Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Planning Board and the Haul Road

Thursday night's Planning Board meeting went on for more than two hours, before a standing-room-only crowd. What almost everyone was there to witness and possibly be part of was the discussion of the Colarusso haul road, which was the last item on the agenda. 

The Planning Board is in the process of gathering information to be considered in its review of the proposed haul road, and, to this end, Tom DePietro, who chairs the Planning Board, asked audience members to "limit what you say to what you consider new information." As it happened, no one in the audience made a statement that evening, although some written comments were submitted. DePietro also announced that all documents relating to the proposed project, including written comments received by the Planning Board, were available at City Hall and could be viewed without submitting a FOIL request. He encouraged any member of the Planning Board who had not already traveled to the site to arrange for a site visit with J. R. Heffner, a vice president at Colarusso in charge of the dock operations.

When DePietro asked if members of the Planning Board had comments about the proposed project, Clark Wieman, a new appointee to the board, referred to a five-page report he had written after he had visited the site. He asked how the project would affect the waterfront and if increased activity at the dock would comport with the vision for the waterfront. He expressed concern about the impact of the haul road and the dock "on the rest of what is happening in Hudson." He maintained that the either-or of trucks on Hudson streets or trucks on the proposed haul road was a "false choice," suggesting that there were other alternatives that were not being explored.

Planning Board member Carmine Pierro posited that 1,500 to 2,000 people live on the truck route, comparing that with the haul road, which "goes by only one business in Hudson." He dismissed the use of the railroad--the spur that goes through the city to the ADM facility in Greenport--and a conveyor from the quarry to the dock as options that no one wants and told Wieman, "To try to say there are more choices, I don't know what they are." Echoing something said by Art Koweek back in 1984, Pierro declared, "It's a working dock. It's going to stay a working dock." He then invoked environmental justice and the wear and tear on our city streets as reasons to support the haul road. When someone in the audience uttered a scatological assessment of his assertions, Pierro reacted sharply. Somewhat later in the proceedings, another reaction from the audience prompted DePietro to declare that outbursts would not be tolerated. 

Ray Jurkowski, the engineer who is consulting with the Planning Board on this project, reviewed the process and explained where things currently stand. The SEQR process comes first. For this, the Greenport Planning Board has been named lead agency. After SEQR, both planning boards do their own site plan review on the portion of the haul road within their boundaries. The Greenport Planning Board has not declared the application complete and has requested "a more in-depth project narrative"--one that provides more history and more information about environmental impacts. He noted that written comments submitted to the Hudson Planning Board will be forwarded to the Greenport Planning Board, the lead agency in the SEQR process.

One of the unanswered questions has been the number of trucks that would use the haul road. Prendergast told the board that on a busy day, there would be 140 loaded trucks for a total of 280 trips. He also mentioned 6,000 trucks a year, which included trucks coming from the south to the quarry to buy stone and asphalt. It was acknowledged that recycled asphalt is now coming to the dock on barges and is then is loaded on trucks and carried from the dock to Colarusso headquarters on Newman Road.  

Prendergast attested, "No part of this is a proposed expansion. I see this as a win-win for the communities." He acknowledged that the haul road was a "little bit of a shortcut" for trucks traveling from the quarry to the dock. When Planning Board member Laura Margolis took issue with the characterization of the haul road as a "little bit of a shortcut," maintaining that it was a substantial shortcut, Colarusso's attorney, John Privitera stepped in. "We are not going to be defensive," he declared. "We firmly believe this is a public benefit project, and it's been planned for that purpose." He quoted the letter from the DEC which indicated that the purpose of the haul road was in part "to route Hudson River dock truck traffic . . . off of City of Hudson streets." He acknowledged that the proposed haul road was "in part a matter of convenience" but asserted it was "in large part in respect to Comprehensive Plan that this city adopted," and "the one of the greatest aspirations of that plan" was to get trucks off Columbia Street.

Privitera then launched into a litany of things the Planning Board and the City of Hudson could not do. They could not regulate mining, nor could they regulate the amount of business Colarusso does or the size of the business. DePietro interrupted him to say, "We don't need that lecture." When Mitch Khosrova, legal counsel to the Planning Board, told Privitera, "The City of Hudson believes we can regulate the dock," Privitera shot back, "The Town of Greenport has already said twice that the dock is not part of this proceeding." He went on to assert, "We have a constitutional right to use the dock that precedes zoning."

At one point, after several exchanges between Khosrova and Privitera, Margolis told Privitera, whose attitude was confrontational, that he was making her nervous. It was then revealed what the burr under his saddle was. Khosrova, as a matter of course, has been forwarding all written public comment to the Greenport Planning Board and apparently also to Privitera, as counsel for Colarusso. One of those items was, according to Privitera, an unsigned, anonymous letter that "calls everybody names" and "says the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't know what it's doing." It turns out that the letter was written by a frequent commenter on Gossips on behalf of an ad hoc citizens group. When DePietro and Khosrova received the letter, because it came as a email message, they knew who the author was and did not consider it an anonymous letter. Privitera, however, did and was highly offended that he was "expected to respond to an unsigned and insulting letter."

Some interesting new information came to light at the Planning Board meeting. Khosrova said he has been in correspondence with a representative of Amtrak which has led him to believe that exploring a truck crossing over the railroad at the western end of the haul road "is worth a discussion." Such a crossing would eliminate trucks leaving the haul road and traveling north on Front Street to the Broad Street crossing. J. R. Heffner pointed out that currently Colarusso trucks travel over two miles of Hudson streets, but with the new proposal, they will only use 700 to 800 feet of city streets. He also estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the truck traffic in Hudson was associated with Colarusso.


  1. Ah!, so THAT's the reason Greenport was willing to segment the proposal under SEQRA.

    The project sponsor instructed the Greenport Planning Board members how to interpret the City's Zoning Code, which kind of raises questions whether or not a TOWN with no Zoning Code is in any position to interpret a CITY's Zoning Code for it? (That question goes to you, Commissioner Seggos.)

    It must have been the special interest's lawyer who informed the Town that any rights to "dock" uses preceded the City's 2011 zoning amendments. In turn, the Town is now honoring the project sponsor's interpretation of our Zoning Code over the City's own interpretation.

    Just wanted to get that straight.

    (Incidentally, our Zoning Code uses the phrase "commercial dock operations" as a catch-all, under which all of the owner's activities are included. Even the causeway is a "dock operation," both as an object and as the use of that object, which is to say noun and verb. A separate "loading dock" is specified only in relation to the several ways in which the City can regulate loading docks. This section of our Code was personally drafted by William Sharp, the Principal Attorney of the NYS Department of State.)

    But based on the 12/27 meeting of the Greenport Planning Board, did anyone else get the impression that Greenport is doubling down on this segmentation of the review?

    Inasmuch as Greenport is willing to commit segmentation, to that same degree it's privileging the special interest's interpretation of Hudson's laws over the City's interpretation, not to mention the rights and the collective will of Hudson residents. Thanks a lot, Greenport.

    These were among the topics discussed recently with the NYS SEQR Analyst, who gave us a different answer relating to the proper sequence than is reported here.

    The SEQR Analyst stated that the City Planning Board would complete its site plan review prior to the completion of the SEQR process.

    We were told that the underlying zoning issues which belong to the City alone must be resolved as a component of the SEQR review. The City cannot issue its SEQR Findings until this is done, and of course Greenport has no jurisdiction over such matters.

    That was 10 days ago, when the same Analyst reported that he had not yet heard from either municipality.

    As a postscript, the alleged "insulting letter" did not come from my email account.


  2. When the HRRR came through it didn't just entrap two bays, the road built to benefit everyone entrapped all cities on the eastern shore forever. The railroad now obstructs many more citizens than it serves. Wherever possible City, State and RR, should be made to give the people back their shore.

    Columbia County Littoral Inc
    Let people flow.

  3. Now wait just a minute. The public's comments are at the City Clerk's desk. I just looked for the alleged insult to the Army Corps of Engineers, where the Corps supposedly "doesn't know what it's doing."

    Want to know what the letter actually says? The project engineer "misled" the Corps.

    How is that an insult, unless it's the project engineer insulting the Corps?

    And now the project lawyer has misled and insulted Hudsonians.

    Nor does the anonymous letter suggest that the Corps was willingly misled, only that critical information was missing from the site plan which the Corps needed to make its determination. Because the information was omitted, the Corps was thereby "misled." Seems clear enough.

    But since the date of this mischaracterized letter, a revised site plan was issued which is now available at the City website.

    Lo and behold!, now included is the critical information which was missing from every earlier site plan, including the one which misled the Department of the Army (seriously, who would trifle with the Army?!).

    In the site plan's latest revision, the two Army-regulated culverts have been added and labelled as "culvert," singular.

    But in the margins of the plan, where engineering standards expect all revisions to be annotated, there's no mention of the addition. The zoning information was added, along with other information, and these were noted in the marginalia.

    But a line with the word "culvert" (there are actually two) just mysteriously appears on the site plan and no mention is made of the edit.

    Unless this is all an oversight - or rather a nine-month series of oversights! - it's the project engineer who is insulting the Army Corps of Engineers.

    But it was not an oversight to mischaracterize that anonymous letter from Hudson residents.