Sunday, May 31, 2020

Catching Up With the DRI

The DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) Committee maintains it is not subject to open meetings law, so although before the COVID-19 State of Emergency the public could attend the committee's meetings, the meetings now happen as conference calls with no provision for the public to hear or participate in those calls. The only way to keep up with what is happening is to read the summaries of those meetings when they are posted on the City of Hudson website, which happens regularly but not in a very timely fashion. In the past day, the meeting summary for a meeting that took place on May 20 was finally made available. The most compelling news contained in the summary has to do with the Dunn warehouse.

Sometime on March, the DRI Committee issued a request for expression of interest in developing the Dunn warehouse for adaptive reuse. Proposals were due on April 10, and it seems that only one proposal was received--from Bonacio Construction in Saratoga Springs. Bonacio was one of the three developers that submitted proposals for the Kaz site in 2018. A sense of the company and its work may be achieved by visiting its website and by reading this article about the company's founder that appeared last year in Saratoga Living: "Sonny Bonacio, President of Bonacio Construction, Wants to Make Saratoga 'Cool Again.'"

The meeting summary for the DRI Committee's May 6 meeting reports:
The Committee decided to advance discussions with Bonacio, which does not represent a commitment, but will assist in getting an idea of what is possible at the site and further the City's relationship with this firm.
The meeting summary of the most recent meeting of the DRI Committee, which took place on May 20, reports that several members of the committee (Michael Chameides, Rob Perry, Tom DePietro, Peter Bujanow, along with Chris Round and Caren LoBrutto of Chazen) had a conference call with two representatives of Bonacio on May 13. The meeting summary notes:
During the call, Bonacio expressed interest in the project, but wanted greater clarification on how this project fits with other development and revitalization efforts being undertaken in this part of the City. In particular, they inquired as to the status of the KAZ project noting that this project and the completion of the Ferry Street Bridge project would be critical in addition to other projects to the successful transformation of the waterfront area.  
It is reported that during the call Bonacio also expressed interest in the City-owned parcels north of the Dunn warehouse and, in a follow-up call, "explained that the additional parcels would be needed to round out the Dunn redevelopment site and make a potential investment viable."

Back in 1996, before Henry Hudson Riverfront Park existed, the Vision Plan imagined a nearly solid row of buildings along the east side of Water Street, but more recent thinking has tended toward expanding the green public space of the park rather than constructing buildings. If memory serves, the buildings proposed in the 1996 Vision Plan were mixed used commercial and residential. 

The DRI Committee seems willing to act on Bonacio's assessment that developing the additional parcels is critical to the successful redevelopment of the Dunn warehouse. The meeting summary reports:
The committee decided to 1) Approach the City Council regarding potential redevelopment of the City-owned properties. 2) Pending the outcome of 1) Peter and Chris will solicit responses from firms previously contacted where there was no response/interest and inform them of the potential for redevelopment of the additional parcels. . . . 
Among the "Next Steps" listed in the meeting summary is this: "Michael Chameides to approach the City Council on the appetite to redevelopment [sic] the three City-owned parcels north of Dunn." If this has happened since May 20, it has not happened in any public manner. The next meeting of the DRI Committee, to take place as a conference call, is scheduled for this coming Wednesday, June 3.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been four new cases of COVID-19 and five more recoveries. Strangely, the number of active cases being reported by the CCDOH remains the same. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by one, but there have been no new deaths.
As of 12 p.m. on May 31, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 33 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has received confirmed positive test results for 389 community members.
  • There are 126 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County.
  • 231 of the 389 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 17 of the positive cases are hospitalized, 1 of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We're received a total of 4,508 PCR [diagnostic] test results and we've received 1,243 antibody results, of which 130 were positive.      
On the last day of May, we can compare where we have been in the past two months. The daily record of new cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County since the first case was reported on March 20 doesn't make for the same neat curve seen in the state as a whole, but it is still interesting to compare April and May. 

In April, not a day went by without Columbia County seeing at least two new cases. Toward the end of April, there were spikes--the first, 14 new cases in one day on April 28; the second, 30 new cases on April 30. Eventually, we learned those spikes were new cases discovered at Barnwell.

May started out with the similar high numbers--34 new cases on May 5 and 45 new cases on May 6. Again these spikes had to do with Barnwell, where, as of this past Friday, there have been 134 cases of COVID-19 among the nursing home residents. Also in May, there have been eight days when there have been no new cases reported at all. Unfortunately, that has never been the case for more than two consecutive days, and that happened only once. On the first day of May there were 5 new cases; on the last day of May there were 4.

Peaceful Protest

Yesterday in Kingston, there was a peaceful march in memory of George Floyd and in protest of his death: "Kingston march remembers George Floyd, man killed by Minnesota police." 

Photo: John Bechtold|Kingston Freeman
This morning, on his personal Facebook page, Mayor Kamal Johnson announced plans for a peaceful demonstration to take place today at 4:00 p.m. at the entrance to Promenade Hill. The announcement also includes a request that everyone remain indoors starting at 8:30 p.m. tonight. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Parking Rules Return

Typically at this time of year, it is announced that overnight alternate side of the street parking will be suspended on weekends throughout the summer. This year, things are different.

By Mayor Kamal Johnson's COVID-19 State of Emergency order, alternate side of the street parking rules were suspended in mid-March, along with having to put coins in the meters on streets and in municipal parking lots. On June 1--this coming Monday, the day after tomorrow--both suspensions will end. We are back to having to park our cars on the odd side of the street from midnight to 8:00 a.m on days whose dates are odd and on the even side of the street on days whose dates are even. This means that tomorrow, Sunday, when you park your car for the night, it needs to be on the odd side on the street--that is, the south side for east-west streets, the west side for north-south streets. As yet, there is no indication if the overnight parking rule will be suspended on summer weekends, as it has in the past.

Also, if you are parking at a meter between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., you will need to put a quarter in the meter for every 30 minutes you plan to stay there, with a maximum, as always, of two hours.  
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Unnatural Nature

Nine years ago, in a post called "Edward Scissorhands, Where Are You?" I carped about the brutally uniform manner in which the bushes and shrubs in our city parks were pruned. Among the pictures accompanying that post was this one, showing some bushes along the west side of the Public Square on the last day of March.

Recently, I was struck by the appearance of these same bushes in 2020--three pruned into precise cylinders, mirroring the shape of the trash barrel and orange traffic barrels beside them, and one looking like a botanical replica of The Egg in Albany.

In late May, we can tell that these odd, rigid shapes are spirea bushes. This is how spirea is supposed to look.

Wouldn't it be grand if the spirea bushes in our parks and in the cemetery were allowed to grow back into their natural shapes--if that's even possible anymore? 
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been no new positive cases. The number of active cases is down by three--two have recovered, but one, sad to say, has died.  
As of 11:15 a.m. on May 30, 2020:
  • We are sad to report a 33rd Columbia County resident that has passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has received confirmed positive test results for 385 community members.
  • There are 126 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County.  
  • There are 54 additional residents on mandatory quarantine and 7 residents on precautionary quarantine.
  • 226 of the 385 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 16 of the positive cases are hospitalized, 1 of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We've received a total of 4,271 PCR [diagnostic] test results and we're received 1,211 antibody results, of which 128 were positive.

Of Interest

Chronogram published an article this morning titled "When Will Libraries Reopen?" In it, our own Hudson Area Library is featured, and library director Emily Chameides is quoted as saying, "Currently, libraries in the Capital Region are able to open if they are government facilities. Our library, and the majority of libraries in Columbia County, are association libraries and thus not permitted to open. We're not sure when the Capital Region will enter Phase Two, or if association libraries will even be included in that phase--and, if we are, what guidelines will be in place at that time."


In answer to the first unknown cited by Chameides, it was reported this morning that the Capital Region is on track to enter Phase Two on Wednesday, June 3. The answers to the other two questions--if association libraries are part of Phase Two and what guidelines will be in place--may still be unknown.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has published its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been four new confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have also been twelve more recoveries, so the number of active cases being reported by the CCDOH is down by eight. The number of people now hospitalized with COVID-19 remains the same as it was yesterday, as does the number of deaths.
As of 3 p.m. on May 29, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 32 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has received confirmed positive test results for 385 community members.
  • There are 129 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County.
  • There are 53 additional residents on mandatory quarantine and 5 residents on precautionary quarantine.
  • 224 of the 385 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 17 of the positive cases are hospitalized, 1 of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We've received a total of 4,233 PCR [diagnostic] test results and we've received 1,187 antibody results, of which 126 were positive.

Where Are the COVID-19 Cases Now?

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its weekly breakdown of COVID-19 cases by municipality and nursing home. Countywide, there were 25 new cases in the past week. In most locations that saw new cases, the number was just one or two. The exceptions are Hillsdale and Kinderhook, both of which have had four new cases in the past week, and Barnwell, which has had seven.

In the list below, the first number indicates the number of cases last Friday; the second number indicates the number of cases today.

Ancram  5 | 7
Canaan  9 | 10
Chatham  15 | 17
Claverack  8 | 9
Clermont  4 | 4
Copake  17 | 17
Germantown  8 | 8
Ghent  16| 18
Greenport  13 | 13
Hillsdale  8 | 12
Hudson  32 | 33
Kinderhook  37 | 41
Livingston  8 | 8
New Lebanon  4 | 4
Stockport  1 | 2
Stuyvesant  9 | 9
Nursing Homes
Livingston Hills  2 | 2
Pine Haven  37 | 37
Barnwell  127 | 134

The CCDOH also provided an accounting of the 32 deaths: 12 were residents of Pine Haven, 15 were residents of Barnwell, and 5 were not nursing home residents.

School Budget Vote

When thinking about the upcoming school budget vote, Hanlon's Razor often comes to mind. Because we don't like to attribute either malice or stupidity to our school district leaders, the aphorism can be restated: "Some bad things happen not because of people having bad intentions, but because they did not think it through properly."

First, we learned that only people who had voted in school district elections in the past four years would be receiving an absentee ballot for this year's budget vote and board election. For the past eight years, the people who showed up to vote in school elections have dutifully passed the proposed HCSD budget, so, if only those people receive absentee ballots, the chances the budget will pass are pretty good. Limiting the number of voters in this way may appear to be a way of predetermining the vote. That's the bad intentions spin.

At the same time, we were assured that voters who suspected they were not on the HCSD poll list could contact the District Clerk. In the past couple of days, Gossips has heard from several readers that email address provided on the card sent out last week and on the absentee ballot application does not work. Anything sent to districtclerk@hudsoncsd.org, gets the response: "The address you sent your message to wasn't found at the destination domain." It's been discovered that you need to send your application to coonslx@hudsoncsd.org. Bad intentions or just a snafu? To be safe, it seems best to use the U.S. Postal Service to submit your application, but do it now. Absentee ballot applications must be received by June 2--that's Tuesday.

A reader commented that she had called the District Clerk at 518 828-4360, ext. 2100, to confirm she would receive an absentee ballot and was told that "ballots should be received in the next couple of days." Let's hope they arrive before June 2, so that people who do not receive a ballot can still request one. If you think there's a chance you are not on HCSD's poll list, download an application here and mail it to: Leslie M. Coons, District Clerk, Hudson City School District, 215 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, NY 12534.

What's happening now, which has the appearance of trying to limit the pool of voters to the people who have approved school budgets in the past, reminds me of something that happened in 2011, when HCSD voters rejected the proposed $41 million budget. Then, in a kind of reverse of what appears to be happening now, Jeff Otty, the late husband of the current board president, Carrie Otty, tried to minimize the significance of the vote against the budget by pointing out that only 18 percent of those eligible to vote had actually voted.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Sad News

Katrin Hecker shared the news today on Facebook of the death of Avis Davis. Here are her words of tribute to him:
Rocking and Rolling . . . a change of tune now.
His life a jam session with opportunities, carefree and caring, honestly lived, always with a smirk, a tender heart dressed in leather and chains, witty, soulful, loved and charming, talented and deliciously funny, a life together, a change of tune now. . . .

Take the Gossips Challenge

Were you able to recognize the seven people who appeared in the Gossips "Wear a Mask" ads this week?

If you could, email your list to carole@gossipsofrivertown.com or text your list to 518 610-5339. The first person to identify them all correctly wins a bag of cookies from Trixie's Oven, which can be claimed at the Hudson Farmers Market tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health published its numbers earlier today. Since yesterday, there have been two new confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have also been five more recoveries, so the number of active cases is now three less than yesterday. The number of people now hospitalized with COVID-19 remains the same, as does the number of deaths.
As of 3:30 p.m. on May 28, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 32 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Columbia County has received confirmed positive test results for 381 unique community members.
  • There are 137 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County.
  • There are 76 additional residents on mandatory quarantine and 5 residents on precautionary quarantine.
  • 212 of the 381 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 17 of the positive cases are hospitalized, 1 of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have categorized our results by antibody and PCR [diagnostic] tests. We've received a total of 4,088 PCR test results and we're received 1,138 antibody results, of which 122 were positive.

Voter Prep

The New York State Absentee Ballot Application for the June 23 primary arrived today here at Gossips Central. If you haven't received yours yet, it should be arriving soon. An arrow in the margin marks the reason we may all use for requesting an absentee ballot: "Temporary illness or physical disability (this includes the risk of exposure to COVID-19). Every voter may select this reason."


The ballot application comes with a postage-paid envelope, so fill it out, sign it, and send it back as soon as you can. The deadline for submitting the application is one week prior to the election, or Tuesday, June 16, but don't wait until then. The Board of Elections will be processing thousands more requests for absentee ballots than they ever have before. To ensure you get your ballot in a timely fashion, submit your application right away.

There's no word yet on when we can expect to receive absentee ballots for the HCSD budget vote and school board election.

The Results Are In

For two weeks in May, from May 7 to May 21, the HDC Reimagine Hudson Hospitality Task Force conducted a "Consumer Sentiment Survey." The stated purpose of the survey was "to learn more about consumer spending habits--pre-PAUSE, during PAUSE, and intentions for spending post-PAUSE--during the COVID-19 crisis in the City of Hudson." There were a total of 221 responses, which is a pretty significant number. The results of the survey were made public today. The following points are part of HDC's overview of the results.


  • The majority of the respondents (60.4%) were 55 years of age or older. This is important to note because this demographic is also considered at high risk for COVID-19.
  • 94.8% of the respondents believe that the wearing of masks in public places is necessary. They feel that strict sanitation standards are crucial to feeling confident in shopping and dining. The option for dining outdoors for maintaining social distance was important to 77.8% of respondents.
  • Most respondents (48.1%) report that they spent on average $25 to $50 per person per dining outing prior to the PAUSE. The next level (29.2%) spends $50 to $75. Post-PAUSE, most people intend to eat out less often but would like to order takeout. COVID-19 impact on income is directly correlated with the purchase power during the crisis and post-PAUSE intention.
All the survey results can be viewed here.

Wear a Mask

In his COVID-19 briefing this morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would be signing an executive order later today authorizing private businesses to deny entrance to anyone who is not wearing a mask.

Wear a mask when you are out and about!

Reminder: HCSD Budget Vote

This year, the HCSD budget vote and the school board election will be done exclusively by absentee ballot. If you have voted in a school election in the past four years, you will receive an absentee ballot in the mail. If you have not voted in a school election in the past four years--and that is probably the case for the vast majority of voters in the Hudson City School District--you will not receive a ballot unless you request one. To request a ballot, you must fill out the application found here and submit it before June 2 to Leslie M. Coons, District Clerk, Hudson City School District, 215 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, NY 12534.

Information about the budget, provided by the district, can be found here, here, and here.

Food News

Another restaurant that has been closed since the COVID-19 crisis began is once again open, in a new format. Wm. Farmer & Sons has announced that, starting today, Thursday, May 28, they will be offering curbside pickup Thursday through Sunday. The menu can be viewed here. Order between noon and 7:30 p.m., by phone at 518 828-1635 or online, for pickup between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

About the HCSD Budget

Last night, the Hudson City School District Board of Education held a public hearing on the proposed 2020-2021 budget. The total amount of the budget is $50.7 million ($50,684,738 to be exact), which is an increase of $892,275 over the current year and a 1.99 percent increase in the tax levy. More information about the budget is available in the Budget Book and the budget newsletter, both of which are available at the HCSD website. The latter is typically mailed to residents in the district, but that has not happened yet. The vote on the budget takes place less than two weeks from now, on June 7.

There were a total of 19 people participating in the Zoom meeting, only about eight of whom were not board members or HCSD employees. Only three of the members of the public opted to speak. One of those was Ken Sheffer, who asked a couple of questions that need to be shared. First, he asked about "pay cuts for senior leadership in the district, in line with what other districts are doing." HCSD superintendent Maria Suttmeier answered the question by denying that any districts have made pay cuts. Sheffer then asked about outreach to the community about hardship, citing a current unemployment rate during the pandemic of 30 percent. Suttmeier responded: "We've done more than other districts on this issue."

Sheffer's questions and Suttmeier's responses inspired me to do something I haven't done in a while, not since 2015: check SeeThroughNY to find out how much those working for the Hudson City School District are being paid. Back in 2015 when I checked, there were ten district employees being paid more than $100,000 a year and another seventeen being paid somewhere between $90,000 and $100,000. The figures available now, which are from 2019, indicate there were, last year, 29 district employees with salaries of more than $100,000 and another 39 employees being paid somewhere between $90,000 and $100,000 a year. All the information can be found here.

Under normal circumstances, if voters reject a budget, the school district can do one of three things: present the same budget to the voters a second time and hope for a different outcome; trim the budget and try again; adopt the contingency budget, which is the same as the 2019-2020 budget. This year, because the budget vote as been postponed and voting will be done by absentee ballot, the district's only recourse, should the voters reject the budget, would be to adopt the contingency budget, which would be the same as the current year's $49.8 million budget. According to Suttmeier, "The contingency budget squeezes out everything that motivates students to come to school." That's a pretty sad assessment.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Oddly, although the Register-Star this morning reported a death that occurred at Barnwell on Sunday, May 24, the CCDOH hasn't reported a new death from COVID-19 since Saturday, May 23. Also, the CCDOH has reduced the total number of confirmed cases from 381, reported yesterday, to 379, explaining that two cases had been recorded twice. Since yesterday, there is one more person hospitalized. The report indicates that there are five fewer active cases of COVID-19 but only three more recoveries. Of interest is that of 1,044 antibody tests administered, only 119 people appear to have the antibodies.
As of 3 p.m. on May 27, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 32 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • Through quality assurance, we identified some duplicates in our total positive confirmed cases. Columbia County has received confirmed positive test results for 379 unique community members.
  • There are 140 active cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County.
  • There are 76 additional residents on mandatory quarantine and 5 residents on precautionary quarantine.
  • 207 of the 379 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 17 of the positive cases are hospitalized, 1 of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have categorized our results by antibody and PCR [diagnostic] tests. We've received a total of 3,869 PCR test results and we've received 1,044 antibody results, of which 119 were positive.

Voting in the Time of COVID-19

There are two opportunities to vote in the month ahead: the HCSD budget vote and school board election on June 9, and the Democratic and Republican primaries on June 23. In both cases, voting can be done by absentee ballot.

For the HCSD budget vote, voting by absentee ballot is the only option for voting. A post card sent out last week indicated that the absentee ballots will be automatically sent to every "qualified voter" on "the School District's poll list."

Information available on the Hudson City School District website clarifies exactly who will receive an absentee ballot: "Qualified voters on the most recent years' poll lists will be automatically sent an absentee ballot (i.e., if you voted on a school budget/board election within the past four years)." Since voter turnout for school budget and board elections is typically very low (for example, when I voted last year, forty minutes before the polls closed, only 270 Hudsonians had voted before me), many taxpayers who are affected by the budget vote will not be receiving an absentee ballot. If you think there is a possibility that you will not receive an absentee ballot, you must fill out the form found here and return it before June 2--that's less than a week away. The form provides the information about where the completed form must be sent.

For the primaries--presidential for the Democrats, a candidate to oppose Antonio Delgado for the Republicans--there are three options for how you can vote: absentee, early voting, or at the polls on June 23. All these options are explained in a document prepared by Democratic Commissioner of Elections Ken Dow, which can be accessed here. Everyone will be receiving a personalized special absentee ballot application, which should be arriving soon. The application should be completed and promptly returned to the Board of Elections. Despite a scheduled nine days of early voting and plans for the polls to be open for fifteen hours on June 23, the Board of Elections is hoping that the vast majority of voters will vote absentee, because many of the usual poll workers are unwilling to risk exposure to COVID-19 to staff the polls.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 at Barnwell

On Friday, when the Columbia County Department of Health published its breakdown of COVID-19 cases by municipality and nursing home, it was reported that there were 127 positive cases at Barnwell in Valatie. That number represents almost 60 percent of residents at the facility.

Yesterday, when the CCDOH numbers for the day were published on Facebook, reporting no new deaths in the past 24 hours, someone commented that her father-in-law had died of the virus at Barnwell over the weekend. 

Today, the Register-Star reports on the current situation at Barnwell: "Barnwell death toll at 15." According to the article, the most recent death occurred on Sunday. For reasons unknown, that death was not included in the statistics reported by the CCDOH either on Monday or yesterday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. The good news is that nothing has changed since yesterday except that eleven more people have recovered from the coronavirus. There have been no more deaths, no more new positive cases, no more hospitalizations. Today's report also acknowledges that the CCDOH not been distinguishing between diagnostic testing and antibody testing when reporting the number of test results received. Presumably starting today, they are going to start doing that. Yesterday, the total number of test results reported was 4,626.
As of 3 p.m. on May 26, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 32 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • 381 positive cases of COVID-19 with 145 active cases. There are 73 additional residents on mandatory quarantine and 3 residents on precautionary quarantine.
  • 204 of the 381 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 16 of the positive cases are hospitalized, 1 of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have categorized our results by antibody and PCR tests. We've received a total of 3,775 PCR test results and are in the process of tallying antibody results that have been completed for Columbia County residents.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Virtual Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

In the eleventh week of social distancing and the unofficial first week of summer, there are lots of meetings to attend virtually, especially on Tuesday.
  • On Tuesday, May 26, the Hudson Development Corporation holds its regular monthly meeting at noon. Click here to access the meeting. The meeting ID is 834 5774 8022; the password is 991859.
  • Also on Tuesday, May 26, the Columbia Comeback Committee meets at 1:00 p.m. Click here to view the meeting on YouTube.
  • At 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, the HDC Emergency Cultural Task Force holds its regularly weekly meeting. Click here to access the meeting. The meeting ID is 972 7312 5560; the password is 009933.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, the Common Council Police Committee holds its regular monthly meeting. The meeting will be on Zoom. Check the City of Hudson website for log in information. 
Update: Tonight's Police Committee meeting has been canceled.
  • Also on Tuesday, May 26, at 6:30 p.m., the Hudson City School District holds a public hearing on the 2020-2021 budget. Information for accessing the meeting is available here.   
  • On Wednesday, May 27, there are two Common Council committee meetings: the Public Works and Parks Committee meets at 5:00 p.m., and the Legal Committee meets at 6:15 p.m. Both meetings will be on Zoom. Check the City of Hudson website for log in information.  
  • On Thursday, May 28, the HDC Emergency Hospitality Task Force holds its regular weekly meeting at 3:00 p.m. Click here to access the meeting. The meeting ID is 857 3559 2807; the password is 917586.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 28, the Zoning Board of Appeals holds its first meeting since February. To access the Zoom meeting, click here. The meeting ID is 820 9538 5218; the password is MEETzba.

About the School District Budget

Last week, the Hudson City School District sent out this post card informing people of the upcoming "School Budget Vote & Board Election."

The post card provides a great deal of important information, the first being that the annual vote on the school district budget will take place on Tuesday, June 9, but the vote will be entirely by absentee ballot. The ballots must be mailed in and received by the district clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on June 9. There is, however, no indication of when voters should expect to receive their ballots.

The final paragraph on the card merits some attention:
Qualified voters on the most recent years' poll lists will be automatically sent an absentee ballot. Anyone who meets the definition of "qualified voter" but does not believe they will be on the School District's poll list, which contains the names of residents who voted in recent years' elections, please contact Leslie Coons, District Clerk, at districtclerk@hudsoncsd.org or 518-828-4360 ext. 2100 as soon as possible to ensure timely receipt of an absentee ballot. Additional information on how an unregistered voter, who meets the definition of a qualified voter, may receive an absentee ballot is available at www.hudsoncsd.org/june-2020-voting-info.
This paragraph raises a question: What is "the School District's poll list, which contains the names of residents who voted in recent years' elections"? Which "recent years' elections"? Let's hope it's not recent years' school district elections, since voter turnout for those elections is typically abysmal. Something not particularly reassuring was that the post card was addressed to "Resident," but I guess it was done that way to reach people who lived in the Hudson City School District but might not already be on their poll list.

If you are interested in the HCSD budget, and you should be, there is a public hearing about the budget tomorrow, Tuesday, May 26, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place on Zoom, and the post card indicates, "The public is welcome to view the meeting." If this is a public hearing, shouldn't the public be able to make comments and not just "view" the meeting? As of this moment--twenty-two hours before the meeting is to begin--no information about accessing the meeting is available, but when it is, it should be found here.

Gossips has not been following the budget process closely enough, but Ken Sheffer has. He wrote this opinion piece, which Gossips is happy to share: "Fantasy Budgeting: The School Budget that Doesn't Matter and the Coming Funding Crisis for the Hudson City School District." It's recommended reading before tomorrow's budget hearing and certainly before submitting your absentee ballot.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

On the Waterfront . . . in Its Industrial Past

Once upon a time, there was a car crusher in the slip beside what is now Rick's Point. Yesterday, while looking through the images at PhotobyGibson.com, in search of something else, I discovered this picture of a pile of wrecked cars awaiting crushing. The label on the photograph: "Junk Cars on Front Street - Hudson - 1969."

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there are ten new positive cases of COVID-19. The number of people hospitalized remains the same, but one of those hospitalized is now in the ICU. Three more people have recovered, and there have been no more deaths. Since yesterday, test results for 228 Columbia County residents have been received.
As of 11:30 a.m. on May 25, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 32 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • 381 positive cases of COVID-19 with 156 active cases. There are 71 additional residents on mandatory quarantine and 4 residents on precautionary quarantine.
  • 193 of the 381 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 16 of the positive cases are hospitalized, 1 of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 4,626 test results completed for Columbia County residents

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hudson House and the HPC

Gossips has been following the proposal to convert the former Home for the Aged at 620 Union Street into a boutique hotel since February, when the project was first presented to the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA). Since then, there have been a couple more presentations to the IDA, as well as a presentation to the Planning Board on Tuesday, May 12. This past Friday, the project came before the Historic Preservation Commission. 

One of the goals of the project--beyond bringing the house, which was originally the home of Robert and Sally McKinstry, and the 1906 wing, added ten years after the house became the Hudson Home for the Aged, back to what they once were--is restoring the grounds to what they might have been like during the lifetimes of the McKinstrys. On Friday, landscape architect Dale Schafer presented the landscape plan, which is an integral part of the project.

The plan re-creates a formal garden at the front entry to the original house and a large open lawn along Union Street, with a series of terraced gardens to achieve "shelter and intimacy" and to screen the new addition to the hotel. There are also perimeter plantings. Schafer explained, "The intent is to keep all social activity closer to the building so that everything along Union Street is garden and parklike."

At the Planning Board meeting on May 12, it was suggested that there should be a "pull-in" for dropping off guests and unloading luggage. That suggestion evolved into the notion that there should be a port cochere, a covered entrance or porch where vehicles discharge passengers. Relevant to that idea, Schafer told the HPC they had considered a circular drive, but it destroyed all the landscape. He went on to say that in the 19th century a circular drive might have been appropriate for a house of this size in the country but it was not likely in an urban setting.

Michael Phinney, the architect for the project, talked about the "glass gasket" connecting the original buildings with the new structures, which is to be the main entrance to the hotel.

Phinney pointed out the use of some brick in the new addition to echo the brick of the original buildings, and noted that the height of proposed new building is less than the height of the original building and new building will be charcoal gray "to make it recessive." 


HPC member John Schobel called the proposed project "stunning," calling it "a beautiful tribute to Hudson architecture and to this building." HPC chair Phil Forman called the integration of intent and landscaping "well connected." HPC architect member Chip Bohl called it a "wonder effort," declared the overall massing "in scale," and praised the "vision of the garden." He called the proposed project "a great benefit to the community" and commended all involved for "great vision and execution." HPC member Miranda Barry pronounced the proposal "really beautiful" and called the differentiation of the original building and the new construction "an example of how we can have both new and old."

Schobel opined that "something this large and transformational" merited a public hearing, and it was agreed that a virtual public hearing would be held on Friday, June 12.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there are a surprising eleven new cases of COVID-19. No information is available to account for the spike. One more person has recovered, and there are no new hospitalizations and no new deaths. In the past day, test results have been received for 176 Columbia County residents.
As of 11:30 p.m. on May 24, 2020:
  • Columbia County has had 32 residents that have passed away from COVID-19.
  • 371 positive cases of COVID-19 with 149 active cases. There are 67 additional residents on mandatory quarantine and 3 residents on precautionary quarantine.
  • 190 of the 371 cases have recovered from COVID-19
  • 16 of the positive cases are hospitalized, none of those hospitalized are in the ICU
  • We have received 4,398 test results completed for Columbia County residents

The Lone Hosta

Now that the Capital Region has entered Phase 1 of reopening after the two-month shutdown necessitated by the pandemic, maybe Stewart's can begin implementing the extensive landscaping plan they promised during the site plan review of the project.

In the meantime, all the "landscaping" on the site is a lone hosta.

It's the same hosta that was there back in 2017, when Michael LeSawyer took issue with the claim that Stewart's was "a good neighbor," complaining in particular about its lame attempts at landscaping. At that time, too, the hosta was the only thing there.

  COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Battle of Shiloh

On Friday, the Historic Preservation Commission continued its public hearing on the designation of 241 Columbia Street, the building originally constructed as the house of worship for Shiloh Baptist Church, as a local landmark.

During the public hearing, the HPC heard from many of the same people they've heard from before. Ronald Kopnicki quoted the Gospel According to Matthew, the passage where Christ says, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," and from that segued into the assertion that "the designation and preservation" of the former Shiloh Baptist Church "would construct the foundation of another faith: civic faith." 

Sidney Long, who identified herself as a member of the Tourism Board, posited that "black history has been erased throughout the country" and argued that, "as we expand and re-imagine Hudson," there could not be "a better engine for recovery" than the former Shiloh Baptist Church. 

Matt McGhee spoke of "the abiding denial of black people's reality" and equated designating the building as a landmark with "recognizing the cultural history of African Americans."

Among the advocates for designation were two new voices: Rev. Ronald Grant, the current pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, and Rev. Alan Williams, pastor elect of the church. Grant spoke of the vibrant history of the building; Williams spoke of the importance of having "a visible landmark to honor the past."

For the first time since February 28, when she appeared at the public hearing to deny that she had any intention of demolishing the building, the building's owner, Victoria Milne, addressed the HPC. She began by saying it had been "rewarding and enriching to learn about the building's history" and affirming her interest in "accommodating that history" but ended by declaring, "If you designate the building, I will sell it." In between, she spoke of the unfair way she had been treated and the financial burden that historic designation would impose upon her. 

Milne pointed out that the fervor for designation had been inspired by "the unfounded fear that the building would be demolished." She complained that there had been no outreach to her regarding the possible designation and said had learned about it from "an opinion blog" (no doubt referring to The Gossips of Rivertown) only after "those seeking designation had already rallied the community." Because the City owned the building for a few months in 2017, after it was seized for nonpayment of property taxes, she suggested that the City wanted to impose a cost on an outsider that it was not willing be assume. She alleged that she had been "colluded against in secret."

Hardship was Milne's principal reason for opposing the building's designation. She said the building was "falling apart," was "unmortgagable," and "had not been maintained for years." She argued it was "too late for designation," complained of the "extraordinary financial burden with historic preservation," and asserted "designation will only deepen the deep hole the building project is already in." She assured the HPC that, if they did not designate the building, it would be well taken care of and showed an elevation of what she intended for the building's facade, which involves returning the windows to their original height.


Milne told the HPC, "I am going to restore the building as best I can to bring it back to the original, but if it is designated, I will sell it."  

Victoria Polidoro, counsel to the HPC, asked Milne, "What is it about the landmark process that you find so onerous?" Kristal Heinz, counsel for Milne, mentioned specifications for windows and use of like materials. Milne cited having to wait for hearings and the need to have a lawyer or architect accompany her to those hearings. Phil Forman, who chairs the HPC, suggested that the plans for the restoration and the designation are linked and proposed that they might move forward together. He said the commission was willing to work with property owners. Milne told him landmark designation was forever, and she was anticipating a time "when you are all replaced by local mad tyrants."

Milne maintained, "Historic designation is not the best way to celebrate the cultural significance of the building." She proposed a plaque "to tell the story of the site that would be perpetually there." She argued, "The building itself is not so significant. This is about culture. A plaque is the only way history can be acknowledged." 

When asked what he thought about the plaque, Ed Cross, who instigated the demand for landmark designation for the building, said it wasn't up to him, it was up to the community. He spoke of "the need to get the place recognized" and for "the community to own it as a historic site." He also commented, "I don't want this woman to go broke."

It appears that the HPC is between a rock and a hard place, and it is unclear what action it will take. After an hour and a half, the public hearing was closed, but Forman agreed to extend the period for written comments for an additional ten days. The next HPC meeting is scheduled to take place on Friday, June 12.  
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Another Hudson Business Not Coming Back

On April 15, we learned that 2 Note was closing its shop at 225 Warren Street. Today, it was announced that The Bee's Knees, which defined itself as "a children's store . . . supporting natural parenting, imaginative kids and a healthy environment," would be closing at the end of May. The shop started out at the corner of Warren and Third, where The Maker Cafe is now located, and moved to 725 Warren Street a few years ago.

The following message appeared on Facebook:
At the end of this month, after almost 10 years in business, we will be closing the doors of The Bee's Knees. This has been a very difficult decision, and although we are looking forward to whatever comes next, it is heartbreaking to say goodbye.
From Amanda: "I feel so lucky and proud to have been in business for this long and to have been a part of your families in such a special way. I do wish I could see you all and say a proper goodbye. When out paths cross again, you can be sure I will ask how your babies and grand babies are doing!". . . 
We have lots of free donations (display items, toys, books, other random things that one collects after this long in business) that we would love to see end up in loving hands rather than the garbage. We will be putting stuff out in front of the store starting today until next weekend. Please come take a look . . . pass it on!
We love you, we will miss you and we thank you for the decade of support. The community and connections that were formed here will last a lifetime in our hearts. We wish you all good health and bright futures, and we look forward to seeing you again.

An Opportunity Not to Be Missed

For the past two years, the insurance brokerage firm SDL+GHS has offered a $500 scholarship to seniors in the Hudson City School District who want to pursue a career in health sciences. This year, as health care workers continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, SDL+GHS has increased the amount of its Health Science Scholarship to $1,000 as a tribute to health care workers and their invaluable contribution to our community. Any Hudson High School senior who has an interest in health sciences should apply for the scholarship.

The deadline for applying has been extended to June 1, so there is still time to do so. The application can be found here: SDL+GHS Health Science Scholarship Application.

Rob Bujan of SDL+GHS commented, "We urge all Hudson City School District seniors who have an interest in health science to apply today! We are dedicated to providing a pathway to anyone whose dream it is to be in health care."