The following “Our View” column was submmitted today by The Valley Alliance, in response to recent attacks by Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera and former Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee chair Linda Mussmann of Time & Space Ltd.
It’s the people’s waterfront,
not a political football
by Sam Pratt & Peter Jung Co-directors, The Valley Alliance
For the Valley Alliance, the future of the Waterfront isn't about personalities, or who wins and loses. That future should be all about securing the most economic, social, educational, cultural and ecological benefits for a broad spectrum of residents. The Waterfront has terrific potential to be the prime vehicle for spreading prosperity to all segments of the community.
Compared with the draft now on the table, the Waterfront plan we favor would create many more jobs, local tax relief, recreational and commercial opportunities. It would foster more cohesion among divided groups, and also eliminate the heavy truck traffic which Holcim has imposed on our downtown. Plus, a more community-minded approach could be enacted both efficiently and legally.
Our singular goal is to ensure an outcome that will stand Hudson and the region in good stead for decades to come, long after the current personalities and politics are forgotten. We have openly set forth these principles at our website:
Meanwhile, the Valley Alliance is just one of many who have participated in good faith in the Waterfront process. Others, from the Village of Athens to the Olana Partnership to the LWRP Task Force to nearly 900 residents have expressed concerns about where the draft plan is headed. Also this week, the Greenport Planning Board asked tough questions and insisted on more information from Swiss-owned Holcim and Connecticut-based O&G, the two companies at the center of all the ruckus. (Both have had major recent worker safety problems, by the way.) It’s not so easy to accuse the Greenport board of either delaying tactics or being “newcomers.”
But lately, readers don't hear much about all those other groups and peoples’ concerns. Instead, the pages of the Register-Star and the halls of government have become the scene of outbursts from Rick Scalera and Linda Mussmann, each in a personal rage against "Peter and Sam" or "Pratt and Jung."
Unfortunately, these explosions of anger suggest that they consider the Waterfront only good for one thing: settling political scores. Their motivation to personalize the issue are obvious. Scalera failed to site both a toxic waste operation and a massive cement operation in South Bay. Mussmann betrayed her own principles to cozy up to the cement folks, wrongly imagining this would help her third attempt to become Mayor turn out differently from the previous two. So both have seized on the Waterfront as their best chance to get even, all at the expense of the people.
That’s not a sensible approach to public policy. Readers are free to take Scalera and Mussmann's outbursts at face value, though it defies reason how a group formed several months ago could have delayed a plan that's been in the works for 23 years. And of course, it was politicos like Scalera who didn't want the LWRP to move forward an inch from 1998-2005, as it might have hurt campaign contributors at St. Lawrence Cement.
For those who like to make up their own minds based on first-hand information, Mid-Hudson Media’s Rob Johanson has documented our half-hour presentation to Hudson business leaders last month. These online videos also include a frank, hourlong question-and-answer session:
One key question from that session was asked by local mortgage broker Seth Rapport, who wondered how the public might acquire the remainder of the waterfront for more beneficial uses. We clearly discuss how this can be done without any use of eminent domain, through a partnership of City, State, Federal, nonprofit, and private funding.
More defeatist voices like those of the Mayor and Ms. Mussmann don't want the public to hear realistic and nuanced solutions. Instead they want to inflame and limit debate by focusing n personal vendettas and extreme either/or options, such as industry vs. recreation or eminent domain vs. property rights. That’s just the usual Hudson divide-and-conquer politics. There are many shades of gray along those spectrums, and also creative solutions which don't fit into their predictable us vs. them pattern.
Meanwhile, falling in line with instructions from their City Hall patrons, the city's attorney and planner (who've just been awarded another $15,000 to grade their own work) have worsened this unhelpful dynamic by repeating these false either/or choices. In over 100 pages of comments, we (like many others) have soberly set forth many omissions and misreprestations in the draft, such the lack of a true Harbor Management Plan necessary to ensure boater safety.
Now the City is in the last stages of the process, when it's required to review and incorporate public input. Legally, that required step can't be skipped over. Yet the City's hired guns spent nearly all of three recent Council meetings lobbying the Aldermen to let them ignore the clear community consensus contained in those comments. The advice received has been both slanted and incomplete.
Residents, taxpayers, businesses, workers, investors and travelers alike can benefit enormously from a better plan which allows many types of positive development alongside well-protected habitats. Unlike Newburgh or Yonkers, Hudson's waterfront is compact, so the key issue is compatibility. The one piece of the puzzle which simply can't coexist with the rest is noisy, dusty, and hazardous activities which harm other legitimate uses and scare away jobs.
On that score we agree 100% with the Secretary of State who set forth in 2005 exactly how to rezone the Waterfront in a more forward-looking, economically-beneficial direction which phases out incompatible uses. The basis for that official finding was, ironically, the 1995 Hudson Vision Plan, which recommended that the City acquire property from the cement company, and zone out harsh impacts. The Mayor opposed and derailed that plan, so it’s astonishing that he would now try to misconstrue and even co-opt it.
It's time to streamline the draft Plan so that it fully reflects the Secretary’s clear recommendations. Finishing the Waterfront process doesn't have to be difficult or lengthy, if it's done right — rather than used as a vehicle for political retribution and community division. This is no longer high school, so the Mayor should stop playing political football with the City's future.
The author really needs to dial down whatever transistor radio he has tuned permanently in to Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. This brand of histrionic paranoia (masquerading as patriotism) is all too familiar to anyone who’s listened to those jokers for even a few minutes.
Carole Clark, who organized and taught the popular Kids in the Kitchen class at the Hudson Youth Center until it was unceremoniously cancelled early this year, has shared the following submitted yesterday to the Register-Star.
To the Editor:
Your concern as stated in your editorial for the children at the HYC is warranted. The city’s policy for hiring and firing of department employees needs revamping. The city needs to establish clear and fair practices for hiring. The city’s Charter grants the power to hire and fire staff to the mayor’s appointed Commissioner of Youth, not to the Youth Director as you erroneously imply. Clearly this needs to change. Why would the city want to give a volunteer the power and responsibility of hiring staff for its youth center when it has a qualified, full time youth director professionally equipped to make these decisions?
Not only should a strict background check be included in a new hiring policy as you suggest, but jobs should be advertised as fair employment opportunities for all qualified applicants. The criterion for jobs that involve working with children should include appropriate education, knowledge, aptitude, enthusiasm and experience in the field.
While you acknowledge the “wonderful programs” that were offered at the center, you suggest that the person who created and supported them should resign. Because they were funded by a foundation, not by the city, Youth Department head Trudy Beicht was able to bring in competent, trained professionals to design and teach these specialized programs. The youth center “house staff” has been hired by the Youth Commissioner, not by the youth center director, Ms. Beicht.
Ms. Beicht’s understanding of contemporary thought about the value and importance of high quality afterschool activity inspired her to initiate specialized programs. Evidence shows that the expanded learning time offered by these kinds of enriched activities support children’s healthy and creative development. The children at the center were hungry for the classes and many signed up for more than two different programs. There were children on waiting lists that had not yet had the opportunity to participate when the Youth Commissioner canceled the programs. Although his reason was that he wanted to provide new activities, in fact, no new programs have been offered since.
While the center provides a safe place for children when their parents and guardians are at work, the children want and need activities that improve engagement, motivation, learning and achievement. Ms. Beicht’s programs offered opportunities and resources that the schools and families don’t.
The Hudson Youth Center should be directed and staffed by professionals who are child oriented, whose decisions for the Center reflect only the needs of the children not his/her own personal interests. The children at the Center have demonstrated that they want new learning experiences and relationships with qualified, respectful adults. Their eagerness to discover new interests and aptitudes should be an important factor in decision making on the part of those individuals or groups who are instrumental in determining policy for the center.
The Center can and should be more than a child care service featuring knock hockey, pool, foosball and computer games. Trudy Beicht has attempted to improve this situation and provide what the children of Hudson deserve. Yet it was her inspired programming that the city targeted and canceled.
The opportunity to establish fun, learning opportunities beyond the traditional school hours is nationally recognized as a mandate for afterschool youth centers. Why is it that only Trudy Beicht and the successful afterschool administrators at the Hudson City School District are cognizant of this guideline? Those supervising Ms. Beicht should be aware of the evidenced based practices utilized nationally in afterschool programs. Incorporating this knowledge in an effort to restructure the policy making at the Youth Center will allow Trudy Beicht to do her work unimpeded.
Bob Sacks of Copake shared this letter-to-the-editor he recently sent to the Register-Star... And as ever, those submitting letters to any area paper are encouraged to email copies here as well. --S.
Disappointed in the ‘No’ vote of Marcus Molinaro
I am greatly disappointed in the ‘No’ vote of Marcus Molinaro on simplifying absentee ballot forms.
I would have expected Marcus, a life-long politician, to go out of his way to respect the rights of voters and his constituents. I would have expected him to understand that simplifying the voting process is what our strong democracy is built upon.
I’m not sure what is more disturbing–the fact that it seems like Marcus Molinaro has joined Greg Fingar’s group who want to disenfranchise voters by making it difficult for people to vote, or that Marcus thinks an open absentee ballot process is a bad thing, when he says, “I think this just confuses the matter even further. . . You need a note when you’re home sick from school… This would negate the necessity of a note.”
Yes, Marcus, in some states an open absentee ballot process is where anyone can file for an absentee ballot for any reason. In fact, you don’t even need a reason. And what is wrong with that? The important fact should be that you vote, not where or how you vote. We should encourage people to vote by making it simple and easy, not confusing and complicated.
I find the whole story sad, sad for all of us. At least there were only five Assemblymen who voted no. So perhaps I should be looking on the bright side, where a vast majority of Republicans and Democrats have come together on this important issue in a constructive and bipartisan way. I do understand Tedisco’s sour grapes on this subject, but I admit that I am mystified that Marcus, who originally signed onto the bill, has changed his mind and aligned himself with a disgruntled few.
Perhaps we can use this no vote to galvanize the press and the public to do the right thing and get this bill passed in the Senate. Senator Saland, where do you stand on this important issue?
The intrepid Carole Clark—a longtime local volunteer, activist and former proprietor of the pioneering Charleston restaurant—has sent the following letter in response to this recent article in the Register-Star. (And there’s more to come soon at this site on the latest Boys & Girls Club controversy.)
Re: “Scalera Wants to Uproot Garden” by Jamie Larson
If Rick Scalera’s stated desire to dismantle the garden at the Hudson Youth Center is realized it would be a significant loss for the children of the Hudson Youth Center.
Since the raised-bed garden was installed last spring, through a generous grant from the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium, it has been a magnet, giving the Youth Center’s children a chance to grow and cook with fresh produce and to sit down together to a meal of their own making.
Ideally located outside the front entrance to the Youth Center, it is where the children are, and where the city has installed a kitchen so that the children can learn about food and cooking (This was also partially funded by the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium.) The garden served both the Oakdale Summer Day Camp and the Youth Center’s programs in the spring and fall of 2009. The kitchen was used by two afterschool programs: Healthy Baking and Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies, as well as a holding facility for the Senior lunch program.
When the garden was put in last May, there was great interest in participating in its planting by the children at the Youth Center. No one had to sign up in advance, anyone who was interested was able to participate, learning how to plant seedlings and seeds and understanding how plants grow.
Children enrolled in the Center’s Oakdale summer camp carried on with the care and harvesting of the garden. They saw the different ways that vegetables grow, (some as the fruit of the plant, and some underground), many were introduced to vegetables and herbs they had never heard of, and all became savvy gardeners picking from the plants without harming them. The garden’s produce was used in the menus; when additional vegetables and herbs were needed the children easily stepped outside to gather more and also snack on some cherry tomatoes.
In the fall, the much recognized, popular Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies program continued to tend, harvest and cook from the garden. Once per 6 week session the children produced a meal to which they proudly invited their families and city officials. On November 16, several weeks before the December 22 family dinner the youth commissioner visited the kitchen and announced that this program as well as the other enrichment programs were being terminated. He did agree to allow the session to continue through its last scheduled week,so as to include the family dinner.
In the cooking programs, vitally linked with the garden, the kids learned how to cook with, and eat unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, prepare a meal as a group, set a table, serve a meal, and enjoy eating it together. Having a mealtime conversation was a new experience for many children. Reading, simple math, nutrition and socialization skills were an important part of the learning. The garden was the lab and the source of fun, discovery, pride and excitement.
At the end of the growing season the garden was “put to bed” for the winter, cleaned out, planted with rye seed and covered with straw. Since the intention was to keep the garden attractive with seasonal displays as well as a source of creative fun for the kids, thematic scenes were created with the help of the Kids In the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies and Youth Center staff.
When the Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies program was terminated by the mayor and the youth commissioner, (along with all the other structured, content-rich educational programs at the Center) no one at the Youth Center took responsibility for the garden. In the absence of Youth Director Trudy Beicht, who was out on sick leave, the winter display was left to deteriorate. A commitment from the Center’s morning manager to have the staff clear the garden and store the decorations was not followed through on. In the interest of the neighbors and the Hudson business community as well as the children, why didn’t the city cooperate immediately and not allow the display to break down? Was this an attempt to make a case for the removal of the garden?
During the growing season the garden elicited many approving smiles and signals from motorists and admiration of passersby. The children took pride in their garden outside their “building.” Losing the garden at this site will be a loss for these children whose importance to the mayor is secondary to that of a parking space. Is this the message the city wants to send to its children and those who care for them?
Why, if the mayor is so against this garden, did he agree to accept funds for it to be built in the first place? Why are this garden and the other beneficial, successful children’s programs at the Youth Center being targeted?
Peter Meyer has submitted the following letter to the Register-Star (in response to their article headlined, “Scalera Wants to Uproot Garden”), and has given permission to reproduce an advance copy here:
To the Editor:
It says a great deal about Mayor Scalera's priorities and his “vision” for the City that he would rip up a garden for kids and replace it with two parking places for cars for adults.
Please, Mr. Mayor, lets have a Youth Center that is for the kids. There's a big City-owned parking lot fifty feet away for the cars.
NOTE #1: Meyer is a Hudson City School District Board Member and former Hudson Boys & Girls Club director, though he is writing here in a personal, not an official, capacity.
NOTE #2: It’s interesting that newfound Scalera fan Linda Mussmann is cited in the article as being ready to scoop up the youth garden activity (and presumably some related funding) slated to be axed by the Mayor. As in some previous Boys & Girls Club controversies, there’s a sense that programs are being destroyed to consolidate political control.
NOTE #3: Readers are encouraged to email copies of any letters they send to area newspapers here as well, so that the public knows what is (and isn’t) getting printed.
It’s good to see that Rick Scalera is suddenly remembering his 1993
campaign pledge to make the Waterfront “one that we all can be proud of
someday.” Seventeen years later, residents are still wondering if
“someday” will ever come.
Rick’s 1993 Waterfront pledge is much
like two others he made that year. On election night that November, the
Register-Star reported that the newly-elected mayor “renewed his pledge
to eliminate the city’s meter maids and to rid the city of its drug
problems.” How’s he coming along with those promises?
agree when Rick says that progress on the Waterfront “speaks for
itself.” Even one look at the so-called “progress” there speaks
volumes. But the words it’s speaking are: “Is that all there is?”
only the Waterfront could talk, it would tell a tale of neglect,
inaction, indecision and political shenanigans to fill a very long book.
But for someone who’s always boasting about how long he’s lived here, Rick sure has a short memory.
forgotten, among other things, his spiteful move to derail the 1995
Vision Plan for the Waterfront. He doesn’t mention the more than
$500,000 in Waterfront funding that was readily obtained when he was
out office in 2000-2001. He’d like people to overlook his 1999-2005
support for a dry cleaning waste and a cement facility by the river,
which made Waterfront planning pretty much impossible during those
years. And then there were all the other years going back to 1993 when
the LWRP process got becalmed under Rick’s “leadership” —until others
jump-started it, again when he was again out of office in 2006-2007.
by the way: My own office is still in Hudson. Also, since Rick seems to
think that proof of ancestry is necessary to have an opinion about
Hudson, it happens that my great-grandfather’s grandfather used to buy
quahogs from ships in Hudson’s South Bay, and peddled them along what’s
now Route 23.)
A detailed review of the sorry history of the
Waterfront’s snail’s-paced progress is too long for a letter to the
editor, and this back-and-forth could no doubt continue indefinitely.
But those interested in reading a full chronology of the missteps and
evasions and obstruction which have taken place under the watch of the
current and previous mayors can do so at http://tinyurl.com/hudsonwaterfront
that link, readers will likewise find other detailed information about
the more positive, forward-looking vision along the river that citizens
have called for, but the city has thus far ignored.
(1) The Town Clerk's office has moved to 483 County Route 15 -- click the image at right for more details;
(2) The irrepressible Rick Graham has a long “My View” piece in this weekend’s The Register-Star. Graham floats a theory about how Supervisor Betty Young might elevate Wilzig majordomo Erik Tyree to her position upon retirement:
“The Republicans asked Taghkanic Supervisor Betty Young to pony up
for all the covering up they have done for her over the years and run
one more term or at least until the Republicans take back the
Governor’s seat, which they are almost certain to do.
“When the new Republican Governor is elected, Betty Young will then announce her retirement. Now here comes the interesting part; She will probably nominate Tyree from Independence party spewing a bunch of hogwash about how she feels that both parties are too divided to benefit the people. However, the Taghkanic Town Board is evenly divided and her pick will not be approved, she can recommend but she can’t vote on her recommendation however she can appoint a deputy and it was Tyree, the billionaire’s go-for boy and John Faso new found pet.
Then the newly elected Governor will be forced into appointing a new Supervisor and he (the Governor) will probably agree with the Republican Committee Chairman Fingar, Betty Young and wanna-be John Faso that maybe an Independence Party member is the way to go for now.”
The one big flaw with this line of reasoning is that the next Governor of New York State will almost certainly be Andrew Cuomo (whose poll numbers are in the stratosphere), not a Republican as Graham posits. Cuomo is no Coakley.
Moreover, rumors are that The New York Times is preparing a devastating exposé on the private life of current Governor David Paterson (whose poll numbers are already in the toilet), which may force him from the race:
“For about two weeks now, Albany has been buzzing that the New York Times was preparing a blockbuster scandal exposé about Governor Paterson, one that could seriously affect his chances for reelection.”
Despite recent events in neighboring Massachusetts, Cuomo would be expected to crush almost any challenger, such as possible GOP nominee Rick Lazio. And, with millions already in the bank, he is likely to run in a primary and win against Paterson if he doesn’t drop out.
NOTE: The following was published on February 4th in The Register-Star as a My View column, in response to Jamie Larson’s front-page article about the City of Hudson’s draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. —S.
MY VIEW Scalera is missing the boat—again
by Sam Pratt
Back in 1998, Rick Scalera thundered that Hudson’s main street wasn’t ready for change. Today in 2010, he’s saying basically the same thing about Hudson’s waterfront.
He missed the boat then, and he’s missing the boat again now. It’s just a shame to see that after all this time, Rick’s vision for Hudson hasn’t evolved one bit.
In twelve years, I’ve rarely seen Hudson’s mayor support local businesses. (In fact, I’ve only seen him step inside a Hudson restaurant once, even though there’s a great place to have lunch right across from his office.)
Rick has, however, been loudly supportive of a very privileged class of businesses. He’s consistently thrown his weight behind a foreign-owned cement company, a Connecticut-based trucking outfit, and those special corporations which require regular injections of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to stay afloat. (Even after decades of free funding, the folks at places like L&B have folded and left Hudson flat.)
It makes you wonder what Rick dislikes so much about small, independent business people: local residents who are risking their own money and using their own energy to build a sustainable local economy, one that can survive national ups and downs. What is it that he loves so much about distant corporations, which only want to take advantage of our community, trash our landscapes, and in some cases even threaten the health of local families?
* * * *
Not so long ago I co-wrote and circulated a Statement of Values that was endorsed by a diverse group of over 200 Hudson Valley businesses.
Those businesses represented 1,150 full-time and 450 part-time jobs. Not imaginary jobs or dead-end jobs (the kind Rick seems to prefer), but real, direct employment... not some time in the future, in a far away place, but right here, today. The owners of those businesses together stated that:
“We believe that a sound mix of industry, agriculture, trades, services, tourism, retail and arts is necessary to provide the job creation, opportunity, career paths, and tax base which sustain a healthy community.
“We credit the success of our community and companies in recent years to our employees, customers, fellow businesses, neighbors and communities -- all of which are heavily influenced by our environment.
“To ensure continued growth and stability, we need to protect our quality of life. This includes a healthy environment and workforce, clean air and water, scenic and historic resources, and public enjoyment of our unique natural surroundings.
“As we promote economic development, we therefore need to consider the impact new industries or businesses will have, and [to] retain what is best in the current community mix.”
These are the same positive, forward-looking values that many of us so-called “malcontents” (the slanted word improperly used in your article) have in mind when we think about a long-term vision for the Hudson Waterfront.
We want to see Hudson’s riverfront acres become a major economic and recreational engine for everyone in Hudson, both old and new. We want to see unnecessary heavy truck traffic diverted from both the Downtown and the Waterfront, and from the rest of Hudson neighborhoods. And like the Secretary of State stated back in 2005, it’s just not realistic to think that anyone will either have a family picnic or hire people at a small business by the river if diesel barges are belching fumes in everyone’s faces.
We know that Hudson has a long way to go and a lot of work to do to ensure that prosperity extends to all corners of the community. So we don’t want to be presented with more false choices and empty compromises that just maintain the status quo and protect political insiders.
* * * *
But for Rick Scalera, such common-sense and forward-looking values are dismissed as “Disneyland.” His cartoon version of the community remains fixated on supporting a handful of out-of-state and even foreign companies, some of which have donated to his past political campaigns. For some reason, it appears that Rick would prefer to keep parts of Hudson down-and-out than to see progress take place which he can’t completely control.
It didn’t have to be this way.
After the November 2001 election, I wrote in the Register-Star that Rick had a chance to start fresh. He could either try to bridge Hudson’s divides, bringing together the traditional concerns of longtime residents and the dynamic energy of its more recent entrepreneurs. He could “either make peace, or stir up controversy. If Scalera chooses peace, he will find more allies than he knew; if controversy, he will encounter more watchdogs than ever before.”
Sadly, in 2001 Rick chose to embrace more division and more controversy, setting Hudson back another decade. Just last Fall, he was given yet another chance to embrace unity and harmony by the demoralized local Democratic Committee. But from his most recent actions so far in early 2010, it appears that he’s as stuck in his ways as Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick.
It’s a shame to think that any local mayor would prefer for his City’s ship to sink, with him alone at the wheel, than to see it rise with the tide, with many hands on deck.
SAM PRATT is a Taghkanic resident and Hudson businessperson who led the nearly seven-year (successful) fight to stop the massive, coal-fired St. Lawrence Cement Greenport Project.
If you want to read more on the topic of the LWRP, South Bay and the Hudson Waterfront, there are more articles at this link (be sure to scroll down after clicking).