Sunday, January 2, 2022

About the Colarusso Lawsuit

On New Year's Eve, Our Hudson Waterfront and the Valley Alliance submitted a four-page letter to the Planning Board, Mayor Kamal Johnson, and Council president Tom DePietro urging the City "to take swift action to protect the integrity of its Zoning Code and authority of its agencies, and to deter nuisance lawsuits designed to undermine their necessary and proper review processes" by asking the court "to summarily dismiss the recent lawsuit filed by A. Colarusso & Sons."

The letter goes on to assert:
The purposes of Colarusso’s action appear to be to intimidate Board members, delay the application of established local laws, and waste public resources in hopes of exhausting civic officials’ patience and budgets. This is just the latest in a series of attacks on your agencies and appointees, and cannot be tolerated without rendering the City’s entire Code meaningless.
The letter presents and elaborates on these five "clear and ample grounds for requesting and obtaining immediate dismissal of this lawsuit":
  1. The issue of jurisdiction was already decided in the City's favor, and can't be re-litigated.
  2. The lawsuit is premature and untimely because no final determination has been reached.
  3. The DEC Commissioner upheld Hudson's jurisdictional responsibilities for the project.
  4. Having filed applications and participated in their review, Colarusso can't turn back time and erase that ongoing process.
  5. If anything, Colarusso has benefited from the City's indulgence, and many instances of bias in its favor.
Elaborating on the fifth point, the letter argues:
Despite the issuance of an Order to Remedy, the loss of all grandfathered status, and a court decision requiring applications for permits for the entire operation, the City has taken no action to stop the ongoing activities at the Hudson dock by Colarusso.
Though the company lost any claim of a prior right to continue operations, it has been allowed to do so throughout this long process—a process which has been greatly extended by Colarusso’s own intransigence and litigiousness.
The entire letter, which was signed by David Konigsberg and Donna Streitz for Our Hudson Waterfront and Peter Jung and Sam Pratt for the Valley Alliance, is reproduced here

To read the lawsuit filed by A. Colarusso & Sons, click here. Select "Search Records as Guest," enter "Colarusso" in the "Party 1" field, and click on "Search." Go to page 4 and scroll down to the bottom of the page. The link to the current lawsuit is the fifth item from the bottom.


  1. Colarusso has been a difficult, obnoxious applicant, but it needs to be said that the Hudson Planning Board has no excuse for messing around with this issue for 6 long years. It was obvious from the beginning that the proposed gravel dump and truck route on our waterfront comes with a huge menu of downside impacts on the community and zero in the way of economic upside for the City.

    Early in the review process the Planning Board asked the company for basic truck traffic data (hours of operation, routes, traffic volume, etc.). Colarusso refused to provide the information, making the ridiculous claim that it's private business information. So for years the Planning Board proceeded without that vital information, when instead the Board should have dumped the application off their desk due to non-compliance by the company. This entire miserable and costly review process should have ended in 2016, but unfortunately we are still dealing with it, and now the City has to confront yet another lawsuit by Colarusso.

    1. All true.

      Next consider that the Colarusso company claims its truck numbers are determined by the number of barges it's able to load. So does anyone know the true upper limit of barges and loading capacity in future? (The Register-Star's Nick Olivetti, now gone, did some terrific research on that.)

      By anyone's reckoning, though, the true upper limit of truck traffic and dockside storage of raw materials will be determined by the number of lanes available on the private two-way road. (Remember that stockpiling will continue whether or not barges are available, which is another good reason to insist that NYS OGS ask the company to defend the indefensible: title on the [state-owned!] lands it uses to stockpile and store its materials.)

      The following truck scenarios must be studied in the SEQR analysis of alternatives.

      1. If the two crossings at the two state routes #9 and 9G are completed as envisioned in the LWRP, does anyone know the number of trucks per day that can get to and from the waterfront using the existing two-way, single-lane road? Of course not, because it was never studied before. (You can bet that the company has an estimate though.)

      2. Alternately, if the crossings are completed as envisioned in the LWRP, does anyone know the upper limit of truck traffic if the two-way private road through the South Bay is now expanded to two lanes? More than ever before, that's for certain.

      In the end, that's the only number that matters: the upper limit of trucks using the proposed two lanes. Only a fool would think that the company didn't estimate that number before it bought the property (which is not a reference to Peter's comment although we've been too focused on past performance when the sky is the possible limit).

    2. Even if you take the company at its word, the proposed maximum in the application is 284 trips a day—a deluge of trucks roaring across two major arteries and a busy rail corridor, through protected wetlands, past existing and planned businesses, and right past our little waterfront park. This is more than quadruple the traffic we experience today and 1300% more than truck traffic in 2015. Of course, since the City appears to have no right to actually regulate volume—a point the company’s attorney has driven home explicitly—the only limit, as you point out, is what a two-lane truckway will will carry. It’s an impending disaster for Hudson’s waterfront, destroying any notion of a long-envisioned vibrant waterfront district that creates businesses, jobs, climate resiliency and open public space.

    3. 1.

      And to think, dkon, that the entire impending disaster will be carried out by the feint that the 2011 waterfront program never happened.

      The company got this far by simply ignoring the LWRP, while city officials and residents with no memory of 2011, and those who’ve arrived here since, continue to swallow uncritically the applicant’s self-serving account.

      The LWRP and its related policies are our Local Law. All we need to do to defend ourselves against this applicant’s continuous manipulations is to understand the underlying policies which fortify and explain laws ratified years before Colarusso even bought the property.

      The private road was made nonconforming so that it couldn’t be widened, at least not until the City and its residents approved of additional lanes in an eventual SEQRA review for a conditional use permit. We’re now at that moment.

      This SEQRA review which the company is so desperate to avoid - so desperate that its latest lawsuit merely reargues the decision it already lost in its prior lawsuit - entails a study of possible alternatives which may reasonably avoid the current proposal’s foreseeable negative impacts.

      Chief among the alternatives the Planning Board may agree to permit is the one the City formerly “preferred,” a single lane private road from the mine to the waterfront to be used in both directions of travel.

      But because the existing single lane may limit Colarusso’s back-and-forth truck numbers - exactly as the City had planned in 2011 - the company wants two lanes instead of one, pretending that it never read the LWRP before purchasing the property.

      Unfortunately, this strategy has worked very effectively in a city with no institutional memory, and in which our officials aren’t expected to read anything.

    4. 2.

      But it’s a funny tfhing about SEQRA reviews, perhaps even anticipated by the now-panicked applicant, that the 2011 waterfront policies and their underlying rationale - as these were hashed out in LWRP workshops and LWRP planning meetings - now must all be reevaluated if the current review is to be a success, or at least successful enough to avoid a court challenge by the public.

      The private road was made nonconforming for a reason. We should remain faithful to that reason when the Planning Board as SEQRA lead agency reevaluates the City’s once-“preferred” alternative which was designed to remove aggregate trucks from city streets.

      From the city’s perspective, there was a second advantage in recognizing as “grandfathered” a private road which was really only created six months earlier by the former owner, Holcim US, Inc. The city was able to exploit an oversight in the creation of the road, one which the owner must have realized in retrospect was a missed a opportunity.

      Had Holcim sneakily surfaced a road-width of two lanes in the summer of 2011 instead of one - or even installed truck pull-outs on the causeway, yet another horrible idea!! - there’d be no proposal today and no controversy. All of this was before, and contributory to, the eventual creation of the CR District.

      The city dodged a bullet there, but then, with guidance from NYS DOS, we saw how to capitalize on the opportunity presented - the same one the city mustn’t squander 10 years later.

      Maintained at its narrow grandfathered width, the city understood the existing road would serve as a structural constraint on intensification of industry at the city’s waterfront. It was the width of the existing road installed by Holcim (et al) which obviated any notion that the city might directly regulate truck numbers, an option and a risk which the DOS attorney William Sharp emphatically counseled against.

      As a result, a one-lane truck road between the river and the mine, when used in both directions of travel, is today no less a solution for Hudson’s gravel truck challenges than it was a decade ago.

  2. Hats off, with gratitude, to all of the authors and signers of this letter! It presents the situation very clearly and succinctly. May the outcome of this seemingly never-ending conflict turn out to be as just, as fair---and as final---as this letter indicates it should be! Enough, once and for all, with Colarusso's malevolence, mendaciousness and parasitic dependence on Hudson, to the city's ongoing detriment.

    1. I should add that their symbiotic relationship with the bottom feeders of Hudson's political class has done nothing positive for the Hudson community, and the taint of those associations carries over into all their actions.

    2. Yes, and to think that every one of those local relationships and the resulting rancor in our politics are based on a single, tiny, and false premise that supports Colarusso’s entire stratagem.

      The whole edifice and all those ugly relationships crumble unless the private road on the causeway is a one-way road by law.

      If the road was truly one-way by law, then that could be the only just defense for why the company has continued to use city streets other than the state truck route. Indeed, that’s how the circumstance is always argued so that Colarusso gets to claim that it is a beleagured party too.

      But not only is the private road not one-way by law, the matter was never even discussed, not once, throughout the years-long development of the 2011 Core Riverfront District.

      I defy anyone to produce a single contemporary reference from any city document (or LWRP-related audio file) as to the causeway even being considered for potential one-way use. It never happened.

      That means the private road is “one-way” only by Colarusso’s devising. They travel voluntarily in one direction only, then claim that it’s an unavoidable privation foisted on them by law. If true, then that would require the use of the city’s Environmental Justice neighborhoods. Instead, it’s cynical beyond belief.

      But it’s enough of an argument to fool every state official; everyone in Linda Mussman’s circle (although I’ve spoken with the Supervisor and know that she herself is in possession of the facts); and every newspaper with low standards from The Times-Union to The Columbia Paper to our dependably misinformed Register-Star.

      And we are all dunces, too, for not grasping the outsized importance of this tiny, pivotal lie that props up Colarusso’s central argument.

      On the other hand, if the private road was always intended to be used in two directions of travel, then whoever was to buy the property in 2014 would’ve had the same incentive to finish the LWRP’s truck route alternative that the city intended for the previous landowner.

      If anyone needs further evidence of our own collective obtuseness, in fact Colarusso has since built and nearly completed the same road alternative presented in the 2011 LWRP! All that the company needs to finish its expansion plan are two truck lanes across the South Bay, yet the entire argument for two lanes is premised on the utter fabrication that they purchased a one-way road.

  3. Bravo!! Well presented!!

    Residents should note that the plaintiff's "ongoing operations," possible only thanks to the city's generosity, are among the reasons cited for why the City's review is an imposition on the company which operates without a permit. What unmitigated arrogance.

    It should be obvious to everyone at last, and even the company's defenders, that the City's generosity has gone too far.

    Looking closer at the Code at 325-35.2, any city agency in addition to the Planning Board whose approval is required for the proposed conditional use permit - possibly the HCDPA's own Development Permit, or the ZBA's approval if its involvement wasn't exhausted during the Greenport review (when it relinquished its authority without explanation!) - can now inform CEO Craig Haigh that said agency's right to first make a consistency determination has been passed over in favor of the ongoing operations. The CEO should halt all dock operations upon such request. (The SEQRA review may yet reveal that the Common Council will play a part after all, though I'd imagine that the Council can request a Stop Work Order whenever it likes.)

    Residents may also submit complaints to the CEO, their Aldermen, President DePietro, and to Mayor Johnson requesting a stop work order. Additionally, anyone whose primary concern is the city's Environmental Justice areas may bring a lawsuit against the City seeking relief for failing to impose the 2019 judgement of the state Supreme Court. (Supervisor Mussman?)

    It's time to shut down the operations of A. Colarusso and Son, Inc. in Hudson. The company should not be allowed to sue the City by exploiting the City's generosity towards the company. That's just insane.

    The company's lawsuit delivers this moment on a silver platter, which is all the more inexplicable because it suddenly makes strategic sense for the city managing its response to shut down operations.

    It's so obvious that actual leadership is barely even required. Any dithering by the usual politicians (see above) should be an occasion for ridicule.

  4. Oh Lord, time to put an end to this. It's been going on too long. New City officials, help do the job. It's all explained above.
    thank you Our Hudson Waterfront and Valley Alliance. Sam, Peter and Unheimlich for keeping this all straight. Letters....