Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was in Orange County Thursday, calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to listen to Hudson River communities when it comes to a proposal to establish anchorage sites in the river. Maloney and local elected officials want public hearings earlier in the process.
The Coast Guard proposes 10 anchorage sites — basically, rest stops — for commercial vessels along the Hudson River, from Yonkers to Kingston. Congressman Maloney and local elected officials gathered at a park along the river’s shoreline in New Windsor to call on the Coast Guard to allow local voices to be heard. Here’s Maloney, a Democrat from the 18th district.
“One of my great frustrations in Washington is that time and again I see federal agencies making decisions that affect local communities without enough input from those local communities. So far, we haven’t had a sufficient level of that public input and we’re not likely to get it for months and months when these plans will be so far down the track we don’t know whether we’ll ever pull them back,” Maloney says. “And so what we’re asking for together with Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand and other local leaders is to have immediate public hearings and to do an environmental assessment, an impact study, on what this would mean for these local communities.”
A Coast Guard spokesperson was unable to respond in time for this broadcast but, earlier in August, spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy said the proposal is at the beginning of a two-year process and public input is welcome. The comment period ends September 7. Conroy says there will be public hearings in the spring of 2017, per the proposal process, along with an environmental study. Maloney says that’s too late.
“These things take on a life of their own and if you wait that long to do that type of assessment or that kind of input from the community, you’re pretty far down the track at that point and it can be perfunctory,” Maloney says. “I’d like the communities’ voices to be heard right now.”
Republican state Senator William Larkin added:
“We need to tell them that, listen, this is our community, this is our area, listen to what we’re telling you because we live here, we understand it, and we want you to understand our concerns,” Larkin says.
Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis gave a nod to press events that have taken place along the Hudson River to draw attention to the proposal.
“And this event and other events like it are just meant to say one thing to the Coast Guard and that is, hold on, not so fast, cool your jets,” Skoufis says. “Before you do anything to one of our greatest assets here in the region, come talk to the people who live along the Hudson River, come talk to the businesses in Cornwall-on-Hudson who use the river to survive and operate their business, who use the river for recreation.”
“Since the dramatic reduction in energy prices we have seen particularly in the petroleum markets, a lot of this infrastructure may not be necessary; it may not have to be built,” Maloney says. “And one of the things that I am suspicious of in this process is that these plans were put in place with the expectation of massive increases in the amount of crude oil being transported down the Hudson River.”
Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson Mayor Brendan Coyne urges the Coast Guard to listen to input from the communities such a proposal would affect.
“We are just a mile or so from my village, and we have two kayak vendors there, we have the Orange County Rowing Association. We also have many people who live and pay taxes in the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson who use our boat launch,” Coyne says. “And right next to the park, we have the Cornwall Yacht Club. So we have many users of the river. And we’re very upset that the folks that decided that this should happen weren’t even in touch with me or many others who are along the river.”
Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay and a Scenic Hudson environmental attorney also were on hand voicing concern over the proposal and urging the public to comment. Meanwhile, Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados was scheduled to be at Long Dock Park in Beacon Friday, joined by local mayors, town supervisors and environmentalists to call on the Coast Guard to reject the proposed anchorage sites.