Sunday, June 30, 2019

Who Got the Money?

Last Thursday, the Common Council Finance Committee held a special meeting to divvy up $20,000 among eleven groups seeking financial support for events from the City. At the outset, committee chair Rob Bujan (First Ward) explained that the requests totaled $28,219, and the committee would "try to get some money for everyone who asked rather than disqualify anyone." That said, there wasn't a great deal of discussion among the members of the committee present--Bujan, Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), and Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward)-- of the benefits of an event to the city or if or how the event might attract visitors, even though the $20,000 came this year from the Tourism Board's budget--revenue derived from the lodging tax.

  • Friends of Hudson Youth--Oakdale Picnic  Total budget: $1,900; amount requested: $800; amount approved: $800
  • Flag Day  Total budget: $45,000; amount requested: $2,500; amount approved: $2,000
  • Bindlestiff  Cirkus After School/COARC Cirkus  Total budget: $6,584; amount requested: $1,000; amount approved: $1,000
  • Halloween Parade  Total budget: $1,084; amount requested: $1,084; amount approved: $1,084
  • Open Studio Hudson 2019  A new event planned for Columbus Day weekend, with $2,850 of the budget going toward creating a website  Total budget: $3,350; amount requested: $3,350; amount approved: $1,675  
  • Friends of Oakdale Lake--Salsa in the Sand  Total budget: $985; amount requested: $985; amount approved: $741
  • Basilica Hudson--Triptych  Total budget: $4,900; amount requested: $1,000; amount approved: $500
  • Operation Unite--Black Arts Festival  Total budget: $8,375; amount requested: $3,500; amount approved: $3,000
  • The Hudson Eye A new ten-day (August 23 through September 2) "public program and urban showcase" featuring "dance, music, performance, film, visual art, dining out, LGBTQ culture, and nightlife"  Total budget: $100,000; amount requested: $5,000; amount approved: $3,000
  • Bangladeshi Cultural Fair  Total budget: $7,350; amount requested: $4,000; amount approved: $1,700
  • Hudson Hall--Winter Walk  Total budget: $110,000; amount requested: $5,000; amount approved: $4,500

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Me Too--Who Next?

Photo: NYS Forum
Earlier this week, the Albany Times Union, the Democrat & ChronicleLohud, and WAMC reported that Robert Freeman, long-time director of the Committee on Open Government and hero to many Hudsonians, had been fired on Monday after a reporter filed an official complaint accusing him of sexual harassment. The charges against Freeman are detailed in a letter from New York State Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro to Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. That letter can be found here. Since Monday, other women have come forward with allegations against Freeman of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Wondering Again

I got a lot of grief for wondering, a couple of months ago, how the sculpture exhibited at the train station was chosen. Incorrigible, I am wondering again, this time about a different kind of public display: the "landscaping" at the entrance to Cedar Park Cemetery.

Once upon a time, this bed was filled with yucca plants, surrounding a boulder, which seems to be a ubiquitous element in municipal landscape design. The yucca plants gave way, in recent years, to a sad array of annuals. Yesterday, there was this: what appear to be pieces of salvaged ceramic sewer pipe fashioned into planters and arranged on a bed of gravel. I persist in asking the question: Who makes these decisions? 

Friday, June 28, 2019

A Guest Essay to Commemorate the Day

Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, Gossips shares this essay by author, scholar, former Hudsonian, and valued friend, Byrne Fone.

My Stonewall
Byrne Fone

July 3, 1969 (Lucian Truscott in The Village Voice)
Sheridan Square this weekend looked like something from a William Burroughs novel as the sudden specter of "gay power" erected its brazen head and spat out a fairy tale the likes of which the area has never seen.

In the summer of 1969 we--my "friend," as we said, and I--went to our house on Fire Island and stayed till September, thus avoiding New York City, which I thought I didn't like. And so, in gay Cherry Grove, we remained untouched by the gay and celebratory summers in the city. Our house was called "Pride House," built in 1936, the year of my birth, but its builder, though gay, was a Janeite, not a revolutionary.

We had been together for several years in 1969 and lived in Brooklyn. We had gotten involved somehow in real estate, a pastime in which many gay couples were dabbling, so many in fact that a friend called that speculation "fairies' baseball." We called each other fairies then, without rancor but wryly. Our first house in Brooklyn was a wood frame wreck which I fondly called Greek Revival and into which I poured money, much more than I had. It was on the fringes of respectability. Other houses we eventually acquired were scattered precariously on the edge not only of social but of financial respectability as well. We owned Park Place and Baltic Street; neither were jewels in our crown.

If not at Cherry Grove, we stayed in Brooklyn, from which vantage Manhattan seemed a distant island. Though ten minutes from Wall Street, as the ads liked to say, we were a thousand years from New York City life. We went there now and again to the opera or a show, but we might as well have lived in Staten Island. Together, now and again, we would go into the Village to spend a Saturday afternoon of too many martinis at a friend's dark little apartment five flights above Bleecker Street. He was one of our two Manhattan friends. The other lived on 71st Street. His apartment was just as dark and with as many martinis.

Our life together was domestic, debt-ridden, and perhaps a bit desperate. We played the couples game, with lots of cats, dogs, and some discreet cheating on the side. In conjugally focused 1969, I felt quite old. I was 33.

I felt that I had always been gay, since the beginning of time. Indeed, it seemed to me that men were the natural object of affection, as had been Skipper, who lived across the street from my parents' house in our little downstate town. He was twelve, and I a precocious five or six. I adored him. He used to come over when my parents were away, and we would play--amorously--in an upstairs bedroom. I had no word for it, of course, but I knew what I wanted.

Willing boys were available in grade school, though it was more curious fumbling than fulfillment. And they were there in high school, too. College was no different. At the southern university where I took an M.A., I found myself in the midst of a veritable fraternity of fellow scholars who described themselves as elegant queens and other competing sexual royalty as bitchy ones. By the time I went to New York in 1960 to enter NYU to achieve a Ph.D. in English, I discovered a gay life more glittering and quite beyond what I had thus far known.

Being "single" I hit the bars, which were then a bit secretive and vaguely illegal and generally, as we so inelegantly said, "piss-elegant," and always campy, bitchy, and fun. In New York, I met a number of men, and some stayed on, most for a night, some for a few weeks, some months, some a couple of years. And in New York, I entered into my first long relationship.

My public "gay life" was reasonably un-deceptive. It was just there--no spectable, no triumph, no pain or recrimination. I had no doubt and felt no guilt. I was "out" to everyone who knew, though more by default than declaration. I denied nothing but asserted nothing. After I was hired at City College, I was aware of a distinct though not universal chill of homophobia, yet I brought no fake dates to faculty parties.

We had by then bought a small handful of decaying houses, and one of them, next to us, we sold to three young men. They were gay and lived, the three of them, in a semi-Irish-Italian homosexual menage. They redid the house meticulously: sharp-edged and clean, and turned it into a manicured showplace, solid middle class, gay around the edges.

I envied them. I envied them the solidity, the order, the total neatness of their life. I envied their freedom from debt, their freedom from spontaneity, their freedom from disturbing thoughts. All out of character, one of them was involved in something called GAA, and in our talks over the back fence, he told me about the movement, and the boys. The boys attracted me, and one night I went with him to a meeting. The radical rhetoric and the argumentative liberalism was fiery, if sometimes incoherent and undirected. But I listened, and since my politics were and are left-liberal, I more or less approved. But they were all so young, and so the meeting left me feeling ill at ease, envious, old, and, most of all, left out.

I did not go back to that meeting. But then appeared another group called GLF, even more radical than GAA, who had somehow heard that we had an empty building for rent. In a gesture to support their radical sympathies, I rented it to the Nice Gay Boys, as I liked to call them. They paid their rent more or less on time. None of them was cute, and so I did not attend their meetings, but let them be, and they did the same with me. Thus I did not realize it, but they were contributing to the creation of the Gay Movement of the early sixties.

And so, while gay history was being made in my building a block away, the stirrings of the gay revolution of the sixties passed me by. Instead I collected my rents, fixed my decaying houses, kept up some pretense to scholarship, taught my students, and went to Cherry Grove in the summer, ignoring the slowly widening fissures in my "married" life.

June 1969 (A Homophile Youth Movement flyer)
The nights of Friday, June 27, 1969, and Saturday, June 28, 1969, will go down in history as the first time that thousands of Homosexual men and women went out into the streets to protest the intolerable situation which has existed for years in New York City--namely, the Mafia (or syndicate) control of this city's Gay bars in collusion with certain elements in the Police Department.

Riots on Christopher Street?

When I heard about the riots in front of a bar called Stonewall, to which I'd never been, I did not immediately mark the event as significant--to me. How seldom history really means what we thought it did when we are living it. And so, for me, that long significant weekend passed when gay people were not rioting to protest the Mafia at all.

June 1969 (Howard Smith, The Village Voice)
"Pigs. Faggot. Cops!" Pennies and dimes flew. I stood against the door. A bottle. Another bottle. "Let's get inside. It's safer." We bolt the heavy door. We hear the shattering of windows, followed by what we imagine to be bricks pounding on the door, voices yelling.

When I heard about those riots, it seemed to be news from another world. But as I heard more, I began to be fascinated by the event; I read whatever news I could find and asked friends if they had been there. I visited my Nice Gay Boys from GLF. They set me on the right course. And there it all was.

1969 Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square 
(Lucian Truscott, The Village Voice)
As the patrons trapped inside [the Stonewall] were released one by one, a crowd started to gather on the street. . . . Suddenly the paddy wagon arrived and the mood of the crowd changed. Three of the more blatant queens--in full drag--were loaded inside . . . a cry went up to push the paddy wagon over . . . the next person to come out was a dyke, and she put up a struggle. . . . It was at that moment that the scene became explosive. Limp wrists were forgotten. . . .

I was not at Stonewall when it happened. I threw no stones, chanted no chants. But I could not let Stonewall pass. It would not let me pass. In those days after Stonewall, the seeds of a new awareness were planted and began to flourish, an awareness that would grow full and rich and even militant. And so I proudly marched on June 28, 1970, from Sheridan Square up Sixth Avenue to Central Park in the first Gay Pride Parade ever held in the world, marching, I have to tell you, almost in tears, and with friends as moved as I.

I am American born. My mother from a Pennsylvania farming family that immigrated to what was not yet American nearly three hundred years ago. I am a British citizen, too, that status derived because my father came from England to America to find hope and livelihood. I am also French, in spirit and by approved residency, for I have lived here permanently for a decade, and we have been coming here for forty years.

And because of Stonewall, I have another heritage as ancient and honorable as any my forebears could offer. Indeed, far older, beyond church and state, embracing all nations and creeds; more intimate; deeper in the blood than family name or family pride. Mine.

Because of Stonewall, as a writer, I seek out the history of gay men and women whose lives and acts were long unchronicled, unsung, unknown, and whose days and works are found among all peoples and span all times. In my first book, I called what I sought a "hidden heritage." Over these fifty years, to honor those who fought back at Stonewall, I have continued to chronicle--in novels and in scholarship--that heritage, so as to assure that it is hidden no more.

1970 (Leo Skir in Mademoiselle on the Stonewall riots)
This time, our time had come. We took to the streets . . . and we're not going back to the closet, the back of the bus. . . . Ready or not, baby, here we come! We're freakin' on in.

It is now fifty years since Stonewall. I met Alain in 1977. We have passed through many houses, and now France is home. After thirty American years, living in New York City, and then upstate in Pine Plains, then Chatham, then Hudson, teaching at City College for me and for Alain presiding over his gallery in Hudson, Alain Pioton Antiques, which he opened in 1985, we left Hudson in 2008 and came to live permanently in our house in France. We have a B&B to which guests from many nations come--gay and non-gay--and Americans, too.

Before America did, we were married here when France allowed it. We met when I was young. He younger. On Fire Island, I asked him to dance beneath the glitter ball while Grace Jones sang "I Need a Man." We have been dancing ever since.

After Stonewall, the watchword and the goal was Gay Liberation. Liberated? Yes, liberated. I embrace the world. It is not a cliché. Because of Stonewall, surely one of the most important events in the radical alteration of political and sexual consciousness in American history, LGBTQ+ women and men can seize the day and be who they are, if they are willing to do so. Some still, perhaps, are not yet ready. But the Good News from Stonewall is there, always. It is not fake news. No one--no president, no church, no court, no congress, no hoodlum, no bigot--can censor it now.

It was a long road, and a good one, into my kingdom at last, a road illuminated by that incandescent moment--a riot in front of a bar in Greenwich Village--when everything, simply everything, changed.

1969 (Howard Smith, The Village Voice)
The door is smashed open again. More objects thrown in. . . . By now the mind's eye has forgotten the character of the mob; the sound filtering in doesn't suggest dancing faggots anymore. It sounds like a powerful rage bent on vendetta. It has lasted forty-five minutes.

Byrne Fone is Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature at the City College of the City University of New York and Visiting Professor of Language and Literature at the University of Paris in 1990. He is the author of several scholarly books, among them The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, A Road to Stonewall: Homosexuality in British and American Literature, Masculine Landscapes: Walt Whitman and the Homoerotic Text, and Hidden Heritage: History and the Gay Imagination. Among his novels is Utopia Falls, a mystery novel set in a small upstate town not unlike Hudson. His book about that city is Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait.  

Alain Pioton, born in Bordeaux, founded the Hudson Antiques Center, a multi-dealer shop in Hudson, in 1985, the first antiques gallery in that city. In 1992, he began importing antiques from France for his own gallery, Alain Pioton Antiques. He closed the gallery in 2008. Returning to France, he opened the bed and breakfast Le Domaine de La Millasserie. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hudson and CDBG 2019

This afternoon at 5:00 p.m., there was a public hearing on Hudson's applications this year in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. In the past, this public hearing was conducted by Sheena Salvino, executive director of the Hudson Development Corporation, and representatives from TGW Consulting, the firm the City and HDC retained for the purpose of securing grant funding. Today, Council president Tom DePietro informed those who showed up for the hearing--aldermen Rob Bujan (First Ward), Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward), Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), and Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) and the only member of the public, Gossips--that the previous practice had been in error. The Common Council was to conduct the public hearing. And so, with no more information than what was available on the city website, the public hearing began. 

Early on, essentially in conversation among members of the Council, it was revealed that the City was applying for funding for two things: an infrastructure project that would continue the effort to separate storm water runoff from the sanitary sewer and a five-year facility plan for the Youth Department. 

When Nick Zachos arrived to talk more about the application for the Youth Department, it was revealed that there were three CDBG categories--Infrastructure, Facilities, Planning--and Planning was the category for which there were the fewest applications. Given that information, I--the only member of the public present for the public hearing--suggested that the City should apply for funding to create a master plan for the restoration of the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park, that would envision the goal of restoration and phase how the goal would be achieved. That, I argued, would benefit low- and moderate-income residents of Hudson (the goal of CDBG), as well as every other resident of Hudson and visitors to our city.

The suggestion got a favorable response and the assurance that it will be taken up at the next Public Works and Parks Committee meeting, which happens on July 17. The applications are due eleven days later, on July 28.

Who Wants Financial Support?

The Common Council Finance Committee meets at a special time this is afternoon at 5:30 p.m. The principal business of the meeting will be deciding how to divvy up the $20,000 from the Tourism Board's budget among the organizations seeking financial support for events from the City. The following ten groups have submitted applications for some part of the $20,000:
  • Friends of Hudson Youth
  • Flag Day
  • Bindlestiff Cirkus After School Program
  • Halloween Parade
  • Open Studio Hudson 2019
  • Friends of Oakdale Lake--Salsa in the Sand
  • Basilica Hudson--Triptych
  • The Hudson Eye
  • Bangladeshi-American Community Festival
  • Hudson Hall--Winter Walk
During the Tourism Board's many discussions about giving back $20,000 of the lodging tax revenue earmarked for supporting tourism to continue the traditional of having $20,000 in City funds available to community events, it was always questioned if the events that typically received support from the City brought visitors to Hudson. It will be interesting to see if a program or event's potential to bring visitors to the city will factor into the Finance Committee's decision making.

Of Interest

This morning, Roger Hannigan Gilson published an analysis of the new legislation pertaining to rent stabilization and other protections for renters on his blog The Other Hudson Valley: "Rent Stabilization is Coming Upstate. Will It Matter?" The short answer for Hudson, according to Gilson: "Much of the new law would not affect Hudson."

Photo: Roger Hannigan Gilson

What Fresh Hell Is This?

The Historic Preservation Commission has reviewed plans for 260 Warren Street many times in the more than fifteen years that one Galvan entity or another has owned the building. Finally, at the beginning of this year, armed with a historic picture of the building found in the Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection at the Columbia County Historical Society, the HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness that involved replicating the original French doors on the ground floor. (The doors that had been removed years earlier, and the HPC was assured they were being stored and preserved, but, of course, when it came time to restore them and put them back in place, no one in the Galvan organization knew their whereabouts.)   

In one of the early appearances of this project before the HPC, probably as long ago as 2004, the late Kevin Walker, who then represented the Galvan organization, proposed replacing the original marble piers, lintels, and sills with new marble, explaining, "The owner [Eric Galloway] doesn't like old things." Needless to say, the HPC did not approve trashing the historic marble facade in favor of installing new marble, but the owner's distaste for anything old and authentic seems to have triumphed in the end. Yesterday, the marble was painted.

The HPC does not opine on paint color. That was a big issue at the beginning, to reassure people who were afraid that a preservation ordinance would inhibit their freedom of choice when it came to painting their buildings. The HPC should, however, intervene when it comes to painting brick or stone that has never been painted before and removing paint from masonry that has previously been painted. Both actions can cause long-term damage to structural materials. Although the need for HPC review in such situations has been discussed many times among members of the commission, it has never been memorialized in the city's preservation law, Chapter 169 of the city code.

Those of us distressed by the paint on the marble may find some solace in knowing that the marble medallions and pilasters at 116 Warren Street, our rare example of Adam style architecture, were once covered in paint, as shown in the picture below.

Photo: Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection|CCHS
Of course, that probably happened a hundred years ago. Today, we should know better.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Another Incorrigible Girl

Last week, Jonathan Lerner posted on Facebook the link to the 2018 video Incorrigibles by Alison Cornyn. 

The video is based on a box of records from the New York State Girls Training School discovered by Lisa Durfee at a yard sale several years ago, although Durfee is never acknowledged in the video. The number of reactions to the post indicates the abiding interest of Hudsonians, particularly those of us who settled here after the institution closed in the 1970s, in the Girls Training School. 

Today, on the front page of the Columbia Republican for June 24, 1919, I stumbled upon this account of a girl who had escaped from the Girls Training School a hundred years ago and, three days after her escape, was still on the lam.

Curious, I tried to find out if Josephine Kolp was ever apprehended and if anyone had collected that $10 reward, but all I could find was this article from the White Plains Daily Argus for May 27, 1919, explaining the circumstances that apparently landed Kolp back at the Training School.


Inching Toward a Goal

The board of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) met yesterday, while many of us were focused on the election. At the meeting, the board elected a new member: Kristen Keck, part owner of Wm. Farmer and Sons. Keck replaces John Gilstrap, who recently resigned. Gilstrap had been president of the board. He resigned as president in November 2018 but remained on the board. 

At the meeting, the board also discussed, primarily in executive session, the acquisition of a half acre of land adjacent to South Front Street from CSX. Amanda Purcell reports on the meeting today on HudsonValley360: "2 hurdles remain on deal for CSX land."

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Democratic Primary

Looking for election results? Click here.

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.