Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Shared Summer Streets, or Nothing Is Ever Easy

Yesterday, Hudson was featured on the Today Show. In the garden behind Home|Made, Al Roker toasted "a cautious reopening and a new beginning for downtown Hudson." Appearing in a cameo, Mayor Kamal Johnson acknowledged, "The soul [of Hudson] is our small businesses." Speaking with Savannah Guthrie and Roker about the Hudson Shared Summer Streets plan, Sage Carter, general manager of Hudson Hall, spoke of "trying to come together as a community," and Monica Byrne, co-owner of Home|Made, talked about "keeping things safe for customers and staff."

Nine hours after the Today Show broadcast live from Hudson, the Common Council held a special meeting to consider a resolution approving a grant from the Tourism Board to the Shared Streets initiative. The previous Friday, the Tourism Board had agreed to the grant, after removing the amount of money requested for marketing. The Common Council's approval of the Tourism Board's recommendation seemed like a slam dunk, but it turned out otherwise.

Jane Trombley (First Ward) pointed out an arithmetic error in the budget regarding porta potties and questioned how the plan extended to Oakdale. Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) wanted assurance that the porta potties and picnic tables would be ADA compliant. Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) wanted to include the blocks of Warren Street above Park Place in the plan. Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward) questioned the expense for tents and umbrellas. Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) wanted to know if the plan was only for Warren Street businesses. Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) read a lengthy letter from Hudson resident Maximilian Goldfarb urging that the plan not be supported, referring to the Shared Streets concept as a "crowd gathering event" and "a block party through the entire commercial district," declaring it "irritating, disruptive, and destructive" and "serving the tourist brand," and objecting to "the notion that businesses need to be as active as possible."

When comments were invited from the public, Ronald Kopnicki recalled the proliferation of street fairs in Greenwich Village in the 1970s and expressed fear that the Shared Streets plan would open the door to the same problems in Hudson. He also expressed concern about food trucks on Warren Street, the sale of alcohol, and amplified music. He asserted, "The challenges [to local businesses] do not result from people not being able to walk in the street on Warren Street." 

John Kane and Marc Scrivo expressed support for the proposal, Scrivo insisting, "This is, at its foundation, about the survival of our business community." He stressed that the plan involves all the community, pointing out that students from Operation Unite would be building the barricades and planters and other infrastructure.

Linda Mussmann objected to the fact that neither of the Fourth Ward aldermen--John Rosenthal and Malachi Walker--was present at the meeting. She complained that "Winter Walk closes the north side of the city down" and feared that Shared Summer Streets would have a similar effect: "The north side becomes a parking lot."

When Council president Tom DePietro called for a roll call vote on the resolution, Merante initially voted no because there was no assurance that facilities would be ADA compliant. Word then came that everything could and would be ADA compliant. It was then decided that the resolution being voted on would be tabled, a provision regarding ADA compliance be added to the resolution, and the Council would vote on the amended resolution. In that vote, Garriga, Halloran, Calvin Lewis, Merante, Shershah Mizan, Sarowar, Trombley, and DePietro voted yes, and Wolff voted no. She called the plan "a shortsighted concept" and warned, "Cities that have devoted this much space to commerce have regretted it." She did not specify which cities she was talking about.

This Friday, Hudson Shared Summer Streets has its trial/rehearsal weekend, beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday and continuing until 10 p.m. on Sunday. This morning, the permit application for using a parking space was made available on the City of Hudson website. Proponents of the plan were disappointed by two unanticipated features: a $24 a week fee for each parking space "to offset the loss of revenue generated by the city through parking" and an 8:30 p.m. curfew for the street being closed to through traffic. Responding to objections from the business community, Mayor Kamal Johnson appears to have waived the $24 fee for the trial/rehearsal weekend but only for that weekend.

It seems the 8:30 curfew remains in place.


  1. My guess is that the effort by HPD just to redirect traffic that is not allowed on Warren Street is going to be a nightmare and EXPENSIVE. It is the 21st century, it is time to wake up to the damage and insanity that car traffic creates in downtown areas. Time to do an ITHACA or BURLINGTON, close off the main road through the business district to cars and trucks. It would be an effort in the direction of sustainability, economic improvement and SANITY. Instead of a street mainly for automobiles, a plaza for strictly for humans. It has to happen at some point, might as well be now.

    1. Agreed. Hopefully Open Streets is an opportunity for our community to rethink the streetscape and find a more human-oriented approach.

  2. I wanted to take the opportunity to remind folks that this is a trial weekend and, as such, is the first step in what has always been described as a community process of acting, learning and adapting.

    It is a plan that is designed for the city to move fast, and to learn, and to adapt without a lot of money spent on infrastructure.
We have done an extraordinary amount of work in a short amount of time to move the entire city towards a solution that seeks to work for all of us.

    Our evaluation plan looks like this:

    After the Virtual Town Hall, we shared a survey to understand people’s expectations of the Shared Summer Streets Program.

    Of 144 Hudson locals asked to describe the impact of the Shared Summer Streets program on their daily life:
    > 32 said it would be very disruptive;
    > 25 said it would be moderately disruptive; and
    > 89 said it would have little or no impact.

    When asked about the likelihood that they would participate in the outdoor dining and shopping the proposal includes, of the 144 Hudson residents,
    > 36 indicate that they would not
    > 110 said that they would

    And a total of 56 of you offered to volunteer your time and effort to help us put this together.

    Last weekend, we had 15 volunteers counting traffic at key intersections.

    This weekend we will do it again to better understand how the program impacts traffic through the city.

    Following the Trial Weekend, we will be seeking input and feedback from residents, visitors and business owners to evaluate the impact of the program on their business, and to gather suggestions on the best way to move forward.

    Again, please consider that this is an experiment in which your participation can make a significant difference.

    Thank you!


    1. Experiment is the crucial word. Let's give it a chance, tweak, try again, and see. Thanks to Future Hudson and all the volunteers committed to giving it a go. Here's to the courage - of all of us - to try something new.