Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Last Night's Council Business

The Common Council meeting last night ran for two hours, and in that time a lot happened. Gossips will cover the most significant actions taken by our legislative body.

Ferry Street Bridge  The resolution authorizing the mayor to seek the transfer of easements for the bridge from CSX to the City and to pursue a STEP [Strategic Transportation Enhancements Program] grant to demolish the historic bridge and install a new one passed with only two aldermen voting against it: David Marston (First Ward) and Chris Wagoner (Third Ward).
The Weighted Vote  On the issue of the weighted vote, there were two resolutions: one which adopted Plan 433642 for the simple majority; the other which adopted Plan 433626. In the discussion that preceded the vote, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) reminded his fellow aldermen of the oath they all had taken to uphold the Constitution and made the point, as he had before, the Plan 433626 came closest to the constitutional norm of one person–one vote. Alderman Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward) asked of Friedman why, in 2000, when the Third Ward aldermen had a strong weighted vote because the prison population was counted in that ward, the Constitution was never invoked and the word democracy never mentioned. Friedman answered simply that he wasn't here in 2000.
Council president Moore made the statement that "insofar as the Fourth Ward is smallest, having both aldermen have same number of votes is preferrable." (In Plan 433626, one Fourth Ward aldermen would have 95 votes, the other 94.) He also mentioned the possibility of a charter review commission which could be tasked with considering charter change to amend the current imbalance of election districts.
For reasons that were not entirely clear of this observer, voting on the issue of the weighted vote required a letter of necessity from the mayor, which city attorney Cheryl Roberts and the mayor left the chamber to compose.. It also required a two-thirds majority. When the vote was finally taken, the resolution to adopt Plan 433642 came first. Alderman Nick Hadded (First Ward), Marston, Friedman, and Wagoner voted no; Moore and all the other aldermen (Abdus Miah and Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), Sheila Ramsey and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), Donahue and Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) voted aye. A two-thirds majority required 1,003 affirmative votes; there were 1,300. 
This chart shows the new breakdown of the weighted vote.
The Senior Center  Architect Jane Smith of Spacesmith and engineer David Crawford of Crawford & Associates were present at the meeting to talk about the proposed senior center and the bids that came in far in excess of the $780,000 that was budgeted for the building. Enumerating some of the things that might be altered or eliminated from the original design--the wood floor, the clerestory windows--Smith assured the Council that she was "reasonably sure that we can deliver this building for $1,080,000."
An apparent surprise for Moore last night was that the $83,570 in design fees, which presumably were part of the original $780,000 budget, are not included in the new $1,080,000 budget, which means that, even with the $300,000 offered by the Galvan Foundation, funding for the project is still $83,570 short.
Marston expressed concern about "materials, means, and methods," commenting that the changes required to reduce the cost might "change the very nature of the building." Haddad wanted to know why the architect and engineer hadn't delivered a building that was within the City's budget and suggested that the concept was overpriced. While Pierro urged that "we go back out to bid" as quickly as possible, Pertilla and Wagoner wanted assurances that the money from various sources, in particular the $400,000 Community Development Block Grant, was still in place.
Mayor William Hallenbeck, from the audience, weighed in with his opinion that "the project has not changed financially for the City," stating that he was "not willing to throw this project in the dump and go look for something else." He shared his conviction that the City is getting a million-dollar building for only $130,000. 
Friedman explained that he had supported the proposal before it became known that St. Mary's Academy was available. He called the possible acquisition of St. Mary's "an opportunity for us to do something stunning" and expressed that opinion that he didn't understand "why anyone [meaning the current sources of grant funding] wouldn't want to contribute to a better project."
Although concerns remained about the terms of the Galvan Foundation's offer of $300,000 and the resolution before them assumed that the design fees were part of the $1,080,000, the Council proceeded to vote on the resolution authorizing the mayor to accept funds from the Office of Community Renewal ($400,000), Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency ($100,000), Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation ($150,000), and the Galvan Foundation ($300,000) for the development of the senior center. Friedman, Marston, and Haddad voted no; all the others voted aye, and the resolution passed.
Ban on Fracking Waste  There were two documents before the Council having to do with hydraulic fracturing and the waste from such activity. The first was a resolution declaring that such a ban would have no negative environmental impacts and directing the city attorney "to seek a referral for this proposed action from the Columbia County Planning Board and City of Hudson Planning Commission"; the second was the proposed law itself.
In December, the ban was proposed and defeated, for what many believe were purely political reasons. Last night, the only objections came from Hudson resident Cheryl Stuart who believed that the fines for violating the fracking ban, which had been increased from $250 a day to $2,500 a day, were still not enough and suggested that they should be $25,000 a day.
In the discussion of the proposed law and its efficacy to protect the health and safety of the people of Hudson, Friedman made the point that the real threat to Hudson from fracking was in the Town of Taghkanic, which is the source of our water. "If they use fracking waste on their roads, it's going to migrate into our water supply," said Friedman. Of the proposed local law before them, Friedman concluded, "We can only do what we can do. If we attempt to exceed our power, we will be litigated against."
The resolution passed unanimously in a roll call vote, and by a unanimous vote, the proposed law was placed on the aldermen's desks.


  1. Taghkanic passed an 18-month fracking moratorium:

  2. Re the Senior Center: Was this a plan that ever went by the HPC? See "New Exterior Additions to Historic Buildings: Preservation Concerns" (

    According to the NPS "a new addition must preserve the historic building’s form/envelope, significant materials and features; must be compatible with the historic building’s massing, size, scale, and architectural features; and must be differentiated from the historic building to preserve its character." Does the new addition meet this standard?

    1. It did, and Gossips covered it:

    2. I went to the article from April and this jumped out at me:

      "Roberts informed the HPC that when the project was in its final design stage, it would not be coming back before them for a certificate of appropriateness because this was a City project and hence a certificate of appropriateness was not required."

      Interesting. I've studied chapter 169 quite a bit, and I don't recall the part where the City is exempt from obtaining a C of A. That doesn't mean it isn't in there, I just don't recall seeing it. Forget the Ferry Street Bridge if that's the case.

      So, if the City wanted, they could re-face City Hall with lime green aluminum siding because they're exempt. If they owned 400 State Street, where the library is, they could simply demo the wings and apply artificial stucco to the exterior, because they're exempt. If they thought the land the old Dunn warehouse sits on was worth more without the building, they could level it. Because they're exempt.

      Why did the project even go before the HPC if a C of A isn't needed? Is there a reason why they don't need to follow the same rules as everyone else? Are there other laws in the City code that they're exempt from?

      Perhaps a topic best discussed in executive session.

  3. 1. Although we are apparently ignorant of the structure's condition, the city hopes to acquire a bit of history at the waterfront so that it can tear it down. And we will tear it down simply because the grant money will become available to do so. (And from Hudson's historic community we hear barely a peep.)

    2. Meanwhile we're locked into a network of grants that keep good money chasing bad at a Senior Center which we cannot relocate to a more appropriate and available building. Once politicians get tangled up in a grant addiction, a momentum is established that's hard to kick (cf. STEP grant for bridge, above).

    3. As Gossips pointed out last Tuesday, Alderman Pierro, who represents the city's grotesquely disproportionate 5th Ward, favored the weighted vote model #433642 "because it is, as he explained it, 'the plan we use now.'"

    Despite claims to the contrary, Hudson residents may keep the weighted vote system and still opt to redistrict the city by referendum. The only choice as I see it is whether to split the huge 5th Ward into two - thereby adding a 6th Ward to the city - or whether to cleave against all sense and reason to the status quo ante, "the plan we use now."

    If nothing else, a direct vote by referendum might be a healthy exercise in circumventing Hudson's increasingly secretive political process.

    1. How does the referendum process begin. The sooner the better. This voting system just can not stand,as is.
      Nothing can ever change.Hudson has to be redistricted,if after all this time...this is what this handful of people in office can come up with and accept it?
      The 5th Ward is unbeatable. ,plus they control the 4th and the 2nd.,. The 5th ward ,who has all the votes,where the Mayor lives, 5th Ward County Supervisor and Galvan employee and decades old former Mayor,Scalera Where the Councilmen ET AL are from generations of Hudson Politicos..from Hudson's very pretty much nefarious past.Where the Code enforcement of one lives. goes on. and their non existent ,engineering,construction "City" Unit ,their real-estate accessors and brokers and they just continue to call all the shots here.,year after decade, from an area that should be Greenport.
      If we can not have a 6th ward. Than redistrict it all up equally. Stop this ghettoizing of the Wards as they stand.
      1784 was quite along time ago.
      Representatives need to represent all types of citizens, not just separated socio-economically divided stigmas good or bad to any one special interest WARD.

      While other Wards, with so few votes, have no chance what so ever to help the collective good.
      How can the fate of our city be in the few hands of so many proven incompetents ,be it through apathy , ignorance arrogance, guile., or all of the aforementioned..These elusive Quasi"City" Corporations that run. Hudson..That seem part and parcel of this mess.The conflict of interests in Council alone ,is astonishing.

      But there is rarely any public outcry,until they have to move their car or something the "City" does or doesn't do,that.actually affects them personally,be it their business or home...until then..just live and let live...and pay your school,property taxes and your water bill and garbage bags..

      The damage that Council and its appointed staff are perpetrating will far outlive anyones memory of their names,except perhaps for the more egregious damage that some individuals have caused and are causing. So much is irreversible,their names may linger into the futures memories.Go ask Muhheakantuck ,South or North Bay.

      So do we get this referendum started,to have Hudson redistricted?

    2. In the interest of accuracy: Mayor Hallenbeck lives in the Third Ward. We represented the Third Ward as a county supervisor before becoming mayor.

    3. Thank you. My mistake. So does President Common Council Moore. Their votes are separate than that of the 3rd Ward.
      I'm more interested in how does a referendum get started.

  4. That charter revision commission can't happen soon enough. With the weighted vote as proposed, Hudson is effectively going to be governed by the 5th Ward, much of which might as well be part of Greenport. Oy....

  5. How strange that most of the city's waterfront issues occur in the 1st Ward, that the 1st Ward shares the least ability to influence outcomes of council votes, and that waterfront issues are generally decided against the wishes of 1st Ward aldermen.

  6. For the record, yes, it was surprised, and not a welcome one, when faced with the assertion during the Council meeting that the architect and engineer fees of $83,570 were in addition to the total project cost of $1,080,000 allowed by the Resolution. So everyone is aware, both the Resolution and the revised contract signed by the architect and engineer yesterday make it emphatically clear that the fees are part of and not in addition to the total project cost.


  7. David and Chris - Thank You for your understanding and vision and strength of conviction for voting against demolition of our historic Ferry Street Bridge.

    At least you two get it !