At its meeting on Tuesday, the Common Council received as a communication a letter from Bruce H. Steinberg of Danian Realty in Chappaqua, NY, the current owner of 134-136 Warren Street, stating the intention to appeal the Historic Preservation Commission's decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness to the storefront proposed for 134 Warren Street.
After introducing the appeal, Council president Don Moore said, "The HPC is still considering the proposal," and commented that he was "not aware that we have entertained an appeal in the past." Two statements that are not quite right.
At their meeting on August 8, the HPC, after hearing public comment on the proposal, voted on whether or not to grant a certificate of appropriateness to the project. Two members of the commission voted aye; four members voted nay. Hence a certificate of appropriateness was denied. All that is left to do is vote formally on the language, composed by counsel, stating why the certificate of appropriateness was denied.
Relevant to the statement about the Council never having entertained an appeal before, in 2012, Galvan Partners initiated an appeal to the Common Council after being denied a certificate of appropriateness for their plan to move the Robert Taylor House from the head of Tanners Lane to 23 Union Street. Moore was correct in that the process of an appeal has never been established or tried, because a few months after Galvan Partners initiated the appeal, they apparently abandoned the notion of moving the house.
Today an email written by Tim Slowinski, owner of the Limner Gallery, at 123 Warren Street, and sent to members of BeLo3rd found its way to Gossips' desk. The email urges people to attend the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting tonight at 6 p.m. and the Historic Preservation Commission meeting at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning "to protest this decision"--"this decision" being the denial of a certificate of appropriateness to the proposed storefront at 134 Warren Street.
In his email, Slowinski makes a couple of statements that are unfair to the HPC and actually not true. He contends that the application was denied "because the commission said they wanted to restrict business in the neighborhood and keep it more residential." HPC decisions have nothing to do with use. As HPC member Miranda Barry rightly stated at the meeting on August 8, "It is not our place to decide if this block should become all commercial or all residential." The HPC is charged with protecting the historic architecture of Hudson, which means that if a building has survived for 150 years as a residential building with its facade unchanged, that facade should not be altered no matter what permitted use the building is put to.
HPC chair Rick Rector made the point at the meeting that the ground floor of 134 Warren Street has had a commercial tenant for the past ten years. Also there are at least four businesses being operated in what are historically residential buildings in the 100 block of Warren without requiring changes to the facades of the buildings: BCB Art, at 116 Warren Street; Davis Orton Gallery, at 114 Warren Street; Jeff Bailey Gallery, at 127 Warren Street; and Dish, at 103 Warren Street. The uses of these buildings have changed, but the architectural integrity of their facades has not.
Slowinski's email concludes: "It is good and essential for the historic architecture of our community to be preserved, but it is not the place of the commission to restrict and/or engineer economic growth in our neighborhood." In making the decision it did, the Historic Preservation Commission was doing exactly what Slowinski calls "good and essential." They were preserving the architectural integrity of 134 Warren Street.
After the public hearing on August 8, HPC member Tony Thompson noted that all the comments in support of the project had to do with economics, and he reminded his colleagues that "historic preservation itself has an economic value"--a principle that everyone in Hudson should acknowledge and embrace. Thompson also admonished his colleagues, "Individual ideas of economic viability should not be part of the picture," and in the decision that the HPC made, they were not.
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