Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bait and Switch: 900 Columbia and 215 Union

Six years ago, back in February 2011, it became known that the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties was planning to demolish the early 19th-century house at 900 Columbia Street where they operated a group home. 

A campaign to save the historic c. 1810 house, which enlisted the aid of the State Historic Preservation Office, failed. MHA steadfastly maintained that there was nowhere else for them to build their new facility, and the house was doomed. Months passed, but then on May 7, 2012, the Galvan Foundation announced its intention to acquire the house and move it to a vacant lot in the 200 block of Union Street, owned by the foundation. 

Although much of the house's historic significance had to do with its location at the intersection of Columbia and Union turnpikes, on Prospect Hill, which its original owner, Captain William Ashley, had been given the privilege of naming, moving the house to a block that already had several examples of houses of the same design, dating from the same era, seemed far preferable to losing it forever. When the proposal to move the house came before the Historic Preservation Commission on May 11, 2012, it was granted a certificate of appropriateness. HPC chair Rick Rector called the proposal "a noble and admirable act." Then mayor William Hallenbeck chided the members of the HPC for their lack enthusiasm about moving the house, saying the Galvan Foundation should have been given a standing ovation. 

Good thing there was no standing ovation, because the Galvan Foundation never did what it said it would. Instead of being moved, the house was demolished, starting on August 21, 2013.

The original story from Galvan was that the house was being "disassembled" to be "reassembled" at 215 Union Street, but the evidence soon dispelled that myth.

When the plans for what was to be built at 215 Union Street came before the HPC, Rector told his colleagues that the proposed building should be considered as new construction in a historic district. Far from being the original historic house "reassembled" in a new location, Rector advised, "It shouldn't even be looked as a replication of 900 Columbia Street." Only some of the elements of the historic house were to be used for the new house: the bricks, the door surround, and the limestone window sills.

Despite its many problems, among them its setback and its too high foundation, the new building, shown in the rendering above, was granted a certificate of appropriateness by the HPC on January 24, 2014. Three years later, the building is still not finished, but it is already clear that several of its details depart from the approved plan. The limestone window sills appear not to have been used, there are no lintels over the windows, there are no sidelights around the front door, there are double doors instead of a single door, the transom appears to be a single pane of glass instead of four divided lights, and, most notably, the stoop, which was presented as a single flight of stairs leading up to the front door, is now something that resembles a Mayan pyramid. 

It will is interesting to see what happens next.

Of Interest (Perhaps Only to Me)

A Senate panel is scheduled to vote today on Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. On Saturday, there was a demonstration of protest against DeVos in her hometown, which is also my hometown, Holland, Michigan. The Daily Kos reported the crowd that marched around the perimeter of Centennial Park, Holland's public square, numbered more than 1,500: "March against Betsy DeVos in her hometown exceeds expectations."

Holland is located in southwestern Michigan, in Ottawa County, which, according to 24/7 Wall St, is the most Republican county in Michigan.

Update: An hour or so ago, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee "voted 12-11 along partisan lines" to support DeVos's nomination. It now goes to the full Senate for action.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Contemplating RFPs

Now that the City of Hudson has won a Restore NY grant for $500,000 to stabilize the Dunn building, and it has been disclosed that the application for the grant indicates the City will issue a request for proposals (RFP) for further development of the building in this calendar year, 2017, there is concern that the City will rush into some bad development plan that will ruin the waterfront.

Let's not forget that in 2010 the City was poised to sell the building to Eric Galloway for $250,000. The plan was to turn the entire building into a "bistro styled" restaurant and bar, with 200 tables on two floors and in a glass enclosed atrium. Then mayor Rick Scalera thought it would be "the ideal catalyst to future development" on the waterfront. Don Moore, who was then Common Council president, declared, "Even before we have gotten completion of the LWRP, we are making the kind of progress we want to make."

Rendering of Dunn building re-imagined as bistro
Mercifully, the plan for the giant bistro was never pursued. Galloway withdrew. Word was that he could not find a restaurateur willing to take on such a huge project. It's important to note that this plan was conceived without benefit of an RFP. It was apparently just three men in a room--Galloway, Scalera, and Moore. The RFP process now being proposed is a step in the right direction.

There are a few things to remember about the RFP process for the Dunn building, which follow in more or less chronological order: 
  • Last August, when the discussion of an RFP first began, the Common Council Economic Development Committee, which will be managing the process, agreed to have a public hearing on the RFP before it is issued to allow the community to critique the document and provide input.
  • Although the application for the Restore NY grant indicates an RFP will be issued in 2017, it doesn't have to be issued until the end of 2017. Proposals can be received and reviewed in 2018.
  • If an RFP is issued, there is no obligation to accept any of the proposals submitted. 
  • Even if a proposal is accepted, it is no guarantee that the project will ever happen.
We're seeing the last item in the list playing out with the Kaz warehouses. In December 2015, after several months of work, the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) issued an RFP for the redevelopment of the site. Proposals were due in March 2016, but it wasn't until April that it was made known to the public that HDC had decided to move forward with the proposal submitted by Sustainable Community Associates for a mixed-use development that would include residential, retail, co-working office, and live/work spaces.

The proposed timeline for the project started with a six-month planning period that involved working "with neighbors and community stakeholders to develop a plan for the central waterfront district." That was in April, but nothing more was heard about the project until December, when Senator Charles Schumer showed up in Hudson, on his last stop in a sixty-two county tour of the state, to declare his support for the $25 million redevelopment project and announce that he was sending a letter to the CEO of CSX asking the railroad to give up the land it owns between the Kaz warehouses and South Front Street, land that is critical to the proposed redevelopment of the site. (It's interesting to note that the parcel CSX now occupies is one the City swapped with CSX a decade or so ago for the waterfront parcel that is now Rick's Point.) In an interview with Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton on @Issue two weeks ago, we learned that the project is also looking to acquire the front part of the City's Amtrak parking lot and extend the parking lot farther back in order to get more street frontage.

Image: Bing.com
The latest news about the project, however, emerged from the HDC meeting last Tuesday. Gossips has learned that the discussion of the $25 million redevelopment project seems to have broken down. SCA is allegedly being "unresponsive," and Duncan Calhoun, president of the HDC Board, has his own proposal for redeveloping the site: turn the Kaz warehouses into a giant covered parking garage.

About the Haul Road

At the Economic Development Committee meeting on January 19, Tom DePietro, chair of the Hudson Planning Board, was evasive when asked if the Planning Board was content to accept the Greenport Planning Board's position that the dock would not be considered in the SEQR process or if the Hudson Planning Board would continue to argue that it should be, saying that the matter was still under consideration. The argument is that, in assessing the environmental impacts of a haul road bringing gravel from the quarry to the waterfront, the review cannot stop where the haul road ends. It must include what happens when the trucks leave the haul road and continue on city streets over the railroad tracks to the dock and what happens when the gravel-laden trucks arrive at the dock. 

Whatever position the Planning Board ends up taking in the matter, a group of Hudson residents and business owners have decided they are not content with the Greenport Planning Board's definition of the project and have hired a lawyer, law use and environmental attorney John Lyons, to represent them. Last week, Lyons submitted a five-page letter to the Greenport Planning Board, making the case that the Greenport Planning Board, as lead agency in the SEQR process, must consider the "whole action." The letter's summary reads as follows:
The Planning Board's upcoming determination as to whether this application is deemed complete is an important one. As far as the issue of completeness is concerned, you must require the Application to contain detail about these impacts before you deem it complete. Without the information you cannot make a proper Determination of Significance.
Below we discuss why, as Lead Agency, you must require that the application contains sufficient, detailed information about how this proposed haul road will function in relation to Applicant's overall future plans for the operation of the mine. This is necessary to avoid improper segmentation. The information required should include a definitive statement from the Applicant as to the intensity and scope of the mining operation, as well as the present and future truck traffic figures if the road is approved. Without sufficient information about this Project, you cannot make a proper Determination of Significance as part of your environmental review.
Also discussed below are your responsibilities as Lead Agency to evaluate potential adverse environmental impacts which may occur in the City of Hudson, including, for example, potential adverse impacts to community character. Since the City of Hudson Planning Board is an Involved Agency, and Involved Agencies can make their own, independent State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) findings, it is important that the record have a thorough evaluation of all potential adverse impacts of this project wherever they may occur. Specifically, you should consider how this Project may impact the sense of place and quality of life, not only in Greenport, but also in Hudson. This includes evaluating impacts from traffic, dock activity, and impacts to the newer, and growing, aspects of Hudson's community character in the area of the river. This community character reflects the present day balanced and mixed-use water front which is less industrial now (and will be in the future per the City's zoning) and which will grow in orientation toward a character which reflects tourism, recreation and the aesthetic appreciation of Hudson's river front.
On another aspect of the haul road, two documents appeared recently on the Planning Board page of the City of Hudson website. The first is an undated letter from John Rosenthal, writing on behalf of an ad hoc group called Hudson for Hudson, introducing a second document which chronicles, in photographs, maps, and details from permit applications, the changes made to the haul road going east from Route 9G, over land that is part of the City of Hudson, without applying to the Hudson Planning Board for a conditional use permit, as required by Hudson zoning. The letter calls on the Planning Board "to take into consideration any proper action to remedy this situation."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Informing Yourself About Health Insurance

Our current president, Donald Trump has resolved to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something else.

Image: Health ... Cetera
To help people understand what is and what might be when it comes to health insurance, Rob Bujan has decided to use his knowledge of and experience in the health insurance industry in the United States to create a blog on the subject called Pulling the Plug on Healthcare in the US: Dissecting the Regular Facts from Alternative Facts. Here's how Bujan explained the purpose of the blog in this first post:
Welcome to my blog about the health insurance industry in the United States. This blog is meant to educate you as a consumer and shed light on the actual facts of what is happening in the US with regard to healthcare and how Americans are covered under insurance.  
We will dive into the alphabet soup of healthcare and break down the ways one would access healthcare by the different delivery models.
There is a sense of panic as to what is going to happen in the future with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and I will do my best to piece together what is actually going on and how it will affect you.
However, it is everyone's responsibility to be involved in this discussion. Yes, we are in a potential crisis right now, but it should not have taken a crisis for people to understand the current delivery system in the US. Far too many people just say it is too confusing and don't take time to understand any of the mechanics of it.  
I hope to change that and start a conversation where you will learn, as a consumer, how to access your care; who provides your care on a state or federal level and who to call to voice your concerns & what to say.
Check out Pulling the Plug on Healthcare in the US. It is recommended reading.

Grant Money for the Dunn

On Friday, January 27, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the award of nearly $40 million in Round 4 of Restore NY Communities Initiative grant funding. Among the recipients of the funding is the City of Hudson, which is to receive $500,000 for the rehabilitation of the Dunn building on the waterfront.

This news would be received with untempered celebration were it not for a specter raised at the last Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting. At that meeting, which took place the week before the grants were announced, committee chair Rick Rector said he had recently learned that "the grant is tied into a developer with a plan in place." This came as a surprise and a great disappointment to those who had supported the grant application because they saw it as a means for the City to stabilize the building and halt its deterioration and in so doing to eliminate the immediate need to pursue development plans for the building. The information Rector shared seemed to contradict that. The grant would not buy time to proceed with the search for a developer and a plan in a measured and careful manner. Instead, it would require the City to proceed immediately to find a developer for the building.

With the help of Sheena Salvino, executive director of the Hudson Development Corporation, Gossips has gathered information that gives some clarity to the situation. The guidelines for Restore NY include two statements that are relevant here.
Rehabilitation of municipal building and properties for municipal reuse is not eligible for Restore NY funding.
The goal of Restore NY is to revitalize urban centers. It is anticipated that upon completion, the projects funded by Restore NY grants will attract individuals, families, industry and commercial enterprises to the municipality. It is further anticipated that the improved community and business climate will result in an increased tax base thereby improving municipal finances and the wherewithal to further grow the municipality's tax and resource base and lessen its dependence on state aid.
Based on these statements, it is clear that the City of Hudson cannot use the $500,000 to stabilize the building and then keep it for its own use and off the tax rolls, but there is no indication that there must be a developer wanting to partner with the City lined up before the stabilization, funded by the Restore NY grant, can begin.

The application submitted for the grant outlines the proposed sequence of events: the $500,000 will be spent to stabilize the building before an RFP (request for proposals) is issued.
. . . the city of Hudson recognizes that its role, prior to the issuance of an RFP for redevelopment, is to undertake the necessary measures to secure, stabilize and undertake basic rehabilitation activities within the structure. . . .
Need for short-term investment prior to the issuance of a Request For Proposals--based upon the structural analysis and accompanying cost estimates, approximately $500,000 is necessary to undertake the very basic measures needed to secure, stabilize and rehabilitate the building in the relatively short term. Without this funding, the building risks further decay, including structural failure, and simply cannot be rehabilitated to even the most basic standards necessary to solicit proposals from private developers.
Elsewhere in the application, however, it is revealed just how much (or how little) time the Restore NY grant will buy.
. . . the Dunn Building rehabilitation process can be effectively divided into two discrete phases: [1] Initial stabilization/rehabilitation; and [2] Private-sector redevelopment.
The City of Hudson, through its Superintendent of Public Works, and with the assistance of the Hudson Development Corporation, will oversee the first phase. The DPW Superintendent and the Executive Director of HDC will issue a request for proposals for professional services (architectural, etc.) and oversee the bidding process to engage contractors to secure, stabilize and undertake basic rehabilitation of the Dunn Building. . . . 
In 2017, the City of Hudson will issue a Request For Proposals for the redevelopment of the Dunn building by a private developer. Obviously, the identity of that entity is unknown at this time. However, the City [through the Economic Development Committee of the Common Council] has already been formulating concepts for that RFP.
There's the promise: the RFP will be issued in 2017--in the eleven months remaining in this year. The timing is unfortunate for those who want to see a revised LRWP in place before the redevelopment of the Dunn building begins. Nick Zachos, who now chairs the Waterfront Advisory Committee, has speculated that the revised document will be ready for review by the Department of State in 2018.

The grant application goes on to detail the work to be funded by the Restore NY grant.
The utilization of the Restore New York funding is intended to undertake the necessary improvements to: [1] Address immediate issues affecting building condition and stability; and, [2] Undertake necessary rehabilitation activities--improvements that are generic in nature and that would contribute to any type of adaptive reuse--that make the building both ready for and attractive to a developer to be selected under a Request For Proposal (RFP) process. The project, and accompanying scope of work, can be organized into two categories:
Phase I–Urgent Repair: involves work that should be conducted as soon as possible.
Phase I work consists of repair issues that are required to maintain the stability of the structure to prevent possible collapse, and items necessary to reduce an active deterioration conditions.
Phase II–Short Term Repair: involves work that should be completed within the next 6-10 months.
1. Removal of saplings along east elevation.
2. Installation of temporary supports below (3) trusses within North Section.
3. Removal of loose bricks along east side parapet of North Section and covering of parapet with waterproof membrane.
4. Installation of pvc membrane, or other means, to cover portion of North Section’s roof and gutter line at intersection of North and South Sections. It is anticipated that the membrane will be installed by a professional roofer to ensure that it can last until corrective work can be conducted.
1. Repair of timber roof trusses and eliminate of temporary shoring.
2. Repair of corroded steel header at entry way to east addition
3. Removal of existing roof and replacement of 50% of decking for North Section.
4. Reroofing the entire building.
5. Full repair of masonry, excluding south wall of South Section.
6. Bracing of south wall of South Section.
7. Installation of Perimeter drain and ground gutter system.
8. Tree removal along south elevation.
So, that's the situation. Those worried about the imminent collapse of the building can breathe a little easier. Those worried about a possibly inappropriate adaptive reuse of the building must remain vigilant.

In Kinderhook and Hudson Yesterday

In Kinderhook, those who gathered in front of Congressman John Faso's office to express their opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act took their concerns to the front steps of Faso's home.

Photo: Lee Jamison
Click here to see the coverage of the rally on News Channel 13.

Meanwhile in Hudson, the largest crowd ever to attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Hudson Opera House gathered to witness Assemblymember Didi Barrett take the oath of office for her third term in the New York State Assembly.

The oath of office was administered by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. You can read all about it in the Register-Star: "Barrett sworn in to 3rd term." You can also watch Dan Udell's video of the swearing-in ceremony on YouTube.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

In Case You're Curious

In the presentation he made at the Hudson Area Library on Thursday, Carl Whitbeck generously mentioned that "The Barlow has a very nice little monograph written by The Gossips of Rivertown" about Hudson. He is talking about a brief history of Hudson I wrote in 2013 at the request of Russ Gibson and Duncan Calhoun, the owners of The Barlow, when the hotel first opened. It is included in a book of information that The Barlow provides for its guests, but you don't have to check into the hotel to read it. It's on The Barlow's website, and you can read it here.

Whitbeck on Early Hudson History

If you missed Carl G. Whitbeck's presentation about the Proprietors, the founders of Hudson, and their lasting influence on our city, you can still learn what he had to say. Dan Udell was there to videotape the entire talk, and it can now be viewed on YouTube.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Parking Tonight

Mayor Tiffany Martin issued the following warning for overnight parking tonight.
From midnight to 8 a.m. tomorrow morning (i.e. overnight parking TONIGHT), the second phase of snow removal will be happening in Hudson. Vehicles must be parked in accordance with alternate side parking rules on the EVEN side of the street. On streets where alternate rules do not apply, "NO PARKING" signs will be placed and must be obeyed. Vehicles in violation will be towed to allow for snow removal completion.
Tonight all the snow that has been pushed into the street by people clearing their sidewalks, making parking difficult, will be cleared away. Make certain your car doesn't get cleared away, too. 

Faso Talks About Reproductive Rights

Once again, for the third morning in a row, Congressman John Faso spoke with Alan Chartock on WAMC's Congressional Corner. The topic this morning was abortion, women's health services, and Planned Parenthood. If you missed the conversation this morning, you can hear it now by clicking here.

The City Awakes

Earlier this afternoon, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton issued the following statement regarding the work on the dock recently completed by A. Colarusso & Sons:
As many residents have expressed concerns regarding past, current and contemplated activity at the waterfront, I feel it is important to share that Code Enforcement issued an Order to Remedy to A Colarusso and Son earlier this week. The specific violation cited is as follows: “Replacement of concrete and wood bulkhead with a steel bulkhead on loading dock without approval from the City of Hudson Planning Board as per Section 325-17.1(D) City of Hudson Code.”
Per the OTR, this violation must be remedied as follows: “Submit a City of Hudson Planning Application to the City of Hudson Code Enforcement Office to appear at the planning board meeting no later than the March 9, 2017 meeting.  All planning applications have to be submitted to the city code office 10 days prior to the meeting.”
Notwithstanding the fact that the order to remedy was sent for the bulkhead, it is the City's hope that we work with Colarusso in a holistic manner and continue in the process related to the causeway and dock operations in a cooperative manner that will be beneficial to both the company and the citizens of the City.

This Saturday, Kinderhook

Tomorrow at 2 p.m., concerned citizens from the 19th Congressional District will gather in front of the office of Representative John Faso at 2 Hudson Street in Kinderhook to voice their opposition to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. Obamacare. Faso has been appointed to the ACA "retooling committee" and has already voted for the first step in repealing the ACA without having an alternative plan in place, an action which will strip tens of millions of Americans of their healthcare and could result in tens of thousands of preventable deaths. Organizers are describing the event as "a peaceful, nonviolent action" for the purpose of letting Faso know how his constituents feel about this issue. Click here for more information about the issue and the protest.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sanctuary City Discussion Continues

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to halt federal funding to municipalities that do not cooperate with immigration officials. The mayors of cities that have already declared themselves sanctuary cities have vowed to defy Trump's order. That same evening, in its own tiny act of defiance, the Common Council Legal Committee agreed to take the next step toward making Hudson a sanctuary city.

Michael Chameides, chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, which initiated the proposal, stressed that the general goal was to support residents and focus police resources on making the city safe and maintaining quality of life. He maintained that immigration enforcement was a waste of resources that could be used to prevent crime. He reiterated the policy points he had outlined at the Police Committee meeting two days earlier: police officers do not ask about immigration status; if they happen to find out something, they do not report it to Immigration & Customs Enforcement; they enact enforcement only to the extent they are legally required to. "We are not saying to buck federal policies," said Chameides, "we are saying we should do only what is legally required." He acknowledged, however, that the Hudson Police Department is already practicing the policies that sanctuary city advocates are recommending.

Michael O'Hara, who chairs the Legal Committee, expressed his personal support for the recommendations and said, "The next step is for us to see what we can do to massage this into a Hudson specific document." He turned the resolution proposed by HCDC and additional comments from the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement over to Andy Howard, the new counsel to the Council, who agreed to produce a draft resolution for the committee's consideration at its next meeting.

Down by the Riverside

On Tuesday, Gossips published photos of work going on south of the dock and west of the railroad tracks, on the parcel of land whose ownership the 2011 Local Waterfront Revitalization Program indicated Holcim would transfer to the City of Hudson. Recently, Gossips received this aerial image which shows exactly where the regrading and paving took place. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

It seems the work was to create some sort of shared access road for the railroad and A. Colarusso & Sons, but the question remains why this work did not require a conditional use permit from the Hudson Planning Board. Also, it's interesting to note that the work involves the 4.4 acres that actually still belong to the City of Hudson because, as demonstrated by the Valley Alliance four years ago, the City illegally transferred ownership of the land to St. Lawrence Cement, the predecessor of Holcim, in 1981.

The Future for the Blue Garbage Bags

People have long complained about the City's use of the blue garbage bags for the collection of trash in Hudson. Garbage and trash--except for recyclable items--will not be picked up by the Department of Public Works unless it is contained in an authorized blue plastic bag, and those blue plastic bags can only be purchased at City Hall on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The inconvenience of buying the bags is a problem for many and is often cited as the reason people resort to dumping trash illegally. It seemed in the past to be an insoluble problem, but it will soon be solved.*

DPW superintendent Rob Perry announced last night at the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting that a vending machine will soon be installed outside City Hall that will dispense blue garbage bags twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and accept cash, credit and debit cards, and even Apple Pay.

The machine, which will be tucked in between the columns of the stately 1907 former bank building that is now City Hall, will not, Perry assures us, have the gaudy appearance of the machine shown as an example in the picture above. Instead, its "skin" will replicate the marble on the building's facade.

* A Footnote: In the category of post hoc ergo propter hoc, the introduction of the vending machine means the elimination of three part-time jobs selling garbage bags. One of those jobs was held for many years by the mother of former long-time mayor Rick Scalera. Mrs. Scalera, however, retired from that job not long ago.  

Faso Talks about the ACA

Congressman John Faso was on WAMC's Congressional Corner, speaking with Alan Chartock, both yesterday and today. Yesterday's conversation, which touched on immigration as well as other topics, was never archived. Today's, which deals exclusively with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and plans for its replacement, has been. It can now be heard here.

In Memoriam: Thomas Harkins

Thomas Harkins, proprietor of the respected plumbing business many Hudsonians looked to for reliable and trustworthy service, passed away on November 16, 2016. A memorial service for him will be held on Saturday, January 28, at the Churchtown Fire House, 2219 County Route 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Our Woman in Washington

As of yesterday, three of President Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees have been confirmed by the full Senate: James Mattis, as Secretary of Defense; John Kelly, as Secretary of Homeland Security; and Mike Pompeo, as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand voted nay on the confirmation of every one of them. She is the only senator to have done so.

Of Interest

Open Culture reports that George Orwell's classic dystopian novel, 1984, first published in 1949, is now the number one bestselling book on Amazon. If you haven't read 1984 lately, here's a quote from the book to contemplate:
And when memory failed and written records were falsified--when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested.  [Book I, Chapter VIII]

Other Police Matters

Although the discussion of Hudson becoming a sanctuary city took up almost an hour of a meeting that lasted for more the ninety minutes, it wasn't the only thing discussed at the Common Council Police Committee meeting. 

Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, reported on a grant application for body cameras for Hudson police officers. Chief Ed Moore made his report for 2016 which indicated that all types of crime in Hudson, except domestic violence, were trending down, and the "overall picture is optimistic." If the trend continues, Moore predicted, "We might be able to devote more time to quality of life issues if we're not spending as much time on criminal investigations." He also reported that the new police and court building, which he said was "such a vast improvement" over the current facility, will be ready for a spring opening. He plans at open house "to show the taxpayers how their money was spent."

If you want to know everything that was said and discussed, Dan Udell's video of the Police Committee meeting is now available on YouTube.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Haul Road Update

Just as Gossips was about to brave the nasty weather to travel to Greenport for the Planning Board meeting that was to begin at 7:30, there was a call from one of the stalwarts who had shown up at 6:30 for the workshop session that precedes the regular meeting. The word from that vanguard was that the Greenport Planning Board was still not satisfied with the narrative provided by Colarusso engineer Pat Prendergast, the application remained incomplete, and the haul road proposal had been scratched from tonight's agenda.

On the Subject of Sanctuary Cities

Last Thursday, in anticipation of expected changes in federal immigration enforcement practices, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman provided a legal roadmap for local governments and law enforcement seeking to protect vulnerable immigrant communities. Today, Dave Lucas, on WAMC's Midday Magazine, reported on the initiative to create sanctuary cities throughout the state: "Sanctuary: Protecting Immigrant Communities."

Sanctuary and protecting immigrant communities was also a topic of discussion at the Common Council Police Committee meeting last night. The idea that Hudson should become a sanctuary city, which is being promoted by the Hudson City Democratic Committee, was first presented by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) at the informal Common Council meeting on January 9. At the Police Committee meeting, Michael Chameides, chair of the HCDC, explained that the general idea of the initiative was that "immigration enforcement is a distraction for the police department." He also suggested that immigration enforcement was a barrier to good relationships between the police and the community. "People will not call the police," he asserted, "if they are afraid of being deported." He outlined three policy ideas:
  1. Hudson police officers do not ask about immigration status
  2. Hudson police do not report cases to immigration enforcement except in situations when a person has been convicted of a felony
  3. Hudson police do not track or record citizenship status, to the extent reasonably possible
Chief Ed Moore explained that the Hudson Police Department does not currently enforce immigration, noting that in the past three years the HPD has had only six contacts with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). He urged that a lot of discussion was needed before a decision was made to designate Hudson a sanctuary city. He said he felt "an automatic rejection of anything that goes against state and federal law." Responding to the information that the attorney general of New York had created a legal roadmap for establishing sanctuary cities and the action would have the support of state government, Moore spoke of a "fight between the federal and statement government over sovereignty." 

Addressing the notion of a database for tracking immigrants, Moore said, "We have nothing like this and don't plan to." Speaking to the idea of ICE "swooping in and rounding up all the undocumented citizens," Moore said, "The task force that people fear, I don't think it can happen."

Many audience members spoke in favor of sanctuary city status for Hudson, arguing that it would give immigrants hope and make them feel safe. Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward), who chairs the Police Committee, said he had initially been in favor of sanctuary city status until he received a letter from a woman whose mother-in-law had been murdered in Hillsdale in 2011 by a convicted felon ICE had tried unsuccessfully to deport. Haddad distributed copies of the letter to committee members and the press. He also distributed copies of an investigative report that appeared in the Boston Globe on December 9, 2012, which recounted, among other such cases, the tragic incident in Hillsdale: "Many freed criminals avoid deportation, strike again." Haddad presented this incident as an argument against pursuing sanctuary city status for Hudson.

The topic of sanctuary city will be taken up next by the Common Council Legal Committee, which meets tomorrow night, Wednesday, January 25, at 6:15 p.m. at City Hall.

The Founders of Hudson: The Proprietors

In his 1878 History of Columbia County, Franklin Ellis tell us this about our city's beginnings.

In the early part of that year (1783) there came to this quiet spot a party of visitors, four in number, sober undemonstrative Quaker men from the southeastern part of New England. Their arrival seemed but a commonplace occurrence, and none could at that time have thought it a matter of very great moment, yet it proved to be of more importance in the annals of dull old Claverack Landing than all the previous events of its history during the one hundred and twenty years which had elapsed since the time of its purchase from the Mohicans by the pioneer Van Hoesen.
The circumstances and motives which had brought these visitors to the landing were as follows: About thirty persons, principally Quakers, residents of Providence and Newport, in Rhode Island, and of Nantucket and Edgartown, in Massachusetts (all of whom were or had been engaged in commercial pursuits, the whale fishery or other branch of marine navigation, and all possessors of considerable pecuniary means, while several were persons of large wealth), having suffered very severely in their business by reason of the ravages of British cruisers during the war, had, about the commencement of that year, formed themselves into an association having for its object the establishment of a commercial settlement or town at some safer and more sheltered location, and the removal thither of themselves, their families, and their business; and in pursuance of this project they had appointed a committee from their number to make a tour of exploration to select a proper and eligible site for the proposed settlement.
This band of "about thirty persons," which notably, according to Ellis, included one woman, Deborah Jenkins, came to call themselves the "Proprietors." They were the founders of our fair city, and on Thursday night, they will be the subject of a presentation by Carl Gifford Whitbeck: The Proprietors and Their Lasting Influence on the City of Hudson. 

Whitbeck, who is a partner in the law firm Rapport Meyers and a former city attorney, has deep ancestral roots in Hudson and Columbia County. His presentation is part of the Local History Speaker Series sponsored by the History Room at the Hudson Area Library. The event takes place in the Community Room at the library, 51 North Fifth Street, on Thursday, January 26, at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

The Haul Road and Beyond

This evening--Tuesday, January 24--the Greenport Planning Board holds its monthly meeting. The first item on the agenda is the Colarusso haul road. The meeting, which takes place at Greenport Town Hall, begins at 7:30 p.m.

Yesterday evening--Monday, January 23--the Hudson Conservation Advisory Council reported the following on its Facebook page:
We wrote to the Greenport Planning Board to assert that two environmental issues should be considered in deciding whether to approve Colarusso's proposed modifications to the South Bay causeway. Those are, in brief:
•  The need for a complete evaluation of current conditions on the causeway, and of potential impacts on habitats and species that may result from the proposed changes.
•  The need to restore tidal flow under the causeway to the isolated section of the wetland to its north.
The entire letter, which is dated January 19, can be read here

Meanwhile, on the waterfront, south of the dock, between the railroad tracks and the river, a new project involving gravel has been undertaken, on land zoned Core Riverfront.  

On September 26, 2011, about six weeks before the Common Council adopted the current LWRP, William Sharp, principal attorney for the NYS Department of State, in explaining the protections written into the LWRP for the Core Riverfront District, which includes the "causeway," stated: "It would be at the point where something happens on the property, where the paving of the road--or the road needs to be regraded--if that's regraded, they're going to have to get a conditional use permit for the entire property." The main clause of that sentence bears repeating: "they're going to have to get a conditional use permit for the entire property." Sharp can be heard saying this on the audio recording archived by WGXC, which can be found here. His statement begins at 1:08:26.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Last Week's News

The Common Council Economic Development Committee met last Thursday night. It was an eventful meeting, but Gossips didn't get around to reporting on it before the news of the meeting was eclipsed by the inauguration and the Women's March and Gossips' own seventh anniversary.  Today, we correct that.

Tom Rossi of Redburn Development was there, at the invitation of committee chair Rick Rector, to provide an update on the progress of The Wick, the hotel being created at 41 Cross Street. In introducing Rossi, Rector said he had taken a walk through the building with Rossi and declared it "just phenomenal." The interior of the building is "much bigger than you would think," said Rector.

Rossi reported that they closed on the building in September and started the interior demolition and asbestos removal at that time. They had now completed the structural reinforcement, the roof was almost redone, and the engineers and architects were finalizing the interior design. He told the committee that the project "was turning out even better than I had hoped" and they were working toward a summer opening. 

The plans for the hotel go beyond the building itself. A "high-level conceptual plan" for the streetscape on Cross Street with expanded sidewalks and "historic" lamp posts and for improvements to the Second Street stairs has been discussed with Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton. Rossi also said he wanted to see the Kaz warehouse buildings demolished before the hotel opened and indicated that Redburn Development has offered to pay for a partial demolition of the buildings. "There are big windows at the back of the hotel," he told the committee. "You can see the Catskill Mountains . . . and then the Kaz building."

Tom DePietro, chair of the Planning Board, was also present at the Economic Development Committee meeting, at the invitation of committee member John Friedman (Third Ward). When Rector asked asked for an update "on where we are on the Planning Board and the haul road," DePietro said there was "not a lot new to tell you." He repeated the information reported here before that everything received by the Planning Board relevant to the proposed haul road is either on the City website or in a box at City Hall where it can be viewed without making a FOIL request. "We are waiting to find out all the facts," DePietro said, "and then we make a decision." He went on to say that the Planning Board was "limited by what's the law, what's the process, and what's the city zoning law" and asked that "people in government show support by acknowledging this is [the Planning Board's] responsibility and support whatever decision they make."

When Gossips asked if the Hudson Planning Board was accepting the Greenport Planning Board's and Colarusso's position that the dock was not part of the project and would not be considered in the SEQR process or if the board was still challenging that position, DePietro said the issue was "still under consideration."

Photo: Andi State
Another person asked to be present at the meeting was Nick Zachos, now chair of the Waterfront Advisory Committee tasked with revising the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP). Zachos told the committee, "We've reorganized; we've got funding for a consultant to help us." He noted that "the point of an LWRP is that it is a community document" and promised "robust public outreach," with planning meetings and charrettes, would inform the revision of the document. He said he was now working on the RFP (request for proposals) for a consultant and suggested that Randall + West, the consultants who have been hired to assist the Conservation Advisory Council in their open space and natural resources inventory, might be a good choice to help with the LWRP since "what they are doing for the CAC has a lot of redundancy with the LWRP." According to Zachos, Randall + West have done four or five LWRPs. When asked how long it would be before the revisions were completed, Zachos speculated, "At some point in 2018, we could be submitting [the LWRP to the Department of State for review]."

Galvan Watch

The building at the northwest corner of Third and Warren streets, owned for more than a decade by one or another of Eric Galloway's LLCs or not-to-profits, has stood for all that time vacant and boarded up at a major gateway to the city. Gossips has reported on this building many times during the seven years of its existence. Last September, we reported evidence that work was going on inside. This morning, there was more such evidence: another delivery of lumber.

The plans for this building, which have been reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission several times over the years, haven't been presented to the HPC since 2012. Back then the plans was for a mix of commercial and residential space: commercial space on the ground floor and three apartments--one each on the second and third floors and a duplex at the back of the building. 

Of Interest

Rich Conaty, radio D.J. and Hudson resident who died on December 30, is remembered today in the New York Times: "A D.J. who Brought Two Decades to Life."

Photo: Tony Cenicola|The New New Times
Thanks to Dorothy Heyl for bringing this to our attention

Sunday, January 22, 2017

And So It Continues . . .

Photo: Barbara Freeman|Hutton Archive|Getty Images

Photo: Stephen McKay