Thursday, April 27, 2017

Taking Inventory

C. J. Randall and David West, the principals of Randall+West, the consultants now working with the Conservation Advisory Council to complete an open space and natural resources inventory of Hudson, were in town yesterday to gather input from local residents. Creating the inventory is required if the CAC, which now simply advises the Common Council, the Planning Board, and the Zoning Board of Appeals on matters related to the environment, is to become a Conservation Board, a regulatory body that would conduct an environmental review of all projects that require site plan review by the Planning Board.

To create the inventory, Randall+West is assembling available information, gathered from the Department of Environmental Conservation as well as other sources, into a multilayered database that maps the information. Last night, large versions of eleven such maps, representing layers of the inventory, were displayed around the room at the Hudson Senior Center in the Galvan Armory. Those attending the public meeting were asked to interact with the maps, identifying what they considered to be the most important conservation areas, correcting and commenting on information, and suggesting additional information to be included. For example, the map showing cultural resources included districts and individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places but not locally designated districts and landmarks.     

The exercise was both intriguing and enlightening. Who knew that there was prime farmland within the city limits of Hudson? Well, I guess anyone who knew that there were cultivated fields where the Hudson Correctional Facility now stands and the almshouse and the Firemen's Home once grew their own food.


  1. For a public outreach meeting, it was a bit disappointing.

    I understood that, originally, there was to be a question-and-answer period. This would have helped elucidate a new flooding metric introduced only last night, one which the consultants did not include in the earlier "technical memo."

    When the CAC received the technical memo, which was sometime in February, it was rumored that the consultant requested that it not be distributed. Subsequently, it was shared among CAC members only.

    Last week, frustrated by the CAC's culture of secrecy and fake outreach efforts, The South Bay Task Force used the Freedom of Information Law FOIL to acquire this technical memo. Later, the consultant denied it had ever requested the document be kept from the public.

    In a similar spirit, before the April CAC meeting, when a public petition was submitted to be considered for the meeting Agenda, it was rejected by the CAC Chairman. The day before the meeting the Chairman explained that CAC members wouldn't have time to read it, though the petition takes less than a minute to read.

    The petition, signed only by residents of select neighborhoods, is mildly critical of the choices the CAC has been making. This was more likely the cause of its rejection.

    Evidently missing the irony, it was explained that the CAC would need the time to discuss things which were already on the Agenda, such as public participation.

    When it was suggested that the petition simply be accepted as a "received correspondence," to qualify it as as a mere matter of record rather than a topic for discussion, the answer was the same.

    (As it happened, the April CAC meeting ended early, but a request to introduce the petition at that juncture was immediately ruled "out of order!" by the Chairman.)

    With the dropping of last night's question-and-answer format, I began to worry that the consultant is following in the footsteps of our previous consultants, the loathsome BFJ Planners. Recall that BFJ, retained to advise on the LWRP in 2009, was commandeered by a handful of City officials who had commandeered our LWRP. These were the same managerial types who, to this day, still fail to connect the LWRP's failure with their own continuous efforts to discourage public participation.

    I believe that the bad dream of BFJ may happen all over again, thanks to a CAC leadership whose style is the imposition of will power on the march to become a regulatory board. It was the potential power and interests of such a "CAB" which had worried the signatories of the banished petition. The petition's rejection only deepened this distrust.

    No doubt people suppose that because the word "conservation" is in the title, it must be a benign thing. But if they've lived in Hudson for years, then they should know better. Anything can be perverted to serve private ends, and sadly our hard-won CAC is no exception.

    (Written by someone who worked very hard to establish Hudson's CAC.)

  2. I wish "unheimlich" would unmask himself. It would help the credibility of his arguments and those of us who often agree with him.

  3. 1.

    Seems a bit tricky talking about "Taking Inventory," which is the proper title of this post, when a good portion of the "inventory" turns out to concern future conditions in Hudson.

    It's not just about standing inventory, as it should be in my opinion, but local resources under possible future conditions. Does anyone else find anything odd about that?

    In this way, our inventory is already a planning document, which seems to me a more appropriate subject for the waterfront program.

    I'm speaking about climate, of course, and about projected sea-level rise in particular. (Climate change will affect other resources as well, such as stormwater runoff and drinking water, but inasmuch as sea-level rise is the current obsession, the City's planning document ought to be the LWRP.)

    The question remains, whose climate model are we endorsing, and on what grounds?

  4. 2.

    The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has discredited the methodology of New York state's "ClimAID" which, along with the related modeling of the Stevens Institute, more than doubles the projected sea-level rise figured by the IPCC.

    Scenic Hudson seems to take from both, and offers a moderate "central range," containing its own high and low probabilities.

    There are many additional factors involved, such as local weather and our landscape still rebounding from the glaciers (only north of Kingston), but our consultant has already got some of the important ones wrong. (The SBTF has communicated the details, but so far heard little back.)

    So why is an INVENTORY deciding on future conditions at all? Why so much focus on a what is, admittedly, a broad range of potential climate scenarios?

    What everyone including CAC members missed when the Chairman produced the RFP for a consultant was that the language specified which climate model the consultant should use. Naturally, it was the ClimAID model (see above), which promotes an absurd worst-case scenario for Hudson of 68 inches of sea-level rise. I'm sorry, but that's idiotic.

    The person who penned the RFP knows very little about science, so by process of elimination the decision to specify one model - and the most extreme one at that - had to have been politically motivated.

    And that is precisely how our CAC is being abused.

    Seeing as though we're all paying for the privilege, it's high time we scrutinize the way in which the CAC is being run. It's time we do some spring cleaning.

    The CAC should begin its reformation by accepting as an Agenda item, for in-depth discussion, a public petition which essentially criticizes CAC members for being out-of-touch with the needs of City residents.

    Not a very promising start for a would-be regulatory board.

  5. If one takes the time to look, there's a watermark four inches above the floor in cabin #11 at north dock. A second just below the power outlets, three feet up. That defines the the mean high for (at least) the last 80 years.

    So why not plan for the worst case? Storm drains high and dry above the HWL, have time and gravity restore our shore. Let the water flow.

  6. Instead of looking squarely at the problem of sea-level rise, and then attempting to reconcile local data with the more general modeling schemes, the CAC will achieve its goal to become an advisory board on unscientific grounds. And that is what irks the most.

    We acknowledge that this approach was predetermined for the consultant, specified by whoever authored the RFP. But it's exactly what the consultant wanted to hear, and subsequently wants to recommend.

    We are the ones who bear responsibility for our place in the world, though, so it disturbs me that we're allowing a consultant from Ithaca to define the parameters and meaning of sea-level rise for us in a way which wholly prefigures the subject matter of the rest of the inventory.

    WE should be working on an informed assessment of sea-level rise, and WE should decide what it all really means for Hudson.

    Actually, when you combine the abundance of mapping data available online with each set of probabilities, sea-level rise turns out to mean surprisingly little for us. (And if the results are different for Saugerties, sad as that may be for Saugerties, this inventory is for Hudson.)

    It appears that the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) is blindly accepting the recommendations of a faraway consultant who, to all appearances, would use Hudson to advance a specific - and also a generic - agenda.

    But what's most disturbing is that the largely disengaged CAC will casually exploit the confused emotionalism at the heart of this issue, sea-level rise, in order to achieve its ambition to become a regulatory body.

    Through the use of a nonscientific mechanism, the CAC will become regulatory under the pretext that it was being scientific all along. If only!

    Has anyone else in this City received an education in science? Please, where are you now?

    (Note: I've offered my services to fill the vacant seat on the CAC, but there's not much chance of that happening until the CAC is guided by a scientifically-oriented leadership. It's a Catch 22, at least until residents begin to pay attention. Some residents did, and they submitted a petition to the CAC which wasn't accepted! It would behoove us to pay attention to these things.)

  7. How does one appoint "unheimlich" to the CAC?

  8. The following was explained to me today and, if true, is worth sharing. I respect the person who shared it, so I'll assume it's true. I added a word for clarity.

    "Conservation Advisory Councils (CAC) and Conservation Advisory Boards (CAB) do the same things - give advice. 

    "The only difference is the closer relationship a CAB has with the planning board.

    "The CAC may be asked for advice on something, but the CAB must be asked for advice.

    "Either way, it's [just] advice."