- “Further industrialization of the wetlands of South Bay is not appropriate.” —Coastal Resources Specialist Nancy Welsh, writing in 2003 to then-Waterfront chair Charlie Butterworth, in response to the City’s draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. Welsh repeated this statement in a second letter later that year. Nevertheless, the current LWRP proposes putting a heavy industrial haul road through the wetlands of South Bay, a continuation of over a century of abuse of the area.
IN THE 19TH CENTURY, Hudson’s South Bay was a vast inlet along the River, providing not only one of the most famous and cherished vistas along the Hudson (see the Images section) but also substantial economic benefits to the community.
With the advent of Commodore Vanderbilt’s railroad parallel to the shoreline, followed by Fred Jones’s rail trestle perpendicular to it, the slow degradation of the Bay began. Decreased circulation of fresh water, along with infill such as slag from early industrial polluters like the Hudson Iron Works, slowly choked off the Bay. Many of the buildings now familiar to Hudsonians, such as the now-defunct L&B furniture factory, are built upon what was once open water.
This entropic process was chronicled in detail by Don Christensen in his 2003 Hudson Opera House exhibition, “Seeing South Bay.” (Christensen also assembled extensive research indicating that many of the most prime riverfront acres claimed by landowners such as St. Lawrence Cement may, in fact, belong to the State.)
New York’s Local Waterfront Revitalization programs began in the early ’80s, and citizens nearly immediately started calling for Hudson to adopt such a plan. However, city officials delayed exploring an LWRP until the late ’80s, and the plan languished all through the ’90s and early part of the new century, until the defeat of the St. Lawrence Cement proposal.
In early 2006, a new City administration kick-started the LWRP process again, beginning work in earnest to gather public comment and work with State officials to develop a plan. However, in early 2007 citizens who had engaged in good faith with the process were stunned to discover that the Waterfront chair, Linda Mussmann, had been negotiating privately with officials from St. Lawrence Cement, and produced a draft wildly at odds with the public input received thus far.
Details of the results of public surveys ignored by the LWRP planners can be found in the Facts & Figures section of this site.