Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Folly or Vision?

A reader alerted Gossips to the fact that there is listing on the Coldwell Banker Prime Properties site for 221-228 Tanners Lane. Asking price: $4 million. This parcel of vacant land, at the end of Tanners Lane, belongs to Heinrich von Ritter, who has for many years been in a legal dispute with the City of Hudson over the property, blaming the City for the flooding that regularly occurs there. During the legal process, the property has been appraised twice: once for $50,000; a second time for $145,000.

The listing describes the property in this way:
Unique property, Railroad Frontage, In the River revitalization Area. Appx. 1,800 feet from the Hudson River. Zoned Industrial/Commercial/Warehousing. Walk to Hudson Train Station, Hudson River, Riverfront Park, Boat Club, and State Boat Launch Site. Currently under review for rezoning to allow for High rise condo's. Unlimited possibilities. 

Rick's Point

Over the weekend, there was an "honorary retirement celebration" for Rick Scalera, perennial mayor of Hudson for the past two decades, at the Elks Lodge. Reporter Jeff Alexander was there and tells about the event in today's Register-Star: "Scalera receives official send-off."

It seems the rumor that has been making the rounds is true. New mayor William Hallenbeck has named the southernmost part of Henry Hudson Riverfront Park--the area that affords the best view of the activity at the Holcim dock--"Rick's Point."      

What to Do, What to Do?

An article in today's Register-Star reminds us that, while the county Board of Supervisors is waiting for the results of the Phase II environmental study on 25 Railroad Avenue, they still have an option to buy the old Walmart building in Greenport to house the Department of Social Services and other county offices: "Deadline nears for Walmart decision."

Let's see. How long has the Board of Supervisors been contemplating relocating DSS? Seems that it was back in 2007 when the BOS Capital Building Search Committee began its investigations, which resulted in the acquisition of the old Ockawamick School in Claverack for $1.5 million. The county, it seems, has still not found any use for the building that would justify the purchase price. Then, in November 2010, the Columbia County Capital Resource Corporation came up with the idea of purchasing the abandoned Walmart building and relocating there not only DSS but all county offices not required by law to be situated in the county seat. In August 2011, the Board of Supervisors decided to hold off on the Walmart acquisition, but apparently they still have an option to buy the building, which will expire on February 5--before the Phase II environment study is expected to be complete. 

Meanwhile, if our information is still valid, the county has been paying $30,000 a month, since June 2011 when the original twenty-year lease on the building expired, to rent 25 Railroad Avenue. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Over the River . . . and Back

Starting Monday, January 30, if you venture across the river, it will cost you more to get home. The New York State Bridge Authority is raising the tolls on Hudson River bridges, including our own Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Instead of $1, the toll for drivers paying cash will be $1.50, while the toll for E-Z Pass users will be $1.25. You can read all about it in the Kingston Daily Freeman.  

For Gossips, the news is sufficient excuse to share this vintage picture of the western approach to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

Of Interest

In today's Register-Star, Jeff Alexander reports that the Phase II environmental study of 25 Railroad Avenue is expected to be completed in two weeks: "DSS study done soon." This is the building that has housed the Columbia County Department of Social Services since 1991. For the past twenty years, the County has leased the building from its owner, Anthony Concra, and is now contemplating buying the building. The City of Hudson, in the person of former mayor Rick Scalera, has also been interested in purchasing the building to relocate the police department and city court. Alexander's comprehensive article summarizes the building site's past uses, its history as a landfill, and prior concerns about the quality of the environment inside the building. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Message from William

It's a sure sign that our life is almost back to normal: my human is walking me herself again! So it's high time that I thanked all the people who took care of me when my human couldn't.

My thanks to Rick Rector who let me stay at his house for a while (with Lucy--my heartthrob), and Norman Posner and Graham Farrell who took me in for the rest of the long time the human and I were apart. Thank you to Peter Pehrson and Rick Rector for walking me every day since I've been back home--Peter in the morning, Rick in the evening--in the rain and the cold and the snow, and thanks to Peter Meyer who took me for a walk with my buddy Gus on a bitterly cold afternoon. Thanks to Carole Clark and Timothy Dunleavy for bringing food to the human when she couldn't cook, and thanks to everyone who wished us well during our ordeal. 

Most of all I'm grateful to Ellen Thurston who arranged for my care, looked after Fred the cat (who stayed home alone), and did all kinds of things to help my human when she was sick.     

Of Interest

In today's Register-Star, Tom Casey reports on how state redistricting will affect Columbia County: "Which side are you on after lines are redrawn?" 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Origins of Seventh Street Park

In yesterday's post, we quoted Anna Bradbury's account of the beautification of what she called the Public Square. Here's what Bradbury, quoting the minutes of the Common Council, reports about how the space originally came to be set aside for a park. 
1785, July 25th. It was voted "that one house lot on Main street should be given to Ezekiel Gilbert, as a free donation, for his essential services done the proprietors, in bringing about the incorporation of this city."

Whether Mr. Gilbert built on this lot is uncertain, but in the year 1800, he occupied a pleasant country residence standing on or near the site of the St. Charles Hotel, and gave to the city a portion of the ground for the upper Public Square, with the intention of having it laid out as a park.
Bradbury tells us that, despite Gilbert's intention, "for some inscrutable reason it was denuded of its fine old forest trees, and paved with cobblestones." This picture gives an idea of what the area that is now Seventh Street Park looked like before the efforts in 1878 to turn it into a park.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not to Be Missed

Sam Pratt reports on "Hudson Real Estate Rumblings"--some that offer the promise of new eateries and watering holes. 

Seventh Street Park

For decades, the eastern end of Warren Street has gotten short shrift. The stretch of Hudson's main street above Seventh Street Park never got new sidewalks or fancy lamp posts--either during Urban Renewal or more recently. Now, with new businesses and enterprises springing up around the park and a new restaurant soon to open in what was Keystone Antiques, there is growing community interest in improving this part of the city and its focal point: Seventh Street Park. A meeting is being organized by Third Ward Alderman John Friedman to discuss ways to achieve this goal. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 31, at 6:30, in the back room at Wunderbar. Business owners and property owners interested in helping with this initiative are invited to attend.   

Restoring Seventh Street Park, originally known as the Public Square, is an idea whose time has come, but it won't be the first time citizens of Hudson have taken it upon themselves to improve this open space. Anna Bradbury in her History of the City of Hudson, New York tells about the effort in 1878 to beautify the park then known as the Public Square.
[The Public Square] as we have seen was intended for a public park by the donor, but for some inscrutable reason it was denuded of its fine old forest trees, and paved with cobblestones. To complete the devastation, the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad was allowed to cross it, and thus it remained until 1878, when the matter was taken up by a resident on the upper side of the Square. Subscriptions were solicited and a sufficient sum was raised, together with the gifts of the coping and trees from individuals, to transform the treeless desert into a refreshing little oasis. The Boston and Albany Railroad Company atoned in a measure for its presence, by generously furnishing sufficient gravel to fill in the whole surface of the Park.
These picture post cards show what the park looked like after these 1878 improvements.

Monday, January 23, 2012

About the Senior Center

It was back in August 2010 when we first got a glimpse of what the senior center to be appended to the Youth Center, once the Methodist Episcopal Church, might look like. This engineer's drawing, submitted with the City's grant application, inspired many to worry and wonder.

Matthew Frederick, on his blog Hudson Urbanism, used the drawing to generate a three-dimensional image of what the new building, sitting beside the rather brutally altered former church building, might look like. 

We were assured then that the drawing had been created for the grant and did not represent what the actual building would look like. In August 2011, it was announced that Jane Smith, principal of the architectural firm Spacesmith and architect member of the Hudson Historic Preservation Commission, would be collaborating with Crawford & Associates to create the design for the building.

Last week, the Register-Star reported that the Common Council is contemplating exceeding the $550,000 the City has in hand for the building, all of which has come from grant money, by $268,000, which the City would have to raise by borrowing and other means not clearly defined. The original $550,000 would build a single story addition; $818,00 would buy an addition with a partial second story. But what will these two alternatives look like? The conceptual sketches below provide some idea.

The Youth Center is situated in a locally designated historic district and on a principal gateway to Hudson. Being in a historic district requires that new construction be compatible with the existing architecture. The test of compatibility involves three elements: mass--the proportions of new structure, especially height and width, should be similar to those of existing buildings; texture--the surface quality of the new structure's material should be harmonious with the predominant surface quality of the existing buildings; and continuity--which involves the placement of the new structure and its spatial relationship to the street and neighboring buildings, the relationship of solid and void (walls and windows) in the new structure and existing structures, the continuation in the new structure of the predominant lines found in existing structures, and roof shapes, window shapes, projections, and architectural details.

It's a challenge to imagine how the proposed building--either the one story or the partial two story version--can meet the test of compatibility, but perhaps that's not even a consideration. The challenge of meeting the program requirements for the building while keeping the project within budget may be so great that concerns about compatibility and the integrity of the streetscape have been set aside. The City, after all, is building the addition, and the City can flout its own laws, if it chooses to, particularly when it comes to historic preservation. Let us hope that is not the case.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's Happening with the Eleanor?

Last we heard, the City of Hudson had agreed to lease a piece of land on Broad Street, near Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, to the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society. There the Society planned to construct a pole barn--some said with transparent walls--where the restoration of the historic Hudson River sloop Eleanor would be carried out and the project's progress could be viewed by the residents of Hudson as well as visitors arriving by train, yacht, or kayak.

Everyone curious to know the current status of the project is invited to attend an event that is being called "Charting the Course for 2012." It will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 26, at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, located in the former Washington Hose Company firehouse at the entrance to Promenade Hill. The informational evening will include a book signing by Captain Stanley Wilcox, author of The Hudson: From the Battery to Troy, and a reading "with remembrances" from "The Voyage to the New York Harbor Fest 1979" from the log book of the Eleanor.

Refreshments will be served. For additional information call (518) 828-7884. 

Thomas Cole in Paris

A reader alerted Gossips to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about an exhibition of Hudson River School paintings, focusing on the works of Thomas Cole, that opened recently at the Louvre in Paris. The exhibition is called "New Frontier: l'art americain entre au Louvre," or "American Art Enters the Louvre."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Our Town" Hudson

In 1940, United Artists released a film adaptation of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town. On the day the film was to be shown at the Community Theatre in Hudson, this article appeared in the Hudson Daily Star, proclaiming Hudson to be one of thousands of "Our Towns" scattered through the nation. Thanks to a Gossips reader for bringing this to our attention.

From the Hudson Daily Star for July 13, 1940.

Hudson is typical of the thousands of "Our Towns" scattered across these United States and because of its antiquity it is numbered among the early "Our Towns."

The showing of the screen version of Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize play "Our Town" at the Community Theatre here today is a reminder that communities such as Hudson have ever been and will continue to be the spiritual, social and material background of America.

"Our Town"--has always been a busy trading place--one that early attracted national attention. From an issue of the New York Journal published in 1786 we quote--"The increase in population and business importance of the city has been unparalleled. It contains several fine wharves, a covered rope-walk, spermacetiworks, one hundred and fifty dwelling houses, shops, barns and one of the best distilleries in America, and fifteen hundred souls; and upwards of twelve hundred sleighs loaded with grains of various kinds, boards, shingles, staves, hoops, ironware, stone for building, firewood and sundry articles of provisions for the market, entered the city daily for several days together in the month of January this year."

And, remarks Captain Ellis in his history, "This account makes no mention of the twenty-five seagoing vessels then hailing from Hudson, or the ship yards from which had been turned out at least one ship (the "Hudson," three hundred tons, Captain Robert Folger) then ready for sea while others were on the stocks in process of construction."

In this, "Our Town" of today, the people maintain the honorable traditions of the past and, guided by the energetic spirit of the Proprietors, strive to keep "Our Town" in the pattern of commerce, culture and spiritual grace which they planned and achieved. In the 155 years from 1785 to 1940 "Our Town" has travelled a long way in population, industry, education and many other activities.

"Our Town" now has a population of about 12,000, covers some three square miles, ranging from sea level to 300 feet above. The automobile and modern means of communication have extended the influence and service of "Our Town" over a wide area of the rural countryside. More than ever before it is the focal point of Columbia County of which it is the county seat. 

"Our Town" has a core of manufacturing plants, employing approximately 2,000 people, engaged in producing cement, in two of the largest plants in their line, machinery, tools and presses, woolen knit goods, an internationally known brand of ginger ale, matches, dresses, ladies handbags, paper boxes, canned mushrooms, strip fly paper. All of which give a payroll of about $2,500,000.

The shopping district of "Our Town" serves a trading population of nearly 50,000 consumers.

The early days of "Our Town" emphasized schools and educational advantages and the modern town has six public schools and one parochial school. "Our Town's" new half million dollar Montgomery C. Smith High School in a magnificent setting with its fine Chancellor Livingston Athletic Field is undoubtedly the finest of any city of our size in this state.

"Our Town" boasts of six acres of well kept parks. Four banks serve its financial needs. Two daily newspapers, whose roots go deep into the past, have wide circulation. Modern theatres bring the best obtainable movie entertainment to "Our Town."

Its fine motorized volunteer fire department is without peer in the State. It has an energetic Chamber of Commerce working for the best interests of the community.

"Our Town's" Hospital, its Home for the Aged, its Orphanage, its churches, fraternal and social groups, all bespeak a friendly and neighborly community.

We who call ourselves Hudsonians and dwell within its confines, surrounded and blest as we are by the scenic beauty, created by the hand of the Almighty, are indeed privileged to call it "Our Town."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Person, One Vote: Hughes Prevails

Jeff Alexander reports in today's Register-Star that the Board of Supervisors Democratic caucus, voting one person, one vote, has elected Hudson Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes its minority leader: "Hughes will be BOS minority leader." Clermont Supervisor Ray Staats, who had been the minority leader, was less than gracious about the outcome, maintaining that the Hudson supervisors had "bullied the group and steamrolled the caucus.” The Hudson supervisors--Democrats all--are Sarah Sterling (First Ward), Ed Cross (Second Ward), Ellen Thurston (Third Ward), Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward), and Rick Scalera (Fifth Ward).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Minority Leaders

It seems that the Board of Supervisors Democratic caucus still hasn't resolved its disagreement about how to cast their votes for minority leader. The way the votes are cast will affect the outcome. If it's one man-one vote, Hudson Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes is likely to become the minority leader. If caucus members vote by weighted voted, Clermont Supervisor Raymond Staats will be the minority leader again. 

The Common Council has a different problem when it comes to choosing a minority leader: no minority. Everyone on the current Common Council was elected as a Democratic. The only alderman who might conceivably be considered a "minority" is First Ward Alderman David Marston, who, although he ran as a Democrat, is registered as an NOP, "No Official Party." Of course, there is no precedent for considering someone who ran as a Democrat but is not a registered Democrat as something other than a Democrat. In 2007, rookie Second Ward Alderman Wanda Pertilla became the majority leader, in a rather contentious election within the Democratic caucus, even though she was not at the time a registered Democrat.      

The "State of the City"

At the organizational meeting of the Common Council, Council President Don Moore delivered what has been called his "State of the City" address. A fair synopsis of the presentation appeared in Tuesday's Register-Star: "Council maps out 2012 goals." The text of the entire message can be viewed here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Problem Solving Scalera Style

While Gossips was on hiatus, Sam Pratt published a post on his blog responding to Doc Donahue's declaration that selling the land surrounding Hudson's secondary water supply to Colarusso to pay for the new water treatment plant was Rick Scalera's legacy as mayor of Hudson. Pratt maintained, however, that Scalera's true legacy was job loss. For Gossips, that post recalled one particular effort by Scalera to retain jobs, which reveals a great deal about how Scalera goes about trying to solve problems. 

Back in 1997, McGuire Overhead Door, located at the end of Hudson Street off Union below Sixth, was threatening to shut down. To prevent this, Scalera came up with an incentive to keep McGuire's open and in Hudson: a building site for a new factory. The site was seven acres, bordering Worth Avenue, of the landscape surrounding the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility.

In New York, if there is unused state property within the boundaries of a municipality, the municipality can request the use of that property. What's required is enabling legislation and the consent of the state agency in possesssion of the land. Since Scalera spent his working life employed at the Hudson Correctional Facility, he naturally looked to the Department of Correctional Services for help in achieving his goal. Frighteningly, his plan to carve out seven acres of the Bronson House grounds and turn it over to McGuire was almost a reality before anyone knew the first thing about it. With Steve Saland's sponsorship, the enabling legislation had already been approved in the state senate and was scheduled to be voted on in the state assembly the following week when, on a Friday night, Timothy Dunleavy, president of Historic Hudson, ran into Herb McLaughlin, then superintendent of the Hudson Correctional Facility, in the bar at the St. Charles Hotel. McLaughlin, who had worked with Historic Hudson to organize a "field trip" to the Bronson House a few months earlier, mentioned in passing the status of the plan, fully expecting that Dunleavy already knew all about it. Not so.  

Upon learning what was afoot, the fledging Historic Hudson--then less than a year old--went into urgent advocacy mode. In no time, they cranked out a flier raising the alarm, which was widely distributed on Warren Street, and initiated a letter writing and faxing campaign focused on Pat Manning, who was then our representative in the state assembly. Manning responded by withdrawing his support, which earned him Scalera's ire, and the enabling legislation never reached the assembly floor, putting an end to the plan to build a factory smack dab in front of the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. 

After the threat of closure, McGuire's fortunes seem to improve, and for a brief period it thrived at its old location but under new management. Unfortunately, in 2006, the Texas-based parent company sold the operation to a Wisconsin-based company which decided to shut it down, leaving seventy-two people out of work. The closure of McGuire's happened during one of the two terms in the past two decades when Scalera was out of office, and he criticized Dick Tracy, who was the mayor at that time, for not trying to prevent the factory from closing.  

Since 1997, substantial evidence has been discovered to link the grounds of the Bronson House with noted 19th-century landscape designer A. J. Downing. In 2003, thanks to the initiative of Historic Hudson and the efforts of the State Historic Preservation Office, in the person of William Krattinger, the Dr. Oliver Bronson House and the thirty-two acres immediately surrounding it were designated a National Historic Landmark. In the past year, the restoration of the historic house has begun in earnest, with Historic Hudson as its legal steward. Still Scalera likes to treat the historic grounds, which remain part of the Hudson Correctional Facility, as an ace up his sleeve. When Sarah Sterling was looking recently for a large space to site a dog park, Scalera suggested using a portion of the Bronson House grounds.        

Not to Be Missed

The Times Union catches up on Hudson as a music town: "Hudson grows as a musician-friendly town." This picture of Tommy Stinson is from the article.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Of Interest

Hudson supervisors--Democrats all--are in conflict with the rest of the Democrats on the Board of Supervisors over how the vote for minority leader should be conducted. The Hudson supervisors are advocating for one-man one-vote, while Democrats from elsewhere in the county want to continue the traditional practice of using the weighted vote to determine who will be minority leader. Jeff Alexander has the story in today's Register-Star: "Dems clash over minority position."  

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gossips Is Back!

After spending a full month at Columbia Memorial Hospital, where I seem, as a patient, to have proved the truth of Murphy's Law, I'm back at home, at my computer, poised once again to resume Gossips news and commentary about Hudson. Anecdotes from my extended stay at the hospital may find their way into Gossips posts over the next few weeks, but for now I have nothing but good things to say about the nursing staff who took care of me during those endless days and nights of being a patient. 

It will take a while for Gossips to get back up to speed, but in the meantime, this morning's recommended reading is Sam Pratt's post about the notorious history of the Girls' Training School--now the site of the Hudson Correctional Facility--which appeared on his blog yesterday: "Cigar stumps, careless tongues, secret cemeteries, slave labor & South Bay."