Friday, September 20, 2019

Problem Solvers Needed

One of the joys of the winter in Hudson, for those traveling to and from the city on the train or visiting riverfront park, is seeing the Hudson-Athens lighthouse decked out with holiday lights. Gossips learned today that this year, the beloved tradition of decorating the lighthouse will be forced to come to an end.

Photo: Jonathan Simons
The electrical power to the lighthouse comes from the Athens side of the river, carried by a cable that was installed in the 1950s. A few years ago, when the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society was installing the holiday lights on the lighthouse, there was a partial failure in the cable. With the help of some local electricians, they were able to make things work with the limited amount of power coming to the lighthouse. This month, however, the cable failed altogether, and there is no longer electricity at the lighthouse. 

The situation does not affect the Coast Guard's navigational light, which runs on solar power, nor does it affect the autumn tours to the lighthouse, because a generator can be used. What it does affect--indeed, what it eliminates--is the winter lighting display. 

Anyone with ideas for solving the problem is encouraged to contact Gossips. I will put you in touch with the right people at the preservation society. Or you can send an email directly to Creativity and ingenuity are needed to help save this beloved holiday tradition.

A Second Hard Thing for the ZBA

In September 2017, Mayor Tiffany Martin asked the Zoning Board of Appeals for "a determination of the exact location of the boundaries between the Core Riverfront (C-R) District and the Recreation Conservation (R-C) District" in South Bay.

The ZBA referred the question to the engineers at Barton & Loguidice, who submitted a report two months later. The ZBA studied the report and the various documents referenced in it for six months before concluding that if the two zoning districts needed to be defined more specifically than they were on the zoning map, it was up to the Common Council to undertake the task. 

Now the ZBA has been asked to weigh in on something else: the proposal to create a self-storage facility, created with wooden storage units, on the vacant lot at 121 Fairview Avenue.

In August, the Planning Board, during its ongoing site plan review of the proposal, questioned if a mini storage facility really was a conditional use allowed in that zoning district. Although code enforcement officer Craig Haigh and city attorney Andy Howard had determined, after examining the zoning code, that it was, members of the Planning Board were not certain, and the board voted unanimously to refer the question to the ZBA.

The problem was articulated by Planning Board chair Walter Chatham at the board's August meeting: "We find ourselves with a zoning code that didn't anticipate something." Back in 1968, when Hudson's zoning code was adopted, self storage facilities did not exist. The question now is: Are they prohibited because they are not mentioned as permitted uses in the code, or are they allowed because they are not expressly prohibited in the code?

As city attorney and hence counsel both to the code enforcement officer and the ZBA (as well as the Planning Board), Howard seems in an awkward position. He had previously concurred with Haigh that what was being proposed was allowed by the code. Now, he has to counsel the ZBA in rendering an opinion on the same issue. At Wednesday night's meeting, Howard directed the ZBA to the relevant sections of the code--325.14 and 325.15--and told them their task was to decide if the proposed use was conditional or prohibited: "You need to look at the language, you need to look at the code, and render a determination." Howard pointed out that one of the problems with the current zoning code is that terms and phrases used in the code, such as personal service stores (325-14.A 2) and service establishments furnishing services other than a personal nature (325.14.A. 7), are not defined. He also told the ZBA that if "[self storage facility] is found to be prohibited in this zone [G-C--General Commercial], it would be prohibited throughout the city."   
ZBA member Myron Polenberg protested that the ZBA does not make law. Howard told him, "You wouldn't be writing law; you'd be interpreting it." He went on to say, "This is one of the powers ZBAs are given"--those powers being granting area variances, granting use variances, and interpreting the code. ZBA member Theresa Joyner asked, "Do we have any storage units in Hudson?" Haigh clarified, "The commercial district allows storage. It's self storage units that are in question."

ZBA member Steve Dunn opined, "We have a high degree of influence, but we will also have a high degree of deference," before moving that the board set a public hearing on the issue. That public hearing will take place on Wednesday, October 16, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Real Loss and Feared Loss

Tonight, Gossips returned from dinner shortly after 9:30 p.m. to find an email giving the information that the Hudson Fire Department had been dispatched at 7:50 p.m. to a structure fire at 14 Fabiano Boulevard, the historic Joab Center House, known familiarly as the Turtle House.

This news was particularly disturbing because I also learned today that the house's owner, Zane Studenroth, had died suddenly earlier this week. Upon learning about the fire, I drove out to the house but found no firetrucks and no evidence of anything amiss. (Of course, it was dark.) 

At about 10:00 p.m., when I was returning from the scene, Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat posted this account on Facebook: "Reports of fire brings large response in Greenport." Williams reports that "the fire was put out quickly, and contained to the outside of the home." According to information found elsewhere on Facebook, the fire affected one of the house's columns.

Working to Achieve ADA Compliance

At Tuesday's Common Council meeting, Linda Mussmann asked about the "metal object" in front of City Hall. She was referring to this, installed in front of the no longer used night deposit box. (City Hall was constructed, after all, as a bank building.

The object will hold a call box that will allow people with disabilities that prohibit them from entering City Hall to summon the person they need to see. It is part of the City's efforts to address ADA compliance issues in advance of making more substantial changes to City Hall to achieve ADA compliance or moving city offices to another location. 

On HudsonValley360 this afternoon, Amanda Purcell reports on a lawsuit brought against the City by three Hudson residents and the proposed agreement between the City and the federal government: "Hudson, AG near settlement of ADA lawsuit." 

Seeking to Be One of the Seven to Save

At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, the Council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to submit a letter of support for the nomination of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse as one of the Preservation League's Seven to Save for 2020-2021.

Photo: Jonathan Simons
Earlier this year, the lighthouse inspired Gossips to create the imitative series Nine Not to Ignore, hoping to bring attention to the unique plight of this historic structure. Recognition by the Preservation League of New York State as one of the Seven to Save would bring enhanced service from the League to bolster visibility and build support for the lighthouse's preservation.

Hudson is no stranger to the Preservation League's Seven to Save program. In 2001, the entire city was named one of the Seven to Save because of the threat of inappropriate development. The inappropriate development was the St. Lawrence cement plant, the massive coal-fired plant which threatened to "irreversibly despoil the historic and scenic resources of not only the City of Hudson, but also the surrounding region including the Town of Greenport and the Village of Claverack." In 2005, 400 State Street, then the home of the Hudson Area Library but still owned by the Hudson City School District, was one of the Seven to Save. The threat to the building was deterioration and possible vacancy. In 2009, the Plumb-Bronson House, now known as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, was one of the Seven to Save. The threat cited a decade ago was "many years of unchecked deterioration."

Gossips wishes the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society success in its pursuit of Seven to Save designation for the lighthouse.

Eating on the Run

As the new Stewart's rises with remarkable speed behind the existing Stewart's building at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, an article in the Albany Business Review reminds us why the new Stewart's needed to exist.

The article, "Stewart's closing Hudson Falls store," explains that the closing in Hudson Falls "was driven in part by space limitations, preventing the company from adding more sandwiches, soup and other prepared takeout items, the fastest-growing segment of the business." The bigger store here in Hudson is part of Stewart's grand plan to sell more food-to-go items.

Photo: Albany Business Review


The HPD Responds

The brutal mugging of a woman on North Sixth Street that took place late last Sunday night has been reported on Facebook, in a press release from the Hudson Police Department, and on HudsonValley360: "Police investigate 6th Street mugging."  Yesterday, Chief Ed Moore issued this statement:
HPD continues to work diligently on this case. This is the first incident of this type we have had in several years. If a person finds themselves in a situation where they feel unsafe or even uncomfortable, please call our dispatch phone at (518) 828-3388. We will provide a car as quickly as possible to assist you. Do not consider this an inconvenience or not "important enough." Given our 2.2 square mile city limits, we can usually get there pretty fast.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Hudson and the Dutch Golden Age

Today, the Times Union reported about an fascinating event in the art world: "Rare Dutch painting discovered by local collector." The rare Dutch painting is an oil sketch by 17th-century painter Anthony van Dyck, a student of Rubens. The local collector is Hudson resident Albert Roberts.

In 2002, Roberts, who has spent much of his life finding and identifying what he calls "orphaned art," bought the painting at an auction in Kinderhook for $600. The oil painting on canvas was mounted on a board, and it depicted a naked elderly man. The painting appeared to have been carelessly stored, and it had bird droppings on the back, but Roberts believed it to be from the Dutch Golden Age of painting, the age of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Rubens.

The painting has since been authenticated as an early work by Anthony van Dyck and the oil sketch for his c. 1620 painting of St. Jerome with an angel which hangs in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

The oil sketch went on display today at the Albany Institute of History & Art and will be exhibited until Sunday, October 6. An article about the discovery also appeared today in The Daily Gazette: "Recently discovered van Dyck oil sketch on exhibit at Albany Institute."

Legislating in a Year of Local Elections

Last night, the local law imposing a nine-month moratorium on all new short-term rental facilities was laid on the desks of the Common Council. The possibility of a moratorium has been mentioned many times in Legal Committee meetings, but yesterday was the first time anyone other than Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, and city attorney Andy Howard had actually seen the law. Rosenthal acknowledged the proposed law "was not properly vetted in committee, because Andy was away," but insisted that the law be moved forward. When Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward) protested, "No one has seen this," Rosenthal responded, "They are seeing it now."

Alderman Dominic Merante moved to refer the proposed law back to committee, a motion that was seconded by Volo. When the Council voted on the motion, aldermen Rob Bujan (First Ward) and Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) joined Merante and Volo in support of sending the law back to the Legal Committee, but the other six aldermen [Kamal Johnson (First Ward), Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), Calvin Lewis (Third Ward), Shershah Mizan (Third Ward), and Rosenthal] and Council president Tom DePietro, who usually makes a point of not voting unless there is a tie, voted against referring it back to committee. So, the law was laid on the aldermen's desks and sent to the county Planning Board for review and recommendation.

The urgency of needing to halt the development of short-term rentals, often referred to simply as "Airbnbs," has become a theme in the political discourse in Hudson. Interviewed on WAMC just after the Democratic primary, Kamal Johnson, who won the Democratic mayoral primary, said, "My original plan was to run in two years, but after seeing, basically I'll start with my street, Union Street, I don't have a lot of neighbors anymore, so I'm like 'in two years would there even be a city of actual constituents who live here?'" When asked by the interviewer, Dave Lucas, where "all these neighbors" have gone, Johnson replied, "They've been priced out because housing is way too high. There's an epidemic of short-term rentals."

In pursuing the moratorium, the Council seems not to be heeding those who urged that they study the potential economic consequences of such action or warned that limiting short-term rentals would have little impact on the affordable housing problem in Hudson. After the law was laid on the aldermen's desks, DePietro reminded those opposed to the action that "this [law] still has a long way to go."

The entire discussion of the moratorium and the rest of last night's Common Council meeting can be seen in Dan Udell's video, which was posted on YouTube this morning. Click here to view it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

On the Agenda for Tonight's Council Meeting

This morning, a new item appeared on the agenda for tonight's Common Council meeting: a proposed local law imposing a nine-month moratorium on "the registration or operation of any new short-term lodging facility in the City of Hudson." 

The Common Council Legal Committee has been discussing ways to regulate short-term rental units, particularly the acquisition of houses to be marketed as short-term rentals on Airbnb, for some time, and the idea of a moratorium has been mentioned regularly in those discussions. After the Legal Committee's July meeting, Amanda Purcell reported on HudsonValley360: "A draft law creating a moratorium will be presented at the next Legal Committee meeting, [Alderman John] Rosenthal said." At the August meeting of the Legal Committee, that didn't happen. Now the law, presumably no longer a draft, is being presented to the full Council for consideration. The proposed law can be viewed here.  

The Opposition Continues

The Hudson City School District Board of Education meets tonight at 7 p.m. in the library at Hudson High School. The rehabilitation of the baseball field behind Montgomery C. Smith School may not be on the agenda, but it is likely to come up.

Photo: Glenn Wheeler
Today, Ken Sheffer published new information about the project--specifically about costs and the prefab dugouts being proposed for the field--on his website, Save Hudson's Historic Sports Fields. 

Another Meeting that May Happen This Week

At the informal Common Council meeting last week Monday, Linda Mussmann inquired about the status of the JLE feasibility study

Council president Tom DePietro indicated that the final version of the feasibility study was due on September 27, and there was to be one more public meeting before that time. It was suggested that the meeting would take place sometime this week, but so far there has been no announcement of such a meeting. Perhaps it will come at tonight's Council meeting.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

City meetings this week are concentrated in the first three days. Then there's a break until Saturday, when Future Hudson presents the sixth in its series of community events: "Can We Talk About Housing?"
  • On Monday, September 16, the Common Council Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. This is the meeting, originally set for Wednesday, September 4, that was rescheduled.
  • On Tuesday, September 17, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall followed by the regular monthly meeting of the Common Council at 7:00 p.m. One item on what seems to be a short agenda for the Council is a resolution appointing Sidney Long to the Tourism Board, as one of the four Common Council appointees, to replace David Brown, who resigned some time ago. At the August meeting of the Council, long was a very vocal critic of the Tourism Board's intention to enter into a contract with Chandlerthinks to craft a marketing strategy for Hudson.

  • On Wednesday, September 18, the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meets at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall.
  • Also on Wednesday, September 18, the Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. At its August meeting, the Planning Board rejected the opinion of city attorney Andy Howard and code enforcement officer Craig Haigh that the self storage facility proposed for the corner of Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard was an allowed conditional use and decided that the Zoning Board of Appeals should review the application and "determine if mini storage is an appropriate use in the General Commercial District." The ZBA is expected to take up the question at its meeting on Wednesday.

  • On Saturday, September 21, Future Hudson presents the sixth in its series of community events: "Can We Talk About Housing?" According to Future Hudson, "This event looks at the challenges and opportunities in quality housing for citizens at all income levels." The speakers for the event are Guy Kempe, vice president of community development at RUPCO; Dan Kent, vice president of initiatives for the Galvan Foundation; Ben Schulman, writer and founder of The Newburgh Packet; and James Lima, president of James Lima Planning + Development in New York City. The moderator will be Kamal Johnson, co-director of Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood and First Ward alderman. The event takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Community Room at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.       

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Images of Hudson Buildings

The news from the History Room at the library is that the GoFundMe campaign for the restoration of the rare 1871 map of Hudson is now just $175 away from its goal.

Notable about this particular map are the nineteen images of significant buildings in the city that decorate the perimeter. To celebrate the campaign for its restoration achieving its goal, Gossips reviews and identifies those buildings--some survive, and some are gone.


The residence of Cornelius H. Evans, absent its little corner veranda, is still stands at 412 Warren Street.


The publisher of the map, J. H. Lant, included an image of his own house, which in 1871 stood at 227 Warren Street. When the numbering of buildings changed in 1888-1889, with the introduction of 100 blocks, the address became 427 Warren Street. The building that was Lant's home was destroyed by fire in 1951, and in its place was constructed the building that was until recently the headquarters of the Hudson Police Department.

What was City Hall in 1871 is now Hudson Hall at the Historic Hudson Opera House.


The store and residence of George Storrs, who was a druggist and grocer, remains remarkably unchanged at 322-324 Warren Street. This image provides wonderful guidance should the current owner of the building wish to restore the doorway to the residence and the storefront to their original design.

Hudson Academy was founded in 1805. The school building stood at the summit of what is known as Academy Hill. After Hudson Academy closed in 1886, the building was used from 1889 to 1894 for the newly created Hudson High School, Hudson's first public secondary school.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson


This building is identified as the residence of F. F. Folger. Today, we know it as Cavell House, the location of New York Oncology and Hematology. 

The house is believed to have been built around 1819 for Obed Worth Folger, Frederick Fitch Folger's father. Frederick, who was born in 1812, would have spent much of his childhood in the house. In 1853, having acquired a "satisfactory fortune" in New Orleans, Frederick returned to Hudson and purchased the "Bronson Place," which he named "Glenwood." He continued to be involved with his brother Nathan's business in New Orleans, the nature of which Gossips has explored elsewhere. According to Frederick's biography in Columbia County at the End of the Century, the Civil War "nearly wrecked" his brother's business, and he went back to New Orleans to tend to his financial interests. He sold Glenwood to Mary Whitney Phoenix in 1864, and when he returned to Hudson in 1869, he took up residence in what had been his father's house. (The Hudson city directory for 1870 lists Mrs. Mary Folger, Obed's wife and Frederick's mother, living on Warren Street at the corner of Prospect Avenue.)

In 1918, Dr. and Mrs. John C. Smock, then the owners of the house, donated it to Hudson Hospital for convalescent soldiers and sailors returning from Europe after World War I. Later it housed the hospital's nursing school and was named Cavell House for Edith Cavell, the British nurse who helped hundreds of British, French, and Belgian soldiers escape the Germans during the first year of the Great War and was arrested, tried, and executed in 1915.


The city directory for 1870 gives the address of Harper W. Rogers' home as simply "Green Street." It is possible to think that the house depicted on the 1871 map, enhanced with the addition of porches, dormers, a circle bay ending in the turret, and decorative brackets, is the same house that in 1905 was the home of Harper's youngest son, Charles S. Rogers. C. S. Rogers' house was located at 24 Green Street. Sadly, it no longer exists.

The residence of George H. Power is 400 State Street. Originally built in 1818 as the Hudson almshouse, the building had been a lunatic asylum and a female seminary before it became Power's private residence, and it was an orphanage and then the public library after his residency. The building is now owned by the Galvan Foundation.


The residence of Allen Rossman, seen in the image from the map and the photographs below, no longer exists, but Rossman Avenue, a collection of turn-of-the-century and early 20th-century houses, bears his name.


The residence of Silas W. Toby, where one of Gossips' idols, Anna Bradbury, once lived as a boarder, was located at 729 Warren Street. It is believed that the house may survive beneath the Diamond building, which now occupies the site.


This, of course, is the first Columbia County court house to occupy the site at the south end of the Fourth Street transept, built in 1835.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson


George Parton was the father of Hudson River School painters Arthur and Ernest Parton. According to the Hudson city directory for 1870, George Parton lived on Prospect Avenue, but exactly where this house was located is not known.


The residence of Ezra Waterbury, notable for being a rare example of a cast-iron facade on a domestic building, still stands at 124 Warren Street.


In 1907, after the National Hudson River Bank had moved to its new building at 520 Warren Street, now City Hall, the Elks Club took over this building at 231 Warren Street. The building suffered a damaging fire in the summer of 1935, and soon after that, the Elks having departed to 601 Union Street, the building was demolished.


This building, which was constructed in 1805, was damaged by fire in 1919. When the building was repaired after the fire, the roof line was altered, but the building still stands at 364 Warren Street.


An image of the residence of J. H. Lant, who published the map, is included on the map, and so is the residence of Alex. S. Rowley, who drew the map. This charming Gothic Revival cottage, once the home of Cassandra Danz, a.k.a. Mrs. Greenthumbs, still stands at 611 Union Street.


The residence of Augustus and Ellen McKinstry stood at 886 Columbia Street. The house, which is also shown in the photograph below, was demolished in 1910 to make way for the Dinehart mansion.


The residence of Casper P. Collier stood at 363 Allen Street, where there is now a parking lot for the court house. The house, then owned by Columbia County, was demolished sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. In the 1930s, it was photographed by Walker Evans.

Walker Evans Archive|Metropolitan Museum of Art


The store and residence of H. C. Turner may be the most interesting of the buildings included on the map, because H. C. Turner was Miss H. C. Turner, and her store was a millinery shop. The map gives the address as 279 Warren Street which, according to the Hudson Tap Book, became 521 Warren Street after the renumbering in 1888-1889. The building is remarkably altered today, with greater height and different fenestration. The first photograph below provides evidence that some of the changes--the addition of another floor--occurred prior to 1905, when the building was the location of K. V. Clark, "Hudson's Leading Cloak and Suit House." It is not known when the changes in the second floor fenestration and the alteration of the storefront happened.


We in Hudson take pride, justifiably, in our architectural heritage, but it is sobering to realize that, of the nineteen buildings considered significant enough to be portrayed on a map of the city in 1871, only eight of them survived through the 20th century.

Update: At approximately 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning, the GoFundMe campaign for the restoration of the map reached its goal of $7,500!