Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Of Interest

The Register-Star has an editorial today bemoaning the delay in moving ahead with the senior center: "OUR VIEW: Senior center follies." Although the authors of the editorial seem not to grasp the reason for the delay, it's simple enough. The City overlooked--or chose to ignore--the fact that the Youth Center is in a historic district listed in the State and National Register of Historic Places. It has been since 1985, so  it should come as no surprise to anyone. The National Register designation makes the project a Type I action, requiring the use of the long form for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), and, because the district's historic status was ignored, there may also be implications for the City's original grant application.  


  1. Oh, I think that the editorialists grasped the reason well enough, but I wish they'd done a less subtle job spelling it out.

    Remembering the SEQR review for the waterfront plan, the same attorney advising the city's Lead Agency then as now screwed up repeatedly. To the public's great shame in defending the bay, she didn't usually correct the really serious mistakes, choosing instead to double down on them. It was all a gamble on her part (the Lead Agency understanding almost nothing about these things), and apparently the risk paid off in the end.

    But at one point the city was threatened with a libel suit over the same attorney's words appearing in the draft GEIS (think about the context for a moment and let that inform an evaluation of her character). The entire section was pulled at the last minute with Moore glibly covering for her: "I suggested that it was in effect, ancient history."

    The woman is a hazard - from an ecological viewpoint at the very least - but we continue to throw money at her from one administration to the next.

    There's seldom any sense of history or accounting in this town, and it costs us dearly (though yesterday Mr. Cross learned that that's not always true).

    1. Roberts should be serving time - and not as an attorney .

  2. Since posting above, I've had two private emails suggesting that I spend too much time on the lesser villain.

    I disagree. As a citizen, any Mayor is entitled to his or her own opinion, but it is their additional privilege to pursue any end they desire by means that are disproportionate to my own. They merely risk their reelection.

    Naturally the Mayor's counsel will be a tool to advance his or her specific ends, but if an attorney breaks the law while advancing her client's interests then the Mayor's attorney must answer for her own actions.

    If this is indeed what transpired during our recent and continuing SEQR review concerning the LWRP, then I don't see the wisdom of taking our focus off of the alleged criminality.

    Instead, our protest was feeble. I am of course referring to our failure to highlight the suppression of a document relating to the LWRP that made a travesty of the remaining SEQR review, from our public comments all the way to the final Findings Statement.

    It's as if we caught G. Gordon Liddy red-handed all over again (recall that he was counsel to the committee to re-elect), but passed over his offenses not to interrupt the terrific insults we had for Nixon.

    To my thinking the defenders of the South Bay ignored a probable crime by an underling in order to throw spitballs at our own Nixon. The analogy is perfect, and nobody has ever offered me an alternative explanation.

    Continue to criticize Nixon if that's your thing, but considering Roberts' record this oversight on the expansion of the Senior Center may not be a mistake at all.

    Would the city have pursued the thing if they'd known that an entire SEQR review was in store? Now that they do know, they'll likely pursue it anyway out of the sheer ignorant momentum of the thing.

    Now which lawyer do we suppose will execute this next SEQR review, and what conclusions do we suppose her review will discover this time?

    1. hello south bay task force,
      I am always interested in what you have to say.
      I agree with you here,but what I wanted to know is,in your Nixon,G.Gordon Liddy analogy,
      where would you put CC Pres.Moore?

  3. Heh, heh ... very enticing invitation PA, but maybe that's enough analogies for one day.

  4. So what was the "ancient history" about which President Moore was referring when he brushed away the matter of an extended dropped passage from the Generic Environmental Impact Statement one hour before the council accepted the GEIS as final?

    From a transcript of the audio at WGXC:

    Moore: [36':41"] "I suggested that it was in effect, ancient history. That the situation that we addressed a year ago of attempting to come to terms with some sort of transfer of purchase that might make a roadway possible simply went away when the Basilica was no longer available to us and was sold to new owners who have changed the whole complexion of the place down there. And it simply seemed unnecessary to go into all that since indeed neither the option to purchase it nor the plan to use it as it had originally been intended was anything that was on the table right now."

    What garbled nonsense. The only of the several road alternatives that required any Basilica property travelled north around the L&B building. For all other alternatives - and most significantly for the widely favored southern alternative WHICH WAS NEVER ACCURATELY INCLUDED in the GEIS - the Basilica property was not effected in any way.

    Yet these were the words and arguments dropped from GEIS 3.1.46: "the use of eminent domain could be considered to obtain the Basilica property ..."

    A truer account than Moore's was that the dropped passage had already served its divisive purpose.

    On first reading the GEIS revisions in May 2011, the uproar was predicable and immediate. The repeated cautions from the few of us were of no avail, and even the Basilica's new owners were contacted and intentionally worked up into a fright by certain parties. It was an ugly chapter for the defenders of the South Bay, a sad example of group-think, and an utter coup for the author of the GEIS Ms. Roberts. It was mission accomplished, or in Moore's later gloss, "ancient history," and it redirected the public's limited energy and attention to a total non-issue.

    When you listen to the WGXC audio with the proper background in mind, its easier to hear that Moore and Roberts had worked out their storytelling beforehand.

    Ms. Roberts began with a faux attempt to explain why the passage was dropped, but then quickly suggested that Moore was in a better position to handle the question. It was then that Moore offered his garbled, nonsensical explanation (above), in an improvised-seeming, magnanimous-sounding, water-under-the-bridge speech.

    But not unlike the disingenuous planting of the passage in the GEIS in the first place, it was all theater, an act rehearsed beforehand. And it was effective.

    So it was really the defenders of the bay who were the proven fools, no matter what story we'd all prefer to tell ourselves now.

  5. You can't fight city hall - especially this one.

    Shut up and pay your taxes.

    1. Sadly ,that is exactly what most people do.Wanting no hassles from the City,each just looking after their own immediate interests with no foresight.So, we get what we deserve.An army of one or two doesn't have a chance.It would take the RICO act ,an honest district attorney and just one good investigative reporter from a paper of record.Not necessarily in that order,to effectively change anything in City Hall.Oh ,but that happened here before and everybody went to jail,and within a short time ,like a cancer, it all grew back. Maybe there is some pox on this place ,from the River,the Indians,the whales OR the Proprietors,whose buildings keep getting wrecked.Hudson has a chance,but it will despite those in power,not because of them.

    2. My conclusion exactly, Prison Alley (I'm still SBTF with a new handle).

      And for the record I did go to the District Attorney, all by my lonesome self (to our previous D.A. that is).

      A crime was likely committed in City Hall, but where was the interest? I could find nobody to come with me, and of course I was shown the door.

      We do get what we deserve, but I'm certain that the South Bay deserved better.

      I have my own, more reasonable theories about the Hudson "pox," a.k.a "the vortex," but they involve a comparison of various public philosophies. That is the last thing that smug, hassle-averse, pass-the-blame citizens would wish to analyze.

      (BTW, the Register Star, our official "newspaper of record," doesn't do investigative work, which is entirely the province of 'Gossips.')

    3. Dear Mr. Unheimlich,
      It never occurred to me that the Resister Star was a paper, of record.
      Gossips is all we have,but Carole and William have a small staff and a large beat and we need

      her to take good care of herself.
      No,I meant a real nitty gritty ,ink stains on your fingers,newspaper.;dying breed that they are.
      Yes, South Bay should kick some ass and take names.She was included in my mythology of a pox on this place perhaps from the River.She was here first.The Crap here could swallow you whole like Jonas.Be Careful.They're not worth it. Philosophy?.I am trying to make this experience here more now about "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture" than "Learning from Nantucket" and the numb skulls that destroyed it.I'm a traveler,I've seen enough.I just need a team of horses to drag my house out of here. I want to go home.

  6. Last year, for no known reason, the Common Council voted in favor of making the Register Star the city's official "newspaper of record." Needless to say The Columbia Paper was not happy, nor were the too few of us who smelled a rat and a hundred potential rats.

    By a "public philosophy" I refer to our assumptions about citizenship and liberty informing our practice, our public life.

    The public philosophy of nearly everyone in Hudson derives from some version of the post-New Deal and post-1960s elevation of individual rights over more antiquated notions of a collective good.

    It's not that there aren't notions of a collective good here - the interest in historical preservation for instance - but that we don't have a very good sense of squaring the one set of values with the other.

    We automatically give priority to our rights, which are then meant to act as a trump cards in every public disagreement. This is an unconsciously held public philosophy, and at this point a universal given. Thus even something as community-oriented as historical preservation can't extricate itself from becoming the latest sort of "identity politics" (concerning the rights of a sub-culture). Indeed, most of the defenders of historical preservation in Hudson envision no other model in which to achieve their ends! At best it is a murky area.

    The country as a whole - and all the original communities within it - were founded under an earlier public philosophy which concerned itself with the good of the whole. You could refer to it as a republican political theory (note the small "r"), and it cultivated in citizens the ethos and knowledge required for self-governance. You could say that it implicitly provided and encouraged a connection by way of a moral bond to one's community.

    In Hudson you can clearly see the difference between the two approaches in the two main groups which attempted to defend the South Bay. Somehow these groups were nearly working at odds, and we'd be fools not to analyze what happened.

    Those who hold the strings in this city (and our taxes) were working alongside the owners of the South Bay parcel, both advancing their mutual interests via the same powerful yet moribund post-1960s mindset (i.e., viciously opposing their rights against the rights of others). Yet a common complaint during the South Bay fight was that the more "rights-oriented" defenders of the bay somehow reflected the attitudes of City Hall, only in reverse. In the end City Hall won, and the company's rights trumped perceptions of The People's rights. It didn't have to develop or end that way, but we have no other model for a public philosophy. We don't even have the vocabulary to venture outside of it for a look around.

    Because the public philosophy I'm criticizing will always feel itself to be at the vanguard of civilization by those who live it unreflectively, it never envisions the need for updates. If anything it only digs itself deeper. It is marked by a self-righteousness which evades self-inspection.

    These attitudes have by and large devolved from the system of the 19th century philosopher Immanuel Kant. Rather than Kant, I'd recommend a study of the post-Kantian philosophies of the 20th century.

  7. To Quote a quote that our paper of meaning ,Ms.Osterink runs, quoted
    -From The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs (2010), by Roberta Brandes Gratz:
    "Preservationists have long been in the vanguard of opposition to inappropriate change, since historically or culturally important resources are often in the way of misguided plans. Incorrectly, preservationists are often accused of being against all change and for freezing the city. In fact, they oppose the erasure, mutilation, and overwhelming of places of value."

  8. Alfred North Whitehead:

    "It is the first step in sociological wisdom to recognize that the major advances in civilisation are processes which all but wreck the societies in which they occur: like unto an arrow in the hand of a child. The art of free society consists first in the maintenance of the symbolic code; and secondly in fearlessness of revision, to secure that the code serves those purposes which satisfy an enlightened reason. Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows."

    From 'Symbolism, its Meaning and Effect'