Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Valley Alliance on Colarusso

At the Planning Board meeting on August 8, A. Colarusso & Son was back before the Planning Board after a twenty-month hiatus, caused by Colarusso's lawsuit against the Planning Board. At that meeting, Sam Pratt, co-director of The Valley Alliance, warned the Planning Board, all but two of whose members were not on the board when Colarusso initiated its lawsuit, about the "applicant's attorney, who is quite willing to mislead you and sue you." 

Photo: Our Hudson Waterfront
Yesterday, Pratt and Peter Jung, co-directors of The Valley Alliance, delivered a letter to the members of the Planning Board identifying the ways in which Colarusso and its attorney have attempted to mislead the Planning Board. The letter opens in this way:
When a lawyer for Colarusso was asked for truck data at your most recent meeting, this was his reply: 
“Would you ask Stewart’s how many ice cream cones they sell?” 
This sarcastic reply conveniently ignored recent local history: In fact, from 2017-2019 Hudson agencies including the Planning Board conducted a detailed review of a Stewart’s project at Green and Fairview.
Stewart’s was asked a ton of questions about its operations. Board members quizzed the company in detail about the volume of activity generated by its reconfigured lot and new building. In the end, Board questions led to the project being altered in many ways. Moreover, the City made Stewart’s post a $200,000 Community Host Agreement to offset road maintenance.
Unlike Stewart’s, Colarusso’s representatives have displayed a constant unwillingness to provide basic answers to simple questions—the type always asked of all applicants. This disrespect for Hudson requirements, along with other efforts to deflect questions and muddy issues, extends to the company’s repeated lawsuits against your agency.
We mention this episode by way of an introduction to written comments we promised to provide, giving a partial inventory of how this applicant and its representatives keep trying to mislead your Board about both the project and the process. We hope this will be more than a routine exercise in that it touches upon many of the core issues central to your review.

The letter goes on to identify and refute eight myths that are being perpetuated in the lengthy review of Colarusso's application to construct a paved, two-lane road through South Bay. What follows is the list of myths, with quotes from the letter that summarize the rebuttal.

Myth #1: "Years of delays"
If the applicant truly wants an end to the process, their lawyers should stop trying to block the process. All of the "delays" have been caused entirely by Colarusso's own lawsuits, which have sought to block the Planning Board from finishing the process.
Myth #2: "The Planning Board Lost"  
Colarusso has so far brought two lawsuits against the City. Their first suit was an utter disaster for the applicant. Acting Justice Melkonian completely rejected the company’s claim that its project was exempt from review by Hudson. A second lawsuit brought by Colarusso is still pending in court, and has only been partially adjudicated. 
Myth #3: "Force majeure" 
Force majeure is when you have to cancel plans because your home and neighborhood have been destroyed by a hurricane. Force majeure is not when a gravel company has to wait a few hours before running another truck to a dock. This applicant seems to have confused minor obstacles to maximizing profit with Acts of God. 
Myth #4: "We already have those permits" 
Another thick wool blanket that Colarusso tried to pull over your eyes at the last meeting was the suggestion that permits from other agencies can substitute for Hudson’s permitting process.… Fact: Applications to the Planning Board are separate and distinct from other agencies. They have to be decided on Hudson’s terms, not those of other agencies such as DEC, Army Corps or DOT. Hudson’s code has different requirements and standards than other agencies. All applicants must conform with the City’s code, regardless of whether pieces of the project were approved by other agencies.
Myth #5: "The environmental review is over" 
There are effectively six different reviews to conduct, each of which must take environmental considerations into account.… Of the six … only one may be considered "over”—the one that was completed by Greenport instead of Hudson, without consideration for the specifics of the Hudson code.
Myth #6: "Questions from 2017 are not on the table"  
On the contrary: All questions about the five extant reviews remain on the table—for the simple reason that the Planning Board continues to be blocked by lawsuits from deciding upon these applications.  
Myth #7: "The Comp Plan supports the project" 
The Planning Board itself has extensively cited and adopted documents which provide detailed citations of the Comp Plan as a key reason why a full, extensive review of the Colarusso project must be conducted.
Myth #8: "Colarusso seeks 'environmental justice'" 
Let’s be clear here: The environmental justice problem on downtown streets is one for which Colarusso bears full responsibility. 

The entire letter can be read here, and Gossips recommends it.

There is a Planning Board meeting next week, on Tuesday, September 12, but Colarusso is not on the agenda for that meeting. Instead there is to be a public hearing on the Colarusso application on Wednesday, September 27.


  1. Can I just say about Myth #8: Colarusso bears a lot of the responsibility, but there are a ton of non-Colarusso trucks on our streets. Let's say we get rid of ACS, does that completely eliminate the problem?

    1. Absolutely not, which is why the answer to the problem of heavy trucks is not destroying the Hudson waterfront but fighting hard to have the truck routes moved to highways built to handle big trucks.

    2. NB. No. 8 specifies "downtown streets."

    3. Well, the off-the-truck route part is up to the city.

  2. Enough already, just park a fire truck in front of their gate to the dock with a closed sign on it.

  3. An excellent list, although "myths" seems generous when they're all deliberate lies.

    The applicant/plaintiff is an inveterate liar, as seen throughout each of its lawsuits (Judge Zwack winning the prize for either least insight or greatest corruption).

    The strategy is to wear Hudson down, ever anticipating the next generation of officials who are unfamiliar with the practiced old lies.

    Unfortunately, the lies work on the longtime officials, too, which is the true rot at Hudson's core.

    Thanks VA.

  4. Given that our DPW relies on Colarusso for all its asphalt, stones, etc., perhaps there has been an unspoken agreement between the two for a long time. "Don't mess with our business and we will continue to sell you the material you need. Otherwise, you drive to Catskill or elsewhere to get what you need. Got it?"
    I once asked DPW Superintendent Rob Perry at an informal council meeting what his thoughts were about the damage that the truck route does to our streets and infrastructure below. He responded with "no comment."

    1. Indeed, I've often wondered about this myself. Colarusso acts as though they have a complete monopoly on these products and services, which they don't. Why doesn't Hudson detach itself from them after all of these law suits and endless demonstrations of bad faith? If cost were an issue, it would be worth it to pay a little more to get rid of them once and for all!

  5. Indeed, thanks Valley Alliance, for sticking to this issue through thick and thin and for nearly 20 years. Long live the Hudson Waterfront as it was meant to be - for the public.

  6. Colarusso has been using the notion of "environmental justice" to advance their gravel agenda. They have been abusing the minority community along Columbia St. for the past 8 years with noxious truck traffic, but now want to exploit those same people by using them as the rationale for a greatly expanded trucking operation. Shameful.

    1. Has everyone forgotten that it was Holcim (/St. Lawrence) who first exploited this exact same Environmental Justice issue to achieve its own transport goals?