Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Last Night at City Hall

Last night was the informal meeting of the Common Council, when new resolutions and proposed legislation are presented and discussed, but no action is taken. There was a fair amount of information to be gleaned at last night's meeting, all of which Gossips will endeavor to report.

Police and City Court Building  The City of Hudson has been agonizing over the need for a new facility for the police department and the city court for close to a decade. Now is not the time to review all the proposals that have been put forward over the years. Instead the time has finally come to reveal the site the City is now contemplating: 701 Union Street.

The building, most recently used as a fitness center, started out as an auto parts store. A resolution was introduced last night to authorize the mayor to enter into an agreement to buy the building and the 1.86 acres of land on which it stands for $680,000. The agreement involves a $30,000 totally refundable down payment which will give the City a ninety-day "due diligence" period during which to conduct an environmental review, do inspections, and secure financing. The City, Council president Don Moore said, is determined to spend no more than $2 million to purchase and renovate the building for use by the Hudson Police Department and the Hudson city court.

Moore explained that the existing building is 12,500 square feet. The half that would be devoted to the court has already been inspected by the New York State Unified Court System, and UCS has "come up with a plan for it." Moore reported that Hudson police chief Ed Moore, who has experience with creating new facilities for law enforcement, "has taken up the task of finding a designer for the police half."

Speaking of the self-imposed $2 million cap, Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) commented that "we are approaching the point where we can probably put a new building up on city property." He didn't bring up, as he often does, the glory days of building the Central Firehouse, when he, as aide to Mayor Rick Scalera, was clerk of the works. Some of us who were around at the time recall a project whose costs seem to keep rising and a financing scheme that was hard to grasp. The end result is a building that is not owned by the City but by Community Initiatives Development Corporation (CIDC) and a lease agreement whereby the City pays CIDC about $195,470 a year. In 2035, when the City has made nearly $6 million in lease payments, the City can buy the Central Firehouse, which reportedly cost $3.5 million to build, for only a dollar.

And then there's the more recent experience of putting a new building on city property: the senior center.

Senior Center  Another resolution introduced at the informal Common Council meeting was one to transfer $71,158.61 from the General Fund in order to pay Spacesmith for the developing plans and bid documents for a senior center annex to the Youth Center which is now not going to be built.

The amount being paid to Spacesmith is reported to be only 75 percent of what is actually owed for the work done, and the money is part of the $130,000 that the Council had allocated for the project. 

Later in the meeting, Pierro asked about the $400,000 from a Community Development Block Grant. This grant, awarded in August 2010, was the first and the major funding for the senior center project. Added to this, to make up the $780,000 that was once thought to be an amount adequate to construct the annex, was $150,000 from HCDPA, $100,000 from the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation, and $130,000 from the City of Hudson general fund. The City had requested yet another extension of the time for the $400,000 CDBG and permission to "switch it over" for use at the Armory to repurpose the space the Galvan Foundation has offered, but Moore reported that there has as yet been no decision on the request. It was mentioned that Daniel Kent, executive director for the Galvan Foundation, made a presentation to the HCDPA board, presumably in an effort to get them to recommit the $100,000 to the revised senior center project. The City of Hudson has already spent more than half of the $130,000 committed to the project for plans that will not be used.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations  A resolution that was, according to Moore, supposed to be there but wasn't raised questions and some ire. It was a resolution to install electric vehicle charging stations in the municipal parking lot across from the Amtrak station. National Grid has selected the municipal parking lot at the train station to site two charging stations. The proposal was first mentioned (and reported by Gossips) at the end of March, when DPW superintendent Rob Perry talked about it at a Common Council Public Works Committee meeting.

When the issue of the charging stations came up at last night's meeting, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, wanted to know why the resolution was coming before the full Council. He reminded Moore that the Legal Committee had considered the proposal at its last meeting and decided not to move it forward because it was going to cost the City money and only "rich people," those who could afford to buy electric or hybrid cars, would benefit. In response to Friedman's objection, Moore explained that National Grid had "worked out a system whereby the user would pay National Grid directly for the power," which was estimated to cost 45 to 50 cents a day. He also indicated that the City would charge an extra 50 cents a day to people parking in the spaces designated as electric vehicle charging stations.

When concerns were voiced about "giving up" two spaces in the parking lot, which might go unused, Moore suggested that everyone could park in the spots designated as charging stations. To this idea, Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) responded: "I can't see you designating two spots and then letting anyone park there." Stewart also wanted to know if anyone had requested these services. Mayor Bill Hallenbeck, from the audience, responded to Stewart by saying that electric cars were "the wave of the future" and told of a Hudson resident who had built his own electric car and had contacted the mayor's office wanting to know how he could go about registering it.

The Chicken Law  The amendment to the city code that would allow people to keep chickens in Hudson has finally made it to the aldermen's desks--after discussion started about it almost a year ago. Friedman, who has been the law's greatest proponent, explained that in drafting the proposed law the City had the help of a "municipal chicken law expert," who happens to live in Hudson, and called raising chickens "an issue of food democracy and access to fresh food."

Pierro reported that he had been getting "numerous calls from people against [the chicken law]" and none in support. Alderman David Marston (First Ward) countered by calling for a show of hands from people in the audience who supported the chicken law. Since many of those present had come to City Hall on purpose to show their support for raising chickens in Hudson, almost everyone raised his or her hand. Moore remarked that there are "a remarkable number of young people who have come to town and have an interest in this."

The Council will vote on whether or not to move the proposed law forward on Tuesday, May 21.

The Land Transfer  When Stewart brought up the May 15 deadline for Holcim to sign the agreement to transfer ownership of 9.9 acres of waterfront land to the City of Hudson, Moore predicted that the "deadline will pass, and the agreement will pass as well."

When the issue was raised of the title search that did not discover Standard Oil ownership of and activity on part of the parcel in question, city attorney Cheryl Roberts said simply that the City had made a mistake in what had been requested. She continued to play down the significance of Standard Oil's presence on this parcel by saying that "Crawford is still indicating that that they may not be recommending a Phase II [environmental study]."

When asked how much the City had paid for services required by the sought-after land transfer, Roberts indicated that "Monahan and Crawford have not billed us yet." At which point Moore commented that the City had shown good faith in this matter but Holcim had not. "We incurred expenses," he said," with the assumption that this deal would go forward."   

Alternative Energy Sources  When the audience was invited to bring new business before the Council, Victor Mendolia rose to reiterate the objections and concerns he has raised about the City's switch to wind energy. He alleged that Viridian was bankrupt and that their multilevel marketing model might be a pyramid scheme and asked why there had been no RFP (request for proposal) for this action and why the Council had not been involved. Moore explained that the company called Viridian that was in bankruptcy was an Irish company that had no connection with Viridian Energy and whose only activity in the United States was owning "a tank farm in Houston." After accusing Mendolia, who has announced his intention to challenge Moore for the position of Common Council president, of being "reckless is his accusations," Moore stated that a "simple purchase of service does not require an RFP."

Friedman raised the question of what had happened with the proposal made back in January by Lotus Energy to install solar panels on the Central Firehouse. Roberts shared the information that the owner of the building--CIDC--has given permission to install the panels but "we need to go out to bid for this type of contract" because it is "different from changing from one energy source to another." 

Hallenbeck volunteered the information that the owner of Lotus Energy "has done research and believes an RFP may not be required." He reiterated that using wind energy from Viridian would save the City $40,000 a year in energy usage, but solar panels would decrease energy demand--so both were needed. Friedman recommended placing solar panels on the new police and court facility.

Stewart wanted to know why the Council had no prior knowledge of the decision and why the aldermen had to hear about it, along with the rest of Hudson, on the news. Moore repeated that it was a month-to-month deal and not a long-term commitment but suggested that it might be arranged for Viridian to make a presentation to the Council.


  1. I spoke with DEC permitting for nearly an hour this morning.

    I was told that "Holcim is selling the entire property."

    The news spells doom for the LWRP, unless we acquire the waterfront acreage in some other way.

    Yet I don't know anyone other than Linda Mussman and city officials who want the LWRP approved.

    If true, the news that Holcim is near to selling is a giant defeat for the city's usual suspects and their uninterrupted chain of convenient "mistakes."

    When the cost of Monahan's and Crawford's crap work becomes known, heads should roll. There will be no hiding behind Holcim's bad faith when the true proportions of Mr. Moore's bad faith become common knowledge (if they aren't already).

  2. Mr. Moore has been nothing less than autocratic throughout this affair, routinely frustrating public input from the LWRP/GEIS to the BOA Program.

    Deaf to his constituents' warnings, he acted under his own authority to trust Holcim.

    For him to now complain that Holcim acted in bad faith is the textbook definition of chutzpah!

    The very idea that Mr. Moore then tries to rationalize the still-unknown dollar amount of his arrogance and stupidity is too awful for words.

    You have just lost the election Mr. Moore. Do yourself a favor and quit it now.

  3. Ugh, all of that work just to get a flippant, "the city made a mistake."

    So the deadline will pass and the agreement will expire, but will the LWRP expire too?

    Not if Ms. Roberts can still save her sordid legacy.

    Does anyone really believe that the Crawford engineering firm doesn't know how to read a local Sanborn map?

    Crawford's oversight is no more believable as a mistake than is the Monahan agency's not finding evidence of Standard Oil ownership printed in large letters on the very map they required to implement their rights-of-way title search!

    Of course we only know what Cheryl Roberts claimed Monahan had said. But that claim made at the April 8 council meeting removes any possibility of anyone's mistake: "Monahan found no evidence ..."

    It was a lie. Either James Monahan or Cheryl Roberts lied to the Common Council and to Hudson residents. Let's demand an account.

    And if and when a Phase II is not recommended by Brandee Nelson of the Crawford group, that news will be seen in the context of the continuing contempt for the public and the environment by all of the above parties, and as an effort to save Roberts' reputation and Linda Mussman's waterfront plan.

    Hey, go ahead a piss off Riverkeeper. See who survives that fight.

  4. Anyone else think it misguided to put the police station on "the wrong side of the tracks"?

    Note to criminals: synchronize your ill deeds with the soon-to-increase train traffic on the ADM spur.

    On the previous subject, a friend wondered whether it isn't Galloway who's buying Holcim. He certainly has the money.

  5. Maybe the interest in chicken husbandry will finally get people to address the city's loose cat problem.

    But along with the irresponsible attitude about the number of songbirds killed by cats (on Partition Street a White-breasted Nuthatch last month and a House Wren this week), future chicken owners like myself had better be prepared for "chicken hawks."

    These are in the genus Accipiter, which populate Hudson in the winter months. The Cooper's Hawk, a "Species of Special Concern" in NY state, is particularly terrific. Few things escape them.

  6. The great irony here is that the City bent over backward and twisted itself into a pretzel in crafting the LWRP to suit Holcim-- and now the company is putting their property on the market. Oy....

    1. The strong impression I got from the DEC today when told that "Holcim is selling the entire property" is that they the sale is already underway.

  7. As of today, Resolution No. 1 of February 11 - the nearly unanimous council decision to send the mayor forth to sign a contract with Holcim - is dead.

    If I read my source at the state agency correctly yesterday, that Holcim is well on its way to selling their property to another buyer, then in order to salvage the Moore-Roberts-Mussman LWRP the council will have to initiate an eminent domain action to acquire at least a portion of the 10 acres.

    Is it too late to ask, IS THIS WHAT WE REALLY WANT?

    The land is so boxed in by DEC and DOS environmental regulations anyway, it's quite conceivable that the Roberts-Mussman plan for a park there wouldn't pass muster anyway.

    (That plan required "necessary" excavations for one thing, to quote the GEIS Findings Statement, which tells us why Roberts and Whitbeck needed Standard Oil not to be discovered there, and why the site wasn't included in the city's secret BOA brownfields program.)

    We all know that the LWRP is a botch. This is our last opportunity to assert the public will by saying no to the LWRP, and no to the incompetent sneaks who designed it.

  8. Let not your heart be troubled uncanny one, Billy has promised to make all equal and once Cheri moves the RR tracks to the western shore, all will be for the best, in the best of all possible worlds…

    1. Once the LWRP is acknowledged as a failure, it would be wise for us Furgarians to attempt to change the language of Roberts' coastal consistency law to reflect the circumstance of the North Bay's state-designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat (SCFWH).

      The regulations for the SCFWH explicitly protect Furgary's hunting and fishing practices which have themselves contributed to the SCFWH's numerical value rating.

      Roberts improperly ignored these interests which were not self-same with the fate of the property and the shacks.

      (This is the lever you're after Joe to get access to the interior boat launch, but Roberts' dishonest consistency law should be redrafted anyway in the event that it will find some future nefarious application.)

      To cement the impression in the public's mind that it was inevitable that Furgary be erased from the story, last summer Council President Moore announced on WGXC that the Furgarians should have represented their own interests in the LWRP process.

      Well Mr. Moore, we did. The record shows that Furgarians made their interests known in both the January 2007 LWRP workshops and the January 2010 GEIS public hearing.

      Furgary was written out of the story with purpose, and now it is finally time for the public to write Mr. Moore out of the story.

      Getting rid of Ms. Roberts will be more difficult, but we should settle for nothing less.

      - Dr. Pangloss

    2. Mr. Moore played has played out his privileged role. He put his faith in Holcim instead of the public, and he lost.

      It's time to play by the state's rules again by acknowledging the standards of the Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats and honoring the 44 Coastal Management Policies.

      The LWRP, as Roberts made it, failed the state/federal policies that it's purpose of the program to protect.

  9. Need I say "I told you so"? Two years ago or so, at that giant public Council meeting at the consolidated firehouse when the Council was asked to vote on the draft LWRP, I was the only one who voted "no", stating as my reason that the "gift" of land from Holcim was not signed, sealed and delivered. Nothing was in writing then, and still isn't.

    1. Indeed you did Ellen, and you should certainly say "I told you so" again and again. You should take a bow.

      I remember you saying at that same meeting, and quite sensibly: "The two-phased program, I really don't like it at all because I think you never ... somehow it's easy to just forget the second phase and just keep going on using the causeway forever."

      If more aldermen were like yourself, willing to listen to the public's ideas and not only those of the all-important "Corporate Council," then the L&B alternative, also known as the "the public road" proposal, would have been taken seriously.

      Any progress made on that idea by now would have set the mold, whereby any and all future uses of the South Bay would be understood by potential buyers of Holcim as a tacit condition of the bay's purchase. It would have been seen as the unmistakable and inevitable direction that the city would be taking.

      What an irony that in order to save their dishonest LWRP, the doomed document's promoters are even now considering the very ideas that were dismissed out of hand at the time of Rick's fantasy phone-calls to the deadbeat former owners of L&B!

      All we wanted was an appraisal of a right-of-way lease through the L&B parking lot, but the council wouldn't do it. Roberts and Rick said "No."

      The public road alternative itself - the one the public talked about FOR YEARS - never even made it into the GEIS in the form it had already taken in 2004!

      It was far more important to continue frightening the new owners of The Basilica.

      What a cynical document; what cynical overlords.

    2. How stupid of me!

      Aldermen Osterink and (Carrie) Haddad were equally supportive of the public road proposal.

      For many it was even known as the "Haddad alternative."

      Discussions about it can still be read at Gossips' previous incarnation, the First Ward Blog (do I recall the name aright?).

      Patrick D. fought so hard to get that proposal included in the final GEIS following our amazed disappointment that it was not in May 2011 GEIS (the edition that belittled our public comments from more than a year before).

      But even though having the proposal included by the September 2011 iteration would have been an almost pointless exercise in procedural correctness, it still was never actually represented in the final plan in the form envisioned since 2004.

      For that alone I do not forgive these "planners," nor should anyone.

    3. Truly unbelievable, all of it. Except it's real. I too remember Ellen's remark. We were all there and it was a crowd. Cynical is right.

      By the way, is it Colarusso/Koskey who's buying it? Gravel trains through 7th St Park? Oy.

    4. No one knows the buyer. It could be Galloway for all we know.

      But O&G was a much bigger player in the year-long negotiations leading up to yesterday's rescinding (read: failure) than residents realize.

      Say it! "BLURP!"

    5. Much as I hate to say it, if they started up the Star Route conveyor, and use the Loan Star rail spur, (to my river) trains would bypass the city center and only cross 9G.

  10. Um, where is everybody?

    Anyway, following are the infamous conditions for LWRP passage as they appear in the 2nd paragraph of the SEQRA Findings Statement for the GEIS for the waterfront plan.

    Notice what it says about the necessity for LWRP authorization to obtain "a conservation easement involving the South Bay including limited public access over the causeway."

    As a condition to be met before the state or federal governments can authorize the BLWRP (the Botched Local Waterfront Revitalization Program), I reckon we'll have to say pretty please to whoever is purchasing the property.

    Eminent domain as the mayor and council are now discussing it (all parties counseled by Roberts!) will not satisfy all of the following requirements:

    "Execution of agreements between the City and Holcim (US) ... for the transfer of title of approximately 7 acres south of the Holcim port; an easement over the Holcim port property to enable the public to access the 7 acres below the port; and a conservation easement involving the South Bay including limited public access over the causeway are also discussed in this LWRP and must be entered into before the New York Department of State or the Federal government will approve the LWRP" (SEQRA Findings Statement for the City of Hudson Generic Environmental Impact Statement, 2011, p. 1).

    Game over?

  11. After all were quiet at an October council meeting, I asked; how our members will slip boats when the city had already removed their (our) docks, hunting season just started. Mr Moore answered "there will be no hunting". While exiting the meeting, I noticed that the city collects fees for duck stamps and deer tags in that same room. PS: Might there be a correlation between the high rate of lyme disease and the Columbia Land Conservancy's limmited land acccess for hunting on the entrapped eastern shore? To further limit river access will only make things worse...

  12. the little town that 'almost' could - but opportunism got in the way

    eat up all the present so there will be no future

    what a joke this place is hahahahahhahaha

  13. Yet still the movie stars come. Meg Ryan today. Daniel Craig the other day. Now if he would buy something here and use his James Bond clout.....?