Monday, October 31, 2011

Hudson Mayoral Debate

If you missed it live last week, you can now watch Dan Udell's videorecording of the Hudson mayoral debate between Democrat Nick Haddad and Republican Bill Hallenbeck online.

Not to Be Missed

Sam Pratt has a summary of R. Mary Wend's 1963 master's thesis on Hudson, entitled The Administrative Effects of the Breakdown of Law Enforcement in Hudson, New York, on his blog: "Hudson's Breakdown."  As Pratt points out, "Her paper is chockful of telling but largely forgotten details" of Hudson's history. In 1963, Pratt notes, Wend called Hudson "a stagnant city beset by many problems," chief among them:  
  1. a high tax rate
  2. a declining population
  3. slum areas and substandard housing
  4. lack of a public library
  5. lack of a sewage disposal system
  6. lack of imaginative leadership

Absentee Ballots

If you need an absentee ballot for the upcoming November 8 election, you can download an application here. If you hand deliver your application to the Board of Elections, you have until November 7--the day before the election--to do so. If you mail your application, it must be postmarked no later than tomorrow, November 1. If you submit the application by mail, your absentee ballot will be mailed to you.

If you return your ballot by mail, it must be postmarked no later than the day before the election, November 7, and it must be received no later than November 15. If your ballot is delivered by hand to the Board of Elections, it must be done before the close of the polls on election day, November 8. 

NOTE: The Board of Elections has advised that absentee ballots returned to them on election day must be returned by someone other than the voter. If you are in Columbia County on election day, you must vote at your polling place.

Oh, for the Good Old Days

A reader recently gave me her copy of Jewels of Moments: An Educator's Fifty-Year Recollection: 1950-2000. It was written by Alan W. Sugarman, who, after being discharged from the army after World War II, finishing college, and getting a master's degree from Teachers College, Columbia, started his teaching career right here in Hudson. His interview with the superintendent of schools took place only weeks after state troopers had raided Hudson and shut down the brothels. 

Sugarman's memoir contains this reminiscence:
A few years after, having secured the position and having moved on to a principalship, I remember a meeting with parent representatives of the Hudson community, many of whom profited from the business with the "Houses." At one point in the discussion, reference was made to the raid and the wife of a grocery storeowner asked me what I thought about closing down those "houses of  ill repute." I responded that prostitution is illegal and that there was no other option, to which she responded--"yes, I know, Mr. Sugarman, but then you always knew where the children were!" I had no answer to that critical concern.
Copies of Jewels of Moments can be purchased at the Hudson Opera House.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

No More Snow Emergency

Gossips just received the following message from Common Council President Don Moore: "The snow emergency is rescinded as of 8 p.m. tonight. There also should be no enforcement during the remainder of today."

This means that tonight--as would have been the case anyway--cars should be parked on the odd side of the street, but during the daytime tomorrow cars may park, without fear of retribution, on either side of the street, until the witching hour of midnight, when they must be on the odd side until morning.

Gossips Apologizes

The boiler here at Gossips Central gave up the ghost in the night, so I'm having to deal with that problem instead of creating today's post. Gossips will be back as soon as the situation is dealt with. 

Hurra, Tortillaville!

Word just in: Tortillaville will be open today--Sunday, October 30--from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and they will also be open on Monday, October 31. This may be your last chance to get tacos and burritos from the shiny food wagon until next spring. 

William's Song

This collar comes off tomorrow,
So I gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow, come what may.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, no collar tomorrow,
It's only a day away!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snow Emergency

The mayor has declared a snow emergency for 48 hours beginning at 8 p.m. tonight, Saturday, through 8 p.m. Monday. Vehicles must be parked on the even side of the street from 8 p.m. tonight until 8 p.m. on Sunday night and then moved to the odd side where they must remain until 8 p.m. on Monday night. 

Remember the draconian ticketing and towing that went on during last winter's snow emergencies and be prepared to comply with the letter of the law, even when to do so seems to defy logic.   

For William's Friends

At first, William was so humiliated by having to wear an Elizabethan collar--a.k.a. the "collar of shame"--that I was reluctant to photograph him, but now that he is actively and shamelessly soliciting sympathy from total strangers on the street, I have no compunction about sharing this picture. 

Despite his woebegone look, William is doing fine. We're on Day 10 of the twelve-day ordeal, he's on his second collar (having bashed the first one to bits), and he's healing nicely. The stitches come out on Monday. Hooray!

Adios, Tortillaville

This was to be the last weekend for Tortillaville in Hudson, but because of the abysmal weather forecast for today, Brian Branigan has announced that Tortillaville will be closed today and possibly tomorrow as well.

Alas. We've ordered our winter stash of burritos, but we were hoping for a couple more fish tacos before the long, bleak winter began. 


This weekend is the last weekend that alternate side of the street rules are suspended for overnight parking. Next weekend--the first weekend in November--it's back to the old rules: if the next day's date is odd, park on the odd side of the street; if the next day's date is even, park on the even side of the street.

There are some holidays coming up for which alternate side of the street parking will be suspended. They are :
  • Thanksgiving (the night before to Thanksgiving Day);
  • Christmas (overnight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day); 
  • New Year's (overnight from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day).  

DA and County Judge Races

Today's Register-Star has Audra Jornov's coverage of last night's debate between the two candidates for Columbia County District Attorney, Democrat Gene Keeler and Republican Paul Czajka: "Czajka argues leadership, Keeler change in debate."

If that doesn't give you enough information about these two, Jornov's articles based on the interviews with the two candidates were also published today: "Keeler is for a team approach" and "Czajka would be hands-on D.A."

Also in today's Register-Star are Jornov's interviews with the two candidates for Columbia County court judge: Democrat Richard Koweek--"Koweek has experience arguing and hearing cases"--and Republican Beth Cozzolino--"Cozzolino would bring 26 years in law to bench."    

Friday, October 28, 2011

Two Meetings--One LWRP

The Common Council
At a special meeting on Thursday night, the Common Council, predictably, passed a resolution "Adopting the findings statement for the City of Hudson Waterfront Revitalization Program and Implementing Laws." The vote was ayes: Don Moore, Geeta Cheddie, Robert Donahue, Richard Goetz, Abdus Miah, Wanda Pertilla, Sheila Ramsey, Sarah Sterling, Orhine Stewart; and nays: Ellen Thurston and Chris Wagoner. 

In spite of the fact that this was billed as a special meeting of the Common Council to "consider" the GEIS Findings Statement, very little considering went on. Council President Don Moore made an opening statement in which he read the section about findings statements from the SEQRA handbook and then explained that "once a positive findings statement is accepted, the LWRP can proceed." The aldermen were asked, for the record, to affirm that they had all read the findings statement, and they all did so. 

Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston expressed her concern that none of the agreements in the LWRP about easements or land transfers has been negotiated with Holcim and there are no guarantees that things outlined in the LWRP are actually going to happen. She called the two-phased plan for moving truck traffic to the waterfront "a problem" and said she had no faith that Phase 2 would ever happen, pointing out that the City has no way of making Holcim/O&G stop running trucks through South Bay. She concluded by saying the LWRP and GEIS were "flawed documents" and she could not vote yes on the findings statement.     

In response to Thurston's criticism, Cheryl Roberts talked about the triggers that would require Holcim to obtain a conditional use permit from the City of Hudson Planning Commission. She noted that the "causeway" is not currently being used because of damage to the roadway as a consequence of Hurricane Irene and noted that "if this [LWRP] gets passed within the next month, they would have to get a conditional use permit to fix it." She also noted that the "triggers," which she seemed to consider "hair-triggers," although she never used the term, were proposed by the Department of State, and Roberts said, "DOS has promised to defend if the City gets sued by Holcim."

Moore then declared: "This document gives us what we need to control what we want to control. . . . I personally am proud of what we've gone through." He went on to say that he hoped "the groups"--by which he meant Scenic Hudson, Friends of Hudson, The Valley Alliance, and the South Bay Task Force--"don't feel excluded, because I don't think they have been." Interestingly, yesterday Scenic Hudson sent a letter addressing the findings statement to Moore, intended for the full Council. There was no mention of the letter at the meeting and no evidence that it had been distributed to the aldermen before they were called upon to vote on the resolution. The South Bay Task Force has also produced extensive comments about the findings statement. Roberts dismissed the comments and criticisms of "some of these groups," saying they were "full of misunderstanding of the document."

The Planning Commission
The special Common Council meeting adjourned at 6:50 p.m., and at 7:00 the "workshop" meeting of the Planning Commission was called to order. Although, it had been described as an opportunity for the members of the commission to ask questions about the proposed zoning changes, none of that happened. Roberts talked them through the Coastal Consistency Review Law, which among other things creates a three-member LWRP Consistency Review Board to be appointed by the mayor; led them through the answers to the five questions, described as "threshold questions," submitted by Friends of Hudson; and then coached Planning Commission chair Don Tillson as he went through the criteria outlined in Chapter 325.40 of the City Code. No one on the commission, except for Tillson himself, seemed more than occasionally engaged in this process. In fact, one member appeared to be dozing off.  

In the end, needless to say, the job was done, and Roberts, who had said earlier that she would have a draft of their report ready for this meeting, said she would have the draft prepared for the commission's review at their next regularly scheduled meeting. 

The LWRP marches on.   

The Party Responds

Victor Mendolia, chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, responds to Geeta Cheddie's vitriolic farewell to the Democrats in today's Register-Star: "Chairman responds to Cheddie." 

More Candidate Interviews

Today, the Register-Star publishes articles based on interviews with the candidates for mayor and Common Council president.

Nick Haddad
Bill Hallenbeck
Although Hallenbeck doesn't appear to have stressed in his interview, as he has elsewhere, the fact that he has lived in Hudson his whole life, Haddad makes the point in his that, if elected, he would be the first mayor born outside of Hudson--a fact that has been used as a major criticism against him and one that he calls "preposterous." While the statement may be true of the people who have served as mayor over the past fifty years or so, it's certainly not true about the mayors who served in the 18th and early 19th century, when Hudson's amazing growth and development inspired the admiration and awe of all who visited.  

Common Council President
Don Moore
Bart Delaney
In his interview, Don Moore suggests that it's time to replace the sole assessor, although it's not clear what he wants instead: “This city has had a series of sole assessors who have frankly not lived up to their responsibilities as public servants and have left a trail of miscalculation of erratic assessments and behavior. I’d very much like to see this city be confident citywide that its assessments are as close to accurate as possible.”

In his interview, Bart Delaney, after saying that he'd like to "sit up there where my father sat" (Delaney's father had been an alderman, Common Council president, and mayor), seems to want to make a dog park a campaign issue, saying that "he does support the park and is a dog owner, but would like the council to prioritize issues and other things 'need to take precedence over that.'” This suggests how little he has been paying attention. Although the issue of a dog park has been taken up by an alderman, Sarah Sterling, and has been mentioned by Sterling a couple of time at Common Council meetings, it is hardly an issue that is consuming the attention of the entire Common Council.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Of Interest

In a letter to the editor, Alan Dahl remembers the two previous dogs who have been his companions over the years in Hudson and makes an appeal for a dog park, where his current dog companion can hang out and play with his four-legged friends: "My dog Bo." 

Photo of Bo and an unidentified pal by Helen Arrott

Hudson Supervisor Races

Today's Register-Star reports on interviews with the two candidates for First Ward Supervisor: Sarah Sterling and John Musall. In her interview, Sarah Sterling, who is the challenger in this race, expresses a fairly predictable goal: to make the city's voice heard at the county level. Musall, on the other hand, who was elected to the office as a Democrat and is now running for reelection on the Republican line, proposes a fairly unorthodox notion: Hudson should no longer be the county seat. Musall claims that, if Hudson weren't the county seat, the city would "'no longer need a $3 million police force' and could include county buildings in the city on its tax roles [sic]." Expressing a position that is completely opposite from Sterling's, Musall says that in his tenure as supervisor for the First Ward he has "tried to instill the idea that Hudson is ready to listen to the county rather than the county listen to it.” 

There are three people running unopposed for supervisor positions in Hudson, and the Register-Star has interviews with two of them: Bill Hughes, Fourth Ward, and Rick Scalera, Fifth Ward. Ed Cross, who has been the supervisor representing the Second Ward for as long as anyone can remember, did not, the Register-Star notes, complete the candidate questionnaire or respond to phone calls.   

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Say Cheese

A message posted yesterday on the Grazin' website indicates that the diner will "no longer be offering blue cheese from Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery." Blue cheese was the only product the diner purchased from this source.  

The Third Ward Battle

Today's Register-Star has interviews with the two candidates for Third Ward Supervisor: Ellen Thurston and Glenn Martin. According to Tom Casey's account, Thurston--three term alderman and vigilant observer of what's going on at the county level, especially as it pertains to tourism and economic development--questioned "whether being a retired police chief was enough to be a supervisor." Some of Martin's reported comments make one wonder if he actually knows who his opponent is. His disparaging references to authorizing the mayor to "negotiate the sale of property that is not for sale" and prioritizing "bringing a dog park into Hudson"--two initiatives for which First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling gets the credit--makes one wonder if perhaps Martin thinks he's running against Sterling not Thurston.     

The Great Debate: Part II

It wasn't Lincoln-Douglas. It wasn't Kennedy-Nixon. It wasn't even Tracy-Grandinetti (2005) or O'Hara-Mussmann (2007). It's unlikely that anyone went to the debate undecided about who they supported or that the debate changed anyone's mind, but since it appears unlikely that there will be a second debate, last night was our only opportunity for a side by side comparison of the two candidates, and so it deserves our attention. One question that emerges from this debate--indeed from the whole campaign--is this: Which would be more beneficial to Hudson--a mayor with a lifelong history of living in Hudson and working at public sector jobs, or a mayor with real world experience in the private sector, success in managing businesses and people, and a vision for the future?

The debate started out with each candidate making a brief statement. Bill Hallenbeck, after introducing his wife, his daughter, his parents, his sister, and his niece, made the statement that seems to be the theme of his campaign: "I've lived here all my life." He summarized what he described as his "stellar career" in law enforcement: Hudson Police Department, County Sheriff's Department, and now "safety officer" for the Hudson City School District; and concluded by saying that he understood the issues facing Hudson and was "compassionate and passionate" about them.

Nick Haddad also began by introducing his family--his wife, his son, his father--and then talked about his father, whose hopes for attending college had to be abandoned when he was drafted into World War II, recounted his father's military career, praised his father's generation--the Greatest Generation--for "providing us our future," and segued into his theme: the need to provide a future for Hudson that "reflects our aspirations." Haddad talked about jobs, opportunity, and quality of life. He talked about making our school a "magnet for people" and said of Hudson that it is "more than shovel-ready, and we have the work force." He also urged that we be "Hudsoncentric," working together to ensure a bright future.

According to the format of the debate, the opening statements were followed by three questions, asked of each candidate, that HAALA said “speak to the diversity and importance to all citizens.” Those questions were:
  • What qualifications do you have to be mayor, and what would you do differently from the current administration?
  • How will you protect the quality of life in Hudson given the imposed two percent tax cap?
  • How will you address the fact that the African Americans are underrepresented in the City's workforce?
The candidates' answers to the first question pretty much reviewed what they'd said in their opening statements. Hallenbeck talked about his passion for Hudson and how he was a "people person." He disagreed with the idea that having business experience was important for a mayor and talked about his knowledge of city departments and agencies. He said that Mayor Scalera is so busy in City Hall that he hasn't been able to "meet residents and business owners and see what's going on" but promised that he as mayor would be "committed to spend time in the community." Haddad countered by talking about his "proven skill set" and his "real world experience." He maintained that a business model is a  good way to run a municipality and talked about leadership and the ability to work with everyone around you, to make people successful, and to utilize their talents: "How you manage it is how you make it a success."  

On the issue of the two percent tax cap, Haddad talked about the police force being more engaged, suggested that "shared sacrifice" may be required to "keep what we have," and advocated "inviting people into the conversation" and working together to achieve "the community of our memory." Hallenbeck complained about "unfunded mandates" that are "crippling municipalities," pledged to "make sure that quality of life is not affected," and promised he would have more to say about the two percent tax cap.

On the issue of African American representation in the City's workforce, Hallenbeck seemed to try to demonstrate that the premise was not true, claiming that the current administration had "done a good job," but he also recommended reviving the 1991 Minority Task Force. Haddad maintained that public hiring must be "merit based and colorblind," stating that "we cannot remedy the inequities only in City jobs." He talked about encouraging private industry and private business and about empowering people and working with the schools and the community college to "get people ready to take tests"--i.e., the civil service tests required for most City jobs.

Among the questions from the audience, two are worthy of note. Mayor's aide, Cappy Pierro, asked a question clearly intended to give Hallenbeck a chance to talk about his experience as a DARE instructor and as a safety officer in the Hudson City School District: "What is your involvement with the youth of the community and what is your vision?" Predictably, Hallenbeck reviewed the phases of his career in law enforcement that had to do with kids and said he wanted to see "programs implemented that coincide with programs in the schools." Haddad acknowledged that he had not been involved with youth recently (his two sons are now adults) but knew from past experience that "the hardest people on the planet to engage are youth." He alluded to the fact that the Youth Department in Hudson (whose annual budget is around $400,000) is used by only about a hundred kids. He talked about the need to "give children a reason to participate" and to "do what we can to make it relevant and attractive." 

The question of the moment was asked by Nicole Vidor: "What is your vision for the waterfront?" Hallenbeck began his answer by stating that he was in favor of the LWRP and appreciated what Cheryl Roberts had done. He claimed that he was "ecofriendly" and believed that "parks and recreation can exist with small businesses and restaurants," but nowhere did he mention heavy industry. He then said that the Common Council President, the majority of the Common Council, and the majority of residents, so far as he could tell, were in favor of the LWRP and asked: "Can we all be wrong?" Haddad, on the other hand, expressed the opinion that the LWRP was "not a perfect document," stated his concern that it will be "very difficult to get necessary investment in place if it has to coexist with heavy industry," and predicted that "what we want will not happen so long as the industry is in place." 

The entire debate may be heard online at WGXC; a videotape is promised to be available soon on YouTube.

The Great Debate: Part I

There are several sources of news and comment on the mayoral debate last night sponsored by HAALA (Hudson African American Leadership Alliance) and moderated by Reverend Ronald Grant. The best comment comes from Scott Baldinger on his blog: "Play Mistifying for Me." Then there's the Register-Star account by Tom Casey: "In congenial debate, candidates split on LWRP." Finally, there is Tom Roe's synopsis of the debate which prefaces WGXC's audiorecording of the event: "Hudson candidates debate issues." 

Gossips account will follow in "The Great Debate: Part II."       

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

HCSD Board Vacancy

There's a vacancy on the Hudson City School District Board of Education, and HCSD is seeking to fill it. Those interested should send a letter of intent to: Frieda Van Deusen, Clerk of the Board, Hudson City School District, 215 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, NY 12534. The letter must be submitted no later than November 9, 2011.

Candidates will be asked to speak to the board at a meeting on November 14, 2011, and respond to a list of questions. Those questions may be requested from the Clerk of the Board prior to the meeting by calling 828-4360, ext. 2100. It would seem that it is not necessary to have submitted a letter of intent before requesting the list of questions. 

The Board of Education is currently made up of the following six members: Jeri Chapman, Elizabeth Fout, Kelly Frank, Peter Merante, Peter Meyer, and Peter A. Rice. Meyer, who has served on the school board since 2007, makes this appeal to people who are concerned about the quality of our schools: 
Every time there is a board opening, there is a chance of improving our schools, however slight.

Being on the board is not, as you all probably know, an easy thing, nor, much of the time, is the business done in a hospitable environment. But it remains one of the most important jobs in government--educating our kids. Even if you throw your hat in the ring JUST to address the school board about what can/should be done--it's a butterfly flap and will make a difference.

If you want public service, this is it! The kids need YOU!

The Other Shoe Drops

At the end of September, incumbent First Ward Supervisor John Musall, who has not been endorsed for reelection by the Hudson Democratic Committee, ended his brief affiliation with the Democratic Party, charging that Democratic leadership had "employed the most malicious and vengeful tactics to undermine my position and my constituents' trust with innuendo and slander." In today's Register-Star, Musall's wife, First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie, who has been a Democrat for much longer than her husband's two years and who like Musall was not endorsed by the Democrats, announces that she too is now registered as an NOP (no official party): "MY VIEW: Why I have no party."    

Cheddie's statement contains a lot of vitriol, much of it directed at Democratic Committee chair Victor Mendolia, but Fourth Ward Supervisor William Hughes, Second Ward Alderman Abdus Miah, and the legislative body on which she has served for the past two years (and which she repeatedly refers to as the City Council) also come under attack--even Gossips gets a glancing blow. She calls Democratic leadership in Hudson "corrupt, small-minded, reprehensible" and accuses the Democrat-controlled Common Council of "incompetence" for making decisions that are "costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars": "We [the Common Council] approved the hiring of an outside assessment company to complete an assessment that has already been done; we extended public comment periods [for the LWRP] beyond what was required; we tried to rid the City of industry that pay taxes because outside parties object to them; we do not question contracts that are payouts to individuals who purport to act in the City’s interests but are really thinly disguised attempts to skirt the law." She even takes voters to task for complaining about the large chunk of the City budget taken up by the Police Department and then not showing up for a budget hearing. One wonders if this orgy of spite and anger will win Cheddie votes in November.   

Monday, October 24, 2011

Politics, Religion, and Food

A Gossips reader, after looking at the placards displayed in the window of Grazin', reported this observation. One of the farms supplying artisanal cheese to Hudson's new diner--the first Animal Welfare approved restaurant in the U.S.--is Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery, where Rose Marie Belforti is the cheese maker. Belforti gained notoriety not long ago, in the New York Times and elsewhere, for being the town clerk in Ledyard, NY, who refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. 

The Times reports that Belforti, who describes herself as a "Bible-believing Christian" and holds that "God has condemned homosexuality as a sin," is "at the heart of an emerging test case, as national advocacy groups look to Ledyard for an answer to how the state balances a religious freedom claim by a local official against a civil rights claim by a same-sex couple."

For foodies in Hudson, there's another issue. Michael Pollan, as the Grazin' website notes, encourages people to "shake the hand that feeds you," but should it be required that the hand that feeds you belong to someone who shares all your values?   

Food Shopping in Hudson

The Acres Co-op Market is coming ever closer to being a reality. They're signing up members and planning fundraising efforts. They've identified a site and are planning a design for the space. To help people imagine what the experience of shopping at the new market might be like, Cara Turett has created this rendering, showing what will greet customers when they enter the front door: fresh fruits and veggies!

Acres Co-op Market has a community meeting every month. The next one is scheduled for November 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall at Christ Church Episcopal. You can learn more about the co-op and sign up to become a member at  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Important Events This Week

Mark your calendars. These are events you shouldn't miss, if you live in Hudson.
  • Tuesday, October 25: Mayoral debate sponsored by HAALA (Hudson African American Leadership Alliance), 6 p.m., John L. Edwards Primary School Auditorium
  • Thursday, October 27: Two meetings related to the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). At 6 p.m., there is a special meeting of the Common Council to consider the GEIS Findings Statement. At 7 p.m., there is a workshop meeting of the Planning Commission to discuss their report to the Common Council about the zoning changes proposed by the LWRP. Both meetings take place in Council chambers at City Hall. 

Hudson in Life Magazine

Some may think that Hudson's being recognized in the national media for its historic architecture is a relatively new thing, but not so. A Gossips reader sent me a copy of an article from the Hudson Daily Star for October 2, 1939, which informed its readers that a photograph of a house in Hudson was in the current issue of Life Magazine:
Photos of old houses in Hudson and Columbia county are printed in the October 2 edition of Life magazine in a story describing the Hudson river from its source to where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean at New York City. The pictures, which include a house on State street, here, were taken for the magazine by Margaret Bourke-White

The caption under the picture states that "Whalers came to the river from Nantucket in the 1780's to be safe from British raids. Hudson, where this Nantucket-style house stands, was the country's whaling center in the 1782's [sic]."

The Daily Star article notes that the three-story brick building was owned by Pasquale Russo, and my source provided the information that it was located at 19 West State Street--the part of State Street that extended beyond North Front Street toward the river. The Sanborn map for 1944 identifies the building as a "tenement." Unless it had been destroyed by fire or demolished before then, this house was one of the many houses in Hudson that were razed to make way for Hudson Terrace during Urban Renewal. (Unfortunately, the original Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District did not extend to State Street, so this house was not included in that inventory.)    

All the issues of Life Magazine, from 1936 through 1972, are available online, so you can view the entire photo-essay entitled "The Hudson River: Autumn peace broods over America's Rhine" (it begins on page 57) or browse the whole issue to see what frightening things were happening in the world in October 1939 by clicking here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This Just In . . .

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in Columbia County yesterday and officially endorsed Nick Haddad for Mayor of Hudson.

Seen on the Street

On Thursday, Gossips reported that, although many Warren Street businesses were displaying Haddad for Mayor signs, there was only one sign, in the window of American Glory, for mayoral candidate Bill Hallenbeck. Not so anymore. Overnight, a riot of campaign signs, for Hallenbeck and every other Republican candidate, has appeared, plastered in and on the abandoned former clinic building near the corner of Warren and Fifth streets--a building now owned by Eric Galloway.

Always a Democrat?

Mayor Richard Scalera often claims that, although he has been endorsed by different parties over the years and run on different lines, he has always been a Democrat. A Gossips reader recently discovered this interesting document: a twelve-page Republican Party advertising supplement, which appeared in the Register-Star on Friday, November 2, 1973--four days before Election Day that year. In 1973--almost forty years ago--the Republicans were running a pair of fresh-faced candidates in their 20s for aldermen from the Fifth Ward--both named Richard, both with Beatles-inspired haircuts: Richard Goetz and Richard Scalera.

Interestingly, the Republicans' description of their slate in 1973, "A Team for All the People," sounds exactly like what Scalera says about Hallenbeck in his radio ad.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

For the Love of Loaf

Since Loaf moved two blocks upstreet and off the regular dog walk route, Gossips is never certain when the Loaf bakers will be found at 433 Warren Street selling their incredibly delicious wares and when they won't. So, for anyone else who suffers from the same uncertainty, here are Loaf's hours: every day except Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Important information to bear in mind as the feasting holidays of winter approach. 

Heard on the Street

Mayor Rick Scalera, who, according to his own account, is a Democrat and has always been a Democrat, is doing radio ads for Republican mayoral candidate Bill Hallenbeck, who has also been endorsed by the Conservative and Independence parties. The ads are being aired on local AM station WHUC 1230.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Back-to-Back Meetings

Checking the calendar on the City of Hudson website revealed that the workshop meeting of the Planning Commission, originally scheduled for Wednesday, October 19, has been rescheduled for Thursday, October 27, at 7 p.m. This is the same night that the Common Council is holding a special meeting at 6 p.m. to discuss and possibly vote on accepting the GEIS findings statement. 

Special Meeting to Review Findings Statement

Council President Don Moore has scheduled a special Common Council meeting for Thursday, October 27, to discuss and vote on accepting the GEIS findings statement. Tom Casey has the story in today's Register-Star"LWRP findings airing Thursday." Moore declined to explain the nature of the "snag" that prevented the document from being available for Tuesday's regular monthly meeting of the Council, saying "frankly I don’t know the magnitude of what this snag means." According to the article, Moore said that "members of the council will be given the statement by the end of the week to give them a chance to review the statement in advance before voting." The findings statement, as Gossips reported almost as soon as it happened, appeared on the City of Hudson website yesterday.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

For William's Friends

William is home and doing well. He's a little groggy, more than a little annoyed with me, and deeply humiliated because he has to wear what vets like to call an "Elizabethan collar" for twelve days, until the sutures come out. (If you see him on the street, pretend you don't notice the collar.) I thought of publishing a picture of him with the collar but, to spare him the embarrassment, decided to let another William, wearing an actual Elizabethan collar, stand in for him. 

Findings Statement Found

Gossips just got word that the GEIS findings statement is now on the City of Hudson website. The document can be accessed here.

Almost simultaneously we learned that the South Bay Task Force has released its very pithy close reading and critique of the GEIS, taking the document and the process to task for ignoring significant information and deferring responsibility. The SBTF document can be accessed here.

Photograph provided by the South Bay Task Force.

Thursday Morning Reconnaisance

This morning, shortly before 9 a.m., I walked Warren Street from Seventh Street to Second Street. In the 500 block, I noticed "the boot" in use--the first time I'd seen it in Hudson--installed on a car parked across the street from City Hall. 

As I made my way, gazing at shop windows and enjoying the morning, I was struck by the number of businesses displaying Haddad for Mayor signs. The lone Hallenbeck sign--at least the only one I saw--was displayed in the window at American Glory.

When I got to the 200 block, I rewarded myself for having made the trek and consoled myself for having to do it alone (the beloved William is at the animal hospital for minor surgery and will be back this afternoon) with a ginger raisin scone from Cafe Le Perche. Delicious!

Good Reason to Cross the River

This Sunday, October 23, at 2 p.m., at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Franklin Kelly, the Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the National Galley of Art, will present a lecture entitled "Two of a Kind: Thomas Cole's Landscape Pairs." The lecture explores the many ways Cole created paired landscapes and used them to convey complex meanings. Some readers may remember that Kelly was the co-curator of the Sanford R. Gifford retrospective exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2003 and 2004. The lecture is the sixth in the historic site's series of annual lectures by major speakers on American landscape painting. 

Admission is $7 ($5 for members) and is "first come first served." The Thomas Cole House is located at 218 Spring Street in Catskill, near the entrance to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. 

Reproduced above are Thomas Cole's works Roman Campagna and Evening at Arcady, both 1843, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Planning Your Evening . . .

just got easier. Gossips has received word that the Planning Commission workshop has been postponed until next week.

Meetings Tonight

There are two meetings of interest tonight--one participatory, one not; both starting at 6 p.m.
  • At City Hall, the Planning Commission has its workshop meeting about the zoning changes proposed in the LWRP. Cheryl Roberts will be answering questions from members of the Planning Commission and helping the commission prepare the report of their findings.
  • At Christ Church Episcopal, Acres Co-op Market has its monthly community meeting. Topics on tonight's agenda include fundraising plans, site status, a timeline for action, and the demise of the Pioneer Food Co-op in Troy.
At the latter, you get cider and a chance to ask questions and share ideas. At the former, you get to listen and observe and see how things get done.

Not to Be Missed

Tom Casey has an article in today's Register-Star about The Valley Alliance's response to the Common Council's decision to adopt the Generic Environmental Impact Statement: "Group: LWRP needs hard look." The article mentions the ten-point brief filed by attorney Warren Replansky and the twenty-four pages of supplementary comments submitted by The Valley Alliance, but most of the article consists of an interview with Valley Alliance Codirector Peter Jung.    

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

About the Findings Statement

Common Council President Don Moore announced at Tuesday night's meeting that there was a "snag," the nature of which he did not explain, which prevented the findings statement from being presented at that time. He proposed a special meeting on Thursday, October 27, for the Council to review the findings statement, expressed his hope to deliver the document to the aldermen no later than the end of this week, and offered assurances that he did not intend to have the Council vote on the document without having ample time to review it. 

When No News Is Good News

It's been a while since there has been any news about 900 Columbia Street, the very early 19th-century building that the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties wants to demolish to make way for a new facility. In April, Gossips reported that the effort to save 900 Columbia Street had moved to the state level, with the State Historic Preservation Office and the State Office of Mental Health going through the consultation process required by Section 14.09 of the State Historic Preservation Act of 1980. Since April, Gossips has periodically inquired about the state of the things and been told there was nothing to report--until today.

When asked, Gossips' original contact at SHPO said he was now out of the loop because the case had moved to the tech unit. So Gossips called the person in the tech unit who represents Columbia County (and fifteen other counties) to find out what was happening with 900 Columbia Street. 

The sad news is that the file on 900 Columbia Street was closed on September 16, when the Office of Mental Health sent a letter to the Historic Preservation Office stating that they were ending the consultation and going ahead with the project. Apparently, they can do that.

The process at the state level seems to have replicated what happened on the local level, when an ad hoc committee tried to persuade MHA to change their plans. There was an analysis of alternatives, during which the State Office of Mental Health backed up MHA in their insistence that there were no alternatives. They had rejected other sites, had been rejected when they tried to move to Greenport, and were unwilling to subdivide the site--as the ad hoc committee had suggested--and share it with the historic house. 

It now appears that Hudson will lose another of its most historic buildings because it has the misfortune of being owned by an agency that excuses its determination to destroy the city's architectural heritage by maintaining, as similar institutions have in the past, that historic preservation is not its business.      

This Just In . . .

At the informal meeting of the Common Council last week, Council President Don Moore said he expected that the GEIS findings statement would be ready for the Council's consideration at tonight's meeting. At that time, he said he hoped to get the document to the aldermen by the weekend, so they would have time to read it before the meeting.

Gossips has just learned that the aldermen have yet to see the findings statement, which is reported to be twenty pages long, and it is expected that Cheryl Roberts, who wrote it, will be introducing the document to the Common Council and summarizing its content at tonight's meeting, which takes place at City Hall at 7 p.m.     

Of Interest . . .

but probably only to those who've been knocking around Hudson politics for a while. John Porreca, who sold his house on Union Street and moved to Greenport several months ago, is  challenging Ed Nabozny for the position of Greenport supervisor. Porreca, who is a Republican, served as alderman from the Third Ward back in the early years of the new millenium (or maybe it was the late 1990s) and ran for Common Council president in 2009. Running against Don Moore, who had lived in Hudson for only three years at that point, Porreca made much of being the "hometown boy" and boasted in the press that he'd known Rick Scalera since they were kids, and they could "get things done together." Porreca lost to Moore in that race, receiving, as reported on election night, 504 votes to Moore's 581.      

Monday, October 17, 2011

More About the Pioneer Food Co-op

The Albany Business Review has more information about the Troy food co-op that closed this weekend, including the total amount of its long-term debt: $1.9 million. 

More About 255-257 Columbia Street

October 7 was first set as the deadline for demolishing 255-257 Columbia Street. Then October 7 became the deadline for Chris Gilbert to submit a plan for stabilizing the building. When Gilbert decided that meeting the deadline would be impossible and reluctantly withdrew his offer to buy the building, Mayor Rick Scalera was quoted in the Register-Star as saying that demolition would begin on Monday or Tuesday, October 10 or 11. Today is October 17, and the building is still standing. 

On Friday, October 14, Reverend Kim Singletary, on behalf of the Overcomers Ministries, released the following open letter explaining the sequence of recent events. Gossips is happy for the opportunity to publish her account of the past--perhaps the last--few weeks in the life of this building.   

On Friday, September 23rd, representing Overcomers Ministries, I attended the hearing scheduled for the City's request to order that the building be demolished. At the hearing, the Mayor informed me that the City would allow us to deed the property back and they would in turn demolish it and sell the property to a developer. My reply was that I was not in the position to make such a decision for Overcomers Ministries, people who had continued with hope against hope to believe that one day the Family Life Center would become reality, and people who had made initial investments in the purchase of the property and work done on it. I asked for clarification about what other options we had as per the order request, and the time frames for meeting them. We were given 7 days, including Saturday and Sunday to present a plan for any other option.

After conferences with our officers we had to admit that 5 business days was not enough time for us to present and have approved by the City an engineers plan for stabilization, neither could we pay for demolition ourselves. Primarily because, if the building was indeed in imminent danger of collapse we also did not want to see anyone harmed, we agreed to the option in which the City would demolish the building and tax Overcomers on it in the 2012 Tax year. When our Attorney and I conveyed this decision to John Connors, City Attorney on Sept. 28th, we learned that the man who owned the Cannonball Factory had expressed interest in purchasing the building, and who we should call to make contact with him.

In an effort to apologize and inform the community ourselves, I wrote and delivered into the mail slot at the Register Star, an open Letter to the Editor, explaining the events and our decision based on the viability of the options presented to us.

We also followed up on John Connors suggestion, and sought contact with the prospective buyer. We were told that the referenced person did not have any information about someone interested in the building. With three days to our deadline left, I was contacted by a Realtor friend that the gentleman who owned the Cannonball Factory (Mr. Gilbert) had contacted her. Mr. Gilbert and I discussed the sale of the property via phone on Tues. Oct. 5th. He explained that he had experience and interest in saving buildings in this type of situation. He said he had an inside look at the property and did not think it was in a state of near collapse. He told me that the building inspector had given him an estimate of what it would cost to demolish the building, and if demolished the land would be worth $35k. I asked him what he was offering, and he told me $10k. On behalf of Overcomers I made an authorized counter offer, and he decided to think on it. On Wed. he called with another offer which I told him I would present. With Church approval and on the condition that I make sure the intent for the building would be of help to the community I contacted Mr. Gilbert and we met on the afternoon of Thurs. October 6th. I explained to him that it was important to us that the building not be flipped, and that it be used for purposes that would help the community. He said he was interested in renovating it for a peer school or commerical space and to create jobs. Pleased that jobs would be created (also our intent) and that the opportunity had presented itself by which the building could be saved, he and I shook hands on a deal. He then told me that the building Inspector had contacted him and wanted to tour the building with him after our meeting to lay out for him what work needed to be done in order to avoid the City's scheduled demolition, Friday. Our handshake agreement (understandably) was contingent upon the outcome of that meeting. Mr. Gilbert expressed his reservations about being able to meet the City deadlines. I sought to alleviate his stress by telling him that I would be meeting with a developer the following week, and that if he (Mr. Gilbert) did not buy it, we would continue to believe (as stated in our letter to the editor) that something would be built to bless and help the community.

On Friday, Oct. 7th, I retrieved a message from Mr. Gilbert which stated, "Unfortunately, I have bad news. After visiting the building with the building inspector I was told that we would have to provide an architect plan and an engineer plan, and this is too costly for us to do. I am sorry that I did not get involved with this project sooner, and unfortunately for this reason we will have to back out. I'm sorry. If you want to you can call me."

The first of the several Register Star articles which had inaccurate information was written without any effort to include us. Because many of us have not experienced this paper to practice fair and balanced reporting we submitted our Letter to the Editor to Speak for us. We retrieved one message from the Register Star after we submitted our Letter. That is the only instance that a Register Star reporter reached out to us in the numerous times they have chosen to write about this situation. I was also told, that the latest article states the Mayor is seeking to do a study for asbestos abatement. In talking with people familiar with the property prior to our ownership, and from our own experience with several developers and contractors that have been in the building to advise us and give us estimates over the years that we have owned it, no one has seen or raised the presence of asbestos as an issue. Neither was this mentioned in the interior and exterior report the City received from its own agent on August 30th.

For the record we always have been willing, and have not given up talking to people who may be interested and able to help bring the building to life and be a help in our Community.

If you are, or know of such a one, feel free to contact us.

It is my hope that our voice will be heard as we speak to you through this writing.

Blessings always,

Rev. Kim L. Singletary

Of Interest

Not everyone is celebrating the transformation of General Worth's birthplace at 211 Union Street. It is the cause of outrage and distress among advocates for historic preservation, but many people are content that it is now "better than it was." Whatever your opinion of the building's altered appearance, you can hear Tim Smith, the man responsible for overseeing the masonry work, talk about the project in an interview with Tanya Blue on WGXC

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Of Food Co-ops

The Times Union had the sad story. The Pioneer Food Co-op in Troy closed abruptly on Saturday night, "unable to reach profitability before it ran out of cash." For those of us who were loyal customers of the ill-fated Hudson River Market and who are now optimistic about becoming loyal customers of the Acres Co-op Market, the failure of a food co-op in downtown Troy is especially disquieting. But there are lessons to be learned from failure, so the experience of the Pioneer Food Co-op is on the agenda for the next community meeting of the Acres Co-op Market, which takes place on Wednesday, October 19, at 6 p.m. in the parish hall at Christ Church Episcopal, 431 Union Street.     

Authentic and Faux

In a comment on Gossips last week, the only reader in France whose identity I can be certain of asked, "Wouldn't it be a nice thing if all new houses built in the city have the date of their construction graven on a plaque and affixed to each of them so as to indicate to those who do not know, and those yet to come who will know even less, about Hudson's architectural history that these houses do not belong to the city's legitimate historical past or any known historic style. . . ?" An amusing suggestion, certainly, but one that is not totally facetious. 

During ArtsWalk, Nicholas Kahn displayed a collection of photographs in a window at Rural Residence. A couple of the pictures were of the little house that was demolished recently at the corner of First Street and Cherry Alley, and Kahn had offered to let Gossips publish them, which we did on October 4, describing them as part of collection of photographs of historic Hudson architecture.       

Viewing the exhibition during ArtsWalk, I was surprised to see that it commingled the faux with the authentic. I'm sure that Kahn knows the difference and was amused, as I was to some degree, by the notion of juxtaposing the genuine and the imitation, but I wonder how many other people viewing the photographs knew the difference . . . or even cared.

Maybe those plaques that my ex-pat reader suggested aren't such a bad idea.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

HPC: Retraction, Apology, Correction

Since publishing my earlier post about the Historic Preservation Commission, I have heard from Tom Swope, who denied that he knew about the appointment of a new commission member when he and I spoke on Friday morning and suggested, not in jest, that this blog should be called Calumnies of Hudson. He also told me the true sequence of events, which I will now share, with apologies to Swope for suggesting that he had deliberately withheld information. 

On Friday morning when we spoke, Swope had no idea that the mayor was ready to appoint someone new to the Historic Preservation Commission. After I left City Hall, Swope got a call from the mayor and went upstairs to meet with him. It was then that the mayor told him that, on the recommendation of Eric Galloway, he was thinking of putting Rick Rector on the Historic Preservation Commission. After meeting with Swope, the mayor called Rector and met with him in the early afternoon. Immediately after that meeting, Rector was sworn in by the city clerk, and his name was promptly added to the roster of members of the HPC on the City of Hudson website. 

Not to Be Missed

Sam Pratt comments on his blog about Common Council President Don Moore's defense of the LWRP and GEIS: "Politician gives himself a gold star." The image reproduced here is from Pratt's blog and provides a hint about what he has to say about Moore's attempt to "place a gauzy halo over a Plan that has gotten weaker with each revision that he’s overseen. . . ."    

HPC: Vacancies and Appointments

On Friday morning, Gossips showed up at City Hall for the Historic Preservation Commission meeting to find HPC chair Tom Swope there, alone, explaining that the meeting had been cancelled because there could be no quorum. The HPC has been one member short since Jamison Teale resigned from the commission several months ago, and Swope told me yesterday that it was recently realized that Nick Haddad's term had expired on July 31, 2011, so he could no longer serve on the commission. Since two other members--Jane Smith and David Voorhees--were unable to attend yesterday's meeting, that left only three members--not enough for a quorum--so the meeting had to be cancelled. 

We chatted a bit about the vacancies--I expressing the opinion that since there were only two meetings of the HPC left in 2011, it would be nice if Mayor Scalera allowed his successor to appoint the new members--and Swope never disabused me of the idea that there were two vacancies. This morning, in preparation for writing this post, I checked the City of Hudson website to discover that one of the vacancies has already been filled by Rick Rector, whose term will expire on July 31, 2015. 

This raises some questions: Why, if one vacancy had been filled, didn't Swope tell me? And why, if one vacancy had been filled, did they have to cancel the meeting? Four members are needed for a quorum, and with six commission members, two of whom were absent, they could have had that. Was Swope afraid that, if he told me about Rector's appointment, Gossips would take issue with having someone who is a close friend of both Swope and Eric Galloway serving on the Historic Preservation Commission?   

Scenic Hudson Weighs In

Among the voices criticizing Hudson's LWRP and Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which Common Council President Don Moore and most of the members of the Common Council seem hell-bent to adopt before the year is out and Rick Scalera is no longer mayor (for how ever long that situation lasts this time), is that of the environmental group Scenic Hudson.

On Friday, October 7, Scenic Hudson submitted a letter to the Common Council and to George Stafford, Director of the Department of State Division of Coastal Resources, expressing the opinion that the FGEIS, which the Common Council accepted as complete on September 26, "undermines the positive vision for Hudson by accommodating the continued flow of heavy trucks through South Bay and the city streets. . . ."  

The letter quotes the 2005 decision regarding the proposed St. Lawrence Cement "Greenport Project" written by former Secretary of State Randy Daniels; suggests that the "two-phased approach" to remove gravel trucks from city streets outlined in the LWRP  "will never be realized due to lack of any strict regulations"; criticizes the FGEIS for not giving serious consideration to several important alternatives for dealing with issue of industrial transport; and asserts that, given the proposed designation of South Bay as a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat, "it is inappropriate for the City to adopt a plan that would allow for a use that would have a significant adverse impact on the habitat without first requiring any further analysis of the potential impacts or identification of mitigation measures." 

The letter concludes: "With all due respect to the City Council, the FGEIS the Council has said is 'complete' does not appear to reflect the community's consensus vision for the waterfront. The FGEIS instead purports to give license--without due consideration of several important alternatives or appropriate environmental analysis--to the industrial use of a new road across South Bay and the continued use of trucks on city streets that likely will undermine other investments in achieving the community's revitalized waterfront vision."

Click to access the full text of the letter.