Friday, January 25, 2013

One of the Best Ideas Yet

As we know, the City is committed to selling the old Dunn warehouse across the street from riverfront park in 2013 to close a gap in this year's budget, and Sheena Salvino has put marketing the property on the Hudson Development Corporation's to-do list for 2013. Last night at the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, Sarah Dibben made a terrific suggestion for the building: Make it an aquarium! Dibben made the point that there isn't another aquarium within 200 miles.

When she uttered the word aquarium, fond memories of a day spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium came to mind, as did the Maritime Aquarium at NorwalkWhat a great destination an aquarium could be and what a wonderful way to showcase and promote the aquatic life of the Hudson River. What would it take to make it happen?


  1. The aquarium suggestion is a great idea for showing the Hudson's water life.
    It could also be place to exibit/display historical items & facts of the City of Hudson too.
    Now comes the main question.
    Who will build it & where will the money come from?

  2. What a great idea! It even looks like an aquarium.

    To be a money-maker, it would have to exhibit a more exotic collection than our local fauna can afford. So we might begin by visualizing anything: a coral reef, a rift vent, another local ocean, and thus visualize the kind of revenue which would invariably benefit local species such as our humble mucket.

    Hudson's connection to the sea is counter-intuitive but profound. Both historically and ecologically we sit at the end of a long arm of the ocean.

    Sadly, despite the circumstances of our founding and the more recent historical preservation effort, we're extremely weak on long-term, formative vision. What we do accomplish tends to be obvious, or consists of short-term goals with unfortunate long-term consequences. Think of Rick's Point, which ducked state environmental regulations in order to become an instant monument to a local boss. As for the infrastructure we actually require, we built our Waste Water Treatment Plant on someone else's land!

    If Hudson weren't so screwed up, someone in government with vision would begin looking outside our boundaries for ideas. Such an excellent project as an aquarium would require outside help, but that's where we chronically fall down. (Who delivered us to the terrible BFJ Planners anyway?! Were we expecting to save money or something?)

    It doesn't take much vision to put in a causeway road or a parking lot overnight, pay a BFJ Planner to rationalize it, and then name it after yourself. A more imaginative leadership would understand that some things require the kind of commitment that stretches beyond their own moment in government.

    The City of Hudson desperately needs the sort of planning talent that's currently out of our reach. An organizations like the Hudson River Valley Greenway knows all about big green development projects:

  3. Hudson River Clearwater would be the perfect organization to join forces with on a waterfront education project. It has already successfully built a home for its sloop at the Kingston Rondout, and has the kind of grant writing experience that is needed to make big education projects a reality. In other words, we need not reinvent the wheel. Our Hudson River partners are all around us.

  4. There's a fish farm up the road, no? I'm sure some of those marine biologists would love to put their major studies on display.

  5. Unfortunately, I believe my son won't see any thing positive with this water front, none the less me. How many years have they had these grandeur plans? It has been since how long? Being a life long resident here, things seem to take 20-25 years for something positive to come to fruit in this area where as it takes a couple years to accomplish something of significance in other places. We have so much educated talent here now, but until we capsize the oppression, things will continue to be an uphill battle only to further strengthen the people. Fortunately, like a Jiu Jitsu match, you may not immediately win, but by perseverance, your opponent will eventually lose.

  6. I agree Steve. Anyway, maybe it's also worth waiting for an updated plan, one in which "new" residents who've lived here for as long as a decade have actually participated.

    The drafters of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) exploited sentence fragments in the Comprehensive Plan, and drew on the ancient history of the unfinished Vision Plan in order to determine what current Hudsonians wished to see happen.

    Of course they could have just asked us, but the last time the public contributed to the planning for the as-yet-unauthorized LWRP was seven years ago. Even so, suggestions that arose from the handful of "public workshops" - ideas that would have been right and proper to have included - were ignored.

    The incremental waterfront plans that we're seeing of late are the products of the same few city officials who forced the LWRP through the asleep-at-the-wheel Common Council of 2011.

    Today the grandeur is gone from the message, because they don't want to attract attention to their piecemeal implementation:

    1. For a small example, as far as I can tell it was only the council president's idea to let the future purchaser of the Dunn building determine the fate of the two empty lots immediately northeast of that parcel, and across from the park. Was there any discussion about this? I doubt it, but now it's likely our policy by default, or will become so by mindless repetition. Yet the fate of those lots will impact other parts of the waterfront plan we're not meant to scrutinize.

    2. For a large example, the BOA [or "brownfields"] program is the latest waterfront development scheme, and its planning has been commandeered by the same officials who commandeered the LWRP. (They are listed as members of the "BOA Steering Committee," a bogus committee which falsely claims the membership of "residents" in order to satisfy the checklist of some state bureaucrat.)

    In fact, for public participation, the NYS Department of State (DOS) places the BOA program on a par with the LWRP, the waterfront program. The state uses one piece of literature to outline the "recommended" level of public participation in both programs.

    But Hudsonians didn't hear anything about the latest waterfront planning, the BOA program, until immediately before the finished application was submitted to the DOS three months ago, in November.

    In their application, the same individuals who foisted their LWRP on the public used the BOA program to further the unsavory ends of their earlier plan. To assure that public participation was kept to a minimum, the application conflated the DOS's two steps (read: two steps of public participation) into one document. Representatives at the DOS admitted to me that this was highly unusual.

    But they still had to address the lack of public participation in their latest waterfront planning (that is, aside from the fib that "residents" served on the BOA Steering Committee).

    Recollect the January 2007 date of our LWRP public workshops, then read and weep:

    "The BOA Steering Committee recognized that ... [i]t would not only be duplicative, but also would be deleterious and, potentially, confusing to the pre-nomination process, for the public to be so soon again intimately engaged on the very same issues. As such, the Steering Committee made carefully considered and deliberate decisions to: incorporate the outcomes of the LWRP public participation process into the BOA Pre-Nomination Study; more extensively engage specific constituencies through their participation on the Steering Committee and during focused meetings; ration the work and involvement of a planning-process fatigued public" (BOA Narrative, p. 14).

    The BOA program's final stage, "Step 3," consists of site reconnaissance, and does not involve the public. It's also handled by a different agency, the NYS DEC.

    "Capsize the oppression," indeed.