Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Picnic Tables on Promenade Hill

On June 21, the Common Council accepted the gift of two picnic tables from Etsy, to be placed on Promenade Hill. The tables are now situated there.

They are not beautiful. They are not unsightly. They are just picnic tables, looking a tad out of place on our late 18th-century parade.

At her "State of the City" town hall meeting in May, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton announced her intention to create a Parks Committee to "evaluate parks/green spaces from a comprehensive standpoint."

One hopes that such a committee would also have oversight of gifts to the parks to protect the integrity of the parks' design and appearance.


  1. Joey the gossips dog says, "I agree that they are not beautiful. They should be painted dayglo orange, neon yellow and fluorescent pink. That would spice things up considerably!"

    1. While I'm amused that you presume to speak for my dog, I need to remind you that dogs do not see color in the same way we humans do. Dogs only see two colors: blue-violet and yellow. Of the colors you mention--neon yellow, maybe; dayglo orange and fluorescent pink, no.

  2. I'll make a note of that. However, bear in mind that William Wegman conducted an experiment proving that dogs taste bacon exactly the way humans do. So, that levels the homo sapien/canine playing field a bit.

  3. 1.

    Yesterday I asked Mayor Hamilton about this, and she assured me that a permanent home for the tables has yet to be decided.

    I thanked her, but added that the decision itself, whenever it's reached, brings up its own troubling issues. Who's authorized to make such a decision?

    The Promenade was not granted to "the City" but "to the Common Council forever," and for "the purpose of a Public Walk or Mall and for no other purpose whatever."

    The City must act within the prescriptions of the grantors, "upon such terms as may be prescribed by the grantor or donor" (§C1-2).

    This nice gift of tables has "no conditions attach[ed]" (to quote from the Resolution to accept them), but can the mere "desire" of Etsy to place the tables at the Promenade be enough to override the "purpose" of the park according to its grantor?

    Additionally, if the Promenade was granted to "the Common Council," then the greater question is, who decides the fate of this park?

    In fact, no one can yet identify the party responsible for administering government actions at the Promenade, a park so historic it's off the charts.

    The NYS Department of State (DOS) has acknowledged that the situation is "unique." In my reading, the State has left the door open for an unusual arrangement, whereby the park may be administered by the Common Council (according to the grantors' wishes), and also by the Office of the Mayor (which is more consistent with State law).

    But rather than ask the State's interpretation of State law, which would only require a request from someone - anyone! - in City government, we may be witnessing another in a long line of bad decisions for the Promenade which have excluded the named grantee, the Common Council. (Note: because of a family connection, City attorney Ken Dow must recuse himself in this matter.)

  4. 2.

    If historic literacy is a prerequisite for the City to be able to honor the conditions of a grant, then it's probable that our generations must perish before anyone is able to grasp the national significance of the Promenade.

    Ultimately, there should be no new additions, subtractions, or modifications at Promenade Hill, including new signage, picnic tables, benches, ramps, or anything else which isn't subject to the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

    But to put the fate of the Promenade back into the people's hands, as intended by the park's grantors, someone in City government must send a letter to the DOS.

    Fortunately the letter is already written. Not only that, but the DOS attorney who's the proper recipient of the question has already read this letter!

    Unfortunately, the question must come from someone serving in City government, and not from a resident.

    So even though the DOS is waiting to receive a letter which it has already read, it's an open question whether local government can overcome its perennial dullness concerning the Promenade long enough to ask the State's advice on the City's "unique" circumstance.

    For the sake of the Promenade, let's hope that our successors are more imaginative than we are, in which case they may curse our example.

    Alderman Garriga suggested the Charles Williams Park as a suitable location for the tables. It's an excellent idea for that increasingly utilized park, a park over which the mayor has clear authority.

  5. They are just picnic tables than can be removed in 20 minutes - what is the big deal? What do you propose instead - people dressed in their Sunday's finest just strolling along like in old postcards?

    1. Who decided to put the benches in, the statue, or the signs. Then (a different question), who determined their placement?

      Some of these additions can be seen as temporary, others not. The benches can be moved to duplicate the placement of benches relative to the strollers as in Central Park. That's something the Proprietors would have assumed had they allowed for benches.

      But temporary vs. permanent is not the way the world works when practically everything becomes permanent. The Promenade's benches will never be moved by any mayor of Hudson.

      But that just begs the most important question, which is: Who MAY exercise proper authority over the Promenade? This is the main point you've overlooked in favor of making your snarky comment.

      Seriously, do you respect the wishes of grantors to the City? If you don't, then why not?