Thursday, December 14, 2017

Storytelling on a Winter Afternoon

Real People Real Stories, inspired by The Moth Radio Hour, has become an audience favorite and now opens and closes each season at the Ancram Opera House. In the final set of stories for 2017, told starting at 3 p.m. this Saturday, five storytellers confront crisis and calamity: a bungee jump adventure teeters on the precipice, a $3 parking ticket escalates to a contempt of court citation, an American college student is caught in the crosshairs of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, a woman suspects her spouse is a survivalist, and a corporate crisis counselor is ensnared by a client from hell. The storytellers are Chris Atkins (Hillsdale), Phil Halpern (Stockbridge, MA), Jan Hopkins-Trachtman (Gallatin), Brett LaFave (Albany), and Lauren Letellier (Hillsdale).

A reception with the storytellers follows the performance. Click here to purchase tickets.

Be Part of a Hudson Holiday Tradition

This year, Classics on Hudson collaborates with Hudson Hall to present the annual Messiah Sing, led by conductor Gwen Gould, in the newly restored performance hall at the Hudson Opera House. Choose your part--soprano, alto, tenor, or bass--and sing Handel's beloved oratorio with soloists from the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program and the Tecchler Quartet from the Bard Conservatory of Music. Scores are provided, but you if have your own from your college chorus days, bring it along, because the number of scores is limited. 

The Messiah Sing takes place on Sunday, December 17, at 4:00 p.m. Click here to purchase tickets. 

The Great War: December 13, 1917

Our exploration of life in Hudson during the Great War has been on hiatus for a while, but a news item that appeared on the front page of the Hudson Evening Register for December 13, 1917, is bringing it back. It reveals the role one of Hudson's principal businesses of a century ago played in the war effort.

In 1917, the Gifford-Wood Company was located at the end of Hudson Avenue, in a facility constructed in 1907, soon after Gifford Brothers, the company created by Elihu Gifford in 1814, merged with William T. Wood & Company of Arlington, Massachusetts, in 1905. The picture below shows the Gifford-Wood plant as it appeared in 1915.

The building, which was most recently the location of W. B. McGuire Overhead Door, still stands and bears traces of its  original identity.

Photo credit: Virginia Martin

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Watch for Yourself

Dan Udell's video of Monday night's informal Common Council meeting, at which Linda Mussmann read the letter signed by the residents of Mill Street expressing their concern about the dog park proposed for Charles Williams Park, can now be viewed by clicking here


E-Blasts Are Back!

Five days ago, on December 8, Gossips apologized to readers who had come to depend on email notification when a new post was published. Today, as some of you may have noticed, the email alerts are back. It is not because, through the magic of technology, my ability to send email from Outlook was restored. Rather it was because I re-created the Gossips distribution lists using a different email server, re-entering every one of your email addresses. If by chance you used to receive email notifications and did not receive the two sent earlier today, please let me know at My primitive solution to the problem admits endless opportunities for errors and omissions.

Who Got the Money

The information about how much of the $85 million in Regional Economic Development Council funds is coming to Hudson and Columbia County is now available. The most exciting award, in Gossips' opinion, is $120,000 in Empire State Development funds for the restoration of the historic Park Theater at 723 Warren Street.

Other awards for projects near and dear to us in Hudson are:
  • $45,000 to Basilica Hudson to hire a new development manager and $75,000 to renovate and upgrade its gallery building
  • A total of $500,000 to DigiFab for new machinery and equipment to expand its operation
  • $45,ooo to the Hudson Opera House (a.k.a. Hudson Hall) for a workforce readiness program
  • $225,000 for the restoration of the former Allen Street School, now known as River House, to create workspace for creative professionals and enterprises focusing of multi-media and film production.
  • $420,000 to The Olana Partnership for farm landscape restoration
To see all of the awards for local projects, click here. Columbia County awards begin on page 88.

More Money for Economic Development

The 2017 Regional Economic Development Council Awards were announced this morning, and the Capital Region, of which Hudson is a part, was awarded $85 million, as a Top Performer. In the video about the Capital Region that preceded the announcement of the award, Hudson, as a Round 2 DRI recipient, along with Basilica Hudson and Melissa Auf der Maur, had a featured role. Exactly how much of that $85 million will fund projects in Hudson and Columbia County is not yet known--at least not by Gossips.

The other awards were:
  • Western New York, $68.8 million
  • Finger Lakes, $63.9 million
  • Southern Tier, $67.3 million
  • Central New York, $86.4 million (Top Performer)
  • Mohawk Valley, $85.5 million (Top Performer)
  • North Country, $64.9 million
  • Mid-Hudson, $84.8 million (Top Performer)
  • New York City, $64.8 million
  • Long Island, $84.3 million (Top Performer).


The Register-Star on the Dog Park

In today's Register-Star, Amanda Purcell has a story about the brouhaha over the proposed dog park. In the print version of the paper, the story appears on the front page, above the fold, with the headline "Neighbors demand say on dog park." Online, it has a slightly tamer title: "Neighbors want voices heard about dog park."

There are a couple of mistakes in the article that need correcting. First, there's a photo caption that indicates an acre of land will be fenced for the dog park. Don't we wish! In fact, the total area for the proposed dog park is less than half an acre--approximately the same size as the dog parks in Germantown and Athens. In the body of the article, it is stated that the money from the initial GoFundMe campaign will be used to fence 5,000 square feet for the dog park (an acre is 43,560 square feet), and the $5,500 raised by the second GoFundMe campaign will be used to buy poop bag dispensers and signage. Those would be some expensive poop bags!

In fact, the second GoFundMe campaign was initiated with the expressed purpose of raising more money for more fencing to increase the overall size of the park. There is now--from the two GoFundMe campaigns and a contribution from the Mrs. Greenthumbs Hedge Fund--enough money for the fencing, poop bag dispensers, signage, and maybe a few other amenities, like benches or more trees. All that's missing is the civic will to build the dog park. 

Get Your DRI Fix for the Week

There's another meeting of the DRI Local Planning Committee next Monday, December 18, and not another public meeting until February 8, but if you missed the public engagement workshop on December 7, or just want to relive the experience, Dan Udell's video of the event can now be viewed online by clicking here.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Emily, If You Only Knew . . .

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Emily Dickinson was talking about the spoken word. We in Hudson are now seeing the impact of the written word--in particular, these words included in the Hudson's DRI application (page 18).
Though accommodating the operational growth of the business has been a challenge to address in terms of the impact on waterfront businesses and the environment, City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso.
When asked about this statement, Sheena Salvino, executive director of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC), who was an author of the application, explained: "This statement was intended to relate to the 2015 expansion/acquisition referenced in the paragraph, not any further expansion or usage of the haul road/port." That may be what was intended, but that's not the way the statement is being interpreted.

When the Greenport Planning Board gave its approval to the proposed haul road, Michael Bucholsky cited this statement--"City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso"--as evidence that a two-lane haul road through South Bay would be welcomed as a good thing. When the Columbia County Planning Board reviewed the haul road proposal, P. J. Prendergast, the engineer for Colarusso, claimed that it says "right in the City's DRI" that the City supports the project.

Now the claim of City support has reached a new level: the State of New York Supreme Court, Albany County. In the answer to the Article 78 filed by the City of Hudson against the Town of Greenport Planning Board, the attorneys for the respondents--Whitbeck Benedict & Smith LLP--make much of the statement of alleged support in the DRI application. Following is quoted from that document:
Furthermore, Petitioner fails to include explicit, more recent language from another City-sponsored document that directly supports the Project--the Downtown Revitalization Initiative ("DRI") application. . . . Under this program, the City was awarded a 10 million dollar grant from the state in August 2017 in order to "revitalize" the City's BRIDGE District, which includes the Applicant's current property and the site of the proposed Project. . . . Specifically, the application references the haul road and the City's support for the Project:
"Hudson recognizes the economic contribution of Colarusso, as well as the rarity and value of a functioning deep water port. Though accommodating the operational growth of the business has been a challenge to address in terms of the impact on waterfront businesses and the environment, City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso."
The italics were added by the respondents.

The Fate of the Dog Park

Twice Gossips has appealed to readers to contribute money to build a dog park, and twice you have responded generously. The first campaign, launched in June 2014, raised $7,025 for the dog park; the more recent campaign, launched on October 25, raised $5,500 in less than a month. A Gossips post published on October 25, with the title "Hudson Is Getting a Dog Park!", joyfully announced that plans were moving forward to build a dog park, and they were moving quickly. The goal was to have the dog park constructed before the end of 2017.

Now there's snow on the ground, fewer than three weeks remain in 2017, and despite the fact that the money and the plans are in place to build a dog park of adequate size, with separate areas for large and small dogs, the dog park has once again been put off.

For several days, Gossips has wrestled with how to explain why there will be no dog park until spring--if even then--but what happened at the informal Common Council meeting last night makes telling the story easy. I just have to report what happened.

There was very little on the agenda for the last informal Council meeting of the year. After the meeting had gone on for all of five minutes and all the agenda items had been covered, Council president Claudia DeStefano asked if the audience had any issues to bring before the Council. Linda Mussmann, supervisor elect for the Fourth Ward, the ward that now contains Charles Williams Park, rose to read a letter, dated December 1 and signed by nine residents representing the five households living beside Charles Williams Park. The text of that letter follows:
To Whom It May Concern:
It has been brought to our attention that a proposal has been made to build a dog park on Mill Street. We, the families on Mill Street are very concerned and want an opportunity to discuss this before the final decision is made.
In the past five years Mill Street has diversified into a multi-cultural family-friendly neighborhood where 13 kids, under the age of 16, are currently living. Our kids spend lots of time outdoors playing in the front yards right near the street. The safety of our children is our number one concern. With a dog park located right behind our homes, we are worried about the possibility of dogs on the loose, strangers coming and going in the neighborhood, the lack of parking spaces, the level of noise, the increased traffic on our quiet street, and the sanitary issues that come with a dog park.
Mill Street is a dead-end street with no sidewalk and no on-street parking. Since we were not asked about this project, there is a feeling that Mill Street has become the new dumping ground for new projects for the City of Hudson. We are concerned that the sense of safety we feel is going to be taken away from us. We are especially worried that our children will not be safe.
We are all hard-working families on Mill Street and some are dog owners; and we are not against Hudson getting a dog park but believe that there should be a discussion with the people who live there. We feel it would be a good idea to have some kind of study to find a better location that could be more accessible and less disruptive for the neighborhood. Thank you for your consideration and support in this matter.
After Mussmann read the letter, Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) weighed in, declaring, "These people do not want a dog park," and calling the plan for siting a dog park in Charles Williams Park "not appropriate." Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) then took her turn, saying that she agreed "with what the people have to say on Mill Street." She went on to say, of herself and Miah, "as Second Ward representatives, we fought hard to keep the dog park out of Charles Williams Park. Now," she continued, "people think they have been taken advantage of because it's a different ward." (The new ward boundaries to achieve wards of equal population put Mill Street, which had been part of the Second Ward, in the Fourth Ward.)

At some point, after Mussmann had already read their letter, residents of Mill Street arrived at City Hall. One of the residents addressed the Council, saying he had four dogs and knew from experience that it was "not easy to keep dogs under control or to keep them from jumping on children." He asserted that the dog park would "intrude on family space."

Regarding the call by Mill Street residents for "some kind of study" to find a location for the dog park, the search for a site for the dog park has been going on since 2011, and it was finally determined by the mayor's office in late October that Charles Williams Park--the City's newest and most underutilized public space, the original plans for which included a dog park, among many other unrealized amenities--was the only possible location. Regarding the request for a "discussion with the people who live there," advocates for a dog park in Hudson would welcome an opportunity to dispel the misconceptions about dog parks and explain the rules and protocols that govern the use of dog parks and the etiquette of dog parks that is understood and observed by the people and dogs who visit them.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Another Chance Discovery

The building in the picture below is Hotel Central, a.k.a. Central House, which once stood on the southeast corner of Warren and Fifth streets, where TrustCo Bank is today.

from the Hudson City Directory for 1914

It isn't known--at least not by Gossips--when the building was constructed or when it was demolished, but a couple of chance discoveries in the Hudson Register reveal some interesting facts about the hotel. For example, in the summer of 1901, electric fans were installed in the rooms for the comfort of the guests.

Exactly a hundred years ago today, in the Evening Register for December 11, 1917, a letter to the editor, from someone identifying him/herself as "SENEX" (Latin for "old person"), provides a hint about when the building ceased to be a hotel.

Because the last two paragraphs are a little hard to read, they are transcribed here:
Since Mr. Winfield became proprietor the hotel has been well conducted and many changes have been made to keep pace with the changing times. The action of many big business houses in calling in their road agents and the loss of patronage due to the action of the excise board in not granting the Central a license have operated to a point where it is no longer possible to continue as a paying investment.
Hotels are all too few in Hudson and it seems a pity that one of the city's oldest is on the eve of passing into a memory.
The comment about the excise board not granting the Central a license suggests that the hotel had been denied a liquor license. Only a little more than a year later, in January 1919, Congress would pass the Volstead Act which established Prohibition. Even if the end of the Great War in November 1918 brought back normalcy to the way big business houses conducted their affairs, the advent of Prohibition would soon thereafter be impacting hotels like the Central.

Meetings Tonight

It will be a busy night at City Hall, with two public hearings and the informal Common Council meeting.

The first public hearing, which begins at 6 p.m., concerns an application for a $1 million Restore NY grant to be used for the demolition of what remains of the Kaz warehouse and the rehabilitation of the site. 

Predictably, the mention of a new Restore NY grant is a cue for Gossips to mention the $500,000 Restore NY grant Hudson applied for last year at this time and won. It was intended to stabilize the sadly decaying Dunn warehouse, which everyone recognizes as the historic centerpiece of all plans for further development of the waterfront. For reasons that seem indefensible, none of that money has been spent and no work to stabilize the building and arrest deterioration has begun. The state of things is such that elected officials are standing up in public meetings repeating the erroneous opinion held by some that the building is not salvageable and is a "tear down."

The second public hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. and concerns proposed Local Law No. 5, which amends the city zoning law "as it pertains to the reimbursement of costs incurred by the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals in connection with applications and appeals."

The informal meeting of the Common Council begins at 7 p.m. So far, there is no indication on the City website that there is anything at all on the agenda for that meeting, but there's sure to be something.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

First Snow of Winter

A reader just sent me this stunning picture of the courthouse, with the first snow of the winter--a season that doesn't actually begin for another ten days--on the ground, and I share it with you all.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

An Accidental House History

Last summer, Gossips published a news item, shared by a reader, from the Hudson Evening Register for April 2, 1875, about a house that had been built--"from the cellar foundation to turn of the key"--in just thirteen days.

Some research discovered that the house built with such astonishing speed was 520 Clinton Street.

Today, I discovered, in the Hudson Evening Register for December 8, 1917, an item that reveals another chapter in the life of the house then known as "the old William H. Power place" and pinpoints exactly when the "commodious building" was converted into a two-family residence. 


Friday, December 8, 2017

Documents from the Past

In 2011, Lisa Durfee purchased a box of documents at a garage sale on Clinton Street. She discovered that the unmarked gray cardboard box was filled with intake forms, letters, photographs, and administrative paperwork from the New York State Training School for Girls in the 1920s. How they came to be in a garage sale on Clinton Street was not clear.

Recently, the Prison Public Memory Project has, with Durfee's permission, made these documents available in a digital archive. Click here to access that archive. 

Gossips Is Experiencing Technical Difficulties

To everyone who has come to rely on receiving an email notification whenever a new post appears on Gossips, my apologies.

For reasons unknown, I am unable to send email from Outlook, where all your email addresses are stored in my Address Book. Until I can resolve the problem, whenever there is something new on Gossips, I will be posting the link on the Gossips of Rivertown Facebook page

I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but please keep reading Gossips!

DRI Watch: Public Workshop No. 2

Last night, the second public engagement workshop in the DRI process took place. Even though a show of hands revealed that almost everyone in the room had been at the previous public workshop, Steve Kearney, the planner from Stantec, felt compelled to present an overview of the project to this point "for those who have not been following the process." Of greatest interest in Kearney's presentation was his pronouncement that the process was "close to midway at this stage."

Two new members of the planning team were present last night: Larisa Ortiz, the retail specialist working on the project, and Marc Norman, the housing specialist. Ortiz presented some facts about Hudson that most probably already knew. There are more people earning less than $20,000 a year in Hudson than in the surrounding area; there are more Millennials; there is more ethnic diversity. She also pointed out something we already knew: people living in Hudson are spending their food money outside the city, in the supermarkets of Greenport. According to her statistics, the total spent on food by Hudson residents in Greenport is a surprising $5 million. She also asserted something that in the past never seemed to be the case: Hudson could support a 10,000 square foot grocery store. A little of my own research discovered that the size of the average supermarket is 45,ooo square feet, but the size of the average Trader Joe's is 10,000 square feet.

Norman, the housing specialist, made an important distinction between affordable housing, which usually means low-income subsidized housing, and housing affordability. He made the point that there is not now in Hudson housing for a range of incomes and spoke of the need for a "ladder of affordability." He mentioned a development in Philadelphia where town houses were built for $100,000 each. Gossips located this article about the project from 2014, when it was being planned: "How Council plans to create 1,5000 new affordable housing units."

After the presentations, the meeting got down to the real business at hand--prioritizing the DRI projects that have been proposed. There were the eleven last week:
  1. Basilica Hudson, Phase II
  2. The Warehouse--Digifab expansion and facade improvements
  3. The Wick--exterior site improvements to increase pedestrian access
  4. River House, Phase II
  5. Public pier
  6. Reconnecting the waterfront
  7. Kaz site development
  8. Furgary, a.k.a. The Shacks or Shantytown
  9. Promenade Hill--redesign of entrance
  10. Community food hub
  11. Community food waste processing
In addition to these, nine more projects have been proposed:
  1. North Bay sidewalk connections
  2. North Bay regeneration--focused on youth employment at the Kite' Nest site
  3. Commercial kitchen and housing at 16 South Front Street
  4. Pre-development for new housing--6-14 State Street, 202-206 Columbia Street, 213 Columbia Street
  5. Makerspace/business incubator
  6. Cypersecurity workforce development
  7. Tourism and river transportation
  8. Homeowner improvement grants
  9. Disadvantaged business support
And then there were three "emerging projects":
  1. Heated bus shelters for children waiting for the school bus
  2. Dog park
  3. Indoor leisure/entertainment facility
The proposed projects were all displayed on boards at the back of the room. Meeting participants were each given ten green stick-on dots and asked to use half of them to mark projects they considered "most important" priorities and the other half to mark projects they considered "secondary" priorities. 

People dutifully carried out their assignment, affixing green dots to project descriptions. It was promised that the results of this rather unscientific preference poll would be reported back to the public, probably on the Hudson DRI website.

Even though there are now more than twenty projects in the running, there is still time to submit a project for consideration. The deadline for doing so is Wednesday, January 3, at noon. The "request for project information" form is available here. Kearney will be available to give assistance in preparing project forms on Tuesday, December 19, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. It's reasonable to assume that he will be at the Hudson Development Corporation office on that day, 1 North Front Street, but you may want to send him an email to confirm that and ensure you can get some time with him.