By 2050, portions of the Hudson River shoreline in Ulster County will be permanently under water, according to predictions in the New York Sea Level Rise Task Force’s final report. In Kingston, say goodbye to the wastewater treatment plant, Hideaway Marina, and the Kingston beach. By 2080, Kingston Point Park will be reduced to a small island; Island Dock and Sleightsburgh Park will have disappeared entirely. In Saugerties, the lighthouse will be permanently stranded out in the river.
Perhaps the most dramatic feature of Scenic Hudson’s “Revitalizing Hudson Riverfronts” forum, held on the afternoon of Jan. 19 at the Steel House Restaurant by the banks of the Rondout Creek in Kingston, and attended by more than 75 municipal planners, officials, and citizen activists, was the aerial maps presented by Sacha Spector, Scenic Hudson’s director of conservation science. They showed the fast-receding shoreline of riverside communities, marked with yellow, brick-red, and pink bands of varying thickness, illustrating the degree of inundation foreseen for 2020, 2050 and 2080. The maps are based on the task force’s “rapid ice melt” scenario, which posits a range of river rise with a midpoint of 6.5 inches in 2020, 21.5 inches in 2050 and 43.5 inches in 2080.
Scenic Hudson has long been advocating principles of sustainable development — growth that doesn’t just boost the economy but also enhances quality of life and protects the environment — to waterfront municipalities.
Lately, Scenic Hudson’s been talking, urgently, about climate change as well. Last May, it launched its first “Revitalizing” conference focused on climate change in Tarrytown, following up with a second event in Beacon in November; a fourth forum is planned for Hudson in March.
The venue for the Kingston forum, which was co-sponsored by the state Department of Conservation, served as a kind of ground zero: according to forum emcee Steve Rosenberg, Scenic Hudson senior vice president, the Steel House took a foot of water from Hurricane Irene. The uncarpeted, concrete floors of the large brick building, which was formerly a foundry, helped minimize the damage, and after a power cleaning, the restaurant was back in business. For the time being, it’s business as usual, but eventually, the Steel House — and much of the Strand — will likely be under water.
Introductory remarks by new Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo didn’t address the problem of climate change per se but acknowledged the importance of the waterfront to the economy and the environment. Gallo noted that the city was finally opening up bids for a new comprehensive plan, after decades of delay. He said his meeting with the DEC the day before was a “move in the right direction” toward ensuring the city’s wastewater treatment plant was in compliance with state environmental standards. He noted that work on transforming an abandoned rail line to a pedestrian pathway would begin in the next couple of weeks.