Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better . . .": Part 1

As a community, we're still struggling over our riverfront, eager to develop it but uncertain how best to accomplish that. It's interesting, therefore, to look back at what was proposed in 1965, if for no other reason than to make us feel better about where we are now. The 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan devoted an entire section to the riverfront and included a map to illustrate what they had in mind. So let's begin our look-back at the vision for the riverfront in 1965 with the history and overview.
Hudson began as a "landing" for the inland hamlet of Claverack. Its growth and greatness derived from its waterfront, which attracted the Proprietors with their whaling trade, and enabled the City to develop as a major seaport.
With the coming of the railroad in the middle of the nineteenth century, some of the Proprietors' early streets were obliterated. More important in Hudson's future, the railroad began a new era in transportation. Products which had been shipped through Hudson's port, were sent to their destinations by rail and later still by truck. Before the railroad was built, it had been possible to sail a boat into South Bay and dock it at the landing in Simpsonville. The railroad cut off almost all of Hudson's riverfront. The large North and South Bays, isolated from the river, degenerated into swamps. Unfortunately, landowners in North and South Bays prevented the Bays from being filled when the channel of the Hudson River was recently dredged.
Hudson's waterfront consists of four sections, each presenting different problems (but each with under-utilized land and deteriorated structures): the North Bay, Promenade Hill, South Bay waterfront, and South Bay inland or east of the railroad tracks. Each of these sections . . . is depicted on the Riverfront Plan Map.
This is the map. Purple designates "Industrial"; brown designates "Wholesale + Storage." The discussion of each section and the proposals for its development will be the matter for another time.


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  2. When the Department of State reported last year that it didn't actually have in its possession the city's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), we knew at once it was in attorney Cheryl Roberts' keeping.

    (The issue where the document was at any one time recalls 2010 into 2011, when the LWRP was now in Albany - though denied by Albany - now in Hudson - though denied by City Hall - a lawyerly shell game to keep the public on its heels.)

    With Roberts gone (or is she?), who's guarding the document from us these days? Whatever her status, who has the power to take it from her or from parties unknown?

    When the Common Council finished the program in 2011 (which neither the state nor federal governments will authorize), did it thereby relinquish further control and planning to the Office of the Mayor?

    Recently, Alderman Friedman (3rd Ward) suggested to Roberts that she badger the state into authorizing the program as is. Although that would be to ask the state to ignore its legal obligations under the terms of the council's Findings Statement, what did the alderman suppose were their respective roles vis-a-vis the LWRP when he addressed Roberts on that occasion? (As Mr. Friedman made very clear, the public was forbidden to speak at the time, as unwise a policy as ever.)

    It is the Common Council that must correct its own previous errors of judgement, and residents ought to hold the council's feet to the fire.

    Considering the public's increased interest in river access (some of it unnecessarily agitated by the city's obliteration of Furgary), we might take advantage of Roberts' departure to finally create a waterfront program in our own image and interests.

  3. From the National Organization for Rivers:

    "In most places the federal government does not patrol rivers to confirm public rights under federal law. Instead they leave it up to each state’s law enforcement agencies. State law enforcement agencies do not study river law. Instead they tend to enforce what’s expected by politicians and riverfront landowners. Yet, states can never lawfully “abdicate” their “general control” over “lands under navigable waters,” because “such abdication is not consistent with the exercise of that trust which requires the government of the state to preserve such waters for the use of the public.”

    Note how the land lubber that made the map above shows the (ebb tide) water level along the North Bay.

    The high water line is still right where it was when the city incorporated. When Mother Nature gets ready the river still reaches all the way to Dock Street.

    That's how land lubbers steal the land under Navigable water. They move the high water line forward so they can illegally fill in more and more bay. Lands reserved for Navigators, are then transferred to Landgators.

    1. Three weeks ago I contacted our regional DEC office only to learn that its permitting officials had little knowledge of the public's rights along the foreshore.

      Worse than that, I found myself in the unhappy position of being told information that contradicted the public trust, and by a fairly aggressive state official.

      Confused as bureaucrats can be by the idea that they are in fact public servants, I had to wonder whether, by defending of our rights, the unfortunate occasion for my having to enlighten the official will be held against me?

      Joe's second point about the state-owned underwater lands that are SOUTH of Dock Street is mind-blowing!

      Just look at a map; it's all perfectly true.

      I mean no offense to the parties who believe they purchased land on the south side of Dock Street, but they bought something from someone who never owned it.

      The question is, will our adherence to the state's underwater claims be enforced equally among Hudson residents, or only against Furgary?

      No double-standards please.

    2. By now the City understands that they can't (legally) restrict fishing or post riverfront against trespassing for fishing.

      By eliminating North Dock they have doubled the demand and reduced access by half.

      Columbia county fisher folk and hunters are not going away. They patiently wait to be served their share of shore, for Navigation, "to the fullest extent possible".

    3. Dead reckoning on all counts.

      The only ones who will "go away" in the end are the individual politicians who just don't get it.

  4. A simple way to double the "flowput" from Rick's Point and the State Launch, vertical dock (poles) restraints, Like fishermen, use both sides of the docks.

    It's clear, the City doesn't know how to build, maintain or finance access to this City's most valuable asset, "our" Riparian Forest...