Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hudson, Greenport, and the Haul Road

Hudsonians concerned about the impact on our waterfront of the proposed Colarusso haul road showed up in force this evening for the Greenport Planning Board workshop session, which preceded the regular meeting of the Planning Board. Typically, the workshop takes place in a conference room in Greenport Town Hall, but tonight, because of the number of people interested in witnessing the proceedings, the workshop was moved to the courtroom, where the regular meetings of the Planning Board take place. The room has a posted maximum capacity of sixty-six, and that limit was being strictly adhered to. Gossips was only allowed to enter the room after someone else left. Present at the meeting, but not visible in the picture below, were Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton, First Ward alderman Rick Rector, and Mitch Khosrova, counsel to the Hudson Planning Board.

Photo: Julie Metz
In the workshop session, Planning Board member Michael Bucholsky asked about the mining permit already in place. The question prompted Ray Jurkowski, the engineer retained by the Greenport Planning Board and the Hudson Planning Board, to voice what has been feared by many: "They are calling this a haul road, but this is an expansion or an extension of the mining permit."

During the regular meeting of the Planning Board, Pat Prendergast, the engineer for Colarusso, reported that the project was "still in front of DEC for permits to do work on the South Bay causeway." He explained that the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) cannot issue permits until the SEQR process is completed. He said the Department of Transportation permitting process was "down to the final edits" and noted that no permits were needed from the Army Corps of Engineers or the NYS Department of State.

After Prendergast presented his summary, Jurkowski told him that he wanted to "concentrate on the narrative," the document prepared by Prendergast, on behalf of Colarusso, at Jurkowski's request. Jurkowski asked that the narrative be expanded to include an overview of the project and a timeline. "The narrative doesn't provide as much information as it could," said Jurkowski. Specifically, he wanted more detail on various aspects of the proposed project: hours of operation, number of trips, access to the haul road by the public. He acknowledged that the details were provided "in the appendices" but maintained, "It's not fair to make [the Planning Board and the public] put everything together." It was decided that Prendergast and Jurkowski would meet, with the chair of the Greenport Planning and the board's legal counsel, to discuss the shortcomings of the document, "to make sure all the items are addressed."

Ed Stiffler, chair of the Greenport Planning Board, described, for the benefit of the members of the public present, the process and procedure they would follow in making a SEQR determination. When the Greenport Planning Board has what they consider a complete application for the project from Colarusso, they will schedule a public hearing. The hearing will take place at Columbia-Greene Community College, to ensure that all who are interested can be present and comment. He indicated that each person wanting to comment would be permitted five minutes to speak. Those with more information than can be articulated in five minutes are urged to submit written comments. Stiffler said that written comments would be accepted for seven days after the public hearing and a full transcript of the hearing would be available as soon as possible after the hearing.

When Prendergast had packed up his charts and the Planning Board was ready to move on, Khosrova, legal counsel to the Hudson Planning Board, rose to tell the Greenport Planning Board, "I'm not certain we are on the same page." He was referring to a question Stiffler had addressed earlier to Prendergast about scope of the project. Stiffler asked Prendergast to confirm that the project in Hudson ended "at the beginning of the paved road"--that is, the southernmost end of Front Street. Prendergast confirmed that was the case. Khosrova maintained that the SEQR process "can look at anything that related to the operation," which would include the dock. The definition of the project, according to the Greenport Planning Board, the lead agency in the SEQR process, does not include the dock.


  1. In his December 22 letter to Greenport, Mr. Khosrova already presented the dock operations - and also questions about the Broad Street railroad crossing - as proper subjects of a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). We can glean from his question at the end that the Greenport Planning Board hasn't addressed his letter, but did they even read it?!

    Where does South Front Street begin, anyway? I saw an earlier version of the site plan where "Front Street" wrapped down along the causeway itself, which is obviously to the advantage of the applicant. (Related: where's the actual City limit at the east causeway? The project engineer alleges that it lies farther west than where it can possibly be, which minimizes his footprint within the City.)

    The City must define absolutely everything, or else allow the project sponsor and its engineer to define everything for us.

    First among these "definitions" is the overall narrative, which in the project sponsor's hands is false and amounts to a kind of extortion against City residents. That's the simplistic either/or which has worked so well in the past: trucks on City streets versus giving the company everything it wants.

    Going forward, we will take possession of the narrative.

    Our subject is Environmental Justice, and the importance for Environmental Justice that before any consideration of an industrial expansion at the City's waterfront commences, that the Common Council finally draft a Resolution banning gravel trucks west of 3rd Street.

    We can get to the next step next, but we can't get anywhere without a draft Resolution.

    This should have been done years ago. And actually, if we look back into the Common Council's notes, we may find the start of something we can build upon.

  2. Definitions (cont.)

    The landowner is apparently clueless that any changes made to any part of its extended dock operations - which includes the causeway, the wharf, everything - requires a conditional use permit for the entire property.

    Either from design or ignorance, however, they've repeatedly characterized their multiple actions as "maintenance," or continuing operations, an umbrella definition which has rationalized multiple modifications to the causeway, significant work on the wharf, the creation of a gigantic revetment into the river, and lately the shipping of new materials.

    In ignorance of its own Zoning Code, the City accepted the landowner's erroneous characterizations (allegedly) as if maintenance itself doesn't also require a permit since the 2011 zoning amendments.

    Another problem with definitions crops up in the Environmental Assessment Forms. That's plural - forms - because challenges to a string of EAFs called the applicant's definitions into question.

    There were multiple revisions to the EAF since the first one submitted in April (the current iteration from August is still filled with demonstrably false claims!), but one narrative to which the engineer desperately clings was a direct result of that first EAF, a document so idiotic it would be superseded again and again by later EAFs.

    In the project engineer's telling, there's no federal permitting required for the action. But that determination from the Department of the Army was based on the April EAF.

    So rather than saying that the project engineer "noted that no permits were need from the Army Corps of Engineers or [consequently] the NYS Department of State," it is more accurate to say he alleged it, merely.

    Had the City been allowed to speak last night, it would have reminded Greenport of the last communication Greenport received from the Army Corps of Engineers. It was in its letter of August 29th that the Corps first referenced a later iteration of the EAF than the one it received in April.

    Consequently, the Corps was alerting Greenport, and the project sponsor who was copied, of the potential need for a federal permit after all: "[T]he proposed activities may require a Department of the Army permit" (8/29/16 letter from ACE in "Project Narrative").

    So if the Greenport Planning Board doesn't even read its mail from the Federal government, which was also reproduced in the Project Narrative, what hope is there that they'll read a letter from a City of Hudson attorney?

    It appears that the Greenport Planning Board is taking this matter less seriously than our own Planning Board, which can barely get a word in edgewise, let alone get its questions answered.

  3. Riddle me this mapmaker, if the city is squatting on illegally filled land in north bay, who "owns" the road through south bay?

    1. It's a private causeway sitting on formerly underwater lands which were legitimately granted by the legislature in 1836 and 1872.

      Now riddle me this sea lawyer, why did the Proprietors and their children (including O. Wiswall) petition the State for lands beneath South Bay, but not do the same for North Bay?

      For North Bay they drew up deeds - fake deeds - but when it came to the South Bay they were upstanding. Why?

    2. legitimately granted by the legislature in 1836 and 1872...

      Little known fact: assuming that the grant was for public use lands, once the rails are removed the public use ends and the property reverts back to the original owner, the people of NY.

      On the shaded side of Warren, a grant app had to be approved to acquire land formerly under water.

      Are there different rules for the sunny side?

    3. That may be the crux, "assuming that the grant was for public use lands."

      Was that a condition before 1836?

      And if it was a condition by 1872, did it apply to already-established, but now abandoned uses?

      I don't think so.

    4. Mapmaker please, precisely where on third would a perpendicular line intersect with the black bridge?

    5. 3rd Street and Black Bridge are parallel, so they only intersect in a non-Euclidian world. (I love that world.)

    6. I see, a line departing from 3rd. (I beg Euclid's pardon.)

      Don't you mean such a line which would run "in a course north fifty-seven degrees west" and end 180 feet from shore?

    7. ˌpərpənˈdikyələr/
      adjective an angle of 90° to a (third street) given line, plane, or surface.

    8. Ha! But a bearing of N 57º W, which is the direction specified in the 1785 grant, is surprisingly parallel to the Mt. Merino Road where it leaves Rte 9-G. So if you go 180' from shore in that area, you're back on dry land pretty quickly at Mt. Merino.

    9. The RR didn't leave black bridge to be nice. Wherever they crossed roads, blocked docks or entrapped bays, they couldn't reduce access to zero. They left that obligation to City Hall.

    10. Can we agree that third street is straight line, tangent to the mouth of south and north bays?

    11. And if the rails traveled that straight line, Hudson would regain priceless miles of waterfront.

  4. What a nightmare. Thank you 'unheimlich' for keeping track of a very complicated matter and shining the light the officials who are sitting on their duffs and turning blind eyes while the public likely gets screwed again and thanks to the concerned public who did show up and are on the case.