Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Ulysses Grant at the Library

During the final week of September, a play called Grant & Twain will be performed at PS21 in Chatham. On Thursday evening, August 23, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the creator of that play, Elizabeth Diggs, will be sharing her vast knowledge of Ulysses Grant at the Hudson Area Library, in a lecture entitled "The Enigma of Ulysses Grant."

At the end of the Civil War, Grant was idolized by both North and South. He toured the world for more than two years and was received everywhere by enormous crowds.

Grant with Chinese Governor-General Li Hongzhang in 1879 | Photo: Liang Shitai
Diggs says of Grant's world tour: "He was welcomed by the common people as their hero and by queens and princes as a great man. Known as one of the greatest horsemen of the century as well as a brilliant military leader, he was expected to ride at the head of parades in full military regalia. But he refused. Instead, he explored the world's cities, often alone and on foot, among the common people--a true ambassador for democracy."

Diggs continues: "Grant rose to greatness as a military leader, as President, and as a writer. Yet, he was not ambitious. He hated war, he disliked politics, and he never intended to write his memoirs. When he was forced to pick up his pen due to financial necessity, his book was proclaimed as one of the greatest memoirs of all time."

The lecture, which takes place on Thursday, August 23, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., is free. The library is located at 51 North Fifth Street. More information is available at www.HudsonAreaLibrary.org.

Following Up

On Thursday, Gossips reported the legislation that would create an independent New York State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct was on Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk awaiting his signature. He had until last night to sign it, and he did. The law establishes an eleven-member commission, appointed by the governor, the Legislature, and the state's chief judge to investigate claims of misconduct by New York State district attorneys and their assistants. WAMC reported this morning that the governor said the law "will root out any potential abuses of power and will give New Yorkers comfort that there is a system of checks and balances in the criminal justice system." 

WAMC also noted that the legislation was opposed by the District Attorneys Association of New York State and reported that Queens DA Richard Brown maintains the law is unconstitutional and will support expected litigation against it.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Stay Here: Hudson, NY

Readers who stream Netflix can now watch an episode--episode #6--of Stay Here, Netflix's real estate reality show, that documents the transformation of the mustard-colored building on South Seventh Street, between Governor's Tavern and Iron Horse Cigar Depot, from what is described by its owner as a "money pit" into a moneymaker. The show demonstrates very clearly the motivation for converting buildings in Hudson into short-term rentals.

The owner originally intended to develop the ground floor as a retail space and the upper two floors as an apartment. For this reason, he petitioned the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness to turn the ground floor window at the left into a door, to give access to the retail space, and to cut windows in the large doors under the oriel, because retail spaces need windows. The certificate of appropriateness was granted, and the alterations were made, as seen in this screen capture from Stay Here.

The plan was to rent the retail space for $1,500 a month and the apartment for $2,000 a month, for a total of $3,500 a month. In the Stay Here episode, it is calculated that if the entire building were to be used for short-term rental, the monthly income could be $6,000, for an annual total of $72,000. Presented with this option, the owner, who had already invested close to half a million dollars in the building ($355,000 to buy it and $100,000 on rehabbing it), opted to develop it for short-term rental.

The episode of Stay Here portrays Hudson in a very favorable light. There is wonderful drone photography of the city, and the reality show principals, especially designer Genevieve Gorder, appear to have been tutored in Hudson history. What some Hudsonians may object to, though, is the show's message, aimed it seems at folks who live in Manhattan, that Hudson is "the perfect place to start a short-term rental."

I, of course, have some pedantic observations about the show. Early on, the owner says that the foundation of the building, which throughout the show is referred to as a carriage house, dates from 1789. I don't claim to know the history of this building, and I am genuinely curious to know the evidence that is the basis for this statement. In the 18th century, the city did not extend any farther east than Fourth Street. According to Franklin Ellis' History of Columbia County, Seventh Street was laid out in 1801, at the same time Union Street and Cherry Alley were extended. So if a building existed on that site in 1789, it faced a street that didn't exist yet.

The building, known as Hudson River Carriage House, today
Design details of the building--the pitched gable roof, the overhanging eaves, elaborate truss at the gable end, and the decorative wood trim over the windows and doors--are characteristic of Stick Style, which was popular from around 1860 to 1890. Of course, these elements, along with the oriel, could have been added to a much older building, but the Beers atlas maps of Hudson for 1873 and 1888 show no building on this site.

Detail of Beers Altas map for 1873
Detail of Beers Atlas map for 1888
It seems more likely to me that the building was constructed in 1889 not 1789, but give or take a hundred years, it's still old.

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

Tonight, which promises to be very pleasant, is an evening off for meeting goers. The fun begins tomorrow.
  • On Tuesday, August 21, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. and the formal Common Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Despite the fact that at the informal Council meeting last week, Council president Tom DePietro maintained that the formal meeting of the Council had to take place at City Hall and admonished the mayor when he suggested otherwise, "Read your code," both meetings will take place not at City Hall but at 1 North Front Street.
  • Also on Tuesday, August 21, there's a followup event after the Common Council meeting. Rebecca Wolff announced on Facebook over the weekend a "Common Council After-party" at the Half Moon. The invitation to the event reads in part: "The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce. The After-party starts after the meeting. If you can't make it to the meeting just come to the After-party and we'll fill you in. 'No surprises for After-partiers' is our motto. Live no longer in the dark on municipal life. Civic engagement is a stealth weapon. THIS WILL HAPPEN EVERY MONTH."
  • On Wednesday, August 22, there is only one meeting. The Hudson IDA (Industrial Development Agency) is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. at 1 North Front Street "for the purpose of discussing any matters that may be presented to the Agency for consideration." That's a pretty open-ended agenda. The Common Council Legal Committee meeting, which was scheduled for 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, has been canceled.
  • On Thursday, August 23, the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets at 6 p.m. The meeting, for which no agenda is yet available, is expected to take place at City Hall.
  • On Friday, August 24, the Historic Preservation Commission holds its second meeting for the month of August at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

Of Interest

Yesterday, the editorial board of the New York Times made an endorsement in the four-way race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general: "Zephyr Teachout Is the Right Choice as Attorney General for Democrats." The editorial, which is recommended reading, concludes:
We believe that Democrats who are seeking a means of standing up to the Trump presidency and graft in Albany can find in Ms. Teachout their most effective champion for democracy and civil rights, good government and the environment, workers' rights, fair housing and gender equality.
Teachout at Basilica Hudson in 2014
The other contenders in the Democratic primary are Letitia James, who has been endorsed by Governor Cuomo; Leecia Eve, who served as counsel to Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton when they were in the Senate; and Sean Patrick Maloney, who is also running for reelection as congressman in New York's 18th District.

The state primary, which is to nominate the Democratic candidate for governor (Andrew Cuomo or Cynthia Nixon) and lieutenant governor (Kathy Hochul or Jumaane Williams), as well as attorney general, takes place on Thursday, September 13. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Great War: August 20, 1918

Today we know that the centennial of the end of World War I is just a few months away. The armistice that ended the fighting was signed on November 11, 1918. But in August 1918, it wasn't clear to anyone that the war was nearing an end. The United States had just upped the age of legibility for the draft to 45, and for the first time men who were fathers could be drafted. Remarkable to us a century later, at least to those of us who are not World War I historians, there were predictions that the war would continue for at least another year. A hundred years ago today, on August 20, 1918, the following appeared on the front page of the Columbia Republican.

At the bottom of the front page of the Columbia Republican for August 20, 1918, as was true of every front page of the weekly paper during this time, there was a picture of the latest batch of inductees, posed on the steps of the courthouse.


Another Opinion About Local Law No. 5

On Friday, August 10, Gossips reported about a letter from former city attorney Ken Dow advising the Planning Board to recommend that the Common Council not enact Local Law No. 5, the law that would amend the zoning in R2 and R2H districts as it pertains to nonconforming uses. On Monday, August 13, Planning Board chair Walter Chatham received another letter on the subject, this one from John Friedman, a lawyer, who served three terms as Third Ward alderman, two of them as chair of the Legal Committee. 

Friedman makes the message of his letter clear in the first paragraph: "I strongly urge the [Planning] Board to recommend that this legislation not be enacted." The letter continues:
I have no objection to either [Stewart's or Scali's] expanding in the manner in which they have each indicated they wish to. Unfortunately, the solution encapsulated in the proposed local law is legally flawed for a number of reasons. There issues have more than adequately been addressed by Ken Dow's cogent and learned memo. . . .
Friedman goes on to recommend a "better and legal approach to solving the issue of commercial development in areas where it is not otherwise permitted by the City's existing zoning code": a commercial overlay.
Properly drafted, this statutory device permits a property owner in specific circumstances to petition the Board to have such an overlay placed in a specific location subject to Board-mandated operational parameters. This is a rather well-understood mechanism for solving the need for neighborhood-anchoring commercial spaces (such as bodegas, taverns, laundromats, etc.) in districts where such development is prohibited by zoning, while simultaneously protecting the integrity of the neighborhood fabric. I strongly urge the Board (and the Council) to research this option as it can often obviate issues surrounding spot zoning and legislative licensing. I also strongly urge the Board to advise the Common Council to vote "no" on proposed Local Law No. 5.
The recommendation of a commercial overlay brought to mind the Green Street Overlay District proposed by Stewart's in January, so I asked Friedman if that proposal was what he had in mind. He told me it was not, but the concept was the same. What he was recommending was a "commercial corner overlay," which presumably could be applied to areas throughout the city where there are historic nonconforming commercial uses in residential districts and not just in R2 and R2H districts.

What's next for Local Law No. 5, which is now "ripening" on the aldermen's desks, is not clear. At the Planning Board meeting on August 9, Council president Tom DePietro indicated there was a "time limit" for the Planning Board to make a recommendation about the law, intimating that the Council could move ahead without waiting for input from the Planning Board. The monthly Legal Committee meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, August 22, has been canceled, but John Rosenthal, who chairs the Legal Committee, has been invited to appear at the next Planning Board meeting, on Thursday, September 13, to explain the thinking behind proposed Local Law No. 5. On Monday, August 13, DePietro announced a plan to create a Planning Task Force to, among other things, "encompass the discussions" of Local Law No. 9 of 2017 and Local Law No. 5 of 2018, both amendments to the zoning code having to do with nonconforming uses in residential districts. More information about that task force is promised to be presented at the next Common Council meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, August 21, at 7 p.m., not at City Hall but at 1 North Front Street. 

Thoughts About Supermarkets

This evening, Bill Williams of 95.5 The Cat contacted Gossips to say that the second part of the supermarket rumor has been confirmed. ShopRite is indeed moving to the Price Chopper location, farther out on Fairview Avenue: "Hudson Price Chopper to close, ShopRite to move." Williams reported on Friday morning: "ShopRite is moving. We're told they will be moving into the current Price Chopper and former thrift shop next door. The new ShopRite will have a pharmacy and auto repair center. That move is expected before the end of the year." (I won't bother to point out that neither Price Chopper nor ShopRite is actually in Hudson.)

Hudson is a food desert, a USDA designation earned because, for most residents of the city, there is no supermarket within one mile. Using a location below Third Street as the starting point, ShopRite, our closest supermarket, is 2.1 miles away, and Price Chopper, soon to be the new location of ShopRite, is 3.2 miles away. For people who don't own cars, these distances are significant. There are plans to relocate Aldi's to a new retail center planned for the current site of McDonald's, where Healy Boulevard meets Fairview Avenue. Aldi's will be the anchor store, a new McDonald's its centerpiece. The proposal for the new retail development is currently before the Greenport Planning Board. The new Aldi's would be marginally closer to Hudson than the current ShopRite, but ShopRite is expected to move before the end of the year, and there's no telling how long it will be before Aldi's new location is constructed.

At the second DRI public workshop, Larisa Ortiz, the retail specialist on the planning team assigned to Hudson, reported that Hudson residents spend $5 million annually at the supermarkets of Greenport. She also asserted that Hudson could support a 10,000 square foot grocery store. To put that in perspective, the Golub Corporation, which, in addition to abandoning its Greenport site, is rebranding and changing the name of its stores to "Market 32," built a new store last year in Fort Edward. The Schenectady Daily Gazette reported at the time that the new supermarket, around 41,000 square feet, is among the smallest in the chain. According to Golub CEO, "the size that works best" is 55,000 to 65,000 square feet. The article in the Daily Gazette helpfully points out: "Counting the end zones, a U.S. football field is 57,600 square feet."

Gossips research finds that the only supermarket chain with stores as small as 10,000 square feet is Trader Joe's.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Supermarket Shuffle

The rumor that's been swirling around for months now was confirmed yesterday in the Register-Star: the Price Chopper in Greenport is closing. The family-owned, regional supermarket chain headquartered in Schenectady is closing the store on Fairview Avenue "because of the area's economic downturn." That's according to a spokesperson for the Golub Corporation Mona Golub. 

The article notes that Price Chopper opened a store in Greenport forty years ago. That store was located in what is now Movieplex 8. Golub is quoted in the article as saying, "Back then that part of town was a good place to do business. Now, the population has decreased and the traffic has declined and other local retailers have either relocated or left the area." That strikes me as a rather curious perception. It's noted in the article that the current store, which opened about twenty years ago and which I've always considered too big, preferring the smaller and closer ShopRite, is "one of the company's smallest and older stores." I guess in the chain store business--be it supermarket or convenience store--bigger and newer are always better.

The rumor has a second part, which I seriously hope is not true: ShopRite, which is closer and more convenient for us Hudsonians, is moving to the current Price Chopper location. It seems to me, if Price Chopper is closing the store because of "the area's economic downturn," the decrease in population, and the decline in traffic, those same woes would beset ShopRite in that location, which in its present location seems to be a bustling and thriving concern.

Foster's Remediation Complete. Now What?

At the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meeting on Wednesday, DPW superintendent Rob Perry reported that, after ten years, the cleanup of the brownfield that was Foster Refrigerator was almost complete.

Photo by Gibson
Perry reported that the area was being hydroseeded, and yesterday morning when Gossips visited the site it appeared that process had been completed. The grass will start sprouting in about a week.

What remains is for the City to decide what to do with this newly remediated parcel. In April 2012, Mayor William Hallenbeck had the idea of using the site for a dog park. Dog park advocates were enthusiastic about the possibility for several reasons:
  • It is several thousand square feet and is already surrounded by a fairly new six-foot chain link fence.
  • There is ample space to create separate areas for large dogs and small dogs.
  • It is large enough to ensure that dogs can exercise there and not just use it to relieve themselves.
  • The site is not located in a high-density residential area where neighbors might be disturbed by barking dogs.
  • There is ample room for parking.
  • The site has an existing water supply. 
But alas, in 2012, the City had no money to clean up the site. In 2015, when the Department of Environmental Conservation undertook to clean up the site, at a cost of close to a million dollars with a 10 percent match from the City, the site was being eyed for a parking lot and entrance way to the hiking trails that were part of the Columbia Land Conservancy's Concept Master Plan for North Bay. Now that the site has been cleaned up, it is not clear what it will be used for. 

At Wednesday's Public Works and Parks Committee meeting, Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) asked Perry about potential uses for the site. His answer indicated that it could be used for just about anything so long as the use involved building up and not down into the ground. Given that, in this city desperate for affordable housing, someone is sure to suggest it could be used for some kind of housing development, no matter that it would be adjacent to a manufacturing plant and the waste water treatment plant. Gossips, however, is of the opinion that it would make a perfect dog park.

Dog owners in Hudson have been advocating for a dog park for close to a decade. Last year, Mayor Tiffany Martin, nearing the end of her term in office, decided to make good on the promise of a dog park and determined in October that the best location for a dog park was the underutilized Charles Williams Park. A dog park had, after all, been part of the original plan for the park.

The people who live in the five houses adjacent to the park vehemently protested the plan to site the dog park there. In December, the Common Council passed a resolution opposing creating a dog park in Charles Williams Park and calling on the mayor to "explore constructing a dog park at another location within the City of Hudson." In the discussion preceding the vote on the resolution, Rick Rector, then mayor elect and First Ward alderman, said, "I don't think we can completely erase [Charles Williams Park] as a possibility, because there are not a lot of possibilities, but I will as the next mayor convene a conversation with the community about the best possible place to have a dog park." 

The resolution was vetoed by then mayor Tiffany Martin, who asserted that she had determined Charles Williams Park the logical choice, "after evaluating every available green space owned by the City of Hudson." When the mayor's veto message was received by the Council, it was January, and there was a new Council and a new mayor. The Council did not vote to override the veto. Instead Council president Tom Depietro observed that the mayor who had vetoed the resolution was no longer the mayor and promised, "The entire issue will be revisited by the Council and the mayor."

We are now eight months into the terms of the new Council and the new mayor, and the topic of the dog park has not been revisited in any public way. Let's hope when it is the newly remediated brownfield that a previous mayor identified as the possible site of the dog park will be among the green spaces owned by the City of Hudson under consideration. In Gossips' opinion, it would be the best possibility.

Friday, August 17, 2018

A Unique Opportunity on Saturday

Tomorrow, Saturday, August 18, Hudson Hall invites the public to visit the charming Livingston home of Bruno Pasquier-Desvignes for "The Unicorn Party," a late summer garden soiree and open house celebrating the work of this iconic Hudson Valley artist. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase any of the thousands of artworks on display and even the house itself.

A special preview showing for friends of Hudson Hall takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow, followed by an open house and public sale from 2 to 5 p.m. To make a reservation for the preview, click here. For more information about the event, including the location of the house, click here

Update: Online reservations for the members-only preview have closed. Current friends of Hudson Hall and those seeking to become friends to attend the preview are asked to see a member of the Hudson Hall staff upon arrival.

Filled with wonderfully expressive sculptures made from found and recycled materials, paintings, etchings, murals, and musical whirligigs, Pasquier-Desvignes' home is a one-of-a-kind installation of this unique artist's life work.


Pasqueir-Desvignes is of the same generation of artists who sparked Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop Art, and other "isms," while being fully attuned with the less genre-bound artistic experiments of the early Modernists. Born in the village of Saint-Lager, near Lyon, France, in 1930, he has lived in Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, and Asia. His home encapsulates, through his art, many of these experiences, and his larger than life presence.

In 1995, Pasquier-Desvignes was approached by his famous film producer neighbors, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, to create paintings and drawings for their film Surviving Picasso. An artist and friend, R. O. Blechman explains: "When Merchant-Ivory asked Bruno to create Picasso-like drawings for their film Surviving Picasso, little did they guess that they would get Picasso-Plus drawings. And when I saw his little metal sculptures, little did I guess that I would be looking at several Calder-Plus sculptures."

Pasquier-Desvignes' work is of infinite creativity and playfulness. He made an animated version of the French epic poem The Song of Roland with corks and toothpicks, filled Grand Central Station with his sculptures, and created a short-lived but much heralded installation of Rube Goldberg-like contraptions at the Emerson Resort in the Catskills, home to the world's largest kaleidoscope. For the anniversary of Robert Fulton's first steamboat on the Hudson, he created a junk barge that sailed the river.

The special preview takes place tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the public sale is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Click here for more information.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Reminder About Comments

Totally anonymous comments will not be published on this blog. I don't care if you adopt a synonym that you use consistently, but you must distinguish yourself in some way.

Awaiting the Governor's Signature

In July 2017, the Common Council passed a resolution calling for the New York State Legislature to pass S.2412B/A.5285A to create an independent New York State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct "specifically designed to investigate complaints of misconduct by prosecutors and impose discipline on prosecutors who violate the law." The issue and the resolution was introduced to the Council by Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga.

Creating a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct would allow a fair procedure for the public to voice concerns regarding improper prosecution, lack of prosecution, and selective prosecution. Specifically, the commission would:
  • receive complaints and initiate their own investigation when it appears prosecutorial misconduct may have occurred;
  • ensure the right to a fair trial by enforcing the obligation of prosecutors to observe acceptable standards of conduct and to establish accountability for the conduct of prosecutors during the performance of their functions, powers, and duties;
  • allow citizens to voice their concerns over improper prosecution and have the ability to discipline a prosecutor or allow him or her to clear their name of wrongdoing.
In June 2018, the legislation was passed overwhelmingly in the State Senate and the Assembly, and it is now on the governor's desk awaiting his signature. He has until Monday night to sign the legislation. On Tuesday, the editorial board of the New York Times urged the governor to do so: "Prosecutors Need a Watchdog." In the editorial, it is noted that "A review of 250 exonerations in New York since 1989 found that one-third involved prosecutorial misconduct, like tampering with key evidence, withholding evidence from the defendant or coercing a witness to give false testimony." The editorial concludes:
Mr. Cuomo has made criminal-justice reform a signature of his long career in public service; as governor he's overseen the shuttering of more than a dozen prisons and restored voting rights to tens of thousands of New Yorkers on parole. He knows as well as anyone that prosecutorial misconduct is a serious and stubborn problem that has largely defied solution. By signing this bill, he would move New York in the right direction, as well as set an important example for the rest of the nation.
In a press release received yesterday from the coalition called "It Could Happen to You," Garriga is quoted as saying: "Legislation that would be first in the nation, legislation that is a model for the rest of the country. Yes, I believe the governor wants to be on the right side of history."

A Relic Discovered Beneath the Street

At the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meeting last night, DPW superintendent Rob Perry shared the picture of a piece of wooden water pipe discovered while excavating for the sewer separation project on lower Columbia Street. This morning, he provided Gossips with three pictures of the relic.

The pipe, which is essentially a hollowed out log, is a remnant of Hudson's earliest municipal water system. It is currently residing in the entrance to the water treatment plant at the top of Rossman Avenue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Eger Communications and Blue Hill

More than two weeks ago, Gossips linked to an article in the Register-Star that reported Congressman John Faso was calling for the FCC to move forward with the plans for Eger Communications to build a new tower on Blue Hill, in the Olana viewshed: "Another Faso Misstep." That article quoted Faso as saying, "This is a simple replacement and upgrade that is vital for our local emergency communication capability."

Frederic Edwin Church, Our Banner in the Sky, 1861
Courtesy the Olana State Historic Site
Needless to say, there is more to the story than what was presented by Faso in his call for the FCC to get off the dime. The rest of the story is explained in a letter by Sean Sawyer, president of The Olana Partnership, and Jeff Anzevino, director of land use advocacy for Scenic Hudson, which appeared in the Register-Star on Monday: "My View: Providing the public with the full story." The letter reveals that Eger Communications has refused to participate in a Section 106 Historic Review, as defined by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and recently "appealed directly to the White House, members of Congress, and other elected officials to push the FCC to quickly approve the project." The letter, which can be accessed here, is recommended reading.

Recent Appointments to the Regulatory Boards

The Planning Board started the year with three vacancies--two because Tom DePietro and Rob Bujan had become elected officials and hence ineligible to serve on the Planning Board. In January, Mayor Rick Rector appointed Betsy Gramkow to the Planning Board, and in April, he appointed John Cody. The final vacancy was filled last week, when Rector appointed Mark Morgan-Perez to the Planning Board. Morgan-Perez, who has an extensive background in real estate development and project management, served on Mayor Tiffany Martin's Housing Task Force, the body that created the Strategic Housing Action Plan. He also was recently appointed to the board of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC).

In recent weeks, Rector also appointed Paul Barrett to replace David Voorhees, who stepped down after serving for twelve years as the historian member of the Historic Preservation Commission. A local historian, Barrett has lectured in Hudson on the mansions that surrounded Lyndhurst during the Golden Age of Tarrytown and on the social history of the Hudson Armory. He has done extensive research on "The Pines" and the Farrand family and frequently shares his discoveries about Hudson history with Gossips.

Monday Night at City Hall

Dan Udell's video of Monday night's informal Common Council meeting can now be viewed here

Of particular interest is Council president Tom DePietro's announcement that the Common Council is going to form a Planning Task Force "to encompass the discussions" of Local Law No. 9 of 2017 and Local Law No. 5 of 2018, both amendments to the zoning code having to do with nonconforming uses in residential districts. He indicated that "all relevant agencies--HDC, HCDPA, Zoning, and Planning" would be involved, and the task force would assist with the LWRP, DRI, and "any other group that needs help with planning for housing or other related projects." He also promised that "full details" about the task force would be provided at the formal Council meeting on Tuesday, August 21. DePietro's comments about the task force begin at 18:30 in the video.

Fifth Ward alderman Eileen Halloran's concerns about historic preservation and her ideas for changing the law begin at 19:40 in the video.