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A Detailed Look at Our Projects

Sprawl Education and Empowerment

The unguided expansion of suburban development is acknowledged by many of the members to be one of the most important regional problems facing us today. Friends of Hudson will take a leadership role in the long-term prevention of sprawl in Columbia County by providing tools and strategies to municipal leaders and the public. FoH's sprawl project is designed to complement other anti-sprawl and land preservation efforts by eliminating the confusion in which sprawl flourishes. We will provide graphic and fact-based tools to encourage enlightened land use at the local level as well as regional cooperation among towns. Finally, the project will be a replicable model for other communities.

We will create a Columbia County Development Map as the centerpiece of this project. FoH will engage volunteers in each town in the county to collect data for mapping. The Map will illustrate:

  • Properties currently under development or in the approval process.
  • Medium-to-large parcels of land that could become targets for developers.
  • Analysis of how development would occur if each zone were to be "built out" to the maximum allowable by existing zoning codes.
  • Analysis of predicted density based on growth patterns in surrounding counties.

FoH will develop Presentation Materials to accompany the Map that illustrate the nature of sprawl, the conditions that enable it and its impacts:

  • Photos to illustrate the physical and visual effects of sprawl on community character.
  • Aerial photos (past and present) to illustrate the effect of sprawl on the landscape.
  • Documentation of the financial costs of sprawl to individuals and municipalities.
  • Documentation of the social and civic costs of sprawl.

We will prepare a Sprawl Prevention Toolkit for use by officials and the public containing:

  • Techniques and methods for understanding the implications of specific proposals.
  • Tools for determining alternative ways to achieve the presumed benefits of sprawl.
  • Principles, strategies, and tools to prevent sprawl and its negative impacts.

Air Monitor Project

Acquisition and management of air monitoring stations One of the problems brought to light in our fight against SLC was a lack of local air quality data. The closest air monitor to Hudson is more than 40 miles to the north, at the Albany airport where the wind speed and direction and pollution sources are totally different than those found in Columbia and Greene counties. Making a case for better air quality requires the establishment of long-term baseline measurements from the area in question.

The FoH Air Monitor Project will put air monitoring tools in the hands of citizens in such a way as to provide meaningful data not otherwise generated, maximize the educational potential for students at various levels, and mobilize communities as warranted when pollution threats have been identified.

We will acquire and arrange for the support of local air monitors. This initiative will accomplish three objectives:

  • Complement existing regional air monitoring capacity now limited to a few stations operated by DEC
  • Provide data for independent oversight of polluting industries in the region
  • Develop a more knowledgeable and active constituency to advocate for further improvements in air quality.

In New York State the type and location of installed air monitoring equipment is surprisingly limited. Of the nine Mid-Hudson counties in DEC Region 4, only three have stationed any type of air monitoring equipment. The DEC, according to a report by Environmental Advocates, has lost more than 800 full-time positions since the mid-1990s. Hence, at the same time legislation such as the Clean Air Act is coming under attack in Washington, problems of enforcement and oversight of existing regulations are becoming acute in New York State. This is of particular concern given that EPA has cited the Hudson Valley as having some of the nation' worst air quality due to its industrial sources, heavy traffic, and stagnant weather patterns

Given this situation it becomes clear that the public needs to become more empowered around issues concerning air quality.

Air monitors capable of producing results that will stand up in court must be operated according to DEC and EPA guidelines and are extremely expensive to install and operate. Therefore we will initially install one station in Columbia County to monitor ozone and PM2.5. We are currently working to establish partnerships to ensure that the station, once installed, will be properly operated, monitored and maintained.

Our goal is to have the station ready to operate within a year and be able to install at a second site after that.

Lafarge Cement Tire Burning Opposition

Despite FoH's legal and technical arguments, and the mobilization of hundreds in opposition, the DEC has issued the Permit for Lafarge to burn 4-6 million tires (TDF) per year at its Ravena Cement Plant. The final draft incorporated some, but not all, of FoH's comments.

We do not believe that we have further procedural recourse as an appeal of the decision is likely to be prohibitively expensive and is not expected to result in a reversal.

We will continue to closely monitor this issue with particular attention to Lafarge's air permit compliance because of their prior track record of permit deviances. We are considering legal recourse, for example a Citizens' Clean Air Act lawsuit.

Speaker Series

In September 2005 Friends of Hudson began a monthly Speaker Series featuring topics of interest to our members and the public. While some of the events in the series are not directly related to current FoH projects, all are related to our overall mission and goals.

Past Programs

  • Community Based Design of Hudson's Waterfront: A Forum with the South Bay Coalition and greater Hudson community residents
  • Shaping the Future of Hudson's Waterfront with the South Bay Coalition and featuring Randy Daniels, former Commissioner of the NY Department of State
  • Understanding Sprawl with Todd Fabozzi, Capital District Regional Planning Commission
  • Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Law But Were Afraid to Ask with Robert Freeman, Committee on Open Government
  • SEQRA 101 with Jeff Baker, Esq., Young Sommer, LLC
  • The Cost of Sprawl with James Sheldon, financial analyst and editor of Little Town Views.
  • Alternative Energies for Municipalities: Exploring the Possibilities, a community forum with leading experts in renewable energy technologies.
  • Environmental Issues Update, Cosponsored by Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. A forum on currently proposed legislation, management plans and funding priorities in New York State, featuring environmental lobbyists Rob Moore (Executive Director of Environmental Advocates), Willie Janeway (Director of NY Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy) and John Stouffer (Legislative Director, Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club).

Future Programs (Dates and locations to be confirmed)

  • Air Quality and Human Health with Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., author of Nurture Nature Nurture Health: Your Health and the Environment (2005).
  • Seeing the Farm Landscape in a New Way with Conrad Vispo, the Farmscape Ecology Program.
  • The Past, Present and Future of Farming in Columbia County, a panel of Columbia County farmers discussing the role of agriculture in the economy of Columbia County and the value of local produce in our lives.
  • Global Warming, with Moisha Blechman, author of SLC: Understanding the Impact, and leader of the Sierra Club's taskforce on global warming.

To volunteer for a Friends of Hudson project call our office: (518) 822-0334