Another day, another not very cogent missive in the Register Star by Rick Scalera. (See below for the link to it.) This time it was the mayor trying to make a case for something that had already been remedied: the delayed release to the public of the proposed final Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. Scalera defends the delay with a Newspeak breakdown of who the “public” really is: “more” than some (whom he doesn’t like) but “including” others (whom I think he does), among them “kids who play outside on the street because they don’t have a back yard.” (Translation: Scalera is obliquely suggesting that he is looking out for the interests of those kids by supporting a proposed truck route on the waterfront. My two cents: one of the things city planners have learned from the bad old days of Robert Moses is that if you build roads merely to alleviate traffic, the end result is that traffic inevitably increases to fill the extra space. Since no one is planning to ban trucks on Columbia Street, building an alternative route somewhere else for them will only make room for even more freight on the city’s streets—or at best the same amount.)
On the same day of the publication of this letter, I went down to the disputed waterfront area, where Scalera has actually accomplished something quite laudable– two sizable public boat slips for small craft and kayaks and one improved one for larger boats, all nearing completion toward the middle and southern end of the park. Put together in what was a blink of an eye – in Hudson time at least– and with no major issues or problems as of yet, it is as much a realization of the Vision Plan for a recreational waterfront as anything built to date. But as far as I’ve been able to gather, Scalera hardly ever mentions it — either as a counterpoint to those who think him beyond hope in this area, or simply to boast about having shepherded government agencies to complete it quickly and with apparent finesse. (The project was ably guided by Ellen Thurston; and the funds were attained by Scalera from State Senator Stephen Saland.) Adjoining the landing dock is a new section of the park that the Department of Public Works cleared this winter; jutting far out to the river’s edge, it is a place where you can actually touch the water with your fingertips.
While there remain many details that need to be either worked out and/or announced to the public (who will operate them? When will they be ready for use?), the first impression is that this is a project that any public official can be proud of. Perhaps for the first time since I’ve lived here (nearing eight years now) I see how the Mayor can be an experienced hand capable of getting things done–even things that everyone thinks should be done. But instead of trumpeting this, he sets himself in vociferous opposition to those who simply want this very type of project expanded to the whole of the riverfront. Or participates in the creation of a ghastly proposed entranceway to the city, pictured below, to greet all visitors traveling west to the city on Route 23. This unintentionally Dadaist piece of urban design** is a “beautifying project to enhance the entrance to the historic and banking/business districts of Hudson and Greenport,” according to the committee, headed by Scalera, responsible for creating it. Looking at it again, reading Scalera in the paper, and then recalling the profound sensation of touching the water of the Hudson for the first time made me wonder if our Mayor, with only a few months left to his term, simply likes to mess with our heads. –Scott Baldinger
** As it turns out, according to Carole Osterink, Rick Scalera did mean this drawing of the gateway project to be a joke, and everyone believing it was real was evidence to him of “how gullible we all were.” Like I said, the man likes to mess with our heads.