Friday, December 29, 2017

On the Waterfront in 1957

The waterfront is the focus of Hudson's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. In the context of that ongoing process, it seems fitting to share this photograph, from the Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection at the Columbia County Historical Society, of the Hudson waterfront, that part of it which is now the state boat launch, as it was in May 1967. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The caption beneath the picture reads:
SCHEDULED FOR CHANGE--This section of the city's waterfront, as seen from Promenade Hill, is expected to change considerably in the weeks ahead. The brick structure at the left, presently the DPW garage, and the remaining fishing shacks and docking facilities will be razed to make way for the long awaited Hudson Boat Launch Site. The large structure at the water's edge is the Hudson Power Boat Association, which will remain intact. Assemblyman Clarence D. Lane said a call for bids will be issued in two weeks with actual construction getting underway in six weeks. The Assemblyman said the launch site will be built at a cost in excess of the former $130,000 proposed and will be one of the more elaborate launch sites in New York State. 
When the new boat launch was dedicated more than a year later in August 1968, Mayor Samuel Wheeler reportedly declared that he wanted "fishing facilities" to be created at the site.

Fifty years later, the public pier, one of the proposed DRI projects, may finally fulfill Wheeler's desire for fishing facilities at the waterfront.


  1. At you kidding me or what?
    The DRI is intended to waste my money creating a fishing site to catch fish that are so contaminated that even our friends employed by the State of NY warn people not to eat fish taken from our "beautiful" Hudson River.
    Someone help us please.

    1. The contamination is less prevalent in migratory fishes, but does everyone who's fishing down there know the difference? (And yet, perhaps they do.)

  2. most of us do. we have fishing licenses. we signed a piece of paper, made a legal declaration, that says we have read & understand the rules, regulations, recommendations, according to NY State law, regarding fish, fishing, access to water on public and private lands, etc. in order to receive said license and we PAY for it. let's just hope pier designers didn't get their experience with sponge bob squarepants.

    1. Hahaha!

      As for the fishing, let's not forget those from faraway places who are new to these parts, and who nevertheless love fishing for catfish and other unregulated species.

      I'm one of the few weirdos who enjoys catching and eating herring. What can I say - they're delicious.

  3. The idea for creating a pier has grown in popularity. This is mind-boggling for two reasons.

    1. Right now the same pier is heavily wooded, which provides a visual screen between Colarusso's large industrial site and our waterfront park.

    No one could possibly believe that the current view from the park isn't preferable once they compare before-and-after, but unless the pier enthusiasts agree to hack their way out onto the existing pier - and I mean all the way out to the end - then they can't know what the future view will be once the existing pier is irreversibly cleared.

    But who'd trouble themselves to actually make the effort, and to use their own eyes? We prefer to inhabit plans in our heads, which is to say we feel safer in our fantasies.

    Later, when the same fantasists are bitterly disappointed at what the clearing reveals (which a little effort can show them today), they'll insist that the property owner replace the naturally formed woodland alongside the giant shed with something that will end up looking artificial and designed, a "natural screen."

    After this final disappointment, people will blame the private owner, the Colarusso company, rather than trace the story back to their own preventable shortsightedness in early 2018.

    I ask you, how can this story turn out differently?

    2. The pier project will be an enormous undertaking, particularly if those proposing it really mean to supply dockage. That will require some serious dredging and other engineering, plus a structural means to secure boats to the 150-year old crib-and-stone wharf.

    As a strolling pier alone, and out beyond the point where natural screening can be used at the ugly, new, steel bulkhead, the view from the pier only affords a more intimate vantage to the Colarusso dock operations, and nothing else! How is that an advantage when this same "improvement" now subjects the rest of the City park to the same view?

    Probably the same people who inhabit the fairy tales described above believe that someday these commercial activities will disappear from our sight. By all means keep dreaming!, but please leave the waterfront planning to more responsible parties.

    This pier concept looks like a giant waste of money to me, a bona fide boondoggle, and a sure way to wreck what's currently a pleasant enough view from our waterfront park.

  4. Please check out the SS Columbia website.
    Basically a restoration of a Riverboat with future plans for Port of Calls on the Hudson.
    So maybe a pier is of value to Hudson.
    Estimated passengers +1500.
    OK. DRI, this means a docking site, transportation from Riverfront to uptown, etc.

    1. The S.S. Columbia won't fit into either slip (/inlet), though it would be interesting to watch it maneuver against the tides while attempting to do so:

      Instead, we hope that the S.S. Columbia will use the City's deep, river-facing dockage, which has been exploited and abused by Hudson Cruises, Inc. since 2003.

      At this point, it's really up to residents to gather the resolve to inform City government that we've had enough of this exploitation.

      Despite years of law-breaking, and breaking its agreements with the city while enriching itself on public resources, our representatives won't change a thing as long as feckless citizens agree to be exploited.

      Perhaps new residents are able to see the obscenity more clearly than their predecessors, those who are so acclimated to the rampant corruption in this area that they're no longer able to see it for what it is.

      To the latter, I really do understand your corruption-fatigue, but to the degree that we accept this state of affairs, and at our own cost, we're essentially lazy, unfree morons.

  5. As Albert Einstein famously noted, some people "have a problem for every solution.”

    Regarding the objections raised here to the Hudson DRI's Public Pier Project (based solely on viewing aesthetics), might I suggest, as one wag put it:

    "If you don't like the view, change your perspective."

    Here's mine: It's not just about the view.

    The stated objective of the Public Pier Project is to clear and establish a new public pier for increased public recreation between slips 1 and 2 for passive and active use by both small and large crafts, to connect people to the waterfront, and to encourage increased maritime activity. Deepwater ports and public piers have shared space on rivers the world over for centuries. Nothing new here. What is new is a community effort to use available funds to improve public access to the river and the waterfront for the people of Hudson, and to expand recreational boating activities for everyone.

    It's not surprising that the idea for creating a pier has grown in popularity. As things stand today, private interests deny public access to much of Hudson's waterfront.

    To the south, a working dock is off limits to the public. To the north of the New York State boat launch at the other end of Hudson Waterfront Park Park, nearly a quarter mile of private docking on the riverfront is also off-limits to the public, controlled by a private power boat club.

    While some may inhabit plans in their heads and cling to fantasies, count me among those who have taken the time to "trouble themselves" to engage mind, eyes, and feet to explore the existing site to learn more about and the potential for increased public recreation between slips 1 and 2.

    The issue here is not just about "the current view from the park." For another perspective take a walk through the site yourself. It's not necessary to hack your way to the end of the existing pier; the site is already partially cleared, and the beginning of a trail established. The walk will provide a better perspective on the value of the proposed public pier project, and the access it will enable to the adjacent tidal estuary.

    Contrary to the assertion that all the land will be clear-cut, I believe plans call for retaining and cultivating much of the existing woodland. As it stands, the Colarusso shed might be lemon. But rather than seeing a problem, the public pier project and its mix of improved river access is pure lemonade.

    But there are even more compelling reasons to support – not attack – this DRI proposal.

    As noted, the lack of knowledge about the toxicity in the river's fish population is a legitimate concern. Fortunately, there are local community leaders, and some excellent organizations focused on creative solutions to the issue. One of them is the Hudson River Sloop Club, a local, non-profit organization "dedicated to reintegrating the Hudson River into daily life through education, access, and environmental stewardship. Another is the Mud Creek Environmental Center, operated by the Columbia County Soil & Water Conservation District. Both of these organizations have responded to an urgent public need by offering classes and free riverfront programs designed to educate local kids, and people of all ages, about the biological and ecological aspects of Hudson River estuary.

    No one intends to "to wreck what's currently a pleasant enough view from our waterfront park." And far from being "a giant waste of money" or "a bona fide boondoggle" the DRI Public Pier Project is a noble effort deserving of both public and private support.

    The Public Pier Project will serve the broader public interest and provide The City of Hudson with a unique opportunity to improve the quality of our riverfront assets while advancing much-needed access, education, and stewardship to one of the most important and beautiful bodies of water on the planet.

    1. Mr. Wallace, you suggest that people "change their perspective" short of making the effort to change their actual, literal perspective. In this, you are furthering what I call fantasy-thinking. The only way responsible people will be able to visualize our future view from "Rick's Point" is if they "to hack [their] way to the end of the existing pier" to see the view as it exists today. It's a lousy view!

      In the past I've supported all of your maritime interests, but the waterfront park will be used predominantly by sight-seers for whom it is entirely necessary to evaluate the future view in the present, even today. (And there are no "plans" that I have heard about for the "retaining and cultivating [of] much of the existing woodland" at the Colarusso shore opposite the pier. Rather, the landowner has offered to create "natural screening." What is that?)

      In the same way that your argument has glossed over what will become the waterfront park's actual view - or at least the direction of 95% of our downriver gazes which may soon look upon the company's illegally-installed, sheet-pile bulkhead - you've omitted the greatest obstacle to the City's dockage and water access which is right smack in the center of our park: Hudson Cruises, Inc.

      How in the world did you overlook that bastion to cronyism, with its years of multiple, broken agreements with the City?

      Personally, I continue to support the proposed Everett Nack environmental education facility, so please do not suggest the strawman argument that scrutiny of the pier proposal is criticism of everything else that's beneficial.

      The pier proposal may be a noble effort, but whether or not it's "deserving of both public and private support" is something you have not fully addressed.

    2. Because it's so obvious to so many that "advancing much-needed access" means ridding ourselves of the City's bad tenant, Hudson Cruises, Inc., it's easy to conclude that that business is the driving force behind this pier idea. What better way to take the focus off of a sweetheart deal maintained in perpetual bad faith than to argue for more room elsewhere.

      On the other hand, the serially faithless Hudson Cruises will be the greatest beneficiary of the expensive pier when there's plenty of dock space available if and when we lose the disrespectful tenant.

      If the Common Council is too feckless to enforce its own agreements, then building a pier to avoid having to evict the horrible tenant is the very definition of a boondoggle.

      When can the public see the specs and estimates for this pier idea and the involved dredge work? We'll need to compare its astronomical costs with the money saved by simply evicting the current tenant.

      After losing the bad tenant, access at the waterfront park will no longer be "much-needed." It's for this reason that river access must be assessed across the City's entire waterfront, and not at the waterfront park alone.

  6. Deepwater ports and public piers have shared space on rivers the world over for centuries...You must be new to the area!

  7. Deepwater ports and public piers have shared space on rivers the world over for centuries...

    On the eastern side of the Faithful, the State entrapped the entire county 150 years ago, and has for the last fifty years charged us for "more" access.

    Welcome to Hudson pilgrim.

  8. And just what is the existing boat launch used for and why hasn't the DRI looked to expand/improve it.

    1. The State boat launch, which is used by anyone who requires a ramp to get boats in and out of the water, is the State's business.

      In the last year or two, the launch was greatly improved with the replacement of the old docking system to either side of the ramp. They did a really great job, and erected new beneficial signage too.

      Of course we must always defend available parking space at the waterfront, some of which serves the boat launch (a good reason to keep an eye on any new plans for the empty lots between Ferry St. and the Dunn bldg.), but if the State boat launch still doesn't meet your needs, then I suggest you ask the State about that rather than the City or its DRI.

  9. A short history of the Columbia County Littoral Society's "contributions" to promote Navigation...

    Albany Times Union, January 30, 1989, on Art Meyer's offer to buy property at North Dock; "When Alderman William Allen Sr.'s legal committee discusses the purchase offer at a meeting Wednesday, it will "undoubtedly" discuss conditions at the waterfront parcel, which local officials believe is city land."

    Rather than sell the property, the city offered a one year lease, which is interesting considering that the city didn't have title until 20 years later.

    The prescribed use for the people's shore is to promote Navigation, for fishing, commerce and recreation.

    Placement of RR tracks, closed bridges, allowing for riparian encroachment and\or fences to block the people's shore, are obstructions, that frustrate the prescribed use, "free and easy" (unfettered) public access.

    And yet when the city took possession of North Dock, rather than promoting use, it sent in the militia, put up fencing and restricted access completely, for five years.

    So, Mayor Wheeler wanted to promote fishing from city shore, Tricky Rick Scalera tried to sell North Dock outright, Mayor Hallenbeck sent in SWAT and put up an illegal fence, and Mr. Moore declared "there will be no duck hunting."

    Mayor Martin removed the "obstruction" over year ago to create a kayak launch.

    When asked how county Navigators paying for use, can be replaced by citizens who choose not to, Mayor Martin says it's "unproductive" to ask where our tax dollars went to.

    Before government intervention, there was room for tin boats, kayaks and canoes.

    It seems that in the Empire State, city officials can use the Municipal Homewrecking Rule by imposing the "Moore Tax." That's where citizens continue to pay for the continued historic use while systematically undergoing reduced access. The "Moore tax" creates less use and fewer users.

    It should be interesting to see how Mayor Rector now promotes use of the people's shore for Navigation.

  10. Boat launch; more docking spaces for Boat Club.
    Hudson River Park; more docking space for private use, Hudson Cruises.
    Future DRI pier; (fill in the blank)
    Hudson River; not visible from the shores of Hudson, NY.
    Thank you all for 50 years of promises of how great our waterfront will become.