Even as the Legal Committee is ready to introduce amendments to the City's mass gathering provisions, intended to minimize the "unnecessary hardship to merchants and the public" posed by public and private events, applications for mass gathering permits are pouring in. At the monthly meeting of the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee on Wednesday, Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), who chairs the committee, presented the applications that have been received thus far. Among them were applications for events that are regulars in the Hudson calendar: the Flag Day Parade (June 14), Hudson Pride Weekend (June 20 and 21), the Bangladeshi Cultural Fair (August 15), the Chili Cook Off (October 11).
There were also new events seeking mass gathering permits: the Rock Solid Church wants to block off City Hall Place for a block party on the day of the Flag Day Parade; the Hudson Mohawk Volunteer Firefighters Association wants to have a parade on Warren Street on July 12 during its 87th annual convention; the Hudson Power Boat Association wants use riverfront park for a "Hudson River Festival celebrating the river and its surrounding communities" on September 12, 13, and 14; on New Year's Eve Lee Bradshaw and Marti Martinez want to use Promenade Hill for a ball drop.
An event seeking a mass gathering permit that gave the committee pause was the proposal to extend the Hudson Music Fest to a second weekend--actually to the weekend preceding the festival as we know it, which brings musicians to Hudson who perform in outdoor venues all over town. As it was described in the application, the new aspect of the event would involve the exclusive use of the entire waterfront, including the boat launch parking lot, for the first weekend in August, plus the Thursday before and the Monday after for setting up and breaking down. It would be a paid event, and the idea was that no one could cross the railroad tracks, via Broad Street or the Ferry Street Bridge, without having paid an admission fee.
Mayor William Hallenbeck spoke of this event on WGXC last Friday and gave the impression that he was wholeheartedly in support of it. It is the mayor who approves mass gathering permits, but Council president Don Moore expressed the opinion that members of the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee "have a role to evaluate and comment to the mayor," and the committee had reservations about the plan--chief among them being the idea of prohibiting public access to a public park.
Supervisor Ellen Thurston (Third Ward), who produced the concert in the park with headliner Tao Rodriguez-Seeger for Hudson's Quadricentennial celebration in 2009, noted that access to a public park cannot be restricted. Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward) noted that closing the waterfront would eliminate access to the Hudson Power Boat Association, a private club. Moore observed that music festivals charging an admission fee typically take place on private property not in public parks. He cited as an example last year's Basilica Soundscape, which took place at Basilica Hudson. Moore also suggested that, if the entire waterfront is to be shut down for five days, the City should charge a fee.
Since Wednesday's meeting, Register-Star reporter John Mason spoke both with Chad Weckler, the organizer of Hudson Music Fest, and with the mayor. In an article in today's Register-Star, Mason reports that Weckler has "shelved the idea of using the boat launch." Current plans would confine the event to the area south of Ferry Street. Water Street would be shut down from Ferry Street to Broad Street, and the festival would occupy both sides of the street. Mason quotes the mayor as saying, "We've given [Weckler] until March 31 to come back to City Hall with a plan and confirmation that they're having it. We're not cutting off the area of the waterfront. It's open to the public, should you pay to buy a ticket."
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