Thursday, July 12, 2012

Of Interest

There are four letters to the editor in today's Register-Star on the topic of the Furgary Boat Club--from Chip Roberts of Hudson, Joe Gallo of Hudson, Michael Coons of Ghent, and Antonia Weidenbacher of Woodstock. The deadline for eviction has been set for Monday, July 16. 


  1. Today's letters are heart-felt pleas directed at the mercy of the powers that be.

    That's one way to appeal to whoever is making the decisions (and it is still not beyond the ability of our representatives on the council to weigh in in a meaningful way).

    I'm more interested in learning why the Common Council members, showing no familiarity with their own LWRP, simply take the author of those laws at her word.

    The old joke about lawyers in general seems to have been invented for Cheryl Roberts: you know when she's lying because her lips are moving.

    When Cheryl Roberts answers an alderman's query whether the state ever cared about the presence of the Furgarians (the state believed Furgary to be on state land), the attorney succinctly replies that the state had contacted the city about liability concerning the city's SPDES permits.

    For anyone who doesn't know, SPDES stands for the totally unrelated "State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System." It was a non-reply to a good question.

    (It's even reasonable to wonder whether she wasn't referring to serious irregularities with Hudson's SPDES sites which the state ultimately traced to her last employer.)

    When an alderman asks about the possibility of leasing the site to the Furgarians, the attorney drones out her absurd, pre-rehearsed refrain about litigation worries. It was such an easy thing to challenge that even citizens in attendance were better prepared than the aldermen. (Fortunately the Register Star delivered the obvious the following morning.)

    Of those aldermen who were serving last year, and who put their names to Cheryl Roberts' creation - a.k.a the "Local Waterfront Revitalization Program" (LWRP) - why did no one ask the attorney to square the laws she penned with the nonsense she is spewing now? (I refer to the state's Coastal Management Policies, which she single-handedly adapted to Hudson's circumstances.)

    To be generous, maybe they know in advance that Roberts' artfully uncooperative non-replies will simply mark the end of yet another line of questioning.

    Looked at in the correct light, Robert's responses are deeply contemptuous of the legislative body she ostensibly serves. Most are fooled by her delivery, which varies according to venue. But citizens who see through the clever tricks and subtle bullying are throughly fed up with her influence here.

    It is the appointed attorney, Cheryl Roberts, who is behind the drive to run out the Furgarians. She has her own agenda (and maybe someone else's too), and with President Moore's nearly continuous and generous assistance she uses the public's time to render that agenda impervious to inquiry.

    And if newcomers require flags to know that a hidden agenda is in the air, when the issue was discussed at Monday's CC meeting her replies were as evasive and dishonest as ever. But in all of city government it appeared that only Roberts batted an eye. Naturally.

  2. Whether Furgary is your concern or not, the way this city is run merits closer examination in every instance. It may be your issue that suffers next.

    Consistent with the council President's general manner of conducting the public's business, last September 26th, Gossips reported the following:

    "The Common Council meets in a special session tonight ... to hear a presentation by City Attorney Cheryl Roberts about the changes made in the past few months to the [GEIS], which accompanies the [LWRP]. After the presentation and discussion by the aldermen, the Council is expected to vote on whether or not to accept the document. ...

    "The meeting has been scheduled for the larger venue of the firehouse to permit more members of the public to attend, but it has been rumored that Common Council President Don Moore will not be allowing the public to speak. Contacted by Gossips this morning, Moore explained that he would allow public comment but only after the Council has voted on accepting the GEIS."

    The subsequent thread for the September post was initiated by the wonderful "Gizmo":

    "Given that our city government has never paid attention to any of the citizen input they have received regarding the LWRP over the years, it isn't surprising that they would take comments from the citizens AFTER they have voted to pass the GEIS. This is the sort of stunt they used to pull in the old Soviet Union, and we used to marvel about how any country could be so corrupt and ass-backward."

    Mr. Moore's succeeding comment attempted to clarify, though clarity is not his strong suit when it doesn't serve his purposes:

    "I did not say that there wouldn't be public comment because that would mean that the formal GEIS record is open. That is not the case. This is a work session for the Council to consider the GEIS. If there are questions from the audience germane to that then I will entertain them. But this is a session to consider a vote and I want to get to that point in a reasonable amount of time. If anyone wishes to discuss the LWRP in another forum, I am certainly willing to do so."

    Only afterwards were we able to interpret the council President's semantics, since nobody in the overflow crowd was permitted a chance to speak that night.

    As soon as they were done voting, the alderman stood in unison not waiting for the visibly relieved President to adjourn the meeting. (As far as anyone knows, that meeting is still is progress!)

    Earlier this week, hardened by past experience, I anticipated a similar trick. When the public was informed that it could reply to the Mayor's and city attorney's speeches only as the meeting was ending, I saw the recent past racing before my eyes.

    When I asked President Moore's assurance that the public would be able to comment as promised, he sarcastically thanked me for having such confidence in his abilities and instructed me to "sit down!" Many in the crowd scowled at my lack of propriety, evidently sharing Mr. Moore's emphasis on procedure over principle.

    So let me assure you that when your issue comes up and the city is opposed to you for reasons and agendas unknown, your so-short memories will be your greatest liability. I already feel sorry for you.

  3. Tim, no one "scwoled" at your "lack of propriety." They scowled, if at all, at your bad manners and insulting tone. You started off angry and become belligerent immediately. This isn't the first time your demeanor has caused your message to be lost in transmission.

  4. John, certainly there was scowling, and probably no one recalled the recent treachery of the Common Council President in similar circumstances.

    But I don't fundamentally disagree with your assessment of my delivery.

    Allowing for differing levels of intra- and extraversions, please put yourself in the shoes of the silenced and helpless public. I wanted to answer Roberts myself when she circumvented Alderman Haddad's good question, or spun that nonsense about liability to you (why the 'Spirit of Hudson' is different from Furgary, despite her own adaptation of Coastal Policy 10 in the LWRP).

    No alderman ever invited my opinions on such matters, so I just bided my time throughout that less than scintillating discussion.

    While I freely admit that I'm not the best spokesperson for the issues I care most about (consistent with my fellow Furgarians), perhaps people can feel some compassion for those tongue-tied others who did not dare speak up in their own defense, or who never visited the Mayor in his office. Such are the folks who always get trodden upon.

    At least I tried, even if I hurt the chances of a subject that everyone seems to have decided upon already.

    I do not believe the council President exerted himself at all. He'll simply bury anything he can't agree with. To me his character is a prime example of what the French refer to as "mauvais fois" (I hope that people look that up).

    And so I am guilty as charged. I did start out angry, and I'm none too proud about it. But at least I'm true.

  5. Tim, no one who's witnessed your advocacy can doubt your sincerity or seriousness. But you do yourself and your causes a disservice, again, when you describe what Cheryl described to me as "nonsense." I disagree with her a great deal but what she explained -- the distinction between the liabilities associated with the Spirit lease and what's proposed to keep the Fugary together -- wasn't nonsense at all. The difference in degree of usage, coupled with the DEC issue in the North Bay (which you may disagree with but exists nonetheless), is a difference of kind, not of degree. As such, it is meaningfully distinguishable in a legal sense -- and the legal sense is the only issue before her as Corporation Counsel. That's not to say that the legalities associated with the leases are distinguishable (I think the "non-exclusive" nature of the Spirit lease is not meaningful in practice) but the practicalities are, and they inform the City's analysis of its potential liabilities. In no small way am I glad that the Council has now authority over this issue!

  6. I truly appreciate your reply John, and I know that you are often in disagreement with attorney Roberts. (Please believe when I say that I appreciate that too!)

    My word "nonsense" for Roberts' reply to your question applies at multiple levels, whereas I think you have landed on one distinction only, a "difference in degree of usage."

    To wit, I do remember that you'd asked the difference between the liabilities associated with the 'Spirit of Hudson' lease and what might be possible for the Furgarians.

    It's one thing to say "there is a difference," which is what I understood her to say. But even if it is only a "difference in degree of usage," to then explain a distinction by way of on-shore facilities versus off-shore activities is to conflate considerations from different contexts. It is to admit that they are different enough to have answered the question more candidly. Perhaps they are even different enough that the city is seeking the state's guidance on the precise question.

    So to have answered your question about the difference in leasing where her answer clearly disadvantaged the potential leasing of Furgary was to force a premature conclusion. Typical for Roberts, an unloaded question is returned as a loaded answer, and thus I say it was "nonsense."

    The proper context for discussing liability concerns was the state coastal policies, which go out of their way to favor on-shore facilities for commercial and traditional fisheries, or the nearly identical precedents for liability concerns that municipalities in both Long Island and Staten Island cases solved without too many problems.

    Instead, every one of Roberts' answers on Monday was blatantly conditioned by a decision she and the Mayor freely admit is premature: a claim that leasing the property is impossible, followed by a second claim that they have asked the state whether it is possible.

    To have answered all questions only according to the first scenario - that it "can't be leased," as we read in today's Columbia Paper - is what I call "nonsense." And it is really bad faith too.

    The foregone conclusion that a lease is an impossibility had conditioned all of Roberts' replies to the aldermen. That was the take home message, and whatever explanation got her there quickest sufficed. When I consider how many ways the same discussion could have been handled by a less dishonest person, I maintain that her whole delivery was "nonsense."

    p.s. I'm afraid that "the DEC issue in the North Bay" that you mention that "exists nonetheless" is unknown to me. Maybe you are speaking about the reference to SPDES permits, although there are no overflow issues associated with Furgary itself. Or perhaps you are referring to the Freshwater Wetlands Permit that will be required if the city plans on razing any of the structures. If there is a "DEC issue" in North Bay that I don't know about, then nobody else has been informed of it either.

  7. The DEC issue in the North Bay has to do with raw sewage being introduced into the aquatic ecosystem alongside the Tin Boat space. In other words, they're apparently "doing their business" in the water. Brings to mind the WC Fields' quote about why he never drank water.

  8. I believe the W.C. Fields quotation had to do with what the fish were doing in it ... (!)

    I know that the Furgarians occasionally must empty their Porta Potty, so I do know that they use the thing. I see no other plumbing down there.

    I thank you for bringing the alleged DEC concern to my attention, but that cannot be what was referred to by Roberts as "the SPDES liability concern."

    The matter is obviously a small one, and not the sort of deal breaker you'd prepared me for. A simple emptying schedule for the contained facility can easily be worked out and enforced.

    In the 1990s the same complaint about Furgary was reported to the Columbia County Department of Health, to the effect that "raw sewage is being dumped into the Hudson River wetlands area."

    But the Health Department's Director of Environmental Health, Dale E. Rowe, concluded that "since there is no water service to any of the cabins, significant waste water discharges to the wetlands or the bay from these structures could not exist."

    I do wish that you would come down to Furgary and learn about it firsthand. You may discover that there are worthwhile things there, and a promise of improvements that would attend a feeling of security.

    At any rate, please take care not to hazard too many judgements such as the DEC's "concerns" from a distance.

    For the record, I'm with you entirely on the tax issue. But the history of taxes and Furgary is not so straightforward as the Mayor made it seem in his speech. It's on record that the Furgarians have asked to be on the tax rolls for a long time.

  9. John, Furgary's Porta Pottys are serviced by "Big Top Portable Toilets."

    I'd be happy to procure the billing history for the benefit of the DEC and for Cheryl Roberts' profound concerns about the aquatic ecosystem (/sarcasm alert for the entertainment of all South Bay veterans!).

  10. To sum up then John, at the last council meeting your direct challenge to Roberts' claim that Hudson cannot lease land or facilities to anyone turns into an exegesis on The Spirit of Hudson's' circumstances. (To suppose a true/false admission would be the height of foolishness.)

    A reasonable discussion might have moved on from 'The Spirit' comparison - whether it is true, false or something in-between - to leasing precedents arrived at in other NYS municipalities with situations exactly like Furgary's. No chance of that here.

    Despite the council's customary frustration of citizen input (which was at the ready to augment the unpreparedness of the aldermen), the Register Star was able to provide a truer comparison and a precedent the following morning. And there are still others.

    Yet we continue to hear the refrain that the city cannot lease under any circumstances, except if and when it can enter into leases (else it wouldn't have sought the state's guidance).

    Believe me, I've been far less polite in private about Roberts' "nonsense." But even if I publicly water down the obvious for the benefit of those who still cannot see the viciousness at the heart of Hudson's government, I am instructed that I am doing myself and my cause "a disservice."

    Hmm, and I believed that I was relying on citizens who know how to follow their practical reasoning and their noses to ferret out unpleasant odors.

    Which brings us to the second prong of the argument (apparently), that the DEC - and perhaps that profound ecologist Cheryl Roberts too - have concerns that potential sewage from Furgary is poisoning the wetlands.

    Now which was it you were saying "exists nonetheless," the unsubstantiated "DEC issue," meaning their unexplored concerns, or the claim that sewage escapes into the wetlands, which is patently false.

    As I understand you, the 2 flimsy arguments I've outlined above amount to the city's entire justification for its obstinacy and deafness. They are the 2 deal breakers.

    I'm sorry to say this, but In all due respect you can't be serious.