HUDSON — A. Colarusso and Son said Friday it has filed a countersuit against the city of Hudson, the city Planning Board and the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency in response to the lawsuit the city filed against the company in August.
The countersuit was announced by company President Paul A. Colarusso in an editorial board meeting with Columbia-Greene Media on Friday.
Colarusso, who owns and operates a quarry on Newman Road in the town of Greenport which supplies road building materials, filed the suit in State Supreme Court in Albany on Sept. 15. Papers were served personally by Colarusso to the Hudson city clerk on Thursday.
The company’s countersuit was filed to “protect its business and the hundreds of jobs that it has supported in Columbia County for more than 100 years,” Colarusso said Friday.
According to the countersuit, A. Colarusso and Son accuses the city of commencing a second environmental review, or SEQRA, of the erosion repair project at the dock in violation of the state’s Consolidated Laws, Civil Practice Law and Rules.
“The city of Hudson planning board wants to redo SEQRA and we felt that that is not appropriate,” Colarusso said. “It [the countersuit] addresses some of the issues in their [the city’s] Article 78 [lawsuit] also.”
Colarusso did an assessment of the dock after the company bought the property in 2014. The company found one area south of the bulkhead where there was extensive erosion from the river. On the north side of the property, the bulkhead that is on the river, was found to be falling down in the river, Colarusso said.
They went to the state Department of State, Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and presented the project and went through the SEQRA process, with the DEC acting as the lead agent. The city of Hudson was notified by the project by DEC, Colarusso said.
“They [the city] chose not to be an involved agency,” Colarusso said. “They could have. They didn’t become an involved agency.”
DEC approved the project, and, in November 2016, the project was started. That is when the city reached out, asking Colarusso to go through a site plan approval process in order to move forward with the project, he said.
“We went to the zoning board of appeals to appeal that and they turned us down,” Colarusso said. “We decided not to file an Article 78 [lawsuit].”
Colarusso said the company attempted to abide by an order or remedy filed by the city code enforcement officer which stated the company should apply for site plan removal.
“That triggered, in their terminology, a chain of events that we disagree with and that basically what this Article 78 is about,” Colarusso said.
On Aug. 25, the city announced it commenced a lawsuit challenging the negative declaration issued by the Greenport Planning Board on July 25.
“Many people, including residents of Hudson, city of Hudson officials and legal counsel retained in this matter, have expressed their view that the legitimate concerns of Hudson and its residents were discounted or minimized and feel that the Greenport Planning Board failed to properly evaluate the potential impacts of the haul road expansion proposal on the City of Hudson, as is required by New York State Law,” Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton said on Aug. 25.
Of the dock repair project, Colarusso said, “We repaired that only because we thought it was unsafe. It had nothing to do with our business operations. It was just preserving what was there, especially in that little inlet there. That little ferry slip. There are a lot of kayakers and fishermen that use that and, you know, I am sure we would have been liable if something bad happened.”
Colarusso said he is concerned that the goal of some people in Hamilton’s administration is to restrict or shut down operations at the dock.
“I believe that is the goal of some people that live here, people that, maybe, are part of the administration,” he said.
Hamilton said Friday she was not at liberty to comment on the lawsuit.
City Attorney Kenneth Dow said he had not yet seen a copy of the countersuit on Friday, as the papers were served on Thursday. Dow declined to comment.
A. Colarusso & Son “directly employs 165 people and supports independent truck and equipment operators, contractors and equipment operators, contractors and related businesses,” according to a statement from the company.
At their last meeting, city planners said they were trying to get information related to truck traffic and dust levels.
“We plan on providing that information,” Colarusso said. We have to see, obviously, now we are in litigation. It’s a little bit different. I don’t see us not giving them information or directing them to where the information already is on documents we’ve already submitted.”
Colarusso refuted a claim that the bulkhead repair project was part of a plan to expand its business.
“The bulkhead repair didn’t do anything for the functionality of the dock,” Colarusso said. “It didn’t make it better, it didn’t make it worse. All it did was prevent an existing bulkhead from falling into the river. So it didn’t change our use or didn’t change our intensity of use or how we use the dock or how we can use the dock in the future.”
The Army Corps of Engineers ordered the bulkhead to be put back in the same place and A. Colarusso and Son could not modify the plan it any way, he said.
“We have no plans whatsoever to expand that dock,” Colarusso said. “None. With or without the haul road, we’re going to do the same amount of business as we intend to do and that is based on supply and demand. Our customers need more products and then we’re going to ship more products. If they need less products and then we will ship less products. And that’s it. We can service the docks through the streets of the city of Hudson.”
The number of trucks and the frequency of use are based on orders from customers, he said.
When asked if he saw the haul road as a means to expand his business, Colarusso replied, “No.”
“What it does is it takes the truck and reduces our company’s liability driving those trucks through these roads.
“If that happens, we would have to apply to expand,” he said. “Right now what is there services our needs and future needs. Twenty years down the road, if we feel we need to expand, we would have to go through the process of site plan approval and that whole thing just like we are going through with the haul road.”
Colarusso said he does not anticipate expansion happening over the next 20 years.
Colarusso also addressed a rumor about selling the business. He said they are “not true.”
Although Greenport has approved its portion of the haul road, Colarusso said it would not “act on” the haul road project at this time.
“It is not efficient to piece it all together,” he said. “It is more efficient to do it all at once.”
To view video from the interview, visit HudsonValley360.com.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.