Friday, February 15, 2013

"I've Got a Bridge . . . "

Another noteworthy thing happened at City Hall last Monday night, although it was eclipsed by the Common Council decision that appears to commit the City to accommodating an industrial dock in the middle of a proposed recreational area for the next two generations and the dissension over the weighted vote. A resolution was introduced authorizing the mayor to (1) "execute any and all documents related to the transfer of an easement for the Ferry Street Bridge from CSX to the City, upon review of such documents by the City Corporation Counsel"; and (2) "to apply for a STEP [Strategic Transportation Enhancements Program] grant for up to two million dollars for the purpose of demolishing and replacing the Ferry Street Bridge in cooperation with the CSX Corporation and Amtrak."

The Council will be voting on this resolution at its regular meeting on Tuesday, February 19, at 7 p.m. At that meeting, the Council will also be voting on a resolution adopting one of the plans for the weighted vote and on an amended local law banning hydrofracking waste from entering in the city.      


  1. "Demolishing and replacing the Ferry Street Bridge"?!

    Are we absolutely certain that its demolishment is necessary, or is that just a trope that got started somewhere?

    Shouldn't we refer to a structural engineer before we volunteer to demolish historical structures?

    For historical context, please refer to the photograph on page 153 of the book "Historic Hudson," by Byrne Fone.

  2. Seriously, does anyone know whether an engineering report already exists which supports the aims of the would-be demolishers of the Ferry Street Bridge?

    Otherwise, this talk of "demolishing" and "replacing" a piece of history must derive solely from our resentment towards CSX, which would not be a rational way to proceed.

  3. The Ferry Street Bridge is clearly within the Union-Allen-South Front Street Neighborhood Historic District. What is not clear is the use of the word "property" in chapter 169 (historic preservation) of the City’s code. Neither "property" nor "structure" is listed under ‘Definitions 169-2.’ Odd considering how often the word “property” is used. The bridge is also in the Hudson Historic District (NRHP 85003363). If we look to the National Register of Historic Places to provide guidance we find five general categories for NRHP properties: building, structure, object, site, and district. Bridges are specifically identified as a sub-category of structures.

    Interestingly, 169-2 does supply definitions for building, object, site, and historic district. And it provides a definition for ‘Cultural Resources’ as “buildings, sites, structures, objects, or districts evaluated as having significance in prehistory or history.” A primary purpose for the City’s historic preservation ordinance, listed first under ‘Purpose 169-1,’ is to “protect and enhance the landmarks and historic districts which represent distinctive elements of Hudson's historic, architectural, and cultural heritage.” The proposed plan appears to be the demolition of a structure in a local and NRHP historic district. According to the City code, demolition within the Union-Allen-South Front Street Neighborhood Historic District requires first the approval of the Historic Preservation Commission.

    Is the Ferry Street Bridge a structure that contributes to the integrity of the local historic district? Referring to ‘Historic Preservation Commission 169-3,’ sub-section (E) identifies the “powers of the Commission” and provides instances in which the HPC acts in an advisory capacity to the City. Specifically, “the acquisition of facade easements or other interests in real property” and “acquisition of a landmark structure by the City government where its preservation is essential to the purposes of this chapter.” I don’t see these as ‘powers’ of the HPC as much as they are truly the ‘purposes’ of the commission. The HPC is a resource which can assist City officials in making best decisions for the community.

  4. WH, thanks for the very knowledgeable comment and the plug for the HPC.

    For argument's sake, let's say that the Ferry Street Bridge's steel superstructure is sound. (Please disregard the state of the easily replaced decking for the moment.)

    Let's also pretend that the ownership issue is resolved.

    Lastly, for purposes of demolishing and replacing the bridge, we'll have to imagine that the hemorrhaging of our tax revenues continues unabated out of Albany (grr).

    What remains are historical and aesthetic value judgements about which people may differ.

    Other than that, the only question is the extent to which the public will be permitted to have a say in its own affairs. As a community, and for whatever reasons, Hudson's experiment in self-government is a disgrace.

    The above considerations are logical and applicable only if the bridge was already given a clean bill of health by a structural engineer ("already" means before now!).

    So who would be a good, trustworthy source if that information already exists? On past occasions I've phoned engineers as well as management at CSXT. They're all very accessible.

    But in a place like this, where disinterested parties are few and far between, who should residents trust to learn the actual state of the bridge today? For that matter, who should the HPC trust?

    (Come on history people, let's hear from some more of you.)

    1. I hope you aren't looking for "Crawford & Associates" as the answer ...

  5. quotes are from
    Gossips of Rivertown
    Friday, February 24, 2012

    A Memorable Moment in City Hall - EXERPTS

    ........."Alderman Marston(First Ward) was ""scolded"" at end of CC Meeting,
    publicly by Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward)
    saying that" ""someone who had been on the Council for all of eight weeks" "should read the code book before criticizing the actions of others--namely him."
    [Because Marston e-mailed him,suggesting getting more than one estimate for repair of CSX bridge, to establish" industry average"] "Pierro took it upon himself to contact
    [ A.] Colarusso[& Sons ,Inc]. to find out how much a new bridge might cost"
    "Although Pierro chose to rebuke Marston in public, Marston's offense occurred in private-
    -in an email sent only to Council members
    " Pierro apparently took Marston's suggestion to be a veiled accusation that he was engaging
    in some kind of backroom dealing with Colarusso and took umbrage".

  6. Good memory, PA.

    For a particularly egregious example of how it usually works around here, the fate of the LWRP - and more importantly that of the South Bay - probably turned on a single phone call by former mayor Scalera to the owners of the L&B building.

    Because the alternatives to avoid turning the South Bay causeway into an aggregate hauling road all involved L&B, the mayor simply phoned the owners and asked how much they wanted for it.

    The mayor was not a member of the Lead Agency so it was never his inquiry to pursue. This was - or should have been - the Common Council's affair.

    Nothing was investigated other than an amenable purchase of the entire property. Afterwards the mayor expressed his evident satisfaction that the owners wanted millions.

    Incredibly, that's the whole story about how all related costs for all of the alternatives in the city's environmental impact statement were established!

    Despite public protest, nothing between eminent domain for the driveway alone or leasing the driveway alone as a right-of-way were even considered as alternatives during the SEQR review.

    Not only were no appraisals ever ordered, but nobody bothered to find out how much an appraisal would cost.

    There was only the mayor's one phone call. His report of that phone call was entered into the official record as the sole fiscal argument against the alternatives to using the causeway as a road. (Recall the executive's level of resistance to an examination of the alternatives anyway.)

    None of this made any difference to the SEQRA Lead Agency, the Common Council. The mayor's attorney simply told them what to do at each step, after which they'd sign on the dotted line as instructed.

    I feel grateful for my current aldermen, and for anyone who will stand up to the shenanigans of boss rule.