Sunday, January 9, 2011

About Greenport

In 2012, the Town of Greenport will celebrate its 175th anniversary. For 52 years, from 1785 to 1837, the area that is now Greenport was part of the City of Hudson. It's been a separate municipality for more than three times longer, but for many it still seems to be just the "outskirts" of Hudson--a land of no zoning and runaway sprawl. People not from Hudson or Greenport rarely make a distinction between the two. They think that ShopRite, Dunkin' Donuts, and a host of fast-food restaurants, big boxes, and dollar stores are in Hudson. Even people who know the difference aren't always sure about where Hudson ends and Greenport begins. In recent years, Greenport has taken to calling itself "The Forgotten Town."

The problem stems from the fact the Town of Greenport, naming itself for South Bay, took a name that was already in use in the State of New York, so when it came time, in the mid-20th century, to assign zip codes, the Town of Greenport couldn't get its own. The US Postal Service couldn't distinguish Greenport on Long Island from Greenport in Columbia County. Consequently, every house and business in Greenport has an address that ends with "Hudson, NY 12534." 

A Gossips reader commented recently that "it's high time Hudson annexed Greenport." Easier said than done. But since it's an idea that gets floated from time to time, Gossips decided to take a look at how the division came to be in the first place. Here's how Stephen B. Miller explained it in Historical Sketches of Hudson, which was published in 1862.         
The town of Greenport was erected on May 13, 1837, from territory formerly included in Hudson city. The separation was the result of long-continued opposition on the part of residents of the outlying region to sharing the financial burdens of the compact part of the old city. These residents did not value at their true worth the various improvements made within the city and succeeded in obtaining a greatly reduced taxation after the division was made. . . .
The reason Hudson and Greenport split in the first place is likely to be the reason the two municipalities won't get back together any time soon. The Hudson Area Libary--one of the "financial burdens of the compact part of the old city"--is a case in point. The library was chartered in 1959 to serve Hudson and Greenport. Thanks to a successful referendum a year or so ago, the City of Hudson now contributes $120,000 to the library's annual budget. The Town of Greenport, where a library referendum has never succeeded, contributes only $5,500 to support the operation of the library.


  1. Carole, this is one time -- am I saying this? -- where we might be better off not paying attention to the history and simply consolidate because it makes a lot of sense. (It would be interesting, of course, to poll citizens of Greenport to know their feelings/loyalites.)

    And speaking of history, whatever happened to Claverack Landing? Could you fill in the blanks, from mid-18th to mid-19th centuries?


    peter m.

  2. I imagine there might be some administrative efficiencies if consolidation happened. Perhaps we'd save money on police protection or garbage pickup and other municipal expenses. There is a part of me that thinks having our entire 'metro' area packaged into one entity just feels right.

    However, I'd be wary about diluting the voter pool with the addition of thousands of Greenport voters. Hudson is evolving in a way that shares little with its suburban neighbor. In Hudson there is considerable focus on historic preservation, waterfront development, and small entrepreneurial ventures. Greenport is home to miles of corporate sprawl, and many of its residents never venture into Hudson. I say let Greenport go its own way, and leave Hudson to be free to remain unique, with its own economic and cultural flavor. It's taken decades for Hudson to develop a 'brand,' let's not give it up.

  3. Peter--Well said! My sentiments exactly. There are ways to consolidate services and save money for both muncicipalities without merging the two back together.

  4. Peter & Carole,

    I think the "brand" is a one-dimensional one and is, in the long run, an economically unsustainable one. As much as I love what has happened in the last 20 years, the fact that it has gone on without a discernable impact on our political or educational institutions is a sign of the weakness of the insular model. I can understand the fear of "dilution," but I fear the effects of inbreeding more. It makes as little sense for one community to be surrounded by another community as it does for one community to have no center.

    My two cents.

    --peter m.

  5. You seem to dismiss Greenport as a whole. My hunch is that we in Southern Greenport would like to separate from both of you! Southern Greenport is basically rural with the additions of Olana and the Community College. While I very much enjoy my forays into Hudson proper, give Warren Street much of my custom and happily support the library I have no interest in supporting either town's dubious power holders...who seem to hinder progress rather than advance it.

  6. I've always wondered what it is that protects Southern Greenport from the ravages of development that you see in Northern Greenport (with the wonderful exception of the Greenport Conservancy!) When will we see Vinyl Villages and WalMarts on Mt. Merino?

    --peter b.

  7. While consolidation makes a lot of sense for some rural towns, which have relatively few institutions and departments and infrastructure, recombining Hudson and Greenport is fraught with complications.

    First of all, Hudson is designated as a City, and is organized under State Municipal Law. Greenport is a Town, and organized under Town Law. Reconciling their laws and codes could be very time-consuming and costly, unless both were willing to give up a lot of longstanding rules and traditions -- which seems unlikely.

    Secondly, unlike many rural towns, both Hudson and Greenport have police departments, water/sewer systems, and large public works operations. These complications would be much more easily overcome if, say, Taghkanic and Gallatin were to contemplate a merger (as some have started to discuss) -- basically, you'd be merging Highway Departments.

    What might make some sense, though, is for Hudson and Greenport to reconsider their borders. There are parts of Hudson which are much more like Greenport, and vice-versa. Many Mount Merino and Greendale residents might be happier as Hudsonites, and many 5-2 residents (and politicians) might be happier as Greenporters...

    --Sam Pratt

  8. When the vinyl villages appear, they will appear on our side of the mountain. The Olana Partnership and Scenic Hudson are doing a terrific good job of protecting the Olana viewshed. Too bad it didn't occur to anyone until it was too late that the Mt. Ray Townhouses, which break the ridgeline and interrupt the green collar that surrounds Hudson, are visible from Cosy Cottage.

  9. We need some vision here, about our regional future. The petty political fights are just that -- small stuff. We have a gorgeous County that is on the cusp of going "sprawl." If Hudson thinks it can be a vibrant and progressive jewel in the midst of the big box and vinyl village wave -- good luck. It ain't gonna happen. Our strength is as a single entity, Claverack Landing.


  10. if possible, embrace and engage those that surround you as they can and will control your destiny if left to their own devices.