Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Watch the Whole Thing

Gossips had to leave the special meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee after it had gone on for an hour and fifteen minutes, but Dan Udell and his video camera stayed for another half hour, until the very end. His recording of the meeting can now be viewed on YouTube by clicking here

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When Will It End?

Even before 2003, when the City of Hudson adopted its preservation ordinance to protect its historic architecture, houses were being brought back from the edge and restored to their original appearance and vibrant use. Many hoped the preservation law would raise awareness of the value of historic properties to the overall character and appearance of the city, and the impulse to demolish buildings would go away. Sadly, despite all the evidence that people are drawn to Hudson by its historic architecture, people continue to find reasons to want to demolish the very elements that create Hudson's unique appeal.

Between Christmas and New Year's Day, the carriage house behind 405 Warren Street was demolished, to be replaced by a new building, meant to imitate the original, that will be a garage with office space above.

Photo: Lisa Durfee
On Monday, the early 20th-century garage behind 439 Union Street was demolished, to be replaced by a new building, imitating the old, to be used as a garage and dwelling. Gossips arrived on the scene in the afternoon of the day it came down to find all trace of the building gone. 

Both buildings--the one on Cherry Alley and the one on Partition Street--were located in historic districts, and their demolition and replacement were granted certificates of appropriateness by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Tonight, at 6 p.m. in City Hall,  the Zoning Board of Appeals is holding a public hearing on the proposal to demolish this building at 418 State Street and replace it with another building which does not imitate the design of the original and will not be in its footprint.

The project is before the ZBA, which means that the only thing being considered are setbacks for the new building. The location is not in a historic district, so there will be no one to speak out against demolishing the building or to assess the appropriateness, within the context of the neighborhood, of the new building proposed for the site. Having an engineer declare the building unsafe is sufficient to get a demolition permit. Then all that remains is for the ZBA to grant the area variances required to position the new building on the lot as desired.
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Galvan, Homelessness, and the Sunset Motel

There is some irony in the fact that the Galvan Foundation, which owns about seventy residential properties in Hudson, most of which stand vacant, is making a proposal to help solve the county's homeless problem, but they are. Last night, at a special meeting of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors' Health and Human Services Committee, the committee and the public learned about what is being proposed.

The meeting started out with Robert Gibson, Commissioner for Social Services, describing the problem of homelessness in Columbia County. He spoke of the Department of Social Services (DSS) having in recent weeks to find shelter for 93 people every night, and the shelter provided is in motel and hotel rooms throughout the county. He said that the Galvan Foundation had approached him last February with a plan and returned in the summer with an enhanced plan. Galvan would make the 25 rooms at the Sunset Motel, which the foundation owns and is now in the process of renovating, exclusively available to DSS clientele, and 30 percent of the revenue would go to pay for services for the people housed at the motel. Gibson noted that the county was already providing transportation to Columbia-Greene Community College, and the motel was nearby.  

Robert Gibson, seated; Dan Kent, standing
Dan Kent, who returned to the Galvan Foundation last fall as Vice President of Initiatives after a year of working elsewhere, told the committee that "housing is a central part of the Galvan mission." He said Galvan was creating 20 more units of "voluntary low-income housing" by the end of the year. He also made reference to the plan for a homeless shelter, "Galvan Quarters," proposed back in 2013. He explained that the 25-room Sunset Motel was now under renovation and would be finished in April 2018. The renovation was being done "with green design standards." Each room would have a microwave oven and a refrigerator; there would be a community kitchen and computer stations in the building. There would also be units designed to accommodate families. He explained that the county would pay for emergency services "as they now do," but the motel would provide supportive services on site not available at other motels.

Comments in support of the proposal came from the expected sources: Tina Sharpe, of the not-for-profit Columbia Opportunities; Michael Cole, director of the Columbia County Mental Health Center; and former Fourth Ward supervisor Bill Hughes, who explained that he had been "the lead on the previous project" proposed by Galvan. Hughes praised the proposal, calling it "perfect for the homeless population" and "a model that other counties should follow."

Not everyone shared Hughes' enthusiasm. Tom Alvarez, whose modular and manufactured home business, John A. Alvarez & Sons, is located immediately adjacent to the Sunset Motel, recalled when the property was "a nice mom-and-pop motel" and went on to recount the problems that occurred when the motel was being used by DSS for emergency housing: his office had been burglarized and computers stolen; there was damage to model homes on the site; motel residents would panhandle at the entrance to his manufactured home community for seniors and come into his office to ask to use the phone. Alvarez said he wanted the homeless shelter to be in Hudson. "I cannot approve this type of facility so close to my adult manufactured homes and my operation."  

Also speaking out against the plan was Jennifer Strodl, the director of the Liberi School, a one-room school for children ages 5 to 10 being operated in the building across the road and a little east from the Sunset Motel. Strodl said the school was "creating a trusting, loving environment" and wanted to know if the presence of the school, which opened three years ago, had been considered when the plan was conceived. 

Two parents of children attending the Liberi School and Nicole Vidor, who revealed that she was Strodl's mother-in-law, expressed their concern about threats to the safety of children posed by sheltering homeless people in close proximity to the school. Their comments raised the fear that child molesters and sex offenders might be sheltered there, but Gibson assured them that DSS "will not put any level of danger in a situation where there are families with children." One of the parents, who said he was a volunteer fireman, spoke of emergency calls to the Yorkshire Motel four miles away, which also houses DSS clients. He predicted that the proposal "guarantees something bad will happen," saying of the Yorkshire Motel, "Terrible things happen there all the time."

The meeting began at 5 p.m. and was still going on at 6:15 when I left to go the Common Council public hearings at City Hall. I have since learned from Sarah Sterling, First Ward supervisor, who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee, that Gibson, who said of the proposal, "It's not my project, not my money, just my need," plans to meet with the people potentially impacted "to talk about how we could make this safer." Meanwhile, Sterling told Gossips that the committee has not yet seen the proposal they are being asked to accept or deny in the form of a written contract.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stewart's Shops Elsewhere

Trying to convince municipalities to change their zoning to accommodate the company's plans for expansion seems to be the modus operandi for Stewart's Shops. A reader clued Gossips in to a similar experience with Stewart's in the Village of Altamont a couple of years ago--similar in that it involved changing local zoning and demolishing a residential property. Inspired by this tip, Gossips tracked the story in The Altamont Enterprise. The articles referenced below are all from that publication

The plan, which was presented to the village board in April 2015, involved Stewart's purchasing and demolishing a residential property next door to the Stewart's location and changing the zoning for that lot from residential to central business district so that Stewart's could expand its gas station and convenience store: "Stewart's needs zoning change for expansion plans." The village attorney advised the board that it could refuse to consider the request without giving a reason, but the mayor of the village insisted that the board carefully review the proposal, "as we're required under the law to do."

Photo: The Enterprise|Michael Koff
There was a little wrinkle in the Altamont situation that is not the case here in Hudson. From 2007 to 2008, the Village of Altamont had done a comprehensive zoning review. Prior to the zoning changes, enacted in 2009, the house to be demolished, shown at the right in the photo above, was in a commercial district, and the owner of the house, who maintained it as a two-family rental property, disclosed that he had purchased the house with the expectation that he could someday sell it to Stewart's.    

Even before the village board held a public hearing, neighborhood residents were expressing their opinions about the proposal, and none was favorable: "Altamont starts examining zoning for Stewart's expansion." Their concerns were similar to those expressed by Hudson residents when the Common Council Economic Development Committee held its information session last summer on Stewart's request for rezoning: visual impact on residential neighborhood, loss of rental housing, increased traffic and consequent safety concerns, the bad precedent of such a zoning change. There were scores of letters to the editor. One that appeared in the Enterprise in August 2015 evokes the irony of Stewart's current proposal to create in Hudson a new walkable commercial district with a gas station as its centerpiece: ''Stewart's is the village's only business not friendly to pedestrians." In the letter, the writer confesses--as many in Hudson have as well--that although he lives within walking distance of the Stewart's he always drives there, as does everyone else, "because the fastest way to become a mother of three is for a mother of four to walk her family to Stewart's for ice cream."

In September 2015, the Enterprise reported that village residents came out in force to speak against the proposal at a board meeting: "Village board waits for answers from Stewart's." Chief among the questions the board had for Stewart's was why it was necessary to demolish the adjacent house. 

In October 2015, the village board denied Stewart's the sought-after zoning change: "Stewart's expansion bid fails." After that decision, the Enterprise reported that Stewart's would do a "standard upgrade" to to the store in Altamont--new flooring, new lights, new counters, and an updated bathroom: "Stewart's upgrades in Altamont, submits plans to build in Voorheesville." Chuck Marshall, familiar to those of us following the Stewart's issue here in Hudson, is quoted in the article as saying that Stewart's in Altamont is an "older 2,400-square-foot model" with brick walls and a mansard roof--just like the building here in Hudson. Marshall commented, "We no longer build that building."

Stewart's in Altamont|Google

Stewart's in Hudson|Google
In the Enterprise article, Marshall goes on to say, "We're doing a lot of investment. . . . We hope someday to redevelop the property in Altamont." Marshall continued to hope despite the fact that the request to change zoning had been denied.

A year later, in September 2016, the Enterprise reported that Stewart's had purchased the adjacent house and were pursuing permits to the demolish it: "Stewart's buys house next to Altamont store." At the end of this article, it is reported that Marshall said "the company believes the location it has is the best in the village." He is also quoted as saying, "When property changes hands the ability to do something can change. . . . We're a long-term thinking company." Of the review process in Altamont, he commented, "That was the longest year of my life. It took them about a year to say no."
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A Reminder About Commenting

If you select "OpenID" as your profile when making a comment on Gossips, you must identify yourself in some way in the comment, using your name, initials, or a pseudonym to distinguish yourself from other commenters opting for "OpenID." Comments that are completely anonymous will not be published.
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Monday, January 15, 2018

More About Saturday

This Saturday, on the first anniversary of Trump's inauguration, the women of Hudson, Columbia County, and beyond, will march down Warren Street to demonstrate resistance, hope, determination, commitment, outrage--any or all of the above.

The weather on Saturday is expected to be mostly sunny and surprising warm--a high of 45 degrees is being predicted. The event begins at 1 p.m. with a rally in Seventh Street Park (a.k.a the Public Square), where seven women, elected officials and activists, will speak: Didi Barrett, NYS Assemblymember, 106th District; Erin Stamper, Democratic campaign organizer; Jabin Ahmed Ruhii, Muslim youth coordinator; Cricket Coleman, Columbia County coroner; Kathy Eldridge, Greenport town supervisor; Tiffany Garriga, Second Ward alderman and Council majority leader; Joyce St. George, activist and organizer.

After the rally, there will be a march down Warren Street, led by women dressed as handmaids, to Front Street and on to Basilica Hudson, where there will be food, more speeches, and music.

   
Plan to be here on Saturday and be part of this monumental event.
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A Thought for Martin Luther King Day


Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Week Ahead

The week begins with a holiday--Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. It's one of the holidays on the eve of which alternate side of the street parking is suspended, so tonight cars may be parked overnight on either side of the street.

On Tuesday, January 16, there are three meetings of interest.
  • At 5:oo p.m., the Galvan Foundation's plans to provide emergency housing at the former Sunset Motel on Route 9 in Greenport will be presented to the Columbia County Board of Supervisors. That meeting takes place at 401 State Street.  
  • At 6:30 p.m., the Common Council is holding a public hearing on two pieces of proposed legislation. The first amends the city code as it pertains to the reimbursement of costs incurred by the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals in connection with applications and appeals. The second, "A Local Law to Preserve Community Character, Local Business Ownership and Local Wealth," would ban "formula businesses"--chain stores and franchises--from the city.
  • At 7:00 p.m., the Council holds its first regular monthly meeting for 2018. 
On Wednesday, January 17, at 6:00 p.m., the Zoning Board of Appeals holds a public hearing on the application to demolish 418 State Street, a house determined by its owners to be unsafe, and build in its stead a new single-family structure requiring front yard and side yard variances.

The regular monthly meeting of the ZBA will follow the public hearing.

On Thursday, January 18, at 6:00 p.m., the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets for the first time in 2018. The task before them, set by Council president Tom DePietro, is to consider the request from Stewart's Shops for the City to change its zoning and create a new "Green Street Commercial Overlay District," affecting both Green Street and Fairview Avenue, which would allow Stewart's to demolish two houses and expand its gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, at a gateway to the city. 
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In Memoriam: Kay Bradshaw

Gossips has learned of the passing of former Hudsonian Kay Bradshaw, who died on December 7, 2016--more than a year ago. Kay was the owner and proprietor of Quartermoon, a shop on Warren Street dealing in antiques, vintage jewelry, and other wares. She left Hudson in 2008, to retire to Raleigh, North Carolina, where she was living at the time of her death. Her obituary can be read here.
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

If at First You Don't Succeed . . .

Last year, Stewart's Shops began its campaign to get the City of Hudson to change the zoning laws to accommodate the company's desire to expand its gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Green Street and Fairview Avenue.

Google
In March 2017, the proposal was presented to the Common Council Legal Committee. In June 2017, the proposal was handed off to the Economic Development Committee, and in July 2017, that committee held a public hearing, which they called an "information session," on the Stewart's Shops proposal. At that meeting, none of the residents who spoke had anything positive to say about the prospect of an expanded Stewart's at that corner except Eileen Halloran, who is now an alderman for the Fifth Ward. At the meeting, Halloran declared herself "generally in favor in the project" because she thought expanding the Stewart's (and the impervious surface that surrounds it) could somehow make the traffic at the intersection less harrowing and remediate the hydrology issues that plague that part of the city. She also suggested that the proposed landscaping at the expanded site would "absorb the schmutz that comes from truck traffic." 

In September 2017, the Economic Development Committee decided that they would not pursue the zoning change sought by Stewart's, which would enable them to demolish two houses and expand the convenience store and gas station. A zoning change is needed because the Stewart's is a nonconforming use in an R-2 district (One and Two Family Residences). Being a nonconforming use prohibits expansion. Either the committee's decision was not communicated to Stewart's, or Stewart's is not taking no for an answer, because at the first meeting of the new Common Council, on Monday, January 8, 2018, loose leaf notebooks were presented to every member of the Council and the press, containing what was titled "Green Street Overlay District Rezone Application Submitted by Stewart's Shops." 

The layout for the expanded site hasn't changed, but the design for the building has sprouted two dormers and another bank of windows.

Since late last summer, Chuck Marshall, land development and permitting coordinator for Stewart's Shops, seems to have been busy. The notebook contains a history of Stewart's in Hudson (the store opened at that location in 1972), a chart showing the potential economic impact of the expanded location, quotes from Hudson's 2002 Comprehensive Plan alleged to support the proposal, the actual language for the new section of the zoning code being proposed, a completed SEQRA environmental assessment form, and a traffic study by Creighton Manning

The zoning change being requested is this. As you drive along Green Street toward Fairview Avenue now, the left side of the street is zoned G-C-T (General Commercial Transitional) up to and including the Rosery Flower Shop, which is located in what was once a single-family home. The right side of the street, starting at McKinstry Place, is zoned R2H (One and Two Family and Conditional Office).

The zoning change Stewart's is seeking would create a "Green Street Commercial Overlay District" which would allow commercial development on the left side of Green Street to extend from The Rosery to the current Stewart's location and continue along the right side of Fairview Avenue, as one is driving toward Greenport, from the Stewart's location to the former car dealership where ProPrinters is now located.


In describing the intent of the proposed new section of the Hudson zoning code, the following purpose, among others, is listed: "To create a mix of commercial shops and multi-family housing with the purpose of walkable convenience for pedestrians and local residents while transitioning from commercial to residential uses in surrounding zones." The language also includes these additional objectives:
  1. Foster re-adaptive uses and development in Hudson.
  2. Increase property values in Hudson.
  3. Protect real estate investment in Hudson.
  4. Retain Hudson neighborhood vitality.
  5. Spur commercial activity in Hudson.
  6. Attract new businesses in Hudson.
These, of course, are just the ancillary benefits. The real goal is to allow Stewart's Shops to build a bigger and better gas station and convenience store at a gateway to Hudson, one that is likely to resemble the one in Chatham.

At the Council meeting on Monday, Council president Tom DePietro indicated that the application from Stewart's Shops would be handled by the Economic Development Committee. That committee is chaired by Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), and the members of the committee are John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), Calvin Lewis (Third Ward), and Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward), who, it will be remembered, said she was "generally in favor" of the proposed expansion of Stewart's. The Economic Development Committee meets for the first time on Thursday, January 18, at 6 p.m.
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Friday, January 12, 2018

Take the Plunge--Right Here in Hudson

Searching the internet for a picture to accompany this post, I found this one on Mashable, which pretty much captures my reaction to the thought of plunging into a frozen lake in the dead of winter.

Photo: Andrew Vaughan|The Canadian Press via AP
My opinion aside, the Hudson Fire Department and the Hudson Center Department are counting on other Hudsonians--younger, heartier Hudsonians--not finding the idea so repugnant, because on Saturday, February 24, they are staging the first ever Hudson Polar Plunge. At 11 a.m. on that day, participants will propel themselves into the icy waters of Oakdale Lake to raise money for the Youth Department and for the Fire Department's Water Rescue Team. Major sponsors of the event are the Hudson Sloop Club and Columbia Memorial Health.

You have six weeks to work up your courage, increase your BMI, do whatever you need to do to get ready to take the plunge. As a reward for the brave or an incentive, there's an after party at the Elks Lodge. Visit HudsonPolarPlunge.com to learn more about this first ever Hudson event. 
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Thursday, January 11, 2018

What's Planned for the Sunset Motel

On Monday, Linda Mussmann, recently elected Fourth Ward supervisor, posted this statement on her Facebook page:
Eric Galloway wants a homeless shelter in Greenport at the former Sunset Hotel. Please come to a meeting where the head of DSS (Mr. Gibson) will outline plans for the Galloway Homeless shelter for Columbia county. This meeting is being held at the County Board at 401 State Street. Tuesday-Jan. 16th @ 5pm--it is an information meeting for County Board Supervisors--please come and listen--Mr. Galloway is a known real estate player here in Hudson--he is warehousing space right here in Hudson--he owns many buildings that sit empty--so it is pretty ironic that he wants to build a homeless shelter in Greenport--when he has plenty of houses that are available right here in Hudson that could remedy the problem lickety split--but let's see the proposal--public scrutiny is key to democracy--join me.
Google
This afternoon, Gossips received a press release from the Galvan Foundation, which reads in part:
Galvan is now addressing the county’s emergency housing needs by acquiring and renovating a 25 room motel in Greenport, NY. The newly renovated rooms will be fully furnished and achieve green design standards. The motel includes a community kitchen, computer stations, space for services, laundry, and common space. The total development cost is $1,500,000. The expected completion date is April 2018. 
Galvan is partnering with Columbia County Department of Social Services (CCDSS) to prioritize room reservations for CCDSS referrals. CCDSS currently books motel rooms throughout the county for their clients, paying a high cost for rooms that do not include support services. Galvan is making rooms available to CCDSS at a significantly lower cost than other motels, and is partnering with CCDSS to ensure all guests have access to services and transportation. CCDSS clients will now be able to stay in quality motel rooms, receive support, and live in close proximity to services and employment opportunities.
The meeting Mussmann speaks of is a special meeting that follows the monthly meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee of Columbia County Board of Supervisors. According to the calendar on the county website, the committee meeting takes place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, January 16. The special meeting, which is not mentioned on the calendar, is it 5 p.m. 
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Local History at the Hudson Area Library

February is Black History Month, and, as part of the of observance, the Hudson Area Library's Local History Speaker Series and SBK Social Justice Center's Barbershop Talks will collaborate to present a program titled "The History of the Black Community in Hudson," on Thursday, February 8, at 6 p.m.

Longtime residents will speak about their roots in Hudson or their migration to Hudson. They will share their remembrances of the Hudson they grew up in and discuss what the city is like now. The recollections of family, community, and civic life will be explored in the context of such public affairs issues as education, criminal justice, health and human services, and quality of life, with an emphasis the experience of minorities and people of color.

The discussion will be followed by refreshments and a question-and-answer period. Audience members are invited to share their own memories and sense of community in Hudson. For more information, email programs@hudsonarealibrary.org, call 518 828-1792, ext. 101, or visit the main desk at the library. The Hudson Area Library is located at 51 North Fifth Street.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mark the Anniversary of Trump's Inauguration


Rally in the Public Square, march down Warren Street, party at Basilica Hudson. Be part of it. 
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Planning Board: Vacancies and Appointments

Yesterday, there was an article in the Times Union about the chair of the South Glens Falls Planning Board, who cited the Biblical story of Adam and Eve to support his demand that the mayor appoint a man to fill a vacancy on the Planning Board: "Bible cited as reason to put man on S. Glens Falls planning board." Fortunately, our mayor has no such gender preferences placed on him in filling the three vacancies on our Planning Board, caused by the departure, for different reasons, of Tom DePietro, Carmine Pierro, and Amy Lavine.

To date, Mayor Rick Rector has appointed Betsy Gramkow, who now serves on the DRI Local Planning Committee, to fill one of the vacancies, and has named Walter Chatham, who was appointed to the Planning Board last fall by Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton, to succeed DePietro as chair. That leaves two vacancies on the board, but there are enough members to constitute a quorum, and tomorrow night's meeting is expected to go forward as planned, although there is no word about what might be on the agenda for the meeting.
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Mayor Hamilton Responds

At the informal Common Council meeting on Monday, Lakia Walker, speaking on behalf of the residents of Mill Street, responded to Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton's veto of the Council's resolution opposing the creation of a dog park in Charles Williams Park. Walker questioned the process involved in selecting the site and alleged, because Hamilton initiated the first GoFundMe campaign for the dog park in June 2014, that she wanted to build a dog park in Charles Williams Park "for her own use." Walker's questions went unanswered and her allegation unchallenged. Council president Tom DePietro simply assured Walker that "the entire issue would be revisited under the current Council, with the direction of the mayor"--that is, Mayor Rick Rector.

This morning, Hamilton sent Gossips a statement, intending it to be published as a comment on the post "The Controversy Over the Dog Park Continues." I, however, asked and received her permission to publish the statement not as a comment but as a post, because I thought it was important that what she had to say be widely read. (Full disclosure [if you haven't already deduced it]: I am an ardent supporter of a dog park in Hudson. I contributed to the first GoFundMe campaign, I created and contributed to the second campaign, and, with others who have knowledge of and experience with dog parks, I helped design the dog park proposed for Charles Williams Park.)

Tiffany Martin Hamilton's statement follows:
As I watch the video of this week's Council meeting and read the accounts of the dog park discussion here on Gossips and in the Register-Star, I am inspired to share some facts and some thoughts (which I can now, as a private citizen, do).
Near the end of last year, two days in a row, I visited Charles Williams Park at various times during the day. While seeing not one single child or adult using the park for its intended purposes, what I first observed was an unregistered vehicle illegally parked on the grass, in the park, behind one of the Mill Street homes. It turned out that the vehicle belonged to the occupant of the home behind which it was parked. After a couple days of observation, I returned yet again to witness two people dragging a box spring from the home nearest the still illegally parked (i.e., on City of Hudson park property) vehicle. What could they possibly be doing? I drove away and returned a short time later, when the mystery was solved. The box spring had an outline of a large animal drawn on it, and a man was shooting at it with a hunting bow. This persisted, even as I approached shortly thereafter accompanied by a police officer, who was there to address the illegally parked vehicle.
As I ponder the situation described above and, further, the comments by residents about nefarious activities (e.g., people involved in sexual acts and drug-related activity) occurring in the park, I am baffled by the fact that the safety of including a dog park in CWP is one of the primary concerns voiced by the opposition. Am I to gather, based on actual personal observations and experiences at CWP, that target practice with a hunting bow in a public park (which I'd guess--and I'm going out on a limb here--is illegal) is safe, provided the person practicing lives adjacent to the park? Wouldn't encouraging more people to use the park deter undesirable activity from occurring? Further, would the citizens of Hudson be comfortable with private vehicles parked for extended periods of time on the grass in the riverfront park?
My mind wanders deeper, and I find myself getting stuck on the assertion by the opposition that CWP is indeed often used. I have taken at least five Hudson residents to CWP in the past few years who said they never knew there was a playground there. How is this possible? A lovely little playground in a public park which cost well over $200K of grant funding to build is somehow unknown to residents--some of whom are parents--here in this two square mile town. My goodness. I can imagine how wonderful it would be if all the families in Hudson not only knew about but used that park! But then, given the comments I've heard and read, I wonder if that would be acceptable given the increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and the introduction of strangers to this section of Mill Street.  
As for the questions regarding the social benefits to a community of a dog park and the suggestion that I share studies I've previously referenced, I offer the following as a small sampling:
Playground: "Benefits of Dog Parks in Communities"
Journalist's Resource: "How Cities May Benefit from Dog Parks"
Phys.Org: "Well-designed Dog Parks Offer Great Benefit"
Sadly, I must address the inflammatory insinuation that I had, as Mayor, a conflict of interest because I am both a dog owner and an advocate for a local dog park. I advocated for a dog park in Hudson long before I served as Mayor (and my efforts followed more than a decade of similar efforts by others in the community who always seemed to hit a brick wall despite the best intentions). I most often bring my dogs to open spaces outside of town where I am able to take long walks while they run free. While I prefer this and am able to do so because I have access to transportation, there are many dog owners in Hudson who would benefit greatly from a dog park they could walk to.
I will note that I am also a parent who a) is vigilant about my children's safety and b) often brings my children to parks and playgrounds. As a parent, I look at it as a major plus that I could keep a watchful eye on my children as they play at a playground while I run my dogs at a dog park.
I bought a house next to a preschool that, quite understandably, creates significant daytime traffic in Prison Alley. I live on a truck route, a stone's throw from the hospital, across the street from a private healthcare facility (which was, in 2008 when I moved in, the Social Security office). I knew these things in 2008 and coexist with these many uses, which have changed multiple times over the past decade. This is what I signed on for.
Do I think a dog park in Hudson is important? Absolutely. Have I or has anyone else been able to identify any other available, environmentally suitable, and amply sized green space within the City limits that can be used for a dog park? No. If there are suggestions for other locations, I recommend sharing these ideas with the new City administration. I am here to support the creation of a Hudson dog park and am eager to work in my unofficial capacity to make it happen in a way that benefits the community as a whole.
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They're Gone

Reveling in our new freedom to walk in riverfront park, Joey and I were back this morning and discovered that the "No Dogs Allowed" signs have been removed. Of course, the posts that held them are still there.


One cannot help but be reminded of the time in 2014, when after being forced to remove the "No Dogs Allowed" signs he had ordered erected in Seventh Street Park because there is no law prohibiting dogs there, Mayor William Hallenbeck decided to put them in the cemetery, causing all manner of protest and contention, including spoof "Wanted" posters like these that cropped up all over Facebook.


Let's hope this time the "No Dogs Allowed" signs get retired to some DPW garage never to be seen again.
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Watch for Yourself

You've read about the mayor's hearing on the amendment lifting the ban on dogs in riverfront park, the Common Council organizational meeting, and the persistent opposition to creating a dog park in Charles Williams Park. Now, you can watch it all in Dan Udell's video by clicking here.

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The Controversy Over the Dog Park Continues

At Monday night's informal meeting, the Common Council received as a communication Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton's veto of the resolution objecting to building a dog park in Charles Williams Park. At the end of the meeting, when Council president Tom DePietro entertained comments from the audience, Lakia Walker, who seems to be the designated spokesperson for the residents of Mill Street, rose to share her response to the mayor's veto.

Walker wanted to know where and when the study of potential sites had been done and where the information or report from the study was available. She also wanted to know with whom the mayor had consulted and why no one from Mill Street was among those consulted. She noted that the original GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the dog park had been created by Tiffany Martin Hamilton and alleged that it was a conflict of interest, suggesting that Hamilton wanted to build a dog park "for her own personal use," ignoring the fact that the first GoFundMe campaign was initiated in June 2014, eighteen months before Hamilton became the mayor of Hudson.

Walker also took issue with the notion that Charles Williams Park was underutilized. She shared her opinion that riverfront park and other Hudson parks are underutilized and claimed that Charles Williams Park was regularly utilized. She said that when she moved to Mill Street ten years ago, she was concerned that a dog park was part of the plan for the adjacent park and was told that the plans for the park were not "written in stone." She insisted that the City find a better location for the dog park, declaring, "No one on that street wants the dog park there."

Walker's protest was countered by Verity Smith, who agreed that it was wrong for the residents of Mill Street not to have had a voice in deciding the location, but went on to say, "The dog park shouldn't not be there just because a few families don't want it." Smith argued that parks--including dog parks--are a community good and predicted, "We're not all going to be happy with the outcome."

Responding to Walker, DePietro noted that the mayor who had vetoed the resolution was no longer the mayor and stated, "The entire issue will be revisited by the Council and the [new] mayor."
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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Morning in the Park with Joey

Here's Joey, on his long leash, enjoying his first legal walk in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.






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New Year, New Council

Once upon a time in Hudson, the terms of aldermen were staggered to ensure that one alderman in each ward had at least a year's experience serving on the City's legislature. That's not been the case for at least a quarter century, probably more. Of the members of the new Common Council, only one is an incumbent.

Photo: Sarah Sterling
The new Council held its organizational meeting last night. Under the leadership of new Council president Tom DePietro, there were some things that were different. To start, the election of the majority leader took place during the meeting rather than in a party caucus. When DePietro called for nominations, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), the only incumbent on the Council, nominated herself as majority leader and Kamal Johnson (First Ward) as minority leader. (Garriga and Johnson are both Democrats—members of the majority party on the Council.) DePietro explained that the Council would consider the positions one at a time. When a vote was taken, Garriga was unanimously elected majority leader.

Determining a minority leader is a perennial problem for the Common Council, since the minority leader is supposed to represent the minority party, and there is rarely, if ever, a member of a party other than the Democratic Party on the Council. DePietro scotched Garriga's attempt to make Johnson the minority leader, maintaining that the minority leader could not be part of the majority party and noting that the only member of the Council who was not a Democrat was Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward). (Merante is NOP—no official party.) As the only non-Democrat, Merante could serve as minority leader, or he could delegate that authority to someone else. Merante chose to delegate the position to Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward).

When the time came to adopt the rules of order for the new term, Garriga, who in the fall of 2016 had been removed from the Police Committee at the discretion of then Council president Claudia DeStefano, objected to this sentence in the rules of order: "The President may change Chairs and members [of committees] at his discretion." Johnson concurred, saying that the phrase "at his discretion" was inappropriate. It was decided that the new language would be something like "The President and the majority of Committee members can change the Committee Chair or any members of any committee." The rules of order were approved as amended.

There were also changes to the standing committees. Gone is Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism, a committee created back in 2000, whose sole purpose of late seemed to be to distribute $20,000 to various festivals and events in Hudson. (DePietro said the Council would figure out what to do with the $20,000 written into this year's budget.) Two committees have gotten name changes: Public Works is now Public Works and Parks; Youth and Aging is now Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation. There is also a brand-new committee: Housing and Transportation.

The committee assignments were also announced. It is of some interest that three aldermen—Calvin Lewis (Third Ward), Shershah Mizan (Third Ward), and Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward)were not tapped to chair any committees, while one aldermanKamal Johnson (First Ward)is chairing two. The following are the committee assignments:
Housing and Transportation:  Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), chair; John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward), Calvin Lewis (Third Ward)
Legal:  John Rosenthal, chair; Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), Shershah Mizan (Third Ward), Tiffany Garriga
Fire:  Dominic Merante, chair; Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), Rob Bujan (First Ward), Kamal Johnson (First Ward)
Police:  Kamal Johnson, chair; Dewan Sarowar, Rob Bujan, Dominic Merante
Public Works and Parks:  Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward), chair; Rich Volo, Shershah Mizan, Tiffany Garriga
Finance:  Rob Bujan, chair; Rich Volo, Eileen Halloran, Shershah Mizan
Economic Development:  Rich Volo, chair; John Rosenthal, Calvin Lewis, Eileen Halloran
Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation:  Kamal Johnson, chair; Rich Volo, Dominic Merante, Calvin Lewis  
The schedule for meetings was also announced. Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation and Housing and Transportation will meet on the first Wednesday of the month—already past for January. Finance will continue to meet on the third Tuesday of the month, just before the regular Common Council meeting—for this month, January 16. Economic Development will meet on the third Thursday of the month—for this month, January 18. Police and Fire will meet on the fourth Monday of the month—for this month, January 22. Public Works and Parks and Legal will meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month—for this month, January 24.
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Monday, January 8, 2018

A Small Victory for Dogs

This afternoon, Mayor Rick Rector held a public hearing on the amendment to Section 70-4 of the city code--an amendment that would lift the ban on dogs in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. There were about ten people present for the hearing, including Dan Udell with his video camera, but only one spoke--me. Remembering, as did everyone else at the hearing, how the effort to amend the law to allow dogs in riverfront park failed in 2014, I began by voicing the opinion, "It's about time," and went on to declare my and my dog's support for the amendment. Because there were no other comments, Rector then closed the public hearing and announced his intention to sign the amendment into law this afternoon.

It's official! Dogs may now legally be present with their humans in riverfront park. The same rules that apply throughout the city apply in the park: dogs must leashed, and humans must pick up after them.
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On the Subject of Snow

It seemed unusual, given past experience, that no snow emergency was declared last Thursday when it snowed relentlessly for close to twelve hours. Subsequent snow clean up has also been a bit different from what we've experienced in the past. On Friday, a comment on Facebook celebrated the fact that the Department of Public Works was knocking down the "gutter glaciers" and clearing snow from the parking lanes on Warren Street. The person who posted the comment, former Third Ward alderman John Friedman, attributed the change of practice to the new mayor, Rick Rector. Today, the same clearing of the gutters is happening on less trafficked streets.

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Ear to the Ground

If you're someone who enjoys sipping a glass of wine while playing Scrabble or some other classic board game, there is good news. House Rules Cafe now has its beer and wine license. And, for all you fans of '70s game shows, there's the rumor--unsubstantiated for now--that House Rules Cafe may be hosting, at some future date, the return of Trixie Starr's Match Game. Yay! Good ways to spend a winter evening.

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Parking at CMH

Parking in the vicinity of Columbia Memorial Health remains a concern for the hospital and the City of Hudson. Hospital workers park their cars on the street, taking up spots that area residents, without driveways or garages, consider theirs. Three years ago, the Common Council voted to enact a new law that would provide parking permits for residents of the streets surrounding the hospital. Anyone parking on the designated streets without such a permit would be ticketed. The Council passed the legislation in March 2015 with barely a majority, but it was vetoed by Mayor William Hallenbeck because, although the parking permit scheme had originally been his idea, the Council Legal Committee, to quote Hallenbeck, had "turned it into a monster." Since there weren't enough votes to override the mayor's veto, that was that. 

Since 2015, the parking permit scheme has been mentioned a few times in the Council, but no action has been taken to revive it. Now, Gossips has learned, by way of Facebook, that new parking rules are being imposed by the hospital, not for its workers but for patients and visitors. All those who like to avoid the parking garage and snag a spot in the little lot out front when keeping an appointment or visiting a sick friend take notice. That parking lot is no longer available to you.

According to this map, posted on Facebook by someone who works at CMH, the parking lot out front, off Prospect Avenue, is reserved for handicapped parking, medical transport, and valet parking. When you are visiting the medical office building or the hospital, you can park your car yourself in the parking garage or leave your car at the valet parking stand and have the staff park it for you.
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