Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Archaeology Is Part of SEQR

People eager to build and develop sometimes feel hampered by having to do a full environmental assessment before a project can begin, but this article, which appeared in the New York Times today, is a reminder of why it's important: "Construction Site Offers Fleeting Glimpse of Civil War History."

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the story suggests why archaeology is an aspect of SEQRA in our own state, but we can't conclude from how things went in Virginia that our New York state law works.

    In New York, if structures or districts which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places aren't necessarily safe from demolition (they only have to be taken into account by authors of environmental impact statements), then SEQRA can't do a thing for resources that have no listing.

    "SEQRA" is the State Environmental Quality Review Act which requires environmental impact statements (EIS) for certain actions.

    Of course if communities have unanimously agreed upon the value of specific structures or districts, then hypothetically they can require that a "SEQR review" is applied to maximum preservation effect.

    But residents of Hudson know better than perhaps any other municipality in state how a SEQR review can be commandeered by a handful of people who are bent on their own agenda and goals.

    In our case, all that the authors of the EIS had to do was make it look like the public participated in the process. Can there be anyone left in Hudson who doesn't know what happened here, and by whom? Even the NYS DEC SEQR Analysts knew the story as it was unfolding, but in our Home Rule state there was nothing that Albany could do about it.

    What Hudson residents learned from their experience was that there wasn't much they could do about it either, short of suing the city and voting differently the next time around. (Not only did we not present a legal challenge, but the same characters are still in office and we are about to reward some of them with gigantic raises).

    Not only does SEQRA not offer automatic protections for listed properties, in the hands of the right sort of attorney it can become a tool to advance the machinations of our ineradicable bosses.

    SEQRA is less than defenseless against unscrupulousness; in a shady municipality like ours it's as good as an instruction guide for how to make credible window dressings.