Monday, June 15, 2020

The Alderman and the Haul Road

Toward the end of the Common Council meeting on May 19, Alderman Shershah Mizan (Third Ward) brought up the topic of the Colarusso haul road, a project currently before the Planning Board. He said he wanted the Council to pressure the Planning Board to approve the haul road. Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, who was at the time also counsel to the Planning Board (Gossips has learned he no longer serves as the Planning Board's attorney), offered the opinion that the Council "has a right to let the Planning Board know how they are feeling." Council president Tom DePietro, who once chaired the Planning Board, opined, "It would have no authority with them."

Mizan, however, didn't abandon the idea of getting to Council to weigh in on a matter before the Planning Board. At the Housing and Transportation Committee meeting on June 3, he asked the committee to recommend that the Planning Board approve the haul road. Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) told him the Common Council and the Planning Board function independently, and the Council should not try to influence the Planning Board. She went on to say, "There should be other avenues that the City could pursue to affect trucks on the street without impacting the waterfront." Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who chairs the committee, suggested that Mizan could, on his own, send an email to the chair of the Planning Board urging approval of the haul road. 

Gossips doesn't know if Mizan followed Garriga's suggestion or not, but it seems he has found another way to make his opinion known. Today, this sign appeared in front of his house at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue.

Green Street is the most heavily trafficked street in Hudson. The two truck routes that enter Hudson by way of Worth Avenue and Third Street converge on Green Street. Trucks heading for the big box stores of Greenport and trucks just traveling through Hudson pass by Mizan's house. Why is the focus only on the gravel trucks?


  1. It is indeed telling that only the gravel trucks are mentioned, that the big trucks traveling to Greenport are never mentioned, and that the ONLY solution to the truck problem seems to be destroying our waterfront for the next generation.

    Here's an idea: Why not deny Colarusso's permit for both "haul road" and dock? They are both within the scope of this Planning Board review. Do that, and the gravel trucks would disappear tomorrow.

    And why not work together to solve the actual problem--the state truck route that runs up Columbia Street instead of highways around the city specifically built to handle the traffic? (BTW, whatever happened to the $100K Didi Barrett secured last year to push this issue? Does the city have that money? If so, shouldn’t it be applied right now?)

    IMO, this is Colarusso working through allies to use the truck issue to get what they want: an expanded truckway through the waterfront that enables them to ramp up production or, alternatively, make their waterfront operation more valuable in a potential sale.

    The last thing this is about is what's good for the City of Hudson and its people. It delivers neither environmental justice (shutting off any potential to expand desperately needed public space at the waterfront) nor economic justice (depressing more productive mixed-use development in the Waterfront District that can generate real jobs).

  2. If the hail road is denied, the gravel trucks stop on Columbia Street. It appears that someone has misled certain public officials about this.

  3. There is no longer a public trash can or a street sign on the SE corner of 3rd and State because yesterday they were destroyed by a vehicle. Not just hit, but squashed. Word has it that it was a truck -- another truck trying to take the tight corner onto State street OFF OF THE TRUCK ROUTE! State street is now a de facto truck route, which, given the amount of truck traffic winding through town, is not at all surprising. Why? No enforcement by HPD and inadequate signage. The whole truck situation is out of control. B HUSTON

    1. Exactly. The gravel trucks are part of a much bigger problem that won't be solved by sacrificing our waterfront. The big trucks (including gravel trucks) will still use the truck routes (and apparently not just the truck routes). The routes need to be moved.

    2. Correct, by conflating the two different truck issues we'll still have the State Truck Route, Colarusso will end up with all its ambitions satisfied, and a handful of cynical local politicos will cash in on a short-term political victory.

      Considering we've seen ALL of this before, can people really be that stupid? (Don't answer that!)

  4. It's very strange that the sign is specific to gravel trucks. The long semi rigs passing thru Hudson enroute to Shop-Rite, Walmart, Lowe's, etc. are equally problematic. Just removing the Colarusso trucks from Columbia St. doesn't solve anything, and will lead to the trashing of our waterfront. Heavy trucks are providing no jobs or economic upside for our City-- the answer is to eliminate all of them.

  5. The Colarusso company has a Constitutional right to operate here.

    In that case, words like "eliminating" Colarusso's presence here is the same kind of overreach that gets murderers acquitted when ambitious prosecutors go for broke.

  6. Let’s leave the bloviating about Constitutional property rights to the John Birch Society and Heritage Foundation folks.

    There is no Constitutional right to be granted a Conditional Use or other permit under local zoning or SEQRA. Applications get denied all the time.

    Even Jeff Baker (who has acted much as if someone other than the City were his client) has acknowledged that extensively in legal briefs ... about this exact parcel. In the years between 1999-2005. I know because I authorized the payments for all of those briefs that he wrote.

    Municipalities have a clear and well-established right to enact and enforce planning and zoning rules.

    This includes the right to say “no” if a project does not meet those requirements. And all of those rules were in place before Colarusso bought the parcel in question. So they knew what they were getting into (or should have known; ignorance of the law is no excuse, as they say).

    No less than the U.S. Supreme Court, dominated by conservatives, ruled in recent years that a municipality could even seize waterfront land for its own use if it determined that it would be more beneficial for the public to do so.

    No one is proposing eminent domain here; but many of us are correctly arguing that Colarusso’s proposal violates the City Code, and therefore does not qualify for the special permit they are seeking. If the Code or the Constitution required them to be allowed to operate, this review (ordered by both the ZBA and a court) would not be happening in the first place.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. The Colarusso company has a Constitutional right not to be "eliminated," and only eminent domain can negate that. That's all I said.

      But eminent domain is the ONLY recourse when someone argues that "a municipality could even seize waterfront land for its own use."

      So despite the denials, I suspect we're about to hear the eminent domain argument all over again.

      May I remind readers that this same argument was a disaster the last time we heard it in 2011. And today the City has even fewer resources than it did then. (At the time, local conservation organizations were supposed to supply the millions needed, until they said they couldn't.)

      On the other hand, today the City has more options available than it did in 2011, so take care not to divert people's energies with false promises of eminent domain when we're now seeing glimmers of real progress in several other directions.

  7. at least the sign is spelled correctly

  8. The Planning Board can shut it down, or the City can declare eminent domain and end the gravel truck problem anytime they want. But neither have the guts to do it, so get used to sucking diesel fumes, gravel dust and a crappy waterfront for the rest of your life.

    1. There it is already! "Eminent domain."

      So that's it. The revolutionists will have a second go at the same pointless adventure. Like clockwork.

  9. unheimlich,

    You might take a look at the recent Valente Gravel decision in Troy. The company wanted to do the same operation as Colarusso -- drag gravel thru town to the Hudson River. The ZBA ruled that the proposal was out of alignment with the Comprehensive Plan for the City, and that ruling held up. Simply owning property does not give anyone a constitutional right to do whatever they want-- if their operation imposes excessive danger or other hardships on the community, it can be eliminated. In addition, NY SEQRA empowers zoning boards to do an economic analysis-- if an enterprise is creating significant environmental downside without offering commensurate economic upside, it can be denied operating permits. Colarusso lost their 'non-conforming use' status when they undertook unauthorized repairs, and now have no operating status. Thus, they are being treated like a new application, in the manner of St. Lawrence Cement. They have no inherent 'constitutional right' to anything.

    1. I agree that “simply owning property does not give anyone a constitutional right to do whatever they want.” But that’s not what I said, is it.

      Nor does a “new application” make Colarusso’s constitutional right to operate disappear. That’s where your analogy with Valente Gravel in Troy breaks down. That was truly a new plan for property already owned by the City of Troy, though the idea was contraindicated by Troy’s own Comprehensive Plan.

      When Colarusso purchased the South Bay in 2014, it did so on the basis of Hudson’s 2002 Comprehensive Plan (at least that’s how it would be argued). There isn’t a court in the land that wouldn’t interpret the following sentence from Hudson’s Comprehensive Plan as fully anticipating truck traffic to our waterfront:

      “Trucks that need access to the waterfront (consistent with existing environmental regulations) could utilize a now closed off access road” [p. 25].

      That sentence which clearly accommodates truck traffic across South Bay is one of many reasons it is critical to establish continuity between Hudson’s Comprehensive Plan and the City’s adopted waterfront program.

      In the Planning Board’s current SEQR review, the Board would be wise to build upon that continuity by following the Common Council’s 2011 instructions for today’s precise circumstances by conducting an Environmental Impact Statement which is “SUPPLEMENTAL” to the 2011 SEQR review.

      The 2011 SEQR Findings Statement on Supplemental EISs [pp. 10, 16]:

      (NYSDEC characterizes a Findings Statement as the legal “teeth” of the SEQR process, but in Hudson it’s like pulling teeth to have such an important document be word searchable for the public and for city officials alike.)

  10. What should have more scrutiny is this sudden push to hand Colarusso what they want under cover of social justice, especially at a time when that phrase—rightly—carries a lot of weight.

    Proponents consistently ignore a series of inconvenient facts: a) that the gravel trucks are just a segment of the rigs rumbling along Columbia street; b) that there are real solutions to the truck problem, including enforcing weight limits on non-truck route streets and moving the routes themselves out of the city; c) that gravel expansion on the waterfront will threaten open space in a city starved for it, and where many lack the means to recreate elsewhere; and d) that said expansion will depress all other development of our greatest potential economic asset—a vibrant, mixed-use, job-producing waterfront district.

    1. I haven't a clue who you are "dkon," but you sure have nailed it! It's clear you grasp every nuance, and probably more. Please contact me.

      Having lived through this exact same script 10 years ago - the same players both in and out of government, and the same self-defeating calls for eminent domain - good people like Alderman Shershah Mizan are being manipulated in order to hand the Colarusso company an easy victory. (I refer other readers to your “inconvenient facts,” above.)

      Predictably, it’s the ambition of those who’d exploit the ignorance of newer residents by claiming the Environmental Justice issue for themselves. It’s the same tactic Supervisor Linda Mussman attempted a decade ago, though this time we were expecting it. Any cynical attempts to divide Hudson residents by their status, race or creed are doomed to failure.

      This time the cost will be political humiliation though not, I hope, for the hapless and misused Mr. Mizan.