Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Community Seder on Friday

Friday, April 3, is the first night of Passover. On that night, Congregation Anshe Emeth invites everyone to a Passover Seder service and a full Seder dinner. The menu for the Community Seder includes gefilte fish with horseradish, chicken soup with matzoh balls, roast chicken with potatoes and tzimmes, and dessert. A vegetarian option is also available.

The Seder begins at 6:30 p.m. at the synagogue, 240 Joslen Boulevard. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. You can reserve your place at the Seder table here. Reservations should be made no later than Wednesday, April 1.

Accolades for Olana Landscape Curator

ORIGIN: The Conscious Culture Magazine currently has a feature entitled "100 Top Creatives." Among the one hundred being so acknowledged is Mark Prezorski, the landscape curator and defender of the viewshed at Olana.

Historic Preservation on the North Side of Town

Scott Baldinger, on his blog Word on the Street, muses on the need for historic designation north of Warren Street: "The State of State."

The Gentleman from Taghkanic

At the end of the article in today's Register-Star, announcing that Tyrone Hedgpeth is succeeding George Bednar "in the top spot at the Hudson Youth Department," some other appointments made recently by the mayor are reported. 

Last year, Mayor William Hallenbeck appointed Kathy Harter and Geeta Cheddie to the Hudson Housing Authority Board. Victor Mendolia objected to those appointments, pointing out that according to the HHA's bylaws, "not more than one member of an authority may be an official or an employee of the municipality at any one time." Harter is employed at the Columbia County Board of Elections; both Harter and Cheddie serve on the City of Hudson Zoning Board of Appeals--positions that are mayoral appointments. Harter and Cheddie have since resigned from the Housing Authority board, and the mayor has appointed three new people: Alan Weaver, Vernon Cross, and Lola Roberts.

The question of holding more than one position at a time in a municipality brings us to the person who inspired the title of this post: Cappy Pierro. Section C2-3 of the city charter states:
No person shall, at the same time, hold more than one of the offices created or authorized by this Charter, except that the holding of the office of Commissioner of Deeds or Superintendent of Cemeteries shall not disqualify any person from holding any other office hereunder.
Pierro has served on the Planning Board (formerly the Planning Commission) while at the same time being aide to Mayor Rick Scalera and being an alderman from the Fifth Ward. Now, although Pierro moved from Hudson to Taghkanic in 2013, the mayor has appointed him chair of the Planning Board. Section C2-4 addresses this situation:
No person shall be eligible to any City office under this Charter, except the Superintendent of Public Works, who, at the time of election or appointment, shall not be an elector of the City; and no person shall continue to hold office hereunder after ceasing to be such elector.
The operative word is elector, meaning qualified voter. The assumption is that someone who is qualified to vote in a municipality also resides in that municipality, but Pierro, as others before him, has found a way around that. His voter registration gives 16 Paddock Place as his address, the home, it is believed, of an aunt.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Coming Soon to an Alley Near You

Unscooped dog poop happens everywhere, but it seems people have less compunction about not picking up after their dogs in alleys, so that's where Hudson FORWARD plans to focus its campaign to encourage scooping. Charlie Suisman and the Dog Park Team have designed eight perfectly wonderful posters, featuring local dogs, meant to nudge, wheedle, cajole, and guilt people into obeying the law and cleaning up after their dogs. Look for them soon in the alleys and on the streets of Hudson.


Catching Up With Galvan

Gossips has not been monitoring the acquisitions of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation for a while, but a comment by Galvan special adviser Rick Scalera, quoted by John Mason in his article about Galvan properties last week, inspired a return to the topic. These days, the Galvan Foundation seems to have shifted its acquisitive focus from Union Street and the First Ward to the neighborhood immediately surrounding the Armory. Scalera mentioned 449 Prospect Street, adjacent to the backyards of 67-71 North Fifth Street, and predicted that this house, which he called a "sturdy house . . . with a lot of promise," may be the next Galvan property to be renovated. According to public records, Galvan acquired the house on January 12, 2015.

There are rumors that Galvan is buying up all the houses on Short Street, behind the Armory, but so far, the tax rolls indicate that only one of the houses is now owned by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation. It was purchased on December 11, 2014.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Don't Forget

This evening, you can support literacy in Hudson while having a great time and enjoying delicious food provided by caterer Chris Jones and cookbook author Susan Simon. From 5 to 7 p.m. today, there's a cocktail party at Stair Galleries, 549 Warren Street, to benefit the Hudson Children's Book Festival. The $25 donation that gets you in the door goes directly to a student who wouldn't otherwise be able to go to the book festival on May 2 and buy a book from the very author who wrote it.

The Plague of Precedent and Related Rants

Yesterday, when landscape architect Richard Herbert displayed his photographs of the existing fences and walls on Warren Street, Gossips was reminded of a public hearing almost exactly four years ago, when DeWayne Powell, then employed by Eric Galloway, trotted out pictures of some unfortunate facade alterations made to accommodate garage doors and noncontributing garage buildings in historic districts to argue the compatibility of a proposed "carriage house" to be built at South Front Street and Cherry Alley with a street facing garage door. Although it was ultimately granted a certificate of appropriateness and an old building was demolished to make way for it, four years later, the carriage house has not yet been built.

One of the unfortunate things that appeared in Herbert's exhibit yesterday of what he considered the "vocabulary of options" was the mural at 406 Warren Street, erected to hide the vacant lot behind ita vacant lot created when the historic building that stood there was demolished, without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, in December 2006.

The preservation law in Hudson is very clear about the expectation when a building is demolished in a historic district. Section 169-8 B of the city code states the following (the boldface was added by Gossips):
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.
The offenses at 406 Warren Street are multiple: no certificate of appropriateness to demolish the building; no approval of the design for what was proposed to be built there; no new construction or lot improvement has commenced nine years after the demolition. Instead we have a "mural," which is little more than a decorated construction wall, being taken for an architectural element that sets precedent on our main street. How long will this go on?

Help Re-create History

In one week, the GoFundMe campaign to finance the re-creation of what happened in Hudson when Lincoln's funeral train, bound for Springfield, IL, stopped here on the night of April 25 has raised $790. It is now only $210 away from the goal of $1,000.

All of the work and talent and some of the materials going into re-creating this moment in the history of Hudson and of the country are being donated, but some cash is needed to acquire the rest. The goal is so close! Please click here to help make it happen.

More About 330 Warren Street

John Mason's account of yesterday's Historic Preservation Commission public hearing and meeting appears in today's Register-Star: "Historic group nixes demo of 330 Warren."

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Fate of 330 Warren Street

This morning, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposal to demolish 330 Warren Street and subsequently, at their regular meeting, came to the decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition.

The public hearing lasted for sixteen minutes, and few of the people who had come to the hearing made comments. Those who did, however, argued against demolishing a commercial structure on Hudson's main street for no reason other than to create a private garden that would extend over three lots and be cut off from the street by a brick wall.

When, during its regular meeting, the HPC turned its attention to the proposal for 330 Warren Street, HPC member Peggy Polenberg wanted to know why no alternatives to the "continuation of the ugly brick wall" had been offered. At HPC meeting on March 13, when the project had been presented by someone from Crawford & Associates, the HPC had suggested that a wrought iron fence, which would allow the garden to be seen from the street, or a barrier created by shrubbery would be more appropriate. Today, Richard Herbert, the landscape architect for the project, explained that it is not his practice to render options that he did not think were appropriate. Instead, he chose to make the case for the appropriateness of the brick wall.

Herbert explained that he did not want to introduce something new into the "vocabulary" of fences and walls already on Warren Street. He summarized what is now found along Warren Street as "chain link fences, steel picket fences, and a mural (at 406 Warren Street, concealing the vacant lot left when a building was illegally demolished back in 2006), and displayed an array of photographs to support his argument that "the options already present are inferior to continuing the wall."

Curiously, one of the pictures Herbert included in his display of inferior options shows the fence at Thurston Park, in the 200 block of Warren Street--a genuinely vintage wrought iron fence, acquired by Jeremiah Rusconi and installed when the park was created in 1997.

It was observed several times in the discussion that there were two elements to the proposal--demolishing 330 Warren Street and the compatibility of what would replace it--and some members of the commission toyed with the notion of considering them separately. At one point, architect member Chris Perry suggested that a certificate of appropriateness might be granted for the demolition contingent on there being an acceptable and compatible replacement. In the end, however, that course was not pursued. 

After nearly an hour of discussion, all the members of the commission came to an agreement that the building, although not great architecture and not contemporary with the buildings around it, contributed to the urban landscape, and removing it would constitute a substantial change to the character of the neighborhood, leaving an "extensive dead wall" that contributed nothing to "the sense of place and the sense of space." When HPC chair Rick Rector called for a motion to grant a certificate of appropriateness, no such motion was forthcoming. When he called for a motion to deny a certificate of appropriateness, the motion was made and seconded and all seven members of the commission voted aye.

Toward the end of the discussion, Ellen Thurston, supervisor from the Third Ward, who was in the audience, shared the observation that the public park at 326-328 Warren Street, which belongs to the City of Hudson, had been designed with the little white cube of a building in mind and expressed the wish that the building had been given to the City for a tourism center.

Since the new owner seems not to have any immediate plans for using the building, who knows what temporary arrangement might be worked out?  

Media Blitz

Yesterday, plastic bags containing a compendium of advertisements called Shop & Find, published by Columbia-Greene Media, were indiscriminately tossed onto stoops, into yards, and onto driveways throughout neighborhoods in Hudson and Greenport. Today, according to reports from readers, the distribution continued in other neighborhoods of both municipalities. The pictures below show examples of the publication that remain where they fell more than 24 hours ago, within a hundred feet of Gossips Central.

Readers who have contacted Gossips about the phenomenon have expressed concern that these unsolicited materials tossed onto private property will continue to be overlooked or ignored by their intended recipients and will become a litter problem for entire neighborhoods and municipalities. There may be a fine line here between free distribution and littering.

Criticism and Defense of the Galvan Empire

As anticipated, John Mason's article, in which former mayor Rick Scalera defends his employer, saying the Galvan Initiatives Foundation is "doing what it can to meet all the demands placed on it," and current mayor William Hallenbeck repeats his unqualified praise of Eric Galloway, saying that "he deserves the key to the city" because "he pays $450,000 a year [in property taxes], and he's never been late," appears in today's Register-Star: "Critics: Galvan keeping housing off the market."


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sad News for "Downton Abbey" Fans

It was officially confirmed today that the upcoming sixth season of Downton Abbey will be the last: "The End of the Estate: 'Downton Abbey' Is Officially Saying Goodbye." 

Legal Committee Discusses the Weighted Vote

At the last Hudson FORWARD meeting, Victor Mendolia made a PowerPoint presentation on the weighted vote system in Hudson. That presentation can be viewed at the Hudson FORWARD website.

Last night, the Common Council Legal Committee too addressed the issue of the weighted vote, starting with a memo on the subject prepared by former assistant city attorney Daniel Tuczinski. In the memo, Tuczinski considered "three major issues which arise in analyzing the application of the weighted voting principles in the City of Hudson." Those three issues are:
  1. Does each Ward boundary contain the proper population allocation for purposes of accurate voting and calculation of weighted vote?
  2. Is the current weighted voting system used by the City of Hudson Constitutional?
  3. Does the current system of representation by five Supervisors from five Wards within the City of Hudson on the County Board of Supervisors comply with Constitutional requirements?
On the first issue, Tuczinski concludes:
It is recommended that the first step to remedy these problems is to properly identify the actual Ward boundaries so that each voter will be voting in the proper district. The most accurate way to identify the Ward boundaries is with a City wide survey from which a proper map can be created which needs to be provided to the Columbia County Board of Elections. The 2010 Census blocks should then be applied within each properly identified Ward boundary.
On the other two issues, Tuczinski concluded: "Given the foregoing, which is neither conclusive nor exhaustive, I suggest a more detailed analysis be undertaken."

Stephen Dunn, attorney and Hudson resident who has undertaken the task of analyzing the arcane mathematics of the weighted vote, had been invited to address the Legal Committee. Dunn began his presentation, which soon devolved into talk about percentage of deviation, by saying that he did not think any city has ever had a weighted vote system. Dunn's opinion seems to be supported by Gossips' research into the genesis of Hudson's weighted vote system. In 1974, when Hudson decided it needed to comply with the "one man, one vote" principle, which had been established by a Supreme Court decision ten years earlier, the Common Council was given a choice: a weighted vote system or a realignment of the ward boundaries. The mayor at the time, Sam Wheeler suggested that the advice of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors be sought, since the Board of Supervisors had adopted a weighted vote system just the year before. After five months of deliberation, the Common Council decided to pursue the weighted vote. Dr. Lee Papayanopoulos, who had calculated the weighted vote for the Board of Supervisors, said he could do the same for the City of Hudson. What seems not to have been considered by Papayanopoulos, who is not a constitutional lawyer but teaches in the Department of Management Science and Information Systems at the Rutgers Business School, is that, unlike the municipalities that make the divisions of the county, the wards in Hudson have no individual governmental power.

Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward), who seems convinced that the City must remedy the weighted vote problem in order to avoid a legal challenge will cost the City $100,000 to defend, suggested a simple solution to the problem: do away with the wards and ward representation and make all the aldermen "citywide." The suggestion met with this question from Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee: "What happens if all the aldermen come from the same block?" Miah said he didn't think that would happen, but let's look at history.

The most prominent government official who is elected citywide is the mayor. Since 1974, when the weighted vote system was adopted, every mayor save two has resided in the Fifth Ward. Sam Wheeler (1974-1975), Mike Yusko (1980-1991), Bill Allen (1992-1993), Rick Scalera (1994-1999, 2002-2005, 2008-2011), Ken Cranna (2000-2001), and Dick Tracy (2006-2007) all lived in the Fifth Ward. The two exceptions are Paul J. Colwell (1976-1979), who lived on the 300 block of Union Street, in the Third Ward, and our current mayor, William Hallenbeck, who lives on Columbia Turnpike, in an area at the edge of the city that until recently was thought to be in the Third Ward but turns out is really in the Fifth Ward.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ear to the Ground

Back in January, when the Common Council held a public hearing on the local law establishing a minimum apartment size, the Register-Star reported that attorney Mark Greenberg, speaking on behalf of his client the Galvan Foundation, objected to the law, questioned the City's authority to enact it, and claimed that establishing a minimum apartment size would have the effect of reducing the amount of affordable housing. The aldermen responded by asking Greenberg about the number of apartments his client had brought to the market and the number of buildings owned by Galvan that have stood vacant for years.

Rick Scalera, former mayor and now Fifth Ward supervisor who is employed by Galvan as a "special adviser," came to his employer's defense, citing the "deplorable condition" the buildings were in when Galvan acquired them and the "exorbitant amount of money" being spent by Galvan on the Armory, and offered this invitation: "Any councilman need only go on a tour with me and I'll show you what they look like."

It is not known if any of the aldermen took Scalera up on his offer, but the press did. According to Gossips sources, a reporter for the Register-Star took the tour last week, and yesterday a reporter and a photographer for Columbia Paper were shown around. The articles on the subject can be expected any day.

Reminder: Public Hearing on Friday

On Friday morning, at 10 a.m., the Historic Preservation Commission will be receiving public comment on the proposal to demolish the building at 330 Warren Street and develop the lot as part of a private walled garden. 

The public hearing and the HPC meeting that follows immediately thereafter take place in the Council room at City Hall.

Remembering Mike Gladstone

Photo: New York Times
A gathering to celebrate and remember Mike Gladstone, who died on February 13, will take place on Sunday, March 29, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Hudson Opera House. His obituary has appeared in both the New York Times and the Register-Star.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Vision That Won't Go Away

It's been four years since Harbalwant Singh shared his vision for Route 66. Back in February 2011, he told the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency that Greenport Crossing would cause a "ripple effect" and "Route 66 will be totally Route 9 in Poughkeepsie." 

In the past four years, this vision has not been realized. The project was only partially completed; a fire, which was determined to be arson, closed the convenience store and the gas station; Columbia Economic Development Corporation sued Singh for the money it had lent to the project, forcing him to file for bankruptcy; Singh demolished what remained of the V&O Press building, which he had intended to rehab as a family entertainment center. Still, the Register-Star reports today that the plan for Greenport Crossing isn't going away: "Greenport Crossing project may be salvaged."

In what seems to be a triumph of hope over experience, Ken Flood, Columbia County's economic development commissioner, seems still to be promoting the project to CEDC, although the pitch is a little different now than it was four years ago. In 2011, a franchise hotel was seen as necessary because corporate travel offices didn't make reservations with independent hostelries. Now, according to the article, Flood is telling CEDC that a franchise hotel is needed because the county's lack of one is "forcing visitors in need of a low-cost hotel to stay in Dutchess or Greene counties."

Do Your Part to Promote Literacy

Once again this Saturday, as they have done for the past two years, Chris Jones and Susan Simon invite everyone to a cocktail party to benefit the Hudson Children's Book Festival Scholarship Fund. As in the past, the $25 donation that admits you to the party enables a student to attend the festival on May 2 and purchase a book from the author of his or her choice. This year's party, which takes place on Saturday, March 28, from 5 to 7 p.m., is being hosted by Colin and Katrina Stair at Stair Galleries, 549 Warren Street.

Assessing the Need for a SWAT Team

At the Common Council meeting on March 17, a document called "Inter-Municipal Cooperative Agreement: Columbia-Greene Shared Services Response Team" was accepted as a communication. Last night, at the Common Council Police Committee meeting, Chief Ed Moore spoke about this agreement, explaining that it related to the Hudson Police Department SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. 

Moore explained that he had been assessing the HPD SWAT team to determine if it was compliant with New York State regulations established in 2010. He found that the SWAT team's equipment was up to basic standards, but its size and command structure, its training and capabilities were not. He told the committee that the situation with the SWAT team "dovetails with accreditation": having a SWAT team that is out of compliance would negatively affect the HPD's accreditation.

Moore said his first thought was simply to eliminate the SWAT team and call in the SWAT team from the state police whenever the need arose, but he told the committee, "You cannot rely on getting the state police here in time." According to Moore, the SWAT team is primarily used for serving warrants, arresting people in their homes, and in situations where there are "active shooters." The solution to the problem Moore is recommending is partnering with the Greene County Sheriff's Office and the Columbia County Sheriff's Office to form a shared SWAT team made up of officers from all three agencies. Moore sees benefits in having HPD officers "share information and train together with the sheriffs' officers." The shared service agreement would also allow the group to "tap into grants."

Common Council president Don Moore asked what Chief Moore thought the group needed grants to acquire, expressing concern about SWAT teams "that have gone way over what is required by the community," apparently alluding to the trend toward militarizing local law enforcement agencies. Chief Moore said the group has already acquired a robot but did not elaborate except to say that there was grant money available to pay overtime.

Police Committee member Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) moved and the committee unanimously agreed to bring a resolution on the shared services agreement before the full Council at its April meeting.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Of Interest

Yesterday was World Water Day. Today, Modern Farmer published a list of very compelling facts about water that should be kept in mind whenever reckless actions that put water at risk are proposed.

Historic Health Tips

There's a nasty bug going around, and for those of you who have succumbed to it, here's a bit of advice, for your edification, from an ad that appeared on this day in 1870 in the Hudson Register.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Winter Expo Today

Although the high today will only be in the 20s, it is possible to believe that spring is just around the corner, making it a perfect day to call a halt to winter and take a look back. That's just what's happening from 2 to 4 p.m. at Kite's Nest.

During the long winter, the kids at Kite's Nest have been exploring music, tracing the paths that fibers travel around the globe, examining the movements of bodies in relation to protest, and investigating future alternate realities. This afternoon, they share with all comers their experiences and discoveries.

The Voice of the People

Never let it be said that the people of the First Ward are apathetic. Article III, Section C3-5 of the city charter indicates that when there is a vacancy on the Common Council, the Council appoints someone to fill the vacancy. The residents of the First Ward, however, have shown themselves to be not entirely satisfied with this arrangement. When Larissa Parks resigned in March 2012, after being an alderman for only about ten weeks, the First Ward gathered for a meeting, took a straw poll, and let the Council know their choice: Nick Haddad. At a special meeting on March 22, 2012, the Council followed the will of the people and appointed Haddad First Ward alderman.

Three years later, there is once again a vacancy on the Council as a result of the resignation of First Ward alderman David Marston. As they did three years ago, residents of the First Ward gathered today at noon to hear from those interested in the position and to participate in a straw poll. After brief comments from the remaining First Ward alderman, Nick Haddad, candidates Karla Roberts and Rick Rector addressed their neighbors.

Roberts described herself as someone who "likes to speak out, give my opinion, and be involved in the community process." She called the First Ward "the best ward to live in" and urged that we embrace tourism and support the "below Third economy." She characterized the group who had come out for the meeting as "a good representation of people who care."

Rector said Hudson was changing "very, very quickly and for all the right reasons" and he wanted to see "every politician wrap their arms around tourism." He told the group that since settling in Hudson he had the time and energy to devote himself to "less selfish endeavors" and defined his areas of interest as education and historic preservation. Rector has served on the Historic Preservation Commission, which he now chairs, since October 2011.

When the time came to vote in the straw poll, Claire Cousin, who had arrived while the other candidates were making their statements, announced that she too wished to be considered, saying she was "running on behalf of people who are not represented in the First Ward." 

When the ballots were cast and tallied, it was announced that Rector had received the majority of the votes. It was not revealed how many votes had been cast for each of the three candidates.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Keeping Tabs on the Cement Giants in the Valley

Earlier this week, Sam Pratt commented, on his blog, about the latest development in the proposed merger of the cement giants that cast a long shadow in the Hudson Valley:
"Holcim-Lafarge deal hits a rocky patch."

Update: On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that problems had been worked out: "Holcim, Lafarge Agree on New Merger Terms."

Help Support History

On the night of April 25, 1865, ten days after the death of Abraham Lincoln by the hand of an assassin, the train bearing the President's body from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, stopped briefly in Hudson. What happened that night was recorded in the journal of Assistant Adjutant General Edward D. Townsend, the commander of the funeral train:
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in white, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President's coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. The whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night.
A hundred and fifty years later, elaborate preparations are being made to re-create this scene, at the very place and hour it happened, on April 25, 2015. Some very able and accomplished people--Mary Deyerle Hack of Diamond Opera Theater, Stephanie Monseu of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Jamison Teale, Windle Davis, Melissa Auf der Maur of Basilica Hudson--and a cast of more than sixty are donating their time and talent to reproduce this moment in history, but monetary contributions are needed to acquire the materials to costume the "band of young women" construct the tableau, and create the torchlight. 

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise the needed funds: Help Re-Create History. Historic Hudson is the not-for-profit sponsor of the event, so all contributions are tax deductible. Checks can also be mailed to Historic Hudson at 611 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534. Please note on the check that the donation is for the Lincoln Funeral Train event.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hope for Spring Weather Springs Eternal

Today is the vernal equinox, and it's snowing! Notwithstanding winter's grim resistance to moving on, Easter is just two weeks away--the perfect time for the Easter Bunny to visit Vasilow's!

The long-eared fella will be appearing at 741 Columbia Street this weekend--Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22--and again next weekend--Saturday, March 28, and Sunday, March 29. You will find him handing out treats and doing his rabbitty best to evoke the joy of spring from 11 a.m. to  5 p.m. on Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Different Terrain, Similar Tension

Our lush and beautiful Hudson Valley is no stranger to the struggles that pit promised economic boons and new jobs against protecting the environment. There is even a film, Two Square Miles, that documents the epic struggle against the proposal to construct a behemoth cement plant at our doorstep. This Sunday, March 22, brings an opportunity to view another documentary about a similar struggle in a different part of the country. 

The film, Uranium Drive-In, follows a proposed uranium mill in southwestern Colorado--the first to be built in the United States since the end of the Cold War--and the emotional debate between a population desperate for jobs and financial stability and an environmental group based in a nearby resort town. Both sides are brought to life in heart-wrenching detail as the film offers no easy answers but aims instead to capture personal stories and paint a portrait of the lives behind a complex and nuanced issue.

Following the screening, a panel discussion will focus on Hudson Valley issues and regional pressures from energy development. Participants include Manna Jo Greene, environmental action director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater; Gary Shaw of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition; Cecilia Tkaczyk, a farmer and former New York State senator representing much of the Hudson Valley; and Jennifer Thurston, a Colorado activist who is featured in the film. The discussion is expected to provide updates on current issues around renewable energy, nuclear power, and fracking, and offer insights into how positive solutions and alternatives can be developed while protecting communities and the environment.

The event takes place this Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. at the Hudson Opera House.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

There Is Still Time to Get There!

Tonight at 7 p.m., Peter Cipkowski will share the story of the South Front Street neighborhood that was devastated by Urban Renewal in the 1970s: "Hudson's Lost Neighborhood: Remembering South Front Street." 

The presentation of his grandfather's photographs and home movies takes place at the Greenport Community Center directly across Greenport Town Hall, on Town Hall Drive off Healy Blvd., and is sponsored by the Greenport Historical Society.

Clarification in the Parking Permit Kerfuffle

On Wednesday, it was reported in the Register-Star and referenced here on Gossips that the aldermen who had misgivings about the proposed law to require resident parking permits on streets around Columbia Memorial Hospital and voted against it did so because they believed the City had not worked with CMH in solving the problem and were concerned about unfair treatment of CMH employees. Today, Bill Van Slyke, spokesperson for CMH, sent Gossips this statement, to correct some of the misconceptions reportedly voiced by the aldermen.
CMH has several parking lots provided free of charge to all employees, including the American Legion lot, which each day is typically only 25% full. Our security staff provide escorts to the parking areas for any employees who so request, including to the Legion lot, which is about 500 ft. from the hospital entrance. In addition, the parking garage is free to staff in the evening and overnight hours. We've invested more than $10 million in parking for our staff, patients and visitors, and believe we have enough capacity that is not being fully used because free and legal on-street alternatives exist. We support the resident permit concept as a solution that will encourage more employees to use the Legion lot, which is free to our employees. We hope our support of the permit plan and the tremendous investments we have made in parking infrastructure demonstrate our commitment to being a good employer and neighbor, while also ensuring the parking needs of our patients and visitors are met.

Political Developments

The Register-Star reports today that Nick Haddad, First Ward alderman, has announced his intention to run for mayor: "Haddad declares candidacy for mayor." Amid unconfirmed rumors that William Hallenbeck, a Republican, may not seek a third term, there are now two Democrats--Haddad and Tiffany Martin Hamilton--seeking the office. Haddad ran for mayor in 2011, losing to Hallenbeck by only 53 votes.

Also, in the political news, David Marston announced on Tuesday his resignation as First Ward alderman, made necessary by his decision to accept a work opportunity requiring temporary relocation to another state. Marston also announced a First Ward meeting to take place at 12 noon on Saturday, March 21, in the Chamber of Commerce conference room at 1 North Front Street. All First Ward residents are urged to attend.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fifty Years Later

Once upon a time, there was a solid wall of buildings on the north side of Warren Street between Third and Fourth streets.

Then on April 16, 1965--Good Friday--a disastrous fire destroyed five buildings across from City Hall Place and left a gaping hole in the street wall. The fire started at 328 Warren Street and spread to adjoining buildings on either side, destroying 326, 328, 330, 332, and 334 Warren Street.

None of the buildings destroyed in the Good Friday Fire was ever replaced except 330 Warren Street. At the time of the fire, Leo's Restaurant, owned and operated by Leo Hodowansky, occupied the ground floor of 330 Warren Street. After the fire, a single story cinder block building was constructed at 330 Warren Street, which until the late 1990s was Harold's Lounge. 

Fifty years have passed since the Good Friday Fire, and in all that time, there has only been one proposal to redevelop this stretch of Warren Street. That happened back in 2008, when David Deutsch owned the property. Deutsch's not-for-profit PARC Foundation, working with architect Teddy Cruz, proposed an extensive development plan they called "Hudson 2 + 4," which would create affordable, market-rate, and student housing, public facilities, community gathering places, and urban agriculture in the vacant spaces through the Second and Fourth wards, including the vacant lots along Warren Street created by the Good Friday Fire.

Somewhere along the line, Deutsch grew disillusioned with Hudson and pulled the plug on the project. The pocket park at 326 and 328 Warren Street, which was completed in the summer of 2007, and the linear park stretching from Columbia to State streets, now being completed, are the only part of the plan that was ever realized.

Recently, Deutsch sold the property--330, 332, 334, and 336 Warren Street. The new owner, Robert Greenberg, wants to demolish the building at 330 Warren Street, not to make way for new construction on the Hudson's commercial main street but to turn all three lots west of 336 Warren Street into a vast side yard or private garden. With the building at 330 Warren Street gone, the brick wall that now stands along 332 and 334 Warren Street would be extended to include 330 as well.

The proposal to demolish the building came before the Historic Preservation Commission on Friday, March 13. Some on the HPC seemed to think there was little hope or reason to save the building. Phil Forman called it "a noncontributing building of no particular interest." Counsel to the HPC, Carl Whitbeck opined that the HPC had "very little jurisdiction with this building," implying that because the building was not historic, the HPC could not deny a certificate of appropriateness for its demolition. Several members had fewer problems with demolishing the building than they had with extending the brick wall, which Forman characterized as "replicating the sins of the past." He suggested that a cast iron fence might be used instead to enclose the lot at 330 Warren so that passersby could see into the private garden.

Miranda Barry pointed out that whether it was contributing or noncontributing, the building that exists is a storefront and, for that reason, is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. The proposed brick wall would not be. David Voorhees also spoke of the need to "protect the urban streetscape."

When HPC chair Rick Rector asked if the private garden was "a short term solution or the final vision" for the property, the applicant's representative explained any plan for developing the property, other than using the three lots as a side yard, was "five to ten years down the line."

The Historic Preservation Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the project to take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 27.