Monday, February 26, 2018

DRI Watch: It Isn't Over Until It's Over

Later this week, on Thursday, March 1, the DRI Local Planning Committee will hold its final meeting before the draft Hudson DRI Investment Plan is submitted to the Department of State on Monday, March 5. The DOS will review the plan and return it with comments to Stantec, the consulting firm that has been guiding the process. The final Investment Plan will be submitted on March 31 by Stantec to the Governor's Office, where the projects to receive DRI funding will be selected.

Since October, when it all began, the projects went from the original seventeen projects--nine priority projects and eight secondary projects--that were outlined in the original DRI application, to thirty-three projects after additional project proposals were submitted by the community, to thirty projects after three were eliminated for various reasons, to the current list: twenty-two projects being recommended for DRI funding; three to be part of the Investment Plan but not to receive DRI funding; five to be removed from the plan altogether. On Thursday night, the full Local Planning Committee is expected to review the decisions made by a subcommittee of ten and make final decisions about what will be included in the draft DRI Investment Plan. The final stages of decision making about investing the $9.7 million will be carried out by the Department of State and the Governor's Office. 

As the community's role in determining what investments will be made draws to a close, dissatisfaction is being voiced, by some elected officials and members of the Local Planning Committee, about the process, which many feel has been inadequate to ensure that the residents of the BRIDGE District--those living below Second Street--will benefit from the investment. Michael Chameides, Third Ward supervisor, has posted an extensive critique of the process on his website, which features quotes from a couple of members of the LPC. He asserts that the application process should have been more transparent, alleges that poverty seems to have been a factor in Hudson getting the grant but questions if the projects to be funded will address the needs of the poor, suggests that the economic development supported by the DRI may be an example of "trickle down economics," and contends that the public engagement process "could have been significantly better." One of the members of the LPC has stated that the public process was "at best poorly designed and facilitated and at worst purposefully hollow."

Between now and Thursday, there is still time to express your support for your favorite projects. Click here to review the projects now being considered. Click here to submit your comments.


  1. Notice that Mr. Chameides' "sample letter" recommends certain projects to the LPC but omits others. A clever way to advance his own favorites!

    But if he's truly interested in things like "improv[ing] the downtown area" and "safe access to [the] water" for the less privileged, then why on earth is the proposal for a 2nd Ward waterfront park not on his list?

    Instead, he features another waterfront project where none is needed, a million dollar observation deck in the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.

    Other than this observation deck which will stand above 42" of water at low tide (the proposal's illustration is inaccurate and misleading), what else does Mr. Chameides' preferred waterfront project offer?

    The gentleman defends the expensive proposal by noting that it will deliver "safe access to water." But the proposal is for an established park which already has abundant safe access to the river, while the underprivileged 2nd Ward has almost no water access at all.

    Moreover, the application for the pier proposal knowingly misrepresented the surrounding water depths (they were provided to the group years ago), which means that the LPC had best subtract the application's disingenuous claims that the Clearwater will be docking there before it thinks of awarding the gigantic sum being requested.

    When the pier proposal's dock claims are corrected, the LPC might award a lesser amount to the Sloop Club which is more in keeping with what is actually possible at the site: an observation deck, and even more access to the river in the 1st Ward where none is needed.

    I'm not saying that Mr. Chameides is hypocritical, but he's profoundly mistaken about the comparative value of the two DRI proposals for increased water access, the one in the 1st Ward and the other in the 2nd Ward.

    Aside from the huge difference in their respective requests - $1.2 million vs. $98 thousand - Mr. Chameides should consider the most likely constituencies to benefit from each set of improvements.

    It should be obvious to all but Mr. Chameides that his personal favorite, the proposal he'd like his readers to recommend, comes at the expense of his overall argument.

    This makes me wonder about his other arguments, and also his motives.

  2. An observation deck? Consider how the park is already used: (1) The parking spots near the southern end of Middle Ground flats, where Hudson citizens park their cars on a summer night to watch the Bald eagle who maintains a home in the dead tree at the end of the island. (2) Or what is more magnificent than the view from Promenade Hill, given to us by the Proprietors?

    1. All very true Ellen.

      Moreover, the parking lot at the south end of the waterfront park - arguably the most utilized portion of the entire park - sits within the overall footprint of the Railroad Pier proposal!

      Because the principal sponsor of the pier proposal is also the current Chairman of the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee, it's fair for anyone to scrutinize the manner in which our waterfront planning is unfolding, and whether the level of public participation expected of an LWRP is being circumvented yet again.

  3. If all of the projects presented by the City and HDC are approved, that total comes to over $10,115,000.

  4. There is a great deal of stage management at the heart of the DRI process, beginning with the initial closed door rewriting of the application to favor such oddly turned ideas as wedding pictures among the Colarusso stone hauling trucks. It was immediately apparent at the Housing Task Force, supposedly a Hudson Mayor's group, but oddly placed in the DRI web site and stacked with State agency plants and developers. But the lack of transparency in these operations is always the give-away as to hidden agenda. No notice of Task Force meetings? No minutes of the meetings? Finally, a directive from the new mayor that there be no communication via email between members of the Task Force. It's a little late, but I'm glad to see Mr. Chamaides and the folks he quotes in his website report calling into question how public the process for spending public money has been. The process remains highly questionable, but the problem is that it is another example of government employees using public money to further (hidden) private interests. Tsk Tsk.

  5. I've heard from multiple sources that someone at NYDOS is making efforts to find grant money to help with the mitigation of Colarusso's impacts on our waterfront. This effort is separate from the DRI, but it's worth watching. Given that the gravel dump at the dock and its associated truck traffic are a major negative for our community, and given that the Colarusso operation is bringing almost no economic upside to Hudson in terms of jobs or increased tax revenue, I would hate to see taxpayer dollars used for the purpose. The company is already costing us money as we are entangled in two lawsuits. Colarusso is imposing multiple downside impacts on Hudson (dangerous truck traffic, noise, dust, visual blight) so the company should bear the cost of the remedy.

    1. All governmental efforts should be focused on creating a second, Colarusso-only rail crossing which stands opposite the company's permanently one-laned causeway.

      A new crossing is the ideal solution, acceptable to all local parties.

      When I made inquiries a few weeks ago to learn about Congressman Faso's involvement, I was shocked when I was told that the idea hadn't gone that far.

      Can that be true? Faso should've been in the loop a year ago.

      The City shouldn't depend on Albany to sort things out.

  6. Just in:

    According to Susan Pepe of the NYSDEC's Division of Management & Budget Services, the Hudson River Estuary Program grant awards for Round 17 must show project completion on or before May 31, 2018.

    This means that, barring completion of the Everett Nack Estuary Education Center before May 31st, the $91,780 awarded for the Center for Round 17 (in 2016) will be resorbed by the State on May 31st.

    But according to the Sloop Club's DRI application, the Nack center will be Phase I of the Club's proposal.

    Something doesn't smell right about this. Is the Sloop Club defaulting on one grant just to make it up in the next grant?