Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Domino Effect

A house was demolished on Fairview Avenue to make way for a bigger and better Stewart's convenience store--a building that breaches the streetscape by sitting much closer to the sidewalk than the rest of the buildings on the block. Now the next two houses up from the not yet completed Stewart's building are for sale.

On the opposite side of the street, these two houses also have "For Sale" signs on their front lawns.

It seems the giant new Stewart's is not being universally embraced as the boon to the neighborhood that some thought it would be.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The Hunter's Moon reached its peak fullness tonight. Autumn is definitely upon us, and the meetings of City government continue.
  • Despite the fact that it is a holiday, the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets tonight, Monday, October 14, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. It is expected the due diligence regarding community solar will continue.
  • On Tuesday, October 15, the Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. and the full Council meets at 7:00 p.m. Both meetings take place in City Hall.
  • On Wednesday, October 16, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA) meets at 2:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall to continue its consideration of the proposed budget for the Youth Department.
  • At 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, October 16, the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meets at City Hall, followed at 6:00 p.m. by the regular monthly meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA meeting will begin with public hearings on three applications for variances: the first to convert a carriage house at 26 Warren Street into a residence; the second for an addition to an existing structure at 68 North Third Street; the third for an in-ground pool at 910 Columbia Street. The interpretation of the code regarding the self storage units proposed for the vacant lot at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard will also be the subject of a public hearing.
  • On Friday, October 18, the BEA (Board of Estimate and Apportionment) holds another workshop session, this time to consider non-departmental expenses. The meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 18, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the subdivision of the CSX parcel on South Front Street. Approval of the subdivision is essential for Hudson Development Corporation to close on its purchase of a portion of the CSX land to provide access to the Kaz warehouse site from Front Street.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Hudson Has a Dog Park!

Gossips has been reporting about the effort to get a dog park in Hudson since 2011. The very first Gossips post on the subject was published on June 1, 2011, but the discussion of a dog park for Hudson started long before that. The most recent Gossips post was on September 19, 2019, when I reported that the fence would be going up in two or three weeks. Since then, my (almost daily) communication about the progress of the dog park has been on the Hudson Dog Park Facebook page. Now it's time to tell the world--at least the part of the world that reads Gossips--that Hudson finally has a dog park!

Photo: Dorothy Heyl
The fence went up over the past three days. It was completed yesterday, Saturday, October 12, shortly after midday. The park is not actually open yet. It is still lacking signage, trash barrels, and poop bag dispensers--all of which should come in the next week. Because the park is lacking these essential elements, the outer gate is being kept locked. It is hoped that the dog park can be opened for regular use sometime next week. To keep up with the latest news about the dog park, ask to become a member of the Hudson Dog Park Facebook group

The dog park is getting exuberant reviews from the dogs who have been lucky enough to get a preview of the dog park.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Future for Hudson Upper Depot

In April, Hudson Upper Depot at 708 State Street made Gossips' list of Nine Not to Ignore. On Friday morning, Jason O'Toole, director of property management for the Galvan Foundation, was before the Historic Preservation Commission seeking a certificate of appropriateness for the restoration planned for the building.

The last time a plan for the historic depot came before the HPC was in November 2013, when Mark Schuman of Mountain View Masonry and Landscaping, the firm that had "disassembled" 900 Columbia Street earlier that year, was seeking a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the building and salvage the materials to resell them. He told the HPC that the owner, then Van Kleeck Tire, wasn't interested in maintaining the building and wanted to demolish it to "get a little more staging area." The HPC denied his request. Six years later, the HPC found what is being proposed for the building more acceptable.

The Galvan Foundation, which acquired the building two months after permission to demolish it had been denied, is now proposing a meticulous restoration of the building to prepare it for its new tenant: Upper Depot Brewery, a new project by award-winning brewer Aaron Maas. The windows and doors will be replicated by a master craftsman. The roofline, which is intact at the front of the building, will be restored and replicated for the back of the building.

O'Toole explained that, because load requirements prohibit putting a real slate roof on the building, a slate substitute in a charcoal gray color will be used for the roof. He indicated the snow guard, which can be seen in the historic photograph below, will be replicated.

Needed repairs to the masonry of the building will be made using brick from the orphan asylum across the street, which was demolished in March of this year. O'Toole maintained that the brick was "from the same era" as the brick in the depot. That's not exactly true.

Although the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad was established in 1838, this depot wasn't built until 1871. The Hudson Orphan Asylum was established in 1845. It is most likely that the building in which it was located already existed at that time, making the demolished building a few decades older than the depot. But since brick making methods probably didn't change much in those years, it matters little.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Happening This Weekend

Whether the holiday on Monday be Indigenous Peoples Day or Columbus Day, there is much going on in Hudson on this long weekend. 

On Saturday, October 12, and Sunday, October 13, Open Studio Hudson 2019 celebrates the vibrant and talented community of artists and artisans in Hudson. Open Studio Hudson is a self-guided tour, organized by Jane Ehrlich, of the studios of more than forty artists working in a wide range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, design, photography, and printmaking. The tour will enable both casual art enthusiasts and serious collectors to explore and experience the artistic process at their own pace.

The citywide event is free and open to the public. Studios are open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. To download a PDF version of the map shown below, click here.

On Sunday at 7 p.m., there will be a closing reception for artists and visitors at Time & Space Limited, 434 Columbia Street. A photographic installation by David McIntyre in collaboration with Open Studio Hudson will feature portraits of the artists, together with photo journalistic coverage of the event.

Also on Saturday, Friends of the Hudson City Cemetery continues its effort to revive a 19th-century tradition of viewing cemeteries as parks with Art and Fun Among the Tombstones. The event, which takes place in the cemetery from 1 to 4 p.m., features an art installation, curated by Katherine Kim, called Death About, a group exhibition of works on paper about death as a beginning or a sign of renewal, about death as cyclical. The works explore the essence of nature and life. 

The afternoon will also offer an audio guided tour of the cemetery, a "Seek and Find" challenge designed by Kelley Drahushak, music by "The Professor" played on wine glasses, cider and doughnuts provided by Samascott Farms, arts and crafts, cookies, and a raffle to raise money for new landscaping at the entrance to the cemetery. Vince Wallace, who worked tirelessly as a volunteer to maintain the sections of the cemetery dedicated to veterans, will be remembered at the event. 

The center of activity for Art and Fun Among the Tombstones will be the lawn just inside the main entrance to Cedar Park Cemetery.

Later on Saturday, from 5 to 7 at Hudson Hall, 327 Warren Street,  there is the opening of Photo + Synthesis, a visual art exhibition about the ecology, history, and landscape of the Hudson River Valley. The work includes 19th-century paintings, new commissions of landscape photography, and a special data visualization piece about tree science. 

In connection with the exhibition at Hudson Hall, a video by Eve Morgenstern called Tree Shadows will be projected from 6 to 9 p.m. just up the street at September Gallery, 449 Warren Street. The exhibition and the video are presented by FieldLight Arts. For more information, click here.

Public Housing on Both Sides of the River

Yesterday, HudsonValley360 reported on the current situation with the Catskill Housing Authority (CHA): "Full board for Hop-O-Nose, interim director on the horizon." The article reads in part:
"The Catskill Housing Authority has approved the contract, now it has gone to the Hudson Housing Authority for approval," [CHA chairman Sam] Aldi said.
The contract would allow for Tim Mattice, who oversees Bliss Towers in Hudson, to act as a part-time interim administrative director, Aldi said.
Mattice did not respond to requests for comment.
Had the reporter attended the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) meeting the previous night, it could have been reported that the board of HHA passed a resolution authorizing Mattice to serve 15 to 20 hours a month as a consultant for CHA, for which CHA will compensate HHA at a rate of $200 an hour. 

Commenting on the arrangement at the meeting on Wednesday, Mattice said the agreement "could work out as a long-term arrangement," called it "a good trial basis," and spoke of "potential synergy." 

Arriving at the meeting as the board was voting to approve the resolution, Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga, who has been a vocal critic of both housing authorities, asked, "What is that? Approving him to go to Catskill? Doesn't he have enough responsibilities here?" 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Another DRI Decision Made

The DRI Committee met on Tuesday. The most significant thing to report from the meeting is that a team has been chosen to carry out the connectivity project--a DRI project that combines "Complete Streets" improvements for the BRIDGE District (everything below Second Street, from the north side to the south side), streetscape enhancements for Cross Street, and rebuilding the Second Street stairs. That team is made up of Arterial, Street Plans Collaborative, and Creighton Manning.

Photo: Street Plans
Given the involvement of Street Plans Collaborative, a term we are likely to hear often in the coming months is Tactical Urbanism. On its website, Street Plans Collaborative makes the following statement: "Through the publication of six open-source guides and one full-length book, we have become the progenitors and stewards of the Tactical Urbanism movement." One those publications, Tactical Urbanism, Vol. 1, describes the movement in this way:
Improving the livability of our towns and cities commonly starts at the street, block, or building scale. While larger scale efforts do have their place, incremental, small-scale improvements are increasingly seen as a way to stage more substantial investments. This approach allows a host of local actors to test new concepts before making substantial political and financial commitments. Sometimes sanctioned, sometimes not, these actions are commonly referred to as "guerilla urbanism," "pop-up urbanism," "city repair," or D.I.Y. urbanism." For the moment, we like "Tactical Urbanism," which is an approach that features the following five characteristics:
  • A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
  • The offering of local solutions for local planning challenges;
  • Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
  • Low-risks, with a possibly high reward; and
  • The development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents.   
To learn more Tactical Urbanism, you watch a video called Tactical Urbanism: An Introduction, featuring Mike Lydon, who is one of the principals of Street Plans Collaborative. It's the first of a series of videos that explore the subject, all available on YouTube.

When the three groups that will be collaborating on the connectivity project made their presentation to the DRI Committee on September 24, the first person to speak was a representative from Arterial, who said they'd been exploring Hudson before the meeting, "holding ourselves back from brainstorming too hard as we walked around."

In Memoriam: Vince Wallace

Photo: Lance Wheeler
Gossips got word yesterday that Vince Wallace had died, just a few weeks short of his 88th birthday. Vince was familiar to most Hudsonians as the man who drove the Korean War era Jeep in every Memorial Day and Veterans Day parade. Frequent visitors to the cemetery know him as the man who faithfully tended all the sections of the cemetery dedicated to war veterans. It was Vince who, year after year, planted and watered the geraniums in the urns in the plot for Civil War veterans, the section of the cemetery to which he was particularly devoted, and in the urns on the pillars that flank the entrances to the cemetery on Ten Broeck Lane. Many's the time, while walking Joey in the cemetery, I encountered Vince going about his self-assigned duties tending the urns and looking after the graves of those who had served their country in war. 

The best obituary for Vince Wallace may be an interview William Shannon did with him in 2015 and published on Hudson River Zeitgeist: "From the Vantage Point of Major Vince Wallace."

Rest in peace, Major Wallace. Thank you for your service.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Tale of Charmed Coincidence

I walk my dog in the cemetery every morning. Joey and I are a familiar presence there, and I have a waving and greeting acquaintance with the all people who work there, as well as with the other people who walk there. I take Joey to the cemetery for walks because he has terrible leash aggression, and we are usually unlikely to encounter other dogs there. We prefer to walk in Cedar Park, the part of the cemetery designed in the late 19th-century, where the curving roads and gentle hills provide an interesting and varied walk for both dog and human. One day last week, however, there were other dogs in that part of the cemetery, so Joey and I went across the road to the older part, the Hudson City Cemetery.

I drove in, taking the road that runs parallel to Ten Broeck Lane and then turns and runs parallel to Columbia Turnpike, and parked at the curve just beyond the gravestone with the sundial. Joey and I then walked up toward the GAR cemetery and around to Fred W. Jones's mausoleum and then circled around back to the car. When we were leaving the cemetery, I noticed in passing that there was a tree branch on the road I had taken when entering the cemetery and wondered, "Was that there when I drove in?"

I didn't realize the magnitude of what had fallen onto the roadway until the next day. Nearly half the tree had broken away. It covered the entire path, and DPW had placed orange cones to block off the road. There was no way I could have entered the cemetery as I did with that obstructing the path. Seeing this, my wondering became, "Did that fall while I was here in the cemetery with Joey?"

This morning, I learned the whole story from one of the DPW workers in the cemetery--the one who is very fond of dogs and always stops to talk to Joey (and me) when our paths cross.

The tree this morning, after the clean up

He confirmed that I was in the cemetery when the tree fell. I had been seen by one of his coworkers. That person was traveling from the newer part of the cemetery to the older part in one of the open golf carts DPW uses to get around the vast acreage of our graveyard. Crossing Ten Broeck Lane, he spotted me and Joey and paused to wonder why I was in that part of the cemetery, because I normally walk on the other side. According to him, that pause was the only thing that kept him from being right under that enormous limb when it fell. He told the guy who was telling me the story, "Next time you see that woman, tell her she saved my life." 

That was a very nice thing to hear at the start of the day. It made me feel as if I had been, albeit unwittingly, an instrument for good.

The CSX Purchase Moves Ahead

Yesterday at noon, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation held a special meeting "to discuss closing decisions for the purchase of the CSX parcel." On Monday, Gossips reported on the circumstances that made the special meeting necessary and, yesterday morning, reported that Walter Chatham had resigned from the HDC board. 

The meeting yesterday took all of fourteen minutes. HDC chair Bob Rasner displayed a schedule (shown below) showing the timeline since the purchase and sale agreement (PSA) was signed and a deposit of $8,500 was made on March 21, 2019. The original deadline for closing was June 21, but the agreement has been amended twice. The current deadline for closing is October 31.  

Rasner explained that the due diligence period was over on October 15, and if HDC did not pull out of the deal by October 15, they could not pull out without forfeiting the $8,500 deposit. The risk was that the Planning Board would not approve the subdivision of the CSX parcel at its special meeting on October 18, and HDC would lose $8,500. He called for a motion not to terminate the contract on October 15--a motion that was made and seconded.

In the discussion that followed, Phil Forman said he supported the motion. "We're at risk for three days," he said. "There's nothing to support the idea we will not get a favorable decision from the Planning Board." Carolyn Lawrence concurred.

Seth Rogovoy wondered if they needed such a motion at all, suggesting that the only motion needed would be one to terminate. Steve Dunn responded that "getting the input of the whole board is important," adding, "We do not have a legal right to close at this time."

A voice vote was taken on "allowing the deal to proceed." All board members voted aye except for Rogovoy, who abstained. When the vote had been taken, Dunn declared, "It would have been a lot more interesting meeting if the Planning Board had not agreed to a special meeting."

Mike Tucker, CEO and president of CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), which is providing a $200,000 loan to HDC for the purchase, requested a pre-closing meeting with Rasner and Dunn "to make sure everything is in place."

It wasn't until the end of the meeting, just before he called for a motion to adjourn, that Rasner announced that Chatham, who chairs the Planning Board, had resigned from the HDC board. 

The special Planning Board meeting to consider the subdivision of the CSX parcel is scheduled for Friday, September 18, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

Monday Night at City Hall

This morning, Dan Udell published his video of Monday's informal Common Council meeting. It can be viewed here.

Trees and the settlement agreement with the federal government about ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance were major topics of discussion. On the latter topic, at 29:55 in the video, Peter Frank asks if the three less expensive plans for making City Hall ADA compliant would satisfy the terms of the settlement agreement. (Gossips published the four plans a week ago; the settlement agreement can be viewed here.) Council president Tom DePietro's first response to Frank's question was another question: "Do you think they do?" He went on to opine, "I don't think they do, but I'm not an expert."    

The answer to the question should have been yes. The RFP for the study that produced the four plans is very clear in its intent: "The City of Hudson seeks proposals from qualified Consultants for a study to evaluate the improvements necessary to provide access to City Hall consistent with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)." (The boldface was added by Gossips.) The firm chosen to undertake the task was Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson, the same firm that is doing the feasibility study for the John L. Edwards school building. If it were the case that the three less expensive plans did not satisfy the terms of the settlement agreement, the only explanation would be that Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson had not done what they were tasked with or that the settlement agreement sets the bar for compliance higher for Hudson than the generally understood ADA requirements. Neither of those things seems likely.