Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Depot District at the IDA

The Galvan Foundation's plans for the "Depot District" and its quest for PILOTs for the project were on the agenda of the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) at its meeting yesterday.

In February, Gossips reported on the terms of the PILOTs sought by Galvan. For 75 North Seventh Street, the building proposed to be mixed income, the PILOT agreement would be for thirty years, and the payment in lieu of taxes would be 32 percent of what would actually be owed in taxes. It still is not clear--not to to Gossips at least--if the assessment on which the property taxes are calculated would fluctuate during the thirty years or if it would remain the same as it was when the PILOT was initiated. 

Proposed for 75 North Seventh Street
For 708 State Street, which will be market rate apartments built with private financing, Galvan is seeking a PILOT for twenty-five years. For the first ten years, there would be a 75 percent reduction in property taxes. In the remaining years of the PILOT, the reduction would decrease incrementally until in Year 25 it would be 5 percent. 

Proposed for 708 State Street
The commercial spaces in both buildings would not to subject to the PILOT.

At yesterday's IDA meeting, it was asserted that 75 North Seventh Street would be: "Total fiscal benefit of $4,434,030 to the City of Hudson and Schools at a cost of $2,719,284 [in forgone property taxes], representing a 1.63 to 1 benefit to cost ratio."   

For 708 State Street, the following cost-benefit ratio was presented: "Total fiscal benefit of $5,888,751 to the City of Hudson and Schools at cost of $2,811,728, presenting a benefit to cost ratio of 2.09 to 1. 

In the discussion that followed that presentation, Rebecca Wolff asked why a PILOT was being requested for the market rate building, suggesting that the developer was "looking for more profit." Dan Kent, vice president of initiatives for Galvan, told her they needed to demonstrate income for bank financing, but without a PILOT there would to no profit and no financing.

Wolff also asked about the commitment Galvan had made in March 2018 to create 29 units of affordable housing in ten buildings it owned throughout the city. In November 2020, when one of those buildings--356 Union Street--went on the market, a building which represented seven of those 29 units, Gossips reviewed the commitment made in 2018 and the progress that had been made: "29 Units, 31 Months Later." Not much has changed since then November except 356 Union Street now has a new owner. 

Responding to Wolff questioning, Kent said a number of them had been completed and stressed that it had been "an entirely voluntary commitment." He promised to provide an "update on that initiative."

City treasurer Heather Campbell noted that Galvan has a large number of vacant properties in Hudson and asked: "Why is there not an effort to restore these before creating 'this housing empire'?" Kent replied: "It's a process. It's hard to do all of them at once." He assured her that the restoration of existing properties was going forward at the same time. He also said the Galvan Foundation "needs to pursue a larger scale project to support the creation of really low-income housing."

Wolff asked specifically about 501 Union, a building she said has been vacant "for a very long time." She asked Kent, "Why has that building not been pursued? . . . Why is it not on the radar when there's a housing crisis?" Kent responded by saying it was a matter of "how fast we can get something online and how much it will cost."

The building at 501 Union Street came before the Historic Preservation Commission in
October 2020. A certificate of appropriateness was sought to replace the current temporary replacement windows with permanent windows, remove the fire escape, and add shutters to the Union Street side of the building. Walter Chatham, who was representing Galvan at the HPC, explained that replacing the windows was a necessary preliminary step to beginning the interior renovation, which he said involved creating studio and one bedroom apartments. Yesterday, when Wolff asked about the income mix proposed for the building, Kent said it had not yet been determined.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been eight new cases of COVID-19. Mercifully, no has died from the virus since yesterday. The CCDOH is reporting five more active cases today than yesterday, suggesting that since yesterday only three more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are 69 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but there are two fewer hospitalized. The number is the ICU remains the same.   

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.4 percent and a seven-day average of 2.1 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 3.4 percent and the seven-day average is 1.9 percent.

Shared Streets 2021

At the Tourism Board meeting last night, Tamar Adler, a member of the board, presented what she called "Pedestrian Streets Economic Data." The information came from data collected by urban designer Jeff Speck, who as director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007 presided over The Mayors' Institute on City Design and the Governors' Institute on Community Design. The numbers demonstrate the economic benefits of pedestrians--both in savings to a community and in revenue. The following is quoted from the data Alder presented:
  • City services are more expensive with cars than with walkers and public transit users.
    • People driving costs a city, in public services like policing and ambulances, on average $9.20 
    • People taking public transit costs a city, on average, $1.50
    • People walking costs the city, on average, $0.01 
  • Pedestrians spend more money than drivers.
    • In downtown Miami, a two-block stretch, pedestrian street saw a year over year increase in revenue of 25 to 30 percent by closing to cars except for access to a condo garage, according to Street Plans
    • Other cities have seen increases of up to 65 percent more
  • Pedestrian-friendly streets lead to more employment
    • In Dublin, a redesigned, pedestrian-friendly street saw a 300 percent increase in employment
The conclusion drawn from these statistics was that, overall, biking and walking provide an estimated return on investment (ROI) of $11.80 for every $1 invested. Adler also made the point that, in Hudson, sales tax in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2020 went up $39,000 and $61,000 respectively from 2019.

Photo: JD Urban|Hudson Hall
Adler proposed that in 2021, Warren Street be closed on weekends to all cars except for those picking up purchases from restaurants, food shops, wine stores, and other shops. The prohibition would not apply to emergency vehicles, trucks making deliveries, or the cars of residents of the street. 

It appears that in 2021 the visioning and management of Shared Streets will be taken over by the Tourism Board. Last night, a subcommittee, made up of Kate Treacy, Hannah Black, and Tamar Adler, was formed to pursue the planning for the summer. Assurances were made that Peter Spear, of Future Hudson, and Kaja Kuehl, of Design for Six Feet, were "poised and ready to be part of 2021." There was some question if Hudson Hall, which played a major role in implementing the Shared Streets program in 2020, would again be involved. Tambra Dillon, executive director of Hudson Hall, noted that staffing at Hudson Hall was down 50 percent, owing to the pandemic, but said they could "step up or step down"; they were just looking for direction. Dillon continued, "Hudson Hall wants to help the city recover and rebuild as much as we can, but we're not urban planners."

Tourism Board member Cece Graham expressed concern about funding, since the lodging tax money had been, in her words, "taken from us." She shared an idea for generating revenue for the Tourism Board, which she attributed to Larissa Thomas, who for a few months at the beginning of 2012 served as alderman for the First Ward. The idea was to create "memorabilia"--souvenir stuff, tourist swag-- that would brand Hudson and could be sold in the abandoned kiosk in Seventh Street Park. Particular items mentioned were T-shirts, key chains, slippers, and maps. The concept met with such comments as "Great!" and "Awesome idea!" from her colleagues on the board. Inevitably, whales were mentioned. First Ward alderman Jane Trombley spoke of the long tradition of gear with the iconic image of a black Lab sold by the Black Dog Tavern in Martha's Vineyard and said Hudson now had "destination juice." Another subcommittee was formed, consisting of Chris McManus and Hannah Black, to pursue this idea.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Pop-Up Vaccination Clinic in Hudson

A press release today from Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, contained this information:
On Saturday, March 6, New York State has scheduled a pop-up vaccination clinic designed for the minority and underserved community. These individuals may not be aware of their vaccine options or have no way of traveling to a vaccine site, said clinic organizer Bill Hughes.
Community leaders are calling individuals from lists such sources as the 1199 census tract, which identifies Hudson's 2nd Ward and part of the 4th Ward as the poorer locations in the city, Hughes explained. The pop-up clinic is open to those 65 and over. Those who wish to participate are advised to contact their county supervisor or Bill Hughes.
"Our intention is to saturate the 2nd Ward with calls, then move on to the 4th. You don't want people not getting the shot because they don't know about it," said Hughes.
"Covid impacted communities of color at a much higher rate, and it exposed the inequalities that have existed in our nation's health care system for decades," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "From day one we have made the fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine a top priority, but two issues still exist, especially in our Black and Brown communities: accessibility and skepticism. These pop-up sites allow us to work with the local leaders and trusted voices in those communities that were hit the hardest by Covid."
This is a New York State-sponsored event, supported by Columbia County and the City of Hudson, New York State is providing the vaccine doses out of its supply, not as part of Columbia County's regular allotment.
Initially, when Hughes realized this need was not being met locally, he reached out to the governor's office, which said the state could do it. After researching several locations, the Hudson Firehouse at 77 North 7th Street was approved by Mayor Kamal Johnson as the clinic site--the City of Hudson will also provide the necessary workers. At the same time, it was determined that the Columbia County Department of Health would provide the vaccinators. The county Office for the Aging will provide transportation, with buses to be stationed in front of Hudson Terrace and Bliss Towers.
"This is a total nonpartisan effort," said Hughes. "This virus doesn't care about anyone's politics. I thank Chairman Murell, Mayor Johnson, and everyone else who has had a hand in making this happen."
The press release did not provide contact information for the supervisors, so Gossips will:  
Bill Hughes, who was Fourth Ward supervisor until 2018, can be contacted by email here.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since Saturday, there have been twenty new cases of COVID-19 and another death. The number of active cases being reported today is five more than Saturday, suggesting that fourteen more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are two fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than Saturday. The number hospitalized with the virus remains the same, but one fewer is in the ICU.  

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 4.0 percent and seven-day average of 2.2 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.0 percent and the seven-day average is 1.8 percent.

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

It's the first week of March. The vernal equinox is less than three weeks away. Daylight saving time returns in just two weeks. The Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine has been approved, and more and more vaccine is becoming available. The American Rescue Plan was passed in the House of Representatives in the wee hours of Saturday morning, which, if passed by the Senate, could bail Hudson out of its fiscal crisis. Optimism abounds.  

Meanwhile, here's what's happening in Hudson this week.
  • On Monday, March 1, the Tourism Board meets at 7:00 p.m. It is expected the board will continue its review of projects it funded last year and its efforts to encourage marginalized communities to propose projects. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Tuesday, March 2, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) meets at 1:00 p.m. At its meeting on January 19, the IDA began hearing the request from the Galvan Foundation for PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes) for the two buildings proposed for North Seventh Street, the area of the city being called "the Depot District." It is expected that the review and discussion of the requests will continue at Tuesday's meeting. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.   
  • At 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, Mayor Kamal Johnson holds a public hearing on proposed Local Law No. A of 2021, which amends the city charter to provide additional paid sick leave to City employees. Click here to participate in the hearing, which takes place on Zoom.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, the Conservation Advisory Council holds its monthly meeting. Since the CAC has declared 2021 to be the Year of the Tree, expect a discussion of the proposed tree ordinance and the grant-funded Tree Inventory and Urban Forestry Management Plan. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • Also on Tuesday, March 2, at 6:00 p.m., the Hudson City School District holds its second Community Budget Workshop. According to the HCSD website, this appears not to be a Zoom meeting but rather an in-person gathering. The website indicates it will be held in " HHS Room 22C across from the library," and it will be followed by a meeting of the Board of Education.   
  • On Wednesday, March 3, the Common Council ad hoc committee tasked with dealing with the issue of police data will meet at 6:00 p.m. The issue is this resolution passed by the Common Council in January, which is aimed at racial profiling and requires the police chief to provide information about every "traffic, vehicle, and pedestrian stop"--information that includes, among other things, "the location of the incident and the racial and gender identity of the motorist or pedestrian involved." The link to the Zoom meeting should be provided on the City of Hudson website prior to the meeting. Scroll down to the calendar. 
  • Also on Wednesday, March 3, at 6:00 p.m., the Affordable Housing and Development Committee of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners holds its regular weekly meeting to continue planning for public housing in Hudson. The options the committee has been entertaining are:
    • rehabbing Bliss Towers;
    • demolishing Bliss Towers and relocating tenants to new, smaller buildings constructed on the site;
    • demolishing Columbia Apartments (the low rise) and building something new there;
    • constructing new buildings, smaller than those proposed in 2018, on State Street across from Bliss Towers.
What was proposed in 2018

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Hudson's Painting of Washington by Henry Ary

From time to time, I like to check the recent scans at It's rare when I'm not rewarded with something of interest. Yesterday, I discovered this 1978 photograph of Mayor Paul J. Colwell and his cabinet, posing together in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

I don't know what constituted the mayor's "cabinet." Perhaps it was the commissioners he appointed. It seems to be the right number for that. Except for Colwell at the center right, who is recognized because of his portrait which now hangs in the Council Chamber, I have no idea who the people in the picture are. As is often the case, what is interesting to me is what is in the background: in this case, the Henry Ary painting of George Washington, inspired by Gilbert Stuart's 1796 Lansdowne portrait of Washington.

Ary painted his portrait of Washington on spec, sometime between 1841 and 1843, hoping to sell it to the City of Hudson. Gossips has told the story elsewhere of how the Common Council finally voted to buy the painting in December 1845. Of course, in 1845, there was no City Hall. The Council met in a rented room in the building located at 364 Warren Street, and the portrait was installed there. Ten years later, when City Hall (now Hudson Hall) was completed, the portrait was installed there.

When City Hall moved to 520 Warren Street in 1962, the portrait moved, too, and it's been there ever since. 

In the late 1990s, the City invested $16,866 in restoring Ary's portrait of Washington. The first step in the restoration, according a report from the restorers, which Gossips had a chance to see back in 2012, was removing "surface dirt, grime and a heavy nicotine smoke layer." Back in the day, it seems all the members of the Council smoked, and they smoked during Council meetings. The photograph of Mayor Colwell and his cabinet documents the state of the portrait before its restoration.

Lady Gaga's Dog Walker

Many of us heard the news that last Wednesday night, in Los Angeles, Lady Gaga's dog walker was shot and two of her French bulldogs--Gustav and Koji--were stolen. Yesterday, CNN reported that the dogs had been returned safely by a woman who said she had found them, and the LAPD is reporting that the dog walker, whose name is Ryan Fischer, is in stable condition, recovering from wounds that were not life-threatening. 

What gives this story a Hudson connection is that on Friday, Page Six reported that Fischer "lists himself on social media as being from Hudson, N.Y.": "Who is Ryan Fischer, Lady Gaga's dog walker targeted in shooting?" 

The photograph below shows Fischer with two of Lady Gaga's dogs, Koji and Asia. Lady Gaga has three French bulldogs: Asia, Gustav, and Koji. 

Photo: Instagram
To learn more about Ryan Fischer and his life in Hudson, see Aliya Schneider's article in the Register-Star: "Lady Gaga's recovering dog walker a former Hudson resident."

Saturday, February 27, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been twelve new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is twelve fewer than yesterday, suggesting that 24 more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are ten more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized and the in ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Wednesday, February 24. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.2 percent and a seven-day average of 1.9 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.5 percent and the seven-day average is 1.9 percent.

In the Moments Before the Plunge

I knew better images from today's Oakdale Plunge would find their way to Gossips, and here they are, capturing the three teams that in Gossips' opinion had the most memorable costumes.

The Hudson Area Library History Room

Photo: Trixie's List
 The Zoomers

Photo: Trixie's List

 Herd Immunity

Photo: Trixie's List

The Plungers Have Plunged!

The Oakdale Plunge 2021 is over, having raised more than $37,000 for the Youth Department and the Hudson Fire Department's Water Rescue and Dive Team. These screen captures will have to do until better photographs start appearing on Facebook, but here are Gossips' favorite teams.

The team representing the History Room at the Hudson Area Library, dressed in 19th-century bathing costumes.

And the Zoomers, dressed for corporate Zoom meetings, with suit and tie on the top and boxer shorts and fuzzy slippers on the bottom.

Congratulations to all who took the plunge, and to Rich Volo, a.k.a. Trixie Starr, who provided the plunge by plunge commentary.

Watch the Plunge!

The Oakdale Plunge happens today at 11:00 a.m. 

There will be no spectators on the beach this year, but you can watch the livestream of the event here. If you want to make certain you don't miss your favorite team diving into the icy waters of Oakdale Lake, check out the detailed schedule of plungers here.

As always, the Oakdale Plunge benefits the Hudson Youth Department and the Hudson Fire Department's Water Rescue and Dive Team.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Political Scene in Hudson

The Hudson City Democratic Committee (HCDC) is in disarray. Monica Byrne resigned not long after being appointed to the committee in January. Steve Dunn, Virginia Martin, and John Kane resigned after the HCDC's February 16 meeting, although Kane didn't make his resignation official until February 23. Kate Treacy, who chairs the committee, now made up of Abdus Miah, Dewan Sarowar, Shershah Mizan, Billy Hughes, Verity Smith, and herself, was quoted in the Register-Star as saying, "I'm really optimistic about the opportunities that the HCDC has to rebuild the committee in a more inclusive way."

Meanwhile, candidates endorsed by the Working Families Party keep announcing their intentions to run. Claire Cousin is running for First Ward supervisor, Tiffany Garriga is challenging Abdus Miah for Second Ward supervisor, and today, Michael Hofmann announced he is running for city treasurer, with the endorsement of the WFT. What follows is the press release from Hofmann received by Gossips late this afternoon.

Michael Hofmann proudly announces his candidacy for the 2021 election for Treasurer of the City of Hudson, NY.
"I am thrilled to take the next step in public service and leadership here in Hudson," Hofmann states. "This campaign is an enormous opportunity for us to take a fresh and critical look at our finances and operations, and engage in constructive public discussion about how Hudson can recover from its pandemic-induced losses."
Hofmann looks forward to using his campaign to share plans to upgrade city technological infrastructure, improve the accessibility of Hudson's financial data, and develop new revenue streams for the city. He notes, "Our budget is inherently a moral document--like all other work of elected officials, we have a responsibility to taxpayers to approach city finances both holistically and diligently, with an eye toward justice and equity."
Hofmann is the co-founder of Citizens of Hudson, a social justice initiative focused on project-based progressive action and increasing local civic engagement. A fierce advocate for racial justice and the welfare of Hudson's workers, Hofmann is grateful to be endorsed by the Working Families Party (WFP):
"WFP is excited to endorse Michael Hofmann for Treasurer of Hudson. In 2020, Hofmann co-founded the social justice coalition Citizens of Hudson, which advocates for police reform and affordable housing through research and policy development. Co-author of the Hudson Breathe Act, Hofmann is a bold supporter of racial and economic justice. His campaign, if successful, would be an important move for the city towards more inclusive and transparent budgeting that supports all residents."
--Karen Scharff, Chair, Capital District WFP
Hofmann's professional background is in non-profit arts development and administration, and he currently serves as the Development Operations Manager for the Fisher Center at Bard. "I know my diverse skill set and experience in fundraising, grant management, and communications will prove to be valuable assets as Treasurer," Hofmann adds. "I aim to use my expertise to make Hudson's finances easier to understand, so that more citizens can be knowledgeable about and participate meaningfully in the budgeting process."
If elected, Hofmann would be Hudson's first openly queer Treasurer.
And so ends the press release. 

News from the Ad Hoc Committee Meetings

There were two ad hoc committee meetings on Wednesday: one having to do with selling City-owned buildings; the other concerned with developing a solar farm on City-owned property; both seeking to find new revenue for the City. 

Council president Tom DePietro began the meeting about selling buildings by defining his goal for the meeting: "to identify one or two or three buildings that we can move on selling now." He then asked Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, to review the conditions for selling City-owned property. There must be a three-quarters vote of the Council; properties must be sold at public auction, or they may be sold in a private sale provided that the sale price is fair market value. 

Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) wanted to know which of the eighty-one properties DePietro discovered were owned by the City of Hudson would be suitable for development as housing. DePietro answered, "Very few." Wolff expressed the desire not to sell anything that could be put into a land bank. DePietro responded, "Right now, we're trying to deal with a crisis." He said he wanted to make it a contingency of any sale that the building would not be off the tax rolls.

The two buildings DePietro had in mind as candidates for sale were 1 North Front Street, the former Washington Hose firehouse; and 10-12 Warren Street, the location of the Hudson Daycare Center. 

Of 1 North Front Street, DePietro said there were two tenants--the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce--and neither paid rent. He said the building cost $6,000 a year to maintain, and it represented $21,368 in foregone property taxes each year. Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward) pointed out that the foregone taxes included those to the county and the school district, and only about a quarter of the amount cited would actually come to the City. 

Later in the discussion it was revealed that the Chamber of Commerce pays $850 a month in rent, and there is a lease that runs t0 November 2022 with an option to renew for two additional six-year periods. HDC also has a twelve-year lease which runs to November 2022, with no rent payment, because HDC contributed $150,000 toward the renovation of the building back  in 2010. DePietro alleged that "HDC has not lived up to their part of the bargain," but Gossips recently reviewed the lease agreement between HDC and the City, and it's not clear what DePietro meant.

Wolff opined, "It would be very unwise to sell to the highest bidder without being thoughtful about what it means for the city." She mentioned its location, next to the soon to be renovated plaza to Promenade Hill. She also mentioned the vacant lot across the street, which is owned by HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency), and asserted that whatever happened at these two sites would have a significant impact on the city. "It's such an important lot right there. It could be a real disaster." Her arguments were not dissimilar to those put forth by the First and Third Ward aldermen back in 2008 when they succeeded in blocking the sale of the building for development as an ice cream parlor and fast-food restaurant.

Regarding 10-12 Warren Street, DePietro said there were two tenants: the Hudson Daycare Center and a private citizen. He reported that maintaining the building cost the City $15,000 a year. He also said that the building was recently inspected, and it needed $250,000 in repairs in order to meet the requirements of the State Department of Education, money that the City would have to invest in the building. He also reported the the daycare center was looking for a new location and suggested the center might lose its certification because it hasn't been open during the pandemic.

The possibility of selling 429 Warren Street was also mentioned. 

The problem with this building is that, although it no longer houses the office of the city court clerk, it does house the code enforcement office. A new location for code enforcement would have to be found before the building could be sold. DePietro suggested the committee "look at what code enforcement needs and where we can put them."

Also mentioned in the discussion were "two significant vacant properties": the lot at North Fourth and State streets and the lot at North Seventh and Washington streets, the parcel that the Galvan Foundation is interested in acquiring, presumably to provide parking for its proposed Depot District development. Wolff reiterated that some properties should be allocated for affordable housing and put into a land bank." DePietro responded, "Why would we put revenue that we desperately need . . . why would we put it into some affordable housing plan?" Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) opined, "We need to look for properties that will be most profitable for the City."

DePietro concluded, "I guess we'll need another meeting before we can move to next steps."

More progress was made in the ad hoc committee on developing a solar farm. As DePietro explained to the committee, the City owns 62 acres on North Second Street. The portion of the parcel on the west side of the street is unusable; the portion on the east side of the street is what is being considered as the site of a solar array. DePietro explained that the site is not visible from North Second Street. It is visible from Charles Williams Park--up on the bluff north of the park.

The plan is to lease the land to a solar energy company, and the City would benefit from reduced electricity costs, as well as rent for the land paid by the solar energy company. Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) declared a solar array "the highest and best use" for the parcel, adding, "I'm not sure what could be developed there. To provide infrastructure would cost way too much money."

It was decided that the companies Rosenthal had spoken with back in September 2019 would be contacted about the proposed project, and that the members of the committee--DePietro, Rosenthal, Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), and Calvin Lewis (Third Ward)--would walk the site on Sunday.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been nine new cases of COVID-19. There are 21 fewer active cases being reported today than yesterday, suggesting that there are now thirty more people considered to be recovering from the virus. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine today is nine more than yesterday. One more county resident is hospitalized with the virus today, and two are in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Wednesday, February 24. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.2 percent and a seven-day average of 2.1 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.5 percent and the seven-day average is 1.9 percent.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been ten new cases of COVID-19. The CCDOH is reporting eighteen fewer active cases today than yesterday, suggesting that 28 more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are eighteen more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but there is one fewer hospitalized, and no one is in the ICU. There has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since yesterday. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.8 percent and a seven-day average of 2.3 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.9 percent and the seven-day average is also 1.9 percent.

Malcolm Nance to Discuss Domestic Terrorism

On Saturday, February 27, at 4:00 p.m., Malcolm Nance, bestselling author and media commentator on terrorism, intelligence, and insurgency, will be part of a discussion titled "Domestic Terrorism: The Battle in Our Backyard." Hosted by the grassroots advocacy group IndivisibleColumbiaNY, the discussion will examine current activities in our area of white supremacy groups such as the Oath Keepers, Patriot Front, and Proud Boys. 

Cheryl Roberts, executive director of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice and chair of the Columbia County Women's Alliance, a program sponsor, will moderate the discussion, which will include time for questions and answers as well as talking about action steps that citizens can take to monitor and combat these groups.

The program is a response to recruitment signs for white supremacy groups that have appeared in the Hudson Valley. Chatham resident Michael Richardson will add comments on the creation of, a community watch group composed of social justice activists who monitor hate groups and other extremists through the Upper Hudson Valley and Taconic Hills and expose their activities to the public, the media, and law enforcement.

The press release announcing this event reads in part:
Racially and ethnically motivated terrorism--especially from white supremacists--is "on the rise and spreading geographically," according to a report that the U.S. State Department issued in early July 2020. This year, the most alarming manifestation of these groups' growing impact was seen in the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. The storming of the Capitol included dozens of law enforcement officers and active and retired military members and points to an infiltration of white supremacy into those sectors. The activities of domestic terrorist groups have targeted immigrants, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, the electoral process, feminists, and other "perceived enemies" of white supremacy. In 2019, data gathered by the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) showed that the number of white nationalist groups rose for the second straight year, a 55 percent increase since 2017. The report determined that a growing sector of white supremacists call themselves "accelerationists" and believe that mass violence is necessary to bring about the collapse of our pluralistic society. At the time of the report, the SPLC identified 940 hate groups in the U.S.
You can register for this free event, which takes place on Saturday, February 27, at 4:00 p.m., at

Thinking About Architecture

Sometime last week, this article appeared in my Facebook feed, posted by a friend: "Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture." It's not a new article, although I readily admit not to have seen it before. It was published in October 2017. Another friend, more learned than I when it comes to architecture, commented that the article "massively oversimplifies." Still, since the initial proposal from Benchmark Development for a new building to replace the ill-fated 1970s strip mall at Warren and First streets inspired some discussion about "faux historicism" versus buildings that reflect their own time, I thought the article was worth sharing. 

This passage from the article has particular relevance for us here in Hudson.
For about 2,000 years, everything human beings built was beautiful, or at least unobjectionable. The 20th century put a stop to this, evidenced by the fact that people often go out of their way to vacation in "historic" (read: beautiful) towns that contain as little postwar architecture as possible.
That statement certainly goes a long way toward explaining the appeal of Hudson, where, in the beginning of the city's renaissance, people regularly cited the historic architecture as the thing that attracted them to Hudson. 

Then there is this statement, which I hope everyone remembers as a design for 11 Warren Street is developed and reviewed:
Good buildings recede seamlessly into their surroundings.
These two takeaways may be most compelling, but entire article is recommended reading. 

The Story of the Cottonwood Tree

Yesterday, Gossips published the news that the cottonwood tree across from the train station was being cut down. Last night, I was contacted by Ben Fain, who wanted to explain why he had made the difficult decision to have the tree removed.

Fain said it was the opinion of the landscape architect he was working with, as well as of three arborists he consulted, that the tree had to come down. It had been struck by lightning a year or so ago; there was evidence of the strike along the east side of the tree. He was advised that its continued survival was precarious. It was already starting to fall down. If it fell, it would fall to the west, taking out the powerlines. Given that information, he reluctantly decided to take it down.

Fain pointed out that the tree was not a cottonwood but a poplar and assured Gossips that the landscape plan for the site included a lot of trees. He jokingly said he thought he was spending more on trees than on the building.