Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Foundering and Bewildering LWRP

Hudson may hold the record for spending the most time and probably also the most money on preparing its LWRP. The Local Waterfront Revitalization Program was started by the New York State Department of State in the 1980s. It was around that time that a plan to build an oil refinery on our waterfront, embraced by city government and the Hudson Community Development Office, was rebuffed by a local citizens' group, with the support of Clearwater, Scenic Hudson, and the Department of State--an experience that sparked interest among Hudsonians in developing a plan to revitalize the Hudson waterfront and discourage future bad development ideas. 

Two decades later, in 2004, an LWRP for Hudson was finally submitted to the Department of State for approval, but approval was not granted. In October 2005, Charlie Butterworth, then superintendent of public works, and more than thirty other Hudson elected and appointed officials received a twenty-two-page letter from the Department of State outlining the proposed LWRP's shortcomings and giving counsel on how to proceed.

The Department of State kept the previous LWRP for more than a year before delivering its judgment, and most people believe that, eight years later, with the current LWRP, we're back in that same situation: waiting for Department of State approval--an approval which is contingent on fulfilling the conditions outlined in the Findings Statement. One of these conditions is the transfer of ten acres of land on the waterfront from Holcim to the City of Hudson, almost half of which may actually still be owned by the City of Hudson, and it has been the assumption that these conditions were being imposed by the Department of State.

A recent communication from a DOS staffer to a South Bay advocate (who shared the information with Gossips) indicates that a couple of common assumptions about the LWRP and its current status are untrue. First, the City of Hudson has not submitted the LWRP to the Department of State for the Secretary of State's approval. Second, the Findings Statement, which seems to be the basis for the belief that the City must acquire the waterfront land in order to move forward, is a City document. It does not report the "findings" of the Department of State, as one might imagine, nor does it necessarily, or so it would seem, outline conditions that must be fulfilled before the LWRP can get the needed state and federal approvals, even though the mayor and the Common Council seem to behave as if it does.

On May 29,  Tom DePietro, who is filling in for Victor Mendolia on WGXC's @Issue, spoke with members of the South Bay Task Force--Chris Reed, Timothy O'Connor, and Patrick Doyle. Linda Mussmann, who chaired the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee tasked with rewriting the LWRP in 2006 and 2007, criticized that discussion, expressing the opinion that what Reed, O'Connor, and Doyle said about the LWRP was wrong. So, tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19, DePietro will be interviewing Mussmann, who will correct the misconceptions. 

Reading the LWRP guidebook that DOS published, Making the Most of Your Waterfront, you get the sense that an LWRP, like Abraham Lincoln's concept of government, is supposed to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people." So how is it that we now have a document that is so arcane that people who have devoted a great deal of time to reading it are alleged not to understand it, and people who have been paying attention don't know exactly where the LWRP stands in the approval and adoption process?


  1. Well conceived and well written, Gossips! And what a lot of work!

    This sentence in particular is a very well-crafted thought:

    "[The Findings Statement] does not report the 'findings' of the Department of State, as one might imagine, nor does it necessarily, or so it would seem, outline conditions that must be fulfilled before the LWRP can get the needed state and federal approvals ..."

    In other words, the claim is not necessarily true!!!

    (And would it surprise anyone if it turned out not to be?)

    After more than a year and a half of silence, residents who are fed up being jerked around deserve an explanation:

    1. WHY does the state allegedly require this land transfer as a prerequisite to authorization?

    2. HOW MUCH land is allegedly required?

    Tomorrow's rebuttal by Ms. Mussman should be boatloads of fun. (For the record, her name was not mentioned during our interview with Tom DePietro).

    She should know in advance that her recorded words will be scrutinized against the state's guidelines, and against the long record of Hudson's botched waterfront program. No one's going to pull any punches after her central role in the mess.

    Ms. Mussman should begin by explaining why a sorry detail of the new zoning law was a direct result of her private negotiations with Holcim (US) Inc., after she unleashed the South Bay conveyor system proposal at the final LWRP public workshops in January 2007.

    Unless they're readers of Gossips, people still don't grasp that the new "Core-Riverfront District" actually dictates the installation of an aggregate conveyor system in the South Bay, a personal achievement of our former Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee Chair.

    Even though the zoning law has been in effect since 2011, residents can be forgiven for not noticing that the district boundary was only finalized in February 2013. They can be forgiven for taking the Final GEIS literally where it states that "The Draft LWRP does not mention, contemplate or countenance an “'elevated conveyor' at the riverfront" (3.1.32).

    So how about that conveyor system Ms. Mussman? By all means, please explain our city to us! And remember to take credit where it's due!

  2. First, I would appreciate it if Gossips or the cloaked in secrecy “South Bay advocate” would share the letter received from the Department of State. Honestly, anonymity? If the DOS put anything in writing, they fully expect that it will be public before the ink is dry.

    On the broader point that the seven acres be transferred to the City as a condition for approval of the LWRP, it is difficult to imagine that anyone who paid attention to the process of completing Hudson’s LWRP would have so little recollection of the painstaking negotiations that went on between the City and DOS.

    At each step of the consideration process, the City sent drafts of its documents to DOS for review and comment. And comment they did. Often, helpfully. And during and long after the official public comment periods expired, advocates of changes in the LWRP were having meetings at DOS.

    And one of the changes that came about from those not public meetings was the condition that the LWRP would not be approved until the seven acres were transferred. And if the transfer did not happen, and the City submitted the LWRP for final approval, DOS would reject it on that basis. That’s why it’s called a condition. That also explains why we have tried so many ways to obtain the pledged seven acres.

    Finally, as far as who imposed this condition, ask yourself: does it make any sense at all that the City would impose such a condition on itself? The City adopted the new zoning. But, no, why would the City want a complete LWRP? If we had that, then we would be able to pursue grants for waterfront development and to form our own Coastal Consistency Review Board. That is the outcome we are prevented from reaching by ”the conditions.”

    OK, back to you, anonymous.

    Don Moore
    Common Council President

  3. Rather than his great show of incredulity, why didn't Mr. Moore simply produce proof of an example from around the time the public was first made aware of the state's condition.

    There's no instance in the waterfront documents themselves about this condition; the LWRP and GEIS both presented the land transfer proposal as optional.

    Never mind the "painstaking negotiations" to which the public was not privy. What does an insider's perspective mean to the questions I've asked above? If the South Bay Task Force had been invited to participate, the entire public would have been informed. Maybe that was the problem ...

    So why would the city lie about a thing like this only to find itself in the position it is now? Well, y'ever heard of the expression "hoisted on your own petard"?

    Why did "the city" lie and cheat all the other times? (Oh please, ask me for examples!!)

    For that matter, why would the Common Council President block communications from entering the official record? He never recognized ecological letters from the South Bay Task Force, he never recognized Riverkeeper ... (In case you're obtuse, the common theme is the environment.)

    It's all BAD FAITH!

    Mr. Moore still hasn't answered the question how much land is necessary to meet the state's condition.

    Look closely and you'll see that he didn't answer ANYTHING above. This is symbolic of his reality, that the public gets to know only as much as he judges it should know.

    Maybe if he'd trusted the public more and heeded our warnings about trusting Holcim we'd have a different kind of waterfront plan.

    What we suddenly have under Mr. Moore's confident leadership is zoning for a conveyor system! And that's how he took care of our business without troubling us with the details.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    There really was no need for my anonymity concerning the DOS letter, although I supposed that Ms. Devine might not have appreciated her exact words being used.

    I asked her the same questions, "how come?," and "how much?" (I only supplied an excerpt from the Findings Statement. I was not so simple to suppose that she should supply answers about the council's document.)

    Well, she wouldn't answer me either. But then she says she doesn't have to, and that the city still has the document anyway:

    Timothy [O'Connor],
    The Findings Statement is a City document, and any interpretation questions should be directed to the City, rather than the Department of State.
    Please note that the City has not submitted the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to the Department of State for approval by the Secretary of State. 

  4. A "Waterfront Revitalization Plan" based on removing fishermen from shore is as inane securing grant money ahead of planning for the maximum use. Placing the grant money before the maximum public use just incites corruption. Look at Fosters...
    1 Riparian

  5. from above :
    "And one of the changes that came about from those not public meetings was the condition that the LWRP would not be approved until the seven acres were transferred. And if the transfer did not happen, and the City submitted the LWRP for final approval, DOS would reject it on that basis. That’s why it’s called a condition. That also explains why we have tried so many ways to obtain the pledged seven acres."
    Don Moore

    I'm sorry, I really am, but I keep reading and rereading this paragraph and I just don't see how it makes sense or how something that affects our community this much would happen in "not public" meetings.
    Please define "condition" is it a written "condition" ? or is it some other kind of condition. Is a "not public" meeting a secret meeting ?
    I really am just trying to follow the thought process here.

    1. Well said Windle.

      It was a tortured explanation that explained nothing.

      When I asked at the council meeting tonight what the minimum requirement of land would be that would satisfy the state's alleged condition, Mr. Moore said that he didn't know and that Cheryl Roberts didn't know either.

      Therefore it must not be written down. It must refer to "some other kind of condition" which those who are lucky enough to walk among the non-public have a special understanding about. This understanding may or may not involve a secret handshake. We're not to inquire.

  6. I just want to clarify that when you, our whoever says "not public meetings" leaves the door wide open to speculate that the "not public meetings" were secret. There must to be a better way to describe these not public meetings to the public.

  7. ah hem, correction, that when you, OR whoever
    sorry ...iphone yeesh


    I've already used that phrase in about five different jokes today!

    Keep 'em coming Mr. Moore!

  9. To Windle’s question about “conditions.” From early in 2011, the DOS Office of Communities and Waterfronts, the office where Bonnie Devine has worked for many years and has overseen the development of our LWRP, informed the City that our LWRP would not be approved unless the seven acres of the port were conveyed to the City. That is the “condition.”

    As far as what does or does not or did or did not happen in public, LWRP and SEQR guidelines and open meetings laws have specific rules and time frames about when at what point during a decision making process public meetings and public testimony must be included. We were very careful to observe them, regardless of O’Connor’s arguments to the contrary.

    The specific condition of conveying title to the seven acres resulted, I am reliably told, from private discussions and meetings between DOS, the Valley Alliance and Scenic Hudson. Over the past two years, I have spoken at Council meetings and in interviews about the “condition”, to put it politely, to which the City and DOS agreed.

    A final point: almost everyone who was involved in the LWRP wanted to see ownership of the port and the South Bay, including the causeway, conveyed to the City.

    Some of us concluded that, however laudable the goal, our only way to get there would be a prohibitively expensive effort to eminent domain the entire Holcim holdings (1875 acres including the Becraft mine). The City could not prohibit shipping from the port, although we could exclude industrial and manufacturing activity not currently operated and using zoning the City could achieve some measure of control over the port's use.

    The opponents of this approach insisted that there must be a way to exclude Holcim from the land it owned, but were never able to present a practicable, legal way to achieve that goal. What resulted were half measures like the “condition” for approval of the LWRP. And, as I said earlier, that wasn’t our idea. Although it is the case that completing the LWRP was.

    Don Moore
    Common Council President

    1. 1. Mr. Moore refuses to answer a simple question: When was THE PUBLIC first made aware of the condition of the land transfer? Just answer it, for goodness sake!

      If, as Mr. Moore writes, "from early in 2011 [the DOS] informed the City that our LWRP would not be approved unless the seven acres of the port were conveyed to the City," then Mr. Moore had the rest of 2011 to inform us about it. I'd say that he alone was obliged to tell us. He didn't.

      2. If the idea to convey title of the acreage to the city resulted from private discussions and meetings between the DOS and the Valley Alliance, what has that to do with THE PUBLIC? The Valley Alliance is not the public. I'd say they're pretty far from it.

      3. The South Bay Task Force never endorsed the 7-acre land transfer and never expressed an opinion on municipal ownership of the port, period.

      Neither of these goals were clearly "laudable" at the time. Today they are self-evidently bad, anti-ecological goals. Residents should begin questioning the motives by studying the updated plans.

      A giant parking lot, a marina and a new "park" south of the port are ill-advised and frankly repugnant ideas, no matter how skillfully Mr. Moore and the Valley Alliance spin them.

      4. The "prohibitively expensive effort to eminent domain the entire Holcim holdings" was yet another idiotic and self-aggrandizing scheme of the Valley Alliance's, which the South Bay Task Force opposed from March 2010 to the present day. It backfired exactly as we predicted it would, and here we are still taking it seriously. Pathetic.

      5. The South Bay Task Force never sought to "prohibit shipping from the port." (You should have listened to us, Mr. Moore, rather than the Pied Piper.)

      6. "[U]sing zoning the City could achieve some measure of control over the port's use ..."

      For those who don't remember, Mr. Moore is re-presenting the zoning proposal which was the subject of our wildly supportive public comments in 2010.

      7. Unfortunately, he continues the thought:

      "The opponents of this [above] approach insisted that there must be a way to exclude Holcim from the land it owned ..."


      The zoning was later changed to accommodate O&G - and only O&G - in the Final LWRP. The changes were beyond the privilege of the public to make an official comment, which may have been the plan all along.

      [Footnote: In the draft LWRP, the use of the causeway by Holcim's tenant O&G would have been a "nonconforming use" in a continuous Recreational-Conservation District. In it's own public comments in 2010, O&G complained that "nonconforming use status would greatly limit our ability to expand or change the use, e.g. transport by means of a conveyor system"

      What we only just learned in February is that we now have a zoning district that actually DICTATES a conveyor system! Why doesn't Mr. Moore tell us something about the part he played in that little bait-and-switch?! We already know the part that Ms. Mussman played.]

      8. Tomorrow I'll deconstruct Mr. Moore's fantasy that he was "very careful to observe" the "specific rules and time frames about when at what point during a decision making process public meetings and public testimony must be included."

      The record tells a different story.

  10. "The City could not prohibit shipping from the port". How is then, that the City has all but eliminated Navigation from North Dock? Hundreds of county residents have been affected by City action/inaction. By what authority can Hudson block Striper season let alone another Thanksgiving?

  11. I was going to "Waterfront meetings" when Craig Thorn (RIP) was giving them. Over twenty years. When was the elimination of North Dock as the people's inner city port ever discussed?

  12. more..word salad. well, that clears everything up.

  13. City of Hudson is using our tax dollars to prop up paid stewardship by Hudson River Sloop when tax paying volunteers of the SEA Party from North Dock were displaced? Un American! We've Spent Enough Already; pitch forks, kerosene, City hall...

    1. What 'stewardship by Hudson River Sloop' ? I don't think the Hudson Sloop Club is getting any tax dollars. Do you mean 'Spirit of Hudson' and the harbor master? Hudson Sloop Club is a volunteer organization.

    2. Believe it or not, the commenter is not confused about his target, but he is totally wrong and confused about the nature of the Sloop Club.

      C'mon Joe, you probably didn't even know until now that the principal force behind this thing is a guy born and raised in Columbia County. The club is a totally volunteer organization that's been loaned a temporary workshop in order to build boats. And they've even built one!

      This is a good thing, with nothing shady "behind it" except honest, unpaid, hard work.

      Let's wish them luck, Joe. You know better than anyone that they're probably gonna need it!

  14. Lying lawyers, corrupt politicans,crooked maps and Lois Lerner, where does it end?

  15. Mr. Moore recalls that he was "very careful to observe" the "specific rules and time frames about when ... public testimony must be included."

    We remember differently. The public remembers being something that was checked off on a list of required nuisances.

    Listening to the July 12, 2010 "full council work session" on the LWRP, still in the WGXC audio archives, tells the story.

    The issue was the public comments on the LWRP/GEIS. Only 4 months after the close of the comment period it was already apparent that the comments were being circumvented and even ignored.

    In retrospect we know that the means for accomplishing the deed even had criminal implications (oh please, please, please Mr. Moore, challenge me on the details! Go ahead and "make my day.")

    The specific question below was how the planners could be so sure they knew the wishes of our representatives when the aldermen themselves hadn't yet seen all of our comments?

    Mr. Moore assured us that night that "it will be done transparently," but in retrospect we know that none of it was transparent, not then and not now.

    WGXC July 12, 2010 LWRP Common Council Meeting (33:39):

    Audience member Mary Mullane: [1:42:44] "... He [Frank Fish] feels comfortable enough after this meeting without a vote to move forward with mixed use in the plan. I'm wondering how many people on the Council, and aldermen, have read the comments from the citizens. And where they are. Can you guys raise your hands if you've read the comments?

    Geeta Cheddie: [1:43:02] "We've read the ones addressed to us, yes."

    Mary X: "Everyone?

    [Aldermen speak over one another.]

    Sarah Sterling: "We don't have them."

    Unidentified female alderman: "We don't have them."

    Mary X: [1:43:05] "I thought everyone didn't have them [last time]?"

    Sarah Sterling: "We don't have them [ _ ]."

    Ellen Thurston: "We don't have them."

    Mary X": [1:43:10] "You don't have them, right?"

    GC: [1:43:11] "All of them."

    DM [1:43:11] "They're online."

    Chris Wagoner: [1:43:12] "Well we've just got to be given more. I mean, I've certainly read every one that's been emailed to me."

    C. Roberts: [1:43:17] But the point of this process is that we're compiling it for you, and when you're going to get the comments and the proposed response."

    Mary X: [1:43:22] "But you're setting the tone, based on -

    DM: [1:43:26] "No, no. Mary, if that turns out to be the case, it will not be done - it will be done transparently. I think that it is, there have been a considerable number of comments that have been put forward. And I don't mean to minimize that. I mean this petition was a 700-plus person petition, with some modifications, that's regardless of whether there was a comment or two on top of a standard response."

    Mary X: [1:43:57] "I mean the comments they're answering."

    DM: "Pardon?"

    Mary X: [1:44:01] "Have you all read the comments that they're answering? That they're breaking down into subjects and answers?"

    DM: "I have seen them, yes."

    Mary X: [1:44:07] "Yes, but has everyone?"

    DM: "Not yet, because the document isn't finished."

    Mary X: [1:44:10] "But you see that's my point. [Frank Fish] sits here and says that he's comfortable enough with what he's heard so far to surmise that you all want mixed use. You all have not read the comments that we - we took it very seriously, we went to all of those meetings, we all said what we wanted at the waterfront, we had working groups. No one sitting here has read it, and yet [Frank Fish] is comfortable enough to surmise that you all want mixed use. What about what we want? That's my point."



  16. Rogue Rule: Unprincipled, deceitful, an unreliable tyranny.

    1. Citizens' recourse: always document.

      ("DM" above is Don Moore.)

  17. To sum up this long thread, we aren't an iota closer to having answers to these same three questions:

    1. WHY does the state require the land transfer as a condition before authorizing the waterfront program?

    2. HOW MUCH land is required?

    3. WHEN was the public first informed?

  18. Can the City even apply for, let alone accept, State or Federal Grant monies that reduce the free flow of Navigation? What about the free flow of citizens? 100% member supported, the NDTBA is all volunteer. Lets compare the administrative costs of our club to Sloop, Columbia land Conservancy, Lighthouse Tours, HPBA, Parachute, Kite, Basilica the list goes on and on. The entire group can't rack up as many river miles as the NDTBA. Grant money should not flow until the people do...
    1 Riparian
    1 Riparian

    1. "Can the City even apply for, let alone accept, State or Federal Grant monies that reduce the free flow of Navigation?"

      Regarding the money for the "Spirit of Hudson" dock, which is a public dock paid for with 100% state income tax revenue, this is exactly what happened.

      With that situation, the answer is most certainly no.

      But we're wiser to put the question differently: can the state grant money which reduces the free flow of navigation?

      The answer is still no.