Friday, February 12, 2016

News About 260 State Street

Back in May 2014, an article in the New York Times provided a hint about what was in store for 260 State Street, the house with the mansard roof at the corner of Third and State that despite being clad in vinyl siding retains vestiges of former grandeur: "Plan B: Open a Country Hotel in Upstate New York." 

Last night, the owner of the building, Kiley Thompson, presented his plan to turn the house, which is now divided into five apartments, into eight furnished units for short-term rental and to resurrect a commercial space that was once in the building, accessed by an entrance that survives under the siding at the southeast corner of the building. Thompson explained that during the Great Depression, a family moved to this house from Warren Street and soon after moved their shop from Warren Street to this house as well. Planning Board member Cappy Pierro recalled that there was, in his childhood, a candy store in the building.

It was initially suggested that the reintroducing a commercial space in the building would require a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, but Mitch Khosrova, counsel to the Planning Board, pointed out that there some commercial uses that were conditionally permitted in this zone--namely, art galleries and antique shops--so since the space was to be rented out, and it was not known what kind of business would occupy it, applying for a use variance didn't need to happen until the use was known.

The Planning Board scheduled a public hearing on the project for March 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Happy Abraham Lincoln's Birthday!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hudson in the Edwardian Era

Suburbs are usually thought of as a post-World War II phenomenon (that's Levittown in the picture at the right), but half a century earlier Hudson was already contemplating the potential of what it thought of as its suburbs. The following article appeared in the Columbia Republican for May 26, 1904. 

We know Glenwood, of course, as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House and rejoice that not very much of the estate--now a National Historic Landmark--was carved up into building lots. (The McIntyres sold the property to the State of New York instead of to a developer.) The handsome residence of W. Frank Holsapple mentioned in the article appears in the photograph below, which is from the 1905 publication Illustrated Hudson, NY. 

In 1904, the new Hudson Hospital, which admitted its first patient in 1900, stood directly across the street from the Holsapple residence.

Today, the building that was once Eden Park Nursing Home and is now part of Columbia Memorial Hospital, stands on the site of the handsome Victorian home.


The Day Has Finally Come . . . Almost

This morning, Amanda Henry, Commissioner for the Aging, announced tours for the public of the new spaces in the Galvan Armory that will house the Hudson Area Library, the senior center, and Perfect Ten After School. The tours will take place next Thursday and Friday, February 18 and 19, beginning at 12 noon.
Correction: Gossips has been advised that the tour is restricted to the spaces that will be occupied by the senior center.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Governor Weighs In

Albany Business Review just reported that Governor Andrew Cuomo has written a letter to federal officials asking them to block the merger of First Niagara and KeyCorp: "Cuomo on First Niagara-KeyCorp merger: 'Blocking this deal is the right thing to do.'"

Albany Business Review also reports that "First Niagara warned shareholders in its annual report that the uncertainty surrounding its $4.1 billion merger with KeyCorp could have an adverse effect on the bank's business."

What to Do on Saturday Afternoon

This Saturday, February 13, a performance piece based on Lynda Blackmon Lowery's memoir, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, will be presented at 3 p.m. at Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, 182 Harry Howard Avenue. The memoir was adapted for performance by Ally Sheedy, who is also the director, and will be performed by Damaras Obi, one of Sheedy's acting students at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music, Art and Performing Arts in New York City. Lowery will be present and will speak after the performance. To learn more about the event and those involved in making it happen, see Jamie Larson's piece in Rural Intelligence: "History Becomes a Memoir, a Play, and a Call to Action."

A suggested donation of $10 for adults can be made at the door to benefit the Hudson Area Library.

Hudson Government in Action

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


Results from NH and HCSD

In New Hampshire, the winners were Bernie Sanders for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans.

In the Hudson City School District, the proposal to sell the Claverack School passed 935 to 79 and the $20 million capital project was approved 611 to 399. Only about 10 percent of the eligible voters bothered to show up at the polls.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Last Night at City Hall

The informal meeting of the Common Council last night was over in a record 19 minutes, but in that time much was learned. Gossips will recount the items that were most interesting.

Mayoral Veto Among the communications was a veto message from Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton. She vetoed the Council's approval of paying the annual $250 membership fee to the New York State Planning Federation. The mayor determined that this was an unnecessary expense because the Planning Board does not take advantage of the benefits of membership. According to recently appointed Planning Board chair Tom DePietro, "while membership allows for discounts on publications and conference/event registration fees, most resources are provided online free of charge. Further, there are other organizations such as NYCOM, of which the City is already a paying member, that provide similar training and resources." Better than saving $250 would be some assurance that the people who serve on the Planning Board are actually required to get some training.

Parking Meters There were letters from Pamela Kungle--one to the mayor and one to the Common Council president--arguing against installing parking meters in the 200 block of Warren Street. In November, when the Council met to adopt the budget for 2016, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) had suggested that the $25,000 allocated for the installation of parking meters in the 200 block be removed from the budget. His attempt to have this item removed was not successful.

Zoning Amendment The mayor proposed an amendment to the Section 325-13 of the city code, which would "designate 'hotel' as a conditionally permitted use in the R-S-C Zone." The impetus for this amendment, of course, is proposal by Redburn Development to convert the former Stageworks, former Kaz manufacturing building at 41 Cross Street into a hotel. The project is currently being required to seek a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals and is expected to go before the ZBA on February 24. The proposed amendment to the code would eliminate the need for a variance.

Praise for the Friends A resolution was introduced, which originated with the Historic Preservation Commission, acknowledging and thanking the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church "for restoring the church's principal stained glass window on Warren Street" and "for their ongoing and exemplary work in protecting this major and iconic structure on Hudson's main street."

Raising Age of Criminal Responsibility A resolution, initiated by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), was introduced "in support of raising the age of criminal responsibility" and "urging all decision-makers within the criminal justice system to immediately take steps to reduce the instances in which young people under the age of eighteen are given harsh adult sentences in adult prisons." Related to this resolution is Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to separate 16- and 17-year-old offenders from the adult prison population and transfer them to the Hudson Correction Facility starting in August 2016.

Police & Court Building City Attorney Ken Dow reported that letters have gone out to the low bidders for the adaptive reuse of 701 Union Street requesting qualifications. A performance bond is also required of the low bidders before contracts can be entered into. 

The Ramp Garriga asked Dow to prepare a resolution to move forward with the ramp at Promenade Hill, indicating that the ramp proposed in June 2014 by DPW superintendent Rob Perry is the one that would be built.

Displaying, presumably for dramatic effect, a much folded and disintegrating piece of paper that he said was a 2010 letter to the mayor requesting the ramp at Promenade Hill, Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) wondered aloud why building a ramp was taking so long. He also apparently suggested that people should donate money so that there would be more than the $20,000 allocated in the 2016 budget available for building the ramp.

Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) said he agreed with Miah and went on to say that he wanted to revisit the design and the cost "to see if we can't do better." Responding to the notion of revisiting the design, Garriga told Rector, "That's not what he said." Exactly what Miah had said was never clarified.

Monday, February 8, 2016

More Referendum Prep

In his My View about the proposed Hudson City School District capital project, which appeared in the print version of the Register-Star on Saturday and here on The Gossips of Rivertown on Sunday, Peter Meyer made reference to questions he had posed by email to HCSD Superintendent Maria Suttmeier, Board of Education president Maria McLaughlin, and BOE member Sage Carter and the answers he had received from them. He invited people to contact him if they were interested in seeing those questions and answers. On request, Meyer sent Gossips the Q&A. That document can be read by clicking here.

The capital project is one of two referendum questions that will be on the ballot tomorrow. The other is the sale of the building that was formerly the Claverack School. The polling place for Hudson residents is John L. Edwards Primary School, 360 State Street. The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m.

Attention Women of Hudson

If you're not afraid of being scolded by Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem or ending up in that special place in hell Albright says "is reserved for women who don't help each other," you can show up at the Wunderbar Bistro, 744 Warren Street, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 10, for a nationally coordinated meetup of Women for Bernie. The event will include a video address by Nina Turner. If you plan to be there, you are asked to RSVP by email.  Non-female identifying supporters are also welcome.

Two Things to Do Tomorrow

First, vote in the Hudson City School District referendum. Two issues are on the ballot in the district: (1) the sale the former Claverack School building; (2) the $19.9 million capital project to build a new athletic field at Hudson High School and a new addition to Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School.

The polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. The polling place for Hudson residents is John L. Edwards Primary School, 360 State Street.

Then, observe Shrove Tuesday and prepare for Lent by eating pancakes at Christ Church. Pancakes will be served in the Parish Hall from 5 to 7 p.m.


On the North Side of Warren Street

In the past, Gossips has published pictures of the buildings that stood along the west side of South Front Street before they were all demolished in the 1970s to make way for Hudson Terrace. Except for the original Our Lady of Mount Carmel chapel, which stood at Market Place, just north of Warren Street, no photographs have surfaced of the buildings on North Front Street until yesterday, when Gossips found this photograph in the Times Union for January 31, 1964.

The photograph accompanied the report of a fire that involved three buildings on North Front Street between Columbia and Chapel streets: 25, 27, and 29. (Chapel Street, which was totally obliterated during Urban Renewal, ran parallel to and between Columbia and State streets.) The Times Union reports: "Authorities said the fire started in the top floor apartment occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Woods and their six children at 29 North Front Street. One of the children turned in the alarm at 8:05 a.m."

No one was injured in the fire, but fifty people were made homeless and given emergency shelter in the General Worth Hotel. The article reports who those people were and identifies the buildings' owners and tells the nonresidential uses of the structures.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

About That Referendum

Tuesday, February 9, is the New Hampshire primary. On Tuesday, we in the Hudson City School District also get to vote--not on presidential candidates but on two different issues: the sale of the former Claverack School building and a $20 million capital project. 

In a My View that appeared in the Register-Star on Friday, Wayne Coe, a resident of the Chatham Central School District and a free speech advocate, advised HCDS voters to vote no on the capital project proposal. In yesterday's print version of the Register-Star, Peter Meyer, a Hudson resident and former member of the HCSD Board of Education, calls the capital project proposal a "win-win" and urges us to vote yes. Since Meyer's My View is not yet generally available online, he agreed to let Gossips publish the text, which follows:
Until a couple of months ago I had been enjoying the sleep of someone no longer on the school board--no four-hour meetings, no 20-hour work weeks with no compensation, no late-night calls from parents, and a blood pressure that had dropped 40 points. (I served from 2007 to 2012.)
Then I saw the words “capital project” in a headline and the education alarm bells went off. Nothing like a little $20 million spending proposal to wake one up. Didn’t the Hudson City School District just go through a $35 million renovation and new construction at the high school? 
Déjà vu all over again?
I heated up the midnight oils and started reading (the four-page information sheet that came in the mail, the HCSD website, local papers, and blogs), talking to teachers and parents, emailing friends, attending one of the three District-sponsored public “conversations” at John L. Edwards School, and sending my own set of questions to Superintendent Maria Suttmeier, School Board President Maria McLaughlin, and board member Sage Carter. (Contact me if you would like to see a copy of the Q&A.)
Déjà vu all over again? The answer, I’m happy to report, is absolutely not. 
Not only does the proposal finish many of the needed improvements that didn’t make it into the last construction effort, the $19.9 million that voters are being asked to approve offers enhancements much more closely targeted to benefit our students and the taxpayer: notably, new facilities for PreK-2 students at the Intermediate school (that lovely WPA building that I think of as our shining city on the hill) and track and field facilities that will finally give our kids a level playing field. 
Most importantly, however, is the District’s willingness to engage the community in this project--and listen! It was not only with the well-attended community conversations, but when the South Bay Task Force raised questions about the environmental impact of the building proposed for the north side of the Intermediate School, Dr. Suttmeier immediately arranged for a tour of the Underhill Pond area with several conservationists and board members and concluded that the District would not only provide appropriate drainage measures to prevent further erosion of Underhill, but endeavor to partner with the City of Hudson to provide educational and recreational programs for students and adults alike. She also reached out to--and addressed--Hudson’s Common Council. 
Perhaps the most controversial part of the February 9 spending proposition is not on the ballot: the closing of JLE. For Hudson, of course, this is a community treasure, with many memories for many residents. The problem is that neither the taxpayers nor the students can afford it. HCSD enrollment has dropped by nearly 25 percent in the last 10 years--we now have under 1,800 students sloshing around in buildings capable of accommodating 2,400. This is an amazing waste of space, one that will be solved, with great financial savings to taxpayers, with the new plan. 
More importantly, from my point of view, is that putting the PreK-2 kids under one roof, with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, will finally solve the “silo” problem: moving kids from one school to another, especially at this age, is simply not an academically sound policy.
Dr. Suttmeier assured JLE staff that there will be no cutbacks in staffing except that which comes from normal attrition. And, as to transportation to the new school, it must be noted that most JLE students already take a bus to school. It could also be a great opportunity to revisit the “walking school bus” idea that was discussed when I was on the board--as well as sidewalks, which Dr. Suttmeier noted would be part of the ongoing discussion.
Finally, it cannot be emphasized enough that local taxpayers are being asked to contribute less than 25 percent of the total cost of the project. Because of New York State building aid rules and the structuring of the District’s existing debt, the State pays $14.2 million of the total! If your house is worth $300,000, your HCSD taxes go up roughly $38 per year. And, thanks to income from the sale of the Claverack school (the first proposition voters are being asked to approve next Tuesday) and savings of over $100,000 in operating expenses from closing John L. Edwards and selling the Claverack building, taxpayers may even see more savings.
The February 9 proposal is a win-win, for taxpayers and children. Please Vote YES next Tuesday.
The polling place for Hudson residents is John L. Edwards Primary School, 360 State Street. The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m.

A Message from Daniel Nilsson's Family

We are very grateful for the outpouring of affection for our Daniel. We all miss him.

We invite everyone who wishes to share their memories to meet on Monday, February 8, between 2 and 6 p.m. at DA|BA.

The funeral will be private and no charity has been designated. We are planning a memorial service open to everyone in the community for Daniel’s birthday, March 18.  More information will be posted at a future date.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Where to Be Tomorrow Morning

The Indoor Farmers' Market in the Parish Hall at Christ Church returns tomorrow and will be back every Saturday until the outdoor Hudson Farmers' Market returns on the first weekend in May. Eggs, breads, flowers, nuts, meats, cheeses, prepared foods, and more await you. The market is open from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Remembering Daniel Nilsson

The community of Hudson was stunned yesterday by the news of the death of Daniel Nilsson. The words incomprehensible, unfathomable, unspeakable have all been used to describe the tragedy. Gossips will not attempt to comment on the tragedy or its effect on our community. Instead I recall a moment that revealed the nature of the man now lost: the moment when he ennobled an episode of Guy's Grocery Games with a memorably unselfish gesture. Watch the 10 minutes from 32 minutes in until just past 42 minutes.

Rest in peace, DA|BA Dan.