Saturday, August 31, 2013

More About the Pundersons

Still fascinated by the story of how this Henry Ary painting had been found, in the 1950s, in the attic of 259 Union Street, Gossips decided to learn more about the Pundersons, the family who had lived in the house at the turn of the century. 
A search on the Internet was instantly rewarded by the discovery of a biography of James M. Punderson, from Biographical Review: Columbia County, NY, published in 1894, which a modern-day Punderson had posted on in February 2002. 

James M. Punderson was born in Hudson in 1822 and educated here. When he was 15, he began a career as a "teller and cashier," which he pursued for 18 years in Rochester and Buffalo before returning to Hudson in 1855. At the time the biography was published, in 1894, Punderson was a prominent coal dealer in Hudson and lived at 259 Union Street with his wife, Mary, and two of their five children: an unmarried son, Russell, and a daughter, Louise, "still a a young lady at home." Eighteen years later, in 1912, Punderson it seems had passed on, but his wife, Mrs. James M. Punderson, still lived at 259 Union Street with her still unmarried children, Russell and Louise.

This comment about the Pundersons, from the biography written in 1894, when James would have been 72, suggests that they may have been the sort of couple who, in their younger years, had acquired a painting by a local artist: "Mrs. James M. Punderson is a very pleasant and amiable lady, who time has touched very gently, she and her husband being a very active and intelligent couple, in the fullest enjoyment of life's evening after the heat and burden of the day."

The 1894 biography of James M. Punderson contains a fair amount of genealogical information. What may be most interesting to Hudsonians is who their maternal grandparents were. James M. Punderson's mother was the daughter (one of four) of Dr. John Talman and Heroine Jenkins, who were married in 1785 and were among the first settlers of Hudson. Mary Mellen Punderson's mother, born in 1795, was the daughter of Robert Taylor, who "came from Newport, R.I., among the earliest settlers, and destined to become a prominent mfr. as well as a foremost citizen." Although the house of his granddaughter and her husband was demolished decades ago, Robert Taylor's house survives at the head of Tanners Lane.

Historic photo of the Robert Taylor House courtesy Historic Hudson

Why Would Someone Do This?

By now, everyone has probably heard this awful story. The Register-Star first reported it yesterday afternoon. All the Albany TV stations reported it on the news last night and this morning--Channel 6, Channel 10, and Channel 13.

Police discovered this dog, said to be a pit bull/boxer mix, tied to the inside of the fence bordering the Holcim dock down at the waterfront, shortly after midnight on Friday morning. The dog had been starved and then apparently left to die--tied where it was unlikely to be easily spotted and rescued.

The dog is now at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society and is expected to recover from the ordeal, but the police want to find the person responsible. The TV news coverage provides many more pictures of the dog, and there are pictures posted at the Hudson police station in the 400 block of Warren Street. If you recognize this dog and know its owner, please let the police know. You can submit the information anonymously at (518) 828-3388 or on the detectives' tip line at (518) 828-9900 or online by clicking here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Scenic Hudson Acquires 173 Acres on South Bay Creek

In its continuing campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most, Scenic Hudson has acquired 173 scenic and ecologically significant acres along the main channel of South Bay Creek, which flows into the Hudson River through South Bay. A portion of the newly acquired property is in the Olana viewshed. 

The map below shows the location of the 173 acres--in Greenport, just west of Route 9. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) Scenic Hudson's announcement of the acquisition can be read here.

The "Disassembly" Continues

As the days pass, it gets harder and harder to see how what's happening to 900 Columbia Street is anything other than demolition. This is what the house looks like today.

Alongside the house, there is now a big pile of bricks, suggesting that part of the south wall either fell down or was pushed, but in the empty window frame above the door, the flag is still there. God bless America.


Another Image of the Armory

The three post card images of the Hudson Armory that Gossips published on Wednesday inspired Chad Weckler to send another post card image. This one includes glimpses of the buildings to the north and west of the armory. 

Weckler informed Gossips that this post card and others are available for sale at culture+commerce project, 428 Warren Street.

The Bomb-Sniffing Dog Has Legs

Two weeks ago, when grant consultant John "Duke" Duchessi told the Common Council Economic Development Committee that he was working on a grant application to get a bomb-sniffing dog for the Hudson Police Department, it seemed like a bad idea induced by Homeland Security paranoia and the lure of free federal money. John Mason reports in today's Register-Star that, on Monday, HPD chief L. Edward Moore pitched the same idea to the Police Committee: "City looks to get bomb-sniffing dog." It was reported that, in making the case for a bomb-sniffing dog, Moore stressed "the ability of canines to break down barriers in the community," suggesting that "people like to interact with dogs."

The totally unscientific, anecdotal evidence of someone who has walked a big dog in Hudson for the past fourteen years suggests otherwise. Back in the day when the HPD had a K-9 unit, it was not uncommon to encounter kids--and adults--who reacted to a large dog with irrational, hysterical terror. When the K-9 unit was eliminated in 2007, those kinds of encounters tapered off and now rarely happen. Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Maybe . . . or maybe not.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Your Chance to Learn Chess

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, a chess problem is a guiding narrative structure of the plot. In an episode of The West Wing, the intricate chess games that President Jed Bartlet plays with Sam and Toby mirror the subtle diplomatic game he is playing with the Chinese government. Chess is a game of intellect and sophistication, and those who fancy themselves intellectual and sophisticated really should know how to play the game. 

If your life achievements thus far do not include chess mastery, fear not. There is an opportunity to correct that. Tonight, at the Hudson Opera House, Chris Chanin will conduct a one-session introductory chess workshop just for adults, and it is free. The workshop begins at 7 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. There is still time to register by calling (518) 822-1438 or sending an email.

Repaving the Way

Fall is nearly upon us--time for the annual CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) repaving project in Hudson. At the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday, DPW superintendent Rob Perry announced the streets that will be milled and paved in 2013.

First Street, from Union to Columbia
Third Street, from Warren to Columbia
City Hall Place, from Warren to Union
Fifth Street, from State to Warren
East Allen Street, from South Fifth to East Court
Sixth Street, from Union to State
McKinstry Place, from Columbia to Green
Paddock Place, from Oakwood to Paddock
Oakwood Boulevard., from Paddock to Parkwood
Seventh Street, from Warren to Union

The project is expected to start soon after September 6 and be completed by November 1. No further information about scheduling is available at this time. 

Mysterious Presence on the Waterfront

This morning, a reader sent Gossips this picture of a strangely equipped barge tied up in one of the slips at riverfront park.

Curious, Gossips consulted DPW superintendent Rob Perry, who explained that it was there "taking samples of the river bottom in preparation for the 2014 remediation." 

This is the project we learned about back in February 2012--the underwater remediation of the coal tar that lingers from the 19th-century Hudson Gasification Works. Phase 1--the upland remediation--was done in 2004. Phase 2 was expected to start this fall, but it seems from Perry's comment that it has been postponed until next year.
Photo credits: Robert Mechling and Peter Jung

It's Only (Tax) Money

After many fits and starts and feasibility studies and spending $1.5 million for the old Ockawamick School, a building no one wanted, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors finally decided, in May 2012, to buy 25 Railroad Avenue, the building that the county had been leasing for twenty years for the Department of Social Services. The price was $1.288 million, 29 percent more than the price allegedly offered to the City of Hudson a year or so earlier, and there was never an explanation of why the county had to pay more.

Now we learn that Paul Mossman, commissioner for social services, wants to spend another $3 to $5 million to "upgrade the building and expand the parking lot." The parking lot expansion alone is expected to cost almost half a million dollars. Nathan Mayberg has the whole story in today's Register-Star: "DSS chief backs $3 to $5 million upgrade project."

Not "The Bridge" but Something

John Mason reports in today's Register-Star that the legislation enabling a school to open at 364 Warren Street is expected to reach Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk on Tuesday, one day before the school year begins: "Report: Cuomo to sign alt. ed. school into law." Of course, it's not going to be the program originally planned. The school, in the heart of Hudson's commercial district, will exist to educate twelve special education students who had previously been bused as day students to Berkshire Union Free School.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Disassembling of 900 Columbia Street

Gossips missed a day in documenting the "disassembling" (some might call it the demolition) of 900 Columbia Street, but here is how the building looked at about 7 p.m. today.

That little American flag stuck in the window opening over the front door is such a nice touch. It should make us all feel proud.


Learning of an Amazing Discovery

In July, Gossips reported that Peter Jung had been commissioned to sell this a little-known painting by Henry Ary, dated 1854, showing Promenade Hill and the views beyond.

By a happy coincidence, Gossips learned today some intriguing information about the provenance of this painting. It was discovered, in the 1950s, right here in Hudson, in the attic of this house, 259 Union Street, which once stood on the southwest corner of Union and Third streets.

The painting had been left in the attic by previous owners of the house, but the identity of the owners who relegated the Ary to the attic and left it there when they moved on is not known. The family who discovered the Ary in the attic knew their house as the "Punderson house." (At that time in Hudson, all houses seem to have had names.) According to the Hudson city directory for 1912, Mrs. James M. Punderson lived at 259 Union Street, and Russell M. and Louise Punderson were boarders at that address. Hudson River School paintings were considered outdated by the end of the 19th century, so the Pundersons may well have been the ones who consigned the Ary to the attic in favor of something more fashionable and then forgot about it. One wonders what else was in that attic.

Armory on My Mind

Recently, a reader shared these remarkable post card images of the Hudson Armory with Gossips, which I had never seen before. The first is undated, but it includes one of the "fountain head pumps" that were once located throughout the city, so it would seem this is the earliest of the three, probably showing the armory soon after it was completed in 1898. The other two post cards are dated 1911 and 1917 respectively.

The State of Historic Preservation in Hudson

There was a time, a year or so ago, when Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) launched regular assaults, during Common Council meetings, on the historic preservation law and the Historic Preservation Commission for their alleged interference with projects perceived by Pierro to represent progress and development. The complaints about the obstructionist nature of historic preservation were usually related to Galvan Partners/Foundation projects, and it was easy to suspect Pierro's long-time political crony Rick Scalera, special adviser to the Galvan Foundation, was behind them.

Lately, Pierro seems to have eased up on historic preservation, taking up instead the need to sell at auction the former Dunn warehouse and the vacant lot at Fourth and State, but life for the Historic Preservation Commission hasn't become any easier. On August 9, the plans for another Galvan project, the conversion of the Hudson Armory into the Galvan Community Learning Center, came before the Historic Preservation Commission. HPC chair Rick Rector called it "the most major thing we have dealt with," and although the project was granted a certificate of appropriateness, not everyone on the HPC was happy with the decision.

When the HPC considered the proposal for the Armory on August 9, the vote to proceed with granting a certificate of appropriateness was four to one, with only Tony Thompson opposed to the action, saying that "adding two historic styles to the building turns it into a mongrel." (On August 9, Jack Alvarez recused himself, and Scott Baldinger was absent.) This past Friday, when the HPC took its official vote approving the certificate of appropriateness, only three members voted yes (Rector, David Voorhees, and Phil Forman) and two voted no (Thompson was joined by Baldinger, who had been absent at the previous meeting).

After the vote was taken, Thompson, who tends to stress the importance of differentiation beyond what some feel is recommended in the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines, enumerated all the problems he saw with the design for the new addition proposed--"same materials, same roof height, same roof material"--and said that he had problems with the interpretation of the law. He wanted to know, in particular, the difference in meaning among the terms similarity, appropriateness, and compatibility.

Baldinger took Thompson's comments as an opportunity to share his own objections to the design, which focused on the Greek Revival portico planned for what will be the entrance to the Hudson Area Library on State Street. Baldinger said there was a handsome keystone at that entrance now, which would be covered up by the proposed portico. He suggested all that was needed were new doors and "some kind of canopy" and expressed the opinion that the proposed portico was "not in the spirit of the building."

Forman, who had voted both times in favor of granting a certificate of appropriateness, mused about "very large projects with a lot of momentum" and the "enormous pressure to move forward." He alluded to the number of library board members who had turned out for the meeting. When Rector reminded Forman that the HPC had decided not to do a workshop on the project and to waive a public hearing, Forman conceded, "If I didn't perceive some kind of pressure, I would have wanted to have a workshop."

Some months ago, Scalera asked at an HPC meeting why workshop sessions could not take place before an application for a certificate of appropriateness was presented, implying that when a workshop happened after an application was submitted, it held things up and interfered with the construction schedule for a project. He had the Armory project in mind when he asked the question, and he was told the there was no reason why an applicant couldn't seek input from the HPA before submitting a formal application. Despite this, the Armory design was never presented to the HPC until August, when a certificate of appropriateness was needed if the project were to proceed on schedule, although a version of it had been presented to the public as early as December 2012.

The opinion that historic preservation discourages development permeates City Hall and beyond--originating with Scalera, voiced by Pierro and parroted by the other Fifth Ward alderman Bob "Doc" Donahue, shared by the current mayor, and even echoed by Tom Swope, former chair of the HPC, when, as an applicant before the commission on Friday, he asked the rhetorical question, "Does this law stand in the way of progress?" The pressure to prove this is not the case often seems to compel Rector to gallop the commission through the review process. Although the law (Chapter 169-7.C) gives the HPC sixty days to render a decision on an accepted application, in practice they seem hellbent on doing it in under sixty minutes.

In May 2012, following the guidance of city attorney and HPC counsel Cheryl Roberts, the commission initiated the practice of meeting twice a month. Two meetings a month would seem to give applicants more opportunities to present projects to the HPC and give the HPC more time to deliberate, to do research, to seek expert advice, to arrive at informed and well thought out decisions. In fact, that is not the case. As the meetings are now structured and rigorously adhered to at the apparent insistence of Roberts, the practice only adds to the waiting time for the applicant.

At the first meeting of the month, the HPC considers applications for certificates of appropriateness. They decide at that meeting if they want Roberts to draft a decision approving or denying a COA. Roberts takes two weeks to write a paragraph explaining what has been approved or why it was denied, and at their second meeting of the month, with these documents before them, the HPC votes officially to approve or deny. It would seem that, instead of making an applicant wait two weeks for the documentary evidence that a project has been approved, it would be better, particularly in the case of "major projects" like the Armory, if the HPC took those two weeks to consider the proposal before them.

There is more bad news for the beleaguered HPC. After last Friday's meeting, Baldinger resigned. Although he had not been present at the meeting on August 9 when the Armory project was presented and discussed, Baldinger was permitted to vote on the COA on August 23. But when he expressed his criticism of the portico proposed for the library entrance, he was told by Rector that it was inappropriate for him to rehash the discussion, of which he hadn't been a part, after the decision had already been made. After the meeting, Baldinger and Rector had words, but Baldinger told Gossips that his difference of opinion with Rector was not the reason for his resignation. Rather the demands of his work (Baldinger is the editor of Rural Intelligence) made it increasingly difficult to carve out the time required for the HPC, and he had been thinking about resigning for some time.

Baldinger was appointed to the HPC by Mayor William Hallenbeck in February 2012. In May 2012, Hallenbeck appointed Peggy Polenberg.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Arcade Rising

It's been months since any work has been done on the "Hudson Arcade" project, located on Warren Street near Fifth, but early this morning materials and equipment were delivered to the site, and by noon, the framework for the two-story extension had been erected.

In July, the Planning Commission modified the site plan that had been approved when Filli's Market was to be the tenant, to allow deliveries from Cherry Alley during the hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The tenants being courted at the time planned to establish a food market in the building, but instead of using the second floor for residential space, as was originally proposed, they wanted to use it for office space and additional retail space.


The Woes of 405 Warren Street

The problems surrounding 405 Warren Street continue. The City's title to the property it foreclosed on for nonpayment of taxes is still being contested in court. Galvan Partners, the high bidder in the tax foreclosure auction, walked away from the deal citing title issues as the reason. It has been discovered that the building's boiler is in a hazardous state, and it has been disconnected. Today, well in advance of the heating season, the last tenants remaining in the building are being evicted. John Mason has the whole story in today's Register-Star: "City to oust 405 Warren Street tenants today."

Suspension Bridge

The school year begins next week, and the problems of "The Bridge" have yet to be solved. Arthur Cusano reports on Monday night's school board meeting in today's Register-Star: "Hudson alt. ed. program in state's hands." 

Monday, August 26, 2013

What They Said

When it was discovered last Wednesday that the two-hundred-year-old house at 900 Columbia Street was being "disassembled" to be "reassembled" at 215 Union Street, Gossips was curious to know exactly what Galvan Partners said they were going to do in order to persuade the Historic Preservation Commission to grant a certificate of appropriateness. A FOIL request for the original application, the certificate of appropriateness, and all supporting documents was fulfilled this afternoon.

The original application, submitted on May 3, 2012, by Tom Swope, for Galvan Partners LLC, described what was being proposed in this way: "To move a historic house at 900 Columbia, that is in [sic] planned to be demolished to an empty lot we own at 215 Union St." The application continues: 
Scope of Work:  Put the old house on a new foundation.
Reason for Work:  To save a historic structure that otherwise would be torn down
Architect/Engineer (If Applicable):  John O'Connell
Contractor (If Applicable):  Wolfe House Movers
Construction Schedule:  Dependent upon the current owners building their new facility.
In the photo gallery on the Wolfe House Movers website includes this picture of a substantial brick house, with a gambrel roof, being moved, portico, balcony, and all, in nearby Schenectady.

Documentation that accompanied the original application provides further evidence that what was presented to the HPC and what was granted a certificate of appropriateness on May 11, 2012, was a proposal to move the house: "900 Columbia Street is a historic house on the outskirts of modern Hudson, that we would like to move into the heart of historic Hudson. The house was built most, we believe, in the 1830's [research by Walter Ritchie has since determined that the house was built between 1810 and 1815], and had a side extension, and a rear extension added at a later date. We intend to take off those extensions, and move only the central original core of the house which was a classic center hall, four over four room configuration."

An email sent by Swope to David Voorhees, then chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, and meant for distribution to all the members of the HPC reiterates the intention:
We have gotten a quote from Wolfe House movers, to move 900 Columbia Street to an empty lot we own at 215 Union Street, see the digital rendering of what that would be like.
Our plan is [to] move the central original early core of the house, which was a grand 4 over 4 center hall house, with much original detail preserved, onto a new foundation. At this time we're not asking for permission to do anything more than that, when it comes time to restoring the house, we'll come back before the commission for a COA. For example, we'll want to change the door from the early 20th Century door there now, to a more appropriate Greek Revival door system.
This is the rendering referred to in Swope's email.

So now we have the house that was supposed to be moved pretty much intact with "much original detail preserved" being "disassembled" with the intention of "reassembling" it on Union Street. Looking at the house today, it is clear that it has been stripped of any surviving interior detail. An eyewitness reports seeing what she thought were the newel posts, balusters, and banister of the two-story staircase being hauled away, to an unknown destination. Presumably, in the fullness of time, a giant pile of two-hundred-year-old bricks will be delivered to 215 Union Street to be reassembled into resembling the historic house, but this is not what the Historic Preservation Commission was asked to review and approve. 

Sadly, the notion that "disassembling" and "reassembling" (or deconstruction and reconstruction) somehow qualifies as "moving" may be suggested in the language of the certificate of appropriateness, written by the HPC's legal counsel, Cheryl Roberts.
Pursuant to Chapter 169 of the Hudson City Code, the Commission finds that the proposed relocation of the historic structure currently located at 900 Columbia Street to an empty lot on 215 Union Street is compatible with the Union/Allen/Front Street Historic District. The structure located at 900 Columbia Street is slated for demolition. If not relocated, the structure will be lost to the community. Its relocation to 215 Union Street is compatible with the existing structures in close proximity to the relocation site. The structures surrounding 215 Union Street were built from the late in the [sic] eighteenth to early twentieth centuries and are of late Georgian to Queen Anne style. According to the applicant, the structure to be relocated was built in circa 1830 and is of early Greek Revival style. These architectural styles all appear in Hudson in close proximity to each other and are compatible.
Since 900 Columbia Street was neither individually designated or part of a historic district, the certificate of appropriateness focuses on the suitability of siting the house in a National Register and locally designated historic district. The consistent use of the term relocate rather than move, however, seems to open the door to the alternative of getting it there in little pieces rather than in as intact a condition as possible. 

Gossips has been advised by the State Historic Preservation Office that there is no official definition for move or relocate. That's probably because the preservation world prefers things to stay where they were originally sited. The location of buildings is usually an important part of their historic significance, and this certainly has turned out to be the case for 900 Columbia Street. It was one of the first houses to be built on Prospect Hill, and its original owner, Captain William Ashley, was the person who gave the hill its name, inspired by the fine prospect it afforded of the Hudson River and the mountains beyond.

This picture, taken shortly after 5 p.m. today, makes it painfully clear that the Historic Preservation Commission, in granting the certificate of appropriateness--indeed, in celebrating this proposal as a way to preserve a significant historic house--was the victim of a colossal bait and switch. Even if all the bricks are being numbered and they are reassembled exactly as they were, the mortar would be different, and the house would not be what it was. More likely, however, a new house will be constructed at 215 Union Street, perhaps with the same dimensions of the original house, and covered with a veneer of old bricks. That's not historic preservation.

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 46

Signs in front of the building announce "Sale Pending" and "Going Out of Business." It's been known for a while that Harmon was looking to retire and the building that housed Harmon's Auto Repair was for sale, but Gossips learned only today that when the sale closes next week, the new owner of the property, which extends along the west side of Third Street from Union to Partition, will be T. Eric Galloway.


Ear to the Ground

Gossips has learned that Cheryl Roberts has resigned from Rapport Meyers, the law firm she joined "Of Counsel" in April 2011. Roberts was appointed city attorney by Mayor William Hallenbeck in January 2012. She had previously been employed by the City, since 2006, as legal counsel for and author of Hudson's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. It is expected that Roberts will be moving into an office in City Hall, which is the first time in at least twenty years, possibly ever, that a city attorney has had an office in the municipal building.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In With the New, Out With the Old

Since today was Sunday, there was no work--construction or deconstruction--going on at 900 Columbia Street, so Gossips was able drive up the road that leads to the other houses that share the address 900 Columbia Street to take some pictures of the new building rising up as the historic building is coming down.


Executive Powers

One of the things being discussed in the Common Council Legal Committee is amending the process by which mass gathering permits are applied for and granted. The impetus for doing this is Mayor William Hallenbeck's decision to approve a mass gathering permit that allowed Joe Fiero of American Glory to shut down the 300 block of Warren Street on a fine Saturday in May, much to the annoyance of other business owners on the street, for an event that didn't live up to expectation.

The challenge is to amend the law so that the desire of one does not interfere with the interests of many without curtailing the power of the mayor, since a referendum is required when an action by the legislature changes the executive's power.

Soon after the July Legal Committee meeting at which amending the process was discussed, Gossips discovered, while searching the Common Council minutes for clues about what happened to the Hudson-Fulton fountain, that a similar situation had occurred a hundred years ago. The following excerpt is from the minutes for January 26, 1911:
Alderman McAree inquired as to whether the Mayor had given permission to representatives of the Italian Church to discharge fireworks recently, and Alderman Finigan inquired as to whether the Mayor was liable in case of an accident resulting from his granting such permission.
The Recorder read Ordinance No. 36 in relation to the subject.
Alderman McAree then moved that the Finance Committee be authorized and directed to amend Ordinance No. 36, so as to curtail the discretion given to the Mayor.
Alderman Finigan suggested that if the Mayor was to be given such discretion he should be required to give a bond in order to indemnify the city.
The motion of Alderman McAree was adopted.
A hundred years ago, the Common Council seemed to have no constraints when it came to curtailing the executive's powers. The minutes for March 2, 1911, reveal the reason why the Common Council wanted to hold the mayor responsible for his decisions.
A claim of Basil Halloran for $15,000 damages, for alleged injuries received by an explosion of a piece of fireworks which he picked up in an alley north of Robinson St. was read, received and placed on file.
The piece of fireworks that injured Halloran was no doubt from the fireworks discharged by the "Italian Church." According to the 1912 Hudson city directory, St. Maria Del Monte Carmelo was located at "Market Place," North Front Street near Diamond Street.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Where Did the People Go?

When the new building being constructed at 900 Columbia Street was first proposed in February 2011, it was explained to the Planning Commission that the ten residents of the group home operated there by the Mental Health Association would remain in the historic building until the new facility was completed. When they had been moved to the new facility, the historic house would be demolished to make way for a parking lot.

The timetable changed in June 2013, when the Galvan Foundation requested an extension on their certificate of appropriateness to move the building. According to a letter sent to the Historic Preservation Commission by Walter Ritchie, at the behest of the Galvan Foundation, the historic house could not be moved until the ten residents of the group home had been relocated, but they would be out of the building by the end of July 2013.

Today, as the historic building is being "disassembled," the new building is rising behind it. But what happened to the ten people that made up the group home at 900 Columbia Street?

When Gossips spoke with Daniel Kent, executive director for the Galvan Foundation, on Wednesday, he confirmed that they had been moved out, on schedule, at the end of July. When asked where they had gone, he first said he didn't know and then said the question should be directed to the Mental Health Association.

Weeks ago, it was rumored that the residents of the MHA group home would be moved to 67-71 North Fifth Street, a property owned and recently reconstructed by the Galvan Foundation. Evidence now suggests that those rumors may have been true.

Although the exterior of the building remains only partially painted, there are curtains, which are always drawn, at all of the windows, and neighbors report seeing furniture being delivered to all three units at the same time by the same truck. The new residents rarely appear in front of the building but seem to congregate, according to reports, under a canopy tent in the backyard.

If the residents of the MHA group home have, in fact, been relocated to 67-71 North Fifth Street, this raises some questions. The building, now a triple house as it had been historically, is located in an area that is zoned R-2. According to Hudson code (Chapter 325-8 B and 325-7 B), "Hospitals, sanitariums, philanthropic or eleemosynary institutions and convalescent or nursing homes or homes for the aged" are a conditional use in an R-2 District, subject to the approval of the Planning Commission, provided that "such hospital, institution or home does not primarily care for patients suffering from alcoholism and is not a transitional service facility."

When advocates for the preservation of 900 Columbia Street tried to persuade the Mental Health Association to sell the historic house and locate elsewhere, MHA maintained that the constraints of Hudson's zoning made this impossible. If it is now true that MHA has relocated its clients to this Galvan-owned property in an R-2 District, they seem to have found a way to skirt the city's zoning laws.

Hudson in the New York Times

Stockholm, which is having its American premiere at Stageworks/Hudson, got a rave review from Ben Brantley in yesterday's New York Times: "Dancing Erotically with Knives." 

It's still possible to see the performance, today at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., tomorrow at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m., and next week Wednesday through Sunday. Visit the website or call (518) 822-9667 for tickets.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Bridge Too Far?

Rumor has it that the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy, a.k.a. "The Bridge," to be situated at 364 Warren Street, has encountered some unanticipated problems. Lynn Sloneker has the story on her blog, Unmuffled: "Rumor Patrol: Has the Bridge collapsed?"

"Disassembling" a Landmark: Day 3

This is what the historic house at 900 Columbia Street looked like today at about 4:30 p.m.

Not to Be Missed

Sam Pratt has an account on his blog of a conversation with Ken Flood, commissioner for planning and economic development for Columbia County: "Ken's convo with Kevin." A sample of what Flood said: "Restaurants in Hudson and Chatham . . . don't provide good jobs except for the owners."

Claverack Bridge Is Coming Back

The Register-Star reports today that the bridge on Route 23B over Claverack Creek is expected to reopen, on schedule, for Labor Day weekend: "Claverack bridge to reopen next week." 

The article talks about pieces of wood from a platform under the bridge seen floating in the creek and quotes Department of Transportation spokesman Bryan Viggiani as saying, "Their [sic] supposed to keep the creek as clean as possible. . . . They are supposed to take precautions and get things out of there when they are done."

They took precautions about some things. A reader kayaking on Claverack Creek last Sunday spotted these life preservers hanging on either side of the bridge, presumably there lest some unfortunate worker should topple into the creek below.

Memory Lane

A reader reminded Gossips of this press release, from May 7, 2012, which can still be found on the Galvan Foundation website.
HUDSON, NY May 7, 2012 -- The Foundation mission, in part, is preserving the unique architectural heritage of the City of Hudson. In accordance with our mission, the foundation proposes to move 900 Columbia Street and the Robert Taylor House to vacant lots Galvan already owns.
900 Columbia Street is currently a group home run by the Mental Health Association of Columbia Greene Counties. They are in need of a new housing facility, which they plan to build on the lot behind 900 Columbia, and then raze the house to make room for parking. They have generously offered to transfer the building at no cost to anyone who would move it. The site selected for the house is located at 215 Union Street, Hudson, NY.
The Robert Taylor House, located at 68 South 2nd Street, has been vacant for many years. On its current site the house is somewhat lost, and looks out over warehouses, when originally it looked out over the South Bay towards Mt. Merino, the river and the Catskills beyond. The site selected for the Taylor house is 21 Union Street, Hudson NY.
These moves require cooperation and assistance from the several City agencies as well as residents. For example, we must provide the movers with a clear path, including temporarily adjusting electrical lines and street lights.  We also have to trim any tree branches that might impede the move, and no parking on the streets along the route will be possible on the day of the move. Traffic will also have to be rerouted for the move. The Foundation is hopeful that in the interest of preserving these two important historic houses that all interested parties will provide the cooperation necessary to make these moves possible
On May 11, 2012, the Historic Preservation Commission denied a certificate of appropriateness to the proposal to move the Robert Taylor House but granted a certificate of appropriateness to move 900 Columbia Street. The press release makes it pretty clear that what was being proposed at the time, and, more importantly, what the HPC deemed appropriate, was to move the house not to "disassemble" it and "reassessible" it, which is what is actually happening.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Disassembling" a Landmark: Day 2

This is what the historic house at 900 Columbia Street looked like at about 7:30 p.m. today.

Hudson in the Movies

In the summer of 2011, a movie called Love Orchard, starring Bruce Dern and Columbia County's own Kristanna Loken, who grew up on Love Apple Farm in Ghent, was filmed here in Hudson, at the Columbia County courthouse. The film was shown last year at the Chatham Film Festival, but, recently renamed Fighting for Freedom, it will have its theatrical release next month, on September 13, opening in two theaters--on the West Coast, at the Laemmle Theatre in North Hollywood, and on the East Coast, at Fairview Cinema 3, just across the border in Greenport.

When she was growing up here in Columbia County, Loken and her family were regulars at Fairview Cinema 3. Now, with an established film career and her own production company, Loken wants to help the movie house of her childhood survive.  

As reported on Gossips previously, the major studios have announced that, starting in 2014, all movies will be distributed in digital format. To stay in business, Bruce Mitchinson, owner of Fairview Cinema 3, needs to equip all three theaters at Fairview Cinema 3 with DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) compliant projectors and sound systems. He purchased new digital equipment for one of the theaters last year, but to remain profitable, he needs digital projectors in the other two theaters as well. 

To benefit Fairview Cinema 3 and help Mitchinson get the digital projectors he needs, Loken and her father, writer Chris Loken, who wrote the screenplay for the film, have arranged for the East Coast premiere of Fighting for Freedom to take place at Fairview Cinema 3. Mark your calendars (yes, it's Friday the 13th, but who's superstitious?) and look for more information about the event on Gossips as it becomes available.

The image of Kristanna Loken in the courtroom of the Columbia County courthouse is a screen capture from the movie trailer.