Saturday, April 19, 2014

Room at the Dock

Yesterday, Brian Branigan, well known to Hudson as the owner, until recently, of the food truck Tortillaville, published a post on imby making the case that he should be allowed to rent dock space from the City of Hudson for his sloop Teja, which he hopes to operate on the Hudson River as a charter vessel.

Today, John Mason picks up the story in the Register-Star: "Sailing biz looks to dock in city." For his article, Mason spoke with Mayor Hallenbeck, who could not recall reading the April 6 email from Branigan which made the proposal, and Council president Don Moore, who is quoted as saying, "From what I know, Mr. Branigan's proposed use is no different from any other boat owner requesting to have year-round or season-long docking at the waterfront."

Here is the text of the email Branigan sent to Hallenbeck and Moore:
Mayor, Common Council President,
Hello again. I am a licensed and USCG certified charter boat captain. I am still interested in gaining access to the back (south end) of the SOH [Spirit of Hudson] dock to offer sailboat charters. I would like to pay $30 per foot per season, or $930.00 for such an arrangement. If it is not legal now, then I fail to understand what SOH is doing there. I ask you to present this offer to the Common Council for a vote. If you cannot legally rent the dock to me, perhaps you can give it to me until you iron out the details. Guy and SOH have a wonderful deal, and a well deserved one. But times have changed, and Hudson taxpayers deserve more. Hudson taxpayers deserve transparency. They deserve income to offset the work of the dock haul-in and haul-out. I do not ask for electric from the city like SOH has. I do not ask for a place for an ice machine like SOH has. I do not ask for anything without paying for it. I only ask that you allow my 31-foot sailboat, Teja, to operate as a charter vessel, sharing the dock with SOH. I will of course provide insurance and an additionally insured policy. It is my hope that this can be resolved prior to the river season. SOH has enjoyed a long run, but now is the time to open up the waterfront to more than one charter. I hope that you agree.
Capt Brian
Since Mason's article was published, Gossips heard from Steve Walsh, who wanted to correct some of the information in Branigan's email and in Mason's article. Walsh began by pointing out that Hudson Cruises, which owns the Spirit of Hudson, has been operating on the Hudson waterfront for eleven years. In response to Branigan's assertion that Hudson taxpayers "deserve income to offset the work of the dock haul-in and haul-out," Walsh told Gossips that "Guy [Falkenheimer] from SOH helps the City with haul in and haul out of the docks every year utilizing his tour boat and services free of charge moving the docks to facilitate install of docks since the City doesn't have a boat to do such install. Also SOH does some repair and maintenance work on all the dock[s] free of charge to the City."

Walsh took issue with Branigan's implication that the City of Hudson pays for the electricity used by the Spirit of Hudson, explaining that "SOH pays for metered electric service from National Grid." The locked gate at the dock has been a bone of contention for many because it denies public access to the City-owned dock. According to Mason's article, "Moore said Branigan was correct in his assertion that Falkenheimer should not be locking the dock gate. 'If they do lock it, I will personally come down and break it,' Moore said." According to Walsh, the lock was installed at the request of the City of Hudson Department of Public Works, and DPW wanted it locked "for liability and safety issues to mitigate anyone getting hurt and suing [the] City for unauthorized access by kids or [the] public when no one is around."

Walsh also corrected Branigan's information about the number of certified U.S. Coast Guard captains in this part of the Hudson Valley. Mason's article reports Branigan as saying there are only six to eight, and he is one of them. According to Walsh, there are about forty, and that number includes Walsh himself.

It will be interesting to see if a resolution can be reached that would permit the cruise boat and chartered sloop to share the dock.


  1. This tit for tat with Steve Walsh is not productive. Bottom line is that is does not matter how long SOH has been there, the taxpayers deserve more. SOH likely earns well over $100K per season. ANY other boat at a slip on the Hudson should be paying a minimum of $30 per foot. The dock is not owned by SOH. They should move up and make room. This is not an argument between Steve and me, or even Guy and me. It is time to take the monopoly form the waterfront and open up some other opportunities. There should be a classic sailboat in Hudson, If not Halfmoon, why not Teja. As far as 6 to 8 captains, I never said that, RS did, I said a handful compared to places like Key West. If Steve just got his license - congratulations.

  2. Teja is not "just another boat looking for a slip". It is a business, with insurance, and additionally insured. I am a licensed captain. I will have brochures. I want my home port to be Hudson. This will be my third official business in Hudson since 2006. What better than a classic sailboat on the waterfront? My rates are super fair. People can learn to sail. It is one more thing that Hudson has that other areas do not. Only the Halfmoon or Clearwater as a permanent home would be better. And, when those boat do visit, I will have no problem moving for them. I still don't see the confusion. Why am I not allowed to dock a business for hire in Hudson? Why can SOH? That is all I am asking.


  3. Because the Common Council is the only body which can lease city property, it's the council that ought to have decided the locks and liability issues, and not public works.

    This is not necessarily a criticism of the DPW, since other issues point more directly to the council's dereliction. For example, as the only body which can enter lease agreements, the council shows almost no interest in whether its leases are being honored.

    Mr. Moore could have personally come down and broken the locks at any time over the last several years, but I'd have been more impressed if he just made sure that our Harbor Master had the keys to all locks at all times. The council specified this as a responsibility of the position, a position Mr. Moore personally took part in creating.

    Last Memorial Day weekend I wheeled my boat to the waterfront only to have Mr. Falkenheimer tell me personally that he never kept the keys. In contravention of the duties of his own office, he explained that I'd have to contact Rob Perry for access.

    Was he just being a smart-ass by inconveniencing people? The previous year the docks were also locked until June, and are locked at idiosyncratic times throughout the boating season, but don't expect the Harbor Master/Dock Master to have the keys to any but "his own" docks, which are so often treated as the private property of SOH.

    These docks were purchased by the state dormitory authority using state income tax revenue. For this reason alone Hudson taxpayers deserve to generate income from the docks if they choose, and not only to offset other expenses.

    The public would like to verify the claim that Mr. Falkenheimer has repaired all of the damage his business incurred to our docks last year, which will also help residents keep an eye on whether the council cares about its leases and whether the DPW insures that all damage is repaired as the lease specifies (whether the lease is legal or not). This will require public access to our own docks.

    Other questions for the Common Council:

    Did Mr. Falkenheimer ask for his dockside parking from the city's sole leasing body? His unilateral expansion of the terms of his lease should be another of Mr. Moore's concerns, unless the president is too busy searching for his bolt cutters.

    I believe that Mr. Branigan is being too generous to the Spirit of Hudson when he says "I do not ask for a place for an ice machine like SOH has."

    The implication is that Mr. Falkenheimer ever asked the city for permission to park his ugly appliance at our City Dock, whereas it's my understanding he just goes ahead and does whatever he wants to do down there, without asking the city legislature.

    And is there anyone at all who's able to answer how it came to be that the "Tahiti Queen" was berthed at the waterfront park all last year?

    There was nothing in The Minutes about leasing to another company, so what was THAT arrangement all about?!

    This place is lawless. It's a 21st century Deadwood, and it's getting worse not better.

    1. Tin boaters were present the day the Spirit salvage powered off while still tied the the city dock, ripping it from its mooring. And today tin boat salvors retrieved a city dock from the North Bay.

      Citizen Navigators shouldn't have to rely on a self serving fair weather "dock master" for access to "our" shore.

    2. ... our water master who doesn't even live anywhere near here.

    3. Municipal home "rulers" would never block Captain Everett...

  4. I am confused why and in what capacity Steve Walsh is " correcting "some of the information in Branigan's email and in Mason's article." It does not say he is officially representing
    HUDSON CRUISES INC. or Guy Falkenheimer,
    although I believe he is still an employee of this outfit.

    1. Steve Walsh is employed by Hudson Cruises, Inc. He did not represent himself in his communication to me as speaking "officially" for Hudson Cruises or for Guy Falkenheimer, and I saw no reason to assume that he was. That doesn't mean he has no standing to share information. No one seems to know exactly what goes on at the dock.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I never said he had no standing to share information, I only stated ,that I was confused,
      in what capacity he was sharing it. It was not a comment from him, in the general forum, that's all.

    4. "No one seems to know exactly what goes on at the dock."

      To say the least! A couple of years ago I spoke with two aldermen who believed that the signs on the dock's gates reflected actual laws. (For those who've never had a civics lesson, it's our legislatures which pass the laws.)

      The signs on the gates could have been written by anyone. The words have no authority whatsoever, though they might be thought of as the suggested guidelines of whoever ordered the signs.

      It was this same misunderstanding which led to the Mariana being kicked out last summer. That was as an act of discretionary anarchy by either the Harbor Master or the DPW. (And it's not the public's job to parse which one cares less about public service.)

  5. At least you guys are white enough to put an application at HPBA. If favorable, you might sway them into letting you use the bulkhead in front of the State launch. If not you'll have to endure the same barriers and obstacles county fishermen do.

  6. I like Steve but he made very weak points. He is too close to the situation (SOH), and he is being defensive about it. Try as he might, Steve cannot in clear conscience tell me that SOH is paying a fair slip fee they help install the docks - what a laugh, (regardless of what it is making.) But, who cares. I am just one of forty some captains in the area, who happens to own a charter sailboat (probably eight of us with boats.) I am looking for a place to run a respectable business and get along with others. I want to show people the beautiful Hudson River, and to teach them to sail. I have a mooring already (aka: a heavy piece of metal that is a permanent tie up without the need for a dock.) So, I have a mooring, or secure home. I am not just another seasonal boat seeking seasonal dockage. I am a business, and I have run a business continuously in Hudson since 2006. I would like if Hudson (and SOH too), but more importantly - Hudson taxpayers, would invite me to be their charter sailboat. If not, it's OK, I'll go elsewhere.

    1. Unfortunately, Hudson taxpayers are far from being in command of their own lives. The age-old ideas of sovereignty and self-determination are completely wasted here.

      I'd suggest you try your otherwise sensible proposal some other time, perhaps in the 22nd century. Maybe by then Hudson residents (AND their representatives) will have learned to be less servile, but I highly doubt it.

      There's something so wrong with this place I'm nearly thinking it's metaphysical in origin!

  7. Fair weather businesses, the Striper are here now and fishermen have to wait for fair weather Falkenheimer to put the city docks in?

  8. i was born and raised in Hudson, i'm now sixty and not too limber, i just spent six hours on that river in a cold north wind in a small boat, i've been on that river ten times this year in all sorts of conditions. i was the last Hudson sailor in port today. i am forced to tie up to a makeshift float along a railroad slip at the end of a mud filled unpaved city street. i'm then forced to tote a slew of heavy fishing gear to be locked in a car and driven away. all of your foolishness about the LWRP, who gets what at the river nonsense has so far only resulted in putting me and my son at risk. the city's debt is to it's citizens but it's citizens that fish the river and use the river are forced to risk injury while others get docks. shame on all of you. i was standing in river mud at eight o'clock on Saturday night while you dicker about fancy docks, and Brian, i've spent twenty years in Key West, i helped make the Fantasy Fest Parade what i is today on got New Years Eve on CNN... 30 dollars a foot would be for a pleasure craft, per foot/ per month, commercial space is higher and if on a city owned dock a % of sales would be included. something city hall and SOH should be aware of next lease time in two years. tomorrow i go fishing again, over the rocks and through the mud because for me, a lifelong Hudsonian, taxpayer, voter, the city has taken away my dock. my rights must be restored before others get new.

    1. Side note, Captain Mike was not a key holder at North Dock but unlike Power Boat or Pricks Point, he and Captain Eddie made full use of the wharf there.
      Twenty-five key holders, each with (at least) five hunting/fishing buddies, that's 125 pair of eyes made jealous by City politicans promoting new use, replacing the historical use of shore.

  9. In their infinite wisdom, "the city" has cleverly doubled demand for riverfront access while cutting the number of wharves in half.

    Where did these guys study business?

    Fisherfolk put the floats in, duck/deer hunters pull them out.

    Worked on the wharf at North dock for 100 years.