The HPC has been discussing the discrepancy on and off for years. It caused a problem back in 2012, when the Galvan Initiatives Foundation wanted to move the 1790 home of the tanner Robert Taylor from its location at the head of Tanners Lane to a site on Union Street. It was argued at the time by Galvan that the house was not in a historic district and nothing in the documentation for its individual designation specifically addressed the historic significance of its location. What has prompted the HPC to take action at this time is the imminent development of the Dunn building and the redevelopment of the Kaz site.
The original historic preservation ordinance, adopted in 2003, gave the HPC the power to designate individual properties and neighborhoods as landmarks and historic districts, a status that protected the historic character of buildings and neighborhoods from inappropriate alterations and incompatible development. When the HPC started exercising this power, however, the law was suspended by then mayor Rick Scalera and rewritten to require the Common Council to approve all historic designations. The amended law went into effect in June 2005. All the historic districts that currently exist were created during a two-year window of time—2006-2007—when supporters of historic preservation had enough votes on the Common Council to pass the resolutions creating the districts. Since that time, no new historic districts have been created.
So the HPC started over: a new map, a new round of written notification (the first round had been letters instead of the prescribed post cards), a new public hearing, held at 5 p.m. instead of at 10 a.m., which is the HPC's usual meeting time, to convenience the architects and contractors who typically represent the building owners in presenting applications. Despite the efforts, the public hearing on Friday was poorly attended. In addition to Gossips and DePietro, there were six people in the audience. After an introduction by Phil Forman, chair of the HPC, in which he tried to dispel some of the misperceptions about the HPC—"We don't opine on paint colors; we're not involved in everyday repairs; we don't opine on like for like changes; we don't dictate building use"—and give assurance that the HPC exists "to protect what is" and that historic designation was "a bit of an insurance policy for current homeowners from inappropriate demolition and the construction of new buildings in your face, blocking the view," comments from the public were invited. Forman had even provided comment sheets and pens for people who wanted to share their thoughts but were reluctant to speak in a public meeting.
The first to speak was Peter Tenerowicz, who didn't make a comment but asked a question on behalf of the Hudson Power Boat Association. He wanted to know if historic designation would interfere with repairs to the building or prohibit change of use. Forman told him that only demolition or significant changes to the exterior of the building would fall into the purview of the HPC.
The next person to comment was Heinrich von Ritter, who owns vacant property at the end of Tanners Lane. He complained, "I've been trying to sell my property, and all I get is blackballed." When last Gossips checked, in February 2016, von Ritter was asking $6 million for the property. He proposed a project in the DRI process to be called "Tannery High Rise," which was rejected because it was not a stand-alone project but sought to be part of the Kaz redevelopment project.
The next person to comment was Cross Street resident Ed Csukas. His statement was simple: "Historic designation can't come fast enough as far as I'm concerned." He wanted to know if there was anything residents could do to make it happen, and Forman answered, "Talk to your aldermen. They them you are a constituent, and you think this is a benefit." Fellow Cross Street resident Teresa Meza wondered how things were moving forward "with that mysterious area behind Cross Street," referring presumably to the Kaz site.
Sophie Henderson, deputy director of Basilica Hudson, presented a letter from Basilica founders Melissa Auf der Maur and Tony Stone declaring their full support of the boundary amendment and the protections it provides.
Tenerowicz then asked about the time frame. Forman first referred the question to DePietro, who was seated beside Tenerowicz, but then said that the HPC would vote on pursuing the proposal at its next meeting on July 13, and it would be another month and possibly two before the proposal would be taken up by the Common Council.
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