Monday, August 4, 2014

The Answers

Yesterday, Gossips asked, about the elaborate work going on at the North Fifth Street entrance to the armory, "What's it to be?" and "Why haven't the plans for whatever is being constructed . . . been presented to the Historic Preservation Commission?" This morning, HPC chair Rick Rector provided the answers.

In answer to the first question-- "What's it to be?"--Rector offered this rendering of the east facade of the building and a site plan for the lawn leading up to that entrance.

In answer to the second question--"Why haven't the plans for whatever is being constructed . . . been presented to the Historic Preservation Commission?"--they apparently were, but the HPC was so focused on the two things that are now not going to happen--the library entrance on State Street and the "medical wing" on Short Street--that not much attention was paid to this aspect of the proposal, and members of the audience, as well as at least one member of the HPC, have no recollection of these plans being reviewed and approved. Besides, what is currently being done seems far more extreme and elaborate than what appears in the rendering, but then renderings can be misleading.



  1. Carole, the notion that "renderings can be misleading" is simply an argument against using them as official -- or determinitive -- parts of any application. If an applicant is allowed to change its plans at will, what's the point of the application or the approval of it? What am I missing here?

    1. My statement about renderings being misleading was inspired by two things: (1) the rendering for 102-104 Union Street, which showed the new buildings being the same height as 106 Union Street when in fact they are much taller; and (2) the rendering of the facade of the courthouse which suggests, because it is from a vantage point that no one standing in front of the building can actually achieve, that the new ramps just meld right into the original design of the building to the point of invisibility.

      Renderings can be misleading, but they need to be part of an application for a certificate of appropriateness because it is really not possible for people to visualize what's being proposed without them. What I have questioned in the past is their accuracy. What happens when a building doesn't end up looking the way the rendering led us to believe it would?

      In the case of 102-104 Union Street, the explanation was that the dimensions of the building were provided on the elevation drawings, which were submitted as part of the application, and the actual building was exactly those dimensions, so no problem. But I think there was a problem, since the rendering is the only means the HPC has to consider what's being proposed in the context of the surrounding neighborhood, and if the rendering doesn't reflect what's actually going to be, that's a problem.

      In the case of the plans for the entrance to the armory, there is no evidence yet that the plans have changed--although I have to say that the rendering, particularly with those human figures in it, gives the impression that the piers and the fence are insignificant--only about knee high. By comparison, what's actually being built seems pretty monumental.

    2. When I look at what the City Code requires and what the HPC posts on the City’s website, I see no mention of a rendering. Renderings may (or may not) be helpful for visualizing a finished product, they are not listed as a requirement. The application for a Certificate of Appropriateness REQUIRES all applicants to provide:
      Drawings (to scale);
      Elevation Drawings (to scale);
      Contemporary Photographs; and
      Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)

      Applicants MAY also be required to provide:
      Historic Photographs (If Available);
      Samples; and,
      Others materials/information as directed

      The first the question that the HPC must ask and vote on is, “Is the application complete?” After much deliberation, it boils down to a Yes or a No. Without searching back through old Gossips posts, the fact that the project was granted a Certificate of Appropriateness was granted means that the application was accepted as complete. Therefore, whatever Galvan presented was accepted as complete. There are no two ways about it.

      The next question that the HPC must consider and vote on is whether or not the proposed alterations are appropriate. Gossips writes:

      “In answer to the second question—‘Why haven't the plans for whatever is being constructed . . . been presented to the Historic Preservation Commission?’--they apparently were, but the HPC was so focused on the two things that are now not going to happen--the library entrance on State Street and the ‘medical wing’ on Short Street--that not much attention was paid to this aspect of the proposal, and members of the audience, as well as at least one member of the HPC, have no recollection of these plans being reviewed and approved.”

      The plans were presented or they were not. We know that whatever was presented was examined and accepted as complete according to a majority of the HPC. The assertion is that the HPC did not adequately focus on all aspects of the proposal. If that’s the case—and I’m not saying that it is—then there is only one entity to blame: the HPC.

      The historic approval process is anything but quick in Hudson. There is zero pressure to push things through and plenty of applications are rejected as incomplete. I’ve seen homeowner applications that were late and far from complete get approved and complete Galvan applications that failed to show a couple of measurements (on scaled drawings) get rejected as incomplete.

      As for the statement that “what is currently being done seems far more extreme and elaborate than what appears in the rendering,” I say this: what do the drawings and elevations to scale show? Because those are the required materials for an application to be complete. I realize that the intent of this blog post is to say, “Look! Galvan is at it again, saying one thing and doing another!” My question is this: What did their application materials say they were going to do?

      With all due respect, what audience members recall is irrelevant. And reading that “at least one member of the HPC … [has] no recollection of these plans being reviewed and approved” sounds ridiculous [I thought a bit about what the right word was to use here—it’s ridiculous.] This is solved very simply: FOIL the application, see which boxes are checked off for required materials and review the file which contains their submitted materials. Do the plans match what has been done or not?

      If they don’t match up, you’ve got a violation. If they do match up, you’ve got nothing. If the plans and documents accepted as “complete” were, in fact, incomplete then you’ve got a problem.

    3. Thanks, Ward. This is very helpful. I actually read the "completed" and accepted application for the "relocation" of the 900 Columbia street house. That was clear as a bell: the word "relocate" and "move" were all over the application materials. No rendering needed on that one: blatant violation of the approved application -- unless, of course, "relocate" and "demolish" have suddenly become synonyms. --peter meyer

    4. @Pete: I have never read the application that involved moving the building once at 900 Columbia to 215 Union, but I’ve read a great deal about it here. There is a tremendous amount of discussion about the language used: “moved” vs “relocate” etc. We are hung up on language that doesn’t matter. Why? Because the HPC has no authority over buildings that are neither in local historic districts nor individually landmarked.

      So, 900 Columbia Street, was beyond their purview—put it on a Wolfe house moving apparatus and drive it to Chatham or send it to the clean fill—and the how and why didn’t matter. Please see the below comment that I made on a different Gossips post on July 29, 2014:

      Re 900 Columbia Street: The question before the HPC was not “Can the building be relocated to 215 Union?” or moved or any other word. In fact, while this was part of the pageantry of the application, I suggest that how the building was moved from outside the Local Historic District (LHD) to within it was irrelevant. The question before the HPC was “Is the building presently located at 900 Columbia Street historically appropriate if located within the LHD at 215 Union Street?” This examination was based on a principle of compatibility, as proscribed by Chapter 169 of the city code. Based on the appearance of 900 Columbia at the time that the question was asked the answer was a resounding “yes.” Does the building presently located at 215 Union look like what was at 900 Columbia? Choose one: Yes or No

  2. Where the heck is anyone supposed to park when visiting the new library???

  3. Thank you Carole for your focus on this situation and investigation into the details of this persistent situation, with regard to "renderings" being presented to the HPC that appear to be “misleading”.

    When the plans for the Armory were initially introduced at the Planning Commission, Citizens in Defense of Hudson (CDH)requested that the architect who was presenting for Galvan at the time, show all of the elevations of the Armory that were being submitted to this Commission for review. We were told that they (Galvan) was not required to show all elevations (at that meeting, despite public concern), and in fact only produced two (2), the ones that they wanted the public to see at that time. Our concern was the medical clinic that was being proposed and what its visual and architectural affect would be on the surrounding neighborhood. It was only when you requested a copy of these renderings, that it was released by I believe HPC, and you subsequently printed these in Gossips. Upon our review of these plans, it appeared that indeed they were not to scale with the existing architecture, minimizing the impact of the structure being proposed, its potential impact on this historical building itself, and possible overbearing presence to the neighborhood. So the question is, why are architectural renderings being submitted for approval without being reviewed by a qualified City architect; one with no ties to any of the people who are presenting their Plans for City approval?

    Hudson is a beautiful, historic City, and it should remain that way, with diligent oversight of the way proposed changes will affect our neighborhoods, as well as consideration of the potential financial impact on its citizens and or businesses who own property here.