HUDSON–At a special meeting this week of the Hudson Business Coalition the lawyer for the Valley Alliance, a new organization founded this spring by Sam Pratt and Peter Jung, denounced the current draft of the city’s proposed waterfront development plan, calling the document “frightening.”
Mr. Pratt and Mr. Jung were principals in Friends of Hudson, the local group that originally led the opposition to the St. Lawrence Cement plant proposed for Greenport and Hudson. They say their purpose in founding the Valley Alliance is to help bring the city’s waterfront plan to a positive conclusion.
The waterfront plan has been under discussion for two decades, and a draft of the document is working its way through the approval process toward a final decision by the state.
The Valley Alliance describes its mission as promoting smart land use planning, protecting public health and vital habitats, preserving historic resources and encouraging sustainable economic growth in the region, while providing the tools and support necessary for residents to participate meaningfully in community affairs.
The group’s lawyer, Warren Replansky, won a victory in court last year in a case involving the Granger Group in Taghkanic in its effort to block completion of the motorcycle track of wealthy landowner Alan Wilzig. Monday evening at Space 360 on Warren Street, in his role as attorney for the Valley Alliance, he condemned the current draft of waterfront plan, officially known as the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, or LWRP.
Addressing the approval process for the LWRP, he said, “The process was driven by Holcim and the needs of Holcim.”
Holcim is a multinational cement manufacturing company based in Switzerland that owns the deep water wharf and adjacent land on the southwestern side of the city, an area that used to be part of the river inlet called the South Bay. Holcim has leased some of its property to a large construction company from Connecticut called O&G, which hauls crushed stone by truck from a quarry on Newman Road in Greenport through Hudson to the waterfront, where it is shipped downriver by barge.
“Once you have a generic plan, then you evaluate projects. The current LWRP would make the [O&G] operation permanent and allow for expansion….Once you do this, you’re stuck. Holcim will be ingrained in the LWRP,” said Mr. Replansky.
“We don’t think those names should even appear in the plan. It should be generic,” said Mr. Pratt.
Hudson Alderwoman Sarah Sterling(D-1st Ward) attended the meeting as a member of the Hudson Business Coalition, as did Common Council President Don Moore and Alderwoman Ellen Thurston. Ms. Sterling said in a phone interview Wednesday, July 28, that the Common Council is considering changes in the LWRP that might limit the problem identified by the Valley Alliance.
“Alternate versions of the LWRP document without company names exist and will be looked back into,” she said.
Ms. Sterling said that she and Council President Moore had visited the waterfront to consider problems with the relocation of the public boating area, which was mentioned by Mr. Jung. And she called the effort by the Valley Alliance to get the Hudson business community involved valuable, a sentiment echoed by Mr. Moore this week.
“All property owners and residents of the city need to become more aware that everybody is a stakeholder and that there’s a lot more at stake than just trucks, although it’s true that trucks are destroying our infrastructure,” Ms. Sterling said.
Mr. Replansky suggested that the Common Council take more time before deciding on the LWRP. That would allow time for his clients investigate their theory that Holcim lacks clear title to the waterfront, a claim the company has dismissed in the past.
At the July 26 meeting, Mr. Jung and Mr. Pratt stressed the waterfront’s potential as an economic engine. If developed properly, they and others believe it could spur the growth of many businesses, jobs and the reclamation of the South Bay, now either filled in or a wetland. They worry that if heavy industry, lake the shipment of large amounts of crushed stone, is allowed to continue in such a small space, it will prevent such growth.
The two men said the term “mixed use” in the current proposal was never meant to permit the 200 truckloads per day that the current draft would allow O&G to operate. Mr. Pratt said that the overwhelming majority of comments submitted by the public this spring to the Common Council and to the state Department of State oppose the companies’ plans for continued heavy use and expansion of the deep water port.
Mr. Moore has said repeatedly at recent Common Council meetings that the city needs to find the means to regulate the activities of O&G and Holcim more effectively in order for him to be satisfied with the LWRP.
The LWRP is meant to provide a long- term governing vision for the waterfront, and the state requires that such plans have community support. But Mr. Pratt and Mr. Jung say that the current draft protects the rights of Holcim/O&G more than the rights of citizens.
The Common Council and Cheryl Roberts, the city’s lawyer for the LWRP, have stated their reluctance to purchase the waterfront property owned by Holcim. The waterfront is assessed at just under $5 million but the total might go much higher if the city was forced to purchase all the property owned by Holcim, Mr. Moore said after the meeting.
But Mr. Pratt said that Scenic Hudson and other organizations could buy the land. “They are waiting for the city to say: We want you to do this,” he said.
Ms. Roberts could not be reached for comment before press deadline.