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." 

Hudson's New Suburbanism

New Urbanism is an approach to planning and development that is based on the way cities and towns were designed in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The design principles embraced by New Urbanism are embodied by the City of Hudson--a walkable "Main Street," city parks, a gridded street system. Suburbia, as it exists just beyond the Hudson-Greenport border on Fairview Avenue, is the antithesis of New Urbanism. Indeed, the New Urbanism movement developed in reaction to the kind of spreading out of cities typified by this part of Greenport. 

Several people involved in making planning decisions for Hudson are proponents of New Urbanism, and the term New Urbanism is frequently evoked in discussions about planning for the Kaz site and the area around the former Gifford-Wood plant at the end of Hudson Avenue. Still, strangely, elements typical of suburbia keep creeping into Hudson. 

The first is the giant new Stewart's to be built at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, which involves the sacrifice of two houses, representing seven dwelling units, and a design that ignores a basic principle of New Urbanism by having the convenience store's main entrance oriented toward a parking lot instead of the street.

Now there's another proposal before the Planning Board which would bring something else associated with the suburbs into the city: self storage.

The proposal is to place nine 8 x 20 foot sheds and one 8 x 10 foot shed on the vacant lot on the corner of Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard.

The good news is that the units would be painted gray instead of the blue and white of similar facilities in the area and arranged so that all the doors will be in the middle. Despite the fact that the applicant declared, regarding the zoning in the area, "You can do anything up there," a self storage facility seems an inappropriate use for any lot within a city.

A public hearing on the proposed project will take place on July 9, at 6:oo p.m., to precede the public hearing on the conditional use permits required for Colarusso.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Last Night with the Planning Board

The Planning Board meeting last night went on for more than three hours, and most of the time was spent considering the conditional use permits needed by Colarusso: for the dock and for the haul road. A new element presented by Pat Prendergast, engineer for Colarusso, was the plan for screening from view stockpiling of rock and activity at the dock. To improve the view from Basilica Hudson, it is proposed that forsythia, hydrangea, and cedar be planted along the fence that borders the east side of the dock area. There will also be plantings, requested by DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation), on the riprap bank and along the top of the dock, which will be visible from Rick's Point.

Prendergast displayed the following simulations to show the appearance of the east side of the dock area today, at the time the shrubs and bushes are planted, and after five years.

The intent of the proposed planting is to screen the storage and dock operations but not to obstruct the view of the mountains or, from Rick Point, the view of the lighthouse or barge loading, which some people apparently enjoy watching.

Some other new information emerged last night. On a site visit with some members of the Planning Board, together with Ryan Weitz of Barton & Loguidice, and representatives of Colarusso, it was suggested by Matthew Frederick, who seems too have become an unofficial consultant to the Planning Board, that the existing haul road could be retained for recreational use when a new haul road is constructed at the center of the berm, which is sometimes referred to as "the causeway." John Privatera, attorney for Colarusso, responded to the suggestion by saying it had "all kinds of liability issues."

In summarizing a letter he submitted to the Planning Board, Weitz spoke of the silo and the "salt shed" as structures that are "a valued part of the the waterfront to many folks." Speaking of the structures, Privatera indicated Colarusso would fulfill its "ownership responsibilities" and maintain them, but they would not do any work that would require returning to the Planning Board.

Weitz also mentioned the railroad trestle that will be used to access the Nack Center and spoke of potential assistance from Colarusso in restoring the trestle.

At the outset of the meeting, Planning Board chair Walter Chatham defined the concerns as physical design and operational issues. Regarding the latter, Privatera announced that Colarusso has willing to agree to a following hours of operation for trucks traveling between the quarry and the dock: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday; no trucks on Sundays or major holidays. To this proposal, Chatham commented, "If we could have a truck free weekend, this could go a whole lot easier."

Chatham's stated goal of the meeting was "to get a laundry list of the issues to be looked at." After two hours and twenty minutes, he seemed to be satisfied that this had been accomplished and asked for a motion to deem the application complete and set a public hearing. Planning Board member Clark Wieman expressed the opinion that the application was not complete, because Colarusso has never provided actual counts of number of round trips made every day, "from the day they took over until now." Paul Colarusso protested that they don't keep such records. When Wieman spoke of continuing "to try to drag some kind of numbers of present intensity" out of Colarusso, Privatera told him, "You're struggling with it because you have created the issue. You have no right to regulate trips." Colarusso noted that providing this information could put the company at a competitive disadvantage and stated, "There is no more information we will give you on that."

Although Wieman and Laura Margolis were opposed to scheduling a public hearing, the remaining four members of the Planning Board present (Chatham, Betsy Gramkow, Ginna Moore, John Cody) voted to move forward. The public hearing will take place on July 9 at 6:00 p.m. in a location yet to be determined. Code enforcement officer Craig Haigh recommended a venue other than City Hall, noting that the capacity of the Council Chamber is 45 and warning, "That will be enforced by code enforcement and the police."

We Are Not Alone

Last week, the Altamont Enterprise reported on the revaluation in the Town of Guilderland: "About 1,000 property owners contest Guilderland's new values."

Photo: Elizabeth Floyd Mari|Altamont Enterprise
The article inspired me to want to compare what happened in Guilderland with our own revaluation experience. Guilderland had not done a reval for fourteen years, which is seven years longer than Hudson went without reassessing its properties for tax purposes, but in those fourteen years I don't think Guilderland experienced the real estate boom Hudson has in the past seven years. Of Guilderland's 12,803 properties, 1,000 is about 8 percent, as compared with the 13 percent of properties--303 out of 2,318--whose assessments were grieved in Hudson. Again, that can be attributed to a sharper rise in the market value of property in Hudson. Everyone likes it when their property appreciates. It's one of the benefits of homeownership, and most people hope it happens. What they don't like is the possibility that they will have to pay more than their fair share of property taxes. 

This year's revaluation in Hudson has been stunningly contentious. It became a campaign issue and a rallying cry for the disgruntled; it inspired Roger Hannigan Gilson to report regularly about "Hudson's reassessment mess" and led to a grabbing and shoving scuffle involving an elected official. Now, with Grievance Day behind us, things seem to have calmed down as those who grieved their assessments await the judgment of the BAR (Board of Assessment Review). So now may be a good time to compare our reval experience in Hudson not only with that of Guilderland but with past revals in Hudson. In 2010, there were 526 grievances; in 2012, there were 148; in 2019, there were 303. A lesson to be learned from these statistics may be that seven years between revisiting assessments is too much time.    

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

And Now There Are Three

In March, there was only one candidate seeking to be an alderman for the First Ward: Rebecca Wolff. Then Ginna Moore, Jane Trombley, and finally Adam Weinert entered the race, and there were four candidates vying for the two slots on the Democratic line. Today, Weinert announced he was dropping out of the race, although his name will still appear on the ballot. 

Last week and the week before, Tom Roe of WGXC interviewed Trombley, Wolff, and Moore. Weinert was to be interviewed today, but instead he announced his withdrawal from the race. The interviews have been archived. Click on the candidate's name to listen.
First Ward voters will have a chance to meet all three candidates in one place on Tuesday, June 18--exactly one week before the primary election--from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce, 1 North Front Street.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sold! The Old Police Station

Ten people gathered for the auction of 427 Warren Street this afternoon, but only two were there to bid on the building: Nick Haddad, who was there with his son Henry, and Stephen Matic, who appears seated in the last row in the picture below.

Matic opened the bidding with the minimum bid of $300,000. Haddad responded by bidding $305,000. The back and forth bidding continued, increasing by increments of $5,000 and $10,000 until it reached $425,000, offered by Matic. After consulting with his son, Haddad bid $430,000, but when Matic bid $435,000, Haddad declared, "I'm out."

Matic is a real estate investor and developer who currently has properties in Athens and in the Berkshires. His plans for the former police station are not known, but the terms of the sale indicate that the building must be developed for a commercial use.


Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

As summer approaches and the days grow longer, it's a busy week for meetings. Today, for example, one could spend the better part of the afternoon and evening at City Hall.
  • At 3:00 p.m. today, Monday, June 10, the auction of 427 Warren Street--the former police station--takes place in the Council Chamber at City Hall. Click here for more information.
  • At 5:00 p.m. today, also in City Hall, the Common Council holds a public hearing on proposed Local Law No. 1 of 2019, which would amend the zoning code to eliminate offstreet parking requirements throughout the city. Click here to read the proposed amendment. 
  • At 6:00 p.m. today in City Hall, the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets at its new regular time: 6:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. No agenda is available for this meeting, but it's sure to include discussion of solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, and other eco-conscious initiatives.
  • At 6:45 p.m. at City Hall, the Common Council holds a special meeting to consider "a proposed resolution supporting the application for a Community Impact Grant for water quality assessment and improvement strategies at Oakdale."
  • At 7:00 p.m. at City Hall, the Common Council holds its informal meeting for the month of June. Among the items of interest on the agenda are the proposed host community benefit agreement from Stewart's, a resolution to accept that agreement, and a resolution to pay the Chazen Companies, the consultants administering the DRI projects, $19,920 more to administer the Restore NY grant to stabilize the Dunn warehouse.   
  • On Tuesday, June 11, the Hudson IDA (Industrial Development Agency) holds its monthly meeting at 1:00 p.m. at 1 North Front Street. No agenda is available for this meeting.
  • At 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, the DRI Committee (Mayor Rick Rector, Council president Tom DePietro, city treasurer Heather Campbell, city attorney Andy Howard, DPW superintendent Rob Perry, Planning Board chair Walter Chatham, and Julie Pacatte from Chazen) is tentatively scheduled to meet in the Council Chamber at City Hall.
  • At 4:00 p.m., the Tourism Board meets at 1 North Front Street. It is expected the board will be discussing the presentations from the four consulting firms being considered to help create a marketing strategy for Hudson.
  • At 6:00 p.m., the Planning Board meets at City Hall. On the agenda for the meeting is the continuing review of the Colarusso dock and haul road, as well as some new projects: a proposal to install "wireless communication equipment" on Bliss Towers and a proposal to install "portable temporary storage units" in a vacant lot at 121 Fairview Avenue, the site of Camp Kelly, where the 128th New York Infantry Regiment was assembled and mustered into service in the Civil War on September 4, 1862, which is now owned by CarLee Holdings (Carmine and Leitha Pierro).
  • On Wednesday, June 12, the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meets at 6:00 p.m. in the Community Room at Bliss Towers. One never knows what might happen at this meeting, but it's worthwhile showing up if there's anything to be learned about the proposed rehab of Bliss Towers and new construction across the street. Of course, there's always the chance the board will go into executive session, which often happens.
  • On Thursday, June 13, at 6:00 p.m., the History Room of the Hudson Area Library, in collaboration with the Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History and the Gotham Center for New York City History, presents a lecture by Ian Stewart entitled A Truly American Form: Anglo Dutch Houses, Their Roots, Form, and Legacy. Stewart, who is the owner of New Netherland Timber Framing and Preservation and a past president of the Board of Directors of the Preservation Trades Network, will discuss the new house form that arose in the former New Netherland in the latter years of the 18th century, focusing on the framing of these houses and their various forms and touching upon their English and Dutch predecessors and the circumstances that may have led to the creation of this hybrid. For more information about the lecture, click here  
Photo: Ian Stewart
  • On Friday, June 14, the Historic Preservation Commission holds the first of its two monthly meetings at 10:00 a.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall. The agenda for this meeting is not yet available.
  • On Saturday, June 15, on the same day as the OutHudson Parade, when the library will closing so that people can gather along Warren Street to be part of the festivities, Future Hudson is holding its third "community conversation": Where Does Hudson Gather? The event, which will explore "how the quality of public space is important for a community's health and happiness," takes place from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library. Click here for more information.  

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Never Enough Trash Cans for Flag Day

Driven from our home yesterday by the fireworks, Joey and I decided to take our morning walk in riverfront park to check out the aftermath of the extravaganza.

The quantity of discarded styrofoam and single use plastic was stunning, as was the amount of trashed food. 

We got to the park at around 8 a.m., and while we were there, a DPW crew arrived with trash pickers, bags, and the garbage truck to put things right.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A Hundred Years Ago in Hudson

Reading the Columbia Republican from a hundred years ago, I came upon this item on the editorial page of the paper for June 10, 1919. The fines in question are for speeding and other traffic infractions, which seem to have been a significant problem in the early decades of the motorcar.    

In 1919, car ownership was still something of a rarity, as evidenced by an article on the front page of this same issue of Republican, which gave the names of the people who had purchased cars from the Crescent Garage in the previous two weeks.  

Evelyn & Robert Monthie Slide Collection, Columbia County Historical Society
What struck me most about the editorial was this statement: "We believe in encouraging the tourists. We want them to come here, stay here and spend their money here." This attitude continues today.

Of Interest . . .

especially to WAMC listeners.

One of the opening acts for the Albany Symphony Sing Out! Hudson concert at the Basilica on Sunday night is the Berkshire Ramblers, featuring Alan and Roselle Chartock. Click here for more information about the event.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Nine Not to Ignore: No. 9

This post concludes the series, which started back in April, intended to bring attention to at-risk historic buildings in Hudson. It was learning about this building's current situation, which is quite different from that of the other eight, that inspired the entire series.

9   The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse

Photo: Jonathan Simons
Although today it is called the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, its official name is the "Hudson City Light." Of the seven lighthouses on the Hudson River, this lighthouse is the northernmost. Construction of the lighthouse began early in 1873, and the light was put into operation on November 14, 1874. For the first seventy-five years, the light required a keeper, whose responsibilities are described in a brochure about the lighthouse published by the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society:
[T]he keeper would have to keep the light shining. Every night he would have to light the lamps and make sure that they burned brightly and did not run out of oil. This usually meant several trips a night up and down the stairs. During the hours of darkness, the "light" was never to go out and if the Lighthouse Service received complaints that the light was not lit or that it was poorly lit, the lightkeeper would be in danger of losing his job. In the morning he would have to clean the soot from the lantern room, clean the lens, polish the brass, and make the lamps ready for the following night. This had to be done every day.
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse was automated on November 10, 1949. Today, the light is solar powered and turned on at night by means of a light sensor.

On December 28, 1946--three years before it was automated--the Hudson City Light was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, in an illustration by Mead Schaeffer.

The plight of the light today is different from that of other endangered historic buildings in Hudson. Since it was decommissioned in 1984, the care and keeping of the light has been assumed by the not-for-profit Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, but after thirty-five years, the Society is becoming superannuated. Membership has dwindled to double digits, and the board currently has no president because nobody wants the position. The most stalwart members of the Society recognize that over the years they failed to groom a younger group of people who can carry on the task of preserving the lighthouse. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many people think, because it is still a functioning lighthouse, that it is a government building, maintained by the Coast Guard or some such entity, and don't give much thought to how it is cared for or how it comes to be decorated with white lights every year for the winter holidays. They enjoy seeing it on the river day after day but take it for granted.

Photo: Jonathan Simons
There is another way in which the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is different from the other buildings featured in this series: There is something everyone can do to help ensure its continued maintenance and preservation. The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society needs new blood, new energy, and new ideas. So, if you appreciate looking out onto the river and seeing this landmark, visit the HALPS website to become a member of the Society and discover how you can become involved in the care and keeping of the Hudson City Light. 

Other posts in the Nine Not to Ignore series:  
  1. The Robert Taylor House
  2. The Charles Alger House
  3. Hudson Upper Depot   
  4. 432 Warren Street
  5. 402-404 Warren Street and 10-12 North Fourth Street
  6. 501 Union Street
  7. The Gifford-Wood Building
  8. The Dunn Warehouse

Celebrity for the Rescue Dogs of Hudson

Last fall, Gossips announced that photographer Judy Curran was looking for dog models for a book project she was calling Hudson Gone to the Dogs. The original plan was to photograph dogs in shops and other locations throughout the city, but in the intervening months, Curran refined her plans. She decided to make the book about the rescue story and to photograph the dogs in a studio against a black or white background. Of the decision, Curran says, "I believe that photographing dogs on pure white or black backgrounds takes away all distractions and suddenly the image becomes all about the dog."

The project is set to begin next week, with photo sessions on Monday, June 10, and Wednesday, June 12, in a refurbished barn just outside Hudson. The sessions will continue over the following two weeks. Although lots of dogs (Joey among them) have already signed up to be part of the project, there are still a few available time slots. If you and your dog are interested, contact Curran at

Thursday, June 6, 2019

A Weekend of Fireworks

Saturday is the annual Hudson Flag Day celebration, capped off at nightfall by a fireworks extravaganza that usually goes on for forty-five minutes and drives me and my terrified dog from our home.

On Sunday, there will be more fireworks in Hudson when the Albany Symphony presents Sing Out! Hudson at Basilica Hudson. The program, which is free and open to the public, is part of a four-part series of concerts by the Albany Symphony throughout the region. It features a performance of a new collaborative work by composer Viet Cuong and choreographer Adam Weinert, called Woven, and the orchestra performing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, "Stars and Stripes Forever," and such singalongs as "This Land Is Your Land" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing." The concert concludes with fireworks.

The event begins at 5:00 p.m. with "an immersive outdoor street fair," which continues through the orchestra's performance, and pre-concert activities, including opening acts by local school and community groups. For more information, click here.

Animated fireworks image courtesy Basilica Hudson

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

DRI Update

Yesterday, the DRI Committee--Rick Rector (mayor), Heather Campbell (treasurer), Rob Perry (DPW superintendent), Andy Howard (city attorney), and Tom DePietro (Common Council president)--and Julie Pacatte, the economic developer from Chazen hired to help administer the DRI, met to continue planning for the implementation of the five City projects: Promenade Hill, the Second Street stairs, the "Complete Streets" improvements below Second Street, the Dunn warehouse, and the North Bay "fishing village," a.k.a. the Furgary. The meeting was primarily focused on scheduling: a site visit to Promenade Hill for design firms interested in responding to the City's RFQ (June 25); a due date for proposals (July 9); interviewing prospective firms (July 11); issuing the RFQ for the "connectivity master plan"--combining the Second Street stairs and the "Complete Streets" improvements (July 8); a site visit for that project (July 30).

Amid all the talk of dates and sequencing, some interesting information emerged. Given that "Promenade Hill Park" (a name introduced by Sheena Salvino but never used previously) has been identified as the first project to be pursued, Gossips was curious to know the scope of the proposed "renovation." Was it the maze of hardscape and retaining walls that never existed before urban renewal razed and configured everything west of Front Street? Or was the historic promenade, which hasn't gotten much attention since its Victorian makeover in 1878, also slated for renovation and refurbishment? The RFQ, which falsely claims that Promenade Hill Park is "considered the Country's oldest public park" (hardly true, but it is the first public space set aside expressly for viewing the landscape), doesn't distinguish between the historic promenade and the unfortunate 1970s "plaza" that now serves as the entrance to the promenade.

The Overview in the RFQ announces: "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." Sadly, it is unlikely that there will be money or time to do a historic landscape report on Promenade Hill, something that should precede and inform any plans for renovation.

Another bit of information gleaned from the meeting is that the nearly $4 million for "Complete Streets" improvements ($3,982,550) is considered to be not enough. For this reason, the RFQ for what's being called the "multimodal project" (Complete Streets improvements and the Second Street stairs) will request a master plan and an implementation schedule. 

And then there is the Dunn warehouse, for which $1 million in DRI funds had been designated. At a Common Council meeting last month, DePietro said that the Dunn warehouse was second in order of priority. Now it seems to have fallen off the list altogether.

The issue of whether or not the City can use the $500,000 in Restore NY funds to stabilize the building without partnering with a private developer seems to have been resolved. It can. But now it appears that Empire State Development wants to attach that condition to the $1 million in DRI funds allocated for the building. Nothing is ever easy.

Common Council Committee Meetings

The Housing and Transportation Committee meeting scheduled for 6:45 p.m. today has been canceled. The meeting of the Youth, Education, Senior, and Recreation Committee, scheduled for 5:30 p.m., will still occur.

Local Food News

Today, Wednesday, June 5, the farm market known as the Upstreet Market returns to the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park. From 4 to 7 p.m., you can get the produce and food items you need to see you through to the weekend. A Gossips favorite, Gina's Empanadas will be there!


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

For Sale: Mid-Century Building in Heart of City

Earlier this year, the City tried to sell 427 Warren Street, the former police station, by soliciting sealed bids. No bids were submitted.

Now the City is going to try to sell the building at a public auction to be held on Monday, June 10. The notice of the auction reads in part:
The minimum bid shall be $300,000.00. The conveyance of the subject premises shall be subject to the terms and conditions of a Penalty Note and Mortgage in the amount of $100,000.00 in the event the property: (a) is not developed for a commercial use, as evidenced by a certificate of occupancy, within three (3) years of the conveyance of title, or; (b) all or a portion of the property is sold within three (3) years of the conveyance of title. A copy of the Terms of Sale and the terms and conditions of the Penalty Note and Mortgage may be reviewed at the Office of the Mayor, Hudson City Hall, 520 Warren Street, Hudson, New York 12534.  
All the documents mentioned are also available online, and Gossips has provided a hyperlink to each one. The auction takes places at 3:00 p.m., on Monday, June 10, in the Council Chamber at City Hall. For more information, click here.

Meanwhile, this tasteful sign tells the world that the building is for sale.


Of Interest

It was reported today in NYREJ: The Commercial Real Estate Media Source that the building where ShopRite is now located has been sold for $15.75 million. ShopRite has a twenty-year lease on the space, which continues through 2038. 


Not Letting a Sleeping Dog Lie

In the HudsonValley360 coverage of the scuffle that occurred in the hallway of the Galvan Armory during a special meeting of the Common Council on April 24, Council president Tom DePietro is quoted as saying, "The less said about this unfortunate incident, the better for everyone." Roger Hannigan Gilson is not being constrained by DePietro's wishes. Today, on his blog The Other Hudson Valley, Gilson returns to the incident and publishes the video of the scuffle captured by the building's security camera: "Video: Hudson Council President Grabs, Shoves Man Outside City Meeting."