Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Defending North Bay . . . Continued

At the Common Council Legal Committee meeting in January, Timothy O'Connor offered to make himself available "to explain why the City is flirting with a lawsuit" over its sewer separation plan. Apparently, no one has taken him up on the offer, so O'Connor is trying a different strategy: articulating with painstaking completeness, in writing, the problems with the plan. Last night, the Common Council received as a communication the introduction to a document O'Connor is calling "Preview of a Potential Article 78 Challenge Pending SEQR Classification of the City of Hudson's Front Street Sewer Separation Project."

O'Connor's scrutiny was prompted by the City's success in getting a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the project at North Front and State streets, which would separate storm water from the sanitary sewer and direct the storm water, untreated, into North Bay. He states in his introduction: "For the public, it is inexplicable that in December 2014 the New York State Office of Community Renewal saw fit to award the City the maximum grant of $600,000 for its ill-advised sewer separation project. This was done in apparent disregard for the detailed objections of Public Comments which were submitted with the grant application."

In the application, it was stated that the City "anticipated that the project will be classified as Type II" for State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). Under SEQR, an action classified as Type II is exempt from further environmental review. O'Connor asserts that the basis for the project's Type II SEQR status is suspect.

Back in 2007, the City was cited for a violation of New York State's Environmental Conservation Law. The principal infraction was a chemical spill from Hudson Fabrics, which at that time occupied the building at the north end of Second Street. As a consequence of this violation, the City has, since that time, been under a Consent Order to comply with state and federal clean water policies. It is this Consent Order that is the basis for the project's Type II SEQR status.

The City is taking the position that, because the action proposed relates to the Consent Order, it is a Type II action and exempt from further environmental review. O'Connor takes issue with this and explains in his introduction: "When a Consent Order is explicit with regard to an activity it has ordered, then unquestionably the action is exempt for SEQR review. In the City's case, however, the Consent Order was not explicit as to the methods of implementing the order, meaning that subsequent decisions or actions of a discretionary nature are not immune to SEQR review."

The entire document submitted to the Common Council, which is only the first part of a much larger paper, can be read here.  

The photograph that accompanies this post, taken in North Bay last June, is from O'Connor's blog, Hudson Meets Hudson, a.k.a. Hudson Conservation on the Hudson.


  1. "The city of Hudson received a late holiday present Wednesday when a local developer donated a large tract of riverfront property to the Hudson Development Corporation..." RS 12/31/09

    The City isn't only "flirting with a lawsuit" over its sewer separation plan, a lawsuit to stop the separation of fishermen from shore starts at 1000 days.

    One shouldn't have to sue "servants." Nine hundred fifty-six days and counting.

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  3. Thank you, Gossips. You recollect, as if from the distant past, what everyone seems to have forgotten. The environment is at our mercy, along with public health.

    The best way for people to help in the coming weeks is to ask their aldermen to explain what's going on. You're only asking a question, so please don't put it off.

    Their email addresses are here:

    And even if your alderman only parrots what the mayor's been telling them for the last year (memories of the LWRP), someday they may wish to find out for themselves what's actually happening. Eventually they may even take notice of a lawsuit that they themselves helped bring about (one of the unnecessary expenses the city should plan for).

    The mayor will say that the responsibility rests with a man in his office named James Folz, a man who's held his position in City Hall for many years.

    Ask your representatives to explain how and why a single council vote last year put the fate of the North Bay in the hands of Mr. Folz. That nefarious deed rested entirely with the council and not at all with the public, which was denied knowledge of the project's SEQR status by a ruse.

    It would be interesting to know how they'd respond, but I'd put good money on a lot of blank stares.

  4. The US Army Corps of Engineers just gave me another argument against the city's claim that the Consent Order "requires" the sewer project.

    After I explained the circumstances, my contact in the ACE's regional office was surprised about something I didn't already know.

    A Consent Order would not order something with potentially negative environmental consequences without analyzing the situation first.

    Recall the DEC's previous position on the South Bay, that "redirecting storm water flows into South Bay would likely have a negative impact on the wetland."

    If this applies equally to North Bay, then the ACE's suggestion is that the Consent Order would never have required it or even implied it.

    It's so rarely that I take an opportunity to say, Thank you Federal government!