Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Some Myths of the Haul Road

Last night, in his remarks that prefaced a motion to make a negative declaration in the SEQRA process, Greenport Planning Board member Michael Bucholsky spoke of the "new traffic pattern" and the benefits to the infrastructure of eliminating "the heavy pounding of trucks, as well as diesel fuel." Clearly, he was taking at face value Colarusso's main justification for the proposed haul road: that it would remove trucks from city streets--not only trucks traveling between the quarry and the waterfront but also retail trucks bound for Colarusso headquarters on Newman Road. 

In a comment on Facebook yesterday, John Rosenthal took issue with the claim that the proposal would remove trucks from our streets and with the claim the "haul road" through South Bay, once known as the "causeway," has been there forever. Rosenthal's statement, published with his permission, appears after this c. 1893 post card image of South Bay, found in the attic of a house on Willard Place and first shared by Sam Pratt on his blog on 2010. 

The current proposal does not eliminate the use of the state truck route by Colarusso, in fact, the company has said it intends to keep using the truck route to supplement traffic as necessary. What their plan calls for is the building of a new double-lane road through the South Bay, along an old railroad berm. This new, expanded road would be built in a conservation district where roads are currently prohibited. They are not proposing to use an "old haul road" as there never was one--at least until recently. Historically, there were railroad tracks and a long disused access road for maintenance of those tracks along the berm. All of these long ago went out of use. Around 2011, the previous landowner built the current private haul road. The City rezoned in response, locking in the single lane "haul road" and dock as nonconforming uses (freezing them at their dimensions in 2011), allowing for entering and exiting the dock via a private, single lane. Colarusso bought the property in 2014, after the rezoning took effect and began arbitrarily using their private haul road in one direction, rather than routing their trucks back and forth across a single lane. The company chooses to send empty trucks back out along Front Street and Columbia Street to rejoin the state truck route. They are abusing City streets to try to force a zoning change. They have a single lane, private road and pretend that they can only use it one way. Their proposal would only reduce truck traffic in the First and Second Ward, something they could do now immediately if they slightly altered their proposal. Instead, they are trying to get the City to change the zoning laws that were already in effect when they bought their property. In essence, this is a crisis of their own making. They can operate right now without any hassle and remove trucks from the streets, but instead they demand we carve out a special concession that will distort the mixed-use balance at the waterfront.


  1. Current use of the haul road also reduces truck traffic through the 3rd Ward.

  2. Mr. Rosenthal's take is much appreciated. But the discussion of the haul road, from what I can tell, is filled with false dichotomies and not much compromise. As a former member of the South Bay Task Force, I am certainly against--and aghast at--further destruction of that picture postcard waterway. But I don't see much in the way of suggestions from the anti-haul road folks about how Colarusso could/should carry on its trucking to the waterfront without further harm to the South Bay or the residential neighborhoods. Is anyone on "our" side talking to Colarusso? --peter meyer

  3. I've been watching the volume of gravel truck traffic on Columbia St., and am pretty sure that Colarusso is vastly inflating the number of trucks in order to make it appear that they would be doing the community a big favor by removing their vehicles from that route. And in addition, the company wants to retain the right to use Columbia St. IN ADDITION to using the newly proposed haul road. They are bullshitting the community, and need to be called out.

  4. "this is a crisis of their own making" should replace "friendly city" as the wealthy manipulate the populace for their personal gain ...

  5. 1.

    Residents have openly discussed an alternative since December, and it's presented again in the above post albeit negatively, meaning by way of everything the company chooses to ignore (the quoted comment in the post was shaped as a response to a specific question).

    Happily, the alternative you're asking about is provided in both the 2011 zoning amendments and in the waterfront program. It's not merely provided, it's endorsed!

    To your penultimate question - how the alternative can protect residential neighborhoods AND the South Bay - it can protect the former by restricting truck traffic in the current 1st and 2nd Wards to local deliveries (or perhaps by establishing weight limits), while protections for the South Bay would remain the responsibility of City agencies whenever proposed actions are considered.

    The latter protections aren't quantifiable in the same way that other regulations in the Code can simply be applied. The Code office is meant to distinguish between standard maintenance and actual alterations for any proposed action (in fact there are few actions in the C-R District which qualify as maintenance), after which the Planning Board must evaluate proposed alterations against the fairly exhaustive list of environmental concerns the City codified in 2011.

    Still answering your penultimate question, we had to compromise on both ecology and residential neighborhoods at the time the alternative was originally proposed, though very soon we'll only need to compromise on ecology.

    For now at least, the alternative to running aggregate trucks through the 1st and 2nd Wards will necessarily intensify truck traffic on the causeway. That can hardly benefit the wetlands, but for now the only way to rid the lower City of aggregate trucks - and as soon as possible - is to employ the existing causeway in the manner intended in the 2011 zoning amendments and City-adopted waterfront program. The existing causeway must be used for two directions of travel.

  6. 2.

    [NB. These three comments were written as replies to "Peter," above.]

    I've personally discussed a number of issues with company reps, but they were determined that their critics in Hudson don't understand the City Zoning Code and don't understand SEQRA.

    The Town of Greenport, which has no zoning, refused to consider that Hudson's zoning could be any part of the SEQR review. Even the City and its attorneys are muddled on this point, as apparently none of our own officials have a clear idea about the location of the Zoning Districts. The result of this mass ignorance is that our zoning did not figure into the SEQR review, a critical error vis-a-vis SEQR procedures. The Greenport Planning Board's vote on Tuesday made this issue "ripe" for an Article 78 court challenge.

    So if you're talking about "not much compromise" among City residents who grasp the zoning better than any new face in City government since 2011 (when the zoning was amended), then you're not following the story very closely. The zoning IS the compromise, which is why it should have been a subject of Greenport's failed SEQR review.

    But if you mean "not much compromise" from the company/applicant, then your phrase isn't only apt, it's an obscene understatement.

    The company is pushing the City (and probably Greenport too) in every way that it can, while City residents are only trying to hold the line established in 2011.

    It's not like we were pushing anyone by insisting upon - and then winning - changes to the proposal's serial SEQR Environmental Assessment Forms. Both Colarusso and Greenport were forced to make changes so that their answers were truthful. Indeed, it's probative that the final EAF is still deficient, notwithstanding the trumpeting of the Greenport Planning Board about the great success of its effort. In terms of SEQR, which we believe we understand better than the Greenport's attorney (as corroborated by the State SEQR Analyst), Greenport's role as SEQR Lead Agency turned out to be a failure. (The Lead Agency doesn't even understand the City's Comprehensive Plan, though Greenport's new "Narrative," produced by its engineer Ray Jurkowski, certainly cherry picks from the Comprehensive Plan to make its argument.)

  7. 3.

    In the same trumpeting fashion, the company has advertised the actions required of it as acts of selfless benevolence. The sturgeon study for the bulkhead is a good example, which the company presented to the City as a demonstration of its great ecological concerns. In fact, the order to implement that study was accompanied by a drastic ultimatum by the Army Corps of Engineers.

    From the City's perspective - at least among the few who preserve and perpetuate its institutional memory - the "alternative" you think you're not seeing was the compromise reached in 2011, which should be referenced hereafter as "The Great Compromise." We amended the zoning to accommodate a master plan, a plan which saw major contributions by Holcim and O&G (the former owner and tenant), and which left everyone feeling they'd compromised too much. In other words, it was a stable contract.

    When Colarusso bought the property three years later, it must have been with the idea that it could renegotiate this hard-won master plan.

    Today's impasse as you perceive it is entirely created by the company's rejection of The Great Compromise it knew it was buying into in 2014. Anyway, it was the investor's responsibility and nobody else's to comprehend the circumstances. Caveat emptor, right? Except that in its bullying fashion, A. Colarusso and Son, Inc. now expects the City to accommodate the company shareholders' by changing the zoning again to suit their ill-considered investment.

    But we have the "alternative" already (to use your word Peter), which was officially endorsed by the City and accepted by residents and by the former landowner alike in 2011. It was just never implemented.

    This alternative, for which we've all compromised enough already, is to implement the changes accepted by all parties in 2011, as these are discussed in the waterfront program and detailed in §325-17.1.

  8. Peter Meyer, why do you assume that we have to allow to carry on its trucking to the waterfront dock? First, the company had a thriving, prosperous business for 100 years without dock access. Second, the riverfront zoning passed by Hudson in 2011 specifically designates the industrial activity as a 'non-conforming use,' which is designed to sunset out of existence. Your apparent assumption that we have an obligation to let Colarusso carry on is mistaken.

    1. eastjeezus, when the zoning amendments were ratified in 2011, I'm pretty sure Peter and I were of one mind when insisting that the City "amortize" the use of the causeway. Because such sunset provisions tend to invite litigation, we were careful in calling for an (approximate) 30- to 40-year window after which the use would terminate.

      That are landmark cases where mines were successfully amortized to 20 years, which the courts decided were reasonable in those instances.

      Anyway, I doubt that Peter has forgotten our time making those arguments. I'd guess he's only speaking in the short-term, consistent with the waterfront program's "short-term" causeway alternative.

      For tactical reasons, the most important feature of the causeway alternative was never attained inasmuch as successive landowners have, for the most part, opted to use the causeway as a one-way road. But that was their own choice, even though it meant aggregate trucks traversing the lower city.

      For myself, this aspect of the landowner's self-created problem is likely the most efficacious to focus on, rather than revisiting the potential for either amortization or eminent domain.

      Reasonable people can disagree on this, but if Peter doesn't see your comment then I'd wager that's where he's (still) coming from.

    2. "There are landmark cases ...." (2nd para; ugh).