Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Last Night with the Planning Board

The Planning Board meeting last night went on for more than three hours, and most of the time was spent considering the conditional use permits needed by Colarusso: for the dock and for the haul road. A new element presented by Pat Prendergast, engineer for Colarusso, was the plan for screening from view stockpiling of rock and activity at the dock. To improve the view from Basilica Hudson, it is proposed that forsythia, hydrangea, and cedar be planted along the fence that borders the east side of the dock area. There will also be plantings, requested by DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation), on the riprap bank and along the top of the dock, which will be visible from Rick's Point.

Prendergast displayed the following simulations to show the appearance of the east side of the dock area today, at the time the shrubs and bushes are planted, and after five years.

The intent of the proposed planting is to screen the storage and dock operations but not to obstruct the view of the mountains or, from Rick Point, the view of the lighthouse or barge loading, which some people apparently enjoy watching.

Some other new information emerged last night. On a site visit with some members of the Planning Board, together with Ryan Weitz of Barton & Loguidice, and representatives of Colarusso, it was suggested by Matthew Frederick, who seems too have become an unofficial consultant to the Planning Board, that the existing haul road could be retained for recreational use when a new haul road is constructed at the center of the berm, which is sometimes referred to as "the causeway." John Privatera, attorney for Colarusso, responded to the suggestion by saying it had "all kinds of liability issues."

In summarizing a letter he submitted to the Planning Board, Weitz spoke of the silo and the "salt shed" as structures that are "a valued part of the the waterfront to many folks." Speaking of the structures, Privatera indicated Colarusso would fulfill its "ownership responsibilities" and maintain them, but they would not do any work that would require returning to the Planning Board.

Weitz also mentioned the railroad trestle that will be used to access the Nack Center and spoke of potential assistance from Colarusso in restoring the trestle.

At the outset of the meeting, Planning Board chair Walter Chatham defined the concerns as physical design and operational issues. Regarding the latter, Privatera announced that Colarusso has willing to agree to a following hours of operation for trucks traveling between the quarry and the dock: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday; no trucks on Sundays or major holidays. To this proposal, Chatham commented, "If we could have a truck free weekend, this could go a whole lot easier."

Chatham's stated goal of the meeting was "to get a laundry list of the issues to be looked at." After two hours and twenty minutes, he seemed to be satisfied that this had been accomplished and asked for a motion to deem the application complete and set a public hearing. Planning Board member Clark Wieman expressed the opinion that the application was not complete, because Colarusso has never provided actual counts of number of round trips made every day, "from the day they took over until now." Paul Colarusso protested that they don't keep such records. When Wieman spoke of continuing "to try to drag some kind of numbers of present intensity" out of Colarusso, Privatera told him, "You're struggling with it because you have created the issue. You have no right to regulate trips." Colarusso noted that providing this information could put the company at a competitive disadvantage and stated, "There is no more information we will give you on that."

Although Wieman and Laura Margolis were opposed to scheduling a public hearing, the remaining four members of the Planning Board present (Chatham, Betsy Gramkow, Ginna Moore, John Cody) voted to move forward. The public hearing will take place on July 9 at 6:00 p.m. in a location yet to be determined. Code enforcement officer Craig Haigh recommended a venue other than City Hall, noting that the capacity of the Council Chamber is 45 and warning, "That will be enforced by code enforcement and the police."


  1. The idea of retaining the existing road thru South Bay IN ADDITION to the new two-lane road sought by the applicant is ridiculous. The Planning Board should deny any new construction in that marsh.

    What's going on here could not be more obvious: Colarusso is trying to leverage the prospect of getting their trucks off Columbia St. to gain for themselves much greater volume of transportation of material to our waterfront.

    1. Peter, please being these ideas to the attention of the Planning Board Chairman who's increasingly echoing Supervisor Mussman myopic goal of removing Colarusso's trucks from city streets at all costs (emphasis on "at all costs").

      The company can get the trucks off the streets as soon as they complete the crossings, and this, the DOT tells me, might easily take a single afternoon.

      Like the County Supervisor, but probably for different reasons, the Planning Board Chairman seems captivated by the applicant's story that it's caught between a rock and hard place. The fact is, any hardship in this is self-created, which is something we'll all learn when the applicant seeks a use variance.

      For heaven's sake, though, why not realize this as soon as possible? Whaddya say we put it to the guy in charge?

    2. Peter--There's a bit of a misunderstanding here. Colarusso's plan is to restore the existing roadway to a natural state. The idea of retaining it as a public way for recreational use--walking, cycling, etc.--was suggested by Matthew Frederick.

    3. The criticism stands, though, regardless of who made the suggestion.

      For longtime observers, we remember the fatal commitment of the City to the idea of public access across the causeway in 2011. In the end - which also meant the end of the LWRP - the City learned what some had predicted all along - that the landowner Holcim US. Inc. had been totally disingenuous in negotiating the public access agreement.

      But it was useful for Holcim to tolerate an idea which acted as a sop on our more ambivalent neighbors, particularly those Aldermen who were otherwise wary of new development in the South Bay.

      Fast forward to today and the liability issues remain overwhelming anywhere near the two culverts. Short of replacing the culverts (which the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed is doable), that one spot is insurmountably dangerous.

      Only people who are new to Hudson are blind to the risk of letting people imagine future public access there.

      Yet that's exactly what the latest batch of abstract, know-it-all "experts" is doing, and thus history repeats …

  2. Where do municipalities obtain the authority to restrict the free flow of interstate commerce? Especially to an already constricted eastern shore.

    1. There's no thought by anyone to restrict existing levels of commerce, but it seems just as odd for anyone to suppose that potential expansions of business may go unchecked by other interests sharing the same small area.

      If it recognizes these other interests (which remains to be seen here), then a municipality certainly has the authority to defend against intensifications of commerce at a shared waterfront. That's nothing new.

    2. Riparian,

      The ability of a municipality to restrict commerce is rooted in two charters: The New York Department of State, and our local land use code. All kinds of conditions can be imposed, which include operating hours, light and dust and noise pollution guidelines, etc. Colarusso filed a lawsuit with the hope of challenging the City's authority on these matters, and they got clobbered by a NY Supreme Court judge.

    3. One hundred and 50 years ago the Empire severed all roads on the eastern shore. Sixty-two years ago, the State and feds began charging motor fuel users for improved access...

      Just where has access improved in the last half century?

    4. Unheimlich, you speak of competing interests on the same land for public use. Shouldn't taxpayers paying for access have rights equal to those paying no such fee?

      Peter, this city and Colarusso lost, just like with NDTBA Inc. The larger issue is the collective liberty lost by the entire eastern shore...
      The RR was granted much of foreshore to benefit public transportation. It now obstructs more interstate commerce than it brings and has disenfranchised the entire eastern shore and no State court will ever find against Empire.

  3. What is bizarre, and I think irresponsible, is that right after the Planning Board acknowledged that the project may require a use variance from the ZBA, all but two members voted for a Public Hearing to be conducted on the basis of this incomplete knowledge.

    I mean, shouldn’t the Planning Board first know where the project will be happening, in which District? How wise is that, not knowing something so fundamental and yet pushing the process forward anyway? How is it respectful towards the public and its rare opportunity to comment?

    Instead, I heard some very foolish discussions which earned advantageous replies from the applicant.

    I also heard the exasperated applicant complaining, though good-naturedly, about the length of time this project is taking. At this the Board members seemed to agree good-heartedly, but with no sense of irony that a major reason for the delay was the applicant's failed lawsuit against the Planning Board.

  4. The Planning Board should make sure that the matter of the 4.4 disputed acres on the waterfront gets resolved before proceeding with their review. It makes no sense to entertain a big and complicated land use application when the 'owner' doesn't even own all of the land in question.

    1. The Planning Board seemed to accept Mr. Privitera's explanation that the public has no rights along the railroad access road to the 4.4 acres.

      But if we're not able to reverse the illegal sale of that property due to the other terms of the sale, and yet it remains City property since no transfer of that land out of city hands could ever be legitimate, then at least the railroad access road which is defined as "the public way" in the 4.4 acres' deed should be extant.

      It's important to get to the bottom of this. CSX or Amtrak have recently erected a No Trespassing sign at the access road. Sorry, not if it's a "public way."

  5. Colarusso promises to be good caretakers of their property going forward. I hope there are no Planning Board willing to buy that nonsense, as the company has now owned the waterfront land for five years and has done nothing to improve it. Their buildings are a rusting, crumbling, unsightly mess, right next to the waterfront park. You would think that a responsible business that hopes to operate in our community would be smart enough to demonstrate good faith now, not at some vague point in the future.

  6. The age old argument, function or form? In business, if it won't function the form doesn't matter...
    Colarusso has spent vast amounts to make the people's shore more useful, remember Cuomo got "free and easy" access at that pier when he needed it.

    How much should Colarusso spend to promote the historical use of shore while land lovers conspire on land use?