Thursday, July 31, 2014

Of Interest

Rural Intelligence has an article about Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who may or may not be the son of Orson Welles, and two events featuring his work coming up next weekend--August 8 and 9--in Hudson: "Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Author and Director Shows, But Doesn't Tell."

Unwelcome Visitors

A gaggle of Canada geese has taken over riverfront park.

The currently accepted best practice for controlling nuisance geese is dogs--border collies mostly--that are trained to chase them away. There is even such a service right here in Columbia County: Wild Goose Chase NE.

But, alas, in March, the Common Council voted to continue the ban on dogs in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Is there a chance an exception could be made for goose-chasing dogs?

Legal Committee Mulls Demolition by Neglect

Last night, the Common Council Legal Committee took up the issue of demolition by neglect, with specific reference to the buildings on the northeast corner of Warren and Fourth streets. 

The buildings--402-404 Warren Street and three adjoining town houses along North Fourth Street--have been owned by Richard Cohen, as Harlem Hudson Organization, since 2002, and for all of that time, Cohen has been perpetuating notion that he was developing the buildings into a luxury hotel. In fact, all that has happened over the past twelve years is that parts of the complex have disappeared. 

In 2006, the building that stood at 406 Warren Street was demolished--in a locally designated historic district, without a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition. Cohen wanted the site cleared so that he could construct the entrance to his proposed hotel in that spot.

Chapter 169-8 B of the Hudson city code is very clear about the conditions for demolition in a historic district and the expectations after demolition has occurred:
Demolition shall be permitted only after the owner of the site has submitted and obtained design approval of his/her plans for new development under the provisions of this chapter, including an acceptable timetable and guarantees, which may include performance bonds for demolition and completion of the project. In no case shall the time between demolition and commencement of new construction or lot improvement exceed six months.
Cohen got a demolition permit from Peter Wurster, the code enforcement officer, without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, his plan for the new construction in the vacant space was never approved by the HPC, there was no timetable or guarantees, and the lot has been kept vacant for eight years, with no improvement beyond the construction of a fence/mural, but the City has never taken any punitive action against Cohen.  

Last September, another demolition permit was issued for one of the town houses on North Fourth Street. Again, the demolition permit was issued without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, this time because it was considered to be an emergency. The building had to be demolished in the interest of public safety.

Two things prompted Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, to bring up the situation at Warren and Fourth streets last night. The first was a report that a brick had fallen from the demolition site on North Fourth Street narrowly missing someone walking below on the sidewalk; the second was someone else expressing an interest in acquiring the property and developing it as a hotel. Friedman said he wanted to bring the issue up with the Legal Committee "because it is a particularly sticky wicket."

Council president Don Moore inquired about the stability of the remainder of the buildings, and it was suggested that the City should require an engineer's report attesting to their stability. Friedman said he wanted to invite Cohen to a Legal Committee meeting, with the goal perhaps of getting Cohen to enter into a consent agreement. Friedman suggested that agreement might be Cohen promising "in eighteen months, I'll have a C of O (certificate of occupancy) for the whole building." 

Meanwhile, it's been eight years since the project was before the Planning Commission or the Historic Preservation Commission. The former never granted site plan approval, the latter never granted a certificate of appropriateness, and at the time it was rumored that Cohen was intending to change the design for the hotel, which had been presented to both commissions.


Another Movie Being Made in Hudson

This notice was discovered yesterday about an indie movie called King Jack being shot here in Hudson starting today.

Thanks to Lisa Makas and Augie for bringing this to Gossips attention

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Another New Job for Tom Gavin

Once upon a time, the Hudson City School District had an alternative learning program that was housed in trailers behind the Greenport School, and Thomas Gavin was the program's principal. By all accounts, he was good at his job, and students in the program did well under his leadership. 

Then long about 2009, HCSD discontinued the alternative learning program, for budgetary reasons, and Gavin was out of a job. He had the rank of principal, and there was no going back. He was tenured, but there was no building or program in HCSD that needed a principal. So, Jack Howe, then superintendent of HCSD, came up with the idea, which the Board of Education approved, of making Gavin co-principal of Hudson High School, sharing the position with Steven Spicer who had recently been promoted into that position. It should have been obvious that this solution was a recipe for disaster, but it wasn't. Gavin and Spicer didn't get along. In November 2010, the two of them had an altercation during a BOE meeting, and Spicer filed charges against Gavin for second-degree aggravated harassment and petitioned the court for an order of protection.

After a few weeks, that problem was resolved. Spicer would be principal of John L. Edwards Primary School (Carol Gans had officially resigned as principal of JLE but was still working in that job and being paid $1,000 a week--in addition to her pension--to do so), and Gavin would be sole principal of Hudson High. 

All seemed well until the fall of 2012, when Gavin was charged with sexual harassment, and it turned out his accuser was HSCD superintendent Maria Suttmeier. Gavin was suspended and spent several months on paid leave from HCSD before he was reassigned to Questar III BOCES.

When the new alternative learning program known as "The Bridge" opened at the beginning of February 2014 in at 364 Warren Street, Gavin was building principal. Now, as reported in the Register-Star today, the New York State Department of Education has determined that Gavin cannot keep that job because he is not an employee of the Berkshire Union Free School District, which actually runs and staffs the program: "Gavin out as Bridge school principal." 

According to the article, Gavin was offered a job as principal with the Berkshire Union Free School District, which would have allowed him to continue as principal of The Bridge, but he refused. Instead, it is reported that "Gavin will serve as a secondary school principal on special assignment to focus on district dropout-rate reduction and prevention." Suttmeier indicated that Gavin will be expected to "bring students back into the district that would have graduated in 2014, who would be able to earn credits through the district's Apex Learning online credit recovery courses" and "to ensure that necessary Regents Review courses are in place for students who have returned to school or are in danger of dropping out."

According to the website SeeThroughNY, Gavin was paid $127,658 in 2013.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

Back in May 2012, the Historic Preservation Commission granted a certificate of appropriateness to Galvan Partners for "the proposed relocation of the historic structure currently located at 900 Columbia Street to an empty lot on 215 Union Street." The assumption was--an assumption clearly supported by the information provided in the application--that the house would be moved intact to the new location. As it turned out, the house was demolished, and now some of the salvaged materials from the historic house are being used to create a new house at 215 Union Street.

Galvan Partners/Foundation never offered a formal explanation of why the plan to move the house was abandoned, but the general assumption is that it was determined, for whatever reason, that it couldn't be done. 

So today, the Daily Mail reported about a three-story apartment building in Washington, DC, "deemed too important to be demolished," that was moved: "Moving house . . . literally: Entire historic DC apartment block is hoisted onto wheels and sent down the road to make way for new development."

And in recent days, right here in Columbia County, a house was moved by Wolfe House & Building Movers--the very folks Galvan said they would hire to move the 200-year-old Captain William Ashley house from 900 Columbia Street to 215 Union Street.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Thanks to the three readers who contributed to this post

The Return of the Hat

A hundred years ago, no lady was considered properly dressed without a hat.

In 1914, the Hudson Evening Register published "Fashion Notes" as part of a regular feature called Of Interest to Women. More often than not, these notes had to do with hats.

Hats pretty much fell out of favor in the United States during the second half of the 20th century, even for the most decorous occasions. Nancy Reagan, for example, was the last First Lady to wear a hat at her husband's swearing in.

Of course, the women of the British royal family continued to have an affinity for hats. Princess Diana has been credited with making them popular with a younger generation, and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is carrying on the tradition.

Here in Hudson and Columbia County, hats are making a comeback. In Hudson, of course, we have Behida Dolic Millinery at 715 Warren Street, with its wonderfully vintage sign and its display window currently filled with remarkably broad brimmed straw hats. Chatham is soon to have a millinery shop of its own: Victoria Dinardo Millinery. The shop is located at 14 Main Street, and a celebration to mark its opening is happening on Saturday, August 9, from 4 to 8 p.m.
Addendum: A reader pointed out that Hillary Clinton wore a hat at her husband's first swearing it, and she's absolutely right. How could I have forgotten this?

Happening at Last!

After months of eager anticipation, everyone's patience (and contributions to a Kickstarter campaign) are finally going to be rewarded. The word is out that the Upstreet Market, the midweek farmers' market taking place in the Public Square (a.k.a. Seventh Street Park), will happen for the first time tomorrow, Wednesday, July 30. The market will be open from 4 to 7 p.m.   

Mayor Struggling with Discretion

Two weeks after the Common Council overrode his veto, it seems the mayor is still fussing about the amendments to the mass gathering permit process. John Mason has the story in today's Register-Star: "Mayor balks at revised mass gathering law."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Traffic Calming a Hundred Years Ago

Speeding on lower Union and Allen streets has been a topic of discussion at Common Council Police Committee meetings in recent months. Driving at dangerous speeds is not a new problem in Hudson. This morning, Gossips discovered this item, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register a hundred years ago, on July 29, 1914.

Came Down Warren Street at Rate of About 
30 Miles an Hour.
After dashing down Warren street about 6 o'clock last evening at a speed estimated at 30 miles an hour, Augustus Rodick, a New York chauffeur, driving a big touring car in which was his employer and some ladies, was arrested by Officer Miller.
As the car passed down the thoroughfare it attracted considerable attention, and the police assert they could have easily procured forty witnesses willing to testify that Rodick was driving recklessly. 
Rodick was arraigned before Judge Riley. He stated that the party was en route to Albany, being in a hurry to get there. He boasted of being able to drive through the principal streets in New York at 25 miles an hour without being molested by the "coppers." Rodick pleaded not guilty and wanted an immediate trial.
Officer Miller, who made the arrest, requested a short adjournment to procure witnesses. With this two men in the court room, a chauffeur and an attorney, signified their willingness to take the stand for prosecution, the attorney stating that he wasn't desirous of mixing into the affair, but since the chauffeur didn't know enough to plead guilty, he would be willing to testify. Rodick was found guilty and paid a fine of $25. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Not to Be Missed

On his blog Word on the Street, Scott Baldinger comments on the latest architectural fashion trend in Hudson: painting houses dark gray--everything from pewter to slate to darkest charcoal gray: "Gray Is the New Orange . . . I Mean Black."

Baldinger makes one inaccurate statement, though, and he should know better, having served on the Historic Preservation Commission: "We all know about Eric Galloway's fondness for Greek Revival; less known is his proclivity to paint sometimes invaluable multicolored architectural details a uniform charcoal gray." The roofs on 416 Warren Street and 501 Union Street were not painted charcoal gray. Rather the original slate, which was not uniform in color and represented, especially in the case of 416 Warren Street, a decorative feature of the building's design, was replaced by uniform, unrelieved, and unvarying charcoal gray slate. The same thing is proposed for 356 Union Street

Long after tastes have changed and all the houses that are now dark gray have been painted some other color popular at the moment (let's hope it's not orange), the mansard roofs at 416 Warren Street and 501 Union Street will still be very dark gray.

The State of Historic Preservation in Hudson

For a while it seemed that current mayor William Hallenbeck would achieve through inaction what former mayor Rick Scalera always threatened: to eliminate the Historic Preservation Commission. According to Chapter 169-3 of the city code, "the Commission shall consist of seven members," but for nearly a year, since Scott Baldinger resigned at the end of August 2013, the HPC has had only six members, and crisis was approaching. At the end of this month, on July 31, 2014, the terms of three members--David Voorhees, Tony Thompson, and Jack Alvarez--expire, potentially leaving a commission made up of only three members: Rick Rector, Phil Forman, and Peggy Polenberg. Because four affirmative votes are required to pass a motion, an HPC with only three members would be unable to function. Addressing this situation on July 11, city attorney Carl Whitbeck advised the HPC members whose terms were expiring that they could, if they were willing, continue in office until the mayor had appointed their replacements. 

Crisis, however, seems to have been averted. At last Friday's meeting, it was revealed that the mayor appointed Miranda Barry to the HPC and has reappointed David Voorhees as the HPC's historian member. That makes five. Tony Thompson has requested reappointment, but the mayor has not yet rendered a decision. It is not clear if Jack Alvarez, the architect member, whose contribution is most important in informing the HPC's decision making, will seek or be granted reappointment.

Acronym Antics

This notice was seen yesterday in a window on Warren Street.

It calls to mind an acronym coined a decade or so ago to describe the opponents of the massive coal-fired cement plant known as the Greenport Project: CAVE people--Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Report from the HPC

Originally, the second meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission was held solely to review and approve the language of certificates of appropriateness prepared by legal counsel, but the HPC has been relaxing its rules in recent months and reviewing applications at its second meeting. At Friday's meeting, the HPC voted on the language of one certificate of appropriateness, returned to an application that had previously been deemed incomplete, and reviewed a new application. 

731 Warren Street  The HPC unanimously approved the language of the certificate of appropriateness for the Warren Inn, 731 Warren Street. The certificate of appropriateness was granted on the condition that the stepped parapet on the facade of the building be restored. Now that the "mansard" roof which was added in 1959 has been removed, it is clear that it will be possible to meet that condition.

134 and 136 Warren Street Two weeks ago, the HPC deemed the application for this project incomplete. What is being proposed is a new storefront for 134 Warren Street (between the two porticoes), new windows for the second and third floors, and repairs to the wood clapboard.

The application was considered incomplete because no historic photographs had been submitted. The HPC also requested photographic evidence that the windows, which are wood windows dating back to the 1860s, were beyond repair. Today, all the photographs requested were provided, although the photographs of the windows seemed not to persuade architect member Jack Alvarez, who observed, "I don't see extensive rot on those windows." The applicant stressed that the brand of replacement windows they were proposing was "certified and sanctioned by the National Park Service," not mentioning that the justification for replacing windows in the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines was that the original windows were deteriorated beyond repair. He also clarified that it was not their intention to use Hardiplank to make repairs to the clapboard. Rather they would evaluate the existing clapboard and will make repairs with wood or "if it is more cost effective" replace all the clapboard with Hardiplank. 

HPC chair Rick Rector brought the attention to the proposed storefront by asking, "If the HPC does not permit the creation of the storefront, will you proceed with the restoration of the exterior of the building?" The applicant said he could not answer for the owner but indicated that he thought it was unlikely.

HPC member Peggy Polenberg opined, "I think it's nice to have a storefront there. We need more retail." Rector reminded her that although everyone "would like more commerce," the mission of the Historic Preservation Commission is to protect the integrity of Hudson's historic architecture. Later when Tony Thompson observed that the rest of the 100 block of Warren Street was largely if not completely residential and said he would hesitate to add more commercial space, Rector noted that the building had already been changed, making reference to the storefront in 136 Warren Street, which was added, in its original configuration, probably as many as sixty years ago. "Does previous compromise justify further compromise," he asked, "or do we protect what survives?" The answer for our unique architectural palimpsest of a city should have been obvious to every member of the HPC, but it didn't seem to be. 

Rector, who usually prefers to waive public hearings, suggested that a public hearing might be in order for this project. When a motion was then made and seconded to waive a public hearing, Polenberg, Alvarez, and Thompson voted aye; Rector and David Voorhees voted nay. HPC counsel Carl Whitbeck pointed out that four affirmative votes were required to pass a motion--four being the majority of the full commission. So a new motion was made to have a public hearing. There were four affirmative votes for that motion, with all but Polenberg voting aye. 

The public hearing on the proposed changes to 134 and 136 Warren Street will take place on Friday, August 8, at 10 a.m.

202 and 204 Warren Street  This was the first time the HPC saw the most recent proposal for this building, which has been owned for the past ten years by one or another of Eric Galloway's various LLCs and now by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation and kept vacant for almost all of that time. Six or so years ago, a plan was proposed to convert the buildings into two giant townhouses with commercial space on the ground floor. That plan entailed dramatic changes to the facade, which the HPC rejected, and after much consternation and negotiation, a plan evolved that the HPC could and did approve, but work on the building never commenced.

This past April, Galvan attorney Joe Catalano presented a proposal to the Planning Board to turn the ground floor apartment in each building into a combination of commercial and residential space. At the time, city government was operating under the misconception that the minimum size for an apartment, dictated by city code, was 1,500 square feet, so Galvan decided to abandon the notion of having an apartment on the ground floor rather than having to petition the Zoning Board of Appeals for an area variance. Although the misinterpretation of the bulk and area regulations was finally acknowledged as the error it was in late May 2014, Galvan has not returned to the idea of creating live/work space on the ground floors of 202 and 204 Warren Street. In the plan presented to the HPC on Friday by architect Philip Higby, the ground floors will be exclusively commercial space.

It is for the sake of that commercial space that the ground floor windows on the front of the building are being lengthened by six inches. The change will alter the pattern of the fenestration on a building which was, as Voorhees pointed out, designed by Hudson architect Michael O'Connor, "using very classical principles." Lengthening the windows will require the creation of new windows for those space, but the exact nature of those windows was not discussed at the meeting. Rector commented that he didn't see the point in making this change. Polenberg, however, called it "very minor" and declared that she had no problem with it.

Copyright 1995 Lynn Davis
As has been noted before, the original porticoes on this building where removed about a decade ago and allegedly put into storage. When the HPC asked about the porticoes, Higby acknowledged that "at one point they had been saved and put in storage, but they have since disappeared." Even though the original porticoes are well documented in the photographs taken by Lynn Davis in 1995, as part of The Warren Street Project, no effort seems to have been made to replicate them in the new design, and beyond noting some specific differences between the proposed porticoes and the originals--a hipped roof (visible in the elevation drawings not the rendering) instead of a flat roof and Ionic capitals instead of Corinthian capitals--the HPC made no suggestion that it would have been more respectful of the design of the building to reproduce the original porticoes than to introduce the porticoes with rather exaggerated dentils and polyurethane columns.

The HDC approved granting a certificate of appropriateness to the project, with Rector, Polenberg, Voorhees, and Thompson voting in favor, and only Alvarez opposed.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Street Fair on Warren Street

There's still time to catch the last half hour of the Kite Nest's "On the Street" expo at 3FortySeven.

Will Hudson Have a Hawthorne Valley Market?

Yesterday, on WGXC's Thursday Afternoon Show, Ellen Thurston and Tom DePietro had as their guest Martin Ping, executive director of the Hawthorne Valley Association. The big question they sought an answer to was: Will there be a Hawthorne Valley Farm store at 449 Warren Street? To learn what Ping had to say, listen to the interview here


Of Interest

Mike Groll/AP Photo
An article appeared in Bloomberg yesterday about the proposal that would nearly quadruple the amount of Bakken and tar sands crude oil passing through the city and on down the Hudson River: "Albany Nears Oil-Hub Status as 100-Car Trains Jam Port."  

Of Interest

Adam Clayton reports today in the Register-Star that Leora Barish, the screenwriter best known for writing the screenplay for the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan, has purchased 20 acres of land on Fish and Game Road outside Hudson and is partnering with the Hawthorne Valley Association and the Farmer Veteran Coalition to create Heroic Food, an organization to teach farming to veterans: "Screenwriter gives back to local veterans."

First Meeting of Hudson FORWARD

The members of Hudson FORWARD, a Facebook group organized last week by Tiffany Martin Hamilton and now consisting of 256 members, met for the first time on Thursday night. The location of the meeting was the Tin Ballroom over Vincent Mulford Antiques--a space that has been the setting for many memorable events in Hudson, most notably the celebration in April 2005 of the grassroots triumph over a Swiss multinational corporation that wanted to build a massive coal-fired cement plant just over the border in Greenport. Although not all 256 members of Hudson FORWARD showed up for the meeting, the turnout was sizable and made up mostly of people who had not been in Hudson for the celebration back in 2005.

Tiffany Martin Hamilton, who organized the Facebook group, opened the meeting by reviewing the issues she had identified:

  • Development of the waterfront
  • Establishing a dog park
  • Better parking facilities for local businesses
  • Realistic plan for improving Seventh Street Park
  • Appropriate renovation of Promenade Hill
  • Attracting new, green businesses to Hudson
  • Encouraging educational institutions to establish a local presence
  • Developing a "green belt" connecting Hudson with the Greenport Conservation Area and beyond
Martin then asked those present to identify issues that were of greatest concern to them. A dog park and education were the two issues from Hamilton's list that were cited most often. On the issue of a dog park, it was felt that the group should begin with an achievable goal and establishing a dog park seemed to be something that was most likely to be accomplished.

Comments about education took two forms. There was concern about the quality of public education in Hudson, voiced primarily by the parents of children who had not yet entered the public school system. (Parents present whose children who had successfully completed their educations in Hudson public schools responded to these concerns with some reassurance.) There was also interest in partnering with higher education--strengthening the tie between Hudson and Columbia-Greene Community College with better transportation as well as enticing other institutions of higher learning to establish a presence in Hudson.

Affordable housing was an issue mentioned by a few people--both by people interested in increasing the city's population and by those worried about being priced out of Hudson. There was also concern expressed about the number of buildings with potential rental units currently being warehoused in the city.

The state of the sidewalks has been an issue in Hudson for at least twenty years, and it was mentioned by several people at last night's meeting--one person expressing the desire to be able to sweep his sidewalk instead of mowing it. It seemed not generally understood that sidewalks, everywhere other than on Warren Street, were a responsibility the City has handed off to individual property owners, but the general feeling was there needed to be some comprehensive and standardized improvement to the sidewalks throughout the city.

Jake Plourde, who was greeted with applause when he rose and introduced himself, expressed his concern about banning dogs from the cemetery and with the state of disrepair in the oldest parts of the cemetery, particularly some of the mausoleums. He cited the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, one of the oldest rural cemeteries in the country, as an example of a cemetery where dogs are allowed and where there is an effective effort to preserve and maintain the historic and architecturally significant funerary monuments and structures. He suggested that a similar initiative should happen in Hudson. 

The Internet, which was compared in importance with the coming of the railroad in the 19th century, and unacceptable disposal of trash were also mentioned as issues of concern.

A topic that ran through the discussion like a leitmotif was the lack of responsiveness and transparency in city government. Early on in the discussion, it was noted that achieving the goals being identified involved certain expectations of elected officials. A relatively new resident of the Fifth Ward expressed her sense that she was underrepresented in city government. A relatively new resident of the First Ward declared that she was "amazed by how difficult things are in Hudson, when there are so many bright, like-minded people here." A longtime resident of Hudson expressed the desire for "a more open, friendlier government." It's interesting to note that only three elected officials were present at the meeting: one alderman--John Friedman (Third Ward)--and two supervisors--Sarah Sterling (First Ward) and Ellen Thurston (Third Ward).

There was general interest among people at the meeting to learn more about how city and county government functions, and there was agreement that members of the public needed to attend more meetings of the Common Council and its committees.

A memorable statement from one person present at the meeting was that she grew up in Hudson but left "like my hair was on fire" after finishing high school. A couple of decades later, she has moved back to Hudson, because the city as it is today "is the place where I want to live."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friday Afternoon: "On the Street" on the Street

For the past week, kids ages 8 to 13 have been exploring ideas of public art and exchange in a summer camp program at Kite's Nest called "On the Street." Over the course of the week, they have designed and built their own mobile carts and experiences, each based on an idea for exchange with the community of Hudson. The summer camp culminates tomorrow--Friday, July 25--when the kids roll their mobile carts from Kite's Nest to 3FortySeven for an interactive public exposition.

Sara Kendall of Kite's Nest has issued this invitation: "Come see what the kids of Kite's Nest's 'On the Street' summer camp have to share and exchange with Hudson! Look out for a noise machine, a pancake cart, a flower museum, a giant heart, 'The Statue of Listening,' 'The Angry Sheep,' and 'Paint Your Problems Away.'" Kendall also provided this sneak preview of the carts.

The expo takes place from 2 t0 4 p.m. on Friday, July 25, at 347 Warren Street. Be forewarned: Expect surprises!