Sunday, February 28, 2021

Hudson's Painting of Washington by Henry Ary

From time to time, I like to check the recent scans at It's rare when I'm not rewarded with something of interest. Yesterday, I discovered this 1978 photograph of Mayor Paul J. Colwell and his cabinet, posing together in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

I don't know what constituted the mayor's "cabinet." Perhaps it was the commissioners he appointed. It seems to be the right number for that. Except for Colwell at the center right, who is recognized because of his portrait which now hangs in the Council Chamber, I have no idea who the people in the picture are. As is often the case, what is interesting to me is what is in the background: in this case, the Henry Ary painting of George Washington, inspired by Gilbert Stuart's 1796 Lansdowne portrait of Washington.

Ary painted his portrait of Washington on spec, sometime between 1841 and 1843, hoping to sell it to the City of Hudson. Gossips has told the story elsewhere of how the Common Council finally voted to buy the painting in December 1845. Of course, in 1845, there was no City Hall. The Council met in a rented room in the building located at 364 Warren Street, and the portrait was installed there. Ten years later, when City Hall (now Hudson Hall) was completed, the portrait was installed there.

When City Hall moved to 520 Warren Street in 1962, the portrait moved, too, and it's been there ever since. 

In the late 1990s, the City invested $16,866 in restoring Ary's portrait of Washington. The first step in the restoration, according a report from the restorers, which Gossips had a chance to see back in 2012, was removing "surface dirt, grime and a heavy nicotine smoke layer." Back in the day, it seems all the members of the Council smoked, and they smoked during Council meetings. The photograph of Mayor Colwell and his cabinet documents the state of the portrait before its restoration.

Update: Thanks to a real community effort, all but one of the people in the 1978 picture has been identified with certainty.

From left to right: Bob Cooper, Fire Commissioner; Bill Loewenstein, Commissioner of Grants; Mike Lewicki, Sr., Common Council president; Paul J. Colwell, Mayor of Hudson; possibly Mary Perry, Commissioner of Purchases; Mary Frances Francis, Youth Commissioner; Sam Wheeler, Police Commissioner. The mayor's cabinet was, as I suspected, made up primarily of the commissioners he appointed.

Lady Gaga's Dog Walker

Many of us heard the news that last Wednesday night, in Los Angeles, Lady Gaga's dog walker was shot and two of her French bulldogs--Gustav and Koji--were stolen. Yesterday, CNN reported that the dogs had been returned safely by a woman who said she had found them, and the LAPD is reporting that the dog walker, whose name is Ryan Fischer, is in stable condition, recovering from wounds that were not life-threatening. 

What gives this story a Hudson connection is that on Friday, Page Six reported that Fischer "lists himself on social media as being from Hudson, N.Y.": "Who is Ryan Fischer, Lady Gaga's dog walker targeted in shooting?" 

The photograph below shows Fischer with two of Lady Gaga's dogs, Koji and Asia. Lady Gaga has three French bulldogs: Asia, Gustav, and Koji. 

Photo: Instagram
To learn more about Ryan Fischer and his life in Hudson, see Aliya Schneider's article in the Register-Star: "Lady Gaga's recovering dog walker a former Hudson resident."

Saturday, February 27, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been twelve new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is twelve fewer than yesterday, suggesting that 24 more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are ten more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized and the in ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Wednesday, February 24. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.2 percent and a seven-day average of 1.9 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.5 percent and the seven-day average is 1.9 percent.

In the Moments Before the Plunge

I knew better images from today's Oakdale Plunge would find their way to Gossips, and here they are, capturing the three teams that in Gossips' opinion had the most memorable costumes.

The Hudson Area Library History Room

Photo: Trixie's List
 The Zoomers

Photo: Trixie's List

 Herd Immunity

Photo: Trixie's List

The Plungers Have Plunged!

The Oakdale Plunge 2021 is over, having raised more than $37,000 for the Youth Department and the Hudson Fire Department's Water Rescue and Dive Team. These screen captures will have to do until better photographs start appearing on Facebook, but here are Gossips' favorite teams.

The team representing the History Room at the Hudson Area Library, dressed in 19th-century bathing costumes.

And the Zoomers, dressed for corporate Zoom meetings, with suit and tie on the top and boxer shorts and fuzzy slippers on the bottom.

Congratulations to all who took the plunge, and to Rich Volo, a.k.a. Trixie Starr, who provided the plunge by plunge commentary.

Watch the Plunge!

The Oakdale Plunge happens today at 11:00 a.m. 

There will be no spectators on the beach this year, but you can watch the livestream of the event here. If you want to make certain you don't miss your favorite team diving into the icy waters of Oakdale Lake, check out the detailed schedule of plungers here.

As always, the Oakdale Plunge benefits the Hudson Youth Department and the Hudson Fire Department's Water Rescue and Dive Team.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Political Scene in Hudson

The Hudson City Democratic Committee (HCDC) is in disarray. Monica Byrne resigned not long after being appointed to the committee in January. Steve Dunn, Virginia Martin, and John Kane resigned after the HCDC's February 16 meeting, although Kane didn't make his resignation official until February 23. Kate Treacy, who chairs the committee, now made up of Abdus Miah, Dewan Sarowar, Shershah Mizan, Billy Hughes, Verity Smith, and herself, was quoted in the Register-Star as saying, "I'm really optimistic about the opportunities that the HCDC has to rebuild the committee in a more inclusive way."

Meanwhile, candidates endorsed by the Working Families Party keep announcing their intentions to run. Claire Cousin is running for First Ward supervisor, Tiffany Garriga is challenging Abdus Miah for Second Ward supervisor, and today, Michael Hofmann announced he is running for city treasurer, with the endorsement of the WFT. What follows is the press release from Hofmann received by Gossips late this afternoon.

Michael Hofmann proudly announces his candidacy for the 2021 election for Treasurer of the City of Hudson, NY.
"I am thrilled to take the next step in public service and leadership here in Hudson," Hofmann states. "This campaign is an enormous opportunity for us to take a fresh and critical look at our finances and operations, and engage in constructive public discussion about how Hudson can recover from its pandemic-induced losses."
Hofmann looks forward to using his campaign to share plans to upgrade city technological infrastructure, improve the accessibility of Hudson's financial data, and develop new revenue streams for the city. He notes, "Our budget is inherently a moral document--like all other work of elected officials, we have a responsibility to taxpayers to approach city finances both holistically and diligently, with an eye toward justice and equity."
Hofmann is the co-founder of Citizens of Hudson, a social justice initiative focused on project-based progressive action and increasing local civic engagement. A fierce advocate for racial justice and the welfare of Hudson's workers, Hofmann is grateful to be endorsed by the Working Families Party (WFP):
"WFP is excited to endorse Michael Hofmann for Treasurer of Hudson. In 2020, Hofmann co-founded the social justice coalition Citizens of Hudson, which advocates for police reform and affordable housing through research and policy development. Co-author of the Hudson Breathe Act, Hofmann is a bold supporter of racial and economic justice. His campaign, if successful, would be an important move for the city towards more inclusive and transparent budgeting that supports all residents."
--Karen Scharff, Chair, Capital District WFP
Hofmann's professional background is in non-profit arts development and administration, and he currently serves as the Development Operations Manager for the Fisher Center at Bard. "I know my diverse skill set and experience in fundraising, grant management, and communications will prove to be valuable assets as Treasurer," Hofmann adds. "I aim to use my expertise to make Hudson's finances easier to understand, so that more citizens can be knowledgeable about and participate meaningfully in the budgeting process."
If elected, Hofmann would be Hudson's first openly queer Treasurer.
And so ends the press release. 

News from the Ad Hoc Committee Meetings

There were two ad hoc committee meetings on Wednesday: one having to do with selling City-owned buildings; the other concerned with developing a solar farm on City-owned property; both seeking to find new revenue for the City. 

Council president Tom DePietro began the meeting about selling buildings by defining his goal for the meeting: "to identify one or two or three buildings that we can move on selling now." He then asked Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, to review the conditions for selling City-owned property. There must be a three-quarters vote of the Council; properties must be sold at public auction, or they may be sold in a private sale provided that the sale price is fair market value. 

Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) wanted to know which of the eighty-one properties DePietro discovered were owned by the City of Hudson would be suitable for development as housing. DePietro answered, "Very few." Wolff expressed the desire not to sell anything that could be put into a land bank. DePietro responded, "Right now, we're trying to deal with a crisis." He said he wanted to make it a contingency of any sale that the building would not be off the tax rolls.

The two buildings DePietro had in mind as candidates for sale were 1 North Front Street, the former Washington Hose firehouse; and 10-12 Warren Street, the location of the Hudson Daycare Center. 

Of 1 North Front Street, DePietro said there were two tenants--the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce--and neither paid rent. He said the building cost $6,000 a year to maintain, and it represented $21,368 in foregone property taxes each year. Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward) pointed out that the foregone taxes included those to the county and the school district, and only about a quarter of the amount cited would actually come to the City. 

Later in the discussion it was revealed that the Chamber of Commerce pays $850 a month in rent, and there is a lease that runs t0 November 2022 with an option to renew for two additional six-year periods. HDC also has a twelve-year lease which runs to November 2022, with no rent payment, because HDC contributed $150,000 toward the renovation of the building back  in 2010. DePietro alleged that "HDC has not lived up to their part of the bargain," but Gossips recently reviewed the lease agreement between HDC and the City, and it's not clear what DePietro meant.

Wolff opined, "It would be very unwise to sell to the highest bidder without being thoughtful about what it means for the city." She mentioned its location, next to the soon to be renovated plaza to Promenade Hill. She also mentioned the vacant lot across the street, which is owned by HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency), and asserted that whatever happened at these two sites would have a significant impact on the city. "It's such an important lot right there. It could be a real disaster." Her arguments were not dissimilar to those put forth by the First and Third Ward aldermen back in 2008 when they succeeded in blocking the sale of the building for development as an ice cream parlor and fast-food restaurant.

Regarding 10-12 Warren Street, DePietro said there were two tenants: the Hudson Daycare Center and a private citizen. He reported that maintaining the building cost the City $15,000 a year. He also said that the building was recently inspected, and it needed $250,000 in repairs in order to meet the requirements of the State Department of Education, money that the City would have to invest in the building. He also reported the the daycare center was looking for a new location and suggested the center might lose its certification because it hasn't been open during the pandemic.

The possibility of selling 429 Warren Street was also mentioned. 

The problem with this building is that, although it no longer houses the office of the city court clerk, it does house the code enforcement office. A new location for code enforcement would have to be found before the building could be sold. DePietro suggested the committee "look at what code enforcement needs and where we can put them."

Also mentioned in the discussion were "two significant vacant properties": the lot at North Fourth and State streets and the lot at North Seventh and Washington streets, the parcel that the Galvan Foundation is interested in acquiring, presumably to provide parking for its proposed Depot District development. Wolff reiterated that some properties should be allocated for affordable housing and put into a land bank." DePietro responded, "Why would we put revenue that we desperately need . . . why would we put it into some affordable housing plan?" Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) opined, "We need to look for properties that will be most profitable for the City."

DePietro concluded, "I guess we'll need another meeting before we can move to next steps."

More progress was made in the ad hoc committee on developing a solar farm. As DePietro explained to the committee, the City owns 62 acres on North Second Street. The portion of the parcel on the west side of the street is unusable; the portion on the east side of the street is what is being considered as the site of a solar array. DePietro explained that the site is not visible from North Second Street. It is visible from Charles Williams Park--up on the bluff north of the park.

The plan is to lease the land to a solar energy company, and the City would benefit from reduced electricity costs, as well as rent for the land paid by the solar energy company. Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) declared a solar array "the highest and best use" for the parcel, adding, "I'm not sure what could be developed there. To provide infrastructure would cost way too much money."

It was decided that the companies Rosenthal had spoken with back in September 2019 would be contacted about the proposed project, and that the members of the committee--DePietro, Rosenthal, Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), and Calvin Lewis (Third Ward)--would walk the site on Sunday.

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. There are 21 fewer active cases being reported today than yesterday, suggesting that there are now thirty more people considered to be recovering from the virus. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine today is nine more than yesterday. One more county resident is hospitalized with the virus today, and two are in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Wednesday, February 24. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 1.2 percent and a seven-day average of 2.1 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.5 percent and the seven-day average is 1.9 percent.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been ten new cases of COVID-19. The CCDOH is reporting eighteen fewer active cases today than yesterday, suggesting that 28 more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are eighteen more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but there is one fewer hospitalized, and no one is in the ICU. There has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since yesterday. 

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

Malcolm Nance to Discuss Domestic Terrorism

On Saturday, February 27, at 4:00 p.m., Malcolm Nance, bestselling author and media commentator on terrorism, intelligence, and insurgency, will be part of a discussion titled "Domestic Terrorism: The Battle in Our Backyard." Hosted by the grassroots advocacy group IndivisibleColumbiaNY, the discussion will examine current activities in our area of white supremacy groups such as the Oath Keepers, Patriot Front, and Proud Boys. 

Cheryl Roberts, executive director of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice and chair of the Columbia County Women's Alliance, a program sponsor, will moderate the discussion, which will include time for questions and answers as well as talking about action steps that citizens can take to monitor and combat these groups.

The program is a response to recruitment signs for white supremacy groups that have appeared in the Hudson Valley. Chatham resident Michael Richardson will add comments on the creation of, a community watch group composed of social justice activists who monitor hate groups and other extremists through the Upper Hudson Valley and Taconic Hills and expose their activities to the public, the media, and law enforcement.

The press release announcing this event reads in part:
Racially and ethnically motivated terrorism--especially from white supremacists--is "on the rise and spreading geographically," according to a report that the U.S. State Department issued in early July 2020. This year, the most alarming manifestation of these groups' growing impact was seen in the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. The storming of the Capitol included dozens of law enforcement officers and active and retired military members and points to an infiltration of white supremacy into those sectors. The activities of domestic terrorist groups have targeted immigrants, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, the electoral process, feminists, and other "perceived enemies" of white supremacy. In 2019, data gathered by the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) showed that the number of white nationalist groups rose for the second straight year, a 55 percent increase since 2017. The report determined that a growing sector of white supremacists call themselves "accelerationists" and believe that mass violence is necessary to bring about the collapse of our pluralistic society. At the time of the report, the SPLC identified 940 hate groups in the U.S.
You can register for this free event, which takes place on Saturday, February 27, at 4:00 p.m., at

Thinking About Architecture

Sometime last week, this article appeared in my Facebook feed, posted by a friend: "Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture." It's not a new article, although I readily admit not to have seen it before. It was published in October 2017. Another friend, more learned than I when it comes to architecture, commented that the article "massively oversimplifies." Still, since the initial proposal from Benchmark Development for a new building to replace the ill-fated 1970s strip mall at Warren and First streets inspired some discussion about "faux historicism" versus buildings that reflect their own time, I thought the article was worth sharing. 

This passage from the article has particular relevance for us here in Hudson.
For about 2,000 years, everything human beings built was beautiful, or at least unobjectionable. The 20th century put a stop to this, evidenced by the fact that people often go out of their way to vacation in "historic" (read: beautiful) towns that contain as little postwar architecture as possible.
That statement certainly goes a long way toward explaining the appeal of Hudson, where, in the beginning of the city's renaissance, people regularly cited the historic architecture as the thing that attracted them to Hudson. 

Then there is this statement, which I hope everyone remembers as a design for 11 Warren Street is developed and reviewed:
Good buildings recede seamlessly into their surroundings.
These two takeaways may be most compelling, but entire article is recommended reading. 

The Story of the Cottonwood Tree

Yesterday, Gossips published the news that the cottonwood tree across from the train station was being cut down. Last night, I was contacted by Ben Fain, who wanted to explain why he had made the difficult decision to have the tree removed.

Fain said it was the opinion of the landscape architect he was working with, as well as of three arborists he consulted, that the tree had to come down. It had been struck by lightning a year or so ago; there was evidence of the strike along the east side of the tree. He was advised that its continued survival was precarious. It was already starting to fall down. If it fell, it would fall to the west, taking out the powerlines. Given that information, he reluctantly decided to take it down.

Fain pointed out that the tree was not a cottonwood but a poplar and assured Gossips that the landscape plan for the site included a lot of trees. He jokingly said he thought he was spending more on trees than on the building.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

"Lessening the Burdens of Government"

In early April, Bob Rasner, president of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) Board of Directors, proposed creating emergency task forces to come up with "forward thinking solutions" to help Hudson survive the pandemic and "merge from this crisis better than when we entered." At the HDC meting yesterday, Rasner proposed a similar initiative directed specifically toward dealing with the City's current fiscal crisis: a revenue shortfall for 2020 of more than $1 million; a 2021 budget balanced with half million from the fund balance; a fund balance that has dwindled to $600,000 in unencumbered funds. In addressing the HDC board yesterday, Rasner said in part:
As defined by the State of New York, the HDC is a private, not-for-profit corporation. Incorporated 45 years ago, we are a volunteer organization, privately funded, not reliant on taxpayer’s money. The organization was formed, among other purposes, to “Lessen the burdens of government and act in the public interest”. . . .
During recent discussions with parties expressing interest in investing in the city by means of developing the land owned by the HDC, we have been asked about the economic health of the City of Hudson. In recent months the same question has been raised by friends and business associates. . . . 
To gain an understanding of the dilemma in which we find ourselves, the minutes of last year’s City Finance Committee were reviewed, paying particular attention to the reports of Heather Campbell, our City Treasurer. Heather was contacted and asked if she might be willing to meet with a small group to inform us on the current economic outlook for the City. . . . 
Because information is power, and with the belief that citizens with information can accomplish extraordinary things, the goal of the gathering was to arm participants with information that might “Lessen the burdens of government and act in the public interest”. . . .
I am going to propose formation of an Economic Task Force similar to those we formed almost a year ago to assist the community at the beginning of the pandemic. I will propose it be facilitated by this Board, but consist of citizens that can and be willing to work very hard to see Hudson through a difficult time… in short, to “Lessen the burdens of government and act in the public interest.”
In the discussion that followed, Rasner clarified that he was thinking the task force might explore possible new revenue sources for the City. He said he would be reaching out to board members and other residents and stakeholders in Hudson about being part of the task force and would report back to the board about community involvement.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been fourteen new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases today is nine more than yesterday, suggesting that only five more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are sixteen more county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, but the number hospitalized and in the ICU remains the same. There has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 2.8 percent and a seven-day average of 2.7 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 3.9 percent and the seven-day average is 2.0 percent.

Another Loss

When the disassembly of the red barn across from the train station began last December, Gossips was quick to assure readers that the building was being deconstructed to be reconstructed, and there was no need for keening and hand wringing.

But cue the mourners, we lost something irreplaceable on that site today: the magnificent cottonwood tree that stood in front of the building.

Back in 2011, Gossips did a series of posts called "Showcasing Hudson's Great Trees." This cottonwood was one of the trees featured in the series.

The Conservation Advisory Council has declared 2021 "The Year of the Tree." In addition to creating a Tree Inventory and Urban Forestry Management Plan, one of the goals the CAC is working toward is having the City adopt a tree ordinance and establish a tree board. If these things were in place, it may not be the case that every tree would be preserved, but people wanting to cut down a tree would have to justify the need, and trees could not be wantonly felled without good reason. If there were a tree ordinance and a tree board today, we would know why this grand old cottonwood tree had to come down.

History Lost in Greenport

We knew this was coming, and the pandemic put it off longer than expected, but yesterday, the Gothic Revival house on Fairview Avenue was demolished, to make way for a new McDonald's. 

For a house that had seen more than 175 years of history, its destruction happened heart-wrenchingly quickly. At 10:45 a.m., when I went to check on it, after being tipped off that its demolition was imminent, it was still intact, with a back hoe standing by. This was the scene shortly before noon. 

By 12:15 p.m., nothing remained but a pile of rubble.

The house fell but not for want of champions fighting for its preservation. Gossips first published word of its intended demolition three years ago, in February 2018. In 2016, John Craig had written a history of the house and its most notable occupants, called "Old Pointed Gothic House out Fairview," which is available in the History Room of the Hudson Area Library. When word of its proposed demolition was out, Craig and Paul Barrett made a concerted effort to get the house designated as a historic site, and they succeeded. In July 2018, the word from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) was that the house was eligible for listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. SHPO asked that the house be incorporated into the design for the retail development or that the developer "build a very strong case for demolishing it." Apparently, they succeeded in doing the latter, because in November 2018, the minutes of the Greenport Planning Board report:
Chairman Stiffler explained that the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has provided a correspondence letter indicating that the structure in question can be taken down but will require three conditions be attached to that approval. Chairman Stiffler identified these conditions. The first condition is the building must be documented. The second condition is that a public exhibit of the building must be located in the new building or on the site that depicts the history of both the building and the site. The third condition is that the building elements and materials should be offered to a local non-profit architectural salvage or other capable organization.
There is no indication that the first and third conditions were met. There was some talk about removing the bargeboards for repurposing elsewhere, but they appear to have been still in place when the house was bashed down. It remains to be seen how the second condition will be met. 

Meanwhile, we have another iconic moment to illustrate the wrongheaded of our culture.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Out with the Standing, In with the Ad Hoc

At the beginning of the year, Council president Tom DePietro eliminated all standing committees of the Common Council, a tradition that has existed for more than a century, in favor of ad hoc committees formed to deal with particular issues. Two of those committees met last week; two more are scheduled to meet this week; and DePietro announced the creation of two more at the Council meeting last week. Today, Gossips reviews the status of those committees.

Sidewalks  The purpose of this committee is to continue the work begun more than two years ago by the Legal Committee. The conversation about sidewalks has gone on at City Hall for at least two decades. Not only is there the problem of broken, dangerous, and nonexistent sidewalks, there is also the problem of new sidewalks constructed in compliance with city code being significantly higher than existing sidewalks. The problems of disrepair and lack of uniformity stem from the city charter, which makes the care and keeping of sidewalks the responsibility of the owner of the adjacent property. The Legal Committee, and now the ad hoc sidewalk committee, is looking to change the charter to impose a fee on all property owners, including owners of properties otherwise tax exempt, that would fund repairing and replacing sidewalks in the city as needed. There is some urgency, because the City has a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice over issues of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance.

The proposed local law that would make the necessary amendment to the charter was published on the City of Hudson website in June 2019. No subsequent versions of the law have been made public since then. When the ad hoc committee met last Tuesday, it was decided that Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, needed to make some adjustments to the latest version of the law, and as soon as that was done, DePietro would send it to members of the committee, and they would schedule another meeting. To Gossips' knowledge, none of that has happened yet.

It should be noted that this change in the charter is subject to a permissive referendum, which means that residents of Hudson can petition to have the proposed change voted on in the general election.

Parking This ad hoc committee met for the first time last Thursday. The committee's existence was inspired by a comment from Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward) that alternate side of the street parking was "a real pain." At the informal Council meeting on February 9, Rob Perry, superintendent of Public Works, explained the importance of street sweeping, which is the reason for alternate side overnight parking. At the first meeting of the ad hoc committee, which took place on February 18. Trombley redefined her purpose as "hoping to understand the inconsistencies in the parking structure." She cited in particular Union Street above Fourth where there is no parking on one side of the street on every day but one, whereas on Union Street below West Court Street and on all of Allen Street, alternate side of the street rules pertain to overnight parking every day except on the eves of certain holidays and during the summer, if the mayor so determines. Trombley wanted to know: "Why the seasonality? Why the inconsistency?" 

The discussion embraced improved signage, the width of the streets, and the suggestion that alternate side of the street parking be in effect all day not just from midnight to 8:00 a.m. Nick Pierro, who is a volunteer firefighter as well as a police officer, explained that the new ladder truck, which is expected to arrive any day now, had to be designed around Hudson's narrow streets, particularly Union and Eighth streets. Peter Bujanow, commissioner of Public Works, suggested that making certain streets one-way could alleviate some of the problems, although not necessarily alternate side of the street parking problems. 

In the end, it was suggested that there might be some "interim change" as they worked toward a long-term change. It was decided that the ad hoc committee would meet again at the same time next month, that is, Thursday, March 18, at 6:00 p.m.

Selling Properties The ad hoc committee charged with selling City-owned properties will meet on Wednesday, February 24, at 5:00 p.m. The motivation for selling property is to build back the fund balance, which at this point is estimated to be only about $600,000. Several buildings have been mentioned in the past as possibilities for sale: 429 Warren Street, but where will we put the Code Enforcement office?; 10 Warren Street, but what's to become of the Hudson Daycare Center?; the house in the Cedar Park Cemetery, but where will the cemetery office and all the DPW garages go?; 1 North Front Street, smack dap at the entrance to a historic park; the Dunn warehouse, likewise located adjacent to a public park; 520 Warren Street, but relocating City Hall does not come without cost. 

Solar Farm The ad hoc committee charged with exploring DePietro's idea of developing a solar farm on a parcel of City-owned land north of Charles Williams Park and east of the landfill will meet for the first time on Wednesday, February 24, at 6:15 p.m. The idea is that the solar farm would not only provide power for the City's own electricity needs but also be a new revenue stream for Hudson.

Police Data This is a new ad hoc committee, the creation of which DePietro announced at the Council meeting on February 16. The committee is made up of Jane Trombley, Dewan Sarowar, Calvin Lewis, and John Rosenthal. 

In January, the Council passed a resolution requiring the chief of police to provide monthly reports "detailing traffic, vehicle and pedestrian stops in the city." Among the details to be provided were "the racial and gender identity of the motorist or pedestrian involved." The resolution grew out of concerns expressed by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) that, if the speed limit in Hudson were to be reduced to 25 mph, more black and brown people would be stopped by police. The resolution was drafted and passed without consulting Chief Ed Moore, and apparently there are some problems with implementing it. The ad hoc committee formed to deal with those problems will meet on Wednesday, March 3, at 6:00 p.m.

City Hall At the Council meeting on February 16, Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) and DePietro had a bit of a disagreement over the future site of City Hall. Rosenthal questioned why Plan 3 for making 520 Warren Street ADA compliant was being abandoned in favor of the Galvan proposal to move City Hall to 400 State Street. He pointed out that Plan 4, the most expensive plan for making the current City Hall ADA compliant, was less expensive than what was being proposed for 400 State Street. He said of the Galvan proposal, "It would be irresponsible of us to pursue," and asserted, "It's going to be expensive beyond 520 Warren Street."

DePietro maintained, "Michael needs to advise use on where we are with the DOJ," referring to mayor's aide Michael Chameides and the City's settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. (Later in the discussion, Baker told the Council, "You don't have a specific deadline for upgrading City Hall. . . . They want to see that we are taking this serious.") DePietro told Rosenthal, "I'm not against doing the high-end renovation of City Hall," but insisted that they needed to "put the two proposals next to each other and see which one is better." For this purpose, an ad hoc committee will be convened. Who will be on that committee and when it will meet has not been announced.

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, but the number of active cases being reported today is 27 fewer than yesterday, suggesting that 36 more people are now considered to be recovering from COVID-19. The number of county residents in mandatory quarantine is the same today as yesterday, as is the number hospitalized and in the ICU. Since yesterday, there has not been another death from COVID-19 in Columbia County.     

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 2.8 percent and a seven-day average of 2.7 percent. By comparison, the the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 3.9 percent and the seven-day average is 2.0 percent.

Here's some sobering news. According to the Daily Briefing on, New York as a whole isn't doing so well when it comes to new cases:
As of Monday morning, data from the [New York] Times showed that the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Alaska, New York, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, which have each reported a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week.
In contrast, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" as of Monday morning in Guam; Puerto Rico; the U.S Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and 17 states: Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Gossips Is Back!

The Gossips computer died last night, but thanks to Jonathan Simons at Jonathan's Computers, sixteen hours later, we're back, with a new computer loaded with all of our old files. 

Thank you, Jonathan! You are the best.

Monday, February 22, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today, after taking Sunday off. Since the two deaths reported on February 18, there has been another death from COVID-19 in the county. bringing the total being reported by the CCDOH to 86. Since Saturday, there have been sixteen new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is sixteen fewer than Saturday, suggesting that 31 more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are ninety fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than there were on Saturday, and three fewer are hospitalized with the virus. The number in the ICU remains the same. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 2.5 percent and a seven-day average of 3.1 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.8 percent and the seven-day average is 2.0 percent. 

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

We are now less than four weeks away from the vernal equinox, and daytime high temperatures promise to remain above freezing for the foreseeable future. (For next Sunday, it's predicted to be 50 degrees!) Meanwhile, here are the meetings and events that can keep us fixed to our devices in the coming week.
  • On Tuesday, February 23, the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) Board of Directors meets at noon. The agenda for the meeting is not yet available, but the sale of the Kaz site, a.k.a. the Montgomery Street property, will undoubtedly be part of the discussion, although it is unclear how much of the discussion will be public. At the last HDC meeting, board president Bob Rasner advised, "Real estate transactions are confidential things until they are done. . . . The public must have confidence in the HDC board to do the right thing." Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Wednesday, February 24, there are two ad hoc committee meetings: the committee charged with selling City-owned property, in an effort to replenish the fund balance, meets at 5:00 p.m.; the committee charged with exploring the idea of developing a solar farm on land owned by the City north of Charles Williams Park will meet at 6:15 p.m. The links to the meetings will be posted on the City of Hudson website sometime on Wednesday, prior to the meetings.
  • On Thursday, February 25, the History Room of the Hudson Area Library presents People of Courage, People of Hope, Seekers of Justice--The Underground Railroad Revisited, a talk by Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, co-founders of the Underground Railroad Education Center. The virtual talk takes place on Zoom from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Click here to register for the event. 
  • On Friday, February 26, the Historic Preservation Commission meets at 10:00 a.m. Click here to access the Zoom meeting.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

You Can't Please All of the People

Last Monday, Peter Spear presented the results of the Shared Streets surveys conducted at the end of last year--one for Residents & Visitors, one for Businesses--at a special meeting of the Tourism Board. The entire report can be viewed here

Photo: JD Urban|Hudson Hall
Overall, the response to the Shared Streets program in Hudson was favorable. Of those who responded to the Residents & Visitors Survey, 62 percent were Hudson residents. Another 30 percent lived elsewhere in Columbia County, and 5 percent lived in adjacent or nearby counties. The breakdown reveals that the results weren't being driven by weekend visitors from New York City.

When asked how the Shared Streets program affected their visits to Warren Street for shopping or dining during a pandemic, 67 percent of the respondents said they visited Warren Street much more often or somewhat more often, and 19 percent said it didn't impact them one way or the other. 

When asked if Shared Streets was overall a positive experience or an inconvenience, 61 percent indicated that it was a positive experience.

When asked if Shared Streets should continue this summer if COVID-19 remains a health issue, 61 percent said Yes. When asked if Shared Streets should continue on a seasonal basis even when COVID-19 is no longer an issue, 95 percent of the people who responded to the question said Yes.

When Spear had finished presenting the generally favorable review of the Shared Streets program, Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward) declared, "The Council needs to take a leadership role for Shared Streets II." Allyson Strafella, however, who served on the Shared Streets Advisory Committee, said the surveys seemed biased and asked how people were informed about them. Spear told her they had "pushed out the survey through every channel we had." When Kate Treacy, who serves on the Tourism Board, asked about "her thinking around the bias," Strafella spoke of a "privileged population of people" and suggested the survey was "geared toward a certain class." She added, "I don't think Hudson needs a lot more PR."

Addressing the notion that the survey results were biased, Tamar Adler, also a member of the Tourism Board, said she thought a 17 percent response was "an accurate representation of those who didn't like [Shared Streets]." She told Strafella, "Opinions being considered is different from people being in the majority," and concluded, "Something not favoring one's own position doesn't represent bias."

Sidney Long, a former member of the Tourism Board, complained there was no accountability, asserting that Shared Streets created a very dangerous situation and there was no central authority. Marianne Courville, a member of the Advisory Committee, later spoke of concerns the committee had about safety that no one had addressed. 

Marc Scrivo, who organized students from Operation Unite to build planter barriers, reminded the group that the project had come from an emergency and said he took offense at the comment about privilege. "My goal was to get kids involved. It wasn't about privilege. It was about getting kids involved."

Courville implicitly questioned the reliability of the survey by alleging that the survey accepted more than one response from a single person. George Wachtel, who designed the online survey, explained the survey had been set up to accept only one response from a computer. 

Toward the end of the discussion, Scrivo echoed essentially what Trombley had said at the beginning: "It's really important that the City take a stand [on Shared Streets]." But the last word came from Selha Graham, who is a member of the Tourism Board. She spoke of exclusivity and privilege and life experience "when you live in an inner city like Hudson."        

Saturday, February 20, 2021

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health published its numbers at noon today. Since yesterday, there have been just two new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is nine fewer than yesterday, suggesting that eleven more people are now considered to be recovering from the virus. There are 48 fewer county residents in mandatory quarantine today than yesterday, and there are two fewer hospitalized with the virus. One of those hospitalized is in the ICU.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 2.5 percent and a seven-day average of 3.1 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 1.3 percent and the seven-day average is 2.0 percent. 

Pennywise . . .

Back in the fall, with the budget deficit for 2020 being projected at somewhere between $1.4 and $1.9 million, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA) went through the proposed 2021 budgets presented by the department heads with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, looking for anything that could be cut. Their goal was admirable: to craft a budget for 2021 that did not raise property taxes.

When the BEA, made up of Mayor Kamal Johnson, Council president Tom DePietro, and city treasurer Heather Campbell, reviewed the budget presented by the treasurer's office on October 30, the first thing they honed in on, according to Gossips' notes from that meeting, was a $1,663.81 stipend paid to the assistant treasurer, Matthew Parker. Campbell warned that if they removed it, the assistant treasurer would grieve, because the stipend was established past practice. DePietro argued it could be removed because it was not contractual. And so the assistant treasurer's stipend, along the cost of two new computers (an expense significantly greater than the assistant treasurer's stipend), was cut from the 2021 budget.

The assistant treasurer did indeed protest the effort to balance the 2021 budget by depriving him of a stipend that had been paid to the assistant treasurer for more than twenty years and filed a notice of claim against the City. On Tuesday, the Council passed a budget amendment reinstating the stipend. The resolution explains the reasoning behind this action: "It is in the City's best interest to resolve this claim with minimum cost and disruption by authorizing the Mayor to entering [sic] a settlement agreement reinstating the stipend and settling all current and future claims by Mr. Parker related to this matter." The details of the story can be found in the Register-Star: "Council seeks settlement with assistant treasurer."