Saturday, November 30, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 2

With the 23rd annual Winter Walk just a week away, our memories of Winter Walks past continue, with another recollection of the very first Winter Walk. Today, Gossips shares the Winter Walk memory of Byrne Fone. Best known to Gossips readers as the author of Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait, Byrne was one of the original members of the Hudson Opera House Board of Directors, which began the tradition of Winter Walk back in 1997.

On a crisp December Saturday night, now many years ago, I tricked myself out in vaguely 19th-century garb: high stovepipe hat, tailcoat, flowing scarf, cape, and cane--all found in my partner Alain Pioton's antiques shop, the Hudson Antiques Center [536 Warren Street], which he had opened in 1985. That night, unusually for a Hudson winter's eve, Warren was filled with folk, some of them also in costume, all wandering from one end of the street to the other, ogling the rich glitter of decorated shop windows and tempted to enter by savory delicacies too inciting to refuse. Musicians played in many shops and walked musically along the street, crowds, Pied Piper-like following, joining in the song.
In my invented role of 19th-century street vivant, I passed among the merry crowd, chatting with friends and strangers. My message: "Here I am, a ghost of Christmas past, come to tell you that this new night on the town is the invention of Hudson's oldest treasure, brought to life again: the Hudson Opera House."
It was the first Winter Walk. It was 1997.
In that year, the Board of Directors, who had overseen the restoration of the decrepit building since acquiring it in 1992, had been casting about for a citywide event to celebrate the season and highlight the ongoing revival of one of Hudson's grandest buildings, which was as well one of America's oldest surviving theaters, built in 1855. Taking a cue from history, we called it then the Hudson Opera House, for 19th-century Hudson had called it that. And who could doubt that it was--and is--operatic, even if, between the date of its construction and that street walk in 1997, only one opera had ever been performed there.
Though no divas regularly commanded the stage nor tenors thrilled the audience with golden tones, the Hudson Opera House had offered a variety of identities. It was built as Hudson's City Hall, but it also housed the police station, the Franklin Library, and the First National Bank of Hudson. Its huge auditorium saw lectures, musical and theatrical events, cotillions and graduations, and even, it has been claimed, poultry shows. Eventually, the poultry were replaced by the Moose. It was their fraternal lodge.
But then the building was abandoned and sold to an "out-of-town developer"--a phrase that darkly suggested demolition, a fate that it began to seem might indeed become a reality. But that fate was not to be.
After years of standing empty, the building was acquired by a group of Hudsonians, all optimistic and amateur enough not to realize the true scale of what we had begun. By 1992, as a non-profit corporation, we had ownership of the building. Our grand plan was to restore it and open it again, for Hudson, as the Hudson Opera House.
Despite the passion of the board, it could not be denied that during those years the project was ignored by many, viewed dubiously by some, and scoffed at by others. To some, it seemed a pointless folly, a cause already lost, a project agonizingly slow and costly. For many, there was a whiff of elitism about it. An opera house? In Hudson?! In what way could it ever have a connection with "real" Hudson life?
We saw what was needed was a way to link the project of the Hudson Opera House--immediately and publicly--with the increasingly vibrant city life that had been sparked by the arrival of antiques dealers in the 1980s and bolstered by new residents who had heard about the excitement. We knew that the Hudson Opera House had to take to the streets. At a board meeting, Carole Clark, owner of the always fondly remembered Charleston restaurant, produced a masterstroke: the appealing and alliterative suggestion for a street event. She called it a Winter Walk on Warren. And thus it came about.
I returned to Alain's shop from my perambulation in the crowded and festive street. Just as in the other shops, waves of visitors were flowing in, sampling mulled wine, munching sweet savories, and looking with pleasure, curiosity, or sometimes mystification at what we had to sell. Ensconcing myself in the window in a rather grand thronelike chair, still Micawberesque in top hat and cape, my voice carried to the street by a microphone cunningly hidden, I read from A Christmas Carol to the crowds bemused by this talking apparition from another age.
"He had never dreamed that any walk could give him so much happiness."
--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Friday, November 29, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 1

On December 7, Winter Walk will once again fill Hudson's main street with revelers, ushering in the holiday season. Gossips has learned that this year Hudson Hall will be commemorating Winter Walks past, present, and future, and that prompted Gossips to ask some people who have been associated with Winter Walk in different ways over the years to share their favorite memories of Winter Walks past. One of those memories will be shared here every day, from now until December 7.

We begin with Carole Clark, whose childhood memories of department store windows along Fifth Avenue lavishly decorated for the holidays were the inspiration for Winter Walk. In 1997, Carole Clark, a member of the original Hudson Opera House board, was the proprietor of Charleston, Hudson's first farm-to-table restaurant, at 517 Warren Street (now Baba Louie's). It was in the restaurant that the event was first conceptualized.

Photo: Pinterest|Mount Merino Manor
Winter Walk, originally called Winter Walk on Warren Street, was created in response to a need shared by the Warren Street business community and concerned Hudson residents to inspire Columbia County residents and regional neighbors to come to Hudson. At that time, Hudson was denigrated even by Hudsonians who lived in the city's "suburbs." People thought that Hudson had nothing but antique shops selling old stuff and that the streets were dangerous. Antique dealers, then the vast majority of retailers, complained that their holiday sales were low, even though they invested great effort in decorating their windows. Indeed, the holiday windows were amazingly artful and sumptuously gorgeous. Warren Street sparkled in December.
The challenge was to inspire people to visit the city, enjoy the holiday windows, and venture into the shops, which would offer hospitality in the form of complimentary food and drink. I presented the idea of sponsoring a holiday stroll to the Hudson Opera House Board of Directors, and a committee was promptly formed to create the event. I envisioned a "country" winter walk, with horse-drawn carriages and strolling carolers. Neighboring shop owners, who were my customers and friends, were very enthusiastic and wanted to participate. Everyone got into it. The shop windows were better than ever--dazzling!
Inspired by my childhood memory of the animated windows in the department stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City and a gifted choreographer and dancer Abby Lappen, who worked part-time with me, I envisioned Hudson's windows activated to the delight of passersby. Abby had created a series of evening of "Bar Dances" in my restaurant, Charleston, which were an enormous success. She was excited about the windows idea and gathered a large group of volunteers to work with her. I'll never forget the first Winter Walk, when I dashed out of the restaurant kitchen in my apron, with my camera, and saw the crowds of people gathered in front of the windows, amazed and exhilarated by the performers. Exclamations of "It's not real . . . Yes, it is. It's a real person!" were heard from adults as well as children.
The dancers/mimes were indeed magical. People thronged into the shops, impressed with their extraordinary beauty and "hospitality."

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Enjoy Your Thanksgiving!

Gossips is taking the holiday off.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Intersection Open Again

Bill Williams at 98.5 The Cat is reporting that the intersection of Warren Street and Worth and Prospect avenues is open again!

The Department of Public Works had announced the intersection would be closed for twelve hours--from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.--but the work was completed in a little more than five hours.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Holiday Gift to Shoppers and Visitors

This morning, Mayor Rick Rector sent this memo to Chief Ed Moore:
By the authority vested in me by the City Charter, I hereby suspend the placing of coin(s) in the parking meter throughout the City of Hudson, which includes on-street and off-street meters, during the Holiday Season, commencing December 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019.
The holiday largesse does not extend to the parking lot at the train station.

The Outcome of the Commissioner Competition

This morning, Sam Pratt reports the outcome of the vote at last night's Columbia County Democratic Committee meeting: "Democratic BOE vote was a squeaker." Virginia Martin will be the recommended candidate for Democratic Commissioner at the Board of Elections.

Special Meeting Today

At some point earlier this morning, Common Council president Tom DePietro called at special meeting of the Common Council to take place this evening at 6:00 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to consider proposed Local Law No. 3 of 2019--Extending the Lodging Tax. The proposed local law, which still includes the creation of the beleaguered Tourism Board and stipulations for its funding (Section 275.41), was placed on the aldermen's desks at the October meeting of the Common Council. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Let There Be Lights for the Holidays

In September, Gossips raised the alarm that the Hudson Athens Lighthouse might not be decorated for the holidays this year as it has been every year for more than two decades. The cable that brought power to the lighthouse had broken, and it wasn't clear how the problem could be solved in time for this year's holiday season.

Photo: Jonathan Simons
Today, Gossips got word that the problem has been solved. There will be lights on the lighthouse for the holidays again this year--although not as many as there have been in the past. Here's the story of how it was accomplished, as told to Gossips by one of the people who accomplished it.
The members of the Hudson Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society are a resilient group. We looked at our options and started to make a plan. We enlisted the help of two electricians, Scott Davis and Sonny Brignull, and Peter Rowland, an electrical engineer. They are members of the Hudson Power Boat Association, an organization that has always been a tremendous help to the lighthouse over the years. Along with Bill Palmer, Van Calhoun, Joe Kenneally, and Carol Gans from HALPS, this group spent ten weeks organizing a plan and overcoming obstacles until it all came together last Saturday.
Six men went out to the lighthouse Saturday morning, where the week before we made trips delivering supplies to build a solar system. Eight hours later, six tired, hungry men returned, happy knowing the tradition of the Christmas lights on the river continues.
We could only light the top of the tower, the highest part of the building which can be seen from both shores, and put lights in the windows. Next year, we should be back bright as ever.
Photo: Jonathan Simons

An Important Forewarning

The Department of Public Works has issued the following press release regarding a crucial intersection in Hudson--where Warren Street, Worth Avenue, and Prospect Avenue converge.
The City will be milling and paving the intersection of Warren, Worth & Prospect Avenue on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Worth Avenue will be closed & detoured at Union Street.
Warren Street will be closed & detoured at Park Place. If you need to conduct business on the 700 or 800 block of Warren, you will need to tell the flagger at Park Place.
Prospect Avenue will be closed & detoured at Columbia Turnpike (the Triangle). If you need to access Rossman Avenue or the hospital, you will need to tell the flagger at Columbia Turnpike.
No traffic will be allowed in or out of Worth Alley during this project. If travel is anticipated that day, cars should be moved to an alternate location.

The intersection c. 1930--Courtesy Columbia County Historical Society

Uncertainty at the Board of Elections

Virginia Martin was been the Democratic Commissioner at the Columbia County Board of Elections for at least a decade. In that time, she has distinguished herself as a champion of election integrity and transparency in elections. In 2010, she was named "Election Integrity Hero" by the Election Transparency Coalition for orchestrating the hand count of ballots in that year's election. This past October, she was a presenter at the National Voting Rights Task Force convention in Berkeley, California. The picture below shows Martin (far right) with other presenters at the convention demonstrating their opposition to ballot marking devices that generate bar codes and their support of ballots that are marked by humans and can be read by humans.

Every two years, Martin has been reappointed to her position as commissioner without much attention being paid to it. This year, however, is an exception. On November 11, the Columbia County Democratic Committee sent out a request for applications for the position: 
The Columbia County Democratic Committee seeks applications from interested persons for the position of Democratic Election Commissioner for a two year term starting January 2, 2020.
The Columbia County Board of Elections is responsible for all aspects of elections in the towns and city of Columbia County, and also assists some villages and school districts with their elections. There are two Election Commissioners, one Democrat and one Republican. Three full-time staff report to each of the Commissioners. The position is part time.
Tonight, the Columbia County Democratic Committee is expected to decide whom they will recommend to the Board of Supervisors for the position. Sam Pratt, who has been following the developments up to this point, reports about it today on his blog: "Rare competition tonight for Dem Election Commissioner's job."

Hudson in Recent Fiction

The flap about the Tourism Board and its mission questioned if Hudson needed to be "marketed," despite the fact that what the Tourism Board was trying to do was more nuanced than simply getting the word out about Hudson. A casual mention of Hudson, discovered in a work of fiction published in 2014, supports the notion that Hudson is already a household name.

The book is Emma Straub's novel The Vacationers. In the book, a New York City family--Jim and Franny, who have been married for thirty-five years; Sylvia, their youngest child, who has just graduated from high school; their older son, Bobby, and his girlfriend; Franny's best friend, Charles, and his husband--spend two weeks together in a house on the island of Mallorca. What was meant to be an idyllic vacation turns out to be quite different, and at one point, Charles and Lawrence, his husband, talk about where they can go to decompress after the vacation is over. The possibilities suggested by one of the pair: "Either Woodstock or Hudson."

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

With Thanksgiving happening on Thursday, there's a very short list of meetings this week.
  • On Monday, November 25, 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 in City Hall. The police union contract may come up at the Police Committee meeting, but it's not likely. The City's collective bargaining attorney is expected to present the amendments to the police contract to the Common Council in a special meeting on Monday, December 9. That presentation will probably take place in executive session.
  • On Tuesday, November 26, the Hudson Development Corporation meets at noon at 1 North Front Street. So far, no agenda for the meeting is available. 
  • The calendar on the City of Hudson website lists a tentative meeting of the DRI Committee for Tuesday, November 26, at 2:30 p.m., at City Hall. That meeting is not likely to happen. At the last meeting of the committee, it was decided that the next meeting would take place on Tuesday, December 10.
  • At 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26, the Tourism Board meets at 1 North Front Street. At its informal meeting on November 12, the Common Council tabled the Tourism Board's request to spend $2,000 of its budget to bring Steve Chandler of Chandlerthinks to Hudson to make a presentation to the Council. At the meeting, it was also observed that there would be an entirely new Tourism Board at the beginning of the new year.   
Update: Gossips has received word that the Tourism Board meeting has been canceled.
  • On Wednesday, November 27, Thanksgiving Eve, the Common Council Legal Committee is scheduled to meet at 6:15 p.m.  
Update: Gossips has just received word that the Legal Committee meeting has been canceled. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Might This Be the Inspiration?

On Thursday, Gossips published pictures of the model presented at the Zoning Board of Appeals of the new house proposed for 418 State Street.

Seeing the model, a reader suggested a possible inspiration for the design: Villa Figini in Milan.

Villa Figini was designed by Luigi Figini for his family and completed in 1935. Figini was one of the architects in Gruppo 7, formed in 1927 with the declared intent "to strike a middle ground between classicism and industrially inspired architecture." The design of Villa Figini is an example of early 20th-century rationalismArchitettura razionale.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Ear to the Ground

In an article that appeared in the Register-Star on November 7, two days after the general election, mayor-elect Kamal Johnson is reported to have said that "his first move when taking office will be making appointments to boards and committees, and ensuring the qualified people are serving in the right positions." A diligent observer of Hudson's boards and commissions, Gossips was curious to know what appointments he might make.

So far, in appointments that don't have to do with boards and committees, Johnson has chosen Michael Chameides to be his mayor's aide. This raises a question of propriety, since Chameides holds the office of Third Ward supervisor. Can someone hold two jobs in government--one elected and one appointed? It seems there is nothing in the charter to prohibit it, but this may be, like the proposal for a self storage facility on Fairview Avenue, something the charter never anticipated. The role of mayor's aide didn't exist until 2000, when being mayor was considered a part-time job (with an annual compensation of about $11,000) and Mayor Ken Cranna wanted someone in the mayor's office to answer the phone while he pursued his regular job of being a lawyer.

Gossips has also heard that Cheryl Roberts will be appointed city attorney. Roberts has been counsel to the City before, first as the attorney to the Common Council when Dick Tracy was mayor (2006-2007), then as city attorney during the Rick Scalera's final two terms as mayor (2008-2011) and during Bill Hallenbeck's administration. Roberts lives in Columbia County, so she's not the reason the residency requirement for attorneys had to be expanded to allow attorneys to live within a 50 mile radius of Hudson. The word is that Roberts will not serve as counsel to any of the regulatory boards, so perhaps whomever the new administration has in mind to be counsel to the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historic Preservation Commission lives farther afield.

Regarding the appointments to boards and committees, the only committees are Common Council committees, and president of the Common Council makes those appointments, so it's likely the term committees was used in the article when what was meant was commissions.

Expressing his annoyance at being denied site plan approval for his makeshift self storage facility, Carmine Pierro intimated he had knowledge that Walter Chatham would not be reappointed as chair of the Planning Board. The mayor appoints the chairs of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, so Johnson could appoint someone else as chair, but Chatham's term on the Planning Board does not end until December 31, 2021, and he can continue on the Planning Board until that time. There are three members of the Planning Board, however, whose terms expire at the end of this year: Ginna Moore, Clark Wieman, and Toni Koweek, who was only recently appointed to the Planning Board to finish out Mark Morgan-Perez's term. Johnson can make three new appointments to the Planning Board.

On the Zoning Board of Appeals, there will be two vacancies to be filled. The terms of Kathy Harter and Theresa Joyner are up at the end of the year. Both women have served on the ZBA for more than one term. Johnson could reappoint them or replace them. Also he can replace Lisa Kenneally as chair of the ZBA, a position she has held through several administrations. Kenneally's current term on the ZBA doesn't end until December 31, 2020.

On the Historic Preservation Commission, no one's term will expire this year, so Johnson will have no new appointments to make to this commission--at least not this year. Unlike the Planning Board and the ZBA, the HPC selects its own chair.

The mayor also appoints people to serve on the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Of the seven member board, two members are elected by the residents of Bliss Towers, and the remaining five are appointed by the mayor. There was one vacancy on the board, and now, after the recent resignations of Alan Weaver and Peggy Polenberg, there are three. Two of the vacancies may be filled by Mayor Rick Rector before the end of his term, leaving one to be filled by Johnson.

Then there's the Tourism Board. The law that created the Tourism Board very carefully defines the composition of the board: the chair is to be the chair of the Common Council Economic Development Committee; four members of the board are appointed by the Common Council; four members are appointed by the mayor. What the law doesn't define is the term of those serving on the Tourism Board, so it is assumed that the makeup of the board can completely change every two years. It appears that is what is going to happen.

At the informal meeting of the Common Council on November 12, a resolution authorizing the Tourism Board to spend $2,000 of its budget to bring Steve Chandler of Chandlerthinks to Hudson to make a presentation to the Council was tabled. This action seems to have been taken in anticipation of a "whole new Tourism Board," which very likely may want to interpret the task assigned to them in a different way, rejecting the work done over the past two years by the current Tourism Board.

Gone Without a Trace

This morning, I received an email from a reader, thanking me for posting the photograph of the graffiti on the building on South Third Street, which was until recently the location of Ör. He said graffiti is "in such need of recognition for what it is and does to Hudson."

He expressed the opinion that "graffiti is one of the most damaging crimes against our society/community because it stays for years at a time and repeatedly assaults our senses on an emotional level, very much like constant verbal harassment." He included the link to Combating Graffiti: Reclaiming the Public Spaces of New York, a booklet published sometime during the twelve years that Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York City (2002-2013). The booklet recommends the following action, after reporting the occurrence of graffiti to the police: "The prompt removal of the graffiti is suggested to prevent the long term display of the markings, and discourage the purpose of the vandalism."

The recommendation inspired me to drive by the building on my way home from the farmers market this morning to discover that the graffiti was no longer there.

Gossips doesn't know when the graffiti was removed. The property is owned by Galvan Initiatives Foundation.

Friday, November 22, 2019

What's Happening with Cosmic Cinemas

People have been noticing and commenting on Facebook that Cosmic Cinemas, which opened a year ago in Fairview Plaza, in the same space where Fairview Cinema 3 enjoyed forty-four years of continuous operation, has been closed for the past week. An article in the Albany Times Union today reveals what's happening: "Hudson's Cosmic Cinemas theater closes, to re-open under Albany's Madison management."

Photo: Michael Williams|Albany Times Union

A Discovery at 59 Allen Street

Much of the plastic enshrouding 59 Allen Street has now been taken down, revealing a detail that went unnoticed before the paint was removed: a brick semicircular arch over what must have been a window--a much larger window than the one that is there now.

The presence of this detail in the brick work raises some questions about the window that was originally there. The engraving of the house that appears on an 1858 map of Columbia County shows a tripartite window in this position with rectangular hood mouldings.

By 1954, when Howard Gibson took this picture of a fire in a nearby house on Allen Street, the smaller window that is there now is in place, with a rectangular hood moulding, similar to what appears in the 19th-century engraving, which is now missing.

So, why is there this brick semicircular arch? It would not have been needed for the window that appears in the 1858 engraving. The house was built in 1851, so it seems reasonable to assume that the engraving shows the house as it was originally.

Got a Story to Tell?

Ancram Opera House is seeking local storytellers for its popular series Real People Real Stories, which will close out the 2019 season on Saturday, December 21. Those interested in sharing a story should email a story summary to or leave a one-minute version of the story on AOH's pitch line at 518 250-9791. The deadline for submitting stories is Friday, December 6. All stories must be true, experienced firsthand by the storyteller, and can run no more than fifteen minutes.

AOH's Real People Real Stories, inspired by The Moth Radio Hour on NPR, has become an audience favorite, produced twice a year. AOH director Paul Ricciardi works with storytellers to help them prepare their stories for the stage. Says Ricciardi, "The goal is not to create a polished monologue, but to allow the spontaneity of a real-life story to shine through."

Ancram Opera House is located at 1330 County Route 7, just north of the corner of Route 82. For more information, visit

Thank You, DAR

The Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has honored me with its Community Service Award, primarily for nearly ten years of reporting the news of Hudson and sharing its rich history on The Gossips of Rivertown. The award was presented in ceremony this past Monday at the DAR Chapter House on Warren Street.

With Jeane La Porta, Chapter Regent (left), and Mary Lou Zimmerman, Community Service Chairman (right)
It's a rare and wonderful thing when something you began doing for the simple joy of doing it is considered meritorious and worthy of recognition. I am deeply honored and grateful to the members of the DAR for acknowledging my efforts in this way.

Zoning and Planning Stewart's Style

Since 2015, Stewart's has been trying to get the Village Board in Altamont to change the zoning to accommodate its plans for a bigger and better gas station and convenience store, and since the beginning of 2018, Gossips has been following that story. Yesterday, the Altamont Enterprise reported that Stewart's was finally getting its way in Altamont: "Altamont Village Board approves Stewart's rezone for second time, clearing path for new shop." As was the case here in Hudson, the expansion of Stewart's in Altamont involves the demolition of a residential property, the two-family house shown at the right in the photo below.

Photo: Michael Koff|Altamont Enterprise
Chuck Marshall, real estate representative for Stewart's, has promised a new store for Altamont that aligns more closely with the existing architecture in the village--in particular, the former train station that now houses the Altamont Free Library.

It will be interesting to see what they get.

Correction: Chuck Marshall informs me that "the building we're taking features from is Altamont Corners not the library." Altamont Corners is a shopping plaza which is now the location of Subway, Bamboo Garden, Altamont Martial Arts, and Paisano's Pizza Villa.

The Altamont Corners website provides the following information about the plaza:
Jeffrey N. Thomas developed Altamont Corners with a vision to replicate Altamont's historical architecture and compliment the nature of the village. Design techniques from 1890's are present in the structure of Altamont Corners. The plaza features a mosaic of Severson House that stood on the site in 1867, and later became the Commercial Hotel.
Altamont Corners is a location where you can feel the history of the village.   

Ear to the Ground

Last evening, a reader reported that a large boulder had fallen onto the railroad tracks somewhere around Germantown, disabling the train ahead of the one in which he was traveling and causing his train to be 90 minutes late arriving in Hudson. 

When Amtrak and the Department of Transportation deemed it necessary to clad the escarpment in Hudson with shotcrete, the fear was there might be a plan to apply shotcrete to the rock face all along the scenic railroad corridor between New York City and Albany. This incident may trigger such action.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Watch for Yourself

Gossips has reported on the discussion of the police contract at Tuesday's Common Council meeting, and so has Amanda Purcell for HudsonValley360: "Police contract vote on hold." Dan Udell's video of the meeting is now available on YouTube, so you can watch the discussion for yourself. Sergeant Christopher Filli asks the question that begins the exchange with Council president Tom DePietro at 27:50.


New House Proposed for State Street

Two years ago, Gossips reported that the house at 418 State Street was to be demolished and replaced by a new structure. The information came from a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals, where the owner of the building sought area variances for the proposed new house.

The area variances were granted, but the plan was never pursued, and the house, once the home of Obed Marshall, got a little reprieve. But in July of this year, the house, now with a different owner, was bashed to smithereens by a backhoe.

Last night, the new owner of the property was at the ZBA seeking area variances--side yard setbacks and lot coverage--for a new house he plans to construct on the site. The applicant showed the ZBA a model of the house he was proposing.

State Street facade and west side of the building

Back and east side of building
A public hearing on the proposed project has been scheduled for December 18 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The site of the proposed house is not in a historic district.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What Does It Say?

Facebook and 98.5 The Cat are reporting that the building on South Third Street which until recently was the location of Ör has been defaced with some monumental graffiti.

What's puzzling the police--and Gossips as well--is what the letters are and what they spell.

The Vote on the 2020 City Budget

Although Gossips predicted Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) would question the amount budgeted for the dog control officer, that didn't happen. Instead Garriga asked if a 2.2 percent increase in the City budget meant that taxes would go up. City treasurer provided the information that in 2019 $5.27 million had to be raised in property taxes and in 2020 the amount would be $5.47 million--an increase of $200,000.

Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward) made a cautionary statement about the budget, pointing out that the fund balance was now as low as it had ever been in recent memory, and, according to the City's own policies, no more money could be taken from the fund balance to close the gap between revenue and expenses. He noted that the budget proposed for 2020 is dependent on the current trends continuing. The 2020 budget anticipates increases in sales tax (11.8 percent), the lodging tax (21.4 percent), and parking meter revenue (17.2 percent)--all of which, although Volo didn't say it, are dependent on tourism, which, like gentrification, is becoming a dirty word in Hudson. 

When the Council voted on accepting the budget, the vote was unanimously in favor. The 2020 budget can be viewed here.

The Common Council and the Police Contract

Several police officers, as well as Chief Ed Moore, were present at last night's Common Council meeting. The reason for their presence wasn't clear until the end of the meeting, when Council president Tom DePietro permitted public comment. Sergeant Christopher Filli, speaking on behalf of the police officers and the police union, wanted to know "why the Council is remaining silent on the police contract." A tentative agreement on the contract was reached on October 25 and ratified by the police union on October 28. 

DePietro claimed that the Council had not seen the contract, that he had made numerous requests to see the contract but had been denied. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) complained, "We knew nothing about the contract. We were not asked for suggestions." Alderman and mayor-elect Kamal Johnson (First Ward) claimed the Council never received what they had requested, although he did not specify what it was the Council had requested.

Council members, specifically DePietro, Garriga, and Johnson, have complained before that the Council was not involved in the negotiations for the new police contract. Last night, DePietro declared, "We are the stewards of taxpayer money, and we were not involved." He went on to claim that, in previous administrations, the Council did play a part in the negotiations. Filli said he had been involved in four previous contract negotiations and suggested that he was more familiar with the process than DePietro. Filli went on to say that negotiations were more effective with a smaller number of people.

In the conversation, the problem finally emerged. The prescribed procedure is that Elayne Gold, the attorney who represented the City in the contract negotiations, as she has for more than a decade (also the attorney whose fee the Council refused to pay back in October because they had been left out of the negotiations), presents the tentative contract to the Council. According to Filli, the tentative contract is two pages of amendments to the existing police contract, which can be reviewed by anyone at City Hall. DePietro is insisting that the Council must see the tentative contract before it is presented by the attorney, arguing that the Council cannot vote on something they have just received. Register-Star reporter Amanda Purcell finally asked, "If you are presented with the contract, do you have to vote on it at that time?" DePietro admitted they did not, so it's not clear why DePietro is so committed to seeing the contract before meeting with the attorney. The Council will have time to read, comprehend, and discuss the two pages of amendments before voting to accept or reject the contract.

A few times during the discussion, Filli expressed the hope that a successful agreement would not be embroiled in a political disagreement between personalities"--the personalities being DePietro and Mayor Rick Rector. When Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) suggested, "Politics may be involved," DePietro retorted, "You're introducing the politics."

Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) proposed that the Council have a special meeting for the attorney to present the tentative contract. When he did, Garriga told city attorney Andy Howard that Merante needed to recuse himself from any discussion of the police contract because he is related to a police officer. Howard said this was the first he'd heard of the situation, and he would talk with Merante about it, but he said, "It wouldn't be a de facto recusal."

The discussion finally ended, and the meeting was adjourned, when Johnson asked DePietro to "reach out" to the attorney so they could have a special meeting.  

Contacted for comment after the meeting, Mayor Rector told Gossips:
The Council president has been told by several individuals, including myself, how the police contact is both prepared and ultimately given to the Council. I have also spoken with individual Council members regarding the process. We have been waiting for weeks to obtain a date and time for our attorney to meet with the Council to review the contract and answer any questions. The Council can request changes, etc., in this process. We have followed the same procedure as all previous contract negotiations have in recent history.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Keeping Their Word

A month ago, on October 19, Gossips reported about the porticoes on the new Stewart's building which did not match the ones shown in the rendering and in the elevation drawing presented to the Planning Board. It was on the basis of these visual representations that the Planning Board had given site plan approval, and neither showed the porticoes as the "lumpy blocks of styrofoam" they turned out to be.

At that time, Gossips also reported that Walter Chatham, chair of the Planning Board, had met with Chuck Marshall, real estate representative for Stewart's, to discuss the issue of the porticoes, and Marshall had agreed that what was built was not what had been approved and promised to rebuild the porticoes "like the picture." He said the work to correct the design would be staggered between the two porticoes.

Yesterday, the first of the two "lumpy blocks of styrofoam," the one on the Green Street side of the building, was removed. The pictures below were taken this morning.

This afternoon, Gossips received word from a reader in the neighborhood that a thinner portico was being framed out.

Regarding the 2020 City Budget

Tonight, at 6:30 p.m., there is a special meeting of the Common Council to consider the proposed City budget for 2020. Last night, there was a public hearing on the budget. The Board of Estimate and Apportionment (mayor, Council president, treasurer), all the commissioners and department heads, and a handful of alderman were present, but there was only one member of the public present: me. I had no questions about the budget, but, as a property owner and taxpayer, I should have commended the BEA for holding the increase in the City budget to just 2.2 percent, but since no one but me was there to report it, making that statement here is just as good.

Before Mayor Rick Rector adjourned the public hearing, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) said she wanted to review some budget items, specifically the amount of money budgeted for the dog control officer. Rector explained that the hearing was the opportunity for the public to comment on the budget, and her concerns might be more appropriately brought up tonight when the Council meets about the budget. 

Garriga has a history of concerns about the dog control officer. Last year, before the Council passed the resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract for 2019 with Wes Powell, the dog control officer, Garriga insisted that he "come in and speak with the Council," which he did on December 10. Last night, Garriga suggested that too much had been budgeted for the dog control officer, which is puzzling because Gossips has confirmed that the annual fee to be paid to Powell in 2020 is $7,200, the same amount the City has been paying for his services for the past ten years. Perhaps more about the issue will be revealed at tonight's meeting.

Boulevard Burglars Apprehended

Gossips just received the following press release from Chief Ed Moore of the Hudson Police Department:
On Tuesday November 19 at 7:34 a.m., Columbia County 911 received a call from a citizen reporting a burglary in progress at 54 Parkwood Blvd. Two males and one female subject ran out of the house into a wooded area. HPD Officer Card quickly apprehended the female. A detail made up of Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputies and Greenport PD Chief Kevin Marchetto converged on the neighborhood. Two Columbia County Sheriff K-9 units were involved in tracking, and the other two male subjects were quickly located and arrested in the area of Underhill Pond.
Arrested for Burglary 3rd (D-Fel) and Criminal Mischief 3rd (E-Fel) was Monique A. Rivera, age 19, of Hudson, NY. She has been arraigned in Hudson City Court and is scheduled to return to Hudson City Court on 11/21/19 at 8:30 a.m. Two 16-year-old males, one from Catskill and one from Hudson, are currently appearing in front of Columbia County Family Court Judge Nichols.
There have been a few recent reports of larceny and criminal mischief. I believe more charges will be lodged when we get done sorting this all out with all local law enforcement. I am thankful for the immediate response from the Sheriff and Greenport PD. Our Officer Card had sight of the burglars within four minutes of the original report.”--Chief