Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Turn Your Radios On

Tomorrow morning on his radio show @Issue, Victor Mendolia will be discussing the proposal for providing emergency and transitional housing for the homeless of Columbia County in Hudson with Hudson supervisors Sarah Sterling (First Ward) and Ellen Thurston (Third Ward) and Common Council president Don Moore. The show begins at 10 a.m. on WGXC--90.7 FM or online at wgxc.org.

Civic Hudson Fails to Get Funding

The Civic Hudson Project proposed for Fourth and Columbia streets by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation did not receive the funding it had hoped for from the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program. Tom Casey has the story in the Register-Star: "No grant money for Civic Hudson Project." Thanks to Sam Pratt for spreading the word about this news.

UPDATE: This story appeared just before 2:30 p.m. today. I read it at about 2:40 p.m. and posted the link to it at 3:00 p.m. A reader reports that it stayed online for about an hour and now cannot even be accessed by Google Reader.

UPDATE: At 5:00 p.m. the Register-Star posted a revised story on the subject of grant funding for the Civic Hudson Project: "State denies grant funding for Galvan project." The revised story refers to a press release from the Galvan Foundation which maintains that the foundation withdrew its applications for Civic Hudson in order to transfer their funding requests to the proposed facility at State and Seventh streets, which they are now calling "Galvan Quarters." This facility, which was originally to be 18 units of Tier I housing and 15 units of Tier II housing, is now being proposed as a 44-unit complex with Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III housing. (The Civic Hudson Project was previously intended to provide the Tier III housing.)

But it seems the Civic Hudson Project has not gone away. Galvan says it will "continue to attempt to develop Civic Hudson as a Police and Court house facility . . . [either as] 'a stand-alone facility or in combination with moderate income housing or other community facilities.'"

Collecting Hudson and Subdividing It

Last Tuesday, Gossips did a post about the request submitted to the Common Council by Galvan's lawyer, Mark Greenberg, for a review of the Historic Preservation Commission's decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness to the proposal to move the Robert Taylor House: "Collecting Hudson and Rearranging It." Buried in that inch-thick document was the statement that inspired today's post. Describing the proposed Union Street destination for the house, one of the documents submitted states: "Galvan subdivided the property when it purchased it." Hasn't subdivision, since 2009, required site plan review and approval from the Planning Commission? (See Section 325.35.1 of the Hudson City Code.)

It turns out that in this case, although 25 Union Street and the vacant lot next to it (21-23 Union) have been owned as one parcel for at least two decades and have been sold as one parcel at least twice, they are in the tax rolls as two separate parcels, which apparently allows them to be separated without review and approval from the Planning Commission.

Eric Galloway's propensity for subdividing property he has acquired started back in 2003 when he subdivided 317 Allen Street, separating the carriage house from the main house, creating two building lots at the south end of the property that encroached on Willard Place and Willard Park, destroying forever the historic character of Willard Place and its unique dogleg design and eliminating the possibility that a future owner might restore the garden and grounds of 317 Allen Street to what they once were

When the plans for 317 Allen Street came before the Planning Commission in April 2003, all the members of the commission agreed that the subdivision of this property should not be allowed, but they were frustrated by the fact that there was nothing in the city code to prohibit it. Mike Vertitis, who was then both chair of the Planning Commission and Common Council president, was convinced there was a section of the zoning code that gave the Planning Commission oversight over subdivision of existing lots, but he could not find it. Bizarrely, the section of the zoning code that addressed subdivision, which for some inexplicable reason had not been adopted with the rest of the code back in the late 1960s, miraculously turned up in City Attorney Jack Connor's basement in 2009. Once discovered, this missing section of the zoning code was adopted by the Common Council in October 2009--six and a half years too late to protect the integrity of Hudson's historic Willard Place neighborhood.

Around 2006, Galloway acquired the lot at the corner of Union and First streets and subdivided it into four building lots. In 2011, he proposed building four houses on what had originally been two lots. Gossips' research discovered that this corner had been vacant for a hundred years, since 1911 when a spectacular fire destroyed the wagon shop and stable that once stood there. The dense lot coverage proposed for a lot that had been vacant for a hundred years raised questions about water runoff and hydrology and potential negative impact on nearby properties, but when these questions were raised at the public hearing held by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which was making a decision about granting various area variances to the project, the response from the ZBA was that those were issues taken up by the Planning Commission in a site plan review, and since the subdivision of these lots had happened prior to 2009, there would be no site plan review. 

Recently, Galvan announced that construction of the second two houses--the ones facing First Street--was being postponed, and recently a fence was erected around the two unused building lots, lest anyone imagine that 102 and 104 Union Street had backyards.

The General Worth birthplace at 211 Union Street seems also to be experiencing some kind of de facto subdivision. The erection of a fence behind the historic house gives support to the rumor that Galloway intends to restore the carriage house on Partition Street as a residence and lease it separately from the house.

And then there is 119-123 Union Street, which unlike 21-23 and 25 Union, is listed as a single parcel in the tax rolls. It's rumored that Galloway intends to subdivide this parcel and build a new house in the side yard, sandwiched between two early Federal style houses.

Save the FURgary

Two weeks after the last human inhabitants of the Furgary Boat Club were evicted in the wee hours of the morning, Mayor William Hallenbeck has given Animalkind permission to enter the fenced area of the shacks to rescue about forty feral cats and kittens that one of the Furgarians had been caring for. Tom Casey has the story in today's Register-Star: "Furgary's feline problem." Poignantly, the cats are sheltering in the vicinity of a boarded up shack with a sign on the door that reads: "Alley Cats Rescued Here."     

The painting accompanying this post is by Earl Swanigan.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ary's Other Presidential Portrait

A little news item that appeared in the Columbia Republican on August 1, 1843, inspired yesterday's post about Henry Ary's portrait of George Washington. That post set out to explain what motivated the newspaper's terse remonstrance of the Common Council, but there is more to the story than I was able to document. A reader recalled reading about how, in a show of public support for the purchase, Ary's portrait of Washington had been paraded through the streets of Hudson, greeted by cheering crowds. Hoping to find some reference to that event in the local press of the day, I searched the old newspapers on the amazing Fulton History site, even though its collection of Hudson newspapers only goes back to 1867. My search was rewarded by the discovery of this story about an Ary portrait of another president, Martin Van Buren, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register for January 31, 1881.

A Local Painting with a History.
The New York Commercial Advertiser has secured the history of the oil painting of Martin Van Buren, now in the possession of the Long Island Historical Society. The story is told by Hon. John G. Schumaker, and is as follows:

"It was painted by Henry Ary, of Hudson, when Mr. Van Buren was elected President of the United States in 1836. It was the property of the steamer South America, a well known Albany and New York night boat in those days, commanded by Capt. Joe Jenkins, of Hudson.

"It hung up in the main saloon of the South America until a summer morning in the year 1840, on which day the steamer was chartered by the Whigs of Albany to go to a mass meeting of the river counties at Poughkeepsie. As the hilarious partisans of 'Tippecanoe and Tyler too' came aboard of the steamer the picture of the President stared them in the face. Some who had never before been on the boat thought it was a Loco Foco job put up to insult them. The barkeeper, who was a Democrat, overheard the talk and took the painting down in the saloon, and hung it behind the bar, where he thought it would be secure. This seemed to incense the crowd much more, and the picture was seized from behind the bar, the barkeeper fighting like a bulldog all the while to protect the painting of the President from insult, but, overcome by numbers, the portrait and barkeeper were dragged off the steamer, and a bonfire was about to be made on the dock with the picture and frame. About that time Charley Cassidy, brother of the late editor of the Albany Argus, a noble Albany butcher boy, 'the bravest of the brave,' who had been delivering meat on board the boat for the excursion, left his horse and cart and rushed to the rescue of the barkeeper, who was fighting against great odds. 'Jake Best,' one of the pilots of the South America, a stalwart six footer of a Democrat, also jumped from the pilot house to the dock to back up the barkeeper.

"Then the fight commenced in earnest, and although the Whigs had the best of it at the start, headed by 'Hank' Webb, a well known Albany bully, also a butcher, and Sam Strong, a bricklayer and bully, yet Charley Cassidy and Best held their own until reinforced by some longshoremen Democrats, led by Jim Sickles, a pounder, known as the 'Albany Game Cock,' when the tide of the battle turned in favor of the Democrats, and the portrait of President Van Buren was borne in triumph to the pilot house, where it remained during the excursion. It was cut and kicked by the 'mob,' but some of the many who tried to destroy it went on their excursion to Poughkeepsie with faces cut and bruised also. The Pilot Best removed it that night to his home in Hudson. It afterwards became the property of the Hon. Benjamin Ray, ex Senator from Columbia county in the State Senate, who, upon going to California in 1847, gave it to Jim Sickles, who was then a thriving business man in the city of Brooklyn. Sickles kept the picture as a fire board in his front parlor in Lexington street, Brooklyn, for many years after Mr. Van Buren ran 'stump' as he called it, against Mr. Cass, in 1848, for the presidency, in which position Mr. Schumaker found the portrait. Upon remonstration at such an indignity shown to an ex President of the United States, Sickles said he regarded Van Buren as a traitor to his party, a negro worshipper, and did not care a d__n for his picture, although he had once fought for it, and gave it to Mr. Schumaker, who presented it to the society."

The Long Island Historical Society, which was founded by Henry Pierrepont in 1863, changed its name to Brooklyn Historical Society in 1985. Gossips has contacted the Brooklyn Historical Society to ask if the portrait is still in its collection and, if it is, to request permission to publish an image of the portrait.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Henry Ary's Portrait of George Washington

Anyone who has ever set foot in the Council Room at City Hall, either to attend a meeting or just to buy blue trash bags, cannot help but notice the portrait of George Washington, inspired by Gilbert Stuart's 1796 Lansdowne portrait of Washington, which hangs behind the dais. The painting in City Hall is the work of Henry Ary, who moved to Hudson around 1844 and lived and worked here until his death in 1859, at the age of 52.

I always imagined that Ary had been commissioned by the City of Hudson to create this portrait. Ary made his living as an artist in Hudson. He taught drawing and painting to fourth year students at Reverend Hague's Hudson Female Academy at 400 State Street. Both Sanford Gifford and John Bunyan Bristol are believed to have learned from Ary and been influenced by him. Before Thomas Cole encouraged him to paint landscapes, Ary had been a portrait painter in Albany. It would seem logical that the City of Hudson would reach out to Ary when they decided they wanted a portrait of the nation's first president to grace the Common Council Room of the first city incorporated after the birth of the new nation. But a little news item from the Columbia Republican for August 1, 1843, called that imagined scenario into question:
WASHINGTON'S PORTRAIT--Why will not the Common Council purchase Ary's portrait of Washington to decorate the Council Room? He will sell it cheap.
My curiosity piqued, I sought the help of Tracy Delaney, our very capable and helpful city clerk, who made available to me the Common Council minutes from the 1840s and a file of research about the portrait done by city historian Pat Fenoff in 1998 and 1999, when the City invested $16,866 in its restoration. (The first step in that process, according to the reports from the restorers, was to remove "surface dirt grime and a heavy nicotine smoke layer.") Guided by Fenoff's research, I learned that interest in having a portrait of Washington painted for the Council Room started early in 1841. The following resolution is recorded in the minutes for January 4, 1841:
Resolved That Messrs. Rockwell, Mitchell & Waterman be a committee to inquire and report upon the offer made to furnish the council with a painting of Washington and others.
It appears that Ary, who was then living in Catskill, may have approached the Common Council with the idea of painting a portrait. The minutes from the next meeting of the Council, on February 5, 1841, report the committee's findings:
Alderman Rockwell of the committee appointed to inquire and report in relation to procuring a painting of Washington to be placed in the Council Room, Reported that however desirable it might be the funds of the city would not [permit?] any expenditure for that object--the committee were unanimous in the opinion.
Sometime between February 1841 and August 1843 Ary apparently decided to paint a portrait of Washington on spec, with the hope of selling it to Hudson or perhaps to any municipality that might be interested. A search of the Common Council minutes for several months before and after August 1843 discovered no mention of the painting or of Ary and no clue about what had inspired the comment in the Columbia Republican.

The discussion of a portrait for the Council Room is taken up again in the fall of 1845. The Council minutes for October 1845 record this resolution:
Resolved That a select Committee be appointed by the Mayor, to confer with H. Ary--with a view of ascertaining upon what terms his Painting and Portrait of Washington could be obtained to be placed in the Common Council Room.
The minutes note that "appointed on such committee" were "Asst. Ald Whitbeck [and] Ald Mitchell and Gifford." (Alderman Gifford was Elihu Gifford, Sanford Gifford's father.) On December 29, 1845, the Council passed a resolution to purchase the painting:
Resolved, unanimously that the fees of the Commissioners of Highways, amounting to Fifty Dollars be paid to H. Ary, Esq., in part payment for his beautiful Painting of Washington, placed in the Common Council Room. And the Chamberlain is hereby directed to pay the same to said Ary on order.
The members of the Common Council who voted unanimously to purchase the painting were aldermen E[lihu] Gifford, Matthew Mitchell, Stephen Waterman, Hiram Macy, and assistant aldermen V. Whitbeck, J. Newkirk, J. W. Smith, and H. Waterman.

At the time the Council acquired the painting, there was no City Hall. The Common Council met in a room in the building at Warren and Fourth streets now occupied, for the time being, by the Register-Star. At that time, the building was owned by John J. Davis, "who fitted up within it a hall intended for public uses." It was there that the Common Council met and there that Ary's portrait of George Washington was first displayed.

In 1855, when Hudson's first City Hall (now the Hudson Opera House) was completed, the portrait was installed there and remained there until 1962, when City Hall moved upstreet to a former bank building at 520 Warren.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dissenting Opinion

At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee on Wednesday, July 18, Art Bassin, the supervisor from Ancram, asked Paul Mossman, Commissioner of Social Services, if he had been "in conversation with the City of Hudson." Bill Hughes, Hudson supervisor from the Fourth Ward and now outspoken supporter of the Galvan proposal, took it upon himself to answer. He claimed the project has the support of Mayor Bill Hallenbeck and Common Council President Don Moore--both of whom were present and confirmed that--and of the aldermen from the Second, Fourth, and Fifth wards. Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) and Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward, and Hughes' sister) were present at the committee meeting, but neither spoke. No mention was made of the aldermen representing the First and Third wards.

Earlier today, Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) made known his opinion of the plan to shelter all the county's homeless in Hudson. Haddad agreed to let Gossips put his statement, which originally appeared on a listserv, before a wider audience. What follows is Haddad's statement:
Let us not for a moment confuse "homeless shelter" with the appropriate sympathy the description conjures. 
This is the "industry of poverty and want" purely and simply. A private organization attempting to capitalize upon the perceived needs of a community which over the past twenty years has striven mightily by dint of its industrious merchants and residents to pull itself out of the morass of all too well meaning but misguided Federal and local programs which have been proven unsustainable.
The CARES report for Columbia County obviates the reasoning put forward for this proposal. The privatization of services for issues which are solely the responsibility of the County and the local officials in its cities and townships is the all too convenient fall back position of local officials pushing the onus forward. Under the delusion that somehow it will save the taxpayers money by postponing the inevitable financial burden to be shouldered by another generation. 
Simply put the math doesn't work in the short or long term. The only way it works for the developer is to "import" homeless single males to populate the proposed facility. The proposal does not address the needs of homeless families or the children thereof in any meaningful sense.
Our responsibilty is to care for the needs of our own, within our extended community, [and] we must make every effort to end the homeless situation in Columbia County. And by doing so in some measure we can help the needs of the many. DSS must do its job and do it well.
The "poverty industry" is not an industry we wish to encourage or invite into our community. It doesn't create jobs, it isn't a sales tax generator and it is non-contributory to the body politic.
We owe ourselves and those in need better than this concept, as do our elected officials.

The State of Historic Preservation in Hudson

Ask the people who have made Hudson their adopted home in the past twenty years what attracted them here. Ask the visitors who throng Warren Street every weekend, visiting the shops and galleries, dining in the restaurants, and keeping the B&Bs booked to capacity, why they chose to come. Chances are Hudson's historic architecture will be a part of everyone's answer. Given that, it is remarkable how careless official Hudson is about its valuable and irreplaceable architectural heritage. 

Former mayor Rick Scalera, who was the mayor when Hudson's historic preservation ordinance was adopted in 2003, has gone on record (more than once) saying that signing the ordinance into law was the "worst mistake he ever made." Current mayor William Hallenbeck has made it known that he thinks a developer with an obscene amount of money to spend in Hudson and a demonstrated lack of respect for our history and the authenticity of our architecture deserves the key to the city, while he chides members of the Historic Preservation Commission for trying to do their job in a deliberate and conscientious manner. Inundated by proposals from said developer, who now owns more than 2 percent of the taxable property in Hudson, and pressured by mayors past and present not to "hold things up," the Historic Preservation Commission was told yesterday by Common Council President Don Moore that it "has not been as active in its educative function as it might be." In the meantime, in a city where everyone should be pulling together to protect its most valuable asset, things like this keep happening.

This is 816 Warren Street, a classic example of Victorian Stick architecture on upper Warren Street. Among other things that appear to be happening to this building, it is sprouting a new shed roof dormer. The house is situated in a locally designed historic district, but this project never came before the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness.

Moore Responds

In the ongoing discussion of the City's action to evict the Furgary and the manner in which it was carried out, there's a letter to the editor in today's Register-Star from Common Council President Don Moore, responding to an earlier letter from Dennis Malloy, one of the Furgarians evicted from the shacks in the wee hours of the morning: "Furgary response."  

Keep the Home Torch Burning

In honor of the London Games, Mayor Bill Hallenbeck had the idea of lighting Hudson's own Olympic torch at the intersection of Columbia, Green, and State streets yesterday. Tom Casey has the story in today's Register-Star: "Let the games begin!"

I always imagined that the Kiwanis Olympic Torch Memorial had been erected to commemorate the Olympic torch passing through Hudson on its way to the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1980, but it had to have predated that event. The memorial was a gift from the Hudson Kiwanis Club, which ceased to exist in 1978. "Inspiration Fountain," which replaced the classic 19th-century fountain in the Public Square, was also a gift of the Kiwanis Club, as part of their 1975 "beautification program."

Update: Since publishing this post, Gossips has learned that the Hudson Kiwanis Club was still active in the 1980s, and the torch could have been and probably was a commemoration of the Olympic torch passing through Hudson for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Marina Abramovic Coming to Hudson

It's official. The press release came out this evening. On Sunday, August 12, at 11 a.m., during the Hudson Music Festival, there is to be an open house at the future Marina Abramovic Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art, at the corner of Columbia and Seventh streets. Marina Abramovic herself will be there, as will Serge Le Borgne, the institute director, to introduce to the public to their plans for the institute in a ninety-minute presentation that will include model renderings.

The press release says this of the building that will become the Marina Abramovic Institute:
Built in 1929, this 20,000 square foot building has stood quiet for almost five years and will soon see life again. This former theater, which later became an indoor tennis court, then an antiques warehouse and market before falling into disrepair. Abramovic bought the theater in 2007. . . .
On August 12, the doors will open at 11:00 a.m. with presentations and a visual virtual tour of the design concepts. A question-and-answer period will follow. The building will then remain open during the afternoon and concluding at 5:00 p.m.
A lot of tidying up will have to be done if there is to be an open house in the building two weeks from now. A Gossips reader who is often in the vicinity of the building submitted these pictures of the area under the portico, with a dead pigeon and lots of pigeon droppings, and the sidewalk along the side of the building, thick with weeds.

Galvan Homeless Shelter Moves Forward

The proposal to turn the former Hudson Orphanage and an old garage on State and Seventh streets into emergency and transitional housing for single adults got approval last night from another committee of the Board of Supervisors--this time, the Budget and Salary Committee. Nathan Mayberg has the story in today's Register-Star: "Homeless shelter sails through BOS committee." A memorable quote from the meeting, considering the goal is to end homelessness, came from Art Bassin, the supervisor from Ancram: "If [the shelter] stays full, it would be a big savings. It's really a good idea."

The two hurdles left to clear are the Finance Committee, which meets on August 7, and then the full Board of Supervisors, which meets on August 8. This deal is going to be all sewn up before any kind of public forum is held to hear what the people of Hudson think about it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rascality--Now and Then

There have been a rash of car break-ins in Hudson in the past few weeks--at least eight reported to have happened during the night between July 11 and 12 and another three on Sunday, July 22. The Register-Star ran an article about the phenomena last Friday, with a warning from the HPD about locking cars and not keeping valuables or leaving money visible in cars: "Multiple thefts from parked cars reported." 

I was reminded of our current situation yesterday when I read this item, sent to me by a reader, which appeared in a Hudson newspaper on August 1, 1843:
MORE RASCALITY--The sloop Jane, owned by Mr. George H. Power, while lying at one of the docks of this city, was robbed on Sunday night last, of a variety of clothing and other articles. We are inclined to believe that our city is infested with a gang of the same sort of desperadoes, that have recently fired the city of Lansingburg, committed burglaries, &c. Our Police should be on the alert, and our citizens should look well to their door locks.
Still useful advice.

Food Is Back on South Front Street

Just six weeks after the abrupt and distressing closing of MOD, Dana Wegener is back in business on Front Street--this time two blocks farther south, right across from the train station in the building previously occupied by Strongtree Coffee Roasters.

The new restaurant, called Relish Hudson, opened this morning (just in time for NADA), and word soon spread about the opening and the amazing food on offer. Gossips was there for lunch and witnessed a nice steady stream of patrons--some who took their food away with them, some who enjoyed it there at one of the handful of tables or at the bar that rings the room--and this without making any effort to advertise their opening! Such is the power of Hudson's social network--electronic and otherwise.

Relish Hudson, which serves breakfast and lunch, is a delight for vegetarians (I had an incredibly good salad of kale & Brussels sprouts), but I can't imagine many omnivores finding the menu lacking. The restaurant (if my memory of what I saw on the door is correct) is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Go down and relish Relish Hudson!

The Public's Chance to Speak

As the plan to make the City of Hudson the repository for all the homeless single adults who find their way to Columbia County moves relentlessly forward, one wonders when and if the planners will ever pause to wonder what the residents of Hudson think of the idea. At public meetings and from newspaper articles, we've learned that the project has the support of Don Moore, who is impressed by the services promised, Mayor Hallenbeck, who is looking for some "consideration" from the county in return for making Hudson the home of the homeless, Bill Hughes, who claims the project already has the support of the majority of the Common Council, and a future neighbor of the proposed facility, who thinks it's time people were more "human" toward each other. So far, however, there has been no public forum in which dissenting opinions about the shelter or concerns about its impact on our city could be expressed, but that opportunity may be coming, if the planners can just figure out when.

Nathan Mayberg reports in today's Register-Star that the Columbia County Homeless Plan Implementation Committee is "looking at holding a community forum" in Hudson about the proposed homeless shelter and transitional housing facility: "A chance to speak up about shelter project." They are, the article indicates, thinking of September as a time for this forum.

September is more than a month off, and by September, according to the timeline the project seems to be on, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors will likely have already voted on the proposal and the project will have started its journey through the City of Hudson regulatory boards--Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Historic Preservation Commission. Tom Swope, executive director of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation whose project this is, anticipates that the Planning Commission will schedule its public hearing on the project for some time in September, possibly mid-September. CARES, the not-for-profit that designed the county plan to end homelessness and now heads up the Homeless Plan Implementation Committee, wants the forum to be held before the Planning Commission holds its public hearing.

It would make sense to have the forum even sooner--before the Board of Supervisors votes on the proposal. Richard Keaveney, the supervisor from Canaan who sits on the committee and supports the shelter, is quoted in Mayberg's article as saying "in the end, it's going to be the city who decides." That statement, of course, raises the perennial question: Who or what is "the city"?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NADA Ventured, NADA Gained

Last year NADA Hudson, the New Art Dealers Alliance Art Fair at the Basilica, made our hot little city even hotter. Artists and acquirers of art flocked to the Basilica and spilled out into the city, filling it with a new energy and vibe. Ellen Thurston, in her most recent list of "Ellen's Picks," remembers the weekend as "a giddy moment right here in River City." It was rumored, Thurston recalls, that "restaurants ran out of food, LICK ran out of ice cream, and some ATMs ran out of money." It was even rumored that Amtrak ran out of seats on every one of its trains traveling between here and New York City.

This year, Hudson is poised to make sure that no one coming to Hudson for NADA gets off the train, walks to the Basilica, walks back to the station, and gets on a train home without exploring the rest of Hudson. Local artists have organized to supplement NADA Hudson with pop-up galleries, open studios, installations, and performances. To structure all of this, the Hudson Independent Artists Trail was created to provide information and a map.

Earlier this week, someone on the Hudson Business Coalition listserv suggested it would be nice if there could be shuttle buses so people wouldn't have to walk uphill on a July day to get to Hudson's galleries, shops, and restaurants. Several business owners offered to help underwrite the expense. But making plans like that happen fast sometimes takes municipal government involvement, so Common Council President Don Moore took on the task and, with the help of Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), Victor Mendolia, Bob Mechling, Mayor William Hallenbeck, DPW Superintendent Rob Perry, and the board of HDC, made it happen.

An eleven-passenger shuttle, underwritten by the Hudson Development Corporation, will operate from 1 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It will start out at the Basilica and travel up Warren Street, stopping at the train station and, on Warren, at Second Street, Fourth Street, and Sixth Street; then it will turn around and head back to the Basilica, making all the same stops in reverse order. [SEE ROUTE CHANGES BELOW.] Signs, created by Bob Mechling, will identify the stops and the NADA shuttle, to distinguish it from the shuttles that will be taking visitors to Olana and to the inaugural exhibition at CR10 Contemporary Arts Project Space in Linlithgo.

SHUTTLE ROUTE UPDATE: Don Moore has informed Gossips that there have been modifications to the route of the NADA shuttle. Basically, it's making more stops and stops at odd streets instead of evens above Second Street. The new route is described in this way: "It will begin and end at the Basilica and will make stops at the Amtrak Station, 2nd and Warren, 3rd and Warren, 5th and Warren, and 7th and Warren. The shuttle's return route will take it around to 7th and Union, where it will stop, the locus of the Hudson Independent Artists exhibits, then back to 6th and Warren. . . . There will be stops marked with free shuttle bus signs on both uptown and downtown corners. The shuttle will loop around to 7th and Union and then back [on] 6th to Warren."

The State of Local News

On his blog, Sam Pratt predicts that we may have reached what he calls "a watershed in the evolution of local media," and Gossips is a part in it: "Follow the leader."

Where's the Market?

On July 11, the Planning Commission waived a public hearing and approved the site plan for Galvan's Hudson Arcade Project, intended to be the location of Filli's Fresh Market, the grocery store that was to take Hudson off the USDA's list of "food deserts."

Considering the anxious attention given to this project by the current mayor and the former mayor, who now of course works for Galvan, as it made its way through the regulatory process--particularly when the design was being reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission--it seemed reasonable to expect that workers would be on the scene within hours after the final approval had been granted, especially since the original plan was for the market to open in October. But two weeks have passed, and no work has begun.

Grumblings are starting to be heard on the street that, like so many other Galloway projects that have come before the HPC or the Common Council, this one either won't happen for years (as was/is the case with 102-104 Union Street, 202-204 Warren Street, 260 Warren Street) or won't happen at all (like the restaurant proposed for Dunn's warehouse). These intimations of disappointment inspired Gossips to ask Tom Swope, executive director of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, what was happening. Here is his response: "We had hoped to have the project built by this fall, but that is proving unrealistic. Our timetable is now for a spring, early summer, of next year opening of the market."

Hudson.Water.Music. Tonight at 6

The threat of rain moved last week's concert indoors, or at least to Musica from riverfront park, but there's no chance of precipitation in the forecast for tonight, so the second in the series of summer concerts sponsored by the City of Hudson will happen, as intended, beside the Hudson River in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Tonight's concert features the band The Wasted Lives, "direct from New Orleans," and Pocatella, "the area's reigning queens of old time country music." Rob Caldwell, who produces the concert series, sums up this evening's offerings like this: "Authentic Bengal henna artistry, authentic New Orleans Honky Tonk, authentic southern fried chicken and ribs, Ouroborous Hoops, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus entertainment and more. The generosity of the City of Hudson at work."

Viewshed Symposium Wins Award

The Olana Partnership has received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History for its 2011 Olana Viewshed Symposium, "Framing the Viewshed: The Transformative Power of Art and Landscape in the Hudson Valley." The press release announcing the award appeared in today's Register-Star: "Olana viewshed symposium wins national award."

Neutralizing the Furgary

Dennis Malloy, one of the three men evicted from the Furgary Boat Club at 3 a.m. on July 16 by a Hudson Police Department SWAT team, recounts the experience in a letter to the editor in today's Register-Star: "The Eviction."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Among the Best in the Capital Region

Last Thursday, Metroland published its seemingly endless list of "Bests," and Hudson appeared on the list three times. 

The Spotty Dog Books & Ale was named "Best Bar (South)": "It's such a simple proposition: Give the people something to drink and then give them something to read. We've recognized the Spotty Dog in the past for this novel combination of literature and libations but, with an impressive live music calendar and a vibrant night life, the Warren Street institution has asserted itself as the best watering hole south of our Albany home."

Park Falafel & Pizza was recognized as "Best Falafel": "Order the falafel platter at Park Falafel, we dare you. The platter comes full of hummus, giant falafel balls cooked to perfection, an assortment of olives and pickles, and out-of-the-oven fresh pita bread that would make any veggie connoisseur blush. You will be overwhelmed but you will keep dipping, and munching, because it just doesn't get any better than this. But Park Falafel is not a one trick pony; they offer vegetarian and kosher fare, as well as pizza and other delicious baked goods that come straight out of the oven. We are salivating just thinking about it."

And Hudson made the list, with specific mention of Five & Diamond, for "Best Vintage Shopping": "Whether you're looking for a hip pair of jeans, an entirely too-expensive velvet cape (what?), or just, well, looking--Hudson is a great place to scour for days on end for vintage finds with any price tag. Don't confine your search only to Warren Street--although there is plenty there. Delve a bit deeper and you'll find some other hidden gems around town, most notably Five & Diamond Vintage on Columbia Street."

Collecting Hudson and Rearranging It

A few months ago, Debby Mayer wrote an article for Columbia Paper about Eric Galloway's vast real estate holdings in Hudson. The title was inspired by something that Tom Swope, executive director for Galloway's not-for-profit Galvan Initiatives Foundation, said of his boss in the interview with Mayer: "He 'collects' Hudson." (Galloway himself declined to be interviewed for the article.) Now it seems that Galloway not only wants to collect Hudson but also to rearrange it.

In May, the Galvan Initiatives Foundation announced its intention to move two historic houses in Hudson. One of them was the Robert Taylor House, considered by some to be the oldest surviving house in Hudson, located at the head of Tanners Lane. The Historic Preservation Commission denied a certificate of appropriateness to the proposal to move the house twice: first on May 11, because the application was incomplete; and again on June 8, because the HPC determined that moving the house would have a deleterious effect on the neighborhood from which it was being moved and on the historic significance of the house itself. The original owner, Robert Taylor, was a tanner. His tannery was on the shore of South Bay, across the road from his house, which is how the road got the name "Tanners Lane."

Robert Taylor House in its original setting

Robert Taylor House is its proposed new location

Galvan is not taking no for an answer. On July 12, an inch-thick document requesting a review of the HPC's decision by the Common Council was delivered to Council President Don Moore, with a copy to HPC counsel Cheryl Roberts. On July 17, at the regular Council meeting, the request was accepted as a "communication" and copies of the hefty document were distributed to the aldermen. Gossips got a copy of it at this time as well.

Galvan requests a review of the decision on the grounds that "the Commission's determination lacks a rational basis, is erroneous, arbitrary and capricious, contrary to the public interest, inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Historic Preservation Law, and beyond the Commission's jurisdiction." It goes on to allege that the denial of a certificate of appropriateness constitutes a "taking of private property."

The document takes issue with the HPC's position that the Robert Taylor House is located in a historic district and is a locally designated historic landmark. (The latter argument is based on the fact that the designation of the house was made by the HPC before the preservation law was suspended in 2005 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.) Even if, document goes on to argue, the house were a local landmark, that status would not prohibit it from being moved because nowhere in the case made for designation is the significance of the house's location ever mentioned.

Galvan's application to the HPC for a certificate of appropriateness gives this reason for the proposed move: "To save a historic structure and put in a better location." The idea that moving the house is a prerequisite for saving it seems questionable. Since Galvan owns the house, it can be saved in its current location as well as anywhere else. To support the argument that the house needs a "better location," the application juxtaposes this Hudson River School painting, from the approximate vantage point of the Robert Taylor House (Galvan says the painting is by Arthur Parton, but it is actually the work of Henry Ary), with a photograph of the same landscape today, similar to this one taken by Gossips earlier this week.

It's interesting that Galvan chose this particular painting to illustrate what they believe to be the intended surroundings of the Robert Taylor House. If you look closely at what appears at first to be a bucolic landscape, you can see the Hudson Iron Works tucked discreetly behind the tree at the right and the railroad track, what is today the ADM spur, borne over the waters of the bay on a trestle. In actuality, the area surrounding the Robert Taylor House, even at the time Henry Ary painted the scene, probably looked more like this. (That's the Robert Taylor House in the middle distance on the right.)

When the HPC discussed this project on June 8, one of the members made the observation that, if restored in its current location, the Robert Taylor House could be a catalyst for change in that part of the Hudson. The Galvan document recalls that comment and alleges that such "a vision for future development of a neighborhood" is "not [an] appropriate basis for the Commission to exercise its power." In another place, the document accuses the HPC of acting "as if they are a super-common-council or super-planning-commission, vested with the power to halt development projects that do not comport with the members' subjective vision for the community."

This criticism of the Historic Preservation Commission and their alleged misunderstanding of their role calls to mind an incident that took place several years ago, when Tom Swope, now the executive director for the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, was the chair of the Historic Preservation Commission. It was January 2007, just days after Richard Cohen demolished a building on Warren Street near Fourth without a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC. Rick Scalera (this happened during one of the rare periods in the last two decades when he was not the mayor) appeared at the HPC meeting and demanded to know how this had happened. Among the things Swope offered, by way of explanation, was the rather extraordinary statement that the purpose of the Historic Preservation Commission was not just to save old buildings but to "shape development."

There are 61 items in the application for review from Galvan's attorney, and 61st has a rather menacing tone: "It is submitted that the Commission should have applauded and approved this project, not condemned it. In so doing, the Commission may well have condemned the Robert Taylor House to an uncertain future."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Acres Co-op Lives On

Acres Co-op Market held its annual meeting tonight. According to the announced agenda, the meeting was to be divided into two parts. In the first part, members would vote on a proposal by the Board of Directors to dissolve the co-op; the second part of the meeting was to be an open discussion of "ideas for food-oriented community and organization building." 

In actuality, the agenda got turned on its head. The members who showed up--fewer than half of the forty-nine individuals or households who had paid their $150 to buy into the co-op--were unwilling to abandon the dream of building "community through food." When the vote on the proposal was finally taken, more than an hour and a half after the meeting began, no member present voted in favor of dissolving. (Several of the board members, however, abstained from the vote.) Eight people volunteered to be part of a new board of directors, three of them--Mike Loki Anthony, Mona Coade-Wingate, and Gideon Chevoshay--from the original board. 

Although it's not entirely clear what the future holds, Acres Co-op Market lives on.

Full Disclosure: The voice of Gossips is a dues-paying member of the co-op and was present and voted at tonight's meeting.

Images of Hudson Past

The owner of the carriage house behind the Inn at Hudson, 317 Allen Street, curious to know what the fountain in the wall, only a remnant of which survives, originally looked like, discovered an article about the house in a 1910 issue of the architectural magazine Brickbuilder. Along with a picture of the fountain, the article contains rare photographs of the back of 317 Allen Street, showing the formal garden immediately behind the house, and of the carriage house, showing the rose gardens and the path leading back along the tennis court to the sundial and pergola at the southern end of the grounds. Reproduced in the article too are the original plans for the garden and grounds created in 1904 by landscape architects Townsend & Fleming and a photograph of the front of the house as it appeared in 1910--just four years after the building, designed by Marcus Reynolds for a rich young man named Morgan Jones, was completed.

Tortillaville For Sale

After making the shiny taco truck a focal point on the 300 block of Warren Street and the center of activity in the developing food truck court at 347 Warren Street, Brian Branigan says he and partner Allison Culbertson are ready to move on. They are offering Tortillaville for sale: $149,000 for just the food truck and the location; $199,000 for the food truck, the location, the name, the famous screen door, the tables and umbrellas, the website and Facebook page, recipes, training, wholesale opportunities, franchise rights--the whole megillah. Contact Branigan if you're interested in a business opportunity that puts you at the heart of things on Warren Street from May through October and gives you a four-month vacation to pursue other interests every winter. In the meantime, Branigan assures fans of Tortillaville fare that he and Culbertson aren't going anywhere until they sell the business to someone who is "right for both Tortillaville and Hudson." 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Vision for the Library

Last week, a reader told me about a library created in an abandoned Walmart in McAllen, Texas, that had received the 2012 Library Design Award from the International Interior Design Association. I shamelessly suppressed that information. As far as I am concerned, the last thing we need is for the board of the Hudson Area Library to get it into their heads that the library should move to the old Walmart building in Greenport.

Yesterday, another reader sent me the link to an article about ten other noteworthy libraries created in unused and abandoned structures, one of them a drill hall in Cape Town, South Africa. It's well known that I am opposed to moving the library from its historic building, but if it must go to the drill hall at the armory, let's make it look like this.