Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Collecting Hudson and Subdividing It

Last Tuesday, Gossips did a post about the request submitted to the Common Council by Galvan's lawyer, Mark Greenberg, for a review of the Historic Preservation Commission's decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness to the proposal to move the Robert Taylor House: "Collecting Hudson and Rearranging It." Buried in that inch-thick document was the statement that inspired today's post. Describing the proposed Union Street destination for the house, one of the documents submitted states: "Galvan subdivided the property when it purchased it." Hasn't subdivision, since 2009, required site plan review and approval from the Planning Commission? (See Section 325.35.1 of the Hudson City Code.)

It turns out that in this case, although 25 Union Street and the vacant lot next to it (21-23 Union) have been owned as one parcel for at least two decades and have been sold as one parcel at least twice, they are in the tax rolls as two separate parcels, which apparently allows them to be separated without review and approval from the Planning Commission.

Eric Galloway's propensity for subdividing property he has acquired started back in 2003 when he subdivided 317 Allen Street, separating the carriage house from the main house, creating two building lots at the south end of the property that encroached on Willard Place and Willard Park, destroying forever the historic character of Willard Place and its unique dogleg design and eliminating the possibility that a future owner might restore the garden and grounds of 317 Allen Street to what they once were

When the plans for 317 Allen Street came before the Planning Commission in April 2003, all the members of the commission agreed that the subdivision of this property should not be allowed, but they were frustrated by the fact that there was nothing in the city code to prohibit it. Mike Vertitis, who was then both chair of the Planning Commission and Common Council president, was convinced there was a section of the zoning code that gave the Planning Commission oversight over subdivision of existing lots, but he could not find it. Bizarrely, the section of the zoning code that addressed subdivision, which for some inexplicable reason had not been adopted with the rest of the code back in the late 1960s, miraculously turned up in City Attorney Jack Connor's basement in 2009. Once discovered, this missing section of the zoning code was adopted by the Common Council in October 2009--six and a half years too late to protect the integrity of Hudson's historic Willard Place neighborhood.

Around 2006, Galloway acquired the lot at the corner of Union and First streets and subdivided it into four building lots. In 2011, he proposed building four houses on what had originally been two lots. Gossips' research discovered that this corner had been vacant for a hundred years, since 1911 when a spectacular fire destroyed the wagon shop and stable that once stood there. The dense lot coverage proposed for a lot that had been vacant for a hundred years raised questions about water runoff and hydrology and potential negative impact on nearby properties, but when these questions were raised at the public hearing held by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which was making a decision about granting various area variances to the project, the response from the ZBA was that those were issues taken up by the Planning Commission in a site plan review, and since the subdivision of these lots had happened prior to 2009, there would be no site plan review. 

Recently, Galvan announced that construction of the second two houses--the ones facing First Street--was being postponed, and recently a fence was erected around the two unused building lots, lest anyone imagine that 102 and 104 Union Street had backyards.

The General Worth birthplace at 211 Union Street seems also to be experiencing some kind of de facto subdivision. The erection of a fence behind the historic house gives support to the rumor that Galloway intends to restore the carriage house on Partition Street as a residence and lease it separately from the house.

And then there is 119-123 Union Street, which unlike 21-23 and 25 Union, is listed as a single parcel in the tax rolls. It's rumored that Galloway intends to subdivide this parcel and build a new house in the side yard, sandwiched between two early Federal style houses.


  1. Is there any hope of stopping this last bit?

  2. apparently the keys to the city have been stolen

  3. Projecting into the perhaps not too distant future, I've heard that Galloway intends to demolish the house he just just purchased to the left of the General Worth House on Union Street, so that he can join that house's lot to the wide vacant lot he owns to the East. Such a large combined lot would then presumably my sources say allow him to construct multi-family Section 8 housing, and thus destroy the 200 block of Union Street for good.

    Will the Aldermen and Supervisor from the First Ward look into this? Might they consult with Cheryl Roberts to see what zoning on that block permits? If zoning allows for such a residential building, could the zoning for the 200 block of Union Street be amended to prohibit new construction of multi-unit dwellings? (If he intends to put Section 8 housing there, might he also be tempted to put in some sort of homeless shelter on that block?)