In 2006 and 2007, LWRP seemed to be the acronym on everyone's lips. The Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee, chaired by Linda Mussmann, was gathering public input--the lack public input being in large part the reason the Department of State had rejected the previous version. There was a questionnaire. There were public meetings. There were focus groups. There were meetings with stakeholders. And there was lots of frustration for people who believed the 2005 decision from the DOS on the St. Lawrence Cement project paved the way for the City to take back the deep-water dock and felt that at some point the committee had stopped listening to them. But, more or less on schedule, in the fall of 2007, the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee had a document ready to be turned over to the Common Council for consideration.
In the past couple years, however, not much has been heard about the LWRP. When Rick Scalera returned to office in Janaury 2008, he decided there was no need for a committee, and work on the LWRP continued outside the public eye. In December 2008, when the LWRP reappeared on the aldermen's desks after a year's absence, some of us were horrified to find this statement repeated at least three times in the 262-page document: "The City supports plans proposed by Holcim (US) and its tenant [O&G] to reroute heavy truck traffic from the Holcim mine in Greenport, New York, to the deep water dock port via the South Bay causeway" (quoted from page 18 of the LWRP). And we were even more horrified to realize that we had earlier approved a Generic Environmental Impact Study (GEIS) that would not look at ten possible ways to get aggregate from the quarry to the river and determine which was best--what we thought we were approving--but instead would look at nine alternatives to justify the "causeway" as our route of choice.
This is the major flaw in the current LWRP. Of course, we need to get dump trucks hauling aggregate off our streets. They are a hazard to residents, their weight is damaging the infrastructure below the roadway, and the vibrations they cause are rattling our houses. But encouraging Holicm and O&G to create a private road through the South Bay is not the best solution to the problem, and it should not be the one that the LWRP says the City supports.
Earlier this year, before the City submitted its grant application for Round 3 of the Restore NY program in May, Mayor Scalera pitched to the Council a plan--which was to be our Round 3 Restore NY grant proposal--to purchase the LB building, demolish part of it, and construct a road to the waterfront along the south side of the building, skirting the north edge of the South Bay. I asked some questions and was assured that the roadbed would be constructed to absorb vibration and the roadway would be screened to reduce noise and visual impacts. The road was the perfect solution, even though it was tied in with some things that seemed less than ideal: paying what seemed an inflated price for the LB building and ending up owning part of a building we weren't sure what to do with.
No sooner was the plan pitched than it unraveled. It occurred to the mayor and The Grant Writers--right there at the meeting--that Restore NY funds could not be used to purchase property. Instead of taking the first step toward creating a new route to the waterfront, the City ended up using its Restore NY grant potential to apply for money to demolish the old Schroeder Chevrolet building so the new owner could build something else there.
Although withdrawn as soon as it was presented, the idea of a properly constructed public road from 9G to the waterfront is what the City should be supporting in the LWRP not a private road through an ecologically sensitive wetland. Beyond solving the immediate problem of getting the gravel trucks (and the salt trucks in winter) off our residential streets, the road would enable the preservation and renewal of the South Bay as a recreational resource and provide a much needed gateway to the waterfront.
The Namesake Celebration earlier this summer demonstrated to me how badly we need such a gateway. It wasn't easy directing people to the waterfront. A reporter from Hillsdale confessed that she had no idea where Hudson's waterfront was! The congestion on Saturday night after the concert and the traffic heading up Allen Street made it clear that another way out was needed.
A new road south of LB, along the north edge of South Bay, heading for Front Street and the grade-level crossing of the railroad tracks would be the perfect access to the river not only for gravel trucks but for kayakers and boaters heading for the boat launch and the Power Boat Club and for visitors coming to events at the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. As a community, we should settle for nothing less, and our LWRP should support that.