Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Last Night's Informal Council Meeting: Part 3

Among the things of interest at last night's informal Common Council meeting, not already discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this report, was a proposal by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) that the Council pass a resolution declaring Hudson to be a sanctuary city. In advocating for this, she read the following statement:
The Hudson Common Council supports all residents, workers, and visitors regardless of immigration status. The Council has passed resolutions supporting immigrants and encouraging state and federal action. We will continue to embrace initiatives that support diversity.
The Hudson Police Department provides an essential service, ensuring our safety. The HPD should prioritize tasks to create a safe environment for all of our residents, while building trust with the community. 
Immigration enforcement does not improve our city or make the city more safe and would likely distract from other priorities. Immigration enforcement can be costly--there are costs of officers, detention, and transportation as well as the loss of contributions from people detained and deported. The threat of deportation or prosecution for no reason other than immigration status may discourage residents without legal immigration status or who have family members or friends without legal immigration status from reporting crimes or injuries, cooperating in investigations, seeking opportunities for the children living in this community, or summoning help when needed.
The Council will be discussing recommendations to optimize law enforcement policy to focus on safety concerns. At the next Legal Committee meeting we will discuss the recommendations in more detail. We encourage all Council members and members of the public to attend.
Several members of the audience, including Michael Chameides, chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, expressed support for such an action. The Legal Committee meeting at which the resolution will be discussed will take place on Wednesday, January 25, at 6:15 p.m.

Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) asked about the status of the lodging tax and was told by Heather Campbell, the city treasurer, that there was no system in place to track and collect the tax and that the system required would have to be far more sophisticated than anything that the City has in place now for collecting taxes. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) expressed his opinion that the implementation of the tax was the responsibility of the executive branch to figure out. He suggested that, even though Governor Andrew Cuomo had not signed the enabling legislation until the end of November, the State Senate and Assembly had approved it at the end of June, and the executive branch should have started at that time creating the infrastructure necessary to collect the tax.

Rector also expressed his frustration with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. After recounting the history, as he understood it, of the LWRP over the past ten years, he asked, rhetorically, "Where do we stand as a community?" He went on to say, "A revision could take years, because the original one took years." (The City recently received a $45,000 grant from the Department of State to update the 2011 LWRP "to address climate change and sea level rise, as well as current planning and potential new projects.")

Audience member Linda Mussmann, who chaired the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee when the 2011 LWRP was drafted, suggested that the City impose a one-year moratorium on waterfront development and set a one-year deadline for revising the LWRP. (A one-year moratorium on all development within the Waterfront Revitalization Area was enacted in 2006, when work on the 2011 LWRP began.) She expressed the opinion that "it would be very fair to Colarusso to stop [work on the haul road] for one year."

Don Moore, who was the president of the Common Council when the LWRP was adopted in 2011, said, "The causeway was a central issue when the LWRP went to Albany." He then asked his own rhetoric question: "How does the haul road get integrated into the overall plan?" He went on to say that the land transfer needed to be in place before the Department of State would review the LWRP, and the transfer never happened. The land transfer Moore cited is explained on page 132 of the LWRP: "Holcim has indicated it has no plans to use the 7 acres of land south of the port and may be amenable to entering into an agreement with the City whereby the company would grant to the City title or some form of title to the approximately 7 acres south of the port and transfer its holdings in the South Bay, subject to a right-of-way over the causeway, to a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) or the City. At this time, the company has indicated it has no plans to sell or provide an option on the approximately 7 acres adjacent to the port."

The City's negotiations with Holcim in 2013 for those seven acres, which ended up being close to ten acres, were protracted by a controversy over whether or not Standard Oil had ever owned part of that stretch of waterfront and complicated by the Valley Alliance discovering and producing evidence that the City of Hudson already owned most of what it was trying to get back from Holcim because the waterfront land had been illegally transferred to Holcim's predecessor, St. Lawrence Cement, back in 1981. It has since been revealed that negotiations with Holcim for the transfer of that land broke down in April 2013 because Holcim was getting ready to sell its holdings in Hudson and Greenport to A. Colarusso & Sons, which bought the property at the beginning of 2015, and Colarusso did not want to give up that waterfront land. It also came to light last spring that, according to the Department of State, the LWRP had never been officially submitted for review in 2011, and they were unwilling to review it now because it was a five-year-old document.

In the meantime, the 2011 LWRP, which was adopted by the Common Council, thus enacting its zoning provisions, could have brought a number of alterations that have already been made to the haul road and the dock before to Planning Board for review if the right people had been paying attention.


  1. Setting a deadline on the waterfront planning?! Seriously?! Some people have learned absolutely nothing ...

    For the City's newer arrivals who are just getting involved, very little of what was apparently discussed on the subject of the LWRP last night has any relevance. It sounds more like a bunch of tired, old players mulling over the dead details.

    Going forward, I think we'll see the waterfront planning moving along briskly. Obviously we will use the best features of the previous plan as a sort of template, and maybe by the time it's over we'll have a new appreciation for the waterfront-related zoning that's already in effect (unfortunately that may require actual understanding).

    For those who are already wringing their hands, please desist from these unhelpful gestures. With the subcommittees reportedly already formed (many with "old players" among their members), the program is finally in the very best of hands. We are finally where we should have been decades ago, but for the meddling of self-proclaimed experts.

    The fact that the history of our waterfront program was previously derailed by autocracy, obtuseness and skulduggery is probably the best reason not to waste time looking back.

    Anyone who starts complaining that "it's taking so long," expect to be publicly flayed!

    That's my answer to where we stand as a community.

    1. (This is in no way a comment about Gossips' reporting.)

  2. Grant money in search of a good idea? Should be the other way around.

    1. Wait, you want to reverse the order of the universe? Next thing we'll have people applying for permits before they begin building their projects. Society could crumble!

      Take my advice and rethink your revolutionary schemes.

  3. If the transfer to Holcim of "most" of the seven acres was illegal, why does not the City just demand it back from Holcim's successor in interest, Colarusso, and if it refuses, sue to get it back?

    I am confused as to just why the language in the LWRP to the effect that "Holcim has indicated it has no plans to use the 7 acres of land south of the port and may be amenable to entering into an agreement with the City whereby the company would grant to the City title or some form of title to the approximately 7 acres," caused the DOS to refuse to review the LWRP. Why would some precatory chatter about possibilities derail anything? Why? That makes no sense to me. I thought the story was that the then Mayor didn't like the LWRP, and just sat on it, rather than refer it to the DOS, and nobody noticed or something.

    Which is it, the Don Moore version, or the Mayor sat upon it version, or maybe neither of such versions? Inquiring minds want to know. And now the seven acre matter pops back up vis a vis negotiating with Colarusso in the context of issuing a CUP (to the extent the Hudson zoning code is not "marginalized" or eviscerated or some other unpleasant thing, by virtue of whatever findings are made by Greenport as the lead agency as to environmental issues).

    Some very careful legal research, and in writing, in a full dress memorandum of law, desperately needs to be done on all of these topics, among others, and there are more, many more. This oral chatter, whether by lawyers or anybody else, simply will not do, and should not be relied upon. Surely Hudson has learned that by now, hasn't it?

    I mean to get going myself, full blast on this, after I get completed some drafting some rather pressing legislation for the city on a couple of other matters, that need addressing ASAP before a derailment occurs. In the meantime, all I can do is whine and express angst. Not good, and not my style, but that is the way it is for the moment.

  4. The answer is in the Findings Statement, and not in the incidental remarks of the LWRP. The Findings explains that the land transfer was a prerequisite before the NYSDOS could "approve" the waterfront program.

    The deal collapsed when it was discovered that the 9.9 acres (and not "approximately 7) was being sold to a third party. This became apparent in January 2013.

    Some of us knew later in 2013 that the LWRP wasn't submitted to the DOS, but what difference does it make who knew, or who didn't, or whether it was submitted or not?

    According to our own SEQR Findings, it couldn't be approved and that was that.

    The land transfer should never enter into any agreements which also involve conditional use permitting (CUP). That's just sickening to think we could be as stupid as that, and I doubt we are that stupid. That's got to be a rumor (and ask yourselves who it profits).

    Things will get out of hand quickly unless 1.) City officials finally begin to UNDERSTAND THE EXISTING ZONING [duh], and 2.) the same individuals who f**ked everything up the last time don't get in the way again. This type is forever with us, those who've gained no humility from their mistakes.

    Any question about previous illegal sales of our shorefront must wait until the LWRP process is back underway. There may even be a subcommittee to look at the issue.

    In this way we'll discover it's more efficacious to take things one item at a time, and always with the public's involvement.

    This mad rush we're seeing to conflate all subjects is very old, and very doomed. Most of it results from not understanding the existing zoning, so that we're even hearing calls to change the waterfront zoning! (This has echoes of Pelosi: we need to pass new zoning to find out what's in the zoning.)

    Old timers: let's please pass the baton to a younger, more patient, and more transparent generation. In my opinion, they're some of the smartest and wisest people we've seen in Hudson in a long, long time.