Friday, April 30, 2010

A Perfect Day in Rivertown

Here's the episode of The Gossips of Rivertown we've been working up to. It takes place, appropriately, on the last of April. In it, the much slandered Mary Butler triumphs, and the gossips of Rivertown get their comeuppance.

Scarcely three weeks from Mrs. Harden's friendly call upon Mrs. Jorden, and her subsequent unceremonious departure, there was an unusual bustle throughout all Rivertown. It was a bright spring day, the last of April, and from the majestic river that swept proudly past, to the cloudless sky o'erhead, all was tranquil, undisturbed loveliness. The distant mountains seemed to have assumed their most delicate tint of azure, the neighbouring foliage its freshest green, birds sang, and crocuses lifted their hardy blossoms from the sheltering leaves. Every one pronounced it "a perfect day."

Harriet Harden sat by an open window, altering the arrangement of some bows upon a new straw bonnet, which had come home the night before. She too rejoiced in the loveliness of the day, for she thought if it continued so mild, she might venture to exhibit it that very afternoon. The "face flowers" had been pinned in for the tenth time at least, and as she paused before the little mirror to observe the increased effect, the door was hurriedly thrown open, and Mrs. Smith, quite out of breath, appeared.

"Put on your bonnet this minute," was her first salutation, without stopping to see that such a command was quite uncalled for, "and come with me up to the church. There's going to be a wedding there this morning."

"For goodness sake, who is it?"

"Nobody knows--it's the queerest thing in the world. It seems Adeline was going by, about a quarter of an hour ago, and seeing the door opened, she looked in. There was nobody there but Benton, the sexton, and she asked him how it happened? He looked vexed enough, for a minute or two, and then said there was to be a wedding there at nine o'clock; but he couldn't tell who was going to be married. Add tried to get it out of him, but the old fellow kept his secret. It's ten minutes of nine now, so hurry. Where's your mother?"

Not far off, as you might suppose; so both mother and daughter sallied forth on the instant, and strange to say, they met more people on the way than had ever been known to collect for anything short of a Fourth of July fire company procession. Others than Adeline Mitchell must have seen the church-door ajar.

Our readers need not suppose, from the application of the definite article, that this was the only church in Rivertown. There were the Presbyterian, the Dutch-Reformed, the Baptist, Methodist, and Universalist--meeting houses they were called--and the Roman Catholics held monthly services in the old masonic lodge. But the building, towards which so many were hastening, was owned by the Episcopalians, and so known only as the church, par excellence, though its baptismal name was Trinity.

Up the high steps of this neat and most comfortable edifice many a group was passing, by the time the Hardens came in sight, mostly composed of ladies and school-girls, who had diverged from their proper path to the "Female Seminary," attracted by the rumour of a wedding near at hand. The square old-fashioned pews filled first--from them you could see and not be seen--but many a face looked out from the central aisles as the bridal party passed up its length. There had been a few moments of anxious suspense; but soon Mrs. Jorden, her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Miller, Miss Barnard, and several familiar faces, were successively recognized.

But who was the bride? Nobody could see her face, for she kept her veil down until she reached the chancel. A moment's reverent pause, during which Adeline Mitchell took the opportunity to whisper that Mr. Jorden was standing next the bride--"how odd;" and Harriet motioned back for her to keep still, or else that it wasn't him, she couldn't tell which.

Then came the address to the congregation, the solemn charge to those about to take these most fearful vows upon themselves.

"Now we shall know," whispered Mrs. Smith to Harriet; but, unfortunately, that very whisper prevented her hearing the names of the parties. Again, a manly voice followed the guidance of their pastor.

Harriet could have screamed with impatience, for a little girl in the next pew tripped over the stool on which she was mounted, and came down with a crash, just as the names were pronounced. But at that moment a gentle, but untrembling voice, said--"I, Mary, take thee, Carroll, to be my wedded husband."

Harriet heard not another word; it was Mary Butler's voice; Mr. Jorden's brother was the bridegroom! All was reeling about her. The party at the altar, the eager spectators, the solid pillars of the church themselves, seemed dancing before her. When she recovered from her swoon-like astonishment, the benediction had been pronounced, and the bride, never so beautiful as now, turned from the chancel.

There were smiles and congratulations among the happy party; Mrs. Butler looking younger by ten years, Mrs. Harry Jorden casting triumphant, and almost withering glances towards the party she had just discovered in Mr. Mitchell's pew. Then they passed slowly down the aisle, so near, that Mary's bridal veil almost touched Harriet's face, and as the young husband turned to rearrange it, she started to see how nearly he resembled his brother. The same eyes, the same smile; but for a slight difference in height, they might have been mistaken for each other.

"I cannot believe my own eyes," said Mrs. Harden, as the group stood on the church steps and watched the carriage drive away.

"Nor I," echoed Mrs. Smith.

"How did she ever manage to keep it so still?" continued the elder lady. "I don't see."

"Nor I," said Mrs. Smith, again.

"He was adopted by his uncle, Carroll Livingston, when he was a perfect child."

"Then they went to Europe, you know."

"Yes; and he got back just in time for Henry's wedding, Mrs. Harden."

"Mary Butler was first bridesmaid, and that 'a how it all happened. Don't you remember Mrs. Jackson told us he had to go right on to Baltimore, and couldn't come up to her party?"

"So she did; but they were together two weeks in New York, and she was there so long last fall, you know, where their business was being settled. They say all his letters came directed to his brother."

"That's so we shouldn't find it out, I'll warrant."

"He's immensely rich, Mrs. Harden; his uncle is an old bachelor, you know. I've heard they live in splendid style."

"That old gentleman with Mrs. Butler must have been his uncle, then; and they must be the passengers John saw come off the day-boat yesterday."

"The luck of some people!"

"Yes," and Mrs. Harden sighed deeply, as she thought Harriet was not included in that fortunate class.

That amiable, and now thoroughly mortified young lady, had walked off in a confidential chat with Adeline; after having ascertained from a mutual acquaintance that the bridal party were all going off in the day-boat, and that Mrs. Butler was going to live with Mary in Baltimore. No telegraphic dispatch of the "latest advices per steamer," ever sped with more rapidity than every conceivable rumour, with regard to the morning's surprise, was published.

"That must have been his brother's miniature, after all, Adeline," said Harriet, trying to look unconcerned.

"I always knew you ran before you were sent. You've got me into a pretty fuss."

"How could I help it? how did I know to the contrary? and you said quite as much about it as I did."

"I didn't say half as much. Moreover, I don't read other people's letters."

Miss Harden did not venture to speak, but she gave a look of indignation and contempt that might have withered anyone, had it been deserved. Miss Mitchell vouchsafed no word in reply, but coolly walked down the next street, without so much as bowing.

From that day there was enmity between the houses of Harden and Mitchell; and from that day Mary Butler was envied by the "gossips of Rivertown."

Mrs. Henry Jorden never passed Mrs. Harden and Mrs. Smith without a peculiar smile; and Mrs. Margaret Martin fitted no more dresses in her house thenceforth.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter V.

NOTE: The photograph of the church that accompanies this excerpt shows the original Christ Church Episcopal, located at Second and State streets. Alice B. Neal calls the church "Trinity," but Christ Church--so far as I know--was the only Episcopal church that ever existed in "Rivertown." The picture may show the building shortly before it was demolished; its front steps have been removed, and the main door boarded up. The site of this church is now occupied by the cinder block building that is AME Zion Church.

It's fun to imagine that "the school-girls, who had diverged from their proper path to the 'Female Seminary,'" were heading for Reverend Hague's Female Academy, which was located at 400 State Street--the building that is now the library--but, alas, that doesn't seem possible.
The Gossips of Rivertown was published in 1850; the Reverend Hague's seminary opened in 1851. Still there's always the chance that, since Alice Neal undoubtedly knew everything that was going on in Hudson, her mention of the "Female Seminary" in her book anticipated its actual opening the following year. After all, the building did undergo significant change to make it "perfectly adapted" to its new use after twenty years of being a lunatic asylum.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On the Waterfront Last Week

Chad Weckler just sent me this picture, taken last week, of the former Bentley Meeker building (a.k.a. River Lofts) at the corner of Dock and North Front streets. It gives a much better sense of the building, unobstructed by old fencing and piles of rubbish, and shows just how handsome it is.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the Waterfront

There's a persistent rumor that this waterfront building--the last of the Bentley Meeker buildings, referred to by some as "River Lofts"--is soon to be sold, or may already have been sold, to someone who wants to demolish it to make way for new construction. The City--in the form of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC)--took ownership of the building a few months ago.

Tonight I went to the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting and listened to HDC Executive Director Peter Markou talk about the possibility of rehabbing the building and turning it into a small business incubator. He spoke with enthusiasm and awe about the building's construction and declared, "It would be criminal to tear that building down."

After the meeting, I asked Markou about the rumor that the building was being sold. He told me that there had been no real interest in buying the building because its assessed value--$500,000--was also the asking price, and he assured me that, even if it were to be sold, it would be sold with deed restrictions to prevent its demolition. "That building," he said, "will be demolished over my dead body."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 4

This is 211 Union Street, the birthplace of Hudson's most illustrious native son: General William Jenkins Worth. (How many people have three cities, a lake, a village, and a county named after them?) It's surprising that such a significant Hudson landmark is in private hands, but it is. It's owned by the Galvan Group--named for Eric Galloway and his partner, Henry van Ameringen.

William Jenkins Worth was born in this house on March 1, 1794--just a decade after Hudson was founded. His father was Thomas Worth, one of the original Proprietors, and his mother was Abigail Jenkins. It seems strange that the son of Quakers should become a celebrated war hero and military tactician, but that's what happened.

Worth's mother died when he was a small child, and his father was killed when Worth was 18. After attending a local "common school," Worth worked in a store in Hudson for a while before moving to Albany to pursue a mercantile career--one of the first young people to leave Hudson to seek their fortune. At the beginning of the War of 1812, Worth joined the army. He applied for a commission and received an appointment as a first lieutenant. For his gallantry during the War of 1812, he was promoted through the ranks: he became a captain in the Battle of Chippewa and a major in the Battle of Niagara.

After the War of 1812, Worth went to West Point as an instructor of tactics and, in 1825, became the Academy's fourth Commandant of Cadets--an unusual achievement since he had not graduated from West Point. During the 1830s, his time was taken up dealing with Indians. He fought the Black Hawks in Illinois, took part in the removal of the Cherokees from various southeastern states, and fought the Seminoles in Florida. It was during the Seminole Wars that Worth became first a colonel (in 1838) and then a general (in 1842).

Worth's last campaign was the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), during which he earned the rank of major-general. After that war, Worth got involved with a group of Cuban Freemasons who were plotting to overthrow the Spanish colonial government in Cuba. They allegedly offered Worth three million dollars to lead an invasion force of American veterans of the Mexican-American War against the Spanish, but before the plan could be carried out, the War Department transferred Worth to Texas to command the Department of Texas. A year later, in May 1849, he died of cholera in San Antonio.

There's a monument to General Worth in New York City: a granite obelisk situated in Worth Square at 25th Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway. Worth's remains are interred there. The monument and the square were dedicated on November 25, 1857, after an elaborate procession that involved 6,500 soldiers. Dedicated in 1857, Worth Square is the second oldest park in New York City.

Fort Worth, Texas, was named for William Jenkins Worth, as were Lake Worth, Florida; Lake Worth, Texas; the village of Worth, Illinois; and Worth County, Georgia. Worth Street in lower Manhattan was named for him, as were our own Worth Avenue and the late lamented General Worth Hotel, which was demolished in 1970.

Celebrate the Season!

To make a glorious day even better, Lick will be open today from 1 p.m. until well into the evening. So, after toiling in the garden, returning from the Chancellor's Sheep & Wool Showcase at Clermont, attending the opening at Carrie Haddad Photographs, or whatever you have planned for today, head on down to Lick.

Lick's regular season begins next Saturday, May 1.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Library Lions

The lions flanking the entrance to the Hudson Area Library have a brilliant new coat of white paint--and that provides an occasion for considering the lions and their history.

It is generally accepted that the lions were installed during the period (1865-1881) when the building was the home of Captain George Power and his family--his wife, Adeline; six children--four daughters and two sons, ranging in age (in 1870) from 30 to 8; and an Irish-born domestic named Ellen Leach.

A paint analysis done a few years ago revealed how the lions have appeared over the past 140 or so years. The lions are cast iron, but they started out being painted verdigris to make them appear to be bronze. Victorians, I'm told, often painted things to make them appear to be of a more desirable material--iron painted to look like bronze, bluestone painted to look like brownstone.

In 1881, the Power family moved from 400 State Street to Thomas Jenkins' grand house on what is now the 200 block of Warren Street, and the Hudson Orphan & Relief Association moved in and established a home for orphans and underprivileged children there. In 1888-89, the north wing of the building was added, and somewhere around that time, the lions were painted ochre.

Later--probably well into the 20th century, since many people still remember them this way--the lions were painted to resemble real lions, with tawny bodies and darker manes and (amazingly) bright blue eyes.

It was probably around 1959, early in the tenure of the Hudson School District, that the lions were painted white, as they still are today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 3

This is 620-624 State Street, one of Eric Galloway's current restoration projects. The building, which is included in a locally designated historic district, made the news--Gossips as well as the Register-Star--in February when Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster circumvented the Historic Preservation Commission and issued a demolition permit to dismantle part of the building. The part that was demolished, we were told, was an addition which, although old, was not original to the building and not especially well constructed. Lisa Durfee has a wonderful picture on her blog The Tainted Lady Lounge of the side of the original building after the addition had been removed.

Up until 1881 when the institution moved to 400 State Street (now the library), this building was the Hudson Orphan Asylum. Galloway's plans for the building have not yet been made public, but he should be commended for rescuing the better part of the building from demolition by neglect. The building's previous owner caused a fire in the chimney a few years ago, which spread to the attic and the roof, by, I was told at the time, burning brush in a coal-burning furnace in the cellar.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seniors at the Youth Center

There's been talk of creating a senior center in Hudson for years. The first site considered was the Washington Hose firehouse, but that idea wasn't awarded a Community Development Block Grant because the building was considered inappropriate for the purpose. Next, part of the Charles Williams School was going to be renovated for a senior center, but the CDBG decision makers didn't think the $400,000 requested was adequate to make the building useable for the purpose.

The current plan is to build a two-story addition for a senior center on the north side of the Youth Center at Third and Union streets. The addition, to be constructed of brick, would take up much of the space now used for parking. Presumably the little cinder block addition would be demolished. Apparently there is already a design for the new addition, but I don't know who the architect is and I have not seen the plan. But before the building experiences yet another alteration, let's recall how it started out.

The building was built in the 1860s and may have incorporated some elements of one of Hudson's first places of worship: the Quaker meetinghouse that was constructed on the site in 1785.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 2

This is Eric Galloway's own house: 345 Allen Street. He purchased the main house in 2001 for $475,000. He acquired the carriage house a few years later.

Galloway changed the style of the house from Colonial Revival to Greek Revival. I recall hearing, at the time of the transformation, that he had unearthed alternative plans for the house—plans presumably that had been rejected in favor of the ones that were used—showing a two-story columned portico similar to the one he had built.

It was rumored at the time—a rumor that has been discredited—that the columns for the Greek Revival portico had been salvaged from the Catskill Mountain House. The columns had previously been on a house in Claverack sometimes known as the "Marilyn Monroe house." The columns from the demolished Colonial Revival porch at 345 Allen were reused to build a pergola in the backyard.

Talk About Bad Reporting

Robert Lachman's article in this morning's Register-Star takes the cake: "History tour visits Hudson."

I said nothing like the words he attributes to me--in quotes, no less. Not only did he get the dates wrong, he totally missed the gist of my remarks. I didn't talk about the history of the Hudson Opera House. Gary Schiro did that. I talked about historic preservation in Hudson and the evolution of Historic Hudson. Click here for the transcript.

Fortunately, he got what Roberta Lane of the National Trust had to say about Hudson right: “From the Opera House, to the library, to the Plumb-Bronson House, Olana, and the revitalization of Warren Street, the power of historic preservation is in full force in the city. Our organization has been deeply impressed over the years by the accomplishments of Historic Hudson and the city’s other preservation advocates in protecting the community’s rich historic character and vibrancy.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rumor Has It . . .

the county is thinking of using the Sixth Street School at the corner of Sixth and State streets (shown in this historic photograph) as a homeless shelter/transitional housing facility for women and children, to be run by Catholic Charities. The building, which was designed by Hudson architect Michael O'Connor around the turn of the last century, is currently owned by the county and used for county offices.

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 1

At Monday's informal Common Council meeting, the corner of Fourth and Columbia was suggested by Fourth Ward Alderman Ohrine Stewart and members of the audience as an alternative site for the Lantern Organization's Starboard project. Let's review the recent history of this site.

Eric Galloway purchased the property from Phil Gellert in 2003. There were buildings on the site then, partially destroyed by fire. The scandal at the time was that the City (read Mayor Scalera) had been in negotiation with Gellert to buy the property when Galloway swept in and bought it for $250,000, outbidding the City by a substantial amount, it can be inferred, since the assessed value at the time was $60,000. The Register-Star reported that Scalera was "a little upset," and followed up with an editorial in which they called Galloway a "flimflam man" and quoted Scalera as calling him a liar. This was on May 8 and 9, 2003, but by May 15, all was forgiven, and the Register-Star was reporting that the City had "joined hands" with Galloway.

The first project Scalera proposed for the site was a new police and city court building. This was in 2005, when the county health building was going up down the block and the hospital was building its medical office building cum parking garage up at the top end of Columbia Street. Scalera got BBL--the company that was building the county health building and had built the central firehouse--to submit designs: one modern, one "traditional," both undistinguished. Mike Vertetis, then Common Council President, got the company working at CMH (Pike, if memory serves) to submit a design: a big box with some imitative (of the library's Federal design) pediments over the entrances. The idea was that Galloway would give the land to the City in exchange for the current police station and the building that houses the city court and the code enforcement office in the 400 block of Warren Street. The rush to build ceased during the Tracy administration (2006-2007), and now the plan on the table seems to be to buy the building, tucked away on Railroad Avenue, that now houses the Department of Social Services for the police department and city court when the lease is up in June 2011 and DSS moves out.

But back to Fourth and Columbia. . . . Scalera is now promoting his "Plan B" for DSS, which involves constructing a new building for the department on Galloway's property and a parking garage across Fourth Street on the northeast corner, on land already owned by the county and a piece owned by TSL. Scalera reportedly had a closed door meeting with BBL on Tuesday. I went to a meeting of the Columbia County Space Utilization Subcommittee on Thursday, hoping Scalera, who is a non-voting member of the subcommittee, might report on his meeting with BBL, but that didn't happen. The subcommittee is going back to square one in its search for the perfect location for DSS, repeating essentially the same process they went through in 2008, which resulted in the acquisition of the old Ockawamick School in Claverack. The subcommittee--chaired by Fifth Ward Supervisor Bart Delaney and including among its seven members two other Hudson supervisors, Bill Hughes and Bill Hallenbeck--is tasked with finding, in a "structured, transparent process," a location for DSS that they can recommend to the Public Works/Facilities Committee and to the full Board of Supervisors.

A new presence at the table at Thursday's meeting was CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), in the person of Bill Better. Stressing that CEDC was "your economic development arm," Better offered the help of CEDC to bring an "economic development component to locating a county building" and suggested that a CEDC subcommittee merge with the existing subcommittee. He said that "CEDC has a contractor who wants to build a building" and offered the services of the county's CRC (Capital Resource Corporation) to investigate "how funding can take place," noting that CRC had helped Columbia Memorial Hospital refinance its debt. He revealed that CEDC supports the proposal to locate a parking garage at the corner of Fourth and Columbia, citing its usefulness for Club Helsinki Hudson (just across Columbia Street) and people coming to other entertainment venues in Hudson.

The subcommittee set July 15 as its outside target for selecting a location for DSS and plans to meet again on Thursday, April 29.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hudson Terrace Update

They've started work on the second building at Hudson Terrace. The siding on this one is a sort of cocoa brown. Reports are that there will also be blue siding used, making the color scheme of Hudson Terrace identical to that of Crosswinds. It would seem that moss green, cocoa brown, and slate blue are all the rage for housing developments in the early decades of the 21st century. Does anyone remember avocado green and harvest gold kitchen appliances?

This picture was taken from the little grassy hill between the parking lot for the boat launch and the railroad tracks, because the work on the buildings combined with the work in the street connected with the new wastewater treatment plant prohibited access from any other point. Since this is the view of Hudson Terrace--indeed of Hudson--from the river, it would have been nice if they'd wired the buildings for cable and prohibited tenants from attaching satellite dishes to the exterior, but ours is not a perfect world--far from it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


At Monday's Common Council meeting, several people suggested that the project being proposed by the Lantern Organization should be sited not at Fifth and Warren but on some other property owned by Eric Galloway. A reader suggested that The Gossips of Rivertown publish a list of properties owned by Galloway, his LLCs, and NFP. So here's the list I got from the City Assessor this morning.

Eric Galloway
345 Allen Street
345 Allen Street (carriage house)
620-624 State Street

The Lantern Group
25 N. Fourth Street (the corner of Fourth and Columbia)

The Galvan Group
209-211 Union Street (the birthplace of General Worth)
317½ Warren Street
412-416 Warren Street (the C. H. Evans mansion)
449 Warren Street
455-457 Warren Street
459 Warren Street (This and the previous two parcels make up the Fifth and Warren site.)
618 State Street (rear)

Hudson Preservation Group
202-204 Warren Street (the former Brousseau Apartments)
12 N. Second Street
14 S. First Street (existing house and vacant lot at First and Union)
215 Union Street (vacant lot)
217-219 Union Street (vacant lot)
216 Partition Street (adjacent to Union Street parcels)
34-36 S. Second Street
260 Warren Street
[no number] N. Third Street
354-356 Union Street
61-63 N. Seventh Street

It is generally thought that Eric Galloway also owns 501-505 Union Street, the former "Apartments of Distinction" building on the corner of Fifth and Union, but the 2009 tax rolls, which can be accessed online, show a different owner.

Shoppers' Guide

Marx Home at 344 Warren Street is offering this wonderful assortment of mixes for guacamole, olive tapenade, pesto, and dips--roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, spinach, garlic herb. I haven't sampled the product, but the packaging is fabulous. These would make great hostess gifts!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This Just In

The Lantern Organization has cancelled their scheduled appearance before the Planning Commission tonight. It seems they have decided, after Monday's meeting, that they need to reconsider their proposal--the configuration of the project and/or the location.

Encore Performance

Encore is definitely the wrong choice of words, since they're not back by popular demand, but the folks representing Eric Galloway and the Lantern Organization will be back in City Hall tonight, presenting their proposal for Fifth and Warren to the Planning Commission. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.

Not to Be Missed

Francesa Olsen's article about the Kohl's decision in this morning's Register-Star: "PILOT for Kohl's denied by IDA." It contains these memorable quotes from Marco Marzocchi, the attorney and pitchman for Widewaters:

"Marzocchi, reached by phone after the meeting, said, 'they made the wrong decision, that’s for sure.' He said the IDA board members 'are all very comfortable and successful in their own right. They have no money worries. They essentially sold out all the people in Columbia County that are looking for work.'"

You have to wonder if he really believes the outrageous things he says.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Night at City Hall

The crowd that assembled at City Hall on Monday night to hear the Lantern Organization present their proposal for Fifth and Warren was reminiscent of the SLC days: standing room only, with the crowd spilling out into the hallway. There were the people often seen at Common Council meetings--Victor Mendolia, Hilary Hillman, Linda Mussmann, Billy Hughes--and those who only show up when the issue is so urgent they cannot stay away--most notably, Lynn Davis.

The project has been talked about as a homeless shelter and transitional housing, but Jessica Katz, Executive Director for the Lantern Organization, was emphatic that the proposed building would not be a transitional housing facility. Rather, it would provide "permanent supportive housing" for the mentally disabled, the homeless, and those with substance abuse problems. Tenants would have leases and pay 30 percent of their income in rent, whatever their income might be--VA benefits, SSI, SSDI, or wages from work. All the apartments would be "studio apartments," which Victor Mendolia adamantly asserted was the same as an SRO (single room occupancy). Katz took issue with this, stating that the studio apartments Lantern was proposing would have their own kitchens and bathrooms, whereas in SROs, kitchens and bathrooms are shared.

The overwhelming sentiment expressed at the meeting by members of the public was that this proposal was a remarkably inappropriate idea--not because it aspired to help the people most in need, but because it intends to do this in the middle of Hudson's developing--but still fragile--commercial district. Phil Forman used the words stupid and cynical to describe the proposal. His concerns about the project jeopardizing Warren Street's fragile and hard-won status as a destination were echoed by others during the two-hour meeting. Peter Jung was the first to raise the issue of property taxes: Does it make sense to settle for less than $10,000 annually in property taxes for a "primo location" on Warren Street? Harry Laughlin, basing his comments on his experiences in Manhattan, defined who would be occupying the 33 studio apartments in the building: single men with social problems such as alcoholism and drug addiction. Such people, he predicted, would need "24-hour wrap-around services" to prevent them from falling back into homelessness and other problems, and Lantern has no plans to provide such services. Common Council President Don Moore pointed out that although the Lantern Organization has sixty-one people on staff in New York City, there would be no Lantern support staff in Hudson and no one who would be paid by Lantern to provide services. Instead the Lantern Organization would be relying on local agencies, such as Columbia Opportunities, to provide the support needed for the building's tenants.

Gail Walker--wife of Kevin Walker, who is employed by Eric Galloway and would be clerk of the works for this project--made an emotional appeal for the building, reading an email from her brother, who one inferred from her comments may be bipolar, and identifying him as an example of the kind of tenant the building would serve. Responding to Walker's comments, Hilary Hillman revealed she also had a brother with mental health issues, who had lived in a similar building, but, she pointed out, the building was smaller than the one proposed for Fifth and Warren, and it was located in Portland, Oregon--a city of a million people--not in Hudson--a city of fewer than seven thousand. The problems of density and context were themes echoed by several other speakers.

Another concern raised by several at the meeting, including Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston, was the scope of the needs study Lantern used for the project. Was this Hudson taking care of its own people in need, or was this Hudson having to shoulder the burden for all of Columbia County and perhaps Greene County as well?

Toward the end of the meeting, First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie asked, "If not Fifth and Warren, where?" The answer came swiftly from several members of the audience, "Fourth and Columbia"--a lot also owned by Eric Galloway. Mayor Scalera was quick to remind people that, if DSS (Department of Social Services) was to remain in Hudson, that was the site where, according to his "Plan B," the building would have to go. Fifth Ward Alderman Robert Donahue revealed that there was to be a meeting the next morning with BBL, the construction firm that brought us the central firehouse and the county health building on Columbia Street, but Scalera pointed out emphatically that the meeting with BBL was not open to the public.

An important point made by Scalera at the end of Monday night's meeting was that the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) looked at community support for the projects they fund and would be unlikely to give low-income housing credits to this project without a resolution of support from the Common Council. Very likely, the Common Council will be considering such a resolution at their formal meeting on April 20.

The Lantern Organization is scheduled to make a presentation to the Planning Commission on Wednesday, April 14, at 7:00 p.m., and will go before the Historic Preservation Commission at their next meeting on the second Friday in May at 10:00 a.m.

If the Starboard project were to go forward, Katz said it would begin a year from now with a predicted 18-month construction time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Jamie Larson's article in this morning's Register-Star online about the building being proposed by the Lantern Organization for the corner of Warren and Fifth streets: "Officials wary of proposed low-income housing development."

The patio shown in the drawing and the renovation of the former clinic building as a restaurant are not included in the proposal or the application for funding.

Last week the Lantern Organization, Eric Galloway's not-for-profit real estate development group, distributed a flier describing the project. Also last week, Common Council President Don Moore and City Treasurer Eileen Halloran send a memo about the project to members of the Common Council and asked these questions: (1) Why should this facility be situated at the center of the still developing Hudson business and tourism district? (2) Why should a twin-county facility be located in Hudson at all? (3) Why should a property that is an indispensable element in the economic development of Hudson with the potential to add real, tax-paying commercial space to Hudson’s tax rolls be used in this way?

The Lantern Organization will be making a presentation to the Common Council at its informal meeting tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at City Hall. It's our chance as a community to let the Lantern Organization and the Common Council know what we think of this remarkably wrongheaded idea.

There's a lot of history on this corner--all happening in the past fifteen or so years, since the lot has been vacant. The Columbia Hudson Partnership took ownership of the property back in 1995 or 1996. Not long after that, probably early in 1997, Mayor Scalera reportedly returned from a mayors' conference with the idea of turning the vacant lot into a sculpture park and tasked Carrie Haddad with coming up with a design. Carrie asked three architects and landscape designers, among them the late David Whitcomb, to suggest designs pro bono for the space. When Carrie presented the designs to Scalera, he denied ever asking her to do the project. He was quoted in the Register-Star as saying something like, "Sculpture park--does that sound like something I would suggest?"

When Hudson withdrew from the Columbia Hudson Partnership somewhere near the beginning of this century, the lot became the property of HDC (Hudson Development Corporation). In the late winter/early spring of 2005, there was word that a group represented by architect Peter Sweeny wanted to build a hotel on that corner. In fact, they entered into an agreement with HDC that gave them the option to buy the vacant lot. At the beginning of 2006, however, Eric Galloway made known his desire to buy the property and build shops and condos there. A court battle ensued. Judge Christian Hummel sent the case to arbitration, but a few months later, it was back in court. Interestingly, Galloway's usual attorney in Hudson, Mark Greenberg, was representing Sweeny et al in the matter, so Galloway was represented by Jack Connor, who had been the city attorney and would be again. (In 2006, Dick Tracy was the mayor and Bob Gagen the city attorney.) To my knowledge, the details of the arbitration were never made public, but the outcome was that Galloway bought the property and agreed to assume responsibility for remediating any environmental issues on the site.

In the summer of 2008, Kevin Walker, representing the Galvan Group, Galloway's for-profit development company, presented plans to the Historic Preservation Commission for a great monolith of a building that would extend the entire 150 feet along Warren Street and involve a row of townhouses along Fifth Street. On the ground floor would be an indoor mall. On the top three floors would be market-rate apartments and condominiums. The frontage of the building would be three times greater than the largest existing building on Warren Street. The HPC requested design changes and contemplated a public hearing, but the Galvan Group never came back to the HPC with a revised design, and a few months later, Walker mentioned in a meeting about inclusionary zoning that his employer was seeking state funds to finance the project, which was now going to be low-income housing.

Ironically, the imitation Italianate design of the building now being proposed is something that the Historic Preservation Commission might be able to grant a certificiate of appropriateness. What is inappropriate is the use. Last year, when the county advanced the idea of using the St. Charles Hotel for transitional housing, the Common Council passed a moratorium on the creation of new transitional housing and homeless shelters in Hudson. That moratorium is still in effect, and there was discussion at the last Common Council Legal Committee meeting about the possibility of extending the moratorium while a task force studies the problem and seeks an appropriate solution.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Doing Their Duty As Friends

It's been a while since we've heard from the original Gossips of Rivertown, so here's another excerpt. In this passage, Miss Martin shares her slanderous tale with Mrs. Miller, "who was on intimate terms with Mrs. Jorden," and all the good ladies of Rivertown decide it's their duty to let the betrayed wife know what they believe to be true.

Again the sentence was left unfinished, for the very people in question passed the window, and as they did so, Mr. Jorden gave Mary a letter, which she quickly slipped into her bag. Mrs. Miller was made a witness to that, as well as the peculiar eagerness of Mary's manner as she received it, and for the first time she began to think there was a foundation, at least, for what Miss Martin had told her. She had allowed that lady to finish her recital because she knew it was useless to attempt to check the tide; paying little regard to it meanwhile, although she was vexed that her friend's name should be brought with a gossip of that character. Now, although she well knew Miss Martin's talent for the embroidery of unvarnished facts quite exceeded her skill in plain-sewing, she was sure there was some cause, at least, though she doubted not it was a perfectly innocent one, for this really slanderous tale.

She, as well as Miss Martin, came to the resolution that Mrs. Jorden should know it, but from a different reason. She hoped that she could and would explain the mystery to the satisfaction of all, and she thought such an explanation was due to all the parties concerned. So she resolved that the next time she saw her friend she would have the riddle solved, and that she would call on her soon for that very purpose. But she was busy all that week assisting Miss Margaret with the children's spring dresses, and the next it rained every day. In fact, after Miss Martin's departure, she had almost forgotten the circumstance, until it was recalled by Miss Barnard, who came to pay her a sociable visit the first day of fair weather.

What was her surprise at learning from her visitor, that the same tale, exaggerated, and "with assurance made doubly sure," by real or pretended confirmations, was the popular topic of discussion throughout Rivertown! and Miss Barnard, being highly indignant, revealed Miss Martin's share in the tale, and entreated Mrs. Miller, as a most intimate friend, to beg that Mrs. Jorden would discountenance it at once. That very afternoon, as soon as Miss Barnard was gone, Mrs. Miller left the house on her friendly errand.

She had always been accustomed to enter Mrs. Jorden's parlours without ringing--a neighbourly practice called "running in" at Rivertown--and as she opened the hall-door, she entered the more confidently as she heard visitors in the parlour. She readily understood the somewhat extraordinary scene that met her view.

Mrs. Jorden was standing with a coldly dignified air, nearly in the centre of the room; her face was flushed as if with the struggle of overmastering some passionate emotion; and her eyes flashed proudly, as she said to the ladies who were about leaving—

"Allow me to thank you for the kind interest you take in my welfare; and, at the same time, to assure you that I consider my husband to be the most competent guardian, both of himself, and of our domestic aflairs."

Not a word in reply from the two, who turned so hastily that they stumbled upon Mrs. Miller, who stood perfectly quiet with the door-knob still in her hand.

"Good evening, Mrs. Harden, Mrs. Smith," said she, as the ladies recovered themselves. But there was no response, for, with unexampled quickness, they had hurried past. They gained the street before either spoke a word, and then, to Mrs. Harden's exclamation of "Did you ever?" Mrs. Smith replied with equal solemnity of tone, "I never was so struck!"

"After I took the trouble to go and tell her," said Mrs. Harden.

"Doing our duty as friends," said Mrs. Smith. "To burst out in that way!"

"I saw her bite her lips long before you'd got through."

"Well, I've done my part by her, that's all I can say;" and Mrs. Harden indignantly twitched her unoffending green veil more closely over her face.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter IV

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Save America's Treasures

The proposed federal budget for 2011 contains cuts in funding to three federal programs that support historic preservation and the protection of historic resources: Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and National Heritage Areas. This is a national issue with very local impact. Olana received a $250,000 grant from Save America's Treasures in 2003, and the program is a potential source of funding for Hudson's own National Historic Landmark, the Plumb-Bronson House. And we live, after all, in a National Heritage Area: the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.

The National Trust has launched a campaign in response to the proposed budget cuts, and here's the word about its effectiveness from Emily Wadhams, Vice President for Public Policy at the Trust: "Our message is being heard by Congress and initial feedback from the Hill has been positive. Over 100 members of the House of Representatives signed a ‘dear colleague’ letter last month that included a request for funding Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America at the FY 2010 levels. Although we are hopeful funding will be restored, we must be cognizant that the budgetary environment remains extremely difficult, and we need to continue to speak out on this issue to ensure funding for these programs at FY 2010 levels. We hope you’ll consider participating this week in our current action ‘Make a Call For America’s Treasures.'"

If you want to join the effort, here are the local phone numbers for our senators and our congressman:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (518) 431-0120
Senator Charles Schumer (518) 431-4070
Congressman Scott Murphy (518) 828-3109

Let our representatives know that you care about America's historic resources and that the historic preservation projects create jobs, generate economic development, and encourage heritage tourism.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Remembrance of Things Lost

Yesterday I had a chat with Vladimir Bashinsky outside the new shop that his wife, Olenka, opened recently on Fourth Street just behind Face Stockholm. We talked a bit about urban gardening--both expressing our admiration for Olenka's talent and determination--and about what it takes for a tree to survive and flourish on the streets of Hudson. Vladimir mentioned the ornamental trees that Olenka planted years ago along the Union Street side of the parking lot at Harmon's, back when Vladimir and Olenka owned the house and the other buildings on the northwest corner of Union and Third streets. He recalled that, when digging the holes for the trees, he came upon stones from the foundation of the house that once stood there.

Since Vladimir said he had never seen a picture of the house, which was demolished, I believe, in the 1970s, it occurred to me to publish a picture of the missing house here. The picture is part of Historic Hudson's Rowles Studio Collection and was included in Byrne Fone's book Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait.

Here's the corner today--with Olenka's trees bordering the parking lot.

Spring Comes to Warren Street

William and I took an early evening walk along Warren Street yesterday to survey the early spring flowers in the planters and window boxes, and, as an Easter morning offering, we share some of our observations here.

Happy Easter from The Gossips of Rivertown!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In Case You Don't Already Know . . .

They opened yesterday, and William and I stopped by last evening on our postprandial walk. Cappuccino Kahlua for me; a Milk Bone for him--what could be better on a warm early April evening?

The Rumor Persists . . .

that this building is to be demolished. In light of this, an article from Governing magazine is recommended to all: "Greening Historic Buildings." It makes the argument for the advantage of historic buildings in this era of heightened energy conservation consciousness. Thanks to Michael O'Hara for bringing it to our attention.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Carole Clark's excellent letter, in response to a call for Trudy Beicht's resignation made last week in a Register-Star editorial, appears in this morning's paper: "Youth Center needs Trudy Beicht."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Neighborhood Watch

William and I walked by Lick this morning and noticed inside a ladder, cleaning products, and other evidence to suggest a major spring cleaning going on. Could it be that Lick is getting ready to open for the season?

Last year they opened on Saturday, April 25. Wouldn't it be delicious if they decided to open a few weeks earlier this year?