the best solution should always be the first step; dealing with obstacles comes second. In contrast to this, Scalera focused on the obstacles when he was quoted in the Register-Star as saying that Alternative 3B Nuanced was not a viable alternative because "L&B’s current owner . . . said to obtain the area proposed in the alternate public road the city would have to buy the whole property at $5.9 million." Acquiring the right of way for a public road that will benefit the entire community in multiple ways seems a worthy, legitimate, and compelling use of a municipality's right to exercise eminent domain.
The period for submitting written comments on the LWRP and GEIS has been extended to March 15, 2010. Comments should be directed to the Common Council and mailed or submitted to City Hall, 520 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534. The draft LWRP and GEIS can both be downloaded at the City of Hudson's website.