Friday, February 19, 2016

Timing Is Everything

Today, the Register-Star reported that the American Legion is looking to sell its building on Fairview Avenue, between Green and Columbia streets: "Hudson American Legion post seeks smaller digs." Alas, had they come to this decision five years ago, one of Hudson's oldest surviving houses might have been spared the fate that befell it.

In one of the last ditch efforts to save 900 Columbia Street back in 2011, Deborah Kinney tried to find another site for the Mental Health Association to locate their new group home. One of those sites was the property of the American Legion. It was rumored that the Legionnaires were thinking of selling their building, located a stone's throw from 900 Columbia Street, in the part of Hudson zoned for such group homes. When Kinney approached them, however, they reportedly vehemently denied that they were considering selling their building. Now, five years later, with the 200-year-old building demolished and a house of undistinguished design taking its place, the American Legion Hall is for sale.

The same bad timing applies to the Hudson City School District's plan to divest itself of the John L. Edwards School. Years ago, in 2010 or maybe earlier, back when the Hudson Area Library still owned 400 State Street, there were rumors that HCSD might want to sell the JLE. It was so easy to imagine the City acquiring the building (despite the fact that HCSD allegedly wanted something like $4 million for it) and turning it into a municipal government campus. The police department could be there, the city court could be there, the code enforcement office could be there, City Hall could be there and finally be universally accessible, and the Hudson Area Library would be the centerpiece of it all with room to expand because there would no longer be the need for a playground. 

But alas, it took until now for HCSD to commit to closing JLE, and according to their plan, the building won't be vacant and available for sale until 2020. Meanwhile, after evading the problem for close to twenty years, the City of Hudson has finally taken steps to improve the woefully lacking police and court facilities and is now committed to pursuing the adaptive reuse of 701 Union Street as the new City of Hudson Police and Court Center.

It's not likely that the NYS Office of Court Administration will be willing to wait another decade for the City to correct the shortcomings of the city court facilities nor is it likely that the Common Council, which flinched at spending the $4.3 million needed to acquire and adapt 701 Union Street, would be willing to assume the expense of acquiring an elementary school building and redeveloping it for use as the police department, the city court, and City Hall.

But to return to the American Legion Hall and its imminent sale, after Gossips published the following picture of the bell water trough that once stood at the intersection of Green Street and Fairview Avenue and wondered about the buildings behind it, a reader suggested that a closer look at the American Legion building might be in order.

I did that today.

Although it's no longer possible to see the most prominent building in the historic photograph from the same vantage point (there's a house in the way), it is possible to see that building buried within the current American Legion Hall.

The fish scale shingles and the half moon vent on the east gable of the building are still there, and the mill work medallions that appear on the original building have been attached here and there on the various additions to the building.
Hudson is such an endlessly intriguing place!


  1. A jaw-dropping narrative, nicely told.

    Good God ...

  2. Good God! is right. But to say that "timing is everything" gives the narrative a gloss it doesn't really deserve. It suggests that there aren't willful human beings involved in all these episodes. The 900 Green Street house, for instance, was torn down because the City did not enforce an agreement with the putative new owner to "move" the house. Each one of the mini-tragedies cited here have similar narratives, with living, breathing human beings doing (or not doing) what could'a would'a should'a been done!

  3. The old, stupid narrative - the one requiring human agency - is happening again, down on the east causeway.

    When the zoning was changed in 2011, one reason which was discussed explicitly among Council members was the landowner's recent placement of a road across the west causeway, something it had done unilaterally and unannounced.

    Several months later, the Principal Attorney of the NYS Department of State visited Hudson and explained why he recommended his own language for a zoning change. Any alteration of anything in the South Bay would henceforth require planning permission from the City.

    The Council went for it, and we adopted the State's protective language so that we could exercise at least some control over the company's actions at a waterfront shared by all.

    Last month, the new landowner did EXACTLY what the previous owner had done - this time to the east causeway - which had occasioned the language of the 2011 zoning change.

    The company didn't notify anyone, didn't submit a proposal to the Planning Board, and clearly and obviously disrespected the Zoning Code.

    We should resist our sheepish habit turn to the nearest lawyer to explain what the Department of State's top lawyer already came here to explain to us: his own reason for providing his own language for our zoning change. It would be bizarre and perverse not to accept his own plain word for it.

    So far, the City has not responded to the causeway action, presumably seeking the legal advice of anyone except the Principal Attorney of the NYS Department of State.

  4. Disappointing that the world has become "disposable". Hudson has sooooooooo much history. Don't even get me started on Simpsonville and Power Avenue which intrigued me as a child and continues to this day.

  5. Priorities should maintain historical significance. Simpsonville...Power Avenue still kills me to see what happened there.

    1. Simpsonville, such interesting structures. What a total waste.

      "History is bunk," right?