Sunday, August 23, 2020

Following Up with the Tourism Grants

Last Sunday, Gossips reported on the grants recommended by the Tourism Board for approval by the Common Council. Today, we return to the topic to report on the outcome. 

Because the Council had determined at its informal meeting to vote on each grant separately, the resolution for only one grant had already been introduced: Open Studio Hudson. When that resolution came up for a vote, Rebecca Wolff told her colleagues in the Council that a constituent had pointed out to her that the amount being requested was much higher than the event's budget last year. The budget presented to the Finance Committee in 2019 was $3,350. The amount granted by the Finance Committee, which was doling out the $20,000 appropriated by the Tourism Board, was $1,675. This year, the Tourism Board is recommending providing $12,840 for the event.

Sidney Long, a member of the Tourism Board, attempted to defend the recommendation but was told by Council president Tom DePietro that public comment was not permitted at that time. The resolution failed, with six votes against--(Tiffany Garriga, Dominic Merante, John Rosenthal, Dewan Sarowar, Jane Trombley, and Wolff), four in favor (Eileen Halloran, Malachi Walker, DePietro, and Calvin Lewis), and one abstention (Shershah Mizan).

Later, when the resolutions for the other grants were introduced, there was opportunity for members of the Tourism Board to defend their recommendations. Regarding the DePace Family Music project ($3,100), the question had been raised of what the City was going to do with a used upright piano, which is one of the things to be purchased with the $3,100. Tourism Board member Tamar Adler suggested there were three places the piano could go: the Youth Department, the Harmony Project at Hudson Hall, or the Hudson City School District. Given the regulations about disposing of City property, only the Youth Department is a possible recipient. Wolff opined, "One of the things that is hardest [during the pandemic] is not having access to live music." Jane Trombley commented, "It's a piano on a truck. Couldn't this be used more often?" Dominic Merante wondered, "They are renting the truck. Is there a way to rent a piano?" In the end, the resolution was approved with everyone voting in favor except for John Rosenthal, who abstained.

The grant for the Hudson Milliner Art Studio project ($4,905) was unanimously approved. The grant to Hudson Cruises ($1,200) was also approved, with dissenting votes from Rosenthal and Merante.    

The grant for Rolling Grocer ($14,707) was probably the most discussed. DePietro defended the integrity of the Tourism Board and its choices for funding. (Some background: DePietro does a radio show on WGXC with Selha Graham, one of the three co-managers of Rolling Grocer, who is also a member of the Tourism Board.) Adler pointed out that from March to August 50 percent of the customers at Rolling Grocer were not registered in a tier. (More background: There are three different prices on all items depending on customers' income; customers are asked to register for their tier the first time they shop at Rolling Grocer.) From this, Adler concluded that 50 percent of the customers during that period were tourists. Michelle Hughes, another of the co-managers, argued that Rolling Grocer "makes Hudson a more livable space to come and weather the storm." Wolff maintained that Rolling Grocer made Hudson "a good place to visit as well as to live." Although when the resolution came up for a vote Eileen Halloran was still "looking to find a connection to tourism," the resolution passed unanimously. Before casting his vote, DePietro said he volunteered at Rolling Grocer.

In the discussion preceding the vote on the grant to Bindlestiff Family Cirkus ($15,000), it was clarified that the money was only for Phase 2 of the "Phoenix Rising" project, an event which will not take place until next spring. It was decided to postpone considering the grant until it was "closer to the date when it will actually happen."

When the Council had finished voting on the resolutions, Calvin Lewis, who chairs the Tourism Board, said he wanted Open Studio Hudson to have a "fairer hearing." Long defended the $9,500 increase in the budget from last year by saying, "The goal this year is to include marginalized artists." She maintained, "The electricity in Hudson comes from people working in their studios and making art." She also pointed out that Open Studio Hudson 2020, which will be entirely virtual, will go on for six months. When Trombley expressed the opinion that a virtual event "doesn't have the buzz of going to studios," Long responded, "We're talking about the fifth dimension here."

DePietro advised that the Council could not re-vote on the resolution for Open Studio Hudson, but they could re-introduce it, which is expected to happen at the Council's September meeting. He also responded to unspecified criticism of the Tourism Board by saying, "They have rigorously gone over applications, and the ones that make it to the Council are about half what they receive." He went on to assert, "They understand their mandate to support tourism."


  1. Wait- are these grants to promote or demote tourism? Looks like a huge misappropriation of funds if it is the former. What's going on here?

  2. How does a "Milliner Art Studio" promote tourism?
    Just wondering....

    1. One of the appeals of Hudson as a destination, amongst other things is the art, the galleries showcasing work, especially that of regional artists is a tremendous value. Check out Milliner's Warren St. space to see some of the very topical work they've presented this year.

  3. So Hudson Cruises, Hudson Millner and BFC could maybe considered events to draw tourists. Maybe. A piano on a truck? Seriously? Why not have Mr. Ding-a-Ling drive around? At least that way people could also get ice cream! Rolling grocer? Now way. One of the Council Members (I believe Rebecca) said RG had polled customers and a high percentage of them were visitors. OF COURSE THEY ARE! These are the people that have come up from the city, rented AirBnB's, and don't have cars to get out to Shop Rite or Aldi, so RG is their "grocery store" of necessity. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize these people weren't drawn to Hudson because of the Rolling Grocer, so the logic in granting them any money is based on flawed information. As for Open Studio: the "fifth dimension"?! What the hell! This is an online art show - ONLINE, meaning people will not BE in Hudson, will not EAT in Hudson, will not STAY in Hudson. Sidney talked about the buzz and energy last year's event created and asked whether Tamara felt the buzz on Zoom, to which Tamara laughed heartily and responded, "No, actually, I don't". Unless the event is held live and online version of it should NOT receive any kind of financial grant. The next thing you know every shop on Warren Street with an online presence will want financial support since their shop generates "buzz". Oh, but in what dimension?

  4. The "Hudson Eye" program will run at physical locations throughout the city. By contrast, Open Studio Hudson is completely online. Need I say more?

  5. In the end these "GRANTS" are a colossal joke. It's a stretch to see how any actually promote tourism. With the city in an almost 2 million dollar deficit for the year- doling out $ to pet /pork belly projects of personal friends of the mayor, his aid, and members of the common council is literally and figuratively CRIMINAL. This is a BLATANT MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUNDS.

  6. Why wasn't this $ just used to fund the youth center? So much actual good could have been done. Again, this is CRIMINAL!