Sunday, September 25, 2022

Considering Trucks

Photo: NYS GIS
At the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meeting this past Tuesday, Mary Susan Knauss, who joined the HDC board in 2019, announced her resignation from the board. Her reason for leaving is that she is soon to become president of the not-for-profit NYS GIS Association, and time does not permit her to continue on the HDC board. GIS stands for Geographical Information Science. Knauss, who now works as a consultant, was for thirteen years Senior Transportation Analyst for the NYS Department of Transportation.

As a parting gift to HDC and Hudson, Knauss presented a document called "Truck Route FAQ," which she said was "meant to distill all I might have contributed to the board" regarding the perennial issue of truck routes through Hudson. She told her HDC colleagues that she has offered her assistance to the Common Council ad hoc committee pursuing the issue of truck routes.

In her comments at the HDC meeting, Knauss said she cannot see any benefit the truck route has brought to Hudson. She recommended that people "stop talking about the truck route as if it is something you can just ban altogether." She warned that no effort will be successful unless the City addresses the problem in pieces. Because there are alternative ways to get to destinations outside the city without passing through the city, she advised that Hudson needed to make it harder and take longer to drive through the city than to go around it.

In the FAQ and in her presentation to HDC, Knauss pointed out that permitting can be used to discourage trucks from passing through Hudson. The default for a tractor trailer in 48 feet. A 53-foot tractor trailer is considered a Special Dimension Vehicle (SDV) requiring a permit. Most trucks entering Hudson are 53 feet, which means that "any street in Hudson is where they should not be." A truck's registration indicates the length of the truck, so enforcing length restrictions would not require an involved truck inspection. 

Krauss's FAQ makes this point, which is frequently brought up in discussions of trucks in Hudson:
In the age of GPS, accurate and efficient navigation of trucks on the proper routes occurs when a "truck route" designation is programmed into the system. With today's technology, a change to a truck route is basically a simple "flick of a switch" at the state level. 
Knauss's FAQ makes one point that will not be well received by many in Hudson. 
Can we at least get rid of the gravel trucks?
Yes, by giving them another way to go. The gravel trucks are local, and for where they go and what they do, they have permits. Hudson City Planning Board approval of access to the Haul Road from 9G/23B would rid the city of all the gravel trucks once and for all.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that such action by the Planning Board would "rid the city of all gravel trucks once and for all." Representatives for Colarusso have stated in Planning Board meetings that they will continue to use city streets to get from the quarry to the waterfront in cases of emergency and when weather conditions prohibit use of their private road.

The next meeting of the ad hoc Truck Route Committee is scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 6, at 6:00 p.m.


  1. There is a significant mistake in the assertion that the gravel trucks "have permits." A New York Supreme Court has clearly established that Colarusso has no permits, and no grandfathered status whatsoever. Perhaps Gossips can post a link to the Melkonian court decision in this thread? Colarusso is operating only because our Code Enforcement Officer allowed them to continue working while they undergo a permit review in front of the Hudson Planning Board. They are before the PB as a new applicant, no different than any firm that is applying for the first time.

    The company has submitted two separate applications to the Planning Board-- one to operate a gravel dump at the waterfront, and another to build the proposed new 'haul road' that would connect the quarry directly to the waterfront. One of the big problems with this situation is that when Colarusso filed their original application with the Town of Greenport, they were proposing a very limited volume of truck traffic (2,000 trips per year.) But after years of dithering, the PB finally demanded a proper truck study, and it was revealed that the project would result in a massive increase in volume, 450% or more. And further, Colarusso continues to maintain that a Federal statute prevents the City from imposing ANY upper limit on truck volume. So if the Planning Board were to issue permits, it would open up the possibility of an extraordinary volume of gravel shipment with profound impacts for our waterfront and quality of life. And if the volume goes up, there will be a commensurate increase in the frequency of blasting in the quarry, which rocks the City and our wonderful old architecture. And it's worth noting that some years ago, the company leased a huge amount of additional acreage from the City for the purpose of increased production. Their intention is very clear.

    Colarusso has advanced their haul road proposition as if it's some kind of generous initiative that would result in 'environmental justice.' That has been transparent bullshit from the beginning-- the company is hoping to ramp up their operation to a great degree.

    1. Great point and reminder, Peter. I don't understand why officials can't get it into their heads that Colarusso does not have the permits, as you state. Indeed the Melkonian judgement should be printed loud and clear. (And perhaps put on a poster, maybe a Liberty Paint.)

  2. Ms. Knauss is right that Hudson's truck problems should be analyzed in pieces, but her focus on gravel trucks is so misinformed her document should be called Truck Route FAKE.

    As for Colarusso's supposed "permits," Knauss must have bought into Judge Zwack's fabulously flawed opinions which the City is now appealing. Among Zwack's ignorant or crooked assertions is that Colarusso's NYS DEC mining permit extends into the City of Hudson and across the South Bay by virtue of the [nonexistent] "haul road."

    Both Zwack and now Knauss prove the hazards of nomenclature as first discovered by John Rosenthal; to wit, that by recasting the Core Riverfront District's "private road" as a Haul Road we were always running the risk of extending the state's mining permit right into Hudson.

    Because there's no other permit to which she can be referring, Knauss is hopefully among the last who are still repeating the same phrase we've heard for years - Haul Road - first from the Planning Board itself and most recently from Judge Zwack who actually based his judgement on it!

    After a decade of correcting all sorts of false claims by successive owners of the South Bay - not least Colarusso's implication that the private road is already a "haul road" - this is all the evidence I need that Knauss, et al, are elitists who never thought to inquire of the public. (You see and hear the same thing in Common Councils and with every Board whenever a lawyer's condescending tone carries more weight than their nonsensical words.)

    In an applicable op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, a writer warns of the perennial elitist who "disdains ordinary people and looks to a cadre of so-called experts to operate the levers of power." With her own misstatement that Colarusso has "permits," Knauss puts every wrong-headed expert ahead of years and years of public clarifications. (In its appeal, the city runs the risk of hiring lawyer experts who also do not heed the public's grasp of facts and circumstances.)

    But here's the kicker, and the best reason to demand that our officials and their appointees and experts heed their paymasters (i.e. the public); ultimately, nearly everyone who's gotten this wrong has privileged Colarusso's own claims before anything the public had to say.

    For another example of Knauss's privileging of the applicant while ignoring decades of public participation and hard work, her answer to getting rid of the gravel trucks is to give them "another way to go." For Knauss that means a single thing: "approval of access to the Haul Road" [sic] through the city's South Bay.

    Has Knauss never heard of the city's adopted waterfront program?! Developed with public input between 2008 and 2011, not only did the LWRP analyze other alternatives for the gravel trucks (including the woodland route which never entertained a Haul Road), it laid the foundation for the Core Riverfront District including the rationale and justification for the Planning Board to refuse to issue a permit at all.

    Personally, I don't know the HDC's alleged transportation expert, Ms. Knauss, so I won't assume any favoritism or foul-play on her part. The only alternative, though, is ignorance - the very kind of ignorance so typical of our public-ignoring elite. I'm sure she'll fit right in at her new assignment.

    1. The purpose of an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is to collect all of the answers to questions that are often asked. Now it is always possible to ask better questions and discover better answers so they are living documents meant to keep up with the current version of the system rules.
      Think of it as the rules on the back of the box top for trucking and highways.

      Reach out to me offline. It is an shared google doc and I'll add you as a commenter so the FAQ can be improved.

  3. The situation with permits for the waterfront gravel operation is even more mind-boggling than people might expect: In fact, *no* permitting review has ever occurred for the activity at the local level.

    The trucking of gravel to the waterfront, and shipping it out by barge, began within a year of the Holcim/St. Lawrence Cement project for that location being nixed by the State. In his ruling, the Secretary of State ordered Hudson to rezone its waterfront “immediately” to eliminate heavy industrial uses.

    Instead, Holcim started sending dozens of trucks almost daily to the waterfront. No permit for this trucking activity, let alone the loading of it into barges in the Hudson River, was ever submitted to the Planning Board.

    Instead, then-City attorney Cheryl Roberts, along with Waterfront Chair Linda Mussmann (after the latter held a secret meeting with Holcim) opined that this activity was an “as of right use” requiring no permits.

    This would be like if you wanted to add two new stories, a garage and a ten-foot fence to your home in Hudson, and were allowed to do it without any local permits at all.

    In short, the volume of trucks, the amount of gravel, the fugitive dust, runoff, hazards to river habitats not to mention other watercraft, never went through any Hudson review.

    Instead, Roberts and Mussmann then engineered an LWRP over the objection of 3,000 citizens (with only two comments in favor) that grandfathered this never-reviewed activity.

    Thankfully, the State butted in and inserted a provision that if any further changes were made to the property, that grandfathering would be lost and any industrial operator—today, Colarusso—would have to start over from scratch, and do the comprehensive review which never happened.

    Colarusso foolishly went ahead and made those changes, filing permits applications to State and Federal agencies, but skipping Hudson.

    It was at that point that this went to court, and a judge ordered Colarusso to undergo the review required by the LWRP.

    Bottom line: If anyone still claims that Colarusso has a permit for its current activities, they are challenged to produce one issued by the Planning Board. It doesn’t exist.

    1. The claim of a single permit is absurd enough, but Knauss's "permits," plural, argues more for sloppiness on her part. Yet this may go further than a single careless HDC member.

      If Knauss was thinking of the DEC mining permit, as I believe, then maybe she's unwittingly alerted us to an erroneous assumption being made city-wide, i.e. that the DEC permit includes even a square inch within city limits.

      I know I don't need to tell you that it doesn't, but this was the incorrect assumption of Judge Zwack and was even a major premise for his judgement.

      Scrutinizing the actual permit, only the acreage covered by the permit is specified. An additional inquiry reveals that the specified acreage is the same size as the Becraft mine. In other words it's entirely within Greenport, a fact which Judge Zwack will come to regret.

      But will this be challenged? Do the City's attorneys have any idea what is and isn't covered by the mining permit? We should assume they don't.

      Given the cultural bubbles these experts and officials thrive inside of (how else could Knauss have made such a stupid error except that they all believe it), it's not unlikely that her wrong assumption about "permits" is a vulnerability in the city's appeal too.

    2. The FAQ will get a search and replace for "permits" to "motor vehicle permits" post haste. I extend the offer to you to become a commentor on the FAQ to address all of the types of permits involved.

    3. Your FAQ posits that the only way to get rid of the gravel trucks is to give the“another way to go.” This ignores the fact that the Planning Board can deny the permit, and eliminate the traffic entirely—traffic which was never formally reviewed or permitted.

    4. Ms. Knauss, replacing "permits" in your text with "motor vehicle permits" salvages an obscure point which is meaningless in the present conversation. It's like seeking investments into your company on the basis of having commercial plates on your vehicle, except that your business doesn't have an operating permit. Why refer to permits at all?

      There are alternatives to your favored plan which are apparently unknown to you (I don't find your name in any of the waterfront program documents or its public comments), but seeing as any mention of the LWRP is unpleasant to Mr. Pratt I won't rehearse any of it here.

      In fact, Mr. Pratt is perfectly correct that the Planning Board isn't required to issue a permit at all.

      After years of insults and lies and lawsuits against Hudson's residents, will you explain - can you, and right here at Gossips - why you believe the City of Hudson should still invest in A. Colarusso and Son? Because that's precisely the point the company is at now, seeking the city's investment in the form of a permit after years of doling out abuse.

  4. Colarusso’s lawyer has constantly tried to bamboozle both local officials and State courts by pretending that State and Federal permits somehow substitute for, or even override, the need for local ones.

    This is patently untrue.

    No matter what DEC, DOT or the Army Corps might allow, the company still needs permission to operate in Hudson from the Planning Board.

    Hudson’s planners must review any proposal for compliance with local laws, codes and regs, including but not limited to the LWRP. Such a comprehensive look was never done by other agencies, who have never been asked to look at more than Colarusso’s specific impacts related to mining, or rip-rap repairs in the river, etc.

    In any case, only the Hudson planners have the right and responsibility to make the evaluation of local compliance for Hudson for activities such as dock unloading and loading, safety at the Broad Street railroad crossing, pollution impacting the Waterfront park, safety for kayakers, sailboats and other “muscle craft” from the boat launch, etc.

    State and Federal agencies have their own rules and standards to follow, and these are always different from and often narrower than local ones.

    Anyone pretending that DEC, DOT or Army Corps permits supercede or substitute for Hudson’s own review is either ignorant of the process, or deliberately misleading the public.

  5. I am trained as a project manager so the approach is to break the problem down into its parts and then assess can be done about each one. In a project, there are activities that can be done on parallel tracks, worked independently.
    Managing vehicle traffic in Hudson can be treated as independent and work to improve it does not have to wait on sorting out the Waterfront.
    Hudson's need for Complete Streets Planning is clear from Carole's recent post on the sidewalks.
    There are some great youtube videos on where this has been done successfully. It can help a community to flourish. One thing they have in common is that motor vehicles slow down and that can effect route preference in commercial nav systems .
    The Truck Route FAQ is meant to share relevant information about how motor vehicle laws constraint and enable us. The FAQ is not a policy document, it is a tool and I am a tool maker, tools for context, tools for decision making.
    It is a living document and any errors of fact will be amended and you are invited to add such questions and include answers you think will aid the community. Information continuity across time seems to be an issue for us. Carole is constantly frustrated not being able to link to things that would help us all share a common context.

    1. I believe you have previously been made aware that denying the permit is a viable method of solving the gravel truck problem. It certainly has been raised many times here on this blog.

      The question then is why your draft FAQ continues to ignore or deny this possibility, while claiming to have no policy agenda.

    2. Even if it's only your personal opinion, Ms. Knauss, it's still a policy document when you recommend "Hudson City Planning Board approval of access to the Haul Road [sic]."

      To claim that your FAQ with its odious recommendation "is not a policy document" is blinkered, considering you don't even present the alternatives! It fails the smell test.

      I suspect that you already know this, but wager that Gossips readers are lacking in common sense.

    3. Sam, What kind of permit are you talking about? The Parcel Use Permit?
      Motor vehicle permits will not be an aid to your goal which seems to be very narrow when it comes to improving multi-modal traffic in Hudson.
      Could you state your goal for vehicles and pedestrians playing well together and not the waterfront issues for us? Gravel trucks are just a portion of the traffic.

    4. Ms. Knauss, feel free to call me if you want a full account of my long history with this issue. (I was among other things on a truck route task force which was poised to have the State Truck Route removed from Hudson in all the way back in ***1999***, an effort foiled only by interference from the then-chair of the County Supervisors with DOT.)

      Or you can read my extensive comments on the State Truck Route options submitted to the City—which are on the record and surely accessible to the new truck committee. If some members of that committee have yet to read the public comments received, I suggest they get up to speed immediately on them before proposing FAQs and discussing options.

      As for which permit I was referring to above, I don’t know how there can be any confusion. I am clearly referring to the Colarusso application to the Planning Board for a Conditional Use Permit.

      Such applications can be approved, modified, or *denied* by the Planning Board, both for compliance with local regulations, and/or with SEQRA.

      A denial would put to rest any need to find an “alternative” method for the gravel trucks to reach the Waterfront. No gravel loading at the dock, no trucks. One can't exist without the other.

      Your FAQ document appears to pretend that denial is not on the table, though I am quite certain you are aware that many have called for the Board to deny the Colarusso permit. Why is that?

      Without an explanation, one can only assume that this document has a hidden agenda, driven by the usual suspects.

    5. Gravel trucks are a large and dangerous portion of the traffic to the Waterfront on streets which are not designated as 'Truck Route'. Using the 'causeway' as a 'road' with exits and entrances onto 9G with the amount of trucks projected is accidents waiting to happen. The weight of trucks and the number of trucks should not be higher than the amount used in 2005 at the time the cement plant was denied by the State.
      And the new owner should get their permits from the City of Hudson's Planning Board.

    6. To lend support to your perception, Sam, it's evident to all that every comment above concerning "permits" - which is nearly every comment! - is referencing Ms. Knauss's "The gravel trucks are local, and for where they go and what they do, they have permits."

      And she still hasn't addressed the criticism that there are other transportation alternatives (plural) than one she prefers.

      Instead she denies that her odious recommendation is actually promoting a policy, then changes the subject by patiently explaining, in perfect bureaucratese, advanced concepts in transportation to the unwashed.

      We've been patient enough and her time has run out. It's totally fair to say that Ms. Knauss is shilling for Colarusso.

      If she knew the history she'd know that that's bad news for her. She should not have taken our criticisms so lightly.

  6. Mr. Pratt, I would appreciate a chance to share history. I messaged my contact to you on LinkedIn. I do not have your number or email.

    1. None of our criticisms of Ms. Knauss's policy-promoting FAQ were addressed here, least of all Mr. Pratt's main point that Colarusso's waterfront operation doesn't have to be permitted at all.

      I agree that denying ACS an operating permit is the sanest choice for Hudson. (And if and when the City wins its appeal, the judgements for both ACS lawsuits against the city will make it patently clear - even to the most timid among us - that denying a permit was always within the power of the Planning Board.)

      I've always held that the best disinfectant is sunshine, but now that the conversation will continue in private we can only hope that Mr. Pratt is not subjected to the same infuriating obfuscation and misdirection readers were treated to here.

      Good luck getting anywhere, Sam, when it's pretty clear that the disingenuous Ms. Knauss has already reached her conclusion.

  7. I would like to thank the commenters on this post and I edited the FAQ to try and avoid confusion between motor vehicle permits and private property use permits. There was also criticism that the FAQ reflected a policy position. That section has been rewritten to, hopefully, explain the potential benefits of alternate routes to a destination.
    Another commenter took issue with the FAQ and my responses because I did not address the private property issue of the Conditional Use Permit that Mr. Pratt, and I think all of the other commenters, where writing about. I wanted to stay focused on the transportation and traffic issues and contribute to that discussion and not get sidetracked into a private property and land use debate. Cleary, there are more informed folks available for that discussion.
    One last thought to muse upon is why so many folks are only seeing the trees and not the forest? A single business's gravel trucks are trees. Hudson's need a multimodal mobility plan for the future is the forest. Sure if that waterfront business goes away those particular trucks might be gone but if the waterfront redevelopment is successful, there will be lots of others to take their place.
    FAQ Latest Version

  8. The fundamental problem here is that the Colarusso operation imposes massive downside impacts on Hudson with zero in the way of corresponding economic upside. In the many hearings that have taken place over the years, the company has not even attempted to make the case that they are providing anything of value for the City. And after abusing our minority residents for eight years, and filing two lawsuits against our Planning Board, and refusing to provide basic truck traffic data that would allow for a proper review, and utterly failing to maintain their rusting junk pile on the waterfront, it ought to be clear to everyone that the firm is a bad actor that should not be welcome here. If there was an ounce of self-esteem in this town, both of the Colarusso applications would have been rejected years ago.