Friday, July 15, 2016

Nothing New Under the Sun

In the 1880s, when Fred W. Jones was building his "mountain railroad" from the river to the quarry, one of the strongest arguments for an action that ushered in the degradation of South Bay was that the railroad would take the mule-drawn wagons hauling stone off the streets of Hudson.

South Bay painted by Sanford Gifford in 1861
Speaking of the progress of the railroad, the Columbia Republican observed in June 1887:
Mr. Jones' enterprise and untiring industry deserves to be encouraged by our citizens, and the city of Hudson could well afford to help him fill in the road across South Bay, if for no other reason than to get the stone teams out of the streets, which are already in very bad condition owing to the heavy loads continually passing over them from the quarries.
A hundred and thirty years later, the problem is the same, and the argument is the same.

Last night, the proposal to create a haul road from A. Colarusso's headquarters on Newman Road in Greenport to the dock on Hudson's waterfront came before the Hudson Planning Board. What's being proposed, in addition to using the road created earlier this year going east from Route 9G through a part of Hudson that is a conservation district, is moving and widening the roadway through South Bay so that it sits the path of the former railroad tracks instead following of what was allegedly a service road, and paving the road connecting the "causeway" road and Broad Street to reduce the amount of fugitive dust.

Carmine Pierro, who has been on the Planning Board for years but no longer lives in Hudson, expressed enthusiasm for the proposed haul road. He called it "a great benefit to Hudson," dropped the term "environmental justice," and declared it a "win-win, especially for the residents of the lower wards." He wanted Greenport to be the lead agency in the review, because, as he explained, "for us it's an amendment; for them, it's all new." According to Pierro, "all the environmental studies were done years ago," and the Planning Board had already approved a different version of the same proposal. When asked later on by audience member Ellen Thurston when the previous application had been approved, Pierro said it was 2009.

Checking the minutes of the Planning Commission for 2009 this morning, Gossips found no reference to an application for site plan review from O&G Industries. The haul road proposed by O&G was being reviewed in the fall of 2010 by the Greenport Planning Board, but that review has halted in October 2010, when the Greenport Planning Board informed O&G that no further action would be taken on their application until they submitted and had an application pending with the City of Hudson Planning Commission. The Planning Commission minutes for September 8, 2010, are the only place where reference to this application could be found. The following is quoted from those minutes:
In the final item of business, Ms. Roberts discussed with the commission a non-action issue, regarding O & G Industries' plan to use a roadway across an existing causeway, and a letter from the Town of Greenport to the Planning Commission concerning it. Segmentation is illegal under SEQR, therefore Greenport's Planning Board and the Hudson Planning Commission must work together. The Greenport board is unable to take action until Hudson's LWRP is approved. The Columbia County Planning Board will also be involved. Ms. Roberts advised the commission members that the Hudson Planning Commission has no jurisdiction in the matter.
On the question of who should be lead agency, Pierro was eager to make a motion that Greenport be lead agency. "We're just doing an amendment," he insisted. "They're just moving a road." Mitch Khosrova, legal counsel to the Planning Board, advised against allowing Greenport to be lead agent, saying it was not true that Greenport "has a bigger look." He told the board that the attorney for the Greenport Planning Board had recommended that Hudson and Greenport be co-lead agents. Planning Board chair Tom Pietro called for a motion that the two bodies be co-lead agencies. Rob Bujan made that motion, which was unanimously approved. 

Khosrova said he would send a letter to the Greenport Planning Board saying the Hudson Planning Board "would want to be lead agency, but, in the interest of cooperation, will be co-lead agency." Someone on the board noted that was not what the motion had said. There was a question of whether or not to amend the motion. DePietro recommended they "stick with the motion that we want to be co-lead," commenting, "If they end up being lead, it doesn't take much away from us." Khosrova cautioned, "When it comes to SEQR, if the lead agency issues a negative declaration, all the agencies must accept it." Laura Margolis, the only woman on the Hudson Planning Board, moved to amend the original motion to reflect the language Khosrova had suggested, but no one seconded her motion.

We were assured that last night was only the beginning of the review of the proposed haul road. When DePietro said, "This is controversial, but we want everyone to be happy in the end," Pierro and Glenn Martin demanded to know why it was controversial. Pretending to speak for those who find the proposal problematic, Pierro said, "The hell with the people of Hudson, let's worry about a six-legged frog." Rick Scalera, Fifth Ward supervisor, who was present in the audience, called it "a most exciting proposal." "The Colarusso family doesn't have to do this," he said.


  1. Hudson's Zoning Code lists "any existing commercial dock operation" as a nonconforming use (§325-17.1.D(1)), and recognizes the causeway itself as a "dock operation" (§325-17.1.D(1) and (2); §325-17.1.F(2)(j); §325-17.1.F(3)).

    A nonconforming use is "[a] use that does not conform to the regulations prescribed for the district in which it is situated" (§325-42, Terms Defined).

    Throughout the City, "Any type of nonconforming use ... shall not be enlarged, extended or placed on a different portion of the lot or parcel of land occupied by such use ..." (§325-29.A(1)).

    When it recommended the causeway be made a nonconforming use, the NYS Department of State (DOS) had designed a reasonable a balance between all uses and interests at the City's waterfront.

    The DOS knew it would soon designate the South Bay a "Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat," but when explaining the recommended compromise between so many interests, ecology was never mentioned.

    Rather, from the time of the cement plant proposal to the completing of the LWRP six years later, the aim to maintain a proper scale and proportionality of industry at the City's waterfront was a priority for City and State alike.

    The City's Zoning Code - also called the "LWRP zoning" - was designed at great cost, and with the future of the entire waterfront in mind. No one was happy with it, because it asked all parties to compromise something. But everyone knew that the mining industry would be relentless in pressing its advantage, and working around the law wherever possible.

    One way to work around the law is to completely ignore it, which is why the City is acting negligently so long as it tolerates the project sponsor's claim, on a State document, that the proposal is consistent with our Zoning Code.

    Neither the work just completed on the east causeway nor the new proposal are remotely permissible under the City's Zoning Code.

    Can anyone say what in hell's going on?!

    1. Such laws apply only to little people...

    2. Touché.

      But why would the "little people" accept double standards? I mean, shouldn't everyone boycott the City's Zoning Code if it only applies to them?