Creating a New Community Resource in Poughkeepsie

Deepening our roots in the City of Poughkeepsie — and building upon our commitment to be an active partner in revitalizing the city’s Northside neighborhoods — an affiliate of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust has acquired two derelict manufacturing plants in the City of Poughkeepsie. We envision transforming these structures and the land around them into a vibrant community resource through an exciting adaptive reuse project. (Read the press release here.)

Scenic Hudson’s newly acquired property on Parker Avenue in Poughkeepsie.

Northside Junction, LLC, purchased the property and buildings at 58 Parker Avenue and 164 Garden Street. Current plans include creating workspace for our staff as well as outdoor parkland and public space for community gatherings, meetings, events and educational activities.

The buildings are adjacent to 3 projects in which Scenic Hudson has played leading roles to protect and reconnect local residents and visitors to nature and the Hudson Valley’s scenic beauty — Walkway Over the Hudson, the Fall Kill Creek and a proposed greenway along it, and the former CSX rail spur we acquired last year with Dutchess County, which plans to create a new 2.7-mile rail trail linking to the Dutchess Rail Trail.

The properties are located in Poughkeepsie’s Northside, where Scenic Hudson has been working with local partners on a number of initiatives to improve residents’ health, safety and quality of life — from conducting regular cleanups and re-envisioning Malcolm X Park to creating a new urban farm adjacent to Pershing Park.

Both buildings and land will require extensive remediation to remove asbestos and contamination. Our goal is to make the repurposed land and structures green and environmentally sustainable. We will be reaching out to community groups to brief them on the acquisition and seek their input about planning for the properties’ future uses. And we’ll continue evaluating options for the properties as the redevelopment process unfolds. 

The architecture firm MASS Design Group, which has worked with us on other revitalization efforts in downtown Poughkeepsie, is partnering on this project as well.

Riding the “Scenic Hudson”

Dutchess Train Car

With some luck, when you hop on the Metro North train in New York City, you may be able to take the “Scenic Hudson” to a Scenic Hudson park. That is, if it happens to pull up to the platform when you’re waiting to board.

The “Scenic Hudson” train car is part of Metro-North’s Hudson Line fleet. It will deliver you to the doorstep of 10 parks we’ve created within walking distance of stations between Yonkers and Poughkeepsie.

Dutchess Train Car
Dutchess Train Car (Photo: Jo-Anne Asuncion)

Officially car #6164, the “Scenic Hudson” belongs to a shipment of Bombardier Comet III coaches the railroad received in 1983. (It has been refurbished several times since.)

This model features doors at both ends and none in the middle, rendering the sides a big, blank canvas. To fill it, the railroad decided to hold a couple of contests, in 1985 and 1990, inviting the public to submit names of people, places and things characteristic of the Hudson Valley’s vibrant past and present. “Scenic Hudson” made the initial cut, as did “Storm King,” the site of our first environmental victory.

J.P. Morgan Train Car
J.P. Morgan Train Car (Photo: Jo-Anne Asuncion)

In all, more than 40 cars received monikers. The practice ended when Metro-North began purchasing a new model with center doors.

Interestingly, Scenic Hudson’s silver anniversary in 1988 took place on the rails—aboard the specially dubbed “Jubilee Limited.” As the celebration went on into the evening, the train chugged past riverfront scenery along the Hudson Line that the organization has done so much to preserve.

The Coast Watcher Train Car
The Coast Watcher Train Car (Photo: Jo-Anne Asuncion)

Bass Notes

Striped Bass caught by Lauren Hepplewhite

Spring is striper season on the Hudson River — a time of joy for fishing enthusiasts and biologists alike.

From early April through the end of May (and, if anglers’ luck holds, into early June), striped bass will continue their annual spawning run, turning the Hudson into a fishing frenzy. What makes catching one so special?

One, their size: Stripers can weigh upwards of 75 pounds (the largest ever caught in the Hudson tipped the scale at 60 lbs.). And two, their feistiness: Stripers put up one hell of a fight when hooked. To take on this challenge, author and Riverkeeper founder Robert Boyle once said, “There are anglers who will sacrifice their jobs, their marriage and even their sacred honor.”

Migrating Up River to Spawning Grounds

For scientists, the homecoming of striped bass in the Hudson provides excitement enough. Named for the 7-8 dark horizontal lines running the length of their silvery sides, stripers are anadromous — they live in saltwater (in their case, the Atlantic Ocean) but migrate to freshwater to breed. They don’t commence their upriver journey until they gauge that the Hudson’s water temperature is just right—58-60 degrees. Their annual spawning destination remains the same throughout their reproductive life. To locate it, they rely on a superior sense of smell (keener than a dog’s).

Upon arrival at their traditional spawning spot, a female will release up to 3 million eggs for males to fertilize. Both their jobs complete, they soon head back to the Atlantic. The eggs drift with the current and hatch (if lucky) within 2-4 days. Juvenile stripers will mature in the Hudson for as long as 2 years before following their parents to the ocean, where they are the mainstay of a substantial sport-fishing industry spanning from New England to Florida.

Trouble From Toxins and Overfishing

The interaction between Hudson Valley residents and striped bass has taken many turns since Native Americans caught and ate them. In the 17th century, the fish were so plentiful that colonists used them as fertilizer, until overfishing caused such a decline in this important food source that lawmakers banned the practice. As late as the 1930s, some 300 commercial fisheries along the Hudson netted striped bass (along with shad and sturgeon). The industry came crashing to a halt in 1976, when New York State banned it because of PCB pollution.

Since then, populations of striped bass in the river have seesawed, from a low of 5 million in 1982 to a high of 56 million in 2006. Responding to the conclusion of a 2018 study by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center that striped bass populations along the Atlantic Seaboard have “declined below the threshold for a sustainable level,” the state this year instituted stricter fishing regulations. Anglers may keep 1 striper/day ranging in length between 18-28 inches. They must return all fish outside that limit.

The Fish that Helped Found Scenic Hudson

Striped bass proved an essential partner in Scenic Hudson’s founding campaign to stop a hydroelectric plant from defacing Storm King Mountain, which sits next to one of the river’s prime striper spawning grounds. Scientific analyses showed that the facility would kill striper eggs and larvae by the millions. This dire news drew fishing organizations throughout the Northeast to the campaign; in essence, it wound up sounding the project’s death knell. Scenic Hudson has repaid the favor by conserving more striped bass spawning and nursery grounds at Haverstraw Bay, Esopus Meadows and Stockport Flats.

Connecting Hudson to Nature

Offering the potential to provide new health and quality-of-life benefits for City of Hudson residents and visitors, Scenic Hudson has protected 80 acres of scenic and ecologically important land just outside the city — the first step in creating a place for people to enjoy outdoor recreation and explore nature.

Conserving the property — which features meadows, forested ravines, wetlands and numerous streams — affords future opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and birdwatching very close to Hudson’s downtown. In addition, it permanently protects views from the historic Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, located on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility and managed by Historic Hudson, as well as from Olana State Historic Site to the south. The property also sustains diverse wildlife.

The conserved land sits adjacent to a new community solar energy array. Solar company East Light Partners worked with Scenic Hudson to address all concerns regarding potential visual and ecological impacts of this project from the newly acquired land and the Bronson House.

The acquisition also marks a step forward in Scenic Hudson’s vision of creating a trail stretching from Hudson to Olana and across the new Hudson River Skywalk (on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge) to the Village of Catskill and the organization’s 612-acre RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary. To date, Scenic Hudson has protected more than 500 acres along the proposed route of the trail.

Much of this conserved acreage — including the newly acquired property — is within the watershed of South Bay Creek and Marsh, which the New York State Department of State has designated a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat. The Town of Greenport secures drinking water from wells abutting this assemblage. In addition to supporting the ecological health of these waterbodies and the Hudson River (into which the creek flows), Scenic Hudson’s acquisitions in the South Bay Creek watershed will help to accommodate the inland migration of species whose habitats face inundation from climate-related sea level rise in the Hudson River and South Bay.

Kingston Transformation

Kingston waterfront, aerial view of AVR (photo by Pierce Johnston)

More than 500 acres of forested and former industrial lands along the Hudson River will begin to heal from decades of neglect and ultimately become an oasis for nearby residents and visitors to explore nature, enjoy outdoor recreation and learn about local history. Located in the City of Kingston and Town of Ulster, the property had been slated for a 1,682-unit mixed-use development. Prior to that, it had been the site of a cement mine and processing facility.

This land was acquired on October 29, 2019, by Quarry Waters, LLC, an affiliate of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust. The property features areas of outstanding natural beauty, including 260 acres of undisturbed woodlands, more than a mile of Hudson Riverfront offering sweeping views, a dramatic cliff and ridgeline, and 37 acres of wetlands. In addition to sustaining a broad array of wildlife, the land contains numerous vestiges and structures from the cement industry that will be studied to determine potential risks as well as opportunities for public use and historic interpretation.

Kingston waterfront, aerial view of AVR (photo by Pierce Johnston)

The acquisition capitalizes on the development of a dramatic segment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 750-mile Empire State Trail — also part of Kingston’s Greenline Trail — which will traverse the site’s riverfront, and other economic development investments the governor has prioritized in the area.

Scenic Hudson plans to reach out to various segments of the community to brief them on the acquisition and seek their preliminary input about how it can think about planning for the property’s future use. The land’s varied terrain and challenging conditions mean that whatever plans are ultimately developed will take time to consider and implement. In time, Scenic Hudson also may explore concessions appropriate to the land’s significant conservation values.

The property will remain closed to the public — as it has been for years — until further notice so that Scenic Hudson can take immediate and necessary action to secure the site and ensure public safety.

This acquisition represents Scenic Hudson’s most ambitious undertaking in its history to transform a former industrial site on the Hudson into a community asset in an urban setting. The new park will build on the organization’s past successes in turning similar sites in Beacon, Irvington, Tarrytown and Peekskill into magnificent places to connect with the river’s majesty.