Saturday, February 21, 2015

Another Year, Another Park Proposal

At the end of last year, many breathed a sigh of relief when the City was not awarded a grant to embark on an extensive "re-imagining" of the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park. This year, the City is planning to apply, in the same Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process, for funds to improve Promenade Hill. This time, dealing with a park that is recognized as being of historic significance on the national, state, and local levels, the plan being considered is more respectful and modest, focusing primarily on the entrance to the park and the need to provide access for the handicapped to the vistas on Promenade Hill.

On Thursday night, at the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, Gossips got a look at the possibilities now being considered, which have been developed by architect and landscape designer Dragana Zoric.

Council president Don Moore, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, asked how much was being requested in the grant application and what improvements it would fund. Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, said that the amount was $250,000 and it would fund "the ramp issue and pretty substantial improvements to the park," primarily new plantings. Moore also wanted to know if there was a significant difference in cost between the two options--Option 1 integrating a ramp into new stairs and Option 2 introducing a ramp and retaining walls to the left of the existing stairs. Roehr didn't answer the question specifically but assured Moore that Zoric was "exceptionally good with costs." 

Those present at the meeting showed a preference for Option 1, which integrates a ramp into newly designed stairs to the park. Given the two options, Sheena Salvino, executive director of the Hudson Development Corporation, urged, "Let's go for something more beautiful."

Moore requested that there be "open discussion about the character of the replanting" on Promenade Hill.

The grant application is due in June. If the grant is not successful, the City is committed to spending $20,000 to install a temporary ramp at Promenade Hill.


  1. #1 does address the ramp need in a very simple and non obtrusive way.

    Much better than the #2 of cement walls blocking the beautiful historic stone work !

    Just wish the approach to planting would open up the entrance instead of continuing the tunnel effect from urban renewal days, which diminishes the grandure of this park as the ending vista of Warren Street.

  2. Let the open discussion begin by acknowledging who owns the park.

    It is the Common Council that owns the Promenade Park, and not "the city." A reminder of this fact is preserved on an iron plaque opposite the flagpole (which simply restates the condition of the original grant).

    Next time you're at the Promenade, please take notice of the sign and consider what the Proprietors' decision meant to them, to have granted the park to the people themselves instead of "the city."

    The Common Council is also entitled to own a transit system. If our representatives on the council wished to modify their own hypothetical transit system, would they begin by asking the mayor's permission? How would something owned by the council involve the mayor at all, unless they asked for his or her opinion?

    Watch this grant closely though, as the Common Council incrementally cedes this and that decision over the Promenade Park to a mayor who won't even be seeking the privilege! (The loyalties of the grant writers is also problematic, not to mention the nature of the non-public HDC.)

    From the local to the national, we've become slovenly as citizens. We wreck our system of self-government simply by opting out of it. And that is exactly what our city legislature already did with its responsibility for the Promenade in 2013. On that occasion they let the mayor introduce advertising in the park, and later dismissed the public's complaints by arguing that the condition of the original grant was outdated. (In itself, that assertion alone violated a section of the City Charter meant to preserve the wishes of would-be grantors.)

    Can there be a better symbol of the collapse of the liberal ethos everywhere than in the unthinking surrender of possibly the first "people's park" in the nation to the city's executive branch.

    If we continue to cede the legislature's duties and power to the mayor, however, then I wouldn't hold it against the mayor for simply filling a vacuum.

  3. Option 1 is visually appealing, but is it ADA compliant without handrails along the ramp? It looks as if a just-slightly misdirected wheelchair could slip over onto a step, resulting in a nasty accident. But maybe I'm not reading it correctly.

    1. I believe you're right, and that the situation you describe will become very noticeable once the drawings accurately depict the steep incline at the present staircase.

      This drawing makes no sense for the actual site. It's just a concept.

      To make steps as shallow as those in the illustration, and to create a single diagonal wheelchair zig with no zag, you'd have to rise-and-run your steps out to a considerable distance. Otherwise you'd have to broaden the staircase by so many yards ... well, that's impossible there.

      I have an idea: let's all go take a look, and while we're there we can learn the actual words on the historical plaque.

  4. Virginia,

    Exactly what I thought -- very scary looking, if also very attractive. Wheelchairs could easily go off course, I think, with no railing. And, it even looks like people walking up the steps could get off course and slip or trip on their way up or down.

    Elizabeth Nyland

  5. Hello is anyone out there reading "unheimlich's" comments? Wake up citizens of Hudson. The Common Council owns the park and no one else, period.
    ps. Please read unheimlich's comments relative to the Bays of Hudson, polluted land and waters, and the recent sewer lines into the bays.
    Now, me thinks everyone could walk the ramp and not need steps. Perhaps that would lower the costs.
    And last but not least, how about a fountain designed in the manner of the Halfe Moone at the center of the entrance with ramps on each side.
    It's only a dream.
    THANKS UNHEIMLICH. Can we clone you?

  6. Thanks Tom. Living in Hudson has taught me that few things can attract the public's censure like pointing out how and when public participation is undermined by local government.

    To be fair, Hudson residents seem to be taking part in an unwitting but nationwide political experiment. The marketers of a current film dramatizing themes of dominance and submission couldn't have timed it better.

    But aside from your scary cloning reference (heh), the 1956 film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" seems nearer the mark: if the requirements of self-government (and even environmentalism) are increasingly at odds with popular ideas of personal autonomy, then the Quaker proprietors couldn't have even conceived of this eventuality when they granted the Promenade Park to the people in 1795.

    But if citizens can put theory into practice simply by opting out, a legislature, when pushed, has to have some sort of a reply for the relinquishing of its enumerated powers.

    That's why, when faced with the terms of the proprietor's 1795 grant of the Promenade, today's Common Council replied in an angry and exasperated tone (and I quote): "But that was over 200 years ago!"

    Suggested film title: "50 shades of Invasion in Two Square Miles."