The idea that Standard Oil ownership had not been discovered in the title search raised questions in the minds of many, and on Tuesday, at the regular meeting of the Common Council, Roberts addressed the issue by saying that there was "a serious misunderstanding about what a title search is." She went on to explain that a title search did not trace the chain of title back to the beginning but only went back as far as a warranty deed. A title search, she explained, "insures title for a specific period of time."
Seeming not to know when Standard Oil is believed to have owned the land, Roberts went on to assert that before 1850, when the railroad was established, no one could have owned the land in question because it didn't exist. She maintained that the land owned by Standard Oil was north of the port, where the tank farm had been until the early 1990s. Roberts' placement of the Standard Oil property was confirmed by Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward), who said that "oil barges pulled up where the Spirit of Hudson docks now." Roberts reiterated that Crawford & Associates would not be recommending a Phase II environmental study because the Phase I study was discovering no reason for doing a Phase II.
When it was decided that an investigation to establish chain of title be done, Roberts told the Council that Rapport Meyer, the law firm where Roberts works, would "do it in house." Because of this additional research and because the Council would not meet again until May 21, it was decided that the deadline in the resolution rescinding the February 11 resolution would be changed from May 1 to May 15.
Mayor William Hallenbeck, who had originally suggested the May 1 deadline, objected to the postponement and read a prepared statement that reinforced his position. In it, he declared that Holcim had until May 1 to sign the agreement to transfer the land, and on May 2, the City "must move forward to develop the waterfront no matter who owns the port and with or without the Department of State's blessing." He talked about ensuring that "private shipping can coexist with public uses" and said he supported efforts to acquire the land by eminent domain. He spoke of the North Bay project and complained that "too much time has been spent on South Bay." He mentioned as a goal "retail development on Water Street" and concluded by suggesting that the Department of State was "trying to infringe on the City's home rule authority by holding the City hostage by making this [the land transfer] a requirement for its approval of the LWRP."
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAROLE OSTERINK
The rendering of developed Water Street is from the 1996 Vision Plan.