Friday, November 21, 2014

It Isn't Over Until It's Over

The word from the Board of Elections is that the ballots that were set aside on Tuesday, Wednesday, and part of yesterday will be counted on Monday.

A Historic Ghost Story

Among the treasures Gossips recently inherited is a booklet published in 1987 on the occasion of the sesquicentennial of the Town of Greenport. It was prepared by the Greenport Historical Society, and it is a goldmine of information and lore about the area surrounding Hudson that seceded from the city in 1837. One story, which is particularly appealing, has to do with Hudson Bush Farm. Readers who have visited Hudson Bush Farm, attended a party or fundraiser there, or toured the spectacular gardens on a Garden Conservancy Open Day may never have realized that this splendid early house was once believed to be haunted. Here is the story, as it appeared in Greenport: The Forgotten Town.

Photo: Rural Intelligence
In Greenport there is an old house long suspected of being haunted. Known years ago as "Hudson Bush," it was the home of Henry I. Van Rensselaer, one of the landed gentry of his day. "Young Harry," as he was called, was a colonel in the Revolutionary Army where he served with pride and distinction.
When he returned from the wars, he took up his former aristocratic life, entertaining many people, a custom in those princely homes where there were many servants. Since he retired early, at 9 p.m. he handed each guest a tallow dip which served as a hint that it was bedtime. Later, he would return to his handsome dining room in his dressing gown and pour three glasses of Madeira wine which he would then drink, voicing three solitary toasts: "To my Country!" "To General Washington!" "To Harry Van Rensselaer!"
Years afterward, the house was said to be haunted, and no one would live there. Then a brave man rented it. After staying two nights without incident, he planned to bring his family. The third night as he sat before the fireplace alone, the door at one end of the broad hall began to rattle. When he went to see who was there, the door at the other end took up the clatter. Then the whole parlor and finally the rest of the house shivered ominously. The man was so frightened that he went all the way to Hudson and spent the night.
The next day he complained to the landlord who said, "Oh, that was only old Col. Harry. He wants his nightcap!" He explained about the three glasses of wine, and the tenant agreed to try to appease the ghost. That night, he set out three glasses of claret, but the rattling was repeated, and he ran out, sleeping all night in the barn. Again he contacted the landlord and told him about the claret. "Oh no!" said this host, "He wouldn't want claret. Only Madeira will do." That night, the tenant tried again, using Madeira wine for the toasts, and the rattling was not heard. It seems that the ghost of old Harry was finally satisfied.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Barrett Victory Confirmed

Today, at 2:15 p.m., John Ciampoli, attorney for the Kelsey campaign, announced that he had been directed to stop scrutinizing absentee ballots before they were opened and counted. At that point, 813 absentee ballots had already been considered, and 192 had been set aside, principally because of objections from Ciampoli on the basis of "qualifications." He regularly questioned voters' qualifications to vote in Columbia County because absentee ballots had been sent to an address in New York City or New Jersey or because there was some reason to believe that an address in Columbia County was that of a second home. By this afternoon, it had become clear that, even after all the absentee ballots cast by second home owners (who are typically also registered Democrats) had been set aside, Didi Barrett's lead over Mike Kelsey was steadily increasing, and, with only the absentee ballots from one district in Greenport and all of Hudson and Livingston left to be counted, it was not possible for Kelsey to close the gap.


Throwback Thursday on Gossips

Here is another picture found in the c. 1975 newspaper supplement "New Life for an Old City: A Decade of Revitalization/Hudson, New York." 

The picture presents a challenge to all the HBBs (Hudson Born and Bred) who may be reading Gossips. Who are these very '70s young people striking a pose on Promenade Hill?

The Evolution of a Building

Recently a newspaper supplement called "New Life for an Old City: A Decade of Revitalization/Hudson, New York" came into my possession. Strangely, for such a historic document, it was undated, but it is possible to surmise that the decade in question was 1965 to 1975. It contained two pictures of the Washington Hose Company firehouse--one taken before 1965, when the firehouse was still surrounded by other historic buildings; the other taken after the firehouse had been restored as part of Urban Renewal. Those two pictures are shared below, followed by a picture of the firehouse as it appears today. 


Busy at the Board of Elections

Yesterday, Sam Pratt reported on the progress of the absentee ballot count in Columbia County: "Barrett slowly but steadily extends lead over Kelsey." Today, Arthur Cusano reports on the progress in the Register-Star: "The counting continues." If you look closely at the photograph that accompanies Cusano's report, you will understand why there have been few posts on Gossips in the past few days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Last Night at City Hall

The mayor's hearing on the budget lasted all of three minutes. The mayor opened the hearing, acknowledged that he had received written comments from Steve Dunn, and proclaimed that those wishing to comment "shall rise from their seat and state their name." No one rose from his or her seat to make a comment, and thus the hearing was promptly closed.

The most newsworthy part of all that transpired at City Hall last night came after the Council had run through the agenda of its regular November meeting. The room was filled to overflowing with people who had turned out to defend the Savoia. Incited by John Mason's report in the Register-Star about the Police Committee meeting on October 27, "Closing time for bars under scrutiny," and believing that the Council would be discussing the Savoia, a large contingent of Savoia patrons came out to speak of the importance of the bar to Hudson's African American community and to praise its proprietor, Barbara Walthour.

John Mason reports on the event in today's Register-Star: "Support for the Savoia brings out large crowd." Interestingly, the Register-Star seems to have had prior knowledge of the community's plans to attend the Council meeting. Register-Star photographer, David Lee was on hand to take pictures, and earlier in the day Register-Star reporter Arthur Cusano had interviewed Walthour.

What was interesting about the event was that it took so long to dispel the misconception that the Common Council was or even could entertain the idea of shutting the Savoia down. Finally, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) asked rhetorically and with some exasperation, "Could we stop this charade? We can't do anything."

The situation seemed to be clarified toward the end of the discussion, when a Savoia patron, who identified himself for Gossips only as Randall, alleged that "the police department is doing unfair reporting [about the Savoia] to the [New York State] Liquor Authority." He attested that the Savoia was "probably one of the strictest and most well-run establishments." To these comments, Council president Don Moore responded, "We either have to have faith in what the police tell us or not."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ramping Up Hudson

There are now ramps at the Columbia County courthouse--ramps that got an AIA Westchester Hudson Valley 2014 Design Award Citation for their sensitivity to and compatibility with the historic building to which they were added.

Then there is the not yet completed ramp that is part of the PARC Foundation linear park, which by day looks like a tangle of steel and by night like a UFO has landed on Columbia Street.

There is another ramp on the horizon for Hudson--one that will give handicapped access to historic Promenade Hill and the scenic vistas that can be enjoyed from that prospect.

Last Tuesday, a resolution was introduced in the Common Council, "authorizing the seeking of grant funding for the development of a handicapped accessible ramp for Promenade Hill Park." The resolution states that "the Common Council will develop a grant proposal for a handicapped accessible ramp for Promenade Hill Park to be submitted in the Spring of 2015" and "the Common Council will set aside up to $20,000.00 for such purpose in the event that the grant proposal is not awarded." 

The resolution raises the question of what happened to the plan in which the ramp was part of a larger vision to improve the entrance to Promenade Hill and to restore the historic park. In June, Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, told the Common Council that the grant application for Promenade Hill was being postponed to allow more time to resolve "the conflict between the goal of access and historic landscape treatment" by developing a master plan and time for public participation in the project. So Gossips contacted Roehr to find out about the master plan he spoke of and to ask how the Common Council's resolution to "develop a grant proposal for a handicapped accessible ramp" meshed with the master plan.

According to Roehr, the master plan is still moving forward. Dragana Zoric, the landscape architect who is working pro bono on the project, has "several different ideas for the entrance," which, Roehr attests, will minimize the "visual obtrusiveness" of a ramp and be "more simple and elegant" than the design Morris Associates came up with back in 2011--and less expensive. (That plan had price tag of $279,111.90.)

Roehr told Gossips that he would soon be sending the sketches for the possible ramp designs to Council president Don Moore and also to Sloane Bullough at the State Historic Preservation Office. Because Promenade Hill is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the grant will involve state and federal funds, any plans for restoration or alteration must be reviewed by SHPO. 

Roehr reported that there are also rudimentary sketches for the restoration of Promenade Hill, which involve new plantings, storm water management to curb erosion, a restored pattern of walking paths, and plans for maintenance. It is not at this point known when the sketches for the park restoration will be ready for presentation or when the public will get a chance to see the conceptual designs for the restoration or the proposals for the ramp.

Meetings Tonight

If you are interested in Hudson's finances, there are some meetings you may want to attend at City Hall tonight.

At 5:30, the Finance Committee of the Common Council has its regular monthly meeting. 

At 6:30, the mayor holds a public hearing in the proposed 2015 budget--a budget that the mayor does not support. Click here to read the mayor's statement about the budget. Click here to review the proposed budget.

At 7 p.m., the Common Council holds its regular November meeting.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not to Be Missed

On his blog Word on the Street, Scott Baldinger keeps us caught up with the changing businesses on Warren Street: "Change We Can Believe In."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Greenport Crossing Back in the News

Six weeks ago, it appeared that Greenport Crossing--the gas station cum "boutique" bowling alley cum family entertainment center cum Comfort Inn & Suites planned for Route 66--wasn't going to happen. Harbalwant Singh was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for protection from the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), which had made known its intention to sue Singh for the money it had loaned to the project. 

Today, the Register-Star reports that the only thing Singh seems to be giving up on is his plan to reuse the 1923 V & O Press building as part of his grand scheme: "V&O building to be demolished by Christmas."

What Lies Beneath

There's a great revival going on in the part of the city known as Hudson's East End. A recent article about Hudson in Conde Nast Traveler, "Why Hudson, N.Y., Is Our Favorite Weekend Getaway," features three East End businesses: Bonfiglio & Bread, 748 Warren Street; The Crimson Sparrow, 746 Warren Street; and Flowerkraut, 722 Warren Street.

The revivial isn't only happening with businesses on Warren Street. Restoration and reclamation is also happening with residential properties along Eighth Street, the one-way street that runs for only a block from Columbia to Warren. On Friday, one of those projects came before the Historic Preservation Commission. The project involves the restoration of this house at 19 Eighth Street.

At some point along the way, since the house was built in the 1890s, the front porch was enclosed--a fate that befell many houses in Hudson. The current owners of the house are now planning to open the porch back up again, the way it was meant to be.

What's remarkable is that many of the elements of the original porch survive beneath the walls and siding that were added to enclose the porch, and, for whatever did not still survive, there are hints to what was. Happily, this is true for many Hudson houses: what was meant to be can still be found beneath what was added in past efforts to modernize and improve.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Of Interest in the Register-Star

On Wednesday, when Gossips was taking the day off, the Planning Board met and unanimously approved the reuse of the former Harmon's Auto Repair building as a galley cum coffee and wine bar: "From garage to gallery."

It seems that Dan Tuczinski, counsel to the Planning Board, found a way for the project to be approved without getting a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The article reports that he advised the applicants--Donovan LaFond, Jennifer Tzar, and Adam Loomis--that "if they emphasized the art gallery as the primary use, rather than the wine bar, they would be consistent with the R-4 residential zoning, and could apply for a site plan approval rather than a variance." That seems to have been agreeable to all, and the Planning Board gave unanimous approval. Although several nearby residents were concerned about the impact of the proposed project on the neighborhood, the Planning Board did not hold a public hearing before granting its approval. The building is owned by the Galvan Foundation.

The Galvan Foundation is the subject of another article in today's Register-Star: "Pedestrians and business owners say bring down the scaffolds." The issue is that the scaffolding around 366 Warren Street, a building that Galvan has virtually reconstructed to be a new location of Hudson Home, necessitates closing off the sidewalk, limiting pedestrian access from Warren Street to Musica, Etsy, the office of Dennis Wedlick, Helsinki Hudson, the Hudson Area Library, and John L. Edwards Primary School. 

The scaffolding has been blocking the sidewalk since September, and Rob Caldwell reports that his business at Musica this October was half what it was last year and that this October was the worst October since 1999.