Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Surprising Development

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Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) wanted to know, if the resolution were rescinded, "What are we going to do better?"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.



  1. Thank you Carol.
    Thank you Tim O'Conner, Cheryl Stuart, Helen Arrott. I will ask again, why is ms. Roberts still city attorney? It is my opinion, and I'm being generous, that the best she can hope for is being replaced for really lazy work.

    1. Then length width and depth of Roberts ineptness is legion, which makes one think of collusion as the answer to her continued employment.

  2. The first thing everyone must do is to apply their own common sense.

    Please do not look to the opinions of others before studying the Sanborn map posted above. Everything you need to know is already on this map!

    Finally, try your best to account for the map's existence in any way that contradicts the corresponding information on the 1888 deed, on Vincent's 1870 map of the site, and on photographs of the tanks in Byrne Fone's excellent book "Historic Hudson" (bottom of page 112).

    It's important that people come to their own conclusions, because no matter what you believe Attorney Roberts is going to say that you are wrong.

    Oh, and the source of this Sanborn map detail? It's been available since September at the city website.

    1. Wow. So well said unheimlich. Everybody, tell your neighbors. Get informed, look for themselves. The health of the people and the well being of the city are at stake. It is that important.

  3. At 2 AM I posted my own account of the council meeting beneath Mr. Gentile's Register Star story. The newspaper didn't see fit to post it, though I can't imagine why:

    "As someone who was present at the meeting, I can attest that Mr. Gentile's account is quite accurate. I cannot say the same for Attorney Roberts' stories.

    "Ms. Roberts claims that the title company didn't find a deed which anyone can see who will devote 5 minutes to the task at the county's Real Property room. I refer to Book 85, pp. 376 - 378. (Please go and see for yourselves, and do not depend on expensive, inept experts.)

    "That deed will explain the photographs of oil tanks at the southern end of what is now Holcim's waterfront property, and also explain the historical maps that report the same.

    "Anyone who attended tonight could see with their own eyes that the council and city simply refuse this information. It may not exist and so it does not, period.

    "Now consider that the faulty title search is what the Crawford engineering group's "phase one" reconnaissance is using. A phase one is only a search of documents, and Crawford doesn't re-conduct a title search that's already supposedly completed).

    Anyone would guess that the land is "clean" who'd based their research on someone else's bad research. That's known as bad data chasing bad data, which is a circumstance that is usual in a hole like Hudson.

    "The sheer obtuseness of refusing to even look at historical photographs, historical maps and actual deeds will be the Achilles heel of this thing. But before it catches up with them, which it will, it's a shame they're so comfortable wasting our money on what is clearly routine incompetence. ..."

  4. Take a walk along the river to East Jesus and look around, kick the dirt and try to convince yourself that it is not polluted and if you can convince yourself that it is not polluted then I have a bridge I wana sell you.
    Whether we (the city) wants to own this land or not I don't know but get real, if it walks like a duck and smells like oil and other chemicals....

  5. Today a few of us FOILers were privileged to see all, or allegedly all, of the underlying documents related to the Holcim land transfer deal which are not protected by "attorney client privilege," as Attorney Roberts put it.

    Among the FOILed papers, there was no evidence of a "title search" for the kind of title transfer history which "Crawford and Associates Engineering" requires for its Phase I contaminants study.

    During the court case over the fate of Furgary, the Monahan group did the title searches (which were both expensive and entirely unnecessary, even by their own admission), based on which the Crawford group made its expensive and yet incorrect boundary map of the North Bay (after which the NYS OGS adopted that incorrect map and made it OGS map no. 2322, and well ... welcome to New York.)

    Today, Crawford is drawing its random conclusions concerning contaminants on the two Holcim parcels based on the work of someone named Jim Monahan, at least as Attorney Roberts tells it.

    Somehow, incredibly, the allegedly professional "Monahan, Sneeringer, Provost and Redgrave Title Agency" does not know how to use a Grantee index in a real property search, at least as we can induce from Attorney Roberts' account. Last night Ms. Roberts claimed that "Jim Monahan" found no evidence of what anyone can plainly see in the above map (or more importantly at L85, pp. 376 - 378).

    In turn, Crawford Engineering is conducting its research using the alleged title search of the geniuses at "Monahan"! (unless they don't even need the handy excuse Monahan offers in order to fabricate conclusions all by themselves).

    Naturally the engineering and title firms are telling the city what it most wants to hear, which makes Crawford as astute at interpreting Sanborn maps as the Monahan group must be at using a property index.*

    This is the nexus of the "old boys," who hold Hudson hostage and grow their businesses on resident's backs. We may not be able to penetrate the details of their private machinations, but we can damn well see what they turn a blind eye to. Future generations will thank us if we teach ourselves to rage against this particular machine.

    And if you start by asking Cheryl Roberts how our money was spent to perpetuate this mountain of dishonest dealings, it's gee, sorry: attorney-client privilege, or whatever the next grounds are for an executive session of our legislators.

    It's hideous, and yet WE TAKE THIS?!

    Please people, let's not anymore.

    *Hint to Monahan, Sneeringer, Provost and Redgrave Title Agency. At the following address you will see a helpful photo of the Grantee-Grantor index page at the county Real Property office, Book 1. Please resist the temptation to be corrupt; please use this index:


    1. Monahan Title Agency is across from my building.
      Back in the day SLC was their favorite son.
      During that battle we painted a huge mural on the plywood covering the area yet to have shop windows installed.
      We turned an SLC mailer into an anti-SLC statement.
      SLC was not happy gazing out from Monahans at this so the mayor was contacted. Frank March, code enforcement, cited the mural as inappropriate and needed to be removed immediately.
      Under threat of news coverage from Albany the Hudson Powers stepped down at the eleventh hour.

      ... and Crawford is a whole other story ...

  6. The only argument ever offered on behalf of the thoroughly shady precipitous actions of the city and their paid enablers is that "we've waited long enough."

    The original "12 Angry Men" had two especially brutal ignoramuses who routinely repeated the exasperated phrase "here we go again!" (They wanted to execute a possibly innocent man so that they could get to a ball game.)

    I think of those vicious knuckleheads whenever I hear anyone justifying the crookedness of Hudson's waterfront program with "we've waited long enough."

  7. Interesting; guess I shouldn’t feel so bad about our experience with Monahan & Sneeringer. While first shopping for an attorney in Albany, NDTBA was directed to Sneeringer. We arrived and were greeted by both Sneeringer and Jim Monahan. We discussed our case but decided to go with McNamee. When we got to our first meeting with Slick Rick & Sherry Roberts, there sits Jim. Judge & Jury hand in hand. We never had a chance.We’re being lead by self serving snakes!

    1. That's it exactly Joe.

      (For those in the know, NDTBA is the "North Dock Tin Boat Association.")

      And Crawford ... is a whole other story.

      When I asked the state OGS why it assigned Crawford's erroneous North Bay map as an official state document, I didn't even have a chance to disagree with the guy. I was instructed that henceforth the state agency would only speak to me through the DOS attorneys. That came out of left field.

      Whereas in Hudson, "corporate council" has asked me not to ask her any more questions, and to speak with Mr. Moore instead. (Apparently she's too busy to answer questions which only she can answer.)

      And so I will. "Mr. Moore, to date the city cannot produce a title search of land transfers for the 2.4-acre parcel. Today I learned that there were no invoices or vouchers handled for such a title search from 2010 to the present. I am personally completing the title search which the city paid for but did not receive for the 2.4-acre parcel. What many of us would like the council to do is to furnish the Crawford engineers with a true title search before they have a chance to proclaim, in their Monahan-inspired ignorance, that a Phase II contaminants survey is unnecessary."

      In other words, be responsible towards the environment. Is that too much to ask?

  8. New York; First in corruption, last in freedom...