Monday, April 19, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since Saturday, there have been two more deaths from COVID-19, but neither the CCDOH nor the chair of the Board of Supervisors has provided any information about the segment of the population for whom the virus is still proving deadly. Since Saturday, there have been four new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is eighteen fewer than Saturday, from which it can be inferred that 26 more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine today is 32 fewer than on Saturday, and there are three fewer hospitalized. None those hospitalized is in the ICU.   

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.4 percent and a seven-day average of 1.4 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.6 percent and the seven-day average is 2.2 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 7 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 118, and the number of active cases was 65. There were 103 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 10 were hospitalized, and 3 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in the county attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 11.

Galvan Responds

At the informal meeting of the Common Council last Monday, a resolution was introduced which sought to make recommendations to the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) regarding the applications for PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) for the two buildings being proposed by the Galvan Foundation for North Seventh Street, the area of the city that has been dubbed the "Depot District."

The resolution, which was written by aldermen John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) and Jane Trombley (First Ward) makes two specific recommendations:
  1. The Common Council encourages the IDA to decline the application for a PILOT tax abatement for the market rate rental housing development proposed for 708 State Street, Hudson, NY.
  2. The Common Council agrees with the PILOT tax abatement for the mixed-use rental housing development and encourages the IDA to stipulate that there will be NO involvement from Galvan Partners LLC, or any other for-profit subsidiary associated with any member of the Galvan Foundation, for any building management or construction management of either of the proposed building properties.
The resolution and the discussion that ensued compelled Dan Hubbell, one of the attorneys employed by Galvan on this project, to send a letter on Friday to Council president Tom DePietro, copying all the aldermen as well as Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council. The letter, which can be read in its entirety here, maintains that the resolution "personally (and falsely) attacks the Foundation and affiliated entities led by principals T. Eric Galloway and the late Henry van Ameringen" and makes reference to "additional false and defamatory accusations against Mr. Galloway and the Foundation" during the discussion at the informal meeting. At one point, the letter seems to intimate that opposition to the Galvan proposal for the Depot District may be racially motivated. The following is quoted from the letter:
The Foundation understands that certain members of the Council may personally oppose the Projects, which are intended to provide affordable housing to the lower- and middle-income populations of Hudson. It is profoundly disappointing, however, that these members' attempts to shut down the Projects come in the form of false personal attacks against Mr. Galloway. It is impossible to ignore that the only private individual that these Common Council members have ever attacked in this way happens to be a successful black man proposing affordable housing.
The letter goes on for six pages, citing the paragraphs in the resolution considered to be "nothing more than a defamatory and unfounded personal attack on the Foundation and Mr. Galloway" and asserting that "Mr. Galloway [has] never received any salary, profit, income, or other financial benefit from Galvan Partners, the Foundation, or any subsidiary or affiliated entity of the Foundation." The letter denies that the acquisition of property by Galloway and his various LLCs has had a "negative impact on housing affordability" in Hudson and catalogs the projects they have completed and the affordable units that were preserved when they took over Housing Resources of Columbia County. The letter claims that the aldermen who expressed opposition to the project are in violation of Section 20-1 of the city code--the Code of Ethics adopted by the Council in 1998. It also takes certain aldermen to task for opposing granting a 25-year PILOT to the proposed market rate building, when the Council "did not voice any objection to a recently approved PILOT Agreement for a market rate lodging development." (The reference is to the hotel to be developed at 620 Union Street.)

The entire letter can be read here.
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Hudson and UBI

Last month, PBS NewsHour Weekend, as part of its series Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America, did a feature about Hudson and the universal basic income pilot (UBI) program, created by The Spark of Hudson and the Humanity Forward Foundation, now going on here. If you missed the program or want to watch again, it can be found here.

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

As Hudson explodes with the fresh colors of spring, here are the meetings that will be taking place in the next five days.
  • On Monday, April 19, the Tourism Board meets at 5:00 p.m. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Tuesday, April 20, the Common Council ad hoc committee devoted to the improvement of the sidewalks in the city meets at 5:30 p.m. To Gossips' knowledge, the latest version of the law members of the Council have been working on for more than two years now has not yet been made available to the public. What is available on the city website is a version of the law that was posted in June 2019. The link to the Zoom meeting should be posted on the City of Hudson website prior to the meeting. Scroll down to the calendar.
  • At 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, the Common Council holds its regular monthly meeting. Curiously, the resolution introduced at the informal meeting regarding the Galvan Foundation proposal and its application before the IDA, which was the subject of much discussion then, is not included among the documents on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting, at least not at this time. The link to the Zoom meeting should be available on the City of Hudson website prior to the meeting. Scroll down to the calendar.
  • On Wednesday, April 21, the subcommittee of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners concerning itself with planning for new development meets at 6:00 p.m. The group is currently surveying HHA tenants to learn what they would like to see happen with HHA properties and drafting an RFQ (request for qualifications) for the project. They are planning to hold a town hall discussion about the project in early May, when they have the results of the survey. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.  
  • Also on Wednesday, April 21, at 6:00 p.m., the Zoning Board of Appeals holds its regular monthly meeting. No agenda is available. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Thursday, April 22, the Tourism Board holds its second "brainstorming session" at 6:00 p.m. The subject of the brainstorming session and previous one held on Tuesday, April 13, is how to activate the pocket parks during "Warren Street Seasonal Usage 2021." Click here to join the session.
  • On Friday, April 23, the Historic Preservation Commission holds its second meeting of the month at 10:00 a.m. The meeting will begin with a public hearing on the proposal from the Galvan Initiatives Foundation to replace the windows at 400 State Street with windows that have a nine over nine configuration. More information about the proposal can be found here. To join the Zoom meeting, click here.  

Scheduling News for Next Week: The virtual public meeting on the Truck Traffic Route Feasibility Study was announced last week, to take place at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27--the very same day and time as the Planning Board was scheduled to continue its review of Colarusso's applications for conditional use permits. Since then, the conflict of meetings has been resolved. The special Planning Board meeting has been rescheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 4, at 6:00 p.m.
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Help for the Robert Taylor House

A Gossips reader out and about this morning took this picture. It appears that the hole in the north wall of the Robert Taylor House, which was the subject of a Gossips post last week, is being repaired this morning, by filling in the window opening with cement blocks.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

HPC to Hold a Public Hearing

It is rare when the Historic Preservation Commission schedules a public hearing, but they have had a couple in recent weeks. There was a public hearing on 59 Allen Street, the Charles Alger House, on March 12. This Friday, April 23, there will be a public hearing on what is proposed for 400 State Street, the building that started its life in 1818 as the Hudson Almshouse, was most recently (from 1959 to 2016) the home of the Hudson Area Library, and served as many different things in between.  

What is being proposed is removing the fire escapes and replacing all the windows, including the tall casement windows on the ground floor of the central part of the building, with nine over nine double hung windows. According to Walter Chatham, who presented the proposal to the Hudson Preservation Commission on April 9, the plan is also includes replacing the fanlight windows. 

There are a few problems with the proposal. First, although there are lots of images of the building in its various iterations over the past two centuries, there is no evidence that the building ever had nine over nine windows. The earliest image of the building, which is an engraving from the time it was the Hudson Lunatic Asylum (1830 to 1850) show the configuration of the windows was twelve over twelve, and there is no reason to believe the windows were changed from the time the building was the almshouse to the time it was the lunatic asylum.   

We know that significant alterations were made to the building around 1865. Up until that time, it had had institutional uses--an almshouse, a lunatic asylum, an academy for young women--but in 1865, the building was acquired by Captain George H. Power, at that time one of the richest men in Hudson. He made extensive changes to transform what had been an institutional building into a residence for his family: his wife, Adeline; their six children, four daughters and two sons, ranging in age (in 1865) from 25 to 3; and an Irish-born domestic named Ellen Leach. On May 12, 1866, this item appeared in the Hudson Daily Register, reporting on the work underway at 400 State Street:
Among the larger improvements in the city this Spring is that being made by Capt. Geo. H. Power, on his residence in State Street, formerly occupied by the Rev. J. B. Hague as a Seminary for young ladies. The building, when completed, will be a decided ornament to that part of our city, as extensive alterations and improvements have been made since its purchase.
The two over two double hung windows, as well as the long casement windows on the ground floor, probably date from Power's adaptive reuse of the building as his private residence.

The notion of replacing the fanlight over the building's entrance is also problematic. Up until 2008, the opening for the central fanlight was filled in with black-painted plywood, just as the smaller fanlights in the two wings still are. It is not known when the fanlights disappeared. It could have been at any time during the years the building was the Hudson Orphanage (1881 to 1957) or during the time it was owned by the Hudson City School District (1957 to 2005). Gossips can attest that they were missing when I moved to Hudson in 1993 and no doubt had been for decades prior to that. 

In 2005, the Hudson Area Library purchased the building had been its home since its founding in 1959, with the intention of restoring the building and reconfiguring the interior spaces to make it more compatible with its use as a library. In the early stages of the restoration effort, it was decided the re-creating the fanlight window over the central entrance to the building would send a message of hope and confidence in the building's future. The arc of black- painted plywood over the entrance made the building look too forlorn and neglected.

The fanlight window now there was created by Honeoye Falls Millwork, patterned after archival images of the building provided to them. The fanlight is even featured on their website. The reproduced fanlight was unveiled with great ceremony in April 2008.


William Krattinger from SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office), who prepared the nomination for the building's individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places, took this memorable picture of the view through the new fanlight.

Photo: William Krattinger
When I shared some of this information about the fanlight with Chatham, he responded, "I said replace if necessary. If it's in good shape or repairable, we would go that route." The fanlight window, fabricated by highly respected window restorers, is only thirteen years old. 

Of interest, too, is that, when presenting the proposal to the HPC, Chatham suggested that the Galvan Foundation's offer to give 400 State Street to the City for use as City Hall was unlikely to happen and urged the commissioners, "Let's figure out together an appropriate use for this building."
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Political Intrigue

Roger Hannigan Gilson of The Other Hudson Valley reports on Facebook today about the legal challenge brought against Tiffany Garriga's Working Families Party petitions by Abdus Miah. Garriga is running against Miah, who is the incumbent, for the position of Second Ward supervisor. The name of the lawyer representing Miah and two other Columbia County candidates will be familiar to anyone who has ever witnessed the absentee ballot count in a close election in Columbia County in the past twelve or thirteen years. 

Garriga and Miah will be competing for the Democratic line in the primary on June 22.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Gunfire on Robinson Street

If you follow the Facebook community boards, you already know about gunshots being fired around midday today on Robinson Street. What follows is the official press release about the incident from the Hudson Police Department:
At 12:34 pm this afternoon HPD received a call via Columbia County 911 that several citizens were reporting numerous shots fired in the vicinity of the 200 block of Robinson Street. HPD units arrived at the scene within one minute and found evidence of a shooting incident; shell casings, several vehicles and one residence struck by bullets. Assistance was immediately rendered by responding units from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police and the Stockport Police Department.
Initial indications reveal that one vehicle may have been damaged by bullets and left the scene, and that no one was injured in the shooting.
It is our belief this was a targeted shooting, and not a random act.
“Officers have secured the neighborhood and numerous interviews are underway. Robinson Street has been reopened to vehicle traffic and patrols are in the area throughout this evening. Our Detectives have secured evidence to include more than a dozen shell casings. We have developed leads, and we have the full support from the Sheriff’s office, New York State Police and Columbia County District Attorney’s Office. We will work aggressively, continually, and bring all resources to bear in order to identify those responsible for this dangerous and reckless behavior.” Chief 
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Detectives at (518)828-3388. 

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been three new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is six fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that nine more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are 21 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized with the virus and in the ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday, April 5.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.8 percent and a seven-day average of 1.6 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.6 percent and the seven-day average is 2.3 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 6 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 108, and the number of active cases was 57. There were 85 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 10 were hospitalized with the virus, and 4 were in the ICU. The total  number of deaths in the county attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 10.

Thank You, CAC

The Conservation Advisory Council was created by the Common Council in 2015. It spent the first four years of its existence assembling the city's natural resources and open space inventory, Nature in the City, which was presented to the Common Council in May 2019. Since that was accomplished, the CAC has started to function in the manner those of us who supported its creation always hoped it would: interjecting concern for the environment, informed by knowledge and expertise, into development plans for the city. A case in point being the parking lot Columbia Memorial Health plans to build at 30 Prospect Avenue.

This was the plan proposed to the Planning Board on March 9.

This is the revised plan presented to the Planning Board this past Tuesday, April 13, and given site plan approval.

The changes to the plan came as a result of the letter from the CAC, which made recommendations for ways to improve the site. The changes to the proposal include the introduction of a low-growing pollinator shrub, dark sky compliant lighting, and solar-powered crosswalk signs. Hilary Hillman of the CAC called the proposal "very respectful" and noted, "There is shade that comes off of that hill." 

The plan for the parking lot was approved despite Planning Board member Clark Wieman's objections to demolishing a building to "put up a parking lot" (h/t Joni Mitchell). He talked about the building's "aesthetic value" and said he thought it was a cool building. Speaking for CMH, Tim Moot said it was cost prohibitive to update the building to current standards and suggested, referencing the temporary medical facilities created during the pandemic, that tents set up in a parking lot would be a more viable medical space than this building.  

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Friday, April 16, 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 fewer than yesterday, from which it can be referred that nine more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are nine more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but two fewer are hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, the number in the ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday, April 5.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.8 percent and a seven-day average of 1.9 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.3 percent and the seven-day average is 2.4 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 2 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 102, and the number of active cases was 53. There were 76 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 10 were hospitalized with the virus, and 3 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in the county attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 10.

Regarding the School Board

There is the opportunity this year for three people to be elected to the Hudson City School District Board of Education. There is currently one vacant seat, and the terms of two board members--Linda Hopkins and Lucinda Segar--expire this year. 

To run for the school board, you need to get the required number of signatures on a nominating petition. In the past, that number has been 100. This year, as a consequence of the pandemic, the number of signatures required has been reduced to 50. Petitions must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, to Leslie Coons. the District Clerk. To get a petition, you need to contact Coons at 518 828-4360 ext. 2100 or by email at coonsl@hudsoncsd.org

It appears there is a new requirement this year. To become a candidate for the school board, you must provide the first page of your federal income tax return. The following item appears in the minutes from the March 16 meeting of the Board of Education: 
  • ASBO recommends checking the first page of federal tax returns to verify primary residency of candidates. The District will follow this recommendation going forward.
If I'm not mistaken, the first page of one's federal income tax return provides not only name and address but also Social Security number and total income for the year. I'm curious to know if there is a real problem with second home owners wanting to run for a seat on the school board in the Hudson City School District.

I was also curious to know what ASBO stands for, so I Googled it to learn it was Association of School Budget Officials. Exploring the ASBO website, I discovered this statement from ASBO executive director Brian Cechnicki about the 2021-2022 New York State budget:  
We are thrilled with the investments in education that the Legislature and Governor have committed to in this year’s Enacted Budget. In addition to the funds the federal government is providing from the December Stimulus and the American Rescue Plan, the state is reaffirming its commitment to education and is providing significant resources to school districts at a time when they are sorely needed. Instead of seeing reduced state aid, as we have feared since January, schools will witness a $3 billion increase, the largest in the state’s history.
Furthermore, after years of promises, the Foundation Aid formula is finally being put on a full phase-in schedule, with districts expecting to receive their full allocation by the 2023-24 school year. This legislation provides the necessary predictability and stability that will help school business officials develop their budgets for the coming years.
District officials will now face the challenge of effectively utilizing these state and federal funds, and we are committed to helping our members navigate those challenges in the coming months.
One wonders if this anticipated bounty will bring any relief to HCSD taxpayers.
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Galvan and Historic Preservation

Photo: Colleen Hamm
Since publishing the post about the Robert Taylor House yesterday, I've stumbled upon a couple of things of relevance to the state of the historic house worthy of sharing. The first is a Gossips post from February 2012, just two months after the not-for-profit Galvan Initiatives Foundation was created: "What's It All About, Galvan?" In that post, Tom Swope, who was then the executive director of the foundation, defined the foundation's purpose in this way: "Our mission is to enhance the quality of life in Hudson through acquiring [an] architecturally significant group of houses, renovating them, returning them to the housing stock and renting them out at market rates. It will enable people who are gainfully employed to find decent places to live right in town."

The post also quotes the foundation's registration statement found in the New York State Charities Bureau database--a statement that begins: "To preserve the unique heritage of the City of Hudson, New York, by acquiring, interpreting, conserving and maintaining buildings of architectural and historical significance." The foundation certainly has achieved the acquiring part of that goal--taking possession over the years of the birthplace of General William Jenkins Worth, the Robert Taylor House, the Charles Alger House, the 1818 Hudson Almshouse, the original Hudson Orphan Asylum, the 1805 building that housed the city's oldest surviving newspaper, the C. H. Evans Mansion, the Captain William Ashley House, to name a few. Two of these buildings no longer exist. 

The Captain William Ashley House, which stood at 900 Columbia Street, was built somewhere between 1810 and 1815. It was one of the first if not the first house build in the section of the city known as "Prospect Hill." The Mental Health Association, which owned the house and operated it as a group home, wanted to demolish it to make way for its new facility. MHA was willing to give the building to anyone who would get rid of it for them. Galvan took possession of the house with the expressed intention of moving it to the 200 block of Union Street. Instead, the house was demolished or, to use Dan Kent's term, "disassembled." A few elements of the house, most notably the door surround, which was most likely a later enhancement to the early 19th-century house, made their way into the new house that was constructed at 215 Union Street.   


The original Hudson Orphan Asylum, acquired by Eric Galloway in 2006, was demolished in 2019. During the thirteen years of ownership, a portion of the building was demolished without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission and a metal roof was installed, also without a certificate of appropriateness. It was finally determined the building's "structural issues are beyond repair," and it was demolished.

Photo: Stephen McKay
Galvan has owned the Robert Taylor House since 2011. In 2012, they wanted to move the house from its historic location at the head of Tanners Lane to the vacant lot next to 25 Union Street. The move was not granted a certificate of appropriateness by the HPC.

In 2018, a plan to convert the Robert Taylor House into a tavern was one of five projects involving Galvan properties submitted for DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding. The project brought hope for the building's future, but in response to public protest, all Galvan projects were eliminated from consideration for DRI funds.

So, as we noted yesterday, the house continues to languish, and it seems only a matter of time before it too is determined to be "beyond repair," if it hasn't already reached that point.

This morning, I spent some time on the Galvan Initiatives Foundation website, in particular checking out the section devoted to "Historic Preservation." There you will find a list of historic properties owned by Galvan--there are nineteen of them--and this statement:
Galvan Foundation is dedicated to the conservation of the rich history of Hudson. We stabilize and rehabilitate distressed historic buildings and neighborhoods to create spaces promoting housing, education, economic opportunity, and community services.
If you click on a historic property in the list, you get "Before" and "After" pictures of the building and a little history. Of interest are the "Before" and "After" pictures of the Robert Taylor House.

Before

After  

The "After" picture is a rendering, the same rendering, albeit with an altered context, that was used to show how the house would look in its new location on lower Union Street.  

Interesting too are the "Before" and "After" pictures of the Captain William Ashley House. The "Before" picture shows that house at 900 Columbia Street. The "After" picture shows the new house built at 215 Union Street with some salvaged elements of the historic house.

Before

After

The history of the house provided talks about its location, calling it "one of the earliest houses to be erected near the Columbia and Union Turnpikes, in the opening year of the nineteenth century," but fails to mention that the house isn't there anymore or that the historic house no longer exists.

So much for "interpreting, conserving and maintaining buildings of architectural and historical significance."
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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Preserving Hudson's Heritage

The Robert Taylor House, located at the head of Tanners Lane, is generally believed to be the oldest surviving house in Hudson. 

It was originally the home of Robert Taylor, who was a tanner, hence the name Tanner's (now Tanners) Lane. Taylor's tannery was just across the way from his house, back before the Hudson Berkshire Railroad encroached on the northern edge of South Bay.

Detail of 1799 Penfield map
The Galvan Initiatives Foundation acquired the house in August 2011. In June 2015, a hole was discovered in the north side of the house, beside a boarded-up window. 

It was alleged at the time that the hole had been created in an attempt to break into the house. The hole was patched up, and a fence was installed around the house.

In November 2017, Gossips reported that the brick around the window frame was deteriorating, and the boarded-up window was falling out.

Today, Colleen Hamm posted these pictures of the north wall of the house on the Hudson Area Community Board Facebook page, and with her permission, I share them here.

Photo: Colleen Hamm

Photo: Colleen Hamm
The window has completely fallen out of the wall. 

One wonders how long it will be before Dan Kent issues a statement about the oldest house in Hudson that begins "We are saddened to announce . . . ," like the one he made on March 7, 2019, when the demolition of the original home of the Hudson Orphan Asylum began.

Photo: Stephen McKay
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COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been nine new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to just over 4,000. The number of active cases being reported today is three more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that since yesterday six more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are three fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized remains the same. Of those hospitalized, one fewer is in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday, April 5. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 0.8 percent and a seven-day average of 1.7 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.9 percent and the seven-day average is 2.2 percent.

A year ago today, 3 new cases of COVID-19 were reported and one death. The total number of cases was 100, and the number of active cases was 58. There were 84 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 10 were hospitalized with the virus, and 3 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths in the county attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 10. 

More About the Depot District

The agenda for Tuesday night's Planning Board meeting indicated that the public hearing on the two buildings proposed for the "Depot District" would continue. It did, but in fact there was very little public comment. 

Lindsay Zefting of Alta Planning + Design was introduced as the traffic consultant retained to advise the Planning Board. Charles Gottlieb, the attorney working for Galvan on the project, took the opportunity to kvell, "It's been a long time since I have been involved in project with that much support," referring to the thirty-six form letters expressing support for the project submitted to the Planning Board. Gottlieb also noted that Galvan's responses to negative comments had been submitted to the Planning Board. Those responses begin of page 4 of the document found here. Chad Lindsay, engineer for Galvan, presented the plan for turning 602 Washington Street, the former location of Jack's Automotive & Towing, into a parking lot for tenants of the proposed building.


Lindberg said, "The overall plan is to repurpose the building now there," but to what purpose it might be put was not indicated.

An interesting part of the meeting came when Planning Board member Clark Wieman expressed concern about "Galvan's performance in the City of Hudson." He wondered, "Given Galvan's track record in Hudson, can this project be delivered?" He suggested there were other ways to solve the housing problem "relative to Galvan's inventory of properties in Hudson" and posited, "If the goal is to provide market rate and affordable housing . . . there is a case to be made to address the problem quickly or more quickly by dealing with Galvan's current inventory of properties." 

At this point Wieman was interrupted by Victoria Polidoro, counsel to the Planning Board, who reminded him, "When a project comes before the Planning Board, this board is concerned not with the applicant but with the project on paper and its impact." When Wieman protested that he was addressing concerns raised by the public, Polidoro cautioned, "The public is welcome to say what they want to say. I just want to remind the board members that your role is to review the project as proposed and not look at outside actions by this developer." 

Wieman's comments inspired Dan Kent of the Galvan Foundation to offer a litany of the foundation's achievements since its founding in 2012, chief among them completing construction on thirty-nine buildings in Hudson, noting that Galvan was the only organization that has developed any affordable housing in Hudson in the last decade. Wieman, however, remained skeptical, saying he had "strong concerns about Galvan's ability to manage a large project like this."

The recording of the entire Planning Board meeting can be found here. Wieman's comments begin at 2:12:14.
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Mark Your Calendars

On Tuesday, April 27, at 6:00 p.m., there is to be a virtual public meeting on the Truck Traffic Route Feasibility Study. The announcement of the event describes it in this way:
The purpose of the virtual meeting is twofold: To present the research and get public input. The City's consultant team will provide a project overview and present the proposed truck route alternatives under consideration. Also, the public will be invited to provide input on proposed alternate routes, as well as how nearby communities may be impacted by possible route changes via participant polls and, at the end of the presentation, a question and answer session.
Photo: Bill Huston

By accident or design, the public meeting about the truck route study takes place at exactly the same time as the special meeting of the Planning Board to continue its consideration of Colarusso's conditional use permit applications, which also involves trucks passing through the city. 

Registration for the public meeting about the truck route is required. To learn more about the meeting and to register, click here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been four new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is the same as yesterday, from which it can be inferred that four more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are 41 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized and in the ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday, April 5. 

The New York Forward dashboard information has not been updated since yesterday.

A year ago today, 4 cases of COVID-19 were reported. The total number of cases was 97, and the number of active cases was 57. There were 101 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 10 were hospitalized, and 4 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time a year ago was 9. 

Coming to a Main Street Near You

This year, the safety of people dining in the street, in close proximity to moving cars, will be assured by the installation of concrete barriers. At Monday's informal Common Council meeting, a resolution was introduced authorizing the Tourism Board to spend $10,000 to purchase the concrete barriers and another $10,000 to repair the wood planters used at the intersections last year. 

Photo: JD Urban|Hudson Hall

Before the resolutions were introduced, Rob Perry, superintendent of Public Works, provided a preview of what the concrete barriers will look like.

He explained that they are two feet by two feet by four feet and weigh about 2,500 pounds each. They have to be transported to Warren Street from Stickles in Livingston. The only DPW vehicle capable of carrying the barriers can only hold three at a time, and there are 120 of them. Perry told the Council, "We are working with County Highway as well as other municipalities to assist with the massive logistical challenges associated with moving 120 blocks efficiently." He spoke of "a caravan" of municipal trucks bearing the giant cement blocks from Livingston to Warren Street.
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Pattern for Progress at HCDPA

Yesterday, at its regular monthly meeting the board of Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency (HCDPA) heard from Joe Czajka of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, the group that will be working on Hudson's Affordable Housing Development Plan. Czajka, who explained that they had just started the process, told the board they would be assessing and analyzing properties owned by the City, HCDPA, Hudson Housing Authority (HHA), "and even some private owned parcels," to come up with a strategy for building housing, primarily affordable housing, in Hudson. So far, Czajka said, they have, working with Mayor Kamal Johnson, identified a local advisory committee, made up of the following people:
  • Theresa Joyner, currently on the Planning Board
  • Revonda Smith, chair of the HHA Board of Commissioners
  • Mike Tucker, from Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC)
  • Rebecca Wolff, currently a First Ward alderman
  • Darren Scott, from NYS Homes and Community Renewal
  • Michael Chameides, mayor's aide
  • Peter Bujanow, commissioner of Public Works    
Czajka advised that the Affordable Housing Development Plan, which is expected to be ready for adoption in November, will be a "living document" and not everything suggested in the plan will be developed. He noted that the plan would need to be reevaluated periodically "as markets change" and stressed, "It is important for the community to understand there is no one solution to the problem."

Betsy Gramkow, who chairs the Planning Board and is a member of the HCDPA board, asked about the proposals for the Depot District and JLE and how they will impact the work of developing an Affordable Housing Development Plan. Czajka said those projects were "in the pipeline" and noted, "Their timeline figures into our process." He went on to predict that it would be "no less than 36 months" before either project is completed, concluding, "Those projects will not solve the current problem." He said they would be "building those [projects] into our planning" but advised, "Often the solution is small development."
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health released its numbers earlier today, but Gossips is just now getting around to sharing them. Since yesterday, there have been eleven new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases reported today is twelve fewer than yesterday, in which it can be inferred that 23 more county residents are now considered to be recovering from the virus. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is three fewer than yesterday. The number hospitalized remains the same as yesterday, but today one more of those hospitalized is in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday, April 5.  

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 2.5 percent and a seven-day average of 2.1 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 3.8 percent and the seven-day average is 2.3 percent.

A year ago today, 4 new cases of COVID-19 were reported. The total number of cases was 93, and the number of active cases was 55. There were 84 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 8 were hospitalized, and 2 were in the ICU. One death was reported a year ago today, bringing the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at that time to 9.

The Many Faces of Galvan

Last night's informal meeting of the Common Council went on for three and a half hours and attracted, at its high point, forty-nine attendees. Predictably, the topic that inspired the most and most heated discussion was the resolution relating to the requests before the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) for PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) for the two buildings the Galvan Foundation wants to construct on North Seventh Street, in the "Depot District." 

One of the buildings being proposed--75 North Seventh Street--will have "permanently affordable" apartments for low- and moderate-income households. The other--708 State Street--will be all market rate apartments. Galvan is seeking a PILOT for each of the buildings.

At last night's informal Council meeting we learned that the resolution had been drafted by aldermen John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) and Jane Trombley (First Ward). The resolution makes these two recommendations:
  1. The Common Council encourages the IDA to decline the application for a PILOT tax abatement for the market rate rental housing development proposed for 708 State Street, Hudson, NY.
  2. The Common Council agrees with the PILOT tax abatement for the mixed-used rental housing development and encourages the IDA to stipulate that there will be NO involvement from Galvan Partners LLC, or any other for-profit subsidiary associated with any member of the Galvan Foundation, for any building management or construction management of either of the proposed building properties.
The involvement of Galvan Partners LLC has been an issue Rosenthal has mentioned more than once. At the IDA meeting last Tuesday, he called for a commitment that Galvan Partners would have no involvement in the "Depot District" project. When Rosenthal made this request, Dan Kent of the Galvan Foundation said the project was "a lot bigger than the crew we have for Galvan Partners." Instead, Baxter Construction from Poughkeepsie would be the general contractor. Rosenthal's reasons for not wanting Galvan Partners involved are important to understand.

Everyone is probably familiar with the crew of Galvan Partners, often seen around town in T-shirts or hoodies with the Galvan Foundation logo or driving trucks with the Galvan logo on the door.



Last night, Rosenthal observed that Galvan was slow to rehab its inventory of properties--many of which have stood vacant for more than ten years--and make them habitable "because they only use Galvan Partners LLC to do the work." Aside from the contribution these vacant properties make to the city's housing shortage, there seem to be other questions surrounding Galvan Partners LLC, among them its relationship to Galvan Initiatives Foundation and other Galvan entities.

In October 2019, Galvan Initiatives Foundation sought and received a Rural Community Investment award of up to $1.15 million from New York State Homes and Community Renewal to renovate the basement at the Galvan Armory for use by the COARC daycare center, Starting Place. The documentation of the award (the relevant information begins on page 80) identifies the following "Project Team":

("Galvin" in the name of the Management Company is undoubted a typo.)

The document found on the Homes and Community Renewal website provides this description of Galvan Partners LLC, the general contractor for the daycare center project:

T. Eric Galloway, the Gal of Galvan, is identified as the principal of Galvan Partners LLC, but strangely, his role as as co-founder and president of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation is not in the description of the developer found in the same document:

Financing projects that have a public benefit with public money is a complicated process, one that seems to require the skill and expertise of lawyers to orchestrate. To the nonlawyer, though, it appears that, by hiring his own for-profit construction company to do work funded all or in part with public funds, Galloway may be funneling public money into his own coffers. That may not be the case, but, as Rosenthal stated at the Council meeting last night, "transparency about [the Galvan] operation has to be addressed."

The resolution introduced to the Council last night begins with this unequivocal statement:
WHEREAS, the Common Council fully and without reservation supports the development of Affordable and Workforce housing within the City of Hudson.
At the outset of the discussion of the resolution, Trombley stressed, "I want to underscore that the Council fully supports affordable housing." Still, the resolution brought criticism from some members of the Common Council, in particular Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who as majority leader chairs the IDA. Garriga protested, "People need housing," apparently ignoring the fact that separate PILOTs are being requested for the two buildings and the resolution was only recommending that the IDA deny a PILOT to the market rate building. When Rebecca Wolff read aloud portions of the resolution to illustrate that it was not recommending denying a PILOT to the building proposed for 75 North Seventh Street--the one with low- and moderate-income apartments--Garriga sniped she was capable of reading for herself. 

Later, when public comment was invited, David Marston, who served as a First Ward alderman from 2012 to 2015, noted there were "dozens of vacant buildings in the First Ward" that are owned by Galvan and spoke of "dozens and dozens of families who were thrown out of affordable housing" as a consequence of Galvan acquisition. He concluded, "Now we are asked to give PILOTs to a developer to solve a problem he has created." Garriga countered by saying, "All I hear are attacks on Galvan," claiming she "didn't hear anything when [Phil] Gellert" was a major owner of rental property in Hudson. Responding to a comment made earlier by Trombley that the PILOTs Galvan was requesting were too long (the PILOT requested for 75 North Seventh Street is 30 years; the PILOT requested for 708 State Street is 25 years), Garriga stated, "Thirty years is the amount of time people live in their homes." Garriga went on to say, "The proposal is there now, and we cannot wait any longer." 

As Council president Tom DePietro pointed out, the resolution is only a recommendation to the IDA; it is not binding. The resolution, which was introduced last night, will be voted on at the Council's regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 20, at 7:00 p.m.
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