Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thoughts for New Year's Eve

On the last day of 2016, Gossips shares some thoughts expressed by Alex. N. Webb, editor and proprietor of the Hudson Daily Star, one hundred and fifty years ago, on December 31, 1856.

Bearing in mind these admonitions, enjoy your celebration of the end of 2016!

Revisiting the LWRP

Earlier this month, The City of Hudson received a $45,000 grant from the Department of State for this stated purpose: "The City of Hudson will update its draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to address climate change and sea level rise, as well as current planning and potential new projects. Components of the City Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance may also be updated to reflect the changing demography and local vision for a equitable and resilient City."

Our "draft" LWRP was actually adopted by the Common Council in 2011, but strangely it was never submitted to the Department of State for approval. Earlier this year, when this oversight was discovered, the Department of State indicated they did not want to review a document that was more than five years old, hence the revision now being undertaken.

The process promises to involve a lot of public input. To prepare for that, readers are encouraged to read not only the LWRP as it was adopted in November 2011 but also the numerous comments about it that were made prior to its adoption by the Common Council. If you need to be inspired to care about the LWRP and the Hudson waterfront, visit the Facebook page recently created by Peter Jung, Our Waterfront. This is the cover photo from that page.

Photo: Peter Jung

Friday, December 30, 2016

Education in Hudson in the Mid-19th Century

Hudson Academy, which stood atop of Academy Hill, was, according to Franklin Ellis, author of History of Columbia County, NY, "one of the oldest institutions of its class in the State, and by reason of its antiquity, its usefulness, and the varying fortunes which it has experienced, it merits a high place in the regards of the people of the county."

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson
In 1878, when Ellis was writing his history, Hudson Academy had been in existence for a little more than seventy years. He recounts its beginnings: 
On Feb. 27, 1805, there met together in Hudson sixty-four gentlemen who were "impressed with the importance and necessity of diffusing useful knowledge by the establishment of seminaries for the instruction of youth." At this meeting an association was formed and a constitution adopted for the establishment of an institution to be known as "Hudson Academy."
On March 3, 1807, the Academy association was incorporated, and among the corporators are at least two names that will be familiar to Gossips readers: Ezra Sampson, John Swift, Reuben Sears, Peter Van Den Bergh, Harry Croswell, Elisha Williams, William W. Van Ness, Timothy Babcock, William Fraser, Peter Van Rensselaer, William Ashley, Luther Dunning, Joseph Mosely, Benjamin Miller, Ebenezer Rand, John Bennett, Noah Gridley, William Shaw, William Whiting, Cornelius Tobey, Ezra Browne, Samuel J. Ten Broeck, William Noyes, Jr., and Obed W. Folger.

Hudson Academy was, Ellis tells us, "was long in a flourishing condition, and among the list of instructors and graduates are found the names of many who have held prominent positions in various walks of life." 

Ellis records that initially "the rates of tuition were fixed at four dollars per quarter for higher English, languages, and mathematics, and two dollars for the lower classes." In 1851, when this advertisement appeared in the Daily Star, quarterly tuition had doubled and an alternative "second class" program seems to have been created. What may be most interesting are the vacations: a summer vacation lasting only a little more than three weeks, and a winter vacation of two weeks.

Hudson Academy closed its doors in 1886. From 1889 to 1894, the building was used by Hudson High School.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas . . .

some people are thinking about getting rid of their Christmas trees. If you are one of them, or if you plan to do it in the next few weeks, here is information received from the Department of Public Works on how to discard your Christmas tree. Place it in the alley or at the curb--wherever you put your trash and your recyclables for pickup. DPW workers will pick up the trees "when they can, as they can." The very last day they will be picking up Christmas trees is Friday, January 27.

New Year, New Faces on the Planning Board

With allegations that changes have been made since 2011 to the causeway through South Bay, the road going east of Route 9G, and the dock, which required conditional use permits that were never sought, and fears that the haul road proposed by Colarusso means increased industrial activity on the waterfront, the pressure is on the Planning Board, whose job it is to review the proposal on behalf of the City of Hudson. 

When the Colarusso haul road first came to the Planning Board's attention back in July, a few members of the Planning Board pooh-poohed the idea that it was in any way controversial. In the new year, when the review of the haul road project begins in earnest, some of those folks will no longer be on the Planning Board. The terms of Cleveland Samuels, Glenn Martin, and Gene Shetsky all expire on December 31, 2016. To take their places in the new year, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton has named the following people to serve on the Planning Board: Ginna Moore, Amy Lavine, and Clark Wieman.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some Hints About Life in Hudson in the 1850s

Recently, I discovered this item in the Hudson Daily Star for June 12, 1851.

It's not often you can discover with any certainty when a building was constructed, so this bit of news piqued my curiosity. I set out to discover exactly which building this was. It turns out that the building hailed as an icon of Hudson's vitality in 1851 no longer exists. It stood on Seventh Street, between Prison Alley and what was then Diamond Street (now Columbia Street), on the site now occupied by Proprietors Hall. The building--a three-story brick structure--appears in this photograph from the 1930s.

The location of the building was discovered in the city directory for 1862 and a Beers Atlas map, but the search in old newspapers for a clue to its location uncovered some interesting information about its owner, John Stewart Anable, and provides insight into life in Hudson in the 1850s. 

Anable was a dealer in leather and wool, but he was also for a time the postmaster of Hudson. He was appointed on May 4, 1853. Although on August 5, 1854, the Troy Daily Times reported that J. S. Analbe had been rejected as postmaster for Hudson, he seems to have continued in that position until he resigned in May 1856.

During his tenure, the post office was located in his Leather Store and Wool Depot, on the Public Square. Also during his tenure as postmaster, long lists of names regularly appeared in the Daily Star. These were the names of recipients of letters waiting to be picked up at the post office. This is such a list, which was published on on February 15, 1856.

Why these letters were not or could not be delivered is not known, but the article in the Daily Star announcing Anable's resignation as postmaster intimates that all was not well in the Hudson post office during his years in that position. After reporting that Henry Miller had been appointed Anable's successor and has "returned from Washington on Saturday with all the necessary papers," the article continues: "We believe this change will be hailed by the public with great satisfaction. . . . There are few post-offices in the country that have given the Department at Washington more trouble than ours, or begotten more strife and censure at home."

In spite of the optimism about a new postmaster, there seems not to have been an orderly transition of power. In June, the Daily Star reported that there would be not only a new postmaster but also a new post office.

The announcement was followed by a bit of editorial comment. 

Despite what seems to have been a less than stellar career as postmaster, Anable appears to have been both charitable and civic minded. His name appears among those being acknowledged in the Daily Star on December 5, 1854, for their gifts to the Hudson Orphan Asylum on Thanksgiving. His gift to the orphans was "a fine roasting piece of Beef."

John S. Anable often petitioned the Common Council for various things he felt needed improvement in the City of Hudson. In March 1855, it was street lamps and sufficient gas, no doubt from the gasification works on the waterfront, to keep them burning.

The Lamp Committee reported that there was not sufficient money in the budget to light the streets and "respectfully recommended that the Common Council order an election in accordance with Title VIII, Sec. 88, of the new Charter, submitting to the qualified electors, the question of raising the sum of $1,200 to be exclusively applied to defray the expenses of lighting the streets of the city until the 31st day of December of the present year."

In June 1857, the issue Anable brought before the Council was the state of the railroad tracks through the Public Square.

In April 1864, Anable was one of the signatories on a petition presented to the Common Council complaining about a building, "situated on the easterly corner of Warren street and the Public Square," the walls of which were in "a ruinous and unsafe condition."   

This petition raises a couple of questions. What is the "easterly corner of Warren street and the Public Square"? Was the building "rendered safe" and preserved for us today, or was it demolished and replaced by one of the buildings that line the south side of the park today or the building at the corner of Warren and Park Place? Gossips will try to find the answers to these questions in the next few days.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mark Your Calendars

Here's something to look forward to in the new year. On Saturday, January 14, a new photographic exhibition, entitled No Parking: The Alleys and Garages of Hudson, is opening at the Hudson Opera House.

Photo: William Hellermann
No Parking features the work of three local photographers--Lisa Durfee, William Hellermann, and Peter Spear--who "find unconventional beauty beyond Hudson's well-trafficked streets." Quoting from the press release:
Exploring the parallel realities that exist in the city, No Parking features photographs dating back nearly two decades. . . . While major roads such as Warren Street offer a panoply of architectural spectacle to enjoy, No Parking tells the story of those small streets that run parallel to the larger thoroughfares, and the hidden barns, garages, storehouses, and studios nestled along them.
"I happened to notice in the summer of 1998 that gentrification had unmistakably taken off in Hudson," William Hellermann recounted to fellow photographer Valerie Shaff. "However, by contrast, I found that the garages were often more visually interesting than the buildings on the main thoroughfares. They have an accidental beauty."
No Parking offers viewers the rare opportunity to travel back to a time in Hudson's not-so-distant past with work from three of the most talented photographers living in the city today.
The opening reception for No Parking takes place on Saturday, January 14, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Where Does It End?

At the Greenport Planning Board meeting last night, Mitch Khosrova, counsel for the Hudson Planning Board, expressed concern that the two planning boards were not "on the same page" about the haul road proposed by A. Colarusso & Sons. The issue over which there is disagreement has to do with the scope of the proposed haul road and its environmental impact, and it is a significant one for Hudson.

On December 22, Khosrova wrote a letter to the Greenport Planning Board. In it, he outlines the concerns of the Hudson Planning Board about the proposed Colarusso haul road for "your use/consideration during your SEQRA review of this application." The first concern is traffic. On this topic Khosrova writes: "Broad Street is a local City of Hudson roadway that is utilized extensively by the public for vehicular and pedestrian access to the City of Hudson waterfront park. Has the applicant investigated alternatives for the proposed truck route, including but not limited to the installation of a new rail crossing to provide a more direct route from the causeway to the existing dock and eliminating the need to utilize Broad Street? This would result in a completely separate and dedicated travel way for all truck traffic associated with operation and avoid the use of local public roadways (other than state crossings) all together, and thus reduce the potential unsafe environment for pedestrian traffic along Front Street and Broad Street."   

Later in the letter, Khosrova explains Hudson zoning in the area of the dock and the haul road:
Pursuant to section 325-17.1 (d) of the City of Hudson zoning code, no improvement shall be constructed, altered, paved, or improved, in whole or in part in the Core Riverfront C-R district without the approval of the City Planning Board. The applicant has recently undertaken improvements to the existing dock without obtaining any approvals from the City of Hudson. Since the existing dock is a vital part of the overall mining/hauling project, and in order to avoid the potential of segmentation issues associated with the SEQRA review, the City of Hudson has previously requested that the applicant submit an application for the dock improvements. The application shall contain all correspondence, documentation, permits and approvals from other involved agencies. These documents should also be entered into record with the Lead Agency so that a complete review of the project as a whole, as well as its smaller segments, can be reviewed in order to determine any cumulative impacts. In order for the City to determine the project's conformance with current City of Hudson Zoning, the applicant shall also provide data, information, and correspondence regarding the scale of the dock operation as of the adoption of the City of Hudson Local Law 5-2011, pertaining to the continued operation of a non-conforming use within the Core Riverfront C-R zone.
In a comment made on the previous Gossips post, "unheimlich" suggested that the Greenport Planning Board's response to Khosrova's concern indicated that they had not read the letter. But it's possible to see this in a different way. When Ed Stiffler, chair of the Greenport Planning Board, requested confirmation from Pat Prendergast, Colarusso's engineer, about where the project ended, it might be seen as an indication that he had read the letter and was prepared to disregard the concerns that were beyond the actual western terminus of the proposed haul road. If this is the case, the Greenport Planning Board, in its SEQR determination, may not be looking at environmental impacts of the proposed haul road on the southern end of Front Street, at the Broad Street crossing, or at the dock--significant areas of concern for Hudson.

Hudson, Greenport, and the Haul Road

Hudsonians concerned about the impact on our waterfront of the proposed Colarusso haul road showed up in force this evening for the Greenport Planning Board workshop session, which preceded the regular meeting of the Planning Board. Typically, the workshop takes place in a conference room in Greenport Town Hall, but tonight, because of the number of people interested in witnessing the proceedings, the workshop was moved to the courtroom, where the regular meetings of the Planning Board take place. The room has a posted maximum capacity of sixty-six, and that limit was being strictly adhered to. Gossips was only allowed to enter the room after someone else left. Present at the meeting, but not visible in the picture below, were Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton, First Ward alderman Rick Rector, and Mitch Khosrova, counsel to the Hudson Planning Board.

Photo: Julie Metz
In the workshop session, Planning Board member Michael Bucholsky asked about the mining permit already in place. The question prompted Ray Jurkowski, the engineer retained by the Greenport Planning Board and the Hudson Planning Board, to voice what has been feared by many: "They are calling this a haul road, but this is an expansion or an extension of the mining permit."

During the regular meeting of the Planning Board, Pat Prendergast, the engineer for Colarusso, reported that the project was "still in front of DEC for permits to do work on the South Bay causeway." He explained that the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) cannot issue permits until the SEQR process is completed. He said the Department of Transportation permitting process was "down to the final edits" and noted that no permits were needed from the Army Corps of Engineers or the NYS Department of State.

After Prendergast presented his summary, Jurkowski told him that he wanted to "concentrate on the narrative," the document prepared by Prendergast, on behalf of Colarusso, at Jurkowski's request. Jurkowski asked that the narrative be expanded to include an overview of the project and a timeline. "The narrative doesn't provide as much information as it could," said Jurkowski. Specifically, he wanted more detail on various aspects of the proposed project: hours of operation, number of trips, access to the haul road by the public. He acknowledged that the details were provided "in the appendices" but maintained, "It's not fair to make [the Planning Board and the public] put everything together." It was decided that Prendergast and Jurkowski would meet, with the chair of the Greenport Planning and the board's legal counsel, to discuss the shortcomings of the document, "to make sure all the items are addressed."

Ed Stiffler, chair of the Greenport Planning Board, described, for the benefit of the members of the public present, the process and procedure they would follow in making a SEQR determination. When the Greenport Planning Board has what they consider a complete application for the project from Colarusso, they will schedule a public hearing. The hearing will take place at Columbia-Greene Community College, to ensure that all who are interested can be present and comment. He indicated that each person wanting to comment would be permitted five minutes to speak. Those with more information than can be articulated in five minutes are urged to submit written comments. Stiffler said that written comments would be accepted for seven days after the public hearing and a full transcript of the hearing would be available as soon as possible after the hearing.

When Prendergast had packed up his charts and the Planning Board was ready to move on, Khosrova, legal counsel to the Hudson Planning Board, rose to tell the Greenport Planning Board, "I'm not certain we are on the same page." He was referring to a question Stiffler had addressed earlier to Prendergast about scope of the project. Stiffler asked Prendergast to confirm that the project in Hudson ended "at the beginning of the paved road"--that is, the southernmost end of Front Street. Prendergast confirmed that was the case. Khosrova maintained that the SEQR process "can look at anything that related to the operation," which would include the dock. The definition of the project, according to the Greenport Planning Board, the lead agency in the SEQR process, does not include the dock.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Common Council on the Haul Road

Toward the end of the December 20 meeting of the Common Council, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) brought up the issue of the Colarusso haul road, asking his fellow aldermen, "Does anybody care about trucks on the causeway? . . . Will the traffic increase or stay the same?" He noted that he and other aldermen were getting emails from constituents concerned about the proposed haul road and its impact on the waterfront.

Responding to Friedman's questions, city attorney Ken Dow said that the application was before the Planning  Board and that body was gathering information. When asked by Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) about a timetable for the site plan review process, Tom DePietro, chair of the Hudson Planning Board, indicated that the Greenport Planning Board, which has been granted lead agency status in the SEQR (State Envorinmental Quality Review) process, "doesn't plan to get around to SEQR until its February or March meeting."

Friedman went on to ponder relevant statutes of limitation. "It is not clear to me that what has happened [on the causeway] since 2011 is consistent with the city zoning code." He also asked, "Is the City estopped from enforcing its laws?" Speaking of the plans now being proposed Friedman went on, "What is clear is that they are adding a lane of travel that seems to me is prohibited by the zoning. . . . I just want to know what questions are being asked."

Audience member Timothy O'Connor brought up the work done last year on the haul road going east from Route 9G. The first part of the road going east--the first 930 feet--passes through a part of Hudson that is zoned Recreational Conservation. According to the zoning code, this alteration required a conditional use permit, but none was sought. O'Connor asked that the statute of limitations on this action be investigated.

Audience member Steve Dunn said he was very concerned about statute of limitations, citing the changes to the road through South Bay since 2011 and also the recently completed revetment at the dock. "Having read the zoning code as carefully as I can in the last two days," Dunn, who is an attorney, told the Council, "I believe that all those changes to the road--no matter how minor--required a conditional of use permit." Calling this "the most important issue facing the City right now," Dunn told Dow and the Council, "Someone needs to research this issue ASAP and generate an opinion letter we can rely on." Dunn further suggested that the City ask Colarusso to enter into an agreement to toll, or stop the clock on, the statute of limitations. Dunn asserted, "To the extent that the City's rights have been degraded, the City's bargaining position has been eroded."

The Greenport Planning Board is expected to continue its review of the proposed haul road at its meeting tonight, Tuesday, December 27. The regular meeting of the Planning Board begins at 7:30 p.m., but word is spreading that the haul road issue will be taken up during the workshop session, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hudson in the New York Times

Many weddings take place at Basilica Hudson, but not all of them are featured in the New York Times. Last week, one of them was: "Instant Chemistry, Caught on Video." Hudson readers may remember this wedding, if only slightly. The wedding's celebratory fireworks inspired a flurry of comments on Facebook wanting to know the source of the exploding sounds on a November night.

Long Ago on Promenade Hill

Today, the City of Hudson is struggling to provide universal access to Promenade Hill. In the mid-19th century, the concerns about this historic public space were a bit different. This item appeared in the Daily Star for June 11, 1851.

Prohibiting boys from playing "upon the productive portion of the Hill" reminds me of 2009, when the Common Council, at the urging of Mayor Rick Scalera, decided to ban pick-up soccer games from Henry Hudson Riverfront Park and relegate them to Charles Williams Park, which Scalera predicted would be, when completed, "the eighth wonder of the world."

Above is Charles Williams Park, soon after it was declared "all built out and complete" in 2015.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to All!

Gossips is taking Christmas off and will be back tomorrow.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Another Gift on Christmas Eve

Starting tomorrow, Christmas Day, and for the first five days of Christmas, you can get the first installment of Utopia Falls: A Jeremy Hudson Mystery (revised and corrected) FREE on Kindle. (For those who don't own a Kindle or any other kind of e-reader, you can read the Kindle version on your computer.)

In an email about this murder mystery in progress, set in a fictionalized Hudson, Fone told Gossips (and my vanity compels me to share): "The rest of it moves forward, and you or a simulacrum have now appeared. No, you haven't killed anyone yet, but you may be tempted."

A Gift on Christmas Eve

Last night, David Anderson, of Walking the dog Theater, performed Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at Solaris, 360 Warren Street. It marked the eleventh season that Anderson has offered his one-man adaptation of this classic work, and Dan Udell was there to videotape the performance. With Anderson's and Udell's permission, Gossips provides the link to that videotape, which is now on YouTube, so that you may experience Anderson's memorable performance on Christmas Eve.

N. C. Folger: An Afterword

For most of the month of December, Gossips has been reporting information uncovered about Nathan Cyprian Folger, a Hudson native who spent most of his adult life in New Orleans. On December 6, we told about the "new wholesale clothing manufactory" that N. C. Folger established here in Hudson in June 1857, in partnership with James Clark, to supply his retail clothing establishment in New Orleans. 

A major line of clothing sold by N. C. Folger's Clothing Store was "plantation goods." One type of "plantation goods" was something described as "Negro Traders' Clothing"--what slaves were dressed in for market day.

An article about Folger and Clark's enterprise in Hudson, which appeared in the Daily Star, reveals that "Negro Traders' Clothing" was exactly what was being manufactured here in 1857, at the corner of Warren and Fourth streets, in the building that is now Face Stockholm: "Among other things we noticed several hundred suits of coarse blue satinett, designed for slaves, as market day attire. The vests are of a uniform style, colored and figured up to the highest standard of negro taste."

We also reported that in September 1861, five months after the Civil War began, a federal marshal shut down the operation here in Hudson and seized "merchandise, money, and other property." According to the item that appeared in the New-York Daily Tribune, there was evidence that the manufactory had been "for some time furnishing clothing, hardware and other contraband articles to the rebels."

In reporting the incident a week or so later, the Red Hook Weekly Journal speculated that the manufactory would soon be reopened because "we hear it asserted that Mr. Folger has no interest whatever in the establishment." On January 1, 1962, James Clark issued this notice, which appeared for several consecutive days in the Daily Star.
All of this has been shared before, but it is repeated now to provide background for the latest discovery. On the suggestion of a Gossips reader, I contacted Joseph Gatti, historian for the Town of Livingston, who told me an amazing story and gave me permission to share it.

Once upon a time, there was a building at the corner of Warren and Fifth streets, where the vacant lot is now. The building, remembered as Charlie's Corner, was destroyed by fire. When the ruins of this building were being taken down and the lot cleared, which Gatti remembers as happening in 1977, he was part of the crew doing the cleanup. When they were working in the cellar, they discovered a door that opened into a room under street. In that room was a chair, and on the chair were gray uniforms--Confederate Army uniforms. 

Gatti has no idea what happened to the uniforms after he and his coworkers came upon them. Another mystery is why, if they were made in Clark and Folger's manufactory at Warren and Fourth street, they ended up being stashed in an underground hidey-hole a block away at Warren and Fifth.

We Made It!

Here's news for all you fans of Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!: The NPR News Quiz. The story of Hudson police officers breaking a car window on a frigid morning to rescue what they thought was an old woman made it on the show. It was the last question in the penultimate segment of the show, "Lightning Fill in the Blank," and it was asked of Amy Dickinson, who didn't give exactly the right answer. For better or for worse, the place where this happened is initially identified only as "New York," but the fact that it was Hudson is mentioned later. If you missed the show, which aired today from 11 to noon, you can listen on demand by clicking here.

How to Spend Christmas Eve

This evening at 5:30 p.m., the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church, temporarily displaced from their historic building by structural issues with the roof, will be holding a candlelight Christmas Eve service in Seventh Street Park. is predicting temperatures in the high 30s and only a slight chance of rain, so it seems a perfect night to gather under the stars, as the shepherds did, to begin the celebration of Christmas.

Gerard David|Metropolitan Museum of Art
If you prefer a roof over your head on Christmas Eve, you can go to Christ Church Episcopal at 4 p.m. for a family Christmand Eve service or at 10:30 p.m. for carols followed by a Festal Eucharist at 11 p.m.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Report from the HPC

On Friday morning, after the Historic Preservation Commission took its official vote to deny a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition of 718-720 Union Street, HPC chair Rick Rector announced that the building would be demolished anyway. He explained that Ray Jurkowski, the engineer retained by the City of Hudson, and Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, had determined that, in the interest of public safety, the building should be demolished.

After a public hearing, at which there was only one member of the public present to make a comment, the HPC considered the application to "renovate and restore" 21 Rossman Avenue.

After considerable deliberation, the HPC agreed to grant a certificate of appropriateness only to the proposed additions to the house: a new entrance and courtyard at the left of the building and two "glass boxes" at the back of the house. The original design of the house will remain intact except that the porch at the right will be enlarged and a vent at the attic level on one side of the house will be replaced by a window to match the window in the same position on the other side of the house.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Last Week at 401 State Street

Gossips regularly publishes the links to Dan Udell's videos of Common Council meetings. Udell also videotapes the meetings of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors--meetings that are far less entertaining but just as instructive. Click here to view the video of the December 14 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, during which Fifth Ward supervisor Rick Scalera presented a certificate of recognition to Arthur Koweek for fifty years of service on the county Planning Board.

Koweek was first appointed to the Columbia County Planning Board in 1967 and has been consistently reappointed to the board by a succession of Hudson mayors. In 1991, he was elected vice chair of the county Planning Board and has held that position continuously since. In the 1960s and 1970s, Koweek chaired the Hudson Planning Commission and later the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency, during the era that saw the demolition and reconstruction much of the Second Ward and the west side of Front Street. In 1984, as chair of the Hudson Community Development office, he spearheaded the unsuccessful effort to site an oil refinery on the Hudson waterfront.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last Night at City Hall

Dan Udell's videotape of last night's Common Council meeting is now available on YouTube. Click here to watch.


Senator Schumer in Hudson

Columbia County was the last stop on Senator Charles Schumer's annual tour of all sixty-two counties in New York State. He appeared this morning in Hudson, at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, 1 North Front Street. 

In his remarks before a gathering of elected officials and the media, Schumer began by mentioning previous visits to Hudson, recalling that from time to time he had come for the Flag Day parade. He spoke in particular about one visit made to Hudson, in the early 2000s, during the cement plant battle. He remembered that the mayor at the time, whose name he admitted he could not recall but described as "a heavyset fellow," supported the cement plant and that he, Schumer, was somewhat sympathetic because he was told the cement plant meant jobs. "The people who wanted a livable, clean environment won that battle," Schumer recalled, "and the number of jobs that have come to this area to support the creative economy is far greater" than the industrial jobs promised by the proposed cement plant. "The economy in Hudson is growing," Schumer declared, "because the beautiful assets have been preserved." He spoke of a painting by Frederic Church, on loan to him from Olana, which hangs in his office and reminds him of the beauty of our part of the Hudson River.

Schumer's particular reason for visiting Hudson was to announce his support and assistance for the $25 million redevelopment project proposed by Sustainable Community Associates (SCA) for the abandoned Kaz warehouse site. The opportunities for developing the Kaz site and creating "the foundation of a new downtown" are constrained by the presence of CSX, which owns a 7-acre parcel on Front Street, adjacent to the Kaz warehouses and to 41 Cross Street, being transformed into a hotel called The Wick. 

Schumer told the audience this morning, "This parcel houses a small building that functions as a resting spot and staging area for CSX crews. The 'crew shack' is utilized infrequently during train switching operations on the sidings of the railroad and is located about half a block away from the tracks." Schumer concluded, "This parcel is not vital to CSX, but it is vital to the SCA project. . . . CSX is being selfish, because they don't need the parcel, but SCA does."

The following letter, from Senator Schumer to the CEO of CSX, Michael Jon Ward, was distributed to the media this morning.
Dear Mr. Ward:
I am writing to request your assistance in addressing a piece of CSX owned property in the City of Hudson, NY. Though small in size and importance to the railroad, the parcel is key to a major development project that could transform Hudson's waterfront area.
The Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) is the local development corporation whose mission is to sustain, promote and attract projects that improve economic opportunities for businesses and residents, create jobs and enhance the quality of life in the City of Hudson.
The HDC, and the City of Hudson, is partnering with Sustainable Community Associates to bring a $25 million dollar mixed-used project to the former KAZ warehouse site on Front Street in Hudson, just southeast of Amtrak's Hudson Station. The proposed development calls for:
•  Residential Space: A mix of 67 one- and two-bedroom units with varied layouts
•  Modern Co-working Facility: Offered for independent contractors, startups, and self-employed people to have a flexible work environment, conference rooms, services and printing, without the cost of a full office
•  Commercial Space: 24,600 square feet of space (including co-working) centered on retail designed to serve the local community, as well as office space with a focus on job creation 
•  Live/Work: The proposal includes 10 live/work spaces suitable for businesses smaller than a storefront on Warren Street, but requiring first-floor frontage
An important component of this project is the acquisition of a small CSX owned parcel. Obtaining ownership of this parcel allows for the critical Front street frontage for businesses and access points for public infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks.
Beginning in February 2015, HDC has made consistent efforts to communicate with CSX's Real Estate Office in Jacksonville, Florida. With almost two years of outreach resultin in dead-end communication, little constructive feedback, and no formal response from CSX, the City's largest redevelopment project since the 1980s has effectively come to a halt.
The CSX parcel, located immediately south of 60 Front Street, contains one small building that is used infrequently as a "crew shack" when doing switching operations on the sidings a half a block away. The developer, Sustainable Community Associates, has proposed a one-acre land swap, which would replace the current CSX parcel with a one acre parcel directly on the CSX rail siding.
This parcel is of little significance to your great railroad, but it is of tremendous consequence to the people of the City of Hudson and the ambitious plans to redevelop this historic Hudson River city. I ask that you please give your attention to the matter and instruct your Real Estate Office to engage HDC in discussions to try and make this property available for this worthy project.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
During a site visit this morning, NYS Assemblymember Didi Barrett points out to Senator Schumer the location of Basilica Hudson. Included in the picture, from left to right: Ben Ezinga, Sustainable Community Associates; Schumer; Barrett; Sheena Salvino, HDC executive director; Jeffrey Hunt, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce president & CEO; Tiffany Garriga, Common Council majority leader; Tiffany Martin Hamilton, mayor of Hudson

In a press release, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton spoke of the project and expressed her gratitude to Senator Schumer for his support:
It is unquestionable that thoughtful, careful development of our waterfront is critical to Hudson's economic development and sustainability. The proposal by Sustainable Community Associates to redevelop the area in and around the former Kaz warehouse is truly transformative, and very consistent with the vision of expanding beyond a traditional main street model and embracing Hudson's river town roots. In Hudson's densely developed two square miles, we are faced with the need for more residential and commercial space to support growth. SCA's plan addresses those needs, while contributing to the steady evolution of our waterfront area from its historical industrial use. To maximize curb appeal and provide natural, unbroken connection between Warren Street and the south end of town along Front Street, SCA hopes to acquire property form CSX. On behalf of Hudson, I am incredibly grateful to Senator Schumer for his interest in our city, and for any assistance he is able to offer to facilitate discussions between SCA and CSX to help ensure this project's success.
While Schumer was addressing those gathered in the Chamber of Commerce conference room this morning, Timothy O'Connor, tireless advocate for South Bay and the natural environment, stood just outside the window holding picket signs, one of which, written on the back of a Tiffany Martin Hamilton campaign sign, read: "Enviro-justice NOT gravel expansion."


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

$100,000 Here, $100,000 There . . .

and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Tonight, at its regular meeting for December, the Common Council passed the resolution, initiated by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), to increase the funding for the ramp at Promenade Hill by $100,000, but not before aldermen John Friedman (Third Ward) and Garriga and to a lesser extent Abdus Miah (Second Ward) had a heated discussion about the wisdom of redirecting $100,000, which had been written into the 2017 budget against the possibility of a lawsuit over the City's weighted voting system should the Fair & Equal referendum fail, toward the proposed ramp at Promenade Hill.

Most of what was said has been said before. Friedman told Garriga and Miah, "You spend money like water." Garriga repeatedly invoked people with disabilities, as well as mothers with strollers, who were denied access to Hudson's most historic park. Miah complained that $20,000 had been appropriated for a ramp and asserted that those members of the Common Council who were unhappy with the ramp that $20,000 would buy were now obligated to support the resolution that would appropriate $100,000 to the ramp. Friedman had a different solution: "Do it right, and fund it slowly." To this Garriga countered, "Tell the disabled that we don't need a ramp."

Audience member Steve Dunn called for the vote on the resolution to be deferred and added a new wrinkle to the argument. He suggested that the $100,000, originally appropriated for legal fees, was needed for legal fees of a different nature: "to hire separate counsel to deal with Colarusso" and its proposal, now before the Planning Board, for a haul road from the quarry to the dock. 

When a vote was finally called, the resolution passed--but barely. The resolution required a simple majority, which is 1,015 affirmative votes; it got 1,019 affirmative votes. Those supporting the resolution were Council president Claudia DeStefano (190) and aldermen Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward, 364), Garriga (185), Miah (185), and Lauren Scalera (Fourth Ward, 95). Those opposing the resolution were alderman Friedman (180), Henry Haddad (Third Ward, 180), Priscilla Moore (Fifth Ward, 364), Michael O'Hara (First Ward, 95), and Rick Rector (First Ward, 95). Alderman Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward) was absent from the meeting.

A Clue About What Came Before

Our train station is definitely historic. Constructed in 1874, it has the distinction of being the oldest surviving station between New York City and Albany.

The train station we have now, however, is not the original Hudson train station. We know that the original Hudson depot on the Hudson River Railroad was located in approximately the same spot as the current station. We also know that it was a wooden structure, and it burned to the ground in November 1873. What we don't know is what it looked like. There is, to my knowledge, no pictorial documentation of the original train station.  But this item, from the Hudson Daily Star for June 10, 1851, gives a clue about its design.


Monday, December 19, 2016

The News When It Happened

We all know that South Bay was rendered inaccessible to sailing ships when the Hudson River Railroad was built. Earlier today, I discovered this news item, which appeared in the Hudson Daily Star on June 7, 1851, about the construction of the embankment that carried the railroad across the mouth of the bay.

Painting of South Bay and Mt. Merino by Henry Ary