Monday, April 1, 2013

Hudson and Standard Oil: A Curiosity

The records in Columbia County Clerk's Office show that Standard Oil made its first purchase of land on Hudson's waterfront sometime in 1888.

Curiously, on January 7 of that year, this little item appeared on the front page of the Hudson Daily Register, reporting financial information about the company using some pretty loaded language. 


  1. Now wait just a minute.

    How on earth did Gossips locate the 2.4-acres of riverfront property owned by Standard Oil in the county deed index when the city's own title agency, "Sneeringer, Monahan, Provost and Redgrave," couldn't find it?

    Let me guess: you looked it up in the index?

    This Common Council is a council of SHAME.

    Who ordered the "title search"? Give us a name. Then we want to know the wording of the order, and we don't want to wait until July for the answer.

    We want the 6/9/12 survey map which is OURS, not yours.

    Is it really so much to ask that you be honest and serve the public? Yes I'm angry, but this is also a heartbreaking faithlessness. How could you?

  2. I'm sure Atty Cheryl Roberts will have some kind of answer concocted for your audio pleasure.

    1. Heh, spot on!

      Except this time there's no wiggle room for attorneys. They've been caught red-handed, and all that they/she can do is to continue to suppress self-incriminating documents.

      We must demand that our aldermen demand the following documents from Ms. Roberts, who controls all:

      1. The 6/9/12 survey map;

      2. The order for the 6/9/12 survey map;

      3. The order for the survey map's 10/1/12 revision;

      4. The original order for the title search initiated in June 2012, but not evidenced in any council Resolution that I can find;

      5. The order for the "title search" for the approximately 10 acres without ownership titles in it. (Who ordered that sham, and what did they order?)

      But here's the rub: there's no use demanding these things from any alderman between the 1st and 5th Wards. They're each a disgrace to their office, obviously taking all of their marching orders from Ms. Roberts. (And why not, if she'll single-handedly deliver all of Mr. Moore's fast-paced, legacy law-making for them?)

      BUT THIS IS NOW A CONCERN ABOUT ECOLOGY. We're beyond procedural irregularities and catching out the usual prevarications.

      It's time to wake up all of the armchair "environmentalists." This isn't just about the South Bay; it concerns the Hudson River from here to the ocean.

      This is where the rubber hits the road. As you'd say VM, there's no more time for the luxury of "concocted audio pleasures."

    2. I've been informed that some aldermen are taking an interest, and that is most welcome.

      But when it turns out that asking Ms. Roberts won't work, then someone must begin telling.

      Our representatives are not her subordinates. They should be able to see any documents the public has paid for, including the five listed above.

      And if the aldermen behave as her subordinates in practice, then what does that make the public? We're a raw material. We provide the capital to advance the personal goals of a single attorney who doesn't even live here. (Odd thing that these goals nearly always coincide with Holcim's goals).

  3. Thanks to the behind-the-scenes persistence of my two 1st Ward aldermen, attorney Roberts has informed us today that the October 1st survey map is identical in every significant respect to the June 9, 2012 survey map which was attached to the September 18th Resolution.

    For all practical purposes, the two maps are identical. This means that the area included in the land transfer proposal was - at least since June - approximately 10 acres.

    (Note well that in the November 2011 SEQR Findings Statement it was "approximately 7 acres" and was still "approximately 7 acres" in the 9/18/12 Resolution.)

    For the public, it was first known to be 9.968 acres on February 28, 2013, at 10:40 AM. That was seven hours before the Planning Commission's public hearing on the subdivision required to see this deal through.

    There's been a critical flaw with every document I've looked at in relation to this land transfer, each "mistake" favoring Holcim.

    Thanks to these aldermen, Ms. Roberts also acknowledged the following today:

    "Mr. Freeman [of the DOS Committee on Open Government] is of course correct that anything referenced in a resolution is part of the minutes and need not be FOILed. I am not sure why the map and description were not included in the minutes or attached to the resolution, but they should have been."

    Can our aldermen next figure out why the title search they ordered is not a title search? (Look closely at the photograph heading this Gossip's post.)

  4. Incidentally, I'd be happy to furnish anyone with the Standard Oil deed.

    Please just ask.

  5. With today's fascinating disclosure of the June 9, 2012 survey map (our gratitude to both 1st Ward Aldermen, Dave and Nick), all questions concerning the map itself are satisfied.

    As Ms. Roberts acknowledged today, the law required that these were answers that should have been available on demand months ago.

    So now it is time to ask a favor of our aldermen while the subject is hot. It is our first such request, because state law required that they hand over that survey map anyway. That was not a favor.

    I refer to the phony "title search," which you'd think would be of great interest to the council that placed the order.

    What was Ms. Roberts' exact wording on the order for this work?

    • The first part was initiated in June 2012, but was not ordered by the council as far as I can tell;

    • The council's 9/18/12 Resolution ordered a "title search" for the 9.968 acres. What they got was a "rights-of-way" search.

    Was this just the latest example of pretending that Standard Oil was never there? The wording on her order will reveal much; it will certainly reveal whether or not Ms. Roberts did the council's bidding or if she just made another "mistake."

    (Ever notice how every mistake or oversight on her part FOR YEARS has always favored her personal goals, just like the proverbial shopkeeper who only ever gives the wrong change in his own favor.)

    So why doesn't someone else bug their own aldermen for a change? My guys came through beautifully. I only hope they'll speak with me again, but I know they are both serious about the thing that drives us all: the health and welfare of the South Bay.

    1. Cash "short and over" should be both short and over.

  6. For those not in the loop (which is regrettably nearly everyone), today I am pursuing what I take to be the inadequacy of a FOIL request I submitted on March 5th for "all related documents" to a title search ordered by the Common Council on September 18th.

    Anyone who's waded through my voluminous Gossips comments in the last few days (my apologies) knows that the "title search" ordered by the council on 9/18 produced only an inquiry into rights-of-way on the 10 waterfront acres.

    No information on former ownership was included, and certainly not a peep about the Standard Oil "distribution depot" which stood on the 2.4 acre portion.

    I began referring to the product we'd purchased as being a "fake" title search. Some complained that the word "fake" might be confusing to others, or technically untrue, but I believe that it is sufficiently descriptive of something that happened between the ordering and the getting. After all, we're all expert by now on the serial fakery of Hudson's waterfront program.

    This morning I emailed Hudson's "corporate council" - openly copying to other officials - asking for the order document to the title company made subsequently to the council's 9/18 Resolution. From the 9/18 Resolution No. 2:

    "The mayor is ... directed to enter into professional services contracts to undertake the preliminary studies .... that title search and insurance should not exceed $3,200.00."

    In my request I even took care to define the word "subsequent" as meaning in this instance "coming after." You can't more obvious than that!

    Unsurprisingly, the reply from our "corporate council" only addressed matters which preceded 9/18/12 (that means that they "came before" - heh).

    (The significance of a request for a document made after 9/18 is that it might show how a title search got turned into something else, and also indicate who turned it.)

    Needless to say, these materials should have been included in my FOIL request of March 5th, and now - wonder of wonders - the issue is being obfuscated.

    Attorney Roberts immediately passed the buck to Mr. Moore:

    "At this point, please contact President Moore directly as responding to your constant emails is causing me to delay work on other pressing matters on behalf of the City."

    Whaddya say we don't accept any more of this b.s. Let's demand that these FOIL searches are conducted properly, and make sure that we learn how a "title search" ordered by the council which produced a fake managed to omit the petroleum giant's previous ownership and uses of the site.

  7. Before the world moves on, I hope people understand the we're now talking about the 2nd document in a week of which our all-powerful "corporate counsel" is obfuscating.

    State law requires certain things of these officials, and that's how I discovered a sore spot.

    Ms. Roberts does not appreciate my contacting the NYS DOS Committee on Open Government because she supposes that they may be keeping a dossier on her. (She can stop wondering.)

    The current inquiry which is the subject of this Gossips post is distinct from the issue of yesterday's survey map. Thanks to the DOS committee, we learned that the public has owned that map since September even though none of us ever saw it before February 28th. Then it was only after a fight that we learned yesterday what the map is and was (probably because our new knowledge indicates more "mistakes" made by our brilliant LWRP attorney).

    Today, instead of the map, we are asking why a FOIL request submitted in February apparently fell short.

    I had hoped to find documents which recorded the specific terms of the city's order to "Sneeringer, Monahan, Provost and Redgrave Title Agency" for the title search the council directed the mayor to undertake on 9/18/12.

    If the aldermen themselves aren't interested in what they bought with our money, then others would like to know why the results of this "title search" are no more than an inquiry into easements. Where is the property history? Where is the documentary evidence that Standard Oil owned the site and maintained a petroleum facility which suggests potential contamination? (The Standard Oil deed is currently circulating in emails, though I doubt the notoriously anti-ecological Ms. Roberts is interested.)

    Following some dramatic emails circulated last night, emails which included Ms. Roberts' contributions, our "corporate counsel" assured worried residents that we could ask her anything and that she would answer our questions. "I would rather that you ask a specific question than take my time up with foils."

    Okay, so this morning I did just that. I asked the willing Ms. Roberts for any documentary evidence of an actual order to the title company which should have been included in the materials the city returned for my FOIL request anyway ("the city" being Ms. Roberts, naturally).

    From the push-back I received you'd think that I had blasphemed during the times of the Inquisition against an all-powerful Counselor.

    "At this point, please contact President Moore directly as responding to your constant emails is causing me to delay work on other pressing matters on behalf of the City." (I'd imagine she meant "other pressing short-cuts," and on whose behalf we can only imagine.

    But I have since ascertained that Ms. Roberts was the party who serviced the title documents I had FOILed weeks ago, and so she must not hand me off "at this point" or any other point to anyone else. The inadequacy of a FOIL request which she serviced is her own problem; her insufficient answer to my simple question is her own mess perpetuated.

    (I had asked today in several different ways to see an order to "Sneeringer [et al] Title Agency" which was made SUBSEQUENT to the 9/18 council Resolution, but she would only address orders that were previous to 9/18/12. So much for "Just ask me and I will answer your questions," the bad faith exposed within hours of her pronouncement.)

    It's also another nail in her political coffin, and another memo for her growing dossier of bad faith among state agencies. Her previous rival for State Assembly is getting all of this, you can be sure.

    I just hope that my neighbors understand that today's outrage against the public is a new chapter. There are so many outrages that we simply must take them one day at a time.

    So who ordered what and when?

    We didn't learn much today.

  8. Are our betters planning a park above underground petroleum tanks?

    They don't know, because nobody knows.

    All they know is that they don't want people asking questions like that.

    The 1st Ward aldermen took an interest and got things moving.

    Where's the 3rd Ward in all this? We got a real dose of Mr. Friedman's attitude, but where does Mr. Wagoner stand?