Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting There . . . As Imagined in 1965

Gossips has been exploring the 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan--a plan that preceded the adoption of zoning in Hudson by about three years and wholesale redevelopment of great swaths of the city by about five. As we've noted before, the study included a traffic study, with recommendations for "lessening congestion" in the city. One of those recommendations was the "Route 9 by-pass," which would have started at the city's southern border, gone diagonally across the grounds of the Dr. Oliver Bronson House to Union Street, cut across the city between Park Place and Eighth Street, and met up with Columbia and Green streets at the little triangle known as Rogers Park. That by-pass is mentioned often in the Comprehensive Development Plan and was considered crucial to any improvement in traffic flow, but as the "Official Map" (below) shows, it wasn't the only new road proposed. 

On the northern edge of the Bronson estate (in 1965, the Girls' Training School; today, the Hudson Correctional Facility), the Route 9 by-pass branches off in two directions. To the right, as we've seen, it heads north to meet up with Columbia and Green street at Rogers Park. To the left, it heads west toward the river, running south of and more or less parallel to the railroad tracks, crossing East Court Street where it meets Power Avenue, crossing Third Street where Power Avenue begins, connects up with the southern end of Front Street, and crosses the railroad tracks at Broad Street. The part of the road west of Third Street is referred to as the "South Bay Access Road" and "would serve as truck access to industrial uses proposed for the South Bay area when it has been dredged and filled." 

Another road proposal of note is the continuation of Third Street north, over the landfill and on to Greenport. Here's how the Comprehensive Development Plan described it:
The Plan for Streets and Traffic Circulation proposes the eventual creation of a major road serving all of Columbia County and beyond, which will run in a north-south direction near the river. This road is envisioned as an improvement and extension of Third Street.
Interestingly, the major road near the river proposed in 1965 has been replaced, in 2014, by a proposal for a trail network that would link Charles Williams Park, down a steep slope from the north end of Third Street, with the Greenport Conservation Area and other points north, providing access not for trucks but for hikers and recreation seekers.

One wonders what Hudson would be like today if the Plan for Streets and Traffic Circulation proposed in 1965 had been implemented.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, let's wonder what Hudson would look like today.

    On the above map, "the part of the road west of Third Street ... referred to as the 'South Bay Access Road'," was the waterfront route of choice for a small minority during the recent waterfront planning process (the LWRP). Both roads would have crossed today's L&B property rather than lands owned by Holcim.

    With the exception of the South Bay Task Force, all other groups were opposed to this public access road during the LWRP planning. So please allow the ruminations of a committed and proven conservationist when I wonder what might have been had the one road already been in place.

    In 2010-11, two groups in particular managed to drown out any general discussion of the proposed "South Bay Public Road." Their mutual controversy suited the aims of city officials who eagerly fanned the flames.

    The first group was composed of self-styled ecological preservationists who argued that the entire South Bay should be seized in an eminent domain action by the city. This was a very exciting thing to say, and it garnered nearly everyone's attention throughout the crucial summer of 2011.

    Somehow it was unilaterally decided that our region's two largest conservation organizations ought to foot the bill for the seizure, but that this was all an absurdly unworkable pipe dream never occurred to its champions.

    In retrospect we see two negative consequences of placing all eggs in one basket.

    The first effect was that it siphoned off a more serious critique of the waterfront plan and its environmental impact statement. After it became clear that eminent domain was no longer an option, and that there was no Plan B, public interest evaporated. A few months later there were only three Hudson residents to show up for the public hearing on the LWRP's zoning changes which, with their appalling implications for the South Bay, remain the only part of the LWRP ever to have been enacted.

    The other negative consequence began almost immediately the previous year when the outspoken leaders of another interest group opposed the eminent domain crowd on "environmental justice" grounds. Invariably in our day and age, thinly-veiled racist accusations were made against the preservationists who were allegedly putting wetlands before people.

    By fanning the flames of this specious controversy, our more cynical city officials found the perfect recipe to keep the rabble occupied.

    So when I think of what Hudson might look like today had the 1965 map's "South Bay Access Road" been completed, I imagine it against the actual circus of competing interests which disastrously unfolded during the recent waterfront planning.

    In principle, even a new road placed where the 1965 "access road" was to have been should have assuaged the public's many interests between 2010-11, but the South Bay Public Road was never included in the city's waterfront planning. True, just prior to the LWRP's being accepted as complete, a variation of the road was thrown in at last. But it was still inaccurate in every vital detail, even though it had been openly discussed in detail since 2004.

    In the end, even though the South Bay Public Road had supporters among the aldermen it was effectively excluded as a possible alternative to the causeway road by the few officials who'd commandeered our now-failed waterfront process. The South Bay Task Force could have challenged the LWRP's state-required environmental impact statement on this basis alone, but since we never accepted donations, the same officials who'd acted in bad faith everywhere else wagered correctly that we didn't have the money to bring suit.