Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A Night at the Council: Part 1

Gossips has been observing the Common Council for many years now, and last night something happened that I don't think has ever happened before. At the end of a meeting that lasted for more than two and a half hours, a roll call vote was taken to decide whether or not to adjourn. Eight voted in favor of adjournment; three were opposed. 

Because it was such a full evening, Gossips will report on what happened one issue at a time, beginning with the license agreement for the docks at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. 

We are well into May. The floating docks have not yet been installed in the park, and the question of who will use and manage the docks has not been resolved. At a special meeting on Monday, May 10, the Common Council voted six to five to authorize Mayor Kamal Johnson to enter into a licensing agreement with Hudson Cruises, which has been operating from the river-facing commercial dock for the past seventeen years. 

Last night, the Council voted six to five to rescind the resolution it had passed the previous week. Before voting not to rescind the resolution, Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) said, "This is very confusing, and it sets a bad precedent." In voting to rescind, Alderman John Rosenthal spoke of the "commercial monopoly of the dock."

Before the vote on rescinding the resolution was taken, the Council heard from Noor Rahaman and Sam Merrett, representing respectively Hudson Cruises and the Hudson Sloop Club, the two entities vying for the license to use and manage the docks. Rahaman told the Council that in the past Hudson Cruises had worked harmoniously with the Hudson Sloop Club. He said Merrett was a former employee of Hudson Cruises and noted that Merrett had used the dock this past weekend to load his boat, Apollonia, with barley for delivery to breweries in New York City. Rahaman cited the late issuance of the RPF, which didn't happen until March, as "the reason we are having this dispute." He invited Merrett to engage in a dialogue over dock access.

For his part, Merrett said the process "has been strange and dividing." He said the Sloop Club was "trying to expand community public programming on the commercial dock" and "create connections with other vessels on the river." Rahaman responded that in the past, the boats Merrett mentioned, among them the Clearwater, had never been turned away. He argued that the three boats Hudson Cruises docks in Hudson "are our revenue stream" and told the Council they had already lost $10,000 in cruises that had to be canceled because of the delay. 

After the Council voted to rescind the resolution, Council president Tom DePietro said, "Let's just hash this out at a special meeting." That special meeting has been scheduled for Monday, May 24, at 7:00 p.m. Later DePietro commented, "Maybe we'll resolve it offline before Monday."


  1. HUDSON cruises out..SLOOP club in.Lost K10 !, perhaps he should tap into the Toutist Board, they are good to cough up again.

    1. The Tourism Board has been spending like drunk sailors, so at least they're consistent with a nautical theme.

  2. This won’t be the first time the docks weren’t in by Memorial Day. The reason no one remembers previous years is that so few had any reason to notice.

    The only thing “confusing” in this story is when a politician doesn’t grasp her obligation to the Public Trust Doctrine, the principle that some resources are preserved for public use, and that the government owns and must protect and maintain these resources for the public's use.

    When the Trump administration opened public lands for resource exploitation by private interests - resources held in trust by the federal government – I’m sure most Hudson residents were as furious as I was.

    But whereas Noor Rahaman argues that the Council should take the same kind of action at the City Dock for the sake of ticket sales and “revenue streams,” that argument bears little resemblance to the Hudson Sloop Club’s proposal.

    Though I’ve often been a harsh critic of one (1) member of the sloop club, I can attest to the genuineness of founding member Sam Merritt’s statement that the club is "trying to expand community public programming on the commercial dock [and] create connections with other vessels on the river."

    The sloop club has done exactly that for years, and done it admirably. At the very least, the club’s activities already embody the spirit of the Public Trust Doctrine.

    If it’s the city’s inherited error to let our waterfront be exploited for private gain (and recall that the state grant for these same docks was fraudulently procured by a former mayor who sought to entrench Hudson Cruises), then we the people can say no at any time.

    I’m impressed that the majority of today’s Common Council is willing to second guess this repeated offense which has little more recommending it than the bad habits of previous city officials. (In the past we’ve asked others to install our ill-gotten docks.)

    I think it’s pretty telling that Hudson Cruises was already scheduling rentals before it secured an agreement with the city. I’m sorry for the newlyweds who were taken in by this, but it’s caveat emptor when dealing with that company as suggested by Hudson Cruises’ long history of abuses in our public park.

    1. I like Sam, too, bit the idea that the Sloop Club has been active for years is laughable. Their finances are a mystery. They've existed since 2015, yet not one 990 has been filed with the IRS and made available. The Nack Center sits hollow surrounded by weeds. Most of their activity has been hollow self-promotion, with barely any meaningful activity that speaks to their core mission.

      I do understand your desire to move beyond Hudson Cruises, even if I don't feel it would be wise to do so just yet. The mayor, through the eleventh-hoyr RFP, and the Common Council, through ineffective leadership, haven't given the community much to sing about here.

      Ultimately, the community needs to have a better vision for what the waterfront can be and get that LWRP tied up with a nice bow.

      If it's true that Nick Zachos, after years of mismanagement of the Youth Department, wasteful spending, and active intimidation of critics is back at the helm of the Sloop Club, they should be discluded from the conversation.

    2. No! You do not “understand [my] desire to move beyond Hudson Cruises” as long as you think it’s wise to keep the company there another minute.

      In all due respect, what seems wise to you betrays a poor grasp of the meaning of any publicly owned park, let alone a waterfront park.

      You’re not alone, though, in misunderstand the spirit of the Public Trust Doctrine. It is government’s obligation to keep such resources FREE FOR THE PUBLIC, and not to exploit them for pecuniary gain even if ostensibly on behalf of the public.

      The idea that the public anywhere is expected to actively defend such a resource against the profit motive is anathema. It is to avoid such governmental hubris and the consequent privations that the State of New York first requires an act of “alienation” from the Legislature in circumstances such as these. The way Hudson approaches the situation is akin to criminality, even if one of our shoddy lawyers believes she’s found a loophole to cut out the public.

      To me, it’s beyond strange that Hudson residents are so poorly instructed in how to protect their own rights. It’s a sign that people don’t understand government’s role in our lives. Our timidity is a sign of our ignorance.

      By comparison, the Hudson Sloop Club has always conducted itself in the spirit of public service. Always.

      And while I agree that the failure to complete its Nack Center is regrettable, to suggest that the group is inactive is untrue and unfair. They’re always active on the water. And because they teach sailing for free, you might not see that reflected in their finances and budget.

      I agree that we all need a better vision for the waterfront, which is probably best approached in an updated Comprehensive Plan. But the idea of nicely tying up the LWRP is not realistic. It shows no cognizance of the reasons for the previous failure or for the particularities of the challenges to come.

      Among the city’s particular problems is that too few have any concept of the meaning of a public trust. We’re not supposed to be begging to see it honored.

  3. While I enjoy the reference (intentional?) to A Night at the Opera, I think Duck Soup is a better description of our current local government.
    Something must be done! War would mean a prohibitive increase in our taxes.

    Hey, I got an uncle lives in Taxes.

    No, I'm talking about taxes - money, dollars!

    Dollars! There's-a where my uncle lives! Dollars, Taxes!

    There are so many quotes in that movie that relate to Hudson. Here is another:

    Minister of Finance:
    Here is the Treasury Department's report, sir. I hope you'll find it clear.

    Rufus T. Firefly:
    Clear? Huh. Why a four-year-old child could understand this report.

    Rufus T. Firefly:
    Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can't make head or tail of it.

    1. Yes, the reference to A Night at the Opera was intentional, but I bow to your greater knowledge of Marx Brothers movies.

  4. Rufus T. Firefly:
    I'll see my lawyer about this as soon as he graduates from law school.

    1. I am seriously thinking about another movie quote
      Rick: If you take my advice you'll go back to Bulgaria