Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What About the Furgary?

It's been almost three years since the City of Hudson seized the Furgary Boat Club, evicted its members, and put a fence around the area to prevent people from entering the compound. Although the issue is kept alive by posters on a local chat board and at least one commenter on Gossips, who manages to use a host of different topics as the platform for a diatribe about access to the river for fishermen and hunters, the topic of the Furgary doesn't come up very often in public meetings.

In October, a resolution to raze the Furgary shacks was introduced in the Common Council but never voted on. Instead it was decided that a "small working group," made up of the mayor, Common Council president Don Moore, and aldermen Nick Haddad (First Ward), Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward), Abdus Miah and Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), would take the next sixty days to investigate "what might be done down there." Many more than sixty days have passed, and, until last night, there had been no public word on what the findings had been.

At the same Council meeting in October, Alderman Dave Marston (First Ward) announced that a representative from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) was scheduled to visit the site on October 24. He moved that the resolution to raze the shacks be tabled "until a historic resources study could be done." Marston's motion passed.

A few weeks ago, at a Hudson FORWARD meeting, someone asked, "What ever happened with the Furgary?" Tiffany Martin Hamilton, an advocate for the legendary fishing settlement, answered by saying that the City wanted someone to select structures to be saved, but the historic significance of the place was not individual structures. Rather it was the location and the traditional use of the site.

Haddad, who was part of the working group tasked to figure out what to do with the Furgary, said there was no plan to preserve any of the shacks "because no one has selected the shacks to be saved." He asserted that Linda Mackey, the representative from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) who had visited the site in October, had determined there was "nothing worth saving." Hamilton disagreed, claiming that, from her conversations with Mackey, "there were some possibilities" of significance, based on the "tradition of use of the area."

Since there was disagreement about SHPO's opinion of the site, Gossips undertook to find out exactly what Mackey had said. First, I asked Moore if I could see a copy of Mackey's report. He told me there was no written report. Next, I sent an email to Mackey, asking if she would clarify what her findings were. She referred me to the Deputy Public Relations Officer at OPRHP, who ultimately told me there were no findings because there had been no formal request for a determination. When I asked who could make such a formal request, he referred me to the section of the OPRHP website that deals with State and National Register designation. That pointed me to Bill Krattinger, the person in the National Register Unit at SHPO whose territory includes Columbia County. Was it necessary, I asked him, to apply for National Register designation in order to learn the findings of Mackey's visit? Krattinger promised he would look into the matter, and on Monday morning, I got a call from Kathy Howe, who coordinates the Survey Program at SHPO. She explained there were three things that would trigger a SHPO investigation and finding: (1) state or federal agency involvement in a project; (2) a request from the property owner for a determination of eligibility for designation; (3) a request from an interested third party for a determination of eligibility. Requests for determination must be made through the Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS), and neither the City of Hudson (the owner) nor any of the Furgarians (an interested third party) had made such a request.

Last night, at the informal Common Council meeting, the Furgary Boat Club came up for the first time in a long time. Council president Moore introduced the topic by explaining that "the mayor wants the Council to move ahead on a resolution about the Furgary." The resolution in question would allocate $5,000 to do an environmental assessment of the seventeen shacks to determine "what process is needed to remove them." The resolution, Moore explained, was still in draft form but would be ready for the regular Council meeting on May 19.

Always watchful of the municipal bottom line, city treasurer Heather Campbell asked if the City had the ability to identify the owners of the shacks and make them pay for the demolition. City attorney Carl Whitbeck noted that the City did not own the property when the shacks were built. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) suggested that, whether the State of New York or the City of Hudson owned the land when the shacks were built, the builders had "created a nuisance on public property." Whitbeck advised that it would be "way more expensive and very dysfunctional to try to hold shack owners responsible."

When the discussion turned to the historic significance of the shacks and the site, I offered the information I had learned that morning from Kathy Howe at SHPO. Moore said that he had never been told this by SHPO and was of the opinion that the State had no interest in the site. He then returned the discussion to the proposed resolution, telling the aldermen, "If we do not wish to demolish the shacks and want to put them to some other purpose, we should not pursue this."

In the discussion that followed, Moore said of the visit from SHPO, "We all thought they were basically wrecks"; North Bay advocate Timothy O'Connor asserted that he had a Sanborn map that showed the buildings existed in the 19th century; Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) spoke of his efforts to get the Furgarians to select the buildings they wanted to keep; Moore cautioned that it would be expensive to preserve one of the shacks and spoke of "parkland interests"; Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) complained that no one representing the Furgary ever showed up for meetings of the working group tasked with deciding the fate of the site; Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) declared that the working group had come to a conclusion: "Rip 'em down!"

Finally, Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) suggested that if there was interest in keeping one of the shacks to be used as a kiosk or public facility or for kayak rental, the task of selecting the building and creating a budget for its restoration should be taken up by the Common Council Economic Development Committee. It was then agreed that the Council would go ahead with the environmental assessment of the shacks.


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    In several instances, the people who'd like to "rip 'em down" are related by blood to the erstwhile denizens of Furgary.

    A surprising number of Hudson's politicians and officials attended high school with members of the North Dock Tin Boat Association, the group which brought an eminently reasonable adverse possession claim against the descendants of the city's proprietors.

    The NDTBA's challenge was inadvertently supported by the incompetent Crawford Engineering firm. It was their map of the site which was prepared for the city that the state Supreme Court later judged to be incorrect in its most important detail. Nevertheless, this flawed map remains the official map of the equally incompetent State of New York (see NYSOGS, Map no. 2322).

    Only by knowing this local history of embarrassment and resentment can the hypocritical disgust of the city's Corporate Counsel make sense (he was also a schoolmate of the latter-day Furgarians).

    Today's Register Star quotes Mr. Whitbeck exclaiming last night that “All the people were squatters ...They had no right to be there."

    The next sentence explains his hypocrisy, seeing as "the [Furgary] property was acquired by the city from the state of New York in exchange for the land on which the sewer treatment plant sits."

    Translation: the city built its waste water treatment plant on state land! The city was the squatter!!

    It is this deep sense of local shame which seeks to obliterate every memory of "the shacks" - what the camps were called a century before someone coined "Furgary" and "Fugary."

    Send those bums down the memory hole as quick as a wink!

  2. 2.

    It's also astounding how many aldermen (all?) are still so ignorant about the tidal pull beneath the train trestle that they simply assume the site is appropriate for a canoe/kayak launch.

    This is the fault of the Columbia Land Conservancy's flawed Master Concept Plan, which never considered public water-safety issues before recommending the site for small craft.

    Not only did the Master Plan suffer from zero public input, but last year the CLC refused to meet alone with Hudson residents who wished to discuss the plan with them. The CLC's unshakable condition for a meeting was that city officials be present. I replied that that rather defeated the purpose of the meeting.

    The unnecessary refusal of this alleged conservation organization to meet us alone onsite arguably helped conceal the CLC's unforgivable neglect of public safety.

    Recall that the plan was financed by the Athens Generating settlement, and that last May the city entered into a formal agreement with Columbia County to begin implementation of the plan.

    Going by the assumptions of various aldermen last night, by refusing to hear the public's unobstructed comments on the Concept Master Plan the incompetent CLC finds itself in collusion with the worst (or dumbest) aspects of city government.

    The CLC's unattractive style of concealing its incompetence is to act haughtily, but don't be fooled!

    When the Concept Master Plan was drafted in 2009, the CLC didn't even know that the North Bay property they manage was already a National Audubon Society "Important Bird Area" since 2004.

    A ship of fools.

  3. For our waterfront council from the NOR:

    The courts have also ruled that this land below the ordinary high water mark is not simply "state land," subject to use, abuse, or closure by state agencies. Since it is "held in trust for the public," the state, as holder of the trust, cannot do things with the land that conflict with public navigation and recreation. - See more at: http://www.nationalrivers.org/river-law-and-public-rights.html#sthash.Okj08znD.dpuf

    This means the city can't promote land uses that block access to Navigation.

    1 Riparian

    1. Also of interest, this post's second photo down of the stand-alone shacks on poles shows the site of the planned outfall for 242 million gallons a year of unfiltered city runoff.

      The effluent will exit the pipe at the bottom left corner of the photograph.

      The city's position is that the planned action will only take place at the site where a new and large sewer main will replace an 18" dormant pipe, which they call "like for like." Anyway, that's their rationale for claiming that no wetlands can possibly be affected by the sewer separation

      The aldermen are being totally disingenuous. Thank goodness for the above photograph, which shows people what certainly will be impacted by the city's foolhardy plan: a wetlands!

    2. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that rivers that are physically navigable are legally navigable for purposes of state ownership ("state title"). On such rivers, in any state, the riverbed and banks are state land, held in trust for the public for navigation, fishing, and other non-destructive visits. - See more at: http://www.nationalrivers.org/river-law-and-public-rights.html#sthash.dq5OSbh7.dpuf

      The Tin Boat Fishermen can't be "faulted" for providing a public service that the City of Hudson is (either) unable or unwilling to provide for them.

    3. Interesting state we live in. Only in New York can our "servants" debate for three years, and the best they can come up with, less use, Moore tax.

  4. why do i pay taxes to a city that spends the money in an effort to keep me off of public property in disguised attempt at putting someone else on the public property?...

  5. Belated thanks for your research on this.

  6. "Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) suggested that if there was interest in keeping one of the shacks to be used as a kiosk or public facility or for kayak rental,"

    Does the council propose to allow commercial use where recreational use is restricted?

  7. "Moore cautioned that it would be expensive to preserve one of the shacks and spoke of "parkland interests"

    Until the council intervened thirty years ago, the area was well (without cost to taxpayers) maintained by the Navigators that gathered there.

    Now Mr. Moore wonders how to acquire funding without state or federal agency involvement in the project, which will trigger a SHPO investigation and finding? Ponderous!

    Furthermore, if one starts with a presumption of liberty, since when is it incumbent upon the citizen to proactively defend our access to nature, a natural right? Defending our liberty, isn't that the council's sworn duty?

    1 Riparian