Thursday, May 31, 2018

Flag Day 2018

On June 14, 1777, the combination of stars and stripes and the colors red, white, and blue, stitched together, according to legend, by Betsy Ross, was adopted by resolution of the Second Continental Congress as our national flag. It wasn't until more than a century later, in 1885, that it occurred to anyone to celebrate the day. It was a schoolteacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, who first had the idea of having students observe what was then called "Flag Birthday." Now, more than a hundred and thirty years after those simple "patriotic exercises" involving schoolchildren, we in Hudson celebrate Flag Day with a daylong revel on the Saturday closest to June 14, which begins with a ceremony in the morning and ends with fireworks at night, with a parade and a carnival in between.

Today, just nine days before the event, the Register-Star reports that the Flag Day celebration is $5,000 short of the $47,000 required to stage the celebration: "Flag Day Committee calls on support from local community." In the past, Flag Day regularly received $3,000 or more from the $20,000 allocated in the city budget to support events and festivals. This year, because the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee was abolished at the beginning of the year, and it took four months to decide if and how the $20,000 would be distributed, applications for a share of that money aren't due until June 15, a week after the Flag Day celebration happens, and decisions won't be made until Tuesday, June 26. The Flag Day Committee would certainly be in a better position in meeting its budget if the Common Council had made and announced its awards in a more timely manner.

On the topic of Flag Day, you can get a head start on Saturday's festivities on Thursday, June 7, by attending a presentation by the Hudson Elk's Lodge 787 at the Hudson Area Library called "Know Your Flag: History of the American Flag & Flag Day." 

Photo: Carmine Ciancetti Collection, Hudson Area Library History Room
The event will feature a display of American flags throughout history, information on how to care for, display, and dispose of a flag, instructions in proper flag folding techniques, vintage photographs of Flag Day parades in Hudson, and a special American flag cake.

The event takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street. It is free and open to the public.

Feeding the Donkey

A rather eccentric and folksy professor of mine in undergraduate school used to say, "It's too late to feed the donkey at the bottom of the hill." His reference was to cramming for exams, but the metaphor works as well for preparing to cast an informed vote. If you're a Democrat still trying to educate yourself about the seven candidates vying to be the Democrat who will challenge John Faso in November, there are two good chances to feed your donkey coming up.

Today, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., WAMC is hosting a live debate among the seven candidates.

The debate will be broadcast live on WAMC, and if you listen online, you can also see a live video of the event.

On Monday, June 4, the seven candidates will be at Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School right here in Hudson for a debate presented by the League of Women Voters.

This debate takes place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free, but tickets are required. Click here to get your ticket and secure your spot.

The primary takes place on Tuesday, June 26--just a little more than three weeks from now. If you are not registered to vote, tomorrow, June 1, is the last day to register in order to vote in the primary on June 26. Also, to vote in this primary, you must be a registered Democrat.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Locavore's Delight

Didn't make it to the Hudson Farmers Market on Saturday? Didn't buy enough to get you through the week? You are in luck! The Upstreet Market opens for the season tomorrow, Wednesday, May 30.  

Tomorrow and every Wednesday through early October, the vendors of the Upstreet Market will be in the Public Square (a.k.a. Seventh Street Park) from 4 to 7 p.m., with local produce, meats, specialty foods, and more. So, eschew the supermarket, celebrate the bounty of our region, and support our local growers and makers.

Gun Laws, School Safety, and Mental Health

The press release announcing a panel discussion to take place on Friday, June 1, in the Hudson High School auditorium begins: "The national gun debate has only increased in pitch since the February 14 Parkland Florida school shooting." Because there is no mention of the May 18 attack at Santa Fe High School in Texas, which according to news accounts was the seventeenth school shooting since Parkland, we can only imagine that the press release was drafted before the Santa Fe shooting, which took ten lives, entered the national conversion.

The event planned for Friday here in Hudson, organized by former Fourth Ward supervisor William Hughes and HCSD superintendent Maria Suttmeier, is described as a "wide-ranging panel discussion about gun safety, mental health, and school safety legislation." Panel members represent "the entire spectrum of positions--from NRA-aligned to community health organizations." Those members include:
Congressman John Faso, who has a lifetime "A" rating from the NRA  
Assemblymember Didi Barrett
Malcolm Nance, author and media commentator on terrorism and intelligence
David Bartlett, Columbia County sheriff
Michael Cole, director of community services, Columbia County Department of Human Services
Maria Suttmeier, superintendent, Hudson City School District
Mike Needham, safety engineer at Needham Risk Management
Edward Moore, chief of the Hudson Police Department
The press release assures us that all members of the community are welcome, the conversation will be civil and productive, and the event will be gun-free. Admission is free, but attendees are required to have tickets, which can be secured by clicking here. People are encouraged to submit questions for the panel in advance by emailing them to Hughes

The panel discussion takes place this Friday, June 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the auditorium at Hudson High School, 215 Harry Howard Avenue.

Mixed Messages

Yesterday, on Memorial Day, this meme appeared on my Facebook home page.

Also on Facebook yesterday, I learned that the Rock Solid Church will be returning to the Flag Day Parade to celebrate all those many years of war.


New Rules for Commenting

Blogger, the platform used by The Gossips of Rivertown, recently announced that OpenID would no longer be an option for commenters. Because there is at least one regular Gossips commenter who uses OpenID, I feel obligated to allow Anonymous as an option for commenters so that person can continue commenting despite Blogger's change in policy. In the past, when I have experimented with allowing Anonymous comments, things have not gone well. Allowing Anonymous comments opens the door to spam comments, so this experiment may, like the earlier ones, be short-lived. In the meantime, be advised that if you elect to post as Anonymous you must identify yourself in some way in your comment--with your name or initials or some pseudonym you intend to use consistently. All comments on Gossips are monitored, and completely anonymous comments will not be published.

Thoughts on a Fine Spring Day

While traveling the back roads of Columbia County recently, en route to Williamstown, Steve Dunn snapped this picture in Canaan.

Photo: Steve Dunn
He sent the picture to me along with this statement and permission to share both on Gossips
I have said it before, and I will say it again, but we live in the most beautiful place on earth, and I have visited a lot of places. I feel just so lucky to have the privilege to live here. It's like I was dealt a royal flush.
To that I will add another quote that seems appropriate for today, one that may be familiar to some: "The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, and the flowers appear on the earth." Enjoy the day!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Recommended Listening for Memorial Day

If you missed hearing it earlier today when it was broadcast on WAMC, you can listen to this podcast online. It's called "Spirits of Sacrifice," and it's the first episode in the series A New York Minute in History, a production of the New York State Museum, WAMC, and Archivist Media. Click here to listen. 


The Great War: Memorial Day 1918

On this Memorial Day, when after the parade, speeches, and tributes people gathered at St. Mary's Academy for refreshments, we share the account of an event that took place at St. Mary's Academy as part of the Memorial Day celebration in Hudson a hundred years ago. Of course, St. Mary's Academy was a different building then. It stood on the southwest corner of Allen and Third streets not the southeast corner as it does today.


Because Gossips loves exposing the layers of history in Hudson and fostering an awareness of the people who inhabited the houses and buildings of the city before us, I consulted the Hudson city directory for 1918 to learn where the people mentioned in this account of Memorial Day 1918 lived. The McNamee family lived at 326 Allen Street, the house that is now Hudson City Bed and Breakfast.

In 1918, Gertrude Muldowney was the youngest of Edward and Annie Muldowney's three children. The Muldowney family lived at 258 Union Street.

William McCune's father was a grocer whose store was located at 101 Warren Street.

The McCune family lived just up the street at 117 Warren Street.

Paul Colwell was seven years old in 1918. He lived with his widowed mother and older brothers at 321 Union Street.

Paul Colwell's father, Joseph H. Colwell, who was described in his obituary as "an enterprising and highly esteemed man," had died the previous year, a week after suffering a stroke "while at work in his tonsorial parlor at 610 Warren Street." Of his death, the obituary observed: "All that loving hands and medical skill could do proved of no avail. . . ."

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Stewart's Shops Elsewhere, Part 3

In the past, Gossips has featured the experiences of two other municipalities with Stewart's Shops: Altamont and Voorheesville. While the Common Council here in Hudson is still considering the request from Stewart's to amend the city's zoning code to accommodate the company's desire to expand its gas station and convenience store at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, here's another story of Stewart's in another community in the region: Colonie.

There currently is a Stewart's in Colonie, on Fuller Road, but it's just a convenience store. There are no gas pumps. Stewart's wants to build a new facility, with gas pumps, at the different location on Fuller Road. The progress of that effort is reported today in the Times Union: "Planning board OKs Stewart's Fuller Road store move."  

Although the project has received "concept approval" from the Colonie Planning Board, the neighbors are concerned about the "hazardous health risks from living close to a gas station." They want Stewart's to do an environmental impact study, but the attorney for Stewart's argues that it is not legally necessary "because the proposed site's 3,726 square footage is less than the 4,000 square feet the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations deems necessary for a SEQRA." That hardly seems a good enough reason not to do an environmental impact study, particularly since the project involves introducing a toxic substance into an area where it was not previously present.

Money for Bliss Towers

MidHudson News reports today that the Hudson Housing Authority will receive $312,317 in funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for needed capital improvements: "HUD funds 20 public housing agencies in region." 

Lynne Patton, HUD regional administrator (and formerly Eric Trump's wedding planner), who visited Bliss Towers in April, is quoted in the article as saying, "It is imperative for housing authorities to 'leverage these dollars to spur the private investment necessary to put public housing on a sustainable platform for future generations.'" That statement is a paraphrase of the first sentence explaining the RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) program on the HUD website: "RAD allows public housing agencies to leverage public and private debt and equity in order to reinvest in the public housing stock." HHA is currently pursuing a RAD conversion.

Hudson Critiqued and Reimagined

If you missed Matthew Frederick's presentation at the library last Thursday, Future of Hudson: An Urban Designer's Imaginings, What Ifs, and Why Nots, you can now watch it online. Dan Udell's is now available here.  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Origin of the Language

The Hudson Development Corporation has honored Sam Pratt's FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request and released "records created between January 1st, 2017 and December 31st, 2017 which mention, discuss, originate from, or otherwise concern the A. Colarusso & Son company ('Colarusso')." Yesterday, Pratt made those documents available to a few people, Gossips among them. Exploring the documents provides insight into how such language as this made its way into Hudson's Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application: "city officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso" (page 18); "Key improvements to be considered . . . reduction of truck traffic through residential areas of the BRIDGE District by re-routing Colarusso trucks onto a widened two-way haul road at the City's south border" (page 47); "On any given fair weather Saturday, brides in their gowns might pose for photos at Basilica Hudson, while just outside gravel is delivered by truck from the Colarusso quarry to the deep water port across Front Street" (page 37). 

The DRI application was not made available to the public until after the award was announced on August 1, 2017. When it was released, Gossips learned that the application had been "totally rewritten" in the six days before it was submitted on June 14. In the records FOILed by Pratt, there's a particularly interesting thread of emails from June 6. It begins with an email sent at 8:55 a.m. by Mike Tucker of CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation) to Sheena Salvino, copying the consultants involved in preparing the application, Kathleen Foley and Juhee Lee-Hartford, and Pat Gareau, whose role in the process is not entirely clear. In the email, Tucker makes this request: "In reaching out to Colarusso to get them on board, it would be very helpful to have a clear description of how we want to portray them in the application to get a sign off so they don't say after the fact that 'we never agreed to this'? If we have some idea of how we see them fitting in, perhaps we can draft some language for me to get them to agree to?" 

At 9:35 a.m., Salvino responds: "I agree that we should get their input and include their work in the application as it is a long lasting industry on the waterfront and we are making every effort to compromise--live & let live." 

At 9:38 a.m., Tucker replies: "Great--I want to be sure I have some direction so that I can find common ground that insures Colarusso is on board and that we haven't offended other constituencies in the process."

At 10:22 a.m., Kathleen Foley, the consultant credited with writing the grant application (see "The $10 Million Women," which appeared in The Highlands Current on August 19, 2017), shares her ideas for taking a "broad approach to the issue of Colarusso" in these bullet points:
  • acknowledge the industry positively as a link to Hudson and the District's industrial heritage--it represents the working waterfront that once thrived up and down the river
  • identify it as an example of healthy coexistence of uses
  • point out the proactive steps that the city has taken, via code updates and permitting processes, to protect the industrial use and weave it into the growing multi-use area as well as mitigate impacts on the environment and public health
  • refer to the ongoing work to build a collaborative relationship with Colarusso
  • highlight the intention that the traffic and pedestrian rationalization of the southern end of our district will help to streamline the industrial transport as well as improve wayfinding and access for residents and visitors alike
Two days later, on June 8, at 5:05 p.m., Foley sends an email to Tucker and Salvino with the subject line "Advice on Colarusso." The email begins:
In my view, the "working city" elements of our application would work best if we can make reference to our existing heavy industry in the form of Colarusso. It is that operation that has the greatest impact on traffic flow, noise, particulates, etc. It's also the element that seemed to appeal heavily to the state reviewers on their site visit as a positive--active industry in an emerging arts zone.   
After acknowledging that "we are balancing a number of sensitive issues around the gravel mining" and listing those issues as she understands them, Foley concludes, "We have to capture this economic driver with a gentle grip." She then presents her bullet points again, in a somewhat enhanced way:
  • Colarusso is a link to Hudson and the District's industrial heritage--it represents the working waterfront that once thrived up and down the river
  • identify it as an example of healthy coexistence of uses in our district . . . gravel and galas meet in the BRIDGE district
  • point out the proactive steps that the city has taken, via code updates and permitting processes, to protect the industrial use and weave it into the growing multi-use area and mitigate impacts on the environment and public health
  • refer to the ongoing work of surrounding business owners and civic leaders to build a collaborative relationship with Colarusso
  • highlight the intention that the traffic and pedestrian rationalization of the southern end of our district will help to streamline the industrial transport as well as improve wayfinding and access for residents and visitors alike
To echo an observation made by Pratt, the advice provided by a hired consultant disregards "twenty years of civic struggle, debate, and decision making." Still, in the interest of getting the $10 million, the advice was accepted and followed in the DRI application.

Sheena Salvino and Tiffany Martin Hamilton pose with Juhee Lee-Hartford (second from left) of River Architects, the firm that did the design renderings for the DRI application, and Kathleen Foley (far right), credited with writing the application

Given what we now know about the origin of the language, it's interesting to watch the evolution of one of my favorite paragraphs from the application, one that exemplifies the "gravel and galas," "healthy coexistence of uses," and "live and let live" rhetoric of the application, as it develops over the six days of review and revision. 
June 8
Hudson's BRIDGE District has the look and feel of the post-industrial cityscape that Millennials seek in neighborhoods like Brooklyn's Greenpoint and DUMBO . . . except in Hudson, "post" doesn't quite apply. Hudson is an authentic working city with a working waterfront. Yes, once shuttered industrial buildings are being transformed into performance and event venues or hotels as they are [in] Brooklyn, but in the BRIDGE District they stand alongside structures that continue in their lifetime manufacturing service. A healthy number of such properties are primed for creative redevelopment as mix-used [sic] spaces, supporting and expanding BRIDGE's diversifying economy.
June 12
Hudson's BRIDGE District has the look and feel of the post-industrial cityscape that Millennials seek in neighborhoods like Brookyn's Greenpoint and DUMBO . . . except in Hudson, "post" doesn't quite apply. Hudson is an authentic working city with a working waterfront. Yes, once-shuttered industrial buildings are being transformed into performance spaces, event venues and hotels as they are [in] Brooklyn, but in the BRIDGE District adaptively reused buildings stand alongside structures that continue in their lifetime manufacturing service. And they sit together comfortable in their contrast. On any given fair weather Saturday, brides in their gowns might pose for photos at Basilica Hudson, while just outside gravel is delivered by truck from the Colarusso quarry to the deep water port across Front Street. It goes back to that live and let live philosophy of BRIDGE.
June 14
Hudson's BRIDGE District has the look and feel of the post-industrial cityscape that Millennials seek in neighborhoods like Brooklyn's Greenpoint and DUMBO . . . except in Hudson, "post" doesn't quite apply. Hudson is an authentic working city with a working waterfront. Yes, once-shuttered industrial buildings are being transformed into performance spaces, event venues and hotels as they are [in] Brooklyn, but in the BRIDGE District adaptively reused buildings stand alongside structures that continue their lifetime manufacturing service. And they sit together comfortable in their contrast. On any given fair weather Saturday, brides in their gowns might pose for photos at Basilica Hudson, while just outside gravel is delivered by truck from the Colarusso quarry to the deep water port across Front Street. It goes back to that live and let live philosophy of BRIDGE. This dynamic environment doesn't just appeal to Millenials [sic], of course--older second homeowners and visitors love the aesthetic and feel as well.
The June 14 version is what ended up in the final document. The word in, needed before Brooklyn in the third sentence, never got inserted. In the final version, millennials does not begin with capital letter the first time it appears, but it is still capitalized in the last sentence, added in the final version, where it is also misspelled.

Addendum: Sam Pratt just informed me that any member of the public who wants access to the documents can contact him:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Three Years Later

If you search for "Ginsberg's" here on Gossips, you will find a number of posts from 2014 and 2015, most with links to Sam Pratt's blog, about the proposed expansion of Ginsberg's Foods. The project was fraught with controversy. The Ghent Planning Board denied site plan approval, but the decision that was overturned by Judge Richard Koweek. CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation) sold the land for the new facility--33 acres--to Ginsberg's for $1. Pat Grattan, then chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, protested that the county had paid $110,000 for the property and asked CEDC to pay the county back. David Crawford, then president of the CEDC board, was forced to resign because his firm, Crawford Associates, was handling the permitting and engineering work for the project.

Now, three years later, the Register-Star reports the latest chapter in the Ginsberg's story: "Ginsberg's Foods will have to pay $280,000 for property it bought in 2015." The contract with CEDC required that the new facility be operational by August 2018, and it does not appear that condition will be met.

Change at City Hall

Arriving for the Historic Preservation Commission meeting this morning, I noticed there were brand-new chairs on that dais--chairs to be used by the aldermen and the members of the various regulatory boards that meet at City Hall. 

Unfortunately, nothing has been done to improve the torturous seating provided for the general public.


The "Hybrid Option"

In April, to assist the Common Council Legal Committee in seeing a way forward in responding to the request from Stewart's Shops that the City adopt its proposed Green Street Overlay District, city attorney Andy Howard outlined three options: the committee could recommend that the Council deny the request; it could recommend the request be granted; or it could propose a different solution. It was agreed that the third option--the "hydrid option"--be pursued. Howard would draft an amendment to the zoning code that, it was suggested, would address not only the Stewart's issue but also the problem the previous Council hoped to remedy with the ill-fated Local Law No. 9 for 2017: buildings with a history of commercial uses ending up in residential districts where the permitted commercial uses are very limited.

At the Legal Committee meeting this past Wednesday, Howard presented the draft amendment. As proposed, it would revise Section 325-8 of the zoning code--the section of the code pertaining to R-2 residential districts--and would, "in order to encourage the upkeep, renovation and continuation of nonconforming uses presently existing in the R-2 District," allow for "the renovation, replacement and/or expansion of currently existing nonconforming uses within said R-2 District." 

There were questions about the proposed amendment. The one that got the most attention was whether or not "replacement and/or expansion" meant that nonconforming uses could expand onto adjacent properties, which is precisely what Stewart's wants to do. Committee member Rich Volo expressed concern about allowing expansion to exceed the lot currently occupied by a nonconforming use. Committee chair John Rosenthal spoke of the need to control expansion if it were to be allowed to spread to adjacent sites. There was also a question about whether this amendment, tailored as it was for R-2 districts, would also apply to R-3 and R-4 districts.

As he had in April, Howard outlined three options for going forward:
  • The committee could do nothing and recommend that the Council deny Stewart's request for a zoning change;
  • It could allow for a building with a nonconforming use to be altered and reconfigured so long as it remained within the same lot;
  • It could allow a nonconforming use to expand on a greater area and set limits on the size of the new consolidated parcel.
When it was suggested that the committee vote, Volo expressed his preference for the second option, Rosenthal seemed inclined to favor the third, and committee member Shershah Mizan said he wanted the decision to be made by the full Council.

At this point in the discussion, Howard suggested that the issue might better be addressed by amending Section 325-29, the part of the code that defines the restrictions on nonconforming uses. The code currently states that a nonconforming use "may be continued indefinitely," but it cannot be "enlarged, extended or placed on a different portion of the lot"; "be changed to another nonconforming use"; "be reestablished if such use has for any reason been discontinued for a period of over one year, or has been changed to or replaced by a conforming use." Howard suggested that this section could be amended to allow buildings with nonconforming uses to be enlarged or relocated on the same lot, to allow an existing nonconforming use to be changed to another nonconforming use, and to allow a nonconforming use to be reestablished if it has been discontinued for more than a year.

It was decided that the amendment should be made to Section 325-29 not Section 325-8, and that the proposed amendment, without prior review by the Legal Committee (at least not in a public meeting), would be submitted to the full Council for consideration.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The News We Wait for Every Spring

Chief Ed Moore today announced the suspension of alternate side of the street overnight parking on weekends for the summer.
Beginning at 12 a.m. on May 26, 2018, and ending at 8 a.m. on September 30, 2018, weekend alternate side parking in the City of Hudson shall be suspended. To clarify, alternate side parking is suspended Friday nights into Saturday mornings and Saturday nights into Sunday mornings.

Mark Your Calendars, All Ye Worried About Kaz

Gossips just received word that Sheena Salvino has announced a special meeting of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) Board to take place on Thursday, June 7, at 5:30 p.m., at 1 North Front Street. The subject of the meeting will be the redevelopment of the Kaz site.

What's Happening at East Jeezus?

The 9.9-acre parcel on the waterfront south of the "deep water" dock, the transfer of which was allegedly a condition of the state approving Hudson's 2011 Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and the failure to execute that transfer is cited as the reason Hudson does not today have an approved LWRP with all its benefits and protections, dropped off the radar soon after The Valley Alliance revealed in June 2013 that 4.4 of the 9.9 acres actually still belonged to the City of Hudson, because the sale of the parcel to St. Lawrence Cement in 1981 had been illegal.

Image: The Valley Alliance
Last evening, a Gossips reader reported changes on the very 4.4 parcel whose ownership has been in question. The land was brush-hogged and mowed recently and a barrier of stones constructed to prevent vehicle access. The transformation makes the site a little like Rick's Point.

It was revealed in 2016 that the City's negotiations with Holcim for the transfer of the 9.9 acres had broken down in 2013 because A. Colarusso & Sons had started its negotiations for the purchase of all the Holcim holdings in Hudson and Greenport, and Colarusso wanted the 9.9 acres to use as a "staging area." Colarusso took possession of the Holcim property in early in 2015

The new "improvements" made on the 4.4 acres believed still to be owned by the City of Hudson raise some questions: Who did the work and why? What does it mean? Does it signal some resolution in the contested ownership of this parcel?

Back in December 2013, Gossips asked the same questions about bulldozing and gravel spread on the 4.4 acres. That time, it turned out to be associated with Amtrak making repairs to the railroad tracks. This time, the intent appears to be different, but you never know. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Ear to the Ground

At Tuesday's HDC (Hudson Development Corporation) meeting, Seth Rapport, who served as president of the HDC board in the past and recently rejoined the board, delivered an eloquent statement about the necessity of support from the community and the Common Council. His entire statement can be heard in Dan Udell's video, beginning at 38:30, but the gist of it is captured in this sentence: "It is my belief, and no one will convince me otherwise, that the viability and effectiveness of this board is vitally connected to the strong, consistent support both from the community and the Common Council."

Gossips has since learned and confirmed that Rapport and three other members of the HDC board--Kristal Heinz, Duncan Calhoun, and Brian Stickles--have resigned, as has Matt Griesemer, counsel to HDC. Griesemer is a member of law firm Freeman Howard; city attorney Andy Howard is a founding member of that firm.   

Mark Your Calendars and Reserve Your Seat

On Monday, June 4, the seven candidates vying to be the Democrat who challenges John Faso in November will be in one place: right here in Hudson in the auditorium at Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School.

All seven candidates--Jeff Beals, Dave Clegg, Erin Collier, Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn, Gareth Rhodes, Pat Ryan--have confirmed they will be there for the debate presented by the League of Women Voters. Click here to get your ticket and ensure you'll be there, too.

On the Topic of Urban Planning

At yesterday's Hudson Development Corporation meeting, Council president Tom DePietro suggested that the HDC board should increase the number of members (the agency bylaws now cap the number of board members at fifteen, and it appears there are currently thirteen members). He also suggested that the board "needs to recruit people who actually have expertise in some of the things we need, such as city planners who actually live in Hudson." It's hard not to think that DePietro may have had someone in particular in mind: Matthew Frederick.

DePietro and Ellen Thurston interviewed Frederick about his latest book and his ideas for Hudson on their WGXC radio show a few weeks ago. Frederick's new book is called 101 Things I Learned in Urban Design School, and tomorrow night at 6 p.m., Frederick will draw on the principles from the book, in a presentation titled Future of Hudson: An Urban Designer's Imaginings, What Ifs, and Why Nots, to explore "how we might repair Hudson's trouble spots and shape its future." Among the ideas for the future are "a redesigned waterfront, a rethought Second Ward, a revamped Seventh Street Park, a new home for Kite's Nest, and even a dramatic new neighborhood with its own Main Street."

A discussion and book signing will follow the presentation. If you can't make it to the library tomorrow at 6 p.m., you won't miss out entirely. Dan Udell has announced his intention to videotape the event.

Watch for Yourself

Dan Udell's video of yesterday's HDC meeting is now available on YouTube. Click here to watch it.

From left to right: Sheena Salvino, Matt Griesemer. Don Moore, Kristal Heinz  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

High Noon at HDC

At noon today, the Hudson Development Corporation held its first meeting since Common Council president Tom DePietro called HDC "a quasi-agency that is outdated and should probably no longer exist" and asked city attorney Andy Howard to "look into how does one get rid of an LDC." The HDC board was clearly prepared for a crowd. Tables and chairs had been arranged to accommodate spectators.      

HDC board president John Gilstrap, who had responded to DePietro with a memo that DePietro claimed "begins with a false statement and compounds its errors throughout," was not present at the meeting, owing to a "medical emergency." Instead, Don Moore, treasurer of the HDC board, chaired the meeting. His tone was calm and conciliatory. He started out by addressing the issue of FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) and HDC, thanking Sam Pratt and announcing that Pratt's FOIL request would be honored. Moore explained that Pratt's was the first FOIL request HDC had ever received. Matt Griesemer, attorney for HDC, said they had intended to seek an opinion from the New York State Committee on Open Government, but Pratt had done so first. Seeming to suggest the issue was still open to interpretation, Griesemer said they had decided to take the position that HDC is subject to FOIL. 

"HCDPA Financial Insolvency" appeared on the agenda under "FINANCIAL REPORTS," and DePietro, an ex officio member of the board, queried: "Why is this board talking about HCDPA? You're just trying to scare people." DePietro had expressed the opinion, in his email to Gilstrap, that "a strengthened HCDPA is in order." Sheena Salvino, executive director of HDC and HCDPA, explained that it was an issue for HDC because the agencies shared staff, and if HCDPA was insolvent, HDC would have to assume the entire financial burden of those salaries.

Five items into a seven-item agenda, the meeting got to the topic most people were there to discuss: the redevelopment of the Kaz site. Moore explained what we already knew: the project is on hold. "We cannot proceed without having the City with us," Moore stated.

DePietro asked if there was "a willingness to reconsider the RFP" and suggested "starting over" and "not having one developer." Moore denied that there was anything in the RFP that specified one developer, but DePietro responded, "I felt that the RFP determined it, and that process [the process of drafting the RFP] was not open." Moore responded that policy initiatives being talked about, before and during the DRI (Downtown Revitaliation Intitiative) process, such as affordable housing, job creation, food availability, community walkability, had been incorporated into the RFP. 

HDC board member Kristal Heinz, who had earlier spoken of "misperceptions" that the Kaz project was being rushed through when in fact the board had been working on it for two and a half years, addressed DePietro directly, calling him to task for being on the board for four months and never bringing up any concerns and then saying publicly, at a Common Council meeting over which he presided, that he didn't think the agency was "viable" and that it "shouldn't exist." She called it "a breach of loyalty to HDC." DePietro questioned the notion that he was required to have loyalty to HDC, saying that had not signed some of the documents he was expected to when becoming a member of the board. He told Heinz that his criticism "wasn't personal" even though she was "making it personal."

When Moore sought guidance on how to move forward, Mayor Rick Rector observed that the conversation "started with concern about the Kaz project and exploded into concern about HDC." He reminded those present that HDC was a 501(c)3 not-for-profit agency and could do things that City by law could not, that HDC was currently the City's only mechanism for planning and economic development, and that HDC possessed institutional memory that City government, with elected officials potentially changing every two years, did not. He stressed that the investment in Hudson from the DRI--$20 million--was "the biggest infusion of cash since Urban Renewal." He concluded by saying, "Kaz we can reevaluate, but we need to take a deep breath before considering dissolving HDC. It is the only apparatus we have to deal with the DRI."

Much more was said, by members of the board and members of the audience. When Dan Udell's video of the meeting is available, all will be revealed. The outcomes of the meeting seem to be that HDC board meetings may be held in the evening when more people are able to attend and a working group representing the City and HDC may be formed to reassess the Kaz project. 

Of interest is that DePietro, at some point in the discussion, said he was "shocked that the [HDC] board is taking this so personally," stressed that his statements were meant to be "the beginning of a conversation," and asserted, "The fact that the board cannot respond to it [in this spirit] is disappointing." Dan Udell's video of the informal Common Council meeting allows people to judge for themselves if members of the HDC board overreacted to the statements made by DePietro or not. One is reminded, though, that, after the resolution demanding the mayor remove the current members of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners failed, DePietro told its author, Alderman Tiffany Garriga, "The resolution has already accomplished much of what it was intended to do. We have put them on notice." Is this to be the new strategy for achieving desired outcomes--proposing ill-considered resolutions and making provocative statements in the Council Chamber at City Hall?

Happening Right Now

Right now--from 5 to 7 p.m. today--there's a community listening session going on at Bliss Towers about a new mobile grocery store being planned for Hudson. 

If you miss out today, you get another chance on Tuesday, June 19, from 5 to 8 p.m., when the conversation continues at the Hudson Area Library. 

The Previous Life of the House Now Gone

Since discovering on Sunday that 13 Worth Avenue had been demolished, I've learned more about the house's recent past and its more distant past. People living in the neighborhood say the house has been vacant since 2005. Tax records confirm that it was the victim of a bank foreclosure and had become what is known as a "zombie house." 

The demolition took place on Wednesday, May 16. Neighbors speculate that the unfounded rumor Worth Avenue was to become a historic district caused the owner to accelerate plans for razing the building. Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, thinks if he did speed up his plans it was because the house was "racking up code violations." A new house is to be constructed in the footprint of the original house. Some sources say it will something modern with "lots of glass." Whatever is to be, I set out to discover what I could about the history of the house that came to such a regrettable end. Here's what I've learned so far.

The house does not appear on the 1873 Beers Atlas map (reproduced above), but the City of Hudson tap records indicate that 13 Worth Avenue was hooked up to the city water supply on October 23, 1875. At that time the house, which apparently had only recently been built, was owned by Mary A. McKinstry, or Mary Ann McKinstry. With invaluable help from Ruth Piwonka, I found that Mary Ann McKinstry, who was born in 1802, was the niece of Robert McKinstry. Robert and his wife, Sally, lived in the house at Union and Seventh streets that became the Home for the Aged.

Sally McKinstry was the founder of the Hudson Orphan Asylum, and Robert served in many civic capacities, among them mayor of Hudson from 1837 to 1838 and throughout his life as a trustee of the Universalist Society. Sally died in 1862, Robert in 1870. In his will, Robert left an annuity of $75 to "my niece Mary Ann McKinstry daughter of my brother John McKinstry decreased during her natural life."

An ad for an auction, which appeared in the Hudson Daily Star for April 24, 1874, is the earliest evidence I've found linking Mary Ann McKinstry with 13 Worth Avenue.

It's not known whose belongings she was selling. Perhaps, at the age of 72, she had moved into the new and relatively small house on Worth Avenue from a larger house and was doing what today we would call down-sizing.

Mary Ann McKinstry died on July 5, 1879. In her will, she left the house and all its contents to her sister Eliza Decker and Eliza's daughter Helen Miller. Both mother and daughter appear to have been widows at the time.

Interestingly, Augustus McKinstry, Robert McKinstry's nephew who was his executor and heir, was also the executor of his cousin Mary Ann's will.  

Eliza Decker and Helen Miller seem never to have lived in the house. The census for 1880 shows them living at 15 South Fifth Street. The census for that year indicates the residents of 13 Worth Avenue were Mathias Milham, his wife, Emily, and their son Harrold. Milham, whose occupation according to the 1880 census was "Clerk in Store," likely did not own the house. Two years later, in 1882, the Hudson city directory lists Milham, now a partner in a shoe store at 291 Warren Street called Leggett & Milham, living at 415 Warren Street. (These building numbers were before the numbering system changed. Today, 291 Warren Street is 535, and 415 Warren Street in 813.) 

In September 1888, another ad for an auction at 13 Worth Avenue appeared in the Hudson Evening Register. Who was living in the house at the time is not known.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the house was owned by Seymour Vincent. The Hudson city directory for 1901 lists Vincent's occupation as "fresco painter." Ads such as the one below, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register in May 1911, as well as census records, reveal that Vincent was a house painter.

Seymour Vincent and his wife, Maria, lived at 13 Worth Avenue with their six children throughout the first two decades of the 20th century. In July 1914, the Evening Register reported that their youngest son Lee, then 15, was "spending his vacation at Apple Tree Villa in South Cairo." In November 1916, the Columbia Republican reported that the Dutch Reformed Church was planning a weekend of revival meetings to be preceded by "several neighborhood prayer meetings." One of those prayer meetings was to be held "at the home of Mrs. Vincent, 13 Worth avenue."

Seymour Vincent died in April 1921. Maria Vincent died on Christmas Day 1924. What happened next for the house is not known, but in December 1937, the Kinderhook Advertiser reported that 13 Worth Avenue had been purchased at auction by Melvin W. Simmons, the "former Cemetery Commissioner." Simmons, who lived at 40 Worth Avenue, apparently bought the house as an investment property. 

In February 1942, the Evening Register reported that a daughter had been born to Mr. and Mrs. Donald Smith of 13 Worth Avenue. On April 20, 1944, the Hudson Register reported that eleven men who had been classified 2-B by the local draft board had been reclassified 1-A. One of those men was Raymond John Steliz of 13 Worth Avenue.

The last reference to 13 Worth Avenue discovered in old newspapers is a report from the Chatham Courier for July 17, 1951, that Alice Brenzel, wife of deputy sheriff Arthur Brenzel, who resided at 13 Worth Avenue, was to be the matron at the Columbia County jail.