Friday, July 25, 2014

First Meeting of Hudson FORWARD

The members of Hudson FORWARD, a Facebook group organized last week by Tiffany Martin Hamilton and now consisting of 256 members, met for the first time on Thursday night. The location of the meeting was the Tin Ballroom over Vincent Mulford Antiques--a space that has been the setting for many memorable events in Hudson, most notably the celebration in April 2005 of the grassroots triumph over a Swiss multinational corporation that wanted to build a massive coal-fired cement plant just over the border in Greenport. Although not all 256 members of Hudson FORWARD showed up for the meeting, the turnout was sizable and made up mostly of people who had not been in Hudson for the celebration back in 2005.

Tiffany Martin Hamilton, who organized the Facebook group, opened the meeting by reviewing the issues she had identified:

  • Development of the waterfront
  • Establishing a dog park
  • Better parking facilities for local businesses
  • Realistic plan for improving Seventh Street Park
  • Appropriate renovation of Promenade Hill
  • Attracting new, green businesses to Hudson
  • Encouraging educational institutions to establish a local presence
  • Developing a "green belt" connecting Hudson with the Greenport Conservation Area and beyond
Martin then asked those present to identify issues that were of greatest concern to them. A dog park and education were the two issues from Hamilton's list that were cited most often. On the issue of a dog park, it was felt that the group should begin with an achievable goal and establishing a dog park seemed to be something that was most likely to be accomplished.

Comments about education took two forms. There was concern about the quality of public education in Hudson, voiced primarily by the parents of children who had not yet entered the public school system. (Parents present whose children who had successfully completed their educations in Hudson public schools responded to these concerns with some reassurance.) There was also interest in partnering with higher education--strengthening the tie between Hudson and Columbia-Greene Community College with better transportation as well as enticing other institutions of higher learning to establish a presence in Hudson.

Affordable housing was an issue mentioned by a few people--both by people interested in increasing the city's population and by those worried about being priced out of Hudson. There was also concern expressed about the number of buildings with potential rental units currently being warehoused in the city.

The state of the sidewalks has been an issue in Hudson for at least twenty years, and it was mentioned by several people at last night's meeting--one person expressing the desire to be able to sweep his sidewalk instead of mowing it. It seemed not generally understood that sidewalks, everywhere other than on Warren Street, were a responsibility the City has handed off to individual property owners, but the general feeling was there needed to be some comprehensive and standardized improvement to the sidewalks throughout the city.

Jake Plourde, who was greeted with applause when he rose and introduced himself, expressed his concern about banning dogs from the cemetery and with the state of disrepair in the oldest parts of the cemetery, particularly some of the mausoleums. He cited the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, one of the oldest rural cemeteries in the country, as an example of a cemetery where dogs are allowed and where there is an effective effort to preserve and maintain the historic and architecturally significant funerary monuments and structures. He suggested that a similar initiative should happen in Hudson. 

The Internet, which was compared in importance with the coming of the railroad in the 19th century, and unacceptable disposal of trash were also mentioned as issues of concern.

A topic that ran through the discussion like a leitmotif was the lack of responsiveness and transparency in city government. Early on in the discussion, it was noted that achieving the goals being identified involved certain expectations of elected officials. A relatively new resident of the Fifth Ward expressed her sense that she was underrepresented in city government. A relatively new resident of the First Ward declared that she was "amazed by how difficult things are in Hudson, when there are so many bright, like-minded people here." A longtime resident of Hudson expressed the desire for "a more open, friendlier government." It's interesting to note that only three elected officials were present at the meeting: one alderman--John Friedman (Third Ward)--and two supervisors--Sarah Sterling (First Ward) and Ellen Thurston (Third Ward).

There was general interest among people at the meeting to learn more about how city and county government functions, and there was agreement that members of the public needed to attend more meetings of the Common Council and its committees.

A memorable statement from one person present at the meeting was that she grew up in Hudson but left "like my hair was on fire" after finishing high school. A couple of decades later, she has moved back to Hudson, because the city as it is today "is the place where I want to live."


  1. The biggest threat to Hudson is the collusion of Galvan and a few elected officials. The other issues outlined by Hudson Forward, while important, are for naught unless the Galvan/elected official scheme is addressed and resolved in a satisfactory manner.

    1. In the big picture, Hudson is ruled by a mining operation. Leaving aside Galvan's activities, every sneaky deal that occurs in Hudson is somehow traceable to this fact.

      Judging from the abundance of raw materials beneath Becraft Mountain, Hudson will always be ruled by mining.

      In the last few weeks, the forest road from Becraft at Route 9 down to the South Bay causeway has undergone a transformation, but who's noticed? This is the same route which will one day see an aggregate conveyor system installed to the waterfront (a sneaky zoning deal accomplished by a previous Common Council).

      If Hudson residents focus only on Galvan's activities (which I agree are ominous), then the machinations of the longtime interests which continue to shape the fate of the city - and particularly the waterfront - will continue to slip beneath the radar.

      For this reason, if for no other, the miners must love Galvan.

    2. Why no mention of the speed bump that halted the Moreland commission unheimlich?
      The Governor pulled back the law dogs when they began "mining" about the real estate lobbyists.
      The "dirty" money in Hudson is laundered through quasi governmental agencies that swap deeds like baseball cards in exchange for campaign contributions and the promise of grant money...

  2. Thanks very much for that account of the meeting, which seems very thorough. But you don't convey a sense of what's next from Hudson Forward. Did the discussion limit itself to an airing of concerns for now, or was there motion toward setting priorities and taking action, or what?

    1. Nothing in Hudson is easy, and nothing can be solved as a consequence of a single meeting, The next steps are, logically, to use the discussion to identify issues that are of concern to the group as a whole and, after doing that, to get the group organized into committees, or task forces, dedicated to taking on each one.

      There was also an interest among the new people in the group in learning about how local government works. What's the difference between an alderman and a supervisor? What's role of the alphabet soup of quangos (HPC, HCDPA, etc.) in relation to elected government? Victor Mendolia volunteered to do a "teach in" on the subject.

      Another meeting is planned for mid-August, date and place yet to be determined.

    2. But you're right in your perception, Jonathan Lerner, that the meeting was, appropriately, more about identifying issues and building consensus than about outlining strategies for solving problems.

    3. It's great to see this renewed interest in self-government, which is perennial in our culture.

      In the down times, public apathy mixed with unexamined and unwarranted trust for any level of government are the ideal breeding grounds for corruption (if not always in the legal sense of corruption, then in the general direction of laziness, cutting corners, and erosion of the meaning and sense of PUBLIC SERVICE).

      Over the years, Victor Mendolia has improved his ideas about those generally corrosive tendencies that would challenge any of us were we to assume positions of power.

      But the best people to explain the relations and hierarchies between our various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies are those who have never been involved in any of them. That's just common sense.

      In a place like Hudson which is fraught with transparency problems and the serial cheating of often-required public participation, I'd suggest learning the taxonomy of local government from the perspective of self-government, or in the antique parlance, "republicanism" (please note the small "r").

      That would begin by learning which agencies are available to public scrutiny via the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), and which are not.

      Of those agencies that are not accountable to the public in terms of FOIL, what are their histories and records of success? What are their current activities? What bodies or individuals guide their planning, and what are the criteria of "progress"? In the arguably closed precincts of decision-making (how can the public know or believe the extent of this?), how does an unaccountable and quasi-governmental agency achieve its ends by working directly with local officials who've temporarily forgotten their commitments to PUBLIC SERVICE, and vice versa?

      It was in 2012 during a confusing spate of grant applications (most since failed) that Supervisor Thurston asked for a public reckoning of how many grants were being considered at any one time, and how many applications submitted and by whom.

      I believe the idea of a web page was floated, which is local government's new default for putting off public scrutiny indefinitely, or at least buying time.

      It goes like this: We are completely transparent which you will realize as soon as we bring you that new website.

      After which any immediate subject/fire is successfully doused.

      I say kudos to Victor, but we need an advocate and explainer who's never been there before and has no history of loyalties and no anticipation of future loyalties.

      Self-government, what an exceptional idea! Aaron Burr must be rolling in his grave.

  3. Reading about Kites Nest and Hudson Forward on the same morning lifts the heart and gives me hope for the future of Hudson for all ages in all wards.

  4. Wasn't "FORWARD" the slogan of the same people that gave us 6 years of (jobless) economic stimulus? Millions of stimulus spent on waterfront "development" and what have we to show? More use of the upland. Uses that further restrict access to the river. These so called "city servants" deny residents the prescribed "unfettered" access and customary "permanent easement".

    The Democrats (large D) that run Hudson, need to explain how stimulus grant money has replaced 25 full time (year round) citizen Navigators with 2 sail boats and a transport for hire, both occupying precious space and rarely leaving their federally funded berths.

    1 Riparian