Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fumery and the Furgary

There are two hot topics at last night's Common Council meeting: banning smoking in city parks and the Furgary Boat Club (a.k.a. North Dock Tin Boat Association). Tom Casey reports on both in the Register-Star: "Council mulls ban on smoking in parks." 

Interestingly, the proposed law to ban smoking in city parks was brought to the Council by Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), an unapologetic smoker, and was opposed by several aldermen who avowed that they were not smokers and never had been. A point made from the audience by Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward), which seemed to fall on deaf ears with the Council and was omitted in Casey's report, is that being smoke free is often a condition for grant funding for park improvements. Supervisor Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward) also weighed in from the audience. Prefacing his comments by saying he wasn't a smoker and never had been, Hughes said the Council didn't "understand the ramifications of passing such a law" and warned of a "backlash." "We know that we think," said Hughes, "we need to find out what they think."

Friedman responded to Hughes' call for "more research" by saying that the genesis of proposed law was complaints he received from constituents about cigarette butts in the parks. "No one," said Friedman, "has protested the law" since the Council started discussing it. Council President Don Moore commented, "The idea that the city will unite behind smokers [to defend their rights] seems unlikely."

The topic of the Furgary Boat Club was introduced by audience member Tiffany Martin Hamilton. Explaining that her family had been part of the Furgary Boat Club for five generations, Hamilton proposed that the group be allowed to lease the property until the City "figures out what they want to do with it" and, apparently, is ready to move forward with that plan. Moore's reaction to the proposal was that it was "coming up late in the game." He suggested that had the group made this proposal a year ago, instead of suing the City, it might have been considered but offered his opinion that this was not something for the Council to decide. 

Moore made the statement that the June 14 court ruling was "on the facts"; Friedman, a lawyer, corrected him, saying that the ruling was "on procedure" and speculated that with its proposal the boat club was trying to "secure time to perfect an appeal." Later in the discussion, Friedman urged that "citizens who seek to protect their rights in court not be stigmatized," saying that he was "troubled by the fact that the willingness of the Council to hear citizens' pleas seemed to be predicated on their unwillingness to rollover earlier."

Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), in expressing his wish that the boat club had "reached out" before initiating litigation, said that "part of the city's character is tied up with what's there." There is no doubt that many people in Hudson are torn when it comes to the Furgary Boat Club, primarily because of the club's proprietary, highly exclusive, and seemingly hostile attitude toward "outsiders." Many of the people who recognize the boat club as an integral element of Hudson's unique character and an important part of the city's history and would argue for its preservation have had the experience of wandering down there and feeling as if they had strayed onto the set of Deliverance. Pam Mickle, who expressed her concern about Furgarians losing their "rights to launch their boats from there," seemed not to appreciate the irony or the error of her statement that the boat club was the only place where they could access the river--the irony being that access there was de facto available only to Furgarians; the error being that there's a public boat launch, available to everyone, just over the Ferry Street Bridge. 

1 comment:

  1. One matter should be properly addressed to the people who have launched only very small craft from Furgary.

    Technically, the tiny boat launch between the westernmost shack and the train tracks was always considered public, and it is.

    I've been launching my kayak at the Furgary ramp for years, and never with as much as a funny look from anyone.

    The many Letters to the Editor from the group's unofficial spokesman, Joe Gallo, are all correct about one thing: that the people who don't know anything about the river make all the decisions on behalf of those who do.

    In that sense it is quite fitting that attorney Roberts was present to tell the Furgarians to get out, since our city's number one landlubber (she's from Austerlitz) designed almost all of Hudson's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.

    Roberts and the other city attorneys certainly knew that the lands beneath Furgary were within the Proprietor's original purchase, even if the Furgarians poorly defended the point.

    With a predatory city government such as ours, and their proven slight sympathy for the river, it's hard to blame the Furgarians for not trusting anyone!