The Hudson River scenic area study has been a collaborative effort among the Department of State, the consultants, other State agencies and experts in the field of scenic landscape assessment, and the people of the Hudson River coastal region. The study was funded by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with a grant provided under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended.
The records of the State Historic Preservation Office have provided a wealth of information regarding the history of the landscape as have the publications of the Olana and Clermont State Historic Sites and the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Sites. The assistance of James Ryan, site manager at the Olana State Historic Site, has been extensive and invaluable. The description of the estates in the Estates District Scenic Area of Statewide Significance is based in large part on the National Historic Landmark District documentation of properties published by the National Park Service. Additional assistance regarding the historic resources has been provided by J. Winthrop Aldrich, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, and Frances Dunwell, Special Assistant to the Commissioner for the Hudson River, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation; and John Doyle, Executive Director, Greenway Heritage Conservancy (formerly the Heritage Task Force for the Hudson River Valley). Carol Sondheimer, Environmental Director of Scenic Hudson, provided extensive comment and guidance as a member of the regional panel.
The Department of State extends special recognition to the public and private sector members of the statewide and regional panels whose experience in the field of scenic landscape evaluation and whose collective knowledge of the Hudson River and its shorelands helped shape the study's design and application. The following groups, agencies and institutions are among those which provided important information and insights throughout the study period.
⋅ Local officials from the Hudson River communities of Claverack, Cold Spring, Esopus, Garrison, Grandview-on-Hudson, Highland, Highland Falls, Kingston, New Paltz, and Rhinebeck.
⋅ The planning departments of Albany County, Greene County, Columbia County, Dutchess County, Orange County, Putnam County, Rensselaer County, Rockland County, Ulster County, and Westchester County.
⋅ The following New York State agencies: Department of Economic Development; Department of Environmental Conservation; Department of Public Service; Department of Transportation; New York Power Authority; Office of General Services; and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
⋅ The National Park Service and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
⋅ Alpine Development Corporation, Bard College, College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse, Greenway Heritage Conservancy (formerly the Heritage Task Force for the Hudson river Valley), Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, International Paper Corporation Research Center, Mid-Hudson Patterns, The Parks Council, Regional Plan Association, Scenic Hudson, Seaway Trail, Tappan Zee Preservation Coalition, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
This report was prepared by the Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources and Waterfront Revitalization (DOS) under the supervision of George R. Stafford, Division Director; Charles T. McCaffrey, Chief of the Bureau of Local and Regional Programs; and William F. Barton, Chief of the Bureau of Consistency Review and Analysis.
The initial inventory and documentation was prepared by the consultant team of Harry Dodson, Joanne Jackson, Cecily Kihn, and Bob Yaro. Preparation of the final document was completed under the supervision of Loretta Simon of DOS with the assistance of Steve Ridler.
Consultant Mary Lou Lamping Lutters designed the public participation process in consultation with DOS. Laura Zeisel, counsel for the consultant team, conducted legal research of New York State environmental laws relevant to scenic resource protection. Legal review was provided by DOS counsels Paul Heyman, Richard Hoffman, and the late James Coon.
Lillyquist and Nancy Rucks of DOS were responsible for study design and project
management during the initial inventory and documentation phases, assisted by
Kevin Cross and Thomas Hart. DOS staff, Jeff Beach, Fitzroy Collins and Gerald
Morrison assisted with the numerous community informational meetings. Kevin
Millington managed document production and distribution with the assistance
of Mary Ann Butler, Deborah DeLeonardis and Gary Nankey.
New York State has a long history of recognizing the importance of scenic resources. The first widely known recognition of American landscape beauty was expressed during the 19th century in the work of the Hudson River School of painters. The American Romantic Landscape Movement also developed in the Hudson Valley before spreading to the rest of the nation. Thus, New York's landscape tradition includes appreciation of both the natural and the cultural landscape and its coastal scenic landscapes usually include elements of each.
When the State Legislature established the Coastal Management Program in 1981, their findings included:
"...that New York State's coastal area and inland waterways are unique with a variety of natural, recreational, industrial, commercial, ecological, cultural, aesthetic and energy resources of statewide and national significance." (Article 42 § 910)
The Act declares that the public policy of the State within the coastal area is "...to achieve a balance between economic development and preservation that will permit the beneficial use of coastal resources while preventing the loss of living marine resources and wildlife, diminution of open space areas or public access to the waterfront, shoreline erosion, impairment of scenic beauty, or permanent damage to ecological systems." (Article 42 § 912). The Federal Coastal Zone Management Act also recognizes the importance of aesthetic values in managing coastal resources. The Act states that it is the national policy "to encourage and assist the states to...achieve wise use of the land and water resources of the coastal zone, giving full consideration to ecological, cultural, historic, and aesthetic values...."
In recognition of the scenic value of the coast, New York's Coastal Management Program (CMP) includes two policies which provide for the protection and enhancement of this unique resource. Policy 24 provides for the designation and protection of scenic areas of statewide significance; and Policy 25 requires that proposed actions located outside a designated SASS must protect, restore or enhance the overall scenic quality of the coastal area. Both policies call for agencies to determine if a proposed action would impair scenic quality.
The policies state that impairment of a landscape's scenic quality can occur in two principal ways: 1) through the irreversible modification or destruction of landscape features and architectural elements which contribute significantly to the scenic quality of the coast, and 2) through the addition of structures which reduce views or are discordant with the landscape because of their inappropriate scale, form, or construction materials. Regulations governing the designation of scenic areas of statewide significance are found in 19 NYCRR Part 602.5.
Both policies include siting and design guidelines which are to be used to evaluate the impact of proposed development, recognizing that each situation is unique and that the guidelines must be applied accordingly. The guidelines address the appropriate siting of new structures and other development; the use of scale, form and materials which are compatible with the landscape's existing scenic components; the incorporation of historic elements in new development; the maintenance of existing landforms and vegetation; and the removal and screening of discordant features.
EVALUATING NEW YORK'S COASTAL SCENIC RESOURCES
The New York coast is a mixture of developed and undeveloped areas. Central to the growth of the state, the coast is replete with evidence of the state's economic and cultural history. The interaction of man with the landscape provides part of the character that makes the New York coast a visually exciting and valued place. Its historic and working landscapes stimulate as much interest and attract as many visitors as its more natural landscapes.
Because the New York coastal landscape is so diverse, a method for evaluating the scenic quality of the state's coastal landscape must be capable of evaluating both developed and undeveloped areas of the coast. In addition, public recognition of the landscape's scenic quality is included in the criteria for identification of scenic areas of statewide significance under the Coastal Management Program. The landscape must also be visually accessible to the general public.
In order to develop and apply a method for evaluating scenic quality, the Department of State sought proposals in 1987 for the development of a scenic evaluation method. The firms of Jackson & Kihn of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Dodson Associates of Ashfield, Massachusetts were chosen to develop the method and apply it first in the Hudson River coastal area.
Dodson Associates had completed a scenic evaluation of the Connecticut River Valley for the Center for Rural Massachusetts of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Dodson Associates' approach to visual analysis recognizes the interrelatedness of landscape elements and is not limited to identifying specific viewing points and evaluating viewsheds. It is a descriptive approach which identifies the landscape elements and rates their scenic quality, taking public values into account. The Department of State first met with the consultants on January 7, 1988. Preliminary study area visits began on April 6, 1988.
New York's Scenic Evaluation Method
New York's scenic evaluation method is a participatory process involving government agencies and the general public in the development of criteria and the review of study results. The State regulations specify that the Secretary of State shall consult with appropriate State agencies before identifying and designating scenic areas of statewide significance. Accordingly, in 1988 the Department of State established a statewide panel of State agency representatives and experts in scenic landscape evaluation to assist in developing the coastal scenic evaluation method. The first meeting of the state panel was held on June 28, 1988.
The method developed recognizes the diversity of natural and cultural elements that shape scenic coastal landscapes. In order to identify and define coastal scenic components, the physical and cultural character of the coastal landscape and the geologic and historical forces which have shaped the development patterns are examined. A comprehensive listing of coastal landscape elements is developed, including geological features, water features, vegetation, historical and cultural features, and views. Those elements found in the study landscape which influence the scenic quality of the landscape are identified as scenic components. Characteristics which would render each scenic component as distinctive, noteworthy or common are described. Also rated is the extent of discordant elements in the landscape.
For example, a bluff which is very high, prominent and of varied configuration, with dramatic backdrop and shoreline and no incompatible development, is considered to be distinctive. A bluff of noteworthy scenic quality would be high with a moderately varied configuration, strong backdrop and shoreline, and minor incompatible development. Low, uniform bluffs with monotonous backdrop and shoreline and a major presence of incompatible development would be rated common.
The landscape elements and their scenic characteristics are presented in the Table of Scenic Components. The table also provides for the evaluation of the aesthetic significance of the landscape composition, the landscape's uniqueness, and its public accessibility and public recognition. The evaluation of the landscape composition focusses on the interrelationships of the landscape elements and the composition of views.
For further discussion of the rating system, see Appendix A. Appendix A also includes a sample visual evaluation form. The Table of Scenic Components is found in Appendix B.
Application of the Method
An important aspect of the scenic evaluation method is that the entire coastal area of the region under study is evaluated. After an initial survey of the entire coastal region, the Table of Scenic Components is adjusted so that it contains only those landscape elements found in the study landscape. This adjusted table is called the Regional Table of Scenic Components.
The coastal area of the region is then divided into geographic subunits based on topography and land use. Each subunit is evaluated for its scenic quality. The landscape elements of each subunit are rated individually according to the criteria on the regional table of scenic components, and the ratings are recorded on field sheets along with the evaluator's comments. The relationship of the elements to each other, the quality of the views, and the uniqueness of the landscape are also evaluated to determine the scenic quality of the subunit as a whole.
The degree of public accessibility to the subunit and the degree of public recognition of the landscape's scenic values are rated for each subunit. Public recognition is evaluated in three ways: first, through public meetings and surveys during which landscape elements are rated for scenic quality and specific areas considered scenic are identified; second, through official recognition such as government designations and public investment; and third, through evidence found in the public statements of literature and the arts.
Candidate Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance
Based on the above evaluation, candidate scenic areas of statewide significance (SASS) are identified. Candidate SASS are composed of large clusters of subunits rated distinctive. Subunits with ratings of noteworthy and common may be included in a SASS if they link distinctive subunits or otherwise contribute to the cohesiveness of the SASS, provided that the total rating of the SASS remains distinctive. Isolated subunits or small clusters of subunits rated distinctive are not considered for designation unless the subunit or cluster has an exceptionally high distinctive rating. Note should be made that the scenic resources within a candidate SASS sometimes extend beyond the boundaries of the Coastal Management Program and cannot, therefore, be included within the candidate SASS.
Detailed, descriptive narratives for each subunit and for the SASS as a whole are prepared. Scenic area maps which delineate the boundaries of the SASS and its subunits accompany the narratives. After designation, the narratives will be used by reviewers in evaluating the consistency of proposed projects with the coastal scenic policies.
Based on the field sheets, the narratives describe the nature of scenic landscape elements and their interrelationships, the significance of their scenic quality, and the degree of public accessibility and public recognition of the landscape. The historic context of the landscape is described, focussing on the forces that shaped the landscape. Understanding these historic forces enriches the appreciation of the existing scene and can serve as a guide for future management decisions. Actions which may impair the scenic quality of the SASS also are identified in the narratives. These are to function as guidelines during the review of projects proposed within the designated SASS. The candidate SASS are subject to public review. Public hearings on the proposed designations must be held and findings made by the Secretary of State before SASS may be designated.
SCENIC AREAS OF STATEWIDE SIGNIFICANCE IN THE HUDSON RIVER REGION
The Hudson River coastal area between New York City and the federal dam at Troy is the first area to be evaluated under Policy 24. The Hudson River coastal landscape has a wealth and variety of scenic resources, shaped by a unique combination of geological forces and historical events. Majestic mountains and formidable bluffs rise above the Hudson's waters in some stretches of the river. In others, forested slopes, estate lawns, extensive marshlands and farm fields line its shorelands.
The Hudson River region has played an important role in the nation's history. It spawned the Hudson River School of Painting and the Romantic Landscape style. World renowned artists have responded to its beauty, and the works of major architects line the river's corridor. Historic river landings and villages evidence the Hudson's past as a bustling transportation corridor. Today, tourism is the major industry; and national and State parks and historic sites attract visitors from around the nation and the world.
Six stretches of the Hudson River and it's shorelands have been designated as scenic areas of statewide significance. These are the Columbia-Greene North SASS, the Catskill-Olana SASS, the Estates District SASS, the Ulster North SASS, the Esopus-Lloyd SASS and the Hudson Highlands SASS. They include a fiord in the Hudson Highlands, an impressive collection of significant estates along the Hudson River's mid-section, the landscape where Thomas Cole and Frederic Church made their homes, and the pastoral landscape south of the State capital. Each designated SASS encompasses unique, highly scenic landscapes which are accessible to the public and recognized for their scenic quality.
Each designated SASS is comprised primarily of clusters of distinctive subunits. Occasionally, a noteworthy or common subunit is included in a SASS because it links distinctive subunits or contributes to the cohesiveness of the SASS. No individual distinctive subunits are proposed for designation in the Hudson River region at this time.
BENEFITS OF DESIGNATION
Designation affords special protection from potentially adverse federal or State actions which could impair the scenic quality of the SASS. Narratives prepared for each SASS describe the character and scenic quality of the SASS landscape, providing guidance to the public and regulatory agencies as to which landscape elements should be protected and which actions could impair the scenic quality of the SASS.
Additional protection of SASS can be afforded by municipalities which prepare Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs (LWRP). Local land use authority is an important tool for the protection of scenic resources. In communities with an approved LWRP all three levels of government - federal, State and local - are working toward a common goal. Of the 44 municipalities included within the candidate SASS, 25 have prepared or are preparing LWRPs. Most of the LWRPs already address to some degree the protection of scenic landscapes. Designation of the SASS does not impinge on local government decisions.
THE HUDSON RIVER STUDY
The Hudson River coastal area was evaluated from the air, from the Hudson River, from the road network and on foot. To ensure public participation in the scenic assessment process, a regional panel was appointed to oversee the study. The panel is composed of State agency members of the statewide panel, representatives of county and local government and environmental organizations, and individual citizens of the region. The Department of State and the consultants met frequently with the regional panel regarding the conduct of the study and its results. The statewide panel was also kept informed of the study's progress, and joint meetings with both panels were held as appropriate. The panels provided information to the consultants regarding the resources of the valley and reviewed the consultants' work for accuracy and reasonableness.
Meetings with both panels attending were held at the Norrie Point Environmental Center in Staatsburg on July 12, August 2, September 20 and November 15, 1988 and on September 16, 1989.
In order to assess public values regarding the scenic quality of Hudson River coastal scenic components, public workshops were held in Poughkeepsie and Greenport at which those attending were asked to rate various regional landscape elements for their scenic quality. Questionnaires were also published in area weekly newspapers, inviting the public to identify landscapes they thought were of high scenic quality. The responses generated at the workshops and through the survey were considered during the development of the Hudson River Regional Table of Scenic Components.
When candidate SASS were initially identified, draft narratives were prepared and distributed widely in the region. The following public information meetings were held throughout the region during which residents could examine the narratives and accompanying maps:
May 14, 1990 Ulster County Office Building, Kingston
May 15, 1990 Norrie Point Environmental Center, Staatsburg
June 11, 1990 Piermont Village Hall, Piermont
June 12, 1990 Philipstown Town Hall, Cold Spring
June 13, 1990 Bear Mountain Inn, Bear Mountain State Park
June 25, 1990 Columbia-Greene Community Collage, Greenport
June 26, 1990 Coxsackie Village Board Room, Coxsackie
The draft narratives were sent to all municipalities in the study area for review and comment. Presentations were also made at public meetings of the following local government bodies in communities located in the candidate SASS:
May 23, 1990 Hyde Park Town Board
June 5, 1990 Coxsackie Town and Village Boards
June 11, 1990 Athens Town and Village Boards
June 12, 1990 Philipstown Town Board
June 12, 1990 Cortlandt Town Board
June 26, 1990 Greene County Environmental Management Council
July 3, 1990 Stockport Town Board
July 9, 1990 Haverstraw Town Board
July 10, 1990 Kingston City Council
July 12, 1990 Stuyvesant Town Board
October, 1990 Saugerties Town and Village Boards
Based on comments received during this initial period of public review, the SASS narratives and maps were revised. Additional field visits were made and additional research conducted concerning the history and resources of the candidate SASS. The information collected was incorporated into the document "Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance Proposed for Designation" (April 1993). This document was the subject of further public review throughout the Hudson River region. Public hearings on the areas proposed for designation as scenic areas of statewide significance were held on June 1, 1993 at the following locations:
Columbia-Greene Community College, Greenport, Columbia County
Rhinebeck Town Hall, Dutchess County
Bear Mountain Inn, Rockland County
After reviewing the hearing record and all written comments received within the comment period, several minor factual revisions were made to the narratives and these are incorporated into this document. As a result of the material contained in this document, the Secretary of State determined that the six areas proposed for designation were of statewide aesthetic significance to the coastal area pursuant to the factors set forth in 19 NYCRR 602.5 (c). Policy 24 of the Coastal Management Program know applies to those areas encompassed by the SASS designation. Management plans for each SASS will be prepared as resources allow. Local governments with approved local waterfront revitalization programs will be encouraged to evaluate their program for adequacy of protection of the identified scenic resources. Municipalities not participating in the Coastal Management Program will be encouraged to prepare LWRPs, but will not be required to change current local government decisionmaking.