Saturday, June 18, 2022

An Update on the Latest Colarusso Lawsuit

Regular readers will remember that, in December 2021, A. Colarusso & Sons filed a lawsuit, its second, against the Hudson Planning Board. (The previous lawsuit was dismissed in January 2019.) Colarusso's second lawsuit was filed soon after the Planning Board made a positive declaration in its review of Colarusso's application for conditional use permits for its operations at the dock and in the City of Hudson. A positive declaration in the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process means that the Planning Board found at least one significant adverse environmental impact, and the environmental scrutiny of the project must continue. 

In March, the attorneys representing the Planning Board filed a partial motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In May, Colarusso's attorneys filed an opposition to that motion. On June 6, attorneys for the Planning Board responded to the Colarusso filing. The following is a summary of the defense response to Colarusso's opposition.
Colarusso Claim A: This Matter is not ripe for review, based on the following four arguments:
1. Colarusso: The direction to prepare an SEIS [supplemental environmental impact statement] is outside of SEQRA's requirements because the bulkhead repair is a Type II action.
Response: Application here is not for approval of the bulkhead repair, but rather, as Petitioner's counsel concedes, it is for a conditional use permit.
2. Colarusso: The Planning Board is not the Lead Agency--the Common Council is the lead agency.
Response: Under applicable local law, the Planning Board, not the Common Council, approves conditional use permits.
3. Colarusso: The City Planning Board's SEIS directive should be annulled because the Town of Greenport Planning Board's prior negative declaration obviates the need for an SEIS.
Response: This argument is based on a conflation of the two applications Petitioners submitted to the City Planning Board. The Town Planning Board issued a negative declaration concerning the haul road improvement project. Colarusso's pending application before the Planning Board is for site plan approval of the portion of Colarusso's private road that is within the City of Hudson. Colarusso's conditional use of the dock is a separate permit application that is the subject of the non-final positive declaration at issue. The Town Planning Board did not, and could not, evaluate environmental impacts related to use of the dock, because the dock is not part of the Town. The dock is entirely within the City of Hudson.
4. Colarusso: The positive declaration is ripe for review because of the "pervasive bias" of two board members out of seven.  
Response: The claims of bias lack force. A board member with a sufficiently high "level of personal financial interest" may be subject to disqualification. . . . Petitioners do not base their argument on even a de minimis financial interest, rather the allegations are based upon mere expressions of personal opinion, some of which are not even from the two Planning Board members at issue. The fact that a public official "expressed opposition" to a project "before and after" joining the relevant body, "and prior to voting on the challenged resolutions" does not "disqualify them from participating in the deliberations of voting on those resolutions."
Colarusso Claim B: The Second Melkonian Decision is not relevant to this case.
Colarusso: The Second Melkonian Decision has no preclusive effect on any of the claims asserted in this action because the Supreme Court did not opine in any way on the scope or type of SEQRA review warranted, only that the Planning Board had jurisdiction to engage in a SEQRA review.
Response: Petitioners were challenging the Planning Board's authority to make any SEQRA declaration at all. The Melkonian decision considered several arguments, and accordingly Petitioners are barred from relitigating those matters in this proceeding.
You can check out the documents in the case here. The index number is E012021017875.


  1. The big takeaway here is that Colarusso is grasping at straws in its effort (still!) to deny the City's right to assess impacts on its own Waterfront. The presumption of dominance is something to behold.

  2. If Colarusso had chosen to go through the Planning Board review like any normal applicant, the process would have ended years ago. Instead, they have run up hundreds of thousands of $$ in legal expenses and wasted 6 years in an effort to dodge a SEQRA review. Their attorney doesn't seem to realize that he is making an implicit concession that a fair review would terminate his client's gravel dump and truck route proposition.

  3. And to top it all off---all these years of obvious malign and predatory practices on Colarusso's part---the City of Hudson STILL DOES BUSINESS with these malevolent creeps!!! If nothing else demonstrates the bottomless incompetence of our local Keystone Cops govt., surely this fact does! Is there no other company in the mid-Hudson valley to do business with except the very one which is continually trying to stifle and control life in the very same city!? It's really a miracle that Hudson has done as well as it has in the past few years---all owing to the efforts and perserverance of its residents and business owners, and never its feckless, if not actually destructive, local govt.!

  4. Consider what Colarusso is asking our Planning Board to permit. The company wants the following:

    ~ Two brand new right-angle intersections on both of the major routes leading into Hudson (9 & 9G.) The crossing at 9G would sit at the base of the long hill where state and local police set up their traps to catch speeding traffic coming down the steep hill.

    ~ A two-lane, paved industrial highway thru South Bay, which was designated as a Significant Fish & Wildlife Habitat two years before Colarusso bought the waterfront property. In addition, the Hudson Common Council passed a 1982 resolution promising local sportsmen that there would be no further development in the Bay.

    ~ A 471% increase in heavy truck traffic at the dangerous Broad St. railroad crossing. The Hudson Train Station handles 28 trains per day (13 passenger trains north, 13 south, and 2 freights.). The Colarusso trucks would be idling on both sides of the tracks while trains pass through the crossing.

    ~ A huge volume of heavy diesel truck traffic right past the front door of Basilica (a popular and busy event venue) within 75 yards of our historic train station, and immediately across from a site where millions of dollars of new investment is taking place as a consequence of the $10 million DRI grant provided by NY State for the purpose of improving our waterfront zone. In addition, the trucks would run directly adjacent to the Henry Hudson Waterfront Park, and the former Dunn Building, which is scheduled for rehabilitation in the coming years.

    Colarusso maintains that the Hudson Planning Board has no statutory authority to put ANY limits on the volume of truck traffic, so it's possible that the projected volume of 471% could be exceeded.

    The Colarusso waterfront operation is providing no jobs or economic upside for the City, while imposing massive downside impacts. The company has tried to position their initiative as a way to get trucks off Columbia St., but all the other heavy truck traffic on that route that serves the big box stores on Fairview Ave. would continue to be a problem.

    Colarusso isn't keeping their dust under control at the waterfront, which is surprising given that the company is seeking permits to operate in our community for the forseeable future. One would think that management would have the sense to demonstrate good faith behavior.

    The City of Hudson has been working for years with the NY Department of State to complete the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which is intended to help communities clean up their old post-industrial waterfronts and increase accessibility for the citizens. Given its many downside environmental impacts, the Colarusso gravel operation runs counter to the letter and spirit of the LWRP program.

    Colarusso is seeking two separate permits. The first is a Conditional Use Permit to operate a gravel dump on the waterfront. The need for that permit was triggered in 2016, when the company did alterations to their dock. The second permit is for a new haul road coming directly out of the quarry on Newman Rd. in Greenport, crossing two major highways, and passing thru South Bay.

    It is worth noting that early in the review process, the Hudson Planning Board asked Colarusso for basic truck traffic data (identification of routes and intersections, time of operation, truck volume, etc.) This information is critical, as it would allow the Board to make an informed decision on the application. Colarusso actually had the nerve to refuse to supply the data, claiming that it was "proprietary business information." Sadly, the Planning Board lacked adequate legal counsel and effective leadership, and four years passed before the Board found its backbone and demanded a proper truck traffic study. That study revealed the truth that Colarusso had been trying to hide-- their application is not about improving the situation in the minority neighborhood along Columbia St. Rather, the company is seeking a massive increase in truck trips to the waterfront.

  5. It appears the tour boat and taxi down at the waterfront was seen as undesirable and their exit encouraged by our leaders, seems like they should take the same course with the gravel transfer station. The city should simply declare the industrial activity in conflict with the public use of the waterfront and assert eminent domain over the property. Of course the prior owners would be responsible for the mess down there, the industrial ruins, compacted and polluted soil. If only our leaders had some interest in improving our waterfront and cleaning the rotting mess up in the North Bay and weren't spending all their time and energy, and giving away taxpayer resources on building more housing projects.

  6. Thanks Peter, well said. For others, to illustrate Peter’s concerns in truck numbers, if haul road expansion is approved, Colarusso has proposed up to 284 truck trips (or more)/day up to 250 days/year. Imagine these trucks hauling to and from our waterfront daily; that’s an average of 2 truck trips every 5 minutes, causing increased accident risk, not to mention backups/slowdowns, at Amtrak and Routes 9/9G (into Hudson). Plus, this volume does NOT include an additional 12,000 annual truckloads (24,000 truck trips) taking place for gravel sold to retail customers, which currently use Warren St, Park Place, Columbia St, and Green St, to access Neuman Rd. These would add to the volume of truck crossings at the intersection of Routes 9 and 9G.