Friday, May 31, 2013

'Tis a Puzzlement

At last report, Holcim was avowing, through its attorney, still to be committed to transferring ten waterfront acres south of the port to the City of Hudson, while the Common Council was brandishing the threat of eminent domain. There are a lot of questions surrounding this land acquisition, among them: How, when, and why did this piece of land become essential for state and federal approval of the LWRP? Why was city attorney Cheryl Roberts so adamant about denying (erroneously) that Standard Oil had ever owned the property? Why does it appear that Crawford & Associates is still maintaining that a Phase II environmental study is not required? What dire consequences will befall us if the City doesn't get the land?

And there is another question: Why did an email from Philip Musegaas, Hudson River program director for Riverkeeper, which was sent to Common Council president Don Moore on April 16, and copied to Mayor Hallenbeck, city attorney Roberts, and First Ward alderman David Marston, never get entered into the public record. Here is the text of that email:
To the Common Council President,
I am writing on behalf of Riverkeeper regarding the potential transfer of a parcel of waterfront land in Hudson from the Holcim company to the City of Hudson, specifically "Parcel B". It has come to my attention that this parcel may have been previously owned by the Standard Oil Company and used as a distribution site for petroleum products. It is also my understanding that the site has not undergone a Phase II assessment, and if transferred to the City of Hudson would be used as a waterfront park.
I am also aware that the Common Council may be holding a vote as early as this evening to decide whether to approve the pending land transfer. Given the question and concern that has been raised regarding the historical use and ownership of the site, and the potential industrial pollution that may be present but not currently assessed or characterized, I urge the Common Council not to hold a vote on whether to approve the land transfer until, at a minimum, the following outstanding questions are resolved;
  • Please confirm whether the parcel of land referred to as “Parcel B” of the Holcim site was previously owned by Standard Oil and operated as a distribution facility.
  • Please provide a public explanation as to why the site has not undergone environmental assessments, e.g. soil and groundwater testing, or a Phase II assessment, to determine whether Parcel B is contaminated as a result of prior use as an industrial facility.   
  • If environmental conditions on the site have been assessed, please provide the public with all sampling data and reports. 
  • If the site has not been assessed, I would urge the City to undertake, or require Holcim to undertake a comprehensive site assessment prior to deciding whether to approve the land transfer;  such assessment should include soil and groundwater testing onsite, as well as the sediments just offshore in the Hudson River.
  • Please publicly disclose under what terms the property will be transferred to the City of Hudson.  Is this envisioned to be simple transfer, wherein the City assumes all the liabilities of ownership, including environmental remediation liability, once the transfer is complete?  In the alternative, is Holcim indemnifying the City in any way against future liability related to site conditions or future remediation requirements?
I appreciate this opportunity to communicate our request and potential concerns to the Common Council, and look forward to engaging the Council in further discussions as to the disposition of the site. Please don’t hesitate to contact me by email or phone at the number below.
Unfortunately I am unable to attend the Common Council  meeting this evening, due to a prior commitment, but I will make every effort to attend the next meeting. Riverkeeper looks forward to working with the City to address any outstanding concerns regarding the site, to ensure that any development of the Hudson River waterfront in Hudson is conducted in a way that both benefits the community and protects the ecological integrity and health of the River. 
Philip Musagaas
Marston, who was copied on the email, made reference to it and read a part of it at the April Common Council meeting, but it was not distributed to all the aldermen and accepted as communication. The email was sent at 4:37 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, the day of the meeting, which may explain why it was not distributed at that meeting, since less than an hour later Moore was at a Finance Committee meeting. There was, however, ample time between April and May Council meetings for the email to be copied and distributed so it could be accepted into the record at the May meeting, but that didn't happen, causing some to wonder why not.


  1. Is it negligence or suppression?

    Either way, you can hardly call it respectful.

    After the public won its uphill battle "convincing" the city what it had known for years about Standard Oil's presence in the South Bay, why is it still a good idea for those of bad faith to keep Riverkeeper's letter out of the way?

    "If environmental conditions on the site have been assessed, please provide the public with all sampling data and reports."

    And "please provide a public explanation …"

    Such requests runs counter to everything Mr. Moore and Ms. Roberts want us to believe about public access and how city government should work under their watch. Worse yet, it's the same message they give our aldermen: do not ask questions, we'll take care of everything.

    When necessary they hold an executive session in which the aldermen are given a few details about what the experts are managing for everyone else.

    Remember Roberts explaining to the befuddled 2010 aldermen why they had not seen all of the public comments on the GEIS? When individual aldermen asked to see the comments, she replied in a patronizing tone that it was her job to interpret the comments for them.

    In other words, they could not have them. The unelected official's answer to our representatives was "No."

    The fact is, we still don't know whether we've seen all of the GEIS public comments. I doubt we have, because Roberts was cherry-picking the ones it was most convenient for her to respond to. I believe that some are missing.

    At the time, all we had was Mr. Moore's personal assurance at the July 2010 meeting that the process would be "transparent." Nobody believed it then, so I doubt there can be more people who would disbelieve it now.

    It was at that same meeting that the public raised the issue about the petroleum facility south of the Holcim port. It was in reply to those specific concerns that Roberts claimed a contaminants assessment was already conducted on the acreage, "the first or second phase done," and that "nothing" was found. (Last September, under the protective shield of a new council, she curtly retracted her 2-year old claim: "the city [was] misinformed.")

    It is madness to trust these people!

    Mr. Moore does't know the first thing about "transparency," and now I'm afraid that he never will.

    We must demand to see the results of Crawford Associates' Phase I ESA, even before asking for their recommendation concerning a Phase II - a thing which Roberts stated in September she "hoped" would never happen.

    I want to know in advance whether Riverkeeper's consideration of "sediments offshore" was a factor for Crawford, or whether everything will be as before, with no title history, no Sanborn map, no honesty, and no accountability?

    It's time we begin instructing these people (including the aldermen!) that they are public servants. If they don't care about ecology, then we'll have to show them that we do.

  2. Thank-you Gossips , for making this letter from Riverkeeper to Common Council available to the public.It is a very important letter,from a very well respected,effective and established organization. Riverkeeper is Hudson River's representatives, from founder R.F.Kennedy Jr.'s
    National organization..Waterkeeper.
    There are good reasons for Moore and City Attorney ..not to want this
    " the email to be copied and distributed so it could be accepted into the record at the May meeting"(from Gossips .above post)

    Its very important to Moore & Roberts and all but one of the members of Common Council supporting this Holcim Deal & LWRP, that any "citizen's" demand for a Phase II ESA study, needs to go away ... Roberts keeps saying, still, ....that Crawford & Assoc. may not recommend a Phase II ESA. Ms.Robert's will do everything possible to make sure that it doesn't happen.
    Already the Council has disregarded all of the time and effort by citizens, demanding a Phase II ESA on Parcel "B"..the 9.968 acres, before the "City" accepts this industrial landfill and sediment.."AS IS."..dictated by Holcim's Bargain and Deed agreement, in exchange for 50 yrs of Holcim's crippling conditions, so Roberts and Moore can implement their disastrous LWRP.
    The last resolution passed to allow Hallenbeck to negotiate with Holcim(US)Inc. ,has now expired. I agree totally with Unhiemlic that this "Land" is much safer in Private hands...anybody but the current people in power at "CITY HALL"

    However at last meeting held by C.C. as reported by Gossips on May 22nd,2013

    ""..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,"...........
    ....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."~excerpt from Gossips of Rivertown WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2013
    "About Those Ten Acres"

    1. Do the aldermen speak with their constituents? Why do they suppose they know anything at all if the only things they know on the subject come from Roberts, Moore or Friedman?

      (Ever speak with the above individuals? The starting premise is that they know more than you do about everything. It's a good technique for cowing lesser lights, and I suppose if they're as willing to suppress public documents as Roberts has been in the past then there's likely some truth in it! [Of course I refer to Roberts' suppression of the crucial CSX letter, withheld from the public AND the council throughout 2009. A criminal act? Good question.])

      I suppose that the aldermen unreflectingly accept the wisdom of previous Common Councils. But we paid attention to the negligence and misguidedness of those councils too, even if the current crop are just trying their hands at this hobby.

      Thanks for reminding me, Prison Alley, that the way Holcim wrote the deal is that the city takes the land as is.

      How mind-blowingly stupid all of this is, except as a young Bangladeshi woman told me this evening this IS Hudson and these are OUR representatives ...

      We get the representatives we deserve (USA 101.)

    2. I'd like to elaborate on my question above, whether Roberts' suppression of the CSX letter was a criminal act?

      It's not bluster to ask that question when you consider that the February 2009 letter disqualified the next 9 months of Roberts work. That puts that particular suppression of a public document in the neighborhood of fraud.

      The suppression of the 2009 letter was later described by Roberts as "simply a misunderstanding," but a timeline shows that that explanation is an impossibility.

      Most recently there was the "mistake" made in Roberts' understanding of what a title search is, despite her condescending lecture explaining that it was the public and council that didn't know what a title search is!

      But the suppression of the CSX letter isn't just some previous example of Roberts' modus operandi; it was a successful gambit which led directly to the current circumstances concerning the 10 acres and the state's condition that the city obtain the land if it wants the LWRP authorized.

      Currently there is a criminal complaint in against Roberts with the Attorney General's office. The complaint alleges misdeeds concerning this very deal to obtain Holcim's 10 acres.

      We are better environmental stewards if we reject this land deal and reject Roberts' LWRP.

      We should also resist anyone who is seen to be assisting Roberts, and pressure the mayor to not reappoint her.

      We should also demand to see all public documents, including Crawford's Phase I.

      Why are Hudson residents only willing to kvetch in hindsight when we might do something about a bad situation in the present?

      That being the case, these fiends are justified in suppressing documents. Why wouldn't they if there's no cost! (they being they).

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    1. Alas Dawn, it is the mayor who appoints "Corporate Counsel."

      The council doesn't have its own legal representation. It's a situation that can be changed, but only towards getting a another lawyer from the same local gene pool!

      Still, it's still a serious balance of powers issue which rises to the level of a crisis in Hudson often enough (never mind that nobody notices).

      In my above reference to possible fraud, the suppressed letter from CSX (2009) was contrary to the plans for the scoping document for the waterfront program's SEQRA-required environmental impact statement. The Common Council was the "Lead Agency" for the impact statement, and it was the council's responsibility to assemble the "scope" for the study.

      But the scoping document was put together by Roberts in the seclusion of Mayor Scalera's office without the presence or knowledge of anyone on the council. (I know this because Roberts told me so; individual aldermen confirmed.)

      The terms of the scope were guided by discussions held with Holcim in the preceding months. After all, Holcim did PAY FOR the impact study, so why not?!

      When it was time to distribute the already-completed scope to the astonished council, Roberts answered one alderman's justified worries with a statement which she was to spend the next 9 months of her private labors contradicting.

      (Not only that, but the CSX letter disqualified ALL of the principal work done between the following February and November of 2009, a disqualification which was later employed by Roberts herself when she disqualified ALL of the official public comments which were based on the disqualified central thesis of her impact statement! [which Holcim payed for!])

      That doesn't sound too corrupt, does it?

      In Roberts' case, we must pressure the mayor to "rid [us] of this turbulent priest" unless the Attorney General and the New York State Bar Association get to her first.

      Good luck with any of it! We're as good as owned by this system.

  4. My thanks and compliments to Gossips for providing the only forum in which to discuss any and all waterfront issues.

    For something that NY state intends to be a consensual process (present tense), the public has only had rare opportunities to come together and compare notes in person.

    That's the city's fault, but it's our fault too. Anyway, if it weren't for Gossips there'd be nothing.

    Wouldn't it be great to be able to meet in person, and discuss what we think the city is doing. We all need to hear and argue new ideas, self-included.

    If Moore, Roberts and others plan to keep public documents from us, then we know how to keep them on their heels too.

    Indeed, the fact that there is a document worth suppressing suggests that we're making headway.

    Will any of them step up and explain this breach of the public trust?
    Like children, they want all of the responsibility and none of the blame.