In 2006, the building that stood at 406 Warren Street was demolished--in a locally designated historic district, without a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition. Cohen wanted the site cleared so that he could construct the entrance to his proposed hotel in that spot.
Chapter 169-8 B of the Hudson city code is very clear about the conditions for demolition in a historic district and the expectations after demolition has occurred:
Demolition shall be permitted only after the owner of the site has submitted and obtained design approval of his/her plans for new development under the provisions of this chapter, including an acceptable timetable and guarantees, which may include performance bonds for demolition and completion of the project. In no case shall the time between demolition and commencement of new construction or lot improvement exceed six months.Cohen got a demolition permit from Peter Wurster, the code enforcement officer, without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, his plan for the new construction in the vacant space was never approved by the HPC, there was no timetable or guarantees, and the lot has been kept vacant for eight years, with no improvement beyond the construction of a fence/mural, but the City has never taken any punitive action against Cohen.
Last September, another demolition permit was issued for one of the town houses on North Fourth Street. Again, the demolition permit was issued without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, this time because it was considered to be an emergency. The building had to be demolished in the interest of public safety.
Two things prompted Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, to bring up the situation at Warren and Fourth streets last night. The first was a report that a brick had fallen from the demolition site on North Fourth Street narrowly missing someone walking below on the sidewalk; the second was someone else expressing an interest in acquiring the property and developing it as a hotel. Friedman said he wanted to bring the issue up with the Legal Committee "because it is a particularly sticky wicket."
Council president Don Moore inquired about the stability of the remainder of the buildings, and it was suggested that the City should require an engineer's report attesting to their stability. Friedman said he wanted to invite Cohen to a Legal Committee meeting, with the goal perhaps of getting Cohen to enter into a consent agreement. Friedman suggested that agreement might be Cohen promising "in eighteen months, I'll have a C of O (certificate of occupancy) for the whole building."
Meanwhile, it's been eight years since the project was before the Planning Commission or the Historic Preservation Commission. The former never granted site plan approval, the latter never granted a certificate of appropriateness, and at the time it was rumored that Cohen was intending to change the design for the hotel, which had been presented to both commissions.
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