Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

Most of the meetings this week are concentrated on the day after the Veterans Day holiday, Tuesday, November 12.
  • At 1:00 p.m., the Hudson IDA (Industrial Development Agency) meets at 1 North Front Street. One never knows what interesting information might be revealed at this meeting.
  • At 2:30 p.m., the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) Committee meets at City Hall. At the last meeting of the DRI Committee on October 22, which was carried out by teleconference, with Chris Round from Chazen on speakerphone, the talk was all about contracts with the firms chosen to undertake the improvements to Promenade Hill and the BRIDGE District "connectivity project." It is hoped that some schedule for moving forward on these projects will be discussed at Tuesday's meeting.
The evening of Tuesday, November 12, gets complicated, because the Common Council meetings that would have taken place on Monday were it not a holiday were simply moved to Tuesday, which was already the evening of the Planning Board meeting. So, beginning at 6:00 p.m., important meetings are happening concurrently at City Hall and Hudson Hall. 
  • At City Hall, the Economic Development Committee meeting takes place at 6:00 p.m. and the informal Common Council meeting happens at 7:00 p.m. A few items of interest will be introduced at the informal meeting: a resolution to issue an RFP for design improvements to the intersection of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, funded by the $200,000 from the host community benefit agreement from Stewart's; a resolution authorizing the Tourism Board to spend up to $2,000 of its allocated budget to bring Steve Chandler of Chandlerthinks to Hudson to make a presentation to the Council and the public; a local law amending the charter to make it unnecessary to the city attorney to be a resident of Columbia County; a local law, subject to a mandatory referendum, increasing the terms of all city elected officials from two years to four years. 
  • At Hudson Hall, Hudson's original City Hall, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the subdivision of 26 Warren Street and will continue the public hearings on the proposal to create a self storage facility at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard and on the conditional use permits required for Colarusso's dock operation and for improvements to its private road through South Bay. 
Once Tuesday is over, the only meeting left in the week happens on Wednesday, November 13, at 6:00 p.m., when the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meets in the Community Room at Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019

Honoring all who have served.

A Hundred and One Years Later

November 11, 1919, was the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the fighting in the Great War, the war now known as World War I. A hundred years ago today, the Columbia Republican published the following remembrance of the celebration of Armistice Day in Hudson.

Today, one hundred years later, Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, will be marked as it has been in Hudson for at least the past quarter century. The observance will begin at 10:15 a.m. with the laying of a wreath at the Veterans Monument in Seventh Street Park. Immediately thereafter, the parade will line up and proceed down Warren Street to Fourth Street and on to the courthouse for Veterans Day services. The featured speaker for the services is L. Edward Moore, chief of the Hudson Police Department.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

News from Friday's HPC Meeting

I will begin by confessing that I was not present at Friday's Historic Preservation Commission meeting owing to a nasty cold, but, thanks to reliable sources who were present, I am able to report the highlights of what transpired.

On September 27, after a public hearing, the HPC denied a certificate of appropriateness to the design for the new building proposed for 211 Warren Street, where the original building, believed to predate the Proprietors and the founding of Hudson, had to be demolished last year.

One of the issues was the ersatz oriel, which according to the applicants was inspired by the oriel next door at 209 Warren Street. During the public hearing, the oriel was criticized for not having windows on all sides to create "an interface of public and private space," and the applicants were urged to create an oriel that was "more delicate, more charming, and more transparent." At that time, the applicants maintained that, because this was to be a passive house and the walls were eighteen inches thick, it was "logistically impossible" to have windows on the side of the bay. 

What was logistically impossible seems to have become possible because on Friday a revised design was presented to the HPC with a window on the side of the oriel and four windows instead of three across the front.

On September 27, with only four members of the HPC present, granting the certificate of appropriateness was blocked by only one member--Paul Barrett. On Friday, with six members present, four (Phil Forman, Hugh Biber, Phillip Schwartz, and Miranda Barry) voted in favor of granting the certificate of appropriateness, and two (Barrett and John Schobel) were opposed. 

Those who favored granting a certificate of appropriateness seem to be of a mind that Hudson should not be held captive by its architectural heritage and should welcome examples of 21st-century design. One of those opposed called the proposed design "post-modern suburban architecture" that has no place on Warren Street.

Another application of interest that came before the HPC on Friday pertained to 226 Union Street. Proposals to replace the two windows at the front of the building's oriel with a single window, to remove the chimneys, and to make modifications in the detailing on the facade were rejected. 

The proposal to transform the two-car garage at the back of the property, on Cherry Alley, into a two-story structure will be the subject of a public hearing to be held at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, November 22, at City Hall.


Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Airbnb Battle in Jersey City

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported on the success of a referendum to restrict Airbnb ownership in Jersey City: "Airbnb Suffered a Big Defeat in Jersey City. Here's What It Means."

Photo: Jared Kofsky|Jersey Digs
In 2018, it was reported that Jersey City had the greatest number of Airbnb rentals in the State of New Jersey: 2,769, in a city of 265,000. The appeal, of course, was the ability to stay in close proximity to the west side of Manhattan without having to pay the price of a New York City hotel room. There were benefits to Jersey City from the phenomenon. In October 2018, Jersey Digs reported: "Under the new budget deal that went into effect this month, short-term rentals will need to collect the state's 6.625% sales tax and a 5% hotel occupancy fee, and Airbnb-type properties in Jersey City and Newark will also need to pay a 6% hotel occupancy tax, per local ordinances."

This year, with close to 3,000 Airbnb listings in Jersey City, many, according to the New York Times, run by large-scale investors, concerns about Airbnb rentals "pushing often-unruly tourists into residential areas" and "helping shoot up housing costs and accelerate gentrification" inspired legislation to restrict Airbnb rentals. Airbnb collected enough signatures to trigger a referendum on the legislation, and this past Tuesday, the ordinance was voted in, with about 70 percent of the vote. 

The New York Times describes the regulations imposed in Jersey City in this way:
The new restrictions allow homeowners to rent out portions of their homes as long as they're present during a guest's stay.
But they prohibit renters from listing their apartment and bar owners from renting a property on a short-term basis most of the year if they don't live on-site, effectively banning large-scale Airbnb operators who had converted hundreds of condos and townhouses into makeshift hotels.
It would, however, hurt residents who were making extra cash by renting out a second home for days at a time through Airbnb.
A comment from a real estate attorney who lives in Jersey City echoes complaints heard here in Hudson about short-term rentals: "Airbnb, for every unit that is rented out to the budget traveler, that's one less unit available to a working family."

Meanwhile, here in Hudson, the moratorium on registering any new short-term rentals is still ripening on the aldermen's desks, and the Legal Committee is still working on drafting regulations that will impose restrictions on Airbnb operators in our city of 6,200.

Election Results

After struggling with new procedures and the consequences of printing some ballots on the wrong kind of paper--problems and delays that have been documented by Sam Pratt--the Board of Elections posted the unofficial results of Tuesday's election last night. They can be viewed by clicking here. Still missing are the results for Supreme Court Justice and countywide races, which will be posted over the weekend.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Budget for 2020

Last night, at a special meeting of the Common Council, Mayor Rick Rector presented the proposed budget for 2020. The total expenditures are $11,945,838--an increase of 2.28 percent from last year. Rector reminded the Council and those members of the public present that, despite the state imposed tax cap of 2 percent, the allowable tax cap is determined by a complex, multi-step calculation. Last year the maximum allowed increase for Hudson was 7.5 percent, and the actual increase was 3 percent. This year the maximum allowed increase is 3.8 percent, and the actual increase proposed is 2.28 percent. It is predicted that the mill rate, the figure that represents the amount tax levied per $1,000 of the assessed value of the property, will be 7.55 for 2020. The 7.55 mill rate was described as "not official but a very good guess." The mill rate in 2019 was 12.96.

Rector reviewed the annual expenses over which the Board of Estimate and Apportionment has no control: health insurance, wages, and workers compensation, all of which would see increases. He also outlined the anticipated increases in revenue sources: a 21.4 percent increase in revenue from the lodging tax, or $60,000; a 11.8 percent increase in revenue from sales tax, or $200,000; a 17.2 percent increase in revenue from parking, or $25,000; a 11.1 percent increase in parking fines, or $35,000.

Proposed budgets for the four most costly departments, in descending order, are:
  • Police Department  $3,007,421--a 2.2 percent decrease from 2019
  • Department of Public Works  $1,978,687--a 3.9 percent increase from 2019
  • Youth Department  $580,150--a 7.3 percent increase from 2019
  • Fire Department  $243,000--a 2.9 percent increase from 2019
Rector's budget message can be viewed here. The proposed 2020 budget can be viewed here. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled to take place on Monday, November 18, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The Common Council is expected to act on the budget at a special meeting on Tuesday, November 19, at 6:30 p.m., just prior to its regular November meeting.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Why, Oh Why, Ohio?

Yesterday, someone posted on Facebook the link to an article from Newsweek about fake sample ballots being distributed on Election Day in Marion, Ohio. The link was accompanied by the indignant comment:: "The only way they know how to win is to cheat."

According to the article, "The sample ballots reportedly looked like real voting ballots but with boxes highlighting all of the Republican candidates." 

I don't pretend to know election law in Ohio, and I'm certainly not about to defend the actions of Ohio Republicans, but I'm genuinely curious to know how this offense, which made national news, is different from the longstanding tradition in Hudson of distributing "sample ballots," like the one shown below, marked up to indicate how a voter should vote.

People bring these ballots with them to the polls and consult them as they mark their actual ballots. In my capacity as an election inspector on Election Day, I've had to stop people from feeding such "sample ballots" into the scanner and check to make sure the ballots people still had in hand when leaving the polls were those sample ballots and not the actual ones. (It is verboten for a genuine ballot to leave the polling place.) If New York State election law addresses the issue of fake sample ballots, I would certainly like to know what it has to say.

A Warren Street Building a Century Ago

Gossips discovered this little news item in the Columbia Republican for November 4, 1919.

The building at 321 Warren Street, which a hundred years ago was Edward Lenny's restaurant, is today the Red Dot Restaurant and Bar, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on Bastille Day this year.

The images above are from the Red Dot's website.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

News of Tonight's Committee Meeting Agenda

Gossips has learned the agenda for tonight's Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee meeting, which takes place at 6:45 p.m. in City Hall. Tina Sharp, the director of Columbia Opportunities, will discuss the HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program), explaining what the program provides and who can apply--all information readily available online. Randall Martin, the new chair of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, will also be present to discuss the Bliss Towers Section 8 program. The Housing and Transportation Committee is chaired by Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga.

It Isn't Over Until It's Over

HudsonValley360 has reported results in the races for mayor and Common Council president, and the Times Union has added to that the results in the races for Fourth Ward alderman and Second Ward supervisor. Shortly before noon today, the Columbia County Board of Elections posted unofficial results in the races for Hudson mayor, Common Council president, and treasurer, making it clear that the numbers "do not include early voting results." Hudsonians cast 360 ballots during the nine days of early voting--58 of those were in the Second Ward and 85 in the Fourth Ward. Also not included are 137 absentee ballots from Hudson voters that have been received. Of the absentee ballots, 39 are in the Second Ward, and 53 are in the Fourth Ward.

The Outcome of Yesterday's Election

The unofficial results now being reported on HudsonValley360 are:
Mayor of Hudson: Kamal Johnson 926; Rick Rector 395
Common Council President: Tom DePietro 763; Rob Bujan 480
With the results from 39 of the 50 districts now reported, the race for Columbia County District Attorney now stands at: Paul Czajka 9,736; Eugene Keeler 7,242.