Friday, July 31, 2015

The Word on Medical Marijuana

The New York State Department of Health released the names of the recipients of the five licenses to produce and distribute medical marijuana: "New York State Awards 5 Medical Marijuana Licenses." The Good Green Group, which might have produced its cannabis in the old L&B building, was not one of them.

Of Interest

It seems Billy Shannon was working on a story for his blog Hudson River Zeitgeist that he was planning to call "Five Things to Know about the Furgary Shacks Before the City Tears Them Down." When word came this morning that the State Historic Preservation Office had determined that "the Shacks" met the eligibility criteria for historic designation, he changed the title and published it: "Six Things to Know about Hudson's Furgary Shacks, which the State Just Saved."

Unfortunately, it's probably overly optimistic to think that SHPO's eligibility determination will save all seventeen shacks, but the official finding puts the lie to the opinion, which some have attributed to SHPO, that "there is nothing worth saving" down there and vindicates those who see the shack settlement as a rare survivor of a lost era and a valuable part of Hudson River history.

Defending the Neighborhood

The Galvan Foundation may want more income from the storefront now leased by Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, but members of the community are committed to preventing the eviction from happening.

On Wednesday, after the special HCDPA meeting, First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling accosted Galvan representatives Rick Scalera and Dan Kent, demanding to know why they were quadrupling the rent for Promise Neighborhood. Scalera revealed that the apartments in the building were renting for "$275 or $350 a month," and the rent on the storefront had to be increased to subsidize the rents on the apartments. He explained that before Galvan stepped in, Housing Resources was operating at a loss of $100,000 a year, and Galvan had provided $700,000 to bail them out. He asserted the action was needed to make the building and the organization fiscally sustainable. Scalera and Kent maintained that $3,200 a month was the market rate for commercial space; Sterling, who is a real estate agent, called it "ridiculously high."

Sterling argued that the benefits to the community provided not only by Promise Neighborhoods but also by the two shops in the Warren Street storefronts should be taken into consideration by Galvan, an organization that professes to promote "affordable housing and related services to low-income disadvantaged persons." In a subsequent email to Scalera and other elected officials, Sterling praised the contribution of Promise Neighborhood's director, Joan E. Hunt, and the positive presence of the office in the neighborhood:
The sidewalk on 2nd is now clean at all times and happy people visit and work there. The neighborhood is much improved because of Joan's efforts. I know as I must drive or walk by at least 2 times a day. The last time city officials were meeting about zoning changes there was a universal interest in having more neighborhood mom and pop stores to restore a sense of community in various areas of the City. Certainly my neighborhood in the First Ward utilizes the corner store. Are we to lose all sense of community? Are we really expected to believe that the Second Street location of around 1500 sq ft will rent for $3,200?????
I rest my case.
In another initiative, independent of Sterling's efforts, a march is being organized by Victor Mendolia to protest the eviction. The march, which takes place on Wednesday, August 5, will begin at 5 p.m. at the office of Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, 6 South Second Street, and will proceed to "various locations associated with the Galvan Foundation."

The Fate of the Furgary: The Word from SHPO

The word is in from the State Historic Preservation Office. The settlement of shacks now known as the Furgary Boat Club meets the eligibility criteria for listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The determination was received minutes ago. The resource evaluation can be reviewed here.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Scandal of 1922: Part I

Thanks to Bruce Hall's popular book Diamond Street, most of us are familiar with the story of how, in June 1950, Governor Thomas Dewey ordered a state police raid on Hudson to shut down the city's brothels and gambling dens.

The pursuit of the ubiquitous Officer Miller through the pages of old newspapers has led to the discovery of another earlier raid in Hudson, carried out by the state police in March 1922, in the first years of Prohibition. Booze was seized, its producers and sellers were arrested, and the chief of police, John Cruise, was suspended. 

When the roof fell in on his law enforcement career, Cruise had been chief for only four years and a few months. When he was promoted from sergeant to chief in December 1917, the Columbia Republican offered hearty congratulations and expressed confidence in his success: "Devolved upon you is the leadership of men who protect the lives and property of this old and historic city; men who preserve the peace and quiet of our municipality. The responsibilities resting on your shoulders are great, but we are confident that you will sustain them with dignity and alertness."

The testimonial of optimism and confidence in Cruise seems sadly misconceived in light of this headline, which appeared in the Columbia Republican on March 14, 1922.

The account, as it appeared in the Columbia Republican, of the raid and the takeover of the Hudson Police Department by the state police merits retelling. As you envision the events described, bear in mind that in 1922 the police department was headquartered at 327 Warren Street, in the building we now know as the Hudson Opera House. The police station was in the northeast corner of the building, where the offices of HOH staff are now located.
One of the biggest prohibition raids ever staged in Hudson Thursday night was followed by the suspension of Chief of Police John Cruise, Jr., and the placing of Lieut. H. J. Negell, of the State Police, in charge of the Hudson Police Department. Lieut. Negell took charge with a sergeant and four State troopers assisting him. No other changes were made in the personnel of the department.
The events taking place with such rapidity without the slightest warning came like a bomb-shell and hundreds of persons surrounded police headquarters from 9 o'clock until the early hours Friday morning.
It was between 8 and 9 o'clock that ten Federal prohibition inspectors and six members of the State Constabulary, as the result of arrangements entered into by the Commission of Public Safety, swooped down on Hudson. They were armed with about forty search warrants and operating with automobiles all ready for action they raced hither with their cars visiting countless places.
In a short time the cars began drawing up in front of headquarters.
The "booze" seized was placed in cars and taken to Albany. At headquarters the following appeared after the operations of the agents: Charles Curcio, Miss Ray Church, A. Feiler, Edward Dillon, Michael Fitzgerald, Benjamin Hagadorn, James Hogan, Theodore Brandow, Thomas McCue, and Henry Langlois.
It is understood that the intention of the agents is to have all persons accused summoned to appear before a United States Commissioner in New York city next Monday. . . .
The seized "wet goods" was taken to Albany after the raid, the agent saying "there was a whole lot."
The account of the raid and the suspension of Chief Cruise, including the statement of the Commissioners of Public Safety "relative to the suspension of Chief Cruise and the placing of a State Police officer in charge," will continue tomorrow.

Behold the Ramp!

People were disappointed on Tuesday by a schematic of the ramp being proposed for Promenade Hill which made it impossible to imagine what the ramp would actually look like or how it would function.

Today some color has been added to the drawing and an aerial picture provided to show where it would be positioned. The effect is that it's easier to understand how the ramp works but not much easier to imagine what it would look like to someone approaching the steps to the park.

The application for the grant to fund the ramp must be submitted tomorrow, July 31, so we all need to hope this will pass muster with the folks who decide who gets the money. If the grant is awarded, there will be the opportunity to alter, refine, improve the design before it is actually constructed. If the grant is not awarded, we're going to end up with a "temporary" ramp that will cost the City $20,000, so it's likely we would have to live with it for a while.

Find Your Way Home

"Micropolitan Diary" is Gossips' homage to and blatant imitation of "Metropolitan Diary" in the New York Times. The term micropolitan was coined because Hudson is a metropolis in microcosm.
Dear Diary,
My dog and I usually take our morning walk before 7 a.m. Today it was after 8 when we set out. It was already beastly hot, and our walk turned out to be uncommonly long and circuitous as we struggled like rats in a maze to make our way back to our cool house.
Necessary background information: On the street, on a leash, my dog does not handle encounters with other dogs well, so I try to avoid them.
This morning, as we headed east on Warren Street, I spotted a man approaching (about a half block away) with two big black dogs. Normally, I would have just crossed the street, but it was hot and I was willing to cut the walk short, so we doubled back and escaped through Thurston Park to Cherry Alley. 
I intended to take Cherry Alley to Second and just go home, but as we neared the corner, a woman with a little white fluffy dog approached from the right and entered the alley. We doubled back, hoping to get back to Thurston Park before the little white dog caught up to us. Then I noticed that the garage doors at 217 Warren Street were open, and the building's owner was there, so with apologies for trespassing and a brief explanation of why, we cut through the garage back to Warren Street.
On Warren, we headed west. As we were about to turn onto Second, I spotted a man with a white French bulldog in our path, so we kept going on Warren to First. When we'd turned left onto First, there was a woman a block ahead with a big black shepherd and a little dachshund, so we ducked into Cherry Alley to avoid them.
Once again we headed for Second Street, but halfway up the block, the French bulldog reappeared, heading our way. So we doubled back to First Street and headed for Union.
On Union there was no sign of the shepherd and dachshund (they'd retreated into their house). Mercifully, the coast was clear, so my dog (who was panting by this time) and I (who was doing the human equivalent of panting) were able to make our way unimpeded to Second, then to Allen, and finally home.   

The Fate of the Senior Center . . . and HCDPA

Wednesday at noon, HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency) held a special meeting to discuss the $100,000 the agency had, back in 2012, committed to building a senior center in Hudson. According to Daniel Kent of the Galvan Foundation, unless HCDPA now turns over that money to Galvan, there will be no senior center.

For this meeting, all five members of the HCDPA board were present--Mayor William Hallenbeck, Carmine Pierro, Tiffany Garriga, Bart Delaney, and Alan Weaver. Also present at the meeting were Kent and Galvan special adviser Rick Scalera, Common Council president Don Moore, aldermen Rick Rector (First Ward) and John Friedman (Third Ward), city treasurer Heather Campbell, city attorney Carl Whitbeck, and HDCPA auditor Victor Churchill.

Sheena Salvino, executive director of HCDPA, began by reviewing the events that led to the present state of things, beginning back when the City was still planning to use the $400,000 from its 2010 CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) to construct a new building for seniors beside the Youth Center on South Third Street. HCDPA committed $100,000 for that public project, to construct a building that would be owned by the City of Hudson. She quoted from the MOU (memorandum of understanding) that the City entered into with Galvan in April 2013, which stated that the senior center would be developed without funds from the City but also made this stipulation: "The City shall make a good faith effort to facilitate the transfer of project development financing previously allocated for the purpose of developing a Senior Center, including the $400,000 grant New York State Office of Community Renewal (OCR) and the $100,000 grant from Hudson Community Development Planning Agency (HCDPA)." (It's interesting to recall that the language about the "good faith effort to facilitate the transfer of project development financing" was added to the proposed MOU between the informal meeting and the regular meeting in April 2013. Gossips' report on that meeting confirms this.)

In February 2014, after the City had made a good faith effort and succeeded in getting the $400,000 in CDBG funds transferred to the new project, Galvan decided they didn't want the money after all. At that point, Salvino maintained, HCDPA's obligations were over. She also pointed out that HCDPA's original commitment was made to a public project--a building that would be owned by the City of Hudson--not a private project--a building owned by the Galvan Foundation in which the City would lease space.

John Friedman, who was acting pro bono as the lawyer for HDCPA, then offered his legal opinion. "Municipal law does not empower HCDPA to make his grant," he stated. "No where in the enabling statute does it say HCDPA can make this grant." HCDPA is a public benefit authority, and as such, it cannot give its property or its money to a private entity.

The mayor then read from a handwritten prepared statement that rehearsed basically the same timeline Salvino had just covered. He maintained, however, that when Galvan rejected the $400,000 in CDBG funding awarded to the City, $250,000 of anticipated funding--$150,000 from Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation and $100,000 from HCDPA--was still in place. Earlier, Salvino had made the point that HRB&T could give their money to anyone they wanted to; HCDPA could not.

Hallenbeck expressed annoyance that the agenda for the previous HCDPA meeting had simply indicated "Old Business: Senior Center," and "no one knew rescinding money would be a topic of discussion." He wanted the vote taken at that meeting declared invalid, because only three of the five board members had been present. (Unfortunately, he explained, he had been absent because he was "preparing a veto." No reason was given for Pierro's absence.)

The meeting went on for two hours. The discussion shifted from whether or not HCPDA could legally give $100,000 to Galvan, to how they could legally give $100,000 to Galvan, to how could HCDPA come up with $100,000 to give Galvan. HCDPA has, at this moment, only $83,000. Friedman warned that "the board would be liable to all the taxpayers of Hudson if HCDPA votes to give money to Galvan." Whitbeck opined, "This doesn't sound like it falls into urban renewal. You do not have the authority to make a gift of public funds." Pierro mourned the good old days when "Small City grants came to Hudson automatically" and was repeatedly the doomsayer for both the senior center ("It's illegal. We can't do it. There will be no senior center.") and HCDPA ("Will all agree this agency doesn't have enough money to survive?"). Scalera truculently suggested, "There was never really an intention to pay, because the money was not out in escrow." Weaver asked, perhaps prophetically, "If HCDPA goes out of business, what happens? Galvan just absorbed Housing Resources."

There were some clashes among the participants. Friedman made reference to Pierro's drive in from Taghkanic, and Pierro angrily declared that he voted in Hudson, making reference, as he is wont to do, to second homeowners who are registered to vote in Columbia County. When Friedman declared, "I'm the board's lawyer," Pierro sharply retorted, "You're not the board's lawyer," asserting that the board had not retained him. It turns out Friedman was in fact the HCDPA board's lawyer, since he had been asked by Salvino to act in that capacity and HCDPA's bylaws empower the executive director to hire consultants and retain counsel. (Friedman was working pro bono.) Scalera snapped at Moore, accusing him of not putting in any effort on the senior center and scolding, "If you can't work together with the executive branch, then step down." 

In the end, it was decided that HDCPA could legally give the money to the City of Hudson, and the Common Council could decide how and if it could be spent on "things that go into a privately owned building." It was suggested that HCDPA might contribute only $50,000 and the City could make up the rest. Moore volunteered to "sit down with Galvan and the mayor to come up with a plan" for how any money contributed by HCDPA could be spent. 

Before the meeting was adjourned, Pierro wanted the board to vote on something. (It had been determined that the vote at the last meeting had been illegal and that the commitment rescinded by that vote had been illegal in the first place.) After a few restatements and additions, this is the resolution Pierro came up with:
HCDPA supports the City of Hudson in respect to the senior center project and will participate financially and otherwise in furthering the project as proposed by the City to the agency.
All five members of the HCDPA board voted yes. Delaney, however, prefaced his yes vote by saying it was "because we are not committing to any amount."  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Last Day of July

Many things are set to happen this Friday, the last day of July. Consolidated Funding Applications are due. For the City of Hudson, that means applications for grants to fund "storm water treatment units" on upper Union Street, new water mains on one block of State Street and one block of Third Street, upgrades to the pump station on Power Avenue, and a ramp of unknown design at Promenade Hill

According to the Albany Business Review and the Associated Press, Friday is also the day that the New York State Department of Health is expected to announce the five companies that will be licensed to grow and dispense medical marijuana. One of the forty-three companies in the running is the Good Green Group, which, if they get licensed, might establish their growing facility in 40,000 square feet of the former L&B building, or they might decide to grow their cannabis in the old Roe Jan Central School on Route 22 in Copake.

The Largesse of Galvan

Gossips reported it first. Now the Register-Star picks up the story: "Galvan gives Promise Neighborhood the boot." The details of greatest interest in John Mason's article are that Housing Resources of Columbia County is now called Galvan Housing Resources, and Galvan is looking to quadruple the rent for the commercial spaces in the building once known as the Shrimp Box, raising the rent for the space now occupied by Promise Neighborhood from $800 a month to $3,200 a month. 

And to think, Mayor Hallenbeck believes Eric Galloway deserves the key to the city.

About the Grant for Promenade Hill

Once again a roomful of people showed up to see what was planned for Promenade Hill, and once again they were disappointed. Those who had attended the previous meeting, held more than a month ago, were disappointed because they expected to see a conceptual design, but what what they got was a "schematic" of the ramp, impossible for the lay person to interpret, and a proposed budget for the project that sets the total "ask" at $226,000 with $60,000 designated for the ramp.

Those who were present at the urging of Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga were disappointed because a universal access ramp wasn't going to be built tomorrow. When John "Duke" Duchessi of TGW Consultants attempted to explain the process, a woman cut him off, saying, "I'm tired of hearing the words; I want to see the work." She also alleged, "If this was uptown, it would have been done."

Both Duchessi and his colleague Bill Roehr stressed that the goal of the grant application was building the ramp. Roehr began the meeting by explaining the ramp was difficult "because of the incline," noting that the big challenge was "the differential" and the fact that it was "right on the axial projection of Warren Street." In other words, he recognized that we don't want something like this at the end of the city's major street.

Someone at the meeting, whose name will not be revealed for his own protection (preservationists can be scathing), suggested that the center section of Promenade Hill could be "sculpted down" to provide universal access to the park's scenic views. Roehr appropriately responded that "messing with the contours of the park"--our 220-year-old, National Register-listed parade--was not an option.

The elevation drawings, which presumably will provide a better sense of what the proposed ramp would look like, were not ready in time for the meeting, but they will have to be ready before the grant is submitted on Friday. When Gossips asked when, the answer was tomorrow. As soon as the drawings are available, they will be published here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Negativity Park No More?

Many remember--because it was just a matter of days ago--when Washington Square, a.k.a. Courthouse Square, was studded with signs proclaiming what was not allowed. There were so many signs informing the public of what was prohibited that some were inspired to dub the space "Negativity Park." Now only the one of those signs remains (possibly an oversight?), and people may have to start calling it by its rightful name.

Except for the one shown above, the "No Dogs on Lawn" signs have disappeared, perhaps in recognition of the fact that dogs will walk on the lawn no matter what the signs say, and been replaced by three signs reminding dog walkers that the law requires them to keep their dogs on a leash and to pick up after them.

More evidence that the square may be trying to shed its reputation for negativity is the gazebo, which used to be surrounded by a chain, have chains across both stairs that give access to it, and be trimmed by signs warning against climbing on, writing on, sitting on, or even gazing on the gazebo. Now the chains are gone, and there is word that benches have been designed to fit inside the gazebo so that on a pleasant summer day one might sit in the gazebo and perhaps even enjoy one's lunch there.

Now if only something could be done, beyond making in-kind repairs, with the rest of the benches in the park.


Get Ready . . .

ForbesLife recently recommended Hudson as the alternative of choice to the Hamptons for people who want to get out of the city (i.e., New York City) for the weekend: "Get Out of Dodge: 9 Reasons to Visit Hudson, New York." The first reason? The Inn at Hudson.


Like Father Like Daughter; Choice & No Choice

In today's Register-Star, John Mason has the rundown of the candidates running for local office this year. A sweet coincidence, called an irony by Rick Scalera, is that his daughter Lauren, who is vying for a seat on the Common Council, is the same age he was when he made his first run for office back in 1973. He was 23 then; she is 23 now. Gossips found a picture of Rick Scalera in a Republican campaign insert (yes, he started his political career running as a Republican) that was distributed with the Register-Star a few days before the election in 1973. The picture of Lauren Scalera is from her Facebook page.

Lauren Scalera is further following her father's example by trying to get her name on every possible party line on the ballot. She's got the Conservative and Independence party lines sewn up, but she ran into some snags with the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democratic committee didn't endorse her, so she is having to challenge the two candidates they did endorse--Alexis Keith and Rich Volo--to get her name on the Democratic line. The Republican committee endorsed her, but committee chair George DeJesus neglected to file the Wilson Pakula forms required if a registered Democrat is to run as a Republican, so she, along with a few other non-Republicans wishing to run as Republicans (Bob Donahue, Priscilla Moore, and her dad), is going to have to get Republicans to write in her name in the primary in September if she is to get on the Republican line in November.

Elections are supposed to be about choice, but this year in Hudson the choices will be limited. For the citywide offices, Democrat Tiffany Martin Hamilton is challenging incumbent Republican William Hallenbeck for mayor. With Common Council president Don Moore deciding not to seek a fourth term in that position, there are three candidates looking to replace him: Democrat Victor Mendolia, who also has the Working Families line; Republican Claudia DeStefano, who also has the Conservative and Independence lines; and Tom DePietro, who will be running on his own party line. For city treasurer, incumbent Heather Campbell, an NOP endorsed by the Democrats, will be running unopposed.

The choices thin out when it comes to representatives to the Common Council and the Board of Supervisors. In the First Ward, the only race will happen in the September, when incumbent aldermen Rick Rector and Nick Haddad vie with Michael O'Hara for the two alderman spots on the Democratic ticket. Rector and O'Hara have the Democrats' endorsement; Haddad does not. But after the primary, there's no contest. The two candidates who win the primary in September will run unopposed in November, as will Democrat Sarah Sterling, who is running unopposed for reelection as First Ward supervisor.

In the Second Ward, there may as well be no election--at least not for ward representation. Abdus Miah, Tiffany Garriga, and Ed Cross--all incumbents and all Democrats--are running unopposed for the ward's alderman (Miah and Garriga) and supervisor (Cross) positions.

In the Third Ward, the situation is pretty much the same: there are no contests, either in the primary or the general election. But there was a bit of angst getting to this point. After not endorsing incumbent alderman Henry Haddad, the Democratic committee tried to find another candidate for alderman. Former Register-Star reporter Jamie Larson briefly stepped forward and got the committee's blessing, but he dropped out so soon afterward that no petition signatures were gathered for him. Haddad, however, without the committee's support, obtained the required signatures and filed his petitions, so he and the other incumbent, John Friedman, both Democrats, will be running unopposed in November. Longtime Third Ward representative Ellen Thurston, who has served three terms as alderman and two terms as supervisor, decided not to seek reelection, but there is no competition to fill her slot. Don Moore, who decided not to seek reelection as Council president, is running unopposed for Third Ward supervisor.

In the Fourth Ward, there will be a contest for the two alderman seats both in the primary and the general election. In the primary, Democrats must choose two candidates from three: Rich Volo, incumbent Alexis Keith, and Lauren Scalera; and Republicans must vote for Derrick Smart and/or write in the candidate(s) of their choice. The winners of the primary will face each other in the general election. For Fourth Ward supervisor, incumbent Bill Hughes, who has held the position since 2008, is running unopposed. 

In the Fifth Ward, there will be a primary only for Republicans, who must write in the names of the people they want as their candidates. The assumption is those names will be Bob Donahue and Priscilla Moore. Those two candidates will face the Democrats' choices, Justin Goldman and Ken Hollenbeck, in November. For Fifth Ward supervisor, Rick Scalera is running unopposed on just about every line.

CEDC Watch

Sam Pratt has the latest news of developments within Columbia Economic Development Corporation: "Crawford resignation rumored this morning; some members have been meeting in secret."

Monday, July 27, 2015

Officer Miller: A New Phase in His Career

When Officer Miller had been on the police force for almost a decade, the nature of his work, judging from the newspaper accounts, changed. With the advent of Prohibition in 1920, Officer Miller made fewer arrests for public drunkenness. Of course, Prohibition didn't eliminate drinking in Hudson. It just put breweries out of business and forced people to do their drinking behind closed doors. And it didn't keep Officer Miller from having to deal with inebriated people, either.

At midnight on a Sunday in October 1922, Officer Miller had to rescue four seamen who nearly drowned when the rowboat they boarded to carry them back to their ship--a Standard Oil tanker, "which had been discharging a cargo of oil here"--capsized. The Columbia Republican for October 3, 1922, reported that the sailors were returning to their ship from a "hootch party."  

In the brave new world of policing at the end of the 1910s and 1920s, Officer Miller became a motorcycle cop. Unfortunately, the first incident reported involving Officer Miller and his motorcycle, which appeared in the Columbia Republican for July 8, 1919, tells how he was injured when he fell off his motorcycle. Officer Miller, on his motorcycle, gave chase when he saw four strangers--motorcyclists from New York City--speeding up Warren Street and not keeping to the right. Officer Miller's bike overturned when he was making a right turn from Warren Street into Worth Avenue, and Officer Miller, barely missing hitting his head on a stone wall, suffered "a broken wrist, a cracked rib and other painful but not serious injuries." The miscreant motorcyclists escaped, heading south. The Hudson police chief notified the Poughkeepsie police, and the four were arrested as soon as they reached at the city limits of Poughkeepsie.

In 1922, Officer Miller redeemed his reputation as a motorcyclist a bit when the Hudson police got word that a car stolen in Poughkeepsie was heading their way. Officer Miller and Officer Raynor "were sent uptown to be on the lookout." In this account from the Hudson Evening Register for April 18, 1922, the subject of the first sentence is Officer Miller.

Thank goodness Hudson police officers have given up the practice of shooting at the tires of fleeing cars! The Hudson police failed to stop it, but the car--a big Hudson speedster--was recovered the next day, "stripped of its plates and other equipment" and deserted in Stuyvesant Falls. 

In the 1920s, Officer Miller seemed to spend much of his time being a traffic cop. Newspaper articles regularly reported his arrests for various minor traffic violations. More than once it is reported that he arrested drivers--one of them a woman from Greenport--for driving past a trolley car discharging passengers. But the best story of an arrest by Officer Miller for a vehicular violation is this one, which appeared in the Columbia Republican on July 18, 1922. 

Newspapers of first half of the 20th century rarely included pictures, so no picture of Officer Frank Miller has yet been discovered. It's nice to think, though, that Officer Miller is one of the policemen astride motorcycles in this photograph.


A Literary Gift from France

Byrne Fone & Alain Pioton
Most readers know Byrne Fone as the author of the favorite book of Hudson history, Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait, which was published in 2005 and remains in print. In 2008, he and his partner, Alain Pioton, left Hudson to take up an idyllic life in the France. Recently, Byrne shared these memories of his years in Hudson with me. Because it tells of a time before many readers found their way to our beloved city, I asked Byrne if I could publish it on Gossips, and he agreed. 

Alain Pioton and Byrne Fone
In 2008 Alain and I left Hudson, by 2008 a glittering and indeed fabled place, and moved to a quieter life in France. For three decades we had been involved with and for part of that time lived in Hudson: Alain running the antiques shop that he had opened in 1982, thus making it the probably the first, while I helped out with various civic organizations (as one of the founders of the Hudson Opera House and as a board member of TSL, and Historic Hudson, and for a time President of HADA). My avocation was looking into the history of the city, research that eventually resulted in Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait which told the 200-year-long history of Hudson and illustrated it with engravings from the 18th and photographs from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We came to Hudson after years in New York City, for in the late 1970s we bought a house in Pine Plains, and on a Sunday drive we discovered Hudson. We did not know there was a city there at all, but when we turned the corner at Third and Warren on that Sunday in 1980 we both said, "Oh my god, look at that!"

What we saw was, of course, history, running the length of Warren street from the 18th century to that day. We both had no doubt that Hudson was going to "happen," as is said, and so confident were we that we eventually bought two houses on Allen Street and two on Warren, a purchase not so gilded or grand as it sounds if one recalls prices in Hudson thirty years ago.

One of them, on Warren, became the shop, first called The Hudson Antiques Center and then Alain Pioton Antiques. In the Center, opened in 1982, Alain soon had a few intrepid dealers, who found they did well in the shop and so opened their own shops and that is how the Hudson antiques phenomenon began. Some of those early dealers in Alain's shop are there today, among them Jennifer Arenskjold, then Jennifer Kermath, who, now that Alain has retired and closed his shop, has surely and deservedly inherited his "title" of doyen, to become the doyenne of Hudson dealers.

During those decades Alain saw Hudson fantastically change. From lonely days at 536 Warren Street in the 1980s when he was the only door open, to 2008 when he closed the shop to return to France, he saw the city become gentrified and his clientele grow and change from anonymous browsers to major designers and celebrity names. He saw what had been an empty city of empty shops become known not only for antiques, but for art, music, and food, as well as for celebrated shoppers and flaneurs, and saw Hudson itself become a celebrity; become indeed almost unbearably well-known.

We had been going to France and the Dordogne for many years, vacationing at our first house, a 15th-century rambling affair near Seint-Cyprien, and then later from our present house, La Millasserie, and from both we made buying trips around France searching out French antiques for Alain's gallery--pretty things from the 18th to the 20th century--that came in container after container over the years.

Those buying trips all over France were business for Alain, but they were also fun for us both, and they were a summer respite for me from my work as Professor of English at the City University of New York, where I taught 18th-century English and 19th-century American literature and where later in my career I began to teach a course called Gay Literature, one of the very first in the U.S.

We had always felt that France had charms that perhaps we could not resist, and we began to think about living permanently there. By 2003 we decided we wanted to do it, and we began to make plans for a new life, not one selling antiques, nor for either of us living in idleness, which we couldn't afford to do in any case. The obvious choice was to rely on past experience and open a B&B, for we had had one in our house in Chatham. So there it was. Our French house didn't have extra bedrooms, and so in 2005, for the B&B, we began to build a four-room addition to the 17th century house in the style of the period and the region.

But before we could make the final translation to another life we had to go back to Hudson, to sell our house on South Fifth Street and move into the apartment above the shop, and to begin the long process of selling that building, and Alain to begin the equally long process of closing the shop. 

I had to finish an uncompleted project. I had been working on my pleasant labor of research and love, Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait. It appeared in late 2005. It would be my last research project and the last book I would write in the U.S. In France, I have turned to fiction.

At end of summer in 2008 Alain closed his shop after almost 30 years in business. Indeed by the time Alain closed in 2008, Alain Pioton Antiques was the oldest shop in Hudson. In October we said farewell to Hudson and the U.S. Our last address in the U.S. was on Warren Street in Hudson. My first address in the U.S. was on Warren Street in Brooklyn, an unanticipated omen of closure and a pleasant circularity. I brushed up my French, and Alain came happily back to his native land. We have never regretted it.

We are here now, and when the B&B isn’t keeping us busy, as it does from May to October, I write--novels now. We see our friends, French, and expat English, Dutch, and American. We go to the village farmers' markets where we can get fresh everything. We met in America in 1977. We were married in France in 2013.

I often think that the sensations are heightened here in what the French call la France profonde, deep France. The taste of food, the sweetness of the country air after one of the spectacular late-summer thunderstorms that role ominously though the region, suddenly etching the sky with alarmingly jagged bolts of lightening. The drowsy rich summer days, followed by cool autumn nights and then the chill brilliance of a mid-winter frost, not just the light millimeter thick coating of American frost, but a thick, glittering covering, laid on as if with a brush, like brilliant icing studded with tiny diamonds on some elegant pastry.

Perhaps because men and women have for so long worked the fields and every inch of land that can be tilled, the entire countryside has the effect of having been landscaped by some master hand. That stand of ramrod straight dark green cypress trees just over there—is it by chance that it grows in such an elegant placement, seemingly deliberate in its arrangement against the amazing blue of the late summer sky, standing as a vertical backdrop to the vast horizontal swath of golden sunflowers that cover the hillside, yellow heads peering up at the sun and turning to follow it? Picturesque sheep graze. Complacent cows, mellow red coats alive against the green, stand or lie together beneath a shady tree. A lonely donkey forages in a field. Bells sound from church towers--it is the time of the Angelus.

History sounds in those bells, and it is present there just as it is in the lichen-covered golden stone of every ancient house, in the narrow streets of ancient tiny villages, in the hauteur of a forbidding and crenellated chateau that towers imposingly next to a rushing river. History seems to infuse the very air of the Perigord, heir to all the ages of eternal France. There is indeed mystery here, and some say that it was born with the magic that scholars claim the ancient cave paintings may have been trying to conjure.

Whatever the cause, the Perigord is indeed the most magical and the most beautiful region in all of France, and as you drive along a narrow country road, the rich dark forest bordering either side, you suddenly see in the distance ghost-like towers rising above the trees, floating, it almost seems, on the horizon, the misty towers of a castle in the air.

But Hudson was a fable too, and fabulous. How fortunate we were to be in Hudson in 1980, at the beginning of it, and we listen now with amazement to tales of what Hudson has become, always reinventing itself, as it always has. Here in deep France, we remember Hudson, and just a little bit, we miss it. 
--Byrne Fone

Meeting Reminder

Tomorrow night, there is a meeting at which it is expected the conceptual plan for a universal access ramp and other enhancements to Promenade Hill will be presented. The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at 1 North Front Street. 


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Update on the "Energy Highway"

Last Tuesday and Wednesday--July 21 and 22--the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) held a two-day Technical Conference to evaluate the proposed high-voltage power lines that would run through a major swath of the Hudson Valley, including Columbia and Dutchess counties. At that conference, expert consultants for the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) outlined "the unique importance of the Hudson Valley's environmental and scenic resources as well as a host of federal and state public policies and investments aimed at protecting this valuable 'green infrastructure.'" 

Ian Solomon of coalition member group Farmers and Families for Claverack is quoted in a press release issued by HVSEV on Thursday as saying:
Although we find that we are largely in agreement with the PSC staff regarding the relative impact of the various proposals, it's important to understand the process is far from over. In Claverack, we are concerned that two of the proposals recommended to move forward would increase the height of local towers by as much as 20 feet, while removing the forested buffer that shields historic residential neighborhoods from the power lines. We are also concerned that the process is moving forward with the actual need still not having been proven, despite ample evidence calling need into question. If one of these proposals is approved, the ratepayer and property owner will see largely risk with little to no reward, while the opposite is true for the developers. Because of this, it is crucial to establish need before substantially moving forward. We look forward to having this discussion when the PSC is ready.
The entire press release can be read here. The part of the Technical Conference that will focus on need has been postponed so that PSC staff can evaluate new power generation capacity expected to come on line, further reducing the rationale for the currently proposed transmission solutions.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Dining Out with Dogs

It's already allowed at some places in Hudson, but soon eating establishments all over New York State may be able officially to allow dogs to accompany their humans in their gardens and outdoor dining areas.  

In May, the New York State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow dogs, accompanied by their humans, into the outdoor areas of restaurants, cafes, and bars--provided the owners of the establishments agree. In June, the Assembly version of the bill, co-sponsored by our own assemblymember Didi Barrett, passed by an overwhelming 97 to 5. The legislation now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature. 

Please show your support by contacting the governor's office to ask him please to sign the legislation that will allow dogs to accompany their humans in the outdoor portions of willing restaurants.

Pop-Up Garden Tour Today and Tomorrow

For everyone missing the Mrs. Greenthumbs Day Garden Tour this year (the organizers decided to make it a biennial event), there's a little compensation for you this weekend. Inspired by this morning's lovely weather, Sarah Sterling is opening her garden at 243 Union Street for visitation today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Admission to the garden is free but donations are gratefully accepted for the Mrs. Greenthumbs Hedge Fund--a fund designated to repair the ravages of neglect and abuse suffered by trees and plantings in the city's parks.

Ear to the Ground

Last June, Housing Resources of Columbia County, Inc., and the Galvan Foundation announced "their agreement to collaborate in the provision of affordable housing in the City of Hudson and Columbia County." As a first manifestation of the new partnership, "Galvan representatives," among them T. Eric Galloway (the Gal of Galvan) and Henry van Ameringen (the van), joined the Housing Resources Board of Directors.

This week, there's word that the tenants of the ground floor commercial spaces in the buildings at Second and Warren owned by Housing Resources have been notified that their leases will not be renewed. Those tenants include Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, on the South Second Street side of the building, and Warren St. Discount and Warren St. Market, on the Warren Street side of the building.


How's He Doing?

On April 20, 2112, 100 days after he began his first term in office, the Register-Star published an interview with Mayor William Hallenbeck in which he outlined his "highest priorities, biggest issues as mayor of the friendly city": "100 days deep, with goals aplenty."  

Today, 100 days before the election in which Hallenbeck is seeking a third term in office, mayoral challenger Tiffany Martin Hamilton looks back at that interview to assess how effective the mayor has been in achieving his goals: "Let the campaign begin: Challenger questions mayor's record."