Friday, November 25, 2016

The Haul Road and Lead Agency

At the Planning Board meeting on November 10, it was announced that the Department of Environmental Conservation had named the Greenport Planning Board as lead agency in reviewing the proposed Colarusso haul road from the quarry to the waterfront. At the time, Planning Board chair Tom DePietro indicated that the choice was made because "more of the project is in Greenport." More than two weeks after the Planning Board meeting, the letter from DEC that informs the planning boards of the decision and explains the rationale is now available online.

The letter explains that three criteria are used in resolving a lead agency dispute. The first is: "whether the anticipated impacts of the action being considered are primarily of statewide, regional, or local significance (i.e., if such impacts are of primarily local significance, all other considerations being equal, the local agency involved will be lead agency)." Discussing this criterion, the letter states: "The City Planning Board argues that the City would be more affected by a change in traffic patterns. The City also argues that the anticipated change in traffic patterns would have a potentially negative impact on its waterfront and at the Basilica--which the City indicates is an important venue for arts, entertainment and weddings. However, the existing truck route is also close to the Basilica and the City is not specific about how changes associated with the haul road project would impact its waterfront differently since the Project Sponsor's trucks already use the waterfront to barge its materials."

The second criterion is: "which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation of the impacts of the proposed action." Discussing this criterion, the letter states: "The City Planning Board indicates that there is some question as to whether the proposed haul road is in conflict with the City's zoning. However, the City Planning Board does not offer any specific information on this issue for guiding consideration of the City Planning Board's potential jurisdiction."

There is a third criterion as well: "which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action." The letter does not discuss this criterion because "a designation of lead agency can be made without replying on this third criterion." The designation favored by the first and second criteria is that the Greenport Planning Board be the lead agency.


  1. A first read-through of the DEC document tells me what I already knew, that Commissioner Basil Seggos is a total tool.

  2. Goodbye Hudson waterfront.

    No need for the HDC to bother with the Dunn Warehouse plans. It is a dead project with thousands of tons of gravel being moved next door and rock dust filling the air of the waterfront on a daily basis.

    This is a pathetic decision by the DEC, and their rational given to us is an absolute insult to the intellect of Hudson people.

    1. Right you are MJ, but it's really just a comedy of errors.

      First, let's have a laugh about the wharf proposal, which we're not even discussing (but should be).

      Last winter, DEC Commissioner Seggos gave us his personal assurance that "the issue of property ownership [beneath the Colarusso wharf] will be thoroughly examined, [and] questions relating to ownership will be addressed to [our] satisfaction prior to DEC making any decision on permit issuance."

      But then, in September, Seggos had a subordinate write to assure us that the property boundary is correct according to the Colarusso company. We were informed that the property line is "based on a description contained in a 'Grant of Lands Under Water' dated January 16, 1932 [which was] conveyed by legislative grants to a private owner."

      It took us until this month to learn, with certainty, that no such document ever existed, nor did the Legislature ever grant that piece of state-owned riverbed to anyone. So it's a gift - call it an early Christmas present - from the people of New York state to A. Colarusso and Son, Inc. That's comedic, right?

      In the same letter, the DEC approved a giant revetment built alongside, and into, the Hudson River, in order "to prevent further damage" to the now-private shore. (Of course if it's a state-owned shore, which it certainly is, then the so-called 'erosion' is just the river doing its thing.) The only doubt about the actual damage, aside from our own, came from the DEC field investigator who told us he observed very little erosion at the site. Curious, eh? Oh, I mean funny.

      In the same September letter, the DEC wrote that "the applicant has not applied for, or received approval for, an expansion of their facility, and the Department is not aware of any plans for expansion at Colarusso’s Hudson River dock location."

      That rationale makes no sense according to the procedures of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), but this is all comedy, remember?

      Now we arrive at the October 31st choice of Greenport as Lead Agency, and to Commissioner Seggos asking what's the difference for the City anyway if a two-way road is established in South Bay:

      "[T]he City is not specific about how changes associated with the haul road project would impact its waterfront differently since the Project Sponsor's trucks already use the waterfront to barge its materials."

      We should assume that the City Planning Board, if it did its job correctly, already informed Commissioner Seggos that the project sponsor wasn't forthcoming about the number of trucks involved, and still isn't.

      But as we saw above, for the DEC if a project sponsor "has not applied for, or received approval for, an expansion," then as far as Commissioner Seggos is concerned any project's potential for an expansion or intensification of uses is purely speculative.

      That's what Commissioner Seggos meant by this:

      "My designation of a lead agency must be based strictly on applying these criteria to the facts of each individual case."

      It's all so funny, and all very "New York" somehow.

    2. "no such document ever existed,nor did the Legislature ever grant that piece of state-owned riverbed to anyone"

      That's because the State doesn't own the land beneath Clinton's Ditch...

      If the Magna Carta was a restoration of common rights, then New York state cannot make a direct and absolute grant of the land beneath a federal waterway within the state, that divests local citizens of their common right.

      This is why federalism fails. The city of Hudson and New York State have a common interest in creating more land to tax. The state gives city title, the the city (illegally) fills in the peoples bay and forever ends littoral access and few and far between are people who fight against the incremental disintegration of individual rights.

      See more at:

      1 Riparian

  3. Joke:

    The City leases acreage on Becraft Mountain to A. Colarusso and Son, Inc., specifying that the lease is for mining activities.

    So when the lessee is discovered to be running a lumber operation last year, it announces that it's all in preparation for an expansion of mining.

    But if this intended expansion is factual (don't forget, from earlier, that there's no evidence that the company is expanding or intensifying), then how does the lease explain the sale of the City's lumber as the rightful profit of the lessee?

    The trees, mostly hardwoods, were hauled away. But where? To what market?

    When the City was asked to account for its mishandling of our resources (say, by following the money trail perhaps to the huge charcoal market), City Hall just clammed up.

    So whose fault is when City government leans over backwards to appease its corporate lessee? It's our fault, of course, City residents (politicians being politicians).

  4. Did the City Planning Board inform DEC Commissioner Seggos that most, or maybe even all, of the "planned" road between Routes 9G and 9 was already built eleven months ago?

    It had to have done so, and it must have informed the DEC that the portion of this already-built road lying within City limits was never submitted to the City Planning Board for review, which is required by our hard-earned Zoning Code.

    The owner just built the road, and that was that. It even spread this new road into the adjacent conservation zoning district, to the tune of 0.4 acres.

    In any normal world, this news would have elicited some sign of concern from the DEC, at least on behalf of the City's misfortune. Unfortunately, it mustn't have registered.

    Instead, the DEC decided that the major portion of an already-built road lies in Greenport, and so it privileged Greenport with Lead Agency status even though the lion's share of the continuing project lies in the City's tidal wetlands.

    Is the DEC just stupid, or is there something else going on?

    1. Among the project's purposes, according to DEC Commissioner Seggos, is that truck traffic will be rerouted "off of City of Hudson streets." (Not to say the State Truck Route, cuz that ain't gonna change, but west of 3rd street.)

      But didn't the City Planning Board inform the DEC that a road alternative has existed for years which removes the trucks west of 3rd Street? Yes, of course it informed the State of an idea which was originally suggested by the DOT itself.

      This means that Seggos listened to the project sponsor only, whose first concern is always driving distance to the quarry. Seggos was told the usual story (ever presented as if there are no alternatives), which maximizes operations at the expense of City residents.

      If the City of Hudson and Greenport wanted it badly enough, though, the trucks could have been banished years ago, and we said as much and explained how at the 2011 Public Hearing for the then-proposed zoning amendments.

      Well, maybe Seggos realized that nobody in Hudson really gives a damn. (And to give him some credit at last, that's actually a very plausible explanation.)

  5. And finally, the overriding reason for the DEC Commissioner's "insult" to Hudson residents is his knowledge of the City's 2011 policy position regarding the causeway. (In this, Seggos is more aware than we are, sadly.)

    Between 2009, when the idea was first floated, and 2011 when the policy was formally adopted, the City recognized two principal road alternatives for transporting mining products to the river. It would have required more planning from a planning-fatigued public, but either of these alternatives - one of which was the causeway - could have been approved for two-way traffic (even as the causeway was back in 2011: we have video documentation of the previous owner, Holcim, using the one-lane causeway both ways in 2012).

    If successful, any plan to install two-way traffic on the one-lane causeway would have led directly to a law banning gravel trucks from the lower city. Unfortunately, the planning effort required more resolve than City residents or their successive governments could muster (particularly from the powerful, most impacted, but always low-energy 2nd Ward).

    In the end, the idea was never explored, and no one in City government ever responded to the NYSDOT's own suggestion that Hudson and Greenport, by acting together, could propose a turning solution in and out of the South Bay causeway. (The South Bay Task Force contacted the DOT, but only to learn that no one in City government had ever taken up the idea.)

    To return to Commissioner Seggos, he knows the City's official policy on the "short-term" use of the causeway, and he knows our dislike of mining trucks inside the City. But he also knows that the City did nothing to follow up on any of this.

    Because City residents and their representatives showed no enterprise in establishing the prerequisites of the long-desired truck ban (i.e., west of 3rd), the Commissioner rewarded a private enterprise which showed ample evidence of [unspecified] goals, real resolve to attain these goals, and even a good deal of imagination while pursuing them (e.g., building a road that's contraindicated by the Zoning Code by ignoring the existence of the City's Planning Board).

    Commissioner Seggos knows that the majority of the proposal now under review has already been built. He knows that the significant unbuilt portions of the road lie in the City's South Bay. He knows that his own field investigator reported that the planned revetment in the river is unnecessary, and he knows that there was no 1932 Legislative grant of underwater lands beneath the planned revetment.

    But he also knows what everyone in Albany knows: that Hudson is a very unrewarding place for State bureaucrats. His deepest reason for giving Lead Agency status to the Greenport Planning Board stems from the general perception that Hudson's residents and government alike are as dithering as they are uncompromising.

    In short, we are the joke.

  6. And then there's the 2011 "LWRP zoning," which was purportedly devised to give the South Bay substantially more protections than it has under the State's Environmental Conservation Law (as evidenced by the DEC's willingness to permit just about any proposal that crosses its desk).

    No question that there are problems with the language of the amended zoning and with the zoning map (which the 2011 Council voted into law before it was even created!), but the protective intention of the LWRP zoning is clear enough to guide its otherwise poor descriptions.

    Glean from this that we're continually let down by those who profess the necessary expertise to manage our public affairs. And yet, many of the individuals who so screwed up the previous LWRP effort (and zoning) are still public servants!

    Okay, that joke's on us ...

  7. Replies
    1. Unless someone sues in federal court, the City of Hudson and state of New York.

  8. Before any of that, the Planning Board must determine the width of the Core Riverfront District where it crosses South Bay.

    According to the Zoning Code, it's no wider than the "use," which is the road.

    Unfortunately, rather than find out what our laws mean (that's hard), we'll just ignore those bits like we ignored the new road built last year east of Route 9G (South 3rd St).

  9. In mid-September, A. Colarusso and Son, Inc. gained the misguided permission of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to build a giant, stone revetment on land we maintain belongs to the State of New York.

    Now the work has begun, despite the company's failure to acquire the permission of our City Planning Board, as required by the Zoning Code for the Core Riverfront District.

    Could A. Colarusso and Son, Inc. care any less about City residents?

    Why doesn't the City defend our interests? Who's running the show anyway?

    This government is an abject failure, which means that nothing has changed. It's as much about special interests, inside deal-making, and passing the buck as it ever was.

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