Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hudson and Galvan in the Times Union

The Albany Times Union is now touting its coverage of the Hudson Valley, and it appears that Roger Hannigan Gilson, who once reported for the Register-Star and for a time published the news blog The Other Hudson Valley, has been assigned to Hudson. His latest article about Hudson was prompted by last Wednesday's meeting of the Hudson IDA (Industrial Development Agency), at which DJH Advisors presented their financial analysis of the PILOTs sought by the Galvan Foundation for the two apartment buildings proposed for North Seventh Street: "Hudson nonprofit, Common Council in dispute over affordable housing tax breaks."

The next meeting of the IDA, which is still considering Galvan's applications for PILOTs for the two buildings, is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 4, at 1:00 p.m. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since Friday, there have been ten new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is seven more than Friday, from which it can be inferred that over the weekend three more county residents recovered from the virus. There are eight fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than on Friday, but the number hospitalized with the virus remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since June 24.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.7 percent and a seven-day average of 2.0 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.8 percent and the seven-day average is 2.5 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported three new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 477, and the number of active cases was 9. There were 5 county residents hospitalized with the virus, and none was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 37.

The John J. Harvey Is Coming to Hudson

In the summer of 2009, during Hudson's "Namesake Celebration" marking the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's historic journey on the river that now bears his name, the fireboat John J. Harvey was among the historic vessels that visited Hudson.   

The John J. Harvey, one of the most powerful fireboats ever built, was first launched in 1931 and had a distinguished career with the  New York City Fire Department before being retired in 1994. The fireboat is most famous for returning to service on September 11, 2001, following the attack on the World Trade Center.

This summer, the FASNY Museum of Firefighting is bringing the John J. Harvey to Hudson and offering free hour-long trips on the historic fireboat. Here's the announcement of the event that appears on Facebook:     

Join us on August 14th, 2021, from 3:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., for a special IN-PERSON event.
Join us as we partner with the crew of the John J. Harvey to provide a FREE ride on a fireboat! This once-in-a-lifetime experience includes a 60-minute cruise. We will also be hosting a FREE gutter regatta for children before the cruises. This trip will launch from the Hudson Waterfront Park [i.e., Henry Hudson Riverfront Park] in Hudson, NY, on August 14th, 2021, at 3:30 p.m. and a second cruise will launch at 5:00 p.m.
This event is FREE, but RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR THIS EVENT and will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Reserve your seats today for one of these cruises: 518 822-1875, ext. 17.
This program is made possible by a generous grant award from the Hudson River Bank and Trust Co. Foundation.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The weather this weekend was close to perfect, and the week ahead promises to be an easy one. The Common Council ad hoc committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday have been canceled, but there is one meeting on Tuesday that is not to be missed: the Hudson Connects public workshop.
  • On Tuesday, July 27, the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) board meets at noon. The meeting takes place in person at 1 North Front Street. On the agenda for the meeting are updates on the sale of the Montgomery Street property and the strategic plan for the future of HDC.
  • Also on Tuesday, July 27, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Arterial and Creighton Manning, the consultants for the Hudson Connects streetscape improvement project, will be conducting a public workshop at Hudson Hall. This is the first we've heard of this project for six months. Attendees will be encouraged to participate in a visual preference survey and provide input on the design of street improvements. A screen presentation will also be given to update the community on the project schedule and scope of work. 
  • On Wednesday, July 28, the subcommittee of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meets at 6:00 p.m. This will be the first meeting of the subcommittee since HHA executive director Tim Mattice announced his resignation. A revised draft of the RFQ (request for qualifications) for the redevelopment of HHA property now appears on the HHA website, but it is not clear if the RQF has been approved or released to potential developers. The meeting takes place in the Community Room of Bliss Towers and can also be accessed on Zoom
And that's it for the week. Enjoy the final days of July.
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Reminder About Commenting

If you want your comment to be published, you need to identify yourself in some way--name, initials, pseudonym you plan to use consistently. Totally anonymous comments will not be published.

Having said that, I admit to publishing just now a totally anonymous comment about the new mural in the PARC Park. I did so because it provided a counterbalance to a rather negative comment submitted by someone who did sign his name. If you are the person who submitted the anonymous comment, please note that I am unlikely to do it again. In future, please identify yourself.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

New Mural in the PARC Park

The Hudson Police Department announced today, on its Facebook page, the unveiling of a new mural in the pocket park across from Hudson Hall. The park was designed and created by the PARC Foundation, as a gift to the city, and officially opened in the summer of 2007. 
Pocket Park Mural Unveiled . . .
We are excited to announce that, after weeks of preparation and painting, the mural in the Pocket Park on the 300 block between Warren Street and Prison Alley was completed Friday. 
The 30-foot mural was painted and designed by artist and Hudson High School student Eli Carpenter. The artwork is a nod to the founders of Hudson and features symbols of our city's past, including a whale and ship, and a glorious sun, which alludes to the bright future ahead for the city.
The project was a collaborative effort by the Hudson Police Department and Columbia County District Attorney's Office to address a recent rise in graffiti incidents in the park. Hudson police donated supplies, including paint and brushes. Both agencies are proud to work alongside local youth to clean up our city parks.
"We are very glad we could give back to the community in this way," Police Chief L. Edward Moore said. "Eli's mural will deter future vandals, boost civic pride and give residents yet another reason to enjoy the park."
Special thanks to Mayor Kamal Johnson (who approved the project), the Hudson Department of Public Works, and Eli's mother, Katharine.

Things to Do Today

This afternoon, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., the historic Robert Jenkins House will be open for tours. The house, which was built in 1811, was originally the home of Robert Jenkins, son of Seth Jenkins, one of the original Proprietors and founders of Hudson. Since 1900, it has been the Chapter House of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who maintain there a library for genealogical research and a museum of local historic artifacts and memorabilia. The house is located at 113 Warren Street.      

From 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. today, the Black Entrepreneur Market takes place in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. The market offers food vendors, jewelry, clothing, skin care, hair care, family fun, music, and more. Click here for more information.

Friday, July 23, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been five new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is three more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that two more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are three more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized with the virus remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since June 24.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 3.1 percent and a seven-day average of 2.1 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 3.2 percent and the seven-day average is 2.2 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported one new case of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 472, and the number of active cases was 12. There were 36 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 5 were hospitalized with the virus, and none was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 37.

Colarusso and the Planning Board

A few months ago, the Planning Board started having special meetings to consider the Colarusso applications for conditional use permits for its dock operation. The next Planning Board meeting devoted to the Colarusso issue is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, August 3, at 6:00 p.m. The location of the meeting may be somewhere other than City Hall, but that is yet to be confirmed.

In the meantime, Gossips has learned that earlier this week, T. J. Ruane, an associate at Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, the law firm of John Privitera, the attorney for A. Colarusso & Sons, submitted a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request for: "All "records" . . . related to (i) A. Colarusso & Sons, Inc., (ii) the property with an address of 175 South Front Street, Hudson, NY . . . , and (iii) the adjacent haul road used to service the Property (collectively the "Subject Matter), from January 1, 2015 to the present date, including but not limited to correspondence, emails, public comments, reports, studies, memorandums, resolutions, proposed legislations, meeting minutes, committee meeting minutes, etc."  Specifically named in the FOIL request is everyone who has served on the Planning Board in the past five and a half years. From each of those people the following is requested:
All records including correspondence related to the Subject Matter, without any time period limitation, including emails, text messages, or other electronic correspondence, to or from [named Planning Board member], whether sent to or from [his/her] personal email account, work email account, personal cellular phone, work cellular phone, personal computer, or work computer. This shall include any such correspondence that [Planning Board member] is a part of (i.e. copied (cc) or blind copied (bcc) to an email correspondence), including any such records relating to any alleged bias by any Planning Board member.
The last phrase of the paragraph quoted above, which mentions "alleged bias by any Planning Board member," seems to allude to an allegation made by Privitera in October 2020, in a letter to Betsy Gramkow, then chair of the Planning Board, that two members of the Planning Board had a "conflict of interest or bias" regarding the Colarusso matter. The two members in question were Larry Bowne and Clark Wieman, and the alleged "conflict of interest or bias" related to their association with the advocacy group Our Hudson Waterfront. As Gossips reported at the time, Bowne acknowledged that prior to joining the Planning Board he had been associated with Our Hudson Waterfront but maintained he had never advocated for or against a specific outcome, insisting that if he were incapable of being openminded and fair, he never would have joined the board or taken the oath to faithfully discharge his duties as a member of the Planning Board. Wieman called the allegations of guilt by association, because of his partner's activities with Our Hudson Waterfront, "ridiculous and unfounded," asserting, "My views are my own, and I am committed to a full and open process."

The last meeting of the Planning Board to address the Colarusso issue took place on May 4, 2021. At that meeting, the Planning Board completed its review and responses to Part 2 of the Full Environmental Assessment Form. Consideration of Part 3 of the FEAF, in preparation for making a positive or negative declaration in the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process, is expected to happen when the board meets on August 3.
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Of Interest

Once upon a time, Gossips would link to any coverage of Hudson in the regional or national media. These days, with Hudson in the news so much, I'm more selective. Today, I was tipped off to a feature about Hudson by Spectrum News 1: "Booming housing market boosts small Hudson city." 

In the report, local realtor Christine Jones is quoted sharing this remarkable statistic: "Hudson itself during the pandemic in one year, from July to July, has sold $93 million of properties sold. So if you think, that's quite a lot of money in a small town of 6,000 people." 

The article also notes that, according to Bloomberg city labs, Hudson had "the best percentage of people moving in versus moving out in the nation."

Gratitude to Martin Salerno for bringing this to our attention

Thursday, July 22, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health released its numbers earlier today. Since yesterday, there have been two new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is one fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that three more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are six more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized with the virus remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since June 24.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 0.0 percent and a seven-day average of 1.8 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.8 percent and the seven-day average is 2.0 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported no new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 471, and the number of active cases was 13. There were 32 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 5 were hospitalized with the virus, and none was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 37. 

Anticipation

Hudson is getting a new ladder truck. The last time Gossips posted about this new acquisition, which is costing the City about $1.4 million, was in December 2020. At that time, in what seemed like the depths of the pandemic, with all the consequent revenue shortfalls, Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) suggested that the City cancel the new ladder truck. Since the new apparatus was being custom made to the Hudson Fire Department's specifications, that was impossible.  

Today, on the Hudson Fire Department website, Lieutenant Justin Elliott posted a report called "From Concept to Reality," which provides this update on the construction of the truck.   
The ladder was loaded onto the truck after the bucket was assembled and the entire ladder tested. Final details are wrapping up in the cab and on the body. Graphics are designed, cut, and ready to be applied. Testing and certification of some components will take place in the next several days as well.
The truck is now days away from completion and is scheduled to travel to FDIC [International convention] in the next few days. The department is in constant communication with Premier Fire Apparatus about the delivery timeline and training on the new truck. Delivery is still expected in August.
Elliott's post was accompanied by these photographs of the truck.




The full report and more pictures can be found here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Mark Your Calendars

It's been six months since we've heard anything about the "Hudson Connects" project--the project to which the lion's share of DRI funding is dedicated, meant to make streetscape improvements to the area between Second and Front streets, from Dock Street to Basilica Hudson. Last night, at the Common Council meeting, Council president Tom DePietro distributed the flyer reproduced below to Council members and, at the end of the meeting, spoke of the workshop and invited everyone to attend.  


The public workshop is to take place on Tuesday, July 27, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Hudson Hall. The last paragraph of the text that appears in the column along the right reads:
Please join us and help shape the future of Hudson's streets! Attendees will be encouraged to participate in a visual preference survey and provide input on the design of street improvements. A screen presentation will also be given to update the community on the project schedule and scope of work.
In talking about the workshop, DePietro recommended that everyone attend if they want to have a say in the "design aspects of the streets and sidewalks." Some months ago, because more than half the designated area is in a historic district, there was talk of the Historic Preservation Commission having some input into the "design aspects of the streets and sidewalks." Gossips does not know if the question of the HPC's involvement in reviewing the design was ever settled. Readers are urged to attend next Tuesday's workshop.
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COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there has been one new case of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is one fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that since yesterday two county residents are now recovering from the virus. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is six more than yesterday, and one county resident remains hospitalized with the virus. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since June 24.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 3.1 percent and a seven-day average of 2.0 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.1 percent and the seven-day average is 1.9 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported three new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 471, and the number of active cases was 15. There were 32 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 9 were hospitalized with the virus, and none was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 37.

The Depot District and the IDA

The Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is coming to the end of its consideration of benefits for the two apartment buildings being proposed for North Seventh Street. Today, the IDA heard a presentation by representatives of DJH Advisors, the group that did the financial analysis of the proposed project. 

The presentation walked IDA members through the report submitted by DJH, which Gossips posted about yesterday. The most significant recommendation of the report was that the PILOT for 708 State Street be amended to make its duration twenty years instead of twenty-five years. When the presentation was complete, it was suggested that the PILOT proposal submitted by the Galvan Foundation be amended to modify the PILOT schedule proposed for 708 State Street. Dan Kent said Galvan was "comfortable with the review by DJH." Mayor Kamal Johnson moved that the IDA accept the recommendation to change the PILOT schedule for 708 State Street. Mike Tucker advised that the next step was to receive an amended application from Galvan.

A public hearing on the project will take place sometime between August 4 and August 11. Gossips will publish the date and time of the public hearing as soon as it is scheduled. A week after the public hearing, the IDA will meet to make its decision.

Some interesting information emerged during the meeting, which took just 38 minutes. The representatives of DJH consistently referred to 708 State Street as "market rate housing." Rebecca Wolff asked why they were calling it "market rate" when "it does have income restrictions." She was told, "We don't know what regulating construct applies to this project." The other building--75 North Seventh Street--is, to quote the DJH report, "a regulated affordable development with LIHTC [low-income housing tax credit] equity."

Wolff also asked about a statement in the report that conversations with the assessor had been "inconclusive." Tucker explained there were only three or four comparable properties in Hudson, and they were all older. Earlier, Anna Marsh of DJH spoke of existing apartments in Hudson being "older and lower construction grade." 

Gossips was struck by one bit of information in the report that seems counterintuitive. The construction costs per unit are estimated to be $250,000 for 75 North Seventh Street and $205,000 for 708 State Street. This may be because there are fewer large apartments proposed for the "market rate" building at 708 State Street.
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HHA Meeting Canceled

Gossips has learned that the meeting of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners tenant relations subcommittee, scheduled for today at 6:00 p.m., has been canceled.

Verizon vs. the City of Hudson

On Monday, the Register-Star published an article about the lawsuit filed by Verizon over siting wireless communications antennas on Providence Hall, 119 Columbia Street: "Verizon lawsuit names city, planning board, code enforcement." The following is quoted from the article: "City corporate counsel Cheryl Roberts said the city put its insurance carrier on notice about the lawsuit and is interviewing law firms to represent the city if insurance coverage is denied."

Last night, the Common Council passed a resolution "authorizing the hiring of outside counsel to respond to Verizon v. City of Hudson." The resolution states that the firm to be hired is Hinman Straub and the amount to be paid is "not to exceed $15,000.00." Commenting on the resolution, Council president Tom DePietro said the law firm was being hired to "evaluate the lawsuit and advise the City."
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Surprising News a Week Old

Sometimes the meetings you miss are the ones you really should have attended. Such was the case with last week's meeting of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissions for it was at that meeting that Tim Mattice, executive director of HHA, resigned. The story is reported today in the Times Union: "Hudson Housing Authority director resigns."

As Gossips has reported many times, HHA is currently pursuing an ambitious development project that involves the demolition of its existing buildings and the construction of new buildings.

Gratitude to Virginia Martin for bringing this to our attention

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been six new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is three more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred the three county residents have, since yesterday, recovered from the virus. There are seven fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday. After six days of no hospitalizations, there is now one county resident hospitalized with the virus. No one is in the the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since June 24.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 2.7 percent and a seven-day average of 1.7 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.2 percent and the seven-day average is 1.8 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported two new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 468, and the number of active cases was 12. There were 24 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 9 were hospitalized, and none was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 37.

Not Good News About COVID-19

Gossips just received a press release from Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, which begins:
As of midday Tuesday, the Columbia County Department of Health had recorded six new cases of COVID-19. Those, combined with six new cases recorded Monday, prompted DOH Director Jack Mabb to say, “This spike is definitely a real thing.”
There are currently no hospitalizations as a result of the virus, however, Director Mabb noted, one county resident in their 20s is “pretty sick.”
Two of Monday’s cases were vaccinated, while four were not, he added.
In addition, twenty-three campers at Camp Pontiac in Copake have contracted the virus, said Director Mabb. Eighteen of those that live closer to the camp have been sent home to quarantine, while five are in isolation on the camp grounds. Sixty-five individuals are being contact traced as a result of this outbreak – the DOH has staff onsite today.
Director Mabb reported that currently, 41 percent of the African Americans in the county are vaccinated, while 69 percent of the Hispanic community have been vaccinated.

More News from the IDA

Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 21, there is another special meeting of the Hudson IDA (Industrial Development Agency). It takes place at 1:00 p.m. in Suite 301 of One City Centre. The notice of the meeting states its purpose: "This meeting is being held to discuss the Galvan's Foundation's [sic] 75 North 7th Street and 708 State Street projects."

Today, the financial analysis of the projects done by BJH Advisors LLC was made available on the City of Hudson website. It can be found here. This analysis is what needed to be completed before the IDA could schedule a public hearing.

Readers can examine the report for themselves, but what Gossips found most interesting were these findings. Under the head "Pro Forma Structure," BJH reported:
  • The pro forma for 708 State Street was not structured correctly.
    • Taxes were double counted, resulting in higher expenses/lower cash-on-cash return, and
    • Replacement reserves were not included, resulting in lower expenses/higher cash-on-cash return.
Also, under the head "Returns and Debt Service Coverage," BJH makes this finding:
BJH considers 708 State Street's cash-on-cash return between years 1 and 10 reasonable for attracting private capital; BJH also considers 75 North 7th Street's DSCR [debt service coverage ratio] over the same period to indicate the project is financially viable. However, 708 State Street's high returns by year 10 again suggest the developer could pay a higher PILOT (receive less benefits) over a shorter period.
In Appendix C of the document, BJH presents an alternative PILOT schedule for 708 State Street, one that lasts for only twenty years, and compares it with the PILOT schedule proposed by the Galvan Foundation, which goes on for twenty-five years. (Click to enlarge the charts below or find them here.) 

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News from the IDA

The special meeting of the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) yesterday was actually a meeting of the Governance Committee--a committee made up of just three people: Mayor Kamal Johnson, Council Majority Leader Tiffany Garriga, and Council Minority Leader Rebecca Wolff, who chairs the committee. The purpose of the meeting, as explained by Wolff, was to explore "how the Governance Committee would put together a more enlightened and informed process for reviewing PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) requests and negotiating terms." Mike Tucker, president and CEO of Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), restated the goal as creating "some semblance of policy so that every project is not a deviation."   

At 1:00 p.m., when the meeting began, Wolff was the only member of the committee present, so Tucker was called upon to talk about the Hudson IDA and its recent history until other members of the committee showed up. Tucker recounted how in 2015, the NYS Authorities Budget Office recommended that, because of its lack of activity, the Hudson IDA should be absorbed by the Columbia County IDA. Tucker advised against it. As he pointed out yesterday, it would have meant that the county would have been making decisions about development in Hudson, determining which projects would be encouraged. 

Of particular interest in what Tucker had to say was that an Ulster County court case had determined that IDA financing was not an "as of right" benefit. He mentioned that some projects proposed at the county level had turned down IDA assistance because they could finance through farm credit without the additional closing costs and the risk of clawback if the project did not deliver what had been promised in terms of employment and other economic benefits. He also mentioned Section 485-b of the New York State Property Tax Law, which he said "gives similar benefits to [those of the IDA] without the drawbacks."

When Johnson arrived, more than half an hour into the meeting, the real stuff of the meeting began: a presentation by Ted De Barbieri and Keith Hirokawa, two professors from Albany Law School who have a consulting firm called Living Communities Consultants, LLC. The consultants were recruited by Wolff and asked to produce "a process by which the Hudson Industrial Development Authority board can review PILOT applications submitted by developers, and a scoring rubric that the Hudson Industrial Development Authority board can use to score PILOT applications with an eye towards social equity."

In the presentation and discussion, De Barbieri talked about "ways the IDA can activate new population and new interest from developers." Later, he spoke of "looking for ways to grow the number of projects that come before the IDA." Wolff commented, "The thing we most need is to understand the potentials of our powers . . . a clear sense of our options." 

It was determined that the Governance Committee would make a recommendation to the full IDA board to retain the consultants. The first phase of the project would be "analyzing a representative group of uniform PILOT policies and conducting review with respect to social and/or economic criteria." For this, the consultants would be paid $425.00 an hour for an estimated 7 to 12 hours. Tucker commented, "It's a good thing $47,000 was paid by 620 Union Street so the IDA has funds to get [this] started."
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$6 Million for HCSD

Aliya Schneider reports today in the Register-Star on how the Hudson City School District is planning to spend the federal funding coming to the district--a little more than $4 million through the American Rescue Plan and almost $2 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act: "School to budget $6 million in stimulus funding." Although $6 million seems like a lot, it's necessary to remember that HCSD's annual budget is more than $52 million.

The article reports: "The American Rescue Plan funding requires a community engagement process. A survey asking community members to prioritize categories to use the American Rescue Plan federal funds closed on June 12." One wonders how many taxpayers in the HCSD were aware this survey was being conducted and participated in it. The plan being proposed for spending the money, based on the input from the survey, can be found here.
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Monday, July 19, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since Friday, there have been six new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is five more than on Friday, from which it can be inferred that since Friday one more county resident is now considered to be recovering from the virus. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is six more than on Friday, but no county residents are hospitalized with the virus. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since June 24.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 0.0 percent and a seven-day average of 1.7 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.4 percent and the seven-day average is 1.7 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported no new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 466, and the number of active cases was 15. There were 27 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 9 were hospitalized with the virus, and none was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 37.

Historic Preservation in the Vanguard

On June 25, the Historic Preservation Commission meeting was the first city meeting to take place in person after the executive order was lifted that allowed public meetings to be held virtually. This Friday, the HPC will be in the vanguard again with Hudson's first hybrid in-person/virtual meeting. The following notice now appears on the city calendar.
A prototype setup to provide livestream access to City Hall meetings via Zoom will be tested at this meeting. Please note that while virtual participants will not be seen or heard by in-person attendees, they may submit written questions and comments during the meeting through Zoom's chat function.
Members of the HPC and applicants are required to attend in person, and the public can attend in person as well. But for those who have grown to appreciate monitoring city meetings from the comfort of home, you now have that option again. Click here to access the meeting on Zoom. 

The prototype setup for the hybrid meeting was organized and managed by mayor's aide Michael Hofmann, at the urging of HPC chair Phil Forman.

The Conclusion of a Story

The following announcement appeared late this morning on the Facebook page of the Columbia County District Attorney's Office:
D.A. CZAJKA  ANNOUNCES SENTENCING
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka announced Monday, July 19, 2021, that Hon. Richard Koweek sentenced defendant Peter Volkmann following his conviction by plea by Grand Larceny and Official Misconduct.
On Feb. 11, Mr. Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree Grand Larceny, a class E felony, and Official Misconduct, a class A misdemeanor. On that date, Judge Koweek ordered Mr. Volkmann to pay a total of $92,829 in restitution to the Village of Chatham and the State of New York Retirement System prior to his sentencing. By his conviction, Mr. Volkmann automatically forfeited his public office.
On Monday, Judge Koweek sentenced Mr. Volkmann to two-year conditional discharge for the fourth-degree Grand Larceny conviction and a one-year conditional discharge with 200 hours of community service for the Official Misconduct conviction.
Mr. Volkmann, while serving as Police Chief of the Village of Chatham and earlier as Police Chief of the Town of Stockport, engaged in a scheme to steal from the New York State Retirement System, padding his pension with $74,222 in public funds. Mr. Volkmann hid public-source income from 19 municipalities and school districts in excess of the statutory limit by funneling the earnings through a private business, PF Volkmann & Associates. He also engaged in a scheme to submit false mileage vouchers and other reimbursements to the Village of Chatham, defrauding taxpayers to the tune of $18,607. . . . 
"Mr. Volkmann stole funds from the citizens he was sworn to protect and serve as police chief of the Village of Chatham," District Attorney Paul Czajka said. "In doing so, he undermined much of the good he did in providing assistance to so many suffering from addiction. With his conviction before Judge Koweek, those funds were returned in full to the Village of Chatham and the New York State Retirement System. I thank and commend the New York State Police, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and their highly trained and proficient investigators for bringing this complex case to a successful resolution."
Photo: Lance Wheeler

Volkmann was celebrated for creating the Chatham Cares 4 U Initiative, a substance addiction program that gained national attention. He was the Democrats' candidate for Columbia County Sheriff in 2017. In January 2020, Mayor Kamal Johnson appointed Volkmann to be the Police Commissioner for Hudson. Volkmann resigned as commissioner in September 2020, after an investigation into his department's financial records was initiated in Chatham.

Libel, Defamation, Journalism, and Gossips

I started The Gossips of Rivertown eleven and a half years ago. The very first post was published on January 20, 2010. Despite the name, which I borrowed from a 1848 novel by Alice B. Neal, a woman writer born and raised in Hudson, Gossips is a serious journalistic endeavor. My principal goal in starting Gossips and in keeping it going for more than a decade has always been to share information about Hudson--to make people aware of what's happening in our city and what is being planned for its future and to help people appreciate its rich and storied past. 

As a collateral outcome, Gossips has become a forum for readers to express opinions and share information in comments. In the past year, this has become problematic. On several occasions recently, I have been threatened with legal action for publishing readers' comments that report negative information or express negative opinions regarding the actions of people who are elected officials or public figures. For this reason, I am inspired to review for readers the law regarding libel and defamation. 

The principle that truth is an absolute defense against charges of libel is well established. It was established in the laws of this country in 1735, well before the American Revolution. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution (1789) protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In more recent decades, there have been some significant court decisions regarding libel and the press. In 1964, in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the court determined that public officials could win a suit for libel only if they could demonstrate actual malice on the part of reporters or publishers. Actual malice was defined as "knowledge that the information was false" or publishing information "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." The decision was later extended to cover public figures.

There is also Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which applies to Gossips' role as a forum for readers. Section 230 states: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." I am advised that this effectively immunizes Gossips from liability for statements made by commenters on the blog.

For those who wish to threaten Gossips with libel suits, be advised that Gossips has legal representation. Communications regarding such allegations should directed to John K. Friedman, Esq.
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Sunday, July 18, 2021

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

There are some interesting things happening this week. Unfortunately, there is also more rain in the forecast.
  • On Monday, July 19, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) holds a special meeting at 1:00 p.m. in Suite 301 at One City Centre. The purpose of the meeting is "to discuss options for PILOT review procedures." It should be noted that the only PILOT applications before the IDA at this time are those for 75 North Seventh Street and 708 State Street, the two apartment buildings being proposed by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation.
  • On Tuesday, July 20, the Common Council ad hoc committee working to draft legislation to ensure the replacement, uniformity, and ongoing repair of sidewalks throughout the city meets at 5:30 p.m. The meeting takes place at City Hall, 520 Warren Street. It has been more than two years since an up-to-date draft of the law has been made public. There is always the chance that such a draft may be presented at this meeting.
  • At 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20, the Common Council holds its regular monthly meeting in the Council Chamber at City Hall. On the agenda for the meeting is a resolution to sell a parcel of land that was once the western end of Montgomery Street. 
  • On Wednesday, July 21, the Hudson IDA holds another special meeting. The meeting takes place at 1:00 p.m. in Suite 301 at One City Centre. The purpose of this meeting is "to discuss the Galvan's Foundation's [sic] 75 North 7th Street and 708 State Street projects." It is very likely that at this meeting the IDA will schedule a public hearing on these projects.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, the subcommittee of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners holds its weekly meeting. The meeting will take place in the Community Room of Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street. The city website indicates that the meeting can be accessed on Zoom, but that was not true for last week's regular monthly meeting of the Board of Commissioners and will likely not be true for this meeting either. The topic of discussion will probably be the draft RFQ for the redevelopment of HHA properties. 
  • Also at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, the Zoning Board of Appeals holds its regular monthly meeting. The meeting will take place at City Hall. No agenda for the meeting has yet been made available.
  • From 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, Hudson Hall launches the upcoming 25th anniversary of Winter Walk at Waterfront Wednesdays. Winter Walk Makes a Summer Splash! celebrates twenty-five years of Winter Walk and "honors the diversity, ingenuity, and perseverance of Hudson's unique creative community."
Here's the schedule for the evening:
5:30 p.m.  "Winter Walk's Comin' to Town" processional, led by Sax O'Claus and Perfect Ten Elves, steps off from Warren and Third streets and proceeds to Henry Hudson Riverfront Park
5:30 p.m.  Kuumba Dance and Drum Circle
7:00 p.m.  Hudson Valley Academy of the Performing Arts dances segments from The Nutcracker Suite
8:00 p.m.  The Jeanne O'Connor Jazz Quintet
9:00 p.m.  Fireworks!

  • On Friday, July 23, the Historic Preservation Commission holds its second meeting of the month at 10:00 a.m. The meeting will take place at City Hall. No agenda for the meeting has as yet been made available.
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Dispelling a Myth

Call me a killjoy, but, although I appreciate a good legend, there are some that are just too farfetched. Someone on Facebook this morning shared the "fun fact" that Diamond Street, the original name for Columbia Street, was so named for Legs Diamond, a.k.a. Gentleman Jack, the notorious gangster of the Prohibition Era.


This is not true. Although Diamond is known to have visited Hudson on several occasions, very likely frequenting the establishments on Diamond Street, Hudson's red light district, the city did not name the street after him. This 1873 Beers Atlas map of Hudson's Second Ward clearly shows that the street just north of and running parallel to Warren Street was called Diamond Street at that time.
 

This was 1873. Legs Diamond wasn't born until 1897.

If you are curious about Chapel Street, which appears on the map just north of and parallel to Diamond Street, it was obliterated in 1974 during Urban Renewal, to build Bliss Towers, Columbia Apartments, and Schuyler Court.

COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Update on the City Clock Chimes

Apparently the complaints of many on Facebook and elsewhere about the clock being silenced have outweighed the single complaint about the clock ringing the hours through the night. This evening, Mayor Kamal Johnson made this announcement on Facebook.

 

Now Appearing on Union Street


Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Update:  When code enforcement officer Craig Haigh learned of the situation, he took action. The porta potty has now been removed from the street.

For Whom the Clock Strikes

Gossips post about the silenced city clock was referenced last night in a post on the Hudson Area Community Board Facebook page. Within an hour, it elicited twenty-five comments, the nature of which, it seems, inspired the administrator of the page to turn off commenting. A couple of the comments appealed to Kathryn Beilke, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, to clarify what happened. This morning, Beilke posted the following message on Facebook.
Dearest Hudson community,
Unfortunately the admin has turned off the commenting on the OP re: the church bells at First Presbyterian but I have seen my name tagged multiple times in the comments so I am just starting a new thread. The clock belongs to the city of Hudson and we have been in communication with the city about a plan to restore the church bell at First Presbyterian to ring only during the day and not overnight. We have a member who is consulting with an expert on historic clocks in the midwest who may travel here to help us program it. Even though the bell is technically not our jurisdiction, our posture as a church is to balance being a good neighbor to those who live nearest to us and keeping this pleasant historic tradition alive. It is very commendable the amount of research, thoughtfulness, and care this member has put into this proposal. Our hope is that the "silencing" of the bell will only be temporary. We are currently ringing it manually on Sundays.
To all the commenters on the OP who care about this iconic building, the recent storms have severely damaged our roof which desperately needs to be replaced. There is plaster and water coming into the sanctuary. This is and has been our priority for the last several years and it is has not gotten the attention it deserves. Please help by visiting friendsoffpc.org to donate. 
The plan to program the clock so that it strikes the hour only part of the time is admirable, but it may not be possible. Vincent Mulford, who has for many years been the clock's most ardent champion, made this comment on Beilke's post. The information he provides confirms what Gossips has been told by DPW superintendent Rob Perry:
Nice try but as an antique dealer who specialized in clocks [I know]--it cannot be silenced for half a day--it's either all or nothing. The fact that complaints can silence something as important as this 219 year old matriarch should be a red flag for all citizens of Hudson. Something is very wrong with this administration.
Gossips needs to correct a false misimpression made by my initial post on the subject. I did not know the identity of the complainants yesterday when I wrote the post, and I do not know it now, but I have since then learned they are not folks who have moved here recently. They have lived in Hudson for a while.

Update: If you read the thread of comments on Beilke's Facebook post, you will discover that, according to Mayor Kamal Johnson, the decision to silence the chimes that ring the hours was made by the church not the City. 

This seems quite inappropriate since the clock is the property and the responsibility of the City not the church. As KD has already pointed out in a comment, silencing the clock was not the church's decision to make.
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Friday, July 16, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there has been one new case of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is one more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that no recoveries have been reported in the past 24 hours. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is one fewer than yesterday--probably the person who is now the new case. There are no county residents hospitalized with the virus, and there has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since June 24.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 0.0 percent and a seven-day average of 0.9 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.4 percent and the seven-day average is 1.1 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported no new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 463, and the number of active cases was 14. There were 33 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 10 were hospitalized with the virus, and none was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 37.

The Silence of the Clock

Everyone's heard stories of city dwellers who buy a house in the country next to a dairy farm and then complain about the smell of cow manure. Hudson gets its own brand of folks who seem not to be paying attention when they buy property--for example, people who buy an old house in a city that takes pride in its historic architecture and then declare that they want "something modern." 

This morning, a reader reported that the city clock in the tower of the First Presbyterian Church was no longer tolling the hour. It wasn't that the clock had stopped working (the picture below was taken today at precisely 9:53 a.m.), but the chiming of the clock to mark the hours had been silenced.


The clock no longer tolls the hours because of a "noise complaint." According to my source, some people who live near the church complained that the chiming clock woke them up at night. Some inquiries into the situation led me to Chapter 210 of the city code, the city's noise ordinance, specifically to § 210-7 Exceptions. The section begins: "The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to the following acts." Item E in the list is this:
The operation or use of any bell, chimes, or other instrument from any church, synagogue, temple, mosque or school licensed or chartered by the State of New York, provided such operation or use does not occur between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. of the following day.
The reference is to bells, chimes, and carillons that are rung as calls to worship or in celebration or recognition or for the joy of the sound of bells filling the air, not to a clock chiming the hour. It seems, however, that the City is now applying it to the clock because the city clock is located, as it has been since 1802, in the tower of a church. Because the chiming of the clock cannot be turned off for just nine hours every day, it has been completely eliminated as a consequence of the noise complaint. 

Chapter 210 of the code, the noise ordinance, was "amended in its entirety" in October 2006. Gossips was an alderman when the noise ordinance was amended, and I can say with some confidence that I and my colleagues never imagined that this provision of the ordinance would be applied to the the chiming of the city clock and would result in the clock being silenced. This post should probably be subtitled "A Tale of Unintended Consequences."
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