Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Happened to the Mariana?

Back in the spring of 2011, using a $250,000 grant and another $76,000 from the fund balance, the City of Hudson doubled the length of the dock where the Spirit of Hudson is moored and installed floating docks in the old ferry slips to accommodate 20 to 25 kayaks or other small boats. With the longer dock, it was hoped by some, that Hudson could become a port of call for small cruise ships, but so far the only vessel to share the dock with the Spirit of Hudson, with any regularity, has been the Tahiti Queen, a tour boat that lost its dock space in Peekskill and now has some undefined connection with Guy Falkenheimer, Hudson's dock master, and his company, Hudson River Cruises, Inc.

For the first two summers, the rows of floating docks in the old ferry slips seemed not to be getting the anticipated use, so this summer, it was charming to see the Mariana, a small Danish sailboat known as a smakkejolle, tied up in the slip alongside "Rick's Point." The boat belonged to Kim Arenskjold, who had shipped it here from Denmark last summer.

The signs on the gates to the docks indicate that leaving boats overnight is prohibited, but Arenskjold was emboldened to leave the Mariana there because he'd been advised that there was nothing in the city code to back up that prohibition. Previously, Arenskjold and representatives of the Hudson Sloop Club had spoken with Common Council president Don Moore and First Ward alderman David Marston about making the slip on the south side of "Rick's Point" available for use by the Hudson Sloop Club. Although it is reported that both men were amenable to the idea, no action has been taken to authorize that.

So, whether or not its presence was sanctioned, the Mariana continued to grace riverfront park . . . until last week. On Sunday, July 14, Moore reportedly visited the Arenskjolds' shop to tell Arenskjold that the sailboat's presence in riverfront park had been the subject of a recent "staff meeting." As the conversation was reported to Gossips, Moore said that a couple of aldermen--it was not disclosed which ones--had "raised the issue," but Moore reiterated that keeping the Mariana moored in riverfront park was all right with him, since the docks weren't being used anyway. The message Moore intended to deliver may not have been the message received, since Arenskjold assumed, based on the conversation, that it was still OK to leave the boat in riverfront park.

On Wednesday, July 17, Falkenheimer, the dock master, left a message on the answering machine at the Arenskjolds' shop saying that the boat had to be moved by 2 p.m. that afternoon or it would be impounded. Because the shop was closed on Wednesday, the message wasn't heard until Thursday, and when it was, Arenskjold rushed down to the river, fearing the boat would be gone. Fortunately, it was still there. Falkenheimer was at the waterfront when Arenskjold was taking his boat out of the water, and he was reported to have been "very nice." He told Arenskjold that he had no problem at all with the boat being there, but he had been asked by DPW superintendent Rob Perry "to get the boat out of there" because there had been a lot of complaints.

When Gossips asked Perry about the incident, he said that Falkenheimer was asked "to have a discussion with the owner" of the boat that was "continuously docked" in the ferry slip. He didn't indicate who had made this request but implied that it wasn't he when he stated: "DPW's responsibility for the docks is to put them in the water and take them out." Perry went on to say: "I would expect the Council will address the specific rules of the docks, as well as the authority of the dock master, when they review the language of the current lease agreement."

Wouldn't it be grand if city government could help facilitate rebuilding our connections with the river? The original reason for the floating docks in the ferry slips was to accommodate people who came to Hudson in small boats. They could tie up, come ashore, spend some time in the city, and leave again. Since it doesn't seem that the docks are being used much in that way, perhaps it is time to consider how Hudson residents want to use them and find ways to accommodate those desires as well as the needs of visitors. Sailing on the river in small boats is a time-honored tradition. The City should do what it can to encourage its revival.

Historic photograph courtesy Historic Hudson


  1. If the full spectrum of this complex story could be told - each level of interest contributing its own mind-boggling complexity - the results would fill a book.

    Of all the players though, the most deserving and least complicated of interests is the mariner's.

    The public's right to freely use the water surface dates to the Romans, and was further developed in English law since before Magna Carta. Among the oldest of our rights, it reaches us from colonial times as the common law of New York state.

    Leave it to a crooked back-water hole like the City of Hudson to find new and twisted ways to efface this ancient right. It's "twisted" because state funds are being applied at several levels to undermine the Public Trust.

    Gossips has done an admirable job here, on which one may piggy-back to reveal some uglier background facts.

    To cite "the original reason for the floating docks" begs the question of whose original reason? Or rather, whose reasons took over in the actual acquiring of the funds and how were the resources then misapplied.

    Do the dodos in city government even realize that the state is currently reviewing whether to repossess the floating docks?! The city stands to lose $250,000 thanks to their alleged malfeasance, and none of these fools are remotely aware.

    Due to a former mayor's misstatements, the funds for these docks were acquired under false pretenses. The only excuse he'll have when he's finally interrogated is that during the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010, Guy Falkenheimer operated his tour boat at our waterfront with no lease at all, not even a fake one. That's going to be a pretty weak argument.

    What I mean by "fake" is that prior to 2008, Falkenheimer's only "lease" was a counterfeit document drawn up by the same former mayor who had absolutely no authority to issue leases. This was crony capitalism at its most naked (unless the state's inquiry can reveal whether the former mayor had a business interest in the operation, in which case the cronyism would assume a different dimension).

    But more than any other figure, it is the non-resident Guy Falkenheimer who dominates our waterfront by overstepping his policing authority and abusing the questionable rights extended to him since his first "legitimate" lease in 2011. The question remains whether the Common Council has any right to lease waterfront parklands - a double-whammy - without authorization from the state legislature.

    With no regard for public complaints, in 2011 the same witless council that finalized the LWRP and served as the waterfront program's SEQRA Lead Agency saw fit to elevate Falkenheimer to the level of a city officer.

    Only weeks before the council created the office of Harbor Master and immediately appointed Falkenheimer, a criminal complaint was submitted by this writer after Falkenheimer had impersonated an enforcement officer before two mariners in distress. At the time, he was nothing more than a bully in a public park.

    In the end, the HPD determined that the same former mayor had claimed emergency powers in appointing Falkenheimer, the legitimacy of which could only be challenged in court or made an issue by the ever-useless Common Council.

    In private emails, individual aldermen had questioned my reliability rather than Falkenheimer's.

    Then, on the advice of the legal staff of the New York Harbormaster and Bay Constable Association who were familiar with the extent of local corruption on this reach of the Hudson River, it was recommended that I not pursue the case.

    Fast forward to today's waterfront and today's council. Notice that along with his other mounting abuses, Falkenheimer has just installed an outside vendor's ice machine at our city dock. And yet the aldermen do nothing about this clear violation of his lease and of the Public Trust Doctrine.

    So dear politicians, how about this for a recommended first action:


    1. Unheimlich, you omit one crucial difference; when the founders landed, there were no docks, no wharves, no place to Navigate to or from. The ancient laws of Navigation were changed.

      The Colonial Ordnance of 1640 (amended in 1647) changed Navigational Law to favor the steward, in order to promote the mariner's use.

      Violating this law has brought us to this very point. If Sloops were to do at Rick's Point what the NDTBA does at North Dock, maximum possible use would be the result.

      Miss Roberts' Riverfront Plan started out ignoring this ancient law. Her plan to remove the stewards, (HPBA & NDTBA) blocks the peoples interface with the Lady Faithful, Mother Nature and leaves us at the mercy of the Land Lovers budget.

      1 Riparian

  2. Does anyone know whether the "Tahiti Queen" is paying its way?

    I'll wager that the Mayor, the Common Council and the ever-smiling Guy Falkenheimer are doing yet another non-resident a favor by extending the use of our public park for a profit-making enterprise with no lease.

    Answers please.

  3. I grew up (in theory anyway) on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in Thousand Island Park. In town there is a wonderful grand victorian pier and next to the pier is a simple but well kept small craft dock. This dock is a free place to tie up for fisherman (fisherpeople) or anyone else in need of place to land. Boats were often left tied up in the spring and left for the summer. Occasionally there would be a problem with overcrowding, despite the ordinance against overnight docking. Being a government that works for the people, T. I. Park allowed residents to leave their boats until there was an issue with overcrowding. This was usually solved by telling people they could only tie up with their bow lines and use bumpers between their boats. Monitoring the docks was usually done by the fisherman themselves; "official" intervention was not often required because the dock master was one of the fisherman.

    We have to make a space available for our local fisherman and local pleasure boaters both for daily use AND leaving small craft overnight. Until there is overcrowding this shouldn't be a problem. There should be 50 or 60 boats there. The one gorgeous smakkejolle left plenty of space for other wishing to tie up this summer.

  4. This smakkejolle mess is emblematic of the antics of Common Council President Moore and the addled shennigans of Hudson municipal government. See the absence of leadership here from Moore, see the confusion and anger created by a lack of policy and implementation? Vote Moore and his little clown circus out of town come November. When people ask what's wrong with our backwater village, this tale says it all.

  5. Many municipalities allow residents to lease seasonal slips. They can be awarded on a first come, first served basis or by lottery. It seems like more residents are interested in using the slips than visitors. So let's allow them that right.

  6. When the dock becomes overcrowded then and only then should talk about seasonal rentals. Also, these are not slips just cleats to tie you small craft to.

    1. Eighteen cleats on the "kayak" dock alone. (Someone tried to get away with saying "two" the other day.)

      Also, no one ever asked any local kayakers what they'd need in such a dock, which is why we got something that's not very useful for kayaks.

      To repeat, the "original reason" for the kayak dock was commandeered by people who wanted the state money and didn't give a damn about the facility.

      Along with the money for the docks, the EDAP grant specified funds for a "concession facility" which was never built. So where's the money? I poked around at City Hall, FOILing this and that, and nobody knows.

  7. "DPW's responsibility for the docks is to put them in the water and take them out."

    When asked why the City had removed the dock adjacent to the State slip last October, when the fall hunting season had just started, Mr. Moore said “there will be no hunting”. I’d like to remind Mr. Moore that the city collects fees for deer tags and duck stamps within the very room he made this (capricious) statement.

    Furthermore; the docks were not replaced until after Striper season had ended. The second set of docks, along the State slip are still amongst the missing.

    These are never problems when Navigators willingly do what “public servants” find a bother.

  8. On the evening of June 30th, a boatload of very drunk people from downriver tied up at the remaining state boat launch float, then promptly disappeared into Hudson.

    Ever since the much larger floating dock on the south side of the boat launch was badly damaged by flotsam and not reinstalled, the remaining short float on the upriver side is crucial for mariners who need to fetch their boat trailers.

    That Sunday evening, because someone had tied up and walked away, other boaters were marooned out on the river. It quickly became a safety issue, not to mention a huge inconvenience.

    I wondered if the state shared the same interest as our local politicians to degrade the boat launch facility and create a mess in people's minds. The strategy, though a liability for the state, would invariably create support for the city's misguided idea of moving the state launch to a site south of the Holcim port. For people who don't already know, that's where the LWRP plans a new gigantic parking lot and a marina.

    So I phoned the state to ask, and it took the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation three consecutive days to figure out which of their offices oversees Hudson's boat launch. (It's not surprising that it's not the office listed at the state website.)

    To my distress, I learned that the state has an arrangement with the City of Hudson whereby the city does all maintenance and small repairs at the state boat launch. Yikes!

    I informed the state of the city's motive to degrade the facility, which is already being echoed in other announcements (e.g., the plan to convert the vacant lots north of the Dunn's Warehouse into lawn, which will limit the overflow parking at the current boat launch and waterfront park to force the necessity to implement Mussman's and Roberts' plans south of the port.

    For examples of degradation, since last year the boat launch's wooden step down to the fixed dock was pulled away from its wall mount and was collapsing through long use and neglect. The fire hose "bumpers" are torn away from the corners of the floating dock; where they festoon from the very unstable float, ancient rusted screws hang in space ready to impale unwary limbs.

    Then there was that problem of people leaving boats at the remaining float, or otherwise thoughtlessly using the float for recreation when it's intended for boaters.

    Some of the Furgarians photo-documented that one drunken boat, and the problem was discussed at length at one of our social functions.

    After posing the entire above scenario to the state, I'm now informed that a sign is soon to be installed at the remaining float: "Please Do Not Leave Boats Unattended - Day Use Dockage only," or some such.

    Then today, I noticed that the step had been repaired. The state informed me that the city DPW took care of it. People do appreciate it.

    The state itself hopes to get a redesigned downriver dock installed after Labor Day or early next year, but I'm told it's a big replacement job. They want something more stable.

    I'll just fix the fire hose bumpers myself.

  9. I learned to sail in San Francisco Bay. Our family sailed up the Delta near to Sacramento and berthed at all points between, many, many times. We berthed our boat in Sausalito. Sausalito has been famous for houseboats, berthing of craft, etc as are many west coast locations are. The water has been forever linked to land. Welcome to our land, welcome to our water, welcome to our paths of travel and commerce.

    When we traveled by sail, we'd always check in to a slip that offered haven. Sometimes there would be a fee, most times not, possible electricity, ice machine, availability for commerce... most times it was a friendly port.

    Can Hudson be a friendly port?

  10. Wouldn't it be grand if city government could help facilitate rebuilding our connections with the river?

    Yup...When The city evicted the crew at North dock one year ago, they removed a 100% member supported group. Stewards providing dock space and river access (4 slips) for 100s of local residents without regard to cost. People who had been there for generations. Once more, there were empty spaces on the docks and room for many more.

    Now the city wants to sanction a not for profit at Rick's point that does essentially the same thing, with two distinct differences; they utilize docks paid for with tax payer dollars and more importantly, their administrative costs.

    The NDTBA has never charged anyone for anything. No grants, no graft, no payroll. People of like ilk, promoting Navigation to the fullest extent possible.

    If anybody thinks they will do at Rick's point what the city outlaws at North Dock, expect the ire of people paying for their free ride.

    If ever Sloops would care to compare their administrative costs to ours, we would happily match them.
    1 Riparian

    1. I followed up on your accusation Joe, and there's no grant money anywhere in sight. You're just plain wrong.

      Incidentally, don't you work for the state? That means that my taxes pay for your health insurance, and god knows what else. I can't even afford health insurance because my taxes are too high, so in my mind shouldn't that mean that you and your NDTBA are state subsidized?

      That puts you and The Spirit of Hudson in the same boat where state largesse is concerned (though admittedly our state income taxes bought Falkenheimer his own personal dock).

      But there's no other group or organization at the waterfront benefiting directly or indirectly from my taxes. Only you and Falkenheimer.

      So spare me all of that "let the people flow" business.

      You ought to try hanging out with the folks at Furgary once in awhile, and you might learn something about supporting one another on the river. That's what true mariners do and that's what Furgarians do. Never mind your "administrative cost comparisons."

      (And by the way, there are 18 cleats on that dock and not just the two you supposed were installed especially for the Mariana!)

  11. Point of Navigation:

    Next to kids with inner tubes walking on the CSX tracks, what's the last thing a Hudson River Tug Boat Captain wants to see? A sail boat entering the channel at (90 degrees) Rick's Point...

    Sailboats, canoes/kayaks should enter the channel north of the State slip.

    1 Riparian

  12. Even under English law, the King could not claim "rule" over nature. To do so would make citizens slaves.