Thursday, January 19, 2017

Help Provided by the Attorney General

At the informal Common Council meeting on January 10, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) proposed that the Council pass a resolution declaring Hudson a sanctuary city. That proposal was referred to the Legal Committee, which is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, January 25, at 6:15 p.m.

Today, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a press release announcing his intention to provide local governments with legal tools to protect immigrant communities. The press release reads in part:
Anticipating potential changes in federal immigration enforcement practices and priorities, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today provided local governments and law enforcement agencies with a legal roadmap for improving public safety by protecting vulnerable communities. As part of that roadmap, A. G. Schneiderman also provided local governments with model laws and policies that, if voluntarily enacted by a local government, would codify "sanctuary" policies into local law. In recent years, several cities across New York State, including Syracuse and New York City, have successfully adopted such policies.
The model provisions offered by the A.G.'s Civil Rights Bureau clarify that local New York law enforcement agencies can limit their participation in federal immigration activities in several ways. . . .
"Public safety relies on trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. No local law enforcement agency should have to undercut that trust just to carry out Donald Trump's draconian immigration policies," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "The legal guidance and model policies my office released today give local governments the tools they need to protect immigrant communities from an over-reach by federal agencies. New York has a long history of welcoming immigrants and embracing diversity. Now, more than ever, we must stand up for our values of inclusion and pluralism." . . .
The entire press release can be read here.

Remembering a Building Lost

Like Frank Forshew in the 19th century, whose legacy is the Rowles Studio Collection, acclaimed photographer Lynn Davis is the documenter of Hudson and its architecture. Her monumental Warren Street Project captured the buildings on Warren Street as they were in the mid-1990s. Amazingly and mercifully, only two of 300 buildings photographed for that collection no longer exist. 

Sometimes, though, Davis's photographs document our losses. This morning, she sent me this photograph, taken on April 14, 2014, of the last Hudson River Knitting Mill building.

Copyright © Lynn Davis
As a memorial tribute to the building, Davis made a print of the photograph and posted it on the signboard next to the entrance to River City Community Garden, beside the pile of rubble that two days ago was this magnificent survivor of another century and a different time in Hudson.

Forty-Five Words

This morning, on WAMC's Roundtable, Joe Donahue read the First Amendment to the Constitution. With the inauguration tomorrow of a president who wants to move the press corps out of the White House and has threatened to rewrite libel law, and an Indiana state senator proposing a bill that would require public officials to dispatch law enforcement to remove protesters blocking traffic "by any means necessary," it inspired Gossips to share the forty-five-word statement that is the First Amendment, in large type.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

What She Said

Yesterday afternoon, a little more than a year after she took office, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton spoke with Victor Mendolia and Seth Rogovoy, the hosts of @ Issue on WGXC, about her experience being the mayor of Hudson and about what's going on in Hudson now. Among the issues covered are the proposed haul road, the Sustainable Community Associates' proposal for the Kaz warehouse site, zoning issues, Hudson's relationship with Columbia County, ongoing plans for North Bay, IT projects at City Hall, the police and court building, the Youth Department, the Parking Bureau, and the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP). Click here to listen. 

Fire on the Waterfront: The Morning After

The last of the Hudson River Knitting Mill buildings was demolished last evening, after a devastating fire that rendered it structurally unsound. On this dismal morning, the foundation and rubble are all that remain of this historic industrial building on the waterfront.

The building belonged to Kite's Nest, and an inspiring vision for the formerly abandoned building was being pursued. The people of Kite's Nest have issued the following statement about the tragic loss and its impact on their mission. 
Early yesterday morning, we learned that the Riverloft building at 59 N. Front Street was burning. This building, and the property it sits on, was a gift to Kite’s Nest, and we stepped into ownership last September. We hadn’t begun construction, but we had begun dreaming: bringing together children, families, and other local organizations to imagine how this site might develop as a place of intergenerational learning and community. Already it is the site of our River City Garden, a public garden and a place of nourishment and gathering for dozens of families. The building was also a home for Hudson Sloop Club boats and equipment, which were lost in the fire.
The building will be demolished. But not our work, our dreams, our relationships, and our commitment to creating spaces of safety, hope and joy for Hudson’s children and families.
We are so filled with gratitude. Thank you to the firefighters, police, the Mayor, and the first responders from Hudson, Greenport, Stottville, Claverack and Catskill, who fought this fire for many hours, and kept everyone safe. Thankfully no lives were lost, and no one was harmed. An extraordinary community of people came down with full hearts, with words of support, with food. To all of our neighbors who had to be evacuated from their homes, who lost water this morning, to the kids who had to miss some school, to the parents who had to shift their schedules, we are grateful. Thank you to everyone who sent us messages of support, reminding us that “the beat goes on,” and that “though this fire was huge, our hearts are huger.” Heartbreaking moments like this one are also moments of remarkable generosity and solidarity.
The loss of the Riverloft building, once known as the Hudson River Knitting Mills, is certainly a loss of a piece of Hudson’s history. But this is also a moment for us to construct new history, together, in its wake. We invite all of our neighbors and friends to join us in rebuilding together. Let this fire our collective imagination for a future that holds all of our dreams. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Women's March in Hudson: Update

The starting time for the Women's March in Hudson on Saturday, January 21, has been changed from 2 p.m. to 1 p.m. For more information and any further changes in plans, check the Facebook page that has been created for this event. 

Fire on the Waterfront: The Aftermath

After a devastating fire, the last remaining building of the Hudson River Knitting Mill complex was demolished this evening. Lance Wheeler documented the demolition in a video that is now on YouTube. The following images are screen captures from that video.

The video is not quite eight minutes long.

On the Home Front This Saturday

If you are not one of the 200,000 people heading for Washington, D.C., this Saturday, you can show your solidarity with those who are right here in Hudson. A march has been announced for Saturday, to begin at 2 p.m. at Seventh Street Park and proceed down Warren Street to the waterfront.

Resist 2017 Poster by Chuck Sperry
For more information about the march, tune in to WGXC this afternoon at 2 p.m. The organizers of the march will be talking about the plans on @Issue with the show's hosts, Victor Mendolia and Seth Rogovoy. WGXC is heard at 90.7 FM and online at

Fire on the Waterfront

The call came in at 2:50 a.m., and almost six hours later, when Gossips arrived at the scene, firefighters from Hudson, Greenport, Claverack, and Catskill were still at work. The devastating fire damaged, possibly irrevocably, the last remaining Hudson River Knitting Mills building, at North Front and Dock streets. The building was being restored to be the home of Kite's Nest.

A new roof had recently been installed, electricity restored, and windows repaired. Now, it seems the prognosis is that the building will have to be demolished, perhaps as early as this afternoon. Gossips learned that part of its north wall had to be knocked down while the fire was being fought.

Update: Lance Wheeler's video coverage of the fire is now available on YouTube.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ear to the Ground

When she presented the 2017 budget to the Common Council, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton announced that the budget for the Youth Department would be increased by 6.1 percent and a new part-time Youth Director would be hired "to focus on management and fiscal oversight, including budgeting, grant writing, and the further development and expansion of partnerships with local agencies and organizations to provide more comprehensive programming for youth." Gossips has learned that someone has now been hired to fill that position. It is Nick Zachos, founder of the Hudson Sloop Club, who serves on the Conservation Advisory Council and chairs the Waterfront Advisory Committee.

Photo courtesy Kite's Nest

A Confession and a Recommendation

This is embarrassing. Gossips has published numerous posts over the years about the overnight parking rules in Hudson. People often contact Gossips when they have questions about overnight parking. So imagine my surprise and embarrassment when Joey and I piled into the Gossipsmobile early Sunday morning for a trip to the Germantown dog park, and, while we waited for the defroster to melt the ice on the windshield, I spotted a parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper.

It wasn't that I thought Martin Luther King Day was on Sunday instead of Monday. I simply lost my grip on odd and even dates over the weekend. Examining the ticket, I briefly--ever so briefly--entertained the notion of protesting it because there is no street in Hudson called "Allen Ave." and hence I could not have been parked on the wrong side of a nonexistent street. But this morning, lest I put it off and forget about it, I paid the fine online. It was simple and convenient. I could even make the payment with PayPal. Yes, there was a $3.50 charge for "handling," but I considered it $3.50 well spent since it eliminated the possibility of forgetting about the ticket and ending up owing $55.00. I recommend online payment to any other unfortunate recipients of parking tickets.

Turn Your Radios On . . . Now

Congressman John Faso, our representative in the House, is speaking with Alan Chartock on Vox Pop on WAMC right now. It's a call-in show, and you can listen online here.

If you missed hearing Faso respond to questions from callers this afternoon, you can listen now by clicking here. Scroll down to find the program. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Before They Got to the Haul Road

Before the Planning Board got around to discussing the Colarusso haul road on Thursday night, there were two public hearings and three presentations of new projects. The two public hearings concerned the proposal to open a board game cafe at 757 Columbia and to convert 214-216 Warren Street into a hotel.

At the public hearing for the board game cafe, there were only comments--both of support--from the owner of 757 Columbia Street, where the cafe will be located, and from the owner of a nearby building at 41 Eighth Street, who predicted that the cafe "will help clean up the neighborhood." For those who enjoy a glass of wine while playing Scrabble or a beer while playing Pandemic, Kathleen Miller, the new cafe's owner, told the Planning Board she would be applying for a beer and wine license. Later in the meeting, site plan approval was granted to the cafe.

The second public hearing was about the plan to convert 214-216 Warren Street, the former Savoia, into a hotel. The plans for restoring and renovating the facade of the building were granted a certificate of appropriateness by the Historic Preservation Commission on December 9, but the project still had unresolved parking issues with the Planning Board. To resolve the parking issues, the plans have been altered. Instead of nine rooms, the hotel will have five rooms and two luxury sites. There will be five offstreet parking spaces at the back of the building for the five hotel rooms and two spaces for the suites that will be leased behind 234 Warren Street.

The only comment on this project during the public hearing came from Steve Dunn, who sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals. He expressed the opinion that the project needed to go before the ZBA for a variance because two of the parking spaces would be leased. 

Parking continued to be an issue when the Planning Board took up its discussion of the proposal. Planning Board member Carmine Pierro asked about parking for the lounge, a bar area within the proposed hotel intended primarily for hotel guests, and pointed out that one additional parking space would be required for every three seats in the lounge. Mitch Khosrova, legal counsel to the Planning Board, asked how many seats there were in the lounge and was told there would be eighteen--on an assortment of sofas, ottomans, and wing chairs. He then declared that technically they would need an additional six offstreet parking spaces for the lounge, for a total of eleven. After Planning Board chair Tom DePietro asked if there wasn't a distinction between a lounge and an eating and drinking establishment, Khosrova conceded. "I take that back," he said. "The law says eating and drinking establishments; this will only be drinks and bar snacks." Audience member Walter Chatham pointed out that the proposed "lounge" was essentially a lobby bar for hotel occupants, for whom parking had already been provided.

In the end, the Planning Board granted site plan approval for the hotel. The irony is that this project, which modified its design to comply with the offstreet parking requirements in the City's zoning code, now wants to eliminate some onstreet parking spots by having a loading zone, such as The Barlow has, which eliminated two parking spaces in the 500 block of Warren Street. It was determined that a loading zone was not something that the Planning Board could approve nor could the ZBA. Former police commissioner Gary Graziano, who was in the audience, told the board that loading zones were in the purview of the police commissioner.

The first of the three new applications was for 886 Columbia Street, characterized as the "ugly yellow brick mansion." 

Photo: googlemaps
The house, once known as the Dinehart mansion, was built soon after 1910, when the house shown at the right, once the home of Augustus and Ellen McKinstry, was demolished. Since 1958, when the Rip Van Winkle Foundation purchased it to expand its clinic, the yellow brick mansion has had a variety of uses--none of them being as a single family home. Not long ago, it was a funeral home. The plan now being proposed is to convert the building into six medical office suites, adding an elevator at the back of the building and expanding the parking lot to forty-seven spaces. The renderings shown to the Planning Board suggest that the plans for the exterior also involve charcoal gray paint.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on this project at its next meeting, which takes place on Thursday, February 9. Since this building in not located in a historic district, no certificate of appropriateness is required from the Historic Preservation Commission for exterior alterations.

The next of the new applications is a familiar one to Gossips readers: the plan to build a block of four town houses on the west side of Hudson Avenue.

Almost a year has passed--ten months to be exact--since this proposal was first presented to the Planning Board in March 2016. During that time, because half the site of the proposed buildings is zoned R-3 (residential) and the other half I-1 (industrial) and residential dwellings are the only thing that cannot be built in an industrial zone, the project went before the ZBA, which denied it an area variance, and then to the Common Council, which, after no small amount of controversy, passed a resolution in November 2016 to amend the zoning to allow the construction of these four houses. Now, finally, the project is back before the Planning Board. The public hearing on the proposal will take place at the Planning Board's next meeting on February 9.

The final new project was the plan for the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Allen Street School, 34 Allen Street. The building, which was designed by Hudson architect Michael O'Connor, was constructed 1903. It ceased being used as a school building in late 1960s. The first floor of the building was converted into a dress factory and the staircases to the second floor were removed. Since the early 1990s, the building has stood vacant.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson

Photo: googlesmaps
What is being proposed is a private gallery on the first floor, studio spaces, and one short-term residential unit for an artist-in-residency program. The project involves a full renovation of the interior of the building, preserving all the original components and re-creating the original configuration. The main entrance to the building, which has been bricked up, will be restored, and the original doors reinstalled. The windows are being repaired, retaining as much original material as possible, the roof will be repaired, and the chimney repointed. The portico will be restored, although there are no plans to re-create the balustrade at the top of the portico. Of particular interest to the Planning Board, there will be six parking spaces at the rear of the building.

The project was presented to the Historic Preservation Commission on January 13 and granted a certificate of appropriateness. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the project on February 9.

A Thought for Martin Luther King Day

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday in the Park

Seventh Street Park was filled with people this afternoon who had come out to rally to show their support for saving the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Medicare.
The rally, which was organized by a team of Columbia County Democrats, was one of many rallies occurring nationwide at the urging of senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders. A series of speakers exhorted those present to stand up and speak out to protect access to healthcare and send a message to Congressman John Faso that in his zeal to repeal the Affordable Care Act he is not acting in accordance with the desires or interests of the people of Columbia County.

Addendum: In addition to the New York Times (link provided above), the Huffington Post has an article about the rally in Warren, Michigan, where Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, the two senators from Michigan, and other members of Congress addressed a crowd of thousands in below-freezing weather: "Democrats Lead Nationwide Day of Rallies in Defense of Obamacare." The article includes photographs from a few of the seventy rallies that took place across the country. Sadly, the gathering here in Hudson was not one of them.

The Planning Board and the Haul Road

Thursday night's Planning Board meeting went on for more than two hours, before a standing-room-only crowd. What almost everyone was there to witness and possibly be part of was the discussion of the Colarusso haul road, which was the last item on the agenda. 

The Planning Board is in the process of gathering information to be considered in its review of the proposed haul road, and, to this end, Tom DePietro, who chairs the Planning Board, asked audience members to "limit what you say to what you consider new information." As it happened, no one in the audience made a statement that evening, although some written comments were submitted. DePietro also announced that all documents relating to the proposed project, including written comments received by the Planning Board, were available at City Hall and could be viewed without submitting a FOIL request. He encouraged any member of the Planning Board who had not already traveled to the site to arrange for a site visit with J. R. Heffner, a vice president at Colarusso in charge of the dock operations.

When DePietro asked if members of the Planning Board had comments about the proposed project, Clark Wieman, a new appointee to the board, referred to a five-page report he had written after he had visited the site. He asked how the project would affect the waterfront and if increased activity at the dock would comport with the vision for the waterfront. He expressed concern about the impact of the haul road and the dock "on the rest of what is happening in Hudson." He maintained that the either-or of trucks on Hudson streets or trucks on the proposed haul road was a "false choice," suggesting that there were other alternatives that were not being explored.

Planning Board member Carmine Pierro posited that 1,500 to 2,000 people live on the truck route, comparing that with the haul road, which "goes by only one business in Hudson." He dismissed the use of the railroad--the spur that goes through the city to the ADM facility in Greenport--and a conveyor from the quarry to the dock as options that no one wants and told Wieman, "To try to say there are more choices, I don't know what they are." Echoing something said by Art Koweek back in 1984, Pierro declared, "It's a working dock. It's going to stay a working dock." He then invoked environmental justice and the wear and tear on our city streets as reasons to support the haul road. When someone in the audience uttered a scatological assessment of his assertions, Pierro reacted sharply. Somewhat later in the proceedings, another reaction from the audience prompted DePietro to declare that outbursts would not be tolerated. 

Ray Jurkowski, the engineer who is consulting with the Planning Board on this project, reviewed the process and explained where things currently stand. The SEQR process comes first. For this, the Greenport Planning Board has been named lead agency. After SEQR, both planning boards do their own site plan review on the portion of the haul road within their boundaries. The Greenport Planning Board has not declared the application complete and has requested "a more in-depth project narrative"--one that provides more history and more information about environmental impacts. He noted that written comments submitted to the Hudson Planning Board will be forwarded to the Greenport Planning Board, the lead agency in the SEQR process.

One of the unanswered questions has been the number of trucks that would use the haul road. Prendergast told the board that on a busy day, there would be 140 loaded trucks for a total of 280 trips. He also mentioned 6,000 trucks a year, which included trucks coming from the south to the quarry to buy stone and asphalt. It was acknowledged that recycled asphalt is now coming to the dock on barges and is then is loaded on trucks and carried from the dock to Colarusso headquarters on Newman Road.  

Prendergast attested, "No part of this is a proposed expansion. I see this as a win-win for the communities." He acknowledged that the haul road was a "little bit of a shortcut" for trucks traveling from the quarry to the dock. When Planning Board member Laura Margolis took issue with the characterization of the haul road as a "little bit of a shortcut," maintaining that it was a substantial shortcut, Colarusso's attorney, John Privitera stepped in. "We are not going to be defensive," he declared. "We firmly believe this is a public benefit project, and it's been planned for that purpose." He quoted the letter from the DEC which indicated that the purpose of the haul road was in part "to route Hudson River dock truck traffic . . . off of City of Hudson streets." He acknowledged that the proposed haul road was "in part a matter of convenience" but asserted it was "in large part in respect to Comprehensive Plan that this city adopted," and "the one of the greatest aspirations of that plan" was to get trucks off Columbia Street.

Privitera then launched into a litany of things the Planning Board and the City of Hudson could not do. They could not regulate mining, nor could they regulate the amount of business Colarusso does or the size of the business. DePietro interrupted him to say, "We don't need that lecture." When Mitch Khosrova, legal counsel to the Planning Board, told Privitera, "The City of Hudson believes we can regulate the dock," Privitera shot back, "The Town of Greenport has already said twice that the dock is not part of this proceeding." He went on to assert, "We have a constitutional right to use the dock that precedes zoning."

At one point, after several exchanges between Khosrova and Privitera, Margolis told Privitera, whose attitude was confrontational, that he was making her nervous. It was then revealed what the burr under his saddle was. Khosrova, as a matter of course, has been forwarding all written public comment to the Greenport Planning Board and apparently also to Privitera, as counsel for Colarusso. One of those items was, according to Privitera, an unsigned, anonymous letter that "calls everybody names" and "says the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't know what it's doing." It turns out that the letter was written by a frequent commenter on Gossips on behalf of an ad hoc citizens group. When DePietro and Khosrova received the letter, because it came as a email message, they knew who the author was and did not consider it an anonymous letter. Privitera, however, did and was highly offended that he was "expected to respond to an unsigned and insulting letter."

Some interesting new information came to light at the Planning Board meeting. Khosrova said he has been in correspondence with a representative of Amtrak which has led him to believe that exploring a truck crossing over the railroad at the western end of the haul road "is worth a discussion." Such a crossing would eliminate trucks leaving the haul road and traveling north on Front Street to the Broad Street crossing. J. R. Heffner pointed out that currently Colarusso trucks travel over two miles of Hudson streets, but with the new proposal, they will only use 700 to 800 feet of city streets. He also estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the truck traffic in Hudson was associated with Colarusso.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Haul Road and the DOT

On Thursday, Pat Prendergast, engineer for A. Colarusso & Sons, indicated that the NYS Department of Transportation had granted the project the needed permits. Those permits have to do with the points where the haul road would cross Route 9 and Route 9G and are the topic of an article that appeared today in the Register-Star: "DOT approves Colarusso haul road permit."

Listen to the Meeting

An audio recording of the January 12 Planning Board meeting, which went on for two hours, is now available here on the WGXC website. The discussion of the Colarusso haul road begins around 1:02.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Register-Star on the Haul Road

Although those involved and those closely following the review process of the proposed Colarusso haul road are still waiting for a definitive answer from Colarusso about the number of trucks that would be using the haul road, the Register-Star seems to have found it and put it in a headline: "Study: Proposed haul road could see trucks crossing every 3 minutes." Although the headline suggests the report may be about some new study, it turns out that it is based on the Project Narrative submitted in December 2016 by Pat Prendergast, which has been available for weeks on the City of Hudson website.