Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Finding a Place to Park

Last week, the Common Council passed a resolution to make a formal home rule request of the state legislature to establish a residential parking permit system for the area of Hudson surrounding Columbia Memorial Hospital. It is hoped this will solve the parking problems for residents whose parking spaces on the street are regularly taken up by hospital workers. But what about the hospital workers? Where are they supposed to park? 

In the past, the hospital rented the parking lot at the American Legion for its workers. Recently the property was sold, and that lot is no longer available. 

As an alternative to the American Legion lot, the hospital is now renting parking spaces for it workers in the lot behind the First Reformed Church on Green Street. While providing offsite parking, the hospital prohibits workers from parking in the existing parking garage during the daytime in order to keep those spaces free for people visiting doctors' offices and patients in the hospital. 

Even though the hospital is providing parking only a block away, it seems that hospital workers prefer driving around the neighborhood looking for a space on the street to parking in the lot. For whatever reason workers would rather park on the street than in the lot, things will become a lot more difficult for them when parking on the street will likely result in a $25 parking ticket.

Protecting What's Unique About Hudson

The historic preservation ordinance, Chapter 169 of the City of Hudson code, which was adopted by the Common Council in 2003, was the most significant legislation for protecting the unique character of Hudson. Despite Rick Scalera, who was mayor at the time, later mourning, in the media, that signing the legislation into law instead of vetoing it was the biggest mistake he ever made as mayor, and his former aide, Carmine Pierro, launching regular assaults on the Historic Preservation Commission, when he was on the Common Council, for allegedly interfering with development in Hudson, the historic preservation ordinance and the commission that it created have succeeded in protecting the very things that make Hudson a sought-after destination: its historic architecture and its unique and quirky character.

Now, fourteen years later, the Common Council Economic Development Committee is working on legislation that would take a further step in preserving not only community character but also community wealth. The proposed legislation is a law that would ban formula businesses--chains and big box stores--from locating in Hudson.

The aesthetic benefit of such a ban is obvious. Hudson would not have to deal with businesses wanting to impose their iconic store appearance and signage on our main street. Such a law would also preserve Hudson's character by encouraging the kinds of unique, independent businesses that have developed here and ensuring that they would not have to compete with regional and national chains. The law would also ensure that Hudson continues to provide an experience that cannot be found anywhere else--certainly not in a shopping mall. And there are additional economic benefits. The law would ensure that wealth stays in the community. More than once in the discussion of this legislation, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who is researching and drafting the legislation, has pointed out that money spent at a chain store leaves the community the next day, but money spent at businesses with local owners stays in the community longer. Another benefit anticipated is that a ban on formula stores would have the effect of capping the rents being charged for commercial space on Warren Street. Landlords might be more reasonable in their expectations if they knew that renting to a chain, capable of paying more than an independent proprietor, is not a possibility.

At the Economic Development Committee meeting last Thursday, the committee reviewed a draft of the legislation banning formula businesses from Hudson. Based on the discussion that evening, Friedman will be revising the draft. Committee chair Rick Rector told Gossips that the committee will hold a public hearing to help them refine the legislation before passing it along to the full Council for consideration.

Meeting Canceled

News for anyone planning to attend the Hudson Development Corporation meeting today: It was just announced that the Board of Directors meeting, which was to take place at noon, will not be held. The next meeting of the HDC Board will take place on May 23.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Election Day Is Just Six Months Away

Local elections happen this November. In Hudson, local elections can be pretty exciting, and this year, with the restructuring of the five wards into voting districts of equal population, the election promises to be even more dramatic than usual.

The first to make public his intention to run for office this time around is Rob Bujan, who is seeking to represent the greatly expanded geographically First Ward as an alderman. Bujan, a Democrat who lives in the original First Ward and currently serves on the Planning Board, announced his candidacy with this statement:
I am looking forward to running for 1st Ward Alderman. I believe transparency and collaboration to be an essential part of any government. We don't have to always agree but we should really agree that each person's passion has a reason behind it and that that passion is important to them. Treating others with respect, regardless of one's view is so important when working with a team, in this case, the Common Council.  
Now is the time for the City of Hudson and its government to continue to work to push for progress, equality, responsibility and respect.   
You can hear Bujan, who writes the blog Pulling the Plug on Healthcare, talking about healthcare and related issues today at 2 p.m. on WGXC. Bujan's campaign website is bujanforfirst.com.

Consideration of Haul Road Postponed

Gossips has received word that Ed Stiffler, chair of the Greenport Planning Board, announced this morning the board will not be considering the Colarusso haul road proposal at its next meeting, which takes place tomorrow, April 25. The reason given is that the public comments received, at the special informational meeting last week and in written form, provide more information than the board is able to review prior to the meeting.


Reminder of an Important Meeting

This Wednesday, April 26, the Conservation Advisory Council is holding a public meeting to gather knowledge and ideas to inform its Open Space and Natural Resources Inventory. 

Hudson residents are invited to share their thoughts about what would make Hudson a more livable, sustainable, and enjoyable place. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, in the Hudson Senior Center on the second floor of the Galvan Armory at 51 North Fifth Street, also the location of the Hudson Area Library. For more information, contact CAC@cityofhudson.org

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Beginnings of 327 Warren Street

"A City Hall should be erected, one that Hudson city would be proud of. It is certainly needed, and by a little exertion on the part of our citizens it could be obtained." 

With those words, from a letter to the editor that appeared in the Hudson Daily Star on May 22, 1851, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton cut the ribbon, and the guests assembled last night for the Proprietors Ball climbed the stairs to the newly restored Hudson Hall, the final phase of the restoration of a building constructed a hundred and sixty-one years ago as Hudson's City Hall.

In the thirty-six hours before the ball, Gossips spent some time trying to help identify something historic and appropriate for the mayor to say on this occasion. My research, though it yielded no eloquent statements from the mayor at the time, Peter S. Wynkoop, uncovered a timeline of the construction of the building in 1854, which for us in the 21st century seems truly amazing. Today, as a tribute to the monumental community achievement celebrated last night, Gossips shares a summary of the story of the building's construction, drawn from items that appeared in the Daily Star. 

As the quote from the letter to the editor suggests, Hudson's need for a proper city hall was recognized for many years before it was met. Prior to the construction of 327 Warren Street, the Common Council met in rented spaces. There seem to have been a couple of different ones over time, and the legend that the Henry Ary painting of George Washington has to be present whenever the Common Council meets may be associated with this lack of a city hall and an official, permanent Council chamber. The presence of the painting rendered whatever room the Council was meeting in the official Council chamber.

Our story today begins in April 1854, when, on April 4, the Daily Star reported that the legislation enabling the City of Hudson to borrow $15,000 for the purpose of building a city hall had passed in the State Assembly and Senate.

The next step was to find a site for the building, and two days later, on April 6, 1854, the Daily Star reported that a committee of the Common Council had been appointed to do just that.

On April 11, the Daily Star reported that the committee "have not yet fixed upon any definite site," but three days later, on April 14, eight days after the committee was appointed, the Daily Star reported that a site had been chosen.

The following day, on April 15, the Daily Star provides more information about the site.


The next steps were to get rid of the "small wooden buildings of little value" and select an architect. On May 4, it was reported that the buildings had been sold at auction, and on May 30, it was reported that last of the old buildings had been moved from the site.

This building in the 300 block of Allen Street is one of the buildings that was moved.

Where on Diamond Street (now Columbia Street) and State Street the other buildings were relocated is not known nor it is known if they still exist.

On April 21, 1854, the Daily Star reported, "The City Hall plans are in the hands of two or three architects of this city to make drafts." Although the report specified "architects of this city," the first draft to be submitted, on May 8, 1854, came from an Albany architect, Mr. B. S. De Forest. This raised the ire of at least one Hudsonian, who, identifying himself as "An Old Tax Payer," declared in a letter to the editor of the Daily Star: "We have among us men of genius and talent, capable of designing and constructing any work, either useful or ornamental, in as good style and taste as any that can be procured from abroad, and those who are entrusted with the management of our city affairs, would not be justified in giving the funds raised by city taxation to foreign mechanics; and the writer for one, although decidedly in favor of the new City Hall, would have opposed the measure with all the influence under his control, could he for a moment have supposed that our city authorities would adopt such an unjust and impolitic course." The next day, the Daily Star assured "An Old Tax Payer" that "the draft submitted by Mr. De Forest of Albany was volunteered and received with the understanding that it was not to be paid for unless adopted." 

A few days later, on May 13, 1854, it appeared that De Forest would be the architect of Hudson's city hall because our local Hudson architects were too busy with other projects to submit their drafts in time.

On May 19, 1854, however, the Daily Star reported that Peter H. Avery had submitted a draft "which is in several respects thought to be better adapted to the purpose and the place than that submitted by Mr. De Forest, of Albany." As we know, Avery, who was both young and local though apparently not a Hudson native, got the job. The account in the Daily Star provides a fairly detailed description of Avery's proposed design. Reading it, one can imagine the building as we know it.


The bids for constructing the building were received on June 28, 1854, and on July 1, 1854, the project was awarded to Mr. A. Calkins, who submitted the lowest bid: $12,975. The ground breaking took place the very next day, on July 2, 1854, and six months later, on January 2, 1855, Hudson's new City Hall opened with its very first event: a Franklin Library Association lecture given by George William Curtiss [sic], entitled "The Secret of Success."


Another Chance Today

The neon "HOT POPCORN" sign is gone, to live on at the Crandell Theater in Chatham, but the popcorn popper and some other objects--both practical and sentimental--are still available in the lobby of Fairview Cinema 3. Bruce Mitchinson says he'll be there today, probably starting at noon, so stop by and take a look. Gossips shopped the lobby sale yesterday and snagged the marquee letters to spell out the name of Fairview Cinema's biggest canine fan: JOEY.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Thought at the Close of Earth Day

Regular readers know that day by day I am searching the newspapers from 1917 for items that provide insight into life on the home front--specifically Hudson--during the U.S. involvement in the Great War, World War I. Sometimes, though, I stumble upon fascinating things that are not related to the war but to the influenza pandemic that no one in the spring of 1917 could have known would happen in the late fall of 1918. This is an example--an image that appeared in the Hudson Evening Register for April 18, 1917.

It was not an advertisement for a painter, a paint store, or a particular brand of paint. It was a public service announcement. Ironically, the paint believed in 1917 to kill all germs is today a major public health hazard because it contained lead.

Happy Earth Day

Photo: NASA/NOAA/Goes Project

This image of the Americas was captured on Earth Day, 2014, by the NASA/NOAA Goes Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What It Says

For anyone curious about the amicus brief submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday by the South Bay Coalition regarding the appeal of the Order to Remedy, that document is now available on the City of Hudson website. Click here to access it. The following illustrations are from the document.


Today at the Youth Center

Right now, the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood is having a fundraising dinner at the Hudson Youth Center. It started at noon and will go on until 6 p.m., or until they run out of food, so get yourself to the Youth Center for a fried chicken dinner for just $10. You can dine there or take your food home. They are even offering home delivery if you call 518 828-0017.

Also happening at the Youth Center today, at 2:30, the kids of Kite's Nest will march from their headquarters on South Front Street to the Youth Center for the official unveiling of the mural they created on the side of the building. Those who show up at Kite's Nest shortly before 2:30 can view the hand-built snake museum before the parade to the Youth Center steps off.

Photo: Kite's Nest
Join the fun, get some good food, and support a worthy community cause.

A Hundred Years Ago in Hudson

While combing through old newspapers looking for items that reveal life in Hudson during the Great War, I came upon the following report in the Evening Register for Wednesday, April 18, 1917, and I could not resist sharing it. It has no particular relevance to the declaration of war that happened two weeks before, but it does involve Officer Miller, a Gossips obsession in 2015.

The story teaches two lessons that are still relevant to us in the 21st century: don't make phone calls when you've had too much to drink; and don't use indecent language when you are phoning the police.

Hudson vs. Colarusso: The Dock

On Wednesday night, Colarusso's appeal of the Order to Remedy came before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The OTR was issued on January 27 by code enforcement officer Craig Haigh because work had been done by Colarusso on the dock without approval from the Planning Board, in violation of city code. A month later, on February 23, Colarusso, through their attorney John Privitera, appealed the OTR, arguing that what was done was a "minor action" which did not require review by the Planning Board.

City of Hudson Code Section 325.17.1D specifies that "no building shall be erected, moved, altered, rebuilt or enlarged, nor shall any land or improvement thereon be constructed, altered, paved, improved or rebuilt, in whole or in part, for any purpose in the Core Riverfront C-R District, except that the following conditional uses are permitted, subject to the approval of the Planning Board. . . ." On Wednesday, Privitera argued that Haigh had misinterpreted the law and made a factual error in issuing the OTR. He maintained that what had been done at the dock--stabilizing the shoreline south of the dock with riprap and replacing the bulkhead on the north side of the dockconstituted a "minor action" and was therefore exempt for the following three reasons: (1) it was maintenance and repair that involved no substantive change or improvement; (2) the replacement of the bulkhead was "in kind"Privitera defined "in kind" as "similar" and claimed that replacing a wood and concrete bulkhead with a steel bulkhead was "in kind" because they replaced a bulkhead with a bulkhead; (3) the work involved fewer than 4,000 square feet. Privitera asked the ZBA to reverse the Order to Remedy, saying that "the project cannot be undone, because it was fully done and approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers."

To hear all of Privitera's argument, Haigh's response, and assistant city attorney Mitch Khosrova's comments, you can watch Dan Udell's video of the proceedings, which is now available online. A report on the meeting also appears today in the Register-Star: "Colarusso appeals bulkhead violation." This report includes information contained in an amicus brief submitted to the ZBA by the South Bay Coalition.

It is up to the ZBA to decide if the code enforcement officer's decision was legal and correct. Before making that judgment, they will conduct a public hearing on the issue, to take place on Tuesday, May 9, at 6 p.m.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Meanwhile, Back in Hudson

While many of us were in Greenport on Tuesday night, at the special informational meeting about Colarusso's proposed haul road, the Common Council held its regular monthly meeting. At that meeting, the Council passed a resolution, which originated with the Conservation Advisory Council, opposing the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline. Rosa Acheson has a report about it in the Register-Star: "Council votes to oppose Pilgrim."  

Map source: A Pipeline Runs Through It
The proposal is for two pipelines--one carrying crude oil and other carrying refined oil--between Albany and Linden, New Jersey. Seventy-nine percent of the pipelines would be located in the right-of-way of the  New York State Thruway, which George Pataki once called "New York's Main Street." The resolution passed by our Common Council on Tuesday calls upon the New York State Thruway Authority to reject the use of its right-of-way for the purpose of transporting gas and oil by pipeline and urges Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to oppose construction of the Pilgrim Pipeline. 

If you are not sure why the proposed pipeline is a bad idea and opposing it is a good thing, watch this video by Jon Bowermaster: A Pipeline Runs Through It. 

Relive the Experience . . .

or watch it for the first time. Dan Udell's video of Tuesday night's informational meeting conducted by the Greenport Planning Board on the proposed Colarusso haul road can now be viewed online.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Get Yourself a Piece of Local History

A month ago, Fairview Cinema 3 screened The Last Picture Show on its final weekend of showing movies. Today, Bruce Mitchinson announced that this Saturday, April 22, from noon until 5 p.m., he is having a "lobby sale." He must turn over the keys to the building to TRG on Monday, and everything must go.

Among the things for sale are the commercial popcorn popper, the vintage neon "HOT POPCORN" sign, movie reels, lobby stanchions and velour ropes, the doorman ticket stub box, cash registers, movie standees, paintings and prints, file cabinets, room air conditioners, electric heaters, and other small items. Mitchinson offers this invitation: "If anyone wants to do their American Pickers impression, look around and make an offer." 

This is your golden opportunity--one that won't come again--to get yourself something to commemorate Fairview Cinema 3 and its forty-four years of showing movies, so don't miss it. The sale is Saturday, April 22, from noon to 5 p.m.

Of Interest

Roger Hannigan Gilson, who is still listed as reporter on the Register-Star website although he seems no longer to work for the paper, has a post on his blog, The Other Hudson Valley, of particular interest to me and others like me, who have chosen Hudson as their home but are still considered "outsiders" by the HBBs (Hudson by Birth): "Columbia County vs. The Cidiots."  

Thanks to Trixie Starr for bringing this to our attention 

Last Night in Greenport

For some, last night's "Special Informational Meeting" conducted by the Greenport Planning Board was reminiscent of the many hearings that took place more than a decade ago surrounding the proposed St. Lawrence Cement "Greenport Project"--same place, same conflict between preserving South Bay and the Hudson waterfront for aesthetic and recreational uses and using them for heavy industry, same sense of a divided community, heightened by the Colarusso people handing out chartreuse vests to anyone who would sign this statement of support for the haul road:

After Greenport Planning Board chair Ed Stiffler called the meeting to order and reminded everyone of its purpose, Virginia Benedict, counsel to the Greenport Planning Board, read from the statement of "Authority, intent, and purpose" of New York State's Environmental Conservation Law:
In adopting SEQR [State Environmental Quality Review], it was the Legislature's intention that all agencies conduct their affairs with an awareness that they are stewards of the air, water, land and living resources, and that they have an obligation to protect the environment for the use and enjoyment of this and all future generations.
The basic purpose of SEQR is to incorporate the consideration of environmental factors into the existing planning, review and decision-making processes of state, regional and local government agencies at the earliest possible time. To accomplish this goal, SEQR requires that all agencies determine whether the actions they directly undertake, fund or approve may have a significant impact on the environment, and, if it is determined that the action may have a significant adverse impact, prepare or request an environmental impact statement.
It was the intention of the Legislature that the protection and enhancement of the environment, human and community resources should be given appropriate weight with social and economic considerations in determining public policy, and that those factors be considered together in reaching decisions on proposed activities. Accordingly, it is the intention of this Part that a suitable balance of social, economic and environmental factors be incorporated into the planning and decision-making processes of state, regional and local agencies. It is not the intention of SEQR that environmental factors be the sole consideration in decision making.
With that, Stiffler defined the rules of conduct for the hearing: anyone wishing to speak must have previously signed up to do so; each speaker would have a maximum of five minutes; there would be no clapping or booing; speakers were to address the board not the applicant.

Before members of the public were given a chance to speak, Pat Prendergast, the engineer for Colarusso, made a presentation of the project, in which he defined the benefits to the applicant as "less interaction with vehicles and pedestrians" and the benefits for the public as "a lot less trucks, less impact to infrastructure, and less noise and dirt." He also alleged that the proposed haul road was "consistent with the City of Hudson 'master plan' and its zoning."

Of the seventeen people who spoke at the hearing, only three spoke in support of the proposal. Bernie Kelleher, highway superintendent for Columbia County, called it a win for the City of Hudson and a win for Colarusso, saying it was a "no-brainer to get the trucks out of the city." Joe Mormando, who identified himself as a member of the Power Boat Association, declared that he didn't understand "why anyone could be against this" and continued, "I still haven't heard a reason why it shouldn't be done." Roddy Niesen attested, "The Colarusso family are good people."

Among those having concerns about the proposed haul road, the first to speak was David Clouser, the new engineer for the Hudson Planning Board. He began by noting that the Town of Greenport and the City of Hudson had similar concerns when it came to the application and also different concerns. Traffic was a concern shared by both municipalities. What was different was that South Bay is a rare ecological resource, and the City "has taken great care to look at what they want to do with the riverfront." As his associate Ryan Weitz had done last Thursday at the Hudson Planning Board meeting, Clouser summarized the findings of a study of the proposed project, reiterating that to exclude the dock from consideration would constitute segmentation, asserting that the proposal is not consistent with community plans, and indicating that more information is needed, specifically about the culvert, the number of truck trips, the trestle.

Julie Metz told of a flyer being distributed along the Columbia Street truck route, suggesting that Colarusso is trying to "pit neighborhoods against each other" and alleging that "Colarusso wants to bully and rush their way through the process." She questioned the benefits of the proposal by noting that only about 20 percent of the trucks on Hudson streets are Colarusso trucks and Colarusso is "requesting the haul road in addition to continuing to use Columbia Street." She asserted that the economy of Hudson that would be negatively impacted by the haul road employs more people than Colarusso does. (Colarusso, it was noted by Prendergast, employees 150 people.)

Peter Jung, representing The Valley Alliance, expressed concern that the volume of the activity that would be enabled by making the road through South Bay two lanes would "impede other development on the waterfront." He mentioned in particular the $25 million proposal to redevelop the Kaz warehouse site, the RFP for the Dunn building, and the existing enterprise at Basilica Hudson. Like Metz, he pointed out that "people suffering truck traffic will only see a little relief" from the haul road and that Colarusso has made "no commitment to take all their trucks off the street." Jung urged the Greenport Planning Board to make a positive declaration.

John Lyons, an environmental attorney representing a Hudson citizens' group, said he was glad to hear the statement of the purpose of SEQR read aloud and told the board, "Now is your time to fulfill your responsibility as lead agency." He urged to board to "mitigate impacts before we start reviewing plans" and asked them to be "stewards of the land, air, and water," to look at the haul road and the dock together, and to make a positive declaration.

Jonathan Lerner, chair of the Hudson Conservation Advisory Council, defined two environmental concerns about the proposed alterations to the haul road through South Bay: the impact on habitat and species and restricted tidal flow and fish passage. 

Barbara Dague, identifying herself as representing the human species, asserted that "our waterfront cannot support the industrial activity" enabled by the Colarusso proposal and urged the Planning Board to make a positive declaration.

Adam Weinert spoke of the growth of tourism in Hudson, noting that "the river and access to it" is regularly cited as the major reason people visit Hudson. He predicted what is proposed would be "a blight to the community and a detriment to businesses that rely on tourism." He asserted that the proposal was "inconsistent with the Vision Plan, the Comprehensive Plan, and the LWRP." 

Stephen Kingsley, remarking that last time he was at Columbia-Greene Community College was for the cement plant, urged collaboration: "We're all in this together. We have to figure this out together. . . . Let's do this in a smart way that works for everybody. We have a chance to do this right for our children."

John Rosenthal asked the Greenport Planning Board to consider Hudson zoning. As others before him, he noted that the proposal does not solve the truck problem in Hudson and suggested that Colarusso could alleviate the truck problem by taking their trucks off the streets right now if they chose to. He reminded the board that the haul road was a nonconforming use and Hudson zoning does not allow for expansion and asked for a positive declaration.

Virginia Martin noted that Hudson had one of the county's few accessible waterfronts. She spoke of tourism and stated that tourism accounted for $130 million spent in Columbia County and was responsible for a 7 percent increase in tax revenues. She warned that the haul road would "likely bring an expansion of industrial activity," which would discourage other kinds of businesses and seriously damage Hudson's quality of life and economy. "We can't have Hudson's good sacrificed for Colarusso's good."

Elsa Leviseur also expressed concern about the impacts on the economy and worried about expansion: longer hours and more trucks. She asked if there could not be "a way for the City and Colarusso to work in collaboration," but she said thought "they are cutting corners and going behind people's backs." She too urged the board to make a positive declaration.

Sophie Henderson, who works at Basilica Hudson, expressed concern about the impacts on the character of Hudson, noting that the impacts of dust, fumes, and noise are already significant, and called for a positive declaration.

Mitch Khosrova, counsel to the Hudson Planning Board, was the last to speak. He told the Greenport Planning Board, "I'm sure tonight you realize the burden that you have as lead agency [in the SEQR process]." He reminded the board that the Hudson code "specifically states that the dock and the causeway are a nonconforming use" and expressed the need to "balance Colarusso interests with the City's interests." He told the board, "We need all the information that an application review requires," later saying, "Without all the information you can't know if you have proper mitigation."

Dan Udell was there, videotaping the proceedings, so soon you will be able to view the proceedings and hear exactly what everyone who spoke at the hearing had to say.

The Greenport Planning Board will be accepting written comments on the haul road proposal until Friday, April 21. If mailed, comments must be postmarked by Friday, April 21, and received by Monday, April 24. If hand delivered, they should be given to the town clerk and time-stamped.