Thursday, July 25, 2013

Issues Raised at the Legal Committee Meeting

Far be it from Gossips to be lured into the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but two issues discussed here in the past few days were raised at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting last night: riverfront park and the rumored change of use for the former Register-Star building at Fourth and Warren streets.

Committee chair John Friedman (Third Ward) opened the discussion by speaking of a letter he had received from the New York State Department of State saying that the City of Hudson cannot lease publicly owned waterfront land for private or commercial use without an act of the state legislature. Then, referring to the lease that the City now has with Guy Falkenheimer and Hudson River Cruises, a copy of which he held in his hand, Friedman said, "This lease is just way off the mark and probably conflicts with state law." He also alluded to the sale of 4.4 waterfront front acres to St. Lawrence Cement in 1985, which The Valley Alliance has alleged was illegal, suggesting that the City of Hudson has a history of flouting state regulations when it comes to managing its waterfront.   

Friedman went on to say that he found the behavior in riverfront park troubling. He spoke specifically about a vehicle that is regularly parked on the grass next to the gazebo. "If any of us did that," he commented, "we'd be towed, ticketed, or talked to sternly." He also mentioned an old floating dock that appeared over the weekend, tied up to the new pier, commenting that he was first confused by its presence but now understood it to have been a "political statement."

"We need now," said Friedman, "to begin to manage [the waterfront] better to get full value from it." He suggested as steps toward that end holding a public hearing, taking a long, hard look at the lease with Hudson River Cruises, and doing a survey of "who's doing what where" at the waterfront and what agreements currently exist, to be sure that "what the City owns is being made available to the public." Friedman said he would put together a report on the current status of things at the waterfront for the next Legal Committee meeting.

The rumored plan to locate an alternative learning program in the former Register-Star building at the corner of Warren and Fourth streets was also a topic of discussion, and the owners of several businesses in close proximity to the site were present at the meeting. Friedman expressed his displeasure that the Hudson City School District "has not had the courtesy to come to the City to talk about what they are doing."

City attorney Cheryl Roberts indicated that a school was not a permitted use in that location; it was a conditional use, which requires site plan review and approval by the Planning Commission. She suggested that HCSD might be assuming that the City would waive the zoning requirements because the school district was a "government of higher authority" and therefore not subject to local regulation. Friedman rejected the notion that a school district could be a higher political subdivision than the municipalities it serves. "The school district needs to come to the City," he asserted, "so that the City can do what's best for the city." The proposed change of use, he said, "affects the tenor of the whole business district." He described the location as "the dead center of Warren Street" and predicted that the proposed use would have a ripple effect up and down the street. He directed Roberts, the only person present who was part of the executive branch of government, to "tell the code enforcement officer to enforce the rules."

Workers have been observed at the building, and it is not known if a building permit had been issued. An application for a building permit would have triggered a site plan review by the Planning Commission and possibly also a review by the Zoning Board of Appeals for a use variance.


  1. $326,000 in taxpayers money spent, and the use of the Rick's Point is dependent upon the DPW maintaining the state slip or the city's ever decreasing budget?

    Every use the City has come up with (Spirit, River Taxi, Lighthouse Tours, Hudson Fire, CC Sheriff, Greenport Rescue, Tahiti Queen) takes up dock space and is reliant upon taxpayer money.

    When the city evicted the crew of volunteers at North dock one year ago, they removed a 100% member supported group. Stewards of the inner city wharf, providing dock space and river access (4 slips) for 100s of local Mariners, without regard to cost.

    There were many empty spaces on the docks and room for many many more.

    Question to the Valley Alliance; if the sale to St Lawrence was not legal, what of the sale to Fosters, Craft Tech, Town and Country?

    P.S. Thanks to Gossips for this article's pic, it's worth a thousand words, or should I say 16 cleats!

    1 Riparian

  2. From the Lockwood slip, tonight's sunset was obscured by a giant tub called the "Tahiti Queen." (The docks and peninsulas were all occupied, and we were glad for it.)

    What is the "Tahiti Queen" doing there? And for the millionth time, what is "The Spirit of Hudson" doing there?! (For answers, ask former mayor Rick Scalera.)

    I agree with Alderman Friedman. It's high time we review the future of the waterfront, which means reopening the LWRP. I'd wager that the turn-out for a public hearing on this subject will be substantial.

    For complaints, an amazing assortment of people are offended by Falkenheimer's routine parking of vehicles (plural) next to the gazebo. In doing so he breaks the same state law that his lease agreement does, which would otherwise require permission of the state legislature.

    Falkenheimer's lease is itself premised on a fiction, which the city lawyer who drafted its language was well aware. The reference to the phony history was supposed to lend legitimacy where there is none:

    "Whereas, Hudson Cruises Inc., the operators of the Spirit of Hudson, has leased space at the Henry Hudson River Front Park since 2003 ..."

    Only a few years, another waterfront lease was determined to be illegal. That was between the city and the Hudson Power Boat Association. Who decided to terminate that lease, and how will the same end be achieved with "The Spirit of Hudson"?

    One thing that flummoxed me was Aldermen Friedman's alleged statement that the float which suddenly appeared at the kayak dock last weekend was put there as a "political statement."

    I can speak for the Furgarians who insist that the floating dock was intentionally removed from North Bay, but that no Furgarian had anything to do with it.

    I hope that no one's suggesting that the Sloop Club moved it. Anyone who knows them knows that that certainly never happened, nor would it.

    The most plausible theory is that the city moved it, but for unknown reasons.

    Unfortunately the vague charge is out there: "a political statement."

    I heartily support Alderman Friedman in his investigation of The Spirit lease. But unless he knows something he rest of us don't, then the innuendo about "political statements" was probably best left unsaid.