Since First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling presented her resolution on Monday night that would authorize Mayor Scalera to negotiate with Holcim to buy the dock, there have been questions about the mayor’s prior knowledge of this resolution and about the feasibility of what the resolution proposes. To provide some clarity about the issue, Common Council President Don Moore made this statement in a Friends of Hudson listserv discussion and agreed to let Gossips publish it here.
“I have spoken with the Mayor about whether Holcim would sell the property. Holcim has been formally approached about the value of the property. Last June, at the City’s request, face-to-face discussions began between the Mayor, Cheryl Roberts, and myself; Holcim; O&G; Scenic Hudson and Open Space Institute about the disposition of Holcim’s lands and the possible configuration of an access road to the port other than the causeway. These discussions were prompted largely as a consequence of public comments I authored in March that were critical of, among other things, the vagueness of the land transfers from Holcim to the City proposed in the LWRP.
"I announced at a Common Council Meeting in July at which the LWRP was discussed that these discussions were taking place. The five-way discussions came to a halt in late summer with Holcim’s attorney stating that the question of exactly how much land would be on the table was sent up the line to Holcim’s home office. I never heard back from Holcim with a decision or another negotiating option. To the best of my knowledge, neither did any of the other participants.
"The issue of whether Holcim would sell the port or whether eminent domain were a viable option became very public question in the fall as a result of discussions at Common Council meetings and in private citizen advocacy meetings. One outcome was a letter writing campaign initiated by Hudson businesses to Scenic Hudson and Open Space Institute urging those two organizations to purchase the entire 1,800-acre Holcim holdings. It was assumed, and I believe still is assumed, that Holcim would not sell the port separately. I do not recall hearing if a definitive answer came from SH or OSI. However, SH subsequently published a letter in the Columbia Paper declining to be involved in financially underwriting an eminent domain action.
"It is painfully clear that Holcim’s decision to pursue a challenge to their assessment is completely, ludicrously at odds with their other positions regarding the disposition of the port. The question is not whether $1.5 million is reasonable as an assessment. It simply can’t be. The question is would Holcim sell the property for that amount or anything close to it. At this point, what I know says it’s highly unlikely.
"As to how much the port, or for that matter Holcim’s entire holdings, is worth on the market, there is no current, accurate data. The figures that were thrown around, which is to say these estimates had little basis in any sort of appraisal of which I am aware, for all Holcim’s property (Hudson and Greenport) was between $20 and $40 million. Hudson’s assessor this year increased the assessed value of the port from $2,317,100 to $4.563,200. From my recent discussion with professional assessment firms, it is particularly clear that the assessment of the port must be done by independent experts who specialize in appraising “unique and highly complex properties,” of which this port is a prime example. Though it will be relatively costly, I look forward to a court-ordered appraisal of the port to fix its assessment. Whether through the court, or a similar expert appraisal done for the City, we will determine a fair tax rate, even if we can’t fix exactly the value the port would fetch in the open market."