At the informal meeting of the Common Council on Monday night, a resolution was introduced that would rescind the resolution passed on February 11, authorizing the mayor "to enter into all documents and contracts necessary to effectuate transfer of the Parcel and related easements to the City of Hudson upon review of said documents by the Corporation Counsel, and to provide documentation for a tax credit to Holcim for transferring the Parcel as a gift to the City." The new resolution was the initiative of Common Council president Don Moore, who stated at the outset of the discussion that he "supported the agreement for the land transfer and still does, but Holcim does not." He elaborated by saying that, since February 11, the City has received nothing but "pleasantly stated excuses [from Holcim] for why they are not signing the contract." The latest word from Holcim, received that morning, was that they might have the contract signed by May 1.
Needless to say, much discussion followed the introduction of the resolution. Mayor William Hallenbeck acknowledged when he, Moore, and city attorney Cheryl Roberts had spoken with Holcim in a conference call earlier that day, the contract had still not been signed, but he warned the Council, "If you rescind the resolution, you will be back getting to the point we are at now." Hallenbeck returned to this theme later in the discussion, saying that Holcim had just that morning agreed to "weekly conference calls, every Monday morning at 10 a.m.," and it was an inappropriate time to halt the ongoing discussions. Moore reminded the mayor that the February 11 resolution authorized him "to sign a letter not negotiate an agreement," hence ongoing discussions weren't really necessary.
Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), prefacing his comments by explaining that the proposed land transfer wasn't an "ideal transaction," but it was OK, and asserting that the City of Hudson was "the best owner of the land," expressed his frustration over the delay: "They drafted the deed, and all they had to do was sign it, and it's been six weeks."
Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) concurred with Friedman. "We anticipated an answer, and we are not getting it." Haddad agreed that "We're the best stewards of this property."
Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) wanted to know, if the resolution were rescinded, "What are we going to do better?" In response, Moore later made the point that by rescinding the February 11 resolution, "We are setting ourselves on a path to new alternatives." The only new alternative actually mentioned was eminent domain.
Alderman David Marston (First Ward), the lone alderman who did not support the February 11 resolution, told his colleagues, "We need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that Holcim is acting in good faith." He urged, "It's time that we as a city drive this conversation." Later in the discussion Marston observed, "We're being played, and we have to figure out why we're being played."
The discussion went on at length, with Hallenbeck having the last word. He stated that he would support Moore in his desire to rescind the February 11 resolution if the City doesn't get an answer from Holcim on May 1. The Council is expected to vote on the resolution to rescind next Tuesday, April 16.
The City of Hudson's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) repeatedly mentions the possibility and the desirability of Holcim conveying 7.5 acres south of the port--an area traditionally known as "Sandy Beach" and "East Jesus"--to the City, but, as South Bay advocate Timothy O'Connor pointed out during the meeting, acquiring this land did not become a prerequisite for getting state and federal approval for the LWRP until the NYS Department of State issued its findings report. The urgency to take possession of the parcel is driven by the idea that, without an approved LWRP, the City of Hudson cannot move ahead with plans to develop the waterfront, and the necessary state and federal approval of the LWRP is dependent upon acquiring this land.
In recent months, a second parcel was added to the original 7.5 acres mentioned in the LWRP: 2.4 acres that deed records suggest were once the site of a Standard Oil transfer facility. Hudson residents Cheryl Stuart and Helen Arrott both objected to the City taking ownership of land likely to be contaminated because the City would be liable for cleaning up the site. Although O'Connor had in hand a copy of an 1888 deed that transferred ownership of a waterfront parcel to Standard Oil, city attorney Cheryl Roberts reported that the title searcher hired by the City had not discovered Standard Oil ownership of any land south of the port. Roberts also dismissed concerns that parcel was contaminated. She reported that "The engineers doing the Phase I [environmental study] are saying that the site is clean, and they may not be doing a Phase II." She also dispelled fears that the City would be assuming full responsibility for cleaning up any toxins by explaining that, according to the federal Superfund act, everyone in the chain of title is liable for contamination.
It appears that we have a new mystery on the waterfront: Where was the site of Standard Oil? According to the title searcher, it was not south of the port. According to records discovered by O'Connor and others before him, it was. The juxtaposed pictures below--a historic post card image of the Hudson-Athens lighthouse and a modern picture of the same shoreline that appears in the post card image--provide evidence that some industrial facility was located on the point which is part of the parcel the City seeks to acquire. Was it Standard Oil?
This detail from a 1889 Sanborn Map reveals that it was.
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