It is quite remarkable that significant changes are to be made to the streetscape of Hudson--changes that for now are limited to the area of the city below Second Street but are intended to be replicated throughout the city--and so few people seem interested in the process or the outcome.
On Wednesday night, Arterial held a public workshop on the plans for the Hudson Connects project. In spite of the fact that the highly infectious Delta variant has driven all city meetings back to Zoom, this workshop was held in person. That might have discouraged attendance, but the workshop took place in the auditorium at Hudson Hall, which has a state-of-the-art HVAC system equipped with MERV 13 filters and plenty of room for social distancing. When I arrived, five minutes late, there were just five people present, in addition to the presenter, David Lustberg of Arterial: Mayor Kamal Johnson, former mayor's aide Michael Chameides, Hilary Hillman from the Conservation Advisory Council, First Ward alderman Rebecca Wolff, and Sue Bellinger. After I had arrived, four more people drifted in, one of whom was current mayor's aide Michael Hofmann, who had been checking people in at the door.
In the presentation, there was some evidence that input from the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) has had some impact. Historic images of Hudson streets were sprinkled throughout the slide presentation, and there were many pictures of streets and sidewalks in historic districts in New York City and elsewhere. The image immediately below, which was part of a presentation made to the HPC by Britt Zuckerman of the CAC, was also part of Lustberg's presentation and apparently helped define the materials palette being proposed (shown in the second image): granite curbs, stone pavers, granite setts, and concrete tinted "landmarks gray."
Second and State
Warren and Front
It is still possible that the requirements of snowplowing may spare us the tabled intersection at the end of Warren Street. Snowplowing also figures into the plans for the bumpouts proposed for the corners. Lustberg explained that the Department of Public Works will be taking the snowplow out soon, even though there is no snow on the ground, to demonstrate the line they can plow--an exercise to help determine the size and shape of the bumpouts.
Disappointingly, Arterial's suggestion for a furniture palette has not changed. They are still proposing the same "modern" wood and metal benches they proposed back in December 2020, a design that seems more suitable for a suburban shopping mall than for the streets of a historic city.
Arterial has repeatedly indicated that they are working with Starr Whitehouse, the landscape architects who designed the re-imagined entrance to Promenade Hill, and are using what is being done there to inform their plans. For example, the plan for Promenade Hill involves some stone seating, so Arterial is proposing boulders as a landscape element to mark where the tabled intersection ends and the sidewalk and the actual plaza begin. When last we heard, Starr Whitehouse was using Central Park style benches for the entrance to Promenade Hill. One wonders why that design cannot also be the design for street furniture.
Although the Hudson Connects project involves only the area of the city west of Second Street, the palette of materials established in this district is expected to be carried out eventually throughout the city. It will be disappointing to many who live in historic districts and cherish their bluestone sidewalks that, instead of concrete tinted "landmarks gray," Arterial is recommending this lighter gray concrete, which is seen around town in recently replaced sidewalks, for use on residential streets. The first example below, which is the stretch of sidewalk Lustberg cited in his presentation, is on South Second Street, along the side of 201 Union Street. The second is in the middle of the 200 block of Union Street.
The Historic Preservation Commission will get a chance to weigh in on both the materials palette and the furniture palette. Arterial is expected to make another presentation to the HPC in October. Arterial anticipates presenting their final plans to the Common Council in December. The goal is for construction to begin in Spring 2022. Interestingly, the website meant to keep people informed about the project, HudsonConnects.com, is still only a landing page, with the promise, "Full Website Coming Soon!"
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