Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moore Responds

In the ongoing discussion of the City's action to evict the Furgary and the manner in which it was carried out, there's a letter to the editor in today's Register-Star from Common Council President Don Moore, responding to an earlier letter from Dennis Malloy, one of the Furgarians evicted from the shacks in the wee hours of the morning: "Furgary response."  


  1. come on...squatters with guns threatening to use them? I'd have to side with the police on this one. It's public property.

  2. SlowArt, readers know that you've never been sympathetic to Furgary, but why is it so important to bolster the self-aggrandizing spin of officials like Moore?

    I was at Furgary that night and I know what happened!

    You don't suppose your friends are spinning things just a bit? The city had other choices, but now they'll stick with the one they made through hell or high water. In that way they're a lot like any government.

    But you're simply aping and perpetuating their authoritarian narrative. Why? I guess some people have a tendency to do that, but it would be more honest if you would address the particulars.

    For instance, when someone holds a property by adverse possession for nearly a century, why does the law allow them to try and acquire that property?

    It's too easy and too cheap of you to write the Furgarians off as "squatters" when, 1. there are provisions for adverse possession in the law, 2. there was every possibility that the case could have been lost by the city, and 3. there was a history of negotiations between Furgary and the city, whereby the Furgarians had hoped to be put on the tax rolls.

    Will you address these points, or will you only rely on the haughty moral superiority of your common authoritarian type?

  3. Not a single report of the raid on Furgary has said that any guns were found at the Club -- not in the shacks, and not on the persons of those detained.

    The three went willingly. No guns were found. And no arrests were made. (Pretty unusual, for situations involving a S.W.A.T. team in the middle of the night, no?)

    Moreover, the Mayor and other top City officials were aware that Tiffany Martin Hamilton and other Furgarians had taken steps on their side of the dispute to ensure that there would be no hotheaded resistance from their side.

    Nevertheless, the city chose to strut its might, and weapons. This disproportionate and unnecessary display of force apparently appeals to a few people.

    SlowArt's comment above, referring to "squatters with guns" thus is inaccurate at best, vicious at worst.

    Moore's hyperventilating scare tactic, invoking a completely hypothetical threat of violence which turned out to exist only in someone's fevered imagination, was calculated to justify a gross overreaction.

    It smacks of the city grinding an axe. Moore's response will only speak to those already predisposed to erase 100 years of local heritage and punish Furgary for daring to use peaceful means (the courts) to try to resolve this situation.

  4. We can apply all the hindsight we like. And it should be pretty clear to all that the HPD and I have had a difference or 2 in the past -- in fact I'm still in court on 1 of them. But if someone makes a threat like that made in this instance it would be catastrophic for the police not to take it seriously and then have it be true. I can imagine the response on this board if the HPD didn't take it seriously and then whomever made the threat -- or someone jazzed by the threat -- followed through. Moreover, it is simply not rational to expect the police to go into what could be a dangerous situation with forewarning but not taking precautions. Did that require a SWAT team? I don't know -- I am an acknowledged ignoramus when it comes to police procedure. Did the men taken into custody need to be taken to the police station after it was clear they posed no threat? Probably not. Should they have given their particulars to the HPD when asked? I probably wouldn't have in their shoes. Should the HPD have given them a lift back to where they were taken into custody? Absolutely -- the men cooperated with the police, the HPD should have repaid the courtesy. But, really, what do you expect the police to do when they are threatened?

    All this criticism smacks of self-righteous indignation that seems fueled by some sense that the City's taking its property in-hand somehow violated the Fugarian's rights -- it didn't as the court made clear: the Fugarians filed their papers late and that was fatal to their cause. Legally, this is known as "a damn shame" and is a problem the Fugarians need to address with their attorney(s), not the City.

    For the record, I've no skin in this game -- the Fugary was not a place I ever went nor wanted to go, it's not in the 3rd Ward so I don't represent the area, and I've only heard from one constituent with any interest in the matter and I helped her the best I could in support of her desires (which were -- and I presume are -- to preserve the Fugary or some semblence of it for, at the very least, its historic value).

  5. If I didn't reach out to you John, it was because Furgary is not in your Ward. I barely reached out to my own aldermen, but I did sit down with the Mayor.

    You see, inside Furgary we weren't as privy to this alleged threat as you apparently were. It follows that if there are two different perceptions about such a serious matter, cause for indignation and even righteousness can spring up on both sides.

    But I was there. I was a witness to the mood and a participant in nearly every conversation from Sunday afternoon to early Monday morning. I never heard a word of threatening talk. Frankly I'd have left if I did.

    I did hear lots about fishing and hunting, and I heard touching memories and some really hilarious ones too.

    How can I not compare what I experienced with what came to pass? From my perspective, I know that the thing could have been done very differently.

    And as you acknowledge, maybe other things could have been done differently too. For instance, maybe the Furgarians could have left ahead of time. I believe they would have were it not for a certain tone of punishment and obduracy emanating from City Hall.

    About hindsight, I was the first to acknowledge that the principle reason for the Furgarians losing their suit was on procedural grounds. (That was in a Gossips thread on 6/14 @ 11:25pm).

    But there's one use to hindsight which I think you're overlooking: that the Mayor and the Council President read the court's Memorandum and Order and knew as well as you and me that the city won primarily on a technicality.

    They probably knew long before either of us that the deed and maps that were supposed to make the Furgarian's case weren't even challenged by the petitioners:

    "Petitioners did not identify any ambiguities or inaccuracies in respondents' documentary evidence, nor did they otherwise show that this evidence did not resolve the legal and factual issues underlying their claim ...." (p. 4).

    (The Furgarians wrongly assumed that the enormous sum they paid out ... of well, that's the spilled milk part.)

    But how were those circumstances transformed into an epic moral triumph by city officials?

    The Furgarians were practically characterized as having stolen from the city, in having occupied Furgary at all and by defending their interests. The Mayor announced that the Furgarians weren't willing to pay taxes (in the audio of the council meeting you hear one of our principals muttering that he was "not going to listen to lies," before exiting).

    Who couldn't appreciate that from the Furgarians point of view, rightly or wrongly, the suit might have turned out another way?

    Those extra stings were unnecessary.

    But only the citizens of Hudson seemed to care, hundreds of them in fact. And many of them perceived that the "tied hands" and the "brain-racking" and the pleas from City Hall to help find a solution were disingenuous. They were crocodile tears. People aren't stupid.

    And of the city's one great generosity, the gratis 30 day extension, it wasn't even long enough to FOIL the answer to the question what the city was planning for the specific site. It wasn't long enough to make sure that the city had acquired the correct permits to be able to remove the cabins in the event the Mayor moved on his threat. (They hadn't acquired them by the way, which I'm willing to bet has not yet occurred to a single alderman.)

    To address the underpinnings of your above account, and to give you an idea of the basis of my own perspective, it was the official narrative that led up to the expulsion that was so gratuitous and degrading.

    Had there been a different leadership style, then this whole story would have gone differently.

    As it was, I was deeply moved at how nobly the Furgarians took those last, cruel slights. I think you'd be surprised how many people whose names are on that petition took away the same perception.

  6. Tim, it all boils down to this: their court case was dismissed on a technicality but the court (in a rather rare move in my experience -- and I've been doing this since the mid-90s) took the time to analyze the Fugary's argument and found it lacking. So, even if they'd filed their appeal on time, they'd have lost per the judge. So I'm not sure what your comment means in this regard. Either way, that's water under the bridge.

    As for the threat -- it is what it is and the police turnout was a direct result. This, frankly, is why threats should never be made: once aired, they can't be effectively detracted. It was poor strategy.

    I get the sense -- along with many others -- that there was some subtext to the entire battle between the City and the Fugary members. I don't know -- someone insulted someone else when they were all in high school or something. But, at the end of the day, motivations are somewhat irrelevant and what matters are actions.

    As for the rationale for the City's actions: it is ILLEGAL for a NYS city (like Hudson) to sell or lease to a private individual or group any waterfront property that city owns without an act of the state legislature. Period. NYS GCL Sec. 20(2). Those are not "crocodile tears," but the law. The fact is that the citizens of Hudson own that land and it is a rare and precious commodity most municipalities don't have. It is right and proper for the City to reserve it for all the citizens.

    As for the City's plans for the area -- I don't believe that there are any at this time. Some thoughts have been discussed in meetings that I've been part of but I'm unaware of any decisions. Not that I'd be consulted as a matter of law or right, but I will say that the Mayor often involves me in conversations about such things and, again, from those discussions I've gotten the impression that all options are still on the table as to the future of the area. If you have any ideas why not reduce them to writing and bring them to the Council or the Mayor or both?

  7. John, it's news to me that anyone still has the "impression that all options are still on the table as to the future of the area."

    On WGXC the Council President had spoken of "extensive plans for the development of that parkland," and that he thought "we should proceed with them."

    Also news is that it's illegal for a NYS city to "lease to a private individual or group any waterfront property that city owns without an act of the state legislature."

    The Mayor's attorney is said to have written asking the DOS to address just that question, but as far as anyone knows the DOS has not replied to her letter. Or has it?

    The subtext you sensed seemed real enough, but I must confess that a threat of violence is entirely unknown to me. I readily own to my ignorance about that which forms the basis for my own indignation. But in my defense, I was there nearly the whole time.

    However, it's still well worth reviewing the general grounds for all these perceived resentments. To that end, I think it best that the technicalities not overlap, and that they remain a parallel topic.

    In other words, it's far too convenient and totally unfair for the city to leave the discussion at: "Furgary was right or wrong, and the court gave the city the right to claim that any actions we care to take cannot be grounds for resentment."

    I'm sure that you aren't defending the sort of hardness and meanness we've seen, but recall that we're discussing perceptions.

    I had approached things the other way around, and instead asked why the city behaved so obdurately and resentfully from the beginning? I concluded that it was a question of leadership.

    Even the way the agenda was set up at the July informal meeting of the council, whereby the public's voice and public responses to the Mayor's speech and the mostly inane discussion by the council were delayed to the bitter end of the meeting. Such moves are obviously made in bad faith (which was not your doing). They recollected so many memories which still rankle from the way the waterfront program was handled, and by the same individuals. All of it was bad faith.

    To the technicalities then:

    As rare as it might have been for the Supreme Court Appellate Division to analyze the maps on behalf of the petitioners (counsel was evidently asleep-at-the-wheel), I have no faith in the high court's interpretation of those maps, nor in their ability to determine where the original North Dock was sited.

    In short they were likely wrong, despite their fair effort to do the petitioner's arguing for them.

    I know it's academic now, but a good legal team would have dendrochronologically dated the timbers which still protrude from the northernmost wharf along the shore. That might have helped establish the original shoreline from which the 180 feet of underwater lands were determined in 1785.

    In 1989, Alan Bauder, NYS OGS Submerged Land and Natural Resource Manager, wrote that "it has been determined that the lands in question [Furgary] are located within an area of lands conveyed to the City of Hudson .... [by] the enactment of Chapter 84 of the Laws of 1785 ...."

    "The ownership in fee of these lands appears to be questionable. It may be necessary for the City Council to pass special legislation to allow for continued use and occupation of these Public Trust Lands."

    [Alan Bauder, PLS, State of New York Executive Department Office of General Services, Submerged Land and Natural Resource Manager.]

    Please John, help elevate the general spirit of the city by lessening the relentless drumbeat that the city has achieved some sort of moral superiority in this. It is that attitude that is so rancor-producing, and which has led to all of the misunderstandings. It seems that it even inspired the Town of Greenport to weigh in on behalf of Furgary, however symbolically.

    The ratio between technicalities and perceptual justifications is not even.

  8. You don't need an AG's opinion on the illegality of a sale or lease; just look up the cited section (NYS Gen. City L. 20(2)) and read it. It's short and rather to the point. As for the plans Don Moore mentioned, I believe they are the Columbia Land Conservancy's, not the City's though there is some discussion of moving forward with them it has all been general, informal and no decision has been made (or even debated). The Mayor may have some plans but they've not been brought to the Council.

    In terms of the tone of the discussion: I can't do anything about what others do or say. As to the moral stance of the actors I will only say that as I understand it, the City's obligation is to all its citizens and those who visit. Its actions in regards to the eviction and securing the site, viewed through this lens, seems to be correct: the City took title, title was quieted in the City, the City took control of the property to minimize any liability to it (and therefore its tax payers) and to minimize the site as an attractive nuisance (a place or thing that is more likely than not to attract problems -- like an unsecured construction site or an unfenced pool). I don't know if that's morally right or wrong but I know its the right thing for the City to do to protect itself and its citizens. I suspect to do otherwise would, at least, be immoral.

  9. John, thanks for the requisite citation. Having provided it is more than anyone else in city government has done for us, and I am personally grateful for the respect you have shown in this simple act.

    I am glad to know that at least one person agrees to play by the books. (I believe that most of the other aldermen would play by the books if they had the proper guidance.)

    For the record, everyone understands minimizing an attractive nuisance. In fact, the Furgarians were relieved to see their cabins secured while the rest of this story plays out.

    All the best, T.