Thursday, November 16, 2017

Getting There from Here . . . on Foot

Tonight at 6 p.m. at 401 State Street, the Columbia Land Conservancy is holding a public meeting to receive input on the conceptual design for a proposed trail connection from North Second Street to the Greenport Conservation Area.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Proposed Law Draws Criticism from Public

It was almost a full house for the public hearing on Monday on the proposed law that would eliminate the requirement for offstreet parking for apartments in basements and converted accessory buildings and would permit businesses to be established in parts of the city now zoned residential in buildings that had previous commercial uses.

The goals of the legislation seem noble enough: to create more affordable rental units and to allow people to establish commercial enterprises in buildings in residential zones that had historically housed commercial enterprises. An example of the latter is Basil Nooks' plan to open a restaurant specializing in Caribbean food in a building he owns on North Third Street, which up until 2004 had been an eating and/or drinking establishment for decades. 

The proposed local law met with some pushback from those present at the public hearing--from Kristal Heinz, who didn't want commercial enterprises in her neighborhood in the Boulevards; to Gossips, who worried about the devastation of the authenticity and charm of the alleys the law would encourage; to Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer and former fire chief, who warned of the public safety issues such a law would create.

Amanda Purcell reported on the public hearing in today's Register-Star: "Residents speak out on zoning law change." Dan Udell was there to document the hearing, and his video can be seen here. The public hearing begins at 13:20.

In the end, it was decided that the proposed local law needed some work.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Marina Abramovic Responds

On Sunday, Gossips published the link to an article that appeared in the New York Post, which began with the statement, "The artist is present but the cash is gone." Today, a press release from Marina Abramovic responding to that article made its way to Gossips, and content of which follows:
THE ART OF TRUTH
On November 12, 2017, the New York Post published a front page story about me in the Sunday edition with the headline "The Art of the Steal." Normally, I wouldn't care what was written in a tabloid newspaper, but the allegations are so false, libelous and in every way untrue that I must address them.
The article claims that I raised 2.2 million dollars for my institute since 2011 which is not true. In fact the majority of those funds were direct contributions of my own money which I earned as an artist. I contributed over 1.1 million dollars in cash donations to the institute on top of what I spent to buy the building which I donated to MAI in 2013.
The Kickstarter campaign accounts for $661,452. After Kickstarter's administrative fee, the amount we received from the campaign was $596,667.
The Kickstarter was created to fund schematic designs of OMA New York for the building in Hudson, NY. The bill we received from the firm for this specific design work was $655,167.10. We used the Kickstarter funds to pay OMA New York's design fee.
The New York Post article also claims that we did not reward all of our Kickstarter backers. As reported by ArtNew on November 7, 2017, the only people that did not receive their rewards are the ones that did not respond to our requests for information. We welcome those backers that did not receive what they deserved to contact the institute directly via Kickstarter or on our website.
When we received the proposal from OMA New York, we were overwhelmed by the originality and beauty of the project. However, they informed us that the project cost would exceed 31 million dollars. We looked for a cost effective solution together with OMA New York and a consultant but the building had many issues to make it work within a manageable budget. The board of MAI decided to cancel the building project and to focus our efforts on bringing our projects to people around the world.
To date, MAI has partnered with many institutions and artists internationally. We have presented 13 art experiences in 12 countries the majority of which were free of entrance and open to the public. The events have been attended by over 675,000 people. Most importantly, wherever we go, we strive to foster emerging performance artists and create a platform for their work while also engaging the broader public in participatory exercises from the Abramovic Method.
I reject the New York Post's allegations of theft. The Kickstarter funds were directed for the purpose intended. Over the last four years, the original vision of the Institute evolved and I am proud of this work.
Marina Abramovic

Help for Our Landmark Church

The New York Landmarks Conservancy recently announced seventeen Sacred Sites Grants, and among them is a $25,000 Sacred Sites Challenge Grant for the First Presbyterian Church at Warren and Fourth streets, to help fund repairs and partial replacement of the existing roof structure and roof.


Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, said of the recent award, "We are pleased to continue to support the ongoing restoration of First Presbyterian--an important example of Hudson's history and architectural merit. The supportive Friends Group demonstrates how much First Presbyterian means to the entire Hudson community." In May 2014, the Conservancy awarded $50,000 to the church for the restoration of the church's principal stained glass window. 

The Conservancy is a private non-profit organization whose mission has been to preserve, restore, and reuse New York City's and New York State's architectural legacy for future generations. Since its founding, the Conservancy has loaned and granted more than $50 million, which has leveraged more than $1 billion in restoration projects.

"This is a wonderful award," said Phil Forman, president of the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church. "It is validation of the importance of this building in the architectural and historic landscape of Hudson. And it will act as a stepping stone to generating more interest in the restoration of this wonderful building. We are extremely grateful to the Landmarks Conservancy for their support."

To make your own contribution to this major restoration project, which is expected to take more than eighteen months, go to www.savethebuilding.org
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Monday, November 13, 2017

DRI Watch: LPC Meets Tomorrow Night

The Local Planning Committee for the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) meets tomorrow night--Tuesday, November 14--at 6 p.m in the cafeteria of John L. Edwards Primary School. It's your chance to sit for two hours on aluminum cafeteria benches meant for children between the ages of 5 and 8 and observe the twenty-five members of our LPC interact with the professional planner from Stantec. There will be very little opportunity for public input. Nonetheless, Gossips encourages you to attend. 
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Six Candidates Poised to Challenge Faso

If you missed the Congressional CD19 Candidates Forum yesterday, as Gossips did, Dan Udell was there for us all. His videotape of the event can now be viewed by clicking here.

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A Busy Night at City Hall

Much of interest is happening at City Hall tonight, Monday, November 13.

At 5:30 p.m., there is a public hearing on the proposed city budget for 2018. The budget can now be reviewed online and explored using the new graphic interface OpenGov. Click here to get started. A special meeting for the Council to vote on the budget has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 21. 

At 6:30 p.m., the Common Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed law meant to facilitate the conversion of basements and accessory buildings into dwelling units by eliminating the requirement for offstreet parking for such units. That law can be reviewed here.

At 7 p.m., the Common Council holds its informal meeting for November. To review the agenda for that meeting, click here.
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Susan B. Returns to Hudson . . . After 123 Years

The Mother of Us All, the opera about Susan B. Anthony directed by Hudson's own R. B. Schlather, opened at Hudson Hall on Saturday, November 11. On Saturday, too, a review by Russell Platt appeared in The New Yorker: "Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein's "The Mother of Us All" Is Avant-Garde Opera for the People." Platt concludes his review by saying, "Surely Schlather’s production, which is already sold out, could float down the river to the big city."

Gossips was there on opening night and was wowed. I can think of no better word to express the experience. I've heard that Sunday night's performance was even more powerful. The Mother of Us All is a major achievement for the newly renovated and reopened performance space at the historic Hudson Opera House and a major achievement for Hudson. 

A note of explanation about the title of this post: Susan B. Anthony came to Hudson three times to speak on the subject of woman suffrage at City Hall, the same building we know as the Hudson Opera House and Hudson Hall. Her first appearance was in April 1855, the first year the building was open. She returned in August 1859 and again in March 1894.
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

What Happened to the Money?

Since Marina Abramovic announced last month that she would not be pursuing her grand plan to transform the former Community Theatre on Columbia and Seventh streets into the Marina Abramovic Institute, many have wondered what would become of the $2.2 million she had raised for the project, in particular the $660,000 raised in a Kickstarter campaign to which some Hudsonians had contributed.


Yesterday, it was reported in the New York Post that Abramovic will not be giving the money back. According to a spokesperson, it has already been spent to pay Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas for the proposed design for the dramatic conversion of the building, which now will not happen: "Marina Abramovic raised $2 million for canceled art project, hasn't given money back."


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Great War: November 11, 1917

Today--November 11, 2017--marks the 99th anniversary of the day the World War I ended. A hundred years ago on this day, the Second Battle of Passchendaele, which began on October 26, had ended the previous day.


No American forces took part in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. Rather it was fought by the British, the Canadians, and a combined Australian and New Zealand corps. But a least one American--a Hudsonian--died in that battle. It was Malcolm Gifford, Jr., the great nephew of the artist Sanford Robinson Gifford.

Gossips has told the story of Malcolm Gifford, Jr., the child of privilege who was arrested in April 1914 for allegedly robbing and murdering a chauffeur he'd hired to drive him from Albany to Troy the previous year, while he was staying at a friend's house after being suspended from his prep school. He was tried twice for the crime, in July 1914 and February 1915, but both trials ended in a hung jury. After the second trial, he was released on a $25,000 bond, and there was not a third trial.

At the beginning of 1917, before the U.S. entered the war, Gifford, then a student at Williams College, enlisted in the Canadian army. On November 8, 1917, in the Second Battle of Passchendaele, he was killed in action. On November 19, 1917, the day his father, Malcolm Gifford, Sr., received a telegram from the director of war records in Ottawa informing him of his son's death, the following head appeared on the front page of the Hudson Evening Register.

The article about his death mentioned nothing of the previous charges against him. Instead it focused on the nobility of his actions.
The noble principle for which the Allies were battling against Germany inspired the young football star, and anxious to do his "bit" for democracy he was one of the first Williams college men to offer his services to Canada. A short time after joining the Canadian artillery, he was serving England and there during the long and rigid training, he made a most commendable record.
Particulars relative to the circumstances in which he lost his life were not contained in the message received by his father, but the statement that he "was killed in action" tells a story of heroism, loyalty and bravery. His battery for nearly three months has seen strenuous fighting, and has won admiration from the war heads. The casualties have been many, but the 43rd has gloriously held her ground, pounding away at the Germans uninteruptedly and effectively, proving beneficial to the infantry charges and withstanding gas attacks and rigid countercharges.
Other newspapers were not so kind. The Albany Evening Journal recounted the whole sordid story in the front-page headlines accompanying the article that announced his death: "Malcolm Gifford, Twice Tried as Slayer, Killed on Battlefield in France"; "Wealthy Youth Dies Fighting in Canadian Unit--Juries Disagreed on His Case"; "Was Charged with Murder of Chauffeur." The Troy Times in reporting his death identified him in the headline as "Young Man Who Figured in Murder Case."

A commemorative book from the Welcome Home celebration that took place in Hudson after the war, on September 8 and 9, 1919, included, among the photographs of the twenty-four men from Hudson who died in World War I, this photograph of Malcolm Gifford, Jr., in the uniform of the Canadian Field Artillery.


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Friday, November 10, 2017

The 2018 City Budget

Last night, there was a special Common Council meeting to receive the proposed 2018 budget. It seemed at first, the meeting couldn't happen since there were only four aldermen present--Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward), Michael O'Hara (First Ward), and Rick Rector (First Ward)--and there was no quorum. Abdus Miah (Second Ward) arrived late, having been summoned by phone. It's unclear if his presence was enough to make a quorum, but it didn't matter. At that point, it had already been determined that a quorum was not required simply to receive the budget.

The budget for 2018 presented to the Council last night by Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton sees a 5.45 percent overall increase in spending. The biggest increases--aside from the City's contribution to Hudson Area Library, which will more than double from $120,000 to $250,000--are for the Youth Department, which will see a 41.2 percent increase, and Law/Attorney, which will increase 46.1 percent from last year to cover the anticipated costs of ongoing litigation. There will also be a 14.1 percent increase in the budget for animal control to fund an animal enumeration project, intended to ensure dog owners' compliance with local licensing requirements.

Some departments will see a decrease in their budgets, the greatest being a 47.4 percent decrease for the Senior Center, because the City will no longer have to pay the Galvan Foundation $50,000 a year, as it has in 2016 and 2017, for outfitting the space in Galvan Armory.

The proposed budget also raises the mayor's salary from $45,000 to $60,000, the level it was in 2005. Hamilton explained that the mayor's salary had been "adjusted in prior years to accommodate pension requirements." She also made the point that the mayor, who is the chief executive officer for the City, is paid less than any other department head, as illustrated by this bar graph.

The increase would make the mayor's salary about equal to the treasurer's salary, which is $60,148.

Rector, the mayor elect who is now an alderman, said of the proposed salary increase, "This is very awkward for me," and stated his intention of recusing himself from the vote on the budget.

The presentation of the budget concluded with the following bullet points, which present "The Big Picture."
  • While many think the tax cap is 2%, the maximum allowable annual tax cap is actually determined using a complex, multi-step calculation. The maximum allowable increase for 2018 is 5%, but we are pleased to present the Council with a 3% ($149,017) increase, while still providing significant improvements across City departments.
  • $408,554 is taken from the fund balance to achieve a balanced budget.
  • Year-over-year expenditures are increasing 5.45%, versus a 2.52% increase last year.
  • Total expenditures are increasing by $577,100 from $10,588,605 to $11,165,715.
  • In addition to identifying cost savings in various departments, we are able to keep the tax increase low with the following anticipated revenue increases (based on trends and the newly enacted lodging tax):
  • $100,000 increase in sales tax revenue
  • $10,000 increase in Planning Board fees
  • $30,000 increase in Amtrak parking lot permit fees
  • $10,000 increase in building permit fees
  • $240,000 in lodging tax revenue and $7,000 in lodging tax registration fees (note that half of the lodging tax revenue will be added to the City's general fund, and the other half set aside for use by the Tourism Board to promote and market tourism)
  • In every department and for every building, utilities costs are decreased to reflect the downward trend we saw in 2017 as a result of cancellation of all Viridian contracts.
Audience member Steve Dunn questioned why money was being taken from the fund balance in order to balance the budget, suggesting that doing so was not sustainable. Treasurer Heather Campbell explained that the City now has a policy in place to control how much needs to be in the fund balance to ensure that the City is neither putting itself in fiscal jeopardy nor taking more from taxpayers than is necessary. She pointed out that the fund balance is now higher than it needs to be, and taking $408,554 from the fund balance will put it back within the parameters.

There will be a public hearing on the budget on Monday, November 13, at 5:30, at City Hall. Prior to the hearing, all budget documents will be available online at the City of Hudson website. There will also be link on the website to the budget data presented in OpenGov.
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In Memoriam: Leo Carlin

A familiar man about town, walking his handsome gray poodle, Beau, on Warren Street and around courthouse square, Leo Carlin died on Saturday.

Flâneur and raconteur, Leo was generous with his praise and support for things that met with his approval and equally generous and often harsh with his criticism of things that did not. An unapologetic Luddite, Leo never figured out how to comment on Gossips and instead frequently reacted to posts with cryptic email messages. In the very last email I received from Leo, he lamented,  "How can you discuss city planning with a group who rarely travel south of Kingston, or [have] seen an architectural journal? They have no sense of vistas . . . or that architecture can change a city, even if only a street corner." 

Leo indeed had that "sense of vistas," as well as a refined appreciation of architecture, art, music, food, and other people. A mutual friend, at whose home I first met Leo, said of him, “He knew how to throw a good dinner party and how to be a good guest. A lost art on both accounts.” 

Hudson has lost another of its inimitable characters. Rest in peace, Leo Carlin. You will be missed.
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