Saturday, July 31, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Francesca Olsen's article in this morning's Register-Star: "Roll had 'fatal flaws.'" It confirms what Sam Pratt reported on Thursday that the City has thrown in the towel on the assessment battle. Grateful congratulations to the Hudson Property Owners Coalition and their attorney Robert Beebe. Some questions, however, arise from the article: Does our City Attorney really spell promulgated, meaning "made public," promogated and use amendable when he means amenable? (Not to mention effect for affect.)

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words 2

Arthur Baker's picture from Wooden Churches, which beautifully documents Emanuel Lutheran Church as it was meant to be, is at the left. A picture taken Thursday evening is at the right. Note the doomed-to-failure attempt to follow the curve of the pointed arch of the stained glass window with straight pieces of aluminum. Note how the cruciform detail at the top of the arch has been obliterated by the vinyl siding.

"Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul."

Friday, July 30, 2010

About Trees

Yesterday there was a lot of talk about trees. Early in the day, word spread that a major tree in Cherry Alley behind 445 Warren Street was being cut down. That sadly was true. Soon after that, the rumor reached Gossips that no new trees could be planted on Warren Street. If an existing tree had to be removed, no tree would be planted to take its place. That, thank goodness, was not exactly true.

According to DPW Superintendent Rob Perry, the tree planting policy on Warren Street has changed, but there is no prohibition on planting trees. During the installation of the new streetlights it was discovered that in the past people planting trees had pushed aside the conduit carrying the power for the streetlights to make room for the tree's root ball. As a result, some conduit was badly bend and some now inextricably entwined with the roots of trees. Going forward, the City, working with National Grid, will require that the conduit be rerouted around the spot where a tree will planted. There is a cost associated with this which, according to Perry, must be borne by the property owner wishing to plant the tree.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dream House

If you haven't been invited to Chelsea Clinton's wedding in Rhinebeck this weekend (or even if you have), next weekend you can learn all about the house where she spent her adolescence.

On Saturday, August 7, Ulysses Grant Dietz, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at the Newark Museum, will be in Hudson to talk about his book Dream House: The White House as an American Home. The book tells the story of the White House from the viewpoint of the presidents and first ladies who have lived there and looks at the mansion in the context of American house design and decoration.

The event is sponsored by Historic Hudson and takes place at 6 p.m at Stair Galleries, 549 Warren Street. The talk will be followed by a reception. A contribution of $10 to Historic Hudson is requested.

Hudson Vision Plan

When asked about the plans for expanding Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Mayor Scalera said that they were continuing to follow the plan for the park set forth in the 1996 Hudson Vision Plan. In case anyone has forgotten, over the past fourteen years, the details of the plan, here's the conceptual drawing from that document. Click here for a larger version.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Word from Greenport

Gossips has learned that, at last night's Greenport Planning Board meeting, O&G's application for the Greenport section of their proposed haul road from the quarry to the river was, after months of discussion, determined to be complete, and a public hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, August 24. The Greenport section of the proposed road would follow the path of the abandoned rail bed from the quarry, across Route 9, and on to Route 9G. The idea is that this road would cross 9G and continue on the abandoned rail bed, commonly known as the "causeway," through South Bay to the river.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Vinyling of Emanuel Lutheran

At the end of last week, a petition reiterating Alderman Chris Wagoner's call for Hudson Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster's resignation went online, and there was talk of a demonstration in front of the Code Enforcement Office at high noon on Wednesday. To date, the petition has collected only about forty signatures. Many of the people who were passionate in their criticism of Wurster for allowing vinyl siding to be installed on a historic church have told Wagoner and others that they think it's unlikely Mayor Scalera can be persuaded to force the resignation of the man he put in that position close to a decade ago and fear retaliation if their names appear on the petition. As a result of the poor response to the petition, plans for a march on 429 Warren Street have been abandoned.

Gossips has received word that the mayor has had "extensive initial discussions" with Wurster about improving his working relationship with the Historic Preservation Commission and further discussions with Wurster and HPC chair Tom Swope are expected to take place later this week. As evidence of Wurster's poor working relationship with the HPC, Gossips has compiled this list of his more significant mistakes in the area of historic preservation. Rumor has it that Wurster may be reacting to requests to mend his ways by telling people who are applying for building permits to do the most straightforward repairs on buildings in historic districts--repairs that according to the preservation law do not require a certificate of appropriateness--that they must go before the Historic Preservation Commission before he can issue them a building permit.

Meanwhile, Emanuel Lutheran Church's unique shingled tower was covered in vinyl pseudo-shingles today.

Courthouse Update

While everyone else was at Space 360 last evening to hear Sam Pratt and Peter Jung talk about the waterfront, Gossips was at Board of Supervisors' Public Works/Facilities Committee meeting to learn more about the plans for expanding our beautiful Columbia County Courthouse.

Earlier this month, while hearing the case brought by Don Christensen against the City of Hudson over the sale of a piece of Willard Place Park to Eric Galloway's Lihtan Group, Judge Paul Czajka waved a sheaf of rolled up architect's plans in the air and explained congenially to a witness that they were for ramps to be installed on either side of the entrance to the century-old Warren and Wetmore building. No plans were in evidence at last night's committee meeting, but Public Works Commissioner David Robinson did have something to report about the courthouse project.

The architectural firm for the project is Lothrop Associates, who, Robinson said, are "doing a great job." Robinson reported that he and the architect from the firm assigned to the project met recently with representatives of the Office of Court Administration, and the plans for the project, which had been "60 percent," were now "90 percent." Robinson called this a "major hurdle for the courthouse project." Robinson is now seeking approval for a change order to pay the architects an additional $85,000 for design services connected with introducing central air conditioning into the original courthouse. This amount, if approved, would bring the architects' fees to $325,000: $240,000 for designing the addition to the courthouse, which presumably will include elevators and handicapped accessible restrooms; $85,000 for designing a way to introduce air conditioning into the 1907 building.

Catching Up

Hudson Waterfront Yesterday, Sam Pratt and Peter Jung of The Valley Alliance held a 90-minute informational session about the draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) at Space 360. The presentation, which was made at the invitation of Lori Selden and the Hudson Business Coalition, drew a crowd considerably larger than what had been anticipated by the people who set out the chairs. There were people standing around the periphery and sitting on the floor.

John Mason covered the event for the Register-Star: "Holcim cement plant could still be in the works." Mason seems to have tried a bit too hard to come up with a provocative lead, and you have to wonder why Linda Mussmann is quoted at length when she was present for only a short time and said nothing, but the article is worth reading, especially if you also read the comments made about it.

Assessments The Hudson Property Owners Coalition cleared the first hurdle in their lawsuit against the 2010 revaluation of Hudson properties. Sam Pratt has an analysis of the legal action on his blog.

Beleaguered HCSD On Unmuffled: An Education Blog, Lynn Sloneker reports that the Hudson City School District has been named by the New York Civil Liberties Union as one of 139 districts in the state “. . . unlawfully barring or discouraging the enrollment of immigrant students.” Sloneker's report reveals that HSCD requires students "born outside of the United States" to disclose their country of origin and their date of entry into the U.S. and to produce a valid visa or passport. The NYCLU asserts that school districts break the law if they inquire about a student's or parent’s immigration status.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Guerilla Gardening in Hudson

Alderman Sarah Sterling (First Ward) sent me this recent picture of the vacant lot at First and Union which belongs to Eric Galloway's "Historic Preservation Group." A stealth gardener has been at work here planting flowers and generally beautifying the space. Since stealth gardeners do their work on property that doesn't belong to them, it's traditional for them to remain anonymous, so I'm not going to identify the gardener responsible here. Let it suffice to say that he or she has the thanks of a grateful neighborhood.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

About Town

I've often heard that fifty or sixty years ago respectable Hudsonians rarely ventured below Fifth Street. Living in sight of the river, I have to confess that the reverse is true for me: I rarely venture above Fifth Street--particularly not on foot. But someone tipped me off to the existence of this installation in a garage on Warren Street, close to Worth Avenue, so I headed up there to have a look. Brightly colored woven straw bags are suspended in front of a reflective backdrop of aluminum foil, with a fan going to keep the bags in gentle perpetual motion.

An installation definitely worth a trip to see are these Mad Men windows at Five & Diamond. The peignoir is so Betty Draper, the little black dress so Joan Harris, and all of it so very clever and so well done.

A reader sent me this picture, taken this morning. This sign out in front of John L. Edwards makes it seem that they may be running a zoo there this summer. Too bad it didn't occur to the person composing the copy that MEALS might be a more appropriate word than FEEDING in this context.

UPDATE: Emanuel Lutheran Church

The "vinyling" of Emanuel Lutheran Church moves inexorably forward--despite an interruption caused by Friday's rain. The south wall is now completely covered, and they've moved around to the west wall--the church's facade. There have been reports of people yelling disparaging remarks at the workers.

Alderman Chris Wagoner (Third Ward) is calling for Peter Wurster's resignation for his role in enabling this to happen. John Mason has a report about it in this morning's Register-Star: "Alderman calls for Wurster's resignation." Of course, what Mason's article fails to emphasize is that a completed application for a certificate of appropriateness was never submitted to the Historic Preservation Commission.

There are plans afoot for a demonstration next Wednesday at noon to protest this flouting of the City's preservation ordinance. Gossips will provide more information about the demonstration as it becomes available.

Not to Be Missed

Francesca Olsen's report in this morning's Register-Star on the salaries of municipal employees: "6 of 7 city earners breaking $70K are in police dept." Does it make us feel safer to know that six of the twenty-four officers in today's HPD are making more than $70,000 a year?

Friday, July 23, 2010

UPDATE: Emanuel Lutheran Church

The vinyl siding project at Emanuel Lutheran Church started yesterday, and at the end of the day, nearly half of the south side of the church had been covered in vinyl.

Meanwhile, Alderman Chris Wagoner (Third Ward) obtained from the city clerk a copy of the church's application for a certificate of appropriateness. The date on the application is telling: October 9, 2009, the same day that members of the church board came before the Historic Preservation Commission with photographic evidence of failing paint and a proposal to put vinyl siding on the church. What is clear now is that the application form was filled out after the board members appeared before the HPC, and none of the supporting materials required for an application was ever provided. The application was never complete, and it was never accepted by the Historic Preservation Commission. Peter Wurster's "legal opinion" that the sixty days had passed and he could issue a building permit without a certificate of appropriateness would appear to be groundless. The sixty-day clock never started.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Tree Dies in Hudson

A few years ago, this tree--one of three planted in front of 249 Warren Street--was the victim of a brutal attack. Someone leaving the old Savoia, late at night and drunk, deliberately kicked the tree so hard and so often that it split the trunk. At the time, Ben Eaton of The Secret Gardener, who had planted the trees, predicted that it couldn't survive, but the owners didn't want to accept that. The trunk was wrapped for almost a year in the hope that the tree would heal itself, and for a while it looked as if that might happen.

Last summer, this tree and its two companions reportedly suffered another assault. Signs placed on the trees by their owners announced that the trees had been poisoned. Still the trees, although certainly not thriving, survived--even the one with the great wound in its trunk.

But this summer, it's all over for the poor abused tree. With spring, no leaves appeared. Whether the result of a natural process or further abuse, the trunk is now split from top to bottom. As further insult, someone has snapped off one of the poor tree's dead branches.

It's not easy being a street tree in Hudson.

UPDATE: Emanuel Lutheran Church

The lift is in place. The materials have been delivered. Everything is in readiness to begin putting vinyl siding on Emanuel Lutheran Church. But, as reported by John Mason in this morning's Register-Star, Alderman Chris Wagoner (Third Ward) is making a heroic last ditch effort to stop the project and, in the process, is questioning Peter Wurster's suitability for his job, at least so far as protecting Hudson's historic properties is concerned.

It has become clear that Wurster never issued a stop-work order. Instead, claiming that the Historic Preservation Commission "dropped the ball," he went ahead and issued a building permit, knowing full well that the HPC had not granted a certificate of appropriateness and were unlikely to do so. At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday night, Mayor Scalera, responding to a question from Wagoner, said it was Wurster's "legal opinion" that a building permit could be issued without a certificate of appropriateness because more than sixty days had passed since the application had been submitted, but there is no evidence that a completed application ever was actually submitted or accepted. Tom Swope, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, doesn't have the application, and it's not clear if Wurster does.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Riverfront Park Update

I went to the Common Council meeting last night, and when the business of the Council was completed--including placing on the aldermen's desks a new law banning engine braking in Hudson, for which Alderman Ellen Thurston (Third Ward) was the sponsor--and Common Council President Don Moore asked for "new business" from the audience, I raised my hand and inquired about the riverfront park expansion plans--particularly the fate of the railroad trestle. Since Mayor Scalera was in the audience, Moore referred my question to him.

I was told that the trestle is being inspected, and there are no plans to demolish it unless it proves to be unsafe and the safety issues prove unremediable. The cleanup, I was told, is being done with great discrimination: according to Scalera, only dead trees and bushes are being removed; according to DPW Superintendent Rob Perry (whose opinion I got secondhand), mostly sumac is coming out. The cleanup uncovered a "salvage yard," which is the source of the reported metal and scrap. Clean fill is being brought in, but its source was not disclosed.

As far as the plans for this expansion, the City continues to follow what was suggested in the 1996 Hudson Vision Plan. Riprap will be installed around the embayment and grass will be planted. Trees and brush on the south side of the embayment will not be removed because doing so would expose the "rusty salt shed"--that is, the large buttressed cement building, built in 1910, known as the Lower Mill Stock House.

While I was at it, I asked about the containers sitting in the fenced area next to the Dunn's warehouse building that was originally the coal gasification works. I hadn't noticed them until a few weeks ago but was told they have been there for months. The crews working on the renovation of Hudson Terrace are storing their materials there.

This morning, I went down to the waterfront to take some pictures--most of which I share with you here to save you all the trip. The western edge of the new section of the park affords a clear view of the Holcim/O&G dock. Remember the "industrial tourism" SLC spoke of so enthusiastically when they were promoting their "Greenport Project"?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's Happening at Riverfront Park?

Reports have been streaming in about the activities at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. The City of Hudson acquired the property immediately south of the park from CSX a year or so ago. CSX left a trailer on the property, and the arrangement was that CSX would pay rent to the City as long as the trailer remained. Word has it that a few months ago, CSX stopped paying the rent, so last week Mayor Scalera ordered DPW to clean up the site and prepare to expand the park, which they are doing--with no apparent plan and no restraint. There have been reports that they are cutting trees and bushes indiscriminantly, clear-cutting the shoreline. It's also been suggested that they are bringing fill from the Hudson River Knitting Mill site (a.k.a. River Lofts or the Bentley Meeker buildings) and the wastewater treatment plant site across town and using it for the park expansion. It's been reported--in a comment on this blog and elsewhere--that the fill contains metal and other scrap material.

Today a major cause of concern is the railroad trestle across the embayment on this property--the only surviving bit of a spur that once went down closer to the river, possibly to the old gasification works. Previously hidden by trees and brush, the trestle is now exposed and cordoned off with caution tape. Patrick Doyle, who envisioned the trestle as the centerpiece of an outdoor railroad museum at the waterfront, is concerned about the City's plans for the trestle and its survival. He shared this picture, taken a few years ago by the late Bob Ponkos, of the trestle and the inlet.

There's a Common Council meeting tonight at 7:00--a chance to ask for details about the plans to expand the park.

Time and Again

A comment made by Anonymous on "Seeing Emanuel Lutheran" made reference to Face Stockholm and inspired this morning's post, which traces the fortunes of the building on the southeast corner of Fourth and Warren--from its original appearance in the 19th century to "modernized" in the middle of the 20th century to restored at the beginning of the 21st century. Note the number of the building in the first picture, taken before the east-west streets were renumbered in 1889. The "unveiling" of the Face Stockholm building took place, if memory serves, in 2002.

My thanks for Byrne Fone for taking these pictures and entrusting them to me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Not in a Hundred Years

In 1910, Franklin Delano Roosevelt embarked on his political career, getting elected to the New York State Senate. Amazingly, that was the last time a Democrat has been chosen to represent this part of the state. It's time for that to happen again, and Didi Barrett promises to be the Democrat who can do it. She was in Hudson over the weekend. If you missed meeting her, check out her website.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sanford Gifford's Grave

Peter Jung shared the news on Friday that the project to restore the gravesite of Hudson River School painter Sanford Gifford is set to begin. Stonemason Aldo Lavaggi, who has been commissioned for the project, was in the cemetery on Friday, inspecting the site and doing photographic documentation. Jung predicts that the project will begin in the next few weeks and be completed by the fall.

To learn more about the project, visit the blog Gifford's Grave.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Elks Lodge

Recent mention on of a "mystery fire" behind 601 Union Street, still commonly referred to as the Elks Club even though it has changed hands two or three times since the Elks owned it, made me to think of the buildings the Elks have occupied over the years.

The first Elks Lodge that I'm aware of was this building which stood on the site of what is now Thurston Park in the 200 block of Warren Street. If I remember correctly what I've been told about the fate of this building, it was severely damaged by fire and subsequently demolished.

The Elks' next building was 601 Union Street, the former Terry-Gillette Mansion. It was built in the 1850s from a design by Richard Upjohn that appears in A. J. Downing's book The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Downing called the design "one of the most successful specimens of the Italian style in the United States." If I'm not mistaken, until the Elks acquired it, probably sometime in the 1930s, and significantly expanded it over the years, this archetypal Italian villa had been a private home.

Ten or so years ago, after the Masons sold their historic building on Third and Union streets, the Elks decided to sell 601 Union Street and build themselves something new. They acquired land on Harry Howard Avenue, at the north edge of the Firemen's Home property, and, in 2002 or 2003, proposed to erect there a metal building that would be their lodge. The plan was beset with problems. Hudson code does not permit metal buildings to be constructed in the city, but some modifications to the proposed design suggested by Kevin Walker, who was then a member of the Planning Commission, made the building more visually acceptable, and the Planning Commission ultimately approved it. As A. J. Davis had done at the Plumb-Bronson House more than a century and a half before, Walker expanded the eaves and added ornamental brackets--but with considerably less success. (I think the cupolas may also have been Walker's suggestion.) The building was supposed to resemble the train station, and in the drawings presented to the Planning Commission, it did; in reality, not so much. Walker emerged with a reputation for being a problem solver and soon went to work for T. Eric Galloway.

Getting site plan approval from the Planning Commission wasn't the only hurdle for the new Elks Lodge. Neighbors along Harry Howard Avenue objected to the increased traffic and noise they believed would be generated by the Elks Lodge. They also considered it inappropriate to site a building where alcohol would be consumed in such close proximity to a school. They initiated a lawsuit and got the court to issue an injunction to halt construction. The prefabricated parts of the building, which had already been purchased, were delivered to the site and remained lying on the ground for about a year before the legal issues were sorted out and the building was allowed to be assembled.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Seeing Emanuel Lutheran

A comment by Dr. Zizmor on "God Is in the Details" reminded me of Arthur Baker's wonderful book Wooden Churches: Columbia County Legacy, published by the Columbia County Historical Society in 2003. Since Emanuel Lutheran is one of the churches included in the book, I asked Baker for permission to reproduce his stunning photograph of the church on Gossips, and he agreed.

The installation of the vinyl siding is scheduled to begin next week and is anticipated to take two and a half weeks.

I highly recommend Wooden Churches. Spending time with it is a remarkable experience. If you can't find it at the Spotty Dog, you will definitely find it at the Columbia County Historical Society. The Hudson Area Library has two copies: one that circulates and one that stays in the History Room.

The Fortunes of the Firemen's Home

Back in 2003, when FASNY announced their plans for expansion at the Firemen's Home, there seemed to be no end to their vision or their resources. A new 92-bed nursing home was only the first phase. Next would be an assisted living facility to be constructed along Harry Howard Avenue just south of the nursing home. Then a community of "patio homes" constructed farther west and north on the property. FASNY was getting ready to enter the alluringly lucrative "senior living" industry.

More than $25 million was spent on the new Firemen's Home building. At the lavish opening ceremony in June 2007, speakers rhapsodized about the luxury of the building, comparing it to a five-star hotel. No expense, it would seem, had been spared.

Less than two years after the facility opened, rumors began circulating that FASNY was experiencing financial woes. In March 2009, ccSCOOP reported that FASNY had suffered losses in the Wall Street crisis, but FASNY spokesman Thomas Leonard explicitly denied that the losses were the result of investments made with Bernard Madoff. Craig Wittman, administrator for the Firemen's Home, made assurances that no cutbacks or layoffs were planned.

However, just two weeks ago, at the end of June 2010, in a letter sent to the families of Firemen's Home residents, Thomas J. Cuff, Jr., president of the FASNY Board of Directors, and John B. Montrose, president of the Firemen's Home Board of Trustees, announced that the Fireman's Home will "discontinue use of 23 of its 92 member beds through attrition." In other words, the Firemen's Home will not be accepting new members until the number of residents has been reduced by one quarter. The letter also stated that: "While this decision will ultimately result in a smaller workforce, given that this process will be a gradual one, it is our hope that any personnel actions anticipated in workforce reduction will be accomplished through attrition."

Apropos of nothing except that the topic is the Firemen's Home, here's a picture of the original Firemen's Home. Designed by Michael J. O'Connor and built in 1893, the building faced west and would have had an enviable view of the Hudson. This building was demolished in 1965, reportedly because it "had become a fire hazard due to its wood construction.” Photographic evidence and a contemporary description indicate that the building was brick with granite trim.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

LWRP: The Six Policy Questions . . . Again

John Mason's report on Monday night's Common Council meeting appeared in Wednesday's Register-Star, and you can hear everything that happened for yourself online at WGXC, but here's the Gossips account of the evening at City Hall.

City Attorney Cheryl Roberts and BFJ Planning are in the process of categorizing the comments received about the draft LWRP during the public comment period and drafting responses. Roberts is handling the legal issues, BFJ the planning issues; but the Common Council's guidance is needed on six public policy issues. The six issues were presented by Roberts to the Council's Economic Development Committee on June 22 and the Legal Committee on June 23. On Monday night, a standing room only crowd gathered at City Hall to witness Roberts and BFJ Senior Planner Frank Fish present the policy issues to the full Council.

Of the six issues, the first two have the broadest impact: Does the Common Council still support a mixed-use "working waterfront"? Does the Common Council still wish to pursue the "causeway" as the preferred route to the deep-water dock? The Council is being asked about these two issues because the comments received make it clear that the community supports neither a "working waterfront" that keeps Holicm in control of the deep-water dock nor using the "causeway" to haul gravel through the South Bay.

In the discussion of the "mixed-use working waterfront," Fish seemed inappropriately determined to see Hudson's vision for its waterfront continue to accommodate Holcim/O&G. Citing as examples Newburgh and Yonkers, he said, "We've seen mixed use appropriate," and called it "a wise policy and prudent" to keep some industrial use on the waterfront "for jobs and history." The "mixed use" proposed for Hudson--with Holcim/O&G continuing to have exclusive use of the deep-water dock--hardly seems comparable to Newburgh and Yonkers. As questions raised both by Council members and the audience revealed, the nonrecreational use in Newburgh is the commuter ferry to Beacon and the "industrial use" in Yonkers is a sugar refinery that employs a lot of people. None of this seems comparable to gravel being hauled to the waterfront and loaded on barges or salt being stored on the dock.

More than once, Fish characterized the draft LWRP's vision for the waterfront as a "swing of the pendulum toward recreation." The problem with this image is that when a pendulum swings one way, it can just as easily swing back the other way. Common Council President Don Moore acknowledged this possibility when he cautioned that there "need to be some regulations that prevent us from allowing the camel's nose under the tent." Moore got that a little wrong. The camel's nose is already under the tent. It's the whole camel that we need to keep out, and the risk of that is very real. As Moore mentioned, O&G has "substantial expansion plans, but we don't know what they are."

The two means of eliminating Holcim/O&G from the waterfront--eminent domain and amortization--were both discussed, with Fish saying of eminent domain, "We don't recommend trying to take away someone's property rights," and Roberts saying of amortization, "I don't think that works either." Moore, however, stated emphatically toward the end of the meeting that eminent domain is not off the table.

On the issue of the "causeway," there's been a shift in thinking. Some variation of the L&B route, going either north or south around the abandoned L&B building, is now emerging as the "preferred route," although Roberts alluded to the sale of Basilica Industria to someone other than the City as an impediment to realizing this goal. What's being talked about now is a solution in two phases: Phase One is the temporary use of the "causeway"; Phase Two is a new low-impact public road around L&B. Alderman Ellen Thurston (Third Ward) gave voice to the fears of many about this plan when she pointed out that a two-phased solution makes it "easy to forget the second phase."

The fifth issue--the request by Scenic Hudson that the Hudsonia study of South Bay be made part of the LWRP--prompted more discussion than it has in the past. Roberts repeated her recommendation that it not be included "because the City did not create the report." Moore questioned why this distinction was important, and Fish offered as an explanation that "it might have financial implications for the City." When Moore talked about the South Bay symposium organized by Scenic Hudson and made it clear that he wanted the Hudsonia study in be included, Alderman Robert Donahue demanded, "Isn't it evident that Scenic Hudson is just trying to delay it [presumably the LWRP] and drag it out?" When Moore spoke of developing South Bay as a conservation area and park, Donahue scoffed, "It's never gonna happen. It's a swamp, and it's always been a swamp!"

At the end of the meeting, Moore allowed questions from the audience. Sam Pratt took the opportunity to ask why Roberts and Fish reported the number of comments received as 172 when several of the comments represented the opinions of large groups of people--an example being the comments from Save the South Bay, which were accompanied by a petition signed by 722 people, more than 250 of whom had made their own individual comments in addition to signing on to the statement made by the petition. Pratt asserted that it was inaccurate and misleading to say that were 172 comments when in truth there were closer to 900.

On the topic of comments, audience member Mary Mullane asked a telling question: "How many people on the Council have read the comments?" It turns out that none of the aldermen has. Roberts was quick to say "We are compiling those for you," but it would nice to think that the aldermen were reading the actual comments instead of relying on a condensation and distillation that may or may not be an accurate representation of what the community had to say.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

God Is in the Details

Or is it the Devil?

On Friday morning, representatives of Emanuel Lutheran Church did not show up at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting, which puzzled everyone. Over the twenty-four hours that followed the meeting, Gossips discovered the explanation for their absence.

There's a stipulation in Hudson's preservation law that says if the HPC doesn't act on an application for a certificate of appropriateness within sixty days, the applicant may proceed with the project. The point of this is to encourage the HPC to act on applications in a timely way and to keep projects from being tied up indefinitely waiting for a yea or nay from the HPC. However--and this is important to remember--the clock doesn't start on the sixty days until the HPC receives a formal application and determines that it is complete. The requirements for a completed application are quite extensive and made very specific in the application itself. The HPC does not accept an application until it is complete, and acceptance is voted on.

When Tom Swope, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, contacted Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster about the church back on June 22, Wurster apparently didn't issue a stop-work order as reported here. Instead he looked at the minutes for the October 2009 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, where he found no indication that the HPC had denied the church a certificate of appropriateness, and so, because more than sixty days have passed since October 2009, he issued a building permit. The problem with this action is that the minutes also do not indicate that a completed application was submitted and accepted. Instead the minutes simply report that the parish treasurer came to the HPC with fifteen or so pictures showing how the paint was failing on the church and a proposal for covering the existing wood siding and shingles with vinyl.

This lovely church, it would seem, is to be vinyled on a technicality, and Swope, although annoyed that by the fact that the intent of the HPC was ignored by Wurster, seems willing to accept this calamity with an attitude of "We'll know better next time."

Hudson is a very small place. How many "next times" can there be?

Friday, July 9, 2010


The south half of Hudson Terrace appears to be finished now. The tenants have moved back in. The workers have moved on. But this little bit of building seems to have been overlooked.

Thanks to David Marston for contributing this picture.

UPDATE: Emanuel Lutheran Church

The Historic Preservation Commission met this morning, but no one representing Emanuel Lutheran Church showed up. Tom Swope, chair of the HPC, after conferring with Julian Adams from SHPO earlier this week, was prepared with a copy of a Preservation Brief on paint, which he hoped to give to the church board. At this point, it is uncertain where things stand except that the stop-work order is still in force, and so far no vinyl siding has been delivered to the site.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

UPDATE: Emanuel Lutheran Church

Today's the day, according to reports, that the vinyl siding is supposed to start arriving for Emanuel Lutheran Church--despite the fact that the project does not have a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission and Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster issued a stop-work order on June 22. The Historic Preservation Commission is expecting the church board will come to its meeting Friday morning at 10 seeking a certificate of appropriateness to lift the stop-work order. To prepare for that, Tom Swope, chair of the HPC, has been in touch with Julian Adams at the State Historic Preservation Office. The Preservation League of New York State is also watching the situation.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, I stumbled upon the information that the church was designed by Hudson architect Michael J. O'Connor, who came to Hudson in 1879 and designed private houses and public buildings here for fifty years. Among the former are 8 Willard Place and 39 West Court Street; among the latter, the original Firemen's Home (demolished in the 1960s), the Sixth Street School, and the Allen Street School. I also heard that the little narthex at Emanuel Lutheran (pictured above) might be left as it is and not sided.