Thursday, August 21, 2014

Struggle Over Second and Warren

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Common Council received as a communication a letter from Bruce H. Steinberg of Danian Realty in Chappaqua, NY, the current owner of 134-136 Warren Street, stating the intention to appeal the Historic Preservation Commission's decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness to the storefront proposed for 134 Warren Street.

After introducing the appeal, Council president Don Moore said, "The HPC is still considering the proposal," and commented that he was "not aware that we have entertained an appeal in the past." Two statements that are not quite right. 

At their meeting on August 8, the HPC, after hearing public comment on the proposal, voted on whether or not to grant a certificate of appropriateness to the project. Two members of the commission voted aye; four members voted nay. Hence a certificate of appropriateness was denied. All that is left to do is vote formally on the language, composed by counsel, stating why the certificate of appropriateness was denied. 

Relevant to the statement about the Council never having entertained an appeal before, in 2012, Galvan Partners initiated an appeal to the Common Council after being denied a certificate of appropriateness for their plan to move the Robert Taylor House from the head of Tanners Lane to 23 Union Street. Moore was correct in that the process of an appeal has never been established or tried, because a few months after Galvan Partners initiated the appeal, they apparently abandoned the notion of moving the house. 

Today an email written by Tim Slowinski, owner of the Limner Gallery, at 123 Warren Street, and sent to members of BeLo3rd found its way to Gossips' desk. The email urges people to attend the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting tonight at 6 p.m. and the Historic Preservation Commission meeting at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning "to protest this decision"--"this decision" being the denial of a certificate of appropriateness to the proposed storefront at 134 Warren Street. 

In his email, Slowinski makes a couple of statements that are unfair to the HPC and actually not true. He contends that the application was denied "because the commission said they wanted to restrict business in the neighborhood and keep it more residential." HPC decisions have nothing to do with use. As HPC member Miranda Barry rightly stated at the meeting on August 8, "It is not our place to decide if this block should become all commercial or all residential." The HPC is charged with protecting the historic architecture of Hudson, which means that if a building has survived for 150 years as a residential building with its facade unchanged, that facade should not be altered no matter what permitted use the building is put to. 

HPC chair Rick Rector made the point at the meeting that the ground floor of 134 Warren Street has had a commercial tenant for the past ten years. Also there are at least four businesses being operated in what are historically residential buildings in the 100 block of Warren without requiring changes to the facades of the buildings: BCB Art, at 116 Warren Street; Davis Orton Gallery, at 114 Warren Street; Jeff Bailey Gallery, at 127 Warren Street; and Dish, at 103 Warren Street. The uses of these buildings have changed, but the architectural integrity of their facades has not. 

Slowinski's email concludes: "It is good and essential for the historic architecture of our community to be preserved, but it is not the place of the commission to restrict and/or engineer economic growth in our neighborhood." In making the decision it did, the Historic Preservation Commission was doing exactly what Slowinski calls "good and essential." They were preserving the architectural integrity of 134 Warren Street. 

After the public hearing on August 8, HPC member Tony Thompson noted that all the comments in support of the project had to do with economics, and he reminded his colleagues that "historic preservation itself has an economic value"--a principle that everyone in Hudson should acknowledge and embrace. Thompson also admonished his colleagues, "Individual ideas of economic viability should not be part of the picture," and in the decision that the HPC made, they were not.


  1. There is soon to be 6 empty store fronts in the 400 block. If you was a shop with a store window there are plenty available !

  2. sorry if i posted twice, 226-228 warren were apprvevd for new storefronts

  3. Just to correct the record, it's Miranda Barry, not Berry.

    I attended the hearing. The certificate was denied due to the issue of changing the facade, and in particular, two windows that have a long historical provenance. There was no other reason, and certainly not one involving the issue of residential versus commercial, which as Miranda Barry stated, is not an issue within the jurisdiction of the HPC.

    Whether the basically on facade changes policy makes good policy sense is beside the point - that is what the law as written basically dictates - no facade changes to the extent at all possible.

    Given the way the law is written, in my view, the only recourse for the applicant is to go to the Planning Commission pleading economic hardship, and documenting that. Absent that, it's game over absent a change in the text of the law.

  4. I suppose I was reading between the lines, in the prior gossips post relating to the earlier meeting, where it said: "homeowners on the 100 block of Warren Street expressed their concern about preserving the residential character of their block."I'm not sure who these residents are, but most people in the neighborhood I spoke with were in support of an additional storefront. I know the commission said they were not trying to restrict commercial activity or promote residential, but that is exactly what they did and it's a common thing in politics to take an action for an intended purpose and explain it away for various other reasons. I also noticed today that at least one member of commission owns an upscale residential home on Warren St. a block from the site and I'm not sure how this all stacks up ethically.

    In the past several years, there have been many new storefronts installed on the 100 and 200 block, offhand at least 5 or six, most in buildings as old as this one. These storefronts have all enhanced the neighborhood and improved conditions for business and residents alike. I have heard that the commission is unhappy with some of the storefronts that were installed, because the finished storefront did not exactly match the proposed drawings submitted. Unfortunate if this is the case and this building owner is to suffer because of the commissions shortcomings in monitoring and regulating work they approved.

    Obviously there are some buildings that are not acceptable for alteration, but a few additional storefronts on lower Warren will enhance the neighborhood economically and improve conditions for everyone. Hard to understand why this building owner would be denied when so many others were allowed to do the same thing. This seems a somewhat unfair application of the rules. How is it OK to knock down an entire original brick facade on the General Worth house, rebuild it using a different bricklaying method with other bricks, install windows that do not resemble the original and change the whole look of the building, or to demolish an entire building under the guise of moving it, and rebuild it with new materials in another location, or to tear out the whole front of buildings as old as this one and install a Soho style storefront, etc etc, and this guy can't put in a single storefront window. It make no sense at all to me and has a stinky feeling.