Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Emily, If You Only Knew . . .

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Emily Dickinson was talking about the spoken word. We in Hudson are now seeing the impact of the written word--in particular, these words included in the Hudson's DRI application (page 18).
Though accommodating the operational growth of the business has been a challenge to address in terms of the impact on waterfront businesses and the environment, City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso.
When asked about this statement, Sheena Salvino, executive director of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC), who was an author of the application, explained: "This statement was intended to relate to the 2015 expansion/acquisition referenced in the paragraph, not any further expansion or usage of the haul road/port." That may be what was intended, but that's not the way the statement is being interpreted.

When the Greenport Planning Board gave its approval to the proposed haul road, Michael Bucholsky cited this statement--"City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso"--as evidence that a two-lane haul road through South Bay would be welcomed as a good thing. When the Columbia County Planning Board reviewed the haul road proposal, P. J. Prendergast, the engineer for Colarusso, claimed that it says "right in the City's DRI" that the City supports the project.

Now the claim of City support has reached a new level: the State of New York Supreme Court, Albany County. In the answer to the Article 78 filed by the City of Hudson against the Town of Greenport Planning Board, the attorneys for the respondents--Whitbeck Benedict & Smith LLP--make much of the statement of alleged support in the DRI application. Following is quoted from that document:
Furthermore, Petitioner fails to include explicit, more recent language from another City-sponsored document that directly supports the Project--the Downtown Revitalization Initiative ("DRI") application. . . . Under this program, the City was awarded a 10 million dollar grant from the state in August 2017 in order to "revitalize" the City's BRIDGE District, which includes the Applicant's current property and the site of the proposed Project. . . . Specifically, the application references the haul road and the City's support for the Project:
"Hudson recognizes the economic contribution of Colarusso, as well as the rarity and value of a functioning deep water port. Though accommodating the operational growth of the business has been a challenge to address in terms of the impact on waterfront businesses and the environment, City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso."
The italics were added by the respondents.


  1. In the context of this lawsuit, is it appropriate to point out that the attorney for the Greenport Planning Board is a member of the firm now representing Colarusso?

  2. Greenport's defense against the charge that the City's Comprehensive Plan was dishonored is absurd. It can be summed up by saying that when the City adopted the Plan, in 2002, it endorsed the use of the South Bay access road as a means to divert truck traffic away from City streets. But what does that tell anyone? Nothing.

    Certainly since the City's 2011 zoning amendments, it was no longer a question whether or not mining trucks should use the South Bay access road; indeed, the City's entire 2011 plan was that the landowner use the existing road to divert aggregate trucks away from City streets. (It's pretty lame that Greenport even acknowledges this fact several pages earlier, thus undermining its own subsequent arguments.)

    It was never a secret that the City wanted the South Bay access road to be used to re-route gravel trucks to the waterfront, and that will make it easier for the court to grasp that Greenport's suggestion - that this is precisely what the City is now denying - is poppycock. It's a juvenile debating trick.

    The next assumption (or perhaps "leap" is more like it) goes like this:

    If in 2002 [and everyone knows 2011 too] the City endorsed the landowner's use of the South Bay access road, then the City must now endorse any plan whatsoever which aims to divert city truck traffic through the South Bay.

    After providing no other "examples" (when there are actually no examples!), Greenport argues that the City has therefore "emphasized less important portions" of the 2002 Plan "while ignoring other more salient sections."

    Nowhere is it specified which sections have been ignored (a lapse which won't be lost on the court), and which sections allegedly support Greenport's rash conclusion that "it is therefore evident that [Greenport] met its responsibility under SEQR ..."

    Whatever makes this conclusion so "evident" is not provided by Greenport, which tells us that, on this point anyway, they're either desperate or they suppose the justices are imbeciles.

    What the City had actually said in its complaint against Greenport is that the Town Planning Board did not take a hard look at the City's 2002 Comprehensive Plan, and not that there should be no trucks on the South Bay access road. The argument is flat-out childish, and the court will see right through it.

  3. Sheena Salvino's explanation for the inclusion of that bogus language doesn't hold water. There are multiple examples of rah-rah Colaurusso language in the DRI application. The bit about the bride standing at the front door of Basilica on her wedding day while dump trucks motor in and out of the Colarusso site is enough to gag a maggot.

    1. Food for thought: under "Local Development Corporations," the law states "that no such corporation shall attempt to influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise, or participate or intervene, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office" (at §1411).

      Does this mean that a development corporation may compete with non-legislative municipal actions, such as the determinations of Planning Boards or ZBAs? Strictly speaking these are not legislative bodies, but how can the law condone such interference if and when it occurs?

      Also, the timing of the DRI and this year's election shouldn't be dismissed too quickly, particularly if the new Common Council is seen taking immediate steps to dissolve the ever-problematic HDC. It's unfortunate that past Councils never considered the institutional overlaps between the typically unaccountable HDC and what our HCDPA may achieve entirely on its own. Maybe it's time to do so, even if the first benefit is no more than being seen initiating this invaluable inquiry at long last.

  4. Greenport's response to Hudson's challenge is rich with sophistry. In a discussion about the potential risks to the culverts from a "doubling" of truck traffic above the aging infrastructure, Greenport makes a category error so obvious that it's nearly a joke:

    "Petitioner's allegations about the 'doubling' of traffic on the causeway are misleading and based upon a false premise. See Point I.B.1. Stiffler Aff. ¶ 30, 36; Jurkowski Aff. ¶ 24. Because the Applicant has clearly demonstrated that improving the private haul road [sic] to accommodate two-way traffic will not automatically lead to a doubling of traffic ..." [PDF p. 34].

    This means that in their affidavits, Messrs. Stiffler and Jurkowski disproved the notion that a proposal to send trucks back the same way they arrived along the access road will not result in a doubling of traffic on the road. Surely they have some magic in mind, perhaps levitation.

    Notwithstanding the fact that two-way use of the road is an option that's been available for years, only Stiffler's and Jurkowski's three references in their affidavits are cited to explain how traffic above the culverts is not doubled when the one road is used henceforth to send the same traffic back from whence it came.

    Here's how the affidavits' three references "clearly demonstrate" the brave new math:

    1. Stiffler at paragraph 30: "Petitioner [the City] never cited any reliable evidentiary support for its assertion that traffic will double as a result of this project [and is] ... mere speculation."

    Comment: the immediate discussion isn't about a potential expansion of operations. The concern of the City as presented in the petition remarks on the PLANNED doubling of truck traffic above the culverts. This is the automatic doubling which results when you send the same trucks back on the same road they arrived on. It's common sense, not speculation.

    2. Stiffler at paragraph 36: "By ignoring this benefit [of removing trucks from select City streets] Petitioner mischaracterizes the traffic impacts of this Project and ignores crucial safety issues ..."

    Comment: How will the court recognize either of Chairman Stiffler's remarks as pertinent to a discussion about the obvious doubling of truck traffic above the culverts?

    3. Quoting the last of the three references in its entirety - Mr. Jurkowski's paragraph 24 - is enough to show that Greenport's argument on its own behalf is nothing but a ruse and a dodge:

    "¶24. It is important to note that both the current truck route and proposed truck route pass either directly by or very close to the Basilica and other areas along the waterfront. As a result, it does not follow that the benefits of less truck traffic in other areas of the City, such as the area along Columbia Street, automatically means a detriment to the portion of Front Street that will continue to be used."

    You'd have to be a total imbecile to find any support for Greenport's counter-argument in the three citations offered as explanation. But in the unlikely event that the court is incapable of a level of mathematical reasoning available to most seven-year-olds, we are fortunate for the existence of the appeals process.

  5. Greenport's reply to the charge that it barely considered the South Bay culverts boils down to the following statement from Charirman Stiffler's affidavit:

    "41. The [Greenport] Planning Board found no reason to question the information supplied by the Applicant's engineer."

  6. http://imby.com/hudson/article/first-do-no-harm-words-the-dri-and-hudsons-future/