Let's begin by clarifying what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean the Furgarians get their shacks back, and it doesn't mean the City is compelled to preserve all the shacks in perpetuity. But the eligibility determination does have significant implications which will have to be taken into consideration as the City decides how to proceed.
The determination--finally and definitively--puts to rest the debate over whether or not the site has historic value. It does. SHPO, which exists to decide such things in the State of New York, has spoken. This puts some roadblocks, or at least speed bumps and "Caution" signs, in the path of the mayor and the Common Council. The site is "eligible for the National Register . . . in the areas of maritime history, social history, and architecture." For this reason, the shacks should not be thoughtlessly bashed down and carted away as so much hazardous waste. What happens to the site must be the outcome of planning that respects its historic value.
There's another impediment to the "rip 'em down" conclusion allegedly reached by the Common Council working group tasked with coming up with a plan for the Furgary site. In an email submitted to the Common Council yesterday, Trish Gabriel, an environmental analyst for the Department of Environmental Conservation, stated: "A Freshwater Wetlands permit is required for the removal of the Furgary Boat Club shacks because the shacks are located within a state-regulated wetland and its adjacent area. . . . No application has been received by the Department as of the date [August 4, 2015] of this email." Nobody has so far mentioned the need for a permit from DEC to raze the shacks.
One of the goals of the working group tasked with drafting a plan for the North Dock site was to select one or two cabins to be preserved. Their great frustration was that the Furgarians never cooperated and came up with their choices. It's probably just as well they didn't, because it is not known on what criteria they might have based their decisions. The SHPO determination, however, helps establish the criteria for choice. If only a few buildings are to be saved, they should be those that played the longest and most significant role in the history of the fishing village. The Sanborn maps, which were instrumental in making the case for the site's historic significance, can also be helpful in determining how the site should be preserved and developed.
SHPO's recognition of the site's historic significance also suggests that the task of coming up with a plan for its future--one that is sympathetic and creative and ultimately of greater value to the community than simply demolishing everything--might better be handled by the Historic Preservation Commission than the Common Council. The HPC could seek the assistance of Hudson residents who have expertise in designing exhibitions and interpretative programs or an interest in conceptualizing a public use for this particular site. The Council would still have to approve the plan; they just wouldn't have to create it.
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