Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hopes for Historic House Hang On

Last Friday, after the Historic Preservation Commission granted a certificate of appropriateness to the Galvan Initiatives Foundation to move this early Hudson house from 900 Columbia Street, where it would eventually be demolished, to 215-219 Union Street, Rick Scalera, special adviser to the Galvan Foundation, is alleged to have commented that the building would probably be demolished anyway because moving it would cost too much. Although I reported this on Gossips, I took it to be a typical example of Scalera's acrimonious wit when it comes to historic preservation, like the time he said that 400 State Street would make "a lot of retaining walls." 

Then last night, while walking William, I encountered someone who told me with certainty that 900 Columbia Street was going to be demolished after all. My informant had the additional information, which had not been mentioned on Gossips, that it was the expense of moving power lines to allow the house to be transported through the streets of Hudson that was the reason the project was being abandoned. The source of this information, said my informant, was Tom Swope, executive director of the Galvan Foundation.

So, this morning I called Swope to get the story straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. He told me that Gossips had started the rumor by reporting something that Scalera denies he ever said, that they have not even talked with National Grid yet to find out what would be involved in clearing a route for the house or what it would cost, and that the project is still a year away since the Mental Health Association must build its new facility and move its residents there before anything can be done with the historic house. The anxiety of those who don't want this house demolished is understandable, but for now it seems there is still the possibility it will be saved.           

Hungry Hopes Dashed

On May 10, Gossips announced with jubilation that the year-long wait for Acres Co-op Market to open was soon to be over. The co-op board had a memorandum of understanding with Nick and Carrie Haddad to lease the retail space and warehouse space at 217 Warren Street, and they were anticipating signing a lease in 45 days, with the hope of opening the co-op before the summer was out. But now, sadly, none of that is going to happen.

Gossips has received word that the food co-op has had a change in plans. The co-op board decided that they needed to have a stronger organizational and financial foundation before they could take on the long-term commitment of a lease. So it seems Hudson will remain a food desert for a while longer. 

But take heart, hungry Hudsonians. There is still the Hudson Farmers' Market, which is here now, every Saturday, and the possibility of Filli's Fresh Market on the horizon.

Homelessness Behind Closed Doors

On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee held a special meeting to discuss the two proposals received for providing housing for chronically homeless people in Columbia County. The first words spoken by committee chair Betty Young (Taghkanic) requested a motion to go into executive session. She was prepared for an objection from Register-Star reporter Nathan Mayberg. She'd brought county attorney Robert Fitzsimmons to the meeting, who was ready to recite, on cue, the justification for an executive session: they would be discussing the "medical, financial, credit, or employment history of an individual or corporation." As an added measure, since Fitzimmons was there to counsel the committee, they invoked "attorney-client privilege." Mayberg tells the story in today's Register-Star: "Homeless housing talks closed to public."

When the committee came out of executive session, Supervisor Bill Hughes (Hudson 4) announced that the proposals received were "not responsive to what the county is looking for" and proposed that the committee reject them both and "authorize the commissioner [Paul Mossman] to enter into a professional service contract to meet the needs of the county." When Debora Gilbert, who often writes for Columbia Paper, asked what needs weren't met by the proposals, she got a less than clear answer from Fitzsimmons which included such expressions as "apples to apples" comparison and "turnkey solution."

Just as the County frittered away time and money looking for a new site for the Department of Social Services, it now seems to be frittering away time and money looking for a way to address the problem of homelessness. In 2010, the County engaged the services of consultant William Moon to assess the homeless situation in Columbia County and make recommendations. His recommendations, which were reported in two articles by Francesca Olsen in the Register-Star ("DSS can do better" and "Ditch the motel model"), led to the County's ill-fated attempt to create the "congregate housing" suggested by Moon in a building owned by Phil Gellert on Columbia Street. 

In 2011, there was another study, this one done by CARES Inc., which promised to tell us how to end homelessness in Columbia County. Judging from an article about the study by John Mason, which appeared in the Register-Star, the recommendations did not seem to be the three-tier model that the County now seems to be pursuing, but who can tell? Neither Mossman nor the members of the Human Services Committee seem able to articulate--at least not in public--what the County is looking for beyond the kind of generalities expressed by Hughes at Wednesday's meeting: "We want to provide wraparound services . . . services [homeless people] need to integrate back into the workforce." No one would disagree with that as a goal, but there doesn't seem to be a clear notion of what works to achieve the goal.          

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jane's Walk: Site 30

We have almost reached that end of "Jane's Walk," our observance of Preservation Month and our tribute to Jane Jacobs. On this day, May 30, which was the original date of Decoration Day, chosen because it was not the anniversary of any battle, we visit the Hudson City Cemetery. 

The cemetery is one of Hudson's most undervalued treasures. In 1983, the Hudson City Cemetery--the original part of the cemetery--was judged to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for its "noteworthy collection of funerary art," but designation for the cemetery has never been pursued. It should be, because, in the words of William Krattinger, historic preservation specialist with the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the Hudson City Cemetery is "a virtual treasure trove for historians and enthusiasts of American funerary art, offering as it does a wealth of markers and crypts that illustrate various themes and styles within this genre."

I spent an hour or so in the cemetery today viewing and photographing notable 19th-century monuments and crypts. The best of those photographs are offered without identification or comment to inspire you to explore the cemetery on your own. (In past years, people have been dissuaded from walking in the cemetery by warnings of ticks, but I am happy to report that nary a tick attached itself to me in the time I spent there today.)

Because today was the date of the original Memorial Day, and because Memorial Day was created to honor the Civil War dead, the first photograph shows the part of the Hudson City Cemetery dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic. The principal monument is to Colonel David Smith Cowles, who founded and led the 128th Regiment, made up of men from Columbia and Dutchess counties enlisted to fight for the Union. Cowles died in action at the Battle of Port Hudson in Louisiana. 



Get Ready . . .

Scott Baldinger has a post on his blog about the giant papier-mâché puppet heads being created for the Hudson Pride Parade: "The Wizards of Odd." The parade, a favorite part of Pride Weekend, happens Saturday, June 16.  

Consequences of the 2010 Census

More than a year after the 2010 census figures were reported, it has still not been determined how the weighted votes of Hudson's aldermen and county supervisors will be affected by the 10.8 percent decrease in population and by the 2010 change in state policy requiring prisoners to be counted as residents of the communities they came from instead of the communities in which they are incarcerated. Nathan Mayberg has the story in today's Register-Star: "Weighted vote waits on census data study." Mayberg overreports Hudson's population loss between 2000 and 2010, indicating that it was 15 percent instead of 10.8 percent.  

NOTE: Nathan Mayberg has informed me that 15 percent he cited represents both the decrease in population from 2000 to 2010 (811) and the loss of the prison population (310), which can no longer be factored into the population of Hudson. 

Opposing Views Not Tolerated

At Tuesday night's Common Council Police Committee meeting, Police Commissioner Gary Graziano demanded that Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) be removed from the committee, alleging that, because of Friedman's comments made "during and prior to police contract negotiations," future negotiations and discussions could not be successful if Friedman remained on the committee. Tom Casey has the story in today's Register-Star: "Sparks fly at committee meeting." 

Friedman and Nick Haddad (First Ward) were the only two aldermen who voted against approving the police contract at a special meeting on May 8. At that meeting, Friedman spoke about the need for more community policing and the need to fix the department's "odd scheduling system." Ironically, another topic of discussion at Tuesday's committee meeting was a request to increase overtime for the department so they could "park an officer in the area of Fifth and State streets and maintain a presence." This was the location of an incident on Monday involving a man with a loaded gun shooting allegedly at another with a machete. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jane's Walk: Site 29

The pursuit of another architectural survivor, like the Promenade Hill fence, takes us to Columbia Memorial Hospital. In recent decades, the hospital's track record with historic preservation has been checkered at best. It's been responsible for two very regrettable losses: an Arts & Crafts house on Columbia Street with beautifully intact original interior woodwork, which was demolished when the parking garage was built in 2004, and a very old house farther along on Columbia Street, where according to legend Martin Van Buren once had his law office, which was demolished around 2003, without fanfare or any obvious reason. The hospital has also been associated with one significant save: the mansion that now houses the Cavell Cancer Treatment Program. 

Columbia Memorial Hospital started out in 1893 as Hudson City Hospital. The first hospital consisted of six beds and a fracture table and was run by a nurse who had trained at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. It was located in this house on North Fifth Street, now owned by Phil Gellert.

In 1900, the hospital moved to its present location on Prospect Avenue and into a building constructed to be a hospital.  

A decade later, the hospital made its first expansion, constructing a new building beside the original building. In this picture of the newer building, the 1900 building can still be seen at the far right.

According to the history provided on the hospital's website, "A $5.5 million expansion [in the 1970s] was undertaken to eliminate the need for the original 1900 building." That seems to be a nice way to avoid saying that the original building was demolished in the 1970s. Happily, the building built in the 1910s survives, surrounded by and embedded into the conglomeration of additionsof different eras and architectural designsthat now make up the hospital. 

Pedestrian Pedestrian No More

A reader shared this op-ed piece from the New York Times with me, and I share it with you: "Now Coveted: A Walkable, Convenient Place." Could this mean that we can finally stop demolishing buildings to build more parking lots?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Parking Advisory

The holiday is over. Tomorrow is May 29, so cars must be parked on the odd side of the street tonight.

Dog Tales: William Goes to the Parade

Forgive the cuteness. This post is being told in William's "voice." 

The human said there would be no bagpipes, so I agreed to go to the parade this morning. We got to our spot on Warren Street a little early, so I lay down on this cool stone I know about (I mean cool literally) and waited for the parade to start.  

I waited . . . 

and I waited.

These guys were waiting, too.

Finally, I heard the parade coming. There were drums, but none of those bagpipes that hurt my ears.

As the parade approached, the human and I zipped across the street, where I could stand in the shade of a tree and the human could take these pictures.

After we'd watched for a while, a man who was marching (the human told me later it was Doc Donahue, an alderman from the Fifth Ward) invited us to join the parade, and we did! I think I was the only dog in the parade. We marched down Warren Street for a little bit. Then we turned by the church and went to the courthouse. (The human told someone later that she didn't know if we were a one-person contingent of Common Council alumni or the self-proclaimed Dog Mayor of Hudson and his human escort/adviser.) 

When we got to the courthouse, I was tuckered, so I collapsed on the grass. (What do you expect? I'm fourteen and a half. That's more than a hundred in human years.) The lawn was luxurious. I was lying in clover! Normally the human never lets me set paw on that grass. She's always reading me a sign that, according to her, says, "No Dogs on Lawn."

I'm afraid I didn't pay much attention to the speeches. In spite of the fact that the human is pretending that I'm writing this post, I don't know more than a hundred words, so speeches are pretty much lost on me. But the humans were listening, and they kept applauding, so it all must have been good. 

Through the whole ceremony, I didn't fidget and I didn't bark and I didn't bolt when they shot off the guns, even though I didn't like that part very much. Why they shoot off guns to honor people who were killed by guns doesn't make sense to me, but what do I know? I'm just a dog. 

Jane's Walk: Site 28

Once upon a time, there was a wrought iron fence at the entrance to Promenade Hill. It can be seen in this early photograph, taken from Promenade Hill, looking east along Warren Street.
The fence was removed when the entrance to Promenade Hill was reconfigured during Urban Renewal, but, unlike so many other things that were lost forever during that era, the fence survived. It can be found on Green Street, enclosing the front yard at No. 72.

Of Interest

Ward Hamilton, of Olde Mohawk Masonry and Historic Preservation, was commissioned by the Galvan Foundation to do a historic structure report about the Hudson Armory and prepare the nomination for individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Yesterday Hamilton published excerpts from the nominating document on his blog