Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Gossips Meeting Update

I'm not sure when it happened, but both Common Council committee meetings scheduled for this evening--Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation at 5:30 p.m. and Housing and Transportation at 6:45 p.m.--were canceled. My apologies for not getting the word out sooner.

African American Arts & Cultural Festival 2020

On Monday, Gossips published a post which questioned some of the mass gathering permits that have been approved for recent public events. Among them was the mass gathering permit for the African American Arts and Cultural Festival, which takes place this weekend. The application had been submitted in February, but, according to the document itself, it had only been approved on July 22. The application indicated the expected attendance was 2,000, and that number had not been altered

The post drew an indignant response from Mayor Kamal Johnson, which appeared on one of the community boards on Facebook this morning and has since disappeared, and a much more helpful response from Elena Mosley, the organizer of the event. Although it was addressed to The Gossips of Rivertown, Mosley put her response on her personal Facebook page, where I might not have found it had Dorothy Heyl not directed my attention to it. Because it answers many questions about the event and provides assurances about safety protocols, the entire message is reproduced here.

To the Gossips of Rivertown
First and foremost, there are guidelines to function during this pandemic issued by the Governor Cuomo that are being honored by the Columbia County Comeback team and Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson. There are also protocols that must be followed to receive a permit.
For those of you who plan, you can relate to the fact that permits for annual Hudson Black Arts and Cultural Festival in the winter. Therefore, the permit and application that has been filed reflects conditions prior to the COVID pandemic. To proceed during the pandemic for an event, I had to file a required safety plan, which adheres to the current pandemic guidelines, complete with PPE and maximum attendance rules. Having said this, The Sankofa Day at the waterfront is a commemoration of a festival that we cannot have. All the activities that would normally involve community engagement will be a virtual experience during the rest of August.
Operation Unite New York is complying. We reserve the right to come down to the river and enjoy its scenery along with everyone else at the park. We reserve the right to comply and not have a parade with the bells and whistles, but to walk down Warren Street on the sidewalks or through the SHARED STREETS that we help to beautify by building the planters and filling them with dirt and flowers.
Here is the statement that I started circulating yesterday. One day before I saw the comment in this Gossips of Rivertown. When you are finished, I invite you to walk or ride down to the Hudson Riverfront Park and see who is there. Folks enjoying the river on kayaks and boats, people eating on picnic tables, fishing, renting equipment and gathering in general. There purposely are no activities that would draw a crowd at the Sankofa Day, no games, no big tents, no performances. There is an opportunity to see a mural being created, artists spaced out making their creations, purchase a food plate and mosey on your way.
For you convenience, I have included the statement that I have been sharing.
Sincerely,
Elena Mosley
Executive Director of Operation Unite New York, Inc.
Member of Columbia County Comeback
Mother, Wife, RN


Hudson Sankofa Black Arts and Cultural Festival
Sankofa Day, August 8, 2020

It is fair to day that we are living in a different world than just a few months ago. The pandemic has impacted everything that we do. The Black Arts and Cultural Festival celebrates culture and contributions by people of color who have shaped our world as we live it. After much consideration of do we go forward or do we cancel, the decision was made to go on.
Operation Unite has spent 4 weeks participating in Waterfront Wednesdays. We always wear masks and practice social distancing. We have witnessed how important the Hudson Riverfront Park plays a role in walking around in open space where social distancing can occur, and families can enjoy the river and its surroundings safely.
Our Sankofa Day by the Hudson River is a day of commemoration of our heritage and a day to reflect on our past to move forward progressively into our future. Our activities are leisurely and spread out throughout the day. School supplies for grades K-5 will be given out at 12 noon. Sign up for supplies at 11:30 a.m. One can visit our local artists Chiarra Hughes, Pamela Badila, Ifetayo Cobbins, Ntangou Badila, Lucy Welch, Nkoula Badila and observe their passion and process. Mural Artist Danielle Mastrion will create a community mural with inspiration from our Shared Street Project Youth from Operation Unite NY and Hudson Hall.
We invite everyone to participate in our Strolling Walking Parade down Warren Street after 2pm to recognize Sankofa and honor people of our past. Feel free to hold signs, posters, and wear red, black and green, the colors of the Bendera-African American Flag. Decorated cars are welcome all day through our Shared Streets at 5 miles per hour. Our annual Stilt Walkers from Bindlestiff Family Cirkus will be strolling along too. There is no parade lineup, as this is a slow-moving stroll down the sidewalks and Shared Streets of Warren Street to the Hudson Riverfront Park.
At 1:00 pm Community Chef Larry Walker will serve up mouthwatering food at his concession stand. Family members can sign up for a free 50-minute boat ride with the Hudson Sloop Club at 4, 5, and 6:00pm. At 4:00pm, we will announce the First Annual Sankofa Community Award Nominees with a possible surprise guest. At 5pm, enjoy the sounds of Ujima Community Collective class lead by John and Olympia Ward.
So, stroll across the lawn as you visit the artists and get something to eat. As the Hudson Riverfront Park is open to all river lovers, the gazebo section will be marked so that you can enter and be counted. Please help us observe social distancing, wear masks, use sanitizer provided and wear a mask.
The entire month of August will be dedicated to the Hudson Sankofa Virtual Festival. On Monday, August 10th, we will announce all forums and guest artists. On September 4, as part of the Hudson Eye event, we will celebrate our Sankofa Community Service Awardees and have our final panel discussion moderated by James Campbell.
The Hudson Sanfofa Black Arts and Cultural Festival is presented by Operation Unite New York, with support and funding from the City of Hudson, and the Hudson Tourism Board. For more information, contact us at: elena@operationuniteny.org.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been four new cases of COVID-19, and one more person is listed as "recovering," increasing the number of active cases by three, to 13. There are six fewer people in mandatory quarantine, but the number in precautionary quarantine remains the same. The number of people hospitalized with the virus has not changed, and there have been no more deaths.
As of 3:00 p.m. on August 5, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 37 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has 506 confirmed positive cases.
  • There are 13 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. We are monitoring 96 county residents on mandatory quarantine, and there are 26 on precautionary quarantine.
  • 456 of the 506 cases are recovering from COVID-10
  • 3 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 19,189 PCR reports. Please note this number may represent duplicate reports, out of county reports, and multiple nursing home testings.

Of Interest

There's an opinion piece of the New York Times today that exposes the complexity and uncertainty of testing and contact tracing: "After a Backyard Dinner, Coronavirus Chaos Ensues." The backyard in question is right here in Hudson.

Learn About HudsonUP

On Thursday, August 20, from 6 to 7 p.m., the Hudson Area Library and The Spark of Hudson will present an informational meeting on the history of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and HudsonUP, a basic income pilot created by The Spark of Hudson and Humanity Forward, the not-for-profit founded by Andrew Yang. The press release announcing the meeting explains:
In the virtual program, Albert Wenger and Susan Danziger, co-founders of The Spark of Hudson and HudsonUP, will talk about the history of UBI and the value of the UBI pilot program for Hudson.
Many advocates of basic income have long maintained that the coming technological shift and wave of automation would wipe out millions of traditional jobs and leave everyday Americans without a safety net. The concept of a universal basic income is a simple one: unconditional, regularly recurring payments made to everyone. With HudsonUP, The Spark of Hudson & Humanity Forward aim to partner with the Hudson community to test this simple concept by providing $500 each month to 22 randomly-selected Hudson residents for five years.
Universal Basic Income has a longer history than some realize. One of the first proponents of Universal Basic Income in the United States was Thomas Payne, author of the Common Sense pamphlet, and individuals as varied as Martin Luther King, Jr., and economist Milton Friedman have spoken in support of the concept. Andrew Yang's presidential campaign highlighted the importance of a national UBI program for the United States.
Register for the virtual meeting, call 518 828-1792, extension 101,  or email programs@hudsonarealibrary.org.

More on the STR Issue

The Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee meets today at 6:45 p.m. No agenda for the meeting is available, but there is the possibility that the proposed legislation to regulate short term rentals (STRs) will be a topic of discussion. 

The Legal Committee has been working on the controversial STR legislation since January 2019. In the beginning, it seemed that a principal motivator for the legislation was outside investors buying up houses in Hudson, restoring them, and maintaining them as short-term rentals booked through such online platforms as Airbnb or VRBO. Of particular concern, it seemed, were those situations where one investor owned several buildings that were maintained as short term rentals, creating, in effect, an illegal hotel operation.  

The idea of absentee owners taking over Hudson and populating Hudson neighborhoods with transient outsiders is a concern shared by many, but it has never been entirely clear how big a problem it actually is. Recently, Bob Rasner FOILed information about the STRs registered with the city treasurer's office and discovered this about STR owners with multiple properties, which he shared with Gossips. There are a total of ten owners of multiple properties registered to operate as STRs. One owner has 8 buildings, with a total of 14 guest rooms; another has 5 buildings, with a total of 19 guest rooms; a third has 3 buildings, with a total of 12 guest rooms; another 7 owners have 2 buildings each, for a total of 14 guest rooms. That is: 10 owners, 30 buildings, 59 guest rooms. 

Recently, since the discussion of the STR legislation has become a more public process, there have been calls for data to back up the assumptions that seem to be driving the legislation. This information is provides a piece of that data.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

You Can't Come Here From There: Update

There have been some alterations to the list of states from which travelers must quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in New York. This week, one state--Rhode Island--has been added to the list, and Delaware and Washington, D.C., have come off the list. The addition of Rhode Island is a cautionary tale. Just two weeks ago, Rhode Island's governor, Gina Raimondo, was heard on NPR's All Things Considered talking about her state's success in dealing with the coronavirus.

The list now includes 34 states and Puerto Rico.
  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin 

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health was released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been two new cases of COVID-19, and six are now listed as "recovering," reducing the total number of active cases by four, to 10. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is up by six, to 102, and the number in precautionary quarantine has increased by three, to 26. The number of people hospitalized with the virus remains the same, and there have been no new deaths.
As of 3:00 p.m. on August 4, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 37 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has 502 confirmed positive cases.
  • There are 10 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. We are monitoring 102 residents on mandatory quarantine, and there are 26 on precautionary quarantine.
  • 455 of the 502 cases are recovering from COVID-19
  • 3 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 18,902 PCR reports. Please note this number may represent duplicate reports, out of county reports, and multiple nursing home testings.

More About That COVID Outbreak

About an hour ago, the Columbia County Department of Health issued another press release about the recent outbreak of COVID-19, which provides some more details about when and where the golf outings occurred.
GOLF OUTINGS TIED TO OUTBREAK
On Monday, Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb announced that currently 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county can be traced to two July golf outings.
The golf outings in question were held July 10-11 and July 24. Neither was an organized tournament event and neither golf course was located in Columbia County. To date, the widespread outbreak has affected four retail outlets and the DOH also reports that there are positive cases in two private daycare settings within the county. . . . 
The 15 confirmed cases did not necessarily result from playing golf together, but more likely from not wearing face masks and not observing proper social distancing, said Director Mabb.
"In the world of COVID-19, golf, as a game played outdoors, places you at very low risk of contracting the virus. The likely spread of the virus in this case came from people not wearing a mask and not social distancing when done playing. This outbreak is the likely result of a group of friends getting together and not doing what they should have done when off the course," he added.
Director Mabb further noted that social media rumors that there are 14 confirmed positive cases of the virus at a local retail store are "untrue as far as we know at this time. There is one confirmed case, although as its employees get tested, there may wind up being more. Those who are concerned about shopping in the store should feel safe to continue, provided they wear a mask and social distance when in the store. People should not necessarily trust what they read on social media."

Take Me Riding in the Car

While the pandemic has made some of the usual summer outings not an option, the Columbia County Historical Society has introduced a new way to get out and about, in the safety of your own car, and enjoy some local lore and history: self-guided road trips. 


The CCHS Drive Through History program is now offering two tours: the Legends & Folklore tour, which explores "the legendary folk tales, strange occurrences and larger-than-life legends that once roamed this region of the Hudson Valley," and the Sacred Spaces tour, which visits the churches and cemeteries of the Roeliff Jansen region of Columbia County. For maps and itineraries for the two road trips, click here.

An Interesting Turn of Events

On Sunday, Gossips received the following communication, which had been sent to Hudson city officials. It was forwarded to Gossips by the sender.
Mr. Mayor and Common Council Officials
Love the mural on lower Warren St.! Would love to compliment [sic] it with a "Back The Blue" mural. What are the steps we need to take to make this happen? Would like your, the Common Council's input on placement of the aforementioned "Back The Blue" street art. Is there a maximum size and specific paint to use? Any helpful information in regard to this matter would be greatly appreciated.
We respect our neighbors right to express themselves freely. We only ask that we too are afforded the same opportunity to express ourselves freely.
Sincerely,
Back The Blue Constituents
There is no indication of who the "Back The Blue Constituents" making this request actually are. Are they Hudson residents? Or do they live elsewhere in the county?

It will be remembered that, in June, Back the Blue demonstrators engaged in a shouting match with Black Lives Matter protesters in the village square in Kinderhook. Lance Wheeler's video of that altercation can be viewed on YouTube. The image below is a screen capture from that video.

Screen capture: Lance Wheeler|YouTube
In an article about the rally in Kinderhook, the Register-Star reported, "Back the Blue was organized by Kinderhook business owner Alex Rosenstrach." Rosenstrach's name has been in the news a few times in recent months. He is the owner of ClubLife Health & Fitness in Valatie, which was cited in May for reopening in defiance of New York on PAUSE mandates, and it was at his home that a guest was severely beaten during a party on July 5, an incident that is still being investigated.  

The Register-Star article back in June about the opposing rallies in Kinderhook shares this information:
Rosenstrach . . . said he chose Kinderhook for the site of the rally because he wanted to keep it local, but due to the success of Thursday's rally, he is hoping to schedule more, in other areas of Columbia County in the near future. 
To Gossips' knowledge, there hasn't been another Back the Blue rally in Columbia County, but there was one on Sunday in Cairo across the river.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Monday, August 3, 2020

Hudson Safe: Are We or Aren't We?

We see the banners all over town, admonishing us to "DO YOUR PART." Doing your part is defined as staying home, staying 6 feet apart, and wearing a mask.





Now that we're in Phase 4 of reopening, the "Stay Home" admonition doesn't have as much relevance as it did back in March and April. In fact, we've redesigned Warren Street to encourage people not to stay home but to ensure they are stay safe while they are out and about. But, even though the number of COVID-19 cases in Hudson is not staggering (only 28 since the pandemic began) and the infection rate in Columbia County remains at an acceptably low level (1.4 percent according to the New York Forward dashboard), the pandemic isn't over. There is still need for people to do their part to keep everyone safe.

In his press briefing today, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned there were two threats to the people of New York: lack of compliance and the national spread of the virus. On the topic of lack of compliance, Cuomo cited a party boat in Manhattan whose captain and owners were arrested for having more than 170 people partying on the boat, whose capacity is 600, in defiance of the state's mandate regarding social distancing. Columbia County has its own issues with lack of compliance. This afternoon, the Columbia County Department of Health reported fifteen new cases that could be traced back to two golf outings that happened sometime in July. No information was provided about which mandates were violated: social distancing, masks, or the number of people permitted to gather. 

Here in Hudson, there have also been reports about lack of compliance. On Friday, July 24, there was a graduation party in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, which according to an observer involved at least 70 people, very few masks, and no social distancing. Outdoor gatherings are permitted in Phase 4, but they are limited to no more than 50 people. In his press briefing today, Cuomo stressed, "Local governments have to do a better job . . . have to crack down on these [violations]." Given that directive from the governor, it's surprising that the party last Friday had a mass gathering permit which had been approved on July 20 by Mayor Kamal Johnson.  

This discovery inspired Gossips to explore the mass gathering permits that have been approved for recent and upcoming events in Hudson. On Saturday, July 25, a birthday party in Charles Williams Park for 65 guests, which featured two bouncy houses, had an approved mass gathering permit. On Friday, July 31, the Hudson Islamic Center had a prayer service in riverfront park for 150 to 200 worshipers, which also had an approved mass gathering permit. On Saturday, August 1, there was a memorial service in riverfront park for 50 to 75 people, which also had an approved mass gathering permit. Next weekend, there is a mass gathering permit, approved on July 22, for the annual African American Arts and Cultural Festival, which will run from Friday through Sunday and is, according to the permit application, expected to attract 2,000 people. 

Why is it that, instead of cracking down on violations, it seems local government in Hudson is enabling events that have the potential to turn into super spreaders?
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

More COVID News from CCDOH

This afternoon, the Columbia County Department of Health issued a press release with information that accounts for the rise in new COVID cases reported in the past few days. 
COUNTY DOH TRACKING COMMUNITY OUTBREAK
"As of Monday morning, there are 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county stemming from two golf outings in July that really gave the virus life," said Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb. The widespread outbreak has affected four retail outlets and two daycare settings within the county, said Director Mabb. As a result, as of Monday morning many of the 96 people currently under mandatory quarantine in the county are connected to the golf outing outbreak. Owing to HIPPA regulations, the DOH cannot release the names of the individuals who are affected, however, if you have been in contact with one of these individuals, you will be contacted by county DOH contact tracers. Director Mabb stressed that this outbreak can be pinpointed to the two golf events, from which it was subsequently transmitted to the other locations. "This should serve as a reminder that the virus never went away, as well as to how easily one of these outbreaks can happen," he said. "None of us will be surprised if these numbers continue to escalate," added Director Mabb. "This should be yet another reminder that the wearing of masks and social distancing are not jokes. They have proven to be our most effective means of helping limit the spread of the virus. Further, not only are we concerned with the health of the community, but nobody wants to see us have to lose ground in the state's economic reopening plan."

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health was released its numbers for today. We've reached some kind of milestone: a total of 500 cases since this all began. That's three more than there were yesterday. There have also been four more recoveries, reducing the number of active cases by one, to 14. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine has increased by eighteen, and the number in precautionary quarantine has increased by ten. The number of people hospitalized with the virus remains the same, and there have been no new deaths.

As of 3:00 p.m. on August 3, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 37 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has 500 confirmed positive cases.
  • There are 14 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. We are monitoring 96 county residents on mandatory quarantine, and there are 23 on precautionary quarantine.
  • 449 of the 500 cases are recovering from COVID-19  
  • 3 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 18,621 PCR reports. Please note this number may represent duplicate reports, out of county reports, and multiple nursing home testings.
This may or may not be significant, but as of yesterday, the CCDOH was changed the verb tense in its fourth bullet item from "have recovered" to "are recovering." What that means is not known, but it should be noted that those who "are recovering" are no longer counted among the "active cases"--the third bullet item.

What the Planning Board Determination Means

Last week, when Gossips reported that the Planning Board had voted unanimously to classify the conditional use permit for Colarusso's dock operation a Type I action, at least one reader asked, in a comment, about the significant of that determination. This morning, The Valley Alliance and Our Hudson Waterfront issued a press release explaining the significance. The press release was accompanied by this visualization of our stretch of the Hudson River, created by the State of New York last year, to mark the opening last year of the Hudson River Skywalk. Note the absence of any gravel operation on our waterfront. What follows are excerpts from the press release.

WHAT TYPE I MEANS
According to the State's SEQRA Cookbook, Type I actions are those which "are more likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment . . . and may require the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement," or DEIS. Type I actions also require coordinated review with other local, County, State, and Federal agencies.
Responding to Privitera's objections on behalf of Colarusso, Planning Board attorney Victoria Polidoro noted that the resolution finds the project has the potential to disturb 2.5 acres, "and is being reviewed ab initio," using the legal term for "from the beginning."
The Board found that the project exceeded the State-mandated threshold of disturbing 2.5 acres or more of land in proximity to a public parkland (the Henry Hudson Waterfront Park), as well as being in close proximity to important historic resources. The project is near at least two historic resources identified by the Board, not to mention the Union/Allen/South Front Street Historic District. It is now anticipated that the Board will move toward findings of potentially significant adverse impacts, and issue a Positive Declaration, which would require Colarusso to prepare a full DEIS. The company has fought unsuccessfully to stop the City from conducting such a review, losing appeals to the local Zoning Board of Appeals and a State Supreme Court judge, and arguing unsuccessfully to limit mitigations to minor alterations like planting forsythia bushes along a fence line. . . . 
PERMIT DENIAL WOULD HELP BOTH OUR STREETS AND THE WATERFRONT
Colarusso has argued that approval is necessary to remove its own heavy trucks from Hudson streets, and proposes moving them to a two-lane truckway through the protected South Bay Creek & Marsh. But documents recently filed by the company indicate that approving the project will barely move the needle. Gravel trucks, the analysis concludes, represent only a small percentage of overall truck traffic on the state truck route that runs along Third, Columbia, and Green Streets.
"This means even if gravel trucks are totally removed, the great bulk of big trucks on our streets would remain," said Valley Alliance co-director Sam Pratt. "So we would be jeopardizing the tremendous potential of our waterfront without actually solving the problem on our streets," Pratt continued. "The only fast and sure way to stop the gravel trucks downtown is to deny the application, not approve it. Meanwhile, the City needs to work with the State and neighboring towns to redirect the State truck route on surrounding highways--precisely the subject of an upcoming study with funding secured by Assemblymember Barrett."
COMPANY FORFEITED ANY GRANDFATHERED RIGHTS
While Colarusso has been using the dock for gravel in recent years, a court decision found that under the Local Zoning Code written by City Attorney Cheryl Roberts in 2011, the Board now has the right and duty to review the nonconforming project from scratch. At the time, Roberts described the new codes as "very protective of the environment," and intended to address the concerns citizens had raised "about getting a handle on the port and the causeway."
Senior Department of State attorney William Sharpe likewise explained at the time those laws were passed that such projects "are not permitted under the new zoning as of right," adding that "at the point where something happens on the property . . . they're going to have to get a conditional use permit for the entire property."
The entire press release can be found here.

Virtual Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

Here's what's happening in Hudson in the first week of August.
  • On Monday, August 3, the Tourism Board meets at 5:00 p.m. The link to join the meeting is now available on the City of Hudson website. Scroll down to the calendar. 
  • On Tuesday, August 4, the Social Justice Leadership Academy at Kite's Nest will lead a march to advocate for extending the eviction moratorium in New York State, canceling rent for the remainder of the pandemic, regulating short term rentals, and housing the homeless. The march starts from the entrance to Promenade Hill at 4:00 p.m. Click here for more information.
 

  • Also on Tuesday, August 4, the Conservation Advisory Council meets at 6:00 p.m. The information needed to access the meeting is not yet available.
  • On Wednesday, August 5, the Common Council Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. The link to join the meeting should be published prior to the meeting on the City of Hudson website. Scroll down to the calendar. 
  • At 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5, the Housing and Transportation Committee holds its monthly meeting. Topics of discussion may include the proposed short term rental legislation and the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) sought for the building proposed for 75 North Seventh Street. The link to join the meeting should be published prior to the meeting on the City of Hudson website. Scroll down to the calendar.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Planning in the Time of COVID

On Wednesday, Arterial and Street Plans, the two urban design groups that are part of the team collaborating on the "Complete Streets" improvements for the part of the city below Second Street, held two events: a walking tour "to provide an opportunity for attendees to evaluate the safety, accessibility, and beauty of the streets in the study area," and a workshop, where attendees engaged in a planning exercise. About 25 people turned out for the walking tour. The group divided into two, with 15 touring the area north of Warren Street and 10 the area south of Warren Street. At the workshop, which took place at Hudson Hall, where the performance space was set up with 50 chairs positioned at appropriate distance from each other, there were about 10 people present.

Gossips passed on the walking tour, deciding instead to attend the workshop. It wasn't clear how many, if any, of those present at the workshop had also participated in the walking tour. After presenting the background information the BRIDGE District and the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding, Dave Lustberg of Arterial led that group through a planning exercise that involved each person marking, on maps of the BRIDGE District, key destinations they walk to, their routes to those destinations, their ideal routes to those same destinations, and problem areas. 

The planning process going forward involves a second workshop to take place sometime in August, which may be presented jointly with Starr Whitehouse, the group working on the renovation of the entrance to Promenade Hill, and a demonstration project, before moving on to a pilot, an interim design, and finally long-term alterations. Although $4 million of the $10 million of the DRI award is going to this project, now being called "Hudson Connects," the point was made that the challenge of the project is that the aspirations are high, beyond what can be paid for with $4 million, and it will be necessary to prioritize improvements.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been two new cases of COVID-19 and three recoveries, reducing the number of active cases in the county by one, to 15. Sixteen fewer county residents are in mandatory quarantine, and one more is in precautionary quarantine. The number of people hospitalized with the virus remains the same, and there have been no new deaths.
As of 12:00 p.m. on August 2, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 37 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has 497 confirmed positive cases.
  • There are 15 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. We are monitoring 78 county residents on mandatory quarantine, and there are 13 on precautionary quarantine.
  • 445 of the 497 cases are recovered from COVID-19
  • 3 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 18,537 PCR reports. Please note this number may represent duplicate reports, out of county reports, and multiple nursing home testings. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been four new cases of COVID-19 and three recoveries, increasing the number of active cases by one, to 16. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine has decreased by eleven, and the number in precautionary quarantine has increased by one. The number of people hospitalized with the virus remains the same, and there have been no new deaths.
As of 1:30 p.m. on August 1, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 37 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has 495 confirmed positive cases.
  • There are 16 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. We are monitoring 94 county residents on mandatory quarantine, and there are 12 on precautionary quarantine.
  • 442 of the 495 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 3 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 18,464 PCR reports. Please note this number may represent duplicate reports, out of county reports, and multiple nursing home testings.

All PILOTs Are Not the Same

Earlier this week, while walking Joey in the neighborhood, I noticed this handbill tacked to a utility pole. When I returned to the spot the next day, with the intention of taking a picture of the handbill in situ, I found it had been blown off the pole in the night. So I picked what was left of it and brought it home.

  
The author of this handbill, be it an individual or organization, is not identified, but the intent is clear: to muster opposition to the Galvan Foundation's proposal for 75 North Seventh Street. Under the head "Don't be fooled. Know the facts," here is the information that is presented. (The underscoring, boldface, italics, capital letters, and color have all been faithfully replicated.)
  1. Galvan is the largest private owner of properties in Hudson with nearly 100 properties, many of them vacant. If Galvan cares so much about affordable housing, why not put some of that existing stock on the rental market right now?
  2. Handing a TAX BREAK to the wealthy & powerful at a time when we are facing a massive budget shortfall means that regular people in Hudson would have to make up the difference. Taxes go up, making Hudson less affordable for those of us who live and pay our fair share here.
  3. Instead of hiring contractors, builders, electricians, and plumbers from the community, Galvan uses its own work crews -- who take their orders from Galvan, ignoring Hudson's building codes and safety regulations. This means fewer jobs for Hudson and buildings that are poorly constructed and UNSAFE.
  4. Galvan has a long track record as a negligent landlord in Hudson. How good is "affordable" housing if the electricity constantly goes out, the ceilings leak, there is mold, or the landlord is nowhere to be found when the pipes burst?
Regarding the assertions made in the handbill: Over the years, Gossips has documented the acquisition of Hudson property by Galvan, and although 100 may be rounding the number up a bit, it is not rounding it up by much. Gossips has no firsthand knowledge or experience to confirm the third and fourth claims, but the one sticking in most people's craw is the second one: the tax break. Nearly half the City's revenue--the money needed to run the city--comes from property taxes, and many property owners in Hudson struggle with the burden of taxes, most of which goes not to the City of Hudson, which gets about 29 percent of what is paid in property taxes, but to the Hudson City School District, which gets more than 51 percent of property taxes. So, the idea that this building, which will have 77 apartments, will pay $80,000 a year in a PILOT (pilot in lieu of taxes) agreement, when the average homeowner in Hudson is paying between $10,000 and $15,000 a year in property taxes, strikes most as totally unacceptable. 

When it was announced that the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives was doing a study of the proposed PILOT, some hoped the study would examine the impact on our small city of 77 households requiring city services and not paying their fair share in property taxes to support the commonweal. Instead, the study merely demonstrated that the PILOT was in line with PILOTs for similar projects in Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and Newburgh, all much larger cities, and suggested that the City might want to extend the PILOT to 50 years, the period of time the building is required to remain affordable housing by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program, because, at the end of the PILOT, Galvan could take the building off the tax rolls altogether. 

The acronym PILOT is a dirty word to many people, and the lore of Hudson contains tales of bad PILOT agreements in the past that failed to deliver the benefits promised. But it is important to remember that all PILOTs are not the same. Recently, a reader pointed out to me that Bernie Sanders used PILOTs to redevelop Burlington when he was mayor of that city. 

Right now in Hudson, there are two PILOTs being considered: the PILOT for the proposed Galvan project on North Seventh Street, which is being considered by the Common Council; and the PILOT for the proposed hotel at 620 Union Street, being considered by the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA). Recently, Mayor Kamal Johnson, who sits on the IDA, made this comment on Facebook, in a thread about the PILOT being proposed for the Galvan project.



The mayor's comment seems to imply that the two PILOTs are comparable, but let's examine the two projects to understand what's being proposed. 

Investment  The hotel project represents an investment of $14 million in the City of Hudson, and the financing is being done without any state or federal money. The Galvan project is expected to cost $22 million, but, as Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) noted at the last Common Council meeting, Galvan is only investing $500,000 in the project. The rest is coming from state and federal programs, all of which involve tax dollars. 

Job Creation During Construction  The hotel project drew from Hudson, Columbia County (Chatham and Philmont), and the Capital District (Troy and Albany) for its architect, landscape architect, engineers, and kitchen design consultant. The developer intends to hire a construction manager who will commit to hiring local workers. When it was announced in November 2019 that the Galvan Foundation had won a $1 million Buildings of Excellence Award from NYSERDA for the building being proposed for the east side of North Seventh Street, River Architects in Cold Spring were the architects who came up with the winning design. Presumably, they are also the architects for the building proposed for the west side of the street. Galvan has provided no information about firms that would be involved in the construction of the building.

Job Creation After Construction  The hotel project will create thirty full-time jobs, and the developer has committed to hiring at least fourteen Hudson residents for those jobs. He has also committed to coordinating with Columbia-Greene Community College in hiring and training and to provide in-house training. So far, it seems the only long-term job to be created by the Galvan project is that of building superintendent, who will reside in the building.

Financial Contribution to the City  It is predicted that the hotel will bring to the City a total of $54,980 in sales tax--$22,441 from the hotel operation and $32,539 from other spending in Hudson--and $118,625 in local lodging tax. The financial contribution in sales tax from the 77 households residing at 75 North Seventh Street is likely to be small by comparison, since, after rent, the biggest expense in a household budget is typically food, and much of the money for food will be spend in Greenport not Hudson.

The PILOT Structure and Duration  The PILOT being proposed by the developer of the hotel at 620 Union Street will begin at $41,564 a year and remain at that amount for the first three years. In Year 4, it will increase to $49,877 a year; in Year 6, it will increase to $58,190 a year; in Year 8, it will increase to $66,503 a year; in Year 10, it will be $74,816; and in Year 11, it will be $83,129. In the duration of the PILOT, the hotel will have paid $631,777 in property taxes, which will be divided up among the city (29 percent), the county (20 percent), and the school district (51 percent). But the PILOT will end after eleven years, and from then on, the taxes will be levied on the assessed value of the hotel.

The PILOT for the proposed Galvan project would be $80,000 in the first year and increase by 2 percent each year for the duration of the PILOT, which is now thirty years. At that rate of increase, the PILOT payment in Year 30 will be $142,067. But, thirty years from now, when the PILOT is over, the building will very likely not start paying taxes as other buildings in the city do. As the Benjamin Center study pointed out, after the end of the PILOT, Galvan could take the building off the tax rolls altogether because it fulfills its mission as a not-for-profit. Alderman Dominic Merante has been pressing for a commitment that Galvan will not take the building off the tax rolls at the end of the thirty years, but the best assurance he has managed to get from Dan Kent is the statement that Galvan "was completely onboard with entering into another PILOT when this one is up."

The decision about the two PILOTs isn't either/or. Both PILOTs could be accepted, or both could be rejected. But if the two are going to be spoken of as if they are comparable, it is important to be clear what each involves.

An independent group in Rochester is now doing a cost-benefit analysis of the PILOT proposed for the hotel, which may be ready for review by the IDA at its next meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, August 11, at 1:00 p.m.

On July 21, a resolution in support of the PILOT for the proposed Galvan project failed to get the six affirmative votes needed to pass in the Common Council; it came one vote short. It is expected that the resolution will be brought back this month. The Council's informal meeting takes place on Monday, August 10; its regular monthly meeting takes place on Tuesday, August 18. Both meetings are at 7:00 p.m.
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Friday, July 31, 2020

Returning to School in 2020

Today is the day that every school district in New York was to submit its reopening plan to the state. Last night, Superintendent Maria Suttmeier and other school officials presented the reopening plan for the Hudson City School District in a virtual informational meeting. The visuals from that presentation can all be found here. The complete plan can be found here

The school is scheduled to begin for all students on September 14, but whether that means actually showing up at school on that day or not depends on the grade level.

As the chart indicates, students in PreK through Grade 5--those who attend classes at Montgomery C. Smith--will go to school on Monday and Tuesday and on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, there will be remote learning while the school building is being cleaned. Students in Grades 6 through 10 will be divided into two groups. One group will go to school on Monday and Tuesday, the other on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, there will be remote learning for both groups while the school building is being cleaned. For students in Grades 11 and 12, that is, juniors and seniors in high school, all learning will be remote, at least for the time being. 

For parents reluctant to send their children back to school, HCSD is also offering a Virtual School Option. To review the complete plan, which among other things addresses measures to ensure health and safety and social-emotional well being, click here

Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce next week if schools will reopen in New York.
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Where the New Cases Were This Week

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its breakdown of COVID-19 cases by municipality and nursing home. In the past week, there have been eighteen new cases of COVID-19, ten more than were reported last week. The largest number of new cases was in Greenport, where there were four. There were three in Chatham and Claverack, two in Stockport, and one each in Clermont, Kinderhook, Stuyvesant, Taghkanic, and at Barnwell, and one in Stottville, which made the list this week for the first time.

In the following list, the first number indicates the number of cases last week; the second number of the number this week. These are the total number of cases not the number of active cases. Strangely, with eighteen new cases since last Friday, the CCDOH is reporting just fifteen active cases.

Ancram  4 |4
Canaan  9 | 9
Chatham  17 | 20
Claverack  20 | 23
Clermont  7 | 8
Copake  22 | 22
Craryville  2 | 2
Gallatin  3 | 3
Germantown  1 | 1
Ghent  23 | 23
Greenport  28 | 32
Hillsdale  15 | 15
Hudson  28 | 28
Kinderhook  31 | 32 
Livingston  13 | 13
New Lebanon  9 | 9
Niverville  2 | 2
Philmont  6 | 6
Stockport  4 | 6
Stottville  0 | 2
Stuyvesant  16 | 17
Taghkanic  6 | 7
Valatie  12 | 12
Nursing Homes
Barnwell  142 | 143
Livingston Hills  2 | 2
Pine Haven  51 | 51

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been five new cases of COVID-19 and four recoveries, increasing the number of active cases by one, to 15. There are four fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine. The number in precautionary quarantine remains the same, as does the number of people hospitalized with the virus. There have been no new deaths.
As of 3:00 p.m. on July 31, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 37 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has 491 confirmed positive cases.
  • There are 15 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. We are monitoring 105 residents on mandatory quarantine, and there are 11 on precautionary quarantine.
  • 439 of the 491 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 3 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 18,202 PCR reports. Please note this number may represent duplicate reports, out of county reports, and multiple nursing home testings.
This is the second day in July the CCDOH has reported five new cases, the other day being this past Tuesday, July 28. In July, there have been nine days when the CCDOH reported no new cases at all.

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About the Chicken Law

Today is the last day for submitting comments to Mayor Kamal Johnson about the proposed law that would permit keeping backyard chickens in Hudson. Today also a reader shared this notice from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) which went out two days ago.


If you go follow the link provided, you will find this additional information. 
As of July 28, 2020, 938 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 48 states.
  • 151 people (33% of those with information available) have been hospitalized.
  • One death in Oklahoma has been reported.
  • 28% of ill people are children younger than 5 years of age.
Don't we have enough to worry about trying to keep the pandemic in check without adding to the potential health problems in Hudson? 

Comments about the chicken law can be submitted to the mayor by phone at (518) 828-7217 or by email to mayor@cityofhudson.org. Today is the final day for submitting comments.  
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Thursday, July 30, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been two new cases of COVID-19 and one more recovery, increasing the number of active cases in the county by one, to 14. The number of county residents now in mandatory quarantine has increased by 38, to 109. The number of people in precautionary quarantine has decreased by one. The number of people hospitalized with the virus remains the same as it was yesterday, and there have been no more deaths.
As of 3:00 p.m on July 30, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 37 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has 486 confirmed positive cases.
  • There are 14 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. We are monitoring 109 county residents on mandatory quarantine, and there are 11 on precautionary quarantine.
  • 435 of the 486 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 3 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 17,932 PCR reports. Please note this number may represent duplicate reports, out of county reports, and multiple nursing home testings.

About the Kaz Site

On Sunday, Gossips published an excerpt from the DRI Committee meeting summary for July 15, which reported on a phone conversation between unnamed committee members and representatives of Bonacio Construction. Bonacio, it will be remembered, was one of three developers that submitted a proposal for the Kaz site in 2018 and the only developer to respond to a request for expression of interest for the Dunn warehouse earlier this year. It was Bonacio apparently that persuaded the DRI Committee to add the three City-owned parcels north of the Dunn warehouse to what was being offered for development. In June, the Common Council passed a resolution to that effect.

Now, judging from what was reported in the meeting summary, Bonacio is suggesting that the Kaz site be added to the plan. The following is quoted from that meeting summary:   
By including more parcels--and combining KAZ, Dunn, and the two parcels north of Dunn, a project could have less density. The development needs to have a minimum number of units to achieve economy of scale for development and property maintenance. With more parcels, the unit can be spread out more across space.
A stumbling block for the master plan Bonacio may have in mind is the fact that Hudson Development Corporation, not the City of Hudson, owns and controls the Kaz site. On Tuesday, the Kaz site was an agenda item under "Old Business" at the HDC Board's monthly meeting.

The discussion started with board chair Bob Rasner reminding the board, once again, that the agency is "real estate rich and cash poor," HDC owns a large and valuable parcel that is off the tax rolls, and they need to take a serious look at "the disposition of the Montgomery Street property," a.k.a. the Kaz site, which now includes the parcel acquired from CSX in October 2019. 

In the matter of the Kaz site, HDC doesn't seem to have moved much beyond where they were last month. Nick Haddad reported that the Kaz Committee had not met since the beginning of the pandemic. The options, however, seem to have been narrowed to selling the whole thing to a developer and expecting the developer to "sell their vision" to the community, or subdividing the parcel and selling the individual lots. Haddad suggested that subdivision would result in "a more robust tax base." Haddad also expressed the hope that "what we do down there is representative of the whole city." Phil Forman, who, in addition to serving on the HDC Board, chairs the Historic Preservation Commission, opined, "We can help shape that upfront." Steve Dunn suggested, "We should reach out to the Planning Board and the city to get a sense of what they are looking for." If by "city" Dunn meant elected officials, the answer is probably predictable: affordable housing.



Back in early 2019, when Walter Chatham and Mark Morgan-Perez were on the HDC Board, it seemed the notion of establishing a street grid in that area to replicate the pattern of streets in the rest of the city was an idea with legs. Determining a basic format for development was thought by some to be more responsible than just turning a sizable tract of land over to a developer. It's not clear if this idea still has supporters on the HDC Board. Even if it does, it's not clear how the street grid would be designed or carried out. It seems to be a perfect job for the Zoning and Planning Task Force, the creation of which was announced by Tom DePietro in August 2018. Unfortunately, if memory serves, that group met only once, a year later in September 2019, and, according to the resolution that created it, ceased to exist in December 2019.

What should be avoided is a course of action someone articulated at Tuesday's meeting: "Turn it all over to a Bonacio, and let them plan it." It seems that the DRI Committee may be contemplating just that, not only for the Kaz site but for the Dunn warehouse and the parcels along Water Street as well.           
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