“We saw flames coming off of the wires,” said Hudson resident Zia Anger, describing this afternoon’s fire in the alley east of South 5th Street, between Warren and Union. The conflagration knocked out cable and internet to many Mid-Hudson subscribers, and to Verizon phone and internet clients in the southeastern reaches of the City.
According to another witness, the blaze began in a narrow gap between two garages on the south side of the alley, at least one of which appeared to be completely gutted. He told the officers investigating: “I bet some guy took his last puff of a cigarette and flicked it right between them.”
MHC’s Jim Reynolds surveys the scene
Mid-Hudson Cablevision had several bucket trucks on scene by late afternoon, with linesman sorting out the many dangling loops of loose fiber. A man in sunglasses taking cameraphone pictures along turned out to be MHC President James Reynolds, who predicted that his company would have service back on before Verizon did.
And indeed, a lone Verizon tech parked on Sixth Street said that his company would be unlikely to restore phone and web to its customers before tomorrow at the earliest. “The brass don’t want to pay us overtime,” he confessed, appearing as irritated as the two customers who had converged on his small van.
One 500 block businessperson stated that he had spent an hour on the phone with Verizon tech support, attempting to diagnose why his internet and phone had dropped out, before he independently heard about the fire. This observer had the identical experience of waiting through long hold (and interminable Muzak) as various customer service reps tried in vain to test the studio modem.
During one of those holds, a check of Facebook via a smartphone revealed the emergency in progress—of which Verizon’s central office appeared to be totally unaware. One rep actually claimed that this call was the only customer outage in all of Hudson, a claim readily disproven by a visit to the Hudson Community Board or a walk down the street.
Between ice storms, falling trees, fires, and wayward vehicles taking out telephone poles and wires, it seems far past time to either bury the rest of these cables—creating a nice employment boom locally. Or else use the top of Columbia Memorial Hospital to broadcast wi-fi citywide, with a repeater on top of Bliss Towers.
For more than a decade, officials have privately mulled changes to the Columbia County airport. Over the past year, contentious public debate raged at over a dozen meetings about how to bring the Ghent facility into compliance with safety regulations. But just this week, a surprise suggestion from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have rendered all of these arguments and explorations moot.
According to sources familiar with a conference call this week between the FAA and the County Airport Committee, the Feds suggested a radically simple bureaucratic solution: Just reclassify the airport into a category requiring a much shorter Runway Safety Area (RSA).
Due to the airport handling less than 500 jet operations per year, it is apparently eligible to downgrade its classification to a level which needs only a 300-foot RSA, not 1,000 feet.
The longer 1,000-foot requirement has been the key factor driving endless controversy about compliance. For most of last year, and also in the decade previous, the County devoted substantial time and resources to assessing whether to acquire additional land via purchase or eminent domain from Meadowgreens, or else to shorten or shift the runway away from the golf course’s border.
The stunningly quick-and-dirty solution reportedly proposed by the FAA would mean the County could meet the RSA requirements using the existing 200 feet of space between the north end of the runway, plus reducing the overall length by another 100 feet to 5,250. By contrast, the compromise “Porreca Plan” approved by the County recently would have shortened the runway to about 5,000 feet, and involved construction costs on the southern end.
The FAA’s idea might still require the County to acquire some avigation easements from Meadowgreens to ensure that obstructions do not permeate aircrafts’ approach zone. Or perhaps a hybrid of the Porreca Plan and the FAA solution (reclassification plus the 5,000-foot declared distance) would further reduce or eliminate that remaining obstacle.
This seemingly positive outcome does raise one sticky question: Why wasn’t this option identified sooner by either the County’s highly-paid consultants at C&S, or its various Development and Public Works staff, or its Committee members, or the FAA itself?
This observer can’t help but think it might have something to do with pride—officials not wanting to admit what citizens had constantly pointed out, that there is very little jet activity at the Richmor-managed facility.