Sunday, January 25, 2015

Music News

Hudson's own Faux Meek (Rob Williams, Josh Miesmer, Damara Rose, and Gabe Schaftlein) has self-released a new album.

It's called More or Less Resilience, and it's available on iTunes. You can hear some of the songs from the album on YouTube.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Considering Local Power

Earlier this month, WAMC did a story about the plans being made in Northhampton, MA, to install solar panels on a capped landfill: "Northhampton Moving Ahead with Landfill Solar Project." The goal is to reduce the city's carbon footprint and provide a new source of revenue.

Related to this community-based effort to produce power in Massachusetts, on Wednesday night, Citizens for Local Power is holding a public forum in Kingston called "Taking Control of Our Energy Supply Through Community Choice Aggregation." The forum will discuss how Community Choice Aggregation can help municipal, residential, and small business customers purchase cheaper, cleaner energy and offer energy efficiency and renewable energy services. The forum takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, January 28, in the Common Council Chambers at Kingston City Hall, 420 Broadway.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Response to the Mayor's Veto

This afternoon, Mayor William Hallenbeck vetoed a Common Council resolution that would have allowed the Council to retain its own attorney to advise them in matters before them. The mayor had asked for a written opinion from corporation counsel, Carl Whitbeck, on whether or not the charter allowed this. Whitbeck's opinion was that it did. In spite of this, the mayor vetoed the resolution. 

The full text of Whitbeck's statement may be seen here. The full text the mayor's veto may be seen here. What follows is Common Council president Don Moore's response to the veto.
In football, they would call the Mayor's veto of the Council attorney resolution moving the goal posts. The Mayor requested and the entire Council, even Aldermen who didn't vote for the resolution, agreed that they would accept an opinion from the City's senior corporation counsel, Carl Whitbeck, on the legality of the resolution. Mr. Whitbeck, hired by the Mayor, is as knowledgable and respected an attorney as can be found in Hudson, as is his law firm. But the Corporation Counsel's unequivocal opinion wasn't what the Mayor wanted to hear, so he ignores it, even misinterprets it. How do you work with someone who doesn't want to play by the rules when they are spelled out for him?
The Mayor raises the false issue of additional cost. The Council resolution very specifically does not increase costs. It does reduce the compensation to be paid the assistant corporation counsel who will have substantially reduced responsibilities from the position paid the same amount last year, $27,500. You do half the work, you don't get paid the same compensation. Am I missing something?

The Latest Word on Modern Farmer

Just yesterday I got a blast from Modern Farmer and wondered if we might get a good snow so I could try making snow cream. Alas, today, there is an article in the New York Times about the magazine that began so brilliantly almost two years ago: "Modern Farmer's Future in Doubt."

Mayor Vetoes Council Resolution

After the Common Council passes a resolution, the mayor has three days to either sign it or veto it. The end of business today was the deadline for the mayor to act on the resolution passed on Tuesday, allowing the Common Council to contract with an attorney to provide legal advice. 

Before the vote was taken on Tuesday, the mayor declared that "if this body should pass this resolution," he wanted an opinion in writing from the "real legal counsel" before he would sign it. The resolution passed, with only Robert "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward) voting against it and Abdus Miah (Second Ward) abstaining. The mayor got the opinion in writing he sought from city attorney Carl G. Whitbeck. In response to the question of whether the Common Council "can retain its own legal advisor independent of Corporation Counsel for the City," Whitbeck answered, "Yes, for the limited purpose of advising the Common Council." Still, shortly after 4 p.m. today, the mayor vetoed the resolution. 

A two-thirds majority is required to override a mayoral veto. If all the aldermen vote as they did on Tuesday, there will be 1,486 affirmative votes. If my math skills serve, 1,350 votes are required for a two-thirds majority.

Hudson's Dog Population

At about this time last year, Gossips published the statistics for dogs licensed in the City of Hudson in 2013. Today, the city clerk's office provided the same information for 2014. The number of spayed female dogs and the number of unneutered male dogs both decreased, by 10 percent and 20 percent respectively.

  • Exempt dogs (i.e. service dogs)  3  
  • Spayed female dogs                    107  
  • Unspayed female dogs                   8  
  • Neutered male dogs                    115  
  • Unneutered male dogs                 21  
The total number of dogs licensed in Hudson in 2013 was 266; in 2014, it was 254. It is not clear, however, if there were fewer dogs in Hudson in 2014 or if fewer people licensed their dogs in 2014.

Homelessness Revisited

Back in 2010 to 2012, dealing with the county's homeless population was a regular topic of discussion in county government, and a couple of different plans to address the problem were advanced--all of which centered on Hudson.

The first was "congregate housing," which involved renovating and furnishing two three-bedroom apartments in this house on Columbia Street, owned by Phil Gellert, and housing eight homeless people there--four in each apartment. Although the county entered into a lease agreement with Gellert to rent the apartments for $2,300 a month, that scheme had to be abandoned when it was discovered that the City of Hudson zoning code does not permit such group homes in that part of the city.

Then there was the "three tier program" to help people out of homelessness. This time the Galvan Initiatives Foundation played a central role. Tier I and Tier II were to be housed in the old orphanage and former car garage at State and Seventh street, dubbed "Galvan Quarters," properties owned by Galvan, and Tier III was to be atop the proposed police and court building, called "Civic Hudson," to be built by Galvan at the corner of Fourth and Columbia streets.

Then in 2013, all talk of providing for the homeless suddenly ceased when it was revealed that the homeless population of Columbia County dwindled to eight

Now it seems, according to an article in the Register-Star today, the topic is back on the table: "County Department of Social Services looks into homeless issue." Supervisor Rick Scalera (Fifth Ward), who probably should recuse himself from all discussion of the subject since he is a "special adviser" to the Galvan Foundation, which figured largely in a past scheme to address homelessness, is quoted as saying, "There was a time when the homeless issue was on the front burner and it quickly went on the back burner, and all of a sudden the issue went away. Amazingly, in six months time there were no homelessness issues."

Romancing the Stone

A week ago, Sam Pratt confirmed that A. Colarusso & Son had purchased Holcim's property in Hudson and Greenport: "Colarusso paid just $8.75 million to acquire 2o Holcim parcels." Today, the Register-Star catches up: "Cement company's land goes to Colarusso & Son." The article's lede seems a bit of an overstatement: "Local leaders are welcoming the transfer of most of the lands of the cement company Holcim U.S. to the Greenport sand-and-gravel company A. Colarusso & Son." 

The article quotes Common Council president Don Moore ("I hope it's good for their business, I hope it is good for the city."), Greenport town supervisor John Porreca ("I imagine it will be for increased production as far as taking the stone and moving it to the waterfront."), and First Ward alderman David Marston ("I'm pleased to see local ownership and operation."). Mayor William Hallenbeck declined to comment, as did a representative from A. Colarusso & Son.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ear to the Ground

During the mayoral election in 2013, Mayor William Hallenbeck refused to debate his Democratic challenger, Victor Mendolia, choosing instead to participate in a kind of pseudo-debate: a videotape of him answering ten questions posed by Greg Mosley paired with a videotape of Mendolia answering the same ten questions. It may be just coincidence, but it appears that the mayor is doing something similar and starting early. Yesterday, Tiffany Martin Hamilton, who has declared her intention to run for mayor in November, was interviewed on WGXC by Victor Mendolia, Debora Gilbert, and Debby Mayer--Democrats all--on the show called @Issue. Gossips has learned that next Wednesday, at 10 a.m., Hallenbeck will be interviewed by Ed Fertik, "Tea Party activist and citizen journalist/writer/commentator," and Holly Tanner, Columbia County clerk, on the show called The Right Opinion.

Defending North Bay

Yesterday, the Register-Star published a "My View" written by Timothy O'Connor, tireless advocate for Hudson's underappreciated bays and wetlands: "Causing more pollution." In it, he questions both the process and the goal of Hudson's latest Community Development Block Grant and argues that the City's plan to separate storm water runoff from the sanitary sewer will result in more and unacceptable pollution in North Bay. O'Connor provides photographic documentation of the pollution now evident in North Bay on his blog Hudson Meets Hudson. The photo accompanying this post is from O'Connor's blog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Learn About the Eleanor

It's been four years since a group of interested Hudsonians crowded into the back room at Wunderbar to learn about the plans to restore the historic Hudson River racing sloop Eleanor, and much has happened since then. Tomorrow night--Thursday, January 22--everyone interested in the progress of the Eleanor restoration project is invited to return to the back room at Wunderbar for the annual reunion and meeting of the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society. Come and hear about what has been accomplished and what is planned for 2015. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. After the meeting, which is promised not to be long, all are invited to stay at Wunderbar Bistro for a "Dutch treat" dinner. Wunderbar Bistro is located at 744 Warren Street.

A Second Chance

If you missed the interview this morning with mayoral hopeful Tiffany Martin Hamilton on WGXC's @Issue, it has been archived and can be heard here.

Not to Be Missed

Hudson's favorite flaneur, Scott Baldinger contemplates the stone in Staley B. Keith Circle: "A Rock and a Hard Place."


Tuesday Night at City Hall

Two things worthy of note happened at the regular meeting of the Common Council on Tuesday night. The first was a resolution, which had not been introduced at the informal meeting on January 12, to enable the Council to have its own legal counsel. 

In introducing the resolution, Council president Don Moore explained that "the mayor wants counsel that is his exclusively" and "the Council needs to have an attorney to act as its legal adviser." This attorney would be paid a $15,000 annual retainer, from funds already in the 2015 budget which would be reallocated for the purpose.

Responding to a question from Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward), city attorney Carl Whitbeck said he had not seen the resolution and could not comment, but he pointed out that in other municipalities, the council does have its own counsel. "The charter does not say the Council can or cannot retain its own counsel," he said.

Moore maintained that the charter gives the Council the ability to hire advisers and retaining an attorney was hiring a legal adviser.

Mayor Hallenbeck had different ideas. "It is the mayor's position," he declared from the back of the room, "that the charter clearly states that the mayor has the authority to appoint the attorney." He made reference to the 2006 referendum (which asked: "Should . . . the Hudson City Charter be amended so that . . . the Common Council may, upon a majority vote of the Common Council, employ its own legal counsel to advise the Council on matters affecting the City of Hudson?") and reminded the Council that the referendum had failed. He maintained that, in wanting its own legal adviser, the Council was "lessening the powers of the mayor," and insisted that such action required a referendum.

Moore likened the Council having a legal adviser to having a Conservation Advisory Council to advise the Council in matters and decisions. (It will be recalled that the mayor also had problems with creating a CAC, believing it would reduce or limit the powers of the mayor.)

Beginning by telling the mayor, "You fired a qualified person for a political reason," Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) argued that there was no need for a referendum. "The Council has the power to hire and retain its own adviser." He then reeled off a list of New York State laws that the Council must understand. Addressing the mayor again, he elaborated: "You fired Dan Tuczinski because you wanted to hire someone who worked in the county attorney's office." He then concluded by asking rhetorically, "How can I, who has taken an oath to do a job, do that job? I rely on the professional advisers that are provided."

Alderman David Marston (First Ward) pointed out, "Our agendas are full of matters that require legal advice," and questioned how there could be Legal Committee meetings with no attorney present. He called the resolution to reallocate funds already in the city attorney's budget "the fastest, cleanest way to end this."

Glenn Martin, former police chief and one-time candidate for Third Ward supervisor, speaking from the audience, raised a number of objections. He wanted to know why the resolution was not introduced at the informal meeting, who was paying for the Council's legal adviser, and whether that person would be "an adviser or an adversary." Warming to his subject, Martin called Friedman a clown, at which time Moore rapped his gavel and declared, "I will not take personal insults in this chamber!" He demanded that Martin sit down. Instead, Martin left the room but not the building in a huff.

Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) was not the first to allude to a lengthy executive session that had taken place in November. He told Hallenbeck that he "felt encouraged that the executive branch supported Council having its own counsel" and said he was surprised at the mayor's opposition.

The mayor then declared that "if this body should pass this resolution," he wanted an opinion in writing from the "real legal counsel," presumably meaning Whitbeck, before he would sign it. 

The resolution did pass. All the aldermen voted in favor except for Alderman Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward), who voted no, and Miah, who abstained, having earlier in the discussion delivered a lecture on the theme of working together and not battling.

A vote on the proposed local law to establish minimum sizes for studio and one-bedroom apartments was also on the agenda. Before the vote, Friedman proposed an amendment to the law, eliminating the 500 square foot minimum for one-bedroom apartments and making 350 square feet the minimum size for an apartment no matter what the configuration. Haddad objected that the amendment "played into the wrong people's hands" and spoke of the perceived housing shortage in Hudson as "a manufactured shortage."

Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) spoke in support of the amendment, pointing out that people in Hudson Terrace lived happily in one-bedroom apartments that were about 380 square feet. 

The vote to amend the law passed with only Haddad voting no. Because the change constitutes a material change, the amended law must sit on the aldermen's desks for another ten days. There was some suggestion that a special meeting should be held rather than waiting until February to vote to remove it from their desks and enact the law.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Turn Your Radio On

Tomorrow morning--Wednesday, January 21--at 10 a.m., self-declared mayoral candidate Tiffany Martin Hamilton will be the guest on @Issue on WGXC. Hamilton will be interviewed by Victor Mendolia, Debora Gilbert, and Debby Mayer. @Issue can be heard at 90.7 FM on your radio dial or online at

What's Next for the Hudson Arcade?

For the pessimistic among us, this seemed only a matter of time. The Register-Star reports today that the plan for a Hawthorne Valley Farm Store in the building at Warren and Fifth streets, which has been under construction for close to two years, has been abandoned: "Hawthorne Valley/Galvan store plan falls through."

Gossips Is Five Years Old!

Today is a double anniversary. One month ago today, I officially adopted my new dog, Joey. In that month, Joey has become a familiar dog about town. Five years ago today, I started my new blog, The Gossips of Rivertown. In those five years, Gossips has become a go-to source for hyperlocal news, information, and history about our beloved and quirky little city.

The anniversary of Gossips is, as always, an occasion for thanksgiving and celebration. Gratitude goes to all the readers who have made Gossips a blog to be reckoned with, but very special thanks is reserved for the readers who set their own subscription rate--anywhere from $10 to $1,000--and became "voluntary paid subscribers" to The Gossips of Rivertown and for the businesses, organizations, and events that have chosen Gossips to get their message to the community of Hudson and beyond.

Gossips invites you to join the celebration of five years of delivering news, history, commentary, and gossip about the events, machinations, and trouble right here in our own river city by adding your name to the list of 2015 Subscribers. Just click on the "Donate" button in the right column. Your support--in any amount--is enormously appreciated and keeps Gossips going.

Readers are also invited to help Joey and me celebrate today at Bruno's (227 Warren Street). We'll be there from about noon on, so come by and congratulate us. Have your lunch or get your lunch at Bruno's and enjoy a piece of Gossips' scrumptious fifth anniversary cake, from Cafe Le Perche, compliments of The Gossips of Rivertown. 

Dogs get to celebrate, too! There is an equally scrumptious cake just for them, made by Shannon Kenneally of Bruno's, which Joey will be sharing with all his canine friends to celebrate finding his new home in Hudson.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Kiwanis Club in Hudson

At the last Common Council meeting, Bob Loveridge made a presentation about Kiwanis Club and his interest in reviving the Kiwanis Club of Greater Hudson, which has not been active since the 1980s. On January 6, Loveridge held an informational meeting at the Central Fire Station about bringing Kiwanis Club back to Hudson. 

For anyone who moved to Hudson in the past two decades, the only visible evidence of the work of the original Kiwanis Club consists of the Olympic Torch Memorial in the triangle at the intersection of Columbia, Green, and State streets and Inspiration Fountain in Seventh Street Park, the fountain that replaced the original 19th-century Venus fountain which many wish were still there.

Curious to know more about the work of the Kiwanis Club in Hudson in its heyday, I contacted Joe Kenneally, who had once offered to tell me about Kiwanis Club. He responded by generously lending me a scrapbook of Kiwanis memorabilia, maintained by the club's historian, Robert Thatcher. On the very first page of that scrapbook, I discovered newspaper clippings that told of a Kiwanis Club historic preservation effort. Unfortunately, the earliest of the clippings made it clear that the effort had not been successful.

The scanned article is too small to read at this size, so the text is transcribed below.
HUDSON--The old stone house on Power Ave. was demolished because potential developers could not afford to rehabilitate it, said Lynda Davidson, executive director of the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency.  
Mrs. Davidson said she took exception to a statement by the Hudson Kiwanis Club challenging statements by city officials that it could find no one to rehabilitate the house. The club said it had offered several years ago to rehabilitate the structure as a clubhouse.
"I am distressed that the Kiwanis Club has taken this position," Mrs. Davidson said.
Kiwanians Thomas Koulos and Thomas Fleming, meanwhile, say they are trying to arrange to use the rubble from the demolition to erect a monument or new building elsewhere in the city.
"This agency has been involved with the State Historic Preservation Office since the late 1970s in the Simpsonville project," said Mrs. Davidson. "Substantial costs were incurred by the [agency] at the insistence of the SHPO regarding the historic Simpsonville buildings. National advertisements, a professionally prepared brochure and countless staff hours answering inquiries [verbal and written] have been expended trying to give away these buildings to acceptable developers. All effort proved fruitless.
"The building in question remained on site for over six years. Numerous offers for the building were made. The Kiwanis Club could have very well been one of the many people who made initial offers to rehabilitate the building. In each and every instance, the potential developer simply could not afford the rehabilitation costs. 
"In recent months, the least expensive cost quoted to move the building was $10,000," not including the costs of moving, disconnecting or reconnecting utility wires so the building could pass beneath them as it was transported to a new location, she said.
Mrs. Davidson added the Hudson Development Corporation tried to incorporate the structure into the design of the Hudson Audio Video Enterprises plant it is constructing in Simpsonville adjacent to the site. Cost was estimated at $50,000 to $75,000, which the corporation could not afford, she said.
Even if it were affordable, "the building had severely deteriorated to the point that traditional rehabilitation could not have been accomplished. The building would have to have been demolished and rebuilt," Mrs. Davidson said.
Mr. Koulos said he and Edward Baptiste have contacted John Sharpe and obtained his permission to build a monument, perhaps an information booth, to the old stone house in the lot next to Mr. Sharpe's 409 Warren St. insurance agency.
The rubble of the old stone house is the property of the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency, but Mrs. Davidson would not comment on the possibility of reconstructing the building.
Mrs. Davidson said "the State Historic Preservation Office in granting its permission to demolish the building recognized that sincere efforts had been made on everyone's part above and beyond the requirements of any agreement. SHPO recognized that there are instances where clearance of old, unsafe, dilapidated buildings must be permitted to allow our city to grow.
"It is unfortunate that the Kiwanis Club, a fraternal organization interested in business in the greater Hudson area, has chosen this approach to welcome a new industry to our city.
"While I understand while there is seldom unanimity in development efforts, I fail to see what useful purpose such a harshly worded statement has served our community."
Studying the pictures of the Simpsonville houses in the Historic American Buildings Survey, one can surmise that the house in question is the one shown in these photographs--the only stone structure in Simpsonville.

The article quoted above appeared on July 8, 1985. Two days later, on July 10, 1985, another article appeared, reporting that the Kiwanis Club had decided "not to go along with further plans because of controversy the situation has caused between the club and the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency." The article goes on to explain:
Last week, following the Kiwanis meeting, member Tom Fleming released a statement that the club had discussed and was "dismayed at" the building's demolition.
The club had in 1981-1982 offered to rehabilitate the structure for a clubhouse, but the offer was turned down because it would not have been a commercial use.
In the July 10 article, club president Paul Kengla explained that "the statement released by Kiwanis last week was never actually an official position of the club, but a statement of opinion by some of its members." Kengla is further quoted as saying: "We decided that yes, the club was definitely concerned in 1981-82 and we are sorry that it [the demolition] happened, but have no further concern with it now."

The article concludes by saying that Koulos and Fleming, "both as private citizens, decided to continue the project of finding some use for the stone house rubble." I wonder if they ever did.   

Following Up with McKinstry Place

On Friday, Gossips reported on a sign, advertising cigarettes, that had been affixed to a tree behind the Quick Mart on Green Street, very close to the property line of 17 McKinstry Place. The sign had reportedly been positioned there to attract hospital workers to the store. Today, the owner of 17 McKinstry Place reports that the sign is gone, but it is not known who removed it.

Skunk Sighting

We know they're here. Their scent from time to time offers evidence of that. But this morning, while walking Joey at 7 a.m., I had the rare experience of actually seeing a skunk out and about. It was lurking in the morning dim in Cherry Alley, by the dumpster behind the building still known as the Shrimp Box.

Not wanting to rile the skunk, and fearing Joey might bark, we beat a hasty and soundless retreat. Thank goodness nature gave the beast a big white stripe along its back. Without it, I might not have immediately recognized the wild creature for what it was.