Monday, September 30, 2013

Always on Sunday

On September 17, code enforcement officer Peter Wurster issued a demolition permit to allow the second story of a early Greek Revival town house on North Fourth Street to be taken down. Wurster cited "the 'emergency' nature and public safety concerns" as the reasons why he bypassed the Historic Preservation Commission and issued a demolition permit for a building in a locally designated historic district without a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC. Despite the alleged emergency, the second story facade was still standing when Gossips took this picture on Thursday, September 26.

Now, two weeks after the roof and top story disappeared and almost two weeks after the "emergency" demolition permit was issued, the second story is gone. Late Sunday afternoon, a reader sent these pictures of what remains of the house and of the remains that seem to have tumbled into the street during the demolition.

Odd. It was also late on a Sunday afternoon that another reader alerted Gossips to the demolition of the top story. Are there demolition companies that only work on weekends?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Dog Camp Squabble Continues

In today's Register-Star, Barbara Reina reports on the Town of Stuyvesant's reaction to the recent court decision in the case of the Glencadia Dog Camp: "Stuyvesant responds to court decision and allegations of kickbacks." On his blog Hudson Sunshine, Will Pflaum responds to the response: "What did I get for that $437 I paid Tal in 2010?"

Dog Tales: William's Walk

Today, we mark the end of National Dog Week with a William story.

Once upon a time, William and I took two longs walks every day. Now, given William's advanced age (he's 15, possibly 16) and growing infirmity, we usually take only one walk and not a very long one at that--maybe only a block or so in any direction from our house. But the beautiful autumn weather has invigorated William. Yesterday, when we set off for a walk in the late afternoon, the destination was LICK. It was a perfect day for ice cream, and I had skipped lunch. My intention was to take a fairly direct route, but William had a different itinerary in mind--up Allen to the courthouse, across to Warren, then back down Warren, stopping at all the places where he has the expectation of treats.

Soon after we reached Warren Street and had started the westerly leg of our journey, we met a beautiful, friendly black and white dog in a dog wheelchair, out with his people. While the dog and William exchanged sniffs and got acquainted, I asked the human at the end of the leash about the dog's mobility problem. It turned out the dog had degenerative myelopathy. William is now showing early signs of that condition, and it was heartening to see how happy and adjusted the dog was with wheels standing in for his enfeebled hind legs and how oblivious William was to there being anything unusual about this dog.

As we continued on down Warren Street, William loitered in front of Tortillaville, as he is wont to do, just long enough for Brian to catch sight of him and call out his name. As William tugged me toward the back of shiny food truck, Brian emerged with William's favorite food: Tortillaville chicken! I chatted with Brian as William scarfed down the treat, but then Brian had to attend to customers. Thanking him, William and I headed on down the street.

As we were about to enter Hudson Wine Merchants--another of William's regular treat stops--a woman noticed William's characteristic head tilt and asked me if he had had old dog vestibular disease. Her dog, she said, had suffered from the same malady, and we commiserated about how frightening it is for humans, how miraculous it seems when the dogs recover, and how resilient they are. All the while, William was standing at the door of the wine shop, waiting, and when we finally entered, Kathleen graciously provided the eagerly anticipated treats.

At last, we reached our goal, LICK, where William had his usual: Betsy's Bow Wow. While ordering our ice cream, I noted that our ice cream days are numbered. The last day of the season for LICK is October 14, Columbus Day. Avery served William his ice cream while we were still in the shop, and it was a bit of a struggle getting it away from him again so we could go outside and sit together on the sidewalk enjoying our ice cream and the glorious day.

When William had finished his ice cream (he finished first), I thought it was time to head on home. It had been a bountiful afternoon for William. He'd had chicken and dog treats and ice cream, and I figured he was ready for a nap. When we got to Bruno's, however, I realized William had further expectations. Even though Bruno's was closed, William seemed convinced that if he stood by the door and waited, Shannon or Wendy would magically appear . . . with chicken! Alas, although he loitered at the door for an embarrassingly (for me) long time, no one came forth.

I am aware that my expansive explanations of why things can or cannot happen have always been pretty much lost on William, but now that it's painfully clear that William is totally deaf, even the one word whose meaning I was quite certain he understood--closed--is lost on him. We made an amusing sight for the men playing chess on the sidewalk outside Jayre's Salon as I alternately gently tugged and patiently propelled my aged dog, who seemed determined to wait in front of Bruno's until Monday morning if need be, along the street. 

We finally did make it home, where chores awaited me, but in fits and starts, and it was clear that William wanted more than anything to tarry outside for the rest of the afternoon and long into the evening. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Opening on the HPC

Since Scott Baldinger resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission at the end of August, the HPC has been short one member. Chapter 169 of the city code specifies: "New Commission members shall be appointed by the Mayor after consideration of recommendations put forward by the existing Commission" (169-3 D). Gossips learned yesterday that the HPC, as a body, has not made any recommendations to the mayor, although individual members apparently have.

Although the process of getting appointed to the HPC has not been codified, one gathers, from observation, that it works something like this. If you are interested in serving on the HPC, you should make it known to a current HPC member and follow it up with a written statement of your interest and qualifications to the mayor, either in a letter or an email. Based on these statements, it seems, the mayor calls people in for interviews, and if he is persuaded of your passion for historic preservation and at the same time feels you will not let the interests of historic preservation impede progress, he will appoint you to the HPC. Regarding mayoral appointments, the law also states: "The Mayor shall not be bound by the recommendations of the existing Commission."

Chapter 169 of the City of Hudson code specifies the makeup of the Historic Preservation Commission.
A.  The Commission shall consist of seven members to be appointed, to the extent available in the community, by the Mayor. All new members, but the architect-member, shall be residents of the City of Hudson and remain so throughout their term.
(1)  At least one shall be an architect experienced in working with historic buildings; if there is no resident of Hudson who has these credentials and is willing to serve on the Commission, a nonresident may be appointed to the Commission;
(2)  At least one shall be an historian;
(3)  At least one shall be a resident of an historic district;
(4)  At least one shall have demonstrated significant interest in and commitment to the field of historic preservation either by involvement in a local historic preservation group, employment, or volunteer activity in the field of historic preservation, or other serious interest in the field;
(5)  All members shall have a known interest in historic preservation and architectural development within the City of Hudson;
(6)  All members, but the architect-member, shall be residents of the City of Hudson;
(7)  The Chairperson of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Common Council shall be the liaison between the Historic Preservation Commission and the Common Council and shall report to the Common Council regularly on the actions and proposed actions of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Item 7 needs to be deleted from the law; the short-lived Planning and Land Use Committee of the Common Council was abolished at the beginning of 2008.

Anyone who has an interest and background in historic preservation and who appreciates how important Hudson's architectural heritage had been to the city's renaissance over the past quarter century and is to the city's continuing economic vitality should consider volunteering to serve on the Historic Preservation Commission. The HPC meets on the second and fourth Fridays of each month at 10 a.m.   

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cross Over the Bridge

At the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting last week, the Ferry Street bridge was identified as the number one priority for the City of Hudson. As Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) put it, "The entire south portion of the waterfront hinges on that bridge." CSX has agreed to let the City take ownership of the bridge, but so far, although two grant applications have been submitted, the City has failed to secure the money needed to repair or replace the deteriorated bridge. Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, explained that, in the case of the first grant application, the state pulled the money from the program, and no grants were awarded. In the case of the second grant application, he said that the City's application lacked detail.

Earlier this week, cables for counting vehicles appeared, stretched across the western approach to the Ferry Street bridge. It seemed at first that the City might have put them there to gather evidence of the bridge's utility and importance, but that turned out not to be the case. When Gossips asked DPW superintendent Rob Perry about the cables, he said they were placed there not by Department of Public Works but by the NYS Department of Transportation. Why DOT selected that site and how the data gathered will be used remain a mystery.

Of Interest

Ward Hamilton, historic preservation contractor and consultant who has worked on such high profile projects in Hudson as the General Worth birthplace (211 Union Street), the C. H. Evans Mansion (416 Warren Street), and the former "Apartments of Distinction" (501 Union Street), has published a new post on his blog Preservation in Action: "When do building materials metamorphosize into historic fabric?" A timely question that deserves serious consideration by owners of historic buildings and as well as, or perhaps especially, by preservation commissions.

We Thought of It First

Last January, at a Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, Sarah Dibben shared the great idea of turning the former Dunn warehouse at the waterfront into an aquarium. Today, the press is full of the news that a study, done by ConsultEcon and paid for by Omni Development Company, is recommending that an aquarium be built in downtown Albany. You can read all about it in the TimesUnion and the Albany Business Review. You can even visit the Facebook page, created to build public support for the project.

An Old CDBG Project Returns

Two years ago, in 2011, the City of Hudson applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to install a handicapped ramp at Promenade Hill. The plans for the project, which were developed by Morris Associates, carried a price tag of $279,111.90. The grant application was not successful. Some who worry about the integrity of the design of what is probably the oldest public urban green space in the country to be set aside with the expressed purpose of viewing the landscape breathed a sigh of relief, because it was never clear what the ramp would look like.

The topic of the ramp at Promenade Hill came up on Wednesday night at the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting. It seems there is still a commitment to building the ramp and thoughts of appropriating money for it in the 2014 city budget. DPW superintendent Rob Perry expressed the opinion that DPW employees could do the work and the project would cost much less than the amount written into the grant application. He pointed out, however, that Morris Associates had created no design drawings or elevations. The grant application included only this rendering.

Oddly, the blue and red bullseye at the center of this rather confusing rendering, is not, according to a footnote that appears below it, part of the proposed project: "The reviewer should be aware that the water feature illustrated on the conceptual plan is not incorporated into the CDBG request." (There's also a sculpture garden in the rendering, but no footnote to say that's not part of the request.)

The rendering shows an ADA ramp, with a square configuration, south of the current entrance to Promenade Hill, which leads to the top of the first set of stairs, and a second ramp north of the entrance, along the retaining wall behind the playground. It is this second ramp that the City wants to pursue on its own without grant funding. Council president Don Moore pointed out on Wednesday that it is already possible to get to the level of the playground without climbing stairs. The ramp would enable people in wheelchairs and parents with children in strollers to ascend the rest of the way to the historic Georgian parade and enjoy the views of the river and the mountains.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Progress: September 26, 2013

This morning, Gossips took a brief tour around Hudson to check on projects we've been watching.

At 900 Columbia Street, all traces of the historic house have disappeared. The new building is getting ready for its roof, windows, and siding, while the site of the historic house that is no more is being transformed into a parking lot.

At 449 Warren Street, work on the building called Hudson Arcade is moving forward. The rumors that the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store will occupy the premises have not yet been confirmed.

But on North Fourth Street, at the site of the would be Hudson River Hotel, nothing has changed since September 15, when it was discovered that the front wall of the building had been taken down to the lintels of the second-story windows--despite reports that on September 17, Peter Wurster, code enforcement officer, bypassed the Historic Preservation Commission and issued a demolition permit to take down the second floor because of "the 'emergency' nature and public safety concerns."


Film on the Hudson

Since the Quadricentennial in 2009, OurHudson has been working on a documentary film about the Hudson Valley entitled Hudson Rising: Stories of Revival from the Hudson Valley. The film is now almost completed, and there are plans for it to premiere on October 26 at Basilica Hudson. In the meantime, there is an indiegogo campaign going on to raise the $20,000 needed for final post production costs. The perks being offered include your own DVD of the film, an invitation to the premiere screening, and unique tours of Hudson Valley sites. Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Olana in the Early Days

On Monday, Gossips recalled the beginnings of Olana as a state historic site. This morning, I discovered, among glowing reports about ongoing urban renewal projects in a Register-Star supplement called the "1972 Progress Edition," this story about the early days of the restoration and preservation of Olana, which includes some intriguing details about discoveries made in the house. 

Historic Olana Mansion Undergoing Roof Repair
Starting 1971 with structural decay, Olana Historic Site made significant advances by the close of the year.
Last spring, serious damage was caused to the 19th century mansion of Frederic Church through deterioration of the roofs and water damage.
Repairs finally started in mid-November and by Dec. 31, one half of the copper built-in gutter was replaced.
The site's maintenance staff performed extensive repairs in 1971, including installing plaster board in basement ceilings to replace fallen plaster, and repairing and painting exterior woodwork. Windows were reputtied and broken panes replaced.
Two important discoveries were made during the year--a Frederic Chuch fresco and two pieces of the Washington Cincinnati China Service.
The fresco was found in the old firewood room, covered with dust. Examination and cleaning revealed a mountain landscape with a European castle overlooking a lake. In the lower left corner was the name Church and the year 69 It was taken to the Art Conservation School, Cooperstown, for cleaning and conservation.
A dinner plate and saucer discovered by Curator Richard Slavin in a small box under a pantry sink, were identified by Carl Crossman, Childs Galley, Boston, as part of the Washington set, considered the most important of China trade porcelains. . . . 
Guides, in addition to host duties, pursued research projects. With the organization of the Friends of Olana, Inc. last summer, a vehicle was created for receiving contributions to the site.
The Friends held a Victorian community picnic last August to commemorate the 100th anniversary of groundbreaking for the castle. More than 6,000 visited the site that day. . . .
Although state budget cuts forced curtailment of visiting hours, daily attendance remained the same as the previous year, with approximately 27,000 visiting the mansion during the season.
The Friends of Olana became The Olana Partnership in 2000. Today, Olana reports 130,000 annual visitors.

Earlier This Month in The New York Times

Yesterday, thanks to a tip from a reader, Gossips linked to a letter to the editor in The New York Times written by Arthur T. Brooks. It was later brought to my attention that earlier in the month another letter to the editor from a Gossips reader had appeared in The New Times. This letter, written in response to an article on how the Bloomberg administration was sprucing up Gracie Mansion for the next mayor of New York City, was from Joan K. Davidson: "Restoring Gracie Mansion." Davidson chaired the Gracie Mansion Conservancy in the early 1980s, which led the effort to renovate the house and restore the grounds of the official residence of the mayor of New York.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Not to Be Missed

Among the letters to the editor in The New York Times on the topic of "G.O.P. vs. Health Law and Food Stamps" is one from Arthur T. Brooks, who lives on Mt. Merino Road. The letter appeared online yesterday, the last of four, and in print today, on page A22.

Will Hudson Accept the Help Offered?

Capital Confidential reported yesterday that a new state panel has been convened to assist fiscally challenged municipalities. "The Fiscal Restructuring Board will offer a blueprint for cash-strapped localities, and up to $5 million in state loans or grants if they agree to implement it." 

Any municipality can apply for help, but there are 389 municipalities in New York that are automatically eligible, and Hudson is one of them. Eligibility is based on "relative property tax rates and whether they've dipped into their reserve funds." We're in pretty good shape with our fund balance (eligibility is below 5 percent, and we're at 30.05 percent), but property taxes are another story. The threshold for eligibility is above 6.823. We're at 11.78.

Looking Ahead to November 2014

On Sunday, Sean Eldridge announced that he was running for Congress, challenging Chris Gibson to represent the 19th Congressional District. Eldridge is the founder of Hudson River Ventures, a small business investment fund that has provided support for such Hudson Valley businesses as Bread Alone, Gigi Hudson Valley Catering, and Chatham Brewing. He is married to Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who is now the publisher and editor in chief of The New Republic.

Eldridge released this video to announce his candidacy. The response to Eldridge's announcement, issued by Gibson spokewoman Stephanie Valle, is quoted in Nathan Mayberg's article in today's Register-Star: "Eldridge declares candidacy for Gibson's seat." The New York Times article referred to by Valle is this one: "Young, Rich and Relocating Yet Again in Hunt for Political Office." 

More News of Note

The Hudson City School District Board of Education is looking to fill the vacancy created by Elizabeth Fout's resignation. The board is accepting applications from the public until October 14, and on October 21, they will decide, by a vote of the board, who will complete Fout's term, which ends on July 1, 2014. An application is defined as a two-paragraph letter of intent mailed or delivered in person to Frieda Van Deusen, 215 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, NY 12534. Arthur Cusano has the story in today's Register-Star: "School board set to fill open seat."

Something Else to Worry About

In today's Register-Star, John Mason has an article about yet another problematic invasive species--Lumbricus rubellus: "Worms threaten local forest land." Apparently, these exceptionally large earthworms are a particular threat to maple trees, and this isn't just a problem for wooded areas in rural parts of the county. The giant red wrigglers have been found in yards and gardens right here in Hudson.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Forty-seven Years Ago Last May

Yesterday, at Framing the Viewshed: Groundswell, Dorothy Heyl, a member of the Olana Landscape Viewshed Committee, was ensconced at the picnic area midway along Ridge Road, telling about the beginnings of Olana as a state historic site.

She had with her a copy of Life Magazine for May 13, 1966, the issue that contained a photo essay about Olana entitled, "Must this mansion be destroyed?" Heyl explained that in June 1966, when the New York State Legislature considered the bill authorizing the State of New York to acquire Olana, a copy of this issue of the magazine was placed on the desk of every state senator and assemblyman.

The Life article that helped to persuade the State Legislature to save Olana turns out to have also been an early example of crowd sourcing. The text of the article contained this appeal:
. . . today Olana is in imminent danger of destruction. In 1964 the artist's heirs decided to dispose of the 327 acres of land, the mansion and its entire contents, including several hundred paintings and drawings by Church himself. Alarmed at this news, Professor David Huntington, a Church expert and enthusiast, rounded up a distinguished committee to preserve Olana as a museum and park. They have raised $160,000 toward the purchase of the property, but they must obtain $310,000 more before June 30 when their option expires. Only the interest and contributions of many Americans can save this unique and splendid domain of an artist's fancy.
People all over the country responded by sending contributions for Olana to Huntington, mailing them to Time, Inc. The contributions, although none in great amounts, were many. Heyl had copies of some of the letters that accompanied contributions. Among them was one from the owner of a Shell station in Newark, New York, who shared this sentiment:
May your committee raise the necessary money or we may surely be classed as the "Ugly" Americans.
The sheriff of Multnomah County in Oregon had this to say in the letter that accompanied his contribution:
I read with interest the article in LIFE Magazine regarding the F. E. Church estate and the effort to save it from destruction. I feel very strongly that we should save the best of the past to provide for the excellence of the future.
Among the letters, too, was one from a nine-year-old boy in West Nyack, who sent a dollar he had saved along with fifty cents from his six-year-old brother. In his letter, he wrote:
In the latest issue of life they had an article on Olana. They told about the mansion where the Famous artist Frederic Edwin Church lived.
In the mansion it holds 100's of Churches Pictures and drawings and its lovely furniture.
But I was disappointed when the article said the artist's heirs planned to tear down it all, 327 acres and all. . . .
I hope that the mansion that overlooks the Hudson river will be saved and be turned into a park and a museum so many people could see what it was like when the mansion was built.

A Look Back at the Recent Past

You may have heard about it. You may have seen it. Now you can watch Two Square Miles anytime online--the movie that explores Hudson's past and documents its present in the early years of the 21st century. See Hudson and some familiar faces as they were a decade ago and marvel at how things have changed and how they haven't in ten years' time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

HFB Before the ZBA

In a garage on Cherry Alley, behind 326 Union Street, Mercedes Wallner has been operating a year-round, indoor farmer's market called the Hudson Farm Box. It's a drop off and pick up site for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares, as well as a place where everyone can buy fresh farm produce and freshly made juices--Green Life Juice (kale, celery, cucumber, ginger, apple, parsley) and Beet Detox (beets, carrots, celery, cucumber, apple). In the short time that it has existed, the farm box has attracted an enthusiastic clientele. Last March, when "Chef Zak Pelacco's Guide to Hudson, NY" appeared in GQ, the Hudson Farm Box was No. 4 among the 13 favorite places featured.

Last Wednesday, Wallner applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a use variance. She wants to create a certified kitchen at the Hudson Farm Box, so she can prepare food on site and sell it there exclusively for take out. Because the area is zoned R-3, adding a certified kitchen requires a use variance.   

At the meeting, ZBA chair Lisa Kenneally warned Wallner that a use variance was difficult to obtain. The ZBA then voted to accept the application as complete. The vote was not unanimous. ZBA member Theresa Joyner maintained the application was incomplete because copies of pictures submitted to code enforcement officer Peter Wurster had not been forwarded to the ZBA. A public hearing on the project was scheduled for Wednesday, October 16, at 6 p.m.

Photo source: Hudson Farm Box Facebook page  

Hudson Reads

If you believe that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, here's a chance to become part of the solution to the problems of literacy and academic achievement in the Hudson City School District. Hudson Reads needs more reading mentors to read and talk about books with third graders at Montgomery C. Smith School. Someone who has been a mentor for the past two years describes the experience as "the best, least stressful, most laugh-filled hour of the week." 

If you're interested in becoming a reading mentor, there is a meet and greet on Wednesday, September 25, at 6:30 p.m., at 1 North Front Street. It's an opportunity to meet other mentors and learn about a program that gives community members the chance to help kids in a very direct way.

HTTP Begins Tomorrow

Carol Rusoff, director of the Hudson Teen Theatre Project, has an extraordinary ability to work with teens and cultivate their talent and creativity. For HTTP's eleventh fall season, Rusoff invites teens to participate in a group theatrical endeavor called "Experiments and Explorations" in which they lead the process. "Agitation and propaganda? Shakespeare? Improv? Scene work? Adaptation? Newspaper theater? Fantasy? What's on teens' minds in upstate New York today? The answers will be revealed in the imagination, chemistry, and concerns of the ensemble."

The 2013 fall season of HTTP begins tomorrow, Monday, September 23, and every Monday and Tuesday thereafter, from 4 to 6 p.m., veteran HTTP members will pave the way for neophyte thespians at the Hudson Opera House.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sunday at Olana

Over the last forty years of his life, Frederic Church created the landscape at Olana. He planted trees and shrubs to enhance the natural landforms and laid out carriage roads that allowed visitors to move through the grounds and experience the landscape "pictures" he had created. In a letter written in 1884, Church said of his work, "I can make more and better landscapes in this way than by tampering with canvas and paint in the studio."

Photo credit: Andy Arthur
Tomorrow--Sunday, September 22, from 2 to 6 p.m.--The Olana Partnership and Wave Farm's WGXC 90.7 FM present Framing the Viewshed: Groundswell, an innovative event that invites participants to wander through Church's landscape vignettes and experience site specific works of sound, text, installation, and movement. The main performance route follows Ridge Road and culminates on the East Lawn next to Church's Persian-inspired house. 

Those participating in the performances and installations include DJ Spooky, Pauline Oliveros, Japanther, eteam, robbinschilds, Bobby Previte, Maximilian Goldfarb, Greg Fox, Nadja Verena Marcin, David Kermani, Archie Rand, Nancy Shaver, Beth Schneck, and Cara Turett. To learn more about the event, you can listen to a compilation of interviews broadcast on WGXC with people involved in creating and organizing the event: Galen Joseph Hunter, Mark Prezorski, Pauline Oliveros, Bobby Previte, eteam, Beth Schneck, and DJ Spooky.

Tickets for Framing the Viewshed: Groundswell are $20, if purchased online today, and $30 if purchased after midnight tonight or at the event tomorrow.

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Aha! Experience

Yesterday, Gossips reported that Per Blomquist had appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals requesting an area variance for the building he is proposing for 248-250 Columbia Street. The reason for the variance apparently is that the five apartments in the building will be just 700 square feet and zoning regulations require that each dwelling unit be 1,500 square feet. This morning, at the suggestion of a reader, Gossips looked at the chart that sets forth the bulk and area regulations and discovered that 1,500 square feet has to do not with the apartment size but with the lot size--something that was not clear either at the Planning Commission meeting or at the ZBA meeting.

The chart indicates that the lot size must be 1,500 square feet for each dwelling unit, which means that the lot on which the proposed five-apartment building is constructed must be 7,500 square feet. According the Assessment and Parcel Inventory, the lot at 248 Columbia Street is .05 acre and the lot at 250 Columbia Street is .07 acre. Combined, that translates into 5,227.2 square feet--2,272.8 square feet or about a third less than what is required by the code. The code also requires that there be 300 square feet of usable outdoor space for each dwelling unit. If the building complies with the specified maximum lot coverage, which is 30 percent, fulfilling that requirement should not be a problem.

The Tyranny of Trucks Continues

At the Common Council Economic Development Committee last night, it was finally announced that Hudson will not be getting $50,000 from the Department of Environmental Conservation Office of Environmental Justice to do a study of the impact of truck traffic on our community. Asked to comment on why the grant application was unsuccessful, Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, told the committee that a "tremendous number of community gardens" had been funded, but he believed that "our project was right on the cusp."

Council president and committee chair Don Moore reported that he and the mayor have had conversations with Greenport supervisor John Porreca about the truck issue and said that city attorney Cheryl Roberts has spoken with Greenport town attorney Jason Shaw.

Alderman David Marston (First Ward) suggested organizing a Community Truck Count Day to provide some anecdotal evidence about the number of trucks passing through Hudson and their destinations. The event would involve volunteers stationed at strategic points along the truck routes--Routes 9 and 9G--to count the trucks and note the signage, as a indication of where the truck might be bound. Moore suggested that Marston draft a proposal. 

Let's hope whatever is required to make this happen will be done soon, so that the volunteer truck counters can do their work on a sunny autumn day instead of having to do the tally in winter.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Good News for Glencadia Dog Camp

Gossips just got word that Will Pflaum won his legal battle in state court. His permit to operate a dog camp in the Town of Stuyvesant, which was revoked by the town zoning officer in 2010, has been reinstated. Read all about it on Pflaum's blog Sunshine on the Hudson.

How Big Is 1,500 Square Feet?

In response to this morning's post about an area variance being required for a small apartment building proposed for 248-250 Columbia Street, because the apartments would be smaller than 1,500 square feet, a reader provided the information that the ranch houses on the same block of Columbia Street are each only 1,092 square feet.

Now these houses were built back in the late 1970s, and it's possible that the zoning requirements have changed. Everything below Third Street is part of the Waterfront Revitalization Area, for which there is new zoning in the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program). 

The same reader suggested that the houses built by Habitat for Humanity and completed in 2012 (240-242) and 2013 (244-246) might be 1,500 square feet.

Consulting Brenda Adams, executive director for Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, Gossips learned that these houses, which have three bedrooms, are each 1,200 square feet. 

What's a Dwelling Unit?

Last night, Per Blomquist appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals to request an area variance. He plans to demolish the buildings that now stand at 248 and 250 Columbia Street (shown below) and build a new building that will contain five one-bedroom apartments.

Blomquist sees a need for small, affordable apartments for young people--singles and couples--who are coming to Hudson, and his plan would provide five such apartments. When he appeared before the Planning Commission in August, however, he was told by city attorney Cheryl Roberts, counsel to the Planning Commission and the ZBA, that the minimum size for a "dwelling unit," which Roberts interpreted to be an apartment, was 1,500 square feet. The apartments in the proposed building would be just 700 square feet.

Thinking that 1,500 square feet is pretty big for an apartment, Gossips did a little online research this morning to find out about the size of apartments in Hudson. Among the apartments currently available in Hudson are a 700 square foot apartment on State Street and an 800 square foot apartment on Robinson Street--both in the same R-4 Zone as the site of the proposed building. On Warren Street, which is zoned Central Commercial and may have more modest bulk requirements for apartments, there is an 800 square foot apartment in the 400 block and an 850 square foot apartment in the 200 block. On Harry Howard Avenue, in an area that is zoned R-1 One-Family Residential, there is a 900 square foot apartment for rent. The rental space now available that is 1,500 square feet or more is either commercial space or a whole house.

At last night's meeting, the ZBA determined that the application for an area variance was complete and scheduled a public hearing on the project for Wednesday, October 16, at 6 p.m.

Gloriosky! We're Approaching 3,000

Back in June 2012, Gossips was celebrating days when there were 2,000 pageviews. Yesterday, Gossips came within striking distance of 3,000 pageviews, with 2,992 pageviews. Amazing! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disappearing Building Update

The state of the building on Fourth Street, just behind 402 Warren Street, has not changed since Sunday. The demolition is so far limited to the top floor--the eyebrow windows, the frieze band, and the roof.

Gossips learned this morning, however, that yesterday, after the top floor was already gone, Peter Wurster, code enforcement officer, issued a demolition permit for the second floor, bypassing the Historic Preservation Commission owing to "the 'emergency' nature and public safety concerns."

Yesterday, too, Tom Swope, who chaired the Historical Preservation Commission in 2006, when the Hudson River Hotel project was presented to the HPC, and in 2007, when 406 Warren Street was demolished without a certificate of appropriateness, unearthed a narrative which he believed accompanied a certificate of appropriateness that was granted to the Hudson River Hotel project. Significantly, in this seven-year-old document, there is no specific language about demolishing the building that is now being demolished. 
The third part of the project is the row of three elegant brick townhouses in pure Greek Revival style along North Fourth Street. The three townhouses will be rebuilt, keeping the original facades and their details, doorways, cornice and window sizes and openings, but again the roof will be raised to create spaces that meet current habitability codes, but the roof angle and style will be maintained from the street so as to appear the same. Also maintained will be the frieze band and eyebrow windows that give the row of houses its distinctive Greek Revival look. The big change to these houses will be that number 8 North Fourth, the townhouse immediately abutting 402-404 Warren, will have its first floor removed, to create an entrance to the hotel. This entrance will be a drive through and under the second and third floors of the townhouse, so that cars will drive in, drop of guests, and exit at Prison Alley.

There is some question if a certificate of appropriateness was ever actually granted to this project, and the current HPC chair Rick Rector is now searching the files for some record of it. Even if one had been granted, though, it didn't, based on the narrative, authorize the demolition that is going on now, and it wouldn't still be in effect. A certificate of appropriateness is only valid for one year.

Police and Court Building Update

Last night, the Common Council was all set to vote on a resolution that would give the city treasurer the authority to pursue the bonds required to pay for the project should the Council decide to purchase 701 Union Street and rehab it to be the new police and court building, but no vote was taken. City attorney Cheryl Roberts pointed out that SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) needed to be completed before the Council could authorize the bond resolution.

Given that situation, Council president Don Moore explained that before the end of the month a special meeting would be scheduled to decide whether or not to purchase the building and proceed with the project, and the bond resolution could be considered at that time, too.  

At the end of the meeting, the Council went into executive session to discuss, as Council president Don Moore explained, "cost issues related to the outcome of the Phase II environmental study, issues requiring negotiating." 

Although there remain uncertainties about the project, Moore, as reported by John Mason in today's Register-Star, seems generally optimistic about it going forward: "Moore: Police-court facility SEQRA report looks good."

Of Interest

There is an article about Modern Farmer, the magazine published right here in Hudson, in today's New York Times: "A Magazine for Farm-to-Table." And here's some news: the current issue of Modern Farmer contains an article by former President Bill Clinton.

Mendolia Hurls Down the Gauntlet

Victor Mendolia, the mayoral candidate endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties, has challenged incumbent mayor William Hallenbeck to a debate--several, in fact. Here is the press release received by Gossips on Tuesday at 8:23 p.m. 
Democratic Mayoral candidate Victor Mendolia challenged his opponent William Hallenbeck, Jr., to a series of Town Hall meetings and a citywide debate. Mendolia proposes a Town Hall meeting in each Ward with both candidates and a citywide debate. Mendolia said, "Each Ward has its own unique problems and concerns. Both candidates should hear those concerns and have a chance to present their plans to address them." 
Unfortunately, the Columbia County League of Women Voters, which often moderated local debates, disbanded a few years ago. In the absence of League sponsored debates, Mendolia's campaign will agree to have any publisher, editor, reporter, or team of reporters from any mainstream press outlet operating in Columbia County [serve] as moderator(s) for the proposed debates.
Mendolia continued, "Hudson is at a crossroads, and the voters of each Ward and the city at large deserve an opportunity to hear how the candidates would address the issues they care about. I sincerely hope that the Mayor will participate in these forums."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Everyone Needs an Editor

Maria Suttmeier, superintendent for the Hudson City School District, writes a column in the Register-Star. Her most recent offering, entitled "The goal--Destination Graduation," talks about her plan to improve the district's graduation rate. In the first two paragraphs of the piece, Suttmeier talks about the importance of destinations and concludes: "The point I am trying to make is captured best in the words of Lewis Carroll, who incidentally wrote the Wizard of Oz, when he said, 'If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.'"

Well, the quote is from Lewis Carroll all right, but it's not from The Wizard of Oz. Lewis Carroll didn't write The Wizard of Oz; L. Frank Baum did. Lewis Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and that's where the quote is from.

Later, Suttmeier writes: "A few years ago our district set out on the 'yellow brick road toward the Emerald City' as the image of improved student performance and outcomes." The yellow brick road, the Emerald City--that's The Wizard of Oz.

Another Historic Building Coming Down

There's a building on North Fourth Street that is disappearing. When this picture was taken, on Sunday, September 15, the top floor was missing, and the building had been taken down to the marble lintels over the second-floor windows.

The building is in a locally designated historic district, but no certificate of appropriateness has been requested or granted for its demolition. The building is also one of several buildings that were supposed to become the Hudson River Hotel.

Back in March 2006--that's more than seven years ago--Richard Cohen presented to the Historic Preservation Commission his plans to transform 402 Warren Street and the adjacent buildings along North Fourth Street into a hotel. His presentation included a model of the proposed hotel--the model shown in this picture, which appeared in the Register-Star.

The plan for the hotel, which was never granted a certificate of appropriateness or given site plan approval by Planning Commission, involved demolishing two buildings. A very old building, which stood at 406 Warren Street, believed to have been late 18th century, had to go to make way for the proposed hotel entrance, with its accordion wall the second and third stories of which were to be a "waterfall facade."

The building at 406 Warren Street was demolished in late December 2006, with a demolition permit issued by code enforcement officer Peter Wurster but no certificate of appropriateness for the demolition from the Historic Preservation Commission. In spite of the fact that the preservation law (Chapter 169-8.B) clearly states that "In no case shall the time between demolition and commencement of new construction or lot improvement exceed six months," the lot at 406 Warren Street has been vacant now for seven years.

The caption accompanying the photograph below, which appeared in the Register-Star in March 2006, reminds us that the plan for the Hudson River Hotel also involved demolishing the building on Fourth Street immediately behind 402 Warren Street to create an entrance for vehicles to a courtyard and another entrance to the hotel, where guests would be dropped off and luggage unloaded. 

It seems that Cohen may now be pursuing his seven-year-old plan. It is not known if he has a demolition permit from the code enforcement office to take down the building, but it is absolutely certain that he does not have a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition.

In a city that owes its revival and current vitality to its historic architecture and character, it is stunning how little care and protection is shown to that valuable resource by Hudson officialdom.

Ear to the Ground

The word is that a new clothing store is getting ready to open at the corner of Warren and South Front streets. It is rumored that the creator and owner of the store is Layla Kalin, wife of Etsy founder Rob Kalin. The store is expected to sell high-end apparel for men, women, and children and to open in the middle of next month.