Monday, November 19, 2018

In the Category "It Was Ever Thus"

In October, the Common Council passed a resolution to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for the use of the public dock--the dock in riverfront park, historically known as Curtiss Dock, which for years been used by Hudson Cruises.

The use of this dock by Hudson Cruises is not without controversy, and I was reminded of our current dock situation when I stumbled upon an article from a hundred years ago, reporting on a public hearing about a proposal to rent what was then called the Kennedy dock to a company planning to construct concrete boats in Hudson. My sources indicate that the Kennedy dock, at one time known as the Knickerbocker dock, was located south of what is now the Colarusso dock, on 4.4 acres that the City of Hudson illegally sold to St. Lawrence Cement in 1981.

For its historic interest (and its entertaining intrigue), the article that appeared in the Columbia Republican on November 19, 1918, is transcribed below.

The public hearing relative to the leasing of the city dock to a concrete ship corporation was held in the Common Council chamber last night with Recorder Moy presiding.
Judge Rodgers, attorney for the petitioners, said he had drawn, not a contract but a tentative agreement which was submitted to the Council and changed. He wanted only to put the matter in shape for discussion. Judge Ro[d]gers said they were willing to pay a rental for the property, a good fair price rather than the nominal rental which the Council asked, the latter considering the amount of help that would be brought to Hudson as an offset to any rental.
The proposed "contract" between the concrete ship corporation and the city of Hudson was then read: this empowered the city treasurer to lease to said corporation the Kennedy dock and pumping station dock for $1 per year for ten years. The corporation agreeing to use these docks to construct concrete boats and divers other things; the company to have all the buildings and machinery to use and to reconstruct same, the pumping station and machinery to be kept as an engineering station. The ship corporation should have the right to place any buildings on this property it sees fit; the city to allow the company to construct carrying plants and supports to carry cement [f]rom the cement companies to the docks, the straightest line to be followed and no interference with its street traffic. The privilege of a ten year renewal was also to be granted the company.
Mayor Harvey stated that he had given two contracts and a petition signed by a number of residents to the city treasurer and [he] had refused to return them. A call was then made for the city treasurer or his counsel but there was no response.
Arthur Gifford wanted to know just how Judge Ro[d]gers was willing to modify the terms. Judge Ro[d]gers said he would be glad to waive any rights that would give them the right of carrying cement over the streets if there was any objection. They did not want to monopolize the docks and would only use them as they were pushing the barges out. He said his company wanted to come here to do business and spend their money.
In answer to Mr. Coffin, Judge Rodgers said the barges would run from 150 to 300 feet. One barge called for 15 or 20 men to construct it and they could build 7 barges at a time. He told Mr. Coffin that Mr. Morse had no connection with this proposed plant and that in the contract what was meant by "other devices" was the plant for the wiring which was mixed in the cement.
Alderman elect McLaren asked some pertinent questions and said in Athens where 265 foot boats were built 5 loads of grave were necessary to 1 load of cement. He then asked him why he didn't go where the gravel was rather than where cement was.
Mr. Gifford said the city wanted all good industries here and believed that whatever came should come on a business basis, business terms and with business contracts: "Don't let us give away our only water front with the future of the barge canal at our doors," said Mr. Gifford.
Mr. Coffin called attention to the fact that a lease executed by the corporation didn't look like a "tentative" agreement. It was signed by the officers of the corporation with its seal.
Recorder Moy said he had suggested that this contract be drawn, submitted to the city treasurer, who should employ counsel and see what they thought of it. He believed if the city treasurer had been present at the meeting, as he ought to have been, the whole matter could be "ironed out."
Mr. Coffin told how Peekskill's water front had been sold to the New York Central and Peekskill ruined as a shipping place. He called attention to the fact that Hudson was practically the only place that still owned some of its water front. He drew a picture of the future of the possibility of the value of these docks to the Hudson manufacturers with the barge canal. "Where will our manufacturers get their goods if we let our water front for $1 a year or a $1,000 a year to a corporation employing perhaps 80 men, pouring cement into wire forms for cement boats." He further said that the city had no right to lease the pumping house docks except for water for the city. He said he was appearing only for himself but he was strongly opposed to the letting of this dock.
Judge Reynolds [sic] admitted that the pumping station dock could not be leased and they waived that section. He admitted the barge canal was going to be a great thing but not for Hudson; this traffic would be thru traffic and would not affect Hudson. However, he said, if they were not wanted and if the supply of gravel was insufficient they would give up any idea of coming. They only wanted to go where they were wanted. He said he had organized a great many companies but never one better backed than this one. He said his company was too closely allied to the government for him to give the names of those interested.
In answer to John Malone and Rev. Mr Cole, Judge Rodgers stated that this company would give a bond to forfeit their lease if they stopped building cement ships. Mr Cole was opposed to the city's giving up a water front which might be useful in view of the barge canals.
Charles A. Van Deusen said Judge Rodgers had wanted to know who in Hudson would profit by the barge canal. He said the C. A. Van Deusen Co. had unloaded 5,000 barrels of flour in three months and if 5 or 9 cent per barrel could be saved, and that was only part of the business a barge canal would do here, it would be worth while. He thought that before any lease was executed the financial condition of the Ship Building Co. should be shown. He also favored a substantial rental, if it was decided to lease this property, the same to be returned after a certain number of boats had been built and a certain number of men had been employed and paid a stated sum in wages.
Former Mayor Tator said he doubted the wisdom of leasing the docks under any consideration.
Mr McLaren said the Knitting Mills of this town could load a barge a week with knit goods. Why don't these gentlemen who come here lay their cards of the tables? We have. With whom are we doing business, said Mr McLaren; let's settle that first.
Morris Kosoff thought it was a good proposition and couldn't see what difference it made what they manufactured.
W. J. DeLamater said the clause of the lease led people to think they were coming to manufacture boats but there was a thought that it wasn't boats alone and that the company should explain.
Mr Kosoff said he had lived here eight years and hadn't seen the dock in question net the city five cents. He suggested that the city treasurer's counsel draw up a lease and submit it to the Ship Building Co.
Judge Rodgers said the corporation would be willing to agree to construct so many barges, employ so many men, pay a stated sum in wages and put up a bond that they would do this or forfeit their contract. The corporation will agree to do certain things that will be of benefit to the city of Hudson.
Recorder Moy stated that if that city treasurer had come to this meeting, as he should have, the matter could be cleaned up. The Mayor again stated that he had given the city treasurer the original lease and he had since refused to return it. It is a public document and should be on file here, the Mayor ended.
Alderman Lacey thought the city treasurer was trying to treat the Council and citizens like a lot of "boobs." He did not believe the city treasurer had any right to retain the papers in the case.
Victor Rose said he had lived here a good many years and had seen the dock in question leased year after year for a song and now we had a chance to lease it for real money and we were hesitating. He said he was no politician but he thought there was no excuse for the absence of the city treasurer or his representative.
Mr. Moy said according to the charter, no matter if all Hudson wanted this company, it couldn't come unless the city treasurer favored it.
Mayor Harvey said a petition with 30 names had been presented against this company's coming had been secured; he would guarantee to go out in half a day and get 10,000 signatures.
The Recorder said that the City Treasurer seemed to be "The Kaiser of The Gang" and there was no use in signing contracts without his permission.
Mr Golderman then offered a resolution providing for the appointment of the finance committee with power to secure legal service, to consult with the company and city treasurer and see if the matter could not be adjusted on a basis satisfactory to all. Messers Moy, Wood and Muldowney constitute this commission. The motion was carried and the hearing adjourned, the  Recorder stating that he was in favor of another public meeting before any further action was taken.
Will there be another public meeting? Will the City of Hudson lease the Kennedy dock to this mysterious concrete ship building company "too closely allied with the government" for the principals to be identified? The answers will be revealed as soon as further research discovers what they are.


  1. "Former Mayor Tator said he doubted the wisdom of leasing the docks under any consideration."

    Fast forward to today and the first thing we want to do after ousting Falkenheimer's blight in our waterfront park is lease it back to him, or to anyone who makes the right offer.

    Today we're as mercenary about our waterfront as we ever were (excepting the likes of Mayor Tator), bending over backwards to devise a legal loophole for what's forbidden everywhere.

    (This park should be protected by the public trust doctrine which dates to the Romans, which is not to be conflated with mere nonconforming uses.)

    Our attitude is not far beyond the illegal sale of the 4.4 waterfront acres in 1981, meaning we're not as enlightened as we'd like to believe.

    IT'S A PUBLIC WATERFRONT PARK for goodness sake, and not City property for the mayor and the council to exploit. We should have had a one-year moratorium on replacing the previous tenant's junk if only to enjoy the view.

    Incidentally, "the pump station" stood in what is now the state-owned parking lot for the boat launch. It had formerly pumped river water to Mt. Ray, and would soon house the DPW.

  2. For 62 years county motor boaters have been paying for "improved" river access. Starting at 4 cents per gallon in 1956 and now at 64 cents per gallon.

    The tax is collected from motor boaters and redistributed to Navigators who pay nothing!