Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) said there are four components that contribute equally to the success of a city: historic preservation, arts and entertainment, public education, quality of life and public safety. He attributed this statement to the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. Haddad called historic preservation "an easy whipping boy in this city" and attested that in the four years he served on the Historic Preservation Commission "we didn't cost anybody another nickel." He acknowledged that one person had purchased replacement windows for a building on Warren Street, windows that Haddad described as "the worst windows available," before applying for a certificate of appropriateness and was upset when the HPC denied a certificate of appropriateness for their installation.
When Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward) spoke from the audience in defense of the historic preservation law and the HPC, saying that it "preserved the character of Hudson," Scalera countered by saying that when he was mayor he had "people in tears" in his office complaining about the HPC. He claimed that people in historic districts don't go before the HPC "because of fear of the expense." According to Scalera, "the problem with the commission is that we have had so many different commissions." He called upon the Common Council to "amend the law so people can understand the law."
Alderman "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward) then took up the harangue. "Look what they tried to do with the Lutheran Church. [This was the rare wooden church on South Sixth Street whose parishioners circumvented the HPC in order to cover the building with vinyl siding.] They tried to make Robinson Street a historic district. Can this Common Council vote to do away with with the preservation law?" To the final question, Common Council President Don Moore responded, "In my opinion, it never will."
When it was pointed out to him that the not-for-profit organization Historic Hudson had proposed the designation of Robinson Street to the Historic Preservation Commission, Donahue said, "Historic Preservation, Historic Hudson--it's all the same."
Interestingly, Pierro, who initiated the attack on the Historic Preservation Commission, distanced himself from Donahue's stance by saying he was "not advocating doing away with the historic preservation law" but instead wanted "some clarity," claiming that the HPC can "quash any project."
City Attorney Cheryl Roberts, who serves as counsel to the HPC, agreed that the preservation law needed to be revised. (It should be noted that the law that was initially adopted by the City of Hudson was a model law created by the Preservation League of New York State and the State Historic Preservation Office.) Roberts also suggested that the City should think about a low-interest/no-interest loan program for homeowners making improvements to historic buildings and stated that there is "no doubt that [historic preservation] helps the city and attracts tourism."
Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who affirmed that "historic preservation adds tremendously to the city," said he appreciated calls for clarity in the law but cautioned that "the more we try to tighten it, the more we exclude options." Amending the preservation law, he said, is "something that has to be approached very carefully."
Alderman Chris Wagoner (Third Ward), who is the owner of a B&B, said, "People come here and spend their money just to see the architecture"--a statement that drew derision from Donahue. Wagoner went on to assert that historic architecture is one of Hudson's biggest assets, possibly its biggest asset.
Moore concluded the discussion by saying that it would be "good to have an examination of the law."
These are dark days for historic preservation in Hudson. Seven years ago, in 2005, Scalera, then mayor, had the preservation law suspended and rewritten to take the power to designate landmarks and historic districts away from the Historic Preservation Commission and give it to the Common Council. Interestingly, all of the designations made since 2005 were made during the two years--2006 to 2007--when Scalera was out of office. Now, as special adviser for the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, which typically has the most proposals before the Historic Preservation Commission, Scalera appears to be the force behind a call for further revision to Hudson's historic preservation ordinance.