Thursday, March 31, 2016

Candidates and Historic Preservation

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Because of this anniversary and because Gossips knows its readers care about historic preservation, this blog post from the Huffington Post is recommended reading: "In a Historic Election, Where Do the Candidates Stand on Protecting America's Heritage?"
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Man With the Dazzling Smile

Hudson has gained notoriety for various reasons in its more than two century history, and it has produced (or attracted) its share of unusual characters. A prime example is the Hudsonian who, in the summer of 1938, was featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not because he had real diamonds set in his teeth.

 
Bob Ryan is described in Ripley's as a restaurateur who "never turned away anyone hungry." No clue could be discovered about why Ryan chose to adorn his teeth with diamonds, but the story of his appearance in the newspaper cartoon panel doesn't end there. 

It seems a man named J. R. Hardy, who lived in Dallas, was an avid fan of Ripley's Believe It or Not, reading it every day, and "The Man with Diamond Teeth" interested him particularly. The Dallas Daily Times Herald for July 10, 1938, tells the story.
Reading Robert L. Ripley's daily "Believe-It-or-Not" has long been a pleasant habit with J. R. Hardy, 3308 Reed Street, but not until recently did it begin to pay more than informative dividends.
Several days ago, Mr. Hardy read about Bob Ryan, a cafe man in Hudson, N.Y., who has real diamonds in his teeth.
Mr. Hardy ran away from his home in Hudson when a young boy and lost touch with his family years ago. He decided that the diamond-studded cafe man might be able to trace his relatives.
And, believe-it-or-not, as Mr. Ripley says, Mr. Ryan did recall that Mrs. Clifford Rivenburg of Hudson was a niece of the Dallas man. It was a simple matter for her to send Mr. Hardy a letter telling of his sisters, Mrs. Elizabeth _____, resides in Eden, Md., and Mrs. Robert Thomas, _____ville, N.Y. 
Mr. Hardy has not seen his sisters for forty-four years, and says that he will visit them this summer.
Thanks to Paul Barrett for discovering this story and sharing it with Gossips.
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Send the Robotics Team to St. Louis

Gossips just checked on the progress of the Hudson High School Robotics Team--Team 1665 Weapons of Mass Construction--and their effort to raise $25,000 to get themselves to the F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Championship in St. Louis. 

The GoFundMe campaign has been going on for nine days, and so far $7,445 has been raised by 108 contributions, ranging from $10 to $500. The team has only twenty-eight more days before they have to be in St. Louis, and they are just short of a third of the way to their goal of $25,000. Click here to help get the team and their robot to the championship competition.
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Time to Vote Again

Hudson, which was in fourth place yesterday, is now in third place in the USA Today 10 Best Small Historic Towns competition, trailing Thomasville, Georgia, and Astoria, Oregon. (Yesterday, at around 10 p.m., Hudson was was in second place.) You can vote every day until Monday, April 25, at noon. If you voted yesterday, it's time to vote again. Click here to do so.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New News About Those Power Lines

In December, the Public Service Commission decided to move ahead with its plans to run high voltage power lines through the Hudson Valley. Earlier on in their consideration of the "energy highway" proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the PSC eliminated from their consideration a proposal by Boundless Energy for underground power lines that would have run west of the Hudson River, through Greene, Ulster, and Orange counties. This weekend, the Kingston Freeman reported that Boundless Energy has filed a lawsuit against the PSC, contending that their proposal should not have been eliminated: "State commission sued for dropping underground power lines plan."
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Another Competition

Our beloved Hudson is one of twenty places vying for the distinction of being named the Best Historic Small Town in USA Today's 10 Best competition. Up against such places as Beaufort, South Carolina, Mackinac Island, Michigan, and St. Augustine, Florida, Hudson is currently in fourth place. Click here to vote for our fair city. The contest continues for 26 more days. You can vote every day.
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Yes, Virginia, There Will Be a Pride Parade

On Sunday, March 20, the Hudson Pride Foundation, responding to a wave of disappointment over their decision not to organize a parade this year, offered this invitation: "We heartily and sincerely encourage other members of the community who wish to plan a festival and parade to join together and create this celebration for the city of Hudson."

Photo: Chad Weckler
This morning, Gossips received the following press release announcing the formation of a new group and its plans for a weekend of festivities during June, which is traditionally LGBTQ Pride Month.
OutHudson, a newly-formed group for the advancement of LGBTQ awareness in the Hudson Valley, announced today that it will plan a parade on Warren Street in Hudson, NY, on Saturday, June 18, 2016, commencing at 2 p.m. The parade will be part of an entire weekend of programming and activities coordinated around the traditional LGBTQ Pride month of June. A mass gathering permit for the event has been secured. The parade route will commence at upper Warren Street near the 7th Street Park and finish at the end of Warren at Front Street. Volunteers and groups who wish to participate are welcome to contact OutHudson at OutHudson@hotmail.com to register. Additional sponsorships for the events are also being sought. The parade is part of a weekend of planned activities including a boat cruise, multiple social events, and a cabaret evening. For more information, see #OutHudsonNY at www.OutHudson.com and www.facebook.com/OutHudson.   
It seems Gossips will be polishing up the ear trumpet again this year after all!
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Monday, March 28, 2016

A Hundred Years Ago on the Edge of Hudson

The Hudson Correctional Facility is at the moment undergoing a transformation from a medium security prison for male inmates only to a facility for 16- and 17-year-old offenders, both male and female. This is just the latest in a series of transitions that the facility has seen.

Bing Maps
The central buildings were originally constructed to house the Women's House of Refuge, which opened in 1887. In 1904, the institution became the New York State Training School for Girls. The training school closed in 1975, and the next year, 1976, the buildings became the Hudson Correctional Facility.

Courtesy Columbia County Historical Society





On March 25, 1916--almost exactly one hundred years ago--an article appeared on the front page of the Hudson Evening Register that reported about a proposed expansion of New York State Training School for Girls twelve years after it was established. The report speaks about the girls who were sent to the training school and the school's mission for them.

     

 


The expansion of the Girls Training School also included the acquisition of property: the estate then known as Glenwood and now known as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House.

 
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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

As a gift on this Easter Sunday, Gossips presents a trio of advertisements that appeared in the Hudson Evening Register in the spring of 1916, when the fine ladies of Hudson could see and be seen at displays of spring hats at the local millineries and there was a tea room on the third floor of Marsh & Bachman. 


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Friday, March 25, 2016

Rip Loses Out

It was a painfully close contest, but Rip, the mascot at C-GCC, lost his bid to become SUNY's favorite college team mascot. The winner, by the smallest of margins, was Victor E. Knight, the Geneseo mascot, who now advances to the finals, to vie with Wolfie of SUNY Stony Brook on March 28 to March 30 for the top honor.

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The Earth Gives Up Relics of the Past

Recently, while dealing with a flooding issue in the ravine near Paddock Place, DPW workers uncovered this stone or cement object which appears to be a very long water trough.


From 1860 until 1909, this part of Hudson was the location of the fairgrounds, also known, according to the title on the post card below, as the Hudson River Driving Park.

Courtesy Historic Hudson



Courtesy Tom D'Onofrio
The fairgrounds were the setting for harness racing. Paddock Place was named not for the Paddock family (Stephen Paddock was one of the original Proprietors) but because the street is located on the site of the fairgrounds paddock, the enclosure where the horses were readied before each race. Can it be that what was uncovered is the water trough for the horses?
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Thanks to Rob Perry for bringing this to Gossips' attention and for providing the photographs of the object.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Another Kind of Madness, Another Appeal

So, it seems that in March, SUNY colleges compete in what is known as "Mascot Madness." Thirty-nine college team mascots vie for recognition as New York's favorite college mascot. This year, Rip (as in Rip Van Winkle), the mascot of Columbia-Greene Community College, has made it to the Final Four!

Rip is currently going head to head with Victor E. Knight, Geneseo's mascot, and things are not looking good. This afternoon, Victor E. Knight was getting about 57 percent of the vote as compared with Rip's 43 percent. Rip has until noon tomorrow--Friday, March 25--to get the votes he needs to trounce the knight and advance to the finals. Click here and then scroll down to cast your vote to send this local mascot and hero, Rip, to the finals.
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Gossips Has Not Gone Silent

My apologies to everyone who has asked to be notified when new posts appear on Gossips and hasn't been in the past day or so. Taking my email notifications to be spam, Verizon has been zealously blocking them. I hope the situation has now been remedied, but you never know. Gossips remains hard at work gathering the news and reporting it, so even if you haven't received an email alerting you to a new post, please check in from time to time to discover what's new: www.gossipsofrivertown.com.
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What Happened to Local Law No. 1 for 2015?

Last night at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting, Alderman Priscilla Moore (Fifth Ward) asked about the residential parking plan that was proposed for the area around Columbia Memorial Hospital. Moore lives on McKinstry Place and wanted to know what had happened to the plan to relieve the parking problems caused for residents of the neighborhood by hospital workers taking their onstreet parking spaces.

Last year, a new local law was crafted--Local Law No. 1 for 2015--that would provide parking permits for residents. The law became a bone of contention for Mayor William Hallenbeck, who believed he had proposed the perfect solution, and Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chaired the Legal Committee, which worked for six months to revise and perfect the plan. Last night, the question arose of what had happened to that law. Gossips thought the mayor had vetoed it, but it turns out that was not the case. 

The Common Council voted to place the law on their desks on March 17, 2015. The action barely passed with 1,104 affirmative votes (1,015 are required for a simple majority). A law needs to wait on the aldermen's desks for at least seven calendar days (excluding Sunday) before it can be enacted, but this one waited for close to seven months--through April, May, June, July, and August--before it disappeared from the Council agenda. Thanks to city clerk Tracy Delaney, Gossips now knows what happened next. On November 9, 2015, Council president Don Moore advised Delaney: "In that the Mayor and the Common Council have not come to an agreement on the final form of a Residential Parking Permit Local Law, I am withdrawing the proposal from the agenda for this term of the Common Council." The law is still sitting on the aldermen's desks. 

Last night, not certain of its current status, Council president Claudia DeStefano, who was chairing the Legal Committee meeting, suggested that it may be time to resurrect the law. 

Register-Star reporter John Mason brought up a situation that could make solving the parking problem at the hospital even more challenging: the American Legion is selling its building on Fairview Avenue, along with the parking lot that CHM has been leasing to provide offstreet parking for its employees.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Another HHS Team Bound for Greatness

While some may still be savoring the euphoria of having the Hudson High School boys' basketball team make it to the Final Four in New York State, another team at HHS is making school history. The Hudson High School Robotics Team--Team 1665 Weapons of Mass Construction--has qualified, for the first time ever, for the F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Championship.

The championship is in St. Louis at the end of April, and the team needs to raise the funds to pay for their registration, transportation, and lodging. To accomplish this, they have launched a GoFundMe campaignThis time we can do more than just hang an image of the Bluehawk in a window to show our support for the home team. We can contribute to their travel fund to show our pride in their achievement.
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HDC and SBK

At the end of last year, the Hudson Development Corporation voted to amend its bylaws to reduce the number of elected city officials who serve ex officio on the HDC board. At that time, there were nine people on the board, four of whom were elected officials--the mayor, Common Council president, majority leader, and minority leader. It was decided to eliminate the majority and minority leaders as ex officio members. During the time when the amendment to the bylaws was being discussed, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) was the Common Council majority leader, and Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) was the minority leader, and both were ex officio board members. Garriga reportedly was absent when the amendment was voted on.

When the news first was reported, the Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center was quick to cry foul, alleging that the board's decision was an attempt to "remove any voices from the minority community." The accusation gained momentum when the Common Council, made up of nothing but Democrats and one NOP, decided to make Abdus Miah (Second Ward) the minority leader, although there was no minority party represented on the Council. Now the two people who held the positions HDC had eliminated as ex officio seats on the board were people of color. 

Last month, Quintin Cross, chairman of SBK, sent a letter to the HDC board, copies of which went to the mayor, the Common Council, Assemblymember Didi Barrett, and State Senator Kathleen Marchione, as well as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Capital Region and the director of the Northeast Region NYS NAACP. The letter concludes: "It's important that the HDC board reflects what is happening in Hudson. However, it's clear that the lack of diversity on the Hudson Development Corporation Board does not reflect what is going on in our city--and worse it negates all the progress we've made as a community. Ultimately, your actions whether intentional or not changing your bylaws to remove the majority leader and the minority leader whom happened to be the only people of color on the agencies board impact every organization serving Hudson."

In response to the letter, HDC invited representatives of SBK to their meeting yesterday to, as stated in Cross's letter "find ways [SBK and HDC] can work together." Garriga and Miah both came, along with with Ellis Richardson and Alexis Keith, both members of the SBK Leadership Team, and Ed Cross, Second Ward supervisor.

Garriga opened the conversation by asking how the decision to remove the majority and minority leaders from the board had been made. Duncan Calhoun, president of the HDC board, explained that the restructuring was an effort to "depoliticize" the board and pointed out that it had been done at the end of the year, when there would soon be a new Council and it was not known who the majority and minority leaders would be. Garriga countered, "What a coincidence that the only people of color on the board were removed from the board." Calhoun denied that the action was taken to remove people of color, stressing that no one knew who the majority and minority leaders would be when the decision was made and therefore positions were eliminated not people.

Calhoun went on to note that the board currently has five openings, and they have not received an application from anyone of color. Garriga asked if they had "reached out" to people of color, saying that she never knew of HDC's existence before she became an ex officio member by virtue of being the Council majority leader. Calhoun told her the board welcomed input from SBK to help identify viable candidates. "Bring us three names of people who would be fantastic candidates who meet the same standards as the rest of the members," he urged. Richardson wanted to know constituted a "viable candidate." He questioned the sincerity of the HDC board and the ability of black people to meet the standards of viability, and concluded, "We could give you names, but if we don't know what the vetting system is, it could be a waste of time."

After more than an hour of back and forth, during which Sheena Salvino, executive director of HDC, explained the application process for becoming a board member, Richardson demanded to know how many black-owned businesses there were in Hudson, the mayor suggested that it was necessary to think beyond brick and mortar businesses to "expand our options," and Sarah Sterling, First Ward supervisor, advised, "Everyone has to follow the rules, and everyone needs to educate themselves," the discussion came to an end without reaching a conclusion that seemed to satisfy everyone, and the meeting moved on to its next agenda item.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What Will It Be?

Last Friday, March 18, was the deadline for submitting proposals for the Kaz warehouses to Hudson Development Corporation.

Gossips went to the HDC board meeting today, hoping to learn who had submitted proposals for the site and what had been proposed. Whatever happens there will have a huge impact on the residents and businesses in any proximity to the warehouses and a significant determining effect on future development on the waterfront. Given that, it seems reasonable to expect that the public would at least be allowed to know what is being proposed and what possibilities are envisioned (beyond the "Development Goals" stated in the RFP), perhaps even to have some input into the discussion and the decision making.

When, however, they got to the "Real Estate" item on the agenda, the board went into executive session. Before the audience members were required to leave the room, I asked if we could at least know who had submitted proposals and what in general each had proposed--housing, retail, mixed use, whatever. I was informed by Kristal Heinz, legal counsel to HDC, that HDC was a private entity and hence was not obligated to share that information.
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Yesterday at the Hudson Opera House

As Gossips reported, there was a press conference yesterday at the Hudson Opera House to announce the commencement of the final phase of restoration at this esteemed Hudson landmark.

A number of people spoke at the press conference and said a number of quotable things, but two comments were for me the most memorable. Talking about the beginnings of the Hudson Opera House twenty-five years ago, when a handful of people banded together to buy the derelict building, Gary Schiro, HOH executive director, described the attitude of skeptics by saying, "Salvaging an old building couldn't possibly change lives." But it has changed lives. It has changed the fortunes of our city.

The other memorable comment was offered by Greg Burns, CEO of Consiglio Construction, the firm undertaking the restoration project. Burns spoke of the firm's love and respect for old buildings and said that in the process of restoring the building he hoped "we will have uncovered for you the stories of the past."

Uncovering the past has already begun. Years ago, four of the original seats from the theater were discovered under the stage. Recently, more seats--newer ones, which replaced that originals sometime in the 1920s--were discovered tucked away in the attic.

Also discovered in the attic were the missing pieces of the medallion in the ceiling dome, which were cut away, many years ago, in order to install a fan.

There is also a bucketful ephemera--documents from the building's years as City Hall, programs from performances and events, old newspapers--providing clues to the past.

The Hudson Opera House staff have created an exhibit of some of the most interesting small finds, which is currently on display in the center hall. When you get a chance, stop in and have a look.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Restoration Begins at the Hudson Opera House

At a press conference later this morning, the Hudson Opera House will announce that it is moving forward with the largest and most significant phase of its preservation efforts, the centerpiece of which is the restoration of the magnificent upstairs performance hall.

Photo: Robert Umenhofer, Consigli Construction
Renovation is expected to be completed in spring 2017, marked by the organization’s inaugural 2017-2018 season of programming in its newly restored performance hall. When complete, the performance hall will be adapted for modern use, creating a unique, intimate, and flexible 300-seat theater to provide contemporary programming reflective of today’s audiences.

“This is an extraordinary day in the life of this historic building, and I can’t begin to express my gratitude to everyone who has played a part thus far,” said Executive Director Gary Schiro. “The full-scale restoration of our facility will allow the Hudson Opera House to celebrate its historic legacy while offering an elevated range and level of programming that it cannot currently present. We look forward to reopening the space to artists and our public a year from now, when the Hudson Opera House will be transformed into a beacon for artistic discovery and exploration."
   
Interior goals for the Hudson Opera House construction include rehabilitation of the performance hall, mezzanine, stage, and support spaces, including five dressing rooms, a lighting and sound booth, Green Room, laundry, and accessible restrooms. These renovations will restore the theater into a high quality, professional grade working venue suitable for a diverse range of programming and public events.












The exterior space will also be treated to an upgrade: exterior masonry and windows and doors will be restored. A new roof, fire stairs, and restored cornice have already been completed.
   
Steps are also being taken to modernize the building and ensure accessibility, safety, and security for employees and visitors. Work will include lead and asbestos abatement and new electrical, fire protection, and HVAC systems. A new elevator tower in the southeast corner of the building will provide access to the basement, main and auditorium levels of the building. For the first time in the building’s history, the performance hall will be accessible to all, including those who are unable to use the historic staircase.  

At the same time, the character of the historical building will be retained. The current proscenium arch and raked wooden floor stage were late 19th century additions and will be preserved. The historic fabric will also be retained, and new elements will be sensitively incorporated to retain the overall historic character of the spaces.

Concurrent with the beginning of this final phase of restoration, the Hudson Opera House is launching an $8.5 million campaign to support the Next Stage Capital Project. To date, $7 million toward this goal has been secured with lead gifts from the Board of Directors; public support from Empire State Development, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, New York State Council on the Arts; and private funds from foundations and individuals, including major gifts from the Educational Foundation of America and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also provided investment through its Community Facilities program, secured with assistance from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and in partnership with Kinderhook Bank, which aims to improve rural community infrastructure and quality of life. These funds will enable the performance hall to reopen in 2017 while the Hudson Opera House works to secure the final $1.5 million needed for additional fixtures and fittings, soft costs, and operating capacity.  

The project team for this final phase of restoration is made up of the following architects, contractors, designers, and structural engineers:
  • Marilyn Kaplan, principal architect of Preservation Architecture in Albany, New York, has been the lead architect on the project since 1993, guiding the Opera House through 12 capital projects to re-open the first floor and stabilize the building. A national building code expert, Kaplan has worked on dozens of preservation projects throughout the Northeast, with a focus on historic museums, libraries, and structures owned by nonprofit organizations.   
  • Consigli Construction, NY, with local offices in Dutchess County and Albany, has been awarded the contract through a public bidding process. The family-owned firm has an annual turnover of $120 million, its own mill house, and specializes in historic restoration. Restoring the New York State Capital and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library are just a few of the many high-profile projects in Consigli’s portfolio.   
  • Chris Buckley of Production & Performance Facility Consulting is providing design services for the performance and rehearsal facilities. He draws on 30 years of theatrical production and project management experience, including production management at BAM and Rosas Dance Company in Brussels, Project Manager for the restoration of the BAM Majestic Theater (renamed the BAM Harvey), and as Vice President of Construction at New 42nd Street, Inc. 
  • Proper & O'Leary Engineering is the project’s structural and civil engineering firm, and specializes in historic preservation and public sector projects. IBC Engineering is the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering firm, known for its collaborative approach to project design and development.  
  • Landmark Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in existing historic and landmark buildings, will serve as the Opera House’s Owners Representatives. Led by Kimberly Konrad Alvarez and John D. Alvarez II, Landmark is a NYS certified woman-owned business enterprise with experience working with state agencies and private foundations on grant-funded projects.  
Assemblymember Didi Barrett said of the project, "The Hudson Opera House, a storied symbol of Hudson's colorful past, also stands as one of the brightest beacons in the region's remarkable revival. I thank the State of New York for generous support of this important social, cultural, and economic driver and congratulate the Hudson Opera House's visionary and hardworking leadership team."