Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Does the City Have to Sell?

During the recent contretemps over financing a capital reserve fund, several people--in particular, Mayor William Hallenbeck, Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward), and Supervisor Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward)--talked about selling City-owned property as a way to raise money for future expenditures. Hughes' comments especially made it sound as if there was a vast amount of property that could be unloaded by the City to swell its coffers in preparation for the $2.8 million in expenses just on the horizon. Given that, it seems useful to review just what it is the City has to sell.

First, there is the vacant lot at the corner of Fourth and State streets, where, until 1994, the Fourth Street School, the building that was the original Hudson High School, stood. The lot is currently being used as a parking lot to accommodate the overflow from the parking lots created for the County office building at 325 Columbia Street.

The original deal, cut back in 2004, which allows the County to use the lot without compensating the City, was that the County would pave and landscape the lot and "develop" it as a parking lot. The public was led to believe at the time that, because of the way the old school building had been demolished (it was said that the building had been bulldozed into its own cellar and oil tanks had been left in the ground), the lot could not be used for anything but a parking lot without costly remediation. The paving and landscaping never happened, and it's unclear if the people thinking of selling it recall the use limitations the lot allegedly had a decade ago.

Then, there is the Dunn building on the waterfront and land that adjoins it--everything east of Water Street between Broad and Ferry streets. This is clearly a valuable asset, but it is also one that the City must handle very carefully. Developed well, the building and land can be an enormous economic boon to Hudson; developed badly, it could be a disaster.

Back in 1996, the Hudson Vision Plan imagined lots of commercial development on the waterfront. A restaurant would take the place of the Hudson Power Boat Association and the now vacant land east of Water Street would be lined with buildings that were meant to be mixed use commercial and residential--housing shops and offices, perhaps an inn, as well as apartments.

Today, the hopes for the waterfront tend to be a bit different. People talk of developing the Dunn building as an aquarium and natural science center and using the land east of Water Street to expand the park and create more green space.

At the moment, those two properties are all that the City has to sell. The old Kaz warehouses, acquired in 2010, belong not to the City of Hudson but to the Hudson Development Corporation. If they are sold, the money doesn't go into the City's general fund; it goes to HDC.

Speaking of things to sell, Hughes made reference to the vacant lot at the corner of Third and Columbia street where the old CC Club used to stand, but that property doesn't belong to the City. At the end of 2011, the City spent something like $60,000 to demolish the building and charged the demolition back to the owner, Overcomers Ministries, in property taxes. According to the 2014 tax rolls, Overcomers Ministries is still the owner of 255-257 Columbia Street, which is assessed at $12,000. It is not known if the cost of the demolition has been reimbursed to the City, but there is also no indication that the City is moving to foreclose on the property for nonpayment of taxes.

In 2013, the Common Council authorized spending up to $26,000 to demolish this house at corner of Fairview Avenue and Spring Street.

Photo: Scott Baldinger
At the time, it was said that there was someone interested in buying the lot if the house were demolished, so the City could readily recoup what it spent on the demolition. Now, almost two years after the Council passed the resolution to demolish the house, there is no indication that the lot has been sold by the City or even that the City has taken possession of it. The 2014 tax rolls indicate that the property is still owned by Maleea Drescher and Paula Miner, who were the owners of record when the resolution to demolish the house was passed in January 2013. The property is now assessed at $23,400, which is probably the amount the City spent to demolish the house.

So it seems that, in the past three years, the City has spent more than $80,000 to demolish buildings, and it is not clear if any of that money has been recouped. If it had been, coming up with $70,000 to reach the desired $200,000 contribution to the capital reserve fund might not have been an issue.

Just Do It . . . Now

Chad Weckler, who since 2011 has been the driving force behind the Hudson Music Fest, is trying to put together a new music series for the summer of 2015: ten weeks of free concerts in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Toward that end, Weckler is pursuing a $25,000 matching grant.

There is a competition for the grant, and success requires people to demonstrate their support for the project by voting online. Weckler's proposal for the Hudson Music Series is the only project from New York in the competition. Only ten projects will be funded, and the Hudson Music Series remains in eleventh place--one slot away from the money. 

At 11:59 tonight, the voting will be all over, so if you haven't already done so, please vote now and help push the project into the money. You have to register to vote, but it's worth the effort. Just follow these steps:

  • Go to the Leavitt Pavilions website and click on "Vote Now."
  • This brings you to the "Voter Sign Up" form. Fill in the information requested and click on "Submit." You will receive a confirmation email when you have done this successfully. The email contains a link you must click on to activate your account.
  • Go back to Hudson Music Series and cast your vote. When you've done that successfully, you will receive another email confirming that your vote has been accepted.
If enough people do this, we will have music in the park all summer. If they don't, we won't. It's as simple as that.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Elsewhere in the Hudson Valley

Back in 2010, there was news that Eric Galloway had purchased a major house in Garrison. The major house in question is the estate called variously Oulagisket, Lisburne Grange, and the Sloan Estate, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a component of the Hudson Highlands Multiple Resource Area.

The mansion was built in c. 1864 as the summer home of prominent railroad magnate Samuel Sloan and his wife, Margaret Elmendorf Sloan, who called the estate by the Indian name Oulagisket. According to Wikipedia, the house was originally built in Gothic style, popular in the United States in the mid-19th century.  

In 1907, the estate was inherited by Samuel Sloan, Jr., and his wife, Katherine. The younger Sloans initiated many changes. They changed the name of the estate to Lisburne Grange, to acknowledge the birthplace of Samuel Sloan, Sr., in Lisburne, County Down, Ireland. They expanded the house and had it completely redesigned in the then more popular Italianate style. In the 1920s, they hired Fletcher Steele, one of the most famous landscape architects of the first half of the 20th century, to redesign the landscaping.

When Katherine Sloan died in the early 1950s, the house passed out of the Sloan family. It was bequeathed to Vassar College. In 1955, John William Moss, a partner in the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, bought the house from the college. Moss and his family occupied the house for sixty years.

In March 2010, when Moss's widow, Kathryn, was trying to sell the house, it was featured as the "House of the Day" in the Wall Street Journal. The article included sixteen pictures of the house and its interior which can still be viewed online. 

Zillow reports that the house was sold in September 2010 for $3,744,325--$500,000 less than what the Wall Street Journal reported as the list price six months earlier. Putnam County tax records reveal that the current owner is H & E Group LLC, which has the same New York City address given in the Columbia County tax rolls for Eric Galloway and Galvan Initiatives Foundation.

This year, the house was featured in "Hudson Valley Demolition Alert" on the website Hudson Valley Ruins. The website reports: "New owners of an historic mansion in Garrison have, through renovations, essentially destroyed the c. 1864 Italianate home built for Samuel Sloan. . . . Historic details such as the entire paneled oak library, mantelpieces, bathroom fixtures, doors, windows, and shutters, and by appearances, most all other interior finishes, have been removed from the house. Its west-facing tower also appears to have been removed or significantly altered."

Photo: Build It Green! NYC
Hudson Valley Ruins provides links to the website of the salvage company Build It Green! NYC, where the paneled oak library and other items removed from the house can be viewed.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Hudson Style

This evening, it's the Black Friday Soiree at Basilica Hudson. From 5 to 9 p.m., you can enjoy cocktails by Lady Jayne's Alchemy and The Hudson Standard and comestibles from local purveyors and preview the merchandise on offer at Basilica Farm & Flea. Basilica Hudson is located at 110 South Front Street.  

This evening, too, from 4 until 7 p.m., there is a cocktail reception at Vince Mulford Antiques to preview the collection of rare and wonderful things that are part of a special inventory reduction sale going on throughout the month of December. This offering includes unique finds at or near cost from Vince Mulford's eponymous emporium of exquisite and eclectic antiques and curiosities. Vince Mulford Antiques is located at 419 Warren Street.

Monster Power Lines in the New York Times

The threat of monster power lines scarring the Hudson Valley gets attention in today's New York Times: "Anger Upstate Over Power Plan for New York City."

Economic Development in the 19th Century

The saga of the proposed Ginsberg's expansion continues. In the latest episode, the Claverack Planning Board voted 6 to 1 to approve the project, while the Ghent Planning Board voted 5 to 1 to deny approval. What rankles many about this project is the apparent expectation on the part of Ginsberg's that the expansion will be financed by public funding and tax credits. What disappoints many is the threat that Ginsberg's would leave Columbia County if they were offered better incentives elsewhere. 

This morning, Gossips was reminded of the Ginsberg's situation by this article, discovered in the Hudson Daily Register for November 23, 1869. Bearing the headline "A Chance for Hudson Enterprise," it reports about "the intention of Messrs. Clapp & Jones, Steam Fire Engine builders of New York, to remove their works to this city." The text of the article follows:

A Chance for Hudson Enterprise.
A short time since we announced the intention of Messrs. Clapp & Jones, Steam Fire Engine builders of New York, to remove their works to this city, provided a suitable site could be found and the co-operation of a few capitalists be obtained.
We are now authorized to state that the matter  has assumed a tangible form, and many of our leading capitalists have become interested in the enterprise, not only as a profitable investment but for the general benefit of the city. The plan presented by Messrs. Clapp & Jones is to form a Joint Stock Company, with a capital of $50,000, $20,000 of which they will take themselves, leaving a balance of $30,000 to be subscribed by our citizens. One half of this amount has already been taken, Henry Waterman, Esq., a practical machinist and shrewd operator in the investment of capital heading the list with $5,000. Others have subscribed from $500 to $2,000 each, reaching an aggregate of $15,000. A like amount now remains to be raised. Many of our business men, of moderate means, but with the real interests of the city at heart, have offered to take one, two, and three shares, at $100 each, and in this way we have no doubt the full amount will be subscribed at an early day.
If our citizens are made aware of the importance of this enterprise, we are satisfied they will fill up the list before the week closes. It is not a donation--it is a genuine investment, with a fair prospect of realizing from two to twenty per cent interest. Mr. Waterman has thoroughly investigated the subject, and exhibits his confidence by subscribing one-sixth of the entire amount called for. This should certainly inspire the confidence of others.
Moreover, it will be a practical benefit to every merchant and mechanic in the city. The establishment of these works here will bring not less than fifty families into the city, not loafers or paupers, but first-class mechanics, and citizens who will be of permanent benefit to the place.
But we have little time to make our decision. The city of Bridgeport, Conn., has already pledged the full amount required, but Messrs. Clapp & Jones, being favorably impressed with our location, have reserved the opportunity to us. We trust it will be promptly improved, and thus secure at least one of the inducements held out to us within the past two years to add to the growth and business interests of the city. Whatever action is taken must be done immediately, or, like other enterprises that have been offered, it will pass beyond our control. Let us "strike while the iron is hot," and "be wise in time."
The article contains many truisms that, 145 years later, continue to be basic to economic development: the benefit of a successful business to the community as a whole, the potential to attract desirable new residents, the possibility of losing out to another city. What is different is that in 1869 it seems the "leading capitalists" of Hudson were investing their own money rather than offering public funding and tax incentives.

Holiday Shopping on Warren Street

Shop 'til you drop on Warren Street during the holiday season and worry not about dropping quarters into the parking meters. As is the tradition in Hudson, Mayor William Hallenbeck has declared that there shall be free parking at meters on the streets and in the municipal parking lots for the entire month of December. The holiday largesse does not, however, extend to the parking lot at the train station.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving: A Sesquicentennial Perspective

This piece, by Kenneth C. Davis, appeared on Tuesday in the New York Times: "Disunion: How the Civil War Created Thanksgiving." It makes interesting holiday reading.

Thanksgiving Eve on Warren Street

Thank you to Peter Jung for sharing this photo

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snow Emergency

Responding to the falling snow and predictions that Hudson will get 3 to 7 inches, Mayor William Hallenbeck has declared a snow emergency. What this means for most Hudsonians is this: From 8 p.m. tonight until 12 noon on Thanksgiving Day, cars must be parked on the odd side of the street. For those 16 hours, cars should remain on the odd side of the street no matter what the signs, which are expected to be posted in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, indicate. At noon on Thanksgiving, cars must be re-parked to comply with what the signs indicate.

Snow removal is expected to begin at midnight tomorrow night. In preparation for snow removal, the City will begin towing cars improperly parked at 11:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving. 

See further information, consult the City of Hudson website.  

It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas

In advance of the snow, Ron Gaylord and a crew from the Department of Public Works moved the little houses that comprise Santa's Village into Seventh Street Park yesterday. There is still work to be done on the interiors of the little buildings. The official "opening" of the little village won't happen until December 6, the morning of St. Nicholas' Day, which this year is also the day of Winter Walk on Warren Street. 

These two little houses are being completely refurbished--inside and out--but work is still going on inside, so the windows will remain covered until next Saturday.

This little house has gotten a new coat of paint and will become--appropriately in our town--Santa's art gallery. The artwork of schoolchildren will be displayed inside.

On the outside, this building too only got a coat of paint, but the interior is being completely transformed by the artisans of Etsy.

Finally, there is this house, whose exterior has only been altered by the addition of green shutters, but the interior has been cleverly and tastefully redesigned by Suzanne and Carl Devino of Eustace & Zamus Antiques.

Gossips had the privilege of getting a peek inside.

The project was the brainchild of the indefatigable Ellen Thurston, who has been trying for years to bring together the talents of Hudson's creative community and the Department of Public Works to get Santa's Village renovated. This year, Gia Albergo-Delmar and Abel Ramirez volunteered their time and talent and recruited others to make it happen. Even more improvements to the village are promised for next year.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"They Know That Santa's on His Way . . . "

It's crunch time for the mythical elves at the North Pole as they busily make the toys Santa will deliver to good girls and boys. It's crunch time too for the very real elves here in Hudson as they work frantically to finish the renovations on the sad little houses that comprise Santa's Village, a.k.a. Santa's Slum. 

Gossips has heard that, according to Rob Perry, the superintendent for Public Works, the little houses have to be installed in Seventh Street Park before there is snow on the ground, and with Winter Snow Cato heading our way, time is running out. For those eagerly awaiting the seasonal appearance of the little village, here's a preview of the one of the re-imagined little houses--this one created by Gia Albergo-Delmar.


The Council Adopts a Budget . . . or Maybe Not

The Common Council held a special meeting tonight to vote on the proposed 2015 budget. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 5:45, and it obviously was anticipated to last only 15 minutes, since the Police Committee meeting was scheduled for 6:00. But the Police Committee meeting was cancelled, and the special meeting went on until well after 7:00.

It will be recalled that the bone of contention with the budget was $70,000 to be raised from property taxes as a contribution to a capital reserve fund. Remarkable as it may seem, this $70,000 represented, in a budget of close to $5 million, the difference between a 1.5 percent increase in property taxes and a 2.97 percent increase. The difference for the owner of a house assessed at $250,000 would amount to $45.

At the outset of the meeting, Council president Don Moore introduced a resolution obviously meant to ease the impact of the $70,000. It amended the budget by removing $27,500 from the budget for the city attorney. No sooner had the resolution been introduced than the Council went into executive session, giving as the reason the need to discuss a "personnel matter."

The executive session lasted for close to an hour, and when the public was admitted back into the Council chamber, it seemed the amendment had been set aside. Instead the issue of the $70,000 was the topic of discussion. Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) made the case for establishing a capital reserve fund, warning that there are "$2.5 million to $2.8 million in expenses coming for, which the city is not prepared." He cited the need to replace the tower truck--the AerialCat purchased for the Hudson Fire Department in 2001--and need to repair the now closed Ferry Street bridge.

Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) said she could not see raising taxes "because we have a healthy fund balance." Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) suggested that the sale of the vacant lot at Fourth and State streets and the revenue from parking meters should be adequate to underwrite a capital reserve fund.

Stewart's reference to the fund balance, which is reported to be more than $2 million, prompted city treasurer Heather Campbell to explain that a fund balance "is not a pool of money just sitting there." She equated a fund balance to shareholders' equity. "If you sold everything you had and paid all that you owed, what would be left over is the fund balance."

After some discussion about procedure, Alderman Bob "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward) proposed his own resolution, which amended the proposed budget by removing the $70,000 that represented the contribution to the capital reserve fund raised by taxes. The resolution was supported by all the aldermen except Nick Haddad, John Friedman (Third Ward), Henry Haddad (Third Ward), and Council president Moore. 

Friedman admonished his colleagues, "We cannot continue to do this. We are acting as if the fund balance can be used as a checkbook." He spoke of the city's crumbling streets, the deteriorated Ferry Street bridge, and poor access to the waterfront.

Alderman David Marston (First Ward) bemoaned the need to raise the capital reserve fund from property taxes. "Taxes do nothing but go up," he protested. "We can't afford to keep raising taxes. We cannot look to fund this where people can afford it least."

When the amendment came to a vote, it passed with 1,383 ayes and 645 nays. Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward), Donahue, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward), Marston, Miah, and Stewart voted in favor of the amendment; Moore, Friedman, Henry Haddad, and Nick Haddad voted against it. After the meeting, members of the public pondered if the Council had actually adopted the budget, since they had voted on the amendment proposed by Donahue, but they had never actually voted to adopt the budget.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What's Driving the Economy in Hudson?

Earlier this year, Columbia County Tourism did a "snapshot" survey which confirmed something that many of us already believed: "Hudson is the economic driver" of tourism in the county.

Sheena Salvino and Branda Maholtz of Hudson Development Corporation are eager to learn more about what's driving the driver, so they can help businesses in Hudson grow and succeed. Toward that end, they have created a Business Climate Survey to gather data, which will be shared with everyone and will inform decisions about programs, incentives, and opportunities for grants. They urge business owners and members of the creative economy in Hudson to complete the survey, which can be accessed here.

Alternative Sources for Holiday Gifts

The end of this week will see the beginning of the orgy of holiday gift shopping. This year, as always, Gossips enjoins readers to eschew the malls and shop right here in Hudson. On Warren Street and beyond, there are wonderful sources of holiday gifts, and the days after Thanksgiving are particularly bountiful.

This weekend is the second annual Basilica Farm & Flea, the extraordinary market presented in collaboration with Hudson River Exhange. The event opens with Black Friday Soiree, from 5 to 9 p,m. Enjoy cocktails by Lady Jayne's Alchemy and The Hudson Standard and food tastings from various local venues. The soiree is also an opportunity to preview the wares offered by more than sixty vendors.

If you are interested in crafting your gifts, the Art School of Columbia County offers "Make It, Don't Buy It" workshops on Friday, November 28, and Saturday, November 29. Each day from noon to 4 p.m., two-hour sessions will be held in acrylics, watercolor, beading, collage, and small book making. Families are welcome, and projects for younger children are offered. 

The workshops take place at the Old Schoolhouse, 1198 Route 21C in Harlemville, next to the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store. Check the Art School website to learn more about the workshops and to preregister.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bed, Breakfast, and a Lodging Tax

It's no secret that the Common Council is looking for new sources of revenue to keep the City solvent and functioning and to give residents some relief from the increasingly heavy burden of property taxes. One of the favorite ideas, first suggested in a public meeting by Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) back in September, is a lodging tax--a 2 to 8 percent tax applied to room rates at hotels and B&Bs in Hudson. When the idea was first presented, Friedman said a part of the revenue from the tax would be "plowed back into the industry that created it" in the form of a "cohesive marketing program for the city."

Mayor William Hallenbeck questioned the wisdom of the proposal, maintaining that it would discourage tourism. In a press release, Hallenbeck announced his intention to "arrange a meeting with the owners/operators of our city-wide B&Bs." He explained the goal of the meeting in this way: "First, it will help me identify further who they are and who runs them, and secondly and most importantly get their advice on this and any other issue that they have concerns about pertaining to the B&B business." So far, there has been no word that such a meeting has occurred.

B&B proprietors Gossips has spoken with have expressed concern about the possible inequity of the tax. If the tax is only levied on rooms in recognized hotels and B&Bs, the increase in price from the tax could drive patrons to the guest rooms and houses marketed on Airbnb, which might offer lower prices because they are not collecting the lodging tax. 

There are many such accommodations available in Hudson. A search for the destination "Hudson, NY" on Airbnb yields 891 rentals. Not all of them are actually in Hudson. In fact, fewer than a hundred of them are. The others are located elsewhere in Columbia County and the Hudson Valley, as well as across the river in Athens and Catskill and across the border in Massachusetts. Browsing the list though reveals that there are tourist accommodations in homes and buildings where you wouldn't necessarily imagine them to be.

Even though the mayor and some hotel and B&B owners have reservations (no pun intended) about a lodging tax, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) has taken on the task of researching the experience of five cities in New York that have lodging taxes: Niagara Falls, Peekskill, Rye, Lockport, and Geneva. To gather information, she is posing nine questions:

  1. What year was your tax first initiated?
  2. What is the current percentage rate? Is that the original rate or has it been raised?
  3. How much revenue is raised annually from the tax?
  4. How many beds do you currently have subject to the tax?
  5. What was the purpose of the tax as first proposed--to raise funds generally or to raise funds for a specific purpose, for example, for the promotion of tourism? 
  6. Is the revenue now collected added to the general fund or is money reserved in separate accounts for the promotion of tourism or other purposes?
  7. Has the implementation of the tax offset property taxes either by reducing the need to raise taxes or by increased revenue from tourism?
  8. If money is reserved for tourism, has it been successful in terms of increasing activity and revenue from tourists?
  9. Is the municipality satisfied with the tax as it is, or do you feel it needs adjustment for improvement--for example, does the rate need to be increased, or should the application of funds raised from the tax be redirected?
So far, Garriga has received information from two of the five cities. In Niagara Falls, a 4 percent lodging tax was initiated in 1991. In 2006, it was increased 1 percent to finance a trolley to transport tourists to hotels and B&Bs. In Peekskill, where there is only a Holiday Inn Express with 76 rooms, a 3 percent lodging tax was introduced in 2013. So far in 2014, the revenue from the lodging is $64,000, which has not helped to offset any general taxes.

Friday, November 21, 2014

It Isn't Over Until It's Over

The word from the Board of Elections is that the ballots that were set aside on Tuesday, Wednesday, and part of yesterday will be counted on Monday.

A Historic Ghost Story

Among the treasures Gossips recently inherited is a booklet published in 1987 on the occasion of the sesquicentennial of the Town of Greenport. It was prepared by the Greenport Historical Society, and it is a goldmine of information and lore about the area surrounding Hudson that seceded from the city in 1837. One story, which is particularly appealing, has to do with Hudson Bush Farm. Readers who have visited Hudson Bush Farm, attended a party or fundraiser there, or toured the spectacular gardens on a Garden Conservancy Open Day may never have realized that this splendid early house was once believed to be haunted. Here is the story, as it appeared in Greenport: The Forgotten Town.

Photo: Rural Intelligence
In Greenport there is an old house long suspected of being haunted. Known years ago as "Hudson Bush," it was the home of Henry I. Van Rensselaer, one of the landed gentry of his day. "Young Harry," as he was called, was a colonel in the Revolutionary Army where he served with pride and distinction.
When he returned from the wars, he took up his former aristocratic life, entertaining many people, a custom in those princely homes where there were many servants. Since he retired early, at 9 p.m. he handed each guest a tallow dip which served as a hint that it was bedtime. Later, he would return to his handsome dining room in his dressing gown and pour three glasses of Madeira wine which he would then drink, voicing three solitary toasts: "To my Country!" "To General Washington!" "To Harry Van Rensselaer!"
Years afterward, the house was said to be haunted, and no one would live there. Then a brave man rented it. After staying two nights without incident, he planned to bring his family. The third night as he sat before the fireplace alone, the door at one end of the broad hall began to rattle. When he went to see who was there, the door at the other end took up the clatter. Then the whole parlor and finally the rest of the house shivered ominously. The man was so frightened that he went all the way to Hudson and spent the night.
The next day he complained to the landlord who said, "Oh, that was only old Col. Harry. He wants his nightcap!" He explained about the three glasses of wine, and the tenant agreed to try to appease the ghost. That night, he set out three glasses of claret, but the rattling was repeated, and he ran out, sleeping all night in the barn. Again he contacted the landlord and told him about the claret. "Oh no!" said this host, "He wouldn't want claret. Only Madeira will do." That night, the tenant tried again, using Madeira wine for the toasts, and the rattling was not heard. It seems that the ghost of old Harry was finally satisfied.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Barrett Victory Confirmed

Today, at 2:15 p.m., John Ciampoli, attorney for the Kelsey campaign, announced that he had been directed to stop scrutinizing absentee ballots before they were opened and counted. At that point, 813 absentee ballots had already been considered, and 192 had been set aside, principally because of objections from Ciampoli on the basis of "qualifications." He regularly questioned voters' qualifications to vote in Columbia County because absentee ballots had been sent to an address in New York City or New Jersey or because there was some reason to believe that an address in Columbia County was that of a second home. By this afternoon, it had become clear that, even after all the absentee ballots cast by second home owners (who are typically also registered Democrats) had been set aside, Didi Barrett's lead over Mike Kelsey was steadily increasing, and, with only the absentee ballots from one district in Greenport and all of Hudson and Livingston left to be counted, it was not possible for Kelsey to close the gap.


Throwback Thursday on Gossips

Here is another picture found in the c. 1975 newspaper supplement "New Life for an Old City: A Decade of Revitalization/Hudson, New York." 

The picture presents a challenge to all the HBBs (Hudson Born and Bred) who may be reading Gossips. Who are these very '70s young people striking a pose on Promenade Hill?

The Evolution of a Building

Recently a newspaper supplement called "New Life for an Old City: A Decade of Revitalization/Hudson, New York" came into my possession. Strangely, for such a historic document, it was undated, but it is possible to surmise that the decade in question was 1965 to 1975. It contained two pictures of the Washington Hose Company firehouse--one taken before 1965, when the firehouse was still surrounded by other historic buildings; the other taken after the firehouse had been restored as part of Urban Renewal. Those two pictures are shared below, followed by a picture of the firehouse as it appears today. 


Busy at the Board of Elections

Yesterday, Sam Pratt reported on the progress of the absentee ballot count in Columbia County: "Barrett slowly but steadily extends lead over Kelsey." Today, Arthur Cusano reports on the progress in the Register-Star: "The counting continues." If you look closely at the photograph that accompanies Cusano's report, you will understand why there have been few posts on Gossips in the past few days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Last Night at City Hall

The mayor's hearing on the budget lasted all of three minutes. The mayor opened the hearing, acknowledged that he had received written comments from Steve Dunn, and proclaimed that those wishing to comment "shall rise from their seat and state their name." No one rose from his or her seat to make a comment, and thus the hearing was promptly closed.

The most newsworthy part of all that transpired at City Hall last night came after the Council had run through the agenda of its regular November meeting. The room was filled to overflowing with people who had turned out to defend the Savoia. Incited by John Mason's report in the Register-Star about the Police Committee meeting on October 27, "Closing time for bars under scrutiny," and believing that the Council would be discussing the Savoia, a large contingent of Savoia patrons came out to speak of the importance of the bar to Hudson's African American community and to praise its proprietor, Barbara Walthour.

John Mason reports on the event in today's Register-Star: "Support for the Savoia brings out large crowd." Interestingly, the Register-Star seems to have had prior knowledge of the community's plans to attend the Council meeting. Register-Star photographer, David Lee was on hand to take pictures, and earlier in the day Register-Star reporter Arthur Cusano had interviewed Walthour.

What was interesting about the event was that it took so long to dispel the misconception that the Common Council was or even could entertain the idea of shutting the Savoia down. Finally, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) asked rhetorically and with some exasperation, "Could we stop this charade? We can't do anything."

The situation seemed to be clarified toward the end of the discussion, when a Savoia patron, who identified himself for Gossips only as Randall, alleged that "the police department is doing unfair reporting [about the Savoia] to the [New York State] Liquor Authority." He attested that the Savoia was "probably one of the strictest and most well-run establishments." To these comments, Council president Don Moore responded, "We either have to have faith in what the police tell us or not."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ramping Up Hudson

There are now ramps at the Columbia County courthouse--ramps that got an AIA Westchester Hudson Valley 2014 Design Award Citation for their sensitivity to and compatibility with the historic building to which they were added.

Then there is the not yet completed ramp that is part of the PARC Foundation linear park, which by day looks like a tangle of steel and by night like a UFO has landed on Columbia Street.

There is another ramp on the horizon for Hudson--one that will give handicapped access to historic Promenade Hill and the scenic vistas that can be enjoyed from that prospect.

Last Tuesday, a resolution was introduced in the Common Council, "authorizing the seeking of grant funding for the development of a handicapped accessible ramp for Promenade Hill Park." The resolution states that "the Common Council will develop a grant proposal for a handicapped accessible ramp for Promenade Hill Park to be submitted in the Spring of 2015" and "the Common Council will set aside up to $20,000.00 for such purpose in the event that the grant proposal is not awarded." 

The resolution raises the question of what happened to the plan in which the ramp was part of a larger vision to improve the entrance to Promenade Hill and to restore the historic park. In June, Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, told the Common Council that the grant application for Promenade Hill was being postponed to allow more time to resolve "the conflict between the goal of access and historic landscape treatment" by developing a master plan and time for public participation in the project. So Gossips contacted Roehr to find out about the master plan he spoke of and to ask how the Common Council's resolution to "develop a grant proposal for a handicapped accessible ramp" meshed with the master plan.

According to Roehr, the master plan is still moving forward. Dragana Zoric, the landscape architect who is working pro bono on the project, has "several different ideas for the entrance," which, Roehr attests, will minimize the "visual obtrusiveness" of a ramp and be "more simple and elegant" than the design Morris Associates came up with back in 2011--and less expensive. (That plan had price tag of $279,111.90.)

Roehr told Gossips that he would soon be sending the sketches for the possible ramp designs to Council president Don Moore and also to Sloane Bullough at the State Historic Preservation Office. Because Promenade Hill is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the grant will involve state and federal funds, any plans for restoration or alteration must be reviewed by SHPO. 

Roehr reported that there are also rudimentary sketches for the restoration of Promenade Hill, which involve new plantings, storm water management to curb erosion, a restored pattern of walking paths, and plans for maintenance. It is not at this point known when the sketches for the park restoration will be ready for presentation or when the public will get a chance to see the conceptual designs for the restoration or the proposals for the ramp.

Meetings Tonight

If you are interested in Hudson's finances, there are some meetings you may want to attend at City Hall tonight.

At 5:30, the Finance Committee of the Common Council has its regular monthly meeting. 

At 6:30, the mayor holds a public hearing in the proposed 2015 budget--a budget that the mayor does not support. Click here to read the mayor's statement about the budget. Click here to review the proposed budget.

At 7 p.m., the Common Council holds its regular November meeting.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not to Be Missed

On his blog Word on the Street, Scott Baldinger keeps us caught up with the changing businesses on Warren Street: "Change We Can Believe In."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Greenport Crossing Back in the News

Six weeks ago, it appeared that Greenport Crossing--the gas station cum "boutique" bowling alley cum family entertainment center cum Comfort Inn & Suites planned for Route 66--wasn't going to happen. Harbalwant Singh was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for protection from the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), which had made known its intention to sue Singh for the money it had loaned to the project. 

Today, the Register-Star reports that the only thing Singh seems to be giving up on is his plan to reuse the 1923 V & O Press building as part of his grand scheme: "V&O building to be demolished by Christmas."

What Lies Beneath

There's a great revival going on in the part of the city known as Hudson's East End. A recent article about Hudson in Conde Nast Traveler, "Why Hudson, N.Y., Is Our Favorite Weekend Getaway," features three East End businesses: Bonfiglio & Bread, 748 Warren Street; The Crimson Sparrow, 746 Warren Street; and Flowerkraut, 722 Warren Street.

The revivial isn't only happening with businesses on Warren Street. Restoration and reclamation is also happening with residential properties along Eighth Street, the one-way street that runs for only a block from Columbia to Warren. On Friday, one of those projects came before the Historic Preservation Commission. The project involves the restoration of this house at 19 Eighth Street.

At some point along the way, since the house was built in the 1890s, the front porch was enclosed--a fate that befell many houses in Hudson. The current owners of the house are now planning to open the porch back up again, the way it was meant to be.

What's remarkable is that many of the elements of the original porch survive beneath the walls and siding that were added to enclose the porch, and, for whatever did not still survive, there are hints to what was. Happily, this is true for many Hudson houses: what was meant to be can still be found beneath what was added in past efforts to modernize and improve.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Of Interest in the Register-Star

On Wednesday, when Gossips was taking the day off, the Planning Board met and unanimously approved the reuse of the former Harmon's Auto Repair building as a gallery cum coffee and wine bar: "From garage to gallery."

It seems that Dan Tuczinski, counsel to the Planning Board, found a way for the project to be approved without getting a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The article reports that he advised the applicants--Donovan LaFond, Jennifer Tzar, and Adam Loomis--that "if they emphasized the art gallery as the primary use, rather than the wine bar, they would be consistent with the R-4 residential zoning, and could apply for a site plan approval rather than a variance." That seems to have been agreeable to all, and the Planning Board gave unanimous approval. Although several nearby residents were concerned about the impact of the proposed project on the neighborhood, the Planning Board did not hold a public hearing before granting its approval. The building is owned by the Galvan Foundation.

The Galvan Foundation is the subject of another article in today's Register-Star: "Pedestrians and business owners say bring down the scaffolds." The issue is that the scaffolding around 366 Warren Street, a building that Galvan has virtually reconstructed to be a new location of Hudson Home, necessitates closing off the sidewalk, limiting pedestrian access from Warren Street to Musica, Etsy, the office of Dennis Wedlick, Helsinki Hudson, the Hudson Area Library, and John L. Edwards Primary School. 

The scaffolding has been blocking the sidewalk since September, and Rob Caldwell reports that his business at Musica this October was half what it was last year and that this October was the worst October since 1999.