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May 25, 2006

Crotonblog: Letters to the Editor, Croton-on-Hudson, New York 10520
I’ve just finished reading the official reply to the lawsuit filed against Croton-on-Hudson by Buffalo Southern Railroad (BSOR) on the village website. Thanks to the village staff for making this very detailed account available for us to read.

I encourage everyone to read the brief and make sure you have the accurate facts. If history is any judge, the operation at 1A Croton Point Avenue (the old Metro Enviro site) causes very strong opinions on all sides of the operation there i.e., who said what, who did what, who did right and who did wrong.

Please be smart and informed this time around. Read the documentation yourself. The action by BSOR, and our response to it, is a whole new ball game and our Village Board will be facing some really difficult decisions once again.

Just as there were no easy answers in 1997, there are none now. Residents owe it to themselves and to the village to become informed and make their decisions rather than allowing the information be hijacked by others.

— Georgianna Grant

On May 30, 2006 4:05 PM, bojangles said:

The Mayor said before his election “I will not change my mind. I stand firm on that” in regard to his No Negotiation stance with Metro Enviro.

It’s unfortunate when an elected official takes such a stand. Dangerous and short sighted. Elected to to represent all, what happens when the community says “Stop. We’re broke. We cannot afford any more.”

Fortunately Metro Enviro is history. This is a new bunch. Let’s hope the Mayor and Board will be willing to have open discussions if the opportunity is there.

On May 29, 2006 11:14 AM, weewill said:

Reality Check hits hard but he raises issues we need to consider. Fortunately he laid the problems at the feet of Maria Cudaquest and others who support “no negotiations” or healthy discussion with the owners of 1A Croton Point Avenue. This refusal to reasonably discuss ways to resolve differences, landed the Village in very expensive and questionable litigation. Mayor Schmidt and Trustee Brennan should note the following quote from the Village’s brief in response to the most recent lawsuit in Federal Court:

“The Village had begun exploration of acquiring the Site for use as a public works facility. Had BSOR picked up the phone and called the Village before suing, it might have asked whether it would be possible to reach an accommodation whereby part of the Site might be used for the works facility and part for rail operations. Such discussions might still be worthwhile (notwithstanding the fact that BSOR got its relationship with the Village off to a difficult start by introducing itself through a lawsuit).” (Attorney, Michael Gerrard, for the Village of Croton-on-Hudson)

Do Mayor Schmidt and Trustee Brennan expect the opponents to do what they are unwilling to do? I encourage Mayor Schmidt and Trustee Brennan to rethink their fierce opposition to responsible dialogue with the owners of 1A Croton Point Avenue. It’s been said that the criteria for successful negotiations is that both sides walk away from the bargaining table feeling like winners.

It may not be too late for Croton.

— Georgianna Grant

On May 29, 2006 9:45 AM, TeaDrinker said:

Indeed and thank you “Reality Check” for the inspiration to go back to the video archive and put the following video montage together that chronicles the “Schmidt Team’s” early indignation and “tough guys” stance.

Option: Download and watch this video clip of “The We Will Never Negotiate Boys: A video best of…” from the LWV debate on March 5, 2005, in Quicktime format (6:18 min. | 8.8 mb).

Video transcript:

Mayoral Candidate Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Their (Democratic board majority) inability to maintain a firm position on Metro Enviro further indicates how far out of touch they are with you the residents of Croton—who have repeatedly voiced your opposition to this facility. Croton is a great community. I love Croton and if elected mayor, I will listen to your concerns and treat every one of you with respect you deserve and do the best I can do to insure that our village government remembers one basic thing—that you the taxpayer are the customer—and to the best of my ability, constantly strive to make Croton a better place.”

“I’d like to respond to that. Um, I think that when you hire special counsel—whether you are an individual or a village—you tell counsel what to do. You do ask for their guidance but I think that you do tell counsel what to do. And I think they’re saying that they may change their mind depending upon perhaps what counsel may tell them to do. I will not change my mind. I stand firm on that. I will continue to tell counsel to fight this battle. This battle is the same as the Millennium Pipeline. So, if you hear them saying that they will ask special counsel—possibly come back with a deal—will they do the same thing with the Millennium Pipeline? If Millennium Pipeline comes in and says we’ll give you a couple of million dollars, could you go away? It’s the same deal. Its protecting our rights as a village to say, these are our laws, and with Metro Enviro, These are our laws, this was the permit you abided by, the permit you signed on to and you violated it and its our right to send you out. Now one thing about email—Leo brought this up that I don’t email—do you know that Georgianna’s email is being used against us by Metro Enviro? That’s how dangerous emails are. I’ve been asking this village to a do ah, ah little report about what we should be doing with email. Never has happened. That’s why I don’t do email. Email is for telling about meetings, not to have discussions. Very, very dangerous. And Georgianna (Grant), its there now.”

“But I warn you out there that Metro Enviro—as far as they are concerned—is a big revenue source and they are going to be looking at it. So, when it comes down, watch out.”

“I think the village residents have made it perfectly clear that they don’t want Metro Enviro in their community. We’re a small residential place, Okay. We have to fight that fight. If you give up that fight you also—as far as I am concerned—give up the fight on the Millennium Pipeline. They are basically the same thing. Do you as municipal entity have the right to use your laws to stop certain things from coming through or being in your village? These are tantamount as Ann (Gallelli) works on, planning—you don’t plan these things under the idea that, well maybe if someone comes along and sue us, we’ll back off. You don’t do that. You stand firm. We won. We won. So, you have to ask yourselves the question, if this group is willing to go back and negotiate with Metro Enviro to solve the (inaudible) problem, where else are they going to go looking for money? Is Millennium next? And that’s what worries me. You have to stand firm when you do these things. They obviously stood firm when they fought Exxon. Okay. So, how can you make that fight but not this fight when it affects the quality of your life? Metro Enviro doesn’t belong here. There’s all kinds of stuff going through there. Ask any contractor. There’s lead paint. There’s lead dust. There’s asbestos. There’s mercury going through those things. That stuff is so heavily crushed, you can’t even tell what’s in there.

Trustee candidate Thomas Brennan: “Let me say something about Metro Enviro—right off the bat. Okay, I wanna let people know that the difference between the Schmidt team and the Gallelli team is that when Metro Enviro comes back to us right after this election, I firmly believe that the, the Gallelli team is gonna go right to the table and try to negotiate with them, where the Schmidt-Steinberg-Brennan team is not going to do that. So, that’s the difference. When we say we are not going to negotiate with them, we’re talking about right after the current election—not talking about when the, the decision comes back from the judges. I firmly believe that that could very well happen. And if that does happen, they’ll pull that decision right out of the hands of the, the court and they’ll ask them to wait on it to see if a deal can be struck. We’re not gonna do that. We’re gonna hold firm on that and wait and see what the judges decide. And that’s the difference when we say we will not negotiate.”

Trustee candidate James Steinberg: “First and foremost as Tom just said, there’s Metro Enviro. Here tonight, I will affirm that I will not under any circumstances ever negotiate with this entity. We cannot guarantee that we can monitor that facility 100% and we cannot guarantee that the materials going in there are safe. Therefore, it has no business in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson.”

“And finally as I started tonight, I promise that I will never go back to the table with Metro Enviro. It’s probably the crux of what this election is going to hinge upon. I hope that our opponents before they close their statements tonight will give us their positions on Metro Enviro and whether they support the hiring of a business consultant for the Upper Village. Those are important issues. When you listen to what you’ve heard tonight, you should be governed by two things—listen to what you’ve heard but listen more closely to what has not been said. With that I wish, I wish your support and I hope you will make me a Trustee. Thank you.”

On May 29, 2006 9:21 AM, dors said:

Sadly, for our village, Reality Check is right; should have, could have, would have. It is just so sad that we may have no say what goes down at the old ME site. This whole disgusting mess should never have gotten this far. Politics is a nasty business and this surely is one instance when politics took over for common sense.

On May 28, 2006 10:58 AM, Reality Check said:

Time for another Reality Check - although it may already be too late.

“Payman” and “dors” are off the mark. They write as if the alternatives we face are a Metro Enviro style C&D transfer station or a continued costly court battle. They are wrong. We are long past the point where a C&D transfer station will operate at the site. Rather a “railroad” is seeking — and may just get — a Federal Court order prohibiting the Village from interfering in any way with whatever they want to do at the site. And it is not just the Village they have moved against, but the Westchester County Solid Waste Commission and the State Department of Environmental Conservation as well.

If they are successful, and we may know this week if they are, the Village will have absolutely nothing to say about what is done at that site. This railroad can process as much of any kind of material as they want. They can operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They can — and likely will — process New York City or other municipal waste. Folks, that’s garbage plain and simple.

No one seems to have any idea how to stop this other than acquiring the property by eminent domain. The problem is there is no eminent domain proceeding pending because the one we started lapsed. The Buffalo Southern railroad wants the Federal Judge to Order us not to start a new one. If the Judge agrees with them, and the order is not reversed on appeal, we will have a huge garbage processing plant up and running in short order. If by some chance the Village’s lawyer can defeat the railroad for now, we must immediately start a new eminent domain proceeding. I understand the Village has retained a specialist attorney for that purpose and, given the opportunity, the Village Board should act at once by means of a special emergency meeting.

It is unfortunate that because “payman”, “dors”, and so many others, seem to be focused on old battles of which they have grown weary, the very real threat we face is being lost in the shuffle. We can debate forever the money spent to close down Metro Enviro and the merits of the Schmidt administration’s never negotiate position as it applied to the old reality. But it simply is no longer relevant.

Let’s consider what such an operation might look like. Metro Enviro occupied a 9 acre site but used only a small portion of the property - because their Village permit severely limited the scope of the operation. In essence they worked in the closed building, had trucks line up in the driveway, and utilized the rail siding to move materials off premises. Will that reality continue? Why should it when no Village permit or local regulation can limit what goes on down there?

More likely, to process as much material as possible as fast as possible the entire site will assume an appearance similar to Karta up in Peekskill - except it will be household garbage not construction debris all over the place. Think about it, outdoor handling of New York City garbage. How about the odor, rodents and vermin from that? I am sure the folks at Half Moon Bay will be happy to welcome their new neighbor. Residents of the entire Village will no doubt be aware of their presence, especially those in Harmon.

Contrast such an operation with the limited operations permitted to Metro Enviro. Under the terms of the permit issued by the Village Board we controlled the volume and type of materials processed, the days of operation, the opening and closing hours, the use that unused portions of the property could be put to, and many other details of the operation. Moreover, under the terms of a deal once proposed by the now defunct business, tipping fees, the cost of a compliance monitor and other financial remuneration would have been paid to the Village. By contrast, if we lose in Court this week not only will we get no fees from the operation, the property may well be exempt from local taxes completely!

Will its impact be limited to the old Metro Enviro site? Of course not. The entire waterfront will be impacted as increasing numbers of rail cars have to be shunted, coupled and moved to and from the CSX freight yard and the like. You know the freight yard - the one right next to Croton Landing. If you live in the north end of the Village I am sure you have noticed the marked decrease in noise from the freight yard these past months. Well, get ready for it to be worse than ever. And do you think those rail cars of garbage will be odor and vermin free? I don’t.

So those who think we should just accept a new operator down at the site because Metro Enviro wasn’t all that bad and it isn’t worth the money and effort to fight them or acquire the property are just dead wrong.

And exactly who should we thank for this looming disaster? We can start by sending flowers to Maria Cudequest whose single minded and unrelenting hatred poisoned the Village and directly led to the forced closing of Metro Enviro - an undesirable but much more tolerable and controlled neighbor.

When Ms. Cudequest has finished taking her bows (and bullying the Village Board and Village employees) we can send our thanks to the “We will never negotiate” boys.

In my book Messrs. Schmidt, Brennan and Steinberg have a lot to answer for. You need only look at their platform from the last election, available here on the blog, to see that “As promised, Mayor Schmidt and Trustees Brennan and Steinberg have stood steadfast in their refusal to negotiate with any entity which supports this facility. Last year, the efforts of the new majority included numerous telephone calls with elected officials. . . which resulted in . . . formal written positions statements . . . [and] . . . a formal proclamation from the Solid Waste & Recyclables Committee . . .”.

Well whoopee!!! Where exactly has that gotten us? The result of their combined efforts has been to put us where we are — facing impending disaster for the Village. But we can either continue to fight the battles of the past or we can build a future for our children and ourselves. I vote for the latter — if we even get the chance to try and salvage this impossible situation. How can we do that? By seizing any opportunity we may get to initiate a new eminent domain proceeding without any delay at all.

If we get lucky, and the Federal Judge turns Buffalo Southern down, you can bet they won’t waste any time in making their next move. Neither should we.

And that, my friends, is a Reality Check.

On May 27, 2006 9:25 AM, dors said:

Payman, I’ve been at that point from the beginning of this debacle. Refurbished firehouses, school construction, and community centers are where I want my tax dollars spent. BTW (by the way) it will take more than an email to get this mayor’s attention. He doesn’t respond to emails or letters. This whole ME situation has gotten so involved and is so far gone that to keep face Schmidt and Co. will never be able to back out. Too much bravado and political wrangling have left them no choice but to continue wasting our taxes fighting a fight we’re going to lose in the end. Even if they take the site for the DPW building it was a ridiculous waste of money. Let me just say, again, that this parcel of land is ON A RAILROAD YARD! Dirty and dusty and the perfect location for this kind of business. It should have remained open and left to operate and generate revenues for us. Instead it’s legacy is milking us dry and that’s a lose/lose for all of us with no end in sight.

On May 26, 2006 9:15 AM, SSmith said:

i completely agree that as many residents as possible should take the time to read the legal brief. it is actually quite easy to understand but does take a fair amount of time to go through.

this issue in all of its various iterations has been a burden on this village for going on 10 years now. it has cost this village well into seven figures cummulatively in legal fees precisely at a time when many municipalities are struggling with ever ballooning tax increases and unhappy residents due to such. our village is no exception and in fact has had among the highest municiapl tax increases the last 2-3 years in all of westchester county. think about that….

while no one wants a serial environmental scofflaw operating in our village; i do think it prudent that as more and more of our hard earned tax money gets gobbled up by this seemingly never-ending saga - as many residents as are able should make their feelings known to the mayor and village board. all it takes is an email from everyone.

after-all, as we all are stretched in the wallet it is important that the board realize, along with the old hi-jackers of this issue’s information and their scare-mongering bunch, that the financial well does indeed have a bottom both figuratively and literally. is eminent domain, which could end up costing many more millions of dollars, a reasonable solution to this? i realize that it would be nice to have a sparkling new muni garage but is that really the best use of coh’s financial resources?

we as a village have recently significantly added to our collective debt burden with the 3 fire houses getting refurbished and the 3 schools in our district getting a much needed enlargement. the powers that be are thinking of locating a space for and constructing a community center for how many more millions of dollars? and now this proposal to buy out that old metro-enviro site and build a new municpal garage for how many more millions of dollars? when is enough finally enough from the standpoint of the taxpayers? i think we are at that point now.


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