Saturday, March 25, 2017

Of Interest

In today's Register-Star, Nick Olivari does extensive investigative reporting about A. Colarusso & Son and some of its more recent plans to facilitate the movement of gravel from their quarries in Greenport: "The long road for gravel company." In particular, Olivari looks at LS (LS for Lone Star) Industries and the plan for a "transloading facility," which won $2.2 million in economic development funding back in 2011--money that was never actually awarded. Gossips covered that story a few times back when it was happening in 2011 through 2014, but it's good to have this in-depth account of the story and be reminded that abandoning the plan for a transloading facility, which was supposed to be an economic boon to the region, was pretty much concurrent with Colarusso purchasing the Holcim holdings in Greenport and Hudson.


  1. If you look at the issue of Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports (April 2012), you will read a far more detailed description of the extent of the Lone Star (Colarusso) transloading proposal. In all fairness, the story was never quite told in this manner, and certainly not from Paul Colarusso's own words. Of additional note, the project called for a road to link Route 23B with Route 66. Please see the minutes from CEDC 6/24/2014. And, as the Register-Star article seems to imply, a rather good case can be made questioning Virginia Benedict and her partiality.

  2. This level of journalism is unprecedented at The Register-Star, and it behooves us to express our gratitude.

    If 200,000 tons a year were described as "crumbs" in 2012, how would the company now describe the total of 110,000 to 150,000 tons alleged for the current proposal? What is 25% to 45% less than a "crumb"? Is the latest projection realistic?

    To get a better appreciation of the invisible web of special interests which exerts such a powerful hold on City affairs, recall the single mention of a railroad alternative in the 2011 Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for the waterfront program.

    At GEIS 3.1.24, a single public comment was entertained regarding alternatives to transport gravel by rail. You really have to read the comment to fathom how the City, which was replying to selected comments, could have misunderstood it:

    "There are feasible alternatives such as mainline rail, using rail track from source, which should be investigated in an in-depth transportation study. All the negative impacts of transporting gravel to the dock and the presence of O&G at the dock could thus be obviated."

    Following was the City's obtuse reply, which totally ignored the comment's alternative to shipping by barge at all (which was thus "obviated"), and instead fielded a question not asked about a mine-to-port rail:

    "The Draft GEIS examined the railroad alternative (Alternative 2B [i.e., mine-to-port]) and found that it was not feasible due to the number of intermodal transfers required."

    When the comment was written in 2010, residents had no idea the alternative which was floated in the comment was already the subject of a tremendous planning effort.

    But in 2011, with the City's unlikely misreading of the only rail comment admitted, the City summarily snuffed out of its SEQR review the most promising alternative to the haul road.

    As is so often the case around here, everybody was in on the railroad alternative including City officials, whereas City residents, who were the most effected by the plan, were deliberately kept in the dark.

    The current SEQR review must address all alternatives, no matter how far out they seem to the Greenport officials and lawyers who are carrying water for the applicant.

  3. Glad to see some diligent journalism from the Reg-Star! It would be nice if our Hudson city officials would start taking a leadership role and begin asking, "What kind of waterfront do we want to have?" So far this discussion has mainly been focused on Colarusso and their various downside impacts on the community. But we should also be thinking about the outcome-- how are we going to attract new investment and build a great waterfront with a gravel dump and a truck route right smack in the middle of it all?

    1. Those questions properly belong to the ongoing work of the Waterfront Advisory Committee (WAC).

      Currently, the planning you're alluding to, planning we hope will be codified in an approved Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), is being taken up by the WAC's subcommittees.

      Before this most recent effort to break up the planning into its thematic components, the City never attempted subcommittees. Many agree that it was the failure to form subcommittees in 2006 which doomed the previous LWRP attempt (evidence for which is presented in my earlier comment).

      Now that the subcommittees are looking at their respective issues, there are already complaints that nothing visible is happening.

      Look closely and you'll see the complainers as the very people - and also the very sorts of people - who commandeered the last LWRP towards its ultimate failure.

      I'm glad for your comment, but it should be noted that there's a venue for that kind of planning, and also a pace. If we do this well - which means being patient - we'll get there this time.

      But it's still a ways off, and this Colarusso business mustn't hurry it.

  4. The most troubling fact in my mind--the gravel mines don't run out for a century!!!

    1. That's exactly why this moment counts.

      What's decided today will be our shared legacy, still playing out in a century's time. Beneath today's quality gravel there's Portland cement, the gold standard.

      Our aim is to accommodate a long-term vision for the waterfront - which was always planned for mixed use - with the seemingly endless transport of mining products to and from the port.

      We thought we achieved this, however imperfectly, with the zoning amendments of 2011. It appears that the Colarusso company had its own ideas when it abandoned the rail alternative and then bought the property three years later.

      In 2017, the company's appeal to the City's violation concerning unapproved wharf work is a contest over who has the right to interpret the 2011 zoning.

      If the City blinks, it will have surrendered the C-R District's conditional use provisions for a hundred years. Hereafter, the bar will be permanently lowered for the enumerated conditional uses in the Code. Henceforth, most anything will qualify as "maintenance and repairs," the precedent long since established by ourselves, in 2017.