Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Dissent Over the Docks

Last night, the Common Council held a special meeting the sole purpose of which was to authorize Mayor Kamal Johnson to enter into a license agreement with Hudson Cruises for the use of the docks at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Council president Tom DePietro scheduled the meeting to take place just fifteen minutes before the informal meeting of the Council was to begin because, as he said a good twenty-five minutes into the meeting, he thought it would be a "pro forma meeting." It was no such thing.

In introducing the resolution, mayor's aide Michael Chameides said Hudson Cruises was offering a higher amount of funding for the City--$3,400--and would assist in installing and removing the seasonal docks. He also said they were offering a reduced cost for programming and free rides to the lighthouse during Waterfront Wednesdays. 

Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) commented, "We've had problems with this operator before," mentioning that Hudson Cruises "caused trouble" and "used the dock as if it were their private dock." He then asked Chameides, "Why this [proposal] and not one submitted by the Sloop Club?"

In responding, Chameides cited the highest cash amount, the most programming, the option of providing lower cost programming, and a different set of programming and a variety of programming (Hudson Cruises has three different boats). By comparison, the Hudson Sloop Club offered $2,000 in cash and offered to function as an "events coordinator."

Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) pointed out that last year Hudson Cruises had received a $1,200 grant from the Tourism Board to pay its docking fee to the City. Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) observed, "It sounds like the Sloop Club is offering more community programming." Alderman Malachi Walker (Fourth Ward) expressed the desire for a plan that incorporated both Hudson Cruises and the Sloop Club." Chameides responded, "Sounds like a good idea, but I wasn't able to make it work in the time allowed."

After the meeting had run almost twice as long as intended, Alderman Tiffany Garriga moved to go forward with the vote. There were five votes against approving the resolution (Garriga, Rosenthal, Jane Trombley, Wolff, DePietro) and six votes in favor (Eileen Halloran, Calvin Lewis, Merante, Dewan Sarowar, Malachi Walker, Shershah Mizan). The resolution was approved, but that was not the end of it.

Three hours later, at the end of the informal meeting, Wolff brought up the issue again, arguing that the Council didn't have adequate time, and the Council not the mayor's office should have made the decision about who would use the docks. She also said she wanted to revisit the concept of a shared dock. Peter Bujanow, commissioner of Public Works, explained that the selection had been made in a formal RFP (request for proposal) process, and "anything you do has to be in the context of the RPF." Collaboration, he said, was not in the RFP. Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, noted that this was a license agreement not a lease agreement, so the Council did not have to be the body making the decision. 

Chameides advised, "If the Council wants to take longer and look at the two proposals, it will just be longer before the docks are in the water." 

DePietro asked a couple of times, "Who would change their vote?" Merante seemed to intimate he might when he complained about the "time crunch" and suggested, "Hudson Cruises can offer more money because they got Tourism Board money last year."

In the end, it was decided that Wolff would lead a study to reassess the proposals submitted.


  1. Sounds like a Three Stooges episode...

  2. There's nothing about Hudson Cruises anywhere in the 2021 Minutes for the Common Council, though last month there was much discussion about finding the money to replace the docks.

    That's why yesterday's agenda item which stated merely "a contract for the docks," without further identifying the true subject, was totally sneaky.

    Misleading the public this way, and perhaps the Council too, was no accident. Shameful behavior.

  3. I told you, DODGY LATIN. Time for the Sloop club to come up with a few more dollars. They should tap into the Tourist coffers.Hudson Cruises out, and stay out."This is my dock,now get the F--K out"

  4. 1.

    What a triumph it would be to see the Sloop Club operating from the riverfront park.

    Instead, I'm extremely disappointed in the 5th Ward Aldermen one of whom knows very well the uphill battle residents have faced over many years trying to rid the riverfront park of its awful fixture Hudson Cruises.

    Both 5th Ward Aldermen know better than anyone the burdens the city has suffered under the yoke of their predecessors in the era of the weighted vote, a.k.a. “the Old Boys.” That's how this tenant from Coxsackie illegally colonized Hudson’s waterfront in the first place, through backroom deals and selective municipal negligence (see below).

    Make no mistake, the City of Hudson is still haunted by its deeply crooked past.

    In one of the Council’s oldest worst habits, why didn’t anyone ask on Monday why the mayor alone should enjoy final authority over the park’s planning efforts? Isn’t this the proper task of our representatives on the Council, with the park’s management being the job of the DPW? (As distinct from the management of the Promenade which is technically owned by the Common Council, as explained on the historic plaque. Wake up people!)

    In answering a question our Aldermen never asked, attorney Baker might have explained that even though the power to lease city property is the exclusive privilege of the Council (§C12-23), the Public Trust Doctrine bars the city’s leasing of waterfront property without the approval of the NYS Legislature - an approval the city never sought and never got.

    How was it, then, that Hudson Cruises enjoyed 12 years of blocking our view of the river before anyone ever had the idea of a “licensing agreement”?

    Flying in the face of the ancient Public Trust doctrine which requires Legislative “alienation” before municipal waterfront can be “leased,” and also many years before the “licensing agreement” ws conceived, Hudson Cruises was known for its practice of locking the city-owned dock; treating the area around the gazebo as a private parking area; maximizing its ugly and Code-defying signage; monopolizing of the city’s half-million dollar bathrooms; abusing the taxpayer-supported power supply; seeking exclusive advantages over nearby businesses; receiving complaints of bullying at the dock; damaging the docks with impunity; and of dumping oil-based paints into the river.

    To some – and always, always, always to the various Aldermen of the 5th Ward – these practices were the putrid though tolerable price of keeping Hudson’s old corruption on life support.

  5. 2.

    But the story gets worse.

    It was in 2015 that the idea of a “licensing agreement" was used to get around the illegal arrangement Hudson Cruises enjoyed for the previous 12 years.

    It was in 2003 that a previous mayor, acting without the Common Council’s knowledge or consent, issued Hudson Cruises a 5-year lease (again, see §C12-23).

    When that first lease ended in early 2008, Hudson Cruises subsequently operated for another three years with no agreement at all, not even of the previous invalid kind! That was three years of rent-free revenue at Hudson taxpayers’ expense. (Ask yourselves how that would be possible anywhere outside of Hudson, and then go look in the mirror.)

    During this agreement-and-rent-free period, the same mayor unilaterally submitted an EDAP grant application to the NYS Dormitory Authority to secure the floating docks. In doing so, however, he obscured the fact that Hudson Cruises would be the main beneficiary of these docks where he misled the grantors by claiming that the city alone would “occupy 100% of the project facility.” That was in 2009.

    (Shedding light on the low-information citizenry of New York, which is tragically a Home Rule state [perhaps a main reason corruption flourishes in NY], when the South Bay Task Force asked the DASNY legal department what could be done about this evident fraud, the dumbfounded attorneys admitted that the Task Force's complaint was the first complaint of any kind in the entire history of DASNY!)

    In 2011, the Common Council finally granted Hudson Cruises a new agreement, but it was still in the form of a lease. The Council also authorized a retroactive “lease” for Hudson Cruises’ previous three years it operated with no agreement at all.

    But when the 2015 “licensing agreement” replaced the previous and illegal lease, the agreement required reissuance on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, when reissuance became automatic, much-needed oversight by the Office of the Mayor was negected despite the company’s ongoing offenses. The Common Council did little to help.

    For those of us who’ve spent years trying to bring Hudson out of its perennial corruption, it is beyond depressing to think that the 5th Ward Aldermen of today, BOTH OF WHOM KNOW BETTER, have agreed to overlook the city’s odious history with Hudson Cruises.

    Why reward the Old Boys’ favorite out-of-town scoundrel over the aspirations of our local Sloop Club? Do these Aldermen really only see a fiscal responsibility, totally detached from the real-world consequences of reestablishing thi waterfront parasite?

    This is our long-awaited chance to get rid of Hudson Cruises once and for all. Moreover, I can’t imagine a more worthy beneficiary than our community-minded Sloop Club.

    Please, Aldermen, reconsider your blunder.

  6. Isn't the sloop club a few neo-hippies with some old sailboats? What are they going to do with that huge dock? Hudson Cruises has some big boats, they take people out on cruises, have parties, etc, what's so odious about that? The gravel transfer station and the power boat club are the real offenders, hogging the whole waterfront.

    1. You're defaming the owners of private property and disregarding abuses against public property.

  7. The big take away here is that the Mayor's Office led by puppet master and so called mayor's aide - Michael Chameides -- along with the members of the Common Council are all completely and totally incompetent. Every thing they touch turns into a SH*T Show. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

    1. To their credit, the Aldermen for whom the city's smelly history with Hudson Cruises actually means something managed to pull things back from the brink. They deserve our gratitude.

      What I can't understand are the Aldermen who know the ugly history yet still favored the same applicant. Just for the money? Seriously?

      I didn't suppose that the Office of the Mayor knew anything about the history, except for the attempt to obscure the subject of the discussion in its notice.

  8. Aside from blocking the view, the only odious thing mentioned is the failure of Hudson Cruises to pay enough for use of the dock. How does this make them odious? If a business is offered low or no rent for use of a space, and it takes advantage of that, how is that the fault of the business? Of course they will take advantage of whatever they can.

    Also it doesn't seem fair to go back twenty years and compare how things were run back then to today. Conditions have changed, the waterfront was pretty deserted back then, there was no Ricks Point, no public docks, low real estate values and very few tourists. Brining up a deal a company got back in 2003, for a space that had limited interest and business potential, as a reason to disqualify them is a bit disingenuous.

    Rather than "pulling things back from the brink", certain folks are revealing their distain for business and intent to put the brakes on the growing tourist economy anyway they can.

    1. Read the end of my #1 comment above, which catalogues only some of Hudson Cruises' past affronts to city taxpayers.

      You may have missed that part being too busy insulting the Sloop Club, and for what exactly? For being "neo-hippies"? Do they bend every law to their advantage? No they don't, and because of that they should be rewarded and the other applicant taught a lesson.

      Except in Hudson our oldest habit is to reward scoundrels. That's why I say shame on the 5th Ward Aldermen, whom I have no doubt know better.

  9. It sounds like there should be an effort to strike a compromise, utilizing both organizations.
    For the record though, the financial argument seems spurious. The amount the cruise line offered over the sloop offer, is just about the same amount that the cruise line received from the city via the tourism board. It's unfair to see one as so much better than the other, when the larger offer is enabled by money sourced from the city. Further in the bigger picture, neither sum is a truly significant amount of money all things considered, so it seems that the best fit, if only 1 can be chosen should be the priority, not the idea that an extra 1400, 1200 of which came from the city to begin with will make a significant impact on the city's coffers. Again, it seems like the wisest most advantageous to the city thing would be to strike a compromise, so we can enjoy a combination of the offerings of both.

    1. But if it's not really about the money - and I agree with you there - then why must we compromise to keep this thuggish business owner in Hudson?

      Why is that "wise" when we finally have an opportunity to get rid of this notorious liberty-taker?

      In all due respect, when reviewing the business owner's history running his business out of our public park - and always as if it was his own private property - that seems the opposite of wise.

      Why do we need Hudson Cruises at all? Why is it wise to compromise with bullies (here I'm also including staff members) who don't even live here?

      As a boater and also a regular visitor to the riverfront park, 15 years of terrible experiences with that business owner tell me it's wiser to send a message that Hudson will no longer tolerate his brand of thuggery.

      Unless we do tolerate it. That would tell me that Hudson has not changed and probably will never change.

    2. Would a 50/50 compromise with the Sloop Club, which does not dump oil-based paints into the river, mean that we could expect only half the amount of paint dumped in the river annually from our waterfront park?

  10. Its Hudson public waterfront park,Not Hudson Cruises private property