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.        


  1. Yes this kind of thing happens all the time. A number of years ago the Town of Kinderhook tried (unsuccessfully, thank God) to commandeer the 14 open acres behind the Vanderpoel House -- which is the private property of the Columbia County Historical Society -- to become a parking lot for Town trucks.

  2. Destroying historic fabric seems to be a favorite pastime of some public officials. Thank heavens for citizen watchdogs.