Two Democratic New York Congressmen and local stakeholders stood at the Yonkers waterfront Monday afternoon to talk about potential anchorage proposals for the Hudson River. Though they praised a U.S. Coast Guard study, the lawmakers and environmentalists also made it clear they are doubling down on opposition to any long-term anchorage sites in future proposals.
The directed study came after the Coast Guard suspended the rulemaking process for a proposal of up to 10 additional anchorage sites from Westchester to Ulster County. Two workshops took place in November — one in Poughkeepsie, one in Albany — as part of this study on safety along the river. The study is part of the Coast Guard’s PAWSA process, or Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment. Congressman Eliot Engel’s 16th House District includes Yonkers.
“The days when agencies and decisions can run roughshod over communities is over, and we’re not going to stand for it, certainly not those of us that represent Yonkers, Hastings or other communities up and down the water. So we’re going to continue to fight this. This is something that, whose time has not come, should not come and should never come,” Engel says. “And I will pledge to continue to oppose this, and we won’t stop till we win.”
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, whose 18th District includes several Hudson River communities, says the Coast Guard could come back with another proposal from this PAWSA process.
“What they come back with may address legitimate safety issues, and most of us would have no problem with that, but we want to make sure that we stay focused on it so that it stays focused on us, so it stays focused on the communities we represent and what’s good for us and the legitimate safety issues because there are other agendas at work here,” Maloney says. “The private operators of these barges have an economic interest in storing oil closer to market. We don’t want that. We’ll be damned if we’re going to have an archipelago of oil storage facilities up and down the Hudson River because that benefits some private company. Those are the agendas we don’t care about. Nor do we care about a bureaucratic imperative to make the job easier for the Coast Guard. If there are additional authorities the Coast Guard needs, Congressman Engel and I want to work to make sure that they have it.”
U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy previously told WAMC that information from both workshops would be combined into one report, stating the risks that were identified on the river as well as potential risk mitigation measures. The Coast Guard workshops included a range of stakeholders, from representatives of New York state agencies and municipal leaders to recreation interests, environmentalists and Hudson River Pilots and tug and barge owners and operators.
John Lipscomb is Riverkeeper’s patrol boat captain and vice president for advocacy. Lipscomb says the Coast Guard workshops brought together an unmatched diverse group of stakeholders, who all want safety. He said this pertaining to commercial vessels.
“All of us want them to be able to anchor if there’s a true emergency because the best way to deal with a spill is to not have one,” Lipscomb says. “But, at the PAWSA, it was very clear, and the community stood very strongly together that, yes, anchor for safety and, as soon as that urgency is over, move on. Long-term anchoring for the economic benefit of the company that they represent or the cargos that they’re moving is not acceptable to us.”
Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who spent part of his childhood in Yonkers, referenced the recent death of former Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
“Nothing would be worse and nothing would be more detrimental, I think, to Congressman Hinchey’s legacy and to the legacy that was established by designating this river a National Heritage River than to start moving backwards," Molinaro says. "And the anchorage points proposed by the Coast Guard would be nothing more than a step, a dangerous step backwards, an unnecessary step backwards.”
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, though appreciative of the range of voices at the workshop tables, had previously voiced concern that the Hudson River Waterfront Alliance, which contains elected leaders from 34 Hudson Valley municipalities and counties, was not entirely included.
“You know what? I’m happy that they came back and killed their initial proposal, and that they came back and they were willing to have a discussion with many of the stakeholders. And that’s what was important,” says Spano. “We certainly are always going to be a part of that, and we’re always a part of the alliance and we’re always going to make sure that… no one’s going to shut us up, let’s put it that way. So we’ll always have something to say, and we’ll make sure we say it. And I think that’s… because it all started here. We were the first ones to bring this about and to have this discussion.”
Spano has been one of the many vocal opponents to the initial proposal that called for up to 43 berths from his city north to Kingston.