Monday, June 18, 2018

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

For those who haunt City Hall, attending meetings, Monday, June 18, is a day off. Meeting-wise, the week begins on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, June 19, the Common Council holds its regular monthly meeting. In addition to the Council voting on all the resolutions introduced at the informal meeting on June 11, it is expected that Sheena Salvino, executive director of HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency), and Joe Czajka, senior vice president of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, will present the Strategic Housing Action Plan, the work product of the Housing Task Force convened last year by Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton to work "in tandem" with the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) process.

On Wednesday, June 20, the Common Council Public Works & Parks Committee meets at 5:15 p.m., followed by the Zoning Board of Appeals at 6 p.m. The ZBA is holding a public hearing about the area variance needed for offstreet parking by Hudson Mainstay, located at 437 Warren Street.

On Thursday, June 21, the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets at 6 p.m. The agenda for that meeting is not yet available, but at the HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency) meeting last week, executive director Sheena Salvino said she was planning to propose to the Economic Development Committee that the City swap the two parcels it owns at the end of Warren Street for 235 Warren Street. Four parcels make up this sad little mostly asphalt open space that the end of Warren Street: two belong to the City of Hudson; the other two belong to HCDPA.

HCDPA owns 235 Warren Street, the land on which Thurston Park was created in 1997. The park was named for John W. Thurston, the Proprietor who owned that parcel of land in 1785 when the city was incorporated.

The idea is that the City will take ownership of Thurston Park and make it dedicated parkland, which it isn't now (in fact, in 2010, 235 Warren Street appeared on the HDC website in a list of properties available for sale), and HCDPA will market the entire lot at the end of Warren Street as a potential building site. Up until sometime shortly after 1970, two buildings stood on that site, which can be seen in this 19th-century picture taken from the entrance to Promenade Hill and in this detail from a 1970 aerial photograph of the first block of Warren Street. 






The point was made that the "park" at the end of Warren Street didn't need to exist because it was right across the street from one of Hudson's major parks, Promenade Hill. Architect Walter Chatham, who chairs the Planning Board and is ex officio a member of the HCDPA Board, commented that, "from an urban design standpoint," there should be a building there.

On Friday, June 22, the Historic Preservation Commission holds its second meeting for June at 10 a.m. at City Hall. Later on Friday, at 5 p.m., the HPC will hold a public hearing on its proposal to amend the southern and western boundaries of the locally designated Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District to resolve a discrepancy between intent and resolution that happened back in 2006 when the district was created. The public hearing will take place at City Hall. More information about what's being proposed and why it matters will follow.
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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Summer in the City

A shooting at Fairview Avenue and Green Street--near the location of Stewart's Shops--is being reported on Facebook by Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat: "Shooting in Hudson Sunday Night." 

Update: HudsonValley360 now has more information about the incident: "19-year-old shot and killed in Hudson."

Monday Morning Update: Police are seeking a "person of interest." You see TV news coverage on Channel 10 and Channel 13.

Midday Monday Update: Various media outlets, among them HudsonValley360, are reporting that the person of interest, Mohammed H. Morshed, is now in custody: "Police arrest Hudson shooting suspect."

Not to Be Missed

A little more than a week before the Democratic primary on June 26, which will decide who will challenge John Faso in November, the New York Times made an endorsement yesterday: "Gareth Rhodes in the 19th District." To quote the editorial's conclusion: "Among those in this worthy field, Mr. Rhodes stands out as the best candidate to take on--and beat--Mr. Faso in November. He offers the combination of intelligence, enthusiasm and empathy that is desperately needed in Washington today."

Gareth Rhodes, the Rhodes crew, and the well-traveled Winnebago in the OutHudson Pride Parade here yesterday
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The Great War: June 18, 1918

The systematic review of old newspapers regularly yields unexpected finds, and so it was today. Pursuing the Gossips series documenting life in Hudson a hundred years ago, during the war we now call World War I, I checked out the local weekly newspaper of the time, the Columbia Republican, for June 18, 1918, and discovered on the front page, with a headline that spanned five of the paper's seven columns and a photograph I couldn't remember ever seeing before, the account of a significant moment in the life of one of Hudson's important historic buildings--the building now known as Cavell House, the location of New York Oncology and Hematology.


Hudson is again the beneficiary of the generosity of two of its prominent citizens, Dr. and Mrs. John C. Smock, who have decided to make their future home in California and have presented to the Hudson Hospital their beautiful home on Prospect avenue which is surrounded by grounds equally beautiful adorned with trees and flowers. The removal from Hudson of these two generous people who have always been so open handed in the support of every good cause, giving so that no one knew but giving and giving is indeed a matter of general regret. [sic]
To lose not only their generous support but even more to lose their personal presence is a distinct loss to this community. In going however, they have lived up to the standard which has always governed them by presenting their home and grounds to the Hospital. The purpose of the gift is that the place should be used for a home, Liberty House it is to be called, for convalescent soldiers and sailors until the conclusion of the war after which the Hospital will use it as the trustees see fit.
At a meeting of the trustees held Saturday afternoon the following statement was issued:
At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Hudson City Hospital on June 15th, 1918, announcement was made that Dr. and Mrs. John C. Smock had given their place on Prospect Avenue to the hospital for the use of the hospital authorities in caring for convalescing men from the United States service, the place to be known as Liberty House, and after the war to be devoted to other hospital uses.
The last annual report of the hospital had a note referring to the part which the hospital might take in caring for invalid and wounded men in the government service, and it was this note which arrested the attention of the donors and suggested the gift. The large and well-built house is in perfect order and capacious enough to afford room for a goodly number of convalescing and the environment of flowers, shrubbery and trees is well adapted to help in making a cheerful home for those who may be placed here for the restoration of health and strength, and reinvigoration of soul and body for further service in the cause of Liberty, or for useful activities in the homeland.
The Surgeon General of the Army has been notified of the Hospital's willingness to devote this property to the uses of wounded and convalescing soldiers and sailors, and the offer has been placed on file with expressions of thanks for the same, and there is no doubt that when the hospitals near the New York port of debarkation are filled, the property will be called upon. When that time comes the necessary war nursing aids will be called for and trained and the property placed in readiness for service.
The house was used for its designated purpose, and after the war, it was renovated for use by the Hudson Hospital School of Nursing. Its name ceased to be Liberty House, and it was renamed Cavell House, in honor of Edith Louisa Cavell, the English nurse who was executed on October 12, 1915, for helping some two hundred British and French soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. The north wing was added to the building in 1927 and called the Fritts Memorial Wing in honor of local physician Crawford E. Fritts. The south wing was added in 1932. In 1995, Columbia Memorial Hospital intended to demolish the house to create more parking space. That might have happened were it not for community efforts to save the building and an oncology group's interest in locating its services in the historic building.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Happy Pride!

It was a perfect day for the OutHudson Pride Parade but, alas, a tad too breezy for the Gossipsmobile. Here it is, in the parade lineup, before the flags and banners and bunting all started coming detached.

But, thanks to able assistance of Rick Rector and Jeff Perry, Joey's parade double, tricked out like a canine version of Superman, remained firmly in place on the roof until the very end.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Time Out for Parade Prep

Gossips is taking the rest of the day off to get ready for tomorrow's OutHudson "Superheroes" Pride Parade. The parade steps off at 2 p.m. Look for the Gossipsmobile (and Joey's parade double) in the lineup!  

Photo: Andrea Lea Elliot
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Shad in the Hudson

Commercial fishing for shad in the Hudson River was banned in 2009, because the shad population was dangerously low. Since then, efforts to save the shad have not succeeded in significantly increasing the shad population. In light of the current plight of shad in the Hudson, the following item, discovered in the Columbia Republican for June 11, 1918, reporting about shad in the Hudson a hundred years ago, is curiously interesting.

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Of Interest

Not having enough money to maintain the building seemed to be a perennial complaint about Bliss Towers and the low-rise building owned and managed by the Hudson Housing Authority. It turns out, as reported today in the Register-Star, that a major problem for the past fifteen years has been unpaid rent: "Hudson Housing Authority back rent losses $750,000 in 15 years." The situation was revealed at a meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, and responsibility was assigned to former longtime executive director Jeff First, who retired at the end of 2016.
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Much to Do This Weekend

This weekend in Hudson, it's OutHudson's Pride Weekend. The festivities begin tonight, Thursday, June 14, with When Katie Met Cassidy, from 6 to 8 p.m., with author Camille Perri at the Spotty Dog, and runs through Sunday, June 17, when there's an Afternoon Tea Dance at the Red Dot from 4 to 9 p.m. The centerpiece of the weekend, of course, is the parade down Warren Street on Saturday, June 16, which begins at 2 p.m. To check out the entire line up of events and to secure tickets, visit OutHudson.com

Elsewhere in the county, it's Spencertown Academy's Hidden Gardens Weekend. The featured event of the weekend is a self-guided garden tour on Saturday, June 16. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., an array of exquisite private gardens in the hamlets of Spencertown, New Concord, and Red Rock, as well as the restored gardens at Steepletop, the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in Austerlitz, will be open for visitation. Garden "tourists" can "explore the landscapes of several historic homes, featuring abundant gardens and curated grounds with ponds and other water features; an enchanting shade garden and pond complementing a contemporary house in the woods; a charming brick sundial garden bordered by lavender and filled with blooming perennials; a formal 'secret garden' surrounded by a tall privet hedge; and a garden inspired by the iconic Grande AllĂ©e in Monet's celebrated garden at Giverny."

The garden tour will happen rain or shine. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to SpencertownAcademy.org.

Also on Saturday, June 16, the Garden Market on the Green takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Spencertown Village Green, across the street from Spencertown Academy on Route 203. This year's market will showcase more than twenty vendors offering plants, home and garden furnishings, birdhouses, antiques, garden books, and expert garden advice. There will also be a White Elephant Booth and food--breakfast, lunch, and ice cream--prepared by the Spencertown Volunteer Fire Company, Arturo's at Micosta, and Academy members.

An art exhibition titled Woodlands and Wetlands and featuring the work of artists Jacqueline Altman, James Coe, George Dirolf, Ellen Jouret-Epstein, Roger McGee, and Burdette Parks will be on display in the Spencertown Academy Arts Center Gallery on Saturday, June 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sunday, June 17, from 1 to 5 p.m. "Using an array of materials and techniques, the artists explore the flora, fauna, and aquatic areas within these ecosystems through depictions of specific species, in addition to nature's more encompassing vistas." Admission to the exhibition is free, and the artworks will be for sale.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Getting It Right

Yesterday, in my post about the Galvan Foundation's request for tax exemption for some of its properties, I raised the question of how buildings could be wholly tax exempt from property taxes when they had commercial space that was rented to for-profit enterprises. Today, I received an answer to my question from Dan Kent, Vice President for Initiatives at the Galvan Foundation. It turns out the notion that the buildings will be "wholly exempt" is inaccurate for three of the six buildings: 201-203 Warren Street, 202-204 Warren Street, and 364-366 Warren Street. The following is quoted from the email received from Kent:
Galvan Foundation requests tax exemption for spaces occupied by nonprofit organizations or used to further our mission to promote housing affordability. This year we requested exemption for spaces occupied by Bard Early College Hudson, National Young Farmers Coalition, Berkshire Union Free School, and residential units rented at below market rents.
Galvan Foundation does not request tax exemption for spaces rented at market rate to commercial or residential tenants. We request partial tax exemption on a proportional basis for buildings with a combination of market rate space and space for nonprofit organizations and/or affordable housing, such as 201-203 Warren Street, 202-204 Warren Street, and 364-366 Warren Street.
A sign in front of the building indicates that Bard Early College Hudson and National Young Farmers Coalition are located at 364 Warren Street. Presumably Berkshire Union Free School is also located there. The three properties that are exclusively affordable housing are 67-71 North Fifth Street and 325 and 327 State Street. 
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The Great War: June 11, 1918

During World War I, each group of men who left to be trained for the war in Europewhether they were volunteers or drafteeshad their picture taken on the steps of the Columbia County courthouse, and those pictures regularly appeared on the front page of the Columbia Republican. The picture below was on the front page of the Columbia Republican for May 14, 1918.

On June 11, 1918, the front page of the Columbia Republican included this item, which reported on the fate of some the men who had left Hudson bound for foreign places. A number of them, after they had reached Camp Wadsworth in South Carolina, had been disqualified for service because they failed to pass all the physical examinations they were subjected to by the army surgeons there.

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Police Action and Community Reaction

Amanda Purcell's report on the statements made at Monday's informal Common Council meeting about the drug raid on State Street appears in today's Register-Star: "City leaders assail show of force in drug raids." Not much is reported here that hasn't already been reported on Gossips, but Purcell does include a statement from Chief Ed Moore, who is quoted as saying, "When a county supervisor recently said at a public meeting 'it doesn't belong in our community' and 'if we don't get this under control, nobody will want to live in Hudson,' she was not talking the drugs and violence in her neighborhood last summer. She was referring to the 15 minutes the Shared Services Team was deployed on the 200 block. I guess it's a matter of perspective." 
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ear to the Ground

People often wonder how many of the properties owned by the Galvan Foundation are exempt from property taxes. The tentative tax rolls for 2018 show that, aside from all the properties owned by Galvan Asset Management and Hudson Homesteads, acquired when Galvan took over Housing Resources of Columbia County, the only wholly exempt properties owned by Galvan (Galvan Civic or Galvan Initiatives Foundation) are the armory, 11 Warren Street (the former COARC building where Warren Academy is now located), and 40 South Third (the Salvation Army building). Recently, Gossips heard that Galvan was trying to take more properties off the tax rolls, so, since the people in city government who could confirm or deny this were going to be at the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) meeting this afternoon, Gossips went to the meeting to ask these questions: Was it true that Galvan was seeking tax exemptions for five properties? Had the exemptions been granted? Which properties were they?

City assessor Justin Maxwell answered my questions. He told me it was not five but six properties, and, on the advice of corporation counsel Andy Howard, the exemptions would be granted. Maxwell could not tell me which properties they were, because he hadn't committed them to memory, but I called him after the meeting, when he was back in his office, and he provided the addresses.

201-203 Warren Street

This puzzles me because 201-203 Warren Street is one of the buildings that Galvan Asset Management acquired when it took over Housing Resources. The building was already wholly exempt from property taxes.

67-71 North Fifth Street


202-204 Warren Street


364-366 Warren Street


325 and 327 State Street
These two buildings were also acquired by Galvan Asset Management when it took over Housing Resources and are already wholly exempt from property taxes.

When I asked about the justification for removing the buildings from the tax rolls, Maxwell explained that the Galvan Foundation was a registered not-for-profit, and providing affordable housing is part of its stated mission. So long as the apartments in the buildings are rented at below market rates, the buildings fulfill the mission of the foundation and qualify to be wholly tax exempt. He also pointed out that when the buildings stood empty, they were on the tax rolls, but when they are rehabbed and rented out at below market rates, they would be wholly tax exempt. It would appear that Galvan's vast collection of real estate could eventually all be off the tax rolls, with only a few exceptions, leaving the burden of providing the tax revenue needed to run the City to the rest of us. 

I also asked Maxwell how buildings could be wholly tax exempt when they had commercial space that was rented to for-profit enterprises. Princeton Architectural Press occupies the entire first floor of 202-204 Warren Street, Little Apple is on the ground floor of 364 Warren Street, and Hudson Home occupies all of 366 Warren Street. He seemed unaware of this situation and promised to check into it.

Update--Wednesday, June 13, 4:30 p.m.  I just received word from Justin Maxwell, the city assessor, that the properties in question have, at this point, not been removed from the tax rolls. The requests for them to become wholly exempt from property taxes are currently being evaluated by the BAR (Board of Assessment Review), which is made up of three members: Rachel Kappel, Philip Osattin, and Phil Forman. Presumably in a few weeks, when the final assessment rolls are released, we will know if the properties have become wholly exempt or not.    
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On the Empire State Trail

Gossips reported the proposed route of the Empire State Trail through Hudson a month ago: "A Bicycle Trail Runs Through It."

Going from south to north, the Empire State Trail will enter Hudson on Route 9G, will turn left onto Allen Street and proceed west on Allen Street to Front Street, where it will turn right and go north along Front Street to Dock Street, where it will turn right again and go east up Dock Street to Mill Street and along the Dugway to Harry Howard Avenue, where it will turn left and proceed north along Harry Howard Avenue to Joselyn Boulevard at the border of Hudson and Greenport.

Last night, a resolution supporting the route selection through the city came before the Common Council. Council president Tom DePietro said of the route, "In fact, it was handed down by the State." Mayor Rick Rector said the route was the result of "meeting after meeting, with so many people" and recalled that the initial route proposed by the State was to "take out parking on one side of Warren Street." He and other City officials had finally convinced the State--"after they rejected it twice"--to use Allen Street, and he assured everyone that in the current plan "no parking is lost on Allen Street."

Nick Zachos observed that there had been a public meeting in Valatie about the route of the trail through the Town of Kinderhook. Seeming to ignore the fact that in Kinderhook the trail followed the long abandoned path of the Albany-Hudson Electric Trolley, departing often to encroach on private land, and did not involve city streets, Zachos wanted to know, "Why can't we have a public meeting in Hudson?"

Don Moore, who identified himself as an avid cyclist, said he could not imagine a better route through the city, saying that "the terrain is one only an experienced cyclist would attempt."

Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) said she wanted a public hearing before the next Council meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19. DePietro suggested there wouldn't be time to notice such a meeting. Audience member Agi Clark asked, "What do you expect out of a public hearing if it's already decided?" Halloran defended the need for a public hearing, and Alderman Rob Bujan (First Ward) commented, "There's not enough transparency."

The resolution was not formally introduced because a public hearing will be held, although it is not yet known when such a hearing will take place.
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Last Week's Police Activity on State Street

A week ago, the "shared services response team," which some prefer to call the SWAT team, conducted raids at three addresses on State Street: 228, 241, and 508. The action was reported the next day in the Register-Star and made it into the regional TV news. 

Image: NEWS10 ABC
Last night, at the informal Common Council meeting, Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann spoke of what she called "a militarized raid on Hudson," saying it "doesn't belong in our community." Mussmann, who lives in the 300 block of State Street, told the Council, "I stepped out the door and thought I was in Iraq." She made reference to the NEWS10 coverage of the event, which characterized the action as "a preemptive strike against a possible return of yet another summer of violence" in Hudson, spoke of the raid as "offering hope to homeowners and potential big city buyers," and included the prediction of a contractor rehabbing a house in the vicinity that the area would soon be "very populated and very expensive." Mussmann said she had been opposed to the shared services response team when it was created in 2015, and she remained opposed. "If we don't get this under control," she warned, "nobody will want to live in Hudson."

Former Second Ward supervisor Ed Cross then rose to "piggyback" what Mussmann had said, saying he too had opposed the creation of the shared services response team. Fourth Ward alderman John Rosenthal commented that federal programs encouraged local law enforcement agencies to buy militaristic gear.

Council president Tom DePietro advised Mussmann and Cross to bring their concerns to the Police Committee meeting. Kamal Johnson, who chairs the Police Committee, commented, "For the community to be heard, they have to show up." Johnson, who represents the First Ward, on the other side of town, said he too had been on State Street when the raid was being carried out.

The next Police Committee meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, June 25, at 6 p.m. in City Hall.
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