Monday, March 27, 2023

Common Council Watch

We won't know for sure who's running for seats on the Common Council until designating petitions are filed, which will happen between April 3 and April 6, and maybe not even then, but today two candidates announced that they are stepping up to run in the Fourth Ward: Jennifer Belton and Rich Volo. The announcement provided this information about the candidates.
Jennifer Belton grew up in central Virginia, along the James River. After frequent visits to Hudson, she and her husband Dave, a master plasterer and cabinetmaker, felt it was the perfect place to settle and make their home, as it was reminiscent of the place where she grew up. After nine years in Hudson, she decided to enter the race for Fourth Ward councilmember.
A professor for more than twenty years, Jennifer has taught at Albright College, Marist College, and Parsons | The New School for Social Justice. As a leading member of UAW Local 7902, she helped to organize strike duties, attended collective bargaining meetings, and relayed information to the 1,600 members of The New School's part-time faculty.
She served as secretary of the Flag Day Committee in 2018, a community event that is close to her heart.
The things that are important to her are community, the environment, and making sure the decisions made by our city government reflect the desires of its constituents.
Jennifer has worked at small businesses and nonprofits in Hudson and understands the challenges that these businesses and the community members who own and work for them face. She feels a close connection and a deep warmth to the city of Hudson and especially to her neighbors in the Fourth Ward. She will make a spirited and dedicated councilmember if elected.
Rich "Trixie" Volo served as Fourth Ward alderman for two years, 2018-2019. As alderman, Rich obtained for the City $45,000 in grants from New York State and National Grid for the electric car-charging stations behind City Hall, as well as $35,000 from NYS Climate Smart Communities for completing the first four high-impact climate actions.
Rich organized the first Pride Parade in Hudson in 2010 and was involved in the next ten years of Pride Parades.
In 2015, Rich set up a small computer support team in Hudson which still employs several Hudson residents.
Rich currently manages the website Trixie's List, an event calendar, and the accompanying walking map of the city of Hudson. He also serves as chair of Hudson's Conservation Advisory Council. 
You can find Rich selling cookies fresh from Trixie's Oven every Saturday at the Hudson Farmers' Market.

Today's the Day

The sidewalk law, which establishes a citywide sidewalk improvement district and levies an annual maintenance fee on all properties whether or not they are exempt from property taxes, was subject to a permissive referendum. To trigger a referendum, a petition protesting the law had to be filed with the city clerk within forty-five days after the law was enacted. The number of signatures required on the petition had to be equal to at least 10 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in Hudson in the last gubernatorial election. In this case, that number was calculated to be at least 204 signatures.

According to Gossips' calculation, which was confirmed by the city clerk at the last Council meeting, the forty-five days is up today. So far, there has been no word of a petition being filed or of a petition being circulated.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The week ahead, the final week in March, culminates with April Fool's Day. In the meantime, here is what's happening.
  • On Monday, March 27, the Housing Trust Fund Board meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.  
  • On Tuesday, March 28, Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) holds its annual meeting at noon. The meeting takes place in person only at 1 North Front Street.
  • On Wednesday, March 29, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) holds a special to review and consider the annual audit and other annual compliance documents. The meeting, which is a hybrid, takes place at 9:00 a.m. in person at 1 City Centre, Suite 301, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
  • Also on Wednesday, March 29, the Columbia County Housing Advisory Board is hosting a Landlord/Tenants Rights Forum from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the library at Hudson High School, 215 Harry Howard Avenue. The topics to be covered are:
    • Landlord/tenant law
    • Landlord/tenant rights and responsibilities
    • Eviction process and small claims court
    • Section 8 housing voucher choice program
    • Rental and landlord insurance
    • Health and safety issues
  • On Thursday, March 30, the Common Council Events Committee, whose only reason for existence is to dole out $30,000 to "events and projects that encourage the marketing of Hudson as a destination for overnight and day-trip visitors," meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
Photo: David McIntyre | Chronogram

Improving the Water Quality in Oakdale Lake

Last year, Friends of Oakdale Lake presented the findings of a two-year water quality assessment project that had been carried out by the ecological consulting firm Great Ecology.  The report, which can be found here, identified phosphorus, which is contributing to the growth of unwanted vegetation in the lake, as a major problem for water quality and recommended three short-term actions, to be implemented within the next year. Two of those actions--harvesting submerged vegetation and air diffuser aeration--have already been carried out. The implementation of the third--barley straw application--began today.

Today, David Yozzo, chief ecologist for Great Ecology; Cate Collinson, project director; and Tamar Adler, director of Friends of Oakdale Lake, suspended the first nine bags of barley straw in a small project area of Oakdale Lake. The bags were placed as a trial run. The remaining 30 pounds of barley straw will be suspended in the lake by a group of Hudson High School students on April 18, assisted by ecologists from Great Ecology and members of Friends of Oakdale Lake.

The barley straw is packed into red plastic onion bags, which will be collected and reused. The bags are then suspended by durable rope and held in position with mushroom anchors. Friends of Oakdale Lake wants the public to understand that the bags are not garbage. They are a planned and agreed-upon ecological intervention. The expectation is that, over the course of several months, the barley straw will inhibit the growth of algae in the lake. If the project is successful, it offers a chemical-free, low-cost way to decrease unwanted vegetation in the lake without interfering with summertime recreation.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Why Not Here?

This past Monday, the City Council of Beacon unanimously passed legislation to ban the use of fossil fuels and require that, starting in 2024, all new buildings and major renovations be entirely electric. Gossips learned the news from an email from Food & Water Watch. Beacon is the first city in the Hudson Valley to adopt such legislation, and the third in the state to do so, after Ithaca and New York City.

Given all the new residential buildings being proposed or contemplated for Hudson--the two buildings Galvan has proposed for the "Depot District," the three buildings proposed by the Kearney Group, and whatever new construction the Hudson Housing Authority eventually decides on-- it's curious that it hasn't occurred to anyone to push for a similar law in Hudson. 

Also on Promenade Hill

Thursday's Gossips post about the plans to repaint the fence on Promenade Hill inspired John Cody to share a picture he'd taken that morning of St. Winifred, the sculpture that graces the promenade, and a news item reporting the unveiling of the statue on September 28, 1896. Because, on this fifth day of spring, it's raining and dismal and we could use some cheering up, I share the photo and the clipping here. Imagine 5,000 people turning out to witness the unveiling of St. Winifred!

Photo: John Cody

Friday, March 24, 2023

Taking Nothing for Granite

This morning, the Historic Preservation Commission granted a certificate of appropriateness to the plans for converting the buildings at Fourth and Warren streets into a hotel to be called the Hudson Public. The review by the HPC has been going on since the beginning of the year, and the design for the hotel has evolved in that time. It's useful to compare how it started with what it is today.

What was originally proposed

What was approved today

The certificate of appropriateness was granted with these ten conditions:
  1. Any new mortar will be matched to existing mortar in color, composition, and substance on existing buildings.
  2. The original patina of the brick on existing buildings shall be maintained and any cleaning that is done shall be nonabrasive and not debride the finish.
  3. The applicant shall return to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval of specifications and details for all windows, doors, and light fixtures.
  4. The applicant shall return to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval of sign materials and details.
  5. The applicant shall return to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval of cornices over windows on the two new infill buildings. The applicant shall consider a projection of at least 2 inches from the face of the brick to create a shadow.
  6. Materials for stone lintels on infill buildings shall match those on existing buildings.
  7. Building gutters shall be integral; any exterior gutters require approval of the Historic Preservation Commission.
  8. Roof shingles will be asphalt timberline shingles.
  9. The water table on the north elevation is stucco on masonry.
  10. Corrugated metal on new construction at rear shall be unpainted galvanized or ungalvanized metal.
Now for the part of the report that explains the title of this post. At the last HPC meeting, Walter Chatham, the architect for the project, said he thought the surviving stone on the facade of 402 Warren Street was granite, and hence all new stone needed to restore the colonnade on the existing building and for the lintels and sills on the infill buildings would be granite. 

Matt McGhee, steadfast observer and critic of the HPC, maintained that the stone was marble and suggested that it was the same type of marble found on 260 Warren Street, the current location of Lawrence Park.

Photo: Monthie Collection, Columbia County Historical Society

After that meeting, Chatham investigated further and concluded that the stone was indeed marble, an opinion he said had been confirmed by the sixteen people with stone expertise he had consulted. Based on his investigation and research, Chatham posited that the marble on the building was from Danbury, Maine, a specific type now known as White Olympian Danbury marble. According to Chatham, that is the marble that was originally used for the building and that is the marble that will be used to restore the colonnade of the existing building. The columns and entablatures of the infill buildings, as well as the lintels and sills, will also be marble.  

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Date of the Auction Has Been Announced

In February, the Common Council passed resolutions to sell two City-owned properties: 10-12 Warren Street and 429-431 Warren Street. Today, the date of the auction was finally announced. It will take place on Tuesday, April 25, at 3:00 p.m., at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street.

The minimum bid for each property has been set as the value determined by the most recent appraisals of the buildings: $895,000 for 10-12 Warren Street and $595,000 for 429-431 Warren Street. The sale of each building will be subject to a $100,000 penalty in the event that it is not developed for a commercial use within three years of the conveyance of title or if all or any portion of the property is sold within three years of the conveyance of title. 

For more information, click here.

Who Wants to Serve on the Common Council?

Last night, Amber Harris, councilmember representing the Third Ward, released the following statement:
It has been not only a pleasure, but also an eye-opening learning experience to serve as Alder representing the City of Hudson's third ward. I want to thank all of my supporters and mentors that helped bring me this far. In order to allow time for another brave soul with a fresh set of eyes to step up and represent the third ward and the City as a whole, I am announcing that I will not be seeking a second full term this November.
Thank you all for entrusting me to serve in such an important capacity.
The process of getting signatures on designating petitions is now underway. According to the 2023 Political Calendar published by the Columbia County Board of Elections, the dates for filing the petitions are April 3 through 6. There is still time to get petitions signed, and the field appears to be wide open. 

In the First Ward, Margaret Morris is gathering signatures to run for reelection, but Art Frick, because of the boundary changes made to maintain wards of equal population, now lives in the Third Ward and cannot run again in the First Ward. 

In the Second Ward, it seems Dewan Sarowar, who was first elected in 2017, will be seeking reelection, but it is not known if Mohammed Rony, now serving his first term on the Council, will run again. Last week, the Register-Star reported that Kevron Lee intends to run in the Second Ward, with the support of "the HCHC Collective, the C4 arm of the Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition." "C4 arm" presumably is a reference to a 501(c)4 organization

In the Third Ward, Amber Harris has announced she does not intend to run. Whether or not Ryan Wallace will run again has not been confirmed.

In the Fourth Ward, Malachi Walker, who is in his second term on the Council, has said several times in public meetings that he does not intend to run again. Gossips has heard that Theo Anthony, now serving his first term on the Council, may not be seeking a second term, but that has not been confirmed.

In the Fifth Ward, the word is that both current councilmembers, Dominic Merante and Vicky Daskaloudi, intend to seek reelection.

It appears there may be lots of open seats and lots of opportunities for anyone interested to serve the community.

News About the News

It was reported today that Johnson Newspaper Corporation is selling the Register-Star, the Daily Mail, and the website HudsonValley to the Daily Gazette Holding Company, which publishes the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, the Gloversville Leader-Herald, and the Amsterdam Recorder.

Improvements at Promenade Hill

Last October, after seventeen months of construction, the newly redesigned approach to Promenade Hill was officially opened, and once again folks had access--now universal access--to the bluff that in 1795 had been set aside as a public space for viewing the river and the mountains beyond. This was the view restored to us on that day. 

Photo: Sarah Sterling

In recent weeks, workers from the Department of Public Works have cleared the brush from the escarpment, and this morning, they were scraping the old paint off the fence in preparation for repainting it.

According to Rob Perry, DPW superintendent, the repainting will be done when the weather is a little warmer.

Although Promenade Hill was established as a public park in 1795, nearly 80 years passed before the fence was erected. This painting by Henry Ary, done in 1854, shows Promenade Hill before there was a fence.

According to Anna Bradbury's 1908 book, History of the City of Hudson, New York, the fence at Promenade Hill was erected in 1878.
In the same year, 1878, the authorities took measures to improve the Promenade Hill, by the erection of an ornamental fence along the full length of its dangerous frontage, and by increased attention to its walks and lawn.
The minutes of the Common Council indicate that the Council voted to pay for the fence on Promenade Hill on April 25, 1872. 

Somewhere between 1872 and 1878, the fence was erected, so around this time, it is celebrating its sesquicentennial. Hence, it is very appropriate that the fence is getting some attention now.

On a related topic, at the informal meeting of the Common Council last week, Rob Perry explained why the new stairs leading to Promenade Hill are cordoned off when it snows with signs directing people to use the ramps.

The stairs are made of quarried stone, which cost $400,000. It will last and look beautiful for a long time, but it does not react well with salt. As a consequence, to protect the stone stairs from being damaged by salt, when it snows, people are directed to use the ramps, which are made of composite stone and concrete and can be cleared and salted.

A Vision of Hudson

Back in April 2022, the City of Hudson entered into an agreement with CGI Digital to be part of a Community Showcase Video Program "to create a series of videos highlighting businesses, organizations, attractions, natural resources, and communities within Hudson." Gossips reported on the project in July 2022. 

Yesterday, the videos were released, four of them, with the titles "Welcome," "Parks and Recreation," "Food and Entertainment," and "Organizations." All four of them can be viewed here. A link to the videos is also on the landing page of the City of Hudson website. Appearing in every one of the videos, sometimes more than once, is this stretch of Warren Street.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A Uniquely Hudson Sign of Spring

City Hall has announced that, beginning this weekend, at midnight Friday, March 24, alternate side of the parking rules are suspended on weekends. This means that from Friday night to Saturday morning and from Saturday night to Sunday morning cars can be parked overnight on either side of the street without risking being ticketed. The rules are suspended "until further notice," which usually means until winter is approaching and snow is a possibility.

Special Meeting Tomorrow

There is a special meeting of the Common Council tomorrow night, Thursday, March 23, at 5:30 p.m. According to the official call of the meeting, its purpose is "to consider a resolution(s) to pay contractors related to City Hall renovations."

The original plans for the renovations to achieve ADA compliance and satisfy the terms of the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice involved removing 53 feet of pipe wrapped in asbestos. At last night's meeting of the Common Council, Peter Bujanow, Commissioner of Public Works, told the Council that there were 415 more feet of asbestos-wrapped pipe in the cellar of the building, and, while the asbestos removal team was on site and the building was vacated, the Council should consider having that removed and replaced as well. The additional cost would be $51,117.

City Treasurer Heather Campbell warned the Council that this expense would use up most of the contingency written into the budget for the inevitable change orders. Consequently, there would need to be something else in place to cover unanticipated costs. 

In January, it was revealed that the total cost of the project is $669,500. A reserve of $435,000 had been established, of which, at that time, $331,567 remained. In January, the Council passed a resolution authorizing the loan of $337,933 from the General Fund to make up the difference. The amount was to be repaid to the General Fund when the proceeds of a bond authorized in May 2021 were received.

The special meeting will be a hybrid, taking place in person at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.

Recognizing Achievement

Photo: Jim Franco | Times Union
Last night at the Common Council meeting, Mayor Kamal Johnson acknowledged the achievement of the Catholic Central boys' basketball team which "just made it to the state championship." Catholic Central is in Troy, but its star player, freshman Darien Moore, is from Hudson. Presenting a certificate of commendation to Moore, Johnson said, "A lotta times we make a lotta noise when our young people are doing the wrong things in our community, so I want to make sure we highlight and acknowledge when they do amazing things, and he has done an excellent job representing the City of Hudson."   

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Development Partner for HHA

The responses to the RFQ (request for qualifications) for a development partner for the Hudson Housing Authority are currently being reviewed. The plan is to build new housing to replace Bliss Towers and Columbia Apartments and to demolish those structures, built in the early 1970s. There is no word on how many proposals were received or by whom they were submitted, but some insight is offered by the sign-in sheet for the site tour that took place on December 12, 2022. 

The original schedule, outlined in the RFQ, called for the announcement of the chosen development partner to be made on April 3. At last night's meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners, Jeffrey Dodson, HHA executive director, said that the announcement would be postponed until the board's next meeting, which is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 17.

The Unveiling Continues

In January, Gossips reported that the metal siding sheathing the 1856 Gifford Foundry Building was being removed.

Photo: Peter Jung

Today, stucco is being removed to expose the original brick.

Photo: Win Jackson
The Historic Preservation Commission granted a certificate of appropriateness to remove the metal siding and restore the brick beneath back in July 2021. At the time, Gossips commented, "It will be interesting to watch this reveal." Who knew the process would take so long? 

The building, which is seen in the historic photograph below, has been owned by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation since 2014.