Friday, September 10, 2021

Some Background

The Planning Board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, September 23, to continue its consideration of Colarusso's applications for conditional use permits. For several months now, the Planning Board has been holding special meetings to consider the Colarusso applications. In its most recent meetings, the board has been working its way through Part 2 of the Full Environmental Assessment Form, and it is believed that the board is just about ready to make a positive or negative declaration in the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process. 

The process has taken a long time, and there's a lot at stake here. For those whose attention has strayed away from this issue over the years, here's a way to catch up. Last weekend, Peter Jung was the guest on Radio Kingston's Green Radio Hour with Jon Bowermaster. That interview, titled "Fighting for the Hudson Waterfront," can be heard here. 


  1. Good going Peter (and Gossips too!).

    10 years ago, the exact same issue - a private truck route across the South Bay wetlands - repeatedly filled City Hall to capacity. You can still read the Minutes for what they're worth at the city website.

    Only 10 years and people have forgotten that we've already arrived at a solution to the Environmental Justice issue, and also a way to limit the size of the gravel industry at the waterfront.

    Someone asked me just today, was I able to name 4 or 5 potential solutions to the city's waterfront challenges?

    I was emphatic that there's only ONE solution (1!), which is the Grand Compromise of 2011 which required years and an immense effort by a large number of people, organizations, and government agencies to arrive at.

    (The solution remains a one-lane private road across the South Bay to be used on to directions of travel. For some reason it's very hard to get it straight, so let me put it simply: ONE-LANE; TWO-WAY.)

    As far as I'm concerned, why should the new landowner get a do-over just because it wants a bigger footprint? Especially when a bigger footprint is precisely what the waterfront program was designed to discourage!

    The Colarusso company bought the compromise along with the land, the very compromise the company's shareholders studied in the City Code before investing their $8 million.

    Caveat emptor!

  2. Given the way Colarusso has behaved in front of our Planning Board, I don't want to see that company operating in our community, period.

    1. I'm afraid we must (must) content ourselves with the next best thing. Better that than to believe we can circumvent the US Constitution.

      Never forget the wasted summer of 2011 when everyone who normally contributed to the LWRP took an idealistic break thanks to the impossible dream of eminent domain. Months passed before the initiative's would-be funders co-wrote an op-ed to The Columbia Paper saying they couldn't support it.

      In retrospect, the entire summer was a lost opportunity that we should be very careful not to repeat.

    2. Also, I know that you know that.

      I'm just saying that all too often people want to put their faith in something that lets them believe they're useful somehow without actually having to exert themselves.

      It's a soft form of hypocrisy, and in this case the South Bay and waterfront will pay the price.

  3. Unheimlich,

    There is no chance that the Hudson Planning Board will be "circumventing the Constitution." Colarusso has no operating status, no grandfathered status, no permits. The company is facing a review no different than any other applicant, under our local zoning code and SEQRA. The Planning Board is under no obligation to approve either the proposed haul route or the use of the waterfront dock. There is no Constitutional issue.

  4. 1.

    Actually Peter, I agree with you!! That's how I interpret the Melkonian decision too.

    What I should have written was, "circumventing the combined disaster of our city attorneys and the timidity of the current Planning Board members all of whom are still unable to press the applicant on far lesser infractions. (I still have doubts that everyone grasps the Board's years-long category error which, until very recently, mistakenly limited the scope of the review. The last meeting on the application, which was fortunately sub-quorum, was a disaster.)

    Considering the shared confusion of all of the above perpetuated by the city's clueless engineer and a series of subpar city attorneys (with the notable exception of Ken Dow who argued successfully in the City's defense), together these advisors represent what must be the longest wrong streak in the city's history.

    You can only play with the team you have, but with such utter losers serving as advisors and a timid Planning Board which still conflates the actual "dock" with the Code's "dock operations,"

    Thus, a decision of constitutional import had better come from an incredibly strong position. Considering the players we have for the City, the argument you've presented WHICH I AGREE DRAWS THE CORRECT CONCLUSION presents an impenetrable conceptual obstacle.

    I acknowledge that I abbreviated above, even sloppily, but I was factoring the city's almost certain inability to sustain a position which is countered by objections on constitutional grounds.

    I'm very glad you called me out on this.

  5. 2.

    So what did Judge Melkonian actually say which supports our shared view?

    This thread presents the greatest opportunity we've had to interrogate the applicant's property rights, if any!

    And while I wish he'd spent a little more time clarifying a matter of such tremendous importance, one which implicates what the applicant definitely considers its constitutional right, I hope that others will weigh in here on the meaning of the following words in the Melkonian judgement.

    These excerpts are from the State Supreme Court's "Decision and Order and Judgement" by Acting Justice Michael Melkonian on January 23, 2019.

    Does anyone consider anything in the following ambiguous or unclear? Does anyone believe there's a chance that the Planning Board will base its decision on these words alone?

    Melkonian, p. 3:

    "[In] 2017, the City determined that inasmuch as petitioners' [i.e. Colarusso's] nonconforming use as a commercial dock operation had ceased .... Indeed, the extensive record herein reflects that the Planning Board made it abundantly clear to petitioners that inasmuch as petitioners' nonconforming use had ceased, they would be required to obtain a conditional use permit for their continued commercial dock operations."

    Melkonian, p. 5:

    "The rational [sic] of this zoning ordinance [325-17.1(D)] (according to respondent's counsel [Ken Dow]) was that 'it allows the dock owner & operator (Petitioner since 2014) to carry on its commercial dock operations as such operations existed in 2011, as a nonconforming use, as long as the owner/operator (Petitioner) did not seek to make improvements, expansions, or changes. As soon as the owner/operator sought to make an improvement, enhancement, expansion, or change, the right to operate as a nonconforming right ceased."

    Melkonian, pp. 7, 8:

    "[R]espondents [i.e. the City] rationally concluded that the erosion repair project was one of the 'actions or events specified in Section D' [of the Code] triggering the termination of petitioner's right to continue to operate the commercial dock without conditional use permit ..."

  6. Melkonian responses. Seems clear to me. Planning Board - do the right thing. Thank you Peter and Unheimlich for keeping after this after all these years.

    1. It wouldn't certainly help things if there was a wider discussion about this, which typically begins with media coverage.

      The Colarusso company has continued its operations thanks to the generosity and mercy of city government, and yet the company behaves as if it's entitled.

      Why hasn't A. Colarusso & Son expressed any gratitude or this?

      City residents are being taken advantage of, which means that the negative impacts which elicit Environmental Justice concerns are on the heads of those in City Hall who tolerate the company's insolence.

      By ignoring the Melkonian judgement, city politicians are side-stepping their responsibility. That's why City Hall is equally culpable for the negative impacts of gravel trucks on EJ neighborhoods and on city infrastructure.

  7. Judges are human, they have their own biases, behind the scenes friendships, etc., you really can't count on them to be reasonable and fair in the application of the rules, as they can interpret them to fit their own preconceived idea of how things should work out.

    A simple solution in this case (not for the whole problem, but for that of the trucks) would be for the city to simply ban large, heavy trucks off the state truck route. The gravel trucks would then have to start using their cell phones, radios, and delivery schedule to take the gravel road back and forth by arranging travel in alternate directions. The gravel road is a very short route, shorter than some driveways, arranging that really isn't very complicated.

    1. Right you re, P. Winslow. That's the same simple solution arrived at by the 2011 waterfront program, the LWRP.

      The reason nobody discusses it is that Colarusso ignored the LWRP, pretending that it never existed, and that was enough to fool everyone that their road proposal was actually something new.

      But it's the same old story with a twist. The simple solution you're citing is the same simple solution landed on a decade ago.

      As for the Melkonian judgement, the plaintiffs had their chance to appeal but didn't. End of story.

    2. So the council then is part of the problem, because they don't have the nerve to enforce a simple rule. Kind of like the sidewalks.