Friday, December 19, 2014

Curious Development

The work began yesterday afternoon. By this morning, the first level of the portico at 345 Allen Street was entirely enclosed.

The purpose of the enclosure is unknown. No projects involving this house have come before the Historic Preservation Commission. Needless to say, it is impossible for even the most casual and disinterested passerby not to notice this and wonder what on earth is going on.

Stately Homes in Gingerbread

This morning, I learned that, to celebrate the imminent return of the TV series Downton Abbey, Martha Stewart has created a gingerbread replica of Highclere Castle, the stately home that is the setting for the series. You can watch the process of creating a gingerbread Downton Abbey and get directions for making your own here. (It only took the Martha Stewart team 34 hours to make it. There's still time for you to put one together before Christmas.) 

The gingerbread Downton Abbey reminded me that a dozen or so years ago, Reggie Young created a gingerbread replica of the Dr. Oliver Bronson House for Historic Hudson, aided and abetted (in rolling out the dough at least) by a small staff of Christmas elves, among them Peter Lacovara (who tipped me off about the gingerbread Downton Abbey) and I. 

The house was displayed at Rural Residence during Winter Walk that year and raffled as a fund raiser for Historic Hudson and the effort to stabilize and preserve the remarkable house.

From the Evening Register, December 19, 1914

What's Possible for the Dunn Building?

On Tuesday night, the Common Council 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 the Dunn building, one of the last surviving industrial structures on Hudson's waterfront.

In pursuing this project, which is intended to "evaluate existing conditions, inclusive of all structural and building envelop elements; and identify adaptive reuse possibilities for the building," the City is finally utilizing a grant from the Department of State that was awarded during the Tracy administration (2006-2007). The $27,500 grant must be matched by another $27,500 from the City's coffers. The match is coming from the "Firehouse Lease Account." 

It will be remembered that the Central Fire Station is not owned by the City of Hudson but by Community Initiatives Development Corporation (CIDC), with whom the City has a thirty-year lease agreement that will allow the City to buy the building in 2035, after making close to $6 million in lease payments, for only one dollar. City treasurer Heather Campbell explained that the lease payment to CIDC is subject to a variable interest rate, but the City budgets the same amount for the lease every year. Therefore, when interest rates are down, there is extra money in the Firehouse Lease Account, and some of that money is being used as the match for the grant from the Department of State. 

In a process of selecting a firm to do the study, the City issued an RFP, reviewed all the the proposals received, narrowed the candidates down to four, and conducted interviews with those four groups: SRG Architects and Barton & Loguidice; Russ Reeves and TenTwenty Architecture; Saratoga Associates; and River Architects. Saratoga Associates was chosen for the project, and Council president Don Moore expressed the opinion that "they will do a very good job."

More than a decade ago, Saratoga Associates was hired to work on the City of Hudson's Comprehensive Plan, which was completed in 2002. Their involvement with the comprehensive plan was a bit controversial since they had also been hired, during the same time, by St. Lawrence Cement to do the visual impact assessment for the "Greenport Project." At one time, Saratoga Associates website described their role in that project in this way:
This highly controversial $350 million cement manufacturing facility was proposed within the scenic and culturally significant Hudson River Valley region of New York State. Saratoga Associates served as the applicant's lead consultant on all visual impact and aesthetic mitigation issues, advising on interpretation of public policy and compliance with myriad governmental regulations. Saratoga Associates worked closely with St. Lawrence Cement and all federal, state and local regulatory agencies to design and implement creative measures that eliminate where possible or, alternately, minimize visual and aesthetic impacts in a manner that balances economic development with environmental protection.
Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of many but primarily Friends of Hudson, the project was defeated, and there was never the opportunity to find out if those "creative measures" to "eliminate where possible or, alternately, minimize visual and aesthetic impacts" actually worked.

Thanks to Sam Pratt for his research help with this post and always for his leadership role in defending Hudson: the city, the river, the valley.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

News from the Street

Gossips has been falling behind in monitoring Scott Baldinger's blog, Word on the Street, and as a consequence overlooked two posts that should not be missed: "A Madeline to Remember" and "Getting Tweaked."

From the Evening Register, December 18, 1914

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hudson's New Municipal Building

At last night's Common Council meeting, Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) provided a progress report on 701 Union Street, which soon will be known as the City of Hudson Police and Courts Center. 

According to Haddad, designs for the interior of the building, which had been agreed on two weeks ago, have since needed to be augmented, setting the project back two weeks. Part of the reason for the delay is that the police department's current facility is so woefully inadequate that it didn't provide a sufficient model for the new facility. As a consequence of the recently discovered need to amend the plans, the bid documents, which were expected to be ready by the end of the year, will not be ready until January 15. 

Haddad reported that Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, is now reviewing the plans for code compliance. The building is a noncontributing structure in a locally designated historic district, and hence the proposed redesign should be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. It is not clear when that will happen, but those in attendance at last night's Council meeting got a sneak peak at the new design.

Haddad noted that one change has been made since this rendering was created: the faux parapet on the facade will be composed of perforated steel panels rather than the material shown.

Construction is expected to begin in March 2015, to be completed around Thanksgiving 2015.

Of Interest

This "Metropolitan Diary" piece appeared in the New York Times today: "Everyone's a Preservationist."

No Fracking in New York

WAMC and the Associated Press are reporting that the Andrew Cuomo administration "will move to prohibit fracking in the state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique." Read more here.

Update: Here is the link to the New York Times coverage: "Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks."

From the Evening Register, December 17, 1914

Hudson's Loss, Hoorn's Gain

In October, Gossips reported the possibility that the replica Half Moon would find a permanent home not in Hudson, not in New York, but in the Netherlands.

That possibility is now a reality. The Board of Directors of the New Netherland Museum has announced that in 2015 the Half Moon will be going to a new home port in the City of Hoorn in the Netherlands. There it will be a living history center at the Westfries Museum, highlighting the Dutch Golden Age and its accomplishments.

It turns out that the Half Moon's journey of discovery to the New World was only part of its long history of service to the Dutch East Indies Company. The New Netherland Museum's announcement explains:
Newly discovered historic information on the ship reveals that the Half Moon was very active before Henry Hudson's voyage in the European commodity trade. After her historic 1609 Hudson voyage, the Half Moon ventured to the warm waters of the Spice Islands of the Indian Ocean as a true Dutch East Indies ship. As such, the Half Moon represents the full scale of Dutch maritime history in the beginning of the 17th century. Moreover, strong historic ties to Hoom, not in the least because the last skipper before Hudson hauled from that area, suggest that the Half Moon is not just going to Hoorn, but returning to Hoorn!  
Fare thee well, Half Moon. We'll miss seeing you in Hudson waters.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Musing About Loss and the Search for a Home

A little more than a month has passed since my beautiful William died. I am so grateful to everyone who expressed their condolences in comments on this blog, in private emails, in cards and notes, and in other wonderful and touching ways.

Not long after William died, a Gossips reader and friend concluded a lovely and sympathetic email with this thought: "No doubt you know: the only effective pain medicine is a puppy." She was right. I did know. Adopting William was the only balm for the pain of losing Niklaas, the dog who preceded William in my life.

Desperate to work my way out of the mournful funk that has descended upon me, I recently began the search to find another dog to love. Fifteen years with William convinced me that shelter dogs are the best dogs ever, so I have been spending time looking at pictures of adoptable dogs online and submitting applications to shelters and rescue groups. I want to be already approved when the dog who is "the one" becomes available. 

The application process typically involves references from people who know you and from the vet who has cared for your previous pets. Applications ask if you live in an apartment or a house, if you rent or own, if you have a fenced yard, how you plan to exercise the dog, how long the dog will be regularly left alone, where the dog will be during the day, where the dog will be at night. One application posed behavioral problems and asked you to tell how you would deal with each one. One application wanted to know how much you planned to spend annually on the care and keeping of the dog. Another wanted to know how much you could reasonably afford for treatment should the dog be diagnosed with cancer. One application required that the applicant live within 90 miles of Larchmont. (That requirement disqualified me; Hudson is 107.5 miles from Larchmont.)

It was in the context of filling out applications to adopt a dog that I discovered this news item which appeared on the front page of the Hudson Evening Register exactly one hundred years ago today, on December 15, 1914. I share it without further comment, leaving it to the reader to draw the poignant comparisons.

The S.C.A.A. is the State Charities Aid Association. I wonder if documentation survives that would allow one to discover the fate of little Louise.

You Can't Always Get What You Want . . .

When the voting was over at the end of November, the Hudson Music Series had finished eighth in the Levitt AMP Grant Awards competition. The deal was that ten of the top twenty vote getters would receive grants of $25,000 each. Hudson was eighth, they were choosing ten, we should have been a shoo in, but no. The grant recipients were announced today, and Hudson wasn't one of them. Click here to find out which community music events did get the money.

From the Evening Register, December 15, 1914

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Conservation Consternation

Back in June, the Common Council unanimously voted to create a Conservation Advisory Council (CAC). For a while it seemed that the mayor might try to block the Council's action, out of concern that a CAC might reduce or limit the mayor's powers, but in the end, he signed the legislation. Six months later, however, no one has yet been appointed by the Council to the CAC. The situation is unfortunate because it seems the City could benefit right now from some objective expert opinion in the area of conservation.

Last week, the Regional Economic Development Councils announced this year's grant awards. Two of them, awarded to projects proposed for Hudson, seem to be at cross purposes. Columbia County was awarded $131,250 to design a recreational and natural trail in the Hudson North Bay Recreation and Natural Center, and the City of Hudson was awarded $600,000 to direct untreated storm water to that very place--the Hudson North Bay.

Photo: Columbia Land Conservancy
The Stormwater Separation Project, for which the City was awarded $600,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, is meant to address the problems of our combined sewer system, in which storm water and sewage from homes and businesses flows through the same underground mains to the waste water treatment plant. The major problem with combined sewer systems are combined sewer overflows (CSOs). During major storm events, rain water overwhelms the system, the waste water treatment plant cannot handle the volume, and untreated sewage spills into North Bay.  

Before the waste water treatment plant was upgraded in 2011, CSOs were fairly common. Today, with a waste water treatment plant that can handle 17 million gallons a day, CSOs occur much less frequently, but they still happen. For example, in May 2013, Rob Perry reported to the Common Council Public Works Committee that for 23 minutes, during a torrential rainstorm in the middle of the night, untreated waste water spilled into North Bay.

Everyone agrees that CSOs are a bad thing, but not everyone agrees that the plan the City is proposing to address the problem is the best course of action. Before the grant application was submitted, Dan Shapley of Riverkeeper sent a letter to Mayor William Hallenbeck urging him to "consider the impacts of discharging untreated storm water to North Bay on the Hudson River, part of the state-designated 'Significant Fish and Wildlife Habitat' known as Stockport Creek and Flats." Pointing out that storm water runoff "contains salts, oils, trash, sediments and other pollutants that can harm the ecosystem of the Bay and the River," Shapley urged the mayor to "consider actions that will reduce turbidity and rate of flow before storm water is discharged."

Among the comments made in 2010 on the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS), prepared in conjunction with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), was this one from Michael T. Higgins of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:    
3.7.7 Comment: Redirecting storm water flows into South Bay would likely have a negative impact on the wetland and would be in direct conflict with other priorities within the LWRP that include protecting a[nd] restoring South Bay. (Michael T. Higgins, NYS DEC/Research Reserve Staff, March 26, 2010).
3.7.7 Response: Comment noted. Hydrological and ecological studies, among others, would be required as part of the process for any future plan to redirect storm water flows into the South Bay from the City's CSO system.
Will hydrological and ecological studies be done before storm water flows are directed into the North Bay? If not, why not? It seems appropriate. There's a plan in the works to develop North Bay as a recreation and natural center.

It might be assumed that because the grant was awarded, the project as proposed has passed muster, but that apparently is not the case. The $600,000 for the project is coming from New York State Community Development Block Grant funds, which are federal funds, and therefore, according to the Regional Economic Development Councils guidelines, the project is subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act.

So it seems an environmental review process must be carried out before the project can actually be undertaken. It would be nice if there were a CAC in place to offer input throughout this process and to help the City find ways to implement green infrastructure to ensure that the efforts to achieve storm water separation will not negatively impact the North Bay, the South Bay, or the river.

Fall Expo at Kite's Nest Today

From 2 to 4 p.m. today, Kite's Nest is holding its Fall Expo. Over the past few months, the young people at Kite's Nest have been building their own shelters, creating their own spaces, writing  their own mythologies, documenting the passing of time, making their voices heard, and learning to heal themselves and others. Today they share what they have accomplished.

Kite's Nest is located at 108 South Front Street.

From the Evening Register, December 14, 1914

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Hundred Years Ago in Hudson

On December 11, 1914, a new school opened in Hudson. It was described as a "book school," and it was part of the New York State Training School for Girls. Ten years earlier, in 1904, the Girls' Training School succeeded the Women's House of Refuge as the institution occupying the buildings that now comprise the Hudson Correctional Facility. 

The following is the article that appeared in the Hudson Evening Register for December 12, 1914, reporting the opening ceremonies.

Yesterday afternoon the State Training School celebrated the opening of their new book-school building. The whole school assembled in the chapel at 2 o'clock. There Dr. Bruce told them how the celebration was to rejoice in the disappearance of the old prison building as well as in the possession of the new school building which replaces it. Miss Reiffert, one of the managers, told them how each is responsible for the success of her own life and how the using of what what they learn here is like the polishing of the jewel which will be set in their crowns at the Great Day to reflect God's smile. Mrs. Allen, another manager, spoke of the book-school as the head school and said it is given the central position among the buildings because the head leads the hands and feet. Dr. Wilson, who has been so long on the board, expressed his lasting interest in the school and reminded the girls that the best way to use what they learn here is in helping others. Miss Hinkley, the president, spoke of the new building as a gift to the girls from the taxpayers of the State, and showed them how the spirit which they carry into the building and hand on to those who come after them will dedicate the building and make it a place of joy and hard work.
The girls sang "America," "The Star Spangled Banner," and "Fatherland," and saluted the flag. The most impressive part of the ceremony was the reciting of the Declaration of Independence by the twenty girls of grades seven and eight. The preamble was spoken in unison; then one after one, twenty girls added each an item to the reasons why the rule of the British king had become intolerable and liberty indispensable. And then came the sonorous close in unison.
After this the whole company went across to the new building, where they inspected the Christmas gifts made by the girls for each other and for their one hundred companions out on parole, looked at the building and wound up with a reception to the three hundred girls and sixty-five officers by the following members of the Board of Managers: Miss Hinkley, Dr. Wilson, Mrs. Allen, Miss Reiffert, Mr. Brennan and Mrs. Peabody; and by Dr. Gertrude E. Hall, of Albany, and Mr. Rowley, of Hudson.