Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Last Night at City Hall

Many resolutions were passed at Tuesday night's regular meeting of the Common Council, only two of which had been introduced at the informal meeting on September 10. The following are what Gossips considers the highlights of the meeting.

The Holcim Seven Acres  The Common Council passed, without discussion and unanimously, the resolution to appropriate $6,200 for a title search and a preliminary environmental study of the seven acres south of the port that the City of Hudson hopes to acquire from Holcim. At the end of the meeting, Timothy O'Connor asked if a preliminary environmental study would not be redundant, since in July 2010, Cheryl Roberts, then attorney for the LWRP, had indicated that Holcim had already done an environmental study. Roberts explained that in 2010 the City had been told by Holcim that an environmental study had been done, but when Roberts asked to see the study, Holcim told her that no such study had in fact been done.

The Meters Are Coming  A resolution was passed unanimously authorizing the mayor to seek bids on the purchase and installation of parking meters for the 300 block of Warren Street. Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) commented that this decision is "being driven by the business people." "They're comin' up to me," Pierro said, "asking for meters."

Discount for the County  The Common Council also passed a resolution to reduce the building permit fee for the courthouse expansion and renovation from $38,728 to $12,000. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) expressed the opinion that the discount was a lot deeper than what he had in mind when he suggested a reduced amount but said he hoped "it will create good will on both sides." Friedman's sentiments were echoed by Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), who said he hoped "the county rewards our good faith."

Last Obstacle Removed for Hotel  The Common Council amended local law to allow annual parking permits to be transferable from one vehicle to another. This change in the law will allow the proprietors of The Croff House, who are planning to convert 542 Warren Street into a sixteen-room boutique hotel, to provide off-street overnight parking for their guests.

Prisoners Lost and Found  Council president Don Moore revealed last night that the net loss of population, as a consequence of 2010 legislation requiring prisoners to be counted, for legislative districting purposes,  in the communities where they lived before they were incarcerated rather than the communities where they reside as prisoners, is 300. The 350 prisoners currently in the Hudson Correctional Facility will be subtracted from the population of the Third Ward, for purposes of the weighted vote, but it is not yet known which wards will gain the 50 prisoners incarcerated elsewhere who lived in Hudson before being imprisoned.  


  1. To be more specific, Cheryl Roberts had previously claimed that Holcim had already done "feasibility studies" on potential contaminants at the site, "the first phase or second phase done."

    If the claim wasn't intended to stop a rare public dialogue on the GEIS dead in its tracks, then it certainly managed to do that.

    The quotation continues: "There's nothing [no contaminants] there that they're aware of on the seven acres at the waterfront."

    These statements were made at the July 12th, 2010 "work session" for the LWRP/GEIS, the principle meeting as the FGEIS makes clear.

    To recollect the tone of that meeting, several aldermen were heard complaining that they still had not seen all of the public comments. This despite the fact that changes to the GEIS were supposed to be based on the council's input during that meeting, input which was meant to be informed by the public comments. (In fact, the FGEIS attributed many changes from the Draft GEIS to that one work session.)

    To their collective grumbles about not having seen the comments, Roberts attempted to reassure the council:

    "But the point of this process is that we're compiling it for you, and when you're going to get the comments and the proposed response" [sic; full stop].

    President Moore reassured the public that the process "will be done transparently."

    Nevertheless, it has taken over two years to learn from the same speaker that there was never any such site study of Holcim's seven acres, and that the conversation she had stopped cold years ago should have continued.

    Technically, if the alleged correction to Roberts' claim was learned before the GEIS Findings Statement was overwhelmingly issued by the Common Council last November, and that neither a Phase I or a Phase II study was performed, the matter should have been recorded somewhere in the GEIS.

    But good luck trying to prove what our most adept dissembler really knew, and when she knew it!

    Passing last night's resolution unanimously and without discussion was not the council's finest moment.

    The excuse made was that the council wouldn't even want to see a study ordered by Holcim.

    But why wouldn't we avail ourselves of any documentation that the landowner had on hand? If we're going to see their studies in the end anyway, after all the state and federal agencies involved conduct their own environmental reviews, what harm will the information be to us ahead of time, before we order the same studies?

    Do we owe our thanks to the Common Council for protecting us from what we mustn't know? Are they protecting their own Findings Statement, which we already knew to be deeply flawed? Are they protecting Cheryl Roberts? Are these supposed to be the same things in the end?

  2. Thanks P.A.

    Does anyone really believe that Roberts only inquired about the first phase or second phase "feasibility study" after the GEIS was complete?

    Roberts also wrote the following in the Final GEIS, which was apparently based on nothing:

    "There is no evidence to suggest that the seven acre parcel south of the port or that the portion of the South Bay owned by Holcim are contaminated" (FGEIS at 3.1.39).

    Except today we know there's no evidence to suggest the acreage isn't contaminated either.

    I suppose it's reasonable for the current council to spend the money first in order to find out what sort of risk the land entails. But what's the anticipated gain that any liability will be weighed against? What's the big plan?

    If the acquisition is meant to implement the imbecilic plan for the seven acres as outlined in the LWRP, then the public would like somebody to finally address the common sense arguments put forward by the Valley Alliance in their comments. The points made were so good that they simply had to be ignored.

    I always believed that part of the idea was to make it appear as though the city was getting something in order to give the council some cover for its concession on Holcim's use the causeway (recall that these plans were formulated before it was known whether the landowner would be able to use the causeway or not).

    Here's the way it's worded in the Final GEIS:

    "the owners have expressed willingness to ... give the City fee title to at a minimum, 7 acres of riverfront property to the south of the port [and] provide a public access easement over and restoration easement under the South Bay Causeway ... " (FGEIS 3.1.1).

    If no road, then no easement; if no easement, then no seven acres.

    Was Holcim getting rid of a junk parcel for the Common Council's sanction of a road the public will never be welcomed to use?

    Perhaps most importantly of all, "the intention of Holcim is to deed this land to the City in return for any legally available tax benefits" (Final GEIS 3.1.3).

    "Nothing to see here folks!"

  3. I wrote above that the causeway road will probably never be open to public use. That's because I doubt the "willingness" of the landowner in the end.

    There is no actual agreement for the public to ever use the road beyond the landowner's "willingness" to consider it.

    As contract law goes, that's a pretty stupid deal for the public.

    But it's only one reason why so many of us believed the LWRP was primarily a vehicle for Holcim, and why those who guarded the public interest were actually working against us.

    (Special Interests 101.)

  4. Voicing the incredulity of the rest of the council, last night I was challenged by the Common Council President who couldn't grasp the "relevance" of my questions.

    Considering that it took over two years to learn that the council's legal advisor was dead wrong when she stifled the only previous public dialogue about the seven acres, why was a second public conversation too much to ask on the subject, and only after the $6K vote was in?

    "There's nothing [no contaminants] there that they're aware of on the seven acres at the waterfront."

    "There is no evidence to suggest that the seven acre parcel south of the port or that the portion of the South Bay owned by Holcim are contaminated"

    If Roberts was so ill-informed at the time, how well did she serve the people in the end?

    If she wasn't fully aware of what she was up to when she spoke those words, then precisely when did she learn that she was in the wrong?

    If she knew that there were no such studies but fabricated the above claims anyway, then who was she really working for all along?

    If she only inquired about Holcim's alleged study after the council's Findings Statement was submitted to the Department of State, then her conduct was a dereliction of duty.

    So consider, who was this guy to be asking a member of the public to justify the relevance of any of the above?

    They are OUR employees, and not the other way round.

  5. Meters are coming. "Business people - comin' up to me - asking for meters." Reminds me of the move of the farmers market from the 7th street park to visual oblivion behind a chain link fence. The alleged reason was business people complaining of the loss of parking . No one complained! The market was a huge boon to the shops around the park. We were just an easy excuse someone dreamed up to get their agenda moved forward.