Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Domino Effect

A house was demolished on Fairview Avenue to make way for a bigger and better Stewart's convenience store--a building that breaches the streetscape by sitting much closer to the sidewalk than the rest of the buildings on the block. Now the next two houses up from the not yet completed Stewart's building are for sale.

On the opposite side of the street, these two houses also have "For Sale" signs on their front lawns.

It seems the giant new Stewart's is not being universally embraced as the boon to the neighborhood that some thought it would be.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The Hunter's Moon reached its peak fullness tonight. Autumn is definitely upon us, and the meetings of City government continue.
  • Despite the fact that it is a holiday, the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets tonight, Monday, October 14, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. It is expected the due diligence regarding community solar will continue.
  • On Tuesday, October 15, the Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. and the full Council meets at 7:00 p.m. Both meetings take place in City Hall.
  • On Wednesday, October 16, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA) meets at 2:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall to continue its consideration of the proposed budget for the Youth Department.
  • At 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, October 16, the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meets at City Hall, followed at 6:00 p.m. by the regular monthly meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA meeting will begin with public hearings on three applications for variances: the first to convert a carriage house at 26 Warren Street into a residence; the second for an addition to an existing structure at 68 North Third Street; the third for an in-ground pool at 910 Columbia Street. The interpretation of the code regarding the self storage units proposed for the vacant lot at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard will also be the subject of a public hearing.
  • On Friday, October 18, the BEA (Board of Estimate and Apportionment) holds another workshop session, this time to consider non-departmental expenses. The meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 18, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the subdivision of the CSX parcel on South Front Street. Approval of the subdivision is essential for Hudson Development Corporation to close on its purchase of a portion of the CSX land to provide access to the Kaz warehouse site from Front Street.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Hudson Has a Dog Park!

Gossips has been reporting about the effort to get a dog park in Hudson since 2011. The very first Gossips post on the subject was published on June 1, 2011, but the discussion of a dog park for Hudson started long before that. The most recent Gossips post was on September 19, 2019, when I reported that the fence would be going up in two or three weeks. Since then, my (almost daily) communication about the progress of the dog park has been on the Hudson Dog Park Facebook page. Now it's time to tell the world--at least the part of the world that reads Gossips--that Hudson finally has a dog park!

Photo: Dorothy Heyl
The fence went up over the past three days. It was completed yesterday, Saturday, October 12, shortly after midday. The park is not actually open yet. It is still lacking signage, trash barrels, and poop bag dispensers--all of which should come in the next week. Because the park is lacking these essential elements, the outer gate is being kept locked. It is hoped that the dog park can be opened for regular use sometime next week. To keep up with the latest news about the dog park, ask to become a member of the Hudson Dog Park Facebook group

The dog park is getting exuberant reviews from the dogs who have been lucky enough to get a preview of the dog park.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Future for Hudson Upper Depot

In April, Hudson Upper Depot at 708 State Street made Gossips' list of Nine Not to Ignore. On Friday morning, Jason O'Toole, director of property management for the Galvan Foundation, was before the Historic Preservation Commission seeking a certificate of appropriateness for the restoration planned for the building.

The last time a plan for the historic depot came before the HPC was in November 2013, when Mark Schuman of Mountain View Masonry and Landscaping, the firm that had "disassembled" 900 Columbia Street earlier that year, was seeking a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the building and salvage the materials to resell them. He told the HPC that the owner, then Van Kleeck Tire, wasn't interested in maintaining the building and wanted to demolish it to "get a little more staging area." The HPC denied his request. Six years later, the HPC found what is being proposed for the building more acceptable.

The Galvan Foundation, which acquired the building two months after permission to demolish it had been denied, is now proposing a meticulous restoration of the building to prepare it for its new tenant: Upper Depot Brewery, a new project by award-winning brewer Aaron Maas. The windows and doors will be replicated by a master craftsman. The roofline, which is intact at the front of the building, will be restored and replicated for the back of the building.

O'Toole explained that, because load requirements prohibit putting a real slate roof on the building, a slate substitute in a charcoal gray color will be used for the roof. He indicated the snow guard, which can be seen in the historic photograph below, will be replicated.

Needed repairs to the masonry of the building will be made using brick from the orphan asylum across the street, which was demolished in March of this year. O'Toole maintained that the brick was "from the same era" as the brick in the depot. That's not exactly true.

Although the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad was established in 1838, this depot wasn't built until 1871. The Hudson Orphan Asylum was established in 1845. It is most likely that the building in which it was located already existed at that time, making the demolished building a few decades older than the depot. But since brick making methods probably didn't change much in those years, it matters little.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Happening This Weekend

Whether the holiday on Monday be Indigenous Peoples Day or Columbus Day, there is much going on in Hudson on this long weekend. 

On Saturday, October 12, and Sunday, October 13, Open Studio Hudson 2019 celebrates the vibrant and talented community of artists and artisans in Hudson. Open Studio Hudson is a self-guided tour, organized by Jane Ehrlich, of the studios of more than forty artists working in a wide range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, design, photography, and printmaking. The tour will enable both casual art enthusiasts and serious collectors to explore and experience the artistic process at their own pace.

The citywide event is free and open to the public. Studios are open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. To download a PDF version of the map shown below, click here.

On Sunday at 7 p.m., there will be a closing reception for artists and visitors at Time & Space Limited, 434 Columbia Street. A photographic installation by David McIntyre in collaboration with Open Studio Hudson will feature portraits of the artists, together with photo journalistic coverage of the event.

Also on Saturday, Friends of the Hudson City Cemetery continues its effort to revive a 19th-century tradition of viewing cemeteries as parks with Art and Fun Among the Tombstones. The event, which takes place in the cemetery from 1 to 4 p.m., features an art installation, curated by Katherine Kim, called Death About, a group exhibition of works on paper about death as a beginning or a sign of renewal, about death as cyclical. The works explore the essence of nature and life. 

The afternoon will also offer an audio guided tour of the cemetery, a "Seek and Find" challenge designed by Kelley Drahushak, music by "The Professor" played on wine glasses, cider and doughnuts provided by Samascott Farms, arts and crafts, cookies, and a raffle to raise money for new landscaping at the entrance to the cemetery. Vince Wallace, who worked tirelessly as a volunteer to maintain the sections of the cemetery dedicated to veterans, will be remembered at the event. 

The center of activity for Art and Fun Among the Tombstones will be the lawn just inside the main entrance to Cedar Park Cemetery.

Later on Saturday, from 5 to 7 at Hudson Hall, 327 Warren Street,  there is the opening of Photo + Synthesis, a visual art exhibition about the ecology, history, and landscape of the Hudson River Valley. The work includes 19th-century paintings, new commissions of landscape photography, and a special data visualization piece about tree science. 

In connection with the exhibition at Hudson Hall, a video by Eve Morgenstern called Tree Shadows will be projected from 6 to 9 p.m. just up the street at September Gallery, 449 Warren Street. The exhibition and the video are presented by FieldLight Arts. For more information, click here.

Public Housing on Both Sides of the River

Yesterday, HudsonValley360 reported on the current situation with the Catskill Housing Authority (CHA): "Full board for Hop-O-Nose, interim director on the horizon." The article reads in part:
"The Catskill Housing Authority has approved the contract, now it has gone to the Hudson Housing Authority for approval," [CHA chairman Sam] Aldi said.
The contract would allow for Tim Mattice, who oversees Bliss Towers in Hudson, to act as a part-time interim administrative director, Aldi said.
Mattice did not respond to requests for comment.
Had the reporter attended the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) meeting the previous night, it could have been reported that the board of HHA passed a resolution authorizing Mattice to serve 15 to 20 hours a month as a consultant for CHA, for which CHA will compensate HHA at a rate of $200 an hour. 

Commenting on the arrangement at the meeting on Wednesday, Mattice said the agreement "could work out as a long-term arrangement," called it "a good trial basis," and spoke of "potential synergy." 

Arriving at the meeting as the board was voting to approve the resolution, Second Ward alderman Tiffany Garriga, who has been a vocal critic of both housing authorities, asked, "What is that? Approving him to go to Catskill? Doesn't he have enough responsibilities here?" 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Another DRI Decision Made

The DRI Committee met on Tuesday. The most significant thing to report from the meeting is that a team has been chosen to carry out the connectivity project--a DRI project that combines "Complete Streets" improvements for the BRIDGE District (everything below Second Street, from the north side to the south side), streetscape enhancements for Cross Street, and rebuilding the Second Street stairs. That team is made up of Arterial, Street Plans Collaborative, and Creighton Manning.

Photo: Street Plans
Given the involvement of Street Plans Collaborative, a term we are likely to hear often in the coming months is Tactical Urbanism. On its website, Street Plans Collaborative makes the following statement: "Through the publication of six open-source guides and one full-length book, we have become the progenitors and stewards of the Tactical Urbanism movement." One those publications, Tactical Urbanism, Vol. 1, describes the movement in this way:
Improving the livability of our towns and cities commonly starts at the street, block, or building scale. While larger scale efforts do have their place, incremental, small-scale improvements are increasingly seen as a way to stage more substantial investments. This approach allows a host of local actors to test new concepts before making substantial political and financial commitments. Sometimes sanctioned, sometimes not, these actions are commonly referred to as "guerilla urbanism," "pop-up urbanism," "city repair," or D.I.Y. urbanism." For the moment, we like "Tactical Urbanism," which is an approach that features the following five characteristics:
  • A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
  • The offering of local solutions for local planning challenges;
  • Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
  • Low-risks, with a possibly high reward; and
  • The development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents.   
To learn more Tactical Urbanism, you watch a video called Tactical Urbanism: An Introduction, featuring Mike Lydon, who is one of the principals of Street Plans Collaborative. It's the first of a series of videos that explore the subject, all available on YouTube.

When the three groups that will be collaborating on the connectivity project made their presentation to the DRI Committee on September 24, the first person to speak was a representative from Arterial, who said they'd been exploring Hudson before the meeting, "holding ourselves back from brainstorming too hard as we walked around."

In Memoriam: Vince Wallace

Photo: Lance Wheeler
Gossips got word yesterday that Vince Wallace had died, just a few weeks short of his 88th birthday. Vince was familiar to most Hudsonians as the man who drove the Korean War era Jeep in every Memorial Day and Veterans Day parade. Frequent visitors to the cemetery know him as the man who faithfully tended all the sections of the cemetery dedicated to war veterans. It was Vince who, year after year, planted and watered the geraniums in the urns in the plot for Civil War veterans, the section of the cemetery to which he was particularly devoted, and in the urns on the pillars that flank the entrances to the cemetery on Ten Broeck Lane. Many's the time, while walking Joey in the cemetery, I encountered Vince going about his self-assigned duties tending the urns and looking after the graves of those who had served their country in war. 

The best obituary for Vince Wallace may be an interview William Shannon did with him in 2015 and published on Hudson River Zeitgeist: "From the Vantage Point of Major Vince Wallace."

Rest in peace, Major Wallace. Thank you for your service.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Tale of Charmed Coincidence

I walk my dog in the cemetery every morning. Joey and I are a familiar presence there, and I have a waving and greeting acquaintance with the all people who work there, as well as with the other people who walk there. I take Joey to the cemetery for walks because he has terrible leash aggression, and we are usually unlikely to encounter other dogs there. We prefer to walk in Cedar Park, the part of the cemetery designed in the late 19th-century, where the curving roads and gentle hills provide an interesting and varied walk for both dog and human. One day last week, however, there were other dogs in that part of the cemetery, so Joey and I went across the road to the older part, the Hudson City Cemetery.

I drove in, taking the road that runs parallel to Ten Broeck Lane and then turns and runs parallel to Columbia Turnpike, and parked at the curve just beyond the gravestone with the sundial. Joey and I then walked up toward the GAR cemetery and around to Fred W. Jones's mausoleum and then circled around back to the car. When we were leaving the cemetery, I noticed in passing that there was a tree branch on the road I had taken when entering the cemetery and wondered, "Was that there when I drove in?"

I didn't realize the magnitude of what had fallen onto the roadway until the next day. Nearly half the tree had broken away. It covered the entire path, and DPW had placed orange cones to block off the road. There was no way I could have entered the cemetery as I did with that obstructing the path. Seeing this, my wondering became, "Did that fall while I was here in the cemetery with Joey?"

This morning, I learned the whole story from one of the DPW workers in the cemetery--the one who is very fond of dogs and always stops to talk to Joey (and me) when our paths cross.

The tree this morning, after the clean up

He confirmed that I was in the cemetery when the tree fell. I had been seen by one of his coworkers. That person was traveling from the newer part of the cemetery to the older part in one of the open golf carts DPW uses to get around the vast acreage of our graveyard. Crossing Ten Broeck Lane, he spotted me and Joey and paused to wonder why I was in that part of the cemetery, because I normally walk on the other side. According to him, that pause was the only thing that kept him from being right under that enormous limb when it fell. He told the guy who was telling me the story, "Next time you see that woman, tell her she saved my life." 

That was a very nice thing to hear at the start of the day. It made me feel as if I had been, albeit unwittingly, an instrument for good.

The CSX Purchase Moves Ahead

Yesterday at noon, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation held a special meeting "to discuss closing decisions for the purchase of the CSX parcel." On Monday, Gossips reported on the circumstances that made the special meeting necessary and, yesterday morning, reported that Walter Chatham had resigned from the HDC board. 

The meeting yesterday took all of fourteen minutes. HDC chair Bob Rasner displayed a schedule (shown below) showing the timeline since the purchase and sale agreement (PSA) was signed and a deposit of $8,500 was made on March 21, 2019. The original deadline for closing was June 21, but the agreement has been amended twice. The current deadline for closing is October 31.  

Rasner explained that the due diligence period was over on October 15, and if HDC did not pull out of the deal by October 15, they could not pull out without forfeiting the $8,500 deposit. The risk was that the Planning Board would not approve the subdivision of the CSX parcel at its special meeting on October 18, and HDC would lose $8,500. He called for a motion not to terminate the contract on October 15--a motion that was made and seconded.

In the discussion that followed, Phil Forman said he supported the motion. "We're at risk for three days," he said. "There's nothing to support the idea we will not get a favorable decision from the Planning Board." Carolyn Lawrence concurred.

Seth Rogovoy wondered if they needed such a motion at all, suggesting that the only motion needed would be one to terminate. Steve Dunn responded that "getting the input of the whole board is important," adding, "We do not have a legal right to close at this time."

A voice vote was taken on "allowing the deal to proceed." All board members voted aye except for Rogovoy, who abstained. When the vote had been taken, Dunn declared, "It would have been a lot more interesting meeting if the Planning Board had not agreed to a special meeting."

Mike Tucker, CEO and president of CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), which is providing a $200,000 loan to HDC for the purchase, requested a pre-closing meeting with Rasner and Dunn "to make sure everything is in place."

It wasn't until the end of the meeting, just before he called for a motion to adjourn, that Rasner announced that Chatham, who chairs the Planning Board, had resigned from the HDC board. 

The special Planning Board meeting to consider the subdivision of the CSX parcel is scheduled for Friday, September 18, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

Monday Night at City Hall

This morning, Dan Udell published his video of Monday's informal Common Council meeting. It can be viewed here.

Trees and the settlement agreement with the federal government about ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance were major topics of discussion. On the latter topic, at 29:55 in the video, Peter Frank asks if the three less expensive plans for making City Hall ADA compliant would satisfy the terms of the settlement agreement. (Gossips published the four plans a week ago; the settlement agreement can be viewed here.) Council president Tom DePietro's first response to Frank's question was another question: "Do you think they do?" He went on to opine, "I don't think they do, but I'm not an expert."    

The answer to the question should have been yes. The RFP for the study that produced the four plans is very clear in its intent: "The City of Hudson seeks proposals from qualified Consultants for a study to evaluate the improvements necessary to provide access to City Hall consistent with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)." (The boldface was added by Gossips.) The firm chosen to undertake the task was Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson, the same firm that is doing the feasibility study for the John L. Edwards school building. If it were the case that the three less expensive plans did not satisfy the terms of the settlement agreement, the only explanation would be that Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson had not done what they were tasked with or that the settlement agreement sets the bar for compliance higher for Hudson than the generally understood ADA requirements. Neither of those things seems likely.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Another Development for HDC

Yesterday, Gossips told the story of miscommunication and lack of clarity about deadlines that put HDC's purchase of the CSX parcel in some jeopardy. Gossips endeavored to tell the story factually and evenhandedly, but behind the story there was much sturm and drang. Gossips just learned that Walter Chatham, chair of the Planning Board who is also a member of the HDC Board, has resigned from the HDC Board. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

About the Special HDC Meeting Tomorrow

For more than three years, Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) has been trying to purchase a tract of land that belongs to CSX. In December 2016, Senator Chuck Schumer came to Hudson to show his support for the purchase. Indeed, Schumer wrote a letter to the CEO of CSX encouraging the sale.

Back then, it was maintained that the parcel was critical to the $25 million redevelopment project proposed by Sustainable Community Associates (SCA) for the abandoned Kaz warehouse site because it would give direct access to the site from Front Street. So essential was the parcel to the project that, in March 2017, HDC announced that the SCA project was put on hold until the CSX parcel could be acquired.

Much has happened since then. The SCA plan was ultimately abandoned, and HDC did a second RFP (request for proposals) for the site early in 2018. That RFP brought responses from three developers: Bonacio Construction, Kearney Realty & Development, and Redburn Development. It also brought a hail of criticism from elected officials and members of the public about HDC's lack of transparency and failure to involve the public in its planning. In May 2018, the ordeal resulted in the resignation of four members of the HDC board and that of the board's legal counsel.

Since then, with new members and new leadership but without an executive director or much of a budget, HDC has been working to regroup. But through all the upheaval and change, HDC has remained steadfast in its commitment to acquiring the CSX parcel. The goal is now in HDC's sights. HDC has a loan from Columbia Economic Development Corporation for $200,000 to cover the purchase price ($175,000), as well as the closing costs and cost of the survey and environmental review already done. But it seems the acquisition was almost jettisoned by the decision on September 26 to cancel the Planning Board meeting for October, which was to take place on Tuesday, October 8, when Yom Kippur begins at sunset.

Subdividing the seven-acre parcel now owned by CSX requires review and approval by the Planning Board. Getting approval for the subdivision was a necessary part of HDC's due diligence before closing on the sale. The application for review was initially submitted on August 7--too late to make it onto the Planning Board's agenda for its August 13 meeting. As a consequence, the application was not presented to the Planning Board until its September meeting, at which time the board declared the application "substantively complete" and scheduled a public hearing for October 8, after which it was expected the Planning Board would make its decision on the subdivision proposal. According to Gossips' notes from the September meeting of the Planning Board, it was stated at that meeting "the purchase was expected to close at the end of October or early November." 

All seemed to be proceeding on schedule until it was announced that the October meeting of the Planning Board was being canceled, and the Planning Board would not be meeting again until November. Gossips got the news about the canceled meeting on September 26 from Planning Board chair Walter Chatham and reported it the same day. In explaining why skipping the October meeting was not a problem, Chatham wrote, "HDC has until the end of the year to get approval from the [Planning Board] and close on the CSX property." According to Chatham, that was what he had been told, but it seems that wasn't true. A letter dated August 23, from the real estate director for CSX to Steve Dunn, who serves as HDC's legal counsel, set the following deadlines:
Seller and Buyer desire to modify the terms of said Purchase-Sale Agreement to extend the Due Diligence period to October 15, 2019, for the purpose of obtaining approval from the City of Hudson Planning Board to the subdivision of the subject parcel as required pursuant to the terms of the above referenced contract. Buyer shall endeavor in good faith to obtain such approval from such Planning Board. The failure of Buyer to obtain such approval after having endeavored in good faith to do so shall be the sole reason and right that Buyer shall retain to terminate the contract between the parties during the due diligence period without any further contractual liability.
The closing date shall be not later than October 31, 2019.
Canceling the October 8 meeting of the Planning Board and not rescheduling it during the month of October could have had the unintended consequence of jettisoning the deal with CSX that HDC had worked for three years to achieve.  

In response to the news that the October meeting of the Planning Board had been canceled and the application for subdivision approval would not be considered until November, HDC board chair Bob Rasner and Dunn submitted a formal request to CSX to extend the dates of the agreement. They were told that there was a second buyer interested in the property, and the dates would not be extended.

Gossips learned this morning that a special meeting of the Planning Board has been called for Friday, October 18, at 6:00 p.m., at City Hall. The sole purpose of the meeting is to consider the application for the subdivision of the CSX property. So it seems, assuming that the Planning Board approves the subdivision, HDC will be able to carry out its due diligence and still close on the purchase by October 31. The only question seems to be what the consequence of HDC not completing its due diligence by October 15 might be. It appears to be this: HDC would no longer have the right to terminate the contract if the Planning Board failed to approve the subdivision. 

The issue of due diligence and subdivision approval, although it appears to have been resolved, is expected to be a topic of discussion at tomorrow's special meeting of the HDC board.

Meetings of Interest in the Week

The Planning Board meeting which was to take place this Tuesday has been canceled because of Yom Kippur, but there are still lots of other meetings to attend.
  • On Monday, October 7, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment budget workshop will take up the budgets of the Youth Department and the Fire Department. The workshop begins at 2:00 p.m. in City Hall. The pie chart below, from hudsonny.opengov.com, shows the breakdown of the current city budget.  
Also on Monday, October 7, the informal meeting of the Common Council takes place at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall. Of interest on the agenda is a resolution authorizing the City to apply for a grant from the Department of Environmental Conservation for a tree inventory and a community forest management plan.
  • On Tuesday, October 8, there is a special meeting of the board of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) at 12 noon at 1 North Front Street. When this special meeting was announced last week, its purpose was explained as "to discuss closing decisions for the purchase of the CSX parcel." Gossips has since learned more about the meeting, which will be shared in a subsequent post.
  • At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, October 8, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) holds its monthly meeting. That meeting also takes place at 1 North Front Street.
  • At 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 8, the DRI Committee meets at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall. It is expected that the group chosen to undertake the "connectivity project" will be announced. The two contenders are NV5 and a team made up of Arterial, Street Plans, and Creighton Manning. The connectivity project is the biggest DRI project, representing more than $4 million and combining Complete Streets improvements in the BRIDGE District with streetscape improvements to Cross Street and rebuilding the Second Street stairs. 
  • On Wednesday, October 9, the board of the Hudson Housing Authority meets at 6:00 p.m. in the Community Room at Bliss Towers. At its annual meeting last month, the board elected new officers. Randall Martin, who is the new chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, has replaced Alan Weaver as chair of the HHA board.  
  • On Thursday, October 10, the Zoning and Planning Task Force meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. At the initial meeting of the task force, which took place on September 5, the advantages of form-based code over use-based code were discussed. It was suggested that code enforcement officer Craig Haigh come up with a list of the "most egregious things" he must deal with and that the representatives of the three regulatory boards--the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historic Preservation Commission--do the same. It is expected that input will be presented at Thursday's meeting. For those who want to keep up with this conversation about zoning, Gossips recommends as a primer a document called Enabling Better Places: Users' Guide to Zoning Reform 
  • On Friday, October 11, the Historic Preservation Commission holds its first meeting of the month at 10 a.m. at City Hall. 
  • At 2:30 p.m., on Friday, October 11, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment will hold a "committee review meeting" at City Hall. It is not clear what will transpire at this meeting, but it may be inferred that, after considering all the individual department budgets, the BEA will, at this meeting, be considering the budget as a whole.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

New Executive Committee for HCDC

On Tuesday, October 1, the Hudson City Democratic Committee held its organizational meeting and elected new officers for the coming year. Randall Martin will replace Steve Dunn as chair of the committee, a nonvoting position. Dorothy Heyl will replace Michael Chameides as the treasurer, also a nonvoting position. Other officers are Annick de Bellefeuille, first vice chair; Kate Treacy, second vice chair; and Virginia Martin, secretary. The last three officers are all voting members of the committee.   

In addition to the officers, the other members of the committee are: Abdus Miah, Dewan Sarowar, Shershah Mizan, Verity Smith, Bill Hughes, John Kane, Steve Dunn. 

Happening Tonight

Friday, October 4, 2019

Mind Where You Park Tonight

The weekend suspension of overnight alternate side of the street parking is over. Tonight, when you park your car--where you plan to leave it until morning--be sure you park on the odd side of the street, that is, on the side of the street where the house numbers are odd.


Revealing What's Hidden

On Wednesday, Gossips published a post about the four possible ways to make City Hall ADA compliant: "Considering City Hall." The fourth plan, which would make the entire building universally accessible, would open up the atrium, an architectural feature of the original building that was closed up when the building became City Hall in 1962, and reveal the stained glass laylight in the ceiling of the building's top floor. I commented then that "no one who hasn't had reason to visit the Department of Public Works map room has ever seen [it]." 

Since publishing that post, Gossips has gotten a picture of the laylight, and here it is, for all to see.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Prevailing Vision for Columbia County: More Gas, More Food to Go

Last night, the Livingston Town Board voted to grant site plan approval to the Global Partners plan to build a giant gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Routes 9, 9H, 23, and 82. Dan Udell was there to document the proceedings. His video can be viewed here.

Livingston Planning Board (the only woman at the table is the secretary)

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, and Hudson

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville, born in New York City on August 1, 1819. Gossips explored Melville's connections with Hudson in April, at the outset of Hudson Hall's celebration of the Melville bicentennial and Hudson's history as a whaling port. This weekend, Hudson Hall presents an anchor event in its Hudson's Merchants & Whalers series: a one-man theatrical adaptation of Melville's classic novel Moby Dick.

The production, hailed by the Irish Times as a brilliant "distillation of Melville's genius," stars renowned Irish actor Conor Lovett performing with live musical accompaniment by ten-string fiddler Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh. 

Moby Dick premiered in Youghal, County Cork, in 2009, and has since toured to Boston, Bristol (UK), California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Paris, Shanghai, Sofia (Bulgaria), Vermont, and twenty-eight venues in Ireland.

Speaking of the origins of the project, director Judy Hegarty-Lovett recalls, "Our good friend Lee DeLong had been telling me for some time to read Moby Dick. I finally got a paperback edition, and within two chapters I told Conor he had better read it as it was going to be our next project." She continues, "Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh is one of Ireland's most exciting traditional Irish musicians. His presence as a witness to Conor's telling of the tale of Ishmael is as important as his beautiful and sensitive fiddle playing."

Performances of Moby Dick are at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 4, and Saturday, October 5, and at 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 6. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Meeting News

Tonight, in its ongoing due diligence in purchasing renewable energy for streetlights and City-owned buildings, the Common Council Economic Development Committee will hear a presentation by WMR Services LLC, "a vertically integrated renewable energy company," headquartered in Buffalo and New Hartford, New York. The meeting takes place at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

The Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) announced today that there will be a special meeting on Tuesday, October 8, to discuss closing decisions for the purchase of the  CSX parcel. The meeting will take place at 12 noon at 1 North Front Street.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Considering City Hall

One of the compelling reasons cited for moving City Hall to the John L. Edwards school building is that the current City Hall is not ADA compliant. This is something that has been known ever since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. Previous mayors were content to ignore the issue, saying it was impossible to make the 1907 building universally accessible, but the current mayor, Rick Rector, made it a goal of his administration to find a way. He was taking steps to make City Hall more accessible and user friendly even before the lawsuit brought against the City by three Hudson residents raised the issue to the level of emergency.

Advocates for the move to JLE maintain that making City Hall ADA compliant is cost prohibitive. At the September Common Council meeting, Council president Tom DePietro stated that the "rough estimate" for doing so was more than $3 million. On her Facebook page this morning, Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann asserted that the City's historic buildings are "outrageously expensive to upgrade." It's a convenient argument, but it's not entirely true.

The feasibility study done on City Hall by Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson, the same architectural firm that is doing the feasibility study on JLE, yielded four possible plans for making the building ADA compliant. Three of the plans would provide access to the main floor, where all city business takes place--attending meetings, making tax payments and water and sewer payments, visiting the assessor, securing and renewing licences. The fourth plan, which is the expensive one, is a complete renovation and redesign of the building, with an extension at the rear that would house an elevator. Here are the four plans and the estimated cost associated with each.

Plan 1  $278,000
This plan involves the creation of accessible parking spaces on Warren Street and Prison Alley, a lift at the main entrance, a sloped walk along the west side of the building, modifications to the door on the west side, the creation of an accessible rest room, and modifications to the Council Chamber.

Plan 2  $262,000 
Plan 2 is basically the same as Plan 1 except instead of a lift at the main entrance there would be a ramp in front of the building, which would take up much of the sidewalk.

Plan 3  $131,000
Plan 3--the least expensive solution--involves installing a lift at the side door on Warren Street, the doorway that now gives access to the upstairs offices of the mayor, the mayor's aide, Council president, and the Department of Public Works.

Plan 4  $3,143,000
This is the expensive one. It would provide universal access to the entire building and create a City Hall, in a city known for its historic architecture, that would definitely inspire civic pride. With Plan 4, there would be an addition at the back of the building, with an elevator, giving access to all floors, including the basement storage area. The building would be completely accessible from both Warren Street and Prison Alley. There would be additional office space and an improved Council Chamber. Perhaps the best thing, the atrium that was part of the interior design of the original bank building would be opened up once again, and the glorious stained glass laylight, which no one who hasn't had reason to visit the Department of Public Works map room has ever seen, will be visible from the main floor.

The renovation and redesign of our stately City Hall building could be achieved for less than the purchase price of JLE--a building that will require further investment to prepare it for its intended new uses. Of course, this doesn't address the need for new facilities for the Youth Center and the Day Care Center, but it seems those needs could be met without acquiring a 90,000 square foot building that is much bigger than what is actually needed.

This Just In . . .

The Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee meeting scheduled for tonight at 6:45 p.m. has been canceled. No information is available on why the meeting was canceled or if it will be rescheduled.

Espresso, Ice Cream, and Cookies for a Cause

On Friday, October 4, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., three small local businesses are coming together to host an Affogato Party at Supernatural Coffee, 527 Warren Street. The event is a fundraiser for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood.

The affogato at the party will be made with ice cream from Fortunes Ice Cream of Tivoli and espresso from Supernatural Coffee. Along with the affogato, there will be handcrafted cookies made by Amanda Hummel of Bee's Knees. All income from the sale of the cookies and a portion of the profit from affogato sales will go to Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. All tips will be matched by Supernatural and donated as well. So, jump start the weekend with a little caffeine and a party for a good cause.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Contemplating Another Move

In 1962, City Hall moved from 327 Warren Street, the building that was constructed to be Hudson's city hall in 1855, to 520 Warren Street, a building that was constructed to be a bank in 1907. It's not entirely clear what motivated the move in 1962. It happened during an era when, hindsight tells us, the City made a few bad decisions--the demolition of the General Worth Hotel and an urban renewal project that razed and re-imagined more than fifty acres of the city to name two. Although, more than five decades later, we may not fully understand the reason for the move up the street, we do know the impact. In the words of one critic, "Downtown Hudson was sold down the river." The "business district" became concentrated in the 500 and 600 blocks of Warren Street, and the areas below Fifth Street became abandoned and unwelcoming. It took decades to reverse that. Ironically, the rebirth of 327 Warren Street, abandoned as City Hall but reclaimed thirty years later as the Hudson Opera House, was the principal engine of the revival.

Now once again, some city leaders are contemplating moving City Hall, this time to a building that was constructed to be a school (and a fallout shelter) in 1964. There are at least two stated reasons for considering the move: the current City Hall is not ADA compliant; the Youth Center needs a better facility. The asking price for the school is just under $4 million. The thinking is that if City Hall, the Youth Department, the Day Care Center, and the Code Enforcement Office all moved to the former school building, the City could sell 520 Warren Street, 18 South Third Street, 10 Warren Street, and 429 Warren to finance the acquisition and upgrading required "so it doesn't feel like a school building." Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann is pushing for the move to JLE to include the Chamber of Commerce and the offices of HDC and HCDPA and the sale of 1 North Front Street.

520 Warren Street
18 South Third Street
10 Warren Street
429 Warren Street
1 North Front Street
At a public forum last night, Mark Thaler of the architectural firm Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson presented the results of the feasibility study for converting what was an elementary school into the "Hudson Civic Center." The entire PowerPoint presentation from last night's forum can be viewed here.

There are two proposals: Scheme A and Scheme B. Scheme B is more expensive (although actual costs will not be revealed until October 15, when Thaler makes a presentation to the Common Council) and involves, among other things, installing a second elevator and introducing a central lobby with a deck overlooking the wooded area behind the building.

The floor plans for every one of the four levels of the building, except the top one (shown below) where all city offices and the Common Council meeting rooms will be located, seem to have a vast amount of space labeled "Future Tenant Space."

Discussing the potential uses for this space, Thaler spoke of maker space, a job center, community event and meeting space, apprenticeship training, creative arts, a wood shop, a teaching kitchen, a community kitchen, after-school programs, family services, more day care--all programming that doesn't seem to exist yet. He did acknowledge that the City would need someone whose job it would be to manage all the spaces that would be rented out for events or on a long-term basis.

During the public comment, Matthew Frederick raised an issue that should be of concern to all Hudsonians. Observing that "a building has to serve many masters," he commented, "This is a city hall and needs to present itself as a city hall." He went on to make the point that this would be "a public building looking at the back of a private building"--the private building being the historic 400 State Street, now owned by the Galvan Foundation. He asserted that though the current City Hall was a re-purposed bank building, it had a "sense of propriety." It was a building whose design and presence were appropriate to its role as the seat of city government. Of the proposal for JLE, Frederick said, "It feels like we have space-planned this, but it doesn't feel like City Hall." He posited that "City Hall is a matter of civic pride."

In response, Thaler talked about possible alterations to the facade, raising the ceiling over the space proposed for the Council Chamber, and "monument signs" at the entrances on State Street and Carroll Street, but it is unlikely that a 1960s elementary school building is ever going to present itself as a city hall, particularly not when city government offices and meeting rooms will have to share the building with a variety of intergenerational recreation and community support uses. 

At the first public forum about the adaptive reuse of JLE, the issue of Columbia County's interest in the building was raised. Fifth Ward supervisor Rick Scalera explained that the County wanted to locate the Probation Department in the building, which was not a good fit with the uses the City envisioned for the building--the Youth Center, the Day Care Center, the Senior Center. It could be said that in the current mix of uses being proposed for the building, City Hall is the odd one out.

Toward the end of the meeting, Council president Tom DePietro used the Google image that was part of the PowerPoint presentation to make the point that JLE was in the geographic center of the city, "more the center of the city than City Hall is."

I was reminded of another abandoned elementary school building, in the geographic center of Columbia County, which was to be the centerpiece of a lavishly researched, vigorously promoted, and passionately protested plan to develop a county campus six miles outside of the county seat . . . but that was a decade ago.