Tuesday, October 4, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 14 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 6 fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 20 county residents have recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 today is the same as yesterday, but 1 fewer is in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since September 12.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 19 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 5,122, and the number of active cases was 97. There were 241 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 7 were hospitalized, and 1 was in the ICU. The total number of deaths in Columbia County attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 102.

Prepare for November 8

The sample ballots for the general election on November 8 are now available online at the Columbia County Board of Elections website. This year, it's important to turn the ballot over,, where there on three propositions.

The first is State Proposal 1, the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022, which will make historic investments in protecting drinking water, creating new parks and trails, making communities more resilient to flooding and other climate impacts, conserving food-producing farms, and preserving habitats. Scenic Hudson describes the proposition as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect clean water, update infrastructure, and improve quality of life in every county in the state."


The next proposition, Proposal 1, approves the amendments to the ward boundaries in Hudson required to maintain five wards of equal population.


The changes that are involved and the reason the changes must be made are explained in a presentation that can be found here.

The final proposition, Proposal 2, would, if passed, require the City of Hudson to contribute an additional $100,000 annually to the Hudson Area Library. The City currently contributes $250,000 annually to the library's operating budget.  


Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Early voting begins on Saturday, October 29, and continues through Sunday, November 6. The two sites for early voting are 401 State Street in Hudson and the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building, 3211 Church Street in Valatie. 
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Monday, October 3, 2022

Of the Housing Trust Fund and the 2023 Budget

The Housing Trust Fund Board meets today at 6:00 p.m. At the last meeting of the HCDPA (Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency) Board, the Housing Trust Fund's expectations from the 2023 City of Hudson budget were revealed. They are recommending a salary of $80,000 for Housing Justice Director Michelle Tullo. In 2022, Tullo's salary was paid for by the anti-displacement grant.   

There were also recommendations for contributions from the city budget to the Housing Trust Fund. The fund has established with $600,000 in seed money from the anti-displacement grant. In 2022, the City contributed $20,000 to the housing trust fund. Going forward, the board is  proposing contributions from the City of $40,000 in 2023, $45,000 in 2024, $50,000 in 2025, and $55,000 in 2026.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA), consisting of Mayor Kamal Johnson, Council president Tom DePietro, and city treasurer Heather Campbell, is scheduled to consider the budget requests relating to housing justice on Wednesday, October 5, at 2:30 p.m. The BEA's budget workshops are open to the public, but they are in person only. 

The schedule for the BEA's budget workshops, which was revealed today, begins this week and continues through the rest of the month. Here are the topics of the workshops this week.
  • Monday, October 3, at 2:30 p.m.--Department of Public Works
  • Tuesday, October 4, at 2:30 p.m.--Youth Department
  • Tuesday, October 4, at 3:00 p.m.--Conservation Advisory Council
  • Wednesday, October 5, at 2:30 p.m.--Housing Justice
  • Wednesday, October 5, at 3:00 p.m.--Mayor's Office
  • Wednesday, October 5, at 3:30 p.m.--City Clerk, Common Council, Parking Bureau
  • Thursday, October 6, at 2:30 p.m.--Assessor's Office
  • Thursday, October 6, at 3:00 p.m.--Planning Board
  • Thursday, October 6, at 3:30 p.m.--Senior Center
  • Friday, October 7, at 2:30 p.m.--Treasurer's Office
  • Friday, October 7, at 3:00 p.m.--Legal Counsel
  • Friday, October 7, at 3:30 p.m.--Non-Departmental
All the BEA meetings are in person only at City Hall.
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COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since Friday, there have been 29 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 14 fewer than on Friday, from which it can be inferred that, since Friday, 43 county residents have recovered from the virus. There is 1 more county resident hospitalized with COVID-19 today than on Friday, and 1 fewer of those hospitalized is in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since September 12.

A year ago, October 3 was a Sunday, and the CCDOH did not report COVID numbers. On Saturday, October 2, the CCDOH reported 14 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 5,103, and the number of active cases was 105. There were 352 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 4 were hospitalized, and 0 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in Columbia County attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 102.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

With frost warnings now a regularly occurring thing, autumn is definitely upon us. In the week preceding Indigenous People's Day, a.k.a. Columbus Day, here is what's happening on the meeting front.
  • On Monday, October 3, the Housing Trust Fund Board meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting takes place in person only, presumably at City Hall.
  • On Tuesday, October 4, the Conservation Advisory Council meets at 6:00 p.m. This meeting, too, is in person only and takes place at City Hall.
Update: Tuesday's CAC meeting has been canceled. It may be rescheduled for another time later in the month, but that is yet to be determined.
  • On Wednesday, October 5, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) meets at 9:30 a.m. At its last meeting, the IDA adopted its new guidelines for evaluating projects that apply for financial benefits, so presumably the moratorium on reviewing hotel projects has ended. If that's the case, the IDA will resume its review of the application for Hudson Public, the hotel the Galvan Foundation plans to development at Fourth and Warren streets, which was granted site plan approval by the Planning Board last week. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at 1 City Centre, Suite 301, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
Update: The IDA meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning has been canceled.
  • Also on Wednesday, October 5, the Common Council Legal Committee meets at 6:00 p.m. The word is that the issue of a sidewalk law/policy has been moved from the ad hoc sidewalk committee to the Legal Committee, so it is likely the discussion of sidewalks will be taken up at this meeting. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
  • On Thursday, October 6, Mayor Kamal Johnson holds a public hearing at 4:00 p.m. on a number of amendments to local laws, all of which are described here, and on the local law extending the lodging tax. The hearing takes place in person only at City Hall.
  • Also on Thursday, October 6, the Common Council ad hoc committee dedicated to the issue of solving the problem of trucks passing through the city meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
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Conflicting Environmental Interests

In late August, when the drought was putting the City of Hudson's water supply in jeopardy, the Water Department issued an advisory about conserving water which began with an explanation of where our water comes from.
The City of Hudson receives the raw water for its public water supply from the 78-million-gallon Churchtown reservoir. That man-made water body is primarily filled by water diverted from the Taghkanic Creek in the Town of Taghkanic. Our watershed encompasses 55-square miles in the Towns of Claverack, Hillsdale, Taghkanic and Copake and its regulations are codified by State Law under 10 NYCRR 109.1.

On Friday, an open letter addressed to Mayor Kamal Johnson and Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, which appeared as a full-page ad in the Register-Star, warned that the Hecate Solar Project proposed for Shepherd's Run in Copake could adversely impact Hudson's water supply. The following is quoted from that letter:
Last week, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner announced the Taghkanic Headwaters Conservation PlanThe Plan maps five areas of exceptional importance including the Taghkanic Creek which supplies drinking water for the City of Hudson and other residents of Columbia County.
This essential water source is at risk from Hecate Energy’s proposed Shepherd’s Run solar project (DMM #21-02553) which is located in the broad alluvial floodplain of the Taghkanic Creek, its associated wetlands and tributaries.
Hecate’s consultant recently made regulatory filings identifying 21 wetlands (159.53 acres) in the Project Area, and 17 streams, 9 of which are NYS protected streams including the Taghkanic Creek.
Construction of a project on this scale could adversely impact drinking water for the City of Hudson. Significant concerns include: 
  • The boring of underground electrical lines under NYS Protected Waterbody Crossings
  • Excavation and grading near NYS Protected Waterbodies
  • Clearing of 40 acres of forest
  • Oil in large transformers requiring a spill containment plan
  • Steep slope erosion
  • Road construction 

There are many disturbing statements in the application (Petition Items 53 & 54 filed 7/29/22). Exhibit 13 “Water Resources & Aquatic Ecology” and Exhibit 14 “Wetlands” describe the construction process which will take place over 9 to 12 months. We encourage you to read Exhibit 13 and 14, namely:

1. HDD [Horizontal Directional Drilling] boring methods are proposed for burying electrical lines under NYS protected waterbody crossings [which we assume is the Taghkanic Creek]. A total of five streams are being crossed using HDD boring, and one stream is having trees cleared from its banks. [Exhibit 13, Page 23].

2. Short term minor stream impacts (i.e. increases in downstream turbidity levels and sediment deposition downstream) are possible with the open stream crossing method [Exhibit 13, Page 14]

3. Certain construction activities have potential to result in direct and/or indirect impacts to surface waters. These activities include the installation of access roads, and the installation of buried electrical collection lines. [Exhibit 13, Page 15]

4. The volume of oil in the large power transformers located at the substation is expected to trigger the requirement for a SPC and Spill Containment Plan. The other large storage site is located at the inverter-transformers. [Exhibit 13, Page 21]

5. There will be some unavoidable impacts to the 100 ft. adjacent area of state regulated wetlands, specifically the adjacency of six delineated State regulated wetlands will include some disturbance from . . . installation of solar arrays, clearing and/or maintenance of adjacent area vegetation, earthwork for the placement of roads, placement of security fence, trenching of buried electrical collection lines, forest clearing . . . and planting for visual screening . . . . [Exhibit 14, Page 7]

6. Slope and Erosion Considerations in Relation to NYS Protected Waterbodies--There are two areas of steep slope, greater than 35%, within the project area. . . . [Exhibit 14, Page 17]

The private developer, who is motivated solely by large potential profits, will claim they have mitigation plans for all of these hazards. Given the importance of protecting the drinking water supply to the citizens of Hudson and Columbia County, we should not rely on a private developer’s assurances when no independent oversight is in place. . . . 

We must carefully implement the DEC’s Conservation Plan, whose vision statement is:

“The Taghkanic Headwaters and the lands that surround it support clean water for the people, plants and animals, and provide vital wildlife habitat connections between New York and New England. We envision a future Taghkanic watershed that is cared for by local communities and landowners to protect clean water. . . .”
The application referenced in the letter can be found here.

The map of the Taghkanic Creek Headwaters below shows the location of the proposed Hecate Project construction area in relation to the City of Hudson's Churchtown reservoir. Compare this map with the one shown earlier. The red outline marks the 55-square-mile area that is the City of Hudson watershed. 


This project appears to pit the benefits of renewable energy against the inarguable need to protect our water supply. This is a project that deserves the attention and intervention of both the City of Hudson Conservation Advisory Council and the Columbia County Environmental Management Council.  
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Addendum: The Columbia County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution (R151-2021) opposing the Shepherd's Run Solar Project in May 2021. The resolution was introduced by Hudson Third Ward supervisor Michael Chameides.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

COVID-19 Update

Gossips is a day late. Here are the COVID numbers reported by the Columbia County Department of Health yesterday. Between Thursday and Friday, there were 13 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases reported on Friday were 10 more than on Thursday, from which it can be inferred that, from Thursday to Friday, only 3 county residents recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 and in the ICU remained the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since September 12.

A year ago on September 30, the CCDOH reported 13 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 5,075, and the number of active cases was 99. There were 301 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 4 were hospitalized, and 0 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in Columbia County attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 102.

Arbor Day on Sunday

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., the Conservation Advisory Council observes Arbor Day by planting five trees in various locations around the city. Yesterday, however, the Department of Public Works did the hard work of digging the holes and setting the trees in place. What is left for the volunteers is filling in the holes, attaching the tree watering bags, and posing for pictures.

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Thursday, September 29, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health released its numbers earlier today, while Gossips was getting a booster shot. Since yesterday, there have been 18 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 2 fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 20 county residents have recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 and in the ICU is the same as yesterday. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since September 12. 

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 8 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 5,062, and the number of active cases was 107. There were 325 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 4 were hospitalized, and 0 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in Columbia County attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 102.

News from the Planning Board

The Planning Board meeting this afternoon lasted for only about half an hour, but in that time, the five members present--Theresa Joyner, Valerie Wray, Dustin Duncan, Gene Shetsky, and John Cody--accomplished a fair amount of business. They made a negative declaration, approved the merging of parcels, and granted site plan approval to Hudson Public, the hotel the Galvan Foundation plans to develop from the buildings at northeast corner of Warren and Fourth streets.

They granted site plan approval to 508-510 State Street, which is being renovated to be an eight-unit residential dwelling. The building, now vacant, previously had six units. 

And they voted to authorize the attorneys handling the latest lawsuit brought by A. Colarusso & Sons against the Planning Board to file a Notice of Appeal. They voted unanimously, as Victoria Polidoro, legal counsel to the Planning Board, explained, to authorize the attorneys to do what they have already done.

Other items on the agenda--the public hearing on the proposal to create a kind of subdivision on Hudson Avenue and the public hearing on the redevelopment by the Galvan Foundation of the former Community Theater into a theater to be called Hudson Forum--were postponed until the Planning Board's next meeting, which takes place on October 11.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Of Interest

In an episode of History Room on Zoom, Chief Ed Moore talks with Gary Sheffer, library trustee and chair of the History Room Committee, about the long history of the Hudson Police Department, the legendary state police raid on Hudson that took place in June 1950, and the plan to create a memorial garden at the Hudson police and courts building. Click here to view the conversation.



COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 14 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 7 fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 21 county residents have recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 and in the ICU remains the same as yesterday. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since September 12.  

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 22 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 5,054, and the number of active cases was 114. There were 278 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 3 were hospitalized, and 0 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in Columbia County attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 102.

Tonight in Stuyvesant

At its meeting tonight, it is expected that the Stuyvesant Zoning Board of Appeals will vote on a proposal to construct twenty "agro-tourism cabins," along with other tourist amenities, on a farm on Sharptown Ridge. On August 29, the Zoning Board held a public hearing on the project. Ten Stuyvesant residents spoke out against the proposal, arguing that the proposal was principally lodging, lodging was not agriculture, and therefore Stuyvesant's zoning did not allow it. No one from the public spoke in support of the project. The following is quoted from a comment submitted by a resident in the Zoom chat during the hearing:
Why would an investor look at Stuyvesant? It is a question worth looking into. Maybe they were rejected by other towns in our county and then they saw this open field and decided to give us a try. Maybe not. But it is worth the time and energy it takes for the town to review. A venture capitalist putting up housing in Stuyvesant--or anywhere for that matter--has one goal: to make money. Money. Not community. Money. It has nothing to do with our town as a community. It has everything to do with their bank accounts. If anyone in town is associated with this project they'll get a portion of the wealth, but ask yourselves if it is worth it to see this Florida-condo-type project go up in our zoned-for-agriculture town and in ten years watch it collapse from lack of maintenance. There are plenty of examples out there of venture capital money making the bucks and then leaving it to the crows.
Interestingly, both opponents and defenders of the proposed project in Stuyvesant have cited Liberty Farms in Ghent, which describes itself as a "boutique glamping site," as an example.


Photo: Liberty Farms
For opponents of the Sharptown Ridge project, Liberty Farms is an example of a commercial tourist destination for which agriculture is only a minor component rather than an ancillary business that supplements income from farming. A defender of the project cited Liberty Farms as a precedent, telling Gossips it is "already up and running in Stuyvesant." Its existence was presented as justification for the Sharptown Ridge project, despite Liberty Farms being in Ghent not Stuyvesant.

The Stuyvesant Zoning Board meeting takes place tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Stuyvesant Town Hall, 5 Sunset Drive in Stuyvesant. Also on the agenda for tonight's meeting is a proposal to install a utility-scale solar project on Schoolhouse Road.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 8 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 17 fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 25 county residents have recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 and in the ICU is the same today as yesterday. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since September 12.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported a death from COVID-19 and 21 new cases. The total number of cases was 5,032, and the number of active cases was 111. There were 245 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 3 were hospitalized, and 0 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in Columbia County attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 102.

On the Subject of Sidewalks

The Common Council ad hoc committee dedicated to solving the problem of Hudson's sidewalks met last night. The first official act of the committee was to draft and distribute with the water bills a letter informing property owners of their responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of the sidewalks adjoining their property. Interestingly, that letter seems not to be available anywhere on the City of Hudson website.

Last night, Councilmember Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward), who chairs the committee, laid out an action plan "for attacking a sidewalk law," a law inspired by the City of Ithaca's City Sidewalk Policy, which "moves away from burdening individual property owners with the entire cost of sidewalk installation and maintenance for sidewalks adjoining their property, toward the creation of 5 Sidewalk Improvement Districts (SID) funded by an annual sidewalk assessment fee." The action plan proposed by Merante involves three parts:

(1) Identifying the Sidewalk Improvement Districts in Hudson.
It was suggested that the five wards could be the SIDs in Hudson. It's a simple solution, but it doesn't seem quite right. The ward boundaries in Hudson are now based on population. As a consequence, the geographic area of the wards differs significantly, as does the amount of sidewalk in each ward.

(2) Figuring out how to prioritize districts or areas within districts.
Merante suggested that they develop a system of rating sidewalks using numbers, with the highest being for sidewalks that are most used and in the worst condition. Councilmember Vicky Daskaloudi expressed the opinion that assessing all the sidewalks is "a lot of work." Merante suggested they might seek volunteers to do the assessment.

(3) Figuring out how the sidewalk assessment fee would work. 
It was decided that this issue would be handled by Councilmembers Ryan Wallace (Third Ward), who was absent from the meeting, and Amber Harris (Third Ward). 



Although the committee is pursuing a plan to "move away from burdening individual property owners with the entire cost of sidewalk installation and maintenance for sidewalks adjoining their property," Daskaloudi seemed to stay focused on ways to get individual property owners to repair or replace their sidewalks. She suggested that there should be a law "giving people sixty days to fix their sidewalks" after purchasing a building. She commented, "I see some properties that are selling for a million, two million dollars, and they're not fixing the sidewalks, and it really makes me angry." Toward the end of the meeting, mayor's aide Michael Hofmann offered the information that in other communities sidewalk improvement is required of the seller before a deed transfer is issued.    

The entire meeting can be viewed on YouTube.

On the subject of sidewalks, I have a personal observation. For the first time in almost nine years, I've been doing a lot of walking in my neighborhood with my dog, Joey. Our regular ambles are on the south side of town, usually between Second and Fourth Streets, and it has been my observation that there are very few sidewalks that could pass muster. The most egregious sidewalk issue we have encountered lately, though, is not uneven or broken or missing sidewalks but this stoop which juts out so far onto the public way that there's only about two feet of sidewalk between the stoop and the curb and even less between the stoop and a utility pool. 


A check of the tax rolls revealed that this house is owned by the Galvan Foundation.
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