Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mass Gathering Policy: Hudson's Catch-22

Back in 2012, without warning to the other business owners on the block, Joe Fierro of American Glory shut down the 300 block of Warren Street on an early spring Saturday for an auto show. When the event was repeated the next year, the Common Council Legal Committee was motivated to revise the mass gathering permit process. The goal of the revisions was to prevent one business owner from inconveniencing other business owners without there being adequate notice and the opportunity to voice objections.

Last summer, the Council passed a law amending the part of the city code (Chapter 199) that has to do with mass gathering permits. Mayor William Hallenbeck vetoed it. The Council overrode the mayor's veto, and the amendments were enacted as of June 17, 2014.

Even after his veto had been overridden, the mayor continued to agonize about the new requirements for mass gathering permits. Responding to the mayor's concerns, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), chair of the Legal Committee, who drafted the amendments, stressed that the amended law contained the same mayoral discretion that existed before the law was revised. Council president Don Moore pointed to this sentence in the law: "Exceptions to this application process may be made for good cause shown upon petition to the mayor."

It seems that in the intervening year, the mayor has gotten comfortable with his mayoral discretion when it comes to granting mass gathering permits. Yesterday, he granted a mass gathering permit for a block party that will close Warren Street to vehicular traffic between Second and Third streets for six hours--from noon to 6 p.m.--this Saturday, the first day of the last holiday weekend of the summer.


The first three hours of street closure are for set up. The party, which celebrates Savoia owner Jake Walthour's 74th birthday, begins at 3 p.m. The mayor himself will be there to present Walthour with a "Life Time Achievement Award."

The news of the mass gathering permit for this event reportedly caused quite a stir at the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee last night. It was the first any of the committee members had heard of it. It also seems that the owners of several businesses on the 200 block of Warren Street were unaware of the plan to shut down their block. The amendments to the mass gathering permit process were made with the goal of preventing businesses from being blindsided by such events. They require that applications be submitted at least 120 days prior to the event and that the public be notified. Chapter 199-7 of the city code states:
If the parade or special event requires a street closure(s), the applicant must cause to be posted in the newspaper of record notice of such application within seven days of submitting an application for a special event or parade to the City Clerk. Said notice shall be published for two consecutive days. . . . Written public comments regarding the special event or parade application may be submitted to the Clerk within 10 days of the first publication of said notice.
Curious to know the history of this mass gathering permit, Gossips went to City Hall this morning to "inspect the application." I discovered that it was submitted on Wednesday, August 12, just 24 days before the event not 120 days. But the law states that exceptions can be made "for good cause," and there was a handwritten note accompanying the application explaining a reason that the mayor had obviously accepted as "good cause." There was also documentation that notice had been duly published in the Register-Star.


The notice appeared for the first time on Saturday, August 15, and would have appeared for the second time on Tuesday, August 18. Comments had to be received by August 25, but the city clerk reported that no comments had been submitted. One can conclude from this either that no one has a problem with shutting down a block of Warren Street for six hours on Labor Day weekend or that no one saw the notice in the Register-Star.
COPYRIGHT 2015 CAROLE OSTERINK

23 comments:

  1. The problem is that the Mayor's "discretion" clause, as I read it, would allow this. All that had to be done was add a "notification" requirement to the bit about mayoral discretion. But as I learned about the Legal Committee, when it concocted a ridiculous sentence about the requirements for being on the Conservation Advisory Council.... words don't matter. All the mayor is doing is walking through the door left open by the Council.

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  2. It ain't easy paying rents and running a Warren Street business. These decisions suggest the Mayor has no idea what challenges we face...or simply doesn't care.

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  3. It ain't easy paying rents and running a Warren Street business. These decisions suggest the Mayor has no idea what challenges we face...or simply doesn't care.

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  4. Sorry, signifier, but you need to contact your Alderman. As is very clear from Carole's report, the Common Council wrote a bad law. This is not the mayor's fault.

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  5. The Mayor cares about votes, pure & simple, and has assessed this move as a cheap and easy way to suck 'em up.

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    1. Exactly.
      He enjoys petty fascism.

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    2. Is our HPD paid overtime from our tax dollars to direct traffic around the closed part of Warren for 6 hours or are they paid for by the "Block Party" ???

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  6. Word is just spreading to merchants on Lower Warren, particularly between 1st and 2nd, where businesses will be cut off from the rest of the city for six hours on a prime shopping day. Shocked and furious does not quite capture it. We all struggle as it is, with probably a quarter the foot traffic merchants have uphill from 3rd. What a crazy damned city.

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  7. You bet. And if you live even part time in this city, register to vote here. What is another vote in Brooklyn where millions pretty much vote the same way? Here, you can make a big difference and help move the city forward--first off, by electing a mayor who will follow both the letter and the spirit of the law.

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  8. Absolutely NO event is important enough to shut down a block in this main artery of the business district.

    None.

    Winter Walk shuts down the town after businesses are closed yet it doubles as a promoter FOR the business district.

    Parades are parades.

    Is this yet another example of favoritism like last time ?

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  9. This is one further example of why Democrats need to get behind Tiffany Hamilton. Let's vote in a new administration that cares about businesses on Warren Street. Enough is enough.

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  10. Doesn't anyone think it's interesting that the mayor vetoed a Resolution which clearly gave him the advantage:

    "Exceptions to this application process may be made for good cause shown upon petition to the mayor."

    It doesn't take a lawyer to understand the totality of the exception in relation to the rest of the statute.

    So aside from the important question how individual mayors exercise this or that given authority (like exercising the executive's veto power over a proposal which reinforces executive authority), why did the Common Council spend so much time and energy crafting detailed legislation rendered toothless by a single sentence?

    Unless there was a very good reason for essentially changing nothing following the American Glory street shut-downs (and my office is on the 300 block), then the more troubling story here is the continuing incompetence and wastefulness of our city legislature. Which of the clowns drafted that legislation anyway?

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  11. It's bewildering, really. The other part that slays me is that the only form of required communication is a legal ad in an archaic newspaper, which is to say, the Register Star. Basically this means that every day we need to peruse the legal ads to see whether or not the street will be shut and business disrupted. This is not a big town. If someone is going to do this, and they really care about their neighbors, they will make a real effort to let them know.

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    1. Actually, dkon, the notice appears on page 3, I believe, with color bands, as in the picture I included, not buried among the legal notices. But you're right. This method of notification is clearly inadequate. They should be using other forms of communication as well. The Gossips of Rivertown and imby seem obvious possibilities.

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    2. There's the crux: whether or not "they really care about their neighbors."

      That's a lot to ask of the inhabitants of Olympus, dkon. We must learn to be happy with crumbs.

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  12. And where would the ad appear if you read online, as I do? I go to the homepage now and do not see how that works, as there are no display ads.

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    1. To my knowledge, it doesn't appear online at all, but I could be wrong. If it does appear online, you have to know where to look for it, and that's the problem. You shouldn't have to hunt for it.

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    2. Thanks. Exactly the point. If you live like a contemporary human being, you really get no notice at all.

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  13. Unheimlich says it best: "why did the Common Council spend so much time and energy crafting detailed legislation rendered toothless by a single sentence?"

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  14. When I did a "public notice" concerning a street closing it appeared with blue. It runs for two days in the newspaper, and I never saw it online. There are two other opportunities to find out who-wants-to-do-what concerning mass gathering permits. One is to go to the City's website under local events. The other is to visit the City Clerk's office. There probably should have been a one year trial period before creating a new mass gathering law. Maybe the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism committee should review all of the 2015 mass gathering permits and see which ones actually followed all of the requirements.

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  15. That would be an interesting exercise, but also one that is beside the point. The truth, as Vincent points out above, is that Warren Street should NEVER be closed during busy shopping days, except perhaps for the traditional parades, which are fun and over quickly enough. Any mayor who really behaves like one would not have enabled (excuse me, fast tracked) this closure. Oh, BTW, it's 4 PM and foot traffic has slowed to barely a trickle between 1st and Warren, after a busy morning. Traditionally, this is our busiest hour. Thank you, City of Hudson.

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  16. Windle said it right.....
    VOTE! Register to Vote VOTE!

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