Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ear to the Ground

The word on the street is that the Warren Inn has been sold. As the story goes, there was a bidding war for the first--and perhaps only--movie theater turned motel in the country. It's rumored that one of the unsuccessful contenders was the hotel group that counts among its hostelries a luxury hotel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan named for a British essayist. Unfortunately, it's not known who the prospective buyer is or what is planned for the building.

The Bullet We Dodged

A reader reports that according to James Denn, of the New York State Public Service Commission, none of the proposed power line projects will pass through Hudson, but less than two weeks ago, that wasn't the case. 

On November 18, Boundless Energy revised its application to keep the entire route on the other side of the river. Prior to that revision, however, the plan was to bring the power line from Schodack to a new transition station to be built near the existing substation on Fairview Avenue in Greenport and to construct an underground line that followed the route of the ADM spur through Hudson and down to the river. This map, provided by the same reader who reported the news from Denn, shows the route through Hudson that was proposed in October 2013. 

As disturbing as the route is this assessment of Hudson, from the project's Cultural Resources Overview.
Historic Resources/Visual Sensitivity. A small portion of this area is located in the vicinity of the City of Hudson. The likelihood of impacts to historic resources is low since there appears to be few buildings within 0.5-miles of the transmission line placement. There are no NRL [National Register of Historic Places Listed] properties within or adjacent to the proposed route.
"Few buildings within 0.5-miles of the transmission line placement"? The route as it was originally proposed would have passed within a few feet of Hudson Upper Depot, cut through the Public Square, gone within a few yards of the buildings on either side of South Seven Street, bordered the grounds of the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, and run within a half mile--it would seem, given that Hudson is only about a mile wide--from the houses at the end of Willard Place and all the houses on the south side of Allen Street. All these properties are part of the National Register-listed Hudson Historic District; in addition, the Dr. Oliver Bronson House is a National Historic Landmark. It's hard to see how these consultants arrived at their conclusion.

Fortunately, this isn't going to happen. Hudson dodged this bullet without even knowing it was in anyone's sights. That last part is troubling. Did anyone in City government know what Boundless Energy had in mind back in October? If the proposal had not been changed, how long would it have been before the people of Hudson got wind of what was being planned?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Bovine Visit on Thanksgiving

Seen on Warren Street this holiday morning--a baby ox in training.

Thanks to Sarah Sterling for providing this picture.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Eschew the Big Boxes, Escape the Malls

For some, the orgy of holiday shopping begins the moment they push away from the Thanksgiving table. Word is that Kohl's in Greenport is opening at 8 p.m. on Thursday night to accommodate those who can't wait until morning to get started. Warren Street has always offered a civilized alternative for tasteful and imaginative gifts, and this year, on Thanksgiving weekend, there is yet another appealing way to do your holiday shopping in Hudson: Basilica Farm & Flea.

The event is an opportunity to select gifts from a variety of products from regional makers, farmers, and vintage collectors. The FARM part is presented in partnership with Modern Farmer Magazine. The FLEA part features local makers and the BUST Magazine Craftacular. Heretofore, the craft shopping extravaganza known as Craftacular has only happened in New York City and London. This Thanksgiving weekend is Craftacular's first foray upstate, bringing fifty vendors of vintage, handmade, and edible treasures to our own Basilica Hudson. 

Basilica Farm & Flea begins the day after Thanksgiving with a Black Friday Soiree. For a $3 admission fee, attendees at the soiree can have a cocktail, listen to live music, sample some of the fresh food, and get a first look at the wares on display. The shopping continues on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. It's an event not to be missed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pursuing the Power Lines

On Monday, Gossips published photographs of a map displayed on the wall at the public meeting in Livingston the previous Friday. The map bore the label shown below, and it was assumed that the red line drawn on the map was one of those alternatives.

This morning, a reader phoned to say that he didn't think the red line marked an alternative route for the power lines. Rather the map had been created by someone who was part of Farmers and Families for Livingston, who was working on a inventory of National Register listed and eligible properties within three miles of the proposed route. The suggestion was that the red line on the map marked three miles west of the route, which presumably is the solid black line at the right.

This afternoon, another reader provided the link to a map published by New York Transco, a collaboration of New York transmission owners, among them National Grid. The map, which runs for several pages and purports to show the proposed route of the power lines through Columbia and Dutchess counties, can be accessed here.

Talk of Food

Last week, it was announced that the Galvan Foundation had given a $20,000 grant to the Hawthorne Valley Association to study the feasibility of opening a food market and community learning center in the building at 449 Warren Street known as "Hudson Arcade."

In pursuit of that study, two public meetings have been scheduled. The first will take place on Thursday, December 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Solaris Camphill Hudson, 360 Warren Street. The second will  
be held in the community room at Bliss Towers on Monday, December 9, from 5 to 8 p.m. John Mason has the story in today's Register-Star: "Hawthorne Valley to hold public meetings."

Mason reports that Hawthorne Valley has a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with Galvan to lease the building at 449 Warren Street, but the agreement does not include the vacant lot at the corner. Michelle Hughes, the consultant who is conducting the study, said they would be "interested in siting a garden and community space there." Nice idea, but given the City's official hostility to gardens in the past--dismantling the raised garden that once existed at the Youth Center and threatening to do away with the community garden at Second and Columbia street--one wonders how the notion of siting a garden on Warren Street will be received.

Hughes revealed that although they are looking at 449 Warren Street "most closely," they are looking at other spaces as well.

Gloriosky! There's Snow on the Ground!

Playing Catch Up with the Power Line Issue

Last Thursday, Pamela Kline, who is heading up Farmers and Families for Livingston, was interviewed on WGXC by Ellen Thurston and Tom DePietro. In that interview, prior to the public meeting that took place the next day, Kline shared the information that she and her group have ferreted out about the proposals to route transmission lines through Columbia County. The interview has now been archived and can be heard here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Can They Be?

As is the holiday tradition in Hudson, parking will be free on Warren Street during the month of December. In the past, people have covered the meters with empty boxes wrapped like presents to signal shoppers that they don't need to insert quarters. This year, property owners and shopkeepers on Warren Street are encouraged not just to cover the meters in front of their buildings but to be novel and inventive about it. Gift boxes are great, but consider some alternatives: Santa hats, elf hats, snowman heads, giant Christmas tree ornaments, faux fruitcakes--the possibilities are endless. To provide a motivation to go all out, Alana Hauptmann is offering a $100 gift certificate for brunch or dinner at the Red Dot to the person who creates best the meter decorations. The winner will be chosen by a panel of impartial judges. So unleash your creativity and decorate your meters on December 1.

In Case You Missed It

Last Friday, Farmers and Families for Livingston held an informational and organizational meeting about the proposed power line expansion. Lance Wheeler's two-part video of the meeting can now be viewed online: Part I and Part II.

First Ward Supervisor Sarah Sterling was at the meeting and took these pictures of a map that was displayed on the wall. Marked on the map is the proposed route of the power line. The first picture shows the area immediately surrounding Hudson. The second focuses in on Hudson and shows the route of the power line entering the city at the state boat launch and continuing on through South Bay.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Hate to Say I Told You So, But . . .

The only topic of discussion at the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting last Thursday was how to eliminate the truck routes through Hudson. Joining the committee for the discussion were city attorney Cheryl Roberts; Sheena Salvino, executive director of HDC; Duke Duchessi and Bill Roehr, from TGW Consultants; and Nick Melson, chief of staff for Assemblymember Didi Barrett.

The meeting started out on a disheartening note, with a report from Roberts about relevant case law. In 2009, the City of Lackawanna tried to prohibit trucks with a gross weight in excess of 10,000 pounds from traveling anywhere in the city except on two designated routes. By doing so, they reduced the number of truck routes through Lackawanna from three to two. The City was sued by Baynes Freight Contractors whose trucks used the eliminated truck route to deliver milk to a Sorrento cheese factory in an adjoining municipality, Buffalo. In December 2011, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, ruled that the city ordinance eliminating the third truck route in Lackawanna was invalid.

As happens whenever the problem of trucks in Hudson is discussed, there were lots of suggestions, most of which seem never to be acted on. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), himself an attorney, suggested the City needed to "go to the legislature." "Design what we want the law to read [regarding municipal control over transient truck traffic] and go to the legislature," he recommended.

Don Moore, Council president and chair of the Economic Development Committee, shared a recommendation from our new code enforcement officer, Craig Haigh, who used to be a long haul trucker: signage. The assumption is that truckers don't like negotiating Hudson's narrow and congested streets and would happily go a few miles out of their way to avoid them. The problem is, of course, figuring out an appropriate place to put the signs. If they are placed at the city limits, it's too late for truckers to opt for another route.

Alderman David Marston (First Ward), who apparently has been tasked with ferreting out and assembling data, shared the information, from the New York State Department of Transportation, that Green Street is the busiest street in Hudson--much busier than Columbia Street. This is not surprising, considering that Routes 9 and 9G through Hudson converge on Green Street and all trucks moving through the city--including those carrying gravel bound for the port--travel along Green Street, but it is interesting, considering how many complaints about the truck route have to do with Columbia Street. Case in point, Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) suggested, as others from the Second and Fourth wards have before her, that, to inconvenience the truckers and encourage them to seek routes around that city, the truck route be moved from Columbia Street to Warren Street.
Roberts wanted information, from DPW and other sources, to measure the impact of Widewaters, a.k.a. Greenport Commons, on truck traffic and on the city's infrastructure. "They are getting the tax revenue from all the development," said Roberts, "and we're getting the traffic." Unfortunately, most people didn't have the prescience to see this coming. In January 2007, when the Greenport Planning Board was reviewing the Widewaters project, this writer, then an alderman representing the First Ward, introduced a resolution in the Common Council finding that "the traffic impacts from the project are likely to have significant impact upon the City of Hudson, its infrastructure, historic buildings, and quality of life" and recommending and requesting that the Town of Greenport Planning Board issue a Positive Declaration under SEQRA, direct the applicant to do a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and list Hudson as an "interested agency" in the SEQRA review. The Common Council did not pass the resolution. Most of the aldermen then on the Council shared the opinion voiced by Doc Donahue, then as now Fifth Ward alderman, that Hudson shouldn't try to tell Greenport what to do.
Friedman made the suggestion that the Hudson police be trained to "monitor the trucks and all the laws that apply to trucks"--the idea being that if truckers think there's a likelihood that they will be stopped, detained, and possibly ticketed in Hudson, they will go to whatever lengths necessary to bypass the city to reach a destination on the other side. If enforcing the law could dissuade truckers from traveling through Hudson, it seems there are things the police could be doing already to achieve this goal. Stewart reported complaints about trucks speeding and barreling through yellow lights without even slowing down. Stewart's comment inspired Friedman to suggest that the City impose higher fines for moving violations on vehicles with more than two axles.

The search for relief from the tyranny of trucks in the city continues.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Reading Marathon Has Begun

It started at 2 p.m. today and will continue through tonight and tomorrow morning until 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. For twenty-four hours, volunteers will be taking turns reading aloud from Walter Moers' "odd" and "wildly imaginative" fantasy for bibliophiles, The City of Dreaming Books. The reading is happening at Basilica Hudson, so if you have a few hours with nothing to do or if you wake up in the middle of the night and seek distraction, head down to the Basilica. 

The reading marathon is sponsored by the Marina Abramovic Institute, and it's meant to be a long durational event. They are encouraging people to stay for a while and are even providing pillows and blankets so that listeners can take naps. John Mason tells more about the marathon in today's Register-Star: "24-hour reading marathon set for this weekend."

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.

Don't Miss Out

Today is the last day for the Hudson Farmers' Market. Buy all the things you need for your Thanksgiving feast--squash, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, beets, celeriac, kale; apples, pears, or pumpkin for a pie or tart, or maybe an already prepared pie or galette at the farmers' market today. Located at Sixth and Columbia streets, the market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. See you there!

The Council Commits

In a special meeting late Friday afternoon, the Common Council voted to purchase 701 Union Street and rehab it as the new facility for the police and the city court--something that the City of Hudson has needed for at least nineteen years.

It is rumored that, in the days and hours prior to the vote, former mayor Rick Scalera (now Fifth Ward supervisor) and Fourth Ward supervisor Bill Hughes lobbied some of the aldermen to persuade them to vote against the project. In the end, of the aldermen present at the special meeting, only Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward) voted no, explaining before he cast his vote that he thought the City should build a new building. Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward) and Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) both effectively voted no by not showing up for the meeting. 

The yes votes of Council president Don Moore and the seven other aldermen [John Friedman (Third Ward), Nick Haddad (First Ward), David Marston (First Ward), Abdus Miah (Second Ward), Sheila Ramsey (Fourth Ward), Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), and Chris Wagoner (Third Ward)] were sufficient for the resolution to pass.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Happened at the Public Hearing

On Wednesday night, there was a public hearing to answer questions and receive comment from the public about the proposal to acquire and rehab 701 Union Street as Hudson's police and court building. Although the meeting was intended to be an opportunity for the aldermen to hear from the community before voting on the project at the special meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. this afternoon, half the aldermen were absent from the meeting. Neither of the two aldermen representing the Second Ward, Abdus Miah and Wanda Pertilla, was present, nor were Sheila Ramsey (Fourth Ward); Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward), an outspoken opponent of the plan; and Chris Wagoner (Third Ward), who is on vacation.

There weren't very many questions and comments. The principal questioner was Cheryl Stuart, of Citizens in Defense of Hudson, who wanted to know if the Phase II Environmental Study had discovered carcinogens, in particular radon. The answer to this question revealed some interesting information. Although the word radon appears in the report, it turns out that no radon was actually discovered at the site. Rather the report indicates that the vapors from organic compounds found under the slab on which the building sits represent a level of concern similar to radon, a carcinogen whose presence can be easily and effectively mitigated. Joe Rapp, who has been involved in the cost analysis of the project, pointed out that the soil contains the remains of buildings that were there before and explained that any area that has been populated over a long period of time, as this one has, will have the problems found at this site.

Rapp made a point of correcting the misconception that the building is a prefab structure. It is, he explained, a structural steel building--solid and well built, with a useful life well into the future.

Stuart also asked about the financials and was told that the project, which is expected to cost $2,573,175--an amount that includes the purchase of the building and 1.86 acres of land (for $668,000) and a 10 percent contingency--will be financed over 20 to 22 years by a municipal bond. William Clark, counsel to the NYS Court Facility Review Board, pointed out that 33 percent of the interest cost will be reimbursed to the City by the State of New York.

Another concern voiced by Stuart had to do with locating the police station on the south side of town. A resident of State Street, she wanted a precinct on the north side of town to provide "a police presence in our area." HPD Chief Ed Moore assured her that the police don't respond to calls from the station and expressed the opinion that concern about response time was not really relevant in a city that was only two square miles. He questioned the assumption that most crime happens in the Second Ward but spoke of his interest in establishing an "office of convenience" in or close to Bliss Towers and Schuyler Court.

A question from Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) about the cost of the move and furnishings elicited the response that the sale of the current police and court buildings on Warren Street would be ample to cover those costs. Rosemary Zukowski, chief court clerk, volunteered the information that the State will provide for the move and the furnishings "of the court part."

Bart Delaney, Fifth Ward alderman elect, declared his support for the project. "If I were sitting on the Council now, I would certainly vote in support of this project," Delaney stated and went on to express his strong belief that the Council should approve it.

The only naysayer at the hearing was Alderman Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward), who wanted to know why the price kept going up--first $1.2 million, then $1.6 million, now $2.57 million. It was explained to him that the $1.2 million and $1.6 million were the cost of renovation and did not include the purchase price of the building. Rapp admitted that the original goal was to keep the project under $2 million, but the 3,000 square foot expansion required by the Office of Court Administration brought the price to where it is now: $2.57 million.

Donahue also brought up "Civic Hudson," the building proposed in early 2012 by Galvan Partners. Donahue recalled, as he has two or three times before, that the only objection to the project was the two floors of "supportive housing" meant to go on top of the police and court facility. Overlooking the fact that those two floors of supportive housing were critical to the scheme for financing the building, Donahue declared that the building without the top two floors could be built for $3.5 million--"just a little more" than the cost of purchasing and rehabbing 701 Union Street. Donahue seems to have gotten the figure $3.5 million from an estimate provided in 2004 by BBL Construction Services, the builders of the Central Firehouse and county building at 325 Columbia Street.

At the point when Council president Don Moore was ready to adjourn the public hearing, Mayor William Hallenbeck asked Clark to comment on what would happen if the City does not move ahead with the project. As counsel to the Court Facilities Capital Review Board, Clark made it clear that he could not speak for the board, but he did say that it was likely that sanctions would be imposed. The nature of the sanctions would be intercepting state aid to the City, which amounts to somewhere between $1.3 and $1.5 million annually. Clark stressed that the court facilities in Hudson are "woefully inadequate." Guidelines call for 6,000 to 7,000 square feet; the current facility is 1,600 square feet. He said the Hudson city court is one of the five worst court facilities in the state, and the worst in the seven counties that make up the Third Judicial District.  

The Common Council is expected to vote on whether or not to move ahead with the project at a special meeting this afternoon at 5 p.m.   

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's Next for 248 and 250 Columbia Street?

Last night, the Zoning Board of Appeals denied an area variance to Per Blomquist to build a five-unit apartment building on the site of 248 and 250 Columbia Street.

Last month, the ZBA kept the public hearing on Blomquist's project open because they had not received a recommendation from the Planning Commission. Last week, the Planning Commission, on the phoned in advice of city attorney Cheryl Roberts, declined to give that recommendation and tabled the application until their next meeting, to take place on Wednesday, December 11. Since the Planning Commission had tabled the project, it wasn't clear what the ZBA would do, but last night, although ZBA chair, Lisa Kenneally, was absent, as was ZBA member Phil Abitabile, the ZBA, chaired by Russ Gibson, closed the public hearing and, after some discussion, ruled on the project.

Blomquist was at the meeting with attorney Mitchell Khosrova, who was standing in for Blomquist's attorney, Ken Dow. At the outset of the meeting, Khosrova told the ZBA that the notion that every unit in a multi-family dwelling had to be at least 1,500 square feet was a misinterpretation of the Bulk and Area Regulations in the city code. The 1,500 square foot minimum had to do with lot size not apartment size. The discussion of the project, however, was postponed until later in the meeting, when it was expected that Roberts, who had been at the public hearing about the police and court building, would arrive. Roberts never did arrive. In the end, she was contacted and advised the board via speaker phone.

When told that, in the judgment of Blomquist's attorney, the 1,500 square feet requirement pertained to lot size not apartment size, Roberts declared, "That's not the interpretation the City is taking." Gibson disagreed with her, saying she was "in the right church but the wrong pew." Roberts insisted that her interpretation was correct but told the members of the ZBA, "You don't have to argue with me. You are the administrative agency that interprets the code." 

When the members of the ZBA deliberated on whether or not to grant the area variance, it wasn't entirely clear which interpretation they were using. ZBA member Kathy Harter spoke of the "huge variance," but it wasn't clear if she was referring to the fact that 770 square feet for the apartment size was 48.6 percent less than 1,500 square feet or that the 5,227.2 square foot lot was 30 percent less than required 7,500 square feet (1,500 square feet per dwelling unit x 5). Perhaps it didn't matter since Gibson concluded, "Regardless of which interpretation, it's a substantial variance."

In making their determination, the ZBA seemed to skip over the major consideration set forth in the New York State General City Code--"the benefit to the applicant if the variance is granted as weighed against the detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood or community by such grant"--and focused instead on the five criteria meant to help them do that. In response to the first--"whether an undesirable change will be produced in the character of the neighborhood or a detriment to nearby properties will be created by the granting of the area variance"--the board decided that no, it would not. In response to the second--"whether the benefit sought by the applicant can be achieved by some method feasible for the applicant to pursue, other than the area variance"--the board decided yes, it could be achieved by some other method. They did not specify what alternative they had in mind, but ZBA member Mary Ellen Pierro spoke of reducing the number of apartments to four. In response to the third--"whether the requested variance is substantial"--the board decided yes, whether it was 48.6 percent or 30 percent, the variance was substantial. In response to the fourth--"whether the proposed variance will have an adverse effect or impact on the physical or environment conditions in the neighborhood or district"--the board decided no. In response to the fifth--"whether the alleged difficulty was self-created"--the board decided that it was self-created because the applicant could realize an economic benefit from the property in some other way. Having considered the five criteria, the members of the ZBA present--Gibson, Harter, Theresa Joyner, Mary Ellen Pierro, and Geeta Cheddie--voted unanimously to deny the area variance.

Another Kind of Threat to Old Buildings

Last night, a car crashed into the house at 3 Worth Avenue. The code enforcement officer, Craig Haigh, who was on the scene because he is also the fire chief, condemned the building because it was considered to be structurally compromised. Arthur Cusano has the story, with video, in today's Register-Star: "Man drives car into Worth Avenue home."    

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Forget Black Friday

Holiday gift shopping in Hudson begins this weekend. That's when the Tamohara Collection holds its warehouse sale. We've come to expect the warehouse sale of jewelry collected from around the world as an annual preholiday event, but Ruth Tamaroff says this is the final one. So don't miss your last opportunity to cache some tasteful ornaments and embellishments to give as gifts or to indulge yourself. The sale is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at 209 Warren Street.

The Friendly City Gets Friendlier

The Common Council on Tuesday night approved an increase in the penalty for getting a ticket while parked at a meter. If your meter expires and the one of the ubiquitous parking officers gets there before you do, paying the fine will soon cost $8 instead of the current $6. This was part of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment's plan to balance the budget, and all the aldermen present at the meeting last night approved the increase except David Marston (First Ward) and Abdus Miah (Second Ward). Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), Sheila Ramsey (Fourth Ward), and Chris Wagoner (Third Ward) were all absent from last night's meeting. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Curious Connection to an Untimely Death

In March 2012, Hudson was buzzing with the rumor that the Ace Hotels was interested in acquiring the Pocketbook Factory to convert it into one of their hip and unconventional boutique hotels. Yesterday, the Huffington Post reported that Alex Calderwood, the co-founder of the Ace Hotel chain, had died in London at the age of 47. Neither the Huffington Post article nor the obituary that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday indicates the circumstances of his death. 

Grants from the Galvan Foundation

The Register-Star reports today on the most recent round of grants made by the Galvan Foundation: "Galvan Foundation awards $135K in most-recent grants." The lion's share--$80,000--went to the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church to restore the stained glass window in the church's Gothic facade. 

A year ago, the window's deteriorated condition made it necessary to cover it with panels to protect both the window and the public. According to Phil Forman, president of the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church and a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, $80,000 is "half of the total dollar amount we need for the window" and "puts within reach an accurate historic restoration that re-creates the beauty of the original 1876 window to shine again." 

Although historic preservation is one of seven categories for Galvan Foundation grant making, this grant is only the second that has been made to a project classified as "Historic Preservation." The first was a grant of $1,000 awarded to State Street A.M.E. Zion Church "to provide general support for ongoing renovations" to a building that is not generally considered historic.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Tall a Foundation

A foundation is now being built at 215 Union Street on which 900 Columbia Street will be "reassembled." To this observer and others, it seems awfully high.

It appears to be as high as the foundation on the house next door, which requires six steps to reach the entrance. 

The house in its original configuration in its original location required only three steps to reach the threshold. 

Public Money Talk

Today at 5:30 at City Hall, there is to be a public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget. The budget involves a .97 percent increase in property taxes and taking $330,000 from the fund balance. The mayor's "budget message," delivered last Tuesday, can be reviewed here. The proposed 2014 budget can be reviewed here.

Disposable Hudson

We know the story of Hudson and urban renewal all too well. Acres of little vernacular houses, like the one shown in this picture, built in the 19th century and even earlier, were demolished in the 1970s to make way for government subsidized low-income housing. The Second Ward, which once upon a time was configured pretty much the way the First Ward still is today, was totally transformed.

Forty years later, when it should be apparent to everyone that Hudson's historic architecture--i.e., old buildings and intact streetscapes--is the principal reason for the city's revival, it would seem the City's official position would be to encourage people to rescue the old buildings and restore them to usefulness. Not so. The City's taste for demolition lives on.

When Per Blomquist first came to the Planning Commission with his proposal to build a new five-unit apartment building at 248-250 Columbia Street, he said that the mayor and the code enforcement officer wanted him to demolish the existing buildings, which he purchased, according to tax assessment records, in 2011 and 2012. The foundations are reportedly buckling, and in the opinion of our Hudson officials, the only course of action when there's a problem with the foundation is demolition. But is it? Demolition isn't the solution always sought in other places.

Take for example this little house across the river in Athens. Not long ago, the foundation was crumbling, and the house was tilting downhill. Today, the foundation has been repaired, and the house has been righted and beautifully restored.

The house, the oldest part of which was built in the 1780s, is known as Hallenbeck House (probably no relation to our mayor), and it is now listed in the Greene County Historic Register. If only such a bright future could be imagined for 248 and 250 Columbia Street.  

Photographs of 7 North Church Street in Athens courtesy James Male and E. D. Pujol.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happening as Predicted

Back in July, Gossips reported on the dilemma facing small, independent movie theaters throughout the country: "Go Digital or Go Dark." What was predicted then is now happening. 

Bruce Mitchinson, who owns Fairview Cinema 3, Hudson's hometown movie house (just across the border in Greenport), reports Paramount Pictures recently announced that Anchorman 2, to be released on December 20, will be the last film distributed in 35mm. Mitchinson expects similar announcements from the rest of the "Big Six" film distributors very soon.

Mitchinson told Gossips it is estimated that as many as 10,000 independent theaters will close as a consequence of the conversion to digital format for movies. One of the three screening rooms at Fairview Cinema 3 already has digital projection equipment, but to stay profitable, the other two screening rooms need the new equipment as well. So far, community efforts have raised more than $10,000 to purchase the digital projectors needed to keep Fairview Cinema 3 in the game. There have been two successful food and film events to benefit the projector fund, and a third will take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A gofundme campaign, launched by Kristen Decker, whose grandmother was the cashier at Fairview Cinema for decades, is going on right now. Click here to contribute to that campaign and help keep Fairview Cinema from going dark.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Warmth on Warren Street

The temperature reached 60 degrees today, but a few days last week were a reminder--as if we needed it--that winter can be brutal in the Northeast. By happy coincidence, just as our thoughts turn to bundling up against the cold, two pop-up stores appear on Warren Street, filled with beautiful things for that very purpose.

The first, Spruce Ridge Alpaca Farm Store opened yesterday. Located in the newly renovated storefront at 255 Warren Street, the shop offers apparel made from the fiber of the farm's own alpacas, raised in Old Chatham. There are socks, gloves and mittens, hats, scarves, sweaters and vests, sofa throws, as well as dresses and jackets, in beautiful natural and dyed colors. William and I checked out the store earlier today, and something I'm going back for are mittens that leave the ends of your fingers and thumbs exposed. They're perfect to wear while walking a dog or working at the computer, if you keep your home on the cool side in winter. 

Next Thursday, November 21, another pop-up returns: Cashmere in Hudson. This year they are setting up shop at 502 Warren Street, offering the same beautiful things we've come to expect--hats, gloves, sweaters, scarves, wraps, and throws, all made from cashmere.

Both shops will be open Wednesday through Sunday until after Christmas.