Saturday, August 31, 2019

Sad News

Photo: Facebook
WAMC announced this morning that Judy Grunberg has died. Grunberg, a long-time member of the WAMC Board of Directors, was the owner of the Blue Plate restaurant in Chatham and founder of PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century. Many of us in Hudson know her as a strong ally in the battle against St. Lawrence Cement (1998-2005), serving as a member of the board of Friends of Hudson. She is known and admired throughout the region for her support of arts and culture, as well as environmental causes.

Eyes on IDAs

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that requires industrial development agencies (IDAs) "to live stream in real-time and post video recordings of all open meetings and public hearings." The video recordings must be posted online within five business days of the meeting or hearing and remain available for at least five years.

Commenting on the legislation, Cuomo said, "Industrial development agencies are tasked with revitalizing communities and fostering economic growth at the local level, but most New Yorkers don't have time to attend meetings and participate in the process. This new measure will help foster civic engagement and get more residents involved in the meetings and hearings that will ultimately have a huge impact on the future of their communities."

The Hudson IDA apparently was very active in the Urban Renewal era, granting PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) not only to industrial projects (L&B Furniture being one example) but also to housing projects (for example, Hudson Terrace), but it hasn't done very much in the past thirty or so years. In the mid-1990s, the IDA gave a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to what was then Hudson City Savings Institution for its new building at the corner of State and Green streets, known as One City Centre. That PILOT was over in ten years' time. In 2009, the IDA granted a PILOT to Evergreen Partners for the redevelopment of Hudson Terrace. That PILOT, initiated in 2010, is ongoing. In 2018, the full property tax on the apartment complex would have been $228,248. What was actually paid was about 73 percent of that amount: $167,404.

In 2015, the NYS Authorities Budget Office recommended that, because of its lack of activity, the Hudson IDA be absorbed by the Columbia County IDA. Mike Tucker, the president and CEO of Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), advised against it, urging that it was "important from a public policy standpoint that the city IDA stay in business, and the city and county IDAs work together." He also recommended that the city IDA "get back in the business of financing projects on their own."  

In 2016, the city and county IDAs worked together to structure a ten-year PILOT for The Wick Hotel. During the course of ten years, The Wick pays a graduated amount of property taxes, which began with $20,000 in the first year and is increasing by regular increments until it reaches $100,000 in the tenth and final year. Since 2016, there have been no new PILOTs.

When the PILOT for The Wick was being discussed, Hudson IDA meetings were well attended. Since then, Gossips is usually the only member of the public present. The IDA board is made up exclusively of people who serve ex officio: the mayor (Rick Rector), the Common Council majority and minority leaders (Tiffany Garriga and Dominic Merante respectively), the city treasurer (Heather Campbell), the city assessor (Justin Maxwell), and the chair of the Planning Board (Walter Chatham). There is also a slot for someone representing the Hudson City School District, but no one from HCSD has wanted to serve on the IDA. For more than a year, the IDA has been seeking a qualified community member to fill the vacant position, but it remains unfilled. 

The Hudson IDA meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 1:00 p.m. at 1 North Front Street. The August meeting of the IDA was canceled; the September meeting is scheduled for September 10. In future, it seems we can look forward to watching videos of the meetings.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Future of Hudson

If you missed Chip Bohl and Matthew Frederick talking about "New Architecture, Preservation and Parks" on Tuesday, you can now watch the presentation now on YouTube by clicking here

Speak for Yourself

Screen capture: Dan Udell
The August meeting of the Livingston Planning Board, which was a continuation of the public hearing on the Global Partners proposal to build a huge 24-hour gas station and convenience store/cafe at the intersection near Bell's Pond, opened with David Fingar, chair of CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), reading a letter purported to be from the entire CEDC Board of Directors, expressing support for the project and urging the Planning Board to grant its approval. Fingar's presentation of the letter can be seen in Dan Udell's video of the hearing, beginning at 1:33.

The watchdog group Livingston Concerned Citizens (LCC)  has since learned that the CEDC Board never discussed Fingar's action in advance and did not authorize him to speak on its behalf. A press release from LCC reads in part:
Mr. Fingar's maverick letter misrepresented an opinion as coming from CEDC when in fact neither the letter nor the GP [Global Partners] proposal was on the CEDC agenda nor discussed at its regular meeting. No vote of the entire board was ever taken. . . .
LCC wants to know why and how Mr. Fingar's letter was written and by whose authority it was sanctioned to be read at the LPB [Livingston Planning Board] meeting. The letter irresponsibly gave CEDC's considerable support to the GP project in ignorance of the environmental impacts and before any regulatory agencies had been given an opportunity to weigh in on the GP proposal. The proper thing for CEDC to do would have been to advocate for a full SEQR Project Review.
LCC is concerned that CEDC, whose purpose is to "facilitate positive economic growth for Columbia County," would allow one of its members to interfere in the orderly deliberation of Livington's Planning Board. While it is legitimate for Mr. Fingar to express a personal opinion, it is improper for him to single-handedly misrepresent CEDC's support of the GP project, particularly when it has not yet been certified. The impact of the reading of this disingenuous letter by Mr. Fingar on the LPB and the public cannot be underestimated. Is it evidence of back room dealing or of a conflict of interest? Was CEDC's support given to the GP proposal in order to influence the LPB or undermine its deliberations? 
Commenting on the situation, Mike Tucker, president and CEO of CEDC, is reported in the press release to have said, "From time to time, it has been CEDC's practice to provide letters of support focused on economic factors, consistent with CEDC's mission, without specific Board approval. I have now been now been directed by CEDC's Governance and Nominating Committee to review CEDC's processes relating to such letters of support and to report to the Board at its September meeting with any suggestions for process changes."

Commenting on Tucker's statement, the press release continues: "LCC calls on Mr. Tucker and the CEDC Board to investigate the ethical quandary raised by the unauthorized reading of Mr. Fingar's letter, to formally retract the letter in writing to the LPB and to repudiate his action to the CEDC membership."

Thursday, August 29, 2019

About Those 4.4 Acres

This afternoon, HudsonValley360 published an article about the 4.4 waterfront acres believed to be the property of the City of Hudson: "City owns land, group says."

There is little information in the article that hasn't already been reported on Gossips, except for these comments from Mayor Rick Rector: "Our city attorney is evaluating all documents and other related materials as to our ownership of the 4.4 acres on our beloved Hudson River south of the Colarusso dock. Additionally, Amtrak is an involved party in this undertaking. We simply want to make sure the city's ownership of the property is backed up with all the necessary arsenal of information and facts including potential title search that has been approved but not yet begun. Why this was not done six years ago is beyond me . . . however, this seems like a good time that this issue be finally resolved."

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Car Chargers Are Coming

Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Economic Development Committee, announced today that the City of Hudson has received pre-approval from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) for a $24,000 grant reimbursement for three electric vehicle charging stations to be installed in the municipal parking lot behind City Hall.  

The ports will be listed on EV Car Charging Station phone apps to help drivers locate them. The revenue from the charging fee--$1.75 an hour--will be added to the City's general fund. 

For more information about the project, click here.

DRI Update

The DRI Committee met yesterday, and information was shared about all of the City's four DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) projects: (1) Promenade Hill; (2) BRIDGE District Connectivity; (3) Fishing Village--a.k.a. "the Shacks"; (4) Dunn warehouse.

For the first project, Promenade Hill, the firm that will oversee the restoration of the historic promenade and the redesign of the entrance plaza has been chosen. It is Starr Whitehouse, the firm that, in its presentation to the committee, talked about "sensitivity to place" and respecting the "original design intent" and, rather than talking about Promenade Hill as an underutilized space, acknowledged that people went to Promenade Hill just to watch the sunset.

Photo: David Voorhees
At the meeting yesterday, the committee also opened the submissions received in response to its second RFP--for the "Connectivity Project," which combines Complete Streets improvements in the BRIDGE District with streetscape enhancements on Cross Street and replacing the Second Street stairs. Nine proposals were received, from the following firms:
  1. Arterial
  2. NV5
  3. Weintraub Diaz
  4. Nelligan White Architects
  5. Tighe & Bond
  6. Barton & Loguidice
  7. Alta Planning + Design
  8. South Col Engineering 
  9. MJ Engineering and Land Surveying
The committee--Rick Rector (mayor), Tom DePietro (Council president), Heather Campbell (treasurer), Andy Howard (city attorney), Rob Perry (DPW superintendent), Walter Chatham (Planning Board chair)--will do its initial evaluation and identify the top three firms by September 10. Those three firms will be invited to make presentations to the committee on September 24. It has not yet been decided if the public will be permitted to sit in on those presentations.

At the next DRI Committee meeting, on September 10, it will be determined, based on the evaluations, which of the nine firms made the cut. The committee will also be talking about the remaining two projects--the Shacks and the Dunn warehouse--with representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office. Who will be coming from SHPO is not clear. It may be Bill Krattinger; it may be Weston Davey; it may be both or someone else altogether. The conversation about the two projects is likely to involve site visits--at least one to the Shacks, once known as the Furgary Boat Club.

On the topic of the Dunn warehouse, it has been determined that Empire State Development wants DRI funds used to leverage private investment, so the $1 million in DRI money designated for the Dunn warehouse cannot be used unless the City partners with a private developer. It has finally been determined, however, that the $500,000 Restore New York grant, awarded to the City for the Dunn warehouse in January 2018, can be used to stabilize the building. Warning that the building may not make it through another winter, Rector said emphatically, "Let's get it fixed first with the half million."

Good News for Aldi Fans

Last night, the Greenport Planning Board approved the plan submitted by Greenport Land Partners (TRG) for a "new retail development" at Fairview Avenue and Healy Boulevard. Aldi will be the anchor store, and a new McDonald's the centerpiece. Two more stores, whose uses are still unknown, are also part of the plan. 

After the public hearing on the proposal was closed, acting town attorney Ken Dow read the lengthy resolution, which, among another things acknowledged that the project entailed the demolition of the Farrand House, once known as "The Pines," which the State Historic Preservation Office has determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

When a roll call vote was taken, only one member of the five-member Planning Board voted against approving the project. That lone dissenter was Peter Tenerowicz, who read a statement that detailed how the project would have significant negative impacts on the neighborhood, having to do with traffic, noise, light pollution, density of use, which could not be mitigated. The other four members of the board--Sandy Kipp, Michael Grisham, Ed Stiffler, and Robert MacGiffert--voted to approve the project, each acknowledging that it was not an ideal location but justifying their action by saying the town's comprehensive plan identified the "Route 9 corridor" as the place for retail development, congratulating themselves for doing a thorough review, and thanking the applicant for being cooperative. MacGiffert concluded, "The board should be proud of the way we all worked hard to make it as good as it could be."

Meanwhile, across the street in Fairview Plaza, owned by TRG, the developer for this new project, KD Hallmark is closing, and there seem to be more empty stores there than there are occupied stores. One of those stores, of course, is a former supermarket.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

O Canada

Gossips recently had occasion to mention the "amazing, glowing articles" about Hudson that have appeared in the New York Times over the past couple of decades. This past weekend, Hudson was mentioned in yet another such article. This one, however, because the dollar is now strong, was about travel in Canada: "Attention, Budget-Watchers: 4 Canadian Alternatives to U.S Hot Spots." 

Photo: Eugen Sakhnenko for the New York Times
One of the four U.S. hot spots for which Canadian alternatives are suggested is our own dear Hudson: "If you like Hudson, N.Y., try Prince Edward County, Ontario."

Gratitude to Martha Lane for bringing this to our attention


Monday, August 26, 2019

Branding Hudson

In the world of marketing and advertising, branding seems to have a larger meaning that involves such complex and nuanced concepts as perception, recognition, and image, but discussions of branding in Hudson tend to reduce the term to two things--a logo and a slogan. The idea of branding Hudson is frightening to those who believe that the phenomenon of Hudson defies easy definition and cannot be adequately communicated in a logo and a slogan.

Screen capture: Dan Udell
Unschooled in the subtleties of the industry, I tend to think of branding and marketing as two different things--related, yes, but different. Marketing being general; branding more specific. Apparently, that is not true. If you watch Dan Udell's partial coverage of the "Hudson Tourism Branding Brainstorm!" event that took place last Friday, you will hear Chris McManus, at about 3:35, paraphrase something I said before Udell started recording: "If you don't brand, you're seceding. You're allowing somebody else to brand you." In truth, what I said was something like, "If Hudson doesn't market itself, others will market it for us," making specific reference to the episode of Stay HereNetflix's real estate reality show, which effectively marketed Hudson as a place to invest in a building and see a $72,000 annual return on investment by offering it for short-term rental on Airbnb.

At about 3:52 in the video, Jeff Starr expresses something that many of us have thought. He starts out by saying he believed for years there had been a very subtle tourism board at work, because "the New York Times routinely had amazing, glowing articles about Hudson," and he figured someone had to be planting them. He then concludes: "Don't tamper with it. It's working just fine. You get into this silly tampering, and it ruins the coolness quality." Interestingly, three years ago a Bard senior named Nora Cady analyzed those very articles to demonstrate how they had driven the gentrification of Hudson--gentrification being seen as not a good thing: "Fit to Print: Hudson's Gentrification in the New York Times, 1985-2016."

Screen capture: Dan Udell
Most of the ten people gathered around the table for the "Branding Brainstorm" on Friday seemed to agree that Hudson needed to avoid "jumping the shark" and losing its appeal to visitors. John Kane expressed the opinion that Hudson had already "peaked past the cool factor," saying people used to come from Manhattan, then from Brooklyn, and now they are coming from Long Island and "down the shore." Of course, the ten people who had come out for the brainstorming were a pretty homogeneous lot--white, college educated, somewhere on the spectrum of middle class; the majority were over 50, in some cases by a decade or more, and half of them lived on Worth Avenue. Hardly a representative sampling of Hudson.

The issue of branding Hudson is complicated and contentious. There are those people who fear branding because they don't want Hudson reduced to a logo and a tagline. Then there are those who don't want branding or marketing because they don't want tourism, arguing that tourism, like gentrification, displaces "indigenous" people. It has been suggested that before we can market Hudson to the world we need to come to some consensus about our vision for the future in a new comprehensive plan, although consensus in Hudson always seems elusive.

If we must brand Hudson, maybe we should imitate Austin and Portland (it's not clear which city used it first) and come up with our own version of "Keep Austin/Portland Weird." Since the adjective used most often to describe Hudson in those "amazing, glowing articles" that chronicled and encouraged the city's renaissance is quirky, I propose that this be our slogan: "Keep Hudson Quirky."

Something Else Happening Tomorrow

As if tomorrow weren't already chockablock with meetings, Matthew Frederick just announced that tomorrow at 1 p.m.--right between the HDC Board meeting and the DRI Committee meeting--he and Chip Bohl are holding a meeting at Hudson Hall called "The Future of Hudson: New Architecture, Preservation, Parks." The event is described in this way: "A brief presentation, followed by a discussion on some potential projects for the city."

From the illustration that accompanied the announcement on Facebook, River House (the former Allen Street School) and Basilica Hudson seem to figure large in what is being proposed. 

More information about this event is available here.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

It's a short week, leading up to Labor Day weekend and the unofficial end of summer, but an intense one. Tuesday, in particular, offers almost back-to-back meetings from noon until well after 8 p.m.
  • On Monday, August 26, the Common Council Fire Committee meets at 5:30 p.m., and the Police Committee meets at 6:00 p.m. Both meetings take place at City Hall.
  • On Tuesday, August 27, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meets at noon at 1 North Front Street. No agenda is available for this meeting. Apropos nothing at all, the URL for the HDC website is, but if you search "Hudson First," as Gossips did this evening, what appears at the top of the list is, the website of the First Baptist Church in Hudson, North Carolina.
  • Also on Tuesday, August 27, the DRI Committee meets at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall. A couple of important things may happen at this meeting. First, it may finally be revealed which of the three firms--Grain Collective, OSD, or Starr Whitehouse--has been selected for the restoration/renovation of Promenade Hill. Also, August 27 is the deadline for submitting proposals for the DRI "connectivity project," which combines the Complete Streets improvements with the improvements to Cross Street and the Second Street stairs. It is expected that the proposals will be received and the names of the firms submitting proposals will be revealed.  
  • At 5:30 p.m., on Tuesday, August 27, the Tourism Board meets at 1 North Front Street. This promises to be an interesting meeting, given that the Common Council declined to pass the resolution authorizing entering into a contract with Chandlerthinks, the consultant the Tourism Board had chosen after a year's worth of meetings and research. Many people--both supporters of the Tourism Board and those who think they know a better way--have made known their intention to be present at the meeting.  
  • To wind up the lineup of meetings on Tuesday, August 27, the Greenport Planning Board meets at 7:30 p.m. at Greenport Town Hall. Of interest at this meeting is the continuation of the public hearing on the proposal by Greenport Land Partners (TRG) to create a new retail development at the intersection of Fairview Avenue and Healy Boulevard, the current site of McDonald's. This project involves the demolition of the historic Farrand House, the Gothic Revival house once known as "The Pines."
  • On Wednesday, August 28, the Common Council Legal Committee meets at 6:15 p.m. at City Hall. No agenda is available for the meeting, but it is likely that the committee will continue its work on legislation to regulate short-term rentals. There is also the possibility that the committee will take up the task of amending the law that created the lodging tax to redefine the mission and the powers of the Tourism Board.
  • On Thursday, August 29, we can all prepare for the start of the long Labor Day weekend and the arrival of the Bklyner Bus, which is expected to roll into town at around 10:45 p.m. on Friday, August 30.   

Saturday, August 24, 2019

On the List Again

Since 2015, SMU Data Arts, the National Center for Arts Research, has been publishing its list of the most vibrant arts communities in the country. Initially it was the top 20 most vibrant arts communities, but in 2018, the list grew to 40: 20 large communities; 10 medium communities; 10 small communities.

The process for determining which communities make the list is explained in this way in this year's report, which was released earlier this week:
Rather than base the list on popular vote or on our own opinion about locations, we take an empirical approach to assessing a variety of characteristics that make up a community’s arts vibrancy. . . . [W]e analyze four measures under each of three main rubrics: supply, demand, and public support for arts and culture on a per capita basis. We gauge supply as total arts providers, demand with measures of total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, and public support as state and federal arts funding. We use multiple measures since vibrancy reveals itself in a constellation of ways. 
Hudson made the list for the first time in 2017, taking the No. 5 position in the list of the Top 10 Arts Vibrant Small Communities. For reasons unknown, Hudson didn't make the list in 2018, but in 2019, Hudson is back on the list, as No. 6 in the Top 10 Arts Vibrant Small Communities.

Other small communities in the Northeast on the list are Bennington, VT; Vineyard Haven, MA; Oneonta, NY; and Greenfield Town, MA. Click here to view the entire report. 

Tragedy in Our Midst

Many of us know Tia, Christina Gubler, from the Red Dot or Wm. Farmer and Sons. Many of us also know of the terrible car accident that happened earlier this week and took the life of her young son, Caleb.

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Tia and her family in this heartbreaking time. Click here to offer your support.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Hudson's Historic Education Center

The Chancellor Livingston High School, now known as Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School, was completed in November 1937.

The building is generally acknowledged to be one of Hudson's architectural treasures, but what is little known and often overlooked is that the building was part of a grander design: the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center.

Plans recently made known by the Hudson City School District to develop a new baseball field on the site of what was originally a football field and baseball diamond surrounded by a running track have inspired opposition from those who believe that the playing fields have as much historic significance as the building itself and the entire Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center should be preserved and protected.   

Yesterday, Ken and Gary Sheffer, advocates for the preservation of the historic recreation complex, located a copy of the program from the "Dedication Exercises" for the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center, which took place on October 25, 1937, and today they made that document available online. It includes photographs of the interior of the school building and the campus, details about the construction, a description of the building, the architecture of which it describes as "early Dutch Colonial style," and this information about the designer of the grounds:
For the work of developing this 28-acre tract, the Board selected Dr. Laurie D. Cox, head of the Department of Landscape Engineering, State College of Forestry. Dr. Cox is a recognized leader in Education and Community Planning and has directed the development of some of the most notable community and educational centers in the state. He has been the director and general consultant for state park development in New York and Vermont.
The irregular terrain of the Chancellor Livingston tract presented great difficulties but at the same time gave opportunity for obtaining beauty effects rarely found in recreational centers. Dr. Cox gave direction not only for the construction, but also for the later projects in planting.
The program from the dedication also includes this account of how the WPA project--the building and especially the grounds--affected the lives of people in Hudson during the Great Depression:
The works program under the Works Progress Administration has been the instrument for giving work to millions of the unemployed. . . . Illustrating the scope of the work, 3,000,000 were receiving employment under the WPA in February, 1937.
In Hudson, the need for this type of work relief was acute, and, when the city was asked to set up work projects, the Board of Education secured approval of the development of the grounds as one of these projects. During the past four years, the Chancellor Livingston grounds has supplied labor to hundreds of unemployed men, giving them a chance to earn a livelihood in this important public development at no direct expense to the local taxpayers. This construction is one of the show projects of the state. The athletic field, running track, stadia, the lawns, walks and drives, parking areas, grading and planting, fields and tennis courts, irrigation system--all these features of our development are the work of the hands of those citizens, most of whom without it, would have been on public relief.
This enormous park and playground development will stand as a monument to these men and to the wisdom of the Government in setting up an agency for their employment in a time of economic distress.
The current proposal to create a new baseball field on the site is seen by some as showing disrespect for the significance of this historic landscape.

DIY Marketing

Screen capture: Dan Udell
At Tuesday's Common Council meeting, before the vote was rescinded because of a blunder in parliamentary procedure, Chris McManus declared that he was "completely disappointed" that the Council had passed the resolution authorizing the Tourism Board to enter into a contract with Chandlerthinks. He displayed a flyer created for the new grassroots group "Our Hudson Waterfront" as evidence of what "a volunteer group can do with no money."

This afternoon, McManus is pursuing his plan for homegrown marketing by hosting "Hudson Tourism Branding Brainstorm!" The event is described as being:
For people who care about Hudson and how we brand our GREAT City for tourism. For people who want to leverage local talent for this project. For people who believe we deserve better than what's been proposed so far, please join our brainstorm. This is an opportunity to come up with better alternates with local solutions that benefit EVERYONE in Hudson.
The brainstorming begins at 5:30 p.m. today, Friday, August 23, at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Story of Mexican Radio

On Tuesday, Mexican Radio announced on its website that it had closed its Hudson location. The restaurant had in fact been closed since August 11. In the statement that appeared on the website, it was intimated that the restaurant was forced to close as a consequence of the current administration's ruthless and aggressive immigration policies:
. . . Many of those same Culinary Brothers, who worked right beside us for close to 20 years and who were key to helping us launch all 3 Mexican Radio locations, have now been forcibly and violently ejected from this country tearing out the very soul of our kitchen staff, our Familia de Cocina.
So too we have felt firsthand the painful loss of our longstanding Front of House Familia from both locations [New York City and Hudson], many of whom having worked beside us for years if not decades. With their own growing families we've seen them having to upend their lives, scrambling to survive the increasing burdens the hardworking middle class is coping with every single day. The signs of losing them and the growing affliction this has created for our local business community are now visible everywhere. HELP WANTED. There is no end in sight.
Yesterday, the Daily Gazette, the newspaper in Schenectady where the surviving Mexican Radio is located, reported the closing in an article that carried this headline: "Mexican Radio shuts Hudson location, says kitchen staff deported." Last night, WGRB did a story about the closing, which had basically the title: "Hudson Radio closes Hudson location, citing immigration policies."

Update: Yesterday evening, HudsonValley360 posted an article with a similar headline: "Mexican Radio says closing tied to ICE enforcement." The article, however, quotes Khaalid Walls, Northeast regional communications director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as saying, "We've had no enforcement action involved with this business." Channel 10 News did a story on the closing with a similar headline--"Mexican Radio in Hudson shutting down over immigration crackdown"--in which Lori Selden, one of the owners of Mexican Radio, is interviewed and clarifies that immigration is not the only reason for the closing. She also blames the rising cost of living, "where people need two or three jobs, or they have to leave, because they can't afford to live where they're living." 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Last Night at City Hall

Several things of interest happened at the Common Council meeting last night, the best of which has already been reported: the resolution authorizing the creation of a dog park was unanimously approved. But there were things of interest on the agenda as well.

There was a new resolution, which originated in the mayor's office, authorizing a title search on the 4.4 waterfront acres believed to have been illegally alienated by the City in 1981. The question of ownership was raised once again at the Planning Board meeting last week.

When The Valley Alliance announced its discovery in June 2013 that the City may still own the parcel, the City did a title search to test the veracity of the claim. In October 2013, then Common Council president Don Moore announced at a Council meeting that the title search had established that the City did own the land. Unfortunately, the documents from that title search cannot be found, so the City is doing another title search to establish ownership of the parcel.

Another new item on the agenda was a resolution "authorizing the mayor to execute a utility purchase agreement with ELP Greenport Solar"--East Light Partners' community solar project to be located just outside Hudson on Route 9.

When the resolution came before the Council, Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) moved to table it. That was seconded by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward). In a voice vote, the outcome of which Council president Tom DePietro declared to be 6 to 4 in favor, the resolution was tabled. Rosenthal explained he wanted to do "more research into a similar product." When Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward) noted, "We have been looking at this for more than a year," Rosenthal said he wanted to take "one more month to make sure we are doing the best for the city." When Wendy De Wolf of East Light Partners asked permission to speak, DePietro denied it. 

The Council then moved on to the resolution to enter into a contract with Chandlerthinks to develop a strategic marketing plan for the city. DePietro began the discussion by reading the names of twelve people who had submitted written comments, all but one of whom had expressed support for the study. He then reiterated that by law the money designated for use by the Tourism Board cannot be diverted for other purposes. He also noted that the lodging tax has been renewed and enabling legislation has passed, and the Council can now amend the law as it pertains to the Tourism Board and what it is empowered to do.       

Much of the discussion that preceded the vote had to with the choice of consultant: Chandlerthinks. Garriga said she had a "huge concern" about a company "that is in Nashville." She went on to say, "The city has been using very little money, and look at where we are now." She expressed concern about "more tourism to push the community out."

Alderman Rob Bujan (First Ward) asked that Volo, who chairs the Tourism Board, to explain the process that led to the selection of Chandlerthinks. Volo explained that they had contacted other tourism boards in the Hudson Valley seeking recommendations and had sent the RFP to those firms. Steve Chandler of Chandlerthinks, however, had contacted them, after reading this post by Roger Hannigan Gilson on The Other Hudson Valley: "Hudson Seeking 'Branding Consultant.'" The board received about a dozen proposals in response to the RFP, which they narrowed down to four. They heard presentations by each of the four firms, after which they made their choice: Chandlerthinks.

Responding to Garriga's fears about "more tourism," Volo said, "The idea is to fill in the gaps and to have a long-range plan." By filling in the gaps, Volo was referring to attracting visitors to Hudson in the middle of the week not just on the weekends.

Garriga moved to send the resolution back to the Tourism Board. The motion was seconded but never voted on, and the discussion continued. Alderman Kamal Johnson (First Ward) questioned if "this company is right for this city," alleging, "The contract says they are going to tell people how to feel about Hudson." Garriga suggested that Chandlerthinks should make a presentation to the Common Council, implying that the Council had better judgment in the matter than the Tourism Board. DePietro ended the discussion by calling for a vote.

In the roll call vote, which happens in alphabetical order, eight votes had been cast--three in favor (Bujan, Eileen Halloran [Fifth Ward], Dominic Merante [Fifth Ward]) and five against (Garriga, Johnson, Calvin Lewis [Third Ward], Shershah Mizan [Third Ward], Rosenthal--when it came time for Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward) to vote. Sarowar initially said he abstained, but when DePietro questioned his abstention, he finally voted yes. Volo voted yes, and the vote was tied, requiring DePietro to vote to break the tie. After saying that "the law as it was crafted was a huge mistake . . . and not good government," DePietro said, "I'm not thrilled about it, but I feel obliged to vote yes."

It seemed for one brief, shining moment that the resolution had passed, but there's more. Johnson defended Sarowar's right to abstain. Members of the audience accused DePietro of pressuring Sarowar to vote.

When the meeting was opened for public comment, Chris McManus declared he was "completely disappointed the Council would do this [pass the resolution]." He held up a flyer with the "Our Hudson Waterfront" logo on it, saying, "This shows what a volunteer group can do with no money." Describing Chandlerthinks work elsewhere, McManus said, "They came into a town and told them how interesting they are. Are they going to come in and tell us how creative we are?"

Sidney Long quoted the first statement in the Chandlerthinks proposal: "Congratulations! City of Hudson is on its way to creating a destination of distinction." Long asserted, "We're already a destination of distinction," and questioned the wisdom of paying $75,000 "to a company that doesn't bother to Google us and find out how great we are."

Matt McGhee alleged that the vote on the Chandlerthinks resolution had been illegal and violated the Constitution, because Garriga had moved to send the resolution back to the Tourism Board, the motion had been seconded, but there had not been a vote. After seeking an opinion from city attorney Andy Howard, DePietro said, "OK. Let's go back." Garriga moved to rescind the previous vote, and Mizan seconded. The vote was six in favor (Garriga, Johnson, Lewis, Mizan, Rosenthal, Sarowar) and four opposed (Bujan, Halloran, Merante, Volo). Then there was a motion and second to table the resolution. The vote on that motion was the same: six in favor (Garriga, Johnson, Lewis, Mizan, Rosenthal, Sarowar) and four opposed (Bujan, Halloran, Merante, Volo).   

Dan Udell's video of the meeting is now on YouTube and can be viewed by clicking here. Steve Chandler may want to watch the video to see if he really wants to take on the challenge of Hudson. The next meeting of the Tourism Board is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, August 27, at 5:30 p.m. at 1 North Front Street.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

We're Gettin' a Dog Park!

The resolution authorizing the creation of a dog park in Hudson, at North Second and Dock streets, was passed UNANIMOUSLY by the Common Council tonight!

Adios, Mexican Radio

In case you haven't noticed, Mexican Radio is closed. It's final day was August 11. The official announcement of its closing was made today on the Mexican Radio website, and the Register-Star reported the story this afternoon, right around lunchtime: "Mexican Radio, farm-to-table pioneer, closes its doors."

This fall, if I want to enjoy my favorite black bean butternut squash soup, I'll have to travel all the way to Schenectady, where Mexican Radio's newest, biggest, and now only restaurant opened five years ago.

On the Playing Fields of Hudson

Two weeks ago, Gossips posted about the plan to renovate Barrett Field for use as a new baseball field, reporting on the opposition to the plan and HCSD's statement about the plan. Yesterday, Gary Sheffer published a post on his blog Spokesman about the field and its history: "Fencing in History." It is recommended reading.


Media Attention to the Dog Park

In anticipation of the Common Council vote on the resolution later today, the Register-Star has an article about the dog park: "Hudson dog park is a vote away." The article reports that Alderman Dewan Sarowar, who represents the Second Ward, the ward in which the dog park will be located, "has received no negative comments regarding the new proposal for the park." According to the article, Sarowar called it "a good project" and went on to say, "People have been asking for a dog park for a long time, and now it is finally time for it to come true." Amen.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Trucks in the City

At about 6:15 p.m. today, a truck "came barreling down Columbia Turnpike" and struck several power lines before coming to a stop. It should be noted that Columbia Turnpike is not a truck route. The reader who witnessed the incident and alerted Gossips also supplied these pictures.

Photo: Gabriel Garay

Photo: Gabriel Garay
Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat reported that the errant tractor trailer pulled down live wires, which fell across the roadway and onto the top of the truck. The Hudson Fire Department was called, and Columbia Turnpike was closed from Prospect Avenue to Paul Avenue. National Grid arrived to make repairs, and by 8:00 p.m., when Gossips learned of the incident and went to the scene to check things out (and also to give Joey a little walk in the cemetery), everything appeared to have been put right.

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

The weather this week is expected to be hot and humid, with occasional thunderstorms or showers predicted for three of the five weekdays. But on most days there are meetings to keep you indoors where it's dry.
  • Tonight, Monday, August 19, Citizens' Climate Lobby meets here in Hudson at Christ Church Episcopal, 431 Union Street. The meeting is from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Those attending for the first time are encouraged to attend an orientation session at 5:30 p.m. If you are interested in being at the meeting, contact
  • On Tuesday, August 20, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. No agenda for the meeting is available at this time for this meeting, but it is possible that the proposed contract with East Light Partners, to provide community solar to the City of Hudson to power municipal buildings and streetlights, will be discussed. 
  • At 7:00 on Tuesday, August 20, the full Council holds its regular monthly meeting. Resolutions of interest to be voted on at the meeting are the resolution authorizing the creation of a dog park and the resolution authorizing the Tourism Board to proceed with its strategic destination identity study. It is also expected that the Council will vote on entering into a contract with East Light Partners. Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Economic Development Committee and the Tourism Board, has published informational posts about the Tourism Board and its proposed study and the proposed contract with East Light Partners on his blog Fourth Ward Hudson. Gossips has also published posts on these two topics: the proposed Tourism Board study and the community solar proposal   
  • On Wednesday, August 21, the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. Gossips has received word that DPW superintendent Rob Perry will not be present at the meeting to present his monthly report, and committee chair Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) has invited Sarah Sterling, who heads up the Hudson Parks Conservancy, to talk about the group and its goals.
Also on Wednesday, August 21, the Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. Last Tuesday, the Planning Board referred the proposal to develop a self storage facility, described by one Planning Board member as "twenty shacks on a swath of land," at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard, to the ZBA. It is not clear if that proposal will be taken up by the ZBA at this meeting or no
  • On Thursday, August 22, the Hudson Parks Conservancy is hosting a bring-your-own-supper picnic on Promenade Hill. The event, which begins at 7:00 p.m. and ends when the sun sets, replicates a gathering of the Vision Plan Task Force that took place twenty-five years ago and is being described as an opportunity to gather with friends, neighbors, and fellow parks advocates "to talk about this historic public space and plans for its restoration and to enjoy the view and the sunset."
  • On Friday, August 23, the Historic Preservation Commission holds its second meeting of the month at 10:00 a.m. at City Hall.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

What's in a Name?

I always found it sardonically appropriate that T. Eric Galloway, who through his various not-for-profits and LLCs now owns upwards of ninety properties in Hudson and a few more in Greenport, named his most recent LLC "Hudson Collective Realty." I was similarly struck by the irony of the name of the company that has taken over the restoration of this house on South Third Street, at a major gateway to the city, which has been going on now for a very long time: "Perennial Development."


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Prohibition and Hudson

The Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors," was ratified on January 16, 1919. The Volstead Act, which provided for the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment, was passed on October 28, 1919. But even before the Volstead Act was passed, Prohibition was having an impact on Hudson. Last month, Gossips shared reports from the Columbia Republican that indicated C. H. Evans Brewing Company had switched to producing a non-intoxicating beverage called "Checona," while the saloonkeepers of Hudson worried about how they would stay in business.

The editorial page of the Columbia Republican for August 12, 1919, contained two items that addressed Prohibition. The first talks about the mock-tails of the day.

A little research into Prohibition mock-tails suggests that the names created for the drinks--for example, Klondike Fizz, Prohibition Sour, Minnehaha Maid--were often very local in nature. The Minnehaha Maid was invented at a soda foundation somewhere in Minnesota. Given that mock-tails are trending, it would be fun to know the names and recipes for the drinks with the "intricate and 'jazzy'" names being ordered in Hudson a hundred years ago.

The second item on the editorial page of the Columbia Republican for August 12, 1919, comments on the "false hope" that folks might still be legally permitted to make cider and wine in their own homes for their own use.