Monday, September 30, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

Summer is definitely over. The last day of September starts off a week filled with meetings and budget workshops.
  • Today, Monday, September 30, at 3:00 p.m., the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA), made up of the mayor, the Council president, and the city treasurer, begins the ordeal known as the budget workshops. The practice of making these workshops open to the public was initiated last year. Today, the BEA considers the budget for the Police Department. People interested in observing how the decisions are made that affect our city property taxes are encouraged to attend, although the real excitement may not happen until the BEA gets around to considering the budget for the Youth Department. The budget workshops take place in the Council Chamber at City Hall.
  • Also today, Monday, September 30, at 6:00 p.m., the architectural firm of Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson will present their completed feasibility study of the potential adaptive reuse of the John L. Edwards school building as a "civic center" for Hudson. The presentation takes place in the Community Room at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.
  • On Tuesday, October 1, the Conservation Advisory Council meets at 6:00 p.m. in City Hall. At the September CAC meeting, after a heated discussion of the natural resources inventory (NRI) and how the information therein might be published and used (during which Timothy O'Connor declared the NRI to be "crap" and pledged to "devote all of my resources to fighting this document"), trees were the major topic of discussion: applying for an urban forestry grant, adopting a tree ordinance, establishing a tree board, becoming a Tree City USA. Trees are likely to be a topic of discussion at the October meeting as well. 
  • On Wednesday, October 2, the BEA (Board of Estimate and Apportionment) holds another workshop at City Hall. This time, the subject is the budget of the Department of Public Works. The budget workshop begins at 3:00 p.m.
  • Also on Wednesday, October 2, the Common Council Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. and the Housing and Transportation Committee meets at 6:45 p.m. Both meetings take place in City Hall.
  • Just beyond our borders . . . on Wednesday, October 2, the Livingston Planning Board meets at 7:00 p.m. to continue its deliberation about granting a special use permit for the construction of a mega gas station and convenience store at the Bells Pond intersection of Routes 9, 9H, 23, and 82. It is anticipated that the Planning Board will make its decision at this meeting, which takes place at Livingston Town Hall, 119 County Route 19.   
  • On Thursday, October 3, there is a special meeting of the Common Council Economic Development Committee at 6:00 p.m. The purpose of this meeting is to hear presentations from WMR Services LLC and SunCommon about options for sustainable energy they might provide as alternatives to the community solar plan being offered by East Light Partners.  
  • On Friday, October 4, the BEA (Board of Estimate and Apportionment) takes up the budgets of the city clerk's office and the code enforcement office in a workshop that begins at 1:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Neighborhood That Was Simpsonville

Earlier this week, Bob Tomaso alerted me that among the recent scans on were these pictures of Simpsonville, taken in 1959, when some of the houses appear still to be occupied.

The storied neighborhood of Simpsonville was located along Power Avenue. This picture, from the Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection at the Columbia County Historical Society, gives a sense of the location of these houses.

The houses of Simpsonville, which allegedly were never hooked up to the city's sewer system, survived until the 1970s. Before they were razed, they were documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. The photographs below and others can be found at the Library of Congress website

6 Power Avenue

7 Power Avenue

8 Power Avenue

10 Power Avenue

11 Power Avenue

12 Power Avenue

13 Power Avenue

16 Power Avenue

20 Power Avenue

The last of the Simpsonville houses to be demolished was the stone house at 8 Power Avenue, which was demolished sometime in 1985, after efforts by the Kiwanis Club to preserve and restore it failed.

Beyond Warren Street

Much attention is being given to the new building proposed for 211 Warren Street, to be constructed on the site of a very old building, which some believe dated from the early 18th-century, that was demolished last year.

A block north of Warren Street, just outside the historic district, new construction is happening, for better or for worse, with no design oversight. 

This new house is on Prison Alley, at the back of 209-211 Columbia Street.

This building, a two-family duplex whose construction is close to completion, stands at 248-250 Columbia Street. 

The new buildings replaces these two buildings, which were demolished at the end of last year.

The mosque of the Hudson Islamic Center is being built at the corner of Columbia and Third streets.

This building, recently completed, stands at 352 Columbia Street. 

This building is actually not a new building but rather a dramatic transformation of the building that was there.

Interestingly, the very modern looking building stands between two Hudson Homesteads houses, which were built around 2004 by Housing Resources of Columbia County. That project conscientiously undertook to design buildings that mimicked the appearance of other nearby buildings. Compare, for example, 350 Columbia Street with 328 Columbia Street.

What was probably a mid-century "remodeling" at 328 Columbia Street--the brick front on the ground floor topped by a cornice--was imitated in the design of 350 Columbia Street. The redesign of 352 Columbia Street makes no effort re-create the way the building was originally intended to look or to blend with the buildings on either side.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

New Development at the Charles Alger House

This morning, a sign appeared at the Charles Alger House at Allen and Second streets.

Work is ongoing behind the plastic barrier, but so far the project has not come before the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness.

The HPC, the Public, and 211 Warren Street

The Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on Friday morning about the new building proposed for 211 Warren Street. Although some public hearings held by the HPC in the past have been poorly attended, this one was not. The benches at City Hall were filled, and the hearing ran well beyond the thirty minutes that had been allotted for it. Five people expressed support for the design; four people expressed opposition, which ranged from misgivings about a particular element of the design to reprimand and rejection.

After making a presentation about the project, in which they affirmed their "tremendous affection" for the building that had to be demolished, the applicants read a statement from Nick Haddad, who owns the building next door at 217 Warren Street, itself a replacement building constructed in the late 1990s. In the statement, Haddad, who served on the HPC from 2008 to 2012, said he had "absoutely no objection to the design." Asserting "we are not historic Williamsburg," Haddad encouraged what he called "contemporary interpretation of historic architecture."

Chip Bohl, an architect and the owner of 418 Warren Street, acknowledged that the massing and addition of an attic story were appropriate, but focused his comments on the bay, or oriel, which according to the applicants was inspired by the bay, or oriel, on 209 Warren Street.

Bohl said the bay wrapping around the side of the building was an "interesting and dynamic" feature but said it "relies on the parking lot to be successful, and that will not always be the case." He also pointed out that bays, or oriels, typically have windows on all sides, creating an "interface of public and private," whereas the bay proposed only has windows in the front. He urged the applicants to "take another look at the bay" and perhaps create one that was "more delicate, more charming, and more transparent." 

The applicants responded that, because this was to be a passive house, the walls were eighteen inches thick, and it was "logistically impossible" to have windows on the side of the bay.

Joe Ahern, who lives at 244 Warren Street, called it a "pleasing and sophisticated design" that was "entirely respectful of other buildings on the block." He expressed the opinion that "faux Federalism is a disease inflicted on Hudson."

Recounting the recent history of the house, which was acquired by its current owners in 2011, Christabel Gough asserted that the law "forbids allowing a landmark to fall into disrepair" and despaired that we now have is "a hole in the ground and a new building that does little to compensate for the loss." She argued that a passive house did little to solve the problems of climate change and called it "a millionaire's feel-good toy." Calling the proposed bay an "excrescence," she said it had "none of the characteristics of a real bay."

Ronald Kopnicki, relying on HPC minutes and a post on Gossips, recounted the several times proposals for 211 Warren Street have come before the Historic Preservation Commission--in 2015, 2017, and in a workshop session earlier this year. The proposals in 2015 and 2017 both involved retaining the facade of the building and restoring it to the way it appeared in the oldest photograph that had been found of the building, while constructing a new passive house behind it. Kopnicki urged that they return to that plan, arguing that "demolition by neglect should not be an excuse for introducing discordance." 

The image below may not be the oldest photograph of the building, but it is certainly the one, to my knowledge, that shows it most clearly.

Responding to Kopnicki, the applicants asserted, "Once the house was demolished, we cannot go back."

Someone who did not state his name but said he owned property across the street stated, "What was there was no historic gem," and said of the proposed building, "This blends in." 

Mark Orton, who with his wife, Karen Davis, operates an art gallery in the 100 block of Warren Street, said he liked "what they are trying to do," adding that he particularly liked that the new design included retail space because there was not enough street traffic below Third Street.

Michael O'Hara, who lives next door at 209 Warren Street, defended the proposed design, saying that "each of the buildings on Warren Street was fashionable and worked for the era in which it was built." He maintained what was proposed "fits into the context and is not a jarring exception."

Matt McGhee, who called the design "very objectionable" and a "pastiche," read aloud a statement about the cultural significance of the building, copies of which he distributed to the members of the HPC. His statement is a fascinating example of historic preservation "forensics" and a compelling argument for the significance of the building now lost. The statement and the photograph that accompanied it follows.

A ghost on the wall is all that remains of the likely 250 to 300-year-old structure which stood on this site.
I believe it had been altered ca. 1800, some 50 to 80 years after it was first built, with an early Federal front of brick and marble. The east side wall retained cladding of cedar shingles attached with hand-forged "rose" nails. This was covered with wide boards, protecting it for more than 200 years, and is evidence of an earlier building.
The lack of a classic tri-part division of base, middle and attic (the 2nd floor windows are right at the roof line), and the look of the west silhouette also suggest an updated front on an older building.
211 Warren Street may have been one of the two oldest houses in Hudson, the other being the four-square Dutch house with gabled roof on 2nd Street and Montgomery Street. [The Robert Taylor House]
The side yard between the fence and the two-story ell (extension) has been made part of the foundation, and the front door has been moved to the right, changing the rhythm of the door and the window placement.
This needs to be corrected.
Then, this rather English four-bay house with lean-to the back (later changed to a two-story ell), with its side yard and rear yard, can and should be restored to at least its late 19th century condition.
I would add that Peter Stuyvesant was Dutch governor when England laid claim to New Netherlands in 1664. Soon after, what is now Hudson became part of English territory. Given this, a house of English nature could easily have been built in the early 18th century in this part of the Hudson River valley.
Both the cultural and historic significance of this house justify restoration as the just and right thing to do.
Since the building no longer exists, the appeal to restore it is an appeal to re-create it as it was in the earliest photographic documentation of the building.

Detail from c. 1900 post card image
When the public hearing was over and the HPC got around to discussing the project, after dealing with other business before them, Phil Forman, who chairs the HPC, framed the conversation: "It is, at the end of the day, new construction, and there are different paths: differentiate or re-create what was." He noted that "people come to Hudson for many reasons, one of them heritage tourism." He asserted that "Hudson is a living place not a museum" but acknowledged the need for "quality visual experience."

Forman told the other HPC members present--Miranda Barry, Hugh Biber, and Paul Barrett--that Kate Johns, the architect member of the HPC, had a specific objection to the type of brick proposed for the building: gray Roman brick, which is longer and flatter than typical brick. Forman reported that Johns thought it was an "unnecessary disconnect with the brick that tends to predominate in Hudson."

Barrett agreed that the brick was not in harmony with the architecture of Hudson. He was also concerned about the bay, not seeing "how it works visually."

Barry expressed her opinion that "new architecture is preferable because it is not ersatz" but stressed that "mass and proportion need to be consistent." She called a passive building "a hallmark of today" and "a good thing" but conceded that she didn't "love the finish of the building"--the gray Roman brick and the concrete fiber siding. 

Biber said he liked what was being proposed, pronouncing it to be "sensitive to what was there" and reiterating that "Hudson is not a museum."

Only four members of the seven-member HPC were present at Friday's meeting, and to grant a certificate of appropriateness all four would have to vote in support of the action. That did not happen. When the vote was taken, Forman, Barry, and Biber voted in support; Barrett was opposed. It is unclear if there would have been four affirmative votes if the entire commission had been present.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Did Anyone Think About Setback?

A few days ago, someone, in talking about the new Stewart's building, complained that the door on the Fairview Avenue entrance to the building was going to swing out onto the sidewalk. I told her that there was a portico over that entrance, so the door couldn't be swinging out onto the sidewalk. Yesterday, while driving back from the supermarket, I realized what she was talking about.

The building is much closer to the street than any of the other buildings on the block. The other buildings sit back from the street--far enough back to have small front yards--but the portico of the Stewart's building extends right up to the sidewalk and the building itself is set back only a few feet from the sidewalk. This is consistent with what is considered to be urban design--for example, with only a few exceptions, all the buildings on Warren Street extend right up to the sidewalk. Unfortunately, this is not consistent with the neighborhood in which Stewart's is located. 

The Planning Board went through a long and conscientious review of the plans for the new Stewart's which included, among other things, number and species of trees, nature of plantings, material for fencing, brightness of lights, color of parking lot surface, height of the canopy over the gas pumps, position of driveways. Gossips was there for every meeting, and I don't recall the setback from the street and its consistency with the rest of Fairview Avenue ever being considered. It's quite clear now that it should have been.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Following Up

Two weeks ago, Gossips told about the 18th-century Georgian house, known as the Galloway Mansion, that was being moved from Easton, Maryland, to Queenstown, Maryland. The move involved a journey of fifty miles through the Chesapeake Bay. 

Tonight, a reader alerted me to a BBC News video showing the house on a barge being pushed along by a tugboat: "Aerials of historic home being moved by boat." 


A Month Without a Planning Board Meeting

Gossips learned this morning that the Planning Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, October 8, has been canceled. Planning Board chair Walter Chatham explained the reasons. Yom Kippur begins at sunset that day, and the status of the applications now before the board is such that it is possible to take a month off: there is no new information from Colarusso attorney John Privatera; the application for a self-storage facility at Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard is still before the Zoning Board of Appeals; Hudson Development Corporation has until the end of the year to get approval of the proposed subdivision and close on the purchase of the CSX property.  

The next meeting of the Planning Board will take place on Tuesday, November 12.

A Loss for All, Another Challenge for Zoning

Ör Gallery and Tavern is closing---moving to Los Angeles. Its last days are this coming Sunday and Monday.

This is definitely a loss for Hudson. Since it opened in 2015, Ör has been a favorite gathering place and watering hole for locals and visitors alike, especially appreciated because dogs are welcome. Not only will Ör's departure be mourned by its many habitués, it will also present a challenge for the Planning Board and the next tenant seeking to occupy the building. 

The building, which is owned by the Galvan Foundation, was constructed to be a garage. Most recently, it was Harmon's Auto Repair, which it had been for at least a quarter of a century. Before that, another auto repair business occupied the building. But the building's function as a garage became a nonconforming use in 1968, when the City of Hudson adopted its zoning, and the area became an R-4 Residential District. 

The commercial use of the building as an auto repair shop had been grandfathered in, and so the repair shop could change owners without a problem. That conditional use ended when the building was sold in 2013 and then stood vacant for more than a year. When the proprietors of Ör wanted to rent the building and establish there a coffee shop/wine bar cum art gallery, they encountered a problem. Eating and drinking establishments were not a permitted use or even a conditional use in the R-4 district.

Dan Tuczinski, then counsel to the Planning Board, found a way for the project to be approved without getting a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. He advised the applicants to emphasize the art gallery as the primary use, thus making the proposed use consistent with the zoning, because an art gallery was a conditional use allowed in an R-4 district. That done, the site plan was approved, and Ör came to be. But what will happen with the next commercial enterprise wanting to occupy that space? 

The ill-fated Local Law No. 9 of 2017 was meant to address the problems of the buildings that had been constructed for commercial purposes or had a long history of commercial use but were located in areas now zoned residential. Work on that amendment to the zoning code was abandoned in 2018 when the Council took up efforts to amend the code specifically to accommodate Stewart's and Scali's, also nonconforming commercial uses in a residential district. That amendment, known as Local Law No. 5 of 2018, was enacted at the end of 2018, and as a consequence two houses, representing seven dwelling units, have been demolished, a new Stewart's is rising before our eyes, and the word is another house is to be demolished to enable the expansion of Scali's. The problem of 133 South Third Street, the building now occupied by Ör, and two other vacant storefronts on Third Street south of Partition Street, as well as other buildings throughout the city, has yet to be resolved. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hudson's Historic Fields

Gossips has posted several times about the plans to rehab the historic athletic fields behind Montgomery C. Smith--on August 6, August 20, August 23, September 11, September 14, and September 17. Moved by the incredible history of the fields, which were developed and built in the 1930s as the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center, an early WPA project in the darkest days of the Great Depression, Gossips has in each post given attention to the efforts of Ken and Gary Sheffer, who passionately oppose the plans to rehab the baseball field for the Hudson High School varsity baseball team, linking to Ken's website, Save Hudson's Historic Sports Fields, and posts on Gary's blog, Spokesman.

On September 11, the HCSD Board of Education Facilities Committee decided to move ahead with the project, despite opposition from the Sheffers. Last Friday, HCSD released a public statement about the project, which begins:
The District is preparing to move forward with renovation to rehabilitate and modernize the John A. Barrett baseball field located on the grounds of the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCSES). 
The decision to proceed was made at a public Facilities Committee meeting on September 11, 2019. In all our decision making processes, we strive to put our students first while also doing right by taxpayers. This action follows more than a year of conversations and a recent two month pause in site work, during which District leaders met with and listened to community members who favor the project as well as those who oppose the rehabilitation due to the size of the field and its historic status.
We are pleased that the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has elected to designate the historic school and its grounds as eligible for inclusion in the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. It is great news and requires respect for the historic nature of the facility, which we strived to maintain in the current design plan.
The entire statement can be read here.

Work on the field has been moving forward. So far, the bleachers behind home plate, which had been deemed unsafe, have been removed.


Can We Talk About Housing?

The title of this post was the title of the sixth and final discussion in the Future Hudson series this past Saturday. In addition to this discussion, there's been a lot of talk about housing in Hudson lately. A few weeks ago, Congressman Antonio Delgado was here to talk about housing, first, on September 4, at Bliss Towers, and again, on September 7, at the Hudson Area Library, in a youth forum presented in collaboration with Kite's Nest. Last night, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who chairs the Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee, held a meeting for tenants at Bliss Towers. The meeting featured Rebecca Garrard from Citizen Action of New York and focused on the recently enacted Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. Also at the meeting was Jumaane Williams, public advocate for New York City. 

The indefatigable Dan Udell was present to videotape all but one of these events: the youth forum. Here are the links to each one.

Celebrate Our Firefighters

This weekend is the City of Hudson Fire Department's Annual Inspection & Parade. The inspection of the firefighting apparatus and equipment begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 27, at J. W. Hoysradt Hose & Chemical Co., No. 8, at 515 Warren Street, and proceeds to the Central Fire Station at 77 North Seventh Street. Following the inspection, there will be a memorial service at 7:30 p.m. at the Central Fire Station to honor Hudson firefighters who have passed away since last year's Inspection Day.

H. W. Rogers Hose Company, No. 2, in 2009 parade
On Saturday, September 28, the Inspection Day Parade down Warren Street begins at 2:00 p.m.

This year marks the 225th anniversary of the Hudson Fire Department. Hudson's first engine company, later named for John W. Edmonds, was appointed on April 17, 1794. The City's second engine company, named for Harper W. Rogers, was formed on November 10, 1794.  This is also the 164th annual Inspection Day Parade. The very first took place on October 10, 1856. Below is the announcement of the event, which appeared in the Columbia Republican on October 7, 1856.

Not only was there a parade in the morning that began and ended at the courthouse and in between traversed the length and breadth of the city, but there was also a torchlight procession at night, which marched "through the principal streets." 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

News from the Board of Elections

Word has been circulating that Jim Dolan, the controversial figure who has been working for the past few years as the Democratic Election Specialist at the Board of Elections, has left that job. The circumstances surrounding his departure are unknown. On his blog, Sam Pratt reports on the development and reviews Dolan's past history in Hudson: "Dolan disappears from Board of Elections."

Questions Answered

On Sunday, Gossips published these two pictures, found among the new scans at, and identified them based on the captions provided there: "Razing buildings for new Grand Union Warren St. Hudson 1955."
A reader who follows Gossips on Facebook claimed there never was a Grand Union on Warren Street, which prompted further discoveries. Paul Barrett directed Gossips' attention to the photograph below, also from the collection at, which shows the buildings right after they had been damaged by fire in December 1954.

Gossips published the picture on Monday, in a post that included an item from The Knickerbocker News that identified the market where the fire originated as the Grand Union-Sunkist Market. So, there was the Grand Union connection.

In that post, I wondered about the original use of the new building constructed on the site. My musings were answered by another photograph from, this one provided by Bruce Mitchinson, showing the Memorial Day Parade in 1960.
The fire occurred in December 1954. The buildings were demolished sometime in 1955. In 1960, there was a new single story building on the site, with three storefronts that housed Sears, The Boot Shop, and a new Sunkist Market.