Saturday, November 23, 2013

Historic Preservation News

As a last hurrah and a parting shot at historic preservation before retiring as code enforcement officer, Peter Wurster seems to have issued a building permit for the "reassembly" at 215 Union Street of the historic house that once stood at 900 Columbia Street, without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

This information was brought to light at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting on Friday morning when Gossips inquired if an application had been received for a certificate of appropriateness for the project, which is already underway. When HPC chair Rick Rector indicated that no application had been received, Craig Haigh, the current code enforcement officer, who was present at the meeting, volunteered the information that the project had a building permit. 

The minutes from the September 13 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, posted on the City of Hudson website, indicate that Rick Scalera, "special adviser" to Galvan Partners and the Galvan Foundation, told the HPC that Galvan would present the plans to "reuse the design and specifications of that particular house as well as any materials that can be reused at 215 Union" to the HPC for a certificate of appropriateness. That has not happened.

A certificate of appropriateness must be granted before a building permit can be issued. Wurster, it seems, ignored the preservation law--not for the first time in his years as code enforcement officer--and issued a building permit for construction in a historic district without the HPC reviewing the project. What should probably happen now is that the building permit be rescinded and a stop work order imposed until the plans to "reassemble" the house have been reviewed by the HPC and a certificate of appropriateness is granted. It will be interesting to see if there is the will to enforce the law when it comes to historic preservation.

After the issue of 215 Union Street had been introduced, Rector mentioned two other projects in historic districts that he wanted Haigh to be aware of. The first was 8 North Fourth Street--what had been an early Greek Revival town house.

In September, citing "the 'emergency' nature and public safety concerns," Wurster issued a demolition permit to take down the second story of the building, bypassing a review by the HPC. He assured Rector at the time that the project would come before the HPC before any further work was done, but this hasn't happened.

A permit to demolish part of the building was obviously taken as carte blanche to demolish all of the building. Viewing the building from the rear makes it clear that nothing of the original structure remains.

It has been more than seven years since Richard Cohen presented his grand plan to convert the buildings on the northeast corner of Warren and Fourth streets into a hotel to be called the Hudson River Hotel, and in those seven years, all the visible progress on this hotel seems to be demolition.

Although it's claimed that significant and costly work is going on inside, there is no evidence of it. What the public sees is a vacant and apparently derelict building on a major corner of Hudson's main street. It's time for Cohen to come back to the HPC, present his plans for the building, and make an application for a certificate of appropriateness.

Some communities require proof that there is adequate financing to complete a project before the project is allowed to begin, and they impose restrictions on how much time can pass before a project is completed. Given the situation with these buildings at Warren and Fourth, as well as other "ongoing" projects in Hudson, that sounds like pretty good policy.

Another building mentioned by Rector was 509 Union Street where work on the porch is going on. According to Haigh, who issued the project a building permit, repairs are being made to the deck, and the porch will be put back exactly as it was. The owner of the building, however, told Rector that he wanted to "change the entrance and change it all around." The former--simply repairing what now exists--does not require a certificate of appropriateness; the latter--changing it all around--does. Rector asked Haigh to confirm what is really happening.

The struggle to protect Hudson's architectural heritage and preserve community character continues.


  1. Cohen always intended to tear this townhouse down citing structural problems and alleged proof that it was a fill in.

    But you are correct.
    He only knows demolition.
    There are no plans.

    watta DUMP

  2. "Craig Haigh, the current code enforcement officer, who was present at the meeting, volunteered the information that the project had a building permit."

    So the preservation committee told Mr. Haigh that approval is required before a permit is issued. And the City Attorney told him that the city code said so. And Mr. Haigh said 'OK, I want to follow the law and preserve my integrity in the new job.' And so he cancelled the permit.

  3. ...perhaps it is time to start taxing these unfinished projects as if they were occupied, then you'll see heads in beds and an end to warehousing...

  4. The struggle to protect Hudson's architectural heritage and preserve community character continues.
    Why would anyone in their right mind commit capital to a project in Hudson where the tastes of the elite dictate what you can do with your own property.
    And once the capital goes away what happens to all the dilapidated, I mean "historic" properties then?
    But lets keep on harassing property owners to ensure their alterations conform to our sense of appropriateness. Long live freedom, appropriate freedom that is.