Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Remember Those "Bomb Trains"?

This is what happened in Virginia today. Here's the BBC report: "Derailed US train bursts into flames in Lynchburg."

An NBC News video can be viewed here.

These same trains, carrying volatile Bakken crude oil, travel down the west side of the Hudson River every day.

Thanks to Justin Goldman for bringing this to our attention

Not to Be Missed

Seth Rogovoy distills his experience of living in Hudson into one complex sentence: "My Welcome to Hudson."

"I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better": Part 4

The 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan, which divided the entire riverfront into four sections, divided South Bay into two: South Bay Inland and South Waterfront. Today we look at the analysis and recommendations for South Bay Inland--everything east of the railroad tracks to Third Street.

The colors on the map indicate that in 1965 the entire area was proposed to be industrial (purple) with a little bit of "Wholesale-Storage" (brown) around the edges.
South Bay Inland
South Bay inland has a multitude of problems, most of which can be solved: vehicles cannot reach this part of the City without travelling through the central plateau of the City; the railroad station area is uninviting and has no organized parking facilities; dilapidated residences are mixed with old and deteriorating factories and warehouses, sewage outlets and vacant land; streets are, basically, non-existent; vehicles drive wherever the ground is firm, and do not travel where there is swamp.
Throughout the South Bay area, both west and east of the New York Central tracks, land ownership records are unclear. Mapped roads simply trail off and eventually disappear, so that the extent of public rights-of-way is in doubt. Ownership of all these lands needs clarification.
Proposals. The whole of South Bay between the New York Central Railroad and Third Street is potentially suitable for industrial and wholesale uses. However, an access road is necessary for any development. The proposed road (see the Plan for Roads and Traffic Circulation) follows, in large part, a route already used by vehicles and is presently dry enough to support heavy vehicular traffic. It is proposed that this new road begin directly across Third Street from the proposed major east-west road and terminate at an extension of South Front Street. South Front Street, in turn, would have a uniform right-of-way width of 50 feet.
As much of South Bay as possible should be reclaimed. As the Bay is reputed to have a "bad bottom," an engineering study would be required to determine precisely where fill should be dumped to be most effective for land reclamation (or, in this case, land creation) purposes.
North of the proposed access road, however, almost all the land is presently usable and much of it--particularly the dry triangle directly south of Cross Street-Tanners Lane--is vacant. This should be considered prime land for industrial, wholesale or heavy commercial uses, being located adjacent to both railroad spurs and highways.
The needs of the railroad station at the present time are few. With the recent cessation of commuter service to Albany, only a sparse dozen trains stop daily in Hudson, and parking needs can be satisfied by the creation of a few dozen spaces in the area on the west side of Front Street, both north and south of the station proper.
Residential uses do not belong in either the North Bay or South Bay areas because of the presence of incompatible industrial uses.
The last paragraph should be of interest to the current residents of Cross Street and Tanners Lane.

In 2014, we still live with the problem of there being no access to the waterfront "without traveling through the central plateau of the City." In 1965, the concern was getting vehicles to the proposed "industrial, wholesale and heavy commercial uses." In 2014, besides the unwelcome but grudgingly tolerated need for gravel trucks to access the port, the issue is getting people to the train station, now no longer "uninviting" and with lots of "organized parking," as well as to Basilica Hudson and Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, and getting vehicles with boats in tow to the boat launch without having to travel through the "central plateau."


A Event for the Benefit of Dogs

Later today, from 5 to 7 p.m., the Columbia Greene Board of Realtors is holding an event to support animal welfare called Homes for Hounds (and presumably also for terriers, sporting dogs, working dogs, herding dogs, and everything in between). The beneficiaries of the event are Out of the Pits, Everlasting Hope Animal Rescue, and Peppertree Rescue. The festivities include an Adopt a Dog Event and recognition for realtors who are leaders in animal advocacy, among them Ruth Moser, whose rescue dog Cedric (a.k.a. Ceddy) appears in the picture.

Homes for Hounds takes place at Time & Space Limited, 434 Columbia Street. A $20 donation is suggested.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Embrace Spring, Celebrate the Ramp

Ramp Fest 2014, the culinary revel in the early edibles of spring, is just days away--on Saturday, May 3. Gossips has gotten word of what some of the chefs are preparing for this gustatory rite of spring. So to stimulate your palate, here's the list:

Ramp blini with ramp cured smoked trout & ramp Kim chi--Another Fork in the Road, Chef Jamie Parry
Ramp butter puff pastry pigs in a blanket with ramp relish--Bonfiglio & Bread, Chef Gaby Gulielmetti
Grilled ramp polenta with goat cheese and ramp pesto tapanade with Hudson Valley Foie Gras smoked duck--Ca' Mea, Chef Timothy Storrs
Country terrine, pickled ramps, buckwheat crisp--The Farm on Adderley, Chef Tom Kearney
Bluefish with creme fraiche, beets, ramp and duck skin--Fresh Company, Chef Shelley Boris
Savory tart with ramp pesto, pickled ramps, and Parmigiano--Gigi Hudson Valley, Chefs Wilson Costa & Laura Pensiero
Ramp and goat cheese custard, Carolina rice, ramp-walnut pesto--The Heath and Gallow Green at the McKettrick Hotel, Chef R. L. King
Grilled ramps folded with Anson Mills grits with Rawson Brook Farm goat cheese topped with smoked tomato aioli--Helsinki Hudson, Chef Hugh Horner 
Ramp greens-pressed house-made High Lawn Farm ricotta-Pigasso Farm smoked ham terrine, ramp-pepitas pesto, Mill River Farm micro greens--John Andrews Farmhouse, Chef Dan Smith 
Fava bean and ramp hummus with rhubarb-ramp confiture--Lucas Confectionary, Chef Mike Rock 
Salmon tartar with ramp pesto and crostini--Market Street, Chef Gianni Scappin
Baby quiche with ramps, local eggs, and Von Trapp Oma cheese--Route 7 Grill, Chef Christophe Jalbert
Fresh mozzarella, grilled ramp salsa verde, grilled asparagus and portabella, lavender lemon preserve--Speedy Romeo, Chef Justin Bazdarich
House-cured bacon, tomato confit, ramp mayo, sauteed ramps on a challah roll--Swoon, Chef Ryan McLaughlin
For those more inspired by pictures of food than by verbal descriptions, here are some of the delectable comestibles offered at last year's Ramp Fest.

Ramp Fest 2014 takes place at Basilica Hudson from 12 noon until 4 p.m. Click here for more information and to secure your tickets.

Photos by Richard A. Smith

Tomorrow on WGXC

On Wednesday morning, on his radio show @Issue, Victor Mendolia and his co-host Debora Gilbert will be speaking with Sherry Wykoff about the HRHCare (Hudson River Health Care) facility that opened recently at 750 Union Street.

Some readers may remember the name Hudson River Health Care from last fall, when the proposal to transform the Hudson Armory into the Galvan Community Center was before the Planning Commission. During the public hearing, it was suggested the Hudson River Health Care was the proposed tenant for the "medical wing" to be constructed on the west side of the building, on the footprint of the 1950s garage. 

A commenter at the public hearing speculated that Galvan needed a health care provider in the building to get tax credits and make their financing work. With HRHCare establishing a facility elsewhere in Hudson, one wonders what, if anything, that means for Galvan's Armory project. Will Galvan be seeking some other health care provider to occupy the "medical wing," or is 750 Union just a temporary location for HRHCare until the new addition to the Armory is completed? It's not likely these questions will be addressed tomorrow, since the conversation will probably focus on the services provided, but you never know. They might.

Another guest on tomorrow's @Issue will be Cyndy Hall, chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee, who is expected to talk about the already sold out Martin Van Buren Awards Dinner (Congressional candidate Sean Eldridge is the guest speaker) and the upcoming political races.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Courthouse Watch

The construction fence came down around the courthouse this morning, making it easier to to compare the vision with the reality.

There is still work to be done--finishing touches on the ramp, installing the restored torchรจres, removing the ugly air raid siren (but that last thing is wishful thinking). Public Works Commissioner David Robinson told the Historic Preservation Commission on Friday that construction would be over in May, but it will be the end of October before the new windows are installed, so presumably the building will not be seat of justice for Columbia County again until early November.

Noticed While Out and About on a Sunny Day

Look what the guys from DPW did today, after picking up the garbage.

They painted fresh carrots to mark the way to the Hudson Farmers' Market. Opening day is this Saturday, May 3. Spring is here at last!

Prepare for Pleasant Weather

With spring upon us and summer approaching, Scott Baldinger offers some useful advice on his blog, Word on the Street, for all of us who enjoy strolling on Warren Street (with or without a dog) and in other public venues of Hudson: "Arrange Your Face: Rules of Pedestrian Engagement on Warren Street."

The picture accompanying this post, showing a 19th-century face arranged for a portrait by Frank Forshew in Historic Hudson's Rowles Studio Collection, was added by Gossips and does not illustrate the "arranged face" Baldinger recommends.

Protecting the Olana Viewshed

Last summer, The Olana Partnership and Scenic Hudson filed a legal challenge to overturn the approval granted by the Town of Livingston Planning Board for a 190-foot communication tower on Blue Hill, in the Olana viewshed. Eger Communications, who wants to build the new tower, challenged the standing of The Olana Partnership and Scenic Hudson to bring such a lawsuit, claiming that Scenic Hudson supporters and The Olana Partnership members would not be harmed by the tower more than the general public. Eger Communications also claimed that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the co-locators (the communications providers interested in siting antennas on the tower) had not been named in the suit.  

Last week, Scenic Hudson and The Olana Partnership announced that the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Columbia, had upheld their right to challenge the Livingston Planning Board's decision. Here's part of what Judge Jonathan Nichols wrote in his March 31 ruling:
One of the main activities enjoyed by the supporters is the view from Olana, including Blue Hill, and it is clear that the present towers and the replacement tower are indisputably visible from various locations within Olana. The supporters allege that the proposed replacement tower will be demonstrably more visible in the landscape than the existing guyed units. This is sufficient injury to aesthetic and environmental well-being to establish standing.
Nichols also ruled that the co-locators did not have to be named as parties because they would not be "inequitably and adversely affected" since they had not been co-applicants in the permitting process.

Click here to read the entire press release from Scenic Hudson and The Olana Partnership.

"I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better": Part 3

For this part of our series about the 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan, using the line from the Beatles song as the title seems inappropriate. The vision for the second section of the riverfront--Promenade Hill--has changed only marginally since 1965. In fact, what's proposed in the plan sounds better than what we actually got.

Promenade Hill
The blocks west of Front Street, between Ferry Street and the Hudson Mills, contain some of the worst housing in the City. Many structures are derelict and vacant, some occupied structures have been condemned as unsafe by Hudson's Department of Public Works. This area also contains a firehouse and two parks. Promenade Hill, a stately riverfront park, is seldom used; Franklin Playground, intensively used by neighborhood children, but without a bench to sit on, is on a small lot that was carved in two by the railroad.
Proposals. This narrow strip of land needs redevelopment and has been included as part of the first proposed urban renewal project. Housing problems here are intense and redevelopment treatment is required. One possible type of redevelopment is . . . Franklin Playground, Fleet Street, and the block between Fleet Street and Pennoyer Street are utilized for high density housing. Under this scheme, the first units would be built on Franklin Playground to minimize relocation problems. To replace Franklin Playground, it is proposed that Promenade Hill (south of Warren Street) be enlarged east to Front Street and south to include Pennoyer Alley (a paper street), thus providing a more centrally located playground. This plan should increase the use of Promenade Hill which at present, although it commands a magnificent view of the Hudson, has no facilities for young people, and is not conveniently located for the elderly. If its addition to the east provides active play equipment for children, it would make handsome and historic Promenade Hill more useful for parents.
The firehouse site and the block to the west are pleasant reminders of the Proprietors' early map--both in scale and proportion. The first public market in Hudson was located here. The firehouse, a sound structure, can be retained, with parking provided both to the north of the building and on Warren Street. The narrow alley of Market Place can be added to the firehouse site to provide a small green area for social events. The small block to the west, centrally located and historically reminiscent in its scale, can be used for small-scale housing, which would blend harmoniously with the park. 
The area directly north of the firehouse as far as Hudson Knitting Mills, is another site for high density housing. At present, these blocks contain burned-out hulks and decrepit structures, but, as is true of the whole Promenade Hill area, they are potentially one of the finest housing sites in Hudson.
With redevelopment, all of the short streets and alleys west of Front Street, between Mill Street and Ferry Street, may be eliminated with the exception of Warren Street, which must be retained to provide egress for the fire truck and parking for firemen and for persons using the park.
The black and white map is a detail from the map of the First Ward in the 1888 Beers atlas. The other images are from the 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Deliberating a Fence and Fenestration

Two projects of interest came before the Historic Preservation Commission on Friday: the fence at 39 South Fifth Street and new windows for the Columbia County Courthouse.

The owners of 39 South Fifth Street want to install a fence around the yard at the side of their house, where South Fifth Street curves into East Allen Street.

In December, they proposed a four-foot shadow box fence with lattice at the top. The Historic Preservation Commission appreciated the openness of the proposed fence and granted a certificate of appropriateness. 

On Friday, the owner of 39 South Fifth Street building came before the HPC with a revised design for the fence. Instead of the fence originally proposed, they now wanted to replicate the fence at the adjoining property on East Allen, but their fence would be white instead of dark green.

HPC member Tony Thompson called the new fence a "monolithic barrier." He said it was "too different from what we approved" and stated that it "changed the feeling of the street and the neighborhood." HPC architect member Jack Alvarez commented that "the finials and all" seemed to work better but expressed the opinion that the new fence was not really compatible with the neighborhood. He suggested that an iron fence with vegetation behind it would achieve the goals of privacy and security in a way that would be more appropriate.

In the end, although Thompson argued that the proposed fence "changes the neighborhood in the same way that the wrong setback alters a neighborhood," and Alvarez maintained that the proposed fence inappropriately affected the scale of the street and the neighborhood, the HPC voted to grant a certificate of appropriateness, with only Thompson and Alvarez dissenting.

The other project seeking a certificate of appropriateness was the proposal to replace the windows at the Columbia County Courthouse--not only the vinyl replacement windows that were installed on the first floor of the building in the late 1990s but also all the surviving 1907 windows, including the Palladian window at the back of the building, over the grand staircase, which according to county public works commissioner David Robinson, is "in really, really bad shape." 

Alvarez, who is a recognized advocate for preserving original pre-World War II windows, said that he saw no proof that the 1907 windows were in bad shape and commented about the vinyl windows, "I wish I could find the person who put those in." Since the presence of asbestos in the window caulking is cited as one of the reasons the windows need to be replaced, Alvarez pointed out that "if you take the sash out of the opening [to send it elsewhere for restoration], the concern for asbestos is abated." 

Alvarez spoke of the importance of the building architecturally, noting that it was designed by Warren and Wetmore and represented a "high time of architecture." Mention of the architectural significance triggered Robinson to speak of "the sensitivity that I bring to this project." Before 2003, when he took over as public works commissioner, Robinson said the the courthouse was "depraved of attention." He spoke of the work he had done to restore the law library to the way it had been in 1907, he told how he had resisted pressure to reorient the building and abandon the front entrance, he talked about how he had altered the entrance to move the the security check and restore the lobby to the way it was meant to be. "You're not going to find anyone who is move sensitive to the design of this courthouse than me," said Robinson. 

Returning to the topic of the windows, Robinson asserted "Nothing lasts forever" and speculated that restoring the 1907 windows instead of replacing them with "new ones made in the likeness of the old ones" would cost $835,000 instead of $435,000. Alvarez warned that, unlike the original windows, which are now 107 years old and could be repaired, the aluminum clad windows being proposed "will last 20 or 30 years" and then would have to be replaced again because they cannot be repaired.

In spite of Alvarez's objections and concerns, a certificate of appropriateness was given for new windows at the courthouse. According to Robinson, the original 1907 windows will be removed and disposed of as hazardous material.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Chance to Sparkle

The fifth Hudson Pride Parade is just eight weeks away. The early planning for this spectacular and beloved event started months ago, and now it's time for everyone to get involved.

Tomorrow--Sunday, April 27--there's a planning meeting for the parade, and everyone is welcome. If you want to be in the parade or help in any way to make it happen, come on down to the Chamber of Commerce, 1 North Front Street, at the bottom of Warren Street, at 3 p.m., and add your sparkle to the parade whose theme is Sparkle!

Is the Friendly City Becoming Dog Unfriendly?

In the past few weeks, two readers have asked about "No Dogs Allowed" signs in the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park--one in a comment on this blog and another in an email. In the first case, I responded by suggesting that the sign he had seen was left over from a time, more than a decade ago, when the Common Council responded to a complaint about dog poop in Seventh Street Park by having "No Dogs Allowed" signs put up in every park in the city without passing a law to make the prohibition enforceable. When I got an email yesterday from someone who said he had witnessed DPW workers installing a sign, I decided to investigate. Lo and behold, this is what I found.

There is a sign warning "No Dogs Allowed" at every way into the park, including the point at which the railroad tracks enter the park from the north, presumably to warn vagabond dogs riding the boxcars that they must jump off before the train enters the park.

To find out why these signs have reappeared in the Public Square when the city code prohibits dogs only from Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Gossips contacted DPW superintendent Rob Perry who explained simply that the mayor had ordered their installation. So what's next? Is the mayor also going to order the Common Council to add Seventh Street Park to the Chapter 70-4. A (11) of the city code? While other cities are striving to market themselves as dog friendly to attract people who like to travel with their dogs, is Hudson, the alleged "Friendly City," becoming more unfriendly to dogs?

Extraordinary Moves of the Vehicular Kind

I spent a year or so living in a western suburb of Boston. This brief sojourn in Bean Town came after years of living in New York City, where no one needed to own a car and few did, so I was out of the habit of driving when I got to Boston and often found making my way around in my newly acquired car downright harrowing. A phenomenon I encountered there for the first time ever was what I called "the simultaneous left turn." This happened when you were at an intersection waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic to make a left turn, and when it came, the driver behind you took advantage of the same break in traffic to turn left at exactly the same time you did. The car that had been behind you ended up beside you at your left in the new street, and if that street didn't have two lanes going in both directions, that car would then accelerate past you so as not to run head on into oncoming traffic.

It's been decades since I thought about the simultaneous left turn, but this morning in Hudson, the driver of a big old SUV took the simultaneous left turn up a notch. I was traveling west on Warren Street, intending to turn left onto Fifth Street. The light was red when I got to the corner, so I stopped and waited, with my left turn signal on. When the light turned green for traffic on Warren Street, a woman on the south side of Warren Street, who had great difficulty walking and was moving very slowly, set out across Fifth Street, heading west. Clearly, I could not make my turn until she was safely on the other side, so I pulled out into the intersection to allow drivers wanting to go straight on Warren Street to get around me on the right, and waited for the woman to cross before making my turn. When she was about two-thirds of the way to the other side, a big SUV came up beside me on the leftremember, my left turn signal is onand turned left onto Fifth Street, cutting diagonally from the parking lane into the traffic lane, while the poor woman was still in the crosswalk. 

What did this bizarre maneuver achieve? Not much. When the woman was safely on the sidewalk and I had made my turn, I caught up to the SUV, stopped at the traffic light at Fifth and Union.

Hudson Farmers' Market

Today, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., is the last day this season for the Indoor Market in the Parish Hall at Christ Church. Next Saturday, May 3, the Hudson Farmers' Market moves back outdoors, to its usual location at the Sixth and Columbia streets, where it will be every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. until November 22.

News About the "Bomb Trains"

Ned Sullivan of Scenic Hudson spread the word yesterday that, as reported in the New York Times, the U.S. Department of Transportation will announce new standards for tank cars carrying crude next week. 

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx stated that the DOT-111 tank cars currently being used to transport the highly volatile Bakken crude oil from the shale fields of North Dakota need to be retrofitted with better protections or replaced. On the long journey from the shale fields to the refineries, the long trains carrying Bakken crude travel down the west side of the Hudson River.

Photos by Chad Gomes and John Lipscomb from the Riverkeeper website

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Lincoln Funeral Train

A year ago, Gossips reported about the stop made in Hudson on April 25, 1865, by the Lincoln Funeral Train. Tonight, Gossips went to the historic train station in Stuyvesant to hear about what people there are planning for next year, to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the journey of the embalmed body of Abraham Lincoln from Washington, D.C, to Springfield, Illinois. 

The funeral train didn't stop in Stuyvesant. It stopped in Hudson. But Stuyvesant is preparing to reenact the vigil that took place along the tracks in 1865 when the train bearing Lincoln's body passed by, late at night, on its way to Albany. This is so admirable. It's Gossips' opinion that Hudson, too, should mark the sesquicentennial by reenacting what happened here on that night when the funeral train arrived at 9:45 p.m. The following account is from the journal kept by Adjutant General Edward D. Townsend, the commander of the funeral train, quoted in Bloody Crimes, by James Swanson:
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in white, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President's coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. This whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night.

Remembering the Holocaust

Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, begins at sundown on Sunday, April 27. On that day, at 7 p.m., the Annual Holocaust Interfaith Service, sponsored by the Hudson Interfaith Council with support from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, takes place at Congregation Anshe Emeth, 240 Joslen Boulevard in Greenport.

The service will include selections from I Never Saw Another Butterfly, music by the victims of the Terezin Concentration Camp, performed by members of the Capitol Chamber Artists: Nina Fine, mezzo-soprano; Mary Lou Saetta, violin; and Andre Laurent, piano and cello. Houses of worship participating in the service include Congregation Anshe Emeth, the Endless Love Temple, the Reformed Dutch Church of Claverack, Holy Trinity Parish, and the Rock Apostolic Church. Admission is free and all are invited.

Then You Heard Him, Now You Won't

On the last Friday in February, Mayor William Hallenbeck was interviewed by Martin Martinez on the WGXC nighttime show Newline Radio. At the time, Martinez promised that the mayor would be coming back on the last Friday of every month to talk about what's happening at City Hall and in the City of Hudson and what the mayor and his staff have been doing. 

On the last Friday in March, there was no interview with the mayor, but earlier this week it was announced that the mayor would return to Newline Radio tonight, on the last Friday in April. That was Tuesday night. On Thursday morning, it was announced that the mayor had cancelled his scheduled appearance.

Many were looking forward to hearing what the mayor had to say, since he rarely appears at public meetings in City Hall anymore. The last time Gossips saw him was on April 11, when he interrupted a Historic Preservation Commission meeting to have a word with HPC counsel Carl Whitbeck.

"I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better": Part 2

As we saw the last time, the 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan divided the riverfront into four sections:  North Bay, Promenade Hill, South Bay waterfront, and South Bay inland (east of the railroad tracks). The first section to be considered was North Bay.

North Bay
All of North Bay is landlocked by the railroad. Neither filled nor channeled, most of the Bay is presently unusable. The City of Hudson is presently reclaiming approximately four acres at the northern City line through a sanitary land fill operation. Access is provided by a narrow road, the continuation of Second Street, which cuts through the vacant lands owned by the New York State Volunteer Firemen's Home. The road skirts the swamp, and most of the land west of it is underwater. At the southern edge of the bay are found an unhealthy and unsanitary mixture of uses: residences, factories (Foster Refrigerator and Hudson Valley Mills), a colony of fisherman's shacks, raw sewage outfalls, and junk yards.
Proposals. The Plan for Streets and Traffic Circulation proposes the eventual creation of a major road serving all of Columbia County and beyond, which will run in a north-south direction near the river. This road is envisioned as an improvement and extension of Third Street. East of this Third Street extension in the North Bay area, the Plans calls for residential, recreation, and semi-public uses; west of the road, primarily industrial uses. . . . 
A city-wide sewage treatment plant has been planned for a site directly north of Dock Street. From this site, it could easily serve any new industrial development in the North Bay. A new Department of Public Works garage (the present structure will be demolished when New York State constructs a boat launch facility) could be located in this vicinity.
The fishing village, located north of the end of Front Street, adjacent to the sewer outfall, is unsanitary and dilapidated. These shacks, together with the dilapidated structures north of Dock Street, should be removed or relocated. Middle Ground Flats, the small islands on the other side of the river channel, are lying fallow. While this location is outside the City limits, the possibility of developing them for recreation and camping sites should be investigated. When pollution is cleared from the Hudson River, and it becomes suitable for bathing, these islands would become delightful beaches. Until then, they are well-located to serve the more limited function of sites for camping and fishing, and as potential relocation sites for the fishing shacks now along the Hudson shore.
It would appear that, almost fifty years ago, planners already had the Furgary Boat Club in their sights. 

Today, instead of seeing the North Bay as good for nothing but industrial uses and being the future site of the sewage treatment plant, Hudson's LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) envisions conservation and recreational uses for the area. 

The Columbia Land Conservancy has proposed transforming the former landfill and the surrounding open space into a public recreation and natural area, with a trail network that would connect Hudson with "an expansive tract of open space and natural habitat, stretching from Charles Williams Park, through the 714-acre Greenport Conservation Area and northward on to Harrier Hill Park."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Building a Municipal Network

The City of Hudson's contract with Mid-Hudson Cable for providing cable TV service in the city expires in the summer of 2015, and that approaching deadline has inspired John Friedman, Third Ward alderman and chair of the Legal Committee, to begin considering and exploring options. At last night's Legal Committee meeting, Friedman shared his preliminary thoughts about building a municipal fiber network that would provide phone, cable TV, and Internet access to homes and businesses. He stressed the importance of high capacity, reliable Internet access for the businesses that exist in Hudson now and for the kinds of businesses we would like to attract, but he also pointed out that everyone in the city has an interest in the affordable, reliable delivery of at least one of the three: telephone, cable TV, or data.

Not fully understanding what's involved in creating a community network, Gossips searched on the Internet and discovered a webinar on the topic, produced back in 2012 by the National League of Cities Center for Research and Innovation. Considering that it's two years old, it's not exactly cutting edge, but for those with a little time to devote to watching it and an interest in knowing what's being considered, it provides some useful background: "How a Municipal Network Can Help Your City."

Plumbing the Issue of Plumbers

Last night, the Legal Committee of the Common Council discussed the perceived problem of obtaining a plumbing license from the City of Hudson. John Mason reports on the plumbing catch-22 in today's Register-Star: "Hudson cannot license plumbers." According to the discussion last night, duly reported by Mason, the City cannot issue a temporary license for a master plumber licensed by another municipality to do work in Hudson because someone seeking such a license must pass an exam administered by the Plumbing Commissionvariously called the Plumbing Board, the Board of Plumbers, and the Examining Board of Plumberswhich is also the body that must issue the license. There are allegedly four plumbers lined up to take the exam and get temporary licenses, but this cannot happen because there is no Plumbing Commission and the city code prohibits any city employee from administering the exam and issuing a license. Code enforcement officer Craig Haigh reported last night that the Plumbing Commission was abolished by a resolution passed by the Common Council a year or so ago.

Being a fanatical Common Council watcher and not having any recollection of such a resolution, Gossips contacted the city clerk this morning to find out exactly when this resolution had been passed. What was learned was that there had been no such resolution. What had happened was that salaries for the members of the Board of Plumbers had been removed as a budget item by the BEA (Board of Estimate and Apportionment, made up of the mayor, the treasurer, and the Common Council president) during the 2012 budget process. That action did not require a resolution by the Council, nor presumably did it dissolve the commission.

So the question remains whether or not there actually is a Plumbing Commission, and if there is, who serves on it. Members must be master plumbers. It is being assumed that there isn't one, since the discussion of the topic at last night's Legal Committee meeting concluded with committee chair John Friedman asking Council president Don Moore to speak with the mayor to see if we can "get the board back so we can deal with this pent up demand."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better . . .": Part 1

As a community, we're still struggling over our riverfront, eager to develop it but uncertain how best to accomplish that. It's interesting, therefore, to look back at what was proposed in 1965, if for no other reason than to make us feel better about where we are now. The 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan devoted an entire section to the riverfront and included a map to illustrate what they had in mind. So let's begin our look-back at the vision for the riverfront in 1965 with the history and overview.
Hudson began as a "landing" for the inland hamlet of Claverack. Its growth and greatness derived from its waterfront, which attracted the Proprietors with their whaling trade, and enabled the City to develop as a major seaport.
With the coming of the railroad in the middle of the nineteenth century, some of the Proprietors' early streets were obliterated. More important in Hudson's future, the railroad began a new era in transportation. Products which had been shipped through Hudson's port, were sent to their destinations by rail and later still by truck. Before the railroad was built, it had been possible to sail a boat into South Bay and dock it at the landing in Simpsonville. The railroad cut off almost all of Hudson's riverfront. The large North and South Bays, isolated from the river, degenerated into swamps. Unfortunately, landowners in North and South Bays prevented the Bays from being filled when the channel of the Hudson River was recently dredged.
Hudson's waterfront consists of four sections, each presenting different problems (but each with under-utilized land and deteriorated structures): the North Bay, Promenade Hill, South Bay waterfront, and South Bay inland or east of the railroad tracks. Each of these sections . . . is depicted on the Riverfront Plan Map.
This is the map. Purple designates "Industrial"; brown designates "Wholesale + Storage." The discussion of each section and the proposals for its development will be the matter for another time.

The 2014 Season Begins at Basilica Hudson

Creative director Melissa Auf der Maur describes the inaugural event of the 2014 season at Basilica Hudson as "our most ambitious visual art and performance production yet."

A collaboration between choreographer Jonah Bokaer and artist Anthony McCall, Eclipse is a site specific blend of choreography, art installation, and experimental cinema for dancers and light, "exploring the perception of space at its most elemental." Much of Bokaer's inspiration for Eclipse came from watching the lunar eclipse last summer from the Hudson Valley. "It was amazing to think of the huge distances involved between viewer, sun and moon, but also of how everything seemed to be happening in the same two-dimensional plane."          

McCall, a British artist known for his large-scale and wildly imaginative outdoor multimedia installations, has created for Eclipse an in-the-round stage with thirty-six hanging light bulbs timed to glow subtly and change in time with key points of the dance movement. The audience will be seated on all four sides of the stage, so that each member of the audience will have a different sight and sound experience, as the four dancers "traverse a field of light, flickering to form points, lines, and planes." Natural light (and darkness) also plays a role: the sixty-minute performance is timed to end at sundown.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Remember Ockawamick?

Joe Gentile reports in the Register-Star today that the county has a seven-step "timeline" to unload the former Ockawamick School building in Claverack: "County plans way out of Ockawamick."

The timeline was presented to the Board of Supervisors County Government Committee on Tuesday by Ken Flood, commissioner of planning and economic development. The school building and grounds, which the Board of Supervisors purchased in 2008 for $1.5 million, was recently appraised for $700,000.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How Did We Lose the Way?

For everyone who remembers President Jimmy Carter, and especially for those who don't, here are words from his "Crisis of Confidence" speech, delivered on July 15, 1979, turned into a rap by American Family Voices. Click here to watch and listen as Earth Day 2014 comes to a close. 

Sure Signs We Made It Through the Too Long Winter

There are daffodils and pansies in the window boxes at LICK, and a little sign in the window that announces this news--welcome to all (William included) who yearn for ice cream when the temperature rises above 60 degrees:
The first weekend of May brings not only the return of ice cream at LICK on Friday, May 2, but also Ramp Fest 2014 at Basilica Hudson on Saturday, May 3. As in the past, this year's celebration of the ramp, the cousin of garlic and onion that possesses, according to legend and myth, the power to drive away the ailments of winter, brings together an impressive group of chefs--from the Hudson Valley, New York City, and the Berkshires: Jeff Gimmel of Swoon Kitchenbar, Jamie Parry of Another Fork in the Road, Gaby Gulielmetti of Bonfiglio & Bread, Timothy Storrs of Ca' Mea, Tom Kearney of The Farm on Adderley, Shelley Boris of Fresh Company, Wilson Costa of Gigi Hudson Valley, R. L. King of Gallow Green at the McKittrick Hotel, Hugh Horner of Helsinki Hudson, John Andrews of John Andrews Farmhouse, Mike Rock of Lucas Confectionery, Gianni Scappin of Market Street, Rei Peraza of Panzur, Christophe Jalbert of Route 7 Grill, and Justin Bazdarich of Speedy Romeo. Visit the Ramp Fest website for more information and to purchase tickets.

Photo credit: Richard A. Smith

Getting There . . . As Imagined in 1965

Gossips has been exploring the 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan--a plan that preceded the adoption of zoning in Hudson by about three years and wholesale redevelopment of great swaths of the city by about five. As we've noted before, the study included a traffic study, with recommendations for "lessening congestion" in the city. One of those recommendations was the "Route 9 by-pass," which would have started at the city's southern border, gone diagonally across the grounds of the Dr. Oliver Bronson House to Union Street, cut across the city between Park Place and Eighth Street, and met up with Columbia and Green streets at the little triangle known as Rogers Park. That by-pass is mentioned often in the Comprehensive Development Plan and was considered crucial to any improvement in traffic flow, but as the "Official Map" (below) shows, it wasn't the only new road proposed. 

On the northern edge of the Bronson estate (in 1965, the Girls' Training School; today, the Hudson Correctional Facility), the Route 9 by-pass branches off in two directions. To the right, as we've seen, it heads north to meet up with Columbia and Green street at Rogers Park. To the left, it heads west toward the river, running south of and more or less parallel to the railroad tracks, crossing East Court Street where it meets Power Avenue, crossing Third Street where Power Avenue begins, connects up with the southern end of Front Street, and crosses the railroad tracks at Broad Street. The part of the road west of Third Street is referred to as the "South Bay Access Road" and "would serve as truck access to industrial uses proposed for the South Bay area when it has been dredged and filled." 

Another road proposal of note is the continuation of Third Street north, over the landfill and on to Greenport. Here's how the Comprehensive Development Plan described it:
The Plan for Streets and Traffic Circulation proposes the eventual creation of a major road serving all of Columbia County and beyond, which will run in a north-south direction near the river. This road is envisioned as an improvement and extension of Third Street.
Interestingly, the major road near the river proposed in 1965 has been replaced, in 2014, by a proposal for a trail network that would link Charles Williams Park, down a steep slope from the north end of Third Street, with the Greenport Conservation Area and other points north, providing access not for trucks but for hikers and recreation seekers.

One wonders what Hudson would be like today if the Plan for Streets and Traffic Circulation proposed in 1965 had been implemented.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Stunningly Good News

Last October, Sam Pratt (and Gossips after him) reported the news that the house at fork in the road at Hudson's northern gateway had been sold at auction for $5,000.

Today, Gossips learned two things: (1) the house's address is 49 Columbia Turnpike; (2) the house's new owner is Michael Molinski of Photographics Solution. Molinksi has created a blog to document his progress in rescuing and restoring the house. The blog is called, and Gossips is adding it to the blog list so you all can keep up with what's happening. This is such great news, particularly when you recall what we thought was going to happen on this spot.


The Plan and the Reality

Two years ago, the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission approved a plan for 347 Warren Street which was supposed to look like this. 

There would be three food trucks and a beer and wine garden at the back of the lot, Tortillaville and other vendors under uniform tents selling a variety of wares at the front of the lot, and landscaping in between. (It should be noted that the only permanent element of the plan, and hence the only element requiring a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC, was the covered porch that was to be the outdoor part of BackBar.)

Two years later, the vision that was approved by the regulatory boards and embraced by the community has yet to be achieved. This is what the site looked like this past weekend.

No effort has been made to landscape the space, and the three (not four) food trucks are parked willy-nilly on the lot. The willy-nilly positioning of the food trucks can probably be forgiven, because the outdoor dining season hasn't really begun yet and only Truck Pizza and Taste of India are actually open for business, but one wonders what the summer will bring. One also wonders about the new placement of the shiny food truck that was once Tortillaville and is now Once Upon a Taco.

Will it remain pushed up so close to the sidewalk? And where did that little wooden building right next to it come from?