Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hudson on the TV News

On Tuesday, Hudson made the evening news again--this time on CBS Channel 6. The story featured Chief Ed Moore of the Hudson Police Department, warning of the dangers of walking on the frozen Hudson River: "Stay off the ice!"

There Shall Be No Ice Skating This Year

Sad but true, although the ice on the Hudson River is reported to be 16 inches thick, there is no place in Hudson where the public can skate and probably will be none this winter.

As reported last month, snow has not been cleared from the ice on Oakdale Lake to allow skating because the City's liability insurance does not cover ice skating on open water. At last night's Public Works Committee meeting, Gossips asked about the progress on Plan B: to turn the basketball court at Oakdale into a skating rink. Rob Perry, superintendent of Public Works, reported that the white tarp they had been waiting for had finally arrived, but by the time it did, the future rink was covered by several inches of snow and the Department of Public Works was fully engaged clearing snow from the streets of Hudson.

When asked by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) about the ice at the sides of streets, separating the sidewalk from the roadway and presenting a treacherous barrier for pedestrians, Perry said there was nothing that could be done. "It will be there," said Perry, "until Nature takes it away."

More About Those "Bomb Trains" Passing By

Last week, a train carrying 3 million gallons of crude oil--very likely one that had already traveled through the Hudson Valley--derailed in West Virginia. Nineteen tanker cars slammed into each other and caught fire. A nearby house burned. Hundreds of families had to be evacuated when they lost their water and electricity. And oil spilled into a tributary of the Kanawha River.

Last night, Dave Davies, substituting this week for Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, interviewed Marcus Stern, an investigative reporter who has spent the past year studying the risks of transporting crude oil by train throughout the country. If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to the interview online: "A Hard Look at the Risks of Transporting Oil on Rail Tanker Cars."

The Tyranny of Aging

Gossips reader Chloe Zerwick, whose comment on an article about ageism in our society appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago, has now published a post on the topic on "The ageism of dinner parties." 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Can It Be? The Study Begins

In December, Gossips reported that the Common Council had passed a resolution "authorizing the mayor to 'execute all necessary documents to engage Saratoga Associates to implement the Redevelopment Analysis and Master Plan for a Multi-Use Waterfront Building.'" The building in question is one of the last surviving historic industrial structures on the waterfront: the Dunn building, originally part of the Hudson Coal Gasification Works.

Gossips learned yesterday that the signed contract for the project had been returned to Saratoga Associates and work will begin any day now. The study is expected to take six months. Saratoga Associates has subcontracted with Jennifer Schwartz Berky to handle the planning aspect of the project.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Spelling Matters

"Micropolitan Diary" is Gossips' homage to and blatant imitation of "Metropolitan Diary" in the New York Times. The term micropolitan was coined because Hudson is a metropolis in microcosm.
Dear Diary,
The little car is due for its annual servicing, and not wanting to drive all the way to the dealership in Latham with Joey, who suffers from severe separation anxiety, in the car and uncertain if he would be allowed to sit with me in the service department waiting room, I made an appointment at a local auto service shop that assured me they could service a SMART car and would welcome a dog. After the appointment had been scheduled, the man at the shop said, "So, we just need to change the oil, right?"
Certain there was more involved, I decided to go online and check. I initiated my Google search by typing in "smart cat annual servicing" and was surprised at the results, the first being: "Taking Your Pet for a Vet Visit."

Olana in Winter

The blog New York Social Diary published today a brief account of Frederic Edwin Church's life and career and a more extensive tour of his home, Olana, with photographs historic and modern, written by John Foreman, author of the blog Big Old Houses: "Big Old Houses: Persia on the Mountaintop."

School Tax Breaks for Veterans

Last night, the Hudson City School District Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a tax exemption for veterans in the 2015-2016 school year. The exemption provides a 15 percent reduction in school tax for veterans who served during wartime and an additional 10 percent for those who served in a combat zone. To be eligible, veterans must have served during the following periods: World War II, from December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946; the Korean War, from June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955; the Vietnam War, from February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975; the Persian Gulf conflict, from August 2, 1990, to the present. Applications for veterans' exemptions must be filed with the assessor's office by Monday, March 2.

Daytime Drama on the Icy Hudson

Yesterday, five barges heading south on the Hudson River got stuck in the ice near the Roe-Jan Creek Boat Club.

This morning, the Coast Guard cutter Sturgeon Bay arrived to free them.

Gratitude to Nick Zachos for providing these photographs 

Hudson on News Channel 13

At the end of January, the Register-Star announced the launch of a new program to "develop a pool of minority candidates that are able and willing to take advantage of openings for police officers": "Program looks to up police minority hiring." Last night, the Law Enforcement Diversification Initiative (LEDI), funded by the Galvan Foundation, held its first session. The event was covered by News Channel 13: "Initiative aims to add more minority cops."

Photo: Victor Mendolia
In the picture above, Donna Lewin, superintendent of the Hudson Correctional Facility, addresses the group.

The Micropolis, the Metropolis

Last Tuesday, the City of Hudson Common Council adopted an amendment to the zoning law that would make 350 square feet the minimum size for an apartment. On Friday, an article appeared in the New York Times about a micro-apartment complex made of modular units being prefabricated at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to be assembled at 335 East 27th Street: "Home Shrunken Home." 

Rendering from Monadnock Development, nARCHITECTS, and MIR
The apartments, which are leasing for $2,000 to $3,000 a month, range from 260 to 360 square feet. To permit this building to be constructed, the current New York City zoning and density requirement, which sets the minimum apartment size at 400 square feet, had to be waived.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tyranny of ZIP Codes

Last week, WAMC reported that Senator Charles Schumer had a plan to get the Town of Halfmoon, in Saratoga County, its own ZIP code: "A Town Without ZIP code." Halfmoon, which has 22,000 residents, is split betwen four different ZIP codes. If you live in Halfmoon, Schumer said last Wednesday at Halfmoon Town Hall, "You need to put your address as Clifton Park or Waterford or Mechanicville or Round Lake. The lack of a ZIP code has led to significant confusion, lost revenue, and it even affects emergency response."

Maybe when Senator Schumer fixes Halfmoon's ZIP code problem, he will turn his attention to Hudson's ZIP code problem. Our problem is not that we don't have our own ZIP code, but that we have to share it with Greenport and parts of Livingston, Stockport, and Ghent. It's often the cause for embarrassment, as when a few years ago the man with the wacky scheme to build a device that would silently zap people with a deadly dose of radiation was identified in the media as being from Hudson. (He actually lived on Knitt Road, along the border between Stockport and Ghent.) And there are other problems as well.

Statistics are often gathered and categorized by ZIP code, so it is difficult, if not impossible, to tease out what statistics apply only to the two square miles of Hudson. This is particularly problematic when it comes to sales tax. How much of the tax collected in the 12534 ZIP code is collected in the shops, restaurants, and B&Bs of Hudson and much is collected in the shopping malls and big boxes of Greenport?

The reason always given for why Greenport cannot have its own ZIP code is that there is another Greenport in New York: the village of Greenport in Suffolk County on Long Island. Ironically, although Greenport on Long Island seems to have preempted Greenport in Columbia County when it comes to ZIP codes, the Village of Greenport was incorporated in 1838, one year after the Town of Greenport was formed in 1837. It doesn't seem as though the duplication of names should be an insurmountable problem, but divvying up the sales tax is a problem and one that will grow worse as Greenport continues to allow itself to develop as "the retail hub of Columbia County."

Of Interest

It seems that when the temperatures drop down into the teens, the children at John L. Edwards Primary School are not sent outdoors to play during recess. That seems reasonable enough, but the activity provided as a substitute for outdoor play--crowding into a room to watch television--is a cause for concern among parents. It was the topic of discussion at the last school board meeting, as reported by Jeanette Wolfberg in the Columbia Paper: "Hudson asks: What's playing at recess . . . and why?"

The HCSD Board of Education meets again tonight at 7 p.m. at Hudson High School, following a public hearing at 6 p.m. about school tax breaks for veterans.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the Frozen River

Three barges heading downriver, said to be empty fuel oil barges, got stuck in the ice today, right at Hudson's front door.

The Gossips source who provided this picture reported that the tugboat pushing the lead barge would back up and repeatedly ram the ice pack. After about forty-five minutes of this, the barges started to move forward again.

Sesquicentennial of the Lincoln Funeral Train

There is an article in today's Register-Star about the plans underway to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the events surrounding Abraham Lincoln's assassination on Good Friday in 1865: "Lincoln funeral train needs a helping financial hand." Since I am quoted in that article, I thought it would be useful to elaborate on the part of the commemoration with which I am directly involved: the re-creation of what happened in Hudson when the Lincoln funeral train stopped here on the night of April 25, 1865.

Edward Davis Townsend, then Assistant Adjutant General, was the commander of the funeral train that bore the coffin of Lincoln and that of his son Willie from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, in the spring of 1865--a journey that began on April 21 and lasted until May 3. 

Two years ago, Jamison Teale alerted Gossips to the description from Townsend's journal of what transpired in Hudson when the funeral train stopped here on April 25, 1865. The passage is quoted in James L. Swanson's book Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis, which is where he had discovered it. The following is that account:
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in white, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President’s coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. This whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night. 
On April 25, 1865, the train arrived in Hudson at 9:45 p.m. Daylight Saving Time wasn't introduced until 1918, so 9:45 p.m. in 1865 translates to 8:45 p.m. in 2015, and on April 25 this year, at 8:45 p.m., the scene that Townsend called "one of the most weird ever witnessed" by be re-created down by the train station.

Using Townsend's description, supplemented by other historic accounts, a team, which so far includes Jamison Teale, Windle Davis, Stephanie Monseu of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Mary Deyerle Hack of Diamond Opera Theater, and Melissa Auf der Maur of Basilica Hudson, is working to re-create what happened in Hudson when the funeral train stopped here. Very soon, auditions will be held for the "band of young women dressed in white" who will sing dirges of the period. Although Townsend doesn't tell the number of women who made up the band in Hudson, other sources indicate that such choruses were often made up of thirty-five young women, to represent the number of states in the newly restored Union. Hence, we are seeking thirty-five young women to make up our "band." Monseu has designed a wonderful costume for the choristers, inspired by period images, so spread the word that female singers are sought. When it has been determined when and where the auditions will be held, it will be announced on Gossips and by fliers distributed around town. 

And save the date! Plan to be down by the station on April 25 (it's a Saturday) to witness history re-created.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

On the Frozen Hudson

Two tugboats--Sassafras and Fells Point--got stuck in the ice on the Hudson near Germantown yesterday and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard icebreaker Sturgeon Bay. The adventure was covered by Channel 7 and the New York Times. (The article in the New York Times was written by Tatiana Schlossberg, daughter of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.)

Reception Postponed

The Hudson Opera House has just announced that the opening reception for Caprices: The Sculptures of Bruno Pasquier-Desvignes, curated by R. O. Blechman, which was to take place tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. has been rescheduled for March 7.

Another Year, Another Park Proposal

At the end of last year, many breathed a sigh of relief when the City was not awarded a grant to embark on an extensive "re-imagining" of the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park. This year, the City is planning to apply, in the same Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process, for funds to improve Promenade Hill. This time, dealing with a park that is recognized as being of historic significance on the national, state, and local levels, the plan being considered is more respectful and modest, focusing primarily on the entrance to the park and the need to provide access for the handicapped to the vistas on Promenade Hill.

On Thursday night, at the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, Gossips got a look at the possibilities now being considered, which have been developed by architect and landscape designer Dragana Zoric.

Council president Don Moore, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, asked how much was being requested in the grant application and what improvements it would fund. Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, said that the amount was $250,000 and it would fund "the ramp issue and pretty substantial improvements to the park," primarily new plantings. Moore also wanted to know if there was a significant difference in cost between the two options--Option 1 integrating a ramp into new stairs and Option 2 introducing a ramp and retaining walls to the left of the existing stairs. Roehr didn't answer the question specifically but assured Moore that Zoric was "exceptionally good with costs." 

Those present at the meeting showed a preference for Option 1, which integrates a ramp into newly designed stairs to the park. Given the two options, Sheena Salvino, executive director of the Hudson Development Corporation, urged, "Let's go for something more beautiful."

Moore requested that there be "open discussion about the character of the replanting" on Promenade Hill.

The grant application is due in June. If the grant is not successful, the City is committed to spending $20,000 to install a temporary ramp at Promenade Hill.

Concert Postponed

This afternoon, the Diamond Opera Theater was to inaugurate a new concert series called Voices at Christ Church. The concert, the first of four in the 2015 series, to benefit Diamond Opera Theater and the Hudson Opera House, is called Wanderlust: An Evening of Adventurous Music, and features mezzo soprano Mary Deyerle Hack and baritone Martin Mansfield, accompanied by pianist Noah Palmer, performing works by Ravel, Debussy, Brahms, Mahler, Leigh, and Sondheim. 

Alas, to the disappointment of all, snow, followed by freezing rain, has been predicted to begin at the mid-afternoon today, and it was reluctantly decided that it would be wise to postpone the concert. A new date for the concert has not yet been announced.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Tragic News

Gossips has just learned that Brian Howard, former superintendent of the Troy City School District who is familiar to us all as the Democratic candidate for state senator in the 43rd District in 2014, has died. Last night, News10 reported that Howard had suffered a major head trauma and was in the ICU at Albany Medical Center after he had apparently fallen while trying to clear snow from the roof of his house. He died from his injuries this afternoon. 

A Bad Day to Get Spotted in Hudson . . .

if you're wanted for something.

Today, on Gossips' normally quiet block, a police car with siren wailing streaked by, heading east. When a second police car screamed past, heading in the same direction, and more sirens could be heard close at hand, I decided to investigate. From my stoop, I saw three or four police vehicles converged at the corner of Allen and Second streets. Then a plain clothes officer, his ID dangling from his neck, ran past, also heading east. Realizing that he was heading around to get behind the row of houses, I went to the back of my house, in time to see him stop in the alley just short of my backyard and to hear him say, "OK, you got 'em."

Back on my stoop, I saw yet another police vehicle arriving and noticed that Chief Moore and Commissioner Graziano were on the scene. It was then that I saw a man reluctantly being escorted to a police car and put inside. Who was this miscreant on my block, and what was his offense?

I still don't know what the man was suspected of doing, but I do know why there was such an incredible show of force. It seems the man, who was wanted for something, was spotted driving in Hudson by an HPD detective, who pursued him onto Tanners Lane. There the suspect ditched his car and fled on foot, heading up the Second Street stairs.

The detective called for assistance, and by coincidence, at that very moment, twenty officers from the Hudson Police Department, the Columbia County Sheriff's Department, and the Greene County Sheriff's Department, who had spent the morning training at the Hudson Police Department's firing range on Newman Road, were heading back to the police station on Warren Street. They all responded.  

When the suspect got to the top of the stairs, he encountered two DPW workers with shovels working to clear a storm drain and the sound of sirens everywhere. He ran through a passageway between two houses into a fenced backyard (no way out except the way he had come in), where he was wrestled to the ground by several officers who at that point had arrived at the scene. 

When the excitement was over, Chief Moore commented: "Quite a scene--but not a murderer or a terrorist."

Why Not Us?

A reader brought an article to Gossips' attention, which appeared in the Berkshire Eagle back in December: "Construction set to begin on bridge over CSX tracks at PEDA site." The bridge in question is in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (PEDA stands for Pittsfield Economic Development Authority), and the $4 million cost of the new bridge is being funded by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. This, of course, calls to mind our own predicament with the Ferry Street Bridge, and the City's efforts to find the money to repair or replace it.

Besides being in another state, there are some differences between the bridge in Pittsfield and our Ferry Street Bridge. First, the bridge in Pittsfield carries a street that goes through a business park and is seen to be "crucial to attracting tenants to the site of General Electric's former power transformer facility." But wait. Tourism is finally getting recognition as a major element in Hudson's economy, and the Ferry Street Bridge to crucial to development of the Dunn building and the land east of Water Street. Then too, the bridge to be built in Pittsfield replaces one that was taken down in July 2012. Do things have to get worse before they can get better?

The article in the Berkshire Eagle explains that the bridge in Pittsfield "is one of 31 CSX bridges across the state that the DOT is fixing so that the rail company can run double stack rail cars from its base in Selkirk, N.Y. to Worcester." Since the tracks on our side of the Hudson River are now leased to Amtrak, it would seem unlikely that CSX is planning to run double stack rail cars on the tracks that separate Hudson from its waterfront, so, thankfully perhaps, there goes that reason to fix the bridge.

Comparative Reading

The account in the Register-Star of Columbia County district attorney Paul Czajka's alleged misstep: "Supreme court to revisit Czajka-Dellehunt suit"; and the account that appeared in the Times Union: "Altered papers served by DA."