Saturday, August 10, 2013

HPC Votes to Approve Armory Project

Rick Rector, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, called it "the most major thing we have dealt with." HPC member Peggy Polenberg, who works as a buyer's agent for Eric Galloway, declared, "We should be doing cartwheels down Warren Street." On Friday morning, the Historic Preservation Commission voted to move ahead on granting a certificate of appropriateness to the design for the Galvan Community Learning Center, the adaptive reuse of the Hudson Armory for the Hudson Area Library, a senior center, and, in a new addition to the building, a community health center--the one caveat being that if significant changes are made to the plan as a consequence of the site plan review by the Planning Commission the project must come back before the HPC.

The approval did not come without the HPC expressing some concern about modernity and differentiating between old and new. Rector observed that the portico proposed for the entrance to the library on State Street "looks very classic not modern." Architect for the project, Vincent Benic explained he didn't want to have "a completely modern intervention" or to have this entrance compete with the original entrance to the building on North Fifth Street. He added that the more classical design of the portico "suited a library function."

HPC member Tony Thompson also had problems with the portico, saying it was not clear what the rationale was for having a Classic Revival entrance instead of continuing with "the modern feel of the courtyard." Benic reiterated that he felt that "putting something completely modern against the building was not appropriate."

The design for the new addition to the building, to be constructed on the footprint of the 1957 garage, has changed since the plans were first presented to the community in December 2012. The element that echoed the turrets of the original building has disappeared, and a parapet with a cornice has been introduced.

The design for the addition drew some criticism from the HPC. Concerned that there might be confusion about what was old and what was new, HPC member Phil Forman asked if they had considered "a more aggressive approach to differentiation." Winnie Moy, Benic's associate, explained that "putting a really modern addition on the building would take attention away from the original building." Benic added that they wanted to make sure the building, with the addition, was viewed "in terms of its totality."

Thompson commented that the design for the addition "seems to be taking architecture from a different period--a 1930s civic building." He questioned the introduction of a cornice "that exists nowhere else." Moy responded, "It's corbelling, and that appears on the drill shed."

Although Thompson, Forman, and Rector all expressed concerns that the portico and the addition were not modern enough or differentiated enough, the HPC made no requests for changes, as they had with the elevator tower proposed for the Hudson Opera House. In supporting the approval of the design for the Armory, Forman addressed this apparent inconsistency by saying that the original design proposed for the elevator tower, which "let the tower mirror the iconic building," was "a tremendous missed opportunity" to differentiate new construction from old. He then dismissed concerns about the portico proposed for the library entrance by saying that it "comes down to a matter of choice or taste."

In a voice vote, Rector, Forman, Polenberg, and David Voorhees favored moving ahead with granting a certificate of appropriateness. Only Thompson dissented, saying that "adding two historic styles to the building turns it into a mongrel." Architect member Jack Alvarez recused himself from the deliberation and the vote for reasons unexplained; Scott Baldinger was absent from the meeting.


  1. I'd raised a different issue before the HPC yesterday in my first experience with the commission. This followed an email I sent yesterday to the HPC Chair, Rick Rector.

    At the meeting's break, I approached Mr. Rector and asked if I might have a chance to pose a question or two.

    Immediately and wrongly anticipating what my questions would be, he essentially instructed me that I could have no question which was applicable to the commission's function. My questions, he said, were to be directed to the Code Officer. His voice was raised for some reason, and in my own raised voice I asked him how he could know the content of a question I hadn't yet asked? He said not to "waste everyone's time."

    I regained my seat and waited my turn.

    At the meeting's end, in the New Business section, I inquired about the commission's past experiences reviewing actions by the city. Apparently this happened only once, the time the HPC weighed in on alterations at the 7th Street Park. I had hoped - alas in vain - that the HPC might express a similar concern over recent developments at the Promenade Park. As with the 7th Street Park, presumably the HPC may still offer input concerning municipal actions, though in a voluntary, ad hoc capacity.

    While thinking on my feet of some way to awaken a parallel interest among commission members in my own favorite city park, I was interrupted and hectored by the Chair, a continuation of what I'd experienced during the break.

    When I protested his interruptions, Mr. Rector instructed me in his own excited voice that the commission was a non-adversarial environment!

    In short, I was bullied. (Admittedly, I tend to infuriate bullies.)

    So I now know to avoid the HPC if I must. Uncomfortable questions are meant to issue from the commission and not the other way around.

    Even before I asked my question, I had already learned that there was no special distinction in the fact that the Common Council has jurisdiction over the Promenade park (both the mayor and the council are HPC exempt), and I accepted that there was no requirement for HPC members to express any concern whatsoever for the Promenade.

    Subsequently, the other interactions I had with commission members were polite exchanges. A few members made at least some effort to be helpful.

    Finally, I supported Mr. Thompson's specific qualifications about the Armory plans. I felt that his reasonable questions were insufficiently addressed by the petitioners.

  2. ...Community Health Center? mean clinic?...did Columbia Memorial Hospital mention any plans for expansion? did they mention a need for this in our community? is this not a "significant" change to the plan? is this clinic going to be part of the clinic in the Bronx that specializes in homeless addicted males? you know, the ones that will be brought in to fill all the empty apartments that are now being warehoused but can't be yet because there is no "clinic". which building will be the "shelter"? where will the staff park? not at 4th and State St., that is a building site. that is actually four building lots and is actually bigger than the site of the county building at 4th and State, this is no "parking lot", it is the missing link, worth way more than the 72K appraised.
    Is there anything that HPC doesn't approve?

    1. Empty lot in town, $50K. Give the lion his meal, let him pay the fair market value.

    2. "Community Health Center" ... ???????????????????????

  3. ...let me make this easier..."methadone clinic"..."needle exchange program" do we understand?...

  4. Wow this Galloway is really something. Long term planner. Embedding key city services (e.g., the municipal Library) into his Infrastructure of Poverty. Pretty smart to put the methadone clinic in the same building and as Mr. Lesawyer said, to have lots of housing for the clients nearby. Some "Renaissance" for Hudson.

  5. Mr. LeSawyer . Your comment smacks of certainty. Would you mind sharing with Gossips readers the source of your information regarding the type of medical facility being considered for the Armory?

  6. Rather than answering the type of facility it would be in the positive, it's probably easier nowadays to figure out what's NOT implied when someone proposes a "community health center."

    Search engines are helpful for individual subjects. For example, enter the phrase "substance abuse" into the search function of the National Association of Community Health Centers:

    This is a good way to discern whether the NACHC breaks such a category down further into types of facilities, or whether "substance abuse" services are generally implied when someone proposes a community health center.

    It appears to me that that service is generally implied, but I could be wrong. Either way, it's fun when Mr. Galloway makes us have to guess, isn't it?

  7. Unheimlich I just looked at a white paper on the web site. Community health centers serve the poorest, least insured, most at risk people in our society. On site mental health and substance abuse services are important parts of the typical community health center offering. Sounds as though Mr. Lesawyer's reading is probably on the money. Methadone clinic could easily be right.

    Nice timing in letting Hudson know at the last minute and in having a significant change indeed presented as an afterthought to the overall project.

    1. I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but thanks for locating the actual documentation.

      In a city that's horrid about keeping its residents informed, shows nothing but contempt for people's opinions, and collaborates with Mr. Galloway on a Friday "news dump," it's safe to assume that this health center will begin at the lower end of definitional possibilities.

      "I used to be a heroin addict; now I'm a methadone addict" (Woody's elementary school classmate in "Annie Hall").