Saturday, August 5, 2017

When a Stop-Work Order Doesn't Stop Work

Last Friday, a stop-work order was issued for the project to stabilize the escarpment below Promenade Hill, but despite that, work continued. On Monday, GSI (GeoStabilization International) began applying shotcrete--the very thing the stop-work order was intended to prevent. There were two explanations given for this: (1) they were "test spraying"; and (2) the area was "very fragile" and "needed immediate attention." When the spraying was brought to the attention of those with the power to stop it, the spraying stopped, but work continued at the site every day this past week. The picture below was taken on Wednesday.

It was possible to think that the stop-work order was only intended to prevent the application of shotcrete, but on Friday morning it appeared that even that had not stopped. The wall below Hudson Terrace, where they had started applying the shotcrete on Monday, looked different. It appeared that at some time between Thursday morning and Friday morning more shotcrete had been applied to this spot. The first picture below was taken at the end of the day on Monday; the second picture was taken on Friday morning, at about 8:30 a.m.

There was more shotcrete in this spot than there had been at the beginning of the week. The situation inspired more calls to the Department of Transportation asking them to enforce the stop-work order. (Gossips confirmed on Friday morning that the stop-work order was intended to stop all work at the site.)

Gossips reported on Monday there was to be a meeting of all involved--the Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the Department of State, Scenic Hudson, GSI, and the City of Hudson--last week. It was expected that meeting would take place on Thursday, but it was postponed until next week. In the meantime, there is still the lingering question of why this drastic stabilization project was necessary in the first place.

Responding to concerns about the project raised by Historic Hudson, Patrick Rooney of Congressman John Faso's office reported: "This project was number one on the priority list of the planned capital projects as it was determined that the rock stabilization at this location was a critical safety concern along the Hudson line. Not only was the embankment in critical need of stabilization it also was located in an area where this is a significant curve in the tracks which interferes with the sightlines of the Engineers operating trains through that location." According to one report, many rocks had fallen on the tracks at this location; according to another, it was just one rock--one rock in the 166 years since the precipice below Promenade Hill was rendered "steeper and more frightful" by blasting done in 1851 at the base of the escarpment by the Hudson River Railroad Company.

Interestingly, in 2009, the New York State Department of Transportation applied for a FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) grant for "rock slope stabilization" in ten locations along the Hudson line. As this map, which accompanied the application, reveals, Hudson was not one of those ten locations.

There is no evidence that this 2009 grant application was successful nor does there seem to have been a subsequent application that included Hudson. One wonders how falling rocks could be such a significant problem requiring such an extreme solution when no one in Hudson--not city officials, not the police or emergency responders, not folks who frequent the river and Promenade Hill--seems to have been aware of it.

We still don't know what the outcome will be for the escarpment in Hudson. There is the fear that the work done in preparation for applying the shotcrete--inserting rods into the rock face to hold the mortar in place--may have damaged the escarpment and caused instability that perhaps did not exist before. The one bit of good news is that--thanks to individual advocates, Historic Hudson, the mayor, and Scenic Hudson--the Department of Transportation and Amtrak are now very aware that the Hudson River line is in the Coastal Zone and any work proposed for the rock face requires a coastal consistency review by the Department of State. 

1 comment:

  1. Gossips, do you mean just like the Colarusso bulkhead required a consistency review?

    Okay, that's slightly different because the City must still conduct its own consistency review for the bulkhead, whereas the State signed off on the project's "consistency" with the coastal guidelines in February 2016:

    "According to the information submitted, it appears that this activity may be authorized under Army Corps of Engineers' Nationwide Permit numbers 3 and 13. ... no further consistency review is required ..."

    But wait, didn't the State's SEQR review for the bulkhead overlap with some of the same themes you'd find in a consistency review? It's unavoidable, unless none of the State agencies are any good.

    You be the judge. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation concluded its SEQR review for the bulkhead with a genuine reply to public comments which warned of an expansion plan (a SEQR issue):

    "Some commenters questioned whether the bank stabilization and bulkhead replacement was part of a larger project, or expansion and whether these repairs were segmented from part of a larger project. ... The applicant has not applied for, or received approval for, an expansion of their facility, and the Department is not aware of any plans for expansion at Colarusso’s Hudson River dock location."

    They weren't aware of any expansion plans, full stop.

    Rest assured, The State of New York has the shotcrete situation under control.