Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Attacks on Parked Cars

On Sunday morning, the cars of people who were in the church preparing for the morning service were vandalized in the parking lot behind the First Reformed Church on Green Street. Five vehicles had their tires slashed; three had all four tires slashed, and two had three tires punctured. Police were called to the scene and conducted numerous neighborhood interviews.

Early this morning, just before 1 a.m., police responded to reports of someone damaging car mirrors in the vicinity of Union and South Front streets. After arriving on the scene, officers documented twenty-two cars with their mirrors damaged and one car with its driver's side window smashed by a piece of marble. The cars had been parked on South Front, First, Second, Warren, and Union streets.

Witnesses reported seeing a male, approximately 160 pounds, wearing a black hoodie, in the area. Chief Moore commented, "We had two citizens call in the complaint almost simultaneously. I think the heavy rain kept more people from seeing or hearing the vandal while he was in the act." 

Anyone with more information regarding this incident is urged to call HPD detectives at 518 828-3388.

Photos courtesy Hudson Police Department

Calling All Raconteurs

The Ancram Opera House is seeking storytellers for its popular Real People Real Stories event, which features local residents telling true stories from their own lives. The performance will be on Saturday, December 15, at 3 p.m. Interested participants should call the Ancram Opera House pitch line at 518 250-9791 to leave a one-minute version of their story.

The theme for the December performance is "The Kindness of Strangers." Ancram Opera House director Paul Ricciardi, who created Real People Real Stories after being inspired by The Motn Radio Hour on NPR, says he is "looking for tales about Good Samaritans, random acts of kindness, and the goodness of humanity through actions large and small." Ricciardi will direct the show and provide five hours of coaching to each storyteller. Stories must be true, experienced firsthand by the storytellers, and run no more than fifteen minutes.

"No experience is necessary," says Ricciardi. "The goal is not to create a polished monologue but to allow the spontaneity of a real life story to shine through."

Monday, November 12, 2018

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

In the week that started with a holiday, the meetings of interest are concentrated into three days.
  • On Tuesday, November 13, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) meets at 1 p.m. at 1 North Front Street. The IDA, which is currently made up of entirely of people serving ex officio--the mayor, the treasurer, the assessor, the chair of the Planning Board, and the majority and minority leaders of the Common Council--is looking to add a new member who does not already hold a position in city government. It is expected the search for a new member will be one of the topics of discussion.
  • At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the Common Council holds a public hearing on proposed Local Law No. 5, which has come to be known as the "Stewart's law." The law was been criticized by former city attorney Ken Dow and by former Third Ward alderman John Friedman. Last month, the Planning Board, asked to make a recommendation about the proposed law, submitted a letter saying it would support the proposed law provided that "it be conditioned by use of Smart Code principles, and in particular that the relevant planning principles of the Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva, be incorporated into the LL5 plan requirements." No revision to proposed Local Law No. 5 has been made in response to any of these communications. The public hearing on the law will take place in the Community Room at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.
  • At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the Common Council holds its informal meeting in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library. Among the resolutions to be introduced at the meeting is a resolution creating a Zoning and Planning Special Committee and a resolution increasing the penalty for leaving dogs in cars in extreme heat or cold.   
  • On Wednesday, November 14, two meetings of interest are happening at the same time. The first is a public hearing on the proposed city budget for 2019. The hearing takes place in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street. Also at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the Board of the Hudson Housing Authority holds its monthly meeting in the Community Room at Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street. It is expected that the final plans for the two new apartment buildings to be constructed at State and Second streets will be presented at this meeting.

  • On Thursday, November 15, the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall. No agenda for this meeting is as yet available, but there is a chance Alderman Rich Volo, who chairs the committee, will be reporting about the NYSAR Recycling Conference he attended last week, sharing information about laws and ideas pertaining to recycling, single-use plastics, plastic bag legislation, and composting.

More About Skunk Fur

After publishing the post "Contemplating Skunks," I got curious the alleged popularity of skunk fur coats. A little research discovered these two ads. The first, undated, is for the New York department store B. Altman & Co., where a skunk greatcoat from the Altman Fur Salon cost $395. 

The second appeared in the New York Daily News in August 1941, advertising a fur sale at Russeks, once located on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, where a skunk fur coat could be had for a mere $170. 


Contemplating Skunks

Last week, Peter Jung posted on Facebook this photograph of a skunk, with a remarkably wide white stripe, making its way along Prison Alley.

Photo: Peter Jung
The picture elicited lots of comments, including one from me, telling how that same evening, driving home, I had to come to a full stop in the 200 block of Warren Street to allow that same skunk to meander across the street. The mostly white skunk also reminded me of an ad I found a while back, in the Hudson Evening Register for January 13, 1914, and gave me the perfect excuse to share it.

Although the almost white skunk seems something of a rarity today, a hundred years ago, its value was only a fraction of that of an all black skunk. Of course, this raises the question of what skunk fur was used for in the early years of the 20th century. The answer is: coats. 

According to an article called "Skunk Fur: Why Have We Forsaken You?" which appeared on the blog Truth About Fur, skunk fur was "discovered" in the mid-19th century, and by that 1880s it was America's second most valuable fur harvest. The market for skunk fur, however, was not in this country; it was in Europe. By the turn of the century, the European demand for skunk fur had surged, but the demand was interrupted. To quote my source: "World War  I changed everything, not just for skunk but the entire fur trade. With shipments to Europe disrupted, the age of major American auction houses began, first in St. Louis in 1915, then in New York in 1916. Demand for skunk in North America finally took off, and when the European market came back on stream in 1918, the golden age of skunk had arrived."

In 1914, the year the war began in Europe, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a pamphlet called "Economic Value of North American Skunks," promoting the benefits of skunks and providing instructions for raising skunks.       

The introductory comments include this paragraph:
The skunk indirectly conserves the food supply by preying upon insects and other enemies of crops, and the excellent fur it produces offers a valuable material for warm winter garments. Among fur animals it is second in importance in the United States, the muskrat alone exceeding it in total value of fur produced.
The pamphlet was first published in June 1914 and reissued in June 1923. 

The ad for skunk fur that appeared in the Hudson Evening Register ran in January 1914, several months before the war started in Europe, so it's likely the pelts being solicited by Sterling Coon were destined to be shipped overseas, but their first stop was this building, where, in the storefront at the right, Sterling Coon ran a cafe. (In 1914, the blocks of Columbia Street from Sixth Street, where Elihu Gifford's home was located, to the intersection with Green Street, where the Gifford Foundry was located, were known as Gifford Place.)

Anyone squeamish about dining at the eatery where raw skunk pelts were being received and maybe also stored was probably not a patron of Sterling Coon's cafe. A further hint about the cafe's cuisine and ambiance is provided by this notice, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register on August 16, 1913.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Great War: November 11, 1918

When the Armistice was signed in the Forest of Compi├Ęgne, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it was 5 a.m. in Hudson. It's not clear how or exactly when the news of the cessation of fighting reached our little city, but when it did, it "spread like wildfire." Sometime that morning, Mayor Charles S. Harvey called a meeting to make arrangements for a parade and celebration and issued a following declaration, proclaiming the day a half-holiday to begin at noon.
Whereas, Almighty God in his infinite wisdom has given the victory to our righteous cause and our arms, and has lighted anew the fires of liberty and justice before all the peoples of the earth and has thereby given assurance that Might does not make Right;
Whereas, We are duly grateful for the termination of the hostilities and bloodshed, and the early return of our victorious armies from the scenes of carnage and death; and
Whereas, We should celebrate this great day in a becoming and fitting manner.
Now, Therefore, by virtue of my office I hereby proclaim this day a holiday for the city of Hudson and do hereby recommend that all citizens join in the observance of this, one of the greatest days in the history of the United States; that all business be suspended at noon, and all the stores, factories, offices close and remain closed during the remaining hours of the day.
That all citizens assemble at the armory this evening at 7 o'clock and take part in a parade of triumph and rejoicing. 
The next day, the Columbia Republican reported on the day of celebration.

The news that the war was at an end spread thru the city like wildfire yesterday morning and the city began immediately to take on a gala attire in honor of the most momentous history-making events of the world. When the fire alarm rang a noisy conglomeration of every conceivable nose producer began. Whistles blew, bells rang and crowds thronged the streets cheering.
A meeting was called by the Mayor for arrangements to be made for a parade and celebration last night. A half-holiday was declared and business places began to close down before the noon hour had struck. Within an hour of the news going out the stock of bunting and flags in the local stores had been depleted, and every store closed.
All during the day there were parades by organizations and industrial concerns. The children of the public schools, headed by the Hudson band, made a big parade. Autos honked their horns, crowds cheered or sang and the city gave over its time entirely to rejoicing over the victory of our arms and those of our allies in bringing the world war to a close.
The big feature of the day was the parade held in the evening. Altho it was hurriedly gotten up it proved to be as large, if not larger, than any held in this city. It extended the entire length of the city and took nearly an hour to pass a given point, being made up of every organization and industry in the city. The parade began when the fire alarm struck and bells were again rung and whistles blown. The streets were lined with thousands of people, red fire was burned all along the line of march and salutes given as the paraders passed. In spite of the short time that was given to get up the parade it was a huge success and much credit is due all those who arranged it and took part in it.
The editorial page of the Columbia Republican on the day after the fighting ceased featured this paean to peace, which is particularly poignant considering that a little more than two decades later the same powers would once again be at war.


Women at the Polls--Now and Then

Before and since last Tuesday's election, there have been many commentaries about the impact of women voters on the outcome of races throughout the country. In New York, women won the vote in 1917, but woman suffrage didn't go into effect until 1918. The midterm election in 1918 was the first time the women of New York voted. This editorial, which appeared in the Columbia Republican for November 12, 1918, makes interesting observations about the women of Hudson as first-time voters on November 5, 1918, and their potential to change the character of politics. 


Today at the Bronson House

A hundred years ago, the house we now know as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House was in its first year of being part of the New York State Training School for Girls. The last private owners of the house were Elizabeth and Matilda McIntyre. In 1915, a year after Matilda died, Elizabeth sold the house to the State of New York to expand the training school, with the understanding that she could continue to live there during her lifetime. Elizabeth died in 1917. Later in its history, the house would be the residence of the superintendent of the training school, but it 1918 it may have been put to a different use. In 1918, the superintendent of the training school was Hortense V. Bruce, who was a physician. The label accompanying this photograph of the house suggests that in 1918 the house was being used as a "maternity home."

This afternoon, from 1 to 3 p.m., Historic Hudson invites its members--past, present, and future--to the Bronson House for its Annual Meeting and to see the progress that has been made in the house's restoration in 2018 and learn about the plans underway for 2019. These are among the highlights of a visit:
  • Explore the historic 1812 kitchen area now accessible for the first time after a recent asbestos removal project made possible by a grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund for Parks, Preservation & Heritage
  • See all the repaired and restored windows newly painted on the exterior, a project made possible by a grant from the E. L. Phillips Foundation
  • Check out the newly installed window hardware, made possible with funds from Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation.
  • Learn about Historic Hudson's new working relationship with Farrow & Ball, initiated with the donation of paint for the windows
  • Meet Kim Konrad Alvarez and Jack Alvarez of Landmark Consulting, the architectural firm that has been hired, after an extensive selection process, to oversee Phase III of the Bronson House restoration
If you have never seen the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, haven't seen it in a while, or can't see it often enough, plan to visit this afternoon. Hot cider and snacks will be provided to ward off the November chill. 

The National Historic Landmark Bronson House is located on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility. Enter the grounds from Worth Avenue. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Armistice Day in Hudson 2018

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of signing the armistice that ended the fighting of World War I. Until 1954, November 11 was known in the United States as Armistice Day not Veterans Day, as it is called today. In Canada and other Commonwealth countries, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day.

Despite tomorrow being a significant centennial, the observance of Veterans Day in Hudson will be as it always is. The ceremony will begin at Seventh Street Park at 10:15 a.m., followed by a parade down Warren Street to the courthouse, where there will be speeches and readings, laying of wreaths, band music, and an artillery salute.

Everyone Says I Love You

On Wednesday, I was heading for the Board of Elections to help prepare for the hand count of ballots from Tuesday's election, so when I received Mayor Rick Rector's statement about Nick Zachos being reinstated as Youth Director, I didn't realize that following his statement, which I published immediately, there were statements from Youth Commissioner Mark Bryant and reinstated Youth Director Nick Zachos. I discovered them today and publish them now. A close reading of these statements may provide some insight into the reasons for the recent dust-up over the Youth Department.

Here's the statement from Bryant:
Today I have advised the Mayor that after careful deliberation, conversations and discussions regarding the direction and management of the Youth Department, Nick Zachos and I have come to an agreed understanding of improvements needed for the Department and he will remain in his position as the Director of the Youth Department.
This has been a difficult period for the department, however, it is my belief and intent that Nick and I will be able to closely work together, in improving all efforts towards making the department the best possible facility for the youth of our community.
This is the statement from Zachos:
I am writing to express my willingness and enthusiasm to remain in my position as Director of the Hudson Department of Youth.
The Department will be developing and implementing new practices and policies to improve efficiency and accountability moving forward which will provide improved and increased services for our community's youth.
I look forward to working closely with the Commissioner and Mayor Rick Rector to continue to grow and build upon the success we have seen in recent years.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Prescience Plus

On Wednesday, Gossips quoted Malcolm Nance's recollection of John Faso's prediction about his re-election: "The Democrat can take Rhinebeck, Woodstock, and Hudson. I'll take the rest." Earlier today, Gianni Ortiz shared this map on Facebook.

It looks like the Democrat, Antonio Delgado, did take Rhinebeck, Woodstock, and Hudson, as well as the entire county in which each is located, and Faso took the rest.

The Great War: November 5, 1918

In the weeks before this past Tuesday's midterm election, we were constantly reminded that midterm elections are typically bad for the party that controls the White House. Examples cited to demonstrate the axiom usually went back couple of decades, but they could have gone back as far as a century. In 1918, Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was president. The headlines in the Columbia Republican on Tuesday, November 5, Election Day in 1918, announced the triumph of the Republican Party at the polls.

We have to be a little suspicious of the results reported by the Columbia Republican on Election Day 1918, especially since they declared an outcome before the "soldier vote" was received. Republican Charles Seymour Whitman was not re-elected to a third term as governor of New York. Instead, he lost to Democrat Al Smith. It does appear that Daniel V. McNamee, a Hudson lawyer and presumably a Democrat, did go down "to a crushing defeat" in his run for re-election as county judge. In the Hudson city directories for 1916 and 1917, "County Judge" appears after McNamee's name in the directory. In the years immediately after 1918, his occupation appears as simply "Lawyer." 

In the category of "It Was Ever Thus," Hudson in 1918 was a Democratic stronghold in a predominantly Republican county. Mayor Charles S. Harvey, a Democrat, was re-elected to a fourth term, and every alderman but one elected in 1918 was a Democrat. It seems, however, based on the report in the Columbia Republican, that the women of Hudson, voting for the first time in a midterm election, proved not as predictable as some expected. Instead of simply replicating their husbands' votes, hence doubling the number of Democratic votes in Hudson, it seems the women of Hudson may have demonstrated they had minds of their own by voting Republican, the party which at the time was seen to be more supportive of woman suffrage.

Meanwhile, less than a week before the armistice that ended World War I was signed, the front page of the Columbia Republican also reported that French, British, and American troops continued to press forward . . .   

and German leaders were deciding whether or not to accept the terms of surrender agreed to by the allied governments--terms rumored to be "no less drastic than those accepted by Austria, which strip that nation of its war-making machinery both on land and sea and compel the evacuation not only of occupied territory, but part of its own soil."


In Memoriam: Ann Scott

It is with great sadness that I share the news that Ann Scott, my neighbor and friend for a quarter century, died at the beginning of October.

She will be remembered for the lilting laugh that punctuated her conversation and her irrepressibly buoyant good spirits. She and her partner of many years, John Quinn, were fixtures on the Hudson scene--dining out, attending events and gatherings (the Opera House ball was one of their favorites), enjoying each other's company, and reveling in life. In recent years, Ann suffered mobility issues that required the use of a walker, but she remained indomitable. Fiercely independent, she preferred driving herself to being driven places by others. She might arrive at an event late--indeed, she redefined fashionably late--but when she did arrive, she always made an entrance--impeccably coiffed, beautifully dressed, and exuding warmth and charm. 

A memorial and celebration of Ann's life, hosted by her son, Randy, is planned for Sunday, November 18, from noon to 3 p.m. in the West Room at Hudson Hall, 327 Warren Street. 

Please, Don't Feed the Foxes

There are active efforts to trap the mangy foxes in the cemetery so they can be taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center for treatment. This is critical now that the weather is getting colder. Mange destroys a fox's coat and its ability to stay warm, so without treatment a fox with sarcoptic mange will die from exposure. 

One of the cemetery fox watchers received this message yesterday from the wildlife rehabilitator: "Multiple people have been leaving food, making capture, even mapping or timing almost impossible." If you are one of those people leaving food, or know someone who is, please let it be known that it is not helping the foxes. It is harming them by preventing them from getting the treatment they need.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Budget for 2019

This evening, Mayor Rick Rector presented to the Common Council the proposed budget for 2019. His entire budget message will be available on the City of Hudson website in the morning, but here are some of the highlights. 

Rector started out by enumerating the mandated annual expenses over which the Board of Estimate and Apportionment has no control.
  • Health Insurance  The increase in the cost of health insurance in 2019 will be $224,400 or 14.5 percent.
  • Wages  In October, the Common Council passed a resolution increasing the minimum wage for all part-time city employees to $15 an hour. In 2019, that represents an increase of $260,400 or approximately 4.6 percent.
  • Social Security  Payments in 2019 will increase $50,300 or approximately 14.5 percent.
  • Retirement  Payments in 2019 will increase $25,700 or approximately 3.8 percent.
  • Library  The City provides $250,000 in funding to the Hudson Area Library annually.
  • Central Firehouse  The Central Firehouse was built in 2005 by Community Initiatives Development Corporation, and the City has a thirty-year lease on the building. In 2019, the annual increase on the lease is $48,900.
The four biggest items in the budget for 2019 are, in descending order:
  • Police Department  $3,073,681--a 5.8 percent increase from 2018
  • Department of Public Works  $1,911,121--a 2.74 percent decrease from 2018
  • Youth Department  $540,832--a 46.1 percent increase from 2018
  • Fire Department  $236,173--a 1.3 percent decrease from 2018
Rector explained that, despite the state imposed annual tax cap of 2 percent, the allowable tax cap is determined by a complex, multi-step calculation. This year the maximum tax increase for the City of Hudson could have been 7.5 percent. The 2019 budget represents an actual tax increase of 3 percent. 

To achieve a balanced budget in 2019, it is proposed that $429,300 be taken from the fund balance. To compensate for this, the revenue from the sale of 427 Warren Street (the former police headquarters), which, if memory serves, was previously earmarked to pay down the debt on the new police and courts building, will go into the fund balance as a one-time revenue.

The Common Council will hold a public hearing on the budget on Wednesday, November 14, at 6:00 p.m., somewhere in the Galvan Armory, before voting on the budget at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 20.

More of the Work of Edmund Denegar

In the early years of this century, the grand house at 345 Allen Street underwent a transformation, gaining an imposing two-story Greek Revival portico that it didn't have before.

This wasn't the first time a new owner of the house chose to reinterpret its design. A little more than a hundred years earlier, in 1901, Malcolm Gifford, grandson of Elihu Gifford, who established the Gifford Foundry in 1863, and vice president of the family business, then known as Gifford-Wood Company, bought the house and had it remodeled in Colonial Revival style. A item that appeared in the Columbia Republican on April 4, 1901, reveals that Edmund Denegar, who built 35 South Fifth Street for himself in 1888, was to be the contractor for the remodeling, which promised to transform the grand house into "a mansion of architectural beauty entirely different from anything now to be seen" in "that aristocratic section of the city." 

To Gossips' knowledge, there is photographic documentation of what the house looked like before the 1901 remodeling, but there is a record of its appearance before its most recent transformation.

The one-story portico of the 1901 reconfiguration was in harmony not only with the two bays on either side of the house but was also in harmony with the one-story porches and porticoes found on the rest of the houses in this "aristocratic section of the city."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Latest on the Youth Department

Mayor Rick Rector just released the following statement:
After lengthy discussions, our Youth Commissioner Mark Bryant has advised me today that Nick Zachos will remain in the position of Director of the Hudson Youth Department.
It is my understanding that both Mark and Nick have agreed to work closer together in the administration and management of the department and have determined specific areas of needed improvement.
The youth of our community deserve the very best we can provide and I am looking forward to working with both Mark and Nick in realizing this.
While the past several days have been difficult in so many ways, it is my goal that all parties learn from this and focus on improvements that will continue the mission of providing the very best for the youth of Hudson.

Ear to the Ground

. . . or in this case, the radio. 

On a special edition of The Round Table on WAMC this morning, Malcolm Nance recounted that John Faso had commented to him, before it was determined who the Democratic candidate for Congress in NY19 would be, "The Democrat can take Rhinebeck, Woodstock, and Hudson. I'll take the rest." Things worked out a little differently.

The Morning After: Races of Interest

The following information comes from the New York State Board of Elections.
  • Antonio Delgado bested John Faso with 49.26 percent of the vote to Faso's 46.42 percent. The margins were greater in Columbia County, Faso's home county, where Degado got 53.10 percent of the votes over Faso's 43.05 percent.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand won over her Republican opponent Chele Farley 64.40 percent to 33.57 percent.
  • Andrew Cuomo won re-election with 57.79 percent of the votes over Marc Molinaro's 36.16 percent. In Columbia County, the results were a little different: Cuomo took 42.44 percent of the votes; Molarino took 50.96 percent.
  • Aaron Gladd lost his race for State Senate to Republican Daphne Jordan with 44.23 percent of the votes to Jordan's 52.14 percent. In Columbia Columbia, Gladd narrowly bested Jordan, with 48.09 percent of the vote to her 47.07 percent. 
  • Didi Barrett won re-election to the State Assembly with 52.01 percent of the vote over Republican challenger William Truitt with 44.25 percent of the vote. In Columbia County, Barrett took 54 percent of the votes to Truitt's 42.74 percent.