Thursday, December 21, 2017

DRI Watch: LPC Meeting No. 3

The PowerPoint presentation from Monday night's DRI Local Planning Committee meeting is now online, and Dan Udell's video of the meeting can be viewed hereGossips will focus on some of the highlights of the two-hour meeting.

Chief among the highlights is the timeline for the remainder of the process. Remarkable as it may seem, there are only two months left. Any new project proposals are due at noon on Wednesday, January 3, and January is when all projects will be assessed. At the LPC meeting on January 23, all the proposed projects will be prioritized. At the third and final public engagement meeting on February 8, the community will review and weigh in on the final projects.    

Steve Kearney, the planner from Stantec, reported the results of the prioritizing activity that took place at the public workshop on December 7. The project receiving the greatest number of green dots was North Bay Regeneration, a project proposed by Kite's Nest. Improving pedestrian and vehicular circulation was second on the list. Kearney reported that the adaptive reuse of the Dunn warehouse and enhancing the entrance to Promenade Hill were also strong.

LPC member Betsy Gramkow asked about the impact of CFA funding on DRI consideration. Matthew Nelson, who co-chairs the CFA, said that the CFA awards would "free up money that was initially directed to them"--them being Basilica Hudson, DigiFab, River House. He indicated that those proposing the projects had been asked to "reassess and reapply to identify gaps in funding." 

LPC member Sara Kendall asked about a timeline for the redevelopment of the Kaz site. In response, Sheena Salvino, executive director of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) indicated that a review committee from the HDC board was interviewing the developers who had submitted proposals--Sustainable Community Associates, Redburn Development, Kearney Realty & Development Group, and Bonacio Construction, Inc. Two interviews have already been conducted; two remain to be done. The review process is expected to continue through January. Salvino indicated that the levels of residential and commercial are different in the four proposals and predicted that a "preferred partner" for the project would be identified by the end of January.


  1. From the PPT linked above, notice that Hudson Cruises, Inc. (The Spirit of Hudson, etc.), which many consider a blight on the waterfront that we've tried for years to get rid of, is proposing expanded services, and new facilities of different kinds including a new pump-out station.

    Naturally, this will make it much harder to banish this awful, arrogant presence in the park, notwithstanding the serial law-breaking and total dishonoring of the terms of its agreement with the City.

    But I had to laugh at the rank cynicism in the claim that the company aims "to reduce river contamination."

    On October 2nd I watched in disbelief as one of the boat's crew dumped a large container of unused paint overboard. It continued downriver as a yellowish slick until it was out of sight beyond the Colarusso dock. These people don't care a rat's ass about river contamination! The answer is not to buy them expensive equipment, but to get rid of them.

    When the water taxi returns next year (as it invariably will return, after the new Common Council proves itself as servile executing a lease agreement as every previous Council), inspect the boat's props which seem always to be festooned with an important submerged aquatic vegetation called American Wildcelery (Valisneria americana). This species is important enough for the State to have have mapped out its occurrences in Hudson and Athens, and I'd think that private, grant-getting boat operations who telegraph their fine environmental feelings ought to know to avoid the Valisneria beds. But do you think they give a damn?

    This business should be run out of town, and not further entrenched inside of the City's greatest, public resource.

    How does one register a complaint with the DRI people, when nearly everybody in the city is somehow complicit with this illegal operation?

    Each time we have an opportunity to rid ourselves of Hudson Cruises and to reclaim our unobstructed view from the park, the Common Council chokes.

    Now the company wants a piece of the DRI?! This is sickening. An insult. I protest.

  2. In response to Tim O'connors inaccurate and derogatory comment above,
    We have never and would never dispose any paint in the river, we are an asset to the City of Hudson taking hundreds of school kids, teachers and parents on educational field trips, senior groups and bus groups, all spending money in the city and surrounds. The ferry service is well received on both sides of the river and do not run thru wild celery beds. You look to provoke and incite with your lies and misinformation.

  3. A mere glance at the history of Hudson Cruises with the City of Hudson doesn't take much to incite anyone. (Are you sure you want me to catalogue all of that ugliness here and now?)

    On October 2nd, a worker aboard the company's illegally-parked third boat* dumped a yellow solution into the river. I assumed it was paint because the slick did not disperse, holding its shape until it was out of view. If it was not paint, then I invite you to clarify in this thread what that solution might have been.

    The company's owner was not present at that the time, and his denial of the incident means nothing (if that's the person I am presently addressing, though it may not be).

    I've never given anyone any reason to doubt my veracity, and there was also a second witness.

    About that submerged aquatic vegetation, there's always Valisneria in the water-taxi props but in nobody else's props, or not in the same abundant amount. Next year we're going to find out why that is, because the State will be involved.

    *The Common Council's "Temporary License" to Hudson Cruises grants to Hudson Cruises the privilege to dock "two vessels," for the "non-exclusive use ... of one ferry boat and one tour boat." The owner can become law-abiding by relocating his third boat elsewhere, and by removing his lock from the public dock.

  4. 1.

    It's a good question why a private enterprise which has for years serially dishonored its signed agreements with the City - and right up to last month - should become further entrenched at our waterfront through a DRI request?

    The DRI money should be awarded to law-abiding investors, and not to those who've repeatedly proven they can't or won't honor their agreements. If the DRI Committee isn't looking at things like that .... well why wouldn't it?

    The next Common Council must reevaluate its history with Hudson Cruises, Inc., and finally investigate the legality of leasing the public dock at all.

    In 2003, Mayor Scalera, who was acting on his own, drafted and signed a 5-year lease agreement with the company's owner, despite the fact that the Council alone has authority to issue leases for the City (there is no record of a lease in the Council Minutes; also see §C12-23).

    Three months after this private agreement with the mayor, the owner appeared before the Council requesting permission for signage. Aside from cronies, who could possibly believe that commercial signage is appropriate in our waterfront park, though everyone must realize that the owner's No Trespassing signs violate the public trust doctrine.

    Three years into the fake lease, the owner appeared before the Council again to complain that its latest idea to generate revenue for the City through the sale of beer on Flag Day would cut into his own profits:

    “Guy Faulkenheimer, owner of the Spirit of Hudson tour boat that leases the City dock at the waterfront, said that he has a license to sell alcohol on board, which he does at large events such as Flag Day. He felt that the City would be in competition with his boat tour business, which brings tourists into Hudson" (6/20/06 Minutes of the Common Council).

  5. 2.

    What happened next is so unbelievable - but typical for Hudson - that it's worth presenting in its own section.

    After the mayor's illegal lease ran out in 2008, for the following three summers Hudson Cruises operated from the waterfront park with NO LEASE AT ALL!

    How is that even possible except in a place like Hudson (the general lawlessness of which earned it the name of "Deadwood" for many years).

    Even now, is Hudson prepared to join the 21st century by leaving its old, bad practices behind?

    It is very concerning that the DRI process will be used to further entrench a lawless business inside of the City's greatest resource, our waterfront park. This is the kind of insane foot-shooting we ought to have left behind by now, but for some reason we fail to enforce our own laws even when they're obviously for the collective benefit.

    (The company's serial violations of its current agreement with the City will be the subject of future comments.)

  6. 3.

    Next the story gets really interesting, lest you supposed that an interval with no lease would be wasted by officials with a penchant for cronyism. In the three years the company operated without a lease - and presumably free of charge - the same mayor put in for a $250,000 EDAP grant for new docks and a never-built "concession facility." The mayor was assisted by Senator Saland, and the grant was administered by the state Dormitory Authority (DASNY).

    According to DASNY, incorrect answers which are knowingly filed in a grant application are grounds for disqualification and repossession of a DASNY-administered grant. In Hudson's application, the mayor certainly misrepresented the city, and arguably on behalf of Hudson Cruises Inc., which was well-ensconced at the city dock by 2009.

    "Does the applicant plan to occupy 100% of the project facility? If No, attach a schedule explaining the planned occupancy."

    Mayor Scalera checked: "Yes."

    "If an organization other than the Grantee [the City] will have an interest in the equipment or real property purchased with Grant funds, please describe the legal relationship between the Grantee and the organization."

    No such description was appended, ostensibly due to the claim that the city would use 100% of the facility. But at the time, the City also had no legal relationship with Hudson Cruises. Pretty clever, eh?

    The business with DASNY wasn't uncovered before 2012, when our group wrote to Senator Saland, saying that "the very idea that EDAP funds which are derived entirely from state income tax revenues can be used to confiscate publicly-owned facilities in order to benefit private business ventures should be repugnant to anyone." (Remember: "No Trespassing.")

    Inexplicably, Senator Saland's investigation got nowhere, and eventually he was out of office. In his last month, however, he assured us that he was working with his successor on the case, and dutifully transmitting all paperwork.

    When Kathy Marchione came to office, however, she could find no record of our inquiry or of our back-and-forth dialogues with Saland. The whole stinking business had been filed down the memory hole.

    Evidently, Saland was the chief crony - assisting a crony mayor - with Hudson Cruises Inc. as the ever-present beneficiary.

    Conclusion: DO NOT GIVE HUDSON CRUISES INC. ANY PART OF THE CITY'S DRI !!! Thanks to the huge new investment in Hudson, it's a perfect time to rid ourselves of this parasitical presence at the waterfront.