Friday, January 22, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 68 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases now being reported is nineteen more than the number reported yesterday, suggesting that 49 more people are now considered to be recovering. There are 39 fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday. Some of those may now be among the active cases. The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus remains the same as yesterday, but there is one fewer in the ICU. There has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Wednesday. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 9.0 percent--the highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 8.1 percent--also the highest in the Capital Region. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 6.9 percent and the seven-day average is 6.9 percent.

Of Interest

The impact of 138 new dwelling units in an area of the city that is now quite sparsely populated has been a concern to several in the community. Proving particularly worrisome is parking, because the plan proposed includes no accommodation for tenants' cars, except for a handful of handicapped parking spots next to 708 State Street, the building that is planned to be exclusively market rate units.

In discussing parking, the Galvan people cite onstreet spaces and parking lots not currently utilized in the overnight hours--parking lots at the Department of Social Services building on Railroad Avenue and One City Centre, as well as the municipal lot on Columbia Street. The assertions about available parking rely on a traffic and parking assessment done by Creighton Manning. That study, which was submitted to the Planning Board, was recently made available on the City of Hudson website. To review it, click here.

Reminder: Police Reform Town Hall Today

The Police Reform Town Hall is happening today at 6:00 p.m. The Police Advisory and Reconciliation Commission (PARC), appointed by Mayor Kamal Johnson in July, will be presenting its recommendations for police reform in Hudson. Click here to view the Zoom meeting on YouTube. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 49 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases reported today is 29 more than yesterday, suggesting that twenty more people are now considered to be recovering. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is 29 more than yesterday. There are four more county residents hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday, but the number in the ICU remains the same. Since yesterday, there have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Columbia County.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 9.6 percent--the highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 8.5 percent--also the highest in the Capital Region. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 6.5 percent and the seven-day average is 6.9 percent.

Getting There in Columbia County

What would it take to make living in Hudson less dependent on personal car ownership? The short answer would seem to be improving public transportation.

A new transportation survey from Assemblymember Didi Barrett's office, working in collaboration with The Spark of Hudson and Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, is meant to gauge the success and challenges of the current public transportation system in Columbia County and to measure the need and willingness to test out technology that enables on-demand public transportation via an app. The goal of adopting the new technology would be to increase access geographically and improve the quality of service.

The survey can be found here. The more responses to the survey, the more accurate the assessment of the transportation needs will be.

Eleven Years and a Day

The Gossips of Rivertown marked its eleventh anniversary yesterday!

When I launched The Gossips of Rivertown on January 20, 2010, it didn't occur to me that January 20 was Inauguration Day and every four years Gossips' anniversary would share the day with the swearing in of the president of the United States. 
In 2013, for the second inauguration of Barack Obama, it turned out there wasn't a conflict. That year, January 20 fell on Sunday, and the inauguration was postponed until Monday, so January 20 was free for celebrating the launch of Gossips. In 2017, when Donald Trump was inaugurated, I figured my readers needed a consoling alternative to what was happening in Washington, so the Gossips celebration went ahead. But this year, I didn't want to detract from the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and so commemorating the anniversary of The Gossips of Rivertown was postponed until today.

In the eleven years that Gossips has been in existence, it has earned a reputation for being a reliable and trusted source of local news, information, and history. In the past year, during the pandemic, readers have turned to Gossips more than a million times. Gossips is even quoted on occasion at Common Council meetings. The ability to search its more than ten thousand posts makes Gossips a storehouse of institutional memory. So today, as I do every year on Gossips' anniversary, I humbly acknowledge all the readers who have made Gossips a success and offer my deep and sincere gratitude to the Gossips supporters and advertisers whose financial contributions help pay the bills and continue to make Gossips a joyful endeavor.

Today, I invite readers to celebrate eleven years of sharing news, history, and occasional gossip about the events, machinations, troubles, and triumphs that happen right here in our little river city by joining the folks who have already shown the support for The Gossips of Rivertown in the new year. For those who read Gossips on a computer, the process is easy. Just click on the "Donate" button near the top of the right column. For those who read Gossips on their phones, the process is more complicated. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and touch "View web version." Then find the "Donate" button in the right column.

Your support--in any amount--will be gratefully acknowledged and will ensure the continuation of Gossips for yet another year. 
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

COVID-19 Update

Despite the inauguration, which brought a sense of lightness and hope, in terms of the pandemic in Columbia County, this is the darkest day yet. Since yesterday, there have been five deaths from COVID-19. Equally staggering is the number of new cases: 65. The number of active cases has only increased by 38 since yesterday, suggesting that 22 people are now considered to be recovering. There are 49 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday. The number hospitalized with the virus remains the same today as yesterday, but two more are now in the ICU. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 6.8 percent and a seven-day average of 7.9 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 7.4 percent and the seven-day average is 7.1 percent.

Welcoming the Day

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Galvan Presents to the IDA

The Galvan Foundation, in the person of Dan Kent, brought the proposed Depot District to the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) today, seeking a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). The terms of the PILOT being sought were not revealed--at least not to the public. Only an overview of the project was presented. Kent did say they were seeking a deviation from the standard PILOT.

The presentation to the IDA included much of the same information presented to the Planning Board, along with some new information. The building proposed for 75 North Seventh Street will have a total of 75 apartments 34 units for households earning between $23,000 and $42,000 a year; 20 units for households earning between $45,000 and $65,000 a year; and 21 market rate units.

In the presentation to the IDA today, it was revealed that of the 75 apartments, 39 would be one bedroom, 28 would be two bedroom, and 8 would be three bedroom. This building would also contain four 1,000-square-foot commercial spaces. Priority for these four spaces would be given to minority- and woman-owned businesses. 

The presentation also provided more detailed information about the rent structure of the "permanently affordable" units in the building:

One Bedroom
9 units at $533 
9 units at $686
10 units at $1,140
 
Two Bedrooms
7 units at $640 
7 units at $823 
7 units at $1,370 

Three Bedrooms 
1 unit at $740
1 unit at $951
1 unit at $1,580
 
The building proposed for 708 State Street would have 63 market rate units and five 1,000-square-foot commercial spaces. 

The presentation to the IDA focused on demonstrating how the project, which Kent asserted is in keeping with Hudson's Strategic Housing Action Plan, meets the criteria of the IDA.

On the topic of creating the retaining jobs, 347 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 65 direct or indirect jobs after construction are projected. Regarding investment of private capital, the figure $38.5 million was cited, $3 million of which is coming from the "development team." In the category of positive fiscal impact, $10.3 million in additional city and school tax revenue and IDA fees was cited. In terms of strengthening existing industries, $25 million invested in the county's construction industry was projected, along with mention of the affordable rents for minority- and women-owned businesses and the creation of new commercial spaces for restaurants and retail.

This picture was offered to demonstrate how the project would revitalize a distressed area.

As evidence of how the project would serve the needs of residents, the following benefits were named:
  • Creating high quality, urgently needed housing
  • Providing small businesses with affordable spaces in a vibrant district
  • Increasing public green spaces
  • Ensuring all spaces are handicap accessible
Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward), who is on the IDA because she is minority leader, questioned the choice of making one of the buildings all market rate. Kent told her that one building (75 North Seventh State) will be publicly financed and one (708 State Street) privately financed. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who is on the IDA because she is majority leader, expressed the opinion that both should be mixed income. Wolff went on to say she was concerned about a "strange dynamic" if one building "is subject only to the market." Dan Hubbell, who is the attorney for the project, explained that making a building mixed income required a more complicated financing structure. When Wolff suggested affordable units in 708 State Street could be subsidized by higher rents, Kent said that the market rate in Hudson is not high enough to subsidize low-income units.

As she did when the original proposal for 75 North Seventh Street was made, Garriga complained that the plan did not include enough three-bedroom apartments in the affordable categories. (There are only three.)

There were questions from Garriga and Wolff about job numbers, hiring practices, and workforce development, and Hubbell reminded them that this was mainly a residential project. Mayor Kamal Johnson asked about the Community Advisory Board that is being proposed for the project and was told it would provide guidance in planning the project and would have an ongoing role in seeing that the project "has a strong relationship with the rest of the community."

It is expected that the IDA will be considering this project and its PILOT request over the next two or three months.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 48 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases being reported today is only six more than yesterday, suggesting that 42 more people are now considered to be recovering. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is 52 fewer today than yesterday. The number of hospitalized and in the ICU remains the same as yesterday, and there has not been another death.

The
New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 10.0 percent--the highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 8.3 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 8.3 percent and the seven-day average is 7.2 percent.

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The schedule of meetings will be sparse this year, now that Council president Tom DePietro has eliminated all standing committees, but here's what's happening this week.
  • On Tuesday, January 19, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) meets 1:00 p.m. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • Also on Tuesday, January 19, the Common Council holds its regular monthly meeting at 7:00 p.m. Click here to review the documents on the agenda. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Wednesday, January 20, the Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 6:00 p.m. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Friday, January 22, the Historic Preservation Commission has its second meeting of the month at 10:00 a.m. The meeting can be viewed on the Hudson City Zoom Meetings channel on YouTube.
  • Also on Friday, January 22, at 6:00 p.m., Mayor Kamal Johnson and the Police Advisory and Reconciliation Commission will hold a Police Reform Town Hall. Click here for information to join the meeting.

Monday, January 18, 2021

At the End of the Day

The 2021 Hudson Interfaith Council commemoration and celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., can be viewed here.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there has been another death from COVID-19. There have also been 48 new cases, increasing the number of active cases now being reported by 28 to 423. (From this, we can surmise that nineteen more people are now considered to be recovering.) There are three fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday. Nine more county residents are hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday, and one more is in the ICU. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 5.6 percent and a seven-day average of 7.7 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 7.9 percent and the seven-day average is 7.5 percent.

News from the Planning Board: Galvan

The final project before the Planning Board on Tuesday was the Galvan Foundation plan for North Seventh Street, now dubbed "The Depot District." What is being proposed is two buildings--one with 84 units that will rent at market rate, the other with 54 units with permanently affordable rents for low- and moderate-income households. The idea is to satisfy the goals of the Strategic Housing Action Plan by creating, with two buildings, "a mixed income neighborhood."

The building proposed for 75 North Seventh Street is the building with affordable rents: 34 units for households earning between $23,000 and $42,000 a year, with rents starting at $533; 20 units for households earning between $45,000 and $65,000 a year, with rents starting at $1,140.




The building proposed for 708 State Street is larger, with 84 market rate units. Fitness rooms are promised for both buildings, but the plan for this building includes an outdoor pool. 


 
Both buildings are adjacent to a historic district, and Galvan has hired Beth Selig, who is, according to her LinkedIn profile, an archaeologist, to handle "the consultation process with SHPO [State Historic Preservation Office]." At the Planning Board meeting last Tuesday, Selig talked about the evolution of Hudson's architecture and how the architectural styles, as the city progressed east from the river, reflect the development of the city. She asserted that the proposed buildings "continue the ongoing evolution of the city and its architecture." 

Walter Chatham, formerly the chair of the Planning Board and now the architect for the project, presented these drawings to demonstrate that the proposed buildings were compatible in mass and scale with buildings that already exist in the neighborhood.

The first row of drawings above depicts (from left to right) the Pocketbook Factory, the Sixth Street School (now a county office building), the south side of the building proposed for 75 North Seventh Street, and the south side of the building proposed for 708 State Street. Oddly, the old Hudson Orphan Asylum building, which Galvan demolished early in 2018, seems to have been included in the drawing. The second row of drawings depicts (from left to right) the former Community Theatre building (now or soon to be owned by Galvan), a cluster of buildings that includes the no longer existing orphanage building, the former Canape garage (now owned by Galvan) with the Sixth Street School in the background, the building proposed for 75 North Seventh Street, and the Pocketbook Factory. 

In his presentation, Chatham said the design for 708 State Street had been inspired by 501 Union Street. 

Chatham told the board that this neighborhood was "the most logical area in the city for larger buildings" and predicted this project would "look like it's been there for a long time."

As was the case with the 77-unit building Galvan had originally proposed for 75 North Seventh Street, there is no plan to accommodate tenants' parking beyond six designated handicapped spots along the north side of the building proposed for 708 State Street. The expectation is that the tenants will find places to park on the street or they will park in the municipal lot on Columbia Street, which is reported to be 90 percent vacant overnight. 

Not only is the parking lot a five minute walk from the two buildings, it is currently the site of the Hudson Farmers Market. If this use of the lot continues, tenants living in the proposed new buildings will have to get up early on Saturday mornings to move their cars out of the lot before the market opens.

The two building projects are expected to move ahead simultaneously, but they will have "separate funding strategies." The project will be applying to the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) for financing. The application is expected to be presented to the IDA at its February meeting. A fifteen-month construction period is anticipated, for completion in 2023.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Maybe We'll Be Getting More

Last week, Matt Murell and Jack Mabb complained that Columbia County had only gotten 300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo cited the Columbia County Department of Health as one of the best performers in administering the doses it had been allocated. The CCDOH was third on the list of "Best Performing," a list that was not arranged in alphabetical order. 

Cuomo said that this week, lower performing facilities will get less, and high performing facilities will get more. That would suggest that more will be allocated to the Columbia County Department of Health, the only facility in the county now administering the vaccine.

Cuomo also noted in his briefing this morning that the State of New York has, for the past two weeks, received only about 239,000 doses from the federal government. 

According to the chart above, allocations to the state are made on Tuesday. It seems that the county knows its allocation from the state on Tuesday as well. So, we shall see what tomorrow brings.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Sunday, January 17, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 62 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases has increased by 39, suggesting that 23 more people are now considered to be recovering. There are 83 fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but there is no indication of how many of those previously quarantined are now active cases. There are three fewer county residents hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday, but the number in the ICU remains the same. Since yesterday, there has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 9.4 percent--and highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 8.2 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 6.2 percent and the seven-day average is 7.6 percent.

Getting Worse Before It Gets Better

On Wednesday, January 20, it will have been ten months since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Columbia County on March 20, 2020. On November 20, eight months after the first case was reported, there were a total of 910 cases. On the last day of 2020, there were 1,667 cases. The numbers indicate that 62 percent of all the cases were reported in the last two months. The number of cases reported in the first sixteen days of 2021--784--represents 32 percent of the total number of cases of COVID-19 reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

This is far from over.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

COVID-19 Update

There has been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County, only five days after the previous one. The Columbia County Department of Health is reporting 37 new cases of the virus today, but the number of active cases being reported today is 31 fewer than yesterday, suggesting that 67 more people are now considered to be recovering. There are 36 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized with the virus and in the ICU remains the same.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 6.1 percent and a seven-day average of 8.2 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 6.3 percent and the seven-day average is 7.9 percent.

News from the Planning Board: Colarusso

When the Planning Board turned its attention to Colarusso at its meeting on Tuesday, they resumed consideration of the questions in Part 2 of the Full Environmental Assessment Form. At its November meeting, the board worked its way through Questions 1 through 5. At its December meeting, they considered Questions 6 through 10. At Tuesday's meeting, Questions 11 to 13 were discussed.

Much of the hour devoted to Colarusso was taken up with Question 11 Impact on Open Space and Recreation: "The proposed action may result in a loss of recreational opportunities or a reduction of an open space resource as designated in any adopted municipal open space plan." Planning Board member Larry Bowne suggested that the appropriate answer was "No, but. . . ." Bowne reasoned that Colarusso's operations and its operations footprint would not change. Planning Board member Clark Wieman argued that, although it "isn't taking away acreage," it is "damaging the ability to use recreational space."

In the discussion of impact on open space and recreation, the matter of the 4.4 acres predictably came up. Bowne observed, "At some point, we are going to have to resolve the status of the 4.4 acres." One wonders what it will take to "resolve the status" and why it hasn't been done already.  

It was back in June 2013, before Holcim sold the property to Colarusso and when the City of Hudson was still ostensibly negotiating with Holcim for ownership of about nine acres of waterfront land south of the dock, that The Valley Alliance announced its discovery that the City already owned half the land it was trying to get from Holcim. It seems that in 1981 the City illegally sold the 4.4 acres to St. Lawrence Cement, which became Holcim, and because the sale was illegal the parcel still belongs to the City of Hudson. The issue seemed to have been resolved by a title search done by the City in October 2013, but more than seven years later there is still uncertainty. It's high time it was settled.

In the end, it was decided that the answer to Question 11 should be Yes; the responses to a through d should be "No, or small impact may occur"; and "traffic, noise, odor, light, aesthetics" should be entered as "Other impacts" after e and the response to e should be "Moderate to large impact may occur."

Question 12 Impact on Critical Environmental Area was answered "No," because the area is not classified as a critical environmental area (CEA), and Question 13 Impact on Transportation was, after some discussion, postponed until the board's February meeting when they will hear from Creighton Manning, the consultants hired by Colarusso to do the traffic study for the project.

Tuesday's Planning Board meeting can be viewed here. The portion of the meeting that concerns itself with Colarusso begins at 53:40 and continues to 1:56:45.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK