Monday, June 24, 2019

Confirmation at Last

For years, it has been said that the mosaic in the chancel of the First Presbyterian Church was created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, but it remained a legend that no one had ever confirmed.

Recently, David Voorhees shared with me a discovery made by Joseph Keating, who is studying Tiffany artwork, which confirms the mosaic's attribution to Tiffany & Company. The following article, from the Columbia Republican for January 20, 1901, reports that Tiffany himself supervised the construction of the mosaic. It also provides evidence that the mosaic was once flanked by Tiffany stained glass windows.

The boarded up openings at the back of the church hint that there were once windows there, and this article confirms that in 1901 "new Tiffany glass windows" were installed in the window openings.  What happened to them is a mystery.

The window openings predated the Tiffany glass, however. In this photograph, taken in 1890, tall, narrow, round arched windows can be seen on either side of the chancel.

The mosaic and the new stained glass windows were not the only Tiffany elements added to the church in 1901. In September of that year, the Hudson Evening Register reported the gift of memorial chairs for the chancel, "designed and executed by the Tiffany Company of New York city, after an ancient and churchly pattern."

On the walls on either side of the chancel, there were medallions, also the work of Tiffany & Company, and stenciling around the arch, all of which can be seen in this photograph.

The redecoration of the church, in the Byzantine style, which took place at the turn of the 20th century, involved the work not only of the Tiffany Studio but also of Frederic Church, who had input into the design of the project. Church and his family worshiped at the First Presbyterian Church.  

Going into the church today, one wonders what happened to the spectacular interior created by Church and Tiffany. According to Voorhees, in 1938, the Session, the governing body of the congregation, decided to redecorate "in a more austere manner" because the Byzantine design inspired by Frederic Church "was not considered appropriately 'Presbyterian.'" It was a this time, too, that the pews were rearranged to create a center aisle, for the benefit of weddings.

Fortunately, the Tiffany mosaic of Christ with open arms--"this magnificent specimen of modern art in glass"--survived the 1938 redecoration, although some then and since then have questioned whether it is appropriately "Calvinist."

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

The big event this week, of course, is the Democratic primary, which takes place on Tuesday, June 25. The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m. If you haven't already prepped for the election, links to the sample ballots for each of the five wards in Hudson are provided below.
If it happens you think you cannot make it to the polls on Tuesday, you can vote over the counter tomorrow, Monday, June 24, at the Board of Elections, 401 State Street, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Now for the other things happening this week.
  • On Monday, June 24, the Common Council Fire Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. and the Common Council Police Committee meets at 6:00 p.m. Both meetings take place at City Hall. No agenda is available for either meeting.
  • On Tuesday, June 25, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meets at noon at 1 North Front Street. At its last meeting, the board agreed to purchase half an acre of land from CSX--land believed to be necessary for the redevelopment of the Kaz site. That project will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion at Tuesday's meeting.
Also on Tuesday, June 25, the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) Committee meets at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall. As part of that meeting, at 3:15 p.m., there will be a site visit to Promenade Hill for prospective respondents to the RFQ that has been issued for renovation and restoration of the approach to the historic promenade and the promenade itself.
  • On Wednesday, June 26, the Common Council Legal Committee meets at 6:15 p.m. not at City Hall but at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street. The reason for the change in venue is unknown. No agenda is available for the meeting, but it is rumored that a topic of discussion may be imposing some restrictions on the short-term rentals.
  • On Thursday, June 27, at 5:00 p.m., there is a public hearing at City Hall "for the purpose of hearing public comments on the City of Hudson's community development needs and to discuss the possible submission of one or more Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications for the 2019 program year." Clearly, it's not expected the hearing will last very long because at 5:30 p.m. the Common Council Finance Committee will convene its meeting, at which the committee will review the applications received and divvy up the $20,000 among the festivals and events seeking financial support from the City.
  • On Friday, June 28, the Historic Preservation Commission holds the second of its two monthly meetings at 10:00 a.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Recent Happenings at an Important House

The Charles Alger House at 59 Allen Street is one of three houses in Hudson with links to the preeminent 19th-century American architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Alger was Davis's patron, and he and his house in Hudson are mentioned a few times in Davis's day books. An A. J. Davis scholar who visited the house a few years ago reported that some of the interior woodwork shows definite Davis influence.

The house is now owned by Hudson Collective Realty, LLC, one of the several Galvan entities. Last December, a roofing project was started at the house, without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, and a stop-work order was issued. Since then, the work on the roof remains uncompleted, and no certificate of appropriateness has been sought.

Last week, the two additions to the house, which can be seen in the picture above, were removed. The first to go was the addition with the shed roof that appears at the left, which was very likely not original to the house. The second to go was the one at the right in the picture above, around the bay on the house's south facade. 

What was removed can be seen in this picture of the house, taken last April. 

It seemed possible that the enclosed porch might have morphed from the ornate open porch that appears in this 1853 image of the house.

For this reason, the Historic Preservation Commission should have weighed in on the appropriateness of its removal and advised about the possible salvage of anything original that might have remained. When I asked code enforcement officer Craig Haigh about the demolition, which was done while a stop-work order was still in the place, and shared with him reports that work was going on inside the house as well (remember that A. J. Davis woodwork), I received the following information in an email: 
They have been granted a permit to get the building ready for a CofA app[lication]. The rear part of the building which was the add on and had partially collapsed. 
I did approve their permit to get the building cleaned up so they can determine what needs to be fixed and how they are going to fix it based on the requirements of the building and the city code, which does include the HPC. The owner of the property is well aware of what the requirements are what they can and cannot do.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Rector and Johnson, Side by Side

Today, on HudsonValley360, Amanda Purcell published an article based on interviews with the two mayoral candidates in next Tuesday's Democratic primary and some independent research on her part: "Issues propel Rector vs. Johnson primary."

Among the most intriguing things in the article is that Purcell seems to have caught Johnson in a bold-faced lie. On June 2, Johnson stated categorically on his "Kamal Johnson for Mayor" Facebook page: "I have not been arrested." Still the Police Blotter that appeared in the Register-Star for June 5, 2008, indicates that he had: "On June 2, Kamal Johnson, 23, of Hudson, was charged with second degree harassment by [HPD Officer James] Nero. Johnson allegedly physically harassed a woman during an argument."

On June 2, after denying on Facebook that he was ever arrested, Johnson went on to say: "This is not to say that we should demonize people who have been arrested. I firmly believe that people can change--that a person can make a mistake and then redeem themselves." If this is what he believes, why not own and explain whatever happened in 2008 and assert, if he was in any way culpable, that he is now a changed man? Instead, in an apparent attempt to discount the information reported in the article and convince people that a Police Blotter entry from eleven years ago was a fabrication, Johnson posted this on his Facebook page today:
I am disappointed to see that forces working against my election are trying to distract us from these important issues with smear tactics and negative campaigning. I repeat: I have no criminal record nor have been arrested. Associating people of color and specifically, black men with criminality is unfortunately still a common tactic to undermine people of color in society. And in political races in the United States. It has been used for generations. It was less than a year ago that John Faso tried to use similar race-baiting techniques in his campaign for Congress. Luckily, Antonio Delgado overcame those tactics then, and we will similarly overcome them this week here in Hudson. Desperate tactics will not work.
In this statement, Johnson characterizes the local newspaper as "forces working against my election," dismisses its journalism as "smear tactics and negative campaigning," equates an article in that newspaper mentioning two documented issues--a reported arrest in 2008 and tax warrants from 2017 and 2019--with an attack ad paid for by a Republican Super PAC, and in the process tries to label his opponent a racist. Talk about desperate tactics.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Considering Promenade Hill

Amanda Purcell has an article today on HudsonValley360 with a headline that is enough to make one's blood run cold: "Hudson to reimagine Promenade Hill Park." The use of the term reimagine calls to mind the disturbing exercise in "rethinking" the Public Square (a.k.a. Seventh Street Park) that took place back in 2014. By all means, let us "reimagine" the 1970s maze of retaining walls and asphalt that is the entrance to Promenade Hill, but let the reimagining stop at the promenade itself.  

The RFQ (request of qualifications) issued by the City for Promenade Hill, which is the subject of Purcell's article, states: "The City is looking for an inspired park design to renovate and refurbish the park that will honor the historic features and create a memorable park experience for visitors of all abilities." Although that doesn't exactly say "reimagine," I, for one, wish that the word preserve had been used instead of honor.  

Painting by Henry Ary
There is one bit of information in the article that needs correction and elaboration. The article states: "In 2016, Restaino Design PC Landscape Architecture was hired by the city to present accessibility improvement options. . . ." Landscape architect Barbara Restaino was hired not by the City but by Hudson Development Corporation, and the money used to pay her fee--nearly $7,000--was provided by the Mrs. Greenthumbs Hedge Fund, which has since morphed into the Hudson Parks Conservancy. The source of the money invested in vain is usually overlooked in accounts of the failed attempts to build a ramp at Promenade Hill. 

Needless to say, everyone involved was more than a little disappointed when the discovery of electrical conduit buried under the very path of the ramp prevented the project from moving forward.

What to Do on the Second Day of Summer

Summer started out today a bit rainy and cloudy, but tomorrow promises to be the kind of day worthy of the season. What better way to usher in summer than with a barbecue? If you don't feel like firing up your own grill, you can join the supporters of Perfect Ten for their annual Cookout for Camp, which funds sending girls to Camp Fowler in the Adirondacks this summer.

For more information and to buy your tickets, click here. You can also make your donation--cash or check--when you arrive at the gate.

Don't Be the Person Who Didn't Vote

The Democratic primary is only days away--on Tuesday, June 25. On that day, the polls are open from noon until 9 p.m. If there's a chance you will not be around to cast your vote on Tuesday, you can go to the Board of Elections, 401 State Street, and cast your ballot before June 25. Over-the-counter voting will be available:
  • Today, Friday, June 21, until 4 p.m.
  • Tomorrow, Saturday, June 22, from 9 a.m. until noon
  • Monday, Monday, June 23, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
If you are not sure who is on the ballot in your ward, check out the sample ballots:
If you are not sure which ward you live in, check the map.

Gossips can attest that elections in Hudson have been won or lost by a single vote. Don't be the person who didn't vote.

Let There Be a Bigger Museum

On Wednesday, the Zoning Board of Appeals held a public hearing on the request from the FASNY Museum of Firefighting for a use variance and a height variance needed to construct a 33,000 square foot addition to the existing museum. 

During the public hearing a lengthy letter of support from Town of Greenport supervisor Kathy Eldridge, praising the museum for the economic benefits it brings to the area, was read aloud by ZBA chair Lisa Kenneally, and the former Hudson fire chief Craig Haigh and museum director Jamie Quinn offered testimony about the benefits of the museum, particularly for children who visit, but the ZBA's decision was really a no-brainer. 

Before the public hearing began, city attorney Andy Howard reviewed the language of the zoning code and concluded that it was never the intention of the 2011 revisions to the code to make the museum a conforming use and that the omission of "libraries, museums or art galleries or antique centers" as a conditional use in the Institutional-Residential Conservation District was simply an oversight. The ZBA had the choice of granting a use variance or asking the Common Council to amend the code. The ZBA chose the former path. The five members of the ZBA present--Kenneally, Theresa Joyner, Myron Polenberg, Kathy Harter, and Mary Ellen Pierro--voted unanimously to grant the variances.

The meeting on Wednesday yielded some new information about the 33,000 square foot addition. Instead of something tacked on to the existing complex of buildings, it will completely transform the appearance of the museum. The plan involves preserving the original 1927 building and surrounding it with a redesigned facade.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson

Above is a photograph of the elevation drawing Gossips managed to get at the ZBA meeting. You can click on the image to enlarge it. The original 1927 building appears off-center at the left. The height of the new main entrance to the museum--off-center at the right--is the reason the project required a height variance. It will be 45 feet high.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Ear to the Ground

In February 2018, Gossips reported that Galvan was buying 502 Union Street. The information came from a reliable source: the owner of the building. In September 2018, we had to update that report with the news that the deal had fallen through.

Gossips has learned that the building was recently sold--not to Galvan but to people who plan to convert it into "a co-working, training, and co-living place."

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

In Memoriam: John McNally

In the recent history of Hudson, the gradual upgrading of buildings has turned this riverfront town from one of "unrealized potential" to a city of beautiful homes worthy of several NY Times articles.

One man who took a chance on Hudson was John McNally. He first renovated 258 Union on the corner of Third--at the time, a building in need of serious restoration. Now its strong presence gives drivers a hint of what to expect as they enter town via Third Street. John eventually sold that building and took a chance on a huge but unfinished restoration on the corner of Front and Warren. Through his keen eye and hard work, the final house became not just a home, but a landmark property.

On Sunday, McNally died in his beloved 1 Warren Street property. He had lived in Hudson full time since 2003. A smiling fixture and active participant in the Hudson community, he saw value in the beautiful architecture, engaging community and history of Hudson. He will be missed. R.I.P.

Gratitude to Kim Bach for submitting this lovely tribute

Yesterday's Incident on State Street

Gossips just received the following press release regarding the incident of shots fired yesterday on State Street.
On Tuesday, June 18, 2019, the Hudson City Police Department arrested 26-year-old Kevron Lee, of Hudson, New York, for numerous serious felony and misdemeanor charges. The charges include the following: Reckless Endangerment 1st Degree, Class D Felony; Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd Degree, Class A Felony; Criminal Possession of a Weapon 2nd Degree, Class C Felony; Criminal Mischief 4th Degree, Class A Misdemeanor; Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th Degree, Class A Misdemeanor; Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, Violation
On June 18, 2019, just before noon, the City of Hudson Police Department (HPD) received a transferred 911 call from Columbia County 911. Witnesses and callers called to report “shots fired” on the 500 block of State Street. HPD responded to the scene immediately. The New York State Police and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office also responded to assist.
The crime scene was quickly secured. During the criminal investigation shell cases were recovered and collected from the street. One of the bullets was located and collected from the scene. That projectile struck a parked unoccupied school bus that was parked on the 500 block of State Street. No injuries were reported from the shooting.
A subject was interviewed by detectives and stated that the gunman was actually trying to shoot at him. This incident appears to have stemmed from an argument. Search warrants were applied and executed for Lee’s car and his listed home address on the 200 block of State Street. Over 125 bags of heroin were seized from Lee's car. Other evidence was collected, including ammunition and a box for a .380 caliber pistol.
Lee was was later located on the 300 block of Columbia Street at 9:09 p.m. and arrested by HPD Detectives. 
Lee was arraigned in the City of Hudson Court in front of Judge Brian Herman. Judge Herman set bail at $5,000.00 cash/bond returnable on June 19 at at 8:30 a.m. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Monday, June 24, at 3:00 p.m.
The Columbia County District Attorney’s Office, New York State Police and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department assisted HPD with this investigation.

Last Night at City Hall

Dan Udell's video of last night's Common Council meeting is now available on YouTube. Click here to view it.

Of note is that John Rosenthal, who, as chair of the Legal Committee, has played a central role in the Stewart's issue since January 2018, was not present last night for the apotheosis of his efforts: voting to accept the host community benefit agreement offered by Stewart's.

Also at the meeting, Pamela Mann from the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks made a presentation warning about possible changes to federal standards for the length and weight of trucks (15:00), Nicole Genito took members of the Common Council to task for allegedly subjecting the Youth Department to greater scrutiny when it comes to budget issues than other departments (26:35), Kamal Johnson suggested the Council needs to make City Hall more "family friendly" by providing books for children who come to Council meetings with their parents (29:11), Linda Mussmann complained about trucks using State Street instead of the truck route (30:41), and Tiffany Garriga suggested that a dedicated officer is needed to police trucks (33:49).

Dog Tales: Moving Up

Five years ago today, on June 19, 2014, my dog Joey was surrendered to a shelter in Brooklyn. His age was given as five. When I adopted Joey in December 2014, I decided the day of his surrender would be his "moving up" day--the day he becomes a year older. So today we celebrate his becoming ten years old by sharing these amazing pictures of my beautiful dog, taken by Judy Curran.

On Monday, Joey had a photo shoot with Curran for her project Hudson Gone to the Dogs, portraits of the rescue dogs of Hudson. With infinite patience and bits of mozzarella cheese, Curran managed to get my skittish dog to sit still for a few good shots, but sadly Joey is not likely to make it into the book, because his fear and uncertainty about being in a strange setting, and his confusion about not being allowed to lean against his human's leg, show in his eyes. Still, I love these pictures of Joey and admire Curran's skill, and I look forward to seeing the completed book, Hudson Gone to the Dogs.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Supermarkets and Throwaway Plastic

Greenpeace recently ranked twenty U.S. supermarkets "based on their efforts to reduce their reliance on plastics." Gossips decided to share the rankings of the four supermarkets available to us here in Hudson.

Aldi ranked No. 1--not surprisingly perhaps since Aldi does not provide plastic bags or bags of any sort to its customers. Even though it's No. 1, Aldi's score is 34.6 out of a possible 100.

Walmart ranked No. 6, with a score of 19.4.

Hannaford (appearing on the list as Ahold Delhaize) ranked No. 13, with a score of 10.2. Ahold Delhaize declined to participate in the Greenpeace survey.

Next to last at No. 19, followed only by the Texas supermarket chain H-E-B, is ShopRite (appearing on the list as Wakefern), with a score of 3.1. (H-E-B's score is 1.8.) Wakefern also declined to participate in the Greenpeace survey.

Gossips doesn't expect this to change anyone's grocery shopping habits, but it's good to be informed.

On State Street

Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat and others on Facebook are reporting that shots were fired today at around noon in the vicinity of State and Dodge streets. There are no reports of injuries, but there is one report, by a witness, of an arrest being made.

Photo: Bill Williams

Finance Committee Meeting Postponed

The Common Council Finance Committee meeting, scheduled to take place tonight at 5:30 p.m., has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 27, at 5:30 p.m. The reason being events funding.

It will be recalled that, after considerable debate, the Tourism Board transferred $20,000 of its budget to the Common Council to provide the money for event funding that had been dropped from the 2019 city budget. As in 2018, the Finance Committee was tasked with divvying up the money among community groups seeking financial support from the City for their events. Applications for funding were due last Friday, June 14. The Finance Committee meeting has been postponed to allow committee members to review the applications so that decisions can be made in time to be approved by the full Council in July.    

The $200,000 from Stewart's

At its meeting this evening, the Common Council is expected to vote to accept the host community benefit agreement offered by Stewart's Shops, by which the City will receive $200,000 for changing its zoning and losing seven housing units to allow Stewart's to expand its gas station and convenience store at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue. 

Of the $200,000, $143,000 is earmarked for improvements to the intersection to enhance pedestrian access to this auto-centric site. Amanda Purcell reports about that today in HudsonValley360: "Stewart's Shops map out improvements to corner of Green and Fairview." The "crude map drawn by Creighton Manning Engineers" referenced in the article but not reproduced there is undoubtedly this one, which accompanied the host community benefit agreement offer submitted by Stewart's Shops in May. The map shows the proposed improvements to the intersection with the existing Stewart's in place.

The $57,000 remaining after intersection improvements have been made is expected to fund "the retention of a planner for the review, mediation and implementation of an updated comprehensive plan or zoning code."

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Reminder to Commenters

Gossips asks that you identify yourself in some way when you make a comment. If you are posting as "Unknown," you must include your name, your initials, or some pseudonym that distinguishes you. Totally anonymous comments will not be published.

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

It's a light week for meeting-goers. All the meetings take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving the rest of the week free for celebrating the beginning of summer.
  • On Tuesday, June 18, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, followed by the regular Common Council meeting at 7:00 p.m.
  • On Wednesday, June 19, the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meets at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall, and at 6:00 p.m., the Zoning Board of Appeals holds a public hearing on the request from FASNY for a use variance and an area variance to build a 33,000 square foot addition to the Museum of Firefighting. 

Of Trees and Parks and Green Space

On Saturday, Future Hudson presented a panel discussion called "Where Does Hudson Gather?" The title was a little misleading, since what was discussed was principally urban forestry, parks, and open space. One interesting statistic emerged: 86 percent of Hudson residents are within a ten-minute walk from a park; the state average is 55 percent.

Dan Udell was there to document the event. His video can be viewed here.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Poor planning on your part . . .

does not constitute an emergency on our part." Often it seems this sentiment needs to be the motto of the Historic Preservation Commission. 

Such was the case on May 24, when the application for a certificate of appropriateness for facade changes to 623 Warren Street came before the HPC. The applicant indicated that the hope was to open the restaurant for Pride Weekend, but the application was missing some important elements needed by the HPC to make a determination: 
  • a historic photograph of the building
  • elevation drawings of both the Warren Street and the Seventh Street facades
  • spec sheet for the new door
The HPC approved the removal of the existing facade with the understanding no alteration to anything revealed would be made without review by the HPC, but no certificate of appropriateness was issued. 

The removal of the facade happened the following Monday, and everyone was thrilled when old signage was revealed, from the period when the building was the location of Oneida Market. People were even more thrilled when the word circulated that the discovered signage was to be preserved and retained.

Photo: Stephen McKay

But after removing the old facade, the work continued, without the required certificate of appropriateness.

Last week, code enforcement officer Craig Haigh issued a stop-work order, halting progress on the project until a certificate of appropriateness had been granted. Things might have been remedied in short order, but the applicant did not appear at the HPC meeting this past Friday with the requested elevation drawings and the specs for the door. (Historic photographs of the building had already been provided by Gossips.

The word has been circulating since December that Pico de Gallo was planning to open a restaurant in Hudson at this location. Unfortunately, it's going to be a while longer before that actually happens . . . as a consequence of poor planning not the HPC or Hudson's preservation laws.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Today's the Day

The tenth annual OutHudson Pride Parade happens today.

Photo: JD Urban
The parade steps off from the Public Square (a.k.a. Seventh Street Park) at 2:00 p.m. and proceeds down Warren Street to Promenade Hill. Don't miss it!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Rent Regulation in New York State

In March, the Common Council passed a resolution calling on the New York State legislature to extend rent stabilization to the entire state and offering support for four bills, then in committee, pertaining to tenants' rights. Today, Gossips received the following press release from Assemblymember Didi Barrett. The fourth paragraph is most relevant to the City of Hudson. The Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 provided for rent stabilization in Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland counties. 
Assemblymember Didi Barrett announced that she helped pass the strongest rent regulation legislation ever in New York State, known as the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act (A.8281). The historic legislation will empower tenants and expand affordable housing options across the state.
Among the important reforms passed today are new safeguards for tenants in manufactured home parks. This legislation limits rent increases to 3% per year in most cases, constricts landlords' ability to impose exorbitant fees and other charges, requires park owners to provide two years' notice and a $15,000 stipend if they intend to evict residents to re-purpose the property, and creating regulations for rent-to-own contracts.
"For many Hudson Valley communities, manufactured housing is the main source of affordable housing," Barrett said. "But far too often, these tenants face rent hikes, fees and problematic landlord practices that put their housing stability in jeopardy. This legislation provides some long-awaited reforms and finally gives tenants peace of mind so they can plan for the future."
For the first time in history, there will be expansive protections to tenants statewide. The legislation also extends the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 (ETPA) to any municipality with a rental vacancy rate of 5% or less that chooses to opt in to the rent regulation system.
"Every New Yorker should have a safe, affordable place to call home," Barrett said. "Yet, too many seniors and others struggle every day to find and stay in housing they can afford, often enduring mistreatment from landlords. This groundbreaking legislation will give upstate New York renters long overdue protections."
To protect tenants from unfair landlord practices, the legislation prohibits retaliatory eviction against tenants in buildings with four units or more who make a good faith complaint alleging uninhabitable conditions. Further, the bill reforms the eviction process by giving tenants 14 days to pay their rent before an action is brought, 10 days' notice for a court hearing and, if a warrant is issued, 14 days to leave the unit. The measure also gives judges greater leeway to stay eviction proceedings in cases where such action would cause undue hardship.
"No one should be kicked out of their home because of a late paycheck," Barrett said. "And when families are forced to move because of this, they're left to not only find a new home, but often a new school for their kids, new child care and possibly even a new job. This measure will help families avoid this stress by giving them time to pay their rent if an unexpected hardship arises."
In addition, the statewide protections also:
  • require landlords provide 30 days' notice for a tenant of one year or less, 60 days' notice for a tenant of one to two years and 90 days' notice for a tenant of two or more years when refusing to renew a lease;
  • require landlords make a good faith effort to re-rent a unit after a tenant breaks the lease to help mitigate damages;
  • prevent landlords from using a database of court information to blacklist prospective tenants;
  • limit the amount of security deposit to an amount equal to one month's rent and requires any deposit to be refundable; and
  • limit background check fees to $20 and prohibit lease application fees.

Back to that Sleeping Dog

Gossips' attention to the incident that occurred outside the room where the Common Council was meeting on April 24 has been limited to providing links to Roger Hannigan Gilson's reports about it on his blog, The Other Hudson Valley. My posts, however, have inspired comments, which I have published, suggesting that the grabbing and shoving captured by the security camera was justified and dismissing the incident with the sentiment "Boys will be boys."

Today, John Friedman sent me his account of the incident and asked me to publish it, and I agreed. What follows is Friedman's story, exactly as he submitted it to me.
In the roughly 6 weeks since the president of the City Council tried to push me down the stairs during a break in a Council meeting, I’ve pretty much kept mum about the incident. It was reported by Roger Gilson in his blog ( who actually witnessed the last few seconds of the incident and subsequently picked up by the Register-Star and Gossips of Rivertown. Once the surveillance video was released by HPD to the public a few weeks later, I thought I’d be done answering questions (except from the police – that’s ongoing). But this morning 2 people raised it with me, asking questions about what happened and why. Perhaps the video, without context, requires explication. So here it is.
First, the short version: The president of the City Council resorted to political violence in the face of dissent and an observational insult resulting from his inability to look someone in the eye and repeat an insult he is only comfortable hurling at someone’s back.
And here it is in detail:
I attended a special meeting of the City Council on April 24 of this year at the library. I went and listened to the proceedings but didn’t attempt to participate. It was fractious and noisy, called to enable a second vote on a toothless resolution the earlier, identical iteration of which had previously been approved by the Council and then vetoed by the mayor. The meeting seemed to be spiraling out of control after about an hour when the president called a recess. I decided to take advantage of the break to leave and, as I did, I passed by a group of aldermen just outside the door of the meeting room. As I passed, I said something to the effect that “you should be ashamed of wasting time on such bullshit.” I may have said “fucking bullshit” – that sounds like me. I didn’t slow down, I didn’t think much of it, frankly; I didn’t say it angrily, just in passing. As I approached the top of the stairs and prepared to descend to the ground floor exit, I heard someone say “you should be ashamed of being a foul-mouthed motherfucker.” An elected official just cursed at me, a private citizen, for disagreeing with them?! I turned around and asked the aldermen, “did one of you just call me a motherfucker?” At that point, Tom DiPietro, the Council president, came forward and in a sort of soft-shoe-aw-shucks kind of way said, “I didn’t.” I asked him directly “Tom, did you just call me a motherfucker?” And he said “no, not in a public meeting,” as he sort of continued his weird shambling around the hall. I was thoroughly taken aback in a half amused, half freaked out way. All I could say, laughing in the face of such school-boy mendacity, was “you are a fucking pussy.” I might not have said “fucking” but I recall that I did – it sounds like me. And at that, I turned around and continued walking towards the top of the staircase. Now, from when I initially left the meeting room until I turned and walked away from Tom in the wake of his boorishness, my arms were folded across my chest under my jacket (it was warm in that meeting room). And it was at this precise moment, as I was about to step on the rubber runner that tops the stairs, that Tom chose to prove my observation correct: without saying a word, he ran at me, grabbed me by my shirt back with both his fists and proceeded to give me the bum’s rush towards the stairs. I was, of course, taken completely aback while deciding that going down the stairs like that – fast, headfirst and encumbered by my jacket – was likely to result in significant injury to my new glasses and probably me, too. Luckily, I was wearing my rubber-soled boots that day and they, combined with the rubber stairway runner, enabled me to stop moving forward. Tom then pulled me to my right and pushed me against the doorway in the wall that was now behind me. With his fists now grabbing the front of my shirt, Tom proceeded to snort and breath very heavily in my face (not pleasant) while forcing my back to the door. At this point, here’s what was going through my head: “don’t raise your hands, don’t raise your hands.” This took effort. But I did it. Frankly, by this time (5 seconds since he initially grabbed me?) he seemed to be loosing steam. Still making animal noises and still breathing on me (still unpleasant), but his enthusiasm was clearly waning. I asked him, “are you going to hit me now, Tom?” He didn’t cogently respond or hit me and, at that moment, his assembled colleagues, including Tiffany Garriga hopping on her 1 good leg, rushed over and pulled him off me. Free of Tom’s clutches and his miasmic cloud, I again headed to the stairs and this time successfully began descending though I did turn briefly to say “Tom, that’s not leadership and you’re still a pussy.” At that point, Alderman Mizan began hugging me around the waist though I think he believed he was holding me back from advancing on Tom which is silly on so many levels. (NB: Mr. Mizan is about half a foot shorter and maybe 75 pounds lighter than me and I, not a physically violent person to begin with, was half way down the stairs and walking away).
As Kurt Vonnegut might have said, there you have it. That’s what happened at the library.
I’ve read some commentators write nonsense such as “boys will be boys” regarding what Tom did. That may be true. It certainly was when I was a boy. But Tom’s not a boy, and neither am I. I used (and use) words to express ideas. That’s what adults do. Violence is atavistic and unacceptable, and political violence is independently and doubly unacceptable. Especially from a self-proclaimed “leader.” Perhaps some are ok with such behavior. I guess those are the folks who support Tom even in light of his behavior which, to me, disqualifies him from holding office. That’s because where I come from (i.e. America), it’s never OK to do what he did – in any context but especially in the political.
Here are some additional details that might provide richer context.
First, Tom and I are next-door neighbors. We don’t live down the street from each other. Not a few doors apart. Next. Door. For over 11 years. And for 11 years, 1 month and I guess a few days, I thought we were friends, or at least friendly. We’ve been to each other’s homes many times, shared meals, holiday meals, drinks, drunks, barbeques, the typical neighborly stuff. Yes, I’m aware he was never a fan of my grammar, especially when I was an alderman myself. Fair enough, to each his own. I’ll stake my record as an alderman against Tom’s any day.
Second, Tom’s mad at me because I wouldn’t sign his nominating petition to run for re-election this year. While I supported Tom in his maiden (unsuccessful) and second (successful) run for Council president, I did so because he was the best choice at the time. I no longer believe this is the case and, for that reason, declined to sign his petition. I could go in to his leadership track record (or lack thereof), or the fact that this Council is perhaps the least productive and most destructive in a decade, or how he has a tendency to stifle dissent while allowing those who agree with him to prattle on at meetings. But I won’t. I could observe that he takes his politics very, very personally. But I’m not doing that, either. Rather, I’m endorsing his opponent (whose petition I did sign the same day Tom asked me to sign his).
Third, I’m 55 years old. Tom is about 65 or so (+/- a couple of years). I’m middle aged. Tom’s a senior citizen. Fists? Attacking from the rear? Who does that at our ages? This entire event could be featured in the AARP monthly magazine under a headline like “Never Too Old for Childish Behavior.” Frankly, realizing it was Tom attacking me – in light of our mutual, relatively advanced years – was what probably kept me from instinctively trying to defend myself. Well, that and how freaked out and unprepared I was to be attacked from behind in such cowardly fashion by a physically grown man.
Fourth, and finally, through a mutual acquaintance, I offered Tom the opportunity to apologize to me with the promise that if he did I would accept his apology and not press charges. He declined.
Update: Three hours after I published the statement above from John Friedman, recounting what occurred on April 24, Tom DePietro sent me this statement and asked that I publish it. I am obliging. DePietro's statement follows.   
John Friedman is disappointed that the incident between us has gotten little traction. If anything, it has made him appear foolish, and worsea bold-faced liar. Go back to his original claims in April that 1.) I was unprovoked; 2.) that I tried to push him down the stairs; and 3.) that his hands were always in his pockets (all asserted by him in the original news story). Two of these claims are disproved by the videoI pull him away from the steps, and his hands are never in his pockets. And now, in this new narrative, he admits that he provoked my reaction in an extraordinarily offensive manner; the soundless video does not capture the actual words exchanged. He admits that he repeatedly used the word "pussy."
What's left to say beyond that? He attributes my anger to his not signing my petition, which is not the case. Rather, his racist, sexist and anti-democratic attitudes have long been apparent to those who follow city politics. I don't expect him to approve of my tenure on the Council, though I wonder what he thinks he accomplished in his over six years of well-documented childish antics as an alderman.
I was hoping to wait until after the upcoming primary to comment publicly on this eventof which I am not at all proudbut Friedman has been keeping this alive, apparently for political purposes. He pressured the HPD, who found no serious crime. His only injury appears to be his wounded ego.
Finally, in an attempt to appear magnanimous, Friedman introduces yet another lie in this affair--no one has reached out to me with an offer by Friedman to not file charges if I apologized. Friedman was asked who that was today and has still not responded.
In any event, I am happy to apologize here: I apologize John, my anger was out of place, and I shouldn't have touched you.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

More Problems Than Solutions

On Tuesday night, Pat Prendergast, engineer for Colarusso, presented the plan for plantings to screen the storage and activity at the dock. Today, on his blog Hudson Urbanism, Matthew Frederick reacts to what was proposed: "How to solve the wrong problem."

Frederick's point is that, so long as trucks have to travel from the end of the haul road to the railroad crossing at Broad Street, screening the dock area is of little consequence. What needs to happen is moving the crossing farther south.

Photo: Matthew Fredericks
It is not a solution that hasn't occurred to others. At Tuesday's Planning Board meeting, John Privatera, attorney for Colarusso, recounted the efforts made back in February 2017 to move the at-grade crossing. "We ran it down hard," he told the Planning Board, "and it was shut down hard." According to Privatera, "Somebody has to prove that it's a necessity," and apparently Amtrak, CSX, and federal Department of Transportation have determined that the Broad Street crossing, with its current use, is safe, and "they would never support moving the crossing."

When Privatera has finished his discourse on the topic, Walter Chatham, Planning Board chair, told him, "What we would like is an agreement that you would cooperate if we were to pursue it in the future."