Monday, December 16, 2013

Re-Envisioning Hudson

Imagine a Hudson that generates its own renewable energy, has a dog park, an art museum, a food market, a community garden, a cable car, its own High Line, and a statue of Henry Hudson on the bluff but no historic architecture and no City Hall. Welcome to Hudson #2!

Hudson #2 is the cardboard dream city, created, with the guidance and inspiration of Sara Kendall, by a dozen children learning together at Kite's Nest, and it was on display Sunday afternoon at the Kite's Nest Fall Expo. It was constructed on the actual grid of Hudson, incorporating the part of the city from Allen to State streets and from Fifth Street down to Front Street and the river.

To conceptualize their ideal city, the kids formed themselves into a planning board and spent long hours discussing the elements required for an ideal city. There was persistent debate about whether or not Hudson #2 should have a chocolate fountain, and in the end, the planners decided against it. During the course of planning, the kids went out on the street to solicit ideas from Hudson residents about what should be in their dream city. A few of them went with Kendall to the HCDPA meeting on November 7, when Hudson Urban Gardens (HUG) and Habitat for Humanity presented their proposals for the lots at the corner of Columbia and Second streets. (The kids' reaction to meeting? Adults should probably adopt the practice of using a "speaking stick" to designate the person who has the floor, the way they did in their planning board meetings.)

Hudson #2 has many features that merit our attention and should probably be considered by city officials making planning decisions for the real Hudson. Among them is the art museum, which May, the official guide to Hudson #2, explained didn't contain much art yet but was itself a work of art.

An intriguing aspect of the art museum is the way the kids solved the problem of parking--with floating a car park. The platform is lowered to the ground, the cars drive on, and the platform is raised up out of the way. No wasting valuable ground space with parked cars.

During the time the kids were planning their city, real Hudson was involved in making plans for a new police station, and maybe for that reason, Hudson #2 includes a police station. It's located on the south side of Allen Street at Second Street and features on its roof a combination heliport and (more futuristic than militaristic) a rocket launching pad.

Just across the street from the police station, in a cardboard building that bears a striking resemblance to the building on that site in real Hudson, is a nightclub called Stars. The photograph sadly does not show the colorful lights flashing inside this Hudson #2 hot spot.

When talking about the education center, May explained matter-of-factly that "the rectangle is an unhealthy shape for the imagination," so the center is in the shape of a star. Each of the five points is devoted to a different area of study: music, fashion, renewable energy, wilderness, and zombies.

Behind the education center is the food market, called Green Bean. Among its special features is a section devoted to food for people with braces. (Some insider information: Michelle Hughes, who is studying the feasibility of Hawthorne Valley opening a market in Hudson, really liked the name Green Bean for a market.)

Hudson #2 also features a community wilderness garden, close to the river and equipped with a seine net for fishing . . .

a walking bridge, on the north side of Hudson #2, that is reminiscent, in different ways, of both the High Line on Manhattan's West Side and the linear park the PARC Foundation is creating in real Hudson . . .

and a cable car, with a proposed Plexiglas bottom, to transport people high over the city.

In most ways, Hudson #2 is quite different from Hudson as we know it, but there is one element of the original city that the kids agreed was an important landmark that had to be retained: Lick. In Hudson #2, Lick has been transformed from a tiny ice cream parlor into a soaring tower, still in its same location at the heart of the city.

Lick Tower, which has its own windmill supplying the power to keep the ice cream frozen, is half hotel and half apartment building. Residents of Hudson #2 will be able to buy a gallon of ice cream at Lick for $2, but for residents of Lick Tower, a gallon of ice cream will cost only $1. 

I'm hoping I can get an apartment in Lick Tower. Not only are the benefits of living there irresistible, but in Hudson #2, my house no longer exists!

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