Sunday, February 24, 2013

Getting There

As has been reported here on Gossips, the City of Hudson is moving ahead with its efforts to take control of the Ferry Street Bridge and pursue grant money to replace it. The reasons for doing so are compelling. The City wants to develop the waterfront, which, of course, is located on the other side of the railroad tracks. At present, there are only two ways to get across the tracks: the Ferry Street Bridge and the Broad Street crossing. In the past few years, the Ferry Street Bridge has been closed for months at a time because it was deemed unsafe and in need of repair. Even in the best of times, the weight limit on the bridge prohibits anything but passenger cars from crossing. Firetrucks must use the grade level crossing on Broad Street.

Adding to the urgency to the desire to take control of the bridge is the incipient rumor that CSX may be contemplating closing the Broad Street crossing for safety reasons, which would make the Ferry Street Bridge the only access to riverfront park and the boat launch. If this were to happen, having a new bridge that belonged to the City and was sturdy enough to bear the weight of firetrucks would be critically important.

There has been concern about losing the historic bridge, which has been in place for at least a hundred years. Common Council president Don Moore seemed to be acknowledging this concern when he mused aloud at the Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday night about the possibility of incorporating the visible trusses of the existing bridge into the new bridge.

If the Broad Street crossing were to close, a new and sturdier Ferry Street Bridge, whose safekeeping were in the hands of the City, would solve the problem of getting passenger cars and pedestrians--and emergency vehicles, when necessary--over the railroad tracks to riverfront park and the boat launch and whatever else gets developed down there, but what about the gravel trucks? Hudson can't seem to make plans for its waterfront without making accommodation for the rock coming out of the quarry, so in a scenario that eliminates the grade level crossing, how would the dump trucks get to the port? The City certainly will not want enormously heavy, aggregate-laden dump trucks rumbling over the new bridge and past Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.

The recently released revised zoning map holds a clue to what may be an inevitable solution. The area of lighter green labeled "R-C" is the Recreational Conservation District that is South Bay. The rat tail of emerald green cutting through it is the causeway. Note how the tail attaches to the emerald green body labeled "C-R"--Core Riverfront District--right about where the port is located. It continues uninterrupted over the railroad tracks. If CSX were to close the Broad Street crossing, would it mean that the City would have to accept a conveyor over the railroad tracks at this point to allow gravel to get from the end of the causeway to the port?

Comment 3.1.32 on the Generic Environmental Impact Statement, made by John E. Franzen of the Athens Waterfront Advisory Committee (see pages 3-34 and 3-35 of the FGEIS), expresses concern about "port enhancements" and mentions specifically "elevated conveyors." The response to that comment seems emphatic enough: "The Draft LWRP does not mention, contemplate or countenance an 'elevated conveyor' at the riverfront."

But Hudson seems never to have much control when it comes to the movement of rock through our city, and the path chosen is always the lesser of two evils. In the 1870s, it was a choice between mule-pulled wagons making their way from the quarry to the river along Worth Avenue, Union Street, West Court Street, and Allen Street or a railroad that bisected South Bay. A hundred and forty years
later, we bemoan the evil that won out.

If CSX were to close the Broad Street crossing, Hudson will find itself once again between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between allowing gravel trucks across the Ferry Street Bridge--assuming the City has built a better, stronger bridge that can support their massive weight--or permitting an elevated conveyor at the western end of the causeway.


  1. The catch here is that railroads enjoy a great degree of legal control over their domain, so I would think that a conveyor system over the CSX tracks would need their approval. But historically the rail companies aren't very co-operative with anyone who wants to operate in their space. I'm wondering whether a more likely outcome is a conveyor mechanism over the existing old rusty bridge (or its replacement) just a little further south, which Holcim owns and presumably has a grandfathered right of way.

    I suspect that what lies at the bottom of all this is Colarusso's purported interest in buying all of Holcim's holdings. No doubt they want to establish access to the port definitively and well into the future before spending millions to acquire the Holcim quarry and associated parcels. And our local government, always ready to bend over and spread 'em for the industrial interests, will no doubt do everything in its power to be helpful.

  2. 1.

    An informative post, although I insist that it's far too generous to characterize the zoning that cuts across the CSX tracks as an "inevitable solution."

    There is no other interpretation for the new zoning map than this: that gravel-laden trucks which are not permitted access to the Broad Street railroad crossing in the Residential -Special-Commercial zone (R-S-C) will be required to traverse the tracks along the rat-tail immediately across from the Holcim yard and only there. That is the ONLY possible crossing for port operations which doesn't utilize the R-S-C District. And the ONLY way to cross the tracks at that point - short of a new at-grade crossing - is with a conveyor system. (I agree with Gizmo to look out for that plan B, but the now-definitive zoning boundaries place the early 20th c. trestle squarely in the C-R District.)

    Only now are we able to appreciate that a future conveyor system was the city's plan all along, and that the public was intentionally misled yet again. It is only this week that the public is able to grasp a new and appalling dimension of the sneakiness that produced the LWRP.

    If the following doesn't convince people - especially those who mistakenly believed they were participating in the process - of the kind of contempt in which Hudson's political class holds the us, then nothing can.

    Recall that the official public comment period for the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) pertained to an iteration of the GEIS which made the entire South Bay an uninterrupted Recreational-Conservation District. For that reason alone the GEIS is filled with praise for "the new zoning proposal," and contains no criticism of the eccentric and offensive rat-tail "solution" which only came later. Attorney Cheryl Roberts exploited every bit of praise for the earlier zoning she could wring out of us, though the bureaucrats who run the NYS DOS will never figure out that the zoning was then changed. They probably wouldn't even care if they did know; the public is on record as praising "the zoning" and that is sufficient.

    Readers are free to be more generous, and to assume that the earlier zoning scheme which garnered so much praise from the public was innocently proffered by the planners, but I believe we were being manipulated from the start, and here's why.

    It was more than a year after the public was entitled to see its public comments addressed by city attorney and LWRP planner Cheryl Roberts. That was in the same May 2011 iteration of the GEIS which introduced the idea of continuing the C-R zone across the tracks south of the Broad Street crossing.

    We all thought that that was just another sloppy error. It was because of the poor quality of ALL of the BFJ Planners' sketches - for anyone Googling this post from afar, their products are far below comparison with any other planning firm in New York state - that a friend accurately quipped that their maps look like children's drawings.

    (The same individual once pointed out to BFJ principal Paul Buckhurst that his maps showed an incorrect number of inlets at the waterfront - that is still the case - to which an annoyed Buckhurst shouted, "I don't care!" In the new map, we see that Ferry Street is labeled "Broad Street," while the tag "Ferry Street" applies to a road parallel to the river which doesn't exist.)

    It was understandable that everyone assumed that the details on these already deficient maps had no special meaning, and that they were simply consistent with the entire body of BFJ Planners' incredibly shoddy products.

  3. 2.

    I recount this tedious history in order to set the stage for what happened next.

    When the new zoning was passed into law in November 2011 (the zoning was always a little separate from and prior to the LWRP itself), the council also amended zoning ordinance §325-3, "Adoption of Map." For anyone who didn't follow this story, the new map for the amended law didn't yet exist, though the council went ahead and accepted it as the new law anyway. In fact, it's the map that just came out this week which they passed into law 15 months ago, a map which the code specifically states is "adopted ... for the use and benefit of the public.”

    On the occasion of the Common Council's 2011 vote on the zoning, I had personally produced and displayed enlarged images of the LWRP/GEIS "Proposed Zoning Map," along with my own more detailed map which drew the council's attention to issues the public considered to be unresolved vis-a-vis O&G's accessing the Broad Street railroad crossing.

    Both of those images can be viewed in a Gossips post from 11/18/11, and are self-explantory:

    The public's mistaken assumption was that that part of the zoning which can only be understood by looking at a map was poorly drawn (consider why §325-3 exists in the first place, which is a map that becomes half of the zoning law).

    Instead of suspecting that the eccentric rat-tail was intentionally designed to anticipate a future conveyor system, we waited to see how the final Zoning Map would resolve the problem of gravel-hauling trucks through districts which did not permit such uses (even as conditional uses).

    The council chose not to comment on the seeming irregularity within the inferior LWRP map, and proceeded that same evening to adopt the LWRP's zoning proposal based upon the facts which the map evidenced.

    Now 15 months later, we see that the apparently mistaken zoning scheme across the tracks was an intentional feature. Gravel trucks that are not permitted to enter the R-S-C District at Broad Street will be required to use the cross-track C-R District where such port operations are permitted. The only way to cross the tracks there is with a conveyor system, which was the plan since May 2011 when this zoning map first appeared (at least since then), and more than a year after the public comment period ended.

    Yet again we find ourselves in the sickening position of knowing that the ruling class in Hudson - elected officials such as council president Moore, the unelected Cheryl Roberts, and citizens like Ms. Mussman who is inseparable from the conveyor scheme - have no intention of letting the public conduct its own affairs. We can see yet again that the entire LWRP process was a sham, orchestrated on behalf of a few interests.

    And all of the earnest work exerted by the various groups such as Scenic Hudson, The Task Force, The Valley Alliance and others, was known to be irrelevant by these elected and unelected city officials even at the time. In short we were used, and our officials had to be smiling inwardly.

    At the time the zoning was amended, now-Alderman Friedman commented that "the proposed statutes appear to be gravely flawed to the point where they may be unenforceable." One wonders what he would say today, now that he grasps how the council works and what the zoning plan was all along.

    What a crooked place we live in.

  4. Regarding the Ferry Street Bridge, it was in the last few weeks that the City learned two things: that the Strategic Transportation Enhancement Program (STEP) would open for funding applications, and that the bridge was found to have historical significance. It has been in place, if wrenched from its moorings and elevated a few feet, since 1905.

    The Council’s Economic Development Committee has worked on replacing the bridge for over a year, holding discussions in the committee and with the Mayor, the grant writers, DPW , legal counsel, AMTRAK, CSX, and NY DOT. Fortunately, enough work had been done so that we were in a position to bear down on submitting a $2.5 million grant application to the NYS DOT by the almost peremptory deadline of February 21.

    But what of the historical significance of the bridge? I met with the grant writers the day before the application was submitted to suggest that we find a way to incorporate the iconic vertical structural members of the bridge in the design. Hence, my comments mentioned in the article.

    Even with the considerable hurry to pull together all the pieces of a complex application, the birthright of the bridge was recognized. The application states under the heading of Social Benefits that “the project will take a context sensitive design approach, incorporating historically accurate motifs. As a grand entrance to the waterfront, the project will promote community revitalization.”

    No guarantee. But the point has been made that the Ferry Street bridge has endured, its simple, structural geometry a telling reminder of our commercial past and the countless wheels and feet that have crossed it. And as such it deserves to be respected and its iconography preserved, even if its days of offering safe passage are nearing an end. Thanks to Ward Hamilton and the others who brought all this to light.


  5. Mr. Moore, I do not see the word "PUBLIC" in this list:

    "The Council’s Economic Development Committee has worked on replacing the bridge for over a year, holding discussions in the committee and with the Mayor, the grant writers, DPW , legal counsel, AMTRAK, CSX, and NY DOT."


  6. Mr. O'Connor.

    All the Committee's meetings are public. And those public meetings have been reported by local news outlets particularly on the subject of the Ferry Street bridge. For example:


  7. 1.

    Mr. Moore, I welcome this opportunity for dialogue.

    By leaving the word "public" off your list, I believe you inadvertently committed a slip.

    The single opportunity the public had to comment on the Ferry Street Bridge was seven months ago, though by your own account much has happened since then.

    So if your employers - i.e., the public - are so central to the city's policy-making efforts, why is it that residents continually find themselves in last minute, panicked attempts to inject historical, ecological or other concerns into the latest set of plans bursting onto the scene under their own, previously undisclosed momentum?

    On the other hand, the story of the city's new Zoning Map makes a complete mockery of the idea of public participation. After 15 months it was only last week that the map portion of the amended zoning law was completed. If we are only now able to comprehend the meaning of the text portion of the law by virtue of the necessary but heretofore missing graphic, then the public comment period for the city's new zoning law was a farce.

    However, I did make use of the only opportunity the public had to comment on the map portion of the zoning law in November 2011. You may recall, I displayed several large print-outs of alternate zoning possibilities on an easel, and asked the LWRP's intentions for the seemingly unresolved issue of port operations requiring the Broad Street railroad crossing.

    I was ignored. My concerns went unanswered. (Only now do I realize why.) Immediately after I spoke, and without further discussion, the council unceremoniously voted to adopt the as-yet-uncreated zoning map, which was a key component of the principle action of the LWRP.

    If my question had been taken seriously at the November 2011 meeting, it wouldn't now be the case that the public is waking to the realization that the goal of the zoning amendment was to bestow a gravel conveyor system on Hudson's waterfront. In answer to our earlier and official PUBLIC COMMENTS on the zoning amendment, the possibility of a conveyor system was denied by the mayor's attorney Cheryl Roberts as being part of the LWRP. Well, so much for public participation.

    Let's discuss the sham of the BOA "brownfields" program, a NYS DOS-run program that recommends as much public participation as it does its Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP). Hudson's program application was completed without the public's knowledge. The city even went so far to claim that "residents" served on the Brownfields Steering Committee, whereas not a single resident could have known about the committee's existence!

    But even worse, our brownfield's program application collapsed the two-thirds of the program which is reserved for public participation into one step which was conducted secretly. There was no possibility for residents to weigh in before the announcement of a public meeting for the already completed application to be held a few days later.

  8. 2.

    As the LWRP itself explained, the BOA program may become central to the city's plans for Holcim's "Seven Acres," the acquisition of which was a controversial idea in the LWRP sold to the public on the basis of one person's mistaken claim that preliminary environmental studies had already been conducted there. But what Cheryl Roberts claimed about The Seven Acres in 2010 she smoothly took back in 2012. You may recall that I'd asked her about those studies at a Common Council meeting only last autumn, but before she could reply several alderman attempted to intervene (on her behalf only, or on behalf of the city's unthinking aim to acquire The Seven Acres?). Before I ever heard a word from Roberts, you yourself announced that you didn't see "the relevance" of my question, even though the council was preparing to order an environmental study on the same acreage. I pressed on nevertheless, through the customary barrage of audience hostility - it is mostly city and county officials who populate the benches - and I finally got Roberts to correct herself. "Finally" from 2010, that is.

    When will the public discussion concerning the combined sewer system take place? I have no doubt that the council is already moving ahead on this, based on that portion of the LWRP written by Cheryl Roberts. Are the grants already lined up? Did you already get the guidance of the non-resident grant-writers before you'll ever ask the public to weigh in?

    Today I read that "City of Hudson and Greenport town officials convened last April at Time & Space Limited to urge NYSDOT officials to conduct Origin and Destination surveys." May I remind you that that was a "dialogue" at TSL which included a representative for a US Congressman, though not the aldermen from all of the effected wards. That meeting was arranged by, and for, the special interest (TSI) that wanted to rid trucks from its own street. News of the meeting only appeared later, and again due to a momentum that the rest of the public didn't know existed.

    What are the city's plans for the former Furgary site at North Bay? The Region 4 office of the NYS DEC informs me that the city has not yet sought a Freshwater Wetlands Permit. Cheryl Roberts told me she didn't know the city needed one. Is everyone telling the truth? With this city's track record, who can tell?

    This list goes on and on. Shall I continue, or do you begin to see the pattern too?



    1. Yes TO'C, the pattern is continuing. You needed to be diligent in surfing the City of Hudson's website to find that the next meeting for PUBLIC OPINION on the Holcim Land Deal is February 28, 2013 at 5:30 PM at City Hall. Despite Mr. Moore's continued insistence that the public is given time to comment on issues at hand, the very next meeting that same night is scheduled 15 minutes later. So much for allowing for opposition to the project, or caring to hear more than 15 minutes worth. Interestingly, this Holcim land deal was another Rush Job. The decision to authorize the Transfer of this Riverfront Land to the City of Hudson took place behind closed doors in an Executive Session on 2/11/2013. This Common Council has hijacked the democratic process, moving swiftly to push through projects, despite public opposition. We MUST remember the actions of particular members of the Common Council, with special attention to Don Moore who "leads the pack", making sure that all who participate in this continued farce NOT BE RE-ELECTED. As for Cheryl Roberts, remember how she continues to keep her position and make sure that she is stopped in her tracks as well. They've made a mockery of democracy and trampled on the voices of Hudson.