Activists highlight flaws in latest city waterfront plan

HUDSON — Peter Jung and Sam Pratt, directors of Valley Alliance, a year-old organization formed to work on issues affecting the Hudson Valley, held a meeting Tuesday at Basilica Hudson to discuss their point of view on the latest version of the city’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. The plan, which has been in the hands of the state Department of State for months, was recently released and is now under review by the Common Council, with a vote to come soon.

The plan, referred to by its initials, LWRP was developed through a program launched by the state 30 years ago, which has been instrumental in transforming decrepit waterfronts along the Hudson River into thriving commercial and recreational centers. Hudson’s plan has been in the works for more than two decades. The current version is online at http://cityofhudson.org/content/Generic/View/3.

In their presentation Mr. Pratt and Mr. Jung stressed the potential of the plan for an enhanced tax base and new economic opportunity that could create jobs and draw tourists to the area. But their reaction to the latest draft of the plan is disappointment. “Unfortunately it has not yielded a document in sync with community consensus,” said Mr. Jung.

Mr. Pratt pointed out what he said were inconsistencies, which included a statement that there is no active industrial use of the waterfront, when there is heavy truck traffic during weekdays by 40-ton trucks carrying gravel to the deep water mooring. The plan also mentions the possibility of taking Basilica Hudson, a 19th century factory now used as a performance space, by eminent domain, but it does not discuss whether the city might take back the port, now owned by the Holcim cement company, through the same process.

At the Tuesday presentation Common Council Don Moore said the city had no plans to pursue such a course with Basilica Hudson.

The trucks are run by a Connecticut company called O&G, which leases the port from Holcim. They carry gravel from a quarry on Newman Road. Mr. Jung and Mr. Pratt believe the trucking, which started in 2006 after the Holcim subsidiary St. Lawrence Cement withdrew its bid to build a cement plant in Greennport, is incompatible with development of other commercial and recreational uses of the waterfront.

At the time of the defeat of the cement plant, then Secretary of State Randy Daniels encouraged “the highest and best use of the [waterfront] land,” said Mr. Pratt. The Daniels decision to deny a key approval for the cement plant prohibited trucking, processing and commercial storage and urged the city as it drafted its plan, not to assume that St. Lawrence Cement or any other commercial entity would continue to own waterfront property.

A new permit application filed with the Greenport planning commission six months ago indicates that O&G may be planning to ramp up its trucking activities to a new level, and Mr. Pratt said he found it hard to imagine how a large number of 40-ton trucks can travel the same road with members of the public trying to take their boats to new docking stations planned for the southern part of the waterfront.

“If we want to make the waterfront more appealing to investors, does a dump truck operation make sense?” he asked. “How much money does the port actually provide to the local economy and what is the opportunity cost of keeping the trucks? Could hotels, restaurants, and other recreational uses coexist with this activity?”

He believes the trucking and recreational uses “cannot coexist. They’re too close.”

Mr. Pratt said the city has never performed an economic impact analysis of the waterfront, said Mr. Pratt.

In their recap of the history of the LWRP, Mr. Jung and Mr. Pratt recalled a time when people from every sector of the community collaborated enthusiastically in a Vision Plan and when a citizens committee provided open lines of communication from the public to officials. Now the public has been cut out of the process said one audience member.

O&G is seeking to route its trucks along an old rail bed that bisects wetlands in the area known as the South Bay. Mr. Pratt said Tuesday that the city could sunset the O&G permit on the basis of environmental law: industrial activity in wetlands and a 100-foot adjacent zone is prohibited by law. Even the fact that the trucking is hazardous to the public could be a viable reason to curtail the practice, he said.

“We’re interested in a good plan,” he said. “People will have to live with this plan for the next 40 to 50 years.”

The Valley Alliance is on the web at hudsonwaterfront.org.

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