Saturday, July 20, 2019

Back to the Drawing Board

On July 10, Gossips reported that the Hudson Housing Authority was abandoning its current plan to develop more income-based housing and would be issuing a new RFQ (request for qualifications): "News from HHA."

Last night, Amanda Purcell reported essentially the same news on HudsonValley360 and confirmed that the HHA Board of Commissioners will not meet again until September: "HHA plans to seek new requests for proposals."

Friday, July 19, 2019

Troy News with a Hudson Connection

Redburn Development, the group that transformed a historic industrial building at 41 Cross Street into chic hotel, is doing a lot of rehabbing of historic buildings in the Capital Region. Among those projects is a building at 701 River Street in Troy, which is being transformed into Collar Factory Lofts. Work on the $16 million project began in September 2018. 

Tonight, a reader shared the news that the building, still under construction, was on fire.

About an hour ago, Channel 13 News reported that the fire was had been contained, but it was unclear how bad the damage was.

The Times Union updated its report on the fire at 9:23 p.m.: "Firefighters battle large blaze at Troy building."

Work Begins

As regular readers know, the remediated brownfield that was the site of Foster Refrigerator is to be a trailhead for the Empire State Trail at the front and a dog park at the rear.

Earlier this week, the work on the trailhead started and is expected to be completed by mid-August--probably before the development of the dog park gets the green light from the Common Council.


Stewart's Here and There

This week, the second of the two houses in the way of Stewart's expansion at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue was leveled, giving passersby a better idea of the size of the footprint of the new Stewart's gas station and convenience store.

Meanwhile, in the Village of Altamont, a similar request from Stewart's for a zoning change, a process that began back in April 2015, is not enjoying such smooth sailing. In October 2015, the Altamont Board of Trustees refused to make the change. Stewart's persisted, and in December 2018, with new members on the board, the zoning amendment was approved. Similarly, the amendment to our zoning to accommodate Stewart's was approved by a Common Council made up almost entirely of new members after being dismissed by the previous Council. But the Altamont story doesn't end there. 

In May 2019, a group of Altamont residents filed a lawsuit against the Board of Trustees and Stewart's over the zoning change. One of the two bases for the lawsuit was that, in making the zoning change, the Board of Trustees failed to comply with SEQR process. Yesterday, the Altamont Enterprise reported that Stewart's is now resubmitting its request for a zoning change, so the board can get it right in the do-over: "Rezone redux: Stewart's reapplies to village board as lawsuit hovers."

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Future Hudson This Saturday

Future Hudson holds the fourth of its community discussions this Saturday, July 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.

Although the title of this event--"To Preserve or Not to Preserve?"--seems to suggest a quandary, the description provided does not: "This event explores the role that historic preservation can play in helping communities respect the past while creating a future for all residents." The speakers for the event are Liz McEnaney, executive director of the SS Columbia Project and adjunct assistant professor with the Hudson Valley Initiative of the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP); Morgan O'Hara of MASS Design Group; and Josh Simons from the Benjamin Center for Public Policy at SUNY New Paltz. The discussion will be moderated by Larry Bowne, architect and associate professor of architecture at Syracuse University. This program in the Future Hudson series is funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On Saturday, when it's expected to be beastly hot, spend part of your afternoon in the cool of the library, located in the historic Hudson Armory, contemplating the role of historic preservation in the life of our community.


Dog Park Clears a Hurdle . . . One More to Go

Last night, the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee--Eileen Halloran, Dominic Merante, Rich Volo, and Shershah Mizan--voted unanimously to move the resolution authorizing the development of the dog park to the full Council. The resolution will be introduced at the informal meeting of the Common Council on Monday, August 12, and voted on at the Council's regular meeting on Tuesday, August 20.

At the meeting, Rob Perry, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, provided a sheaf of documents--communications with the Department of Environmental Conservation going as far back as 1999--identifying the nature of the contamination on the site and confirming that the remediated site can only to used for passive recreation--one example of which is a dog park.

There were questions about such things as the hours for the dog park (dawn to dusk), liability (owners are responsible for the behavior of their dogs, as they are anywhere else in the city), and maintenance (DPW will mow the grass, as they are doing now, and carry away the trash). Annabel Taylor, who spoke for the dog park committee, also presented the proposed rules for the dog park, which are basically the following eight: 
  1. Park is open from dawn to dusk.
  2. Use at your own risk.
  3. Dog owners must immediately clean up after their dogs.
  4. Dogs must display a valid license and have proof of up-to-date rabies vaccinations.
  5. Dogs must be removed from the dog park at the first sign of aggression toward a human or another dog.
  6. No food, dog treats, alcoholic beverages, or smoking are allowed in the dog park.
  7. Children under 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Children are not allowed to chase or taunt dogs.
  8. People unaccompanied by dogs are not permitted in the dog park.
Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who attended the meeting, asked about plans to deal with aggressive dogs. The dog park committee explained there had already been one workshop on dog park etiquette presented by dog behaviorist Jennifer James, aimed primarily at recognizing signs of trouble and taking steps to avoid it, and more such workshops are being planned. Members of the dog park committee with experience at other dog parks noted that regular users of dog parks become adept at recognizing problem dogs and keeping their dogs out of bad situations.

In anticipation of the Council passing the resolution in August to authorize the development of the dog park, a new Facebook group has been created for dog owners looking forward to taking their pups to the park: Hudson Dog Park. Click here to access the page and join the group.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Meeting Reminder

At the informal Common Council meeting on June 8, a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the construction and governance of a dog park, to be developed on the remediated brownfield that was Foster Refrigerator Corporation, at the corner of Second and Dock streets, was referred to the Public Works and Parks Committee. That committee meets tonight at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall. Dog owners who want a dog park in Hudson should come to the meeting tonight, if they can, to show their support.


Written Comments Sought

At the last Common Council Legal Committee meeting, on June 26, three proposed new laws were discussed: one that would regulate houses maintained as short-term rentals and two alternative plans for ensuring the safety and maintenance of sidewalks in the city. At last night's Common Council meeting, Council president Tom DePietro announced that all three laws are now online on the City of Hudson website. The public is invited to review the draft laws and submit comments to him at

Let's Be Careful Out There

This morning, a driver lost control of her car on State Street near Fourth, hit a parked car, and then flipped her own car. A reader provided this photograph of the outcome. There are no reports of anyone being injured in the incident.

Update: It seems to be the day for hitting parked cars. Minutes after this incident on State Street, another driver struck two parked cars on Green Street. Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat reported that story on Facebook: "Vehicle takes out 2 parked cars in Hudson." In this instance, one person was taken to Columbia Memorial.

Last Night at City Hall

Dan Udell has posted his video of last night's Common Council meeting on YouTube, and it can be viewed by clicking here.

A segment of interest begins about nine minutes in, when Council president Tom DePietro, with obvious disdain and skepticism, presents one of several new resolutions before the Council. The resolution would authorize the mayor to apply for a grant to do master plans for the improvement of Seventh Street Park and Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. The grant money for the project would come through the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) in the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process. DePietro pointed out that he had not signed the resolution because "it's not clear where it came from and what it's doing."

Alderman Kamal Johnson (First Ward) wanted to know where the required match ($7,500) would come from. He was told the Finance Committee had already approved taking it from the general fund. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) wanted to know, among other things, what improvements would be made to the two parks. 

Mayor Rick Rector explained that the grant, if awarded, would provide an opportunity to look at riverfront park in the context of the connectivity project that is the major part of the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative), the new Ferry Street Bridge to be constructed in 2020, and the redevelopment of the Dunn warehouse and to create a master plan that would integrate all the elements at the waterfront. The grant would also fund the development of a master plan for improvements to Seventh Street Park, something that has been a topic of discussion in the city for years. 

Photo: The Urban Prospector
In the end, the Council unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the mayor to apply for the grant. 

Chief Ed Moore's comments about the violent incident that happened in Hudson on Monday night begins about 21 minutes in.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Ugly Things Happen in Our Little City

Last night, a member of Hudson's LGBTQ community was brutally beaten near the corner of North Second and Columbia streets, in the altercation that turned physical. The attack is being characterized by some as a hate crime. Roger Hannigan Gilson has a report about the incident on his blog The Other Hudson Valley, which includes a video of the incident captured by a bystander: "Suspect Caught in Beating of a Gay Man."

Tonight, at the Common Council meeting, HPD Chief Ed Moore reported that the suspect had been apprehended at 5:50 p.m. today and charged with felony assault. It has not yet been determined if he will be charged with a hate crime. "We will get to all the facts in this matter," Moore assured the Council. He went on to say, "The victim will recover, and the attacker is in custody." 

Update: At 9:48 p.m., HudsonValley360 updated its report about the incident: "Judge sets $1,000 bail in assault case." The report is accompanied by a disturbing photo of the victim.

On the Cutting Edge of Word Use

It's been noted here and elsewhere that the first definition of cocktail appeared on May 15, 1806, in a newspaper called The Balance and Columbian Repository, published here in Hudson. The editor of The Balance was Harry Croswell, who also, using the pseudonym Robert Rusticoat, was the publisher of The Wasp.

Some of the earliest occurrences of the word capitalist were also in a Hudson newspaper--the Hudson Northern Whig--on March 7, 1815, and on September 17, 1816. 

Last night, a reader alerted me to another occasion when a Hudson newspaper was cutting-edge in its use of words. Once again, the newspaper was The Balance. Merriam-Webster reported a spike in people looking up the meaning of the word folderol after Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, on May 22, used the word in speaking of the fourth iteration of Theresa May's Brexit bill. (For Gossips readers not familiar with the word, it means something nonsensical or trivial.) Of the origin of the word, Merriam-Webster explains: "Folderol comes from fol-de-rol (or fal-de-ral), nonsense syllables commonly used as a refrain in songs. Although the non-musical sense was thought to have originated in 1820, recent findings show it in use earlier in the 19th century." One of those recent findings was the following, which appeared in The Balance, published here in Hudson, on January 8, 1805:
If I should contract debts in the States after I become a Spanish subject I make myself liable in Augustine, but as it is now you may whistle what tune you please for your own amusement, but let me beg you not to trouble me with any more of your folderol--for I will not answer you--Yours, &c. Obadiah Potter 
Thanks to Matt Lynch for bringing this to our attention

Monday, July 15, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

Now that we are settled into summer, the week ahead is light on city meetings. They all happen on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • On Tuesday, July 16, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, and the full Council meets at 7:00 p.m. in the same place. The resolutions to be voted on at the Council meeting can be found here.
  • On Wednesday, July 17, the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meets at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall. A topic of discussion at this meeting will be the Hudson dog park, to be constructed on the remediated brownfield that was once the site of Foster Refrigerator.
Last Monday, a resolution supporting the dog park and authorizing the mayor to execute a memorandum of understanding for the construction and the governance of the dog park was referred to the Public Works and Parks Committee. All those interested in seeing the dog park become a reality are urged to attend the meeting.  
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, the Zoning Board of Appeals will hold public hearings on two applications for variances. The public hearings take place at City Hall. The first is an area variance needed to provide access to a roof deck at 526-528 Warren Street. The access area would exceed the maximum permissible height by 5 feet. The second is an area variance to construct an addition at 226 Union Street that would connect the house on Union Street with the garage on Cherry Alley and build a second story on the garage. The project requires a variance for lot coverage and setback from the eastern lot line. The ZBA plans a site visit to 226 Union Street at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, just prior to the public hearing.

Remembering Al Cook

Al "Cookie" Cook, one of Hudson's "iron men," died last winter, just a few days shy of his 89th birthday. On Saturday morning, July 27, there is to be a celebration of his life in the Community Room at the Hudson Area Library. Details are provided on the invitation from his daughter and son-in-law reproduced below.

Good Fences . . . and All That

When James Howard Kunstler was in Hudson in May, he spoke, among other things, about "impoverished public space and aggrandized private space." Although there are lots of efforts being discussed and underway to improve Hudson's public spaces, i.e., its parks, the aggrandizement of private space continues—transforming the character of neighborhoods with the erection of fences. Not only is it happening in the mid-century neighborhoods of Hudson and Greenport . . . 

but it also in Hudson's historic neighborhoods.

Two years ago, the Historic Preservation Commission angered some parishioners at St. Mary's/Holy Trinity by its scrutiny of a fence that was to surround a garden next to the rectory. The concern was that the fence and the garden would obscure the view of the rectory and destroy the symmetry of the lawn and walk leading back to the house where Catholic Charities is now located. The house, designed by J. A. Wood and probably built in the 1860s, was moved from its original site at the corner of East Allen and East Court streets to make way for the construction of the church. Eventually, the fence--not the vinyl fence that was originally proposed but a metal fence--was approved, and the garden planted.

This past Friday, another fence in a historic district came before the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness. The proposal is to fence the entire property—front and backat 10 Willard Place, the smaller of the two anachronistic Greek Revival houses that were introduced into this historic neighborhood in 2004.
Correction: The owner of 10 Willard Place has corrected this account. The proposal is not to fence the entire property but only "the grassy area in front of [the house], along with the abutting porch (for security reasons)."

The original proposal was for an eight-foot fence—six feet of solid fence topped with two feet of lattice. The owner argued that he needed the fence not only for privacy but also for security, because people trespassed on his property and a neighbor's dog once attacked him in his own yard. Three of the five HPC members present had concerns about a privacy fence in front of a building. Miranda Barry suggested that a gate that lined up with the front door would be "mitigating." Phillip Schwartz, who was sympathetic to the need for a fence, suggested that the fence in front of the building might be only six feet high--four feet of solid fence and two feet of lattice. John Schobel warned, "If everyone starts putting fences in front of their houses, it will change the character of the neighborhood." He urged that there be a public hearing, saying, "The collective aesthetic of this historic district belongs to all of us."

Since any motion requires four votes—the majority of the full commissionto pass, neither the motion to hold a public hearing nor the motion to waive the public hearing passed, and in the end, it was decided there would be a public hearing, despite the fact that Schwartz and HPC chair Phil Forman felt it was unnecessary. The public hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Friday, July 27. At 9:30 a.m. on that same day, the members of the HPC will make a site visit to Willard Place.

The proposal presents an interesting conundrum for the HPC. Preserving the historic integrity of neighborhood should be paramount, but the existence of the two houses is already an intrusion on the historic character of the neighborhood. Willard Place was established in 1872 as a private neighborhood, and it remained a private neighborhood for almost a hundred years, until 1969. All the historic houses on Willard Place were built within twenty years--between 1872 and 1892—and are examples of the architectural styles that were in vogue during those two decades. Second Empire predominates, but there are also examples of Colonial Revival and Tuscany style architecture. Greek Revival, the style imitated by the two houses built in 2004, fell out of favor in America around 1860.

Not only are the two Greek Revival style houses an architectural anachronism, they alter the intended design of Willard Place. The street was designed as a dogleg, culminating in a park at the end of the street. There was no intention in the original design for houses to ring the park. When they were built, the two Greek Revival houses had no access to Willard Place. To provide access, a strip of land between the southern boundary of 317 Allen Street and the roadway had to be acquired from the City of Hudson. It was argued at the time that the sale was illegal because the land, which was part of Willard Park, was designated park land and its sale required approval by the state legislature.

Given the history of Willard Place, it's possible that the proposed fence and accompanying plantings may be taking Willard Place back to an earlier time. In 1872, when Willard Place was created, there was a grand house at 317 Allen Street, with grounds that extended back to what is now Willard Park. The house is included in an article that appeared in the Hudson Evening Register for March 28, 1867. The article inventoried what were considered to be the best and most elegant houses in Hudson at the time. The house at 317 Allen Street, then the residence of R. C. Mitchell, was said to be, in 1867, "of ancient build." The only visual evidence we have of that house is this photograph of the rear of 325 Allen Streetthe house next doorprobably taken in the early 1860s. The back of the house that originally stood at 317 Allen Street can be glimpsed through the trees at the left.

From this picture we can surmise that, in 1872, when Willard Place was created, the grounds behind 317 Allen Street were probably not greatly dissimilar to the grounds behind the house next door—with a notable absence of what we today know as privacy fences.

Soon after the turn of the 20th century, 317 Allen Street was acquired by Morgan Jones, and the original house "of ancient build" was demolished to make way for Jones's dream house, a Jacobean and Dutch inspired mansion reminiscent of the medieval architecture he had seen while traveling in Europe.

The architect for the house was Marcus Reynolds, and all of the drawings for the house and grounds, as well as Reynolds' journals and records from the period he was working on the house, are preserved in the Albany Institute of History & Art. Those records indicate that while Reynolds was working on the design for 317 Allen Street, William Traver, who lived at 1 Willard Place, the first house to be built on the private street, and whose son lived at 8 Willard Place, the last house to be constructed, visited Reynolds' studio. It is easy to surmise that Traver's visit was inspired by concern about what was in store for his neighborhood.

Photo: Historic Hudson
The plans for Morgan Jones's house included a carriage house and a formal garden and grounds designed by Townsend & Fleming, landscape architects.

What today is the site of the two faux Greek Revival houses was in the early part of the 20th century the location of a tennis court, a lawn, and a pathway from the formal garden to an overlook at the southern end of the property. The drawing suggests there may have been a fence around the rear of the property, but it's not entirely clear.

The picture below, which appeared in 1910 in the architectural magazine Brickbuilder, shows the carriage house, the formal garden, and the path leading back to the tennis court and the overlook.

This picture certainly gives the sense of enclosure and privacy, but whether there was an actual fence around the perimeter is unclear. Screening and demarcation of property lines seem to have been achieved to a great extent by plantings.

Friday, July 12, 2019

New Uses for a Remediated Brownfield

On December 18, 2018, the Common Council unanimously passed a resolution "authorizing the Mayor to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Hudson River Valley Greenway, the Hudson Parks Conservancy, and stakeholders for a dog park to develop a plan for the design and operation of a dog park and trail head." The location of the proposed dog park and trail head is the former Foster Refrigerator site--a brownfield, the remediation of which was completed last year by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.  

On Monday, a resolution authorizing the mayor "to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hudson Dog Park committee for the construction and governance of the dog park" was referred to the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee. The next meeting of that committee takes places on Wednesday, July 17. Development of the other element planned for the former brownfield--the trail head for the Empire State Trail--is moving forward.

This morning, Mayor Rick Rector and DPW superintendent Rob Perry met at the site with Paul Glesta, project director for the Empire State Trail, and the contractors who will be constructing the trail head at the corner of Second and Dock streets. 

The work will begin on Tuesday morning, and the trail head, the plan for which includes limestone benches, a bicycle repair station, two handicapped parking spaces, landscaping, and trail signage, is expected to be completed by mid-August.