Sunday, February 28, 2010

1873 Map of Hudson

Here's the 1873 map that's been mentioned. It does not show the Greenport and Hudson Railroad--the one that went west to east through the South Bay from the river to the quarry--because it was not constructed until the next year--1874.

Since posting the previous map, which I dated c. 1850, I've learned that its exact date is 1854.

Map of Hudson c. 1850

A comment on the previous post "Hudson in 1850" asks if the small body of water that appears on the 1873 map of the First Ward was the part of the South Bay that was cut off by the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad. A subsequent comment points out that there's a map of the First Ward--along with many images of the waterfront--on I've reproduced the map from the website here, but it's not the 1873 map. It's from the period between 1838, when the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad was built, and around 1860, when the row of brick townhouses (mine among them) on the south side of Allen Street just above Second were built. It shows that the area that is now the commuter parking lot at the train station is very likely what was known as "Little Bay."

Hudson in 1850

I have temporary custody of a file box containing Don Christensen's research for his definitive exhibition at the Hudson Opera House in 2001, Seeing South Bay. As we approach the deadline for public comment on the draft GEIS and LWRP, I'll be exploring the contents of the box and publishing things that strike me as relevant to the current discussion. First is an excerpt from Wilson's Illustrated Guide to the Hudson River, Eighth Edition, which was published in 1850.

The illustration that accompanies this post is not, however, from Wilson's
Guide. It is an 1841 engraving by Barber and Howe. When it came to our part of the river, the only illustrations in Wilson's Guide are maps, and I've included the pertinent one.

Hudson City (E[ast] S[ide]), the capital of Columbia County, formerly comprised a township, which, bounded north by Factory creek, south by the Livingston patent, east by Claverack creek, and west by the Hudson River, contained nearly 9000 acres. This area was however much reduced by the abstraction of 3 miles in length from the northern end, in the formation of the town of Stockport. The city plat, Lat. 42° 14', north; long. 14' east from New York, distant from New York, north 116 miles, extends about 5 miles along the river, with a mean breadth of 3 miles. The basis rock the precincts is transition carboniferous slate, upon which are imposed several ridges, containing secondary limestone, abounding with animal remains. The compact portion of the city lies upon argillaceous marl, in horizontal strata, containing a considerable portion of sulphate of magnesia. In front of the principal street is a promontory of siliceous slate, projecting into the river in a hold cliff, whose summit more than 60 feet above the surface of the water, has been formed into an agreeable promenade, commanding a beautiful view of the river, the town of Athens, and the country on the opposite shore, bounded by the towering mountains; being planted with trees and shrubs, it him become a desirable resort in summer, and merits a visit at all seasons. Upon either side of this promontory is a bay of considerable extent, with a low and approachable shore, with ample depth of water for all vessels which may ascend the river, and here are the docks, which are carried out on a line with the hill. The bay on the south is locked in by a lofty hill called Rorabuck; but which received the name of Mount Merino, in consequence of the establishment of a sheep farm here many years since. The streets of the city are regularly laid out crossing each other at right angles except near the river, where they conform to the shape of the ground. From the promenade on the river; Warren, the main street; extends south east more than a mile, with a gentle ascent to Prospect hill. This hill gives a full view of the city and adjacent country; but is itself commanded by Becraft Mountain, the hill is about 200 feet high rising in a uniform smooth surface, and falls off in the south east, into a low meadow which separates it from the mountain.

The Court-house is located in a square of about 300 feet, in the south part of the city; the building, including the wings, has a front of 116 feet, the main edifice 40 by 60 feet and 60 feet high, is surmounted by a dome 40 feet in height, towering above the other buildings of the city, and is entered by a portico with six Ionic columns; the wings are severally 34 feet front by 44 in depth and two stories high. The front is of Stockbridge marble and the ends and rear of blue limestone. The whole structure is creditable to the taste and liberality of the county.

There is a small stream on the north part, which from its great fall, gives sufficient power to turn a mill; water is brought in subterranean pipes from the foot of Becraft mountain, for the use of the city.

The Hudson and Berkshire rail road, which intersects the Great Western rail road at West Stockbridge, adds greatly to the commercial advantages of the city.

The City was founded in 1784 by Seth and Thomas Jenkins and 28 associates from Providence, R. I., Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard. When the town plat was laid out, there was upon it only one house, but within three years it contained 150 dwellings, many manufactories, and nearly 1500 inhabitants.

Hudson was chartered in 1785. Pop. in 1845--5657.

The Hudson and Berkshire Railroad, built in 1838 and now the line that goes to ADM, was the first railroad to transect the South Bay, cutting off a small northern section and creating what became known as Little Bay and Big Bay. The railroad went from Hudson to West Stockbridge, where there was an iron ore mine, and it was used to transport ore from West Stockbridge to the Hudson Iron Works.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Francesa Olsen's article in this morning's Register Star: "City dems: Explore switching to a legislature."

Although the concern that "the duties and responsibilities of town supervisors have increased to such an extent that having town supervisors also serve as their town’s representatives to county government no longer makes practical sense" may seem a tad disingenuous coming from the Democratic Committee in the only muncipality in Columbia County where the chief executive is not also the representative to the Board of Supervisors, switching to a county legislature form of government is an idea whose time has come, and the Hudson Democrats should be commended for bringing the issue forward.

If you're curious to know who makes up the Hudson Democratic Committee, you can find their names and read the full text of the resolution on the Hudson City Democrats website.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"The Love of Gossip Prevailed"

Time for another excerpt from The Gossips of Rivertown. Mr. Jorden is married to Mrs. Jackson's sister, but that's not stopping the gossips from talking about him and Mary Butler and the scandalous liaison they imagine exists between them. This time, Miss Martin, the dressmaker, is the principal bearer of news.

This particular morning the conversation turned upon Mrs. Jorden, and as Miss Martin had been employed by that lady for a day or two previous, there was much to be said, and a variety of questions asked. It was at length settled by Miss Martin's testimony, that the back parlour curtains were worsted damask instead of silk; that Mrs. Jorden always wore a cap at breakfast, and never came to dinner in her morning dress—("Such airs!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith)—that Mr. Jorden often passed whole evenings out of the house—and here Miss Martin became quite mysterious, and could not be prevailed upon to give any information with regard to the employment of said evenings.

"He hain't joined the Odd Fellows?" said Mrs. Smith, throwing up both hands.

"No," was the concise reply.

"You don't say he goes to that shocking ten-pin alley?"

"Not that ever I heard of," vouchsafed Miss Martin; and then, urged by her listener, she at length disclosed that she believed quite too much of his time was passed at Mary Butler's.

"Of all things!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith rocking back energetically upon the kitten's tail, who sent forth a piteous yell as the door opened to admit Adeline Mitchell.

"Oh, Adeline, I'm so glad to see you," was the greeting. "What do you think Miss Martin says? Mr. Jorden is absolutely half his time at Mary Butler's."

"Perhaps not quite half," mildly interposed the informant; "and if you'll never tell—but no, I've no right to mention such things," and Miss Martin industriously waxed a needleful of silk.

"Ah, come, go on, we'll never mention it, you may depend," said Adeline Mitchell, with breathless eagerness.


"Never—that is, only to Harriet Harden; you'll let me tell her, won't you; but it shan't go a step farther."

"Well, then—but I guess I'd better not, after all."

"Oh, do now."

"I've seen him give her letters, and she'd blush terribly, and hide them in her pocket as quick as thought. Then he always calls her 'Mary,' which is quite too familiar to suit me, and worse than all, Mrs. Jorden's found it out.

"You don't say so!"

"What did she do?"

"It was only last night—(now if you ever whisper this, I shall never forgive you). I'll tell you how I happened to hear it. I was sewing in the dining-room (as she will call it; I should say sitting-room), and as I'd got the sleeves basted in and the hooks and eyes on, I thought I'd get her to try on the waist, so I just stepped to the back parlour door, but as I got there I stopped a minute, for I thought I heard high words, and the first I heard was—'You spend quite too much of your time at Mrs. Butler's, and I won't allow it any more!'—then he said something I could not quite understand, and she answered 'No, I 'm not naturally inclined to be jealous; but I shall put a stop to this, I assure you.' Then they talked lower, and so I just walked in, quite unconcerned, and there they stood by the fire-place. Just as I opened the door, he tried to put his arm round her waist, to make up, I suppose, and she pushed it away—there, like that," and Miss Martin, suiting the action to the word, gave Miss Adeline a somewhat ungentle repulse.

"Well, I always said, from the first, there was no good in their acquaintance. You remember what a time Mrs. Jackson made a year ago about it?" said Mrs. Smith, appealing to Adeline Mitchell.

"Don't I though—if they did pretend to be such good friends afterwards? I've always thought the Jacksons took her up because she happened to get a little money about that time. To be sure, she runs there now every day of her life; but I'll warrant Mrs. Jackson would like to put a stop to it if she could."

Suddenly, Miss Mitchell recollected that she had promised to run in and see Harriet a little while that morning.

"Oh, stay to dinner," said Mrs. Smith, "and we can talk it all over. I'm most through in the kitchen, and then I'm going to cover cord for Miss Martin; I've got nothing in the world to do."

But Miss Adeline was already tying on her bonnet.

"We're going to have pot-pie," urged her hostess.

"And apple-dumplings," suggested Miss Martin, whose choice in dessert had just been consulted.

But the love of gossip prevailed over that of apple-dumplings, and Miss Mitchell disappeared just as Mrs. Smith was summoned to the kitchen by the hired girl's announcement that "the crust was riz."

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter II

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What They're Saying in Greenport

The road that O&G and Holcim are proposing, from the quarry to the deep-water dock along the path of the old railroad bed, is currently undergoing site plan review by the Greenport Planning Board--at least the part of it that's in Greenport, from the quarry across Route 9 to Route 9G. Last month, the Planning Board requested various things: current traffic statistics, sight distances, specific plans for the road, information about the proximity of the road to Greenport's aquifer. Last night, Patrick Prendergast was back with all those things, hoping for approval from the Greenport Planning Board so he could move on to the County Planning Board. He didn't get it. The Greenport Board wants a traffic light where the proposed truck route would cross Route 9 and wants the Department of Transportation to approve it. Last month, it was agreed that the Planning Board would write a letter to DOT requesting the traffic light, but that didn't happen because the Planning Board had not received an escrow payment from O&G. Last night, it was agreed that O&G would make a escrow payment and write the letter.

Some interesting things were said at last night's meeting. Prendergast was very dismissive about Scenic Hudson's challenge to the permit issued by DEC, implying that the Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board was not to be taken seriously since, according to Prendergast, it had only met twice in the past ten years. He also said he'd talked with the mayor of Hudson and someone from the Hudson Planning Commission and anticipated that there would be no need for site plan approval to use the "causeway."

It is puzzling--and a matter for concern--that O&G, which has since November 24 been making regular appearances before the Greenport Planning Board, has yet to appear before the Hudson Planning Commission. O&G was expected to make a presentation to the Planning Commission back on December 9, but, because of an unexplained conflict, they never appeared. Perhaps, though, it isn't so puzzling, given this statement, which appears more than once in the draft LWRP: "The City supports plans proposed by Holcim (US) and its tenant to reroute dump truck traffic from the Holcim mine in Greenport, New York to the deep water port via the South Bay causeway."

The next meeting of the Hudson Planning Commission is on Wednesday, March 10, at 7 p.m. Even if O&G doesn't show up--and there's no reason to think they will--Eric Galloway is expected to present his latest plans for the corner of Fifth and Warren streets.

Courthouse Back in the News

In this morning's Register-Star, Francesca Olsen has an article about the progress of renovations to the Columbia County Courthouse to achieve ADA compliance. In the article, County Public Works Commissioner David Robinson is quoted as saying that the project, which was supposed to break ground this month, is still "in the beginning stages of design and development." The important questions not answered in the article are: Have they hired an architectural firm? And if so, which one?

Renovations to the courthouse have been the topic of discussion for more than a decade. In the late 1990s, the county hired Mesick Cohen Wilson and Baker to design a new wing for the building. The addition would have extended back from the courthouse along East Court Street and housed, among other things, an elevator to provide handicapped access to the main building. People who cared about the magnificent Warren and Wetmore courthouse and were paying attention at the time felt comfortable with the choice of architects. In 1992, Mesick Cohen Wilson and Baker did the restoration of Hudson's historic train station. They are also the firm recently chosen by Historic Hudson to oversee the stabilization and restoration of the Plumb-Bronson House. They could be trusted to understand the principles of compatibility between new construction and historic design.

Unfortunately, during the design process, things went wrong. The Buildings and Facilities Committee of the time doubled the size of the wing, adding space for the District Attorney's office, and then got upset and dismissed the architects because the estimated cost of the project increased 50 percent.

The courthouse is part of the locally designated Union-Allen-Front Street Historic District, which means that any alterations to the building require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Comment on Comments

When I first started The Gossips of Rivertown, I required people to register to comment. Then I learned that at least one of my loyal readers was reluctant to register, so I changed the commenting policy to allow people to comment anonymously--that is, without registering--with the understanding that I would review the comments before they appeared and accept or reject them.

In the early days of the new policy, I accepted a few comments that I wish now I had rejected, and in recent days, I have rejected a couple comments--without regret. So, I feel the time has come to explain how I make my decisions.

Although you don't have to register to comment, I am very uncomfortable about totally anonymous comments, especially when they are snarky ad hominem criticism directed against commenters who have identified themselves. Some commenters, even though they have not registered, sign their posts, and I encourage everyone to do that--even if it's only your first name. The Gossips of Rivertown is a blog not a chat board, so comments that do nothing but react to someone else's comment and do not further the discussion or provide additional information are also discouraged.

In the end, I admit my decisions to accept or reject comments are quite subjective. That's the joy of having your own blog.

By the way, the image accompanying this post is an illustration from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, which I figure has got to have some etymological connection to snarky, no matter what Merriam-Webster says.

Washington Hose Gets Empire Zone Funding

It's reported in this morning's Register-Star that the project to restore the Washington Hose Firehouse for use by the Hudson Development Corporation and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce has received the funding it needed from the Empire Zone. The article also reports that Peter Markou has given up on the notion of HDC owning the property for the unusual reason that the deed which transferred the land on which the building sits from the Proprietors to the City of Hudson in 1795 cannot be found. What remains is for the Common Council to appropriate $50,000 from the city budget to the project.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Let There Be Light!

Members of the Historic Hudson Board of Directors gathered with advisers and friends on Monday afternoon at the Plumb-Bronson House to celebrate the completion of their first restoration project and to revel in the light. The Plumb-Bronson House--notable in the past for the absence of intact windows--now has forty-one meticulously restored, repaired, or replicated windows, admitting light and reestablishing the relationship of the interior spaces with the landscape.

The window project was a long time in being realized. It was funded back in 2003 with an Athens Gen grant matched by Historic Hudson funds, but the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which administered the grant program, would not release the money until Historic Hudson had its lease in place with the State of New York making the not-for-profit the legal steward of the house and giving it an ownership interest. Although the enabling legislation for the lease was passed by the State Assembly and Senate in June 2003, it took another five years before the lease was negotiated and signed.

Restoring windows is not a typical first step in stabilizing buildings, but Historic Hudson decided it was the right first step for the Plumb-Bronson House. With the original window sash all but missing, heavy wood covers over the window openings protected the house from the ravages of weather and vandals, but they also kept the interior of the house dark and the exterior looking desolate and bleak. There was also the laborious task of removing them whenever Historic Hudson opened the house for tours or events. Restoring the windows, it was thought, would bring light to the interior and help people understand the architectural achievement of the house. And it has.

Everyone will get the chance to experience the house transformed by windows and light sometime in June when Historic Hudson is planning a gala event at the Plumb-Bronson House.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"A View of the Autumnal Hudson"

The excerpt from The American Scene that I posted earlier today inspired a friend to send me this picture of Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Teddy Wharton, taken on the morning they set off on their "motor flight" in pursuit of "a view of the autumnal Hudson." The picture was taken in the courtyard at The Mount.


Migliorelli Farm, at Third and Warren, is now selling products from Liz Neumark's Katchkie Farm--salsas, barbecue sauce, ketchup--dark, rich with spices (all identified on the label), and sold in a mason jar--as well as tender sprouts of broccoli raab.

Save on gas. Reduce your carbon footprint. Buy your food within walking distance.

Hudson in Literature

Henry James, The American Scene (1907)
Returning to America after twenty-one years, expatriate Henry James discovers Hudson on an autumn motoring excursion with Edith and Teddy Wharton.

To be on the lookout for differences was, not unusually, to begin to meet them just over the border and see them increase and multiply; was, indeed, with a mild consistency, to feel it steal over us that we were, as we advanced, in a looser, shabbier, perhaps even rowdier world, where the roads were of an easier virtue and the "farms" of a scantier pride, where the absence of the ubiquitous sign-post of New England, joy of lonely corners, left the great spaces with an accent the less; where, in fine, the wayside bravery of the commonwealth of Massachusetts settled itself, for memory, all serenely, to suffer by no comparison whatever. And yet it wasn't, either, that this other was not also a big, bold country, with ridge upon ridge and horizon by horizon to deal with, insistently, pantingly, puffingly, pausingly, before the great river showed signs of taking up the tale with its higher hand; it wasn't, above all, that the most striking signs by which the nearness of the river was first announced, three or four fine old houses overlooking the long road, reputedly Dutch manors, seats of patriarchs and patroons, and unmistakably rich "values" in the vast, vague scene, had not a nobler archaic note than even the best of the New England colonial; it wasn't that, finally, the Hudson, when we reached the town that repeats in so minor a key the name of the stream, was not autumnal indeed, with majestic impenetrable mists that veiled the waters almost from sight, showing only the dim Catskills, off in space, as perfunctory graces, cheaply thrown in, and leaving us to roam the length of a large, straight street which was, yes, decidedly, for comparison, for curiosity, not as the streets of Massachusetts.

The best here, to speak of, was that the motor underwent repair and that its occupants foraged for dinner--finding it indeed excellently at a quiet cook-shop, about the middle of the long-drawn way, after we had encountered coldness at the door of the main hotel by reason of our French poodle. . . . The hospitality of the cook-shop was meanwhile touchingly, winningly unconditioned, yet full of character, of local, of national truth, as we liked to think: documentary, in a high degree--we talked it over--for American life. Wasn't it interesting that with American life so personally, so freely affirmed, the superstition of cookery should yet be so little denied? It was the queer old complexion of the long straight street, however, that most came home to me: Hudson, in the afternoon quiet, seemed to stretch back, with fumbling friendly hand, to the earliest outlook of my consciousness. Many matters had come and gone, innumerable impressions had supervened; yet here, in the stir of the senses, a whole range of small forgotten things revived, things intensely Hudsonian, more than Hudsonian; small echoes and tones and sleeping lights, small sights and sounds and smells that made one, for an hour, as small--carried one up the rest of the river, the very river of life indeed, as a thrilled, roundabouted pilgrim, by primitive steamboat, to a mellow, mediaeval Albany.

Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer (1995)
Tom Booker, the whisperer, arrives in Hudson by train, bound for Chatham.

There were no cabs at Hudson station when the train got in. It was starting to drizzle and Tom had to wait for five minutes under the dripping iron-pillared canopy over the platform till one arrived. When it did, he climbed into the back with his bag and gave the driver the address of the stables.

Hudson looked as though it might once have been pretty, but now it seemed a sorry sort of place. Once grand old buildings were rotting away. Many of the shops along what Tom supposed was its main street were boarded up and those that weren't seemed mostly to be selling junk. People tramped the sidewalks with their shoulders hunched against the rain.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wurster and Demolition

Jamie Larson's article in the Register-Star gives the impression that, when Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster was "bombarded with criticism," I was the principal bombardier. My involvement was limited to sending pictures I took of the building on Thursday to the members of the Historic Preservation Commission and publishing an article about it on this blog. I did call it an "unauthorized demolition," because it was, but my only reference to Wurster was to wonder if a demolition permit had been issued by the Code Enforcement Office. But I may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, so I'll remind you of another Wurster demolition offense.

As we all know, there's a building missing on Warren Street, just east of the building at the corner of Fourth Street that Richard Cohen has been talking for years about turning into a hotel. The building was demolished at the end of December 2006--just after Christmas--when many people, including several members of the Historic Preservation Commission, were away for the holidays. It was a very old building--very likely 18th-century--and significant for its antiquity if nothing else.

Cohen had been before the Historic Preservation Commission seeking approval for a design for the hotel that required the elimination of that building. The HPC was still deliberating about the design, but they gave Cohen a conditional Certificate of Appropriateness to allow him to do some essential work on the roof and to present his project to the Planning Commission. Wurster, however, took it upon himself to give Cohen a demolition permit. More than three years later, there is no hotel or any progress on a hotel, but there is still a hole in the streetscape of Warren Street--a historic district recognized on the national, state, and local levels.

Paragraph 169.8.B of Hudson's preservation law outlines the following expectations:

Demolition shall be permitted only after the owner of the site has submitted and obtained design approval of his/her plans for new development under the provisions of this chapter, including an acceptable timetable and guarantees, which may include performance bonds for demolition and completion of the project. In no case shall the time between demolition and commencement of new construction or lot improvement exceed six months.

When the building was demolished, Cohen's design had not been approved, and more than three years later, no new construction or lot improvement--beyond putting up a temporary plywood wall--has occurred. Last I heard of the project, Cohen had yet another new architect.

Demolition Update

Jamie Larson has a story in today's Register-Star about the demolition going on at State and Seventh streets: "Demolition stirs up preservation questions."

The article reveals that Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster issued a demolition permit for the project in January. The article states that "because of the safety issues presented by falling bricks [Wurster] is not required to seek any approval from the Historic Preservation Commission." It includes this quote from Wurster: "I don’t have to go to Historic Preservation when it comes to the safety of the people. I’m surprised [the building] lasted this long. The sky’s not falling. They should be on their knees thanking Mr. Galloway for saving as much as he is.”

According to the article, the addition being demolished is "believed to have been built around the turn of the 19th century to add space to the original large home for use by the orphanage." The date assigned to the addition is unlikely, since the orphanage moved to 400 State Street in 1881.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Garden Drama II

There is always a certain level of tension in the community between "old Hudson" and "the newcomers," but rarely does it rise as close to the surface as it did on Thursday night at the meeting of the Youth & Aging Committee of the Common Council. The bone of contention: the raised-bed garden at the Youth Center and the educational program built around it.

At the start of the discussion, Committee Chair Wanda Pertilla and Youth Commissioner Daryl Blanks introduced a theme that was taken up again in Mayor Scalera's "Garden drama" letter in today's Register-Star. Blanks said there had been "too much of people writing letters to the editor instead of sitting down and discussing it," ignoring the fact that discussion of the garden had been referred to the Youth & Aging Committee, and Pertilla has been postponing committee meetings because Youth Director Trudy Beicht, who is on sick leave, has been unable to attend. Pertilla similarly criticized the attention paid to the garden issue in the press and on blogs, calling it "just hurtful" and alleging that "characters were slandered on the Internet." She pointed out that Stephanie Monseu, whose circus program at the Youth Center had been cancelled at the same time as Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies, had submitted a "beautiful letter" arguing for the continuation of her program. "That," said Pertilla, "is how you do business."

Although united in their opinion that the community response to perceived threats to the garden was inappropriate, Pertilla and Blanks, who sat--and often spoke--with his back to the audience, sent contradictory messages about other aspects of the discussion. Pertilla said more than once that she supported a cooking program at the Youth Center, while Blanks declared, "We're not going to turn the Youth Center into a culinary institute." Although Pertilla seemed favorably disposed to the circus program, Blanks complained that "the same programs were being proposed again" in spite of the fact that his "focus is on new programs." Blanks stressed that his "philosophy is to bring in different things," while Pertilla lamented the fact that an ongoing dance program, which has been in place for a few years, has never gotten the kind of attention and publicity that the short-lived Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies program was getting.

While describing the "rousing success" of the gardening/cooking program, Kari Rieser, coordinator for the Childhood Obesity Program which funded the garden, said that the program generated more interest than "tossing a ball." Alderman Sheila Ramsey (D-Fourth Ward), who is on the Youth & Aging Committee, took issue with what she felt was Rieser's implication that sports--the traditional fare of the Youth Department--had no benefit. When Carole Clark argued for keeping the garden in close proximity to the Youth Center, explaining that the community of children served by the Youth Center benefited especially from the experience of learning about food and from individual interactions with adults, Blanks took offense at the inferences Clark was making based on her experiences. "We're not in these children's homes," he said. Shortly afterward, Blanks left the meeting and the building.

Responding to Blanks' apparent denial that a need exists in Hudson for education about food and healthy eating, Rieser cited the 2010 Access to Healthy Food County Health Rankings, which indicate that only 30 percent of people in Columbia County have access to healthy food (the target value is 71 percent), and described Hudson as a "food desert."

The meeting, which began at 5 p.m., adjourned at about 6:35, not long after Blanks' abrupt departure. While members of the audience and the committee lingered in post-meeting conversations, Mayor Scalera, who has been at the center of the garden controversy, entered the building, clearly annoyed that he'd been told by a city clerk that the meeting started at 7 and, as a result, had missed the whole thing.

Although Pertilla stressed during the meeting that "a decision has not been made to move the garden," all indications are that the Youth Center garden will be moved to TSL. Whether that means relocating the raised beds there or creating a new garden is not clear.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Unauthorized Demolition in Hudson

At this moment, unauthorized demolition work is going forward on a very old building at the corner of Seventh and State streets in Hudson. The building is in a locally designated historic district, but the project has never come before the Historic Preservation Commission for review. It is not known at this time if a demolition permit was issued by the Code Enforcement Office.

According to information received, the dismantling began on Monday night. One source maintains that only the most compromised part of the building is being taken down--a section that was added at some point to the original building. This idea is supported by the fact that the demolition is revealing a fanlight attic window, suggesting that this interior wall was originally an exterior wall.

The building was the Orphan Asylum in Hudson at some time before 1881 when the orphanage moved to 400 State Street (now the library). The building is currently owned by Eric Galloway.

Scenic Hudson Appeals DEC Permit

Back in November 2009, when O&G first presented its plan for using the old railroad bed as a truck route from the quarry to the deep-water dock before the Greenport Planning Board, it came as a surprise to everyone that O&G's Patrick Prendergast had in hand a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation. How could the DEC have issued a permit for work in the freshwater wetland without doing an environmental review?

One of the people present at the November meeting was Mark Wildonger of Scenic Hudson, and a month later, Scenic Hudson challenged the permit on a number of grounds with the Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board. The DEC moved that Scenic Hudson's appeal be dismissed because it was not filed in a timely fashion. The permit was issued on October 30, 2009. Scenic Hudson's appeal was filed on December 24, 2009. The DEC argued that Scenic Hudson had 30 days to appeal the permit, and the 30 days started on October 30--the effective date of the permit. Scenic Hudson maintained that there was no public knowledge of the permit until November 24, when Prendergast waved it about at the Greenport Planning Board meeting. (A point of interest: The cover letter, signed by Michael Higgins and dated October 30, indicates that copies of the permit went to the Greenport Planning Board and to the Mayor of Hudson.)

Yesterday Sam Pratt reported that on February 2, 2010, the Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board denied DEC's motion to dismiss Scenic Hudson's appeal. Click through Sam's report to download the FWAB's decision and order.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Walker Evans in Hudson

On Sunday, February 21, Sedat Pakay will show his documentary film about the photographer Walker Evans at 3 p.m. at the Claverack Library.

Being reminded of this event by Sam Pratt on his blog, I was also reminded of two Walker Evans photographs discovered by Sam last year in the Walker Evans Archive on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website. Both pictures are described simply as "Italianate Revival House, New York State," but both have been identified by Sam and others as the house that used to stand on Allen Street just west of the courthouse, next the Egyptian Revival house--where the parking lot is today. The house was demolished in the late 1960s or early '70s. Some say the house had irreparable structural problems, but not everyone agrees about that. This is how the house appeared in 1933-34.

"Mr. Jorden Was Going to Be Married"

A mere two weeks after "the terrible denouement at Mrs. Jackson's," which was the subject of our last excerpt from The Gossips of Rivertown, the ladies of Rivertown have something new to gossip about. Here's our next offering.

If Mrs. Harden was nearly overcome with the Jackson affair, imagine the state of her mind when, not two weeks after, it was rumoured that Mr. Jorden was going to be married--and to whom, of all people, but Mrs. Jackson's sister.

Yes, Mrs. Smith must remember her--that tall girl that always wore such low-necked dresses, and, positively, she'd been seen sitting at the window in short sleeves! when she was up from New York last summer. To be sure, if Harriet had done a thing of the kind, all Rivertown would have been in arms about it--but it was Mrs. Jackson's sister, and that was enough to make anything go down with the young men. The fact was, if Mrs. Jackson had been some people's wife, they'd look out after her a little closer; she had such girlish ways. But it wasn't her (Mrs. Harden's) business--and perhaps it was well for the poor little lady that it was not.

Yes, Mr. Jorden was going to be married, and to a city girl--that was unpardonable. Why couldn't people be content with those they'd known for years and years--been brought up with, as one might say. As if Rivertown girls were not good enough for anybody, and quite genteel enough, too. What was more, Mrs. Jackson was going to give a grand party in honour of the bride, such a party as Rivertown had never seen. Invitations were to be issued a week beforehand, and a large party of New York people were coming up on purpose to be there. Mr. Jorden's brother was to be groomsman, coming all the way from Baltimore--for he had been adopted by his uncle, Livingstone Carroll, when he was quite a lad, and Mrs. Harden had almost forgotten how he looked. Jane--that girl was invaluable to Mrs. Jackson; so said her neighbours, and who had a better right to know about Mrs. Jackson's domestics?--Jane said the cake was to come from New York, too, and--but Mrs. Harden wouldn't pretend to tell half she heard about it. Didn't Mrs. Smith think Mary Butler'd feel well now? If she'd only behaved herself, she might at least have had an invitation to the party, and that was something, at all events, considering these gentlemen were coming from New York. Mrs. Harden wondered if Harriet would be asked. Oh, of course, though, being that they were such near neighbours.

Sketch the First. The Neighbours. Chapter IV

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Morning Reconnaissance

Vandalism on Warren Street Someone went on a rampage last night, overturning planters in the 200 and 300 blocks of Warren Street. Many of the objects of assault were the whiskey barrel planters placed on the street by the Beautification Committee a few years ago, but private property was not spared. One of the large cast iron urns in front of 242 Warren Street was pushed over, and--most destructive--one of the large ceramic pots flanking the entrance to 232 Warren Street was knocked over and smashed.

203 Warren Street Around Winter Walk time, word was received that the owner of the convenience store at the corner of Second and Warren was planning to open a Family Dollar store in the adjoining storefront, where Tomm Eaton used to have his real estate office. That doesn't seem to be the plan anymore. Spotted over the weekend: a small sign that reads "D. Taylor Hair Studio" propped in the window and a hairdryer and salon chair inside. It seems that Danny Taylor is opening his hair salon again, in yet another location.

Moxie's/Maxie's There's going to be a restaurant on South Front Street again. The building that was once Moxie's and later the ill-fated Maxie's was purchased last summer by Peter Schram and recently sold to Andy King. The word from reliable sources is that the building is being renovated to reopen as a restaurant once again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not to Be Missed

"Crude and Unrefined" On his blog, Sam Pratt has published a December 1984 article from Hudson Valley magazine about the plan from that era to build an oil refinery in Hudson. The quotes from Mike Yusko, then the mayor of Hudson, and Art Koweek, then chair of the Hudson Community Development Office, are shocking. The most stunning comes from Koweek, who said of Hudson's waterfront: "It's an industrial area. Let them go out of town to get access to the river."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Playing (with) the Numbers in Hudson

In his book Historic Hudson: An Architectural History, Byrne Fone reports that in 1799 the name of Hudson's principal thoroughfare was changed from Main Street to Warren Street: "One day, Hudsonians saw messages in red and yellow chalked on fences along the street summarily informing them that 'this street is no longer Main Street but called Warren Street by order of the Common Council.'"

Ninety years later, Warren Street--and every other east-west street in Hudson--underwent another change, although it couldn't have happened as suddenly as the name change, since it required the cooperation of many. Hudson instituted "hundred blocks." The buildings, which before had simply been numbered sequentially from the river on up, were renumbered to indicate the block in which they were located. On Allen Street, the change resulted in the abrupt skip from 59 to 201, because First Street deadends at Union Street and Allen Street continues uninterrupted from Front Street to Second Street.

There is more evidence of the change on Allen Street: two houses that still display their original numbers. At 228 Allen Street, you can still see number 84 in stained glass over the door, and at 330 Allen Street, 150 is etched in the glass transom.

From time to time, new property owners in Hudson discover some pre-1888 evidence that something remarkable happened or someone important lived or worked in their building, only to be disappointed when they realize that it wasn't their building after all. The Hudson Directory for 1888-89, which can be consulted in the History Room of the Hudson Area Library, gives both numbers for most properties. If you know who owned or occupied your house at that time, you can find out what its original number was. My house--now 209 Allen Street--was originally 71 Allen Street. At the time of the transition, Richard Horan, who owned a grocery store on Front Street, and his family, including his bachelor brother, lived here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Morning at the HPC

After sitting through three hours of deliberation, as the Historic Preservation Commission reviewed the applications for five certificates of appropriateness, I got a chance to ask if the Commission intended to contact Evergreen Partners Housing to inform them that half of Hudson Terrace is in a locally designated historic district and their proposed changes to the exterior of the buildings needed to be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. The question was addressed to the chair, Tom Swope, who answered succinctly, "No." My next question--"Why not?"--was echoed by some of the commission members, among them Tony Thompson. Swope conceded that he would inform Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster that the Hudson Terrace project needed to come before the HPC, although apparently he hasn't done so yet, but that was all he would to do. At this point, City Attorney Cheryl Roberts, who has been assigned to the HPC, pointed out that the Historic Preservation Commission has no enforcement power, therefore, any communication to Evergreen Partners regarding their obligations under city code must come either from the code enforcement officer or from a city attorney. Of course, this doesn't preclude someone unofficially contacting Charlie Allen of Evergreen Partners, who presented the project to the Common Council, and letting him know the requirement of city code and the expectation of the community.

A few other things happened at the HPC meeting that are of interest. Joe Fierro, the new owner of Rogers Hose Firehouse, was there to get final approval for his plans for the facade of the building. Fiero is planning to open a barbecue restaurant called American Glory in the building. The metal overhead door on the truck bay is being replaced with sixteen-pane wooden doors that fold and open left and right. The plan, as Fiero described it, is to keep the doors open as much as possible and to install an "air curtain" so they can be open even in winter. Fiero's application was approved, with a recommendation about the appropriate finish on the wooden doors. American Glory is scheduled to open in May.

Kevin Walker was also there with two applications from the Galvan Group: 211 Union Street, General William Jenkins Worth's birthplace, and 260 Warren Street, on the northwest corner of Third and Warren. For 211 Union Street, there were concerns about the plans to use asphalt shingles on the roof and to install louvered shutters. The commission requested revised elevation drawings and historic photographs of the building and expressed its intention to revisit the shingles and shutters.

Walker has appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission several times before with plans for 260 Warren Street. (The two pictures here show the building in the 1930s and in more recent years, before the French doors were removed and the openings boarded up.) In the past, Walker has received conditional approval for work that was never done and went ahead with work that had not been approved--for example, removing all the French doors from the storefront of the building. (It was during one of these earlier appearances that Walker explained that he would like to replace the marble pilasters on the building with new marble because "the owner of the building doesn't like old things.")

Yesterday Walker was back seeking approval for three things: replacing the missing French doors on the Warren Street facade with stationery plate-glass windows; installing an awning; moving the entrance to the storefront to Third Street and installing a handicapped ramp. The trade off for replacing the French doors with fixed display windows was the promise to store the doors in the cellar and leave the frames unchanged so that some future owner could someday reinstall them. In the past, the Historic Preservation Commission has maintained that the original French doors were a significant historic component of the building, and the HPC has not altered its position. The application Walker presented yesterday was denied with the following comments: (1) the original doors should be restored to the building or new doors proposed that are highly reflective of the original doors and their character; (2) the awnings proposed do not reflect the historic character of the building; (3) the railing proposed for the handicapped ramp does not reflect the historic character of the building.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Jamie Larson's article in this morning's Register-Star: "Holcim, O&G weigh in on LWRP."

Nothing unexpected but interesting nonetheless.

Also in today's paper, Sam Pratt's My View about Scalera and the waterfront: "Will 'someday' ever come to the city?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Historic Preservation in America

On January 31 the White House announced that all funding for the Save America's Treasures and Preserve America programs would be eliminated in the 2011 budget. Olana, the Thomas Cole House, and the Luykas Van Alen House have all been recipients of Save America's Treasures grants.

Donovan Rypkema, who has written many articles and a book about the economics of historic preservation, comments on this decision and compares the effectiveness of these programs in creating jobs with the success of the Stimulus Plan on his blog PlaceEconomics.

The Bay Road

From time to time in discussions of the South Bay, people make reference to the "Bay Road." This was the original name for the road leading south out of Hudson which is now Route 9G. This photo clarifies why the road got that name.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"An Artful Creature as Ever Lived"

More from The Gossips of Rivertown. The rumors that Mary Butler has "encouraged Mr. Jorden's attentions" finally reach the ears of Mrs. Jackson, who has befriended Mary. Mrs. Jackson's sister is engaged to Mr. Jorden (a fact unknown to the gossips), and it is out of concern for her sister's happiness that Mrs. Jackson confronts Mary with the rumors. The conversation convinces Mrs. Jackson of Mary's innocence, but--overheard by Jane the maid--it incites the gossips to new frenzy.

"I've no patience with that girl"--broke in Mrs. Harden. "What d'ye think? As I was saying, Mrs. Jackson was giving her music lessons. Of course, Mary Butler having nothing to do, can find plenty of time to practise!"--(Mrs. Harden evidently intended this to be ironical)--"and somehow, Mrs. Jackson heard about Mary Butler's goings on with Mr. Jorden. How she heard I'm sure I can't tell, but it seems to be all over town. I haven't mentioned it to more than two or three, and I guess we saw about as much of it as anyone."

Mrs. Harden was right there, at least. "Why, don't you know, ma, I told you long ago that John heard it talked about at the hotel, and that Adeline was taking tea at Mrs. Smith's, weeks ago, and they knew all about it. Mrs. Utley and Mrs. Folger were there. It was the night after you had company, in March, I guess it was. . . ."

"As I was saying, Mrs. Jackson of course would not countenance such behaviour; so she bore it as long as she could--though she didn't treat Mary Butler half so well as she used to. I always did wonder what she found in her to like, and at last this very afternoon she out with it."

"Why, ma--there, now I know!" Miss Harriet's face brightened as if she had found the solution of some great enigma. Sir Isaac himself could not have seemed more delighted when that apple acted as a key to nature's mystery--the philosopher of still more ancient times did not cry "Eureka" in more joyous tones.

"What d'ye know, Harriet?—-just wait a minute, though, till I get through my story. Mrs. Jackson told her every word, and Mary Butler cried like everything. According to all accounts" (i. e. Jane's and Hannah's), "they had an awful time. Jane was in the sitting-room taking care of little Archie, and they were in the parlour. She did not hear all they said, for they talked quite low part of the time; but Mrs. Jackson asked Mary Butler how she could have the face to pretend being ignorant of these stories--and told her she had 'encouraged Mr. Jorden's attentions'--these were the very words. Mary Butler cried like a baby, Jane says, and to cap the whole, Mr. Jorden walked right in in the middle of it. (Don't you think it was strange he should go to Mrs. Jackson's without ringing? Jane says he often does; I suppose he must be quite intimate there.)"

"What did he say?"

"Why Jane didn't hear the rest. The sitting-room door fell to, and she didn't dare to open it, though she wanted to dreadfully. I'd like to know how it all ended. Jane thinks she heard Mrs. Jackson tell her not to enter her doors again;" (oh, Jane, what a fabrication!) "and I shouldn't wonder if she did--such impudence!" And Mrs. Harden fell back in her rocking-chair, quite overcome with the excitement of the narrative--but started up again as Harriet slowly and solemnly said,--

" Well, I can tell you more about that business."

Mrs. Harden's emotions were of a mingled nature. Curiosity to hear the rest--vexation that she was not the sole possessor of this important piece of intelligence.

"I always told you," added Miss Harriet, "that we should hear more from that quarter. I knew Mary Butler was an artful creature as ever lived! I was coming by Mrs. Jackson's on my way home from Adeline's, and just as I got by the parlour window, I happened to look up. There was Mrs. Jackson standing by the piano (the shades were both drawn up), and Mr. Jorden was on the other side turning over a music-book. Mr. Jorden was pale as death--(a slight embroidery, Miss Harriet)--and Mrs. Jackson seemed to be very angry about something. At that very minute I heard the front door open--and out came Mary Butler. Her eyes were red as that curtain, and she pulled down her veil just as soon as she saw me. I don't wonder at it, Mr. Jorden's being angry--to think she should dare to dream of his marrying her."

Miss Harriet was quite indignant. Had she not a right to be? Mr. Jorden had never paid her the least attention--in fact, she was beginning to wonder if any one ever would, with seriousness. Miss Harriet was verging towards--but we forget--a lady's age is a subject not to be treated of with impunity. Mrs. Harden went into the kitchen under pretence of seeing when tea would be ready, but in reality to tell Hannah the confirmation of Jane's wondrous tale; and her daughter slipped on her bonnet again, and wrapping her mother's blanket shawl about her, "ran over" to Adeline's a minute, to enjoy her surprise at what she had to tell. That industrious young lady was making over her stone-coloured merino dress, preparatory to a visit in the country; (remember, dear reader, Rivertown was almost a city, and numbered some five thousand inhabitants); but she paused in her avocation, and was quite as much overcome as Harriet had expected her to be--so much so, that the dress was put by for the night; and the moment Harriet had fairly got round the corner on her way home, Miss Adeline donned hood and cloak, and set out for Mrs. Smith's to enlighten her upon the terrible denouement at Mrs. Jackson's. Mrs. Smith was the gossip, par excellence, of Rivertown, and the reader may naturally conclude, that before bed-time half the inhabitants of the place knew all about the "strange thing that happened at Mrs. Jackson's that afternoon." Mrs. Smith's were not the only hood and over-shoes that were put in requisition that memorable evening, and all agreed Mary Butler was served right for flirting with Mr. Jorden.

Sketch the First. Neighbours. Chapter III

Monday, February 8, 2010

Garden Threatened

I just got word that Mayor Scalera wants the two parking spaces back at the Youth Center and is planning to demolish the raised-bed garden. If you're interested in saving the garden--in which so much money, time, and creative energy have been invested--come to Baba Louie's tonight at 6:00 p.m., have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and talk about what can be done.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Contemplating Hudson Terrace

An article in the Register-Star last week informed us that the renovations to Hudson Terrace would begin in the middle of this month. Aside from the sketchy information provided in the article, no one seems to know exactly what is being planned. The interior changes are nobody's business but the tenants' who are going to occupy the apartments. The exterior changes, however, should be everybody's business.

Hudson Terrace sits atop the bluff on which Hudson was built. Approaching Hudson by the river, these architecturally undistinguished late 20th-century buildings are the first and about the only things that can be seen of our city, which is known for its rich inventory of historic architecture. The vast complex stretches the width of the city, from Allen Street to State Street, and it is visible from many vantage points within two National Register historic districts (the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District and the Hudson Historic District) and two locally designated historic districts (the Warren Street Historic District and the Union-Allen-Front Street Historic District).

Historic Footnote: When the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District was originally added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, it consisted of 95 buildings. In 1986, the district was decreased to 25 buildings. Many of those missing 70 buildings (including the one glimpsed through the trees in this picture) had been demolished to build Hudson Terrace.]

When the Historic Preservation Commission designated the Union-Allen-Front Street Historic District, they wisely included the buildings of Hudson Terrace as "non-contributing structures." Inclusion in a historic district--even as a non-contributing structure--makes a building subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission because what is done with non-contributing structures has an impact on the overall character of a historic district. We know that Evergreen Partners intends to replace the faded blue vinyl siding on the buildings of Hudson Terrace with new siding, but I don't think anyone--aside, perhaps, from Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster--knows what they plan to replace it with or what color the new material will be.

Last Saturday, I had occasion to drive the length of Hudson Terrace, from north to south, and as I did, I contemplated what the buildings might look like with a different "skin" of a different color. Knowing that the renovations to the buildings were to begin this month, it occurred to me wonder if the plans for the exterior changes had been presented to the Historic Preservation Commission for a Certificate of Appropriateness. So I emailed the members of the HPC and asked.

A response came quite promptly from HPC chair, Tom Swope. Not surprisingly, Evergreen Partners has not presented their plans for substantive exterior changes to the Historic Preservation Commission, but, Swope reminded me, Wurster was the "gatekeeper," and it was his responsibility to refer projects requiring a Certificate of Appropriateness to the Historic Preservation Commission when his office receives an application for a building permit. Sadly, given Wurster's lack of sympathy with historic preservation, it is highly unlikely that it would ever occur to him to refer this project to the HPC. In 2005, Wurster allowed renovations to the facade of the C. H. Evans Firehouse (now The Spotty Dog) to begin without a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC and claimed that he didn't know that all the old firehouses had been designated local landmarks. In 2006, he issued a demolition permit for a historic building at 404 Warren Street without approval from the Historic Preservation Commission. In 2007, Wurster issued a building permit to replace the slate roof on 448 Warren Street without referring the project to the HPC. To expect Wurster to be a watchdog for historic preservation is a great mistake.

The Historic Preservation Commission needs to reach out to Evergreen Partners to let them know their obligations. The south half of Hudson Terrace is in a locally designated historic district, and all of the complex is visible from historic Promenade Hill. Hudson's preservation ordinance requires the Historic Preservation Commission to review and give a Certificate of Appropriateness to the substantive material changes that are about to be made to the exterior of the buildings--at the very least, those located in the south half of the complex.

It is not known what kind of siding will be used. The likely possibilities are new vinyl siding or Hardiplank, a fiber-cement siding. (Crosswinds is sided with Hardiplank.) Although it's possible to paint Hardiplank, very likely, if Hardiplank is used for Hudson Terrace, it will be the kind with the color already baked in. Although the our preservation law does not require a Certificate of Appropriateness for paint colors, on the assumption that paint color is temporary and makes no permanent impact, it does give the HPC approval authority over the color of materials used in any alternations to buildings in historic districts. To quote from Hudson's Historic Preservation Law (Paragraph 169.6 of the City of Hudson Code): "Any alteration of existing properties shall be compatible with their historic character, as well as with the surrounding district" (italics mine). One of the tests of compatiblility is: "Texture, materials, and color and their relation to similar features of other properties in the neighborhood."

In the case of Hudson Terrace, we need to encourage the Historic Preservation Commission to be proactive. This is a huge project with huge visual impacts on Hudson--our waterfront as well as our historic districts. It seems unlikely that the exterior work on the buildings will begin in the dead of winter, so there is still time for the Historic Preservation Commission to intervene and inform Evergreen Partners of their obligation under Hudson City Code, if indeed Peter Wurster has neglected to do so.

The Historic Preservation Commission meets this Friday, February 12, at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Big-Box Education

In his comments to the IDA yesterday, David Colby made reference to a recent book by Stacy Mitchell. The book is Big-Box Swindle, which was published in 2006. There are several copies in the Mid-Hudson Library System, and the Hudson Area Library can get one for you.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The IDA and Kohl's

I published my detailed account of this morning's IDA meeting on ccSCOOP. You can go there to read a summary of what everyone had to say about the proposed PILOT for Kohl's. Here you can read David Colby's comments, delivered on behalf of the members of Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, which I publish with his permission.

We want business. We welcome Kohl’s, but not like this. We agree with people that have said this application is about jobs. The problem is this: there is no significant addition of net new jobs to our community in this application.

We asked the developer for that information, but they have not produced anything to support the claim that this project will provide good, living wage jobs.

It is our opinion that public tax dollars should not be used to subsidize ventures that will compete with local business. This project will surely take sales away from other local retailers. The loss of sales results in fewer jobs and less sales taxes revenue. What we are really talking about here is not adding jobs, but merely swapping the jobs we have now with jobs at Kohl’s.

When sales decrease at existing local retailers, those businesses are in danger of going out of business. This not only affects the owner and employees of that business, it impacts other local businesses they do business with. Local retailers hire local accountants, local attorneys, local insurance agencies and others to perform services. The national retailer you are being asked to subsidize will not carry on those business relationships. Local business is good business.

We are not opposed to competition for local retail if it is done in a fair and equitable manner, without tax breaks. Three current tenants at the Widewaters development all located stores here with no tax breaks and have become members of our Chamber of Commerce. We support Lowe’s, Walmart, and Applebees as we do any other Chamber member business in our community. Fair competition makes local businesses better; unfair competition because of tax breaks can harm local businesses. This combined with the fact that is no real economic gain is why most Chambers of Commerce and economic development professionals do not support PILOTs for retailers.

Instead of generating new wealth in a community, new retail simply shifts shopping patterns. Almost every item found at Kohl’s is available elsewhere in our community. For this are we really willing to give a $1.3 million tax subsidy?

We understand local politicians and the media wanting to support job creation. When you look at the issue from 30,000 feet, it is tempting. Giving up some tax dollars for jobs could sound pretty good. But when you closely examine the quality, quantity, and stability, it is less than appealing.

Columbia County is not unique. This battle is waged daily in communities across America. In Stacy Mitchell’s recent book about tax breaks for large retailers and how they impact communities, she talks about the Jobs Mirage. Elected officials and the local media typically tout new retail as “New Jobs” and “Economic Opportunity” for a community. The result is usually a loss of jobs and tax revenue that is equal or greater than what you have gained.

I talked to a colleague who is the CEO of a retailers association recently about this proposal to get his view. He said, “I don’t understand it, in retail there is either a market or there isn’t.”

Widewaters has stated that this PILOT would: “Put Columbia County on the map.” I agree--as a place with a poor understanding of the economics of retail. Please do not support this application.

Kohl's Application Rejected

I just got back from the IDA meeting and can report that the Kohl's application has been rejected, mostly because the IDA felt twenty years was too long but also because they had misgivings about giving a PILOT to a retail business. Although it was not an official public hearing, they did invite comment. More details about the meeting to come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do We Need a Kohl's?

Set your alarm clocks. Bright and early at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) will be meeting in the Board of Supervisors chamber at 401 State Street to receive--if all predictions are correct--Widewaters' application for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to bring a Kohl's department store to Greenport Commons. Although it's not a public hearing, and there is no guarantee that members of the public will be permitted to speak, it may be a meeting worth getting up early to attend.

On January 11, Widewaters' Marco Marzocchi presented the idea to the Board of Supervisors Planning and Economic Development Committee. The details of that meeting were reported on ccSCOOP, but basically, the deal is that, for the next twenty years, Kohl's wants to pay property tax only on the undeveloped land its building will sit on but not on the building itself. In the first year, that amounts to a tax abatement of $61,600. For this "investment" from the community, the community gets--in addition to "unique shopping experiences" and "community caring"--sales tax (predicted by Kohl's to be $101,920 in the first year) and jobs (125--only 30 percent of which would be full time). Although this doesn't seem like a particularly good deal (if you subtract what is forfeited in property tax from what is promised in sales tax, the annual gain is only $40,320, and 30 percent of 125 is only 37 full-time jobs), two days later the full Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in support of the IDA giving Kohl's a PILOT. You can read about that in the Register-Star.

Some members of the Board of Supervisors seem hopeful that the IDA can negotiate a deal with Kohl's other than the one outlined by Marzocchi, but Marzocchi insisted that the deal was the deal--take it or forgo the singular honor of being one of only thirty communities in the US to get a new Kohl's store in 2010. And giving up Kohl's also means giving up the chance for a T.J. Maxx, because T.J. Maxx, which will ask for the same deal, won't even consider locating in Greenport if there is to be no Kohl's. Visions of 9W in Kingston dance in the head.

In discussion of Kohl's, there is much talk of making Columbia County a "retail shopping destination" and of "revitalizing the retail corridor" that is Route 9 in Greenport. These goals raise some questions, one of which was asked by Lori Selden at the P&ED Committee meeting: "If you want to create a retail shopping destination, why not try to attract a store that isn't everywhere else?" There is, after all, a Kohl's in the Hudson Valley Mall in Kingston and another in Colonie Center in Albany and 1,057 more in every state but Hawaii. In response to Selden's question, Marzocchi said he didn't know of such a store, which isn't surprising. Stores that provide genuinely "unique shopping experiences" are usually the creation of one person with exceptional taste and an unfailing eye--like Timothy Dunleavy and Rural Residence, Melinda Slover and Lili and Loo, Dan Turk and Shop Naked, Knotty Woodpecker, and Count Turkofsky's Department Store.

Another question that needs to be asked is: "Why do the decision makers in Columbia County seem hellbent to imitate what is found everywhere in America and to turn our unique county--where there are working family farms, open spaces, glorious vistas, historic buildings, and one cool little city--into "the geography of nowhere"? (Thank you, James Kunstler, for coining that phrase more than a decade ago.)

Puzzling too is the apparent inability of some residents of Greenport to grasp the finer points of cause and effect. At the Greenport Town Board meeting last night, people living along Joslen Boulevard complained bitterly, as they seem to at most town meetings, about the increased traffic on their road now that the traffic light has been installed at its northern terminus--at the entrance to the Widewaters mall. They demanded from the Town Board that the plan to widen Route 9--from the border with Hudson to the border with Stockport--be revived and implemented. (From what I could gather, widening that stretch of Route 9 didn't happen ten years ago because people couldn't agree on whether or not to have a median and whether or not to plant trees.) Strangely, however, no one demanded from Greenport Planning Board Chair Don Alger and the two other members of the Planning Board who were in the audience an explanation of why, in their site plan review, they had settled for the limited and inadequate traffic study offered by Widewaters instead of requiring the developers to do a thorough traffic study that looked at the impacts beyond a single intersection--on the rest of that part of Greenport, on Hudson, and on communities farther north on Route 9. (Perhaps they were just being polite, but good manners didn't stop one Greenporter from questioning Highway Superintendent Mark Gaylord about the need to spend "that kind of money" on security cameras for the town garage and insinuating some kind of misconduct when he said, more than once, "Something's going in the Town Highway Department.")

Two other things related to the Kohl's issue happened at the Greenport Town Board meeting. Building Inspector John Florio reported that he had already had a "preliminary meeting" with representatives of Kohl's and Widewaters--a meeting that was initiated by Kohl's. Also, toward the end of the meeting, Councilman Tom Fleming asked if it had not always been the position of the Town Board to oppose PILOTs and if it was not now the position of the Town Board to oppose a PILOT for Kohl's. The other members of the board, including Supervisor Ed Nabozny, affirmed that both statements were true. Nabozny, who with all the other county supervisors voted in support of the county IDA giving Kohl's a PILOT, has said on more than one occasion that he thinks the IDA can negotiate with Kohl's. He was quoted in the Register-Star as saying, "I’m hoping we’ll come to a great conclusion, and Kohl’s will be here.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remembering George Duguay

Yesterday, while walking William by the house at the corner of Second and Partition where George Duguay used to live, my attention was drawn by noises coming, I thought, from the part of the house that had been George's apartment. Stopping to study the house, I thought of George, who died there on a bleak winter day very like yesterday. Back home, curious to remember exactly when George had died, I discovered that today is the anniversary of his death. So, in memory of George and in tribute to this exceptional Hudson character, I decided to publish here the obituary I wrote for him four years ago. The photograph of George, in his backyard with one of his beloved cats and some of his favorite "pineys," is by Valerie Shaff.

George Duguay: The Genius of Hudson

George Duguay died in his home on South Second Street on Friday, February 3, 2006. He was 94.

Known throughout Hudson for his thin frame, pleasant smile, distinctive dress (which always included a well-worn overcoat and trilby hat), and love of gardens and cats, George Duguay was born in Hudson on June 15, 1911. His parents were British subjects—his father French-Canadian, his mother Irish—but George was born an American. He was baptized in the “old Italian Church” on Front Street and graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in 1929, one of the outstanding scholars of his class. “He was one of the smartest students there,” recalls Kathryn McDonald. George would later refer to himself jovially as “the genius of Hudson,” and he was that—in all senses of the word. Gail Grandinetti recalls that her late father always spoke of George as a “brilliant, brilliant man.” For those who came to know him in more recent times, George was indeed the genius of Hudson—the prevailing spirit, the distinctive character of our community.

After graduating high school from St. Mary’s, George went to Quebec, his father’s homeland, but returned to Hudson two years later, when his father died unexpectedly. Once back in Hudson, George decided to stay. In 1931, his parents were living on the second floor of 209 Allen Street. It was the Depression, and money was scarce, so George moved back in with his mother and younger brother, and for the rest of his life, he lived in the First Ward—in different buildings and apartments but always in the vicinity of South Second, Allen, and Partition streets.

George’s father had been a chauffeur for Mrs. Isaac Newton Collier, one of the wealthiest women in Hudson. She lived in the grand Greek Revival mansion at Second and Partition, which is now St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, cater-corner across from the house where George lived for the last forty or so years of his life. In Mrs. Collier’s time, the land on Second Street between Partition and Allen, where the Irv Schroder & Sons factory building now stands, was a park that belonged to her, and as a teenager, George worked for Mrs. Collier, mowing the grass in the park in summer and shoveling snow in winter.

Back in Hudson, in the early years of the Depression, George worked at a series of odd jobs. As the Depression deepened, he let the dire economic state of the country dictate the career he would pursue. As he told Dan Region in an interview for The Independent in 1999, “I thought, ‘Go somewhere there’s food. I can’t eat money.’” He started out working at the Park Grill, which was located on Warren Street across from Seventh Street Park. He apprenticed as a cook, learning his art by watching and doing. In the late 1930s, George took a job at the St. Charles Hotel, where he rose from apprentice to full-fledged cook. He left the St. Charles in 1946 to take a job at the elegant General Worth Hotel. He worked as a cook at the General Worth until it closed in 1962. Then he returned to the St. Charles, where he stayed until he retired in 1978.

The sharp mind and intellectual curiosity that distinguished George Duguay in high school continued throughout his life. He was bilingual and, in recent years, would converse in French with his neighbor Steve Careau, who had also lived in Quebec. George was very well read and, during his retirement years, spent part of every day in the Hudson Area Library, reading books and newspapers. According to Norma Hart, who worked at the library, “George was never interested in ‘light reading.’ He went for the hard books, the challenging ones.” He never took the books home. He always read them in the library.

George’s curiosity and appreciation of things of beauty were evident to all who knew him or only just observed him. Kathryn McDonald recalls going on bus trips with George to Boston. “He and Andy Burton, his friend, would take off and ride the subway and see the museums and visit libraries.” Dan Region tells of watching George as he went from window to window on Warren Street, gazing at the displays in the antiques shops, “his eyes filled with wonder as if he were visiting the Met.” Robert Hills remembers that George often came out to Olana to look at the garden. George had the rare capacity to enjoy things without needing to possess them.

George’s life spanned ten decades, and his clear memory of dates, facts, events, and people made him, in the words of Gail Grandinetti, “a walking history of Hudson.” A conversation with George often transported the listener to an earlier time—the heyday of Diamond Street; the construction of Mt. Carmel Church; the glory days of the General Worth Hotel; the cows on Third Street; the forgotten times of the lost neighborhood of Simpsonville. He could tell you who used to live in the houses of his neighborhood, what businesses used to occupy the commercial buildings, what buildings used to stand in now vacant lots. Sam Pratt recounts his memory of George: “From a distance, he always seemed keenly interested in everything going on in Hudson, looking piercingly at the people and buildings, as if seeing both the present and the past, overlapping.”

George Duguay lived gently on the earth. In the summer, he tended a rustic garden on the steep slope at the end of Montgomery Street. In his garden, he transformed unusable land, cuttings and surplus plant material from other people’s gardens, and cast-off objects into a place of unusual beauty. He knew the names of all the flowers and was considered by many to be one of the best gardeners in Hudson. His hellebores were famous, and he had lots and lots of peonies (which he pronounced "pineys"). He always went to Rogerson’s to buy bulbs when they went on sale. In the hot, dry summer of 2002, George, a nonagenarian, could be seen lugging pails of water to his garden from his house on South Second. He was known to rescue pots of mums that had been discarded by neighbors when autumn turned to winter, shelter them in his apartment through the cold months, and plant them in his garden when spring came.

George Duguay is survived by his three cats—-Smoky, Mommy, and Big Boy—-now in the care of Animalkind, and a community that is surely diminished by his death.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Jamie Larson's article in this morning's Register-Star: "Old causeway still top issue."

Do not be misled. The public comment period ends on March 15 not on March 1 as the article states.

And read also Sam Pratt's response to Larson's article.

It's Groundhog Day . . .

and Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Was There Ever Such Imprudence?"

I promised that from time to time I would publish excerpts from Alice B. Neal's novel The Gossips of Rivertown, and here's the first one. It's a fine introduction to "the gossips" and the object of their overzealous interest: the cheerful and hardworking Mary Butler.

Mrs. Harden stepped out a minute to tell Hannah, for the fortieth time, to be careful of the china, and as the door closed behind her, a bright face passed the window—and lo, another theme.

"If there isn't Mary Butler again!"—said one of the ladies, as the three looked after her retreating form.

"That girl's always in the street!"

"So John says!"

But horror for the moment suspended speech, and raised six hands simultaneously.

"Did you ever see the like?"

"She called him back, didn't she?"

"Yes, he had got to Stone's store."

"Well, I don't wonder he looks strange—just to see her shaking her finger at him, just as if she'd known him all her life, and to my certain knowledge, she never saw him before Mrs. Jackson's party; but when girls are in the street all the time, what can be expected?" Mrs. Folger drew a long sigh, and shook her head ominously.

Here Mrs. Harden returned, and was made acquainted with the important fact—all the witnesses speaking at once—that Mary Butler was going up street (for the third time this week, and it's only Wednesday)—and met Mr. Jorden just by the bank. He bowed very coldly (didn't he?) and was going on, when Mary Butler called him back, and they stood laughing and talking for as much as five minutes before she let him go. Miss Harriet, who had known him so long—a bowing acquaintance, of a year's standing—wouldn't have dreamed of doing such a thing. Her mother hoped not—no, certainly, such an imprudent thing!

The gentlemen came in before the wonder had fairly subsided, and the interesting intelligence was duly reported. How provoking Mr. Folger was! He could not see anything at all remarkable in the affair; perhaps they were old friends; and Mr. Harden would insist that Mary Butler had an undoubted right to go up street as often as she chose. But men are always so queer—they never suspect! There was more going on than some people thought for the ladies all agreed they should hear from that quarter again.

And so they did, for just as Hannah called them to tea, Harriet directed their attention to the window, with many a silent sign toward that corner of the room in which the gentlemen were discussing the projected river road; and there in the uncertain twilight of early spring, they saw—just as sure as you are reading this page—they saw Mary Butler going down street, and Mr. Jorden walking with her! Miss Harriet declared it was very hard to see why some people were “so much in the street,” in a manner that said as plainly as possible, that she thought it extremely lurid; and added that "she'd like to have brother John see her walking that way with Mr. Jorden," intimating that if he did, it would be the last time she'd get out that winter!

Perhaps it is worthwhile to remark that Mr. Jorden was one of the eligibles of Rivertown, and Mary Butler was a poor girl, with no income save that earned by a needle, which was probably the reason why it was so very improper, in the eyes of Miss Harriet, for her to be more than a speaking acquaintance to the "best match in town." Miss Harriet, by the way, had often been made happy for a week by a bow from him, and would have given her new gipsy-hat, plume and all, for a call from one so distingué.

Sketch the First. The Neighbours. Chapter I