Thursday, April 14, 2016

A New Discovery About South Bay

The evolution (perhaps devolution is the more accurate term) of South Bay, from being the favorite subject of 19th-century landscape painters to what it is today, has fascinated many. It was the inspiration for Don Christensen's remarkable 2001 exhibition, Seeing South Bay. 

The Valley Alliance, co-founded by Sam Pratt and Peter Jung, recently uncovered a forgotten detail in the history of South Bay, from just a little more than thirty years ago: "No More Development in South Bay, Said Hudson Common Council--in 1982."


  1. In the "false cause fallacy," mere sequence is interpreted as causation.

    In a conclusion to the following events, causation is imputed without reference to the actual temporal sequence.

    2/11/13, The Common Council votes to authorize a land transfer with Holcim, in Resolution No. 1.

    4/16/13: The Common Council votes 1,476 to 278 to rescind the land transfer with Holcim: "WHEREAS, the Common Council has concluded that Holcim has not agreed to enter into all necessary contracts in a timely manner. ... [Resolution No. 1] is hereby rescinded if the deed to transfer the Parcel is not signed by Holcim on or before May 15, 2013."

    5/15/13: The deadline comes and goes.

    6/3/13, The Valley Alliance makes its "discovery."

    6/11/16: Causation without sequence fallacy*: "The City eventually conceded that the Alliance’s research was correct, and the land transfer did not proceed" (Valley Alliance).

    *Just coined!

  2. The 1982 Resolution wouldn't have changed a thing in 2011. It changes nothing now.

    If, as in the opinion of many, the City didn't go far enough to protect the South Bay from the development plans of its previous owner, the 2011 zoning amendments only offered the bay more protections than it had previously enjoyed as an Industrial District.

    The 2011 Core-Riverfront Zoning language ONLY discourages new development. It does this by requiring planning approval of the original and subsequent owners, which they didn't need before, and by the retirement of certain nonconforming uses following transfer of ownership (though the zoning could have been a lot more explicit on this point).

    So when the new administration and the current Common Council do nothing with these laws, choosing to look the other way from new development in the South Bay, the fault doesn't lie with the zoning even if its language could have gone further.

    In January 2016, the Colarusso company created a road on the east causeway despite the requirements of the Zoning Code, and not because of it.

    What's astonishing is that anyone could think otherwise, or believe that this 1982 Resolution has any application.

    Perhaps this is why the public wasn't invited to comment at Tuesday's first meeting of the waterfront committee ... and the old cycle begins anew.

    1. Correction: On April 21, I learned from a participant that the public was permitted to speak at the meeting after all, despite the wording of the announcement:

      "The public is welcome to attend the meeting, but it should be understood that the purpose of this initial meeting is not to gather public input."

      Considering the speakers involved, I wouldn't have wished to attend a waterfront meeting where I was not permitted to correct the inaccuracies or false statements of the speakers.

      As it turned, I wasn't aware that the meeting was taking place.

  3. The 1982 resolution and subsequent failure to pay attention to it should be proof enough of the fragile dynamic at the heart of community governance: we have it in our power to do something good; so let's resolve to do it. Please look at Seeing South Bay for inspiration.

  4. With an insatiable appetite for taxable land, the landlubber moves the HWM and (illegally) the bays are filled.

    It's only incrementally illegal.

    If the city were required to create wetlands equal to amounts of filled land, the DPW would be located on 7th street...

  5. With the right leadership, of course we have it in our power to do something good.

    But far from this alleged "subsequent failure to pay attention to" the 1982 Common Council, the City did pay attention, and in 2011 took positive action by inserting conditional use language into the Zoning Code.

    What Colarusso Inc. and the City of Hudson have in common is that neither is paying attention to our local laws.

    If our fragile community governance won't do anything about it, or if it changes the subject to suggest we should pass the kinds of laws we already have, then the whole thing is a sham, right?

  6. Recent comments by Mr. O’Connor (unheimlich) make one wonder if he will ever be able to separate his more substantive interests in the Waterfront, from emotional needs to horde credit for any progress made there.

    NOTE: His selective “timeline” about a different, prior announcement neglects to mention that a deal with Holcim/O&G was very much still on the table, and remained a strong possibility. One interim deadline had been missed; the Mayor and the parties still had a keen interest in making it happen. Mr. O’Connor ranted about its release, both privately and publicly, not because he thought it was incorrect but because of amateurish, misplaced political prognostications.

    Not seeming to have much experience of such matters, Mr. O’Connor may not realize that setting deadlines and posturing about walking away from the table are techniques used by competing parties to negotiate and posture to get leverage. The Council was not ruling out a deal, but staking out a bargaining position.

    It remains that The Valley Alliance research and discovery certainly put an end to that continued discussion and/or possibility of its later revival—and in any case returned 4.4 acres to City that it had failed to correctly “alienate” as part of a prior sale.

    This newer, current discovery adds more context to the history of the area and fills out a timeline—extending from the 1970s, through the designation of the South Bay Creek & Marsh as a protected habitat—during which citizens and officials alike showed a clear preference for protecting the South Bay.

    Waypoints along the way include the Octane Petroleum fight, the Hudson Vision Plan, the Comprehensive Plan, the Americlean battle, the Secretary of State’s decision on SLC, and more. These were presented in a factual, documentable manner to the new WASC, which seems to be far more open to public involvement than the 2007-2010 LWRP process was.

    The lone outlier on that long timeline is that LWRP, forced through by Cheryl Roberts and various politicos, despite public comment which ran 3000-3 against its direction.

    The new WASC has an opportunity to update that document so that it falls into place with all the past efforts and current needs of the City. Mr. O’Connor can continue to shout into the wind, or find a way to use his own research and interests to contribute to something meaningful.

    —Sam Pratt

  7. I'm awfully sorry to disappoint, but you are incorrect about the import of the timeline.

    The following is taken from the Common Council Minutes for April 16, 2013, when the May 15th deadline was decided for the automatic rescission of a previous Resolution approving a deed transfer (no. 1, of 2/11/13).

    The full implication of the rescission, which subsequently and automatically occurred on the prescribed date, was unequivocal then and now. The meaning is perfectly clear in the context of the discussion which immediately preceded the vote to rescind (see a partial transcript below).

    The following also illustrates the making of a proper citation, so that readers can visit source materials on their own, to apply their own wits firsthand, and to draw their own conclusions.

    Our goal is always to improve conditions for the ecology of the City's wetlands, but never at the expense of property owners' constitutional rights, and never in the service of self-aggrandizement.

    Minutes of the Common Council, April 16, 2013 (address below):

    "In reference to proposed Resolution No. 5 which would rescind the Mayor’s authority to transfer riverfront land to the City, President Moore stated as a result of discussions held at the informal meeting, the resolution had been amended to take effect on May 1st if no agreement was reached within the next two weeks." [p. 153]

    "President Moore stated there had been dialogue with Holcim almost on a weekly basis and he said 'we were told in one of those dialogues that we would be told on May 1st.'” [p. 153]

    "President Moore stated the City had been advised that a determination would be made by May 1st and there had been some concern at the previous Council Meeting that rescinding the authority this evening may be precipitous." [p. 154]

    "President Moore .... stated the deadline mentioned in the proposed resolution could be amended to May 15th to allow sufficient time to answer the questions regarding the title. President Moore said 'what the motion rescinds is the agreement to proceed with an agreement on the nine (9) acres as proposed in the deed.'” [p. 156]

    "President Moore said 'could I suggest that we extend the date to the 15th so if by the end of month there seems to be additional information that needs to be taken into consideration, at that point we could ask for a Special Meeting and we would have time between then and the 15th to make a decision whether or not we wish to change the decision about the deed.'” [p. 157]

    "Alderman Haddad questioned if the council members extended the deadline to May 15th and Holcim executed the agreement on May 1st and he asked 'what do we do then, sit on it, continue with it, does it become null and void?'" [p. 157]

    "Legal Advisor Roberts stated the City had not executed the agreement yet and she said 'we hold onto it.'” [p. 157]

    "President Moore said 'we would not sign it until the 15th.'” [p. 157]

    "President Moore stated the proposed resolution would be amended to May 15." [p. 158]

    "On motion of Alderman Friedman, seconded by Alderman Haddad, the proposed resolution was amended by the following vote:

    "Ayes: President Moore, Aldermen Friedman, Haddad, Marston, Miah, Pertilla,
    "Pierro, Ramsey and Stewart. (1,476)
    "Nays: Alderman Donahue. (278)"
    [p. 158]

  8. The reason I was opposed to the VA's announcement about the 4.4 acres, which only came after the complete breakdown of the land transfer, was that it would accomplish the failed land swap by other means. Why would anyone do that?

    For the moment anyway, there was nothing to be gained by it, and much to lose. (That there was obviously no emergency has been borne out by the fact that nothing's happened with it since.)

    So, knowing that there was nothing to gain and much to lose, I argued that the announcement unthinkingly advanced the LWRP's plan to build a marina and a giant parking lot in the very area of the 4.4 acres, and to achieve these things at the expense of the ecology.

    At the time, the LWRP's marina was the most coveted part of the plan for those in City government who most actively undermined public participation.

    It's that marina which concerns me still.

    If Mr. Pratt would make his position known regarding the plan for a marina which he unwittingly did much to preserve, many of us whose first interest is ecology would feel more at ease.

    I would certainly appreciate learning his position concerning the marina and the parking lot, and to know that, in this regard anyway, he is not working against the ecology.

    My past and present comments against the Valley Alliance were all in defense of the ecology. (If someone can find another criticism I made about the VA, then I hope that they will advertise it widely to prove me wrong.)

    My comments on the deliberations of the new Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee will also be in defense of the ecology.

    I appreciate that there are other interests in this world, but there are also plenty of people to advance them.

    To all perceptions, whether accurate or not, any new membership on the waterfront committee will require Mr. Pratt's say so, even if that's only through his several proxies. For some of us, those are unacceptable circumstances for membership (not that anyone has any new ideas on this).

    For those of us who were requested - yes, actually requested! - to stay away from the new waterfront committee, once again we find ourselves defending the ecology from the outside. (The great advantage to being on the outside is that you can drive a much harder bargain, so the request was probably a miscalculation.)

    Unfortunately for the ecology, the past is being recapitulated right before our eyes.

    Hudson - its institutions and culture - has no memory. Why is that?

  9. Because they have no jurisdiction over land beneath navigable water, local politicians slyly, incrementally eliminate individual liberty by selling the people's shore to gain sway with the donor class.

    If only men were angels, there would be no politicians involved. If only servants obeyed their earthly masters, citizens would still flow, "free and easy" from city street to sea.


    1. Like a remnant of a lost civilization, the ancient policies which protect our water access and navigable rights remain enshrined in Federal and State coastal policies. But because New York is a Home Rule state, defending the policies becomes a Herculean task left to the citizenry. When the takeover is incremental, as you say, how can we defend against that? And there we have a good example/analogy of a lot of other things which are headed in the wrong direction. (Answer: one incremental fight at a time.)

  10. When they attempt to quell the natural rights of fishermen or interstate commerce, municipal home wreckers are humbled in federal court.

    1. Sure, and all the public has to do is to sue them. Real simple. (Oops, look who I'm talking to, heh.)

    2. When fishermen on Long Island sued over a new licence fee, King Andrew of Empire cried uncle.

    3. It was Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who returned the licensing fees paid by fishermen of Long Island, citing ancient colonial laws of Maine and Mass.

  11. As I was reading the LWRP tonight, I noticed that there appear to be no references whatsoever to the Middle Ground Flats between Athens and Hudson. Perhaps we should consider ways to improve the flats as habitat for wildlife, such as bald eagles and osprey, and to create a designated, low-impact campsite as part of the Hudson River Water Trail for kayakers.

    1. The Middle Ground Flats is in Greene County, and already claimed by the Village of Athens LWRP in 1999.

      In the world of LWRP's, there's no poaching of territory allowed.

      Here is Athens' LWRP:

  12. Here is a description of Hudson River Islands State Park. Perhaps the state park could be extended to incorporate Middle Ground Flats...

    "Accessible only by boat, Hudson River Islands State Park facilities are concentrated on the islands of Gay's Point and Stockport Middle Ground. These islands are fragile communities with many rare and endangered plant and animal species. Day-use facilities include picnic areas with grills and nature trail. Fishing is popular and transient camping is allowed.

    "Please Note: There are no docks. Boats must be moored off the island or visitors can bring their kayaks/canoes on shore. It is a first come first serve park for camping. There is no entrance fee and no reservations are needed."

  13. I'd also like to see the waterfront committee consider changing the streetlights in Henry Hudson Park (not to mention the blinding streetlights on Front Street) to make it better for astronomy and star gazing. Light pollution is a problem in Hudson, as it is in most towns. For more info, take a look at the website of the International Dark-Sky Association.

  14. There's one more thing we need somewhere near the waterfront -- namely, an indoor aquatics recreation center. Last summer, my wife and I enjoyed such a center in Missoula, Montana. Here's the link: