Monday, February 27, 2017

Celebrity Sighting

Minutes ago, it was reported by two different sources on Facebook that Hillary Clinton is here in Hudson, apparently lunching at Grazin'. The pictures below, one of which was posted on Facebook, are published here with permission.
Photo by Katherine Bauer

Photo by Katherine Bauer
Former president Bill Clinton is here, too.

Photo courtesy Aaron Enfield and Amy Lavine

Actions Here and There

Last Monday, the Hudson Police Commissioner Martha Harvey and Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton issued an order directing that "no resources, facilities, or property of the City of Hudson that are ordinarily or generally in the use or control of the City of Hudson Police Department . . . be made available for use by agents, officers, or employees of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") except as may be required by law." As Hamilton explained in a video filmed by Lance Wheeler, the action was taken, in response to sweeping changes in immigration enforcement policy, "to make the most vulnerable members of our community feel protected." Last Thursday, in a press release, the Hudson Police Officers Union called for the order to be rescinded. One of reasons given was this: "Law enforcement shouldn't be limited or modified by two individuals who have no experience in enforcing laws and keeping the community safe."

Interestingly, on the same day the Hudson Police Officers Union issued its press release, the New York Daily News reported that New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill had, the day before, issued an internal memo to NYPD officers in response to the expansive deportation policies of the Trump administration: "NYPD commissioner reminds cops to ignore President Trump's immigrant deportation orders." The following statement from that memo is among those quoted in the Daily News article: "It is critical that everyone who comes into contact with the NYPD, regardless of their immigration status, be able to identify themselves or seek assistance without hesitation, anxiety or fear." 

Tonight, the proposed Common Council resolution "affirming the City of Hudson as a welcoming and inclusive city," a resolution sometimes thought of as the "sanctuary city" resolution, will be discussed at the Police Committee meeting. The resolution proposes that officers of the Hudson Police Department will continue their current practice of not asking immigration or citizenship status; will not stop, question, or investigate people solely on actual or suspected immigration status issues; will not inquire into the immigration status of any crime victim, witness, or person reporting a crime; and will not assist immigration enforcement except in certain clearly defined instances involving threats to public safety or the execution of criminal warrants, or when local law enforcement cooperation is required by state of federal statute. The Police Committee meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Notable Moment at the Housing Forum

Dan Udell's video of Thursday's affordable housing forum goes on for an hour and twenty-seven minutes, as did the forum itself. If you don't have time to watch it all, there's one bit you might want to see. A little more than an hour in, at 1:07:17, Paolo Vidali, the CTO and founder of the digital marketing agency Hidden Gears, explains that his business is in Hudson, but he lives in Greene County because the cost of real estate in Hudson is too high. He then asks if there is anyone who represents Galvan present at the meeting.

When Rick Scalera, who is seated right behind him, indicates that he does, Vidali observes that there is "a ton of vacant property" that belongs to Galvan and asks if there is any initiative to develop that property into "something that has an affordable component." 

Scalera responds by saying that Galvan is now working on four sites: 215 Union Street, 260 Warren Street, 11 Warren Street (a portion of which is being readied for the Salvation Army), and a fourth site he can't remember. He says he thinks Galvan "would be more than happy" to go into the affordable housing market "if the City shows a little love." He then alleges that "at least four projects" proposed by Galvan had been turned down by the Common Council, but he only makes specific reference to two: one proposed for Fifth and Warren streets, the other for Fourth and Columbia streets. 

The project for Fifth and Warren was the Starboard project proposed in 2010 by Eric Galloway's Lantern Organization. This would have created thirty-three units of permanent supportive housing, at the corner of Warren and Fifth streets, for men with mental disabilities and substance abuse problems.

That project was abandoned after a public meeting at which the overwhelming sentiment expressed by the people who filled City Hall was that the project was a remarkably inappropriate idea.

The project proposed for Fourth and Columbia streets was Civic Hudson, the 2012 plan to construct a police and court building for Hudson with supportive housing on the upper two floors. The City would, at its own expense, build out the first and second floors for the police department and city court. On the two upper floors, there would be thirty-five studio apartments for formerly homeless adults.

That project was abandoned because the New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP) would not approve the financing for the project in the face of objections from the Hudson Police Department, both the chief and the rank and file, who thought it inappropriate to combine police and court facilities in the same building with residential units.

After making reference to these projects, Scalera segues into questioning the Common Council's commitment to affordable housing, noting that only two aldermen were present at the forum.

Affordable Housing and Hudson

Affordable housing has been a topic of discussion in Hudson for at least twenty years--ever since people started reclaiming the commercial buildings along Warren Street and 19th-century houses that had been converted to low-income apartments during the bleakest days, economically speaking, of Hudson's recent past. Over the past two decades, affordable housing--a blanket term that seems to embrace everything from emergency shelter for the homeless to moderate-income apartments--has been the subject of ad hoc committees, needs analyses, and forums. The most recent needs analysis was done in 2012; the most recent forum took place last Thursday. The Register-Star reported on the event: "Forum energizes drive toward affordable housing in Hudson." Dan Udell videotaped it: "Affordable Housing in Hudson, NY." With all this information available, Gossips will make no attempt to summarize the forum but rather will report just a few important takeaways.

Forum panelists Bill Hughes, Fourth Ward supervisor, and Tiffany Garriga, Second Ward alderman, and moderator Michael Chameides, Hudson City Democratic Committee chair. Not shown is panel member Matthew Nelson, mortgage officer at the Community Preservation Corporation
Although it was acknowledged that ideally a comprehensive housing plan for the entire city should be developed, the City has neither the resources nor the time to undertake a comprehensive plan. Because affordable housing is a priority of the current administration (that's the mayor of Hudson not the president of the United States) and of Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency (HCDPA), because, to paraphrase Sheena Salvino, executive director of HCDPA and the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC), "there is no shortage of developers interested in Hudson," and because, according to Salvino, there is a "basket of resources" available to develop housing across the entire spectrum, from homeless shelters to moderate-income rentals, HCDPA is moving ahead with a "pilot program" that will focus on the 100 and 200 blocks of State Street.

The lots in question are those along the north side of State Street, from the playground on at the corner of Second Street to North Front Street and extending down the slope to what would be Rope Alley, if Rope Alley continued west beyond Second Street. These lots, together with 1 Lombard Street (Lombard Street is a "paper street" today) and the land on the southeast corner of North Front and Dock streets, properties that are contiguous with the lots along State Street, all belong to the City of Hudson.

1 Lombard Street

North Front and Dock Street
Salvino spoke about working with "our neighbors at Kite's Nest," who are looking to redevelop their property on the west side of North Front Street after a tragic fire destroyed the historic building on that site. The Kite's Nest property is just across Front Street from the City-owned parcels.

The map below shows roughly--ever so roughly--the area being discussed as the site for new housing development. It has yet to be determined whether the development will be strictly residential or mixed use residential/commercial, whether it will be low income, moderate income, or mixed income, and whether it will be multistory apartment buildings, "garden apartments," two-family town houses, single-family homes, or any of a number of other configurations.

As Salvino told those assembled on Thursday, it is now time "to identify what the community wants." She did not outline exactly how that will be accomplished, but it will certainly involve public meetings and probably also surveys. 

Also mentioned as potential sites for development were what is left of the community garden on the northeast corner of Second and Columbia streets, a parcel owned by HCDPA, and the lot on the southwest corner of Fourth and State streets, a parcel owned by the City of Hudson and now being used by Columbia County as a parking lot.

Second and Columbia

Fourth and State
Two more bits of information. It was stated by panel member Bill Hughes that it is not possible for a developer to "self-fund" a project, that is, finance it without some kind of subsidies or tax credits, and make the rents affordable. He defined an affordable rent as between $600 and $950 a month.

In Kinderhook Yesterday

If you weren't in Kinderhook yesterday to demonstrate in front of the office and home of Congressman John Faso, who was absent from both locations, you can read about the event in the Register-Star: "D-19 residents ask, 'Where's Faso?'" You can also watch part of the gathering in a video by Lance Wheeler.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Where to Begin Your Saturday Night

Tonight, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hudson Opera House, there is an opening reception for Chloe Zerwick's "intriguing, ethereal sculptural exhibition," Inside the Box.

In creating her boxes, Zerwick transforms everyday objects into enigmatic three-dimensional statements. Zerwick makes this statement about her work: "As the artist engages with battered remnants found here and there, hidden relationships irrepressibly emerge. Displayed in boxes, gossamer attractions among these bits and pieces reveal secrets from an alternate reality (or from this one), disruptions of meaning concealed in thoughts, feelings, dreams--anointing the mise-en-scรจne with an unexpected spirit." 

The exhibition of Zerwick's work will be on view at the Hudson Opera House through March 26.

On the Haul Road

Word is that the revised narrative about the proposed Colarusso haul road has been completed and submitted to the Greenport Planning Board and the Hudson Planning Board. It is not yet available on the City of Hudson website because the sheer size of the document is making it difficult to upload. Meanwhile, Nick Olivari, who apparently has seen the revised document, has an article about the proposed haul road in today's Register-Star: "Hudson residents remain skeptical of Colarusso proposal."

The Greenport Planning Board, which is the lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process, is expected to begin consideration of the project at its next meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, February 28. The workshop session begins at 6:30 p.m.; the regular meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Of Interest

NPR posted a feature this morning called "Spread the Word: Butter Has an Epic Backstory." It was all about a recent book entitled Butter: A Rich History. What's significant about the book, aside from the fact that it sounds truly fascinating, is that it was written by Elaine Khosrova, wife of assistant city attorney Mitch Khosrova. 


Order and Appeal on the Waterfront

On January 27, Mayor Tiffany Martin announced that Code Enforcement had issued an Order to Remedy to A. Colarusso & Sons. The specific violation cited was described as "Replacement of concrete and wood bulkhead with a steel bulkhead on loading dock without approval from the City of Hudson Planning Board as per Section 325-17.1(D) City of Hudson Code." The remedy prescribed was: "Submit a City of Hudson Planning Application to the City of Hudson Code Enforcement Office to appear at the planning board meeting no later than the March 9, 2017 meeting. All planning applications have to be submitted to the city code office 10 days prior to the meeting."

Google Maps
Ten business days prior to March 9 was yesterday, and yesterday, instead of submitting an application for review, Colarusso, through its attorney John Privitera, filed an appeal of the Order to Remedy (OTR). According to the appeal, the OTR was directed "only at the 75-foot retaining wall along the non-working, northern edge of the commercial dock that abuts a shallow, narrow inlet." It argues that the OTR is based on a misinterpretation of Hudson code, that the City was fully informed of the erosion repair project before it was undertaken, that the repair was a minor action that did not require review by the Planning Board, and that the erosion repair was in "the best interest of the the safety and welfare of the community." The appeal, which is fifteen pages long with many more pages of exhibits, states the following conclusion:
Fundamentally, the Order to Remedy is unlawful because it misinterprets the Hudson City Code with respect to local permit jurisdiction over repairs at the dock.
The Order is also deeply flawed because it is only rational and reasonable if there is something to "remedy" at the dock. There is nothing of the sort, so the Order is irrational.
The repairs cannot be undone or changed or altered without violating federal and state environmental permits. There is no improvement to review, no environmental analysis to conduct, no new site plan to study or other reasonable, lawful task for the Board to undertake.
For all of these reasons, the Order to Remedy should be deemed null and void.
The appeal was made to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which will have to act as a judicial body in the matter.

Update: The appeal and the supporting documents (Part 1 and Part 2) can now be viewed at the City of Hudson website.

Not to Be Missed

"People cannot devalue immigrant labor if they value their own food security." That statement, made by Keri Latiolais of Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, is the theme of an important article that appeared in the Register-Star yesterday: "Farmers fear loss of labor."

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Trials of Building a Bridge

In October, DPW Superintendent Rob Perry reported to the Common Council Public Works Committee that he had sent requests for an expression of interest in Hudson's Ferry Street Bridge project to four of the eleven engineering firms on the preapproved list of engineers for this region. It turns out, as Perry told the Public Works Committee this past Wednesday, he was supposed to send the request to all the preapproved firms, which, he said, total fifteen not eleven. This was done, and five firms responded: Barton & Loguidice, Creighton Manning, HVEA, GPI|Greenman-Pedersen, and Modjeski & Masters.

Perry told the committee that the firm chosen will be "in for the total project--from beginning to end." The first phase of the project is the preliminary design, which is primarily structural. Because the scope of the work and the amount of money available for it is fixed, the engineering firm will not be chosen based on lowest bid but rather on relevant experience and qualifications. According to Perry, he and the mayor, and probably also Public Works Commissioner Peter Bujanow, will be deciding which engineering firm will undertake the construction of the new bridge.

Nothing Is Ever Easy

This afternoon, the Hudson Police Officers Union reacted in a press release to the order issued by Police Commissioner Martha Harvey and Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton earlier this week. The press release reads in part:
The Members of Local 3979 want to be clear that they do not agree with the order. There exist reasonable questions as to whether the order is constitutional or whether it complies with the City Charter as claimed by the Police Commissioner and the Mayor. The Members of Local 3979, proudly serve the citizens of the City of Hudson, and in doing so, we work with and assist other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in keeping our citizens safe.
We believe that this order is a political statement by the Police Commissioner and Mayor on recent executive orders issued by President Trump. By issuing the order, the Police Commissioner and the Mayor are limiting the ability of duly sworn law enforcement officers from doing their job and enforcing the laws they are sworn to uphold. Law enforcement shouldn't be limited or modified by two individuals who have no experience in enforcing laws and keeping the community safe.
The press release calls for the order to be rescinded. Click here to read the press release in its entirety.

A Time for Nostalgia

Fifty or so years ago, those in power in Hudson, both elected and appointed, embarrassed that Hudson had been deemed to have "the worst housing stock in the entire state," decided to take advantage of the then plentiful federal Urban Renewal funds and re-imagine most of the Second Ward and all of Front Street. For those of us who weren't around during that period, what Front Street and Chapel Street and the streets that continued west beyond Front Street looked like was an intriguing mystery. We savored fleeting glimpses of pre-Urban Renewal Hudson in the film Odds Against Tomorrow and bemoaned that fact that Frank Forshew, whose 19th-century photographs of Hudson streetscapes are part of Historic Hudson's Rowles Studio Collection, didn't have the prescience to document the streets we were destined to lose.

Screen capture from Odds Against Tomorrow
Then a few years ago, Peter Cipkowski decided to digitize and share his grandfather's photographs and movies. Cipkowski's grandfather, Jozef Cipkowski (1900-1977), owned Chipp's Market, at the corner of South Front Street and Fleet Street, the continuation of Partition Street that no longer exists, from 1925 to 1970. Jozef Cipkowski was also an avid amateur photographer, documenting the life of his family through the middle years of the 20th century against the backdrop of that stretch of South Front Street.

East side of Front Street between Partition and Allen|Jozef Cipkowski
In the past couple of years, Cipkowski has shown his grandfather's pictures to standing-room-only-crowds at the Greenport Historical Society and the Hudson Area Library and has generously shared them with Gossips and online. On Monday, February 27, he will present some of those pictures in a talk called "Historic South Front Street" at the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 113 Warren Street. The event, which begins at 2 p.m., is open to the public.

Sanctuary City Resolution

Common Council committee meetings are typically scheduled to last for 45 minutes. Last night's Legal Committee meeting lasted twice that long. The lion's share of the time--one hour--was devoted to the proposed "sanctuary city" resolution. 

Interestingly, the term sanctuary city appears nowhere in the document. Instead, the title of the resolution defines its purpose as "Affirming the City of Hudson as a Welcoming and Inclusive City." Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, summarized the basic message of the resolution in this way: "Our police department has a job to do, and they are not agents of the federal government." 

Below is the full text of the resolution. Click on the images to enlarge to a more legible size.

Council president Claudia DeStefano, who sits on the Legal Committee expressed her desire that the Police Committee review the resolution, "because it is so HPD oriented." O'Hara explained that, because there is no single definition of "sanctuary city," he wanted the resolution "to be drafted in some detail before giving it to the police."

Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who also sits on the Legal Committee, offered the opinion, "We are not required to give it to the police," to which Andy Howard, legal counsel to the Council, responded, "The police department may have suggestions." Garriga said the resolution "sums up what is in the mayor's executive order." Howard corrected her, saying that the resolution was "more general." O'Hara added, "The resolution is a broader description of policy."

Generally speaking, the resolution states that officers of the Hudson Police Department will continue their current practice of not asking about the immigration or citizenship status; will not stop, question, or investigate people solely on actual or suspected immigration status issues; will not inquire into the immigration status of any crime victim, witness, or person reporting a crime; and will not assist immigration enforcement except in certain clearly defined instances involving threats to public safety or the execution of criminal warrants, or when local law enforcement cooperation is required by state or federal statute.

After entertaining many questions and comments from the audience that filled the Council Chamber, many of which dealt with issues that were beyond the scope of the resolution and authority of the Common Council, the committee members--O'Hara, Garriga, DeStefano, and Priscilla Moore (Fifth Ward)--voted unanimously to move the resolution forward, which in this case meant passing it along to the Police Committee. That committee meets on Monday, February 27, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Tuesday's Common Council Meeting

Dan Udell's video of last Tuesday's Common Council meeting is now available on YouTube. Moments of note are Third Ward alderman John Friedman's meticulous scrutiny of the bills presented for payment (2:41); a bit of tension behind the two First Ward aldermen, Rick Rector and Michael O'Hara, over whether or not the local law enacting a lodging tax was ready to be voted on (24:05); Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga's oral reading of the resolution acknowledging African American elected officials in Hudson (28:04), and Third Ward alderman Henry Haddad's critique of the police commissioner's and mayor's order regarding the Hudson Police Department and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (31:29). 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What's to Become of the Old Police Station?

With the new police and courts building soon to be open, a reader asked, in a comment, what was to become of the old police building. The answer is that the City intends to sell it, along with the building next door that housed the City Court offices on the ground floor and Code Enforcement on an upper floor. 

The question prompted me to find a post published back in June 2015, just after appraisals for the two buildings, requested by the City, had been received: "How Much Are They Worth?" Twenty months later, it still makes an interesting read.

Hudson in the Local TV News

Last night, Hudson was featured in news on CBS Channel 6 Albany: "Hudson officers told not to help ICE agent in the field."


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

About That Order

Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton speaks about the order issued by the Police Commissioner yesterday regarding the Hudson Police Department and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a Lance Wheeler video now on YouTube. Click here to view it.


Demolition in Our Historic City

A little more than a month ago, we watched in horror and sorrow as a backhoe bashed down the walls of the last remaining Hudson River Knitting Mill building, after a devastating fire had rendered it irreparably unsound.

That demolition was tragic, because the building was loved and had a bright future.

Today, the backhoe was unleashed on another Hudson building: 718-720 Union Street.

Photo: Hilary Hillman

Of no known historic significance and deemed structurally unsound after years of misuse and abuse, the building went down today, with no one to mourn its passing.

Planning Board Meeting Rescheduled

The Planning Board meeting that was to take place on February 9 had to be canceled because we were in the middle of Winter Storm Niko. A makeup meeting has been scheduled for this Thursday, February 23. 

The public hearings that were to take place on February 9--on the proposals for 886 Columbia Street, 6-12 Hudson Avenue, and 34 Allen Street--will not happen until the Planning Board's regular monthly meeting on March 9. This Thursday, the board will hear the three new proposals that were on the February 9 agenda: to convert 124 North Second Street into a manufacturing site for sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented vegetables; to use the former church building at 426-428 State Street for public events and photo shoots; to reduce the number of parking spaces and erect an 8-foot fence at 78-80 Green Street. The proposal that typically attracts a crowd to Planning Board meetings, the Colarusso haul road will likely not be discussed. That project may, however, be on the agenda for the Greenport Planning Board meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, February 28, but that agenda is not available on the Town of Greenport website.

An Executive Order of Her Own

While the Common Council Legal Committee works on a resolution to declare Hudson a sanctuary city, Police Commissioner Martha Harvey and Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton yesterday issued an "Order on the Use of City Resources and Facilities." The order directs that "no resources, facilities, or property of the City of Hudson that are ordinarily or generally in the use or control of the City of Hudson Police Department . . . shall be made available for use by agents, officers, or employees of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") except as may be required by law." The full text of the order appears below. Click on the image to enlarge.


Thanks to Bill Williams at 98.5 The Cat for bringing this to our attention

Of Interest

Yesterday, this article about Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, appeared in the Albany Times Union: "Schneiderman vies to be top Trump foe." 

Thanks to Peter Bujanow for bringing this to our attention

The End of CCCA

Last summer, the Columbia County Council on the Arts closed its gallery at 209 Warren Street. In the spring, the group had applied for funding from the City of Hudson with the intention of staging ArtsWalk, an event that has taken place every October for more than a decade, and was awarded $1,000 by the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee, but plans for the event were ultimately abandoned. Yesterday, the CCCA Board of Directors announced the end of the organization. Click here to read the board's farewell message to members and supporters.