Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What Does It Mean?

In the wake of the news on Friday that the State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) had determined the fishing village at North Bay, known in recent decades as the Furgary Boat Club, met the eligibility criteria for listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the question on many people's lips was "What does it mean?"

Let's begin by clarifying what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean the Furgarians get their shacks back, and it doesn't mean the City is compelled to preserve all the shacks in perpetuity. But the eligibility determination does have significant implications which will have to be taken into consideration as the City decides how to proceed.

The determination--finally and definitively--puts to rest the debate over whether or not the site has historic value. It does. SHPO, which exists to decide such things in the State of New York, has spoken. This puts some roadblocks, or at least speed bumps and "Caution" signs, in the path of the mayor and the Common Council. The site is "eligible for the National Register . . . in the areas of maritime history, social history, and architecture." For this reason, the shacks should not be thoughtlessly bashed down and carted away as so much hazardous waste. What happens to the site must be the outcome of planning that respects its historic value.

There's another impediment to the "rip 'em down" conclusion allegedly reached by the Common Council working group tasked with coming up with a plan for the Furgary site. In an email submitted to the Common Council yesterday, Trish Gabriel, an environmental analyst for the Department of Environmental Conservation, stated: "A Freshwater Wetlands permit is required for the removal of the Furgary Boat Club shacks because the shacks are located within a state-regulated wetland and its adjacent area. . . . No application has been received by the Department as of the date [August 4, 2015] of this email." Nobody has so far mentioned the need for a permit from DEC to raze the shacks.

One of the goals of the working group tasked with drafting a plan for the North Dock site was to select one or two cabins to be preserved. Their great frustration was that the Furgarians never cooperated and came up with their choices. It's probably just as well they didn't, because it is not known on what criteria they might have based their decisions. The SHPO determination, however, helps establish the criteria for choice. If only a few buildings are to be saved, they should be those that played the longest and most significant role in the history of the fishing village. The Sanborn maps, which were instrumental in making the case for the site's historic significance, can also be helpful in determining how the site should be preserved and developed.

SHPO's recognition of the site's historic significance also suggests that the task of coming up with a plan for its future--one that is sympathetic and creative and ultimately of greater value to the community than simply demolishing everything--might better be handled by the Historic Preservation Commission than the Common Council. The HPC could seek the assistance of Hudson residents who have expertise in designing exhibitions and interpretative programs or an interest in conceptualizing a public use for this particular site. The Council would still have to approve the plan; they just wouldn't have to create it.


  1. "Their great frustration was that the Furgarians never cooperated and came up with their choices."

    The reason for this is that the end use has never been determined/stated.

    Kind of silly to remove fishermen using the property for the pre-historic use to build a museum to the historic use.

    Furthermore, many of the Furgarians have a single word of advice to those who plan to take a cabin and turn it over to block the historic use: "insurance."

  2. But you have to be amazed that we're even having this conversation, Joe.

    I'd offer two things to follow your perfectly reasonable (and Federally supported) argument about access, the first having to do with the leasing of shacks for commercial purposes and the second with an unrelated another idea.

    It's not true that the city cannot lease waterfront property after it's been properly alienated by the state legislature. If the city doesn't want to, then that's different matter.

    For the second idea, check out this guy talking about his Shad Museum in Haddam, Connecticut. Advance it to 7 minutes to have a look inside:

    It's not one thing or the other. Gossips has the right idea: "What happens to the site must be the outcome of planning that respects its historic value."

    I think Joe's just saying don't forget its value to navigation and water access too, which goes hand in hand.

    1. What's the purpose of a historical site but to remind us of a bygone era? A time where liberty was arbitrarily large because government was infinitesimal.

  3. More importantly Tim, the damage done by separating life long friends and three generations of family members.

    Many of us don't have another 20 years to make 100 new friends.

    This all could have been avoided if only our "servants" were not trying to profit from the sale of public use lands.

    Some of our members are contractors and have 30 years experience in their respective trades.Working together we could have removed the cabins beyond repair, that would have made room for more and new uses at no cost to taxpayers.

    I would like take this opportunity to thank Gossips for publishing most of my rants on this issue and more importantly for NOT publishing the others.

    Thank you Carole!.

    1. Well done, thanks for the laugh Joe!

      Yes, the loss of community is irreparable.

      For me it began when you looked out your door one hot afternoon and saw a pathetic-looking landscape painter struggling at his easel.

      You didn't even ask, you just brought me a beer and said "It really looks like you need this." And I did!

  4. Because there was an immediate need for wharves, and nobody would build them if when the king arrived, he could take them back,the American shore was given to those who could maintain their wharf.

    Anyone who has slipped into the Hudson in the last three years knows that "king" has no clue how to maintain a wharf, let alone how to promote its use.