Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting the Stone Off Hudson's Streets

The Common Council recently approved zoning amendments that extend the Core Riverfront District the length of the "causeway," an action requested by Holcim/O&G in its "public comments," to protect their right to use and develop this path through South Bay as a route for moving gravel from the quarry to the river. Since July, O&G has been using this route to haul gravel to the river, but empty trucks leaving the dock continue to travel on city streets. According to Common Council President Don Moore, the Common Council will soon take up again the local law that would require O&G to use the causeway in both directions and prohibit gravel trucks on Columbia Street below Third and on Front Street.   

Our 21st-century Common Council is dealing with the same problem a 19th-century Common Council faced 140 years ago--and making virtually the same decisions. This timeline, created a decade ago by Don Christensen for the exhibition Seeing South Bay, reminds us how the railroad that became the berm that became the "causeway" came to be in the first place and poignantly demonstrates how history repeats itself.

1872--Frederick W. Jones forms a company to quarry stone and marble from Becraft Mountain. Mule-pulled wagons begin transporting stone and marble from the mountain down Worth Avenue to Union Street to West Court Street to Allen Street to the river for shipment.

August 6, 1872--Samuel T. B. Heermance, owner of a tract of land on the east shore of South Bay, receives a "grant of land under water" from the State of New York to develop underwater lands through South Bay to the river for "beneficial use."

October 1873--Heermance sells Jones a right of way through his property and through the "land under water" to the river's edge the width of one rod (about 16 feet) to build a railroad. No public announcement is made of this plan at the time.

January 29, 1874--Application made to Hudson Common Council to build a horse-drawn railroad from the quarry on Becraft Mountain through Green Street to State Street, down the center of State Street to Front Street and to the river.

February 23, 1874--Residents and business owners along Green and State streets submit a petition to the Common Council against the railroad application, claiming, "such a track would seriously lessen the value of real estate along its line."

February 29, 1874--Common Council rejects application for State Street railroad.

March 19, 1874--Public announcement of plan by Frederick Jones to build an alternative railroad from the quarry through South Bay.

March 26, 1874--Common Council approves right of way across Bay Road for the Jones railroad.

May 4, 1874--Groundbreaking ceremonies for railroad construction. Engineering contractors promise to have road "constructed, fully equipped with locomotive and cars, and in perfect running order by July 15." Construction is halted shortly afterward.

April 16, 1884--Heermance sells Jones the one-rod wide strip of land through South Bay to be used as a railroad from the river to the mountain.

March 1887--After a delay of 11 years due to "vicissitudes of fortune," work on the railroad resumes.

March 14, 1889--Final rail line to river completed.


  1. The LWRP was a political football, which is hardly in the right spirit of the thing (cf. the state's LWRP Guidelines).

    The Common Council could have initiated its anti-truck legislation the minute the first aggregate truck crossed the South Bay berm in mid-June. The logic against doing so before that time was that the city would have, in effect, "taken" the landowner's and tenant's business from them by depriving them of all means for transporting their product to the port. You can't do that without compensating them for the loss.

    So following the resurfacing and WIDENING of their two-rut road, the summer's refrain that the anti-truck law hinged on passage of the LWRP was a lie. That certainly helped shape the elections by further obfuscating the facts of the case, but especially by making ecologists look heartless in regard to the underprivileged. Not just lies then, but ugly, malicious, race-baiting lies.

    For the record, I live on the truck route too, and I despise the aggregate trucks in the city and have always wanted them off the streets. But that didn't fit the useful narrative of the malicious people who were thanked repeatedly after the LWRP was passed.

    Moore's only reply to the charge about the lie was that the law was far too complicated to pass right away without help from the DOS. In other words, the public is too stupid to understand the details.

    Moore added that he personally never linked passage of the LWRP to the anti-truck law, although Roberts and Mussman seem never to have tired of doing so. I guess Mr. Bully Pulpit himself didn't wish to have that point clarified, and as far as I'm concerned he's just as guilty having heard the lie repeated over and over again by his favorite familiars.

    And how about that claim in the September "edits," only FIVE DAYS before Moore rushed the GEIS through the council for acceptance, that the trucks were only using the "causeway" to exit the waterfront! What lie was being prepared there? Make no mistake, that was the groundwork for some new machination:

    "On June 23, 2011, O&G, the long term leasee [sic] of the South Bay, including the causeway and the port, resurfaced the causeway with item #4 to allow trucks, delivering aggregate to the port, to exit the port using the causeway." [GEIS September 2011 "edits," p. 2-13.]

    I could write pages about the convenience of having a Zoning Map passed into law without anyone's ever having seen the map, and about the SEQRA-defined "segmentation" therein (an infraction that the city continues to obfuscate by hiding the details of the law now passed).

    We should also prepare for what the landowner plans to do before the Zoning Map makes its appearance, and before the breaches of the law known s SEQRA are plain to see.

    Instead, please allow me to finish this comment with the biggest lie of all, in the FGEIS at Response 3.1.99:

    "Consistent with the SEQR regulations [6 NYCRR 617.10(c)] each project included in the LWRP, including the O&G South Bay Causeway Truck Route, will be required to comply with the requirements of SEQR prior to their individual project approvals."

    If you don't it already, you'll recognize these people for the villains they are after the state sends the SEQRA-required impact statement back to the city as "inadequate." The city will say "oh that's very sad," and will proceed to do as they please.

    Recall what Andrew Jackson said to the Supreme Court when the Court found the Cherokee nation in their rights to stay put. Jackson said, go ahead and stop me.

    So who will stop our elected and unelected fiends from doing their worst on behalf of Hudson's most important special interest if SEQRA prevents the state from doing so?

  2. Poignant indeed. Progress people thought I'm sure, but is it? La plus ca change....

  3. Thanks Carole,
    This helps make the excerpt below ,by the same author clearer. What I do not understand is how
    from 1884 agreement of using less than 16 ft for railway trestle as to protect what was left of South Bay,by 1900 that became 80ft and only a culvert opening between the north and south sections of South Bay.
    This is the kind of history repeating itself,that I am afraid that
    South Bay Task Force was foretelling of.

    Hudson’s South Bay
    ( This is a short excerpt of a great article.)
    By Don Christensen
    "As the industrial activity
    within South Bay increased,
    its role as a defining natural
    landscape feature declined.
    Few artists found inspiration
    from the South Bay/Mt.
    Merino viewshed after 1880,
    although postcard images of
    the view looking south down
    Bay Road (today’s US Route
    9G) were produced through
    the 1920s.
    One of the most significant
    impacts on the waters of
    South Bay was the construction
    of a second railroad bed
    running east and west
    through the center of the bay.
    Approved by the people of
    Hudson in 1874,

    nearly 20 years of opposition
    to similar proposal,

    the railroad
    linked the waterfront
    and the Hudson River
    Railroad to stone quarries of
    Fred W. Jones at Beecraft
    Mountain two miles from the
    river. Prior to the building of
    the railroad the stone was carried
    by mule-pulled wagons
    through the streets of
    Hudson to the river’s edge.
    The Jones railroad was
    approved after assurances
    that it would be built on an
    open trestle and occupy less
    than 16 feet of width through
    the South Bay waters to protect
    what remained of South
    Bay. Although approved in
    1874, the railroad was not
    completed or used until
    1889. By 1900, the rail bed
    had been filled in and
    widened to nearly 80 feet
    with only a culvert opening
    between the north and south
    portions of the bay."
    November 18, 2011 12:28 AM

  4. Thank you for posting this chronology of the undoing of the South Bay. I was wondering how it came to be what it is today. And how Holcim wound up "owning" it.

    Now we need a miracle to get it back in the public domain. Hopefully, the value of the rock will drop and Holcim will just go away.