Sunday, March 5, 2017

Thoughts About the Fence

At the Common Council Police Committee meeting last Tuesday, Hudson Police Chief Ed Moore reported that the city court would be moving into 701 Union Street on March 14--a week from Tuesday. The Hudson Police Department will move its headquarters to the new building soon after, probably in early April.

Meanwhile, Gossips readers have raised some questions about the fence that has been erected along the sidewalk in front of the building.

One objection to the fence is that the message it sends seems to negate all efforts at community policing. It puts a barrier between law enforcement and the judicial system, as if the public servants tasked with upholding the law and maintaining order need to be closed off and protected from the people they serve.

Another objection to the fence is that there is no break in it and no way for pedestrians to approach the building except by using the driveways at either end of the fence, which people on foot will have share with people in cars. 

The architect's rendering of the building (below) shows a fence, but one that is really more like a railing than a barrier and has a pedestrian entrance.

Gossips contacted Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton and Chief Moore to find out how we ended up with this fence. Here's what was learned. 

No plans for the site were included in the capital budget. It will be remembered that paving and landscaping were bid out as "alternative costs," and since it turned out that these costs would have brought the total price of the project over the amount approved by the Common Council, paving and landscaping were eliminated from the project. A new fence and pedestrian walkway were presumably part of the "alternative costs." There had been an old split rail fence and some uneven railroad tie steps leading down from the sidewalk, but the plan was simply to remove them.

Once the old split rail fence was gone, though, there was concern about the steepness of the slope from the sidewalk to the "sunken" parking lot, and it was decided that a new fence was needed. The fence there now was chosen because it is similar to the the fence across the street, enclosing the patio at the Iron Horse Cigar Depot.

The mayor had this to say about the fence: "Obviously, this is not ideal, and I think everyone involved in the construction phase of the project agrees that something more aesthetically pleasing and consistent with the building's design would be preferable. Once the project is completed and we evaluate what, if any, funds are remaining, we hope to revisit [the fence] as well as the other issues (e.g. parking lot and pedestrian access from the street)."

So, how likely is it there will be money left over for such niceties as landscaping and repaving? When the bids were opened back in January 2016, Gossips calculated that the lowest bids totaled $2,824,100--$228,400 less that what the Common Council had approved for the project. In July 2016, when the Council approved spending $49,000 to replace the roof on the building, city treasurer Heather Campbell said that the contingency in the budget--the difference between the amount approved and the amount being spent--was $200,550. All the change orders, including the roof, amounted to $151,545, so at that point there was potentially $49,005 that could be spent on landscaping and site enhancement. It is not known how much of that possible $49,005 was spent for the fence that's there now. To give a sense of what's needed to landscape the site properly, the bids for "alternative costs" ranged from $247,000 to $438,000.


  1. That fence is appalling. Not only does it express obvious hostility to the community the police are supposed to be serving, it's also incredibly ugly, too damn high, and has no break for pedestrians to enter (which is prominently featured in the rendering, including a change in paving to mark the path). At the very least, the break in the fence needs to be restored. If security is still a concern, then add a few inconspicuous bollards like they do pretty much everywhere else.

  2. Who didn't reviewed the drawings ... why is this fence suddenly a surprise after the fact.

  3. the glaring lights of the police station at night are softened by the fence. the building is not the Parthenon either. its a converted metal structure.

    Civilized people in the old days built buildings like City Hall, and the Courthouse. Now we have this. I think the fence hides another egregious attempt by todays society at building anything.

  4. The fence is highly unfortunate. It is fortress-like and projects the wrong message.

  5. how about some landscaping ? like pretty privet or something to make it feel more inviting.

    the building is not on a par with old hudson architecture.

    that is a relatively inexpensive solution that will add a little nature to the landscape. some people might even donate to the cause.

  6. razor wire would be more appropriate

  7. It's ugly and obnoxious. And why paint it black? Better to paint it a gray to match the building. Better still would have been to do it right the first time and choose a design that worked with the building and the site.

  8. This is an object lesson of just how problematical it is to make aesthetic decisions in this city without running it all through the traps. Even if a reasonable choice has been made, the upside of doing that, is that the onus is put on the would be critics to offer up better suggestions that are practical, or realizing that there is nothing that is much better, and all of the choices are Hobson's choices.

  9. That's not true. Good taste is good taste.
    Proportionality is proportionality.

    The fence creates a stark, hostile barrier. It's out-of-whack. The old police station had a small town unassuming charm.

  10. its so tall that is blocks the view of the building that went through so much design change to make it acceptable … for what purpose now but to negate

  11. I haven't been up to see it yet, but isn't an expanse of impenetrable fencing around a police station something more than an aesthetic issue?

    Where public safety is concerned, form ought to follow function where there's any question. But if pedestrians can't easily access a police building, then what other question does anyone have to ask?

    I have to go see for myself that the photos match the reality, but by the sound of it it's so stupid that it has to be true ... this being Hudson and all.

  12. In addition to aesthetics, given the steepness of the slope, there was a safety issue, that apparently required some barrier. Perhaps the grading could have been changed as part of the initial plan, to avoid the safety concern. I don't know. In a more perfect world, all of these issues would be hashed out in advance, rather than become a sore point after the fact. But in a more imperfect world, sometimes issues are missed.

    It is yet another object lesson, that details matter. It's often boring and annoying and time consuming dealing with such details one by one, but you end up with a better product by doing so. It's the same with crafting legislation I might add. Details matter, and sometimes matter a lot. And the more transparency and participation that you get in advance about any proposal, the less likely it is that something will be missed, given that we now have so many active citizens that care about these things.

  13. The fence is ugly and jail-like. I can't imagine a worse design. The police are behind bars.