Friday, April 25, 2014

"I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better": Part 2

As we saw the last time, the 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan divided the riverfront into four sections:  North Bay, Promenade Hill, South Bay waterfront, and South Bay inland (east of the railroad tracks). The first section to be considered was North Bay.

North Bay
All of North Bay is landlocked by the railroad. Neither filled nor channeled, most of the Bay is presently unusable. The City of Hudson is presently reclaiming approximately four acres at the northern City line through a sanitary land fill operation. Access is provided by a narrow road, the continuation of Second Street, which cuts through the vacant lands owned by the New York State Volunteer Firemen's Home. The road skirts the swamp, and most of the land west of it is underwater. At the southern edge of the bay are found an unhealthy and unsanitary mixture of uses: residences, factories (Foster Refrigerator and Hudson Valley Mills), a colony of fisherman's shacks, raw sewage outfalls, and junk yards.
Proposals. The Plan for Streets and Traffic Circulation proposes the eventual creation of a major road serving all of Columbia County and beyond, which will run in a north-south direction near the river. This road is envisioned as an improvement and extension of Third Street. East of this Third Street extension in the North Bay area, the Plans calls for residential, recreation, and semi-public uses; west of the road, primarily industrial uses. . . . 
A city-wide sewage treatment plant has been planned for a site directly north of Dock Street. From this site, it could easily serve any new industrial development in the North Bay. A new Department of Public Works garage (the present structure will be demolished when New York State constructs a boat launch facility) could be located in this vicinity.
The fishing village, located north of the end of Front Street, adjacent to the sewer outfall, is unsanitary and dilapidated. These shacks, together with the dilapidated structures north of Dock Street, should be removed or relocated. Middle Ground Flats, the small islands on the other side of the river channel, are lying fallow. While this location is outside the City limits, the possibility of developing them for recreation and camping sites should be investigated. When pollution is cleared from the Hudson River, and it becomes suitable for bathing, these islands would become delightful beaches. Until then, they are well-located to serve the more limited function of sites for camping and fishing, and as potential relocation sites for the fishing shacks now along the Hudson shore.
It would appear that, almost fifty years ago, planners already had the Furgary Boat Club in their sights. 

Today, instead of seeing the North Bay as good for nothing but industrial uses and being the future site of the sewage treatment plant, Hudson's LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) envisions conservation and recreational uses for the area. 

The Columbia Land Conservancy has proposed transforming the former landfill and the surrounding open space into a public recreation and natural area, with a trail network that would connect Hudson with "an expansive tract of open space and natural habitat, stretching from Charles Williams Park, through the 714-acre Greenport Conservation Area and northward on to Harrier Hill Park."


  1. In regard to "most of the bay [being] presently unusable," we may be fooling ourselves that our own feelings are much finer today. We continue to look at the bays in terms of human use, although now it's recreational use.

    In fact our two wetlands, the North and South Bays, are exceedingly rare in the overall Hudson River system. They're surviving remnants of the river that preceded our arrival, and within them are the remnants of flora and fauna that have miraculously survived our colossal selfishness.

    The best thing to do for these systems is to leave them alone. Do not "develop" them for any further human uses than they already endure.

    Our fine feelings might provoke us to ask instead why we dump the 5th Ward's sewer runoff directly into the North Bay?

    In 50 years will people look back to 2014 and wonder at our own ignorance and insensitivity when faced with the city's identical plan to use the South Bay as a catch basin for unfiltered sewer runoff?

    We're even contemplating changing the zoning in a way which will greatly increase the city's runoff! Are we really smarter and more sensitive today than we were in 1965, or is that just a story we tell ourselves?

    Consistent with the claim in the 1965 document, whenever Furgary's foes were able to prompt health authorities to investigate charges of unsanitary conditions at the camp, the charges turned out to be unfounded.

    Simultaneous with this criticism of Furgary, what was typical then and now was to overlook the central irony of planning to build the Waste Water Treatment Plant on lands owned by the State of New York.

    If anyone had a claim to occupy lands in the North Bay, by 1965 Furgary's was the older one by nearly a century. What the state Supreme Court decided in 2012 was that all parties in the North Bay were squatters, including the city.

    (Traditionally and by law, hunting and fishing are "uses" of a special kind. If these activities were wholly unregulated when Furgary was formed in the 19th century, today their survival is central to the conservation effort in America.)

  2. National Organization for Rivers:
    After the American Revolution, state and federal courts upheld public fishing rights, as well as state authority to regulate fishing to conserve fisheries. In Arnold v. Mundy, the owner of land next to a river claimed private ownership of the fishing rights, but the court said this amounted to claiming that “Magna Charta was a farce.” The court relied on “the law of nature, which is the only true foundation of all the social rights,” and said Magna Charta was “nothing but a restoration of common rights,” then held that the state “cannot make a direct and absolute grant of the waters of the state, divesting all the citizens of their common right,” adding that such a grant “never could be long borne by a free people.” In Martin v. Waddell, the U.S. Supreme Court held that in America, as in England, the public has a “liberty of fishing in the sea, or creeks, or arms thereof, as a public common of piscary.” (Fishing place.) In subsequent cases, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states hold surface waters “in trust” for the people, so that the people will have “liberty of fishing therein freed from the obstruction or interferences of private parties.” It held that a state cannot “abdicate its trust over property in which the whole people are interested,” and that rivers “shall not be disposed of piecemeal to individuals as private property.” These principles are now known as the Public Trust Doctrine. Arnold v. Mundy, 6 N.J.L. 1 (1821). Martin v. Waddell, 41 U.S. (16 Pet.) 367, 10 L.ed 997 (1842). Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387, 36 L.ed 1018 (1892). Shively v. Bowlby, 152 U.S. 1, 38 L.ed 331 (1894).
    "never could be long borne by a free people.”