Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to the Future

Once upon a time, back in 1984, the people in power in Hudson--the mayor, Michael Yusko; the chair of the Hudson Development Office, Art Koweek; the City Industrial Development director, William Loewenstein--thought it was a dandy idea to have a company called Octane Petroleum build a refinery on the Hudson waterfront. Fortunately, a community group with the acronym SHOW (Save Hudson's Only Waterfront) arose to stop the oil refinery. With John Cody as its president and with the help and support of Scenic Hudson, Clearwater, and the Department of State, SHOW succeeded in keeping an oil refinery from being built on our shore.

A while back, Sam Pratt discovered and put online an article about the controversy that appeared in the December 1984 issue of Hudson Valley Magazine: "An Oil Refinery in Our Backyard." This morning, in a collection of old newspaper clippings given to me by Susan Troy, I discovered the following article, which appeared in the Register-Star on March 28, 1984. In it, Loewenstein attacks SHOW and defends the economic efficacy of siting an oil refinery in Hudson. Thirty years later, some of his arguments still sound disturbingly familiar.

Loewenstein: SHOW anti-development
HUDSON--City Industrial Development Director William Loewenstein says SHOW is "anti-development" and that its advocacy of tourism-related uses of the riverfront instead of the proposed oil plant is ill-conceived.

He said SHOW's most recent news release, which recommended exploring alternative uses for the site, was a "propaganda effort" and revealed the anti-oil plant group's "real intent."

"The debate between SHOW and the City of Hudson is really one on the future development course of the city," he said. "SHOW is anti-development. It would like to see the City of Hudson become a service center to provide relatively cheap labor for a tourism and second-home economy. Jobs in areas devoted to tourism are seasonal, relatively low paying and are areas marked with high unemployment. The facts bear this out.

"1. The proposed Octane site is not a virgin piece of land along the river. It contains a large oil tank farm, a lumber yard, a Conrail service facility, a transformer shipping zone and is adjacent to a cement factory shipping area. An area which is unsightly and meets minimum safety requirements.

Photo by M. B. Pfeiffer in Hudson Valley Magazine, December 1984

"2. To develop this area for tourism would mean purchasing not only the existing uses, but the entire cement operation. No one wants to develop a restaurant or hotel sandwiched between a cement plant and an oil tank farm and these existing uses will not go away unless they are purchased by someone else.

"3. The cement company could rightfully argue that by purchasing their loading zone, we are leaving them with an uneconomic remnant and therefore would have to purchase their entire operation.

"4. Therefore, we are faced with the choice of upgrading an existing industrial area and provide adequate fire protection while bringing in new jobs and millions of dollars of revenue to the city, leaving the site alone in its unsatisfactory condition, or purchasing the entire site and using it for an alternative use.

"5. SHOW knows that it is impracticable and impossible to purchase the existing properties. Based on past condemnation awards in the Candy Lane and Simpsonville cases, it could be reasonably argued that acquisition of the site could cost in excess of $30 million." This is more money than the federal government's entire urban parks budget and "an overhead burden that no private developer will pick up, except possibly in certain sections of Manhattan," he said. Making city taxpayers bear the burden would push property taxes "out of sight," he said.

"6. Further, SHOW is misleading people by indicating that taxpayers are footing the bill for the Octane project and (that) these funds could be diverted for another project. The facts are that of the approximately $15 million going towards this facility, only $3.5 million represent taxpayers' dollars which must be paid back to the city, even though they are federal funds. The rest of the funding, including JDA (Jobs Development Authority) funding, is private, a fact that SHOW conveniently forgets to mention.

"7. The City of Hudson has come up with the only practical and feasible plan for this section of the city, and SHOW knows it. If they didn't know it, they could have come up with a practical solution several years ago."

Mr. Loewenstein said SHOW's press release "again raises phony environmental bugaboos in its despicable attempt to panic people, by listing 72 potential dangerous chemicals."

He said many of the chemicals on the list "are emitted when you turn on your oil burner, when a farmer turns on his tractor, or you operate your automobile."

He said an Albany newspaper pointed out that the Capital District "faces a potentially major oil crisis because of all the majors that have moved out and the hundreds of service stations that have left.

"We already pay higher fuel prices than most major metropolitan areas, and now SHOW not only wants to prevent us from lowering those prices, but to prevent a major energy crisis. . . ." 

He said Hudson has followed "a rational plan of development," developing areas of tourism, creating hundreds of jobs by developing industrial parks, and building and rehabilitating hundreds of residential units.

"Now the city wants to upgrade its riverfront in the most practical manner. It wants to create millions of dollars in additional city revenue, create new jobs while making the riverfront more attractive and safer than it is now. SHOW refuses to listen. They love confrontation and couldn't care one bit for the City of Hudson or the future of its residents.["]

Gossips Note: In 1999, Loewenstein, as a paid consultant to the City, tried to bring Americlean, a PERC (perchloroethylene) recycler proposing to use an unproven process to recycle toxic dry cleaning fluid, to the Hudson waterfront. That threat was the beginning of Friends of Hudson, the grassroots organization that succeeded in making Americlean go away and, six years later, won the battle against the SLC Greenport Project. Sam Pratt recalled the Americlean story last year on his blog.


  1. Only 7 months after Louwenstein's fit of indignation, the Hudson Development Corporation sold the stretch of riverfront from the state boat launch to Dock Street at North Bay to a private interest.

    The parcel was sold for $1.00.

    That was on October 18, 1984, and the HDC President was Lynda Davidson. Our beloved Carl Whitbeck presided over the deal, the same parcel being purchased the year before from the Owasco River Railway.

    So was that Louwenstein's idea of "a rational plan of development" for the waterfront?

    What's eerily familiar are the noises we hear today from the same individuals who failed the recent waterfront planning. Their failure resulted from keeping the process to themselves, much as Yusko, Louwenstein and Whitbeck kept the waterfront "planning" to themselves.

    It was only 13 weeks ago that Mr. Whitbeck was enlisted to run interference again for today's waterfront planners. A week after that and his account was shown to be pure bologna.

    What all of the above have in common is their utter shamelessness. And what the rest of us have in common is that we don't learn.

    The LWRP should never have been entrusted to politicians and lawyers. But the public's apathy and self-perpetuated powerlessness is apparently insurmountable. What a shame that the non-human world and future Hudsonians depend on people like us.

    Because newcomers often admit to a sense of politeness and deference as the reason for their minimal or cautious involvement, the old-timers here ought to own up to being a spent force.

    Recently Linda Mussman said somewhere that newcomers always lack a regard for the things that preceded them, and she hoped they would keep their opinions to themselves. Someone else told me that my friend who's been in Hudson since the mid-1980s wasn't here long enough to weigh in on some subject. His interests should take precedence, period.

    These are all lazy excuses to avoid intellectual engagement.

    When the old voices have gone quiet we need new ones, and fast. Otherwise the Louwensteins of the world are always near at hand, ready to fill the vacuum.

    1. Citizens weren’t apathetic about the LWRP. Over 3,000 petition signatures, countless letters and verbal comments at public meetings were submitted, 99.9% of them advocating for a better plan. I can’t think of any issue since which generated more public interest.

      This intense public outcry was disregarded by Waterfront chair Linda Mussmann, politicos such as Don Moore and Victor Mendolia, and Mussmann’s own private lawyer Cheryl Roberts.

      Blame them, not citizens for actually engaging in the process in good faith.

  2. "But the public's apathy and self-perpetuated powerlessness is apparently insurmountable."

    NDTBA Incorporated in 1995 when the hudson development corp. sold this land for $1 because the deal smelled of rotten fish.

    For the town council now to "have no objections" to a nonprofit being stewards of waterfront property is an affront to its volunteer members.

    Denying an association's right to peacefully assemble on lands for public use is a violation of its civil right.

    There is no statute of limitation on civil rights violations.

    Get you facts straight; the "elder force" remains unchanged.

    1 Riparian

  3. Joe, if you and I both want the same thing in principle and are in no way competing for resources, then why wouldn't we help one another?

    Where I grew up, I learned to always assist other mariners.

  4. Until the city does right by the displaced fish and game/fowlers there will be no peace on the waterfront.

  5. Got it: the ends justify the means in an every-man-for-himself scenario.

    Fortunately your opinion is not shared by any other Furgarian of my acquaintance, or by anyone else either.

  6. You continue to mix "furgarians" with the NDTBA. The few people you acquaint yourself with may not even be members of our club. You've not met 90% of NDTBA members. Please don't paint us with one brush or claim to be our spokesman.

    Our rod and gun club has as much right to exist as the Polish Sportsmen Club or any other. Our members were removed from public use lands at gunpoint.

    Where we grew up (Hudson) respect for elders was tradition. We did not but in line. And, sir where one brother was not welcome, no family member would be caught dead.

    Mr. Hallenbeck has, created an elite, mostly white, recreation only waterfront, for people who are not residents. The DPW removes city docks when the fall harvest just begins and doesn't replace them until after Striper season ends.

    They've made room for all types of waterfront (land) use, but put up barriers for lifelong inner city Navigators.

  7. Conflating the NDTBA with Furgary is precisely what I am NOT doing.

    Unfortunately for the reputation of Furgary and the Furgarians, I'm now having to go around Hudson making the same correction you are urging above.

    Yes, I was there the the night WE were removed at gunpoint, but I haven't been in town long enough to suit your arbitrary criteria. You'll make up percentages of people I know or don't know. Next you'll have me as a government agent, or maybe a space alien.

    You need to figure out what it is you're asking for. In the meantime, please cease your attacks on honest mariners.

  8. I emphatically agree that your club has "as much right to exist" as any other (your words).

    What troubles me is that you only apply this one way. Your words tell me that other clubs do not have as much right to exist as your own.

    Do you remember Animal Farm? "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

    In order to get around this hypocrisy, you invent stories for yourself that others receive government funding or special favors.

    When a single and unaffiliated boat owner staged a one-man protest at the waterfront docks, you spun a tale and worked against him as if he was taking something from you. Why wouldn't you support someone whose situation is equal to your own? Is it because in your mind he doesn't have as much of a right to the waterfront as you do?

    Now before you set me up as a straw man again, I've always supported keeping Furgary open. No one will deny that.

    But if the NDTBA has exhausted its legal options, then you'll have to accept that restoring water access at North Bay, and maybe even a few of the shacks, will depend on good public relations.

    You're making sure that that won't happen, but to what end?