Monday, October 31, 2016

A Great Opportunity for Someone

Gossips doesn't typically publish want ads, but this is an exception. It sounds like a tremendous opportunity.

Noted in the Newspaper

This little item, discovered in the Hudson Daily Evening Register for November 8, 1889, demanded sharing.

One wonders what motivated the reporter to use the verb materialize, in quotes, when reporting that a Common Council meeting didn't happen as scheduled.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Disturbing News on Halloween Eve

A sixteen-year-old Hudson girl, dressed in black for Halloween, has gone missing. She reportedly has autism and schizophrenia and is believed to be in danger. More information is available here.

UPDATE: This girl was found late last night and is safe.  See the Register-Star: "Missing teen walks into apartment, safe and sound."

Share Your Opinion . . . Before the Fact

Here's an opportunity that doesn't come along very often. The owner of 426-428 is undertaking work on the building: replacing the windows (except for the arched windows on the top floor) with double-hung wood windows and restoring the woodwork on each of the buildings' three oriels.

So, here is the challenge for you, tasteful readers. Suggest a color that the oriels and other woodwork should be painted.

The picture below shows Warsher Row as it appeared in 1905.

The tonal differences in the historic image suggest that the central oriel may have been painted a different, somewhat lighter color than the other two oriels and that the value of the color on the other two oriels was similar to that of the red brick. In 1905, all three oriels appear to have been painted fairly dark colors, not the cream color that they are now.

While you are submitting your suggestions for colors, you might also share your opinion on this question, although this time no one has asked for it: Should the balustrade on the central oriel, which appears in the 1905 photogtaph but is missing now, be re-created?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Another Development at 400 State Street

On August 31, a "Sale Pending" sign appeared on 400 State Street, the stone building constructed as Hudson's almshouse in 1818. 

On September 12, all the trees were felled in front of the building. It was rumored that the trees had to go because they were obstructing the view of the building.

On September 22, the "Sale Pending" sign was gone, and a new sign had taken its place, one that featured an engraving from Rural Repository of the building from the time it was the Hudson Lunatic Asylum (1830-1850).

Over the past week or so, trucks and at least one car have been parked disrespectfully on the lawn in front of the building, and the outer door left standing open suggested that people were working inside the building.  

This morning, it was noted that there was not a sign of any kind of the building, and spotlights had been positioned on the ground along the entire facade.

A drive by the former almshouse turned asylum turned seminary turned orphanage turned library sometime after dark seems in order.

Why Blue?

Work on Hudson's new police and court center is almost complete. The promised finish date is December 1. Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward), who chairs the Police Committee, reports that the project is a bit ahead of schedule. Watching the progress, I've been puzzled by the baby blue panels and banding. I don't remember them from the rendering provided before construction began.

Curious, I went back to the rendering and discovered that it did show these elements being blue but a much darker gray blue not the baby blue that they are.

The blue we've got is similar to the blue of the panels under the windows at Bliss Towers, constructed in 1973. Many's the time I have contemplated those panels thinking the building would be much better looking if those baby blue panels were a different color.

The blue on the new police and court building is also reminiscent of another example of 1970s architecture in Hudson: the old L&B building down next to South Bay.

It's too bad the designers of the police and court building couldn't have followed the current color craze in Hudson and used panels of dark gray instead of baby blue. At least the building's rehabbed facade would be a thing of its time instead of a throwback to the 1970s--not exactly a golden age of architecture in Hudson.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Of Cities and Slogans

Gossips came late to the TV series Parks and Recreation, starting to binge-watch episodes only after its seventh and final season was already over. In a recently watched episode from Season 3, Leslie Knope, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana, recounts all the slogans her city has had over the years, from the 19th-century slogans "The Paris of America" (1820-1824) and "The Akron of Southwest Indiana" (1824-1880), through such 20th-century slogans as "The Factory Fire Capital of America" (1945-1964), to the more recent slogan "First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity," adopted in 2009. If you are curious, you can view all twelve of Pawnee's city slogans here, on the fictional city's website. In Season 6, the Parks and Recreation Department holds a city forum to come up with a new slogan, to replace the one adopted in 2009. An excerpt from that forum can be viewed on YouTube.

My reason for going on at length about Pawnee, Indiana, and its slogans is to make the point that if Pawnee, albeit a fictional city, can change its slogan thirteen times since its founding in 1817, maybe Hudson, which seems to have had only one slogan in all of its 231 years, could consider doing the same. It is not known when "The Friendly City" was adopted as Hudson's slogan (my guess would be that it happened in the 1970s), but it's not very original (many other municipalities in the United States call themselves "The Friendly City") and it doesn't give a very accurate impression of our city (some people have found Hudson downright hostile). So here is my modest proposal--one made six years ago and now offered again. The City of Hudson should consider a new slogan--one that captures the spirit of Hudson today. Perhaps there could even be a city slogan forum to gather ideas. My personal suggestion is one that has been used since 2010 on the website "Upstate's Downtown."

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Of Bridges and Ramps at Public Works

Last night, at the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting, Rob Perry, DPW superintendent, told the committee that three of the four engineering firms that had been asked to submit letters of interest on the Ferry Street Bridge had done so. He further reported: "We have reached out the Columbia County Engineering Department for assistance with this portion of the project. The county owns and maintains many bridges throughout the County and has replaced dozens over the past few decades. They are intimately familiar with the FHWA scheduling and reimbursement process."

Lately, it seems there cannot be a meeting in the Council Chamber without rancor and raised voices. Last night's Public Works Committee was no exception. At the end of the meeting, after Perry had completed his report, Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) asked about the status of the ramp at Promenade Hill. It was interesting that he should ask at that time, since the design for the ramp and the selection of the materials had just been completed, and those involved in that process had spent the day considering when the project could go before the Historic Preservation Commission for review. It was also interesting that he directed his question to Perry, who bowed out of the planning process when it reached the design phase, instead of his fellow Second Ward alderman, Tiffany Garriga, who has been a part of the design phase, working with the landscape architect and the representatives of the Mrs. Greenthumbs Hedge Fund, which provided the money to hire the landscape architect to design a ramp sensitive to the design of Hudson's most historic park.

Miah groused that the ramp wouldn't be done for another ten years, alleged that the mayor had promised it would be done by spring, and reminded all present that he had been asking for a ramp at Promenade Hill since 2009. Garriga was having none of it. She challenged Miah's implication that he was the great champion of the ramp by demanding, "Did you get any money allocated for it in 2009?" The answer, of course, was no. It wasn't until 2015 that $20,000 was allocated in the 2016 budget for the ramp. 

The ramp now being pursued, the design for which will go public when it is presented to the HPC on November 18, will cost considerably more than $20,000. The cost estimates for the ramp are still being finalized, but Garriga reported that the mayor is "finding the financing."

Fifth Annual Tweed Ride on Sunday

It may be snowing today, but on Sunday, the temperatures are expected to be back in the 50s, and Sunday is the day for the fifth annual Tweed Ride through the streets of Hudson.

Dust off your velocipede, get out your Anglophile threads (tweeds preferred), and join the group for an easy 3.1 mile pedal around and about Hudson. The ride begins at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 30, at the foot of Warren Street, at the entrance to Promenade Hill, beside the Chamber of Commerce building, 1 North Front Street.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Dog's Life in 1889

Portraits from the period suggest that dogs were revered companions in the late 19th century, enjoying a status in the lives of their humans not dissimilar to that of dogs today.


Still it's hard to imagine anyone today not being appalled by the inducement to register your dog provided in the new dog law, announced in the Hudson Daily Evening Register for November 7, 1889, which apparently applied to dogs throughout almost all of New York State.


The Importance of Knowing the Gear You're In

The restoration of 134-136 Warren Street was a long time in being realized. The project was before the Historic Preservation Commission for several months in 2014 before a design for the ground floor at 134 Warren Street, which was to be converted to commercial use, was finally approved. Then there were the many months of work on the building. Finally, just two weeks ago, the awnings were installed on the ground floor windows at 134 Warren, and the reality looked like the rendering the HPC had approved.

Then yesterday, at about 5 p.m., a driver leaving a parking spot apparently made the mistake of thinking the vehicle was in Drive when in fact it was in Reverse. The SUV jumped the curb and crashed into the portico at 134 Warren Street.

Photos courtesy Ferol Barton Blake
Work on repairing the building is now underway.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

All Good Things Must End Someday . . .

This weekend is your last opportunity to experience Lynn Davis's remarkable Warren Street Project until the next time Historic Hudson decides to exhibit it in celebration of another anniversary. In 2021, to celebrate twenty-five years perhaps?

Since none of us can know the future, take advantage of the chance to see this amazing work in 2016. Davis's three-hundred-image portrait of Warren Street twenty years ago can be viewed at Vincent Mulford Antiques, 419 Warren Street, this Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and this Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Architecture and Athletics

At the special meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education on October 6, a new configuration for the addition to Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School was presented to the board. Instead of one long single-story building stretching out from the south side of the historic school building, the new plan would build on top of the existing "tech wing" and bring classrooms closer to the central building. The new configuration was judged to be "the best academic footprint for primary students," for whom the addition is intended, and it also, because of its size and scale, had a better chance of being compatible with the 1937 Colonial Revival building to which it would connect. 

On October 6, the board was considering two variations of a design for the newly configured addition: one had a flat roof on the foremost part of the addition; the other had a pitched roof and a profile that echoed the profile of the historic building and the 1997 addition.
The version with the flat roof was within the budget for the addition; the version with the historic profile was $250,000 more than the budget allowed. Torn between what was affordable and what would be compatible, Superintendent Maria Suttmeier worked with the architects to find a middle ground. What finally evolved was presented by Suttmeier at last night's school board meeting.

The new design, which according to the architects is in the "safe zone" as far as the budget is concerned, adds a pitched roof to the front of the addition, with walls that echo the historic profile on either side instead of in the front. The roof is pitched only at the front of the building; the roof behind it is flat.

This new design includes a crest along the ridge of the roof that repeats the crest on the historic building. While a tremendous improvement over both the original one-story design and the affordable design with the flat roof, the new design doesn't achieve the same height and scale as the unaffordable version and tends more toward imitation than compatibility, but it is what can be built within the budget.

The addition to Montgomery C. Smith is Phase 2 of HCSD's current capital project. Phase 1 is the new athletic field at Hudson High School, which has received far more attention from the community than the addition to a historic school building. When the school board was struggling to decide between natural turf and artificial turf for the playing field, parents and other community members came out in force to weigh in on the discussion. When it came to the track, people let it be known that what was planned was inadequate for track meets. What they wanted, after years of having an antiquated track, were track facilities that would allow Hudson to be the site of Patroon Conference meets.

The improvements to the athletic field requested by the community put Phase 1 $225,000 over budget--almost the same amount as the most desirable design would put Phase 2 over budget. Last night, Suttmeier reported success in securing the lion's share of that $225,000. After being turned down by Nike and the Dyson Foundation, she took her case to the Galvan Foundation. Accompanied by high school athletes Mike Alert, who distinguished himself last season in basketball and is doing so this season in football, and Noah Taylor, who excels in track, Suttmeier met with Eric Galloway. The students, whom Suttmeier praised for their demeanor and sincerity, made their case persuasively, speaking of what sports means to them. Galloway agreed to contribute $200,000 for Phase 1. 

Phase 2 of the capital project has not sparked the same level of public interest as Phase 1. Although there are grumblings about the new addition and fears that it will deface the hallowed eighty-year-old school building, during the lengthy design development process, few if any members of the public have shown up at school board meetings to engage with the project and express an opinion. The next school board meeting may be the last chance. A three-dimensional model of the proposed addition, in its latest configuration and design, will be presented at that meeting, which takes place on Monday, November 7, at 7 p.m., in the library of Montgomery C. Smith School.

Monday, October 24, 2016

National Attention to Our Congressional Race

Photo: Huffington Post
Earlier today, Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic candidate vying to represent us, the 19th Congressional District in New York, in the House of Representatives, was endorsed by President Barack Obama. Here's what the President had to say about Teachout:
I'm proud to endorse Zephyr Teachout for the United States House of Representatives. In Congress, Zephyr will be the kind of reform-minded leader we need to build on all of the progress we've made over the last eight years to create a stronger, fairer country for our children. Zephyr is an independent fighter for working families, and will help create an economy that works for everyone in this district, not just the wealthy and well-connected. In Congress, I know that Zephyr will fight for independent businesses, be an advocate for ending the influence of secret money in our political system, and stand up to the big polluters that threaten our fragile water resources. I know that families throughout upstate New York can count on Zephyr to stand up for them, too.
In response to the President's endorsement, Teachout said, "Barack Obama has been an outstanding fighter for middle class families. In Congress, I'll continue working to protect Social Security and Medicare, invest in our schools, and bring jobs back to the Hudson Valley."

Breaking News for City Government Watchers

If you were curious to know what would happen at the first Police Committee meeting since Alderman Tiffany Garriga was abruptly removed from that committee by Council president Claudia DeStefano on September 26, your curiosity will go unsatisfied. The calendar on the City of Hudson website indicates that tonight's Police Committee meeting, which was to take place at 6 p.m. today, has been canceled.

Police Business in Hudson, 1889

On Friday, October 14, the Register-Star reported that "crime rates in Hudson fell last year [2015] to their lowest point since data collection began in 2008." I was reminded of this article and the statistics it reported today when I stumbled upon this little item, which appeared in the Hudson Daily Evening Register for Saturday, November 2, 1889.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cuomo, Airbnbs, and Our Lodging Tax

On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill authorizing fines of up to $7,500 for advertising rentals for fewer than 30 days on Airbnb. It's never clear from the reports about this legislation if it pertains to the entire state or only to New York City (that's the downside of the major city in a state having the same name as the state itself), but since the kinds of buildings to which the legislation applies very likely exist only in New York City, it's reasonable to assume that it pertains only to New York City and not to Hudson. 

The fact that Governor Cuomo is signing legislation, however, reminds us that he has not yet signed the legislation to allow the City of Hudson to levy a tax on rooms in hotels, inns, B&Bs, and accommodations advertised on Airbnb. The current status of the bill appears to be the same as it was back in June, when it was passed by the Assembly and the Senate.


The Larger Vision for Hudson Avenue

The proposed amendment to the zoning law, which would change the zoning on three parcels on the west side of Hudson Avenue from I-1 (Industrial) to R-S-C (Residential Special Commercial), is meeting with unanticipated opposition. 

The Planning Board is expected to recommend against the amendment. Although the specific reason for making this recommendation will not be known until the Common Council receives a letter from the Planning Board, it is believed that the letter will urge to Council to undertake comprehensive zoning revisions rather than making specific zoning changes. 

The parcels in question are located in the Waterfront Revitalization Area--the portion of the city that was comprehensively rezoned in 2011 when the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program was adopted by the Common Council. Although, in the LWRP, this particular area of the city, surrounding what was originally the Gifford-Wood Company, retained its I-1 zoning, the LWRP is clear in its support of the very change now being proposed. On pages 74 and 75, the LWRP speaks specifically about this site: "The City proposes to maintain the industrial zoning but acknowledges that this site has great potential for residential, commercial, and recreational uses. A zoning change in the future to accommodate nonindustrial development would be consistent with the LWRP."

The zoning amendment now proposed is also getting flak from a neighbor on East Allen Street whose backyard abuts the western tip of the largest of the three parcels. Although she opposes the amendment, she does not have a problem with the plan to construct four row houses on the west side of Hudson Avenue. What she finds unacceptable is the larger vision for the area, which Walter Chatham, the architect who owns and wants to develop the parcels, described in a letter to property owners in the immediate vicinity. Last week, Chatham shared the letter with Gossips. The following is quoted from that letter:
RSC Zoning is the equivalent of R-4; permitting 3-story multiple dwellings and general commercial uses. We are requesting this zoning because we believe that it is the highest and best use for the site, which is on a one-block-long public street across from the Hudson Little League Field. We believe that this proposed zoning is consistent with the Hudson Comprehensive Plan and Draft Apprendices; which encourage the conversion of under-utilized industrial land for commercial and residential use.
Allowing commercial uses would permit "Live/Work Units"--owner or tenant-occupied buildings that provide both shelter and the means to make a living. These are increasingly popular and provide much needed start-up spaces for all types of businesses. Specific types of businesses imagined would be a mix of small specialty shops with neighborhood features such as a deli/newsstand, small restaurants, etc.
In order to accommodate this idea, we are hoping to provide an old/new building type on Hudson Avenue: two and three story buildings with retail/commercial and office on the ground floors and residences above. These buildings were the backbone of small-scale property ownership in cities like Hudson in the 19th century, and they allow many different types of occupancy to occur, so the use of the property can change over time to remain "useful." It makes sense to try to emulate the most desirable parts of "old" Hudson in a new "addition" to the City Father's Plan. 
The ironic thing about the opposition to the zoning amendment based on the larger vision for the area is that the elements considered worrisome and objectionable in the plan--delis, restaurants, specialty shops--are permitted by the current I-1 (Industrial) zoning. The only thing that is not permitted in an industrial zone is housing, and it is for the construction of houses that the zoning amendment is being sought.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Open House at The Falls

It's been three years since JMS Collective announced its plans to create a luxury apartment complex on the site of the old Greenport School on Union Turnpike, also known as Route 66.

The plan demolished the 1950s addition, retained the original 1930 school, and built an enormous complex of new multistory buildings, containing 116 apartments. Next month, the first tenants will be moving into twenty-one "inaugural apartments," but before that, The Falls is having an Open House tomorrow, Saturday, October 22, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The advertising copy for The Falls stresses its proximity to "historic Hudson" and Hudson's "renowned Warren Street shops and restaurants," but the "resort-like lifestyle" it promises seems the antithesis of a college campus for grownups or "Upstate's Downtown," which is how many Hudsonians view their city. Historic architecture and the commitment to authenticity in its preservation are what most people find attractive about Hudson. With The Falls, the one historic element--the original 1930 Greenport School--is hard to pick out from all the new construction that surrounds it, and the restoration of "the school's architecturally significant auditorium" seems far more splendid than one imagines it was originally meant to be.


The amenities at The Falls make it sound as if it should be located in Boca Raton instead of Greenport: fully equipped gym, yoga/spin room, children's playroom, adult game room, two swimming pools, tennis court, basketball court, walking trails through more than twenty wooded acres, space for gardening, playground for children, movie theater, and spa with heated pool, salt room, and sauna. And then there are the features of each apartment: nine-foot ceilings, crown molding, hardwood floors, a gas fireplace, and a balcony, which for some but not all means a view of the Catskills. What may be most appealing to some is that pets--dogs and cats--are allowed, and there is even a plan for a dog park somewhere on the complex's twenty-two wooded acres.

It will be interesting to see who ends up residing in the 116 apartments at The Falls. The first wave of Hudson newcomers now septuagenarians and octogenarians weary of maintaining their historic houses? Weekenders seeking a low maintenance pied-à-terre in the Hudson Valley? Or the people The Falls seems to want to attract: the "explosion of newcomers to the region" brought here by the "attraction of outdoor living."

Just Say Yes . . . Twice!

The Fair & Equal Campaign, which of course is encouraging everyone to vote yes on Proposition 1, which would establish wards of equal population in Hudson and do away with the weighted vote system in the Common Council, released a statement yesterday wholeheartedly endorsing Proposition 2 as well. Proposition 2 would establish a Service Award Program for active members of the Hudson Fire Department.
A Service Award is a benefit guaranteed to any active firefighter who meets the program requirements by accumulating 50 credits of service per year. Hudson's firefighters are diligent volunteers we all depend on, at all times of the day and night, on every single day of the year. They fight fires everywhere in Hudson, investigate fuel spills, send firefighters and equipment for mutual aid to other jurisdictions, and provide emergency dive teams for boating accidents. By law our firefighters must undergo one hundred hours of training a year, keeping up the same skills that are required of paid firefighters. When the Prop 2 referendum is approved, up to $700 a year will be set aside for active firefighters who accumulate the required annual points.
The Fair & Equal Campaign believes there are no more deserving recipients of this benefit than the men and women of our Fire Department. We urge every voter to turn your ballot over and vote yes for Prop 2, the Service Award Program referendum!

Presentation Is All

If you watched Part 2 of Dan Udell's videotape of Tuesday's Common Council meeting to the bitter end, you saw city treasurer Heather Campbell expressing her great disappointment that the resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with OpenGov had been defeated. She told the aldermen, "I'm willing to bet that, as the elected officials who are actually voting on the budget, the majority of you probably could not say how much our tax levy was in 2016, how much we pay for the police department, how much our debt service is, what our tax increase was. If you, our elected officials don't know that information and can't communicate it to your constituents, how do you think the average taxpayer is supposed to understand how their tax dollars are being spent?"

Campbell's indignation was justified, but perhaps if she and her colleagues on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton and Council president Claudia DeStefano, who were advocating for adopting OpenGov, "the world's first purpose-built cloud solution for budgeting, reporting, and open data," had presented a better case for the technology, the outcome might have been different. The members of the BEA seemed to rely solely on a PowerPoint, projected onto the closed doors of the Council Chamber, narrated by someone patched in by cell phone, and presented in the middle of a very contentious meeting on October 11, which focused on another issue altogether, to convince the aldermen that this was something the City needed. 

Even though the case for OpenGov was not effectively made, the idea that OpenGov would allow the City to track expenses more effectively and taxpayers to access information, in a clear and readily understood format, about the City budget and how their tax dollars are being spent is very appealing. So it was a surprise when the resolution came up on Tuesday, in the middle of another contentious meeting, that only three members of the Council--DeStefano, Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward), and Michael O'Hara (First Ward)--voted in favor of it. Perhaps the BEA could give the effort a second try.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fact Checking: Leases on City-Owned Property

There was much discussion at Tuesday night's Common Council meeting about the leases on City-owned property--in particular, 20 Columbia Turnpike, 27 Rossman Avenue, and 80 Reservoir Road. The tenants refused to sign the leases they were offered more than a year ago because they contained unacceptable terms. As a consequence, the tenants have continued living in the buildings, paying rent but without lease agreements. Among the terms that the tenants found unacceptable were paragraphs that prohibited smoking on the premises and keeping pets.

On Tuesday night, various members of the Common Council denied ever having seen or approved leases with such restrictions, but the Council records show otherwise. The lease agreements for 27 Rossman Avenue, the upstairs apartment at 20 Columbia Turnpike, and 80 Reservoir Road were presented to the Council at the informal meeting on August 10, 2015, and the resolution approving the leases--Resolution 7--was passed unanimously on August 18, 2015. The leases all contained the following paragraphs:
13. SMOKING: Smoking within the residence without the written permission of the Landlord is strictly prohibited.
16. PETS: Tenant shall not be entitled to have any pets at the rental premises without the prior written approval of Landlord.
At the informal meeting on September 8, 2015, the lease for the downstairs apartment at 20 Columbia Turnpike came before the Common Council. It contained the same two paragraphs, and the resolution approving it--Resolution 5--was unanimously passed on September 15, 2015.

The question of why the tenants did not seek written approval from the City to smoke in their homes and keep pets instead of simply refusing to sign their leases has never been addressed.

Watch the Council Meeting for Yourself: Part 2

Now that you have had a chance to digest the first hour of Tuesday's Common Council meeting, here is the next hour, in which city attorney Ken Dow leaves the building. Click here to view Part 2 of Dan Udell's video.


Watch the Council Meeting for Yourself: Part 1

Tuesday night's Common Council meeting was so long--longer even than the third presidential debate--that Dan Udell had to put his videotape of the meeting on YouTube in two parts. Part 1, which is mostly about Alderman Tiffany Garriga's removal from the Police Committee, is now available and can be viewed here.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Night of the Attorneys

Last night's Common Council meeting went on for two full hours, and the first forty minutes of it were taken up discussing Council president Claudia DeStefano's action, at a Police Committee meeting on September 26, to remove Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) from the Police Committee. One of the early items on the agenda was, as always, accepting the communications. Garriga noted that a letter from her attorney, Mark S. Mishler, which had been emailed to DeStefano and the rest of the Common Council the previous day, had not been included in the communications. The explanation was that the city clerk, Tracy Delaney, who prepares the packets for the aldermen and the press, had not received the letter. Garriga then requested and was granted permission to read the entire three-page letter aloud.

In the letter, Mishler maintained that DeStefano's actions in removing Garriga from the Police Committee "were unwarranted, improper, invalid, and a violation of Ms. Garriga's constitutionally protected rights to due process; freedom of speech, assembly and association; and equal protection." The letter concluded: "Ms. Garriga remains a member of the Police Committee of the Common Council and fully intends to continue to participate as a member of the Committee."

When Garriga had finished her reading of the lawyer's letter, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who is himself a lawyer, demanded to know DeStefano's response. DeStefano replied, "I received the letter yesterday, and I am digesting it." Friedman then directed his question to city attorney Ken Dow, demanding to know his response, as lawyer for the City, to the letter. Dow began by saying, "It is not for an outside law office to declare if someone is on or off a committee."

Throughout the extended exchange that followed, Dow maintained that the makeup of committees was at the discretion of the Common Council president, likening it to congressional committee appointments made by the Speaker of the House, all of which change when a different party comes into power. Friedman did not question DeStefano's right to alter committee assignments but argued that her reason for removing Garriga was invalid because it was a constitutional infringement. "[Garriga] has the right to say what she wants to say," Friedman told DeStefano, "and you do not have the right to make her pay for that," adding, "And I don't even agree with what she said!" 

On the issue of constitutional infringement, Dow argued that "in a political context, it is not the same situation." To this, Friedman responded, "None of us thought we were waving our constitutional rights [when we joined this body]. When does local law trump the Constitution?" He then told Dow, "I am shocked to find you arguing this."

After Friedman warned DeStefano, "A lawyer wrote you a letter. Ignore it at your own peril," it was agreed the Dow would draft "what he thinks is correct and give it to the Council."

The meeting moved on, with the aldermen voting on various resolutions before them. Interestingly, when they got to the resolution, which had been proposed by Garriga, that would amend the Rules of Order to prohibit "midterm removal of committee members and chairs," the resolution failed. Only Garriga, Abdus Miah (Second Ward), and Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward) voted for the amendment; the remainder of the aldermen present--Friedman, Henry Haddad (Third Ward), Priscilla Moore (Fifth Ward), Michael O'Hara (First Ward), Rick Rector (First Ward), and Lauren Scalera (Fourth Ward)--voted against it.

City attorneys past and present came under fire again over the question of leases on City-owned properties: 20 Columbia Turnpike, 27 Rossman Avenue, and 80 Reservoir Road--all rented to employees (and relatives) of the Department of Public Works. The leases were allegedly approved by the Common Council more than a year ago and presented to the tenants, but the tenants refused to sign them because they specified that pets and smoking were prohibited. Now, a year later, with all the tenants still in place, the City is trying once again to get the leases approved and signed. Joe Finn, who told the Council he had lived at 20 Columbia Turnpike for the past fourteen years, called the new lease, which was written in 2015, during Mayor William Hallenbeck's administration, "a bully tactic to get us to leave." Friedman claimed the Council had never seen the lease in question because he would never have approved a lease that prohibited pets. The Council voted unanimously to ask the mayor to amend the leases, leaving out the prohibitions on pets and smoking, so that the tenants would sign them.

The lease issue sent back to the mayor's office, the Council voted on two more resolutions before getting to the resolution to approve the contract between the City and Randall + West, the consultants chosen to work with the Conservation Advisory Council to create a Natural Resources Inventory. In September, the Council had passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into this contract, which was now before the Council for approval. Friedman was critical of the contract, pointing out a number of instances where he felt the document needed revision. When Friedman asserted his expertise in writing contracts, saying "This is what I do for a living," Dow snapped, "Then why don't you f**king do it?" With that, Dow gathered his belongings and left the Chamber and the building. The resolution to approve the contract was then tabled.

At this point, there was only one item left on the agenda: issuing a Negative Declaration on the proposed zoning amendment that would affect three parcels on Hudson Avenue. Unfortunately, the city attorney had left, taking with him the Environmental Assessment Form that had to be completed before making the determination. Friedman, who had authored the amendment, in whose ward the subject property is located, and who supports the amendment, expressed frustration that 120 days had already passed since the resolution was presented to the Legal Committee. He noted that the Planning Board was calling the proposed amendment "spot zoning" and declared, "The city attorney's office is getting in the way of business being conducted in the City of Hudson."

It was then that The Gossips of Rivertown was elevated to a new status in City Hall. Friedman made reference the post "Nothing Is Ever Easy," which analyzed the question of whether or not the zoning change proposed constituted spot zoning. He then distributed to the Council and the press copies of a letter from Virginia Benedict, attorney with the law firm Rapport Meyers. The letter was addressed to Walter Chatham, the architect who owns the three parcels on Hudson Avenue and seeks to have their I-1 (Industrial) zoning changed. Chatham had asked Benedict for a legal review of the request and referred her to the Gossips post on the subject. Benedict's letter reads in part:
Ms. Osterink provides a thorough and highly accurate analysis of the issues involved. Her review of the City of Hudson's Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and arguments made to support the conclusion that the requested zoning amendment is consistent therewith are particularly valid.
Furthermore, the definition she provides of "spot zoning"--the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners--is the same definition applied by New York courts. To determine whether a zoning proposal falls within this definition, courts consider several factors, including whether the rezoning is consistent with a comprehensive land use plan, whether it is compatible with surrounding uses, the likelihood of harm to surrounding properties, the availability and suitability of other parcels, and the recommendations of professional planning staff. The ultimate test is whether the change is other than part of a well-considered and comprehensive plan calculated to serve the general welfare of the community. The fact that rezoning affects a small area of land or benefits a specific person is not determinative.
Based on our analysis of your plan, this should be exactly what the City of Hudson is looking for, and the Common Council should have a clear path to approving the rezoning as consistent with the comprehensive plan.
When Planning Board chair, Tom DePietro, who was present at the Council meeting, was asked to comment, he chided Friedman for not coming to the Planning Board meeting but instead relying on "something online." He then told Friedman that the Planning Board's decision not to recommend the zoning amendment "did not hinge on spot zoning" but on their opinion that "the change should be part of a more comprehensive plan." He told Friedman that the Council would get the Planning Board's letter "as soon as our attorney drafts it," but added that if the Council did not get the letter in thirty days, "you can make the decision to rezone it," without a recommendation from the Planning Board.

It was decided that the Council would hold a special meeting to continue its consideration of the zoning amendment, but when that meeting will be held is not yet known.