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.



  1. This is Gary Sheffer

    The old adage “when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” applies to the Hudson City School District's misdirection on the athletic fields at Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School. The district's Sept. 20 statement fuzzes up the facts.

    • The district decided last year, not September 2019, to build a new baseball field at MCSES after talking with a few people it calls the "baseball community." The first drawing for the new field is dated January 2019. Construction stakes went into the ground in June. Then the project stopped when my brother, Ken, and I raised questions. This pause was only to reconsider the field size and fence height.

    • There was no public outreach on the project, something the district admitted in meetings we attended. Despite this, the district repeatedly claims "extensive public outreach." There is no record of any public discussions or board vote prior to my brother and I getting involved.

    • The claim of $160,000 in savings by building the field at MCSES instead of the high school is fanciful. For example, the district's MCSES budget estimate excludes items like the significant cost of building a new, engineered bleacher platfrom behind home plate. This kind of selective budgeting is called "talking point" savings.

    • No baseball official or expert recommends a field this small for high school baseball. State officials are unhappy about the field size but told the district it would not mandate a larger field. Even with the newly discovered nine feet from home plate to centerfield, it's really not even close. The center field distance and the dimensions for foul territory are similar to fields recommended for 13- and 14-year-olds, not varsity baseball teams.

    • Finally, there's this breathtaking statement: "We take a great deal of pride to be the home of a ball field whose property has been recognized for its historic importance." The district has done nothing to protect or recognize this field. It had nothing to do with this summer’s designation of the field as historic (facts were presented to the state, which made the designation). The historic baseball bleachers are being demolished because the district let them fall into disrepair. It will get worse. Take a look for yourself as the project proceeds and two large pre-fab dugouts are placed on the running track and six-, 10-, and 14-foot-high fences covered in fabric are erected on or next to the track.

  2. Did you really expect honesty? The past 15 years has been anything but honest by HCSD. The incompetence at leadership levels has cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mainly becaause their decisions are based on what they "want" to do, not what they "should" do. The song remains the same.