Monday, December 17, 2018

Fences Along the Hudson

Gossips has been reporting on Amtrak's plans to install fences and gates along the Hudson River--and the opposition to it--since March, when it first came on anyone's radar. At first, it seemed that Hudson was to be spared the eight-foot high black metal fences, but then in May, at a meeting with Amtrak officials organized by Congressman John Faso, Mayor Rick Rector discovered to his horror that there were plans for Hudson, which were part of a proposed Phase 2 of the grand scheme to install fences and gates along the Empire State Corridor from Rhinebeck to Stuyvesant.

About half the fencing in Phase 1 of the proposal would be installed in Germantown, seriously impairing access to the river, and the Germantown Waterfront Committee has taken the lead in opposing the plan. On Saturday, the committee, in collaboration with Scenic Hudson, hosted a forum that explored balancing rail safety with public access. Reports about the forum have already appeared on HudsonValley360 and The Other Hudson Valley, but there are a few additional takeaways from the meeting of particular interest to Gossips readers.

The project must undergo a Coastal Consistency Review by the New York State Department of State. On Saturday, Jeff Anzevino of Scenic Hudson attributed Amtrak's recognition that they were subject to this review to the community opposition here in Hudson to Amtrak's plans to cover our rock face with shotcrete. The plan was discovered in July 2017 by a Gossips reader, and Gossips raised the alarm. The final outcome is less than perfect, but it is better than it might have been, and the attention we in Hudson brought to Amtrak and its activity along the river seem to be having long-term positive impacts.

The State Coastal Policies that are particularly relevant to the proposal to install fences and gates are these:
Policy 19 Protect, maintain, and increase the level and types of access to public water related recreation resources and facilities.
Policy 20 Access to the publicly owned foreshore and to lands immediately adjacent to the foreshore or the water's edge that are publicly owned shall be provided and it shall be provided in a manner compatible with adjoining uses.
Policy 21 Water dependent and water enhanced recreation will be encouraged and facilitated, and will be given priority over non-water related uses along the coast.
Anzevino reminded people on Saturday that it was the State Coastal Policies that defeated St. Lawrence Cement and brought to an end the six-year-long battle against the proposal to build what was to be the world's largest coal-fired cement plant in Greenport. Anzevino also stressed the importance of having a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program in place, which "gives communities leverage in these issues"--something we need to bear in mind here in Hudson. 

As things stand now, Amtrak, in response to a letter from the supervisors of the affected towns in Columbia County, said the plans would be "tweaked." Two public meetings were promised, which, it seems, will be informational meetings not public hearings. As Anzevino told the group gathered in Germantown on Saturday, the immediate goal is: "When this starts back up, we're mobilized." 

To get up to speed on this issue, if you're not already, visit


  1. Now that I know how coastal consistency reviews are conducted, I put little to no faith in the process. It's all b.s. (e.g., a shotcrete lathered Promenade [hideous, sorry]; or hundreds of millions of gallons of runoff into the North Bay annually with practically no review at all).

    As for Amtrak's fences, there's nothing to do for North Bay, where the tracks will simply be off-limits. Our upriver situation is like Germantown's, but there the comparison ends.

    For the South Bay access road which runs between the Colarusso yard and Amtrak, the City would be wise to explore the work begun by attorney Cheryl Roberts on the shared easement.

    The access road snakes back-and-forth over both properties, but the deed for the 4.4 acres which the City sold illegally to St. Lawrence Cement in 1981 refers to the common access road as "the public way."

    Even the shared easement speaks of pedestrian access. The City should not take this lying down. Instead, we should be prepared to challenge the unlawful barring of public access, even if that means beginning the process of reclaiming the 4.4 acres.

    The coastal consistency review can't hold a candle to so strong an argument. Let's not waste it.

  2. When the Hudson River Railroad was built, they were granted all of the land under water they needed, for public use.

    There is no such thing as a grant for public "non use."

    Where is the outcry for obstructing the entire eastern shore and our collective use?

    If Rufus Story could beat the HRRR 150 years ago, maybe it's time for Amtrak to pony up for blocking our right to "free and easy" access.

  3. The relevant deeds:

    1. Lone Star Cement 1969 deed to City of Hudson ("right of access to the said [4.4-acre] Dock Property from the public way") is at Liber 453, p. 15 (quoted at p. 16).

    2. City of Hudson 1981 deed to St. Lawrence Cement Co. (4.4 acres) is at Liber 559, p. 533.

    3. Easement and Right of Way 1995 deed between St. Lawrence Cement Co. and Consolidated Rail Corp. ("for vehicular and pedestrian ingress, egress and regress on, over, across and through all that certain strip, piece or parcel of land") is at Liber 787 (quoted at p. 228).

  4. If the City had already reclaimed its waterfront acreage sold illegally in 1981 (which might not be so easy), then without an easement to access the parcel we'd be in the exact same situation as Germantown.

    Germantown also owns a former icehouse dock, also now reduced to a promontory reached by the railroad access road. But if no easement or right-of-way exists along the road (Germantown may not have looked hard enough), then the icehouse property is effectively an island accessible only by boat.

    Hudson's right of access should be far easier to establish beginning with THE ABOVE 3 DEEDS, so let's not waste a defense that Germantown either never had or never allowed itself to assert having failed to research its own deeds.

    (To the people of Germantown, see the 1882 Liber 71, pp. 252, 253: "This grant is made however subject to the right of said parties of the first part [Samuel and Susan Lasher] to drive his cattle over the north part of said above described premises to the Hudson River [and] subject also to the right to apply for and erect or have erected a bridge or crossing over said Railroad to the said Hudson River.")

  5. Policy 20 Access to the publicly owned foreshore and to lands immediately adjacent to the foreshore or the water's edge that are publicly owned shall be provided and it shall be provided in a manner compatible with adjoining uses.

    There is no better vessel for "use" on the pristine eastern tidal foreshore. than a beer can with an outboard attached.

  6. Quoting specific State Coastal Policies is all well and good, but NYSDOS rarely refers to them directly when conducting a coastal consistency review.

    Instead, the DOS reviews proposed activities with a shorter list, the eleven "Criteria for General Concurrence," within which the more specific Coastal Policies are said to be implicit.

    In my opinion, the Policies are only vaguely represented in the criteria, which is how so many awful proposals in the NYS Coastal Zone, and even in Significant Habitats, easily pass the consistency "test."

    Like I said, the whole procedure is b.s. to give the impression that the State is doing something.