Sunday, February 5, 2023

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The bitter, record-shattering cold is behind us, and the high temperatures for the week ahead promise to be in the 40s. In this the seventh week of winter with six more to go, here is what's happening.
  • On Monday, February 6, the Housing Trust Fund Board meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.  
  • On Tuesday, February 7, Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency (HCDPA) meets at 4:30 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely. 
  • Also on Tuesday, February 7, the Conservation Advisory Council meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
  • On Friday, February 10, the Historic Preservation Commission meets at 10:00 a.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
  • Also on Friday, February 10, at 4:00 p.m., Mayor Kamal Johnson holds a public hearing on the proposed sidewalk law, which was passed by the Common Council on January 28 with the minimum number of votes required. The public hearing takes place in person only at City Hall.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

A Cemetery Mystery

In the past, Gossips posts have answered a couple of intriguing questions that arose regarding the Hudson City Cemetery: Why are there visible skeletal remains in the Rossman mausoleum? and Who is buried in Fred W. Jones's tomb? 

Recently another apparent cemetery mystery was brought to Gossips' attention: a brand-new tombstone in the Gifford family plot. 

The plot was established in 1863, after the death of Edward Gifford, younger brother of Hudson River School painter Sanford Robinson Gifford. Edward Gifford, who served in the 128th New York Infantry Regiment, a volunteer regiment from Columbia and Dutchess counties during the Civil War, died of typhoid fever in New Orleans, after being captured during the Siege of Port Hudson and escaping by swimming across the Mississippi River. Edward was the first to be buried in the family plot--a site chosen by Sanford Gifford for its unusually beautiful view of the Berkshire Mountains. Sanford Gifford is himself buried in the family plot, along with his wife, Mary, as are his parents, Elihu and Eliza Gifford. 

A few weeks ago, Gossips received word of the new tombstone. The information came from Peter Jung, who in 2010 spearheaded the repair and restoration of the Gifford family plot and has since acted as steward of the site. 

In his capacity as self-appointed steward and guardian of the Gifford family plot, Jung visits the site often, and on a recent visit, he discovered a new stone, made of elegant white marble and meticulously carved to replicate the design of the original stones.

The artist Bill Sullivan resided in Hudson for the last eight years of his life, settling here in 2002. I did not know Sullivan personally, but I knew of him, and I recall knowing that he once told a friend of mine, with some pique, "Outside of Hudson, I'm famous." 

During the time he lived in Hudson, Sullivan was represented by the Carrie Haddad Gallery, so in my quest to learn how his tombstone had come to be in the Gifford family plot, I contacted Haddad, who put me in touch with Sullivan's longtime partner, Jaime Manrique. Manrique was good enough to provide Gossips with this information:
Long before Bill Sullivan moved to Hudson, N.Y. (roughly the last 10 years of his life) he loved the work of Mr. Sanford Gifford. In fact, in a few of his late paintings Bill paid homage to the places that Mr. Gifford had painted in the 19th century. Whenever we drove by the Hudson cemetery, Bill would remark "Gifford is buried there."
After Bill died, I got the idea that he would be very happy to have his ashes lay near a painter he admired so much. I inquired with the Hudson City Cemetery and was told that no one in the Gifford family had been buried in the family plot for a very long time and that they thought perhaps there were no descendants of Sanford Gifford alive. So I asked if I could buy a plot to inter Bill Sullivan's ashes near his hero. The process of laying the tombstone took several years as we were told that the tombstone had to be in the style, and the same kind of marble, of the historical section of the cemetery.
Sullivan died in October 2010. In January and February 2011, the Albany Institute of History and Art honored his life and work with the exhibition Bill Sullivan: A Landscape Artist Remembered. In 2006, AIHA presented a major retrospective of his work, featuring fifty landscape paintings, which included iconic views of New York State as well as images of the mountains, volcanoes, and waterfalls of the equatorial Andes in South America. There are six paintings by Sullivan in AIHA's collection, among them Twilight at Olana and View from Olana.    

Sullivan, Bill. Twilight at Olana. 1990. Albany Institute of History and Art
Sullivan, Bill. View from Olana. 1995. Albany Institute of History and Art.

Friday, February 3, 2023

News of Bluehawk Academy

This morning, there was a press conference to announce the launch of Bluehawk Academy, which happened on February 1. Subsequent to the press conference, Hudson City School District issued a press release about the new program, which is described as "a pilot school within the Hudson Junior/Senior High School designed to emphasize the strengths and interests of students to prepare them for the real world."

The following are excerpts from the press release:
This non-traditional pathway for students grade 7-12 will be centered around learning opportunities with local businesses, artisans and individuals who make a positive difference in the community. The Bluehawk Academy will start with 34 scholars who will have flexible schedules based on the strongpoints and passions built and monitored by three new staff members: Megan Amendola, a career guidance counselor; Michelle Donnelley, a former social worker; and Larry Walker, a professional focused in restorative justice.
"The program will be centered around generating employability, establishing work ethic, and developing life skills and techniques to become successful in life after high school," Superintendent Dr. Lisamarie Spindler said. . . .
There was and will be an application and interview process for interested scholars and mentors and/or internship locations to take part in the Bluehawk Academy. Junior High School students in the Bluehawk Academy will be involved in learning opportunities within a similar timeframe as the normal school day, while Senior High School students will have more flexibility in their schedule, similar to a college schedule or workday.
The mentors who will be serving as the supervisors for the Academy's students have bought into the mission the district is trying to establish, to strengthen the skills and pursue the interests of scholars in preparation for future opportunities in and around Hudson. These individuals and businesses have taken the time to fill out applications to describe their goals for the scholars, where they see the program going, and their passion for bridging the gap between the district and the community.
Such vendors include Columbia County Youth Bureau Executive Director Daniel Grandinetti, Commissioner of the Columbia County Department of Social Services Robert Gibson, Michael Molinski of Molinski Photography, Circle of Queens Inc., CEO of Blake's Design and manager of three pediatric offices Akilah Blake, Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood Inc., and well over a dozen more businesses and/or individuals.
Fields in which Bluehawk Academy students will have the chance to study and work in include business, local government, youth recreation, marketing, musical and theatrical arts, technology, creative writing, and more. . . .

Where to Be Tomorrow Morning

This morning's New York Times newsletter included this article: "Why Eggs Cost So Much." It explained that inflation, avian flu, and war account not only for the high price but also for the shortage of eggs. But take heart. Starting tomorrow, at the Hudson Farmers' Market's Winter-Spring Market, you will find reasonably priced, wonderfully fresh eggs from healthy local chickens for sale every week from Martin Farms and every other week from Scarecrow Farm or North Star Farm.

Tomorrow morning the Hudson Farmers' Market begins its winter-spring indoor run at the Hudson Elks Lodge, 201 Harry Howard Avenue. More than twenty-five vendors will be present, offering such things as veggies, fruit, meat, baked goods, prepared foods, crafts, and more. And each Saturday, there will be live music.

The market opens at 10:00 a.m., after the bitter cold and dreadful wind chill is expected to subside, and stays open until 1:00 p.m. For more information about the market and the vendors, click here.

Of Interest

This morning, on WAMC's The Roundtable, Sarah LaDuke spoke with filmmaker Geoffrey Hug and Mahmuda Alam, one of the students featured in the documentary, about Hudson, America: Six 1st-Generation Immigrants 2016-2022. The conversation can be heard here.

The documentary will screened tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. at Hudson Hall. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Hudson and Formula Businesses

Last night, the Common Council Legal Committee took up the subject of the city's current law restricting formula businesses: Article XIV of the city code, "Community Character Preservation."

Early on in the discussion, Councilmember Ryan Wallace (Third Ward), who is a member of the committee, talked about the exceptions to the current law: (a) federally or New York State chartered banking, savings and loan, and trust institutions; (b) pharmacies and drugstores; (c) stores where the overwhelming majority of the foods sold are unprocessed or minimally processed and intended for preparation and consumption by the purchasers at another location--in other words, grocery stores; and (d) convenience stores that also sell gasoline. In this context, Wallace mentioned CityTarget, as if suggesting that such stores should also be exemptions to the city's formula business ban. That idea didn't seem to get much traction.

Councilmember Margaret Morris (First Ward), who chairs the committee, expressed the opinion that the intent of the law was OK, but it didn't "cover a lot of possibilities." She cited Westerlind, which opened its fourth store in Kingston before its store at 419 Warren Street opened. (The law defines a chain as having four or more establishments, hence the Hudson store should not have been allowed to open.)

Morris spoke of problems of enforcement and identifying businesses that are chains, as well as the question of what might happen if there were to be a chain that originated in Hudson. She didn't mention the question of what happens when Hudson is the fourth location, as is the case with Savona's Trattoria, and the business subsequently establishes additional locations. Morris said she would work on proposing some revisions to the existing law, saying that the needed changes to the law were "mainly a question of tightening up."

Councilmember Mohammed Rony (Second Ward), also a committee member, said he had found a resource about formula retail law. That resource, which is a publication of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, can be found here.

The Groundhog Predicts

Earlier this morning, Punxsutawney Phil came out of his burrow and saw this shadow, indicating there will be six more weeks of winter.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

George Washington Hung Here

The alterations at City Hall to achieve ADA compliance involve more than changes to the entrance.

There are additional changes, outside and inside the building:
  • Creating a handicapped accessible parking space on Warren Street
  • Installing an accessible service counter
  • Removing the raised dais in the Council Chamber
  • Installing new flooring throughout the first floor
  • Creating a handicapped accessible restroom
These changes require that City Hall be closed while the work is being carried out, and the occupants of City Hall be relocated for the duration. Among the occupants requiring relocation is George Washington, that is, the portrait of George Washington painted by Henry Ary after Gilbert Stuart's famous 1796 Lansdowne portrait of Washington. 

To put things in historic context, the founding of Hudson happened during George Washington's lifetime. The original Proprietors were Washington's contemporaries. The Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington, which inspired Ary's portrait in the 1840s, was painted eleven years after the incorporation of the City of Hudson and three years before Washington's death in 1799.

Returning to the present, during some informal chat before last Friday's special Common Council meeting, mayor's aide Michael Hofmann noted that the Henry Ary painting was to be stored someplace during the upcoming renovation of City Hall. He mentioned Hudson Hall as a possible location. Were that to happen, the portrait would be returning to the building where it had been displayed for 107 years, from 1855 to 1962. The building now known as Hudson Hall was originally constructed as Hudson's city hall.

Council Chamber in Hudson's original City Hall, now known as Hudson Hall

Interestingly, the City of Hudson acquired the Henry Ary portrait of George Washington in 1845, ten years before the city had a proper city hall. Prior to 1855, when the construction of City Hall was completed, the portrait was displayed in a rented room in a building at Warren and Fourth streets owned by John J. Davis, "who fitted up within it a hall intended for public uses." It was in this hall that the Common Council held its meetings, and it may have been during those ten years the legend began that whenever and wherever the Council met, the portrait had to be present.

In July 2012, Gossips published a post about the portrait, which explores its acquisition in 1845 and its restoration in 1998 and 1999. Now that the portrait may disappear from public view for a while or be displayed in a different venue, it seems an appropriate time to revisit that post: "Henry Ary's Portrait of George Washington."

Back to Normal

Gossips has received word that the vending machine dispensing trash bags at City Hall is once again accepting credit and debit cards and other forms of noncash payment.

Legal Committee Meeting Tonight

The agenda for tonight's Common Council Legal Committee meeting is now available. Items for discussion are the city's law prohibiting formula businesses and the effort to make the 25 mph speed limit citywide. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.

Photo: David Grossman | Alamy Stock Photo

Of Interest

There's an article by Lisa La Monica about Ella Fitzgerald and her time spent in the New York State Training School for Girls in today's Times Union: "'Ungovernable': A teenaged Ella Fitzgerald's year in Hudson."

Photo: Carl Van Vechten | Library of Congress

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Redistricting: Another Step in the Process

The New York State Independent Redistricting Commission is currently at work redrawing the state's Assembly districts. Part of the process is a public hearing tour, with hearings taking place in twelve locations throughout the state. Last Wednesday, there was a public hearing in Albany, at which three representatives from Columbia County spoke.

Currently, Hudson and most of Columbia County are in Assembly District 106, the district represented by Didi Barrett. In the proposed redistricting, Ancram and Gallatin would remain in AD 106; the remainder of the county would be in AD 107, a district currently represented by Scott Bendett, a Republican.

Existing districts
Proposed districts

At the public hearing in Albany on Wednesday, Mary Murfitt, who lives in Ancramdale, argued that Assembly District 106 should remain as it is because Columbia County is part of the Hudson Valley not Albany. Dorothy Heyl, treasurer of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, argued that a shift to AD 107 would "severely disadvantage Hudson," pointing out that Hudson's population is 25 percent African-American or mixed race as compared with only 3 percent in the proposed new district. She concluded that, were the redistricting to happen as proposed, "The black population would be disenfranchised." Sam Hodge, chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee, argued that the proposed AD 107 was too vast, extending two hours' distance north and south and two hours' distance east and west. He urged that, because of their similarities, Dutchess and Columbia counties be kept together in AD 106.

Elaine Frazier, a member of the six-person commission, commented, "We struggled over Columbia County," and suggested, "In attempting to solve one problem, we created another." 

The entire hearing can be viewed here. The comments pertaining to Columbia County begin at about 1:48:45. The commission's public hearings continue through the month of February, the last one taking place on March 1 in Suffolk County.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Hometown Premiere of Documentary Film

On Saturday, February 4, at 4:00 p.m., at Hudson Hall, there will be a screening of the documentary film Hudson, America, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, Zuzka Kurtz and Geoffrey Hug, and four of the participants in the documentary, Jahed Miah, Mahmuda Alam, Siddique Ahmed, and Jabin Ahmed.

The film follows six Gen-Z Bangladeshi immigrant students for six years, as they graduate from Hudson High School and leave their Muslim community to attend progressive, liberal colleges around the Northeast. 
The unexpected political events of 2016-2022 derail the joyous college trajectory for Hudson City School District Gen-Z Bangladeshi immigrants, propelling them to confront anti-immigrant sentiments, their conservative parents' ideas of "The American Dream," and the true cost of forbidden love.    
The trailer for the film can be seen here. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for the week. Since January 23, there have been no deaths from COVID-19. The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 today is five more than last week at this time, and one more of those hospitalized is in the ICU.

A year ago, on January 31 (January 30 was a Sunday), the CCDOH reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 and 228 active cases. There were 32 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19, and one was in the ICU. The total number of deaths in Columbia County attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 127, two more than the previous week.

News of Local Journalism

Gossips learned today The Columbia Paper is to be sold to Capital Region Independent Media, LLC. The group already owns two newspapers: Ravena News-Herald in Greene County and the Greenville Pioneer in Albany County. The president of Capital Region Independent Media is Mark Vinciguerra, who was from May 2013 to December 2018 the publisher for Columbia-Greene Media, which produces the Register-Star. The entire story, as reported in E&P, can be read here.

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

We've reached the end of January. The week ahead contains one of Gossips' favorite holidays: Groundhog Day, a legendary milestone in the journey toward spring. Besides Groundhog Day, here's what else is happening.
  • On Wednesday, February 1, the Common Council Legal Committee meets at 6:00 pm. It's not clear what issue the Legal Committee will take up now that the sidewalk law has passsed, but the choice should be interesting. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely. 
  • On Thursday, February 2, the ad hoc Common Council Truck Route Committee meets at 6:00 p.m. At its January meeting, the committee began considering amendments to a directive issued in 1976 regarding truck traffic in the city. That may be the subject of discussion at this meeting as well. The meeting will be a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
Photo: Bill Huston
  • On Friday, February 3, Hudson City School District holds a press conference to announce the launch of Bluehawk Academy, a pilot school scheduled to open two days earlier. The press conference was originally to take place on Wednesday, January 25, but was canceled due to inclement weather. The event takes place at 10:00 a.m. in Junior/Senior High School Auditorium.
  • On Saturday, February 4, the Hudson Farmers' Market's Winter-Spring Market returns to the Elks Lodge on Harry Howard Avenue. Starting this Saturday, the market will be open from 10:00 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Saturday through April 15.