Saturday, December 7, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 9

Today we come to the end of our series of Winter Walk memories, because today is Winter Walk! The event kicks off at 4:45 p.m. outside City Hall with the Santa Parade and the procession of "Spirits of Winter Walks Past, Present and Yet to Come." This year's Winter Walk honors Ellen Thurston, the "Queen of Winter Walk," for her enduring love and commitment to Hudson's favorite holiday tradition. (Ellen took the reins as chief organizer of Winter Walk in 2001.) For the final installment in the "Memories of Winter Walk" series, Gossips shares Ellen's "Winter Walk History," which first appeared on the Hudson Hall website.

Winter Walk started in 1997 as a community event. The antique stores had moved onto Warren Street, and it was felt that it would be a friendly gesture if shops would stay open, offering refreshments and entertainment. The whole scheme was hatched in Carole Clark's restaurant, Charleston (now Baba Louie's), where Abby Lappen's dance company had staged an imaginative dance performance. From the first year, Abby's dancers appeared in windows on Warren Street to the delight of children and adults.
Winter Walk was an instant success. Mayor Rick Scalera played Santa Claus. A beautiful horse and carriage clip-clopped up the street as just the right amount of snow fell. Antique dealer Byrne Fone dressed as Charles Dickens and read "A Christmas Carol" in his shop window. Saxophone Santa suddenly appeared from out of nowhere. Everyone seemed to join in the spirit of the season. Best of all, it reminded people of the time when all the stores on Warren Street were open on Thursday nights, and some likened it to "a high school reunion" where they saw people they hadn't seen in years. That feeling of "community" still remains until this day, even though visitors from outside the county have swelled the ranks.
The first Winter Walk took place mostly in the 500 and 600 blocks. It was called "A Winter Walk on Warren Street." It was hard to get the crowd to move below Fifth Street or above Seventh Street. But as the business district grew, expanding up and down Warren Street, over to Columbia and into the side streets, Winter Walk grew with it. The name of the event was shortened from "A Winter Walk on Warren Street" to "Winter Walk," reflecting this growth, and making the name more inclusive. It was at this point that tourists and visitors from outside the region started to come. They seemed to like the combination of a small town celebration and the quirky and surprising entertainment that was offered. The star of the show, however, has always been the street itself--a mile-long parade of beautiful buildings beautifully decorated. And people seem to like walking down that street with a friendly crowd of people.
As the crowds got bigger, shops were overwhelmed with visitors, and efforts have been made to place more entertainment outside on the street. Also, entertainment that used to appear in empty stores, or in shop windows, has had to move outside due to lack of available spaces. 
For a number of years, it was difficult, if not impossible, to get Winter Walkers to go below Third Street. The formation of the BeLo3rd organization had a lot to do with the development below Third Street, which is now populated with all kinds of businesses. Warren Street above Seventh Street is also now developing and changing at a rapid rate.
Winter Walk is now almost seen as a holiday. It has turned into a destination. Many parties and family gatherings are built around Winter Walk. B&Bs fill up that weekend, etc.
Winter Walk is weather dependent. It has been postponed only once, due to a monumental blizzard on the day of Winter Walk. Temperatures have varied from frigid to almost 60 degrees. In spite of the weather, some people take pride in saying that they have been to every Winter Walk.
I believe that fireworks (to end the event) were added in the second year of Winter Walk. They were shot off from Academy Hill above Rossman Avenue at the eastern end of Warren Street. When that area began to be developed, the fireworks were moved to Promenade Hill at the western end of Warren Street.
Winter Walk is, as it has always been, produced by the Hudson Opera House as a community event, with the added purpose of promoting business. From the beginning, other community organizations, public school art and music departments, the City Fire, Police and Public Works departments, and individual volunteers have participated and made it all possible.

Mayor-Elect Announces Appointments

On Friday, Mayor-Elect Kamal Johnson announced on his Facebook page his "first round of appointments." Tracy Delaney, who has been the City Clerk since 2009, was reappointed, and Peter Bujanow, who was originally appointed by Mayor Tiffany Martin, will continue as Commissioner of Public Works. As Gossips has already reported, Third Ward supervisor Michael Chameides will be Johnson's mayoral aide.

Johnson also appointed a Police Commissioner: Peter Volkmann. Although it may seem bizarre for the Chief of Police from the Village of Chatham to serve as the Police Commissioner for the City of Hudson, his appointment should come as no surprise. In the community protest that followed the raid conducted by the Shared Services Response Team on June 5, 2018, which she characterized as a "militarized raid," Linda Mussmann called for a Common Council resolution to require the Hudson Police Department to opt out of the Shared Services Response Team (made up of officers from the sheriff's departments of Columbia and Greene counties and the HPD) and also made it known that Volkmann was her preference to serve as Police Commissioner in Hudson.

Mussmann and Johnson in a photo from Mussmann's Facebook page

Short-Term Rentals and Hudson

The 2020 budget for the City of Hudson anticipates a 21.4 percent increase in revenue from the City's lodging tax. Some of that anticipated revenue is no doubt coming from short-term rentals marketed on Airbnb. The 2020 budget was unanimously approved by the Common Council on November 19. At the regular meeting of the Council, which followed immediately after the special meeting, the aldermen voted unanimously to enact a nine-month moratorium on the "registration and operation of any new short-term lodging facility in the City of Hudson." The moratorium, which has rather hastily brought before the Council in September, is meant to "take the pressure off acting quickly and legislating poorly" in the matter of regulating short-term rentals. The Legal Committee of the Common Council, chaired by John Rosenthal, started discussing the issue of regulating short-term rentals in January 2019.

This past Tuesday, Mayor Rick Rector held a public hearing on the law that would impose the moratorium. It was, by all accounts, one of the most well attended public hearings in recent history, with both opponents and proponents of the moratorium present. The hearing went on for close to an hour.

Late Friday afternoon, Rector vetoed the law that would impose the moratorium. His veto message explained the following reasons for his action:
  1. The term of nine months is exceptionally long. There have been lengthy discussions, conversations and meetings throughout the general community, business community, government and specifically the legal committee for well over a year regarding short-term lodging.
  2. Due to these lengthy discussions, reviews and meetings that have taken place there could have been commonsense legislation such as "owner occupied" regulation put into place that would negate the supposed need for a nine month moratorium.
  3. The nine month moratorium does not address or resolve the important aspect of various forms of affordable housing needs within the city. This conversation is worldwide and especially critical in places where people want to live, invest, raise a family, etc. It is an incredibly important discussion to have, but it should not be conflated with short term lodging.
  4. This nine month moratorium sends a message to residents, business owners and outsiders that Hudson is not fully open for business, is clamping down on development and important economic development in addition to potentially discouraging visitors from visiting our community and bringing in much needed and important revenues for the various businesses throughout the city.
Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward) reacted in support of the veto on his blog Fourth Ward Hudson. His post concludes:
The moratorium is a knee-jerk reaction to a housing issue. The City formed a Housing Task Force in 2017 which produced a Strategic Housing Plan--passed by the Common Council last year. Please read it. This document outlines strategies and goals--a game plan--for affordable housing in Hudson. At the very end, the last appendix, it mentions Short Term Rentals; it does not suggest a moratorium.
On her Facebook page, Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann made this claim about the mayor's action: "Mayor Rector today vetos [sic] the hope to regulate AirBNB's here in Hudson--Rector has a deaf ear when it comes to listening to the community that struggles to stay here in Hudson."

Of some relevance to the discussion of regulating short-term rentals in Hudson is this article which appeared on Thursday in Realtor Magazine, a publication of the National Association of Realtors: "Airbnb Removes Thousands of Listings Under New Boston Law." The article reports:
In Boston, new regulations [which took effect on December 1] require hosts to register their listings with the city. The law is designed to ban investor units—properties that are meant to be residential but then are primarily used for short-term housing. To use Airbnb, hosts must own their properties and live in them for at least nine months of the year. Boston lawmakers have also limited listings to one per host. Hosts are required to register their units with the city every year and pay an annual licensing fee.
As of a month ago, the city had about 4,000 total listings in Boston. City officials have received 1,778 applications to register listings; only 737 have been approved so far, as reported on Tuesday by CNBC. Airbnb says it has removed all listings from its platform that did not display a license number from the city of Boston.  
The new regulations in Boston, which were first passed in July 2018, faced legal challenges from Airbnb. This report of Airbnb's zealous compliance with local law seems to suggest a change from what was purported in an article that appeared in Wired in March 2019, which reported that "Airbnb is engaged in 'a city-by-city, block-by-block guerilla war' against local governments."

Friday, December 6, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 8

Winter Walk has been a holiday tradition in Hudson since 1997, so there are Hudsonians, now adults, who experienced the festive event as children. Gossips asked one of those people, Dylan Meyer, who was six when the tradition started, to share his childhood memories of Winter Walk.  

When I first thought to write out memories of Winter Walk, nothing immediately jumped out at me. Most of the memories are a blur--bundled walkers enjoying the decorated storefronts, steaming styrofoam cups of cider, the miniature horses (or were they actual reindeer at one point?). I remember waiting in line for what felt like ages to meet Santa at City Hall. There must have been dozens of other kids present, but my memory is not of them or of ever seeing Santa, only of waiting and waiting, and more importantly of my reward: a brand-new copy of Bart Simpson's Guide to Life.
Unlike Bart, I was a strict adherent to rules and the wishes of my parents, and so one year I sat dutifully in a shop window and listened to Mother Goose read nursery rhymes and stories to me and the other kids gathered around her rocking chair. More vivid in my mind, however, are the snacks at that particular venue--savory cookies and pretzel rods dipped in chocolate, both completely new to me and quite eye-opening. I really remember the important things.
But all of these memories are just flashes--fleeting and fuzzy with not much behind them. However, last year I was able to attend my first Winter Walk in a decade, and walking east toward Fifth Street, I was struck all of a sudden with a heavy sense of nostalgia. Across from Nolita, the Badillas were performing, and the sounds of their drums and the call of their voices hit me right in the gut. I was home.

Preparations for Winter Walk

Congratulations and thanks to the Department of Public Works!

City Halls reports that, despite having to deal with the two feet of snow dumped on Hudson this week, the Department of Public Works has succeeded in removing the snow from the city's streets and hanging all the holiday lights in the trees along Warren Street in time for Winter Walk tomorrow. The only thing they didn't manage to accomplish is installing Santa's Village in the Public Square.

There may be those who don't think that's such a bad thing.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 7

Today's Winter Walk memory comes from Lisa Durfee, whose costumes are always one of the joyous surprises of the evening. Lisa and her partner, Alan Hamilton, have dressed for the occasion as a Victorian lady and gentleman and as Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of Joseph Marley. In 2013, Lisa made a solo appearance as the Fairy Queen of Winter Walk.

The proprietor of the vintage clothing store Five & Diamond, Lisa is responsible for creating the costumes of two characters who have become a Winter Walk tradition: the Gingerbread Man and the Snowman. The costumes were made in 2005 and 2006 and have been part of Winter Walk ever since. In her memory of Winter Walk, Lisa recounts how she created them.

In 2005, I made the Gingerbread Man costume at Five and Diamond especially for Winter Walk. Of course, I can't say I designed the basic pattern--a cookie cutter did that--but the construction details were all my own idea. 
First, I drew my pattern onto two layers of interfacing. Then I got three yards of brown felt and three yards of one-inch-thick polyester batting from a local upholsterer. The interfacing cutout became the pattern for the felt and batting cutout and became the lining that keeps the itchy batting off the wearer's skin.
I sewed all three layers together on the sewing machine, leaving about a one-inch seam allowance. When the brown felt seam allowance was trimmed away, the batting became the edge icing! (This part was a real bitch, however, because I needed a lot of space to move a big costume like that through a sewing machine. I did it on the floor.)
Then I sewed the front to the back at the head only. The rest of the costume was attached together with plastic pricing gun bullets. After that, it was just decorating: stuffed buttons and eyes made out of felt, attached with a glue gun, and, of course, an opening at the mouth so the wearer can see and breathe.
This costume turned out to be very flexible, warm, and cozy.
The next year, I made a snowman costume in the same manner.

Look for both of Lisa's amazing costumes on the street this Saturday night.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

An Editorial on "Ugly Construction"

Gossips is steadfast in its reporting on the deliberations of Hudson's regulatory boards and regularly publishes the images of renderings and models for proposed new construction presented to those boards--most often to the Historic Preservation Commission but sometimes to the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals. The renderings and models often provoke outraged comments from readers about the inappropriateness of the design. Given that experience, I was intrigued when I came upon this editorial in the Columbia Republican for December 2, 1919. Written a hundred years ago, it suggests there is a need for a design review board to impose "standards of taste" on new construction and prevent the construction of "buildings designed without the least sense of taste or appropriateness."

One wonders what, a hundred years ago in Hudson and its environs, inspired this denunciation of the "erection of cheap and ugly dwellings."

Update on the Snow

If you woke up this morning to find the snow situation not much altered from what it was last night, here's the latest word on the subject from City Hall.

The snow removal continues!
Thanks to everyone for your patience and understanding as we tackle cleaning up the extremely large amount of snow. We were not able to make as much progress as hoped last night due to the heavy weight of the snow. The removal procedure will continue for the rest of the week.
Again, please continue to pay close attention to signage regarding NO PARKING throughout the day and evening.
Regular opposite/alternate side parking regulations remain in place UNLESS there is a sign saying NO PARKING. If this is the case, please park on the other side regardless of the opposite/alternate parking rules. The NO PARKING signs are your guide.
Please avoid any penalties (fines, towing, etc.) by adhering to the NO PARKING signs.
Additionally, please follow established guidelines for clearing sidewalks. Snow should be shoveled to the curb. The regulations regarding shoveling can be found at the City of Hudson website.
Continue to check the City of Hudson website for updates and additional information.
Lastly, please tell your neighbors, be safe, and know we are doing all we can to clear  up the snow as quickly as possible.
Update on the Update: The giant snow thrower and the dump trucks just passed Gossips Central here on Allen Street.

One More Cancellation

If you were thinking of showing up for tonight's Housing and Transportation Committee meeting, you can make other plans. The meeting, which was to take place at 6:45 p.m. at City Hall, has been canceled.

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 6

Today's Winter Walk memory is shared by Gary Schiro, who served as executive director of the Hudson Opera House, now known as Hudson Hall, for nineteen years, from 1998 to 2017.

I have been at every Winter Walk except 2018, when I was still in the midst of my "long winter's nap." And I have happy memories of each one of them, through good weather and bad. From the beginning, it was such an amazing combination of generous volunteers, lively and game merchants, hard-working civil servants, dedicated staff, and was fully embraced by the community. It has been transformational for Hudson, and a shining example creative placemaking. There is one particular moment, though, that I know I'll never forget.
In the beginning, of course, there was no need to close off the street. Then we closed off one block, then two, and eventually almost all of Warren Street. Around the year 2000, we closed off the 300 block for the first time. I never made it very far away from the Opera House when Winter Walk was happening; there were too many things to keep an eye on in the building, too many visitors to greet, and I wanted to be easily reachable if anyone needed me. It made sense to mostly stay put. I always said the hour leading up to the kickoff of Winter Walk is the most chaotic, energetic, and unruly hour in the life of that busy building. However, once the choirs have sung, the horns have played, and Santa is on his way to City Hall, the evening moves into the happy rhythm of smiles and greetings and seeing long-lost friends--the real core of what powers the event. I had been perched in the building for an hour or so when it dawned on me that, for the first time, I could at least go into the middle of the street and take a look without being too far from Command Central. I was cold that night, but not brutally so, and very clear. There were many revelers out in the street, as well as costumed characters and carolers. I turned and looked uptown and couldn't believe my eyes. There was an absolute sea of people, an enormous crowd, seemingly headed in this direction. We had never seen a crowd like that at Winter Walk, and I realized in that instant that this was no longer an event that we produced. Though we raised the money, hired the performers, arranged the fireworks, coordinated everything with city agencies, this was no longer ours. It belonged to them. That is why, even in the worst weather, thousands still came out and were astonishingly cheerful. It's near impossible to be at the event and not smile.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Because of Snow and Holidays

Gossips has received word that the following Common Council committee meetings have been canceled--in this week and the coming weeks.
  • Wednesday, December 4  Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation
  • Monday, December 9  Economic Development  
  • Wednesday, December 18  Public Works and Parks
  • Monday, December 23  Fire and Police  

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 5

With this year's Winter Walk only days away, Gossips continues sharing memories of Winter Walks past. Today's contribution is from Sarah Lipsky, who chaired the committee that organized the very first Winter Walk in 1997 and the next three Winter Walks after that.

Photo: Hudson Valley Lodging Association
There was a stillness in the air in the hour before the first Winter Walk began. The street suddenly became quiet and dark. I feared that, despite months of preparation, no one would come. But at 5 p.m., Warren Street began to fill with people, activity, and holiday sounds of singing and music and the wonderful sound of the horse-drawn carriages coming down the street.
In 1997, I had an antique shop on Warren Street and had just joined the board of the Hudson Opera House, when Carole Clark, another board member, shared her ideas of a Winter Walk. She asked if I would head the committee and organize the event. It was a new adventure, and I jumped right in. A lot needed to be done in a limited amount of time to create a special evening to highlight the incredible shops and talent in Hudson.
Warren Street was so different in 1997. There were many empty shop spaces, and many people in the area only focused on the negative aspects of Hudson. The Hudson Opera House was not open yet and major interior renovations had not started. Winter Walk started on a shoestring.
I looked for donations but knew we needed a way to raise more funds. I decided that selling chocolate could be a solution. After many tries, I found a sympathetic executive at Lindt Chocolate who agreed to sell truffles to us at cost. I ordered small white candy boxes and bought black ribbon. With the help of Kelly Cummings, another board member, we had a beautiful gold seal made with the image of the Hudson Opera House.
I had to drive to Albany to the Lindt store at 9:30 p.m., after they closed, to purchase the chocolates. My daughter, who was only two at the time, was euphoric as we walked into the darkened store with the incredible smell of chocolate. She raced around the store in her pink snowsuit as the manager and I sat on the floor and counted out thousands of chocolate truffles. 
The next night, in my antique shop, with board members Harriet Shur, Lorelle Phillips, and others, we filled candy boxes, put on the Hudson Opera House seals, and tied the ribbons. I asked local businesses, who generously agreed, to sell the candy boxes which enabled us to raise additional money we needed to pay performers, musicians, hire the horse-drawn carriages, print posters, and meet many other event costs.
Other antique dealers agreed to open their shops for Winter Walk evening. With the help of Abby Lappen and Gloria Terwilliger, we were able to fill shop spaces and windows with talented musicians and incredible window performers. I went door to door on Warren Street encouraging shop owners to stay open that evening and decorate their windows for the event, offer refreshments, or host performers. We announced a window decorating contest to encourage shop owners. Warren Street had the most fantastic holiday windows.
I booked horse-drawn carriages and found street performers and food vendors to help create a festive feel on the street. We reached out to area schools and organizations to encourage their involvement by caroling or selling food or holiday items on the street during Winter Walk. We received children’s book donations for Santa’s gifts through Lorelle Phillips and The Town Fair, the wonderful children’s store that had been at 555 Warren Street. Rick Scalera, the mayor at the time, agreed to let me photograph him in his Santa outfit on a sleigh at a farm in Kinderhook, so we could use it for publicity. With assistance from Kelly Cummings, we had a barrage of press releases highlighting the event. The Register Star and The Independent, now Columbia Paper, printed all of our press releases and were so instrumental in publicizing the event. I and many others put up posters in every spot possible throughout the county.
We opened the doors of the Hudson Opera House in 1997 at the first Winter Walk. It was a thrilling moment to have a ribbon cutting, see all of the excitement and energy on the street, and have the Hudson Opera House be an active part of Hudson again. None of us knew what would happen at the first Winter Walk, but it was obvious that the community embraced this festive evening of bringing people together on a dark, cold December night. 
The next morning, I booked the horse-drawn carriages for the second Winter Walk and began planning how to improve and expand the event. After that year, we had to close the street to traffic because of the crowds. The event expanded to the full the length of Warren Street.
We added fireworks, which initially were set off at the top of Academy Hill, before the townhouses were built there. Winter Walk became the event that kicks off the holiday season and one that local residents and out of town visitors plan for. Some new Hudson residents moved here and new shop owners opened here because of first coming to Winter Walk. With the help of many volunteers, I organized the first four Winter Walks, and then Ellen Thurston graciously and ably took over the very time-consuming chairperson position! Everyone who has been involved shares in the accomplishment of this wonderful community event that continues to evolve and has become a Hudson tradition.

Thinking About the Dunn Warehouse

With about two feet of snow on the ground and on the roofs of Hudson buildings, the state of the Dunn warehouse, the last surviving industrial building on the waterfront, comes to mind. So today, Gossips reports on the discussion of the building that took place on November 19, at the most recent meeting of the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Intitiative) Committee.

The City has been awarded $1.5 million for the stabilization and restoration of the building--$500,000 in a Restore NY grant awarded early in 2017 and $1 million in DRI funding. It has been unclear until recently if any of that money can be claimed and spent without a private developer partnering with the City in the building's restoration and reuse. In the past year, it has been determined that the $500,000 Restore NY grant can be utilized, but the $1 million in DRI funds cannot be used without there being a private sector partner for the enterprise.

In October, a team of structural engineers from Chazen, the group that is helping administer the DRI projects, was dispatched to assess the building and make recommendations for its immediate stabilization. At the DRI Committee meeting on November 19, they made a preliminary report, identifying two areas of immediate concern: the roof on the eastern portion of the building and the brick wall on the south side of the building, where there is now a giant overhead door, which was installed in the 1850s building sometime in the 20th century. (The pictures below were taken in April 2018.)  

The initial recommendation was that the roof on the eastern portion of the building be removed and rebuilt and that the collapsing southern wall be braced. A full assessment report and a stabilization plan package is expected to be presented at the next meeting of the DRI Committee, currently scheduled to take place on Tuesday, December 10, at 2:30 p.m., at City Hall.

About That Snow

Mayor Rick Rector just released the following statement about plans for snow removal in the city.

The City of Hudson will begin a major snow removal procedure throughout the city starting this evening, Tuesday, December 3, at 11:00 p.m. Additionally, the National Guard will be in town today to assist with the shoveling of fire hydrants.
The removal of snow will continue through the week, and a busy week it will be, with the annual Winter Walk this Saturday, December 7.
DPW will commence the placement of NO PARKING signage this afternoon around the city. Please pay close attention to these signs as there should be no parking in these designated areas after 11:00 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, December 3, 2019.
To avoid penalties (fines, towing, etc.), please adhere to the sign information when you are parking a vehicle.
Please check throughout the afternoon for the temporary signage. Let your neighbors know, and please let the DPW workers know how much their work is appreciated.
We will be updating again tomorrow morning or later today for any revisions. As always, please check the City of Hudson website for both basic snow removal regulations and new updates.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

No meetings had to be canceled today, because there were no meetings scheduled. Tomorrow and the next day will, however, see some action at City Hall.
  • Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 3, Mayor Rick Rector will hold a public hearing on two proposed local laws. The first--Local Law No. 2 of 2019--would impose a nine-month moratorium on the registration or operation of any new short-term lodging facility; the second--Local Local No. 4 of 2019--would amend Chapter 112 of the city code to allow the City to award purchase contracts and contracts for services in competitive bidding on the basis of lowest responsible bidder or best value. The public hearing takes place at 4:00 p.m. in City Hall.
  • Also on Tuesday, December 3, the Conservation Advisory Council holds its regular monthly meeting at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. Trees--tree inventories, tree boards, tree maintenance--will no doubt be on the agenda for discussion at the meeting.
  • On Wednesday, December 4, two Common Council committees meet: at 5:30 p.m., it's Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation, and at 6:45 p.m., it's Housing and Transportation. Both meetings take place at City Hall.
And that's all for the week.

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 4

It is a remarkable fact that only once, in the twenty-three years of Winter Walk, has the event ever been canceled because of bad weather. That happened in 2003, when a legendary blizzard, the December 2003 Nor'easter, dumped more than two feet of snow on Hudson from December 5 to December 7. (Winter Walk was on December 6 that year.) So today, when we are experiencing a reprise of that early December storm, Gossips shares a Winter Walk memory from Sarah Sterling, who had an unusual assignment that evening. Sarah has given her memory the title, "The Blizzard That Closed Down Winter Walk."

Photo: Michael Weaver|Flickr
Today is a perfect day to reflect on blizzards!
Ellen Thurston and I got together recently to reminisce about one of our favorite tall tales.
Every so often Hudson gets a Great Blizzard. Not long after I moved here, we had a big one, and this one succeeded in shutting everything down. Ellen and I were part of the group putting on Winter Walk that year. I think my job consisted of wrapping books for the kids in funny papers. Does anyone call them that anymore? You know, the kind with color that rubs off all over your hands. I may have helped dress some of the strollers, too. Around then, Nancy Wiley would wear her amazing dress that had active puppets on the skirt. I believe it’s still being used.
Doug Thorn [then president of the Hudson Opera House board] made the decision to cancel Winter Walk, as he didn’t want to be responsible for children dying on the road. (Ellen’s recollection!) This left almost everyone notified except for the man arriving by train, who danced with a life-sized doll. Ellen and I were drafted to meet him at the train and try to explain the situation. I think someone thought I spoke Spanish. (In truth, I only understood a little Italian).
So we slogged down to the station with the snow getting deeper by the moment. The train arrived, and we tried to explain our problem to the conductor. She thought we were out of our minds and wanted to protect her passengers from us. Finally we got our dilemma through just as a short man with two huge suitcases descended from the train. Sure enough he didn’t speak a word of English. Ellen and I somehow thought he should just stay on the train and make the round trip, but after a few go-rounds, it was decided he’d get off, stay in the station, and get the next train back to New York. I remember clearly that I gave him my gloves because he had arrived without even a coat. Satisfied with our job accomplished, we slogged back up the hill with the snow at least up to our knees.
I did see his act because he came for several years after that. Parts of his suitcase contents were a boom box and the doll. She was gorgeous, and it was an amazingly realistic performance--all tangos. Ellen thinks the song lyrics were very risqué, but this story gets taller by the minute. 
A Gossips Afterword: I don't know about the lyrics being risqué, but I remember his performance one year in the window of the Hudson Supermarket building at 310 Warren Street. It was amazing, but one or two of his moves with that partner of his made Dirty Dancing seem downright demure.

A Sweet Fundraiser for a Favorite Cause

Today is National Mutt Day, so despite the fact that everyone is snowed in and Verdigris, the tea and chocolate shop at Second and Warren streets central to this story, has declared a snow day, it seems the perfect time to share this announcement.

Photo: Judy Curran
Pekoe, the resident dog at Verdigris Tea & Chocolate, is pleased to announce a benefit for Hudson's brand-new dog park. Buy a bag of Dog & Bone cookies, and the proceeds from this toothsome twosome will be donated to the dog park. While these home-baked confections are for humans, they are definitely Pekoe approved. You can join the Hudson Dog Park Facebook group here.

So, tomorrow, when the the storm is over and the snow is cleared away, head over to Verdigris, 135 Warren Street, to stock up on Dog & Bone cookies and help support the ongoing maintenance and future enhancement of Hudson's new but already much beloved dog park.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 3

On the first day of December, as the first significant snow of the season blankets our little city, we continue our memories of Winter Walks past. Today, Gossips shares a memory provided by Elena Mosley, the executive director of Operation Unite and a longtime member of the Hudson Opera House board of directors.

Photo: axesmundi
Movement and dance have always been the highlight of Winter Walk. A "tableau" of dancers, imitating mannequins, then suddenly moving, exciting the crowd. This was the brainchild of Abby Lappen. Live dancers in the store windows. Sternfeld Newsies dancing the headlines, and, in a quick twirl, the Albany Berkshire Ballet were melting snowflakes on upper Warren Street. The big windows of 601 Warren Street and the Finnish Line across the street held the chilled onlooker back while pressed against the windows' thick glass. In the blink of an eye, community hip hop dancers flipped the crowd sixfold into the streets. From the Triform Bell Choir to Kuumba Dance and Drum, the Pleshakov Music Center [544 Warren Street] was flooded with families and folks enjoying the warmth of the Hudson movement. As the Gingerbread Man passed by Guy Apicella's quick ballroom dance shoes and the lady in the mysterious coat of hidden goodies, one looked and stuck out one's tongue for a passing dancing snowflake.

Catching Up with HDC

Last Tuesday, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation held its regular monthly meeting, and a few things happened at that meeting that merit reporting.

First, the cash poor HDC is soon to have a new source of income. The agency is poised to enter into a lease with Redburn Development to rent a portion of the concrete slab behind The Wick Hotel--what remains of the part of the Kaz warehouse building that was demolished, at Redburn's expense, late in 2017. 

According to the terms of the proposed lease, Redburn will pay HDC $2,000 a month to rent a space that will provide thirty parking spots for the hotel. This income will allow HDC to make the payments due to CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation) on the $200,000 loan that enabled HDC to purchase the CSX parcel. Those payments now amount to $10,000 a year.

In another revenue producing initiative, HDC has discovered that, in addition to the Kaz property, it owns a vacant lot on Mill Street (228 Mill Street), 3.3 landlocked acres on the river side of Mt. Merino, a parcel at the foot of Dock Street that abuts the Hudson Dog Park and the Furgary Boat Club, and two parcels that are underwater in the Hudson River. The greatest attention at the meeting was given to the lot on Mill Street, and it was decided that the lot should be surveyed to determine if it is saleable. 

The board also discussed vacancies on the board. There are currently three, after the resignations of Mark Morgan-Perez, Walter Chatham, and Gregg Carey. Board president Bob Rasner suggested that former board member Chris Jones serve on the nominating committee along with board members Carolyn Lawrence and Nick Haddad.

On a topic related to board membership, Rasner reminded the board that there was a motion on the table to add the majority and minority leaders of the Common Council as ex officio members of the HDC board. That motion had been made by Council president Tom DePietro at the board's October meeting. Currently, the mayor and the Common Council president are the only ex officio members of the HDC board. Once upon a time, the majority and minority leaders did serve on the HDC board, but at the end of 2015, the board amended its bylaws to limit the number of elected officials on the board to two--the mayor and the Council president. At the time, there were nine members of the board and four of them--almost half--were elected officials. The change was made to allow a greater number of community members to serve on the board, but some at the time believed it was an attempt to remove "any voices from the minority communities." In 2015, Tiffany Garriga was the majority leader and Bart Delaney was the minority leader.

At the end of the meeting, Rasner spoke about the goals of the agency when he became chair of the HDC board earlier this year: rebuilding the board and the CSX acquisition. He noted that the goals had been achieved and asked rhetorically: "Now what do we do?" He went on to opine that, to the question of what to do with the Kaz property, "there were no wrong answers" and suggested, as he has before, that HDC might just sell it to a developer because they were not developers. He then asked, again rhetorically, "Does development of this property even fall within our mission?" He offered the opinion, "It doesn't appear that it does."

Because the next regularly scheduled HDC meeting falls on Christmas Eve, it was agreed that the board's December meeting would take place on Friday, December 20, at noon. Amendments to the bylaws, including once again making the majority and minority leaders of the Common Council ex officio members of the board, will be taken up at that meeting.