Wednesday, May 22, 2013

About Those Ten Acres

There was a resolution included in the aldermen's packets last night (and in those given to the press) "Authorizing Litigation Against Holcim US to Recover Costs Related to the Proposed Transfer of Riverfront Land to the City of Hudson." The resolution was withdrawn, by Council president Moore, but the issue was the subject of some discussion. 

Attached to the resolution was this rendering of the dock area that was part of the St. Lawrence Cement Greenport Project. The rendering shows the dock facility extending onto the parcel of land the City of Hudson seeks to acquire.

Moore opened the discussion by asking rhetorically what the goals for the waterfront were and suggesting that one of them was to ensure that there would be no cement plant in Hudson. City ownership of the ten acres immediately south of the port, he pointed out, would accomplish this goal because it would prevent the expansion that the rendering suggests would be necessary for a cement operation. Moore suggested that a second goal was to obtain ownership of the entire port and obtaining this parcel could be seen as the first step toward obtaining the entire port. Moore advised the Council, "We have to decide whether or not we want to proceed with eminent domain on the ten acres."

Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) was unrestrained in his criticism of Holcim and its handling of the situation, saying Holcim had "acted in a villainous fashion." "Is this," he asked, "a harbinger of what they plan to do in the future?"

Moore said of the land transfer, "This issue is not over." Other aldermen concurred. Alderman Chris Wagoner (Third Ward) said, "We lost our way in the controversy over who owned it," but expressed his conviction that "we need to acquire the property." Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who has always maintained that the City would be the best steward of the ten acres, asserted, "It doesn't make sense for the City not to own it." He went on to say, "Holcim created an expectancy when they created the document [referring to the contract that Holcim has not signed]. They owe us some money, and at the very least we should go after them."

Mayor William Hallenbeck said that he would be "happy to obtain the land as a transfer" but cautioned against "going after them for damages." Seeming to think the Council was considering trying to acquire the entire port through eminent domain, he admonished the Council to "keep the financial stability of the City in mind" in their discussions about using this strategy. Later in the conversation, when Moore spoke of "continuing to have discussions about obtaining the land" and Haddad described the parcel as a "critical and fundamental component of the health and well-being of the city going forward," Hallenbeck suggested that, in a discussion about "what's critical and what isn't," a priority should be "developing on land we already own."

The discussion ended with city attorney Cheryl Roberts, who was the last to be in contact with Holcim, delivering the message she had received from Holcim counsel: "The City needs to be patient. Holcim is committed to transferring the property."


  1. Carole, a point of clarification: Holcim didn't refuse to sign a "contract." Rather, they refused to execute the draft deed they sent to the City. They sent us a draft deed, the City approved it and they failed to counter-execute. The City, in reasonable expectation that the deed Holcim drafted would be signed by Holcim, expended money in preparation to i) approve the deed and ii) accept the parcel after approval. Then they stiffed us.

    1. Thanks, John. It seemed that you, Cheryl, Don all used a variety of terms to refer to this "thing" that Holcim had drafted but balked at signing. It was hard to figure out exactly what it should be called, although it was possible to figure out its purpose.

    2. Be interesting to put a dollar amount that.

      Make no mistake that whoever tied our fates to the aggregate industry also set the city up to be stiffed.

      Residents warned against it, but those in government who thought they knew better found a way to shut out the naysayers.

      It's high time that their fiasco comes back bite them. They made their bed, they can sleep in it.

      What the same people will try next is propaganda, which accounts for last night's embarrassing display.

      (What's most embarrassing are the aldermen who are piling on without hearing from their constituents first.)

  2. If Gossips will allow a little redirecting, the following website carries a link back to ... Gossips! (see under "Top Local Blogs").

    I've written an essay explaining the developments covered in this post as being propaganda, and more.

    It is also a general update about what I believe the city is really doing, and why I am convinced that it must be stopped.

  3. Speaking of rumors ... what is this rumor that Holcim is in negotiations to sell their holdings to a private concern? Why isn't Hudson THAT 'private concern?'
    And if this is true then wouldn't new ownership (since it isn't US) impact the ten acres in some possible way ?
    All this from a taxpayer who refuses to pay their assessed value and holds this city hostage?

    Finally - why is Cheryl Roberts STILL involved with ANY legal proceedings. She has shown her cards far too many times. Trust is broken. She needs to be shown the door !

    1. Don't be manipulated to perpetuate the narrative for them.

      (That is so totally un-Vincent!)

      A private owner of the 10 acres is facing new regulations as of last August, from the new Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat.

      Additionally, because the 10 acres are coastal, a private owner aiming to expand would also now have to rationalize the impacts of dredging and excavations to a half dozen federal and state agencies, and specifically in relation to the new rail alternative for transporting the rock directly from Greenport.

      On the other hand, if the city gets the land then it gets the LWRP.

      If it gets the LWRP, then it gets to be lead authority for all "coastal consistency review," which means for any projects it wants to pursue.

      If the city gets an authorized LWRP, a 3-member board appointed by the mayor gets to adjudicate the city's own projects by applying Cheryl Roberts' interpretations of the federal and state coastal policies as found in the LWRP (and that's over and above the judgements of all the involved federal and state agencies).

      Roberts drafted all of it, even the Mussman development plan for the 10 acres, which is why Roberts doesn't want to be seen advocating eminent domain.

      So if the city gets authority for coastal consistency review, then Hudson will be getting a new gigantic parking lot and a marina at the 10 acres.

      Which is the worse scenario?

      Which is more likely to happen?

      (Does anyone out there understand what an LWRP is?)

    2. Yes, the Lilly White Riverfront Plan, restricts inner city access for our kids in favor of theirs...The power boat gets 75% of the shore and the tin boat rod and gun gets zero. Their hidden agenda is eliminate hunting and fishing from the only place not entrapped by rail. County fishers and hunters are entitled to "unfettered" access. As if the rail were not enough. Let people flow!

    3. To be accurate, the city's acknowledged plan is to "take" one of the three Powerboat Association's properties too.

      If there was ever a group of people whistling past the graveyard, it's the HPBA!

      I've tried to reach out to them. Pointless.

  4. This is propaganda and manipulation.

    Look at a previous manipulation first (and notice whose face is attached).

    The council's March 27 legal committee discussed and rejected eminent domain. That was when they were trying to sell us those 50-year conditions.

    Mr. Friedman in particular was quick to dismiss eminent domain. I remember that well, because for years I've been on record for my opposition to using eminent domain in this instance.

    Friedman was at pains to explain why "taking" the whole property would mean the cost of buying the entire business, which was a reprise of what we've heard for years. Roberts condescended to explain the same thing.

    Originally the tactic was Scalera's, when he effectively killed the idea of a public road through L&B by permanently linking two ideas in the public's mind: that taking anything equals taking everything.

    Just as with the L&B trick years before, people wrote in at Gossips in March wondering why the council hadn't discussed taking only those portions of land the aldermen thought they needed.

    Ah! but a subsequent FOIL search revealed that in January of this year the council had discussed just that. And not only did they discuss it, but they already perceived that it was probably their only option!

    That means that the March 27 meeting was pre-arranged, manipulative theater. Afterwards Mr. Freidman commented at Gossips as a narrator returns in the end to put the story to rest.

    Now look who's back at Gossips advertising the council's latest manipulative theater.

    Trotting out this ancient St. Lawrence design was a pre-planned propaganda campaign, which was telegraphed by Mr. Friedman himself at the same March 27 meeting:

    "We do better owning [the parcel] than not owning it. It means the port cannot be enlarged."

    At the time, everyone who understood the meaning of the state's new Significant Habitat - which was a lot of people! - shook their heads at the newcomer Friedman's fantasy. Others of us expected to see his idea again soon, and now here it is.

    Exactly like the previous manipulation, which was selling us 50-years of this and that, this week's resuscitation of the St. Lawrence Cement dock extension, or "enlargement" in Friedman's words, is just more manipulative theater. It was all discussed at length beforehand, and someone actually had to dig up that old St. Lawrence plan (a task necessarily performed by the most manipulative of them all).

    In my article (the address is above) I named Mr. Friedman in the context of this same ploy. I also explain why I believe some of these officials have committed felonies in relation to this very case, and why some on the council may belong behind bars.

    But I just need a few more people to go and read it.

    The message of my essay is that the only assured ecological disaster awaiting us will be the result of the city's acquiring ANY of the acreage south of the port.

    Do not be manipulated, and for goodness sake please COMMENT ABOUT THIS at Gossips.

    These fiends look at the comment numbers as an indication of whether they're breaking us yet.

  5. [I hope I'll be forgiven for cannibalizing my essay:]

    " ... a former petroleum depot is ignored and its site deemed “clean” by engineers who cannot read a map. The public proves beyond a doubt that the oil facility did in fact exist, although days later the same engineers signal their continued unwillingness to recommend a Phase II assessment as requested by the public, by select aldermen, and by Riverkeeper. Corporate Council states that she is “hoping” against a Phase II, which suggests that if the land is contaminated she’d prefer not to find out about it. From her point of view, and for the purposes of the environmental law which she personally drafted, concluding that the site is sufficiently “clean” today will provide endless deniability for all future SEQRA reviews concerning that which she’s totally bent on acquiring, excavating, and then paving.

    "The next ploy is to take the acreage by eminent domain after winning over the usual aldermen, which are apparently most of them.

    "Is it any wonder that nobody trusts these people? There’s probably nobody left who doesn’t suspect the extent to which these officials and their private sector enablers will go to secure the lands – and the future contracts – which they collectively crave. ..."

    [And so on.]

  6. The Common Council is cooking up a phony crisis.

    Then they'll use the momentum of the crisis to circumvent a Phase II environmental assessment.

    In a letter to Don Moore in April, Riverkeeper asked for “a public explanation as to why the site has not undergone … a Phase II assessment?”

    I will answer Riverkeeper for Mr. Moore, and for aldermen Friedman, Haddad, Wagoner and for all the rest but one:

    "Because the council has no intention of spending money on things which will only interfere with its development plans."

    1. Twisted trail of graft through "Development Corps" notwithstanding; can the council now use federal grant money that restricts (takes) Navigation or transportation?

  7. Whose idea was it to resurrect the old St. Lawrence Cement Plan, and then to go so far as to actually attach it to their draft resolution?!

    Somebody, some cynic, came up with the idea. It didn't just happen.

    It is sheer, manipulative, game-playing. What a low opinion they must have of the public!

    Elected or not, whoever is involved should be pilloried for this contempt.

  8. Oh I guess I misunderstood the rumor.

    I thought it was about Holcim selling their deep water port, gravel depository, and Becraft Mt quarries to a private entity.
    Didn't mean to push a button.

    1. My apologies Vincent, I'm a bit jumpy from this tidal wave of deceit.

      You asked a good question, and one I wish the aldermen would ask.

      All of Holcim's properties in Hudson and Greenport are already in the process of being sold to an unknown party other than the city.

      You asked, "wouldn't new ownership (since it isn't us) impact the ten acres in some possible way?"

      The best way to answer that is to imagine the worst case scenario, and let's include the city as a potential owner too.

      Who would be the worst possible owner and steward of the coastal resources south of the port?

      After taking the tour of candidates, and from an environmental perspective fully grasping the serious SEQRA and "coastal consistency" restraints upon each of them, only the city remains at the end as clearly the worst possible owner of the 10 acres below the port.

      Not only do we already know the city's misguided plan for the land - we've know for years because we not only fought the plan, we fought the way they made the plan - but the LWRP will give them the free hand to achieve it.

      If the land stays in the private sector, the owners can't do a thing with it.

      I guess it was your premise that set off some springs, the very idea that the city would be the default best steward of these resources. In fact the opposite is true, although there's only one alderman who'd ever be able to see it.

      Of all things, I want these lands to remain in private hands no matter who owns them.

      The city can "take" them away at any time, which any buyer is already well alerted to. But I hope the city doesn't attempt anything like it until we see some honest leadership. That might not be till we're all dead and gone.

  9. The council only sought verification of Standard Oil ownership thanks to public pressure.

    What I didn't expect was that we'd have to keep the pressure on to get the council to order a Phase II assessment. Unless we push them, they'll be satisfied with Crawford's conclusion that the site is "clean."

    So if it's this difficult to force the aldermen to act responsibly, what kind of pressure will it take to get them to realize that the city is more dangerous to the 10 acres than Holcim could ever be (or any other private owner).

    Instead, we're fed propaganda - the old SLC dock extension.

    Shouldn't we want to know which low-life came up with that gimmick? Someone ought to pay for having such a low opinion of their constituents. If it was Roberts who came up with the idea, then elected legislators still blessed it and carried it forward.

    Can all of them have been so cynical? Oh, that's a depressing thought.

    Anyway, this council has proven to be as slippery a bunch as ever, and they deserves our utmost scrutiny. If nothing else, we continue to owe that to the bay and the river.

  10. the dream vs. the reality
    void of integrity
    Hudson is

    1. The current Mayor of Chatham took office by pledging to fight that town's own old boy network. In their case, the nexus was the police department. We can be thankful that that's not Hudson's problem now (or maybe I should say that it won't ever be again).

      Chatham's first-term mayor has had a rocky ride, but it appears he's sticking to his guns and making some headway against the entrenched, shadowy powers. Now he'll seek a second term.

      That can happen here too, but the magic ingredient, besides the initial determination, is integrity.

      But you can always expects errors. In Chatham's case, there was no one to warn the new, green-inclined government when they hired an environmental attorney named Cheryl Roberts to advise on the town's SEQR review. The results were exactly what you'd expect, which suggests that it might be mutually beneficial to compare notes with others by sticking our heads outside of the Hudson bubble now and again.

      What Hudson needs is a mayor who resists the wasteful stupidity of our Common Council (wasteful for Albany too). Imagine what someone in that office could achieve by challenging our legislative branch to act with integrity (e.g., attaching the old SLC design to their Resolution was totally void of integrity, and someone ought to admit it).

      You never know, Chatham may have some useful lessons for us.