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Imagine what could be: Hudson’s riverfront.

photo:David King

Strolling on the River

Citizens of Hudson are given the opportunity to reimagine their waterfront

Just as the banks of the Hudson were filled with the sounds of the river throwing off its frozen shackles on this past Tuesday, so was the cafeteria of the John L. Edwards school in Hudson full with the sounds of renewal and rebirth as old, stalled plans for revitalizing Hudson’s waterfront were thawed out and given a chance for public consideration.

The meeting was the first in what Linda Mussmann, chair of the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee, hopes will be a series of meetings meant to guide and shape Hudson’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. The LWRP would have to be approved by New York’s Department of State. Then, through the DOS LWRP program, it would be eligible for grants to help implement the vision.

The room filled with more than 100 residents who buzzed with excitement over the chance to construct a waterfront district. The energy in the room was palpable as members of the Common Council, Mayor Richard Tracy and Department of State Coastal Resources specialists Bonnie Devine and Nancy Welsh took their seats. Applause erupted frequently as officials welcomed the crowd.

Hudson has officially been working on a local waterfront revitalization plan since 1988. So what is it that has the community so excited now about the LWRP? Patrick Doyle, developer of the Hudson Basilica, who has been involved in the waterfront revitalization process for some time and is intimately familiar with the state of the city’s LWRP, says that “this meeting was the first public meeting on the subject in five years.”

According to Mussmann, the delay surrounding the LWRP has stemmed from a number of different pressures. “In my opinion,” said Mussmann, “Many government officials knew about it but the public wasn’t informed. In terms of openness it was handled in a less public way than I think was helpful to this city. . . . There was also some lag time because of the huge cement plant that was potentially coming to our shores. People were awaiting the result.”

The last draft for the LWRP put together by the previous administration was rejected by the Department of State in October 2005.

While the LWRP’s history is a long saga, Doyle says he is now focused on the future. “It’s all in the past. It’s a new age now. It’s about unifying the community, opening up the process.”

Mayor Tracy agrees that giving the community a voice is the key in moving the LWRP forward. “They have been denied the opportunity to offer input for too long,” he said. Doyle, along with a number of residents and city representatives, see the Hudson Riverfront as the last area in Hudson that is available for development.

What may have really sparked the turnout on Wednesday, however, is the recent defeat of the proposed St. Lawrence Cement plant. Hudson residents seem to realize they have a chance to take control of what they so nearly lost.

The secretary of state’s April 2005 decision rejecting the St. Lawrence plant declared that Hudson’s current waterfront zoning is “far too broad and does not recognize the value of the waterfront as a historical, cultural, commercial and recreational zone for the city.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, coastal resource specialists gave a number of examples of how other cities have taken advantage of the state’s LWRP program to secure grants to rebuild their waterfronts. Some of the examples included cities with similar issues, among them Kingston, which has been trying to connect its waterfront with its historical downtown, and Tonawanda, a town that, like Hudson, has a waterfront that once was a center of industry but has since fallen into disrepair.

Said Mussmann, “To have an opportunity to have access [to the waterfront] is a big thing. It always seems to have a fence in front of it or a barge of an industrial plant, and I think that we’re not the only ones. This is a problem with the rivers.”

Doyle confirmed in the meeting that the most immediate problem facing the waterfront is access, and by that token Hudson’s waterfront might share quite a bit with Albany’s. Just as Albany’s waterfront has been blocked by I-787, Hudson’s waterfront has been obscured by public housing, train tracks and industry. It is accessible only by two routes: the Ferry Street Bridge, which Doyle notes is too small for rescue vehicles to cross, and the Broad Street Crossing, which Doyle says Hudson does not clearly control. According to Doyle, the current LWRP shows that control of the crossing is shared by the city, CSX and the state Department of Transportation.

Members of the public brought up simple suggestions such as acquiring signage to let people know Hudson has a waterfront and connecting the waterfront to downtown. Others worried about eyesores such as prominent power lines and towers on St. Lawrence property abutting the waterfront. Some expressed hope for a museum or a research center. Still others wanted to know if funding could be secured to turn the waterfront into a bird sanctuary or some other kind of environmental center, free of development. DOS representatives reassured participants that these are the kind of decisions that would be made by the community as a whole.

Robert O’Brien, president of the Common Council, and Mussmann both stressed that the goal is to get as much community input as possible. Some citizens said they felt the true demographics of the city were not represented at the meeting and asked how that could be remedied. O’Brien responded by reminding the crowd that the process as a whole will be a community effort and asked them to “tell 10 friends” about the March 20 meeting.

The Common Council is currently considering a moratorium on building along the city’s waterfront so that the LWRP will not be violated during its creation. Mussmann is hopeful that the moratorium will pass and that the LWRP will succeed as a whole. “It’s an opportunity to re-create this area in the way that the citizens of this community would like to see it happen,” she said, “and it’s the first time they’ve had the chance.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net


What a Week

On Trial

With all the scandals surrounding President Bush and his administration, some people are wondering when he will actually face consequences. Two small bodies with no authority over the White House aren’t waiting. A high school in Parsippany, N.J., has put Bush, in absentia, on trial for alleged war crimes. School-board members and officials have opposed the mock trial believing it will “breed disrespect,” but teacher Joseph Kyle stands by the project that his class researched. Meanwhile, the town of Newfane, Vt., voted 121-29 during a town hall meeting to impeach Bush, alleging that he misled the country into war with Iraq and engaged in illegal domestic spying.

Enough War Already

Walter Cronkite wants the United States to stop the war on drugs. In a letter sent to 100,000 people in February, Cronkite insisted that the drug war has made America’s streets less safe, disproportionately locked up minorities, infringed on Americans’ civil liberties and wasted unchecked sums that could be used elsewhere. In his letter, Cronkite asked Americans to support the nonprofit organization the Drug Policy Alliance. “Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home,” wrote Cronkite. “While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our streets. Its casualties are the lives of our own citizens.”

There’s Nothing More Unpatriotic Than Reducing Your Debt

According to the Department of Homeland Security, retired schoolteacher Walter Soehnge was considered a threat to the nation’s security last month. His crime? Attempting to take a chunk out of his JC Penney Mastercard’s balance. After contacting the credit card company, Soehnge was told that post-9/11 revisions to the Bank Privacy Act now trigger an investigation by the federal agency anytime someone makes a payment significantly higher than their normal monthly payment. Furthermore, the payment in question can’t be applied to the card’s balance until the investigation is resolved and the individual’s threat level is reduced.




Overheard

Overheard:

“Delaware Avenue’s haunted.”

“Delaware Avenue?”

“Yeah. Something bad happened there.”

—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion of haunted houses.

 

Overheard:“Question his manhood.”

—Ralph Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting Alice Green, in response to a question about how Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate in a debate.



Loose Ends
Stewart’s Shops has withdrawn its plan to build a store and gas station in the center of Berne [“Minding the Store,” Newsfront, May 26, 2005]. According to The Altamont Enterprise, Stewart’s said it was not able to meet the historic-preservation zoning requirements of the town. Some Berne residents are circulating a petition that would ban gas stations entirely from the hamlet, rather than from one of two zones. . . . The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a New Mexico church’s right to use the hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca in its religious rituals [“Don’t Drink the Brown Tea, Man!,” What a Week, Nov. 17, 2005]. The Drug Policy Alliance applauded the court for ending a practice of making “drug exceptions to the Bill of Rights.” . . . Albany County Legislator Christine Benedict (District 28) has withdrawn her bill to expand the categories of people protected under the county’s human rights law to include those serving in the military and victims of domestic violence. Her bill was very similar to one introduced and then withdrawn by John Frederick (District 6) in 2004, but it left out the controversial “gender identity and expression.” Frederick opposed Benedict’s bill because it was less inclusive and because it didn’t address the fact that “the county has a human rights commission on paper, but not in actuality.” Working closely with the Capitol District Coalition for Human Rights, which formed after it became clear that last year’s bill was not going to pass [“Who Gets Rights?” Newsfront, Nov. 18, 2004], Frederick plans to introduce another bill that will include both gender identity and expression, and will call for funding the commission. Keith Hornbrook, director of the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council, and a spokesman for the coalition, said that the coalition has laid more groundwork with legislators than it was able to in 2004, has more members that are visible in various districts and several more prominent and active community partners, including the Working Families Party. “I don’t think that this bill would be presented again if we didn’t think that it had a good chance at success,” said Hornbrook. . . . Signaling that it has likely survived the battles over its possible reconfiguration or dismantling, the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center has a new director. Unlike outgoing director Elizabeth Martin, an administrator who came in with a cost-cutting mandate in late 2004 [“Separation Anxiety,” Newsfront, Nov. 11, 2004], the new director, Karen Ziegler, has extensive clinical experience and particular expertise in the field of trauma therapy. Proposals under Martin to put the agency’s services under the district attorney’s office and the Mental Health Department were met with outcries from clients and volunteers and rejected by the county’s legislature earlier this year. . . . Linden Lab, creators of the virtual world Second Life, recently took the bold step of offering a paid (in real-world dollars) fellowship to artists wishing to explore the potential of their digital environment [“How Much for the Enchanted Mithril Broadsword?” June 30, 2005]. The only requirements for the fellowship: Students must be enrolled in a visual or performing-arts program; only tools available within the digital world can be used; and the finished projects must be put on exhibit within Second Life.


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