Monday, September 24, 2012

The Status of Charles Williams Park

Back in 2007, when Eliot Spitzer was the governor and Dick Tracy was the mayor, the City of Hudson received a $250,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Fund to develop Charles Williams Park at the end of Mill Street and down the bluff from what used to be the Charles Williams School. The plans were lavish, with something for everyone--a playground, a basketball court, an area for bocce or horseshoes, a skate park, a fenced dog run, a picnic grove with a pavilion beside a pond or rain garden, restrooms, sled runs in winter, and a handicapped accessible switchback path down to the park from the north end of Third Street. 

Work began on the park project in 2009, the preliminary stages of which involved a lot of earth moving. Periodically, since then, whenever grants or parks were discussed in public meetings, someone would inquire about the status of the work on Charles Williams Park. At last week's Common Council meeting, First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling was the one to ask the question. It was answered by Fifth Ward alderman Cappy Pierro, who said that the playground and the pavilion were up, and the manner in which he offered the information suggested that these actions put paid to the project and the grant. 

Curious, Gossips headed down to Charles Williams Park yesterday to have a look. What I saw bore little resemblance to the original vision. One can only hope there is still more to come.


  1. Beautiful Master Plan drawing. So who was the "Master" with the power of carrying out this Master Plan, which did seem to cover everybody in some way? Sure doesn't look too inviting. Does it ever get used?

  2. A quarter million for this project, a quarter million for that one ...

    Even in one small city, it takes so much research and vigilance to learn what happened to this or that money.

    The application for the EDAP grant which was used to install some of the floating docks at the waterfront park listed a "concessions facility" as one purpose for the money. However, no such facility was ever built. It may take months to learn what actually happened with the whole quarter million sum, and Saland's recollections may no longer be available to us.

    On closer inspection (of the EDAP grant for instance), the conditions for some of these state grants are wide open to all sorts of abuses.

    Considering the lack of follow-up from many grant-issuing state agencies, it's easy to see that the waste of state revenues must be colossal when such individual examples are compiled and considered in total (which of course they never are).

  3. Didn't the city spend $400,000 for the locked bathrooms at River Front?
    How on earth are these idiots going to build that Senior Center for $700,000.
    Money here,is like dog years,or something like that.

  4. Actually, it was over $400,000 for the waterfront toilets. A quarter of million of the total was supplied by the US Congress.

    And we wonder about the state of the nation's finances.

  5. And yet when we Republicans decry "government waste" we're derided as heartless meanies...

    -- Jock Spivy

  6. Hudson doesn't even qualify as having a government.Who gives them this money?No one follows it up?
    The $400,000+ ,I'm sure wasn't wasted.What it was actually spent on...well ,I doubt it was toilets.The County D.A. is getting a new shower and a new toilet for his office for some 16,+thosand.No wonder ,
    no one blinked an eye on OKing that.

  7. The 'no bid contract' was 'awarded' to Crawford and Associates.

    Just follow the money.

    This is business as usual shrimp box style.

  8. The legal staff at the Dormitory Authority of New York - the ones who administered the EDAP grant we used for the docks - explained that they don't follow up on what municipalities do with grants.

    The lawyer I spoke with was even amazed that I had called to find out. Apparently the public never inquires about anything to do with their agency!

    I'd like to add to "Samuel's" comment above by recalling that it's the GOP that's nowadays more likely to be composed of people who believe in doing things for themselves.

    That wasn't the case when I was a kid. I've always gravitated to those who view bureaucracies of any kind with a healthy suspicion, but it's increasingly difficult to share this with anyone on the one side of the culture. Inside the hoi polloi of both political parties, I think I've seen a change since I was younger wherein the principle of self-reliance has never been more in doubt on the "Blue" side of the equation.

    In my opinion, our cultural creep towards technicians and lawyers accomplishing everything on our behalves is extremely dangerous for the whole society. The situation offers no context in which to take human nature into account. But it's always there, ever asserting itself with its greasy insistence. If there's a loophole, people will take it. And if grants are thrown around with too few conditions or restrictions, then at least we Hudsonians know what to expect.

    So how is it possible that no public person has ever inquired at DASNY to follow-up on a grant?

    I reckon we can chalk it up to being in New York, where New Yorkers of both parties are riding a failing culture into the ground, a society they've made and borrowed over together.

    That's why I've reversed my former enthusiasm for Home Rule. If the public is only ever apathetic, then it's no wonder that legal technicians have figured out a million ways to shape Home Rule into chains in the vacuum we leave.

    Look what we saw happen with the GEIS. Need I say more?

  9. Today I'm chasing down a discrepancy between a claim made in a NYS Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation publication, and the practices of the Dormitory Authority of New York State.

    The claim has nothing to do with Hudson, but it's wrong, and no state agency should be advertising or defending it.

    Between noticing the problem and speaking with the correct party at the state agency which published the claim, this one inquiry is going on two weeks and phone calls with half a dozen different parties. (State workers generally wait a day or two before returning calls.)

    Meanwhile I'm still waiting for the results of my FOIL request of 9/12 regarding our waterfront park funding agency.

    The difficulty of gathering information at the state level should be a consideration of Hudson's Common Council when they are passing laws or agreeing to spending measures.

    In too many cases the time it takes between a Special Meeting where legislation or funding opportunities are presented, and a Regular Meeting where such options may be ratified, is not long enough to do the proper research, not for the public and not for the aldermen.

    Always when it was too late, I've discovered in time that some claims made in our council chamber about state laws were incorrect, or partial.

    Blame the internet. Citizens now have available to them all of the city and state laws in the most excruciating detail; many of the legal precedents to this or that consideration often suggesting that we use caution; and all of the phone numbers you'd ever need for each state agency.

    I am amazed to hear City of Hudson officials answering a question that this or that recent city practice turned out to be "illegal." (Further research often reveals that that simple account is only a fraction of the real story.)

    When I have a really tricky question I pick up the phone and speak with the Chief Counsel of the NYS Department of State. These are amazing times!

    The question is whether Hudson can keep pace with the changes?

  10. Crawford and Associates created the map for the city's Furgary defense. Another company executed the title search.

    Both were very expensive, and both were deemed wrong in the final judgement, as were the Furgarians.

    I'd love to have an opportunity to deliver the facts of the case to an audience that includes city officials - who likely do not yet understand what happened - and then be able to show how much the city paid for Crawford and Associates' wrong information.

  11. To follow up Prison Alley's question on grants, and Vincent's comment on "no bid contracts," who in city government would ever ask Crawford and Associates to explain how they got the North Bay maps wrong?

    (A correction to my immediate above: contradicting the Crawford and Associates map, the title company which I'm glad I didn't name was actually the first to inform the city that they owned no underlying letters patent grant for the lands where the Waste Water Treatment Plant had already been built!)

    Unless citizens are paying attention, why wouldn't the city continue to award contracts to firms that have served us badly in the past?

    If the council members now serving have no recollection of our miserable experience during the GEIS, why wouldn't they/we rehire the contemptuous BFJ Planners to execute our latest preliminary environmental review of the 7 acres?

    To echo Prison Alley's complaint, who follows up on such things even within the city?

    It must be us.