Sunday, August 20, 2017

Another Request for a Zoning Change

In March 2016, the Common Council amended the zoning laws to include a hotel as a permitted use in the R-S-C (Residential Special Commercial) district in the First Ward. In November 2016, the Council voted to change the zoning for three parcels on Hudson Avenue from I-1 (Industrial) to R-S-C to allow the construction of four town houses on the parcels. The Common Council Economic Development Committee is currently considering a zoning overlay to accommodate a proposal from Stewart's Shops to expand the gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Green Street and Fairview Avenue. At informal Common Council meeting on August 7, the Council heard another appeal to change the zoning. This time, a zoning change is being sought to allow Basil Nooks to open a restaurant in the building at 61-63 North Third Street, in a building that, although it has been vacant for more than a decade, has a long history of being an eating and drinking establishment.

Folks who have lived in Hudson all their lives remember that decades ago this was Christie's Tavern. Code enforcement officer Craig Haigh told Gossips that in 1979, when Candy Lane burned, it was Joe's Tavern. He remembers that, after battling the inferno Columbia and Second, the fire fighters went to Joe's Tavern for a beer. Gossips remembers the building being the Flying Frog Tavern & Grill. It was the Flying Frog up until October 2004, when there was a fire in the building.

Tax records indicate that Nooks bought the building in July 2007. His intention was to make it a restaurant, and he started the work of repairing the damage to the building caused by the fire and renovating it for its intended use. The minutes of the Zoning Board of Appeals indicate that on August 15, 2007, Nooks applied for a use variance "to restore 61-63 North Third Street to its original use as a restaurant and tavern." A use variance was needed because, although the building had been an eating and drinking establishment for decades, the building is in an R-4 District where that is not a permitted. The ZBA scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for September 20, 2007, but the ZBA minutes for 2007 available online are only for June, July, and August, so there is no readily accessible record of what transpired at the public hearing or the decision made by the ZBA about a use variance. Nooks told Gossips that in 2007, he was thinking of retiring from his job with the Department of Public Works and opening a restaurant, but he decided to postpone his retirement and consequently did not pursue the use variance.

Recently, Nooks decided to resume work on the restaurant and applied for a building permit. Haigh reminded him that the building was in an R-4 District, where a restaurant is not a permitted use. It's not clear why Nooks chose to seek a zoning amendment from the Common Council instead of simply applying for a use variance. Nooks say Haigh advised him to do it; Haigh denies having recommended that course of action.

Back when the Common Council was debating whether or not to amend the zoning law to make a hotel a permitted use in an R-S-C District, city attorney Ken Dow advised that a use variance was an "escape valve . . . to save people from having no use of their property." By that standard, it would seem that applying for a use variance would be the appropriate course of action for Nooks, who purchased a building that had in living memory always been a commercial building, with the expectation that its use as an eating and drinking establishment could continue. New York State municipal law establishes four tests that must be met by a property's owner for a use variance to be issued:
  1. the applicant cannot realize a reasonable return, provided that lack of return is substantial as demonstrated by competent financial evidence;
  2. the alleged hardship relating to the property in question is unique, and does not apply to a substantial portion of the district or neighborhood;
  3. that the requested use variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood;
  4. that the alleged hardship has not been self-created.
When Nooks presented his request for a zoning change to the Common Council, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) expressed her support for Nooks' plan, saying that the neighborhood needed a restaurant and suggesting that the restaurants on Warren Street were beyond the means of most people living in that area.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Scenes from a Rally

The New York Times reported today: "Tens of thousands of demonstrators, emboldened and unnerved by the eruption of fatal violence in Virginia last weekend, surged into the nation's streets and parks on Saturday to denounce racism, white supremacy and Nazism." Part of those tens of thousands were about a hundred people who gathered here in Hudson, in Seventh Street Park. 

The rally was organized SURJ-Hudson--SURJ being an acronym for "Showing Up for Racial Justice." The invitation to the rally distributed this morning provided a Hudson-specific definition of white supremacy:
On Saturday, August 19, we will stand on Warren Street in the city of Hudson, NY, as a reminder that white supremacy doesn't only express itself in KKK rallies and explicit racism. White supremacy also takes the form of stark segregation along race and class lines that shape our city. White supremacy shows up when our definition of economic development celebrates newness and growth, while producing vast and growing racial and economic inequity. White supremacy shows up when tourist-centered and consumption-based economic development is described as the solution for our communities, when long-term residents are forced out of their homes, and when "revitalization" is defined without meaningful direction from communities of color, poor and working-class people, and youth. And it shows up when we're told that we're unrealistic, or idealistic, for fighting for just and equitable development for all of our city's residents. The white supremacy we see in Charlottesville is intimately connected to the economic injustice we see all around us.
Hudson was recently awarded $10 million to revitalize its downtown, as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). The influx of resources into our community and the "revitalization" of previously disinvested neighborhoods has the potential to severely increase inequity and displacement. It also has the potential to address and transform inequity, by centering people of color and low-income people in every step of the process.
Today, we ask that everyone who rejects white supremacy and stands for racial justice joins us in making these demands of the City and Mayor:
l That the DRI Commission, tasked with overseeing the use of funds, does not contain anyone with a project that would benefit from DRI moneys.
l That the DRI Commission hold a majority of representatives from communities of color, low-income, and youth communities in Hudson.
Regarding what SURJ calls the DRI Commission, also known as the Local Planning Commission (LCP), the guidelines for creating this commission are determined by the State of New York, the source of the $10 million. Following the guidelines, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton recently submitted the names of twenty-five people who meet the requirements outlined by the DRI guidelines. The people who are on that list do not know they are on the list. Those twenty-five people will be vetted at the state level, and the list will be winnowed down to eight to twelve people who will make up Hudson's Local Planning Commission for the DRI.

A Summer Saturday in Hudson

If you haven't already planned out your afternoon, here's some guidance.

From noon to 1 p.m., a rally observing National Day of Solidarity to Confront White Supremacy takes place in the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park.

Meanwhile, down in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Hudson Summerfest will be going on from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.

If you don't want to spend all eight hours at the event, here's the schedule of performers, to help you decide when you want to make your appearance. Click on the name of each group to learn more about it. Be aware: There is a $25 admission fee.
From 2 to 5 p.m., Rob Bujan, candidate for First Ward alderman, is hosting a barbecue at Galvan Field, on Hudson Avenue just off Union Street. Everyone is invited for food, lawn games, face painting, and the chance to meet Bujan and many of your other neighbors and fellow Hudsonians.

Today promises to be a beautiful day, so take advantage of it.

Confronting the Unknown

It has come to my attention that whenever people opt for "OpenID" as their profile when making a comment on Gossips, the source of the comment is identified as "Unknown." Several people--more than in the past--are now opting for "OpenID." As a consequence, there are many comments from "Unknown," which may or may not be coming from the same person. Because this is confusing and troublesome to people who reveal their names or comment with a consistent nom de plume, Gossips will now require that, if you use "OpenID," you must either reveal your name or a pseudonym you plan to use consistently in the comment. Comments from "Unknown" that have no further identifying information will not be published. Many thanks for your cooperation.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Now We're the Sixth Borough

Another article about Hudson, which appeared in City Journal, has come to my attention. It stresses Hudson's colorful past and makes me wonder if I was really here for the past twenty-four years: "The Sixth Borough: How Hudson, New York, went from faded industrial town to hipster haven."

An Arrest Has Been Made

The Register-Star and 98.5 The Cat are reporting that an arrest has been made in connection with the shootings that occurred on State Street last weekend. What follows is the press release issued by the Hudson Police Department as it appeared on 98.5 The Cat's Facebook page:
On August 18, 2017, the City of Hudson Police Department arrested 31 year old, Michael Johnson of Hudson, New York on Criminal Possession of a weapon in the 2nd Degree, a class C felony, Criminal Possession of a weapon 3rd Degree, a class D felony, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property 4th Degree, a class E felony.
On August 18, 2017, at approximately 8:04 am, the City of Hudson Police Department received information and a tip from the local community that a black male all dressed in black, wearing black sun glasses, and a hoodie over his head, was standing in front of a targeted location on the 200 block of Columbia Street reportedly taking pictures of the residence. Police immediately responded to the area and found a male matching the description in the rear of the residence in the 200 block of Long Alley. The subject was subsequently identified by the police as Michael Johnson. Michael Johnson was found to be in possession of a loaded .380 hand gun which had been reported stolen. At this time, police believe this incident to be related to the shootings of this past weekend.
The Hudson Police Department was assisted by the New York State Police, Columbia County Sheriff’s Department and the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office.
On August 18, 2017, Michael Johnson was arraigned in the Hudson City Criminal Court before Judge Connor. He was remanded to the Columbia County Jail.

About the DRI

Last night, the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting did not happen for lack of a quorum, but Sheena Salvino, executive director of HDC (Hudson Development Corporation) was there, prepared to report to the committee about the process of implementing the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding. While waiting for a third member of the committee to show up (which never happened), Salvino shared with Gossips the information she intended to present to the committee.

For the DRI implementation process, the State selects the planning firm that will work with the City to determine how the $10 million will be invested. At this point, the identity of this planning firm has not been revealed. The City creates a Local Planning Commission to work with that planning firm. The members of the LPC are appointed by the mayor, and so far there has been no information about those appointments--if they have been made or who has been appointed.

Salvino enumerated the responsibilities of the LPC:
  • Approve the downtown vision and strategies and the final DRI Strategic Investment Plan.
  • Agree to a Code of Conduct as a reminder that they must always act in the public interest in their role as Local Planning Committee members.
  • Attend a variety of meeting at which they will participate in brainstorming ideas; provide direction to consultants; review planning products; evaluate projects proposed in the application; gather input from members of the community including private citizens, businesses and associations; prioritize actions and projects to advance downtown revitalization.
  • Participate in community outreach by making presentations to other groups, distributing information, reaching out to their networks, or other public engagement activities.
Salvino went on explain: "The LPC will represent the interests and priorities of the community, while the state agency staff [the two state agencies involved are the Department of State and the Department of Housing & Community Renewal] will ensure that the process and deliverables are consistent with the goals, priorities and requirements of the initiative. LPC meetings shall be public and conducted according to Open Meetings Law."

The services of the as yet unknown planning firm involve the following ten basic tasks:
  • Local Planning Committee Coordination
  • Create and Implement a Community Engagement Strategy
  • Prepare Downtown Profile and Assessment
  • Develop Downtown Vision, Goals and Objectives
  • Develop Revitalization Strategy Outline
  • Develop Revitalization Strategies and Action Plan
  • Develop Priority Project Profiles
  • Develop an Implementation Strategy
  • Propose Performance Indicators/Metrics
  • Complete the Final DRI Plan
The entire DRI application can be viewed here, but it's useful to review which of the fifteen projects earmarked for DRI funds have been identified as priorities. There are five of them.
  1. Workforce Development Programs in Trades, Arts and Technology--Connect upwardly mobile candidates living in BRIDGE Zone [that is, below Second Street] with readiness training, apprenticeships and trades through partnerships with: Columbia-Greene Community College & Workforce NY Satellite Office; private contractors and trades people; Basilica Hudson Artists Gallery Program
  2. Dunn Warehouse & Environs--Adaptive reuse of last remaining waterfront building for year round public/private usage that: leverages public funds for private investments to bring year round jobs; combines site development, curbing sidewalks, lighting and waterfront improvements; incorporates resiliency for sea level change to protect public and private investment
  3. Shovel Ready KAZ--Remove KAZ warehouse for redevelopment of mixed uses including: workforce readiness/maker center; housing for multiple income levels; retail/commercial space; professional office space
  4. Public Pier Project--Clear and establish public pier for: increased public recreation between slips 1 and 2 for passive and active use by both small and large crafts; connecting people to the waterfront; encourage increased maritime activity
  5. Pedestrian Connectivity, Routes & Lights--Comprehensive road, curbing, sidewalks, bikeways & lights connecting downtown recreation, employment, business, and cultural hubs for year round safe and efficient access by every mode of transportation including pedestrian, car/truck, bike, wheelchair and trains. Sites to connect include: small businesses and light industry at The Warehouse [former L&B]; Basilica Hudson; KAZ redevelopment site; Wick Hotel; River House [former Allen Street School]; community gardens; food hubs; A. Colarusso & Sons; Amtrak station; Warren Street business district; parks & community food hub.
The visual below, as well as the one included earlier, comes from Hudson's DRI application. It shows the location of the proposed public pier and envisions future buildings--three of them--on the City-owned property north of the Dunn warehouse.

A point that sometimes seems to be overlooked when discussing the DRI and the proposed projects is that BRIDGE is an acronym. It stands for Built Renew Invent Develop Grow Empower. 

Ten-Digit Phone Numbers Starting Tomorrow

Starting tomorrow, August 19, if you want to call a friend, call the police, call to make a dinner reservation, call to order a pizza, call anyone within the 518 area code, you will have to press ten digits--the area code 518 and the phone number. If you don't dial 518 before the number, you will get a recording informing you that you must. 

This is in preparation for an area code overlay. The part of New York that now has the area code 518 will soon have two area codes: 518 and 838. Starting on September 19, new numbers issued will have the 838 area code. 

There is no need to dial 1 when calling numbers with the area code 518 or 838. However, for every other area code--917 being a frequent one--you must dial 1.

Shall We Gather at the River?

Two weeks from today, on September 1, Historic Hudson holds its fundraising event, Drinks on the Waterfront, at the 1850 Dunn building, one of the last surviving industrial buildings on Hudson's waterfront. Earlier this week, Rural Intelligence published an article by Jamie Larson, in which he talks about the event and then segues into a discussion of Hudson's recent success in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI): "Historic Hudson Has 10 Million Reasons to Celebrate." It's recommended reading on both topics.

Photo: Saratoga Associates

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another Survey from the CAC

The Hudson Conservation Advisory Council is gathering information about "what the Hudson community values as natural resources and open spaces." Click here to access and complete the survey. When you get to the question "How do you get your news about Hudson?", please type in "The Gossips of Rivertown." It hasn't been offered as an option. 

The Haul Road Before the CCPB

As Gossips reported, the proposed Colarusso haul road was on the agenda of the Columbia County Planning Board on Tuesday night. Gossips wasn't at the meeting, choosing instead to be at City Hall for the Common Council meeting. Since then, I have spoken with two people who were at the CCPB meeting, and my report was based on the information they shared.

The CCPB's consideration of the project began with P. J. Prendergast making his now familiar presentation of the haul road, stressing its promised benefits to the City of Hudson resulting from rerouting trucks and taking them off city streets. As he has before, he dissed Rick's Point, which he considers to be a parking lot for riverfront park, as being totally unimproved, just dirt, and the real source of dust in the waterfront area. He was corrected by CCPB member (and Hudson resident) Robert Rasner, who told him the surface at Rick's Point was compacted gravel. Interestingly, Prendergast has added a new claim to his presentation: that it says "right in the City's DRI," referring to the City of Hudson's DRI" (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) application, that the City supports the proposed project, citing this sentence: "City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso."

In advance of the meeting, Patrice Perry, senior planner for Columbia County, had forwarded materials to the members of the board which, when printed out, constituted a document that was more than an inch thick. It was Prendergast's project narrative, written in December 2016 and revised in February 2017, which includes in its appendices such things the traffic study done by Creighton Manning, the completed long environmental assessment form, and the project narrative for dock repairs. At the meeting, Perry presented the board with another document, a ten-page assessment of the project, which she proceeded to read aloud. The document analyzed the project in terms of eight considerations: (a) compatibility of various land uses with one another; (b) traffic generating characteristics of various land uses in relation to the effect of such traffic on other land uses and to the adequacy of existing and proposed thoroughfare facilities; (c) impact of proposed land uses on existing and proposed county or state institutional or other uses; (d) protection of community character as regards predominant land uses, population density, and the relation between residential and nonresidential areas; (e) drainage; (f) community facilities; (g) official municipal and county development policies, as may be expressed through comprehensive plans, capital programs or regulatory measures; and (h) such other matters as may relate to the public convenience, to governmental efficiency, and to the achieving and maintaining of a satisfactory community environment. It concluded by making the recommendation that the board approve the project for these reasons:
The proposed improvements to this private road for use by trucks hauling gravel from the mine in the Town of Greenport to the City of Hudson, will allow for the removal of truck traffic from the NYS designated truck route through local roads and state highways in the Town of Greenport and the City streets of Hudson. The overall result will be a positive impact through the reduction of truck traffic, through the Town of Greenport and the City of Hudson.
The use of this road through private property will likely increase the efficiency of the gravel transport operation from the Greenport mine to the City of Hudson, a positive economic impact for this an established enterprise in Columbia County.
These road improvements support the goals of the Columbia County development policies to encourage balanced economy through business development and expansion and retention of existing business.
Rasner, who had himself studied all the documents presented, asked if his fellow board members had done the same. None had. He then urged that, since the board had thirty days to act on this referral from the Greenport Planning Board and twenty-three days remained, they hold off voting to give members time to study the issue. In this, he had the support of only one other member of the board, Cheryl Gilbert, who is from Kinderhook. One board member told him, in effect, "You may be interested in this, but I'm not. I'm willing to follow the recommendation of staff"--staff being, it seems, Patrice Perry.

The vote went forward, with members of the Columbia County Planning Board voting 5 to 2 to approve the project. The two dissenters were Rasner and Gilbert.

This referral to the Columbia County Planning Board is a part of the Greenport Planning Board's site plan review of the segment of the proposed haul road located in the Town of Greenport. The Hudson Planning Board will also be making a referral to the CCPB as part of its review of the segment of the haul road that is in Hudson.

Of Interest

There is a lovely commentary by Enid Futterman on imby about the announcement last Saturday that Gary Schiro will be stepping down at the end of the year from his position as executive director of the Hudson Opera House: "Gary Schiro is leaving the building." 

Photo: Tania Barrickio|Daily Freeman

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

An Update on the Escarpment

When last Gossips reported about the escarpment, on August 5, the stop-work order that had been issued on July 28 was finally being enforced, but the meeting that was to take place, bringing together all the involved agencies--the Department of Transportation, the Department of State, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Scenic Hudson, and the City of Hudson--had been postponed. That meeting took place today, and Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton just issued the following report about it.
Today, I met with senior representatives from NYS Department of Transportation, NYS Department of State, NYS Office of Parks, Restoration and Historic Preservation, and Scenic Hudson. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the escarpment adjacent to Promenade Hill Park.  Since work began on the escarpment several weeks ago, I, along with Scenic Hudson, have been in constant contact with various State agencies and Amtrak to voice our concerns about the aesthetics of the finished product (which was originally proposed to be plain shotcrete), and its inconsistency with the appearance of the existing cliff face and incongruity with the character of the adjacent historic district. NYSDOT and Amtrak heard our concerns and responded quickly and appropriately by halting work, preventing any further application of shotcrete until alternatives could be explored.
In today’s meeting, we received assurances that the project is subject to the Department of State’s Coastal Consistency Review. NYSDOT will be providing DOS with documentation, including engineering reports that support the need for work to be done to shore up the escarpment for safety purposes.  While the Coastal Consistency Review can take up to 60 days, it will likely be completed faster to accommodate NYSDOT’s project schedule and ensure safety along the railroad tracks.
We were presented with renderings of what the escarpment would look like with the application of sculpted/stamped shotcrete dyed to most closely match the color of the natural shale. Additionally, NYSDOT has offered to plant noninvasive vegetation along the precipice.
There will be a public meeting held within the next several weeks with all agencies in attendance to give the community the opportunity to learn more about proposed alternatives for the project.  I will provide information on the upcoming meeting as it becomes available.
Additionally, I recently engaged an engineering firm to evaluate the historic wall that runs along the western edge of Promenade Hill Park to determine if its integrity has been at all compromised by the work that’s already been done on the escarpment (e.g. drilling, etc.). This report will also be available for review at the public meeting. 

Much Ado About Something

At last night's Common Council meeting, Council president Claudia DeStefano wanted to change the published agenda, moving item 11, the resolution to transfer another $50,000 to the ramp project at Promenade Hill, ahead of item 7, the resolution to transfer $50,000 to the Attorney Fees Account. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) wanted to know why the agenda was being changed. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) offered an explanation that was inaudible to the audience and unacceptable to Friedman. DeStefano said, "There are other things on the agenda that are a little more pressing, and this one [by "this one" she seemed to mean the resolution about the ramp] is a little easier to run through the vote." Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) asked that they stick to the agenda; Friedman concurred. The agenda was adhered to.

Before a vote was taken on the resolution to transfer funds to the Attorney Fees Account, Garriga moved that the Council go into executive session, with the mayor, to discuss the resolution. Friedman objected, saying he did not believe it was a proper topic to be discussed without the public present. He maintained that the only justification for executive session was discussing personnel issues that involve information about an individual or discussing ongoing litigation during which legal strategies might be disclosed. Andy Howard, counsel to the Council, said the Council might be discussing "potential litigation" and expressed the opinion that the Council could go into executive session. Friedman was adamant: "I want us to discuss in public things that should be discussed in public."

The Council then voted on whether or not to go into executive session, but before that happened, Friedman left the room. Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward) prepared to leave, too, but stayed for the vote, in which he, Rector, and O'Hara voted no. All the others--DeStefano, Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward), Garriga, Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward), Abdus Miah (Second Ward), Priscilla Moore (Fifth Ward), and Lauren Scalera (Fourth Ward) voted to go into executive session. After the vote, Haddad left, saying, "We shouldn't be discussing these things without the public here."

After an executive session that lasted for upwards of twenty minutes, the public was allowed back into the room, and the resolution was voted on. It was unanimously passed.

It is not known what was discussed in executive session, but one can hazard a guess. On Monday, the Hudson City Democratic Committee issued this statement and call to action: 
The Common Council votes Tuesday night on whether to set aside $50,000 for legal fees. These funds are needed in order to protect our interests concerning the proposed haul road through the South Bay, which would increase truck traffic and limit how we use our waterfront for generations to come.
We have a tight deadline to respond to Greenport's recent negative declaration on this project's environmental impact. If we don't respond, we are allowing the road to proceed without Hudson's input.
Please attend and urge your representatives to vote "yes" so that Hudson can protect its waterfront and its people.
At the meeting, the Council also received the following communication from the HCDC:
The Hudson City Democratic Committee (HCDC) supports the City's effort to protect the waterfront from unchecked development and from actions that would limit the future of the waterfront as an invaluable public resource and a driver of economic growth. In particular, HCDC hopes that the City can effectively address the negative declaration issued by the Town of Greenport's Planning Board with respect to the proposal to build a new two-lane haul road across the South Bay railroad berm. The Greenport Planning Board, as lead agency, has determined that the new haul road will have no significant environmental impact on the Hudson waterfront, precluding any further input by Hudson's citizens. This action is in contradiction to the 2011 zoning changes to the waterfront area. The HCDC, consistent with its vision statement calling for clean air, water, streets and parks, and appealing and accessible shared spaces, believes that the waterfront is a crucial part of Hudson's history and future development. With its extensive wetlands, iconic views of the river with the Catskills beyond, and multi-use waterfront docking areas with enormous potential for economic growth, the promise of a greatly improved quality of life for all Hudson residents is within reach. The awarding of the $10,000,000 DRI initiative only serves to underscore the importance of this area for the City's future economic development.
The HCDC urges the City to use all means within its power to make sure that this action by Greenport is not the last word on this highly important subject.  
For everyone interested in finding out what else happened at last night's Common Council meeting, Dan Udell's video of the meeting is now available on YouTube. Click here to watch.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

About Last Weekend

Chief Ed Moore was present at the Common Council tonight and spoke about the events that took place in the 500 block of State Street this past weekend. He described them as "targeted acts between people who know each other quite well, and people we [the HPD] know quite well." He noted that some of the people involved are related. He explained that the feud between the two groups had heightened "for unknown reasons" since May. On May 1, someone was shot on North Fifth Street. The exchange of gunfire on South Front Street on May 30 is believed to have been a retaliatory act for that shooting. The incidents this past Saturday and Sunday also stem from that feud.

After the incident on Saturday night, when a woman was seriously injured by one of several shots fired at the van she was driving on Rope Alley, HPD officers were on the street, but that did not prevent what happened on Sunday night, when a woman and two children were injured by gunfire. "The gunman just reached around the corner and emptied his gun," Moore explained. The fact that there were police officers on the street, Moore said, "tells me the people involved don't care."

Moore told those present at City Hall tonight that the state police forensic unit is examining the crime scene and the state police have reached out to federal agencies. The HPD has assigned extra patrols in the 500 block of State Street.

Gossips Addendum: In a comment on the post "Mayor Hamilton Comments," a commenter known as "unheimlich" warned that the Hudson Police Department "is now asking anyone who reports crimes for information the police have no business asking, such as people's birthdays." Tonight, Chief Moore told Gossips that he had been unaware of this practice, that after investigation he had learned that birth dates were being requested as a means of distinguishing the caller from others who might have the same name, and that the practice, from the time he became aware of it, has been discontinued.

The Great War: August 14, 1917

On July 29, 1917--a Sunday--Hudson's own Company F left for training at Fort Niagara. On August 8, Hudson's Home Depot unit left for Highland, where they were to guard the Ashokan pipeline, part of New York City's water supply system. On August 14, Hudson provided a farewell sendoff for another military unit: Company H, the National Guard unit from New York City, which since the beginning of April had been headquartered in Hudson and assigned to guard the railroad tracks between Tivoli and Stockport. The accounts of the departures of the "F" boys and the Home Depot in the Hudson Evening Register were accompanied by photographs of each unit posing in front of the armory. The account of the "H" boys departure, however, was accompanied by a photograph of the Red Cross nurses who were part of the farewell parade.

Hudsonians arose early this morning. Easily avoiding old Morpheus' influence, they didn't shut off their alarm clocks and roll over for just a few more sound snoozes; to the contrary they sprang from their comfortable beds, quickly dressed themselves, ate their light breakfasts hastily, and then made a hasty exit from their places of abode. Like the fellow who desires to catch an early morning train, were the actions of the average Hudsonian--why?
Because within a short time a company of Uncle Sam's finest--the "H" company, Seventy-first regiment--would entrain for New York city, a temporary stopping place on the long journey that will eventually take it to the battlefields of France.
Hudsonians gave the Seventy-first boys a hearty and sincere farewell, demonstrating they cheered and clapped, and there vibrated through the still morning air the shrill whistles of practically every manufacturing plant in town, with the pleasant notes of church bells intermingling. It was a whole-souled affair, for in the departure of the "H" unit, Hudson loses, in its estimation, about the best company under Old Glory and the rigid, but commendable discipline of the Federal service, exception one--always our favorite--Company F, Tenth regiment, of Hudson.
Although it could not compare in extent with the great demonstration made here two weeks ago last Sunday concident [sic] with the departure of the Hudson unit for Fort Niagara, the morning's affair was productive of some pathetic scenes. Tears were shed when the "F" boys departed, and when the train carrying the New York unit wormed its way southward from the New York Central station here at exactly 8 o'clock this morning there were many wet cheeks and for many minutes Hudsonians remained in a solemn mood.
Some Leave County War Brides.
The "H" company had been headquartered here since April. It is comprised of a fine body of young men, whose conduct met with general satisfaction and was appreciated. The "H" boys not only made friends quickly in Hudson, but throughout the entire county and in parts of Dutchess county, the result of their doing guard duty on railroads in various parts of this section. Several of the "H" boys left behind them this morning war brides, who are Columbia county girls; many left sweethearts whom they may rejoin if they survive the terrible carnage "over there"--and we hope they will; others left behind close friends and three Columbia county boys in the company left relatives and scores of friends and carried with them the best wishes of the whole community.
When the "F" boys entrained for Fort Niagara, Hudsonians were hopeful that they might escape engagements on the battlefields in Europe. It was not a selfish hope. It was but natural and significant of the regard for the Hudson soldiers. They would not have the "F" boys stand back and do nothing; they realize the "F" boys could make good, but so long as their boys' status was undetermined, just so long would they hold a certain hope.
There was sorrow and regret expressed to-day, for those whose status is known were departing--and that status will eventually bring them to France; perhaps quicker than anticipated. . . .
The article goes on to identify the "three Columbia county boys" who were part of Company H: Augustus Tootell, of Hudson; Lester Raught, of Philmont; and Frank Moshier, of Stottville. A second article that appeared in the Evening Register on August 14 names a second young man from Hudson who had joined Company H.

In the account of the demonstration coincident with the "H" company's departure, we state that one Hudsonian was in that crack unit of the Seventy-first regiment, but this afternoon we learned that two Hudson boys entrained with the New York company, they being John Kovacs and Augustus Tootell.
This week the former, who is of foreign nativity, went to the County Clerk's office, took out his first papers, and then joined the "H" company. He said he liked American, and felt he could do his "bit" splendidly with the New York unit.
Kovacs for some time worked at the New York and New England cement plant in Greenport.

The Community Steps Up

At the Common Council Youth & Aging Committee meeting on August 2, Nick Zachos, the part-time director of the Youth Department, reported that the annual excursion to Zoom Flume Water Park was in jeopardy because some kids who wanted to go were unable to pay the admission fee. Today, Zachos posted the following announcement on Facebook.


Ear to the Ground

Gossips has received word that the Columbia County Planning Board is meeting today at 6:30 p.m. at 401 State Street, and the Colarusso haul road is on the agenda. At the end of the last Greenport Planning Board meeting, at which the members of the Greenport Planning Board voted unanimously to make a negative declaration in the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process, they also moved to send the proposal to the Columbia County Planning Board for its recommendation. This is required when a proposed project impacts more than one municipality.  

Tonight's meeting is a regular meeting of the Columbia County Planning Board (CCPB), which meets every third Tuesday. Minutes from a meeting that took place on June 20, 2017, the most recent minutes available online, list the current members of the board.

Hudson is now represented on the CCPB by Robert Rasner, antiques dealer and B&B proprietor, a change from last year at this time when the only member of the CCPB from Hudson, aside from staff member Patrice Perry, was Art Koweek, who famously said of the waterfront back in 1984 (and was quoted in Hudson Valley magazine), "It's an industrial area. Let them go out of town to get access to the river. . . . It's not a recreational river. It's to move raw materials."

Gratitude as always to Sam Pratt for putting the article "An Oil Refinery in Our Backyard," from the December 1984 issue of Hudson Valley, online where it can be accessed by all.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mayor Hamilton Comments

Two hours ago, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton issued this statement about the weekend's violence.
Citizens of Hudson, we experienced two separate incidents over the weekend involving gunfire, resulting in injuries to two adults and two young children. The first incident occurred on Saturday night in Rope Alley, where at least six bullets were fired at a car containing a man, woman, and child. The woman was hit and suffered significant damage to her shoulder. The Hudson Police Department called in additional resources from the Columbia County Sheriff's Office and the New York State Police to assist in the investigation and provide a dramatically increased presence on the streets Sunday. Despite the markedly increased police presence, with officers constantly patrolling by foot and car, there was a second gun-related incident on Sunday night, resulting in injuries to one adult female and two small children.
Based on information available to HPD prior to this weekend and information gathered from witnesses, neighbors, etc., it is clear that these two incidents are related; they are also likely connected with the gun-related incidents that occurred earlier this year on North Fifth Street and in front of the Half Moon on Front Street.
HPD has identified several suspects who are being interviewed. This process will continue until all those involved are brought to justice. I urge anyone who has any information or who may have seen something--no matter how inconsequential it might seem--that could be a lead, to contact HPD immediately at (518) 828-3388.
It is natural that situations like this make everyone in the community feel uneasy. Rest assured that the Hudson Police Department, working in close partnership with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, the New York State Police, and the Columbia County District Attorney's Office, is working around the clock to identify and apprehend all individuals involved in these crimes. I am grateful for the diligence, professionalism, and commitment shown by all parties in their handling of these matters.
I would like to express my concern for the victims of these crimes and their families. I wish you all a speedy recovery, and hope that seeing justice served will help you to heal emotionally as well.
Friends and neighbors, be vigilant. Be watchful and kind to each other as members of one community.

Frightening Feuding in a Small City

The Hudson Police Department issued a press release this afternoon, which has been published by the Register-Star and Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat. It explains that the shootings over the weekend in the vicinity of 543 State Street, which injured two women and two toddlers, are related to a shooting that took place on May 1 and gun play at the Half Moon on May 30. "This is a long-time dispute between two groups of known criminals," said Chief Edward Moore. He went on to warn, "The chance for more violence is inevitable."

Preserving Community Character

One of the thorniest issues that comes before the Historic Preservation Commission is a request for a certificate of appropriateness to demolish a building in a historic district. As HPC member and former chair Rick Rector said of demolition, "That's not what we're here for. That's not historic preservation."

The last time the HPC was asked to grant a certificate of appropriateness to demolish a building, it was 718-720 Union Street, a building that for at least two decades had been the epitome of wretched slumlord housing. 

After a public hearing at which no one had anything to say either in defense of the poor abused building or in support of its demolition, the HPC voted, with one abstention, to deny a certificate of appropriateness for its demolition. Sadly for the building, Ray Jurkowski, the engineer retained by the City of Hudson, and Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, determined that the building was unsafe and ordered it demolished in the interest of public safety.

Photo: Hilary Hillman
The perspective owner of the building (he was in contract to buy it on the condition that he could tear it down) maintained that his research suggested that the building hadn't existed before the 1940s, minimizing its historic significance. It wasn't until after the building had been demolished--and after Gossips had published five posts about its impending demise--that someone in a comment on the post announcing the demolition was underway provided the information that this building had been the stable for the Silas W. Tobey estate, the Picturesque house that once stood at 729 Warren Street and is believed still to survive beneath what we now know as the Diamond Building.

On Friday, a proposal to demolish another building came before the Historic Preservation Commission: the carriage house behind 439 Union Street.

The building, which fronts on Partition Street, is an accessory building currently used only for storage. As an accessory building, code enforcement officer Craig Haigh says it is perfectly fine. But the owners of the property want to use the building for human habitation--as a studio or an apartment--and for that purpose the building needs a foundation. Haigh predicted, "This building will fall apart if they have to lift it and put it on a new foundation."

So what it being proposed is demolishing this building and constructing a "new, similar building" on its footprint. But the plans for the new building are not similar. The gable will be turned 90 degrees, and the overall design of the proposed building was described by HPC member Miranda Barry as "a new, generic contemporary building."

As always, in trying to understand a building's history, the HPC asked for historic pictures of the structure. The likelihood of there being historic pictures of an accessory building are very slim, but, amazingly, there are three pictures, two from the Evelyn & Robert Monthie Slide Collection at the Columbia County Historical Society, of a World War I parade down Union Street that show 439 Union Street in the background. Because the rectory at Christ Church had not yet been built, an accessory buildings behind the house is visible, but it doesn't appear to be this one.

What can be learned from these pictures is that the building in question was probably not there in 1917, but a building doesn't have to be a hundred years old to be historic or to be a critical element in the character of a streetscape.

The proposal raises some complicated issues. The applicant maintains that fixing the existing structure to make it suitable for the desired use would require completely reframing it. Hence the desire to demolish the existing building and construct something new. Rector argued, "Just because someone wants to do something doesn't mean they can do it. If everybody gets to do what they want, the whole complexion of the city can change." Barry suggested that it might be more acceptable if the new building replicated what is there now. Of course, that possibility surrenders authentic historic character for a kind of Disneylike imitation. And all this is further complicated by the fact the building is located on Partition Street, which, although HPC member David Voorhees stressed, "It is a street, not an alley, and it has a certain character," is occupied primarily by carriage houses, garages, and other accessory buildings sometimes thought to be not as architecturally significant and not as worthy protection as the houses behind which they are situated. 

A public hearing on the proposal will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, August 25. Anyone with any information about the history and significance of this building is encouraged to share it here before the public hearing or in person at the public hearing.

Violent Weekend in Hudson

The 500 block of State Street was the scene of shootings on Saturday and Sunday night. The victim on Saturday night was a 28-year-old woman who was shot in the shoulder while driving up Rope Alley with her boyfriend and their infant child: "Stockport woman shot in Hudson." The victim last night was a toddler, not yet two years old, who was shot in the knee: "Child shot in Hudson." Both victims are being treated at Columbia Memorial Hospital. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ear to the Ground

. . . or, in this case, the radio. Affordable housing in general and Bliss Towers in particular were topics of conversation when Tom DePietro was interviewed by Vern Cross on WGXC last week. In the interview, which can be heard here, the discussion of Bliss Towers begins at 21:52. At 23:05, Cross says he "heard that the new guy had resigned," duly admitting that it could be a rumor. (Cross used to be on the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, but he resigned in January 2017.)  The "new guy," of course, would be Anthony Laulette, who took the position of executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority on March 27.

The specter of razing Bliss Towers, which arises periodically but hasn't been seriously and publicly considered since 2010, resurfaced when DePietro pointed out that past schemes to demolish Bliss Towers had come a cropper because of the requirement that, before a public housing project could be demolished, an equal number of new dwelling units had to be provided. In the past, it was always concluded that there is simply not enough available space in Hudson to create 132 new low-income housing units, particularly since the plans put forward in 2010 involved building two-family townhouses instead of four-story apartment buildings, four stories being the maximum height allowed by Hudson code. According to DePietro (he says this at 24:00), the rules have changed, and providing an equal number of dwelling units is no longer required.

Gossips Note: At an Affordable Housing Hudson (AHH) forum in May, Anthony Laulette told the audience, "Bliss Towers is not going anywhere." At the request of Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga, who moderated the forum, he repeated the statement: "It's not going anywhere." You can watch Dan Udell's video of the forum on YouTube. Laulette's comments about Bliss Towers begin at 9:54.