Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nutten Hook,New York










the following is from  www.saveferryroad.com

The History of the Ferry Road “Controversy”

The people of Columbia County are facing the loss of one of their finest Hudson River access points, and the tax-paying citizens of Ferry Road in Stuyvesant are facing New York State eminent domain abuse. Why is this happening?- because NYSDOT wants to close their Ferry Road railroad grade crossing permanently, and NYSDEC won’t allow them to have the long promised alternative access road from Ice House Road. I want to tell you a little about this situation, because it involves the use of your tax dollars, especially Federal stimulus dollars, to deny Hudson River access and destroy historic homes. Does this sound like a proper way to use your tax dollars?
Ferry Road is in the hamlet of Newton Hook in the Town of Stuyvesant. Ferry Road, and all the houses on it, lies on the west side of the Albany-NY main CSX railroad line, and is directly on the Hudson River. Newton Hook was a busy little 19th Century Hudson River Valley community, with the largest icehouse on the river, three brick yards, its own train station, a ferry to Coxsackie, and 3 hotels. The R. + W. Scott ice house powerhouse, the last remaining ice house structure on the Hudson, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is just to the north of Ferry Road. The only public access to the icehouse property, which was recently refurbished by the State of NY at a cost of $750,000, is via Ferry Road. Two of the homes on Ferry Road, one a former post office and the other an old hotel and tavern, are also on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. If the State is allowed to close Ferry Road without providing an alternative access route, these historic homes will be bulldozed.
Besides the historical homes at stake on Ferry Road, there is also the issue of incredible Hudson River recreational access. The Town of Stuyvesant has 9 miles of shoreline, but Ferry Road is one of only two public access points on the river. The area of the old ferry slip at the end of Ferry Road is a very popular spot for fishermen, kayakers, local families and retirees. In fact, NYS DEC has constructed a car top boat launch at the end of the road, as well as a beautiful interpretive kiosk about the Hudson River Estuary. The Stuyvesant Town Board, as well as NY State Senator Saland and NY Assemblyman Gordon, have written to NYSDOT and NYSDEC, calling for continued public access to Ferry Road.
The problem lies in the fact that NYSDOT wants to close the railroad grade crossing on Ferry Road, and has wanted to do so for some time. DOT thinks the grade crossing is dangerous, because of the short distance between the crossing and State Route 9J, (despite the fact that no one has been hurt here in some 150 years.) On April 17, 1996, an Administrative Law Judge, acting on a motion of the NYS Commissioner of Transportation, issued an order calling for the closure of the Ferry Road grade crossing. However, on December 13, 2006, another ALJ ruled that the previous order be amended. There is another ‘private’, parallel, DEC controlled road ½ mile to the north of Ferry Road, called Ice House Road. In the 2006 ruling, the ALJ ordered:
“1. That the order adopted herein April 17, 1996 directing closure and discontinuance of the crossing carrying Ferry Road over the tracks of CSX Transportation in the Town of Stuyvesant, Columbia County, and the designation of the private crossing of Pinkowski (Ice House) Road over the same tracks as a public crossing be amended by adding the following new Section 3:
3. The Ferry Road crossing shall remain open and the Pinkowski (Ice House) Road crossing shall remain private until the connector road is constructed.”
The plan was to build a short connector road from Ice House Road to Ferry Road, so that access to Ferry Road could be continued. After the connector road was completed, the Ferry Road grade crossing would be closed. This project would involve cooperation between DOT, DEC and the Town of Stuyvesant. The ½ acre of DEC land required for the construction of the connector road would partially impact man-made wetlands between Ice House and Ferry Roads, but in a NYSDEC EIS, it was stated that “Although this plan results in the loss of wetlands, the DEC believes this loss is justified given the need to improve safety at the Ferry Road and Ice House Road rail crossing and given the multitude of public access benefits that will result from implementation of the plan. Furthermore, this loss of wetland area and function will be effectively mitigated at a nearby site.”
Ferry Road remained open, however, and the connector road was never built. The Town of Stuyvesant was told this was due to a lack of funding.
Now however, things have changed. On March 9, 2010, NYSDOT held a closed door meeting with representatives of DEC and the Town of Stuyvesant. (We have the meeting minutes, thanks to a Freedom of Information request.) DOT announced that it had received Federal stimulus funds to improve grade crossings south of Albany. It would use some of the funds to carry out the long anticipated closure of Ferry Road. At this same meeting, the DEC stated unequivocally that it would never agree to the proposed connector road because of its impact on wetlands. Stuyvesant representatives at the meeting suggested other options, such as the installation of a traffic light that would be activated by the approach of a train, such as already exists on Route 9J in the Town of Castleton, to the north. All other options were rejected by DOT and DEC, and DOT Region 8 Director William Gorton said “no real option exists at Ferry Rd besides purchasing the properties and closing the crossing. All other options are extremely cost prohibitive.” Donna Hintz, from DOT Legal Affairs, discussed the regulatory proceedings to date, noting that “standing orders were not complied with and a new hearing was needed to change the order based on the existing circumstances”, adding that DOT “would like to progress a new hearing in the near term, within 2 months if possible.”
There has been extensive media coverage of this situation in local newspapers, including the Albany Times-Union, as well as on all 4 Albany TV stations. In every report, various DOT spokespeople say “all options are on the table”, even though the DOT meeting minutes would suggest otherwise. There will be a new DOT hearing on May 12, at the Stuyvesant Town Hall, and it seems likely that the DOT will seek the removal of the 2006 amendment calling for the construction of a connector road. The DOT apparently has a 2 year window in which to use the stimulus money, and in light of the intransigence of current DEC personnel, it would seem that the upcoming hearing will lead to a closing of Ferry Road, and the taking of all the homes there (and their inevitable destruction.)
This seems like a tragically unnecessary loss of historic and recreational resources. It seems somehow wrong to use Federal funds to take and destroy two properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (which is part of the National Park Service.) Closing the road without providing alternative access also would seem to violate the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, which calls for:
“Attaining increased opportunities for public access, taking into account current and future public access needs, to coastal areas of recreational, historical, aesthetic, ecological, or cultural value.”
Once again, using Federal stimulus funds to deny Hudson River access to the public seems inherently problematic.
As NY Assemblyman Tim Gordon expressed it, in his March 30 letter to NYSDOT Commissioner Gee:
“…I express the collective concern of those in the Hudson Valley/Capital Region and beyond, that access to Ferry Road, Stuyvesant, NY and adjacent properties remains viable. As part of the Hudson River Estuary along the shore of our great tidal waterway, considerable public investment has been made for the common use and enjoyment of this natural gift, which is in fact a designated New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ‘Unique Area.’ Additionally, Ferry Road is the location of several historic homes, and the residences of a number of families. As we strive to develop a more safe and dependable passenger rail system any plan to modify the Ferry Road, Stuyvesant, NY rail crossing must ensure continued public access to the dwellings of Ferry Road as well as its natural areas that belong to all of the people of New York State.”
We here in Stuyvesant, and on Ferry Road, would appreciate it very much if you would write or call these politicians and bureaucrats before it’s too late for the people of Stuyvesant, and the people of Ferry Road. There are other options available to solve the grade crossing problem here, and perhaps if they heard from you, the hard-working tax payers of the Upper Hudson Valley, maybe the people at DOT and DEC might behave a little less stubbornly, and act a little more creatively before they close Ferry Road.

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