Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Not to Be Missed

The Valley Alliance reveals an extraordinary statement made by city attorney Cheryl Roberts, discovered by Peter Jung in a mass of FOILed documents the organization is in the process of reviewing.


  1. What, pray tell, does Roberts mean when she says she “deleted much of the paragraph on [Holcim] having discussed with me a private sale for two years”—and why is she so frantic to have all copies of the document “destroyed”?


  2. In light of Cheryl's Roberts' admission that Hudson's waterfront plan was not driven by community sentiment, check out the points below, drawn from guidance published by the New York Department of State, the agency that supervises the LWRP program. Bear in mind that there is supposed to be a Citizen's Waterfront Committee in place throughout the entire process; but here in Hudson our citizen's committee was disbanded three years ago, and since then the business of establishing our LWRP has amounted to one lawyer having a conversation with a cement company based in Switzerland. Warning: You may wish to have an air sickness bag handy, as it is almost impossible not to gag when reading this stuff, given the outcome on our waterfront:

    New York Dep't. of State, Division of Coastal Resources:

    “You can make the most of your waterfront when you generate a
    sense of community ownership of the waterfront, the people who
    live and work in the community buy into your vision, and you build
    a foundation of public support and confidence.”

    “Working in partnership with the Division of Coastal Resources, a
    community reaches consensus on the future of its waterfront,
    establishes local policies and outlines the implementation techniques
    it will use to achieve its vision.”

    “Right from the beginning, as you seek to make the most of your
    waterfront, you must involve the public. You will need the support of
    the community at every stage—from developing a vision to planning for and implementing improvements. Success will depend upon building and sustaining local support for the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.”

    “Community participation is generally designed to generate a
    community consensus about the vision for the future of the waterfront and develop a strategy to address the community’s most critical waterfront issues.”

    “Meaningful public participation doesn’t just happen. It has to be
    carefully thought out and planned to embrace the public in the
    planning process and to keep them informed about progress.”

    “Successful waterfront revitalization happens when the community
    realizes that the waterfront belongs to them. It happens when they
    recognize the significance and potential of their waterfront. It happens when they are determined to improve and protect their waterfront for the enjoyment and benefit of the entire community and future generations.”

    “By bringing people together you can create a vision that captures the ideas and interests of a broad constituency of those concerned with the future of your waterfront.”

    “An integral part of the visioning process is building consensus—
    bringing people together in support of the common vision.You will
    always need to address the community’s ideas and concerns.Your success in revitalizing your waterfront will depend upon whether the people who live and work in the community embrace the vision.”

    “There are many ways to develop consensus, but the key will be to
    sustain it. This is a long-term process requiring an outreach strategy
    to keep your community informed and involved in revitalization efforts.”

    “You will also need to keep the entire community informed about what is going on, including people who are not directly involved but may have a real interest in the waterfront revitalization efforts.It is
    important to provide them with regular progress reports, and keep them informed about how they can participate.”

    “It is important to find committee members who are likely to stay with
    the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program from initial planning and
    visioning through to implementation of improvements.”

  3. Regarding Peter's take on Cheryl Roberts' letter to Donald Stever, there is another interpretation: this one. From December of last year, some members of the Council, myself included, also the Mayor, were reconsidering our approach to Holcim with the express purpose of accomplishing the land transfer agreement that was the subject of numerous references in the LWRP. The City began pressing for these discussions for concrete transfer agreements in the late summer of 2012. Face to face discussions took place with Donald Stever, who has been Holcim's attorney dealing with the LWRP at least since I took office, and with O&G Industries, the current, long-term leaseholder on the Holcim mine and port. While the LWRP made reference to Holcim’s pledge to transfer seven acres to the City, that parcel or parcels had never been formally surveyed and identified. After these discussions, all the parties -- the City, Holcim, O&G -- agreed on a the parcel size, hire a surveyor, and produced the formal survey map, which became 9.9 acres.

    Then the talks slowed to nothing. The customary polite excuses about the press of other business followed from Holcim and it was not until early in 2013 that an agreement was finally drafted. As I am sure the Valley Alliance’s FOIL will show, Cheryl Roberts and a few others of us put in a good deal of time negotiating on and settling on terms for the final agreement.

    As for the letter quoted on the VA blog, the first thing to say is that the referenced destroyed letter was a very blunt and among opposing attorneys an intemperate communication from Cheryl Roberts to Donald Stever, expressing her concern, to put it mildly, that Holcim had not been negotiating with the intention of coming to an agreement. Cheryl thought better of it, destroyed the first letter, and the FOILed letter followed, with as direct a assertion as I can recall a representative of the City making to proceed with eminent domain.

    As for the supposedly stinging pull quote from Cheryl Roberts’ letter, that "many City officials took a hard stand in support of a working waterfront in the face of great opposition from City and County residents," the "extraordinary statement" as described by Gossips, that statement could just as easily be read as a pointed reference to the fact that those of us who had worked to acquire a substantial percentage of the total 14 acre port parcel for the City, and who had done so under fairly intense criticism, were getting very tired of waiting for Holcim to follow through on it's end of the bargain. We were, and we are.

    Now, what about that bargain? Why did I support it? Why do I continue to support it? Not to oversimplify, but two main big reasons. The first is that owning a sizable portion of the port property means that one of the goals of the opponents of SLC cement plant is fulfilled. The port property, once planned as a major processing and distribution center for cement, would become a park as envisioned in the LWRP with the protections afforded by state law.

    The second persuasive reason is that however much of a compromise the current proposed agreement is on the transfer of the 9.9 acres, that land would be owned by the City and would be acquired without cost. If the City were to eminent domain 7 acres or 9.9 acres, we would probably be looking at a six figure ticket price, half a million to a million dollars.

    (My post is continued in a new window since it was a little long for one posting. Please see below.)

    Don Moore
    Common Council President

    1. Mr. Moore, your alternative explanation for the "stinging pull quote" from Ms. Roberts’ letter is written entirely from your own perspective. It fails to appreciate what the public immediately perceived as a momentous admission: that there was ever any criticism at all of the handling of the waterfront program.

      To read the account in last year's BOA Program application of Hudson's LWRP process - another program designed to enjoy the same level of participation as an LWRP (see Gizmo above) but which was completed in total secrecy - anyone would suppose that Hudson's LWRP had elevated democracy to a new level.

      Apparently you cannot see it, but this is the context within which Ms. Roberts admission was received as a revelation by the much-abused public.

      You merely supplied reasons for your own frustration, which is beside the point.

  4. (cont)

    Then, to address the contention that some portion of the 9.9 acres is contaminated. The City is double checking to determine if a Standard Oil facility existed somewhere on the 14 acres of the port parcel.

    But assume for the sake of argument that there was a petroleum depot there. Does this conclusion by definition mean that the City would be better served to refuse to accept the land, discard the agreement we negotiated? I do not believe so and here is why.

    The City maintains that as a matter of establish law an owner cannot sell a property that is contaminated and escape liability for cleanup if contamination is discovered after the sale. That being the case, the City is protected in the same way that it is with the substantial clean up agreed to by National Grid of the Dunn’s warehouse property and its surrounding land that the utility gave to the City. In 2014 National Grid will finish the job by dredging the river in front of Henry Hudson Park of residual coal tar from the coal gasification plant that occupied the building at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Don Moore
    Common Council President

    1. The "City is double checking"?

      I think you mean that Rapport-Myers, et al, is double-checking. And if Rapport-Myers is double-checking, then can the public have the assurance of the Common Council President that the firm's Cheryl Roberts will be given no role in this?

      Is Cheryl Roberts still serving as the Legal Advisor to the GEIS Lead Agency? I doubt it.

      In that case Cheryl Roberts answers to the mayor, who has just publicly disagreed with the council about rescinding the 2/11 Resolution.

      It is a conflict of interest to send Ms. Roberts to "double-check" anything.

      The foregone conclusion that Rapport-Myers will be as blind as the Monahan and Crawford firms is only underscored by the appearance of this conflict of interest.

      About the potential contamination of the sought-after acreage, it's better to leave the site alone. But you have already signed a document, the EAF, pledging to excavate there when you acquire it.

      To wit, recall what the city did with the Foster's site: a semi-demolition exposed friable toxins to the environment which were otherwise, previously contained.

      Who made that decision?!!

      This city, which you help run, is totally irresponsible on environmental issues, your self-portrait notwithstanding.

  5. @Don Moore: Wow. That's a relatively verbose defense for just a few words from Cheryl Roberts. The readers here are wise enough to see that and draw their own conclusion. Thanks.