Saturday, September 24, 2016

Highlights from the Hudson Bed Races

The day was perfect, the crowd was sizable, and after months and months of planning, the bed races were over in less than thirty minutes. Aside from a few tense moments--when a bed lost a wheel, when two beds careened into each other, when a bed veered toward the spectators lining the sidewalk--a good time was had by all. Going into the race, the word on the street was that the Hudson Sloop Club Viking Bed was the bed to beat. The Sloop Club team performed admirably, but in the end, a late entry called "What Big Eyes You Have," a bed and team inspired by the story of Little Red Riding Hood, won the day. 

Here are some photos of the Hudson Bed Races for 2016.

Beds in Readiness

Former mayor and organizer of the 1980s bed races, Dick Tracy

Beds in Action

The winning bed: "What Big Eyes You Have"


Open House This Afternoon

It was late August 2015 when Colin Stair announced that he had purchased 551 Warren Street. A year later, the interior renovation is complete, and the building will officially open on October 1.

Today, Saturday, September 24, the community is invited to an open house and tour of the building from 3 to 6 p.m. The press release announcing the open house follows:
It was only a year ago that we purchased this historic building and in that time we have renovated 18,000 square feet into contemporary commercial loft and office spaces. This project was conceived with input from the community and was successful thanks to Ferol Barton Blake, who shepherded us through the design process. 551 Warren Street was renovated using local craftsmen, contractors, engineers, plumbers, and electricians. 
The work spaces at 551 Warren Street were designed with local small businesses, entrepreneurs, and agencies in mind. The building is multi-use and includes 7,000 square feet of gallery space, as well as private offices. Included in the rent for each space are utilities--heat, electricity, and high-speed wifi. Mid-Hudson Cable remains a long-term tenant and continues to use 551 Warren as the fiber optic hub of Hudson’s next generation internet. Mid-Hudson Cable’s presence will aid our tenants in receiving the fastest and most reliable internet service.
Our goal during the renovation of 551 Warren Street was to create spaces that were clean and modern, and yet in keeping with the architectural integrity of the building and the city of Hudson. The completed spaces have already begun to attract creators and innovators as tenants. Jennifer Kahrs of Walnut Hill, Exhibition Framing and Fine Art Services, has moved into the ground floor’s front gallery space; Alfons Sutter of Sutter Antiques has expanded his business into the ground floor’s back retail gallery with two Asian galleries; Krystal Heinz, Esq., is opening three offices on the third floor of the building; Paolo Vidali and Akemi Hiatt are opening offices on the fourth floor with Hidden Gears, A Digital Marketing Agency with Web Development and E-Commerce.
For more information or to request a private showing, call (518) 291-8057 or email

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hudson Bed Races Return Tomorrow

When last we reported on the Hudson Bed Races, there were seven beds registered for the race. Now there are ten!

This morning, event organizer Rich Volo reported that an eighth bed, Rip Van Dinkle, had entered the race, and this afternoon, there were two more entries: Gen Now 1 and Gen Now 2. 

And there's more last-minute news. Former mayor Dick Tracy (2006-2007), who organized the original Hudson Bed Races in the 1980s when he was director of the Youth Department, will be announcing the beds.

To ensure that you stake out your spot for viewing the races in the right stretch of Warren Street, here's the word on the course. The race begins at Sixth Street and ends in front of City Hall, 520 Warren Street. The races begin at 2 p.m.

Another Zoning Amendment Proposed

In March, a proposal came before the Planning Board to build four town houses on Hudson Avenue, the street that runs south from Union Street in the middle of the block between Fifth and Sixth streets. Hudson Avenue was created in 1907 for the sole purpose of giving access to the then new plant of the Gifford-Word Company. 

Gifford-Wood, c. 1915

Photo: Virginia Martin

The old Gifford-Word building, last used by McGuire Overhead Door, has been vacant for the past ten years, but as a legacy from those days, most of Hudson Avenue is still zoned industrial. Building houses there would require either a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals or a change in the zoning.

The project went before the ZBA in March seeking a use variance, but, at the same meeting the ZBA granted a use variance for the hotel to be created at 41 Cross Street, it denied a use variance to this project. Instead, the applicants were advised to petition the Common Council to amend the zoning.

In  August, an amendment to the zoning law that would change the zoning for three parcels on the west side of Hudson Avenue from I-1 (Industrial) to R-S-C (Residential Special Commercial), authored by Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), was introduced in the Legal Committee and forwarded to the full Council. At Tuesday's Common Council meeting, the amendment was placed on the aldermen's desks,  and the Council voted to forward the proposed amendment to the Hudson Planning Board and the Columbia County Planning Department for review.  

Some residents of East Allen Street were present at the meeting on Tuesday to express their concern that the proposed change in zoning would affect the view from their backyards. Given that the proposed change involves only three tax parcels along the west side of Hudson Avenue, totaling just 3 acres, it is unlikely that the change of zoning and the construction of four residential dwellings will have any impact at all on the houses on East Allen Street.


A New Development at 400 State Street

Two weeks ago, all the trees were removed in front of 400 State Street. Yesterday, Gossips noticed that something else was missing: the "Sale Pending" sign over the door.

In  its place is a new sign featuring an engraving, which originally appeared in Rural Repository, showing the building, stark and treeless, as it was when it was the Hudson Lunatic Asylum, from 1830 to 1850.

Does this mean the sale that was pending is pending no more?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Fate of Wyndcliffe

It was reported today by the Associated Press and the Daily Mail that Wyndcliffe, the neglected and dilapidated "keeping up with the Joneses" mansion in Rhinebeck, was sold at auction yesterday to an anonymous bidder for $120,000. Gossips readers are urged to read the article in the Daily Mail because it includes photographs of the house, when it was less dilapidated than it is now, from the Historic American Buildings Survey at the Library of Congress.

The Return of Autumn

Today is the autumnal equinox--the first day of autumn. The arrival of the season marks the return of Autumn, one of Frederic Edwin Church's early masterpieces, to Olana after nearly a year's absence. Earlier this week, Autumn was returned to its place in the East Parlor of the Main House.

The painting's return during the year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of the saving of Olana is appropriate. Much of the work just completed by Mary Betlejeski, conservator for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, involved undoing a heavy-handed restoration of the painting that was done in the 1960s. That restoration was meant to get Autumn and other Church paintings ready to be sold at auction. Betlejeski, who has been working on Church paintings since 1990, explained that her work on Autumn began with multiple tests, including ultraviolet light and radiography, to determine the location and degree of overpainting that had occurred during the previous restoration. There were areas of loss when the painting was restored in the 1960s, and Betlejeski discovered evidence that suggested the previous restorer had worked quickly and possibly used an airbrush. When the overpaint and varnish from the 1960s restoration had been removed, Betlejeski then needed to address the areas of loss.

The image of the painting above is a post card showing the painting before its most recent conservation. Valerie Balint, interim director of collections and research for The Olana Partnership, spoke of how the color of the painting had been "dulled out and uniform." The area of light at the center of the painting, she explained, was "completely unreadable." That is no longer the case, but to see the transformation, readers will have to make a visit to Olana.

The frame of painting has also been restored by frame conservator Eric Price. In addition to cleaning, his work addressed both finish loss and loss of detail, particularly on the lower part of the frame. The repetitive pattern of the frame detail allowed him to cast elements to replace the scattered losses. Then the areas were regilded, and the new gold blended to make it consistent with the original gilding. 

On Saturday, November 26, Betlejeski will be at Olana to talk about her work on Autumn. The event takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tuesday Night's Common Council Meeting

Earlier today, Gossips reported on a single theme of the Common Council meeting for September 2016. Dan Udell's invaluable video documentation of the meeting is now available and may be viewed by clicking here


Almost Ready to Roll

With the Hudson Bed Races only days away, event organizers have announced that there are now seven beds entered in the race. The seven contenders are:

Fair & Equal
The B-52s
The Red Dot
The Big Head Bed
Hudson Sloop Club Viking Bed
Hudson River Tattoo
Fire Up Your Engineers

Although the bed races are just three days away, there is still time to enter. Go to for information. 

Here's the schedule for the day of the race, Saturday, September 24:

Noon--Sign In and Registration at Seventh Street Park
1 p.m.--Captains Meeting
2 p.m.--Bed Races Begin

The course of the race is from Seventh Street downstreet to Fifth.

Words About the Commissioner at the Council

In today's Register-Star, there's an article by Roger Hannigan Gilson about the response to Gary Graziano's resignation as police commissioner: "Graziano's resignation greeted by mixed emotions." Had Gilson been at the Common Council meeting last night, he might have added a few more reactions.

At the beginning of the meeting, Council president Claudia DeStefano made a statement in which she thanked Gary Graziano for his service as police commissioner. She went on to summarize his years of serving as police commissioner, during several different administrations, and concluded, "Gary has been an asset to the City of Hudson and has won the respect of the men and women of the Hudson Police Department and of the community."

At the end of the meeting, Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward), who chairs the Police Committee, expressed his disappointment in the way Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton had handled the situation. Haddad acknowledged that Graziano's comment in an HPD press release had been inappropriate but called the mayor's action "erratic and foolish" and suggested that it was also "calculated to some degree" because soon after accepting Graziano's resignation, Hamilton appointed a new commissioner. He went on to say that he had "lost a little bit of faith in her ability to conduct business" because she had chosen to "throw away a lifetime of institutional memory." He asked rhetorically "Where is the standard of judging?" and made reference to the budget mismanagement in the Youth Department, which has not brought about any requests for resignations.  

Haddad's allusion to the Youth Department and its financial woes provoked audience member Nick Zachos to protest, "Why are you always trashing the Youth Department? The Common Council treats the Youth Department with no respect." Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) responded to Zachos: "If you think we are disrespecting them, we are. They do not deserve our respect. Respect is earned. Trust was invested, money was invested, and the trust and money were squandered."

When the squabble about the Youth Department subsided, Don Moore, former Common Council president and now Third Ward supervisor, rose from the audience to speak of Graziano, whom he called "one of the most honorable and hardworking police commissioners the City has ever had." He described Graziano and Tim Hutchings, the Fire Commissioner, as "two commissioners who have defined how well commissioners can function in these jobs."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More News of the HCSD Capital Project

On Monday night, the Hudson City School District Board of Education met for more than two hours to discuss the design for the proposed addition to Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School. The meeting took place in the cafeteria at Montgomery C. Smith and began with a walk around the grounds. They listened to George Keeler, HCSD Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, explain the problems--having to do with the rock just underground and the existing infrastructure (a heating oil tank and a loading dock)--impeding any plan to build the addition to the south and east of the existing building, where a playground and basketball court are now located.

They viewed the placement of the proposed "hyphen" connecting the addition to the original building and the dimensions of the addition as marked out by traffic cones.

They explored how far the expanded parking lot would encroach into the grassy expanse of lawn in front of the building.

Back in the cafeteria, HCSD Superintendent Dr. Maria Suttmeier led the board through a review of all plans for the addition that had been considered since the process began last November. She recounted how, when it was discovered that the subsoil under a portion of the proposed building was unstable and would require remediation and a retaining wall in order to construct a building there, she had asked the architects for a design and cost estimates for a two-story building, believing that the cost of a two-story building would be comparable to the cost of the one-story building and the expense of addressing the unstable subsoil. This turned out not to be the case. Because of the need for staircases and an elevator, the cost of the two-story building ended up being $1.2 million more than that of a one-story building. The upshot of the presentation seemed to be that a one-story addition attached to the south end of the original building was the only option. 

But it wasn't an option that several members of the board, and apparently Suttmeier herself, were comfortable with. There was much talk about alternatives, going back to consider earlier plans that avoided the unstable ground. A concern shared by several board members was the distance that the facade of the new addition would set back from the facade of the historic building. At one time, the addition was said to be 20 feet back from the original building; now, the distance being cited is 10 to 12 feet. The architects had prepared a rendering to show the addition connecting up to the original building, but a few board members seemed to doubt that it provided an accurate representation of the setback.

The architects were asked to confirm that the State Historic Preservation Office had approved the one-story design. They indicated that it had been approved, but they were waiting on the results from an archaeological study before an official determination would be made. A member of the public present at the meeting (full disclosure: it was Gossips) expressed surprise that SHPO would have approved the one-story design, because although it met two criteria for additions to historic buildings--not altering or destroying the historic fabric of the original building and differentiating the new addition from the original, in this case accomplished with a glass connecting corridor--it did not meet the criterion of compatibility, which has all to do with massing, size, and scale. The suggestion that compatibility might be achieved with a two-story building that echoed the form of the 1997 addition visible at the left side of the building instead of a design that, with its central gable, mimicked the historic building inspired brainstorming about alternative possibilities.

There was much discussion, but no resolution was reached. After the meeting had gone on for more than two hours, Suttmeier posed this question to the board: "If money were no object, what would you like to see?" The answer came from board member Sage Carter: "Blast the stone, and put a building similar to the 1997 addition at the back." She went on to say that, instead of an addition extending out from the south side of the building, "The community would see hundreds of kids playing in the grassy space in front."

Although the architects indicated that the project should now be entering the construction documents phase, it appears that the design phase for this part of the Capital Project continues.

Book Signing on Thursday

Two years ago, the first part of Vernon Benjamin's history of our region was published, The History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War. This summer, the second part came out: The History of the Hudson River Valley: From the Civil War to Modern Times. 

Reviewing the second volume for Hudson Valley One, Jeremiah Horrigan said of Benjamin's work: "It's not 'a' history of the Hudson River Valley; it's 'the' history of our region. It has got no competitors, nor is it likely that anyone will attempt to surpass or even match its obvious preeminence. Benjamin tells story after story of the region's political, geographical and cultural history. Its comprehensiveness is amazing, given the scope of its ambitions and Benjamin's success in reaching and surpassing those ambitions."

On Thursday, September 22, Benjamin will be signing copies of his new book at the research library of the Columbia County Historical Society, 5 Albany Avenue in Kinderhook. The book signing begins at 5:30 p.m.

Meeting Reminder

Tonight at 6:15 there is a public hearing on the City of Hudson's application to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) under the Restore NY Communities Initiative Round 4. The grant application is for $500,000 to make repairs and stabilize the Dunn building at Broad and Water streets on Hudson's waterfront. The hearing takes place at City Hall, immediately preceding the Common Council meeting.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Down by the North Bay

Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton announced this afternoon that the North Dock, also known as the Furgary, is now open for recreational use. Making the announcement, Hamilton cautioned: 
Temporary signs have been posted to remind people that the structures are not accessible. Please be careful--be mindful of the current under the bridge, and bear in mind that, as tides rise and fall, your ability to get out of and into the bay will be affected. Permanent signage to come. In the meantime, please enjoy the green space and water access!

Attention First Ward Residents

Alderman Rick Rector, who represents the First Ward on the Common Council, announced today that a "simple and conversational meet-up" for First Ward residents will take place on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce, 1 North Front Street. Rector will be joined by his fellow First Ward alderman Michael O'Hara and First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling, as well as other city officials, for an "informal and casual meeting to address questions and comments."

Two Meetings of Interest This Evening

As Gossips reported yesterday, there is a special meeting today of the HCSD Board of Education devoted to the Capital Project--specifically to the proposed addition to Hudson's historic 1937 WPA school building. The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria of that building--well, actually in the 1997 addition to that building--which is now Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School. The meeting will begin with a tour of the site.

Also, this evening the Hudson Sloop Club is hosting a community meeting to inform the public about the plans to create the Everett Nack Estuary Education Center on the waterfront. The folks from the Sloop Club will be listening to input from the community and answering questions about the project and its progress. That meeting takes place at 5:30 p.m. at Kite's Nest, 108 South Front Street.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Struggling with Budget, Site, and Compatibility

TomorrowMonday, September 19at 6 p.m., there will be a special meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education. The principal agenda item for the meeting, which will take place in the cafeteria of the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, will be the Capital Project, in particular, the phase of the Capital Project that involves the proposed addition to the historic WPA school building, which was completed in 1937 and originally known as Chancellor Livingston High School.

When last Gossips reported on the project to construct an addition to this historic school building for primary grades, it had been discovered that the subsoil under portions to the proposed single-story building was unstable. For this reason, HCSD superintendent Dr. Maria Suttmeier asked the architects to provide design and cost comparisons for a one-story building, which would involve the unanticipated costs to stabilize the soil, and a two-story building. To remind readers, below are an elevation and a rendering of the proposed one-story addition.

The possibility of a two-story alternative design seemed a promising one. After all, most of the compatibility issues of the one-story addition could be attributed to the fact that it was one story and, for that reason, could not meet the criteria of compatibility when it came to massing, size, and scale. A two-story addition, which would echo the very successful, in terms of compatibility, addition visible at the left side of the historic building, might be just the thing. 

At last Monday's meeting, John Sharkey of Rhinebeck Architecture showed the board the two-story design and estimated that constructing the two-story version would cost $2.1 million more than the one-story version. (In an email to Gossips, Suttmeier, who provided the image of the two-story elevation, set the cost at $1.2 million beyond the budget.)

Sharkey told the board that, because the building had been determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the proposed designthe one-story versionhad been submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office for review. He reported that SHPO "had no issues" with the design and had advised them to "try not to overpower the original building," which he said they are doing with the low profile. He argued that the two-story version "competes with the original building." Gossips submits that overpowering or competing might not be quite so much of an issue if the central gable were eliminated, and the facade were all brick instead of one-third brick and two-thirds block, selected to imitate the limestone banding of the original building.

At the school board meeting last Monday, it was also revealed that the facade of the new addition would set back only 10 to 12 feet from the facade of the original building. In the past, the setback was said to be 20 feet. The "hyphen"the corridor that connects the addition to the original buildingwill set back 28 feet.

HCSD board member Sage Carter, who called the proposed addition "ugly as sin," wanted to know why the possibility of constructing the addition behind the original building had not been explored. She was told that there was a rock ledge beneath the ground in that area and the construction of the 1997 addition had required a lot of blasting. For that reason, a location behind the building was not considered.

The meeting on Monday, at which the options for the addition will be discussed, will begin with a tour of the site, so, as Suttmeier explained, "everyone has an idea of the parameters we have had to work within."