Saturday, June 29, 2013

Returning to the 4.4 Acres

On June 3, The Valley Alliance announced its discovery that 4.4 acres on the waterfront--almost half of the land that the City must acquire from Holcim as a condition for getting state and federal approval of the LWRP--may still belong to the City because it was sold to St. Lawrence Cement in 1981 without authorization from the New York State legislature.

So far the City has not made any official or unofficial response to this information. On June 10, when the letter from Valley Alliance attorney Ken Dow was introduced as correspondence at the Common Council informal meeting, there was no discussion. At the regular Council meeting on June 18, Council president Don Moore announced that the issue would be taken up at the Legal Committee meeting on June 26, but it wasn't. When Gossips asked about it at the Legal Committee meeting, city attorney Cheryl Roberts said they were waiting to hear from Monahan and Holcim about "title information." One wonders what title information is sought. The sale, which took place on December 21, 1981, is duly documented in the county clerk's office.

 Image courtesy Sam Pratt        


  1. Sam Pratt submitted this comment:

    Some notes about this 1981 document transferring land (without, it seems, proper State approval) from the City to SLC, now Holcim:

    1) The sale is from the City of Hudson (as a “municipal corporation”) at 520 Warren Street, and not one of its agencies, making it subject to State laws regarding sales of riverfront property;

    2) The City of Hudson is also identified specifically as the seller of this acreage in the Council minutes of the time;

    3) The Valley Alliance provided the City and the public with those proofs, as well as had the State Legislative librarian verify that no Act was passed in 1980-1982 to authorize this sale —see

    4) Other sales and transfers recorded around this time, which clearly did involve other City agencies (HDC, CHIDA, HCDPA) are identified in those deeds and minutes specifically by name, clearly distinguishing the agencies from the municipality;

    5) The public hearing for this sale was held by Mayor Yusko on 12/28/81, a week *after* the deed was recorded, and five days later than the transfer tax stamp... so the transfer appears to have been doubly improper;

    6) The City attorney, whose signature appears in sale records, was Giff Whitbeck, who is a partner in the same firm as Cheryl Roberts... so the City could discuss this with him as well, if it doesn't believe the facts in black and white in the County’s records and the Council’s minutes;

    7) Asking Monahan and Holcim their opinion won’t necessarily hurt, but it does misdirect the issues and may waste time—since the confirmation or counterproof the City needs would be in its own files, and/or those of the State... and it suggests that the wrong questions are being asked;

    8) The right question—the one the Alliance put on the table almost a month ago—is: “Do the City and State have any proof that this sale was made with the approval of the Legislature?” as required by NYS law since 1913.


  2. Passing the buck back and forth and stalling as usual.

  3. Please allow the following clarification:

    It is very important to know that others (plural), had already noticed and questioned the seemingly illegal sale of the same property by the time that the Valley Alliance made their own discovery and subsequently acted upon it.

    Because gaining legal title to this parcel makes up for much or most of the area needed to meet a federal and state requirement before either can authorize the LWRP, longtime critics of the waterfront program are still in a state of shock over the Valley Alliance's announcement.

    Responding to a request for an explanation of the condition to acquire the land, Council President Moore indirectly referred the public to the Valley Alliance and Scenic Hudson for answers:

    "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" (6/19/13 @ 4:43 PM).

    To be fair to these private advocacy groups, the discussions and meetings to which Mr. Moore alludes may have taken place prior to the state's designation in August of the South Bay as a "significant habitat" (an SCFWH).

    But everything that's happened since last August - including how we perceive the LWRP itself along with the ecological implications of its zoning proposal (already become city law) - must be judged in different terms since the establishment of the SCFWH.

    I'd ask everyone to support the specific and narrow goal of taking back the LWRP's South Bay zoning favors which the city gifted to Holcim/O&G with nothing to show in return.

    The new South Bay zoning came at the expense of limiting the best future restoration options for the bay, which were known before the zoning came into effect in 2011 to be consistent with a proposed federal study that's already a Congressional resolution pending passage of the next Water Resources Development Act. (Are people even aware of this?)

    Those few officials who handled the LWRP on the public's behalf, and against the public's written wishes for the zoning, sold out the bay and sold out the public too.

    The explanation for the bait-and-switch was provided by attorney Roberts: the zoning was changed due to the public comments. (Umm ... maybe more like, "in reaction to the public comments!!")

    Now what do they have to show for their treachery? A failed gentlemen's agreement which for no reason has already handed Holcim/O&G a zoning gift tailored for them.

    "Here's the zoning for your future conveyor system which we simultaneously denied that the LWRP had ever contemplated!"

    So to return to the theme of the 4.3 acres, why would anyone want to help this LWRP on its way?!

    But listen up: if you suppose that someone else is going to defend the bay instead of you, then you ought to know that at the public hearing for the new zoning in 2011 only a few members of the public bothered to show up. Aside from Gossips and Alderman Friedman (who was to take his seat 3 weeks later), only a handful of citizens turned out: Prison Alley, P. Myer and C. Reed of Philmont and me. Did I miss anyone who is not already in government?

    All you new folks in town who are modestly awaiting guidance from those who preceded you, that's about the whole list of who you're waiting upon. Please realize this, please begin to inquire, and please find your voices soon.

  4. "The sale is from the City of Hudson (as a “municipal corporation”) at 520 Warren Street, and not one of its agencies, making it subject to State laws regarding sales of riverfront property"

    The City of Hudson "swapping riverfront deeds" from delinquent property owners to "development" corporations, is just an end run around existing law that has further diminished the Navigator's right to unfettered access.

    If one cuts through Stewarts just to avoid the traffic light at Fairview & Green the ticket reads "avoiding a traffic device".

    This should call into question all riverfront deed swapping by City agencies for Holcim, Foster's, Riverloft, Power Boat, Parachutes, Dunn's etc. The charge should be the LWRP is intentionally avoiding the 1913 Navigation law.
    1 Riparian

  5. It is good to see Tim O’Connor “clarify” his motivation for his many carping objections... Namely, his evident chagrin at not nailing down a hunch that “others” claim to have had, but never acted upon.

    Evidently that’s “very important.” But for others, the issues are paramount, not who gets credit. Unlike some “others,” the Valley Alliance does not proceed in its work from a position of either pique, or panic.

    But if Mr. O’Connor really thinks there’s some value in citing dates and times down to the minute (“@ 4:43pm”), maybe he will also say at which dates and times “others”:

    * Reviewed all of the Council minutes from 1980-82 to determine the terms and conditions of this sale;

    * Confirmed with a State Legislative Librarian whether an Act was passed for that 1981 sale;

    * Hired an attorney to verify the laws and precedents governing this abstruse area of land use;

    * Found a surveyor to plot the actual location of this acreage within the larger parcel(s) subject to any City/Holcim deal;

    * And then, publicly “questioned” the ownership of those 4.4 acres.

    Such were steps the Alliance patiently took before bringing forward research in a responsible manner.

    But again, none of that should be “very important” unless one cares more about protecting one’s imagined status as a South Bay gatekeeper than about the Bay itself.

    Regarding Mr. O’Connor’s insinuations about a “private” meeting: he would do better to recall that the Alliance reported openly in January 2011 on the substance of its meeting with DOS. We were represented by counsel, and by Peter Jung, who invited Scenic Hudson to join in:

    No deals were struck at that meeting, contrary to Mr. O’Connor’s conspiracy theory. If any DOS decisions arose from the meeting, they did not tell us. (Any group can ask for a meeting with DOS; we would take the opportunity again if it arose.) We only know that the LWRP still has not been approved by DOS; but that they did approve the Habitat designation to better protect the Bay.

    To the extent that Mr. O’Connor *does* care about Who Did What When, he may wish to avail himself of the chance to review the hundreds of pages of comments submitted by “others” objecting to the LWRP’s slanted terms. Then he might understand that the problem has not been a lack of public outcry, but a lack of official responsiveness.

    Such background would also help “others” realize that land concerns were raised during the SLC G’port review, and again during the LWRP process. Officialdom has mostly dodged the topic. (The problem of these specific 4.4. acres is a new one.)

    Getting lands out of corporate hands has been a goal, and even a priority, for years. The State’s ’05 SLC decision urged Hudson to plan a Waterfront based not on current conditions, but in terms of long-range goals. Daniels urged Hudson to “sunset” existing industrial uses (even though these were far less active at the time.)

    In early meetings of the WASC, the State said that ownership of the Holcim parcels should not be deemed permanent. An LWRP should prioritize community goals and dreams, then find a way to achieve them. Such goals were even once supported by Ms. Roberts herself... though she later took pains to erase that record, after Linda Mussmann steered things in a shockingly different direction than the one she had once professed.

    Even the flawed 2001-2 Comp Plan (whose consultan also did work for SLC) acknowledged how the public preferred for heavy industrial uses be removed from the Waterfront mix. So it’s all the more strange that any self-appointed steward of the South Bay now argues for Holcim to keep lands it may not own.

    Lastly, we still see no sound analysis behind the proposition Mr. O’Connor has rabidly promulgated: that the LWRP would somehow get instantly approved if the City got back these acres. The City has legal obligations to protect its property. Regaining control of that acreage can only be a plus.


  6. The insinuation was not mine, but President Moore's: "I am reliably told ..."

    I agree that the LWRP would not get instantly approved, which is why I said instead that "gaining legal title to this parcel makes up for much or most of the area needed ..."

    You will get a bad LWRP approved, whereas I'd prefer that everyone join in and make the document public for the first time.

    It's not too late to act together. We don't need a lawyer for that and never did.

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  8. Quasi governmental agencies conspiring with the City "heads", to swap deeds, then skimp on materials, steer contracts to relatives, accept kick backs, and make "in kind" payments to unkind contractors, all to diminish public use; there should be (jail time) consequences. Warren Street’s “red paver bricks” broke the bones of City taxpayers. The Shrimp Box, Schroder’s and Fosters have cost the City dearly. Now the LWRP has used the deed swapping Industrial Development Agency, to restrict Navigation, where it is obligated to promote same. Been keeping a "gimlet eye" on these guys since 1985. They rule over Hudson from the Greenport water tower and on top of Mt Marino.
    1 Riparian

    1. When I inquired about a case of apparent fraud that I've written about more than once in the Register Star, I was told by an attorney that in the circumstances only the City of Hudson's Common Council had "standing" to challenge those officials who might be implicated.

      That attorney is now an alderman.

  9. An attorney's Times Union "hit piece" led me to these "corrupt development corporations" several years back.

    That attorney is now the Governor.

    1. Ha-ha-ha-ha! That's perfect!

    2. Wonder if the council's councilor has ever heard of the Morland Act?