Saturday, June 22, 2024

Progress at the Depot

The first of four residential floors at 76 North Seventh Street, the building now known as Hudson Depot LoftsHudson Depot Lofts, has been framed out. 

Photo: Win Jackson
Photo: Win Jackson
The floor plans for the building's 63 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments can be found here


This is the building that was originally proposed by the Galvan Foundation to be market rate apartments, but it was redefined as "workforce housing" in order to qualify for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). The building is now intended for households with incomes between 80 and 130 percent of the area median income (AMI).
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Friday, June 21, 2024

Hudson, NY: Baroque Opera Destination

Yesterday, Hudson Hall and R. B. Schlather announced the second opera in the "Handel on the Hudson" series: Giulio Cesare. There will be six performances of Handel's most popular opera in April 2025. 


The press release announcing the news follows:
Visionary opera director and Hudson resident R. B. Schlather reunites with early music band Ruckus in April 2025 for six performances of Handel's baroque blockbuster Giulio Cesare at Hudson Hall in Hudson, NY. Repeating the successful alchemy of Rodelina (2023), Schlather brings together area residents, rising young stars, and some of today's finest baroque interpreters to share his passion for Handel in the intimacy of New York State's oldest surviving theater. As R. B. is known to say: "I think Handel is the greatest opera composer, full stop."
Led by sought-after American countertenor Randall Scotting as Cesare and rising young star Song Hee Lee as Cleopatra, the production also features 2024 Met Opera Finalist Meridian Prall as Cornelia, Bard Music Conservatory alumni Chuanyuan Liu as Tolomeo and Rolfe Dauz as Curio, and area residents Matthew Deming as Nireno, Raha Mirzadegan as Sesto, and Douglas Williams as Achilla. 
(Left to right) Top: Randall Scotting (Cesare); Song Hee Lee (Cleopatra); Chuanyuan Liu (Tolomeo); Raha Mirzadegan (Sesto). Bottom: Meridian Prall (Cornelia); Douglas Williams (Archilla); Matthew Deming (Nireno); Rolfe Dauz (Curio)
The young, conductorless period instrument ensemble Ruckus features a dozen of some of the top baroque instrumentalists working today. In his New York Times review of last year's Rodelinda at Hudson Hall, Joshua Barone called Ruckus "stars" and continued: "With a mercurial, almost improvisatory spirit that responded to the drama in real time, they played with the fieriness and emotional charge of verismo." Ruckus's core is a continuo group, the baroque equivalent of a jazz rhythm section: guitars, keyboards, cello, bassoon, and bass, joined by violin, flute, and oboe.
The creative team includes Joseph Cermatori as dramaturg, costume design by Terese Wadden, lighting by Masha Tsimring, scenic associate Erica Zhang, hair and makeup by Matia Emsellem, supertitles by Steven Jude Tietien, and assistant director Michael Hofmann.
This second installment in Schlather's "Handel on the Hudson" series is eagerly anticipated. After The New York Times' chief music critic Zachary Woolfe called the initial announcement "the best news in a while for the New York opera scene," The New York Times' classical music critic Joshua Barone praised Schlather's Rodelinda as "worthy of a multi-year commitment to Handel." Critic Seth Rogovoy commended the creative team of Rodelinda for investing their interpretation with "the kind of punk aesthetic and dynamic that made the nearly three-hour performance feel urgent, contemporary, and incredibly fun," and The Berkshire Eagle's Evan Berkowitz wrote: "Rodelinda gave us the sort of opera we don't often get in our region: not just fully staged, but fully realized."
Place and talent are crucial ingredients in realizing Schlather's vision. As Barone noted in his review, Hudson Hall is "surprisingly ideal for the intimacy of Handel," setting it apart from the large New York City opera houses. Schlather, who lives just a few streets away from Hudson Hall, sources many of his collaborators from the local area and surrounding region, tapping a rich network of talent and partnerships right in his own backyard. Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in nearby Tivoli, NY, joins as a cultural partner and is where the cast will be in residence for the month of March. This sense of community extends to Schlather's audiences--many of whom are introduced to opera through his work. In addition to the six performances, Schlather plans additional open rehearsal hours to allow even more audiences an entree into the power of opera.
"R. B. Schlather's love of Handel and ability to connect with a new generation of musicians, creatives, and audiences creates an experience that is undeniably fresh and vital," says Hudson Hall Executive Director Tambra Dillon. "It's the future of opera--and it's spectacular. We expect nothing less for Giulio Cesare in 2025."    
The performances of Giulio Cesare will take place on April 19, 23 (matinee), 26, 27 (matinee), 30 (matinee), and May 2, 2025, at Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House, 327 Warren Street. Tickets went on sale yesterday for members of Hudson Hall; tickets will be available to the public beginning in January 2025.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Another Day to Be Observed . . . by Some

Tomorrow, June 21, is Take Your Dog to Work Day. Although my work for more than thirty years hasn't involved showing up at an office, I observe Take Your Dog to Work Day every day. Here's my dog Joey attending a Conservation Advisory Council meeting with me at City Hall back in 2015.

Photo: Rick Rector
Thanks to the advent of virtual meetings, my dog Freddy can be with me at work all day, every day, without setting paw out of the house.

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The Word from the HCSD Superintendent

This afternoon, Dr. Juliette Pennyman, who officially began her role as superintendent of the Hudson City School District on September 1, 2023, distributed the following "Guest Column," assessing her first year as superintendent of the Hudson City School District. The text of the "Guest Column" is reproduced below. 

Pennyman’s First Year as Hudson Schools Superintendent Marked by Innovation, Successes, and Seeding the Future

When I started learning about the Hudson City School District before arriving in September 2023, I was impressed by our students’ abundant achievements every day. I also recognized the vast potential to advance educational excellence that preps students for careers, college, and life through transformative, innovative approaches.
My first year as your superintendent has been focused on just that. This journey has been an enjoyable whirlwind of activity–and incredibly inspiring.
Every school district decision has been focused on providing each student with an engaging, rigorous, and supportive education to help them succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. As I settled in, I saw the opportunity to introduce #HudsonTogetherWeCan, a hashtag/motto designed to inspire a culture of accomplishment via collaboration among schools, district leadership, students, faculty, staff, and the community. My early observations also inspired my 125-Day Plan, a blueprint of actions and plans detailed here: https://www.hudsoncsd.org/2024/02/28/progress-report-from-dr-juliette-pennyman-my-first125-days/
Our diverse student population is an asset to celebrate, and we are committed to fostering a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment. We strengthened this tenet by launching our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness Community Team, now devising programs and services that embrace our district’s unique backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives.
We are especially proud that we safeguard tax dollars. Our 2024-2025 budget, overwhelmingly approved by voters on May 21, is a result of partnering with elected representatives to advocate for state aid that, after a predicted $2.9 million reduction, now actually slightly increases that aid above the current year’s amount. In addition, the budget’s tax levy increase–the tax levy is the amount collected via property taxes–is 2%, less than the 3.42% permitted under New York State’s tax cap.
To further ease taxpayers’ burden, we prioritized securing highly competitive grants–including $5.5 million over five years for the Learning and Enrichment Afterschool Program Supports (LEAPS) program and nearly $3 million from New York State. The state grants include $1.9 million to support safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for students and $200,000 to expand pre-kindergarten. In addition, $5,000 is being received from the American Farmland Trust’s project, Farm to Institution New York State. The district also joined Verizon Innovative Learning, which provides Chromebooks, enhanced internet and technology coaches to Hudson Junior and Senior High Schools at no cost to the district to leverage technology as a teaching tool.
I also have focused on strengthening our district’s infrastructure. This has included hiring teachers across the district, including for science, graphic arts, and robust electives, as well as assistant principal and technology instructional coaches.
Other initiatives include:
  • Revamping Bluehawk Academy into a more innovative school, focusing on personal support to achieve educational excellence.
  • Refreshing the student Code of Conduct. 
  • Reinstating clubs and organizations such as the Student Council and the Parent Teachers’ Association at Hudson Junior High School.
  • Focusing on school safety by introducing STOPit Solutions’ anonymous reporting capabilities to bolster school health and safety, and receiving top-level recognition by Utica National Insurance as a “School Safety Excellence” award recipient.
  • Converting the high school football program to a modified version to overcome a lack of eligible players.
I also directed that our district ramp up communications to advance transparency. I established Pennyman’s Pen, a concise enewsletter, and oversaw the expansion of our monthly district newsletter. I also inaugurated monthly Conversations with the Superintendent public forums, created Student Advisory Committees, shadowed classrooms, and attended numerous sports, arts, and community events. We also installed monitors in our schools to provide news, information, and lunch menus.
Through it all, we have kept a focus on the future. We are now embarking on a strategic planning process, which will be unveiled in late June. This will include abundant community involvement, and our goal is to finalize this plan next autumn.
I extend gratitude to the Board of Education and our schools’ dedicated leadership teams, teachers, staff, students, families, and community members for partnering with me to support students’ success.
Congratulations to all, especially our graduating seniors, on a dynamic school year! Have a safe, enjoyable summer and we look forward to the start of the 2024-2025 school year on Wednesday, Sept. 4!
Dr. Juliette Pennyman 
Superintendent 
#HudsonTogetherWeCan

Gossips cannot resist reminding readers that the $56.6 million budget for the 2024-2025 school year was approved by a vote of 464 to 231. Only 695 people bothered to show up to vote. It seems a bit of an overstatement to say that the budget was "overwhelmingly approved by voters."

Today at Olana

The Olana Partnership holds its monthly Third Thursday event today, on the first day of summer, from 12:30 to 7:00 p.m. Olana Third Thursdays are monthly community days of free tours and programs at the Olana State Historic Site.


Today, participants can explore Bollywood dancing during a free class and performance with instructor Arobi. They can learn moves to trendy and iconic Bollywood songs during a fun, beginner friendly outdoor class and then stick around for a special performance on the East Lawn from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. The class is designed for participants ages 12 and up.

Immediately following the Bollywood performance, Trio Candela will celebrate the beginning of summer, performing lively traditional, folkloric Latin music from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America. This performance will also take place on the East Lawn near the Main House from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Visitors are also invited to attend free tours of the historic landscape, house, and the special exhibition Afterglow: Frederic Church and the Landscape of Memory. Tickets are available on site, starting at 12:30 p.m. today, on a first come, first served basis. Tours and programs will be offered in both Spanish and English. Spanish tours will be given at 1:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Generous support for Olana Third Thursdays is provided by Art Bridges Foundation's "Access for All" program. To learn more about each month's programs and upcoming events, or to secure free tickets, visit olana.org/ThirdThursdays or call (518) 751-0344.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Highlights from the Planning Board Meeting

It's been more than a week since the Planning Board had its last meeting, and Gossips has been remiss in reporting about it. The entire meeting, which went on for more than three hours, can be viewed here. For those not interested in watching the entire video, Gossips will recap some of the high points.

The meeting began with Lou Pierro, the principal of the group wanting to build a 30-unit market rate apartment building on Fairview Avenue between Oakwood and Parkwood boulevards, noting that it had been a year since his project was first presented to the Planning Board for site plan review. He said they had made a lot of changes to the plans at the request of the Planning Board and suggested it was time for the Planning Board to make a decision. Nevertheless, no decision was made, and Planning Board's review of this controversial project continues. 

The Planning Board did make one decision at its meeting on June 11. They voted to grant site plan approval, with seventeen conditions, to 601 Union Street, the project that will convert the Terry-Gillette mansion at 601 Union Street, for many years the Hudson Elks Lodge, into a boutique hotel. The original application for site plan review of the project is dated December 21, 2022.


The Planning Board meeting also yielded some interesting information about the buildings proposed by Kearney Realty and Development for Mill Street and for the corner of Fourth and State streets. According to Sean Kearney, who was making the presentation to the Planning Board, the project for Mill Street "went for funding last year and lost," so now they are combining the two projects--Mill Street Lofts and State Street Lofts--to seek funding, thinking that describing the project as "scattered site" housing will put it at an advantage. 

Although it appears there are no renderings of the two projects, there are some drawings included in the applications for site plan review. The drawing below shows the site plan for Mill Street Lofts, with the parking lot in front and the buildings--two of them--along the edges.


The application also includes these drawings of the elevations for the buildings--Building 1 and Building 2.


A similar elevation drawing is provided in the application for State Street Lofts.


The building to be known as "State Street Lofts" is across the street from the historic Hudson Almshouse and half a block away from a locally designated historic district. 
   

The Historic Preservation Commission has more than once been urged to extend the historic district north to 400 State Street, which is individually designated locally and individually listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places, but the HPC never pursued it. As a consequence, the HPC will have no input on the design of a building in a prominent location in the city.

The applications also include sample floor plans for both Mill Street Lofts and State Street Lofts.


Upon close examination, what seems unusual about the floor plans for both projects is that most of the apartments have their entry door opening into the kitchen.


That may seem unusual, but it is not without precedent. 

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IDA Special Meeting

The Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is holding a special meeting on Friday, June 21, at 2:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss additional financing documents relating to the PBF Hudson LLC closing. 


The meeting is hybrid, taking place in person at 1 City Centre, Suite 301, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

We're Havin' a Heatwave . . .

which is just getting started and isn't expected to end until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 20. The current temperature is 94 degrees, and the humidity is 49 percent, which, according to the National Weather Service, makes it feel like it is 103 degrees.


For those without a cool place to escape the heat, Columbia County has established cooling centers at various locations throughout the county--all in libraries. The list below provides the locations and the hours. (Click on the image to enlarge.) 


The cooling center for us in Hudson is the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street. The library, however, will be closed on Wednesday, June 19, in observance of Juneteenth, so on that day only the cooling center in Hudson will be the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street, which will be open for that purpose from 9:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

An Interesting Revelation

On June 6, Gossips reported in an "Ear to the Ground" that the Hudson Housing Authority's application for a Restore New York grant had been rejected because it had been submitted too late. It seems that may not have been entirely true.

Last night, at the HHA Board of Commissioners meeting, Councilmember Margaret Morris (First Ward) asked about the status of the Restore NY grant application. Jeffrey Dodson, HHA executive director, told her the application had not been submitted, adding, "It probably would not have been approved." 


When Morris asked him to explain why the application had not been submitted, Dodson cited "specifications regarding vacancies" and acknowledged they "realized they would not qualify." Say what?

The summary statement of eligibility for Restore NY, found on the grant program's website, is this: "Restore New York funding is available for projects involving the demolition, deconstruction, rehabilitation, and/or reconstruction of vacant, abandoned, condemned, and surplus properties [underscore added]." Surely that statement alone should have been enough to tip off HHA and the developers to an eligibility problem at an earlier stage in the process. 

At the two special meetings of the Common Council, convened to pass a resolution in support of HHA's application, Morris delineated the ways the HHA project did not meet the criteria established for the Restore NY grant program. (Her arguments presented at those meetings can also be found on her blog, firstwardhudson.com.) Still HHA and the folks from Mountco remained steadfast in their resolve to apply for Restore NY funding. 

So what happened between May 16, when the Common Council held a public hearing on the grant application, and May 22, when the application was due, to make HHA and Mountco change their minds and decide not to submit the application? 

Could it be they never intended to submit the application? Could it be the whole Restore New York fiasco was orchestrated to get the Common Council to approve the resolution of support so that Dodson could claim, as he did in the Register-Star on May 1, that the Council had made a "strong and clear decision to support us"? We will probably never know. 

The real loser in all this may be Lil' Deb's Oasis, which was also seeking Restore NY funding for the restoration of 735-737 Columbia Street as its new location. A municipality can only sponsor one Restore NY grant application, and when Lil' Deb's realized they were competing with the housing authority, they graciously bowed out. That's too bad. They met the criteria and stood a very good chance of getting a Restore NY grant.

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PSA: Juneteenth

On Wednesday, June 19, the City of Hudson observes Juneteenth. City Hall will be closed for the day, and city workers will have a holiday. As a consequence, recycling on the south side of town, which normally takes place on Wednesday, will take place on Thursday, and recycling on the north side of town, which normally takes place on Thursday, will take place on Friday.


Click here to learn about Juneteenth events taking place in Hudson and Columbia County.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

This week, we are looking forward to the first heat wave of the year, which is expected to begin on Tuesday, two days in advance of the summer solstice, which happens on Thursday. Meanwhile, here's what else is happening.
  • On Monday, June 17, the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meets at 6:00 p.m. As always, the meeting is a possible opportunity to learn something new about HHA's proposed $220 million redevelopment plan. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person in the Community Room at Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
  • On Tuesday, June 18, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 5:15 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, the Common Council holds its regular monthly meeting. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.
  • On Wednesday, June 19, the Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is in person only at City Hall. No agenda for the meeting is as yet available.
  • On Saturday, June 22, the OutHudson Pride Parade begins at 2:00 p.m.
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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Democratic Primary

Early voting begins today and continues through next Sunday, June 23. Here's the schedule:

Saturday, June 15:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, June 16:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday, June 17:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday, June 18:  12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, June 19:  12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursday, June 20:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday, June 21:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 22:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, June 23:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The polling places for early voting are the Columbia County Office Building, 401 State Street, in Hudson, and the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building, 3211 Church Street, in Valatie.

Election Day is Tuesday, June 25.

There is only one issue on the ballot: Who will be the Democratic candidate for assemblymember representing the 106th District in the New York State Assembly--Claire Cousin, who was elected twice, both times running unopposed, to represent the First Ward on the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, or respected and longtime assemblymember Didi Barrett, who has ably served the residents of District 106 for ten years?

Over the past few weeks, voters in the 106th Assembly District have been bombarded with mailings from both candidates, including this "attack" flyer from the Cousin campaign . . . 


and this response from the Barrett campaign:


Today, the Register-Star published three letters to the editor in support of Didi Barrett, all of which can be found here.
  • "Barrett's commitment does not falter," from Margaret Morris, Hudson First Ward Councilmember
  • "Barrett delivers for District 106," from Keith Kanaga, former chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee
  • "Only one choice for June 25," from Susan Bane, M.D.
Gossips concurs with everything the writers of the three letters have to say.
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