Wednesday, October 30, 2019

More Intel from the Legal Committee Meeting

Gossips has already reported on one issue talked about at the Legal Committee meeting last Wednesday: the reaction of landlords to the Statewide Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act. There were a couple of other things of interest that came up at the meeting as well.

The first was a resolution to amend the residency qualifications for the city attorney. In 2017, the residency requirement for police officers was changed from 15 road miles to 20 linear miles in order to enlarge the pool of people who could be hired as Hudson police officers. The proposal now being advanced by the Legal Committee would amend the code to allow the city attorney to live within a 50 mile radius of Hudson, in other words, to enable the appointment as city attorney of someone who lives outside Columbia County. 

Audience member Kristal Heinz, herself an attorney, asked, "Is there a need for that?" Having asked the question, she hastily clarified that she was not interested in the job. In his answer, Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, talked about giving the new mayor freedom in appointing a city attorney. Heinz persisted, "Is there a shortage of attorneys in the city?" Rosenthal replied that they wanted to created a "bigger pool." It's easy to read between the lines and infer that mayor presumptive Kamal Johnson and his team have someone in mind for city attorney who lives somewhere outside Columbia County but within a 50-mile radius of Hudson.

Another resolution considered by the Legal Committee originated in the mayor's office and proposed that the terms of the mayor, Common Council president, and treasurer be increased from two years to four years. The change in term length would be the subject of a referendum in 2020 and, were the referendum successful, would take effect in 2021. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who sits on the Legal Committee, declared she would not support the resolution because it did not include the aldermen. She argued that the aldermen's terms also needed to be four years. As a consequence, it was decided that, before it was forwarded to the entire Council, the resolution would be amended to include the aldermen and the supervisors. 

Bringing Things to a Close

Bob Rasner, who chairs the Board of the Hudson Development Corporation, announced at midday today that the closing on the purchase of the CSX parcel happened successfully this morning.

Steve Dunn, Bob Rasner, and Andy Howard
Rasner expressed to gratitude to Steve Dunn, a member of the HDC Board who serves as its legal counsel, for his "tireless dedication to seeing this through"; Mike Tucker and the CEDC Board, who are financing the purchase; Andy Howard, attorney for CEDC; and Todd Stall of Queen City Abstract "for his research and solution to a last minute glitch." Speaking of the successful acquisition, Rasner said, "We now own the parcel vital to development of our KAZ holding."

The Storied Past of a Roadside Building

Early Tuesday morning, there was a fire at the building on Fairview Avenue in Greenport that houses the St. Mark's Lutheran Food Pantry and was, until Planned Parenthood moved to its new location in Hudson, the staging area for anti-abortion demonstrators. The Greenport Fire Department has deemed the fire "suspicious," and an investigation is ongoing.

The incident is an occasion for recalling some history of the building that Gossips learned from local historian Paul Barrett and shares now with his permission. 

Back in the 1920s and '30s, the building was the Grey Goose Diner, part of a tourist camp run by Enos Hamm. 

According to Atlas Obscura, auto camping was all the rage in the 1920s, and presumably the area to the south of the building, now the site of Hudson Valley Auto Sales and Mobile Locksmith, was where auto campers would pitch their tents beside their cars and stay for the night. (At that time, the site would have been surrounded by farmland, offering some level of experience in nature for city dwellers.)

Photo: Library of Congress
What distinguished the Grey Goose Diner and the Enos Hamm Tourist Camp was an actual grey goose, named Molly, that guarded the tourist camp.

Molly's fame was such that in October 1938 she was featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not. 

 The text accompanying the drawing of Molly reads: 

Hudson, N.Y.

The commentary about Molly reads:
The watch goose "Molly" honks and flaps her wings in terrifying manner until Mrs. Hamm comes and tells her "All right, Molly."
The goose is 19 years old, but still lays a nest of eggs every summer.
In 1938, the tourist camp may well have needed a watch goose. According to Atlas Obscura:
In the 1930s, when more people were traveling to find work than to find leisure, auto camps gained a reputation as places where migrant workers would gather, as opposed to relaxing vacation spots . . . . [B]y the end of the decade, J. Edgar Hoover was excoriating tourist camps as the "new home of crime in America."
Gratitude to Paul M. Barrett and to the Columbia County Historical Society, the source of all but one of the images used in the post

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Read About Both, Meet One Tonight

Today, Sam Pratt published another in his series of posts analyzing the two candidates running for District Attorney in Columbia County: "Czajka vs. Keeler: It's not a close choice (Part 1)." The images of the two candidates below were borrowed from Pratt's blog.

Tonight, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., at Lawrence Park, 260 Warren Street, you can meet Eugene Keeler at a happy hour event hosted by the Hudson City Democratic Committee.  The invitation to the event reads in part: "Learn how you can support our city and county candidates and help flip Columbia County blue. . . . Eugene Keeler will be on hand to talk about his progressive platform to transform Columbia County's criminal justice apparatus." Chief Peter Volkmann of Chatham, who spearheaded the Chatham Cares 4 U Outreach Initiative Program for people struggling with substance abuse, will be present to introduce Keeler at the event. 

Cheese and charcuterie boards will be provided, courtesy of the HCDC, and discounted beer and $5 wine will be available, courtesy of Lawrence Park. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

As we approach Halloween, All Saints' Day, and Election Day, the week ahead is short on meetings. All of them are concentrated in the first two days.
  • Today, Monday, October 28, at 5:00 p.m., the Zoning Board of Appeals is holding a public hearing on an application for a height restriction variance needed to install solar panels on an accessory building in the 300 block of Rope Alley. The ZBA scheduled the special meeting to accommodate the applicant, who needs to have the solar panels installed by the end of the year in order to qualify for a solar tax credit. The public hearing takes place in City Hall.
  • Also on Monday, October 28, 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, October 29, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation meets at noon at 1 North Front Street. HDC is scheduled to close on its purchase of the CSX parcel on October 30, so that might be a topic of discussion. Also, HDC's efforts to bolster its depleted coffers by renting space in the Kaz warehouse for winter boat storage may also be discussed. They may talk about recruiting new board members to replace the two who resigned recently: Mark Morgan-Perez and Walter Chatham. It is always possible that there will be some discussion of how to move forward on the development of the Kaz site.
  • Also on Tuesday, October 29, the Common Council holds a special meeting at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall to discuss and consider the proposed RAD conversion and general renovation of Bliss Towers by the Hudson Housing Authority. 
Also to be considered at the special meeting is a resolution in support of applying for a New York State Anti-Displacement Learning Network grant. The deadline for submitting applications is October 31.
In the guidelines for the grant application, the purpose of the grant is described in the following way: "Resident displacement is a significant contributor to destabilizing communities. Displacement occurs in both strong and weak housing markets and can be caused by a variety of triggers, ranging from gentrification to limited supply of quality rental housing to tax foreclosures, and can be exacerbated by local code enforcement and housing policies. Displacement disproportionately harms low-income communities, under-resourced, marginalized, and communities of color, but its impacts reverberate across communities, causing lasting impacts on poverty and economic mobility and overall community well-being. Additionally, when low-income people of color are displaced from communities, research indicate[s] that patterns of re-segregation emerge, perpetuating racial and economic inequity."
Up to ten municipalities or counties in New York State will be chosen to participate in the three phase program: (1) Municipal teams will learn about various strategies to address displacement through webinars and peer-to-peer discussions: (2) Each municipal team will receive twenty hours of technical assistance to select an anti-displacement strategy and develop a plan to implement the chosen strategy. During this phase, each team may submit a funding request of up to $1 million to implement the chosen strategy. (3) Municipal teams that have been awarded implementation funding will execute their chosen strategies.
The New York State Anti-Displacement Learning Network is a collaboration between the New York State Office of the Attorney General and Enterprise, a national not-for-profit whose mission is "to create opportunity for low- and moderate-income people through affordable housing in diverse, thriving communities." Click on the following links to learn more about Enterprise and the New York State Anti-Displacement Learning Network
And that's it for the week as far as the schedule of meetings goes.

Dirty Politics in Hudson

Over the years, Hudson politics has seen a lot of shenanigans--getting a candidate's husband stopped for DWI on the Friday before Election Day, commandeering an opponent's independent party line, and the perennial and pervasive tradition of stealing campaign signs. This weekend, Hudson saw a new kind of dirty politics, directed at two Democrats--Rob Bujan and Rich Volo--who, having been cross endorsed by Hudson Republicans, chose to stay in the race after losing the Democratic primary. 

On Saturday, placards appeared on Warren Street linking Bujan and Volo with Donald Trump and two of the most heinous incidents of his administration: the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and migrant children separated from their parents and kept in "cages" at the border.


On Sunday afternoon, Tom DePietro released a statement denying any involvement with what he called the "nasty signs":
I want to make clear: I had no prior knowledge of and in no way approve of some nasty signs posted around town linking Rob Bujan with Donald Trump. I couldn't care less what lines he runs on. I'm on the Democratic line because I won a Democratic primary by a considerable margin. I've also asked Rob to reconsider his claim that I somehow have engaged in "dirty tricks." I have not and I will not.
To Gossips' knowledge, neither of Volo's opponents has made a public statement about the signs.

There has been nastiness in Hudson politics in the past. One year, a mayoral candidate was depicted on a mailer from the opposition with a long Pinocchio nose, and a candidate for Council president was shown as a marionette with someone unseen pulling the strings. But never before has the partisan acrimony that exists in national politics been dragged into local politics to imply that two progressive Democrats have somehow undergone an ideological transformation and become quintessential Trumpists, with all the deplorable traits that implies, simply because their names appear on Row B on the ballot.

It is often argued that local elections should be nonpartisan, and, according to the National League of Cities, in 22 of the 30 most populous cities in the country, they are. One of the arguments for partisan local elections is that, without party labels, voters must know the candidates in order to have a meaningful basis for casting a ballot. Surely, in a city of 6,200, knowing the candidates, what they have achieved and what they stand for, and voting for a candidate and not a party is not too much to ask.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Landlords and Tenants

At a meeting of the Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee back in August, soon after the Statewide Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act had been passed, the committee was discussing holding a forum to educate the public about the new law. Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) asked that the session include building owners, suggesting this could make for better tenant-owner relations. She brought up the possibility that regulations to protect tenants could have the unintended consequence of owners taking units off the market. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who chairs the committee, responded to Halloran's suggestion by saying, "This is just for the tenant, because the landlord is going to rent regardless."

The forum that was discussed at the beginning of August took place on September 24 at Bliss Towers. Led by Garriga, with Rebecca Garrard from Citizen Action of New York and Jumaane Williams, public advocate for New York City, the meeting was only for tenants not for the owners of rental properties. Dan Udell was there to document the meeting. His video can be viewed here

At the Common Council Legal Committee meeting last week, comments by Nicole Vidor made Halloran's concerns in August seem prescient. She said the new rent laws were great for tenants but were frightening for landlords. She went on to say, "People don't want to rent their property anymore. People are feeling very uncertain about renting." She suggested that the Council might help landlords understand the implications of the law for them. Garriga, who sits on the Legal Committee, told Vidor that the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act had been discussed in the Housing and Transportation Committee. In those committee meetings, however, the landlord's point of view never seemed to get much attention. 

Earlier today, Ed Nabozny sent Gossips this image of a newspaper clipping.

Scanning it quickly, I wondered where it was from and why I knew nothing about such a meeting meant to bring together landlords and tenants. A second email from Nabozny informed me that the item had appeared in the newspaper on January 29, 1958.

About Those Frustrated Developers

Commenting on Kamal Johnson's interview on Channel 10 last week, Gossips mused about Johnson's statement that there were developers who owned vacant lots and wanted to build affordable housing units on them but were prohibited by the current zoning. I couldn't figure out what he was talking about. A reader helpfully directed me to Dan Udell's video of Future Hudson's final event, "Can We Talk About Housing?" It seems that the developers Johnson was referencing may have been just one: the Galvan Foundation. The vacant lots in question, owned by Galvan, are located at Fifth and Warren, Fourth and Columbia, and State and Seventh streets.

In his presentation, Dan Kent displayed renderings of the buildings Galvan would like to construct at these three locations--mixed use (residential and commercial) and mixed income buildings. (The images below are screen captures from Udell's video.)

Warren and Fifth Street

Fourth and Columbia Street

State and Seventh Streets
Kent's specific issue with the current zoning had to do with lot coverage at the corner of Fourth and Columbia streets, where the zoning limits lot coverage to 30 percent of the parcel, and the building being proposed would cover the entire site.

Some Gossips readers may recall that back in 2010, Eric Galloway's Lantern Foundation (Galloway being the Gal of Galvan) had a different idea for Warren and Fifth streets: thirty-three units of permanent supportive housing for men with mental disabilities and substance abuse problems. That project was abandoned when it met with vehement opposition from the community.

The rendering Kent shared for the building at Fourth and Columbia streets may be familiar to readers as well. It's essentially the same building proposed by Galvan in 2012 to house the police and city court on the ground floor with thirty-five studio apartments on the upper two floors for formerly homeless adults.
That project, known was "Civic Hudson," was abandoned because the New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP) would not approve the financing for the project in the face of objections from the Hudson Police Department, both the chief (then Ellis Richardson) and the rank and file, who thought it inappropriate to combine police and court facilities in the same building with residential units.

While some in Hudson believe the current affordable housing crisis cannot be adequately addressed, given the city's limited size geographically, without constructing apartment buildings of this size, there are others committed to solving the problem with buildings no bigger than those that currently exist on lots no bigger than what was the standard when the city was originally platted: 26 x 120 feet. The latter school of thought seems, to this observer, to be prevailing in any discussions now going on about developing the Kaz site, owned not by Galvan but by the Hudson Development Corporation.

More About the Race for District Attorney

On Friday, an article by Amanda Purcell about the two candidates in the D.A.'s race, Eugene Keeler and Paul Czajka, appeared on HudsonValley360: "Questions cloud DA race."

Yesterday, Sam Pratt commented on that article, exploring further one of the issues raised by Purcell: "Legal ethics expert calls D.A. candidate's actions "totally unethical" and "bizarre." The candidate whose actions are in question is Keeler.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Early Voting Starts Today

Today, and every day through November 3, you can vote early in Hudson at 401 State Street. (There are polling places in Kinderhook, actually Valatie, and Copake, too, but who would want to leave Hudson?) Here are the hours for early voting:
  • Saturday, October 26, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 27, Noon to 5 p.m.
  • Monday, October 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 29, Noon to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 30, Noon to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Friday, November 1, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, November 2, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 3, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sample ballots for the five wards of Hudson can be viewed by clicking on any of the wards below:
There's not much choice on most of these ballots, but in races where there is choice, your vote really matters.

Voters who vote early will not be eligible to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5.


Friday, October 25, 2019

The Waiting Is Over!

The Hudson Dog Park will be officially opened tomorrow, Saturday, October 26. A "ribbon cutting" ceremony at Hudson's new off-leash park will take place at 11 a.m.

Photo Dorothy Heyl
The dog park is located at North Second and Dock streets. Use the paved driveway from North Second Street to enter the site. After tomorrow, the dog park will be open every day from dawn until dusk. Users are expected to abide by the rules posted in the park.

As Gossips readers know, the Hudson Dog Park is a project that has taken more than a decade to become a reality. Thanks to the financial support of more than 120 donors, the persistence of a few, and the political will of Mayor Rick Rector, Hudson now has a big, beautiful dog park, with separate areas for large dogs and small dogs. Come out tomorrow at 11 a.m. to celebrate Hudson's newest community enhancement, or come anytime thereafter, during the hours of daylight, to give your dog the joy of running off leash and romping with other dogs.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Meeting Canceled

Here's news for anyone planning to attend the Historic Preservation Commission meeting tomorrow morning: the meeting was been canceled. The next meeting of the HPC will take place on Friday, November 8. 

The Tourism Board Carries On

Steve Chandler|Twitter
Despite the Common Council's refusal in August to authorize entering into a contract with Chandlerthinks, the Tourism Board is pursuing the idea of bringing in, as board member Tambra Dillon put it, "an outside, neutral, effective consultant" to help craft a marketing strategy for Hudson. Dillon reported at the Tourism Board's monthly meeting on Tuesday that Steve Chandler, the principal of Chandlerthinks, was amenable to coming to Hudson again. When he came to Hudson in May to make a presentation to the Tourism Board, Chandler did so "on spec." This time he is asking to be compensated for time and travel.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Tourism Board agreed to a resolution asking the Common Council for approval to pay for Chandler's time and travel expenses--an amount not to exceed $2,000. The resolution will be considered by the Council in November, and, if approved and Chandler is available on that date, his presentation to the Council will take place at the informal meeting of the Council on Monday, December 9. 

A hint about the likelihood that the Council will approve the expenditure may have come early in the meeting when board member Chuck Rosenthal voiced his hesitation about moving forward "based on the pushback we've already gotten." He told his colleagues, "I don't want to go back to the Council and be rejected." Council president Tom DePietro, who was present at the meeting, said he felt "there was value to [Chandler's] presentation, even if he wasn't ultimately chosen."

Our Mayor Presumptive

Yesterday, Kamal Johnson was interviewed by Tim Lake on Channel 10 News. If you missed it, the interview can be viewed here.

Predictably, housing was a major topic of discussion. As he did in an interview on WAMC in June, Johnson complained that there are some streets in Hudson "where you barely have neighbors." In June, Johnson blamed that perceived phenomenon on short-term rentals. Yesterday, he seemed to attribute it to "a ton of abandoned buildings that we really need to revitalize," giving the impression that the magnitude of the problem rivaled that in Newburgh or Detroit. Johnson said he wanted to bring in developers to create more affordable housing and claimed to have a "huge plan for housing" that he's been working on "for about a year now." This may be the first anyone outside of Johnson's inner circle has heard of this plan. He later made reference to "a bunch of plans that are in play," a statement that also piques one's curiosity.

Johnson talked about changing the zoning in Hudson, something people have been talking about for at least twenty years, and then made a puzzling claim. According to Johnson, there are developers who currently own vacant lots and want to build affordable housing units on them but "our zoning doesn't allow that." What could he be talking about? The Hudson Housing Authority recently abandoned its plan to create many more units of subsidized housing on land it owns on State Street, but that decision had nothing to do with zoning. Hudson Development Corporation's efforts to develop the Kaz site for mixed income apartments have been on hold since May 2018, but that had nothing to do with zoning either. The only instances in recent memory when zoning interfered with the proposed construction of residential buildings was back in 2016, when a block of four town houses (probably not what Johnson would define as "affordable") was proposed for Hudson Avenue, in the area that was zoned "Industrial" (the zoning was amended to allow that), and in 2013, when a misreading of the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations for Residential Districts scotched a plan to build a five-unit apartment building at 248-250 Columbia Street. (The building that has since been constructed on the site is a two-family duplex--probably not as affordable as what was originally planned.)

The interview also touched on Johnson's age (he's 34) and how he has contemplated becoming mayor since is was a junior in high school, his plans for the "jobs presentation/fair" to bring job opportunities to Hudson, and his intention to work with the school district to address the problem of homelessness among students. Johnson conjured up the familiar metaphor of Hudson as a doughnut, with a little variation. When Linda Mussmann, who may have created it, uses the doughnut metaphor, Greenport is the doughnut, and Hudson is the hole. According to Johnson, the doughnut is a small inner city that is vibrant and diverse "surrounded by a huge rural circle of energy."

One thing that was made clear at the start of the interview is that, although he ended his campaign for mayor early last month, incumbent mayor Rick Rector is still on the ballot, and his re-election is still a possibility.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Along the Empire State Trail

Here in Hudson, the trailhead for the Empire State Trail is almost complete. The signage has been installed, and the native limestone benches are in place.

But north of here, two miles of the trail are still the subject of controversy. Gossips received the following information about the issue:
Stockport town supervisor Matt Murell and the town board are opposing the construction of two miles of the [Empire State Trail] along the electric utility's property in the town, which Niagara Mohawk has licensed to the Greenway Conservancy. This two-mile contested stretch sits at the north end of town--from Keil Lane to Rossman Road. Also, three residents have sued the Greenway Conservancy objecting to the constructon of the bikeway adjacent to their residential property. (Note that the utility's ownership is full--"fee simple" in property law, rather than a mere permissive easement.) . . .
At the direction of the Stockport Town Board, the town's Code Enforcement Officer recently sent a Notice to the Greenway Conservancy, stating that construction of the Trail is subject to the Town's zoning code, and that the Greenway Conservancy is prohibited from building any portion of the Trail in Stockport unless and until it is approved by the Stockport Town Planning Board. Note that it appears Stockport it the only town in the entire state that is attempting to assert the legislatively authorized Empire Trail is subject to the town's zoning code.
As plans for the Trail exist for Stockport, the bike route will share Route 25 adjacent to the Stockport Creek for 1.4 miles, which is far from ideal due to twists and turns and limited visibility. If the Town is successful in its opposition to the northern end of the trail in Stockport, that would remove 2.0 miles of off-road trail along the Kinderhook Creek and add 2.3 miles to the trail on Route 25 with high speed traffic and no shoulders. Forcing the bike trail to share Route 25 for 3.7 miles would effectively deprive the largest concentration of Stockport residents of nearby access to an off-road scenic bike-riding trail near their homes.
A public hearing on this issue is being held on Thursday, October 24, at 7:00 p.m., at the Stockport Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, 128 County Road 25. The notice of the public hearing can be found here. Everyone interested in showing support for the bike trail through Stockport is urged to attend.

More Letters to the Editor

Last Wednesday, Gossips published the link to a post on Sam Pratt's blog about the candidates in the race for district attorney in Columbia County: "Keeler camp ducks D.A. debate." Seemingly in response to Pratt's post, Keith Kanaga, chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee, wrote a letter to the editor of the Register-Star, which appeared in the print version of the newspaper on Saturday, September 19. That letter is reproduced below.

This morning, Pratt shared a letter, responding to Kanaga's letter, which has been submitted to the Register-Star but not yet published. Gossips prints it here:
22 October 2019
To the Editor:
Having supported Keith Kanaga for Columbia County Democratic chair, I was disappointed to see his name signed onto an inflammatory and potentially misleading letter-to-the-editor.
Using a selective line of attack to prop up his candidate for District Attorney, Gene Keeler, Kanaga cites a cherry-picked statistic to hijack a serious issue. Using sloppy research for one's own partisan political gain does no service to those seeking to achieve social and racial justice in our country.
As it happens, I was already familiar with Kanaga's partisan line, because it had been suggested repeatedly to me by Keeler himself.
Problem is: Both men have extracted a single year of State statistics to launch a much broader attack than the data can support.
Kanaga and Keeler strain to argue that prison sentences given by judges to people arrested for felonies in Columbia County show a racial divide. But they limited their investigation to 2018 data to support their point--then stopped right there.
In the prior two years of data made available by the State, the percentage jailed is essentially the same for both whites and blacks. (That's the State's terminology, not mine.)
Nevertheless, Keeler emailed breathlessly to fellow Democrats: "OMG you guys need to see these statistics. . . They are incredible but supports [sic] everything I have been saying for twenty years."
A sophomore statistics students could tell you that a single year of data doesn't prove a longterm trend. To make a longterm case would require going back two full decades, and doing a much more sophisticated analysis.
A student might also notice that since only 40-50 people per year actually go to prison for felonies locally, it only takes one unusual event to skew the numbers. (For example, any 2018 discrepancy might arise solely from the breakup by the Hudson Police of a shooting war between two gangs.) Just a few extra convictions can sway the numbers 10%-20% in either direction.
Still, while claiming that he's running a positive campaign this time around, Keeler emailed Democratic Committee members, saying: "Great stuff to use. . . Can we use these figures on web advertising?"
He added: "It's still the 1950's here! Please send this out on your email lists! Please!" If nothing else, this is not the demeanor of a careful, fair prosecutor.
And last I checked, to be sent to jail for a felony one first must get arrested by law enforcement, moved to trial by a grand jury, sentenced by a judge, and, potentially, losing appeals to higher courts. (Many waive their rights and agree to sentences long before it comes to that.)
The D.A. is just one cog in this system. Unlike what we see on TV crime dramas, s/he can hardly control the outcome singlehandedly.
Meanwhile, our three Supreme Court justices include a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent. To believe, the Kanaga-Keeler line, one has to assume that all three hand down racially-motivated sentences to felons.
Now: Without question, racial bias in outcomes does infect much of our society. Discrimination clearly persists into the 21st Century. One can readily believe, for example, that when almost 9 in 10 County residents are Caucasian, people of color on trial may struggle to secure a jury of their peers.
Having been a lefty Democrat for most of my life, I normally might cheer Keeler's professed abandonment of his previous tabloid attacks, in favor of a message of greater compassion. Unfortunately, his continued reckless use of selective "evidence" for partisan gain only moves society farther from achieving true justice.
In a previous losing campaign, Keeler was excoriated by one newspaper for "political trash talk" which left his campaign "with not a shred of credibility." Due to Keeler's continued lapses of judgement, I simply can't recommend his campaign--and will vote to re-elect Paul Czajka.
--Sam Pratt

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

An Opinion and an Outcome

In the Register-Star yesterday, there was a letter to the editor from Don Moore: "A better, more constructive choice." In it, Moore, who served for three terms as Common Council president, comments on the candidates currently vying for that position: Tom DePietro and Rob Bujan. He also reveals the outcome of DePietro's arraignment in August, on the charge of second degree harassment, for the incident in April involving former aldermen John Friedman. The case was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) with anger management treatment being the condition imposed by the judge.


Early Voting Begins This Weekend

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5, but this year, you don't have to wait until November 5 to cast your ballot, and you won't need to get an absentee ballot if you're not going to be in town on that day. Early voting begins this Saturday at three sites in Columbia County: 401 State Street in Hudson; the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building, 3011 Church Street in Valatie; Copake Town Hall, 230 Mountain View Road in Copake. Any Columbia County resident may vote at any of the three sites.

The hours for voting at any one of the three locations are: 
  • Saturday, October 26, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 27, Noon to 5 p.m.
  • Monday, October 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 29, Noon to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 30, Noon to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Friday, November 1, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, November 2, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 3, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you vote early, you will not be eligible to vote on Election Day.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Meet the Candidate

On Tuesday, October 22, there's a "Meet the Candidate" night for Rob Bujan, candidate for Common Council president, at the Red Dot Restarant & Bar, 321 Warren Street. The event is an opportunity to learn about Bujan's goals and vision for the Council, city government, and Council committees. The event begins at 6:00 p.m.; the discussion will start at 6:30 p.m. Light snacks will be available, and there will be a cash bar.

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

Except for Tuesday, the weather forecast for the week ahead is mostly "Mostly sunny," and the schedule of meetings for the week is comparatively light--Tuesday and Friday being the only days with more than one meeting going on.
  • On Monday, October 21, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment has a tentatively scheduled budget workshop at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall. 
  • On Tuesday, October 22, the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet at City Hall at 2:30 p.m. At its last meeting, the committee selected the team of firms that will pursue the DRI connectivity project. The two remaining projects--the Dunn warehouse and the historic fishing village (a.k.a. the Furgary Boat Club of "the Shacks")--may be topics of conversation at the upcoming meeting.
  • Also on Tuesday, October 22, the Tourism Board meets at 5:30 p.m. at 1 North Front Street. At its last meeting, the Tourism Board decided that individual members of the board would have one-to-one conversations with aldermen to explain their reasons for selecting Chandlerthinks and their goal in engaging the firm. (At its August meeting, the Common Council refused to pass a resolution authorizing entering into a contract with Chandlerthinks.) There was also talk of inviting Steve Chandler to make a presentation to the Common Council or possibly getting the PowerPoint presentation he made to the Tourism Board to share with the Council. It is expected that an update on these efforts may be provided at the meeting on Tuesday.
  • On Wednesday, October 23, the Common Council Legal Committee meets at 6:15 p.m. at City Hall. At the last meeting of the Legal Committee, pursuing the creation of a sidewalk improvement district was put on hold awaiting "a plan for the entire city" and "protocols" coming out of the DRI connectivity project. It is expected the committee will continue its discussion of a law to restrict the development and operation of short-term rentals booked through such platforms as Airbnb.
  • On Friday, October 25, the Historic Preservation Commission holds its second meeting of the month at 10:00 a.m. at City Hall.
  • Also on Friday, October 25, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment has another budget workshop tentatively scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Shotcrete Revisited

In the summer of 2017 and the spring of 2018, Gossips followed obsessively the installation of shotcrete on the rock face below Promenade Hill--from discovering what was planned, through protesting what was planned, to DOT and Amtrak's defense of the plan, to the modifications to the plan, through the final installation. The modifications to the plan, which came after protests from the City of Hudson, Historic Hudson, and Scenic Historic and intervention by the NYS Department of State and SHPO, were that the shortcrete would be "tinted and sculpted" to make it look like the Ordovician shale it was covering up, and "vine like planted material" would be installed at the top to make it appear more like a natural rock face. The image below, displayed at a public meeting with Amtrak and DOT in September 2017, shows a photograph of the escarpment as it was and a rendering of the escarpment as it would be after the shotcrete had been applied.  

In the spring of 2018, the "tinted and sculpted" shotcrete was applied, but the "vine like plant material" seems never to have been installed. The photograph below was take in the early summer of 2018.

In the year and a half since the shotcrete went on, nature has been taking over. 

Not only is there wild vegetation descending from the top of the escarpment, there is also wild vegetation growing on or penetrating through the shotcrete.

One wonders what effect these forces of nature might be having on it efficacy of the shotcrete in stabilizing the rock face.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Subject Was Subdivision

Last night, the Planning Board held a special meeting to consider the subdivision of the 1.196 acres on South Front Street currently owned by CSX. Approval of the subdivision would clear the way for HDC (Hudson Development Corporation) to purchase a .863-acre portion of the parcel to provide access to the Kaz site from Front Street.

Only four members of the Planning Board were present--Walter Chatham, Ginna Moore, Clark Wieman, and John Cody--and all four would have to vote in concert for the subdivision to be approved. 

The meeting began with a public hearing, during which Matt McGhee asked what change was proposed for the parcel, Steve Dunn observed that Montgomery Street is narrow and the acquisition would allow for better circulation, and Gossips noted that $4 million is being invested in the DRI "connectivity project" in this part of the city, so approving a subdivision that how enable the Kaz site to be connected to Front Street should be a no-brainer.

When the public hearing was closed and the Planning Board began its discussion, Wieman took the opportunity to express concern about the mortgage agreement. (Columbia Economic Development Corporation [CEDC] is lending HDC the $200,000 needed for the purchase of the parcel.) He noted that the loan is secured by a lien on the Kaz property and there was a three-year deadline to develop that property. His concern seemed to be that the deadline might pressure HDC into making bad decisions about developing the site. HDC has owned the property since 2010, and so far, there have been two failed attempts to develop it--the first was abandoned in March 2017; the second succumbed to public protest in May 2018. Bob Rasner, who chairs the HDC Board, explained, "The arrangement for financing holds us to a three-year public planning process." He added that the loan is interest free for three years and went on to say, "There is no pressure to do this in three years' time."

When Wieman expressed concern about this area of the city becoming a "suburban sprawl zone," Chatham, who chairs the Planning Board, replied, "Remember, they have to come to us," meaning that any proposed development would require site plan approval from the Planning Board. 

After city attorney Andy Howard walked them through the Part 2 SEQR questions and reminded the board that they were considering the subdivision of land not its use, the board voted unanimously first to make a negative declaration under SEQR and then to approve the subdivision. HDC is expected to close on the property on Wednesday, October 30.

When What You See Is Not What You Get

Gossips has posted more than once about deceptiveness of renderings. In 2011, the topic was the rendering for 102 and 104 Union Street, which made the proposed buildings appear to be the same height as the building next door at 106 Union Street. They ended up being significantly taller.

In 2017, the topic was the rendering for the ramp in the PARC linear park, which ended up not resembling the rendering at all.

Then there's another example of the rendering not accurately representing the finished product: the new Stewart's.

In this case, what departs from what appeared in the rendering are the porticoes. In the rendering, they are not objectionable, but in reality they are. Gossips would describe them as "clunky." Others have called them "cheap, ugly, and aggressive" and likened them to "lumpy blocks of Styrofoam."

Thinking that maybe the rendering was inaccurate, given that renderings in the past has been deceptive, Gossips went back to the elevation drawings that Stewart's had provided. There, too, as in the rendering, the roofs of the porticoes are thinner, with better molding detail, and look less like "lumpy blocks of Styrofoam."

Although the porticoes are not what was approved by the Planning Board, they are exactly the same as the porticoes found on the new Stewart's in Troy.

Walter Chatham, chair of the Planning Board, told Gossips on Friday that he had met with Chuck Marshall, real estate representative for Stewart's, and the construction manager for the project to discuss the issue of the porticoes. Chatham reports that Marshall agreed that what was built is not what was approved and has agreed to "build like the picture." He asked that the soft opening of the new store be allowed to happen, after which the work to correct the design would be staggered between the two porticoes. The plan is subject to approval from Stewart's headquarters.