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San Jose, CA
Why don't you tell the current truth about this issue--most of the rich
folks from NYC left the town of Hudson and recently the town went begging
to the cement company to reconsider and come back. Fat chance. They spent
80 million dollars and got denied a permit at the last minute--if you
don't want a plant--deny up front. This show what a terible State New York
was for totally blowing this incident. It is a terrible place to do
business. Hudson deserves what has happened to it, a dying town with
people who will hate each other forever. Great job, 'Friends of
Hudson'--if any of you still live there!
It was very interesting to hear the passionate remarks of the citizens of my "childhood hometown" Hudson, NY. As with any debate, there are truly complicated issues on both sides. Should they advance in the economic stimulus of their town, which nearly became abandoned by the "cement industry" many decades ago, by supporting yet another cement plant? (Lone Star and Atlas were my family's bread-and-butter). The stress of those plants moving South/West or wherever they ended up, (due to costs not feasible for their benefit), took a toll personally on my dear, hardworking, father. He also suffered from the inhalation of cement dust, and ended up,years later, with a rare, incurable disorder, that started as upper-respiratory, and ended his life with renal failure.
I personally, left Hudson, after my college degree, to join the ranks of "Baby Boomers" who followed Horace Greeley's advice, "Go West Young Man..." Well, now that I've gone West (and now Mid-West), I find myself wondering what it w ould be like, had I stayed in Hudson. Some of my schoolmates who'd also left Hudson, are now returning, or planning to return to "their roots," once their children graduate from the Southern/Western States they'd moved to. I'd heard the Hudson Valley is becoming host to many seniors. It may be polluted, money may be lacking, and there may be tensions among groups of individuals, but try the rest of the country. Hudson has more to offer with its natural beauty and two-lane roadways, that make it the "simpler-life" the rest of us hope to one day return to. Count your blessings, my dear friends of the Hudson River Valley. There's no Utopia!! I'm proud to call Hudson my hometown!!
Coconut Grove, Fl
Thank you for such a wonderful documentary. My community is going through a similar situation with Home Depot. Just watching the arrogance of the commissioners I felt the residents anger and frustration.
We have been engaged in our battle for going on 3 years. During this time, one of our commissioners got drunk waiting for a plane and got into a fight with the police in the airport. He is awaiting trial for the charges of two second degree felonies. Hopefully he will go to trial this month if it is not yet again postponed. We meanwhile elected a commissioner to replace him...a man of our choice, a true grassroots movement.
Our mayor...our Banana Republic Mayor, including Home Depot Home Depot's lawyers et al raised over $800,000 to try to get "their" commissioner in place for the remainder of the dethroned commissioners term. (One Year) We the people managed to get $180,000, to fight Goliath and won. Mind you this is a $50,000 dollar a year job.
Our community made a film called Don't Box Me In and it was voted best documentary at the Digit Film Festival. I was glued to the TV watching your drama unfold. We are still engaged in battle, but seeing your victory was a breath of fresh air. Thank you and don't ever stop fighting for your quality of life. You all are great.
The only problem in Hudson was whether the cement plant came in or not? We understand that people are getting tired of New York City life and coming up here to live cheaper and get away from the rat race. However, please understand, we are small local towns and cities that normally don't instantly take to outsiders - especially "city people". Most of the people shown on the bio are not even lifelong residents of Hudson. The same thing is happening in Catskill. People from downstate are moving up here and taking over with completely different mentalities than the locals have. One good example is the family from the city who purchased a house by the Lebanon Valley Speedway, then went to meetings and complained about the noise ?! What is with that? You all want to come up here and take over and make us like the city, and locals are not just going to open their arms and let you do it. Yes, I know this doesnt have any thing to do with the cement plant, but I just want to explain that "The friends of Hudson" and everyone else who wants to fix everything mostly just annoy us locals. I was reading the comment of how someone said he was called "faggot" on the street. People here aren't as used to seeing homosexuals as much as you do in the big cities; I am not saying it's right, but just try to look at the other side of things when your pushing in front of me in line in the grocery store or beeping behind me at the red light. We can spot a "city" person from a mile away , and mostly just try to steer clear.
My husband and I were glued to the story about the town of Hudson. In 2000 we bought land in a small rural Pa town hoping to raise our 6 kids on a farm. We learned in 2005 that a wealthy, coal mine operator and known illegal toxic polluter planned on building the Robinson Power Co. LLC waste coal fired power plant. This plant will burn over 30 million tons of waste coal; have a 400ft smoke stack and plans on generating 84 million tons of fly ash, which will be left in our township on-site in an unlined pit. Many of us here rely on ground water for our animal�s ponds, and in house wells. The environmental ramifications of this plant are horrible. This region of western Pa already has over-polluted air. My town has been fighting this plant construction for the past (almost) two years. So much of what went on in Hudson is going on here in Robinson Township. This is the 'good old boys' town, where dirty politicians and industry rules.
I would love to get in touch with Linda Mussman or the other members of her group. We need help here. We unfortunately do not have the DEP on our side, in fact they have been very active in rushing through every permit that this plant needs without public involvement. Please spread the word of our blight here in southwestern Pa. The pollution generated here will also be traveling to Hudson.
San Marcos, TX
I think Mr. Howard has a problem in understanding the environment, development and (as a Texan) people's rights. In environmental issues I have had a bad personal experience, I'm from Brazil from a city called Cubatao in Sao Paulo, I grew up there during the 80s if he or any person can do simple research about that place and would know we had the highest level of birth defects, respiratory infections, vision problems and cancer problems in Brazil if not from South America, why? The government which was a military dictatorship at that time wanted "development" with factories the city of Cubatao was a cement "heaven�. I can say that 4 from every 5 of my family would develop a kind of cancer. The people did not have the rights to speak up. Mr. Howard you should think out of the box when addressing issues such as this because not every single city in the U. S. wants to be like Houston or Cubatao.
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Having just seen the short version of the documentary the thing that interests me is this...
What part have the organizations, that worked so hard to keep out St. Lawrence Cement, played
in building an economy that will provide work for the local people who would have worked in the plant? This isn't meant as an attack. I'm
just curious how the story continues to unfold in Hudson... also it's great to see democracy in action. Though, the scariest part of
democracy can often be personal responsibility. I look forward to seeing the long version.
Also, regarding Mr. Benson's concern stated below, it is my understanding from the filmmakers that St. Lawrence Cement refused to sign the standard interview waivers (signed by all interviewees), and thus their comments could not be included. They chose not to participate, rather than having been excluded.
I note also that plant supporter Rick Scalera is interviewed about his support of the plant, and that others are depicted (such as Albert Wassenhove, who was part of SLC's "astroturf" front group) who were on the company's side.
Lastly, I would note that at the public meeting which appears in the film at John L. Edwards Elementary School, I and other residents asked SLC (whose spokesman and vice president were in the room) to speak. They were asked to explain why the "host agreement" was good for them and the City.
But they declined to speak.
In short, a company which refuses to communicate can't complain that it wasn't heard.
Lastly, it's worth remembering that his controversy went on for six-and-a-half years. So naturally, there is a great deal which could not be shown in a 53-minute film. The 93-minute version of the film which is included on the DVD (http://www.twosquaremiles.com) gives some more of the nuances and complexities of this long-running fight.
Two Square Miles is a perfect lesson in community organizing and a perfect, loving portrait of a feisty, diverse community that in the end came together to protect its quality of life.
The film portrays democracy in action, against all odds: St. Lawrence Cement had the money for a string of TV ads, multiple color postcards and some truly dirty tricks.
The opposition, spearheaded by Friends of Hudson, grew from a handful of concerned citizens to the 4,000 strong. It based its fight on facts, not the corporate fictions of SLC.
Mr. Howard's ill-informed and frankly mean-spirited comment on Two
Squre Miles (of which I am a subject) is quite familiar to those of
us who dealt with St. Lawrence Cement's public relations machine for
Some facts that viewers deserve to know:
* Members of the main opposition group were overwhelmingly full-time
residents of the area who had lived an average of 15 years in the
region. And there were plenty of longtime residents who opposed the
plan, such as Hudson native Tom Nicholson, who is featured
prominently in the film.
* Of the nearly 14,000 comments submitted to the State for the final
review of this project, 87% of them were opposed to the project. Of
the few in favor, almost none of them were from Columbia County
residents, but rather from union members in far-flung parts of the
State who had been told to sign by their bosses. (I know, because I
reviewed the entire file in detail.)
* Not a single public official in the entire State, including heavily
Republican Columbia County, wrote in support of the project.
* Despite spending $58 million on its lengthy campaign to gain
acceptance for this project, St. Lawrence Cement failed to obtain a
single one of the 17 permits and approvals for which it applied. So
Mr. Howard's claim that this poorly-designed and overscaled project
(to be sited a mile from our local hospital) is entirely fabricated.
* State officials such as the Commissioner of New York State's
Department of Environmental Conservation, the Massachusetts DEP,
Connecticut Attorney General, Connecticut DEP, and the Governor of
Maine, all stated either that opponents had cast significant doubt on
SLC's technology claims, or outright opposed the project.
* Secretary of State Randy Daniels, also a Republican, based his
decision against the plant in part on economic considerations, agreeing with plant opponents that the return of the cement industry
to Hudson would damage the growing local economy and the future for
development along the waterfront. He agreed that St. Lawrence Cement
failed to prove economic benefits for the plant, which would have
created only one new, net job.
* For the past decade, Columbia County has consistently had one of
the lowest unemployment rates in New York State. The neighboring
county, which has two cement plants, has had a consistently higher
rate of unemployment, thus disproving the notion that heavy industry
* Hudson was a boarded-up, depressed town for much of the 70s and 80s
into the mid-90s. Today, it has one of the most vibrant main streets
in the Northeast, with a diversifying set of stores and industries.
Overwhelmingly, the local business community and taxpayers opposed
this plant as bad for business.
Thanks to that activity, many local residents are far better able to
remain in the area than at any time in the past 20 years, and one
even meets people born in Hudson and the area who have returned
because the City is no longer a hopeless place.
Like most of America, Hudson is not perfect. But the people who have
invested in and remained here to revive the City understand that and
are keen to create a balanced economy that is inclusive of all
residents, regardless of race or length of residence.
Of all the places I've visited in the country, I think Hudson has as
good or better a chance to create a rounded, sustainable economy as
any small city of its size.
As such, comments like Mr. Howard's, based in a lack of facts and an
evident desire to divide people, are quite familiar from SLC's
longstanding campaign to pit people against each other. So much so,
that one wonders if he has any connection to the industry.
Anne Marie strange Hansen
I was in Hudson as an intern in TSL, when all that happend. I am so happy for the city that you citizen can live without no plant in the area.
Babara and Sven did a really good and a big job with that movie.
I went back to the states in september and were in Hudson and the big apple.
A lot of people was talking about the movie everywhere. So the Huseby family has really made a name.
Chatham, New York
I would like to respond to the comment posted by Nick Howard, who presumes to know quite a bit about Hudson, New York, for a man who lives in Carrollton, Texas. What happened in Hudson is that neighbors organized to defeat an enormous cement plant that would have imperiled their health and adversely dominated the political and economic life of their county. I know this because I live less than twenty miles from the proposed site of the plant.
This organizing was done despite the dirty-trick tactics of a disreputable multinational corporation that tried to use lies and misrepresentation to stoke class warfare where little previously existed. Mr. Howard's posting sadly echoes this attitude. He asserts, for instance, that the cement plant would have employed many "natives" and that "newcomers" are now killing the Hudson Valley's farming economy. In fact, the plant would have provided just one new job (because workers would have been shifted over from a plant across the river
that would have been closed). Also, the farming economy in the Hudson Valley has been in steep decline for decades, and it is actually newer residents who are beginning to reverse the longstanding decline by emphasizing local food and organic practices.
The real reason that the plant was defeated, of course, is that, despite Mr. Howard's statement to the contrary, the plant did not comply with the state's permit requirements. This is why a key coastal permit was denied by the state, ending the project.
For the years spent in producing Two Square Miles, I was disappointed in the short shrift given to the position of the cement company, its impact, and the political dynamics at levels above municipal politics.
Why did the plant executives think the community would want it? Why was their give-back proposal of $200k for 20 years so paltry? Why was none of their executives interviewed? Why did the mayor and other alderman think it was a good deal? Why weren't they asked? What are the town's yearly revenues? What fraction would $200k represent?
The show did well in portraying the plant as a wedge in a community in transition but spent little time examining the wedge, other than to say, "Plant is big, so plant is bad." Would the 6-mile plume be one of steam, or pollutants? What specifically would have been the environmental pollution? Would the job hazards of yesterday's plants occur in the new one? We were never told. The wedge was reduced to a cliche.
When we learned at the end that the State denied a permit at the same time the local council denied a use agreement, it became clear the proposal was a non-starter. The dynamics of the debate higher up were ignored. The show fooled me into thinking all the action was with the aldermen.
As for Ettinger's quoted intuition, I cannot understand what she meant because what she said doesn't mean anything. Look closely once again at her statement. The show was not worthy of Independent Lens.
Actually SLC did create and fund an 'astroturf' group whose mission
was to create the impression of local grassroots support for their
proposed cement plant. The group was endowed with the name HVEEC,
which was the acronym for 'Hudson Valley Environmental and Economic
Co-Operative.' They were the guys who were charged with tasks like
going into economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and putting up
pro-SLC signs. For awhile they actually had a website that greeted
you with the sound of chirping birds when you clicked on it. They
were a pathetic lot, and didn't accomplish much on behalf of the company.
SLC tried a number of other gimmicks, which included the sponsorship
of something called 'Community Day,' which was basically free food and
pony rides for anyone who wanted to show up. They also wrote a check
for $150K to finance the construction of a recreational park for one
of the local municipalities, and gave out lesser sums to some of the
local fire companies. But their largesse only made them look more
like a rich outsider trying to buy their way into the community.
In general, the public relations effort mounted by SLC was so clumsy
and transparently self-serving that even their supporters were chuckling.
I Actually Live Here
Mr. Nick Howard,
Put yourself in our shoes. Imagine that you are a resident of a beautiful small town and and a great big international conglomerate decides that they would like to build one of the world's largest cement-making facilities right on top of your water supply, your hospital, your nursing home, your cancer treatment center, and your schools.
The cement producer would like to erect a 406-ft. smokestack, and refuses to swear off the burning of hazardous waste for fuel. The stack would emit 25 tons of toxic air emissions daily (according to the company's application to NYS DEC and the EPA. Components of the exhaust would include lead, mercury, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, etc. The plume spewing from the stack would extend up to 6 miles over the surrounding countryside.
The company would like to blast 3-5 times weekly in the nearby quarry, shaking the many historic structures in the community. The quarry operations would turn 1200 acres into an unusable moonscape.
300 heavy duty trucks would carry cement and other dusty products in out of the community daily. 2 miles of conveyor belts would transverse the local highways and terminate at the waterfront, where 600-ft., diesel-powered industrial barges and open piles of coal and slag would greet the citizenry, immediately adjacent to the new city park. The company's waterfront loading operation would run 24/7.
The company is candidly admitting that their proposed operation would offer a total of just one new job to local residents, and that property tax revenue to the community would be minimal. Also bear in mind that the company has owned property in the city for 30+ years, and has left it polluted, untended, and neglected. And consider that the company and its affiliates have an extremely well-documented track record of environmental compliance violations and price-fixing convictions in the USA, Canada, and Europe, with fines and penalties assessed well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Finally, consider that the company admitted in its own application to the regulatory agencies that the plant would not have an measurably positive impact on the regional economy.
Now Mr. Howard, do you still think we rejected the St. Lawrence Cement plant for purely "aesthetic reasons?" Aesthetic considerations are indeed important, but they were only a part of a broad menu of concerns that motivated our community to take a stand against SLC.
SLC's lousy proposition might look like a good deal to y'all down there in Texas, but we know a lemon when we see one.
This is indeed an inspiring story showing how democracy is still possible in the face of powerful commercial interests trying to sway the political process.
However, I don't think SLC used all its power to get its way in Hudson. A hallmark of modern PR is massive ad campaigns and so-called "front" organizations disguised as grass-roots level efforts but are in fact set-up and financed by corporations to generate public support for their causes.
I saw no evidence of such ploys in the film. I can't help but wonder if the success enjoyed by the community of Hudson was the result of SLC fighting with one hand tied behind its back?
New Scotland, NY
Was Mr. Howard watching Two Square Miles with the sound off?
I can't figure any other reason for the mis-observations and misrepresentations that form the key points of his letter.
I've witnessed a number of grassroots campaigns throughout the nation, and the advocacy in Hudson - drawing together a community-wide pool of talent, insight, gutsy calls and persistence - was like nothing I've seen before. And while the campaign against the plant quickly became a regional effort, at its core it was driven and funded by locals with many years of commitment to the City of Hudson and Columbia County.
The defeat of the Goliath SLC cement plant proposal came against overwhelming odds. The success in Hudson fully deserves the documentation it received in 2 Square Miles. It is a story that gives hope to communities facing similar threats to their character and livelihood. There is a model depicted here to consider in efforts to organize for just those fights. Maybe such lessons - and hope - are not needed in the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton, but they will be welcomed in many other places.
What happened in Hudson, New York, is typical of how outsiders settle and take over ordinary American towns and transform them into rural varients of urban neighborhoods. The descendants of earlier settlers from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century who make their living from farming, lumbering, or other productive activities become numerically overwhelmed by urbanites who remain city people in attitude and lifestyle.
The cement plant would have complied with relevant Federal and State regulations and provided employment for many of the natives. The outsiders objected to the plant more on aesthetic grounds as well as ideological ones, notably an animus toward industry. The net result of this event will probably be that the natives of Hudson will be forced to move elsewhere (likely west of the Mississippi and south of the Potomac) to find employment and a lifestyle like they had prior to the arrival of the city people.
The net result will be that Hudson, NY, will be gentrified, for all the faux populism of the newcomers. In a few years, it will be easier in this town to purchase imported Italian designer shoes than tennis shoes or work boots.
"Two Square Miles" on INDEPENDENT LENSE tonite (11/28/06) was an inspiring documentary of how a small, fractured community can pull together and prevent ultimate disaster at the hands of a moribund political structure and an opportunistic mega corporation. I'm thrilled to see an example of how folks in that condition can actually rebuild a vital, involved community.
Thank you PBS and MPBN!