Thursday, December 31, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 46 new cases of COVID-19, but the number of active cases remains the same, which suggests that there have also been 46 recoveries since yesterday. There are 54 more people in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number of county residents hospitalized with the virus and in the ICU remains the same. There have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday, December 21. 

According to the New York Forward dashboard, there were 51 new positives in Columbia County in the past 24 hours out of 573 test results, for a positivity rate of 8.9 percent. The average positivity rate for the past seven days in 6.2 percent.

For those thinking about venturing across the river, be aware that the positivity rate in Greene County, for the past 24 hours, is 12.2 percent, and the seven-day average positivity rate is 11.3 percent. Those are currently the highest daily and seven-day average positivity rates in the Capital Region.

News of County Government

The following is quoted from an announcement made today by the Columbia County Democratic Committee:
In 2021, Democratic Members of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors will have a new Minority Leader: Tistrya Houghtling [New Lebanon].
"The nation and the county struggles with four crucial priorities: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial justice, and climate change," said Houghtling. "County government has an important role in creating solutions that benefit Columbia County residents."
Houghtling was elected by the Democratic Supervisors at the December 30, 2020, caucus meeting. The vote is scheduled to be affirmed by the entire Board of Supervisors at the 2021 organizational meeting on January 4, 2021.
Houghtling replaces Sarah Sterling [Hudson, First Ward] who has been the previous Minority Leader, serving for the past three years. While Minority Leader, as the first woman in this position, Sterling spearheaded the change in the Board of Elections to create full-time election commissioners. She has worked hard to have bipartisan agreements reached without discord. This year was the most difficult with COVID necessitating significant budget cuts as well as several policy changes. . . .
The shift in leadership comes after an increasing number of Democrats winning at the ballot box. 57 percent of Columbia County voters selected Biden. Nine out of 10 newly registered voters over the past four years registered as Democrats, making the Democratic Party the largest party in Columbia County. While Democrats at the Board of Supervisors are in the minority because of the weighted vote, there are now more Democratic supervisors than Republican ones. . . .
Michael Chameides [Hudson, Third Ward] will serve as the Deputy Minority Leader. . . .

Plans for Affordable Housing

It's not clear what the fate of the plan for 75 North Seventh Street is. That plan may have been abandoned, but the Galvan Foundation seems still to be pursuing its Depot District Initiative, but what that involves, beyond turning the historic Hudson Upper Depot into a brewery and acquiring the former Community Theatre to be the "gateway" to the district is not yet known. 

Meanwhile, there are other plans afoot for creating affordable housing in Hudson. Yesterday's special meeting of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners was all about affordable housing.

The meeting began with mayor's aide Michael Chameides providing an update on the City's plans for affordable housing. Chameides talked about the Affordable Housing Development Plan, which is expected to identify four or five priority projects and strategize a timeline for moving them forward so they do not compete with each other for financing from NYS Homes and Community Renewal and other funding sources. 

In October, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress was chosen to create the Affordable Housng Development Plan, for a fee of $30,000. Yesterday, Chameides reported that they were "finalizing the funding stream." The original scheme for paying for the plan was that agencies and organizations involved in affordable housing in Hudson would each contribute $5,000. To Gossips' knowledge, only Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) and Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency (HCDPA) have committed $5,000. Chameides said that developing the plan would take six months, from start to finish, but it is not known when Pattern for Progress will begin its work.

Even before the Affordable Housing Development Plan is complete, the Hudson Housing Authority is beginning to craft its own plan for new housing. In 2018, HHA pursued a plan to construct two new buildings on State Street, just across the street from Bliss Towers. One of the buildings was to have 33 units; the other 40 units. 

The plan was abandoned in the summer of 2019, when it was discovered that the land on which the buildings were to be constructed could not sustain what was being proposed.

What is now being contemplated is building on another part of the site owned by HHA: the area of west of Bliss Towers, where Columbia Apartments, a.k.a "the low rises," are now located. (The plan involves demolishing the low rises.)

Board member Rebecca Borrer spoke of new construction that would extend from Columbia Street to State Street, with courtyard space and street-facing storefronts. She also spoke of building ten to fifteen townhouses on some other site, perhaps along the north side of State Street where the larger buildings were previously proposed.

There was some discussion about testing the soil to learn what the site was capable of sustaining before formulating a plan. Marie Balle, chair of the HHA board, mused, "What if we develop a plan, and we can't execute it, as happened with State Street?" She asked HHA executive director Tim Mattice how much it would cost to do a study to determine the land's capacity to sustain new construction. Mattice told her it would cost a lot and assured her that "developers factor in the possibility that a project won't work out." Balle replied, "We cant wait months and months to find out we can't do what we want."

Despite the uncertainty about the stability of the land, it was decided that the project goals would be laid out for presentation to the public at the next meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners, to take place on Wednesday, January 13, at 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

COVID-19 Update

After more than a week of posting its numbers only on Facebook, the Columbia County Department of Health explained today: "We are experiencing technical difficulties with our website." At 4:00 p.m., the CCDOH published its abbreviated statistics for today. 

The total number of cases has increased by 58 since yesterday, and the number of active cases has increased by 32. From those numbers, we can surmise that 26 people have recovered from the virus since yesterday. Three more people are hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday, but the number in the ICU remains the same. There have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday, December 21.

According to the New York Forward dashboard, there were 13 new positives in Columbia County in the past 24 hours out of 254 test results for a positivity rate of 5.1 percent. The average positivity rate for the past seven days is also 5.1 percent.

Meeting Today

Typically, the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m., but the city calendar indicates that the board is meeting today, Wednesday, December 30, at 1:00 p.m. Click here to join the Zoom meeting. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Following Up: 22-24 Warren Street

Last week, prompted by a photograph of the rear of 24 Warren Street provided by a reader, Gossips published a post that wondered if the restoration of this house might not have been put off a bit too long: "Is Time Running Out?" 


This morning, my route to the dog park took me past the house (the inch or so of snow on the ground made me want to avoid the steep hill on North Second Street), and I noticed the ubiquitous Galvan sign on the building's facade, announcing that it was a "Work in Progress."


I confess to having no idea how long the sign has been there.
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COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health released its numbers for today on Facebook. Gone are the number of new cases, the number of people recovering from COVID, and the number of tests administered. What is being reported is the total number of cases, the number of active cases, the number of people in mandatory quarantine, the number of COVID cases currently hospitalized and in the ICU, and the total number of deaths. 

Since the last time the CCDOH made its data available to the public on December 24, there have been 142 new cases of COVID-19, and the number of active cases has increased by 54 to 183. From that we can surmise that 88 people are recovering. The number of people hospitalized with the virus has increased by two since December 24, and there is now one person in the ICU. Fortunately, since Monday, December 21, there have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Columbia County.

According to the New York Forward dashboard, there were 29 new positives in Columbia County in the past 24 hours out of 459 test results for a positivity rate of 6.3 percent. The average positivity rate for the past seven days is 4.8 percent.

NOTE: Facebook is now the only place where the CCDOH is publishing its COVID data. None has been published on the county website since December 21.

COVID Is Everywhere. You're on Your Own.

Yesterday, in a press release from Board of Supervisors chair Matt Murell, Jack Mabb, director of the Columbia County Department of Health, announced that the CCDOH would no longer provide its weekly breakdown of COVID cases by municipality and congregate living facility. He also indicated that "other categories of reporting may be eliminated in the future if the need arises." Mabb's advice: "Everyone needs to keep in mind that regardless of where you are when out in public, there is most likely someone positive with the virus in your vicinity. Act accordingly."

Yesterday, too, the Register-Star reported that two businesses in Hudson, The Second Show and Patisserie Lenox, were temporarily closed because an employee had tested positive for the coronavirus: "2 stores on Warren closed due to COVID." The public was notified of the closures by, in the case of The Second Show, a post on Facebook and, in the case of Patisserie Lenox, a sign on the door. In neither case did the CCDOH think it necessary to alert the public. Speaking of the situation at The Second Show, Mabb commented, "When you look at people coming into the store and browsing, for us it didn't add up to anything we should have alarmed the public about. . . . You probably have a higher risk of walking around Walmart because there's probably positives there." In the case of Patisserie Lenox, Mabb said the pastry shop was owned by people who lived in Great Barrington, and so the CCDOH had not been notified.

To learn what's happening in the county generally, although not what's happening in Hudson specifically, we must now rely on the dashboards maintained by the New York State Department of Health. Gossips has long hosted a link to the Percentage Positive Results by County Dashboard, which reports the number of people tested, the number who tested positive, the percent positive for the previous 24 hours, and the seven-day and fourteen-day average positivity rates. This information is updated daily, usually sometime in the afternoon. To access this dashboard, click on the hyperlink in the right column. (It's the dark blue tab.)

There are also several other dashboards of interest: the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard, which reports, by region, new infections, severity of infection (i.e., number of hospitalizations per 100,000), and hospital capacity; the COVID-19 Tracker, which provides county by county data on testing, positive cases, and fatalities; and the Daily Hospitalization Rate by Region. All of these dashboards are updated daily. 

The hospitalization rate data is pretty sobering. The graph below, taken from the New York Forward dashboard, tracks the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Capital Region from March 28 (at the left) until yesterday, December 28 (at the right). There are far more people hospitalized with the virus now than there have been at any time during the nine long months of the pandemic. 

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Managing Change

The building at 432 Warren Street has been the subject of concern for a while. Once part of Phil Gellert's "Northern Empire," the building was sold in 2014, but it didn't appear that much was being done to improve the building's prospects. 

Some feared that the building might be allowed to deteriorate beyond the point at which it could be rescued. That would have been a terrible loss, and one difficult to imagine, since 432 and 430 were originally one building. The picture below shows the buildings after the Great Blizzard of 1888.


Last year, Gossips included 432 Warren Street in its series Nine Not to Ignore, which highlighted at-risk buildings in Hudson.

Photo: Zillow
Gossips breathed a sigh of relief when a proposal for the restoration of 432 Warren Street came before the Historic Preservation Commission in November. The building was to get a fourth floor, set back so that it would not be visible from the street; a re-created storefront, the design of which would be guided by the 1888 photograph of the building; and a complete restoration. When the work was complete, there would be a retail space and seven apartments in the building. 

The HPC granted the project a certificate of appropriateness, and things seemed to be going well, until the new owners, Restoration Lane, based in New Jersey, posted about it on Instagram. On November 23, three days after receiving a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC, this is what appeared on Instagram.

Have you ever seen an uglier building? Get ready to see it revived. This 8-unit project up in Hudson, New York, is about to kick into high gear. Because . . .
We have a closing date! Finally. One week from today we will add this fully gutted shell of a building to our portfolio.
As you know, real estate is all about location and this eyesore is dead center on Warren Street--the main commercial corridor of this artsy little city that is a popular escape for New Yorkers. It's got great restaurants, a major antiques scene, and it's right on the Hudson River with a direct train to Penn Station. Hudson is enjoying a bit of a boom as so many are looking to work from more interesting places.
But even before COVID, this little city was experiencing a serious shortage of quality rental housing. This building behind me was once a boarding house that 72 people lived in.
72 PEOPLE!!
A local broker recently told me that 2 somewhat renovated units across the street recently received 35 and 50 applicants a piece. Now that's demand.
So what we'll throw out on the market will be this: 7 brand new 2-bedroom units with open concept kitchens, balconies and views down Warren Street or of the Catskill Mountains, plus a prime retail rental on the ground floor facing all the foot traffic on Warren Street.
If you're interested in visiting this pretty little city, feel free to reach out. I'm new to town so I'm not a great tour guide, but I'll be happy to show you our project as it is constructed.
On Friday, December 11, the following appeared on Instagram:

We are HERE. It's been a busy week, but I want to stop and reflect on how we now own the keys to our biggest project yet. 8 units in a brand new market--the incredibly charming city of Hudson, NY.
If you haven't visited, you should. We spent a full day this week meeting with a handful of talented people to build our team here.
So, why Hudson?
1. The spread. The cost to own and build compared to the rents (especially post-covid) is very attractive. 60% of residents here rent their homes! A big tenant base.
2.  The stock. Housing in Hudson is changing, lots of renos. But there are plenty of homes in need of love. In 2018, a community housing plan specifically called for the redevelopment of mixed use buildings, exactly like this one!
3.  The location. While it's not a major city, Hudson is a direct train ride into NYC. And it lures a ton of downstate people (pre-covid, and even more now). It offers an urban feel with restaurants, luxe little hotels, boutiques--but you can also hike the Catskills, shop farm produce and boat the Hudson River.
We are so excited to be in Hudson and can't wait to offer this little city a beautiful building to look at & live in. Cheers to the next project.   
Shared on Facebook, these Instagram posts provoked a flurry of comments from locals and inspired Michael Hofmann, who was the principal author of the Hudson Breathe Act, to send an email to the Common Council, with the subject line: "This is gentrification. What are we doing about it?" The following is quoted from Hofmann's email, which can be read in its entirety here.  
I'm writing to the full Common Council with the intention of bringing to light recent activity on social media surrounding Hudson's newest home flipper couple to descend on our city: New Jersey-based Christie Duffy and Matt Nieroda of Restoration Lane.
On November 23, the couple posted on their Instagram [a] photo of 432 Warren Street. In a long description accompanying this image, they lead with the question, "Have you ever seen an uglier building?"--later calling the location an "eyesore" in an "artsy little city that is a popular escape for New Yorkers … enjoying a bit of a boom as so many are looking to work from more interesting places."
The couple's disdain for this building and its history, and ignorance to our local community, is particularly painful when accompanied with their glib, short-sighted reference to our current housing crisis, framing it instead as simply "demand."… 
I write to share these social media posts because their purchase of this property, secured through outside investment with an intent to flip for profit, is an undisguised example of active gentrification happening in this city. If left to their own devices, Duffy and Nieroda will convert this building into yet another set of unaffordable units, which are already being marketed to affluent escapees of New York City, to make as much money as they possibly can. This is not what Hudson is asking for.
Many locals on Instagram caught wind of these two posts, and wrote close to a hundred messages between them condemning the couple for their tone-deafness and for playing a part in the displacement of life-long Hudson residents through skyrocketing costs of living. One example of these comments:
Please remember that even though you are "HERE" many families and generations have been here long before you, and have been EVICTED. Many families with legacy in this city, especially black and brown residents, have been driven out due the same perspective. I hope we can convince you to join the community in turning this crisis around and making those units affordable … I'm sure you will be happily welcomed with open arms if you make sure to use your capital to assist us in solving this crisis, and not exacerbating it further. Thanks.
[I]nstead of replying or even acknowledging the discussion happening on their account, they instead turned off and deleted all comments on their November 23 post, and have been otherwise silent. … So much for community engagement.
I know that there are members of this Council--and other leaders in the community--that are working extremely diligently to chip away at the immense and complex issue of housing insecurity in Hudson. … The unfortunate reality is that gentrification, as so clearly detailed in the example of 432 Warren Street, works far, far faster.
I hope you all share my sense of urgency on this matter.
Hofmann's email was received as a communication by the Council, without discussion, at its regular monthly meeting on December 15. It is not known what, if any, action the Council will try to take in response to this.
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Monday, December 28, 2020

More COVID News

The Columbia County Department of Health has yet to release any numbers, but half an hour ago a press release from Matt Murell, chair of the Board of Supervisors, was received. Here's part of what it had to say:
COUNTY COVID-19 INFECTION RATE CONTINUES RISE
On Monday, Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb reported that since Christmas, 115 new positive cases of COVID-19 have been recorded by the DOH. There were 49 new cases Christmas Day, 35 on Saturday, and 31 on Sunday.
Director Mabb noted that active cases among county residents is nearing 300, with more than 500 in mandatory quarantine. Thirteen individuals are hospitalized. One is in the ICU.
In addition, Director Mabb said that a group home in Greenport is currently experiencing five infected staff and five infected residents, while Providence Hall in Hudson has three cases. In addition, in the attempt to be proactive, 15 members of a local church assembled to tape its service, but it was later learned that one was positive for the virus at the time. There are now five members who have tested positive. . . . 
COUNTY DOH TO NIX CERTAIN REPORTING
"In the face of the rising surge in the county's COVID-19 infection rate and the need to make the best possible use of staff time as we meet more pressing needs, the county Department of Health will no longer be providing weekly town-by-town infection numbers," said DOH Director Jack Mabb. Other categories of reporting may be eliminated in the future if the need arises.
"Everyone needs to keep in mind that regardless of where you are when out in public, there is most likely someone positive with the virus in your vicinity. Act accordingly," said Director Mabb.
The entire press release, which includes information about coronavirus testing and the availability of flu shots, can be found here.

COVID, the County, and the Capital Region

The Columbia County Department of Health has promised to resume reporting the COVID numbers today, after taking the holiday weekend off. Meanwhile, in his press briefing this morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that the Capital Region, of which Columbia County is a part, has joined the Finger Lakes and the Mohawk Valley, in having the highest positivity rates in the state: Capital Region 8.5 percent; Finger Lakes 8.5 percent; Mohawk Valley 9.3 percent. 

According to the data, updated today, on the New York Forward dashboard, Columbia County, along with Washington County, has the lowest seven-day average positivity rate in the Capital Region
4.7 percent. Schenectady County has the highest positivity rate (10.5 percent), followed by Greene County (9.4 percent).

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Great Pretenders

On the subject of new construction in historic neighborhoods, the advice of historic preservation has always been that new buildings should be compatible with the existing historic fabric but not imitative. The disadvantages of new construction being imitative are usually spoken of as a lack of authenticity and creating a built environment reminiscent of Disney World. Another problem is that people won't be able to distinguish the authentic from the imitation. 

Early in the 2000s, Housing Resources of Columbia County (now Galvan Housing Resources) did a project on the north side of town called Hudson Homesteads. The intention was to create new houses that would fit in with the existing architecture. In carrying out this project, Housing Resources worked with people who had done something similar in Poughkeepsie. That the project may have been too successful in achieving its goal first occurred to me a couple of years ago when I went on a walking tour of Hudson offered by a group headquartered in Brooklyn. The tour guide stood across the street from 350 Columbia Street, one of the Hudson Homestead houses, and explained that, in the heyday of Diamond Street, the house had been a brothel operated by one of Hudson's more notorious madams.

The tour guide may have gotten the wrong house altogether, since, according to Bruce Hall's book Diamond Street, Mae Healy operated her brothel at 328 Columbia Street not 350, but what obviously never occurred to him was that the house he was talking about didn't exist during the heyday of Diamond Street. It wasn't built until around 2005.

Recently I discovered that Hudson Homestead houses have even fooled Historic Hudson. In 2010, Historic Hudson proposed making Robinson Street and the adjacent portions of North Second and North Third streets a locally designated historic district. In the document presented with that proposal, 62-64 North Second Street, two houses that were built by Hudson Homesteads on the site of structures destroyed by fire in 2003, were identified as "c. 1890."

Addendum: This morning, Neal Van Deusen provided the link to a video of the fire that destroyed the buildings on North Second Street. Click here to view it on YouTube. 
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Saturday, December 26, 2020

COVID and the County

Given that yesterday was Christmas, the Columbia County Department of Health did not publish the COVID-19 numbers for the day or the weekly breakdown of cases by municipality and nursing home. Today, however, on its Facebook page, the CCDOH issued this statement.

The hyperlink to the New York Forward dashboard is in the right column. Yesterday, the NYSDOH reported for Columbia County 35 positives out of 681 test results for a positivity rate for the previous 24 hours of 5.1 percent. The seven day average for Columbia County is 4.5 percent.

The state is now focusing on hospital capacity rather than just COVID-19 infection rates, which were initially used to define micro-cluster zones. Of New York's 10 regions, the Capital Region currently has the lowest percentage of hospital beds--24 percent--and of intensive-care-unit beds--18 percent--available.
According to data released by the governor's office on Friday morning, the Capital Region . . . currently has 375 residents hospitalized with COVID-19, which is 0.03 percent of the region's population and leaves 24 percent of its hospital beds available. . . .
Statewide, 0.04 percent of New Yorkers are hospitalized with the virus, leaving 30 percent of hospital beds available.
The Capital Region has a total of 211 ICU beds of which 168 are currently occupied, leaving 18 percent available as a seven-day average.
Columbia County is part of the Capital Region. On Thursday, the CCDOH reported there were eleven county residents hospitalized with COVID-19, and none was in the ICU. In the summer, Gossips learned that CCDOH was reporting county residents hospitalized not the number of COVID patients hospitalized at Columbia Memorial Hospital. At that time, the number of hospitalized being reported by CCDOH was significantly higher than the number hospitalized at CMH. We don't know if this is still the case.
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A Watery Christmas

This was our waterfront yesterday.

Photo © John Cody



Thursday, December 24, 2020

Santa Comes to Hudson

Can you spot Santa Claus in this sea of people gathered in Seventh Street Park?

The picture, taken in 1961, is from the remarkable collection at PhotobyGibson.com.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 25 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 recoveries, increasing the number of active cases by two to 129. Four more county residents are hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday, but none is in the ICU. There have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday. 

With 25 positives out of 666 test results received, the positive percentage rate for today is 3.75 percent. The seven day average cannot be calculated because, on December 17, the CCDOH did not report the number of test results. The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate of 2.9 percent for the past 24 hours and a seven day average of 4.4 percent.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been twenty new cases of COVID-19 and 26 recoveries, reducing the number of active cases by six to 127. The number of county residents hospitalized and in the ICU remains the same today as it was yesterday, and there has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday.

With twenty positives out of 350 test results received, the positive percentage rate for today is 5.7 percent. The seven day average, according to Gossips' calculations, based on the numbers reported by the CCDOH, is 12 percent--that is, 177 positives out of 1,447 test results. The New York Forward dashboard, however, is reporting a positivity rate of 3.2 percent for the past 24 hours and a seven day average of 4.7 percent. 

Once More for the Kaz Site

Discussion of the Kaz site, a.k.a. the Montgomery Street property, was the first order of business at the meeting of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) board on Tuesday, December 22. A description of the property for prospective buyers had been sent to the members of the board prior to the meeting, and it was posted on the HDC website after the meeting. That document can be found here. Of interest are the Development Goals outlined therein:
HDC invites Respondents to submit Proposals that maximize the benefits to the New York State, the Capital Region and City of Hudson economies through redevelopment of the Site. HDC is seeking Proposals that are responsive to, but are not limited to, the following development priorities: 
1. Maximizing economic impact through workforce development and job creation; 
2. Providing opportunities for community use and/or recreation; 
3. Visibly and strategically linking the site into the existing fabric of the city; 
4. Creating a transportation oriented development project that reduces car dependency, facilitates ADA access and encourages pedestrian traffic and/or train ridership; 
5. First-rate design and aesthetic quality in harmony of surrounding buildings & community; 
6. Incorporating sustainable building practices and employing LEED, Passive House, Zero Net Energy or Energy Star features. 
Proposals should ideally include a mix uses and transit-oriented design principles to encourage commuter and tourist traffic via Amtrak as well as parking (covered or uncovered) to accommodate additional business, residential and recreational activity.

In the discussion of the property, HDC board member Steve Dunn asked about an access road to Front Street, which would be an extension of Montgomery Street, more or less as shown in this 1873 Beers Atlas map of the area.

It was suggested that this street extension might be part of the DRI-funded connectivity project for the BRIDGE District, but Council president Tom DePietro, who is an ex officio member of the board, said, "If you followed the Arterial presentation, they have a very limited purview, and this is not part of it." Bob Rasner, president of the HDC Board, told the board they would be looking at traffic flow through the area after the first of the year.

Rasner also said there had been two unsolicited expressions of interest in the property, although he did not reveal from whom whose expressions had come.
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Is Time Running Out?

Early in 2018, the building at the corner of State and North Seventh streets was demolished. As the original home of the Hudson Orphan Asylum, the building was of great local historic significance.

The building had been owned by Eric Galloway or the Galvan Initiatives Foundation since 2006, and it figured in plans for transitional housing and "entry level" affordable housing floated in 2012 and 2014 respectively. The development of which this building was to be a part was dubbed "Galvan Quarters."

Although a portion of the building was demolished in 2010, without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, and a new roof was put on the building, similarly without a certificate of appropriateness, at some point between 2012 and 2014, plans for restoring the building were never pursued, and in March 2019, it was demolished. Dan Kent of the Galvan Foundation made this statement at the time:
We are saddened to announce the need to deconstruct our building at 620 State Street in Hudson because of public safety concerns. We began taking down the building today.
Before making this difficult decision we commissioned extensive reviews from engineers to confirm the building cannot be saved. The engineers concluded that the building is unable to be rehabilitated without posing extensive risks to construction workers and the general public. Unfortunately, the structural issues are beyond repair despite our significant investments in stabilizing the building.
Now there's another building in the Galvan inventory that time and gravity may be claiming: 22-24 Warren Street.  

This building, which at one point was two buildings, is located on one of the few blocks deemed to be of historic significance during urban renewal back in the 1970s. Galvan acquired the building in 2012 from its previous owner, Shiloh Baptist Church.

In March 2018, this house was among five proposals made by Galvan for DRI funding. The promise was that it would be developed for affordable housing. Also in March 2018, 22-24 Warren Street was one of the buildings included in Galvan's commitment to creating 29 units of affordable housing in the next two or three years. It's included in the list of properties to be developed for affordable housing that appears in Hudson's Strategic Housing Action Plan

In July 2018, the HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness to the plan for restoring the building, which reimagined it as a house of textbook Federal design.

In July 2019, Dan Kent told Gossips in an email that work on the restoration of 22-24 Warren Street would begin "in the fall," but that didn't happen.

It appears that 22-24 Warren Street may be moving up on Galvan's to-do list. In November, Walter Chatham appeared before the HPC on behalf of Galvan seeking a new certificate of appropriateness for the proposed restoration. (The previous one had expired.) Although it is not known when work on the house is expected to begin, it is possible it may have been put off for too long. Yesterday, a reader sent Gossips this picture of the rear of the house, taken from Prison Alley, and shared the opinion that the house may now have passed the point of restoration.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been eighteen new cases of COVID-19 and thirteen recoveries, which should increase the number of active cases by five to 123, but the CCDOH is reporting 133, an increase of fifteen over yesterday. The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus remains the same as yesterday, and there has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since yesterday.  

With eighteen positives out of 194 test results received, the positive percentage rate for today is 9 percent. The seven day average, according to Gossips' calculations, based on the numbers reported by the CCDOH, is 11 percent--that is, 180 positives out of 1,581 test results. The New York Forward dashboard, however, is reporting a positivity rate of 5.5 percent for the past 24 hours and a seven day average of 4.9 percent.

Of Interest

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that Creating and Maintaining Hudson River Views: A Handbook for Landowners is now available on the DEC website. The handbook is designed to help historic sites, land trusts, and owners of other large properties along the Hudson River create engaging views using best practices for environmental stewardship--practices that include methods of creating and maintaining scenic vistas that balance aesthetic and historic goals with the protection of habitat and natural areas. 

DEC has provided the following information about the handbook:
Creating and Maintaining Hudson River Views was developed and produced by Saratoga Associates through a NEIWPCC contract in partnership with the Hudson River Estuary Program Funding for this project was provided by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Throughout the development of this handbook, input and guidance was received from a group of stakeholders, including representatives from state agencies, historic properties, environmental groups, municipalities, educators, and design professionals.
To illustrate these practices in the field, Saratoga Associates also created two new views of the Hudson River that will serve as demonstration sites of best practices for creating scenic vistas. These scenic vistas are located at The Point at Mills-Norrie State Park in Staatsburg and at the Blithewood Estate on the Bard College campus in Annandale-on-Hudson. Saratoga Associates also produced a three-part training series, which is now available on YouTube
Click here to access the handbook.

Monday, December 21, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. The CCDOH is reporting 35 new cases of COVID-19: 27 since yesterday and eight that were "transferred in/leftover from weekend." There have also been 26 recoveries, which would seem to increase the number of active cases by nine to 119, but the CCDOH is reporting only 118. There has also been another death from COVID-19, just six days after the previous death, which is probably the reason there is one fewer county resident hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday.  

With 27 positives out of 410 test results received, the positive percentage rate for today is 6.6 percent. The seven day average, according to Gossips' calculations, based on the numbers reported by the CCDOH, is 9.5 percent--that is, 167 positives out of 1,751 test results. The New York Forward dashboard, however, is reporting a positivity rate of 6.5 percent for the past 24 hours and a seven day average of 4.7 percent.

The Year of the Tree

Since completing the Natural Resource and Open Space Inventory in the spring of 2019, the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) has focused its attention on trees. This year--2020--was to be the Year of the Tree, with informational panel discussions, tree plantings, and interactive programs, but all that had to be canceled because of the pandemic. One tree-related thing did happen, however. It was just announced that Hudson has been awarded an Urban Forestry Grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The $20,000 grant will fund a tree inventory and a tree management plan.

The comprehensive project will include documenting all of Hudson's street trees and most park trees. The trees will be cataloged by GIS location, species, size, health, planting site, and care recommendations. The project will create a database and produce a written five-year Urban Forest Management Plan.

Hilary Hillman, the member of the CAC who worked to get the grant for the city, commented, "We . . . are very excited about this Tree Inventory and Urban Forestry Management Plan. Our tree canopy belongs to every resident in the city. It provides each of us cleaner air, cools down our streets and buildings in the summer, drinks up storm water, keeps our topsoil from eroding, and invites nature into our lives. Once we have an inventory and a management plan we will be able to chart the care for the trees we have and better plan for future planting of native species trees to expand our urban forest while enhancing the livability of the city for all. . . . Hudson's Urban Forest belongs to us all and we want to make it strong for generations to come."

The Winter Solstice 2020

Today is the winter solstice--the shortest day and the longest night of the year. For those of us who hate that the sun goes down before 4:30 p.m., today is a cause for celebration. From here on, the days will get progressively longer until the summer solstice in June.

Today, after the earliest sunset of the year, a rare astronomical event will take place: the conjunction of the solar system's two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter and Saturn regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, but according to the NASA website, what makes this year special is this: "It's been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night . . . allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this 'great conjunction.'"

Forbes Magazine offers this advice about viewing the phenomenon, which is being called the "Christmas star":
It will happen just after sunset in the southwestern sky on December 21, 2020, and will take place low to the horizon. There can be no wasted time because the two planets will sink below the horizon about two hours after sunset.
Find out the exact time of sunset where you are and be somewhere with a good view low to the southwest horizon about 45 minutes after sunset. You will see Jupiter emerge in the twilight followed by Saturn to its upper-right.
For more information about astronomical events happening today, read the entire article in Forbes, "How, When and Where You Can See 'Christmas Star' Planets Then Shooting Stars On This Solstice Week."

Sunset will occur here in Hudson at 4:26 p.m. today, so the "great conjunction" will happen at about 5:11 p.m. Unfortunately, just to remind us that this may be the worst year in memory for most of us, it is predicted to be cloudy at that time. Nevertheless, it's worth the effort to try to witness this rare phenomenon, which, as Jamie Carter put it in Forbes, is "a view that most humans can never hope to have in their lifetime."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

In the run-up to Christmas, there aren't very many meetings, and those that are scheduled stand the chance of being canceled, but, for the time being, here's what's on the calendar.
  • On Tuesday, December 22, the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) holds its monthly meeting at noon. The agenda for the meeting includes a board discussion of the "Disposition of Montgomery Street Property," a.k.a. the Kaz site. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Wednesday, December 23, two Common Council committee meetings are scheduled: the Public Works and Parks Committee at 5:00 p.m. and the Legal Committee at 6:15 p.m. The links to both Zoom meetings should be published on the City of Hudson website prior to the meetings.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been nineteen new cases of COVID-19 and fifteen recoveries, increasing the number of active cases by four to 106. The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus has decreased by three since yesterday, and, as has been the case for five days now, none of those hospitalized is in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Tuesday, December 15.  

With nineteen positives out of 222 test results received, the positive percentage rate for today is 8.5 percent. The seven day average, according to Gossips' calculations, based on the numbers reported by the CCDOH, is 7 percent--that is, 151 positives out of 2,168 test results. The New York Forward dashboard, however, is reporting a positivity rate of 3.9 percent for the past 24 hours and a seven day average of 4.7 percent.

Just When It Seemed the End Was in Sight

The Times Union is reporting today about a new strain of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom that appears to be 70 percent more transmissible than the one we're dealing with now: "Cuomo: U.S. should ban or restrict travel from U.K. due to new coronavirus strain."

Buyer's Remorse

Hudson is buying a new giant ladder truck for the Fire Department. The discussion of replacing Tower 32, the KME Aerial Cat, acquired in 2001, has been going on for quite a while. In 2012, Nick Haddad, then an alderman representing the First Ward, calculated that in the ten years since the ladder truck had been acquired, the City had spend $150,000 in repairs--an average of $15,000 a year. This information was shared at a Council meeting at which Fire Department budget transfers were being approved to amass $15,449.59 in the account designated for maintenance and repair of equipment. About $9,000 of that amount was needed for repairs to Tower 32. 


At the end of 2014, a capital reserve fund was proposed for major capital projects that were "on the horizon." Among them was the purchase of a new ladder truck. The plan was to allocate $200,000 for the fund in 2015 and $200,000 in subsequent years. City treasurer Heather Campbell and then Council president Don Moore were advocates for establishing a capital reserve fund; Mayor Bill Hallenbeck was adamantly opposed, because it would require an increase in property taxes, estimated to be about $40 a year on a house assessed at $250,000. At the end of 2015, however, a capital reserve fund was established, with an initial contribution of $150,000. Campbell told Gossips there have been two subsequent contributions to the fund: $100,000 in 2017 and $100,000 in 2019. The fund now amounts to $352,702, which will be used to offset a portion of the expense of a new ladder truck.

In December 2019, the Common Council unanimously passed a bond resolution authorizing "the acquisition of a ladder truck at an estimated maximum cost of $1,440,000 and authorizing the issuance of serial bonds . . . in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $1,087,500 . . . to finance the cost thereof." On December 31, 2019, the Hudson Fire Department announced it had awarded a contract to E-One to build a new aerial truck for the City of Hudson. The equipment is being built to the department's specifications, and delivery of the truck is expected early in 2021.


At the Common Council Finance Committee meeting this past Tuesday, during the discussion of the City's revenue loss and expenditures in 2020, Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) suggested that the purchase of the ladder truck should be canceled. City treasurer Heather Campbell told her the contract had been in place for a year. It was also pointed out that the Council had unanimously authorized the purchase and the issuance of bonds for the purchase in December 2019. Nevertheless, Wolff made the same suggestion during the regular meeting of the Common Council.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Saturday, December 19, 2020

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been eleven new cases of COVID-19 and 24 recoveries, reducing the number of active cases by thirteen to 106. Since hospitalization rates are now the principal factor in determining the response to the virus, it is good to know that the number of county residents hospitalized and in the ICU has not changed for the past four days.

With eleven positives out of 111 test results received, the positive percentage rate for today is 10 percent. The seven day average, according to Gossips' calculation, based on the numbers reported by the CCDOH, is 8 percent--that is, 154 positives out of 1,946 test results. The New York Forward dashboard, however, is reporting a positivity rate of 5.1 percent for the past 24 hours and a seven day average of 4.5 percent.