Sunday, January 31, 2021

Of Interest

February is Black History Month, and today, on the eve of the first day of February, The Spark of Hudson announced its programming for the month. One thing happening this month is the launch of a podcast hosted by The Tenth Magazine called Spark Hudson Radio, which promises to cover "all the latest happenings in the region, with particular focus on the city of Hudson." Featured on the podcast this month is a series called Bossips of Rivertown--a title that seems to be a mash-up of the titles of the online magazine Bossip and either the 1848 novel by Alice B. Neal or this blog. The series is described as "connecting historical black narratives of the Hudson Valley with current events."

The following information is provided about the two Bossips of Rivertown podcasts:
"Landscape with Rainbow: African-American Presence in Hudson River Valley"
The Tenth will explore narratives of the past such as African American Revolutionary War veteran Andrew Frazier, vaudeville sensation Bob Cole, cabaret singer Mabel Mercer and more, to understand the bedrock of the contemporary African-American community which has played an integral part in development and beauty of this region.  
Resistance + Rivertown: An Exploration of Black Power, Politics + Protest in Hudson
The Hudson River Valley is not immune to ills of racism, class inequality and gender discrimination black Americans have had to reconcile with in our global society. In this episode The Tenth will look at the rich legacy of civil unrest in the city of Hudson, exploring stories such as a prominent black physician protecting African American women held at the Hudson Reform School for Girl which would progress racial equality in the nation's juvenile justice system.
The episodes of Bossips of Rivertown can heard from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, February 19, and on Friday, February 26.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health took a break from reporting the COVID numbers yesterday, but they are back today, reporting another death, bringing the total number of deaths in Columbia County from COVID-19 to 71. The CCDOH is also reporting 37 new cases of COVID-19, but the difference between the total number of cases reported today and Friday is 85, so there must have been 48 new cases yesterday. The number of active cases reported today is ten more than were reported on Friday. There are 206 fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than on Friday. There are also seven fewer county residents hospitalized with the virus and four fewer in the ICU.
 
The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 4.4 percent and a seven-day average of 7.1 percent--the highest in the Capital Region. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 4.2 percent and the seven-day average is 5.0 percent.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Something to Do on Groundhog Day

On Tuesday, February 2. which is Groundhog Day, John Kane and Monica Byrne, the members of the Hudson City Democratic Committee who represent the First Ward, are hosting a virtual First Ward Forum. The invitation to the event explains:
This forum is an opportunity for First Ward residents to learn about local issues facing our community, share ideas to help develop Hudson's community and economy, and engage in a constructive dialogue about the best path forward for the Friendly City.
For those interested in learning more about running for public office, important information regarding changes to the petitioning process and building local campaigns will be discussed.
Participation via Zoom will be limited to First Ward residents. Residents of other wards may attend a YouTube simulcast and submit questions or concerns via email.
If you don't know if you live in the First Ward or not, here is the map of the five wards. The First Ward is everything south of Warren Street (including the south side of Warren Street) and west of Worth Avenue (including the west side of Worth Avenue).

The forum begins at 6:00 p.m. Click here to register for the Zoom meeting.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Public Hearing on Police Reform

At last week's Police Reform Town Hall, Mayor Kamal Johnson said there would be a public hearing on the proposed reforms today. Since then, the public hearing has been scheduled for Monday, February 1, at 5:00 p.m. The link to join the Zoom meeting will be posted on the City of Hudson website prior to the meeting. 


Two documents that will help you prep for hearing are the report submitted by the Police Advisory and Reconciliation Commission, which can be found here, and the recommendations for reforms in Year One, which can be found here.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. The sad news is there have been two more deaths from COVID-19. And more bad news, since yesterday, there have been 56 new cases of COVID-19. The CCDOH is reporting 22 more active cases today than yesterday, suggesting that 32 more people are now considered to be recovering. There are 24 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday. Six fewer county residents are hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday, but the number in the ICU remains the same.   

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 8.9 percent--once again, the highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 6.8 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 4.3 percent and the seven-day average is 5.5 percent.

What Does It Take to Own a City?

In 2012, Hudson Valley Newspapers, now known as Columbia-Greene Media, sold its historic building on Warren Street to Galvan Partners. The building, which, according to the vintage photograph below, was erected in 1805, had been the home of the Register-Star, which traces its history back to 1785, continuously up to that point. 

Recently, the Register-Star moved back into the building, now as a tenant of the Galvan Foundation.

Our local newspaper has joined its editor, Mary Dempsey, and our mayor, Kamal Johnson, as tenants of the Galvan Foundation. Both Dempsey and Johnson live in houses they rent from Galvan, located only a few doors apart. 

Yesterday, Galvan stepped up with a proposal to solve the problem of City Hall not being universally accessible. 

In the proposed deal, the Galvan Foundation would provide a $1 million grant for project planning and construction, donate construction drawings and environmental reports, and give the historic building to the City in exchange for a City-owned lot at Washington and Seventh streets. The parcel Galvan seeks appears to be the lot across Washington Street from the Central Fire Station, at the northern end of Galvan's proposed "Depot District." The lot, which is now used for parking when there is an event at the fire station, abuts Oakdale Park.

Galvan Foundation argues that the project would be an affordable solution to the City's ADA compliance issues at 520 Warren Street. It would involve constructing an annex to the 1818 building at 400 State Street. The proposal distributed yesterday includes an outline of the estimated costs.

It will be interesting to see how the current occupants of City Hall respond to this proposal.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Vaccine Update

Yesterday, Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, issued a press release with this pertinent information:

COUNTY DOH CALLS TEMPORARY HALT 
TO OPEN VACCINE PODS
“In light of the fact that we are receiving so few vaccine doses, as of next week we will begin conducting closed vaccination PODs,” said Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb on Wednesday. “If our weekly allocation remains the same for now, this situation will likely continue through February.”
For instance, this week the county DOH received 200 doses of the vaccine.
The upshot of this move is that there will be no links for POD appointments on the county DOH website until the vaccine supply increases. In the meantime, said Director Mabb, “the department plans to target for PODs the population within the state-defined 1B category.”
For additional information on New York State phased vaccine distribution categories, visit: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/phased-distribution-vaccine
“I understand the frustration with trying to get vaccinated. With so little vaccine available, we’re already seeing a 100-vaccine POD link open on our website, then fill up within 15 minutes. We are doing the best we can with limited resources,” said Director Mabb, adding that other counties around the state have adopted the same approach in an effort to maximize their vaccine supply.
Neither Murell nor Mabb has explained how these "closed vaccination PODs" work.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Future Hudson on the Waterfront

On February 11, Future Hudson and the Urban Design Program at Columbia University invites members of the Hudson community to develop a vision for the waterfront.


The following is quoted from the announcement for the event:
The workshop is part of Columbia University's pedagogy to train the next generation of urbanists in community engagement and an opportunity for residents of Hudson to share their thoughts, ideas and aspirations for their waterfront.
The results of these conversations as well as the research and design ideas that students will produce between February and April can serve as a platform for continued conversation about Hudson's waterfront. 
We are particularly interested in hearing from residents about their ideas for climate action and racial justice and how the waterfront might be a place to innovate.
We hope to build on previous conversations and therefore would like [to] hear from all those who have been engaged in discussions about Hudson's waterfront in the past.
The workshop will take place online on Thursday, February 11, at 6:00 p.m. Click here to register for the event.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 56 new cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County. The number of active cases now being reported is sixteen more than yesterday, suggesting that forty more people are now considered to be recovering. There are 31 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday. The number hospitalized with the virus has increased by one, and the number in the ICU has increased by two. These has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Tuesday.    

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 6.3 percent and a seven-day average of 6.9 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region as a whole is 5.3 percent and the seven-day average is 6.0 percent.

The Elusive COVID Vaccine

Sometime today, the Columbia County Department of Health posted some new information on its website: https://www.columbiacountynyhealth.com/news/new-covid-19-vaccine-information/. Under the head "Vaccine Appointments and PODs," this statement is made:
  • This week, January 24, 2021, to January 31, 2021, CCDOH was sent only 200 doses of vaccine and directed that 100 doses go to 65+ people and 100 doses to 1B Essential Workers.
On Tuesday, at around 3:00 p.m., CCDOH made appointments available to essential workers only. To my knowledge, and I checked the site regularly, appointments were never made available to people 65 and over.

Under the head "People 65+," CCDOH provides this information:
  • NYS has directed the CCDOH CAN NOT provide vaccine to people 65+ unless they (NYS) send vaccine doses designed specifically for people 65+.
  • CCDOH will continue to provide COVID vaccine to 65+ people, but can only do this when directed by NYS. We have no control over how much or when they will do this.
This section goes on to advise about vaccine for those over 65 being administered by pharmacies, none of which actually have the vaccine, but questions remain: What happened to the 100 doses that were supposed to go to people 65 and over this week? When and how were appointments made available to this group?

Also, for those dutifully checking the CCDOH website regularly for available appointments, this information was provided:
  • Until there is an adequate supply of vaccine provided on a weekly basis, there will be NO LINK on the CCDOH website for POD appointments registration for the general public. This may continue for 4 weeks or more.
  • CCDOH will continue posting appointment registration links on our website when the weekly supply of vaccine allows us to do to.
This seems to be in contradiction to what Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday: ". . . allocations to states will go up 16 percent and . . . we can count on that allocation for the next three weeks. So far, we've been going week to week and now with advance notice we can plan better and that is good news." Presumably, CCDOH will continue receiving doses of the vaccine. One has to wonder how they will be distributed.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Planning for Public Housing

The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners is planning a development project, and toward that end an Affordable Housing and Development Committee of the board has been formed to explore the options and craft a plan. The committee started its work on January 20 and continued it yesterday. Both meetings took place on Zoom. There's another meeting planned for next Wednesday, February 3, at 1:00 p.m., but after that, the meetings are moving to 5:00 p.m. in the hope that more members of the public will attend.

The committee is resolute about making the planning process a model of community engagement. At yesterday's meeting, the group mapped out a timeline that begins with a draft RFQ/RFP to be ready in March 2021 and ends with construction commencing in early spring 2022. The timeline includes opportunities for community engagement throughout the process. 

At yesterday's meeting, Tim Mattice, executive director of HHA, observed, "The biggest part of this is community engagement. We need to build a community engagement strategy." To this end, they are completely rebuilding the HHA website to make all meetings and documents accessible there, and they plan to take Michael Hofmann up on his offer to build a public information platform. There are also plans for surveys to gather community input. In the words of Rebecca Borrer, who appears to be chairing the committee, "Building out is going to be community process."

But it is yet to be determined what the project is and where it's going to be. The committee is currently considering several options and combinations of options.
  • rehabbing Bliss Towers
  • demolishing Bliss Towers and relocating tenants to new, smaller buildings constructed on the site
  • demolishing Columbia Apartments and building something new there
  • constructing new buildings, smaller than those proposed in 2018, on State Street across from Bliss Towers
Marie Balle, who chairs the HHA Board of Commissioners and is a member of the committee, told Gossips, "There may be more options, but they haven't emerged yet. Darren Scott is coming next week and he may have more to add. Another scenario may emerge as we go through the public comment period." Darren Scott is the director of development for Upstate East at NYS Homes and Community Renewal. He is expected to be in attendance at the committee's next meeting, which is to take place on Wednesday, February 3, at 1 p.m.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

'Tis a Puzzlement

There are reportedly long waiting lists for the various subsidized and low-income housing projects in Hudson. Two years ago, the Hudson Housing Authority published this list.

It indicates that there are 168 apartments at Hudson Terrace and, at the time the list was compiled, there was a waiting list of 900. Given this information, it's curious to find an apartment at Hudson Terrace advertised on Facebook Marketplace.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Of Interest

In his nightly NYS Coronavirus Update, Governor Andrew Cuomo shared this "Deep Breath Moment":
Central Park received an unexpected visitor today--a snowy owl. Spotting this species of owl is an extremely rare event. Snowy owls are common in the Arctic tundra, but not in New York City, and so bird-watchers marveled at the unusual sighting. Snowy owls migrate south in winter. Avid birder David Barrett speculated that this particular snowy owl mistook the park's baseball field for a sand beach
Photo: David Barrett

More information about the sighting can be found here: "'Mega-Rare' Snowy Owl Appears in Central Park, Wowing New Yorkers."

We Are Not an Orange or Yellow Zone, But . . .

The New York Times is reporting that Columbia County is at an extremely high risk level: "Tracking Coronavirus in Columbia County, N.Y."  The Times calls our current situation an "extraordinarily severe outbreak." The purple on the map below designates "extremely high."

Stay home. Stay masked. Stay safe.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been forty new cases of COVID-19. The CCDOH is reporting thirty fewer active cases today than yesterday, suggesting that seventy more people are now considered to be recovering. There are 28 fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than there were yesterday. The number of county residents hospitalized today is one fewer than yesterday, but the number in the ICU is one more. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 7.6 percent--the highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 7.4 percent--also the highest in the Capital Region. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region as a whole is 6.3 percent and the seven-day average is 6.2 percent.

Selling Four Acres of Hudson

The Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) continues pursuing its goal of selling its Montgomery Street property to a developer. At the monthly meeting of the HDC board yesterday, board president Bob Rasner reported that they had received an offer of $2 million for the property. The offer, however, came with the condition that the parcel of land CSX is still using, the one on which its crew house is located, be included in the deal. Since HDC doesn't own that parcel, and CSX has no intention of selling it, the offer had to be declined.  

Rasner told the board that there were two other "prospective investors" who would have proposals to present to the board at its February meeting. 

In late December, HDC published an information packet about the Montgomery Street property. The board is now receiving expressions of interest in response to that document. Rasner told Gossips this morning that seven parties have expressed an interest in the property. He classified them in this way:
  • One has bid, the bid we rejected. I expect a resubmission from this party.
  • Two have verbally committed to having proposals before us in February.
  • Two are considering their options but have not indicated to us they plan to submit proposals.
  • Two have spoken with us but I do no believe they will propose.
The identities of the potential investors has not been revealed, but, responding to the question at yesterday's meeting from Register-Star reporter Aliya Schneider, Rasner indicated that one--the one who made the offer that was rejected--was local, two were based in New York State, and two were international. 

At yesterday's meeting, Rasner also gave indication of what the public can expect going forward. He explained, "Real estate transactions are confidential things until they are done." He also advised, "How [investors] plan to use the property will be held as confidential," adding, "The public must have confidence in the HDC board to do the right thing." Regarding the "right thing," Rasner earlier in the meeting identified three criteria for selecting a buyer for the property:
  • Getting the highest possible price 
  • The investor's plans meet the stated purposes of HDC
  • The proposed project will deliver the highest possible use for Hudson and its citizens
Rasner indicated that once an investor is identified and the parcel sold, the project would have to go through Planning Board review and said, "The Planning Board is the perfect venue for the public to weigh in."
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Chasing the COVID Vaccine Continued

This morning, Robert Lagonia, who chairs the Board of Supervisors Health and Human Services Committee, posted the list of pharmacies in Columbia County that have signed up to administer the COVID vaccine. 
  • Hannaford, 2967 U.S. Highway 9, Valatie
  • Hannaford, 32 State Route 82, Hudson 
  • Price Chopper, 2614 Route 66, Chatham
  • ShopRite, 351 Fairview Avenue, Hudson 
  • Walgreen, 173 Fairview Avenue, Hudson 
  • Walgreen, 15 Coleman Street, Chatham
  • Walmart, 460 Fairview Avenue, Hudson
It is not known if any of these sites currently has the vaccine. Despite the addresses given, none of them is actually in Hudson. Hannaford is in Livingston; the other three with Hudson addresses--ShopRite, Walgreen, and Walmart--are in Greenport. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Chasing the Elusive COVID Vaccine

Today, at about 3:00 p.m., the Columbia County Department of Health made appointments available for essential workers at https://www.columbiacountynyhealth.com/home/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-resources-info/. We learned yesterday that Columbia County had gotten 200 doses of the vaccine this week: 100 to be designated for essential workers; 100 for people 65 years of age and older. It is not known when those of us in the second category can expect appointments will open up, but it makes sense to keep checking that link regularly tomorrow.

Tonight, in his daily COVID email update, Governor Andrew Cuomo shared this news: "Earlier this evening, President Biden announced allocations to states will go up 16 percent and that we can count on that allocation for the next three weeks. So far, we've been going week to week and now with advance notice we can plan better and that is good news."

Cuomo also shared this news:
The Biden administration also announced that it would "soon be able to confirm" the purchase of an additional 200 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. These additional doses, if secured by the federal government, would not arrive until the summer and will not solve the immediate supply crunch. We are in communication with the Biden team about this and other supply issues. 
Meanwhile, keep your masks in place and keep your distance.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been four more deaths from COVID-19 in Columbia County. The number of new cases reported today is 23. The number of active cases is twelve more today than yesterday, suggesting that seven people are now considered to be recovering. There are seven fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized and in the ICU remains the same.  

Landmark Lawsuit of Local Interest

Verizon is currently before the Planning Board seeking site plan approval to install wireless communications antennas on Providence Hall, 119 Columbia Street.


Scott Olson, the attorney representing Verizon, has maintained from the beginning that the Planning Board cannot consider the health risks presented by the antennas. The standards are set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Verizon's only obligation is to meet those standards. But the adequacy of the standards themselves are now being called into question.

Yesterday, oral arguments were heard in a lawsuit brought by Children's Health Defense (CHD) and the Environmental Health Trust against the FCC. This morning, CHD issued a press release. The following are excerpts from that press release. Boldface and italics are as found.   
On January 25, we had oral arguments in our landmark case against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The hearing went VERY WELL.
Our case challenges the FCC's refusal to review its 25-old-year obsolete wireless "health guidelines" and adopt scientific, biologically based radio frequency emissions rules that adequately protect public health from wireless devices and infrastructure, including 5G. After the hearing, we do indeed feel that we are closer than ever to FCC accountability! . . . 
The judges asked excellent questions and showed in-depth knowledge of the case. The honorable Judge Henderson, a chemical engineer by training, told the FCC: "I am inclined to rule against you," which is a rare and strong statement from a judge.
The honorable Judge Millet consistently pushed the FCC to answer why the FCC and the FDA didn't review the evidence on non-cancer effects of wireless technology; why they addressed only cell phones when there is evidence on effects from various other devices and infrastructure; and why they didn't address the cumulative effects from the chronic exposure for numerous devices. . . .
Gossips will keep following this case as it develops.

Monday, January 25, 2021

More Word on Vaccinations

Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, just issued his regular press release, which includes the following information about COVID-19 vaccinations.

COUNTY TO RECEIVE 200 SHOTS FOR THE WEEK
The Columbia County Department of Health learned Monday morning that it will receive 200 vaccinations for the week, 100 of which will be dedicated to essential workers, and the other 100 to seniors.
"I think it's going to be like this through February," said county DOH Director Jack Mabb. "Vaccinations won't be available except in small quantities as manufacturers ramp up production. While February will be a quiet month, we should see an improvement by the beginning of March."
HEALTH DEPARTMENTS BETTER EQUIPPED TO DISPENSE SHOTS
As New York State continues to develop vaccination sites and plans, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said on Monday that county health departments are better equipped to handle delivering the shots than are pharmacies.
"I have formally requested that the state focus more of its efforts on providing more of the vaccines to local health departments," said Chairman Murell.
County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb echoed Chairman Murell's comments: "We are capable of doing as many shots in two hours as pharmacies can in a week. We can do immunizations far more efficiently than ways the governor is proposing."
Both officials noted that pharmacies have begun immunization efforts within the county.
Again, no information about which pharmacies are now doing vaccinations or how they are getting the vaccine.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. While Governor Cuomo's briefing today indicated that statewide things were improving, there has been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County. There are also 46 new cases of the virus. The number of active cases being reported today is 58 fewer than yesterday, suggesting that 57 more county residents are now considered to be recovering. There are also three fewer county residents hospitalized today than yesterday and four fewer in the ICU, of course, one of those is very likely the person who died. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 8.4 percent--the highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 7.8 percent--also the highest in the Capital Region. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 5.1 percent and the seven-day average is 6.4 percent.

The Vaccine Confusion Continues

On January 14, we were told that all COVID vaccinations were being administered by the Columbia County Department of Health and the way to get a vaccination was to keep checking the CCDOH website for available appointments. In his COVID briefing today, Governor Andrew Cuomo explained how the state's weekly allocation was being divided among eligible groups: 21 percent to healthcare workers, 27 percent to essential workers, and 52 percent to people over 65.

Cuomo also explained that hospitals would be vaccinating healthcare workers, departments of health would be vaccinating essential workers, and people over 65 would vaccinated at pharmacies and at mass vaccination sites, the nearest for us being in Albany. This isn't the first time Cuomo has said this, but today, while Cuomo's briefing was still going on, Robert Lagonia, who chairs the Board of Supervisors Health and Human Services Committee, posted this on his Facebook page:
Anyone who is part of Group 1A which includes health care workers and workers at group homes should contact their employers.
Senior Citizens are encouraged to contact their pharmacies which have been charged by the Governor to administer the Vaccine. . . .
There is no indication if this is the official word that the Columbia County Department of Health will no longer be vaccinating anyone but essential workers, and no clue was provided about which pharmacies might be offering the vaccine to people over 65.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Another Grant Comes to Hudson

The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation today announced the distribution of more than $48,000 through its Bridging Divides, Healing Communities grant program. The program is a new initiative "to support community-building activities aimed at strengthening relationships and trust at the local level, especially among people who hold different points of view or come from different backgrounds.

Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic, made this comment about the program and the grants awarded: "At a time marked by extreme polarization, often rooted in assertions of white privilege, we can take action in our towns and cities to promote trust and reconciliation in an effort to help counter the forces and events that are instilling distrust, bigotry, and hate. We are inspired by the creative and inclusive ideas from grantees who want to confront issues like racism, the stigma of homelessness and mental illness, and eroding trust between police and communities."

Twenty-one organizations in four counties--Berkshire, Columbia, Northwest Litchfield, Northeast Dutchess--received grants of up to $2,500 for projects that 
"seek to bring people together for the purposes of exploring shared interests, addressing a problem through dialogue and action, or considering an issue through a range of perspectives." The following are the grant recipients in Columbia County and the project descriptions, as quoted from the press release.
Art Omi $2,500 for "The Community Voices Virtual Tour," a series of short videos to feature youth and adults of different, ages and abilities as they gain insight into the creative process and experience onsite artworks that address immigration, land acknowledgment, racism and accessibility.
Claverack Free Library $1,145 to create "The Immigrant Experience: Remembered and Imagined," a youth-led project to investigate personal and familial immigration experiences through various forms of expressions, culminating in a free public performance.
Free Columbia $2,450 for a series of six facilitated discussions among diverse residents of Philmont to share individual experiences of and perspectives on systemic racism and social injustice, building on a successful initial session last summer.
Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood $2,200 to expand on and engage Hudson residents in the work of the Police Reconciliation and Advisory Commission, through which civic and business stakeholders are examining topics such as trust between police and citizens, incidents of misconduct or brutality, and police response to mental health and substance use issues.

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The weekly list of meetings has gotten a whole lot shorter now that there are no regular Common Council committee meetings, but its brevity will be short-lived. The list sure to get longer once all those ad hoc committees are formed and get underway. In the meantime, here is what is happening this week.
  • On Tuesday, January 26, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meets at noon. The agenda for the meeting is not yet available, but it is sure to include discussion of the Montgomery Street property, a.k.a. the Kaz site. Click here to join the Zoom Meeting.
  • On Wednesday, January 27, at 1:00 p.m. there is a meeting of Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. It is believed that this is a meeting of the Affordable Housing and Development Committee to discuss a long-term development project. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Friday, January 29, it is expected there will be a public hearing on the police reforms proposed by the Police Advisory and Reconciliation Committee (PARC). The public hearing was announced by Mayor Kamal Johnson at the Police Reform Town Hall last Friday, but the event has not yet been announced on the City of Hudson website or added to the city calendar. Gossips will provide more information about this public hearing when it is available.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

Sunday, January 24, 2021

More Planning for Housing

The $1 million anti-displacement grant awarded to the City of Hudson and the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency (HCDPA) earlier this month ensures the funding needed to hire Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress to create the Affordable Housing Development Plan. It is anticipated that, once the work begins, it will take six months to develop the plan.  

Meanwhile, in the midst of what is characterized as a housing crisis in Hudson, the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) has twenty-five units that are vacant because they are in various states of disrepair. Six of the units are in Columbia Apartments (the low-rise), and those six units are considered to be 
"beyond renovation." The other nineteen are in Bliss Towers. At the last meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners, on January 13, it was noted that seven of the nineteen apartments "could be online by the end of January," because money is available to make the repairs needed in those apartments. Additional funding, however, was needed to make the repairs in the other twelve units.

Last year, HHA completed its RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) conversion. Among other things, the new status enables HHA "to leverage debt and create a better revenue-to-debt ratio," to quote HHA executive director Tim Mattice. So, HHA is looking to borrow the money needed to repair the twelve apartments and get them back online. 

At its January 13 meeting, the board heard from two representatives of M&T Bank about two loan products: a $1.25 million line of credit to make the repairs to the apartments now offline and a $3.5 million loan--a 35-year amortized loan--to repay the line of credit and help finance a long-term project. The board decided it could not enter into any loan agreements until they had decided on a long-term plan for development, and so it was agreed that a committee would be created to formulate such a plan. That committee--the Affordable Housing and Development Committee--met for the first time on Wednesday, January 20, at 1:00 p.m., when most of us were still watching the inauguration. The committee will meet again this Wednesday, January 27, at 1:00 p.m. The meeting will take place Zoom. Click here to join the meeting.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health just released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 21 new cases of COVID-19, and the number of active cases being reported has increased by 21. There are 200 more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than there were yesterday, but the number hospitalized with the virus and in the ICU remains the same. In the past 24 hours, there have been no new deaths from COVID-19 in Columbia County. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 6.5 percent and a seven-day average of 7.5 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital region is 5.2 percent and the seven-day average is 6.7 percent.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. We have been warned that it's going to get worse before it gets better, and that certainly seems to be true in Columbia County. Since yesterday, there have been two more deaths. Since yesterday, too, there have been 47 new cases of the virus. The number of active cases being reported today is 34 fewer than yesterday, suggesting that 32 people are now considered to be recovering from COVID-19. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is 88 fewer today than yesterday. There is one fewer county resident hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday, but one more is in the ICU.   

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 5.2 percent and a seven-day average of 7.8 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 6.1 percent and the seven-day average is 6.9 percent.

Police Reform in Hudson

Last evening, Mayor Kamal Johnson held a Police Reform Town Hall during which members of the Police Advisory and Reconciliation Commission (PARC) reported on the work of the commission since its formation in July 2020. 

During the town hall, Linda Friedner provided an overview of how the commission had approached and carried out its task. Sergeant Mishanda Franklin discussed recommendations for new programs suggested by the Hudson Police Department. Cheryl Roberts, city attorney and counsel for the Greenberger Center for Social and Criminal Justice, spoke about the transinstitutionalization of the mentally ill from asylums to prisons and the effort being undertaken in Hudson and Columbia County to identify "gaps in the system where people are falling through the cracks." Theo Anthony made a presentation about the use of force and body camera policy. Joan E. Hunt, of Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, was to make a presentation about safeguarding children of incarcerated parents, but she was unable to be present for the meeting.

Prior to the town hall, the report prepared by PARC and submitted to the mayor on December 7 was made available on the City of Hudson website. That report can be found here

Based on the report, the following goals were outlined for Year One:

1.  The police department will increase its transparency to the community it serves

Disclose all third party contracts
Website
Civilian Complaint Forms 

2.  Policy Practices

Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents 
Body camera policy
Principles of "necessary and proportional" 
Define a "use of force continuum"
Defining "de-escalation" 
If all other options have been exhausted, the officer needs to provide a clear and audible warning that they are escalating to deadly force 

3.   General Recommendations

Police Advisory and Conciliation Committee (PARC) will be made a permanent committee
Hiring of minority officers 
Community Conversations
Compile local data on no-knock warrants 
Formalize ban on chokeholds and no-knock raids 

4.   Police Recommendations

Increase training to specific officers' strengths
Community "Ride-Along" Program
Implement Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 
Implement programs like "Coffee with a Cop" and the "Explorer Program" as a model

5.  General Orders Review and Disclosure 

Vehicle and Traffic Stops 
Crisis Intervention and Assisting the Mentally Ill 
In-Service Training
Department Discipline 

6.  Data Collection Management and Disclosure

All incidents whereby any Use-of-Force/Response to Resistance event occurs  
Type(s) of force utilized and findings of the follow-up investigation  
All Civilian Complaints, type(s) of complaints, and their findings
Online Civilian complaints will have the option to remain anonymous 

 7.  Body Camera Recommendations

Record audio and video in buffer mode, expand buffer mode to 120 seconds
Prohibit the ability of officers to view footage before making sworn statements in critical incidents
Audit program for effectiveness
Ban video manipulation by police departments
Opt out of sharing Hudson Police Department footage on Axon 

There will be a public hearing on the proposed reforms on Friday, January 29. Yesterday's town hall can be viewed here. The report prepared by PARC can be found here.

Insight into COVID in Columbia County

Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, announced in a press release yesterday that the Columbia County Department of Health is currently vaccinating only people in the 1B category: essential frontline workers and people 65 and older. Those is the 1A category--that is, healthcare workers--must be vaccinated at Columbia Memorial Hospital. That raises the question of how many healthcare workers in Columbia County have not yet been vaccinated.

Yesterday, in his COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that 70 percent of hospital workers in the Capital Region have been vaccinated. Statewide number is 67 percent. One wonders what percentage of workers at Columbia Memorial Hospital have been vaccinated.

Murell's press release also made the point that thirty-six, which is the number of county residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19, is the highest number of hospitalizations in the county since the beginning of the pandemic. It also revealed that two of the six people currently in the ICU are on ventilators. 

The press release also revealed that three of the five people who died of COVID-19 on Wednesday were nursing home residents. It also revealed that there are currently significant outbreaks at three county nursing homes: Ghent Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, The Grand at Barnwell (Did they learn nothing?), and Livingston Hills.

Regarding vaccinations, the press release reports that the Columbia County Department of Health administered a total of 507 vaccinations this week--107 on Thursday and 400 on Friday. The total number of vaccinations administered by the CCDOH is now 1,700. 

On Eliminating Common Council Committees

At the organizational meeting of the Common Council on January 11, Council president Tom DePietro announced the elimination of all Council standing committees. At the Common Council meeting on January 19, First Ward resident Matt McGhee made a statement objecting to that action.
The covenant with the people of Hudson to support the Constitution of the United States (made by our aldermen) was broken last Monday, January 11, when the powers of the ward aldermen were abridged in favor of the alderman-at-large by elimination of Council committees, and funneling of motions through the alderman-at-large as Council chair.
Adherence to Roberts Rules of Order was referred to, but the duties to the Constitution neglected.
This handing over of power is a clear violation of Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to representative government.
Given the events of January 6, just days before, this latest action--which is a clear danger to local democracy--this might at least have been discussed. This did not happen. 
The limiting and disallowing of public participation is also very troubling, and brings up questions relating to our First Amendment rights.
This breach of the Constitution and public trust needs to be rescinded or acknowledged as being of no force.
Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution states: "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government." A republican form of government is one in which "power is held by the people and their elected representatives." (Lexico.com)   

Responding to the criticism, DePietro asked "the aldermen who helped make the decision about committees" to speak. John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), who called McGhee's objection a "ridiculous complaint," said eliminating the committees meant "opening the workload up to the entire Council" and claimed, "Communities of our size often do not have a committee system." Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) opined, "It will give us a fresh look." Jane Trombley (First Ward) called it an experiment: "If it's not an efficient way of operating, if it's not an efficient way of governing, we can change course." She added, "It makes our work very legislatively driven." Referring to department heads having to report to the full Council, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) said, "It gives everyone on the Council the same responsibility."

First Ward resident Ronald Kopnicki asked Jeff Baker, legal counsel to the Council, where the city charter gives the Council president "the power to suppress committees." Baker said committees were not mentioned in the charter. Actually, committees are mentioned in Article XII, Section 13, of the charter, and that mention seems to assume their existence. Kopnicki asserted that eliminating committees breaks with precedent and tradition; changes the balance between the aldermen representing the wards and the Council president, exalting the Council president; and eliminates public comment. Kopnicki envisioned a meeting that goes on for a very long time, with public comment relegated to the end, when everyone is tired and just wanting the meeting to be over.

Later that night, DePietro sent the following email to the aldermen, with permission to share it with "any interested constituents":
You were probably as surprised as I was to hear the accusation tonight that our realignment of committees violates the Constitution. The basis for the charge was Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." OK. So what is a "Republican form of government"? Generally, a republic is a system in which representatives are chosen by the citizens to exercise the powers of government. In other words, Hudson has a republican form of government, and you, the alderpersons, were elected to exercise the powers of government. That is all there is to to it.
Interestingly, the founders contrasted a "republican" form of government with a pure democracy. In the case of a pure or direct democracy, legislation is made by a primary assembly of citizens, as existed in several rural Swiss cantons and in New England towns. There is no guarantee of that in the Constitution, and yet the critics of our reorganization seem to want exactly that: they want to have input in all of our actions even though they are not elected officials.
On January 11, when he announced the elimination of standing committees, DePietro explained that all legislative initiatives would be "funneled" through his office, and he would determine if an ad hoc committee was needed "to shepherd them through." At Tuesday's meeting, DePietro named some of issues for which ad hoc committees would be formed:
Trombley added a tenth issue: alternate side of the street parking

Presumably the formation of these committees will be announced when it happens, and the notice will be made of meeting times.
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Friday, January 22, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 68 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases now being reported is nineteen more than the number reported yesterday, suggesting that 49 more people are now considered to be recovering. There are 39 fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday. Some of those may now be among the active cases. The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus remains the same as yesterday, but there is one fewer in the ICU. There has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Wednesday. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 9.0 percent--the highest in the Capital Region--and a seven-day average of 8.1 percent--also the highest in the Capital Region. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 6.9 percent and the seven-day average is 6.9 percent.