What is SEQR/SEQRA?
SEQRA stands for the State Environmental Quality Review Act, and SEQR stands for State Environmental Quality Review.
In the 1970s, New York State passed a bill to help communities integrate national environmental regulations with state and local law. Under SEQRA, communities use the power of local planning boards or other bodies to review the potential environmental impacts of business and residential development projects. When a project is of a larger scale and effects multiple municipalities, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation may have to choose a “lead agency” —one of the local planning boards in this case— to steer the SEQR process.
The SEQR process leads to a positive or negative declaration. If a negative declaration is reached, the process ends. With a positive declaration, a lengthy environmental impact statement follows.
For this proposal, the Town of Greenport has been given lead agency for the SEQR review, even though the majority of the impact is on Hudson. This is why it is critical to make your voices heard and submit your comments to Greenport AND show up to the public hearing on April 18.
Isn’t the haul road proposal good if it gets the trucks off of Columbia Street?
The idea of taking trucks off of Columbia Street sounds great, and it is something many of us here in Hudson would love to see happen, but this proposal doesn’t actually do that.
- Removing Colarusso’s trucks from Columbia Street doesn’t solve the larger problem— in fact, it barely makes a dent. Less than 20% of the trucks that use Columbia Street are Colarusso trucks.
- The reality of the situation is that Columbia Street is part of a NY State truck route, which is a much larger problem.
- Think of all the major trucks that use Columbia Street daily: Walmart, Ginsberg, Lowes and countless others. Colarusso’s proposal just moves a portion of Colarusso’s truck traffic to the waterfront, and will create new traffic hazards at Broad Street, RT 9 and RT 9G in the bargain. Their proposal means a lot more trucks bound for Hudson.
Colarusso’s pitch to Hudson is that it helps make Columbia Street safer but their proposal doesn’t just move truck traffic, it will vastly increase truck traffic.
- Their proposal is to expand the current single lane haul road into a two lane road, which allows an intensification of operations.
- They currently use a single lane road into their port, then out via Front street and up Columbia street.
- Their proposal projects up to 300 trucks a day, up to 1800 a week, crossing major arteries into Hudson and dominating our waterfront, a significant increase from current traffic.
- What this really does is make things easier for Colarusso to increase their profits while shifting the burden of their trucks to the waterfront.
- And yet, even if the proposed expansion is approved, Colarusso publicly announced it still intends to use the state truck route on Columbia Street indefinitely, as they are lawfully allowed to.
Let’s solve Hudson truck problem, not add to it.
Are local businesses already affected by Colarusso’s increasing use of the waterfront?
Yes. Colarusso’s 18-wheelers and dump trucks are already a serious safety hazard to pedestrians and cars alike. Imagine the increased safety issues when the numbers of trucks are increased.
- South Front Street and Broad Street don’t have infrastructure to protect pedestrians and passenger vehicles – no sidewalks, no signage.
- Clouds of dust overtake the waterfront when the trucks roll, even more so when gravel is dumped at their dock.
- The current proposal calls for upwards of 51,000 trucks over a 260-day work year: that’s up to 300 trucks a day, 12 hours a day, six days a week or 1800 trucks a week.
Approval of the haul road will make things worse for local businesses and non-profits operating near the waterfront.
- Including Basilica Hudson, Kite’s Nest, and the former L&B Factory — which houses many thriving small businesses, including Hudson’s Antique Warehouse and DigiFab.
- All these expanding businesses share the roads with the expanding truck traffic.
Is Colarusso’s proposal an expansion of operations?
Yes, and they’re being vague about their future plans.
- Their current proposal calls for upwards of 51,000 trucks over a 260-day work year: that’s up to 300 trucks a day, 12 hours a day, six days a week or 1,800 trucks a week.
Why would using a road on the outside of the City negatively impact Hudson?
By running upwards of 51,000 trucks back and forth along the proposed two-lane haul road, Colarusso plans to run its “standard truck traffic” through the South Bay to the waterfront.
- The trucks enter Hudson, by crossing 9G, going through the wetlands, and then onto South Front Street, by L&B and Basilica Hudson, before crossing the train tracks at Broad Street.
- This would create major traffic issues for 9G as well as Hudson’s only access point to its river and waterfront park. Cars and pedestrians will square off against trucks 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.
- The heavy truck traffic also poses a hazard to CSX and Amtrak trains and crossings. Colarusso’s expansion and intensification of operations significantly increases their impact on the area and the businesses that currently operate there.
Colarusso’s proposal to expand their haul road puts the livelihood of its neighbors at risk in order to make their own work easier and more profitable.
Are there health hazards associated with the amount of dust that the trucks create?
Yes. Gravel dust contains silica quartz (silicon dioxide). Silica quartz inhalation can cause illness when working in close proximity to gravel dust.
- Exposing Hudson’s residents to this dust on Front Street and Columbia Street is a problem and a nuisance.
- Colarusso’s ramped up proposal for the waterfront just shifts a public health and safety issue from one part of the city to another— that’s hardly a fair trade-off, and no part of this city is any more or less important than another.
For Colarusso to try and bargain with Hudson by pitting Columbia Street against the waterfront district shows that they’re willing to create division amongst our City’s residents in order to benefit their business.
Hasn’t the waterfront always been primarily industrial?
Industry has a historical presence at the waterfront dating back to 1850s. Industrial activity at the waterfront saw a steady decline starting the 1950s, shrinking year after year. In 2011, a sudden and considerable increase in industrial activity alarmed and inspired the City to create new zoning districts at Hudson’s waterfront. The new zoning puts limits on industrial expansion.
- Colarusso purchased their property in late 2014, three years after Hudson rezoned the waterfront.
- The 2011 zoning was developed through compromise: the previous industrial landowners of the dock and quarry, along with the City and its citizens, struck an agreement that did away with the old industrial zoning district, in favor of new districts that reflected the changing, mixed-use economic and residential character of the city.
- The new zoning also addresses the sensitive environmental considerations of the waterfront and surrounding area. The new zoning benefits a wider range of Hudson citizens and businesses.
- Colarusso’s proposal stands in the way of the mixed-use balance struck by the zoning. Colarusso bought their property after the zoning laws were amended, so they had to be aware of the changes.
Have there been other proposals for industrial activity on the waterfront?
Yes. In 2005, after years of grassroots protest, the New York Department of State (NYDOS) rejected St Lawrence Cement’s proposal for one of the biggest cement plants in North America to use Hudson waterfront.
Their decision followed the refusal of other state and federal agencies to issue permits. The NYDOS established that industrial use of that scale and proportion was not right for the city of Hudson and its waterfront.
The formal findings of the NYDOS stated “…the resultant shift in jobs, tax base, and increased industrial use at the waterfront, would adversely impact the social, cultural, and environmental interests of the region’s citizens.”
Does being against Colarusso’s haul road proposal mean I have to be against a local corporation?
No, being opposed to the haul road doesn’t mean you have to be against Colarusso. It simply means recognizing that Colarusso has rights and responsibilities, just like any other business that operates in Hudson.
- Those rights and responsibilities exist in a careful balance set by laws and regulations.
- Most importantly, what immediately benefits the corporation does not necessarily benefit its neighbors or the greater good of the City.
- It’s important to remember Colarusso has been around the area for 100 years, but only acquired the Hudson waterfront dock in late 2014— this very recent expansion raises many questions about their proposal and what their intentions are.
- Their presence at the waterfront and on our streets needs to be evaluated against what is best for all of Hudson’s current and future individuals, families, businesses and environment.
- Colarusso owns their dock and has a right to operate within Hudson like every other business, following zoning and other regulations that all businesses must adhere to. We expect Colarusso to abide by the zoning regulations adopted in 2011 and conform their proposal accordingly. These zoning regulations exist to encourage mixed-use and equal access at the waterfront.
Isn’t the South Bay a protected wetlands?
Yes and no. Its greatest protections come from City government in the form of zoning restrictions.
- While it’s true that the South Bay is a State-designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat, the designation actually offers little in the form of protections. It does lay out specific threats to particular habitats, which the State normally combines with information on rare species in order to scrutinize a project’s potential inconsistencies with the State Coastal Policies.
- In this case, however, a State “consistency review” was waived for technical reasons, which means that any defense of the documented rare species in South Bay will depend upon local engagement.
- For ecologically-minded citizens this leaves two venues in which to defend the South Bay’s ecology: zoning decisions, which are wholly within City government, and the State-required environmental review (SEQR), for which the Town of Greenport Planning Board is the Lead Agency. It is a tidal estuary that naturally serves as protection from storm surges and rising waters.
- How the haul road will affect that and the importance of the maintenance and design of the culverts that pass under the proposed road are crucial to stop flooding of 9G and the area.
What is the haul road proposal really about?
That’s what we’d like to know. This is a major investment for Colarusso. It will undoubtedly have major a impact on Hudson’s waterfront, economy and quality of life. It is imperative that they be clear about their intentions so that Hudson can be clear about the future.
Potential economic gains for Colarusso are a tremendous loss for Hudson:
- Colarusso stands to gain a substantially expanded presence at the waterfront if the haul road proposal goes through, which will mean a significant financial gain for the company. Whereas the proposal’s negative impacts on Hudson are social, environmental, and will detrimentally impact economic opportunity for the entire City, not just those near the waterfront.