The Planning Board is in the process of gathering information to be considered in its review of the proposed haul road, and, to this end, Tom DePietro, who chairs the Planning Board, asked audience members to "limit what you say to what you consider new information." As it happened, no one in the audience made a statement that evening, although some written comments were submitted. DePietro also announced that all documents relating to the proposed project, including written comments received by the Planning Board, were available at City Hall and could be viewed without submitting a FOIL request. He encouraged any member of the Planning Board who had not already traveled to the site to arrange for a site visit with J. R. Heffner, a vice president at Colarusso in charge of the dock operations.
When DePietro asked if members of the Planning Board had comments about the proposed project, Clark Wieman, a new appointee to the board, referred to a five-page report he had written after he had visited the site. He asked how the project would affect the waterfront and if increased activity at the dock would comport with the vision for the waterfront. He expressed concern about the impact of the haul road and the dock "on the rest of what is happening in Hudson." He maintained that the either-or of trucks on Hudson streets or trucks on the proposed haul road was a "false choice," suggesting that there were other alternatives that were not being explored.
Planning Board member Carmine Pierro posited that 1,500 to 2,000 people live on the truck route, comparing that with the haul road, which "goes by only one business in Hudson." He dismissed the use of the railroad--the spur that goes through the city to the ADM facility in Greenport--and a conveyor from the quarry to the dock as options that no one wants and told Wieman, "To try to say there are more choices, I don't know what they are." Echoing something said by Art Koweek back in 1984, Pierro declared, "It's a working dock. It's going to stay a working dock." He then invoked environmental justice and the wear and tear on our city streets as reasons to support the haul road. When someone in the audience uttered a scatological assessment of his assertions, Pierro reacted sharply. Somewhat later in the proceedings, another reaction from the audience prompted DePietro to declare that outbursts would not be tolerated.
Ray Jurkowski, the engineer who is consulting with the Planning Board on this project, reviewed the process and explained where things currently stand. The SEQR process comes first. For this, the Greenport Planning Board has been named lead agency. After SEQR, both planning boards do their own site plan review on the portion of the haul road within their boundaries. The Greenport Planning Board has not declared the application complete and has requested "a more in-depth project narrative"--one that provides more history and more information about environmental impacts. He noted that written comments submitted to the Hudson Planning Board will be forwarded to the Greenport Planning Board, the lead agency in the SEQR process.
Prendergast attested, "No part of this is a proposed expansion. I see this as a win-win for the communities." He acknowledged that the haul road was a "little bit of a shortcut" for trucks traveling from the quarry to the dock. When Planning Board member Laura Margolis took issue with the characterization of the haul road as a "little bit of a shortcut," maintaining that it was a substantial shortcut, Colarusso's attorney, John Privitera stepped in. "We are not going to be defensive," he declared. "We firmly believe this is a public benefit project, and it's been planned for that purpose." He quoted the letter from the DEC which indicated that the purpose of the haul road was in part "to route Hudson River dock truck traffic . . . off of City of Hudson streets." He acknowledged that the proposed haul road was "in part a matter of convenience" but asserted it was "in large part in respect to Comprehensive Plan that this city adopted," and "the one of the greatest aspirations of that plan" was to get trucks off Columbia Street.
Privitera then launched into a litany of things the Planning Board and the City of Hudson could not do. They could not regulate mining, nor could they regulate the amount of business Colarusso does or the size of the business. DePietro interrupted him to say, "We don't need that lecture." When Mitch Khosrova, legal counsel to the Planning Board, told Privitera, "The City of Hudson believes we can regulate the dock," Privitera shot back, "The Town of Greenport has already said twice that the dock is not part of this proceeding." He went on to assert, "We have a constitutional right to use the dock that precedes zoning."
At one point, after several exchanges between Khosrova and Privitera, Margolis told Privitera, whose attitude was confrontational, that he was making her nervous. It was then revealed what the burr under his saddle was. Khosrova, as a matter of course, has been forwarding all written public comment to the Greenport Planning Board and apparently also to Privitera, as counsel for Colarusso. One of those items was, according to Privitera, an unsigned, anonymous letter that "calls everybody names" and "says the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't know what it's doing." It turns out that the letter was written by a frequent commenter on Gossips on behalf of an ad hoc citizens group. When DePietro and Khosrova received the letter, because it came as a email message, they knew who the author was and did not consider it an anonymous letter. Privitera, however, did and was highly offended that he was "expected to respond to an unsigned and insulting letter."
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