Saturday, April 30, 2011

Candidate Needs a Home

In today's Register-Star, Jamie Larson reports on First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie's unrelenting attack on Timothy Rodgers, the candidate endorsed by the Hudson Democratic Committee to run for First Ward alderman even though he doesn't actually live in the First Ward, in Hudson, or in Columbia County for that matter: "Cheddie suggests censuring Rodgers." The reason Cheddie wants Rodgers censured is that he applied to become a commissioner of deeds using the address of a building in the First Ward where he expected to be renting an apartment but the deal subsequently fell through.

Earlier this month, a resolution appointing commissioners of deeds came before the Common Council, which included Rodgers and gave his home address as 15 Allen Street. (According to Cheddie, the street name had been misspelled on the original application as "Alen Street.") This, it seems, inspired Cheddie to call the owner of the building--several times, according to some--and as a result the owner, apparently not wanting to be drawn into the vortex of Cheddie politics, withdrew his offer to rent an apartment to Rodgers.

Cheddie's zeal to discredit Rodgers seems to be the product of spite and resentment over the fact that she, the incumbent, was not endorsed by the Democrats and Rodgers was. Many First Ward Democrats--not necessarily Cheddie supporters--are similarly disappointed by their party's failure to come up with candidates who have some history in the ward and some depth of understanding about First Ward issues, but there seems to be no legal problem with Rodgers' candidacy. 

Section C2-4(A) of the Hudson Charter states: "No person shall be eligible to any ward office under this Charter who, at the time of election or appointment, shall not be an elector of the ward in which elected or appointed; and no person shall continue to hold a ward office hereunder after ceasing to be an elector of such ward." According to the charter, it would seem that Rodgers only needs a First Ward address in time to register to vote for himself in November. Sam Pratt's interpretation of New York State election law in his post "Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood" indicates that Rodgers doesn't have to live in the First Ward until he is sworn on January 2012, should he be elected.    

Model Needs a Home

Jamie Larson reports in today's Register-Star that there is a model of the City of Hudson that is seeking a new home: "Housing a miniature city." The model was commissioned by Richard Katzman during the SLC battle to show how the behemoth cement plant proposed for Greenport by St. Lawrence Cement (now Holcim US), which would have covered as much, if not more, area than the city itself and put an expanded dock on our waterfront to accommodate "Hudson max" cement barges, would overshadow and marginalize Hudson. During that time, the model, complete with a simulated plume from the stack suspended over the city, was displayed in the window of Vincent Mulford Antiques at 417 Warren Street.

The picture is from the Friends of Hudson website, where there are several more pictures of the model. It had been housed in the Kaz building on Route 9, but now since Kaz Inc. was first restructured and then sold, the model needed to move, and Katzman gave it to the City of Hudson. According to the Register-Star article, the massive cement plant structures on Becraft Mountain--the original focal point of the model--have been removed, but the expanded dock, complete with cement barges, remains. (It's not clear if the conveyor from the quarry to the dock is still there.) The model has been entrusted to the Department of Public Works, and Rob Perry is trying to find it a new home.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring at Sanford Gifford's Grave

Peter Jung reports good progress at the Gifford family gravesite. Stone mason Aldo Lavaggi now has nearly all the stones upright, and Jung hopes to celebrate the completion of the project by mid-summer. 

On the Riverfront

Jamie Larson reports in today's Register-Star that the Hudson Fire Department's problems with the dock expansion have been ironed out: "City fire dept. issues with docks are resolved." It seems that on Monday night the chiefs were looking at "old schematics that have since been revised." The article goes on to talk about Common Council President Don Moore's efforts to develop policies for managing the new docks. Dock use policy was the subject of extensive discussion at the Economic Development Committee meeting on Tuesday night, and out of that discussion came the suggestion that the Common Council establish a committee to create a harbor management plan.

On a related riverfront topic, Gossips asked Moore at the Economic Development Committee meeting about the status of the sale of the former Dunn warehouse building to Eric Galloway. The Common Council approved the sale at the beginning of the year, but so far there's been no word that is has actually happened. Moore explained that the City was waiting to hear from Galloway, who doesn't yet have a complete plan and is still talking to restaurateurs.   

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Of County Plans and Buildings

When the Public Works Committee of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday night, there were two issues of interest on the agenda: the purchase of the old Walmart building and the addition to the courthouse to make the building ADA compliant.

Buying Walmart  BOS Chair Roy Brown came to the meeting to ask the committee to forward a resolution to loan money to the Capital Resources Corporation (CRC). The loan would enable CRC to pursue their plan to purchase and rehab the abandoned big box store as county offices. CRC needs $80,000 for an additional deposit payment due sometime in June and $500,000 for architectural programming and design.

Back in February, the BOS Economic Development, Planning, Tourism, Transportation, and Agriculture Committee balked at CRC's request for $78,600 to do a professional space needs and efficiency study, as part of their larger plan to move county offices to the former Walmart building, but last night the Public Works Committee showed no such resistance. The only question seemed to be about who the architects would be. 

Hudson First Ward Supervisor John Musall, a member of the committee, wanted to know if there would be an RFP for architects. Public Works Commissioner Dave Robinson responded saying something about there not being enough time. Kinderhook Supervisor Pat Grattan abstained from the vote to move the resolution forward because there was no information about architects.

Surprisingly, nobody at the table--including Brown and Robinson who are working with Planning and Economic Development Commissioner Ken Flood to move the project forward--mentioned the fact that the CRC had gone through a scrupulous RFP process and had selected Urbahn Architects of New York City to "assess the space needs of county departments, analyze interdependency among departments, compare options for providing suitable office space, and identify a preferred option." One of the reasons the firm had been chosen was their experience in consolidating governmental offices. Presumably part of what needs to be done now--the architectural programming--is that same study, without the element of comparing options and identifying a preferred one, so it makes sense that the architectural firm chosen then would be the one to begin the work now. 

Expanding the Courthouse  The plans for an addition to the Columbia County Courthouse are complete. Public Works Commission Dave Robinson reported that he had shown them to the City of Hudson, who appreciated their "sensitivity to the design of the 1907 courthouse." The "City of Hudson," in this case, was mayor's aide Cappy Pierro and Common Council President Don Moore.

An unnamed city attorney has recommended to Robinson that the county apply for an exemption from review by the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission, which he intends to do, but he is willing to show the plans to the HPC because he is "very proud of the way it's coming together."

And Then There's Ockawamick  At the end of the meeting, Greenport Supervisor Ed Nabozny suggested that a resolution needed to come out of the Public Works Committee to put the Ockawamick building on the market immediately. Said resolution was proposed, and the members of the committee voted unanimously to move it forward.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Welcome to Hudson

Just a month ago, Gossips reported on a proposal to demolish this house and create a "gateway park" at the fork of Columbia Turnpike and Route 23B. At the time, one hoped it was just someone's pet idea, with no real legs, but now there seems to be a committee working on the plan that includes Mayor Rick Scalera, his aide Cappy Pierro, Columbia County Public Works Commissioner Dave Robinson, Greenport Supervisor Ed Nabozny, and Richard Koskey, among others. This rendering by Morris Associates of what the park might look like appeared in today's Register-Star, together with a press release

Who's that gnomelike creature dressed in red, pointing the way to Hudson?

A Lovely Way to Start May

The first day of May is reason for celebration. "April showers bring May flowers," and all that. This Sunday, May 1, the ClaverackLanding Series at Club Helsinki offers a very special way to observe the day: a concert of music that was popular in the 12th and 13th centuries--when Notre Dame Cathedral was being built--and an opera based on traditional Tibetan melodies and chants performed by Tapestry, a women's vocal quartet "known for its bold programming combining medieval and traditional works with contemporary compositions." The opera, The White Rooster, was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution and created specifically for Tapestry by Spencertown composer Sheila Silver.

The concert begins at 4 p.m. in Helsinki's upstairs ballroom. At 3:30, there's a pre-concert conversation with composer Sheila Silver. To purchase tickets online for what promises to be a radiant and memorable performance, visit Club Helsinki.   

Tribute to the Tree

The future of this remarkable tree is uncertain, but we know this about its past. It was struck by lightning nearly forty years ago, it has been pruned regularly and quite severely to clear the utility lines that pass through it, and still it lives on.

Of Interest

The Republicans have announced their endorsements for mayor and Common Council president: Bill Hallenbeck and Bart Delaney respectively. Francesca Olsen's article about the endorsements in the Register-Star has lots of quotes from Hallenbeck and Delaney, and also from Republican Committee chair George DeJesus, that pretty much draw the battle lines for this November's election. With the Democrats running Nick Haddad and Sarah Sterling--neither of whom can claim to be born and raised in Hudson--it looks like the Republicans may be fixing to run an us vs. them campaign.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not to Be Missed

Scott Baldinger's Word on the Street commentary on last Thursday's public hearing about the proposed Robinson Street Historic District: "Preserving the Piece."

More About the Tree

It seems that it was not the City of Hudson Department of Public Works that wanted the tree taken down, although who did is still unknown. Appealed to by the neighbors, the tree people cleaned up what they started and agreed to leave it as it was, making it clear that, if told to do so by the people who'd hired them, they would have to finish removing it.

Whatever the outcome, the people in the neighborhood plan to gather at the tree at 8 o'clock tonight to celebrate and honor its existence.

To Save a Tree

There's a tree near the old Armory building at North Fifth and State streets that symbolizes for many the indomitable nature of life and hope. It has been struck by lightning, it has been drastically cut back, but it lives on, throwing out new shoots and new growth. This morning a reader alerted Gossips that the tree was being cut down. Neighbors came out in protest and succeeded in getting a stay of execution for the tree, but they were told it was only temporary. The tree cutters, commissioned by the City of Hudson, said they would be back.     

The picture, provided by Jamison Teale, shows Pam Badila on her front porch, clutching a piece of the tree, as she watches the tree being cut this morning. 

A Confluence of Docks

John Mason has an article in today's Register-Star about a communications glitch relating to the docks project going on at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park: "Docks blindside HFD."  It seems that the plan to expand the city dock, where the Spirit of Hudson has been moored for the past decade, makes the new dock abut with an existing dock, belonging to the Hudson Power Boat Association, where the Hudson Fire Department, the Greenport Rescue Squad, and the Columbia County Sheriff's Department tie up their rescue boats. The HFD chiefs say this will make it "difficult for HFD boats to maneuver, dock or embark." It is not entirely clear who in city government has oversight of the docks project, but, although the project has been reported in the newspaper and discussed in public meetings on more than one occasion, all three fire chiefs claim never to have heard of the plan to expand the dock until last night.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

What in the World Happened to Beer World?

Back in October 2009, the Register-Star reported that the old Schroeder Chevrolet building was about to be sold to a pair of investors--one from Sullivan County, the other from Ohio--for $222,500. Harbalwant Singh, of Greenport Crossings fame, was the buyers' broker in the deal, and Ken Flood, Columbia County Commissioner for Planning and Economic Development, was getting credit for the "networking" that made it happen.

Last fall, Gossips was present at the Planning Commission meeting when the new owners of the building presented their project for site plan review. The front part of the building was to be a wine and liquor store. Farther back would be a Hudson version of Beer World, selling, like the store in Catskill, an extensive variety of domestic and imported beers, as well as soda. In between would be a return center for deposit bottles and cans and a franchise check-cashing service. The owners anticipated that the wine and liquor store would be open in time for the holidays--that is, Christmas 2010 and New Year's Eve 2011.

Now, a third of the way through 2011, no part of the project has been realized, and work seems to have stopped altogether. Rumor has it that there may be a federal stop work order, imposed for reasons unknown.

Concession to Cars

The garage door facing First Street was the subject of much discussion during the Historic Preservation Commission's review of the Galvan Partners' latest construction project. Some members of the community felt the garage should access the alley, as garages in Hudson traditionally do, but Galvan Partners, although having an alternative plan, were adamant about leaving the garage door at the front of the building, believing that it would improve the house's marketability. In the end, the HPC approved the project as proposed with the stipulation that the garage door used be "historic in appearance."

This morning a reader who follows Gossips while in Asia told us about an innovation garage door she saw in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, which had been introduced into the facade of a Victorian townhouse. There's a video here that shows how the disappearing garage door works.

Garage door closed
Garage door open

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Of Interest

Gossips readers alerted me to an article in today's New York Post about blind photographer John Dugdale and his struggle to keep his rent-controlled apartment in this building at 59 Morton Street in Greenwich Village: "It's the lease he can pay." The owner of the building, who, according to the article, bought it in 2009 for $3.7 million and is now looking to flip it for $6.5 million, is none other than T. Eric Galloway. 

"Many a Sorrowful Struggle"

It was my plan to publish the final chapter of Mr. Townsend's sad story, from the original Gossips of Rivertown, as the events in the story paralleled the events of Holy Week, but alas, I was distracted by the unholy events of the past week in Hudson. The following passage, which evokes the night spent in the Garden of Gethsemane, should have been published on Thursday, but here it is now. 

Many a sorrowful struggle shook the soul of the minister of God; he knew that by his silence he was bringing shame upon the church and the Master whom he served. Yet he shrank from having his disgrace publicly proclaimed, and quite as much from the only defence he could urge.

While thus meditating one evening, he received a summons to attend a church council and defend himself against the charges made by a large portion of his congregation. Mrs. Townsend saw him compress his lips as the note was handed to him, and guessed its import.

"Tell them all," she said; "it is a morbid fear in which you have indulged. Ask God's assistance, His protection. We must leave this place and this people, but do not let a stain rest upon your name."

The evening appointed for the trial came. Mr. Townsend had passed the whole day alone in his study—no, not alone, for the shadow of a mighty Presence filled the room; and in this lofty communion the sorely-tried had found strength and consolation.

A light step crossed the threshold with the twilight, and the wife for whom he was that moment praying, stood beside him. A smile of gentle encouragement shone in her eyes as she fondly kissed his high white forehead, from which he had pushed back the masses of his dark hair.

"I feel this most for you, Louisa," he said, as he clasped her hand. "If your mother, your father should hear of the sorrow, the disgrace I have brought upon their idol, how could I answer them?"

"They never can hear of it, we are so remote from their circle. See"—and she held up a letter before him—"here is a long, kind message from mamma. I have not opened it yet; I have kept it to entertain me this evening, to sustain my spirits while you are absent. It would be sad, indeed, were they to learn what has passed."

She did not say more, but she knew that these parents would not easily overlook such a stain—so they would consider it—and would regard with less allowance than ever a marriage to which they had yielded a reluctant consent.

The study grew quite dark as they sat there, neither speaking for some time. It was well that Mr. Townsend could not see the fearful traces of anxiety and illness in the languid expression that stole over his wife's face, and the effort she made to control her emotion that she might not unnerve him. Nor did he notice it when they parted, though the firelight revealed the long and earnest gaze with which she seemed to read his inmost thoughts. After he had left the house, a recollection of how strangely tender her last kiss had been, and how long she had clasped his hand, came over him with a fear of some undefined ill, and he turned to retrace his steps. "What a foolish thought," he half murmured, and once more hurried onward.

Sketch the Fifth. Male Gossips. Chapter IV

More About Robinson Street

At the public hearing on Thursday, someone asked how many houses in the proposed Robinson Street Historic District were owner occupied. I wasn't able to answer that question at the meeting, but using the research done by Mary Hallenback in preparing the historic district application, I will answer the question now.

Of the 56 buildings in the proposed Robinson Street Historic District, 52 of them are residences. (I'm excluding the the church and the rectory, the school, and a garage owned by the City of Hudson). Of the 52 residences, 20 (3 on North Second, 5 on North Third, and 12 on Robinson Street) are lived in full time by their owners, and 3 are owned and maintained as second homes. 

The remaining 33 houses have absentee owners, and several of those owners own multiple buildings: three people or entities own 2 buildings each, one owns 3 buildings, and another owns 6 buildings in the proposed district. With so many houses owned by absentee landlords, at least one of whom appears to be a "developer," maintaining the status quo in the neighborhood, which is what the most outspoken of the homeowners seems to want, appears to be very precarious. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who Did Win?

On April 1, I reported that The Gossips of Rivertown had been passed over for an Excellence in Preservation Award from the Preservation League of New York State. A reader did me the great honor of nominating Gossips in the category of Publication, and the League did Gossips the great honor of considering it for an Excellence in Preservation Award--the first blog ever to receive such consideration. 

Recently, the award recipients for 2011 were announced. The winner of the award in the category of Publication is a book entitled Uncovering the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and African American Life in Wayne County, NY: 1820-1880, written by Judith Wellman and Marjory Allen Perez. Other award recipients, in the categories of Project Excellence, Organizational Excellence, and Individual Excellence, can be viewed on the Preservation League website

ZBA Public Hearing

On Wednesday, April 20, the Zoning Board of Appeals held its public hearing on the project proposed by Galvan Partners for the corner of Union and First streets. Galvan spokesperson DeWayne Powell presented the project, describing it as "Greek Revival inspired" and its location as "an increasingly nice neighborhood." Then the criteria to be considered in making decisions about area variances, as set forth in Paragraph 81-b of the New York State General City Code, were reviewed:    

  • Whether an undesirable change will be produced in the character of the neighborhood or a detriment to nearby properties will be created by the granting of the area variance;
  • whether the benefit sought by the applicant can be achieved by some method feasible for the applicant to pursue, other than an area variance;
  • whether the requested area variance is substantial;
  • whether the proposed variance will have an adverse effect or impact on the physical or environmental conditions in the neighborhood or district; and
  • whether the alleged difficulty was self-created, which consideration shall be relevant to the decision of the board of appeals, but shall not necessarily preclude the granting of the area variance.
When the meeting was opened to public comment, the first to speak was First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie, who declared herself "strongly in support of the project." She called the corner in its present state "dangerous" and "a blight on the community" and expressed her hope that "other people will fix up their properties inspired by the Galvan example."

Phil Forman, reiterating sentiments he'd expressed at the Historic Preservation Commission public hearing, said, "The whole block is a mess, particularly at night. The whole block goes quiet, and it's not a nice feeling." He followed up with the opinion that "It's going to be a terrific project."

The final comment of enthusiastic support came from Art Cincotti, who admitted he was working for Galvan Partners. Cincotti praised the quality of the construction and workmanship and said that "many of the private contractors participating in [Galloway] projects feel blessed to be involved."

After these comments of support had been offered, Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston asked what exactly the requested area variances were for and was told they were for setbacks and lot coverage. She then expressed concern about water runoff and drainage.

Pursuing the drainage question introduced by Thurston, I asked what evidence had been provided to the ZBA that the density of the proposed project would not alter the hydrology and negatively impact adjacent, genuinely historic properties. Current Hudson zoning code specifies that structures may cover no more than 30 percent of a lot, leaving the greater part of the lot open and able to absorb stormwater. The Galvan Partners' plan to site four buildings on what had originally been only two lots results in about 75 percent of the area being covered with buildings--a dramatic change in density for a space that Gossips research discovered has been vacant for a hundred years. 

Cheryl Roberts, counsel to the ZBA, explained that density and drainage are not issues considered by the ZBA when granting an area variance. They would be taken up by the Planning Commission in a site plan review, but there would not be a site plan review for this project because it involves single family houses built on separate parcels. Although the law was amended in 2009 to require site plan review for any subdivision of property, the lots at Union and First were subdivided in 2007, before the law was amended.

The public hearing was adjourned, and, after a brief intermission, the regular meeting of the ZBA was called to order. The four members present--Russell Gibson, Kathy Harter, Phil Abitabile, and Sheryl Shetsky--discussed the project briefly before voting. 

Abitabile wanted to hear from Charles Vieni, the engineer involved with the project, about drainage and water runoff. Vieni began by reciting the litany of his credentials and then told the ZBA that "the lot is pretty flat," indicating that the variation in height was only "1½ to 2 feet." He predicted that, based on his study of contour maps, drainage was not going to change at all. Shetsky wanted to know how long the project would take and was told by Vieni that it would begin in mid-May "and proceed from there as we go."

The outcome of the meeting was that the four members of the ZBA present (three members were absent) voted unanimously to grant the requested area variances to the project. 

Of Interest

Vince Wallace, steadfast critic of the Hudson City School District and its propensity to levy heavy tax burdens on district property owners, has a letter to the editor in today's Register-Star: "Send budget back." In addition to calling on voters to reject the 2011-2012 budget, he reminds readers that there are three open positions on the Board of Education.     

Friday, April 22, 2011

Public Hearing About Robinson Street

It's difficult to report on a meeting when you're a participant instead of an observer, so I defer to Jamie Larson's account of the goings-on at last night's public hearing on the proposed Robinson Street Historic District in today's Register-Star: "Robinson residents: "Leave our street alone." 

The article makes one statement that needs clarification: "The HPC does not approve plans for putting up vinyl siding but does make determinations about the appropriateness of paint color choices." Proposals to put vinyl siding on buildings must go before the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness, which they would be unlikely to grant since the appearance of vinyl siding is not compatible with historic surfaces and its application can do long-term damage to the original siding by trapping moisture. The choice of paint colors does NOT have to come before the HPC for approval.

If you're curious to know the context in which I talked about "rich white men," the full text of my presentation at the hearing can be accessed here. The reference comes about midway through.

It is hoped that First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie's suggestion that the City create a fund from which homeowners in historic districts could borrow is an idea whose time has come, but it should be noted that the idea is not original with her. In March, Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston suggested such a fund at the public hearing to discuss the City's application for a Community Development Block Grant. Back in 2006, soon after Governor George Pataki introduced the Community Preservation Act legislation to allow communities to impose a real estate transfer fee of up to two percent of the sale price of real property to create a Community Preservation Fund, I advocated for the City of Hudson to create such a fund for exactly the reason Cheddie cited: to provide low- and moderate-income homeowners in historic districts with a source of no-interest loans or outright grants to make necessary and appropriate repairs to their historic buildings. The idea got no traction at the time, mostly because the person who was then Common Council President and one of my colleagues on the Council sold real estate and felt that a transfer fee of any amount would discourage sales. I wish Cheddie better luck with her idea.        

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Apparent Change of Policy at the Register-Star

A reader just alerted Gossips to a very recent change in the Register-Star's online policy. Beginning sometime this morning, anyone wishing to read an article in the online version of the newspaper must first register and then log in on every subsequent visit. Is this a prelude to charging for online access to the newspaper? Whatever the rationale, the new policy will inhibit Gossips, as well as any number of news aggregating sites--for example, WGXC Newsroom and wikicoconews--from referring readers to Register-Star articles, since  readers may not be willing to register or to log in to read an article.      

Observing Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day, the students involved in the Henry Hudson Discovery Garden at Hudson Junior High School are giving away packets of seeds they harvested from the garden. They'll be handing them out this morning at the main entrance to the junior high school, starting at about 9 o'clock and continuing throughout the morning until the seeds are gone. 

Thanks to Diana Doto, whose brainchild the garden was, for letting Gossips know about this event and for providing the picture. 

Of Interest

Jamie Larson has an article in today's Register-Star about Timothy Rodgers, one of the candidates for First Ward alderman endorsed by the Democratic Committee, who has yet to establish residency in the First Ward, in Hudson, or even in Columbia County: "Rodgers' residency an issue for some." 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Highlights from City Hall

Conspicuous for His Absence  In the past, Fifth Ward Alderman Dick Goetz has reappeared in April, after spending the first quarter of the year in Florida. This year, Gossips has heard, Goetz isn't due back until May, making him absent from City Hall and all votes that come before the Council for four months instead of just three. 

Conspicuous for Her Zeal  First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie was ardent in her scrutiny of two resolutions voted on at Tuesday's meeting. First, she declared that she had to abstain from voting on the resolution creating Commissioners of Deeds because she did not believe that Timothy Rodgers actually lived at 15 Allen Street. As a consequence of her objection, it was decided that the resolution would be amended to omit Rodgers' name. The amended resolution passed unanimously, with Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston abstaining because she was one of the people named in the resolution. 

The resolution to appropriate $1,600 for an energy audit of all Hudson's municipal buildings inspired a barrage of questions from Cheddie--not about the energy audit but about the $30,000 contract that Michael O'Hara has with the City to carry out a program aimed at reducing energy consumption in the city by 10 percent. (The $30,000 is from an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from NYSERDA [New York State Energy Research and Development Authority].) "I'm very curious about it," said Cheddie, as she flipped through a copy of the contract. She wanted to know if there had been an RFP, what had happened as a consequence of Hudson becoming a Cool City in 2007, and what was the point of doing the project if the City has no money to implement the recommendations. 

In light of Cheddie's objections and concerns, it's interesting to note that Timothy Rodgers is one of the candidates endorsed by the Hudson Democratic Committee to challenge Cheddie for her seat as First Ward alderman in November, and Michael O'Hara has the Democrats' endorsement to run against her husband, John Musall, for First Ward supervisor.          

Conspicuous for Her Location  The historic Hudson River sloop Eleanor will be restored in full view of visitors to Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. The resolution to lease 7,500 square feet of land, at the point where Water Street turns into Broad Street, to the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society, passed unanimously last night. The resolution was an amended version of the one introduced at the informal Common Council meeting on Monday, April 11. The three-year lease now involves a $1 fee, and the resolution is more explicit about what happens at the end of the three years. If the project is not completed as anticipated within three years, one of three things could happen: (1) the Eleanor and the pole barn constructed on the site to house her during the restoration would be moved to another site; (2) the pole barn would be left at the site and the Eleanor moved someplace else; (3) the City of Hudson would renegotiate with the Society to extend the lease.  


Gossips missed this letter to the editor from Peter Meyer in yesterday's Register-Star, taking the Columbia County IDA to task for granting a twenty-year PILOT to Greenport Crossing: "Shame on IDA."

Much Ado About Robinson Street

In preparation for the public hearing on Thursday, Jamie Larson has a story in today's Register-Star on the conflicting opinions about designating Robinson Street, a rare surviving 19th-century working-class neighborhood in the Second Ward, as a historic district: "Proposal puts homeowners, historic preservation at odds."  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19 at City Hall

Tonight the Common Council meets at City Hall at 7 p.m.

Six years ago on April 19, there was also a Common Council meeting at City Hall--a very momentous and memorable one. On his blog, Sam Pratt reminds us what happened at City Hall on April 19, 2005.  

New Outdoor Market

When Tortillaville returns to Warren Street on May 21, the familiar shiny taco wagon will be joined by variety of new vendors in the space outside 3FortySeven Warren Street. Read all about it in today's Register-Star"New market coming to city."

Monday, April 18, 2011

In Defense of Procrastination

Federal income tax returns are due today, and for anyone who is filing an extension, here's an item from the Register-Star for February 25, 1871, that can make you feel a little better about your decision. 

A Proverb Criticised
Among the many proverbs that apparently have a great deal of wisdom, but which need a little analysis before accepting, is that which declares we should not "put off until to-morrow that which can be done to-day." Now, this proverb is erroneous in philosophy, and, if strictly followed, would often lead to a great deal of mischief. While nothing should be delayed beyond the proper hour for its doing, nothing, on the other hand, should be performed or executed until the proper hour arrives. If, in obedience to the instruction of the proverb quoted, we pursue the plan of doing everything to-day that can be done to-day, we shall soon discover that we do a great many things needlessly, and a great many things wrongly.

To-morrow often throws a new light upon a thing; to-morrow may develop new circumstances, bring in new conditions, alter essentially all the bearings, and hence require the "doing" to be entirely different; and time also settles many matters, so that if a thing is left until to-morrow it may not be necessary to do it at all. A general never fights a battle so long as he can postpone it. A lawyer never brings a suit to trial so long as he can hope for new developments or additional facts. Wise men in all things never delay a moment when the crisis comes. "Do nothing to-day that you can postpone until to-morrow" is the cunning of policy, and the craft of diplomatists; but "do everything to-day that ought to be done to-day" is the true wisdom of life, and to this expression the proverb should be amended. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Imagine the Possibilities

Someone brought to Gossips' attention this morning these photographs of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill's amazing conversion of an abandoned cement plant in Barcelona into work space, exhibition space, and living space. The project, called The Cement Factory, was completed in 1975, but an article about it by Marcia Argyriades appeared on Yatzer just this past January.    

"'Tis but a Trial Sent for Our Good"

In this Easter season, Gossips continues the story, from the original Gossips of Rivertown, of Mr. Townsend, the minister of the Congregational Church, whom Alice Neal depicts as a kind of Christ figure. 

"I drink the bitter cup!
I drink—for He whom angels did sustain
In the dread hour when mortal anguish met him,
When friends forgot and deadly foes beset him,
Stands by to soothe my pain.
I drink — for thou, O God, preparedst the draught
Which to my lips thy Father-hand is pressing;
I know 'neath ills oft lurks the deepest blessing—
Father, the cup is quaffed!"

The crisis came sooner than it had been looked for, and was brought about most unexpectedly. With all her apparent calmness, Mrs. Townsend had known for weeks what her friends had vainly endeavoured to hide. Miss Martin came first to condole with her, and when she found her still in ignorance, would have given full particulars, but Mrs. Townsend refused to listen, simply saying, "Of course you denied the report as being without even a foundation." But Miss Martin was not silenced everywhere; and when she told Mrs. Smith of her visit, she added that in coming out she had met the girl on the very door-step with a flask of something, that, "if it wasn't brandy, it surely wasn't spring-water," and the girl did not attempt to deny it. If that was not a foundation and something more, she could not tell what was. And Miss Martin made more converts than ever.

Mrs. Townsend never alluded to Miss Martin's visit, but now that she had a clue, the cause of the dissatisfaction which was very evident in the church, was no longer a mystery. She "pondered upon these things in her heart," and day by day she grew less hopeful that the aspersions would be cleared from her husband's character without his being made aware of their existence. Had she confided her trouble to some one, it would have been better in the end, for now she brooded over it, trying in vain to conjecture the rise of the new gossip, and forming vain plans to silence it.

One day she had been more sad than usual. A letter from her old home had pictured vividly the luxuries and enjoyments from which her own choice had for ever debarred her, and a strong temptation to repine at her present unhappiness had struggled with her better nature. Her children were both ill; she was weary with watching over their restless sleep, and withal, alarmed at the feverish symptoms which had appeared in Henry's short, quick breathing, and flushed cheek. She was thus ill prepared to welcome her husband cheerfully from his round of pastoral visits, and started with alarm as he entered, looking pale and haggard, as if from recent and fearful mental emotion. She saw that concealment was no longer necessary, for the sigh, as he took her hand, and the long, sad gaze he fastened upon her, told that he knew all.

"Then you have heard this terrible story, Louisa? You know that my labours were not accepted—that God has seen fit to put an end to my usefulness?"

"Do not say so, my love; I am sure the cloud will pass away! 'Tis but a trial sent for our good. Remember, 'Behind a frowning Providence He hides a smiling face,'" she said, trying to smile also as she spoke.

He drew her head down upon his shoulder, but he only said—"My poor wife—my poor Louisa."

This despondency did not last; the Christian triumphed, and they knelt together to pray that "all things might work together for good."

Mrs. Townsend did not know until weeks afterwards how suddenly and severely the blow had fallen. In visiting one of the poorest families connected with the church, Mr. Townsend had found the husband of his parishioner loading his shrinking wife with abuse, even threatening her with personal violence in his wild inebriation. Mr. Townsend thought it but right to remonstrate, and in return was told, in the coarsest language, "not to preach what he did not practise;" and on demanding an explanation, the wife related, with tears and assurances that she did not believe it, all that our readers have already heard.

"I told Deacon Morrison," said the poor woman, "I knew it was not true, whoever said it; but he came for William to do a job for him, and I didn't like to say much. William don't get work often."

Suspicion thus awakened, Mr. Townsend began to realize in its full extent the toils in which he was involved. He saw that the better part of the community watched him curiously; that the servant was daily subjected to cross-examinations on their family affairs, and more than once he was openly reminded that he had fallen under reproach. His wife tried to be cheerful, but her health and spirits had suffered. His own melancholy increased. There seemed to be a cloud between him and Heaven when he attempted to pray, and he shrank from instructing publicly those who evidently regarded him as a hypocrite. He consulted Deacon Whiting: the good man's troubled face told how earnest was his sympathy, as he urged a public denial of the charges.

Mr. Townsend shook his head mournfully. "I admit some of them," said he. "Louisa's unhappiness—my midnight walks—there has been some foundation, but I shrink from the explanation. Cannot it be put down quietly?"

"I fear not—I know it is impossible," was the reply; "it has gone so far and become so generally known."

The more Deacon Whiting thought over this conversation, the more he was puzzled. If Mr. Townsend had a clear conscience, why not come out openly at once? Yet dark as it was, Mr. Whiting still defended his minister, and would not admit even to himself that there was any fault to be imputed.

Sketch the Fifth. Male Gossips. Chapter IV 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Schedule for Front Street

The Register-Star reports today that DPW Superintendent Rob Perry has changed the schedule for repaving Front Street: "Front St. work starts Tuesday." According to the revised schedule, the current surface of the road will be removed on Tuesday, no work will be done on Wednesday, and repaving will take place on Thursday and Friday.

Public Hearings Next Week

On Wednesday, April 20, at 6 p.m., the Zoning Board of Appeals holds its public hearing on the project proposed by Galvan Partners for the corner of Union and First streets. Last Wednesday, the Planning Commission offered its advisory opinion that the project would not constitute an undesirable change to the neighborhood and would not have an adverse impact on any of the neighboring properties. Immediately after the public hearing, at its regular meeting at 7 p.m., the ZBA will decide whether or not to grant the project the area variances it needs, which have to do with setbacks and amount of lot area taken up by structures.

On Thursday, April 21, at 6 p.m., the Historic Preservation Commission holds a public hearing on the designation of Robinson Street and the adjacent parts of Second and Third streets as a historic district. Although both sides of Warren Street and most of the south side of the city became a National Register historic district in 1983 and were locally designated as historic districts in 2006, very few of the neighborhoods on the north side of the city enjoy such protection. In 2003, the houses at 37-47 North Fifth Street were added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2006, Fifth Street north of State Street and the adjacent streets became the locally designed Armory Historic District. Robinson Street would be the first historic district in the Second Ward.  

Designating Robinson Street, a unique neighborhood in Hudson of 19th-century working-class houses that survived the destruction of Urban Renewal in the 1970s, is an initiative of Historic Hudson. When the organization made its presentation to the Historic Preservation Commission on February 11, strong objection was voiced by Ed Cross, longtime supervisor for the Second Ward and a homeowner on Robinson Street. Since it was announced that the HPC is considering the designation, both opposition and support have been heard from property owners in the neighborhood, so there is likely to be some discord and debate at the public hearing. At its May meeting, the HPC will consider the comments and decide whether or not to recommend the designation to the Common Council for final approval.

At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, prior to the public hearing, the HPC will hold a special meeting to consider a certificate of appropriateness for 557 Warren Street. The plans for restoring the facade of this building were approved several years ago, but the certificate of appropriateness has lapsed, and a new application has been submitted. The image below is a screen grab, provided by HPC chair Tom Swope, from the plans that have been submitted for the project.   

Facade design by Wolfgang Stockmeier for Quadrille

Friday, April 15, 2011

Great News!

Sam Pratt reports on his blog that the former Diamond Street Diner on Warren Street was acquired this morning at auction by a pair of Columbia County organic farmers: "Under new (and much better) management." Looks like there may be healthy diner food for locavores in our future! 

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 17

Gossips has heard from several reliable sources that this house--25 Union Street--is Eric Galloway's most recent acquisition. The house was one of the properties involved in an unusual sale of tax foreclosed properties back in 2002. In fact, it's one of the last properties from that sale which, until recently, was still owned by the people who acquired it then. 

In 2002, an ad hoc committee of the Common Council, led by realtor and historic preservation advocate Judy Meyer and Christopher Nedwick, decided that instead of selling properties to the highest bidder they would solicit proposals from prospective buyers that outlined what they intended to do with the property and indicated the price they were willing to pay. The merits of the proposal, especially its benefits to the community, were considered, along with the price, in determining who was awarded the property. It was an innovative idea, and a good one, but unfortunately, no one thought to write covenants into the deeds to establish time limits for carrying out the proposal or to stipulate how long the new owner had to keep the property before selling it to someone else. Many properties were flippped before any significant improvements had been made to them.

This property was acquired in the foreclosure sale by Jack Dunlea, son-in-law of First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling. The plan was to restore the house as a second home, but in nine years, very little work has been done, and there have been complaints from neighbors about the property's appearance and condition. According to one report, a family of skunks has been harboring under a pile of scrapped building materials in the yard. Now, it seems, the house has become yet another of Eric Galloway's holdings in the First Ward. One wonders how long it will be before his restoration work begins. 

Make Way for Dump Trucks

Jamie Larson reports in today's Register-Star that the entire length of Front Street will be repaved next week--from Dock Street at the north to Broad Street at the south: "All of city's Front Street to be repaved next week." The project is expected to start on Wednesday, April 20, and continue through Friday, April 22. Larson reports: "During the process Front Street will be reduced to one lane, with periodic brief traffic stops in both directions as equipment is moved." It is hoped that some effort has been made to coordinate with O&G, because if a gravel barge is being loaded at the dock on those days, that one lane will be clogged with dump trucks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

About Windows

One thing that may or may not have influenced the Historic Preservation Commission when they made their decision about the Galloway project proposed for Union and First streets was information solicited from Julian Adams, Community Liaison Coordinator for the Certified Local Goverment Program at the State Historic Preservation Office. When asked if SHPO had taken a position on the use of Hardiplank for new construction in historic districts, Adams replied: "We are fine with Hardiplank in new construction, as it is a new material that is visually compatible with wood, and compatibility in material is what we look for in new construction, not necessarily an actual historic material."

Hearing that SHPO considered Hardiplank "visually compatible," Mayor Scalera, who was at the HPC meeting, wanted the Historic Preservation Commission ask Adams about vinyl replacement windows, because he felt that vinyl windows were also "visually compatible." The mayor's comment seemed to imply that the HPC was alone in its opposition to vinyl replacement windows, and only they wanted to deprive Hudsonians of the right to replace historic windows with vinyl replacements and enjoy significant energy savings. 

Many people would not agree with Mayor Scalera that vinyl replacement windows are "visually compatible." Most vinyl windows are white and cannot be painted. They also have faux mullions which bear little resemblance to actual mullions of any architectural period. This picture of the building on Warren Street that was once Proprietor Thomas Jenkins' house puts the lie to the notion that vinyl replacement windows are "visually compatible." 

All of the windows in this building are replacement windows, but the windows at the left are vinyl, while the windows on the right are wood and achieve a remarkable degree of authenticity even though they have simulated divided lights.

Hudson's Historic Preservation Commission is not alone in discouraging the use of vinyl replacement windows in historic buildings. In fact, current best practices in historic preservation discourage not only vinyl replacement windows but all kinds of replacement windows in favor of restoring, repairing, and retaining the original and historic wood windows. The Gossips post "Window Wars" listed some of the advocates for preserving old wood windows: the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Preservation League of New York State, SHPO's Certified Local Government Program, the Northeast Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology.

In their seminal article about preserving historic wood windows, "What Replacement Windows Can't Replace: The Real Cost of Removing Historic Windows," Walter Sedovic and Jill Gotthelf say: "Once authentic material is lost, it is lost forever. It does not matter how accurate the replacement window, it never reflects the nuances of the original."

The usual reason why people want to replace historic windows with vinyl replacement windows--and the reason Mayor Scalera wants them to be able to--is to save money on heating costs, but it is not clear that this really happens. Sedovic and Gotthelf argue that U-values touted by manufacturers are often misleading, and the payback period--the time it takes to save enough money in energy costs to equal the investment in the windows--is nowhere near what manufacturers' claim. The payback for a typical unit could take as long as a hundred years. On the other hand, Sedovic and Gotthelf state, "the energy efficiency of restored windows incorporating retrofit components (weatherstripping and weatherseals . . .) can meet and even exceed the efficiency of replacement units." 

Longevity is another issue with replacement windows. Manufacturers' warranties on replacement windows are generally no more than ten years. The average wood window in Hudson has survived for more than a hundred years, with, at best, minimum maintenance. Jill Gotthelf once, in a presentation, made the joke that replacement windows were called replacement windows because they had to be replaced every thirty years. (Aside: I once shared that comment with the Historic Preservation Commission and was told by one of its members, in a very professorial voice, as if he were speaking to someone of limited experience and intelligence, that I was wrong. Replacement windows were called that because they replaced the original windows in a building. Who says the HPC doesn't have a sense of humor?)

My favorite Hudson historic preservation story is this one, told by Daniel Hickey almost a decade ago when he accepted a preservation award from Historic Hudson. Hickey explained that when he and his wife bought their house on Union Street they wanted to "fix it up"--replace the windows and put on vinyl siding--but they couldn't afford it. So he decided instead to work with what they had. Over time, as he refined his maintenance skills, he developed a deep respect for the quality of the materials and the construction of the house. As the “newcomers” bought up the houses around it, the Hickeys' house set the standard for the care and keeping of old houses on the block. 

Not to Be Missed

As a prelude to "Framing the Viewshed: The Transformative Power of Art and Landscape in the Hudson Valley,” the symposium sponsored by The Olana Partnership, the New York Times has a major story by Anne Raver about the Olana viewshed and the efforts to preserve it: "Looking Out for the View at Olana, Frederic Church's Hudson Home."   

Civil War Sesquicentennial

Tuesday, April 12, marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. A special exhibition commemorating the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States has been assembled at the Hendrick Hudson Chapter House of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The exhibition opens tomorrow night with a gala reception from 6 to 9 p.m. The following is a press release from the DAR about the exhibition.  

The flag of the United States of America is the symbol of our national unity, transcending all internal differences.

Soldiers have planted and waved the Stars and Stripes after victorious battles and at homecomings since Revolutionary times. Military outfits often had their own flags as well. The one-of-a-kind flag of the 128th Regiment, which enlisted men from Columbia and Dutchess counties to fight for the Union cause in the Civil War, is the centerpiece of an exhibit commemorating the sesquicentennial of the war.

ONE Nation . . . opens Friday, April 15 at the Hendrick Hudson Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution’s Chapter House at 113 Warren Street in Hudson. The gala runs from 6 to 9 p.m. The public opening for the exhibit is Saturday, April 16, from 1 to 4 p.m.

The exhibit of weaponry, uniforms, Union and Rebel flags, documents and other items from the DAR’s holdings tell the story of this regiment, from campfires to the frontlines, and describe the heartfelt sentiments from the home front during the Civil War era.

In 1865, the returning 128th Regiment brought home their tales of glory and suffering, but their battle worn flag arrived before them. The silk flag was made by Tiffany & Co. in New York City and was presented to the regiment by the women of Columbia and Dutchess counties. It was returned to the women of Hudson in 1863 by order of Col. James Smith, who was commander of the regiment at the time, and was to be displayed at public occasions to honor the memory of Col. David S. Cowles, who founded the regiment and died in action at the Battle of Port Hudson, LA.

The Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the DAR was given this torn and tattered flag many years ago. Pieces of it remain on the large staff that is also in the Chapter House. As plans progressed to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011 to 2015, the significance of this flag moved front and center, and the Chapter began to raise funds for its restoration by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Bureau of Historic Sites in Peebles Island. Generous grants have been received from the Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation and The Bank of Greene County Foundation but did not cover the entire cost. The Chapter hopes to raise the remainder from the gala, public opening and continued support from the community. All donations are tax-deductible.

The April 15 gala, admission to which is $25 per person, will feature presentations by Civil War artist Mark Maritato and noted sculptor Ron Tunison, whose works are on display in Gettysburg. Walter Smythe of the Civil War Heritage Foundation appears as General Ulysses S. Grant and shares what was discussed with President Abraham Lincoln regarding treatment of the South after the war. The table that Grant and Lincoln sat around aboard the River Queen is in the Chapter’s holdings. The highlight of the evening is the unveiling of the newly restored Regimental flag, which has not been available for public view in almost a decade.

Visitors will be greeted by members in period dress and treated to a host of refreshments, from fresh cheese and vegetables, to wines and punches.

The grand opening on April 16 includes presentations by Smythe and author Richard Copley, and music by the 77th Regimental Balladeers. Docents in period dress will give guided tours. Admission is $5 per person.

The Hendrick Hudson DAR has partnered with Greene County’s Civil War commemorative festivities. Greene’s sesquicentennial kick-off is set for Saturday, May 28 from 11 a.m. to noon on the courthouse steps. Women in period dress will then proceed to the Thompson Street Cemetery to decorate veterans’ graves.

There is a Civil War event at Olana State Historic Site in Greenport the same day.

Tours of the DAR exhibit continue on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. through Columbus Day weekend and by appointment. For more information call 828-9764 and leave a detailed message.