A while back, Sam Pratt discovered and put online an article about the controversy that appeared in the December 1984 issue of Hudson Valley Magazine: "An Oil Refinery in Our Backyard." This morning, in a collection of old newspaper clippings given to me by Susan Troy, I discovered the following article, which appeared in the Register-Star on March 28, 1984. In it, Loewenstein attacks SHOW and defends the economic efficacy of siting an oil refinery in Hudson. Thirty years later, some of his arguments still sound disturbingly familiar.
Loewenstein: SHOW anti-development
HUDSON--City Industrial Development Director William Loewenstein says SHOW is "anti-development" and that its advocacy of tourism-related uses of the riverfront instead of the proposed oil plant is ill-conceived.
He said SHOW's most recent news release, which recommended exploring alternative uses for the site, was a "propaganda effort" and revealed the anti-oil plant group's "real intent."
"The debate between SHOW and the City of Hudson is really one on the future development course of the city," he said. "SHOW is anti-development. It would like to see the City of Hudson become a service center to provide relatively cheap labor for a tourism and second-home economy. Jobs in areas devoted to tourism are seasonal, relatively low paying and are areas marked with high unemployment. The facts bear this out.
"1. The proposed Octane site is not a virgin piece of land along the river. It contains a large oil tank farm, a lumber yard, a Conrail service facility, a transformer shipping zone and is adjacent to a cement factory shipping area. An area which is unsightly and meets minimum safety requirements.
|Photo by M. B. Pfeiffer in Hudson Valley Magazine, December 1984|
"2. To develop this area for tourism would mean purchasing not only the existing uses, but the entire cement operation. No one wants to develop a restaurant or hotel sandwiched between a cement plant and an oil tank farm and these existing uses will not go away unless they are purchased by someone else.
"3. The cement company could rightfully argue that by purchasing their loading zone, we are leaving them with an uneconomic remnant and therefore would have to purchase their entire operation.
"4. Therefore, we are faced with the choice of upgrading an existing industrial area and provide adequate fire protection while bringing in new jobs and millions of dollars of revenue to the city, leaving the site alone in its unsatisfactory condition, or purchasing the entire site and using it for an alternative use.
"5. SHOW knows that it is impracticable and impossible to purchase the existing properties. Based on past condemnation awards in the Candy Lane and Simpsonville cases, it could be reasonably argued that acquisition of the site could cost in excess of $30 million." This is more money than the federal government's entire urban parks budget and "an overhead burden that no private developer will pick up, except possibly in certain sections of Manhattan," he said. Making city taxpayers bear the burden would push property taxes "out of sight," he said.
"6. Further, SHOW is misleading people by indicating that taxpayers are footing the bill for the Octane project and (that) these funds could be diverted for another project. The facts are that of the approximately $15 million going towards this facility, only $3.5 million represent taxpayers' dollars which must be paid back to the city, even though they are federal funds. The rest of the funding, including JDA (Jobs Development Authority) funding, is private, a fact that SHOW conveniently forgets to mention.
"7. The City of Hudson has come up with the only practical and feasible plan for this section of the city, and SHOW knows it. If they didn't know it, they could have come up with a practical solution several years ago."
Mr. Loewenstein said SHOW's press release "again raises phony environmental bugaboos in its despicable attempt to panic people, by listing 72 potential dangerous chemicals."
He said many of the chemicals on the list "are emitted when you turn on your oil burner, when a farmer turns on his tractor, or you operate your automobile."
He said an Albany newspaper pointed out that the Capital District "faces a potentially major oil crisis because of all the majors that have moved out and the hundreds of service stations that have left.
"We already pay higher fuel prices than most major metropolitan areas, and now SHOW not only wants to prevent us from lowering those prices, but to prevent a major energy crisis. . . ."
He said Hudson has followed "a rational plan of development," developing areas of tourism, creating hundreds of jobs by developing industrial parks, and building and rehabilitating hundreds of residential units.
"Now the city wants to upgrade its riverfront in the most practical manner. It wants to create millions of dollars in additional city revenue, create new jobs while making the riverfront more attractive and safer than it is now. SHOW refuses to listen. They love confrontation and couldn't care one bit for the City of Hudson or the future of its residents.["]
Gossips Note: In 1999, Loewenstein, as a paid consultant to the City, tried to bring Americlean, a PERC (perchloroethylene) recycler proposing to use an unproven process to recycle toxic dry cleaning fluid, to the Hudson waterfront. That threat was the beginning of Friends of Hudson, the grassroots organization that succeeded in making Americlean go away and, six years later, won the battle against the SLC Greenport Project. Sam Pratt recalled the Americlean story last year on his blog.