Sunday, February 28, 2016

Eyes on Cross Street

Cross Street is a street you don't hear about very often. It's only two blocks long, going from South Front Street to the bottom of the Second Street stairs. It's entirely possible that some people living in Hudson don't even know where it is. But last Wednesday night, three of the six proposals that came before the Zoning Board of Appeals for review were on Cross Street.

Bing Maps
The first was the subdivision of 20 and 22 Cross Street. There is a house at 20 Cross Street, but there is no house at 22 Cross Street. It was demolished years ago. At Wednesday's meeting, code enforcement officer Craig Haigh explained that his parents had owned the two properties when he was a kid growing up, and they had merged them. The current owners want to subdivide them again and sell off 22 Cross Street.

A public hearing on this proposal preceded the regular meeting of the ZBA, and after the public hearing, the subdivision was unanimously approved.

Although minutes earlier, at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting, the members had agreed to move forward an amendment to the zoning code that would make hotels a conditionally permitted use in this particular Residential/Special Commercial district, the principals from Redburn Development and their attorney, Kristal Heinz, appeared before the ZBA seeking a use variance to redevelop 41 Cross Street as a hotel. It appears to be a race to see which happens first: the Council amends the zoning law, or the ZBA grants a use variance. The Council will vote on the amendment to the zoning law at a special meeting on Monday, March 7, at 6:30 p.m. The ZBA will hold a public hearing on the request for a use variance on Wednesday, March 16, at 6 p.m.

When the proposal for the hotel at 41 Cross Street was first presented to the Planning Board back in December 2015, there was some question about whether or not Cross Street was included in the locally designated Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District. The description of the boundaries of the district would suggest that Cross Street was part of the district: "Cherry Alley on the north, Worth Avenue to the east, NYS Correction Facility property bordering East Allen Street to the south and Power Avenue and Cross Street bordering Allen Street to the south, Amtrak and Hudson River on the west." But, in the inventory of properties which is part of the historic designation, not a single building on Cross Street is listed.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission have sought for months to correct the discrepancy, but instead of just going ahead and requesting that the Common Council amend the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District to include Cross Street, it was left to legal counsel--in this instance, city attorney Carl Whitbeck--to look into the matter and make a recommendation. That seems never to have happened. As a consequence, the HPC has no authority to review the plans for the exterior of the hotel proposed by Redburn Development. As it turns out, that's not a problem. The principals of Redburn Development are zealous about historic preservation and asked the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to do a resource evaluation. SHPO determined that the building is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and SHPO will be reviewing and approving the plans.

But now there's another reason to regret that Cross Street's status as part of a locally designated historic district is uncertain. The third Cross Street project before the ZBA on Wednesday night was a request for area variances--front and back setbacks and height--for a new residence to be constructed at 26 Cross Street. There are several vacant lots along the north side of Cross Street, but this isn't one of them. The new construction not only requires area variances but also the demolition of the house that is currently there.

Unfortunately, because of the uncertainty about the inclusion or exclusion of Cross Street in the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District, the HPC will not be involved in permitting the demolition of the existing house or in reviewing the design of the proposed new house for compatibility with the neighborhood.

The pictures below, from Peter Cipkowski's collection of photographs taken by his grandfather in the late 1920s or early 1930s, show a house on Cross Street that was the home of a member of the Cipkowski family. It's probably not 26 Cross Street (the door is in the wrong place), but it is very similar to 26 Cross Street.

The house at 26 Cross Street has been altered by post-World War II attempts to modernize it, but wouldn't it be grand if, instead of demolishing it, its owners, guided by these historic pictures of a neighboring house, would restore it to its original, charmingly vernacular late 19th-century design? 

There will be a public hearing on the request for area variances for what's proposed for 26 Cross Street on Wednesday, March 16, at 6 p.m. At the same time (not concurrently but sequentially), there will be public hearings on an area variance for a proposed new prefab garage on Partition Street behind 210 Allen Street; a use variance for 453 State Street, which was granted a use variance to 2004 to become a laundromat but now seeks another use variance to become professional offices; and an area variance for a new unit of Mount Ray Townhouses, which seeks to cover 35 percent of its lot instead of the permitted 30 percent.


  1. Cross St ends at 2nd St, the cement staircase, and continues eastward to become Tanners Lane; which is a dead end street. It is also a point of contention between a Mr. vonRitter? and the City of Hudson.
    With a 55 room Hotel, new housing construction, etc. imho a street/roadway should be considered that loops around from Cross St. to S. Front southeast of the Amtrak Sta.
    What is planned for the warehouses in back of the Hotel site?
    Will there be a traffic flow study?
    Will vonRitter revalue his property to a higher amount due to the surge in restoration and building in the area of his property?

    1. The hotel management company indicates that at peak check-in times (Fri afternoon between 4-5) there will be 16 rooms (potentially with 16 cars) checking in. Add to that cars dropping people off and picking people up from the train, and normal truck traffic and you have a real bottleneck on Front Street.

    2. Not that you have an economic interest in the outcome, right Russell?

    3. No John, I don't. What's you're interest in it? Or is it that you think Hudson really wants/needs a Holiday Inn Express down on Front Street?

    4. You're being disingenuous Russell -- you are a well-known hotelier in this town. So you clearly have a personal stake in the outcome. My only interest is as a resident and an alderman on the Economic Development Committee.

  2. I see no discrepancy between the City's 2006 application for a local Historic District and the earlier Hudson Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

    The latter district, as described by SHPO, is "roughly bounded by ... Allen Street ..."

    The SHPO map illustrates the meaning of the phrase from the application for the local designation, "Cross Street bordering Allen Street to the south." It also explains why no buildings on Cross Street are listed in the local historic district.

    On Allen Street anyway, both districts are bounded by the perimeters of individual properties, several of which reach to Cross Street. In this way, both districts are able to "border" Cross Street without including any of its buildings.

  3. Traffic never seemed to be an issue when Kaz was in full swing back there. Hardly an issue with a proposed hotel which is quite small by today's standards. I always thought of a good project for that area and call it the ship yard district since a ship yard was there near the tanneries, as well as on the north end of town in north bay area west of rope alley.

    1. There were also two potash manufacturers on Cross Street, probably both of which contributed lye for the soap made in the original Stageworks building.

      So I'm thinking "Potash Hotel," because it sounds so ... inviting.

  4. The old photographs of my great-grandmother's house on Cross Street are dated 1925 on the originals, soon to be donated to the Hudson history room.