Sunday, April 9, 2017

Community Activism

The people of Hudson have an impressive history of battling back projects that threaten to harm the environment, the waterfront, and the unique character of our city.

Image: Two Square Miles
In the 1980s, it was an oil refinery proposed for the waterfront. In the 1990s, it was a facility to recycle the toxic dry cleaning solvent perchloroethlene proposed for the site that is now Basilica Hudson. From 1998 to 2005, it was the $300 million coal-burning cement plant--then to be the largest in the country--proposed for Greenport, with facilities for receiving giant barges at the dock in Hudson. The seven-year struggle against St. Lawrence Cement was chronicled by Sam Pratt in "The Bullet We Dodged: How the Cement War Was Won," which first appeared in the quarterly OurTown and was republished by Pratt in five parts on his blog in 2011.

In each crisis, a group arose to oppose it. For the oil refinery, it was SHOW--Save Hudson's Only Waterfront. For the PERC recycling plant and the cement plant, it was Friends of Hudson. Now, in the face of what is feared to be a ramping up of industrial activity at the waterfront as a consequence of the haul road being proposed by A. Colarusso & Sons, a new group has emerged: Hudson for Hudson.

The group has recently launched a website, where it defines itself in this way:
Hudson for Hudson is a community group made up of individuals, families, and organizations that live, work, and play here in Hudson, coming together to make sure that the future of our city is as bright as it can possibly be. Hudson for Hudson is open to anyone and everyone who cares about preserving the unique character of this city, recognizes its untapped potential, and wants to take part in supporting a fair and forward-thinking vision for its continued growth.
The current issue challenging the city is explained is this way:
A proposed intensification of industrial activity on the Hudson waterfront that will be detrimental to our city. The Town of Greenport is leading the review process, even though the majority of impact is on Hudson. It is critical to make our voices heard. Any concerns need to be formally submitted to them; the amount of public comments received will reflect the legitimate concerns and will inform their decision marking. HUDSON MUST BE HEARD.
For more information about the issue and the review process now underway, visit


  1. Unlike past efforts, this challenge requires something subtler of everyone, including the landowner.

    That's because the corporation has every right to continue trucking on its property. What's more, everyone has an interest in getting gravel trucks off City streets, and this makes positions of "for" or "against" a little besides the point, particularly when what's needed is a solution.

    But there's an added component to the above which further complicates things, and that's the corporation's desire to grow. To all appearances, A. Colarusso and Son, Inc. considers the potential expansion of its operations as a right, which is to completely misunderstand the well-documented intention of the City's 2011 zoning amendments.

    Rather than put limits on the numbers of trucks used, which is tricky, the Common Council found a way to limit potential intensifications of industry by making the existing uses "nonconforming," and by additionally subjecting proposed changes to conditional use permitting. Together, the two kinds of use would work in tandem to protect the City from runaway development.

    The corporation's recent appeal to a citation from the City (for unapproved alterations to the dock) is an affront to the unambiguous meaning of the Zoning Code. It's an effort to rewrite the Code by other means, by establishing a precedent.

    All of this would be one thing if the zoning was amended beneath the feet of the same landowner, but the current owner purchased the property three years after the creation of the Core Riverfront District, in which the trucking operations are conducted.

    So when it's said that residents must learn to compromise, we remind people that the grand compromise already took place, in 2011. To now claim that the Zoning Code suddenly requires an update, and in order to satisfy a special interest, is to move the goal posts on behalf of the industry the zoning was designed to constrain.

    What's needed now is a city brave enough to defend its own laws, a task made easier by the clear language of the Core Riverfront Zoning District.

    Then, within the parameters of the existing Zoning Code, we'll find a solution to a problem which all involved parties share in common (but I'm getting ahead of the story, since this is what SEQR reviews are meant to analyze in detail).

  2. Also unlike previous community action campaigns this one has no names of organizers (that I could see). If memory serves me right, it was the same in the early days of the Fair & Equal campaign. I know there is a feeling among some that the names shouldn't matter, that it's the issues that count. And in an ideal world that would be nice. Unfortunately, in politics, people do matter. In my profession, journalism, it matters a lot--for many and varied reasons. I may have missed it, but I encourage the organizers of Hudson for Hudson to ad an About Us page to their wonderfully designed and wisely written web page. --pm

    1. Speaking for myself alone, dear journalist, I owe you nothing, nor would I ever pretend that I live in an ideal world - or even that there is an ideal world (read: not outing yourself is not an act of idealism).

      People have a legal right to face their accusers in court, but that is all.

      My obligations and encumbrances lie elsewhere than where you think they should be, perhaps not even in the human realm.

      Others can do as they like, but as a self-professed communitarian, I'd encourage people to think outside themselves, and for now that means no names.

      My apologies to the journalistic profession (if the gentleman actually speaks for other journalists).

  3. Agreed, unheimlich. Colarusso manufactured a crisis to achieve a vastly lucrative outcome: the redefinition of our zoning laws in order to maximize corporate profits. A reasonable compromise for Colarusso and the City already exists: the mixed-use balance struck by the 2011 zoning. The zoning acknowledges fair and limited operations at the dock. It allows for ingress and egress along the existing single-lane haul road. Colarusso's roadblocks are of their own making. It is the company that insists it can only use the existing haul road (a private road which they own) in one direction. The City isn't standing in their way. Their pursuit of faster profits at the expense of our quality of life is getting in the way. The 2011 zoning, as is, provides an equitable outcome for all parties.

  4. Bravo, Unheimlich! Your analysis is spot-on. Colarusso is trying to sell their application on the basis of a quality-of-life improvement for the residents along Columbia St. But that's a stalking horse for the real agenda, which is to ramp up the volume of their operation. If the corporation cares so much for the suffering residents along Columbia, they could begin using the haul road immediately- they don't need a two-lane highway thru South Bay.

    1. Thanks Crito and eastjeezus. Right back atcha for your own spot-on comments, whoever you are (no, don't tell me).

  5. Any discussion of alternatives must begin with the turning alternative, which means turning at the west causeway both onto and off of Rte. 9-G south.

    This alternative can be achieved with two-way use of the existing causeway, as mentioned by the earlier commenters.

    Not only is there no prohibition against turning, but it's already written into the proposal, as explained by Creighton Manning in its letter of August 17, 2016:

    "The traffic expected to turn left off Route 9G into the causeway, and right out of the causeway onto Route 9G from the west driveway will be ... one trip each per hour."

    The study goes on to explain that that's not enough to have a "significant impact on the operations of the intersection" (i.e., the already-approved crossing alternative), but we need to know why a "concurrence" from both municipalities isn't enough to have ALL truck traffic routed south via Rte. 9-G, rather than directly across from the causeway and up to Rte. 9, and the mine, through the woods.

    "Concurrence" was the word used by the DOT in its letter of October 6, 2010, but despite repeated recent requests, the DOT has not yet elaborated on the proposal:

    "we would need a concurrence that the Town of Greenport Planning Board and City of Hudson Planning Commission is in support of the request for truck entrances as opposed to truck crossing route" (NYSDOT, 10/6/10).

    In the City's 2011 SEQR review, a southern alternative to trucks crossing over Routes 9 and 9-G would pass in front of the community college on Rte. 23B. This alternative to the truck crossing route was named the "Long Path Alternative."

    And what does the present owner have to say about the Long Path Alternative?

    "This alternate is not economically feasible" (Colarusso Project Narrative, 2017 revision at 5.4).

    Sorry, but that doesn't mean the Long Path Alternative won't be analyzed in a proper and competent SEQR review.

    As adumbrated by the other commenters, this route can be used almost immediately, and with fewer alterations than are required by the DOT-approved crossings in South Bay and up at Rte. 9, at the mine.

    Just because the DOT approved something already (the crossing plan) doesn't short-circuit our SEQR review. This would be to totally misunderstand the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which some officials are definitely misunderstanding.