Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In Pursuit of a Vision

Last night, the new Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee held its first meeting. Sam Pratt, who served as secretary to the original WASC in 2006 and 2007, and who was also founder of Friends of Hudson and later co-founder of The Valley Alliance, was invited to present background information and research to help the new committee focus on their task.

Photo: Hudson Praxis|Facebook
In a bound booklet of materials Pratt provided to committee members was the decision, handed down on April 19, 2005, by then NYS Secretary of State Randy Daniels, that brought to an end the proposal by St. Lawrence Cement to build a giant coal-fired cement plant in Greenport--a proposal that also involved industrial development at SLC's holdings on the Hudson waterfront. Pratt drew particular attention to a passage from the decision that made specific recommendations for what Hudson should do with its waterfront. Excerpts from that passage are quoted below:
The 1996 Hudson Vision Plan lays out the preferred future land use patterns for the waterfront. The plan states:
"The area defined as the 'waterfront', for purposes of this study, extends from South Bay to North Bay--south to north. . . ." (Hudson Vision Plan, p. 88). This area includes all of the SLC riverfront property.
The Vision Plan articulates the intent of the City in revising the existing zoning along the waterfront to include a mixed-use district:
The waterfront is currently zoned for industrial use.… The current zoning is far too broad and does not recognize the value of the waterfront as a historical, cultural, commercial and recreational resource for the City. The zoning classification also does not encourage the highest and best use of the land and thus reduces potential tax revenues to the City.
It is recommended a new "Waterfront Zone" be created that addresses the goals of the Vision Plan and the specifics of the Master Plan. The zone should be created immediately. To minimize conflict existing property uses could be grandfathered, but if they change ownership, the new owners would be subject to the new provisions. Permitted uses should include: recreation/open space, parking, residential (second story and above), retail, galleries, studios, office, restaurants, museums, outdoor markets, outdoor performances, street vending, marine stores, marine fuel and boat storage. Conditional uses could include: electronic transmission towers, public utility uses, transportation centers, railroad, ferry terminals. Accessory uses should include: signs, outdoor cafes. Prohibited uses should include: manufacturing, assembling, storing and processing products or facilities, outdoor storage of lumber, construction and building materials, contractor's equipment, trucks, vans, buses, retail or wholesale of vehicles or boats.
Building heights should be limited to 45 feet from ground elevation to ridge or parapet line. (Hudson Vision Plan, pp. 85-88)
Further, the Vision Plan states that the land now owned by SLC, "has good development potential for a variety of public and private uses. The City should try to secure an option on the land or should have a letter of understanding expressing its interest." (Hudson Vision Plan, p. 89) . . .
The uses expressed in the Vision Plan are also reiterated in the City's only adopted planning document, the 2002 Comprehensive Plan. This plan states that in changing portions of the industrial zoning to a new zoning district to promote a mixed use waterfront environment, "permitted uses should be a variety of water-dependent and water-enhanced activities such as marinas, public boat launches, restaurants, parks and residential uses. Design standards, similar to those recommended for downtown, should also be developed and incorporated for this district." (Hudson Comprehensive Plan, pp xiii-xiv) . . . 
Based on this review of Hudson's past planning and implementation activities, it is clear the City's waterfront has been and will continue to be transformed from a private industrial waterfront to a public waterfront for boating, tourism, commercial and other compatible uses. These uses are in direct competition with SLC's proposed industrial riverfront facilities. Given the extreme limitation on space along the Hudson waterfront, this is not a suitable location for the proposed SLC industrial facilities and uses.
For those unfamiliar with the Hudson Vision Plan, repeatedly referenced in the decision, it was the work of the Cavendish Partnership, planning consultants from Burlington, Vermont, who were hired in 1994, with a grant secured by the Hudson Opera House. The Vision Plan was the product of more than a year's worth of monthly public meetings, where people came together to craft their collective vision of what Hudson could be.

Eleven years after the Secretary of State's decision--indeed, twenty years after the Hudson Vision Plan was created--it is compelling to read again these excerpts from that decision and contemplate what has changed and what hasn't.


  1. What hasn't changed are the same people who always commandeer everything.

    Seriously, are we living in a Simpson's parody about history repeating itself?!

    It was requested of me that I not participate in this process. That may be bad news for the ecology, but I'll keep my end of the deal.

    I wonder if this same request was directed at anyone else in connection with their own interests?

    If so, it occurred to me a few days ago that we were blackballed.

    Reading this post, I now have my answer.

  2. I respectfully call the committee's attention to this recent report:

    1. That was a flawed report which didn't benefit from the IPCC's subsequent Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which reduced the expected sea level rise under every scenario from the levels in the report you've cited.

      For now on, I'm only citing the IPCC's AR5, and I'm not choosing its worst case scenario first, either.

  3. Wow! Great start Carole and team.

  4. "To minimize conflict existing property uses could be grandfathered, but if they change ownership, the new owners would be subject to the new provisions. Permitted uses should include: recreation/open space..."


    Federal law requires state governments to hold rivers "as a public trust for the benefit of the whole community, to be freely used for all for navigation and fishery," "freed from the obstruction or interference of private parties"

    It is a violation of federal law to erect fences, "No Trespassing" signs, or other obstruction that interfere with public use of the surface, beds, or banks of rivers in US.

    Everywhere else on earth, fishermen are at home on shore...

    1 Riparian

  5. "To minimize conflict existing property uses could be grandfathered, but if they change ownership, the new owners would be subject to the new provisions."

    This is precisely what the City did in 2011 concerning the Holcim property, now owned by Colarusso.

    And with the new zoning, new conditional uses required that ANY modifications to the causeway go before the Planning Board, even for the owner at that time.

    Back in 2011, while discussing the recently resurfaced west causeway with the Principal Attorney of the NYS Department of State (and William Sharp had personally authored our conditional use language for the causeway), former council president Don Moore stated that "one of the reasons for the change in the zoning, in the new zoning, is that those circumstances would be changed." He was referring to a situation where a landowner could build a road without the Planning Board's knowledge or permission.

    Fast forward to January 2016, when "Colarusso," the new owner of the South Bay, unilaterally transformed the east causeway's dirt track into a haul road for aggregate trucks. The road was widened more than 2 1/2 times its former width, and every inch of it inside City limits was resurfaced with item #4 - hundreds of thousands of tons of limestone and concrete dust, probably over a bed of cobbles.

    So what did the City do? Absolutely nothing.

    What did residents do? Nothing.

    You have to wonder, if the current administration and the City departments and City boards can't even defend the waterfront zoning of 2011, and residents proved by their silence that they didn't care either, then what is this next foray into waterfront planning really about?

    Against the backdrop of what happened in January to the east causeway, everything we suppose the new waterfront effort will do to honor the natural world must be false. Anyone is false who let that happen without so much as a peep.

    In this way, the new administration provides cheerful cover for the continuing actions of the old administrations (and their ilk), and everyone is content to believe that, personally, they're wonderful environmentalists. They recycle.

    Everything is a sham. Our efforts are self-flattery. As usual in Hudson, our tidal wetlands pay the price.

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  7. I watched a program on PBS last night about Gas Works Park in Seattle. Perhaps the park could be used as a model for a way to use the Dunn Building. Check it out...

    1. Interesting, thanks.

      But I wonder how this can be true (from Wikipedia):

      "Gas Works park contains remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the US."

    2. Here's a vision for Hudson's waterfront modeled on Gas Works Park. Like the gas works structures in Seattle, the buildings and industrial structures of the old St. Lawrence Cement factory in Hudson-- especially the tower on the river's edge -- should be preserved and repurposed as a part of Hudson's industrial heritage. A walkway/wooden bridge to span the water could be built to connect Henry Hudson Park to the cement works structures. The cement works structures could be used creatively, such as the use of the gas works in Seattle as a playground for kids. Then, after the Ferry Street bridge is replaced, the road running through the park next to the Dunn Building would be removed to make the grassy area of the park even bigger.

  8. Where are the voices of our 2nd ward leaders? Why do they not speak out for the minority protected on shore by federal law? Second ward residential (and other county anglers) fisher folk are a protected minority.

    Your cowardly silence is deafening, has it been paid for?