Saratoga County

Tugboat owner fighting with state to live on board

Steve Trueman said Friday he will move his old tugboat and barge to the Waterford Flight of Locks fr

Steve Trueman said Friday he will move his old tugboat and barge to the Waterford Flight of Locks from their current location by the Crescent Bridge on the Mohawk River, but he remains at odds with the New York State Canal Corp., which insists that he stop living on the tug.

Trueman, who has few financial resources, said he doesn’t know where he will live. He fears that the barge may not survive the winter if he is barred from spending nights on the tug, where he is used to shoveling snow off the boats and making immediate necessary repairs in winter weather. He acknowledged, however, that he needs to move the boats from their current location before the river ices up.

The Canal Corp. is only giving him permission to be on the boats Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., he said, and proposing to charge him $1,700 rent, which is twice what he thinks he should have to pay. Trueman noted that only one of his boats, the barge, is taking up dock space in Crescent, because the tug is tied to the barge and not to the dock.

“I’m sunk here and they don’t care,” he said, saying the Canal Corp. has taken an inflexible, hard line that will make it impossible for him to protect and preserve his boats.

Trueman, who has spoken with Canal Corp. Director Carmella Mantello, said the Canal Corp. has been unwilling or unable to show him just what laws, rules or regulations prevent him from staying on the tug.

Asked about this, Mantello said that in the summer, boats are normally permitted to moor only 48 hours on Canal Corp. property. In winter, she said, the Canal Corp. issues permits letting boats stay on its property, and the permits state that the Canal Corp. “shall prescribe the terms and conditions” of them. Accordingly, she said, the Canal Corp. is exercising that right by enforcing a policy that does not permit people to live through the winter on docked boats.

“It’s a policy decision that has been implemented to deter basically subdivisions,” Mantello said. If she let Trueman stay, Mantello said, others would demand the same privilege, and the Canal Corp. would “open the door to everyone living on canal land.” Just a month or two ago, she said, the Canal Corp. evicted a recreational vehicle from its property in Niskayuna.

She sympathizes with Trueman’s situation, Mantello said, but “If you say yes to Mr. Trueman, you say yes to everyone and anyone.”

Mantello said past administrations of the Canal Corp. got into trouble by bending the rules, and she does not intend to do so.

But Trueman said that was punishing him for the bad actions of other people who sought to exploit the canal for their own gain. He said he is not trying to do that, but to preserve two old boats that he hopes to use as museums for the public good.

The Canal Corp. is not responsible for Trueman’s financial situation, Mantello said. Nor does it own all the waterfront, and he could find a marina where he could rent a berth and live on the boat. Or he could leave the boats on Canal Corp. property and live on land.

The canal is closing to traffic this weekend, but Trueman said he does not expect to move the boats for about three weeks, to a location near the top of the Waterford Flight and the Mohawk.

Trueman has been in touch with the office of Gov. David Paterson, hoping he will intervene. Paterson spokeswoman Erin Duggan confirmed this, but said the situation was being evaluated and she could not comment on it. Paterson does not control the Canal Corp., which falls under the Thruway Authority, a quasi-independent body.

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