Friday, November 11, 2016

The State of the Haul Road

Last night, at the Planning Board meeting, the board got an update on the status of the permitting process for the proposed Colarusso haul road, from Colarusso's headquarters on Newman Road to the Hudson waterfront.

The discussion began with Planning Board chair Tom DePietro announcing that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had designated the Greenport Planning Board the lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) "because more of the project is in Greenport." This means that Greenport will be deciding whether to make a negative or positive declaration about the environmental impacts of the project. In addition to participating in the coordinated review with Greenport, the Hudson Planning Board must also review the project for consistency with the City's LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program).

Pat Prendergast, the engineer employed now by Colarusso and formerly by O&G/Holcim, began his presentation by reminding the board that the "whole purpose" of the haul road is to "shorten the route and keep trucks out of Greenport and off the city truck route." He reported that a revised storm water pollution prevention plan had been submitted to the DEC and that the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation had reviewed the plan and determined that no archaeological or historic resources would be negatively impacted. 

Prendergast reported that the Department of Transportation (DOT) had requested changes to the course of the haul road as it approaches Route 9G. DOT wants the haul road to be perpendicular to the state highway and curbing installed to discourage trucks exiting the haul road from turning north into Hudson. DOT also requested signage: "No Left Turn" on the west side of 9G; "No Right Turn" on the east side of 9G.

Ray Jurkowski, the engineer from Morris Associates retained to advise the Planning Board on this project, asked Prendergast, not for the first time, how many trucks trips through Hudson would be eliminated by the haul road. He also noted that the permitting process for this project has been going on for several years, through different applicants and owners of the property, and requested, on behalf of the Planning Board, a chronology of the process—what applications had been submitted, what permits had been obtainedas well as copies of all the correspondence between the applicants and the state regulatory agencies. He urged the members of the Planning Board to review the plans submitted (not long before the meeting) "as quickly as possible" to identify "Hudson concerns." These, he advised, should be outlined in a letter to the Greenport Planning Board "to put them on notice that Hudson has concerns."

At the end of the discussion, audience member Timothy O'Connor objected that the EAF (Environmental Assessment Form) that had been completed for this project was incorrect, and that the municipal boundaries on the map accompanying the site plan for the project were incorrect. Reacting to the second objection, Prendergast asked, "Are you a surveyor?" Judging by a comment made on Gossips, it wouldn't take a surveyor to recognize the error. The map allegedly puts the Dr. Oliver Bronson House and grounds not in Hudson but in the Town of Greenport.

The next Greenport Planning Board meeting takes place on Tuesday, November 22, at 7:30 p.m., at Greenport Town Hall. The Colarusso haul road is the second item on the agenda for that meeting.


  1. This is all being done to maximize one company's profits which, no matter its claims, will incrementally expand its operations while intensifying the industrial use of the causeway and the port.

    As the company's engineer told the Planning Board last night, the immediate proposal is meant to save driving distance for trucks, which naturally eats into profits (see below about getting gravel trucks off our streets).

    This is what neoliberalism looks like, which is about to go on steroids nationwide.

    But the public has interests too, which we tried (poorly) to codify in the amended zoning of 2011. The zoning has all kinds of safeguards meant to prevent, or at least contain, this sort of eventuality.

    But will our interests mean anything in the end? We're meant to roll over for A. Colarusso and Son, Inc., but it's everyone's waterfront to share. We'd be wise to keep an eye on any intensification of use for profit which leans on the sacrifice of public interests (or even that of other businesses).

    When changing out our politicians, we soon forget the degree to which we're stuck with the problems of a previous administration or council. Sometimes we continue the legacy of a past administration for no reason at all, out of dumb habit.

    For example, if we hadn't been burdened with our previous mayor, who was not apt to lead on such issues, someone in City government might have asked a long time ago why Colarusso's trucks were still using streets west of 3rd Street. Two-way use of the causeway was always an option under the right leadership, and was even the practice of Holcim throughout 2012.

    But to turn legally from the causeway onto Rte. 9G, the DOT required a "concurrence" between the Hudson and Greenport Planning Boards. That was under a previous Planning Board, with a less sympathetic mayor and Common Council. Still, it was more convenient ever since to put up with the trucks than to ask the right questions. Can anyone explain this?

    Fast forward to today, we're now told that the only way to get rid of the trucks west of 3rd Street is to give the corporation everything it wants. Wow, who would have predicted that argument?

    But it is not the only way, except that it does advance the fiction that the company was concerned about the welfare of city residents all along. It's doing everything it can to alleviate our suffering, including intensifying its operations.

    At any rate, as the company itself has acknowledged, the trucks will continue using 3rd Street with or without the new road. They want it all, you see, and since 1872 whoever owned or ran that mine always got what they want in the end.

    The mine has always owned Hudson, even when Hudson owned the mine.

  2. Hudson's advisor, engineer Ray Jurkowski, posed an excellent question about the number of trucks being projected. The answer from the industry to uncomfortable questions is typically some form of "don't worry," but we need all the facts on this proposal.

    For the 2011 LWRP, then-applicant Holcim/O&G provided current and projected numbers of trucks.

    We also got a traffic alternatives study, and a break-down of mileage saved or gained by the mine operator for a handful of proposed routes. I'm sure that if the public had been invited to the table, the truck route which has been used ever since would have been among the alternatives considered. Incredibly, it wasn't.

    For some inexplicable reason, today there's only one truck route alternative being offered, which is proffered (read: forced) by the mining industry itself.

    By making Greenport the SEQR Lead Agency, the DEC has all but assured that no alternative routes will ever be analyzed, including the truck route used today (a.k.a., the "No Action Alternative," which I mentioned above has never been studied).

    So, what's the difference? Who cares if all the of the industry's site plan measurements, submitted in May, were wrong by exactly half? (Hint: this minimized by half the scale of the project inside of Hudson.)

    What difference will it make if the Hudson Planning Board acquiesces to the industry's novel placement of the City boundary?

    For one, it would settle a boundary dispute which goes back to the 19th century founding of Greenport - and decide it in Greenport's favor. This would give a municipality without a zoning code portions of our own Recreational Conservation Zoning District. What difference can that make?

    Has the applicant's stormwater plan addressed snow removal-and-storage on its illegally-built road east of Rte. 9G? (Illegal because it never went before last year's Planning Board.)

    Will the corporation wait for the snow to melt instead, which means that ALL of its trucks will be on Hudson's streets. Things will be interesting after the City passes the long-overdue legislation to ban gravel trucks west of 3rd Street. (Today's second-to-most powerful 2nd Ward will then have the help of the equally powerful future wards, to initiate what it was evidently incapable of doing on its own till now.)

    Do we even have trustworthy figures for how many trucks are doing the gravel circuit today?

    Keep in mind that there's almost nothing in the 2007-2011 SEQR [environmental] review which is of any use to us today. Every crucial question was dispatched by an illusory commitment to the "short-term use of the causeway" - accomplished by individuals who are still in office today.

    Now, however, as the phony "short-term" rationale for the earlier SEQR review is itself swept away, the current review will implicitly reference the earlier one for studies which never actually occurred.

    One way or the other, Hudson is owned by its mining overlords. It's really that simple.

    Thinking of investing here? Beware!

  3. People are mistaking the significance of Colarusso's misplaced municipal boundary when they seize on the "relocated" Bronson House. True, that property is nowhere near the causeway, but that totally misses the point.

    If the Bronson House is relocated to Greenport, that tells you that the angle of the boundary is wrong where the site plan shows its origin south of the causeway. A wrong boundary placement drawn from an incorrect angle-base has less of an impact the nearer you get to the base, but the effects are not negligible.

    We're talking about how much of the causeway lies within Hudson, and thus how much of the new road from last January is still susceptible to being reviewed by the Planning Board.

    As mentioned above, the same applicant for the proposed project installed its road east of Rte 9G last December and January, and evidently with no consideration for the City's Zoning Code and its requirement for Planning Board approval. They just went ahead and did it.

    The novel boundary claim has another consequence too. Approximately 1.5 acres of land - mostly wetlands - now lying within the City's Recreational Conservation District, would be "relocated" to Greenport, which has no zoning.

    Moreover, there are the same wrong measurements we saw on the same engineer's site plan for the Colarusso wharf work. When the Army Corps of Engineers saw the error, they ordered a revised site plan and a one-month deadline in which to achieve it.

    If the City ordered its own survey, might we learn that the Bronson House and half the prison really are in Greenport?