Monday, February 28, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since Friday, there has been another death from COVID-19 and 17 new cases of the virus. The number of active cases of COVID-19 being reported today is 3 more than on Friday, from which it can be inferred that, since Friday, 13 county residents have recovered from the virus. There are 3 more county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 today than on Friday, but the number in the ICU remains the same. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County yesterday of 2.9 percent and a seven-day average of 4.9 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region yesterday was 2.9 percent and the seven-day average was 3.3 percent.

A year ago today was a Sunday, and the CCDOH did not report COVID numbers. On the previous day, February 27, the CCDOH reported 12 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 3,541, and the number of active cases was 92. There were 190 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 11 were hospitalized, and 2 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 86.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

This week, February ends and March begins. As we move closer to spring, here are the meetings happening this week.
  • On Tuesday, March 1, the Conservation Advisory Council meets at 6:00 p.m. No agenda is yet available. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Wednesday, March 2, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) meets at different time of day: 4:00 p.m. At the February meeting of the IDA, Mike Tucker listed the new projects likely to come before the IDA in 2022. The only one that might be presented at this meeting is the Galvan Foundation proposal to develop a hotel at Warren and Fourth streets. The project has already been presented to the Planning Board
Click here to join the IDA meeting on Zoom.

  • Also on Wednesday, March 2, the Common Council Legal Committee meets at 6:00 p.m. At its special meeting last Thursday, the committee took up the issue of adjusting ward boundaries to reflect changes in population of the wards reported in the 2020 census. Since 2016, when the current ward boundaries were drawn, there has been a 5 percent increase in the population of the First Ward, and a 7 percent decrease in the population of the Fourth Ward. 
At Thursday's meeting, the committee was still awaiting opinions from counsel to the Council and NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) on whether or not the changes in population required adjusting the ward boundaries to achieve wards of equal population. Click here to join the Zoom.

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Snow Removal Continues Tonight

Look for the "No Parking" signs that indicate where your car cannot be parked after 11:00 p.m. tonight.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

What to Do with $3 Million

On Tuesday, we learned that the long-awaited sale of the Kaz site was scheduled to close on Friday, March 4. The Hudson Development Corporation is soon to have $3 million in cash from that sale.


On that same day, Peter Spear of Future Hudson sent a letter to all the members of the HDC board offering advice on how they should use the money. A couple of days later, he sent the letter to Gossips, with the request that it be published. So, in the interest of transparency and community engagement, I share, unedited, the body of the letter, which sets forth Spear's proposal and the arguments in support of his proposal. 
The best use of the Kaz funds is to solve this Planning gap and transform how the City of Hudson makes decisions.
(TL;DR: Let's teach ourselves to fish, instead of buying fish.)
The lack of a planning function within the City is a root cause of our difficulties, divisions and limits our future growth.
I propose that the HDC close the planning gap by investing in three things:
ONE
A Comprehensive Plan Planning Process done by a best in class urban planning & design firm. Inclusive, Participatory, Equitable.
TWO
Establishing a Planning Capacity within City Government.
Fund the salary for a newly created position for an experienced urban planning the City.
THREE
Fund an operating budget for 3 to X years for sustained community engagement and communication to develop a meaningful relationship between residents and their government.
Now, because stories help make these abstractions real, here is mine.
A few years ago, you may remember that Ed Cross, Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce and I spray-painted crosswalks at State and Third Streets.
This is an intersection that has never had a crosswalk.
I had been attending DPW Committee meetings for months. I was advocating for the adoption of a Complete Streets Policy. But others were asking directly for the City to crosswalks at that intersection.
To no avail.
Always because of two things:
First, money.
The city has none, and getting it is hard. Who does this?
Second, the Planning Gap.
No one can agree on what is needed where, and there is no one whose job it is to identify community needs, set priorities, and manage improvements.
Nothing connects to anything else, because nothing connects to a Plan. So any decision is valid, and nothing is necessary.
Let's look at parks, for example.
The DPW is currently responsible for management of city parks. Except for Oakdale (the largest and potentially most important), which is with the Youth Department.
Neither has professional expertise in parks management.
Meanwhile, there is an independent dog park group, an independent Friends of Oakdale, another Friends of Public Square, and Historic Hudson's plans for the Bronson House. We have concepts for Oakdale. We have concepts being developed for a climate resilient waterfront park. And, we have an LWRP in perpetual limbo.
All of these are worthy, but each is forced to develop their own understanding of priorities independently, because there is no overarching parks strategy.
I want to stress that what I am most interested in is the PROCESS.
The plan promises to make decision-making easier for the City by providing strategic clarity, and bring coherence to disparate activities.
But it is the promise of a community engagement of identifying needs and defining priorities together that is most powerful.
This legacy of mediocre planning is what people talk about when they talk about Planning Fatigue, and has sowed tragic levels of distrust and apathy. And it is likely why you may be rolling your eyes when I talk about planning or a plan. 
Solving the Planning Gap will transform how the City engages with its residents, and make it easier for all of us to understand where we are and where we are going.

Snow Removal Tonight

The Department of Public Works will be at work tonight removing snow from the sides of the streets, and cars parked on the street overnight must be out of the way. 


On most streets, that means following the regular alternate side rules for overnight parking and getting your car on the odd side of the street before 11:00 p.m. tonight. For Warren Street, it means no parking on either side of the street overnight.

DPW will be putting out "No Parking" signs to indicate where cars cannot be parked after 11:00 p.m. tonight. Click here to see the list of those locations and learn how your street will be affected.

Friday, February 25, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia Count Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 7 new cases of COVID-19--the second day in a row of new cases in the single digits. The number of active cases being reported today is 4 more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 3 county residents have recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus and in the ICU today remains the same as yesterday. A week has now passed since there has been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County today of 1.4 percent and a seven-day average of 4.7 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 2.2 percent and the seven-day average is 3.4 percent.

A year ago day, the CCDOH reported 10 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 3,520, and the number of active cases was 125. There were 171 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 10 were hospitalized, and 0 were in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 86.

The Persistence of the Ugly Street Furniture

I don't know anyone who likes the street furniture proposed by Arterial for the Hudson Connects project, and people have not been shy about sharing their opinion that it looks like something worthy of a suburban shopping mall somewhere in the Sun Belt, but the design keeps coming back. 


This morning, James Ribaudo of Arterial made a long-awaited presentation to the Historic Preservation Commission. Regarding street furniture, Ribaudo told the HPC that they were accepting a suggestion that the Central Park style benches being used in the new Promenade Hill plaza be continued as street furniture and indicated that these benches would be used at locations along Front Street.

Elsewhere in the BRIDGE District, the same palette of street furniture was being proposed. (The category of street furniture includes not only benches but also tree pit guards, bike racks, bollards, and trash receptacles.) This time, however, a second option, which Ribaudo described as "more traditional," was also presented.




Ribaudo defended the choice of benches by saying they wanted the flexibility of having some benches with backs, some benches without backs, and smaller seats for just one person. He argued that durability was an important consideration. 

Of the benches, HPC member John Schobel commented, "I get that they have to be durable, but is this the only choice?" After some discussion, during which it was suggested that the backless bench, the "stool," and the bench with a back did not have to match, it was decided that Ribaudo would work "offline" with members of the HPC on the design of the benches. 

Gossips humbly suggests that they take a look at the benches in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. For flexibility, there's a version with a back and one without. For durability, the benches have been there for close to twenty years now, and to my knowledge, only one of them has ever needed to be repaired, and the great thing was that it could be repaired.


Street furniture aside, the designs Ribaudo presented to the HPC this morning were evidence that Arterial had responded to public comment and incorporated a lot of feedback into their revisions. What's being proposed now is significantly simplified from what was originally presented. Ribaudo spoke of a "ground plane that supports the historic fabric," borrowing the palette of materials from the Promenade Hill plaza restoration, and using simple materials but high quality materials. 

He explained that on Allen, Union, and Columbia streets below Second, new sidewalk would only be infill sidewalk, where no sidewalks now exist or where sidewalks are in very bad shape. Landmarks Gray concrete is currently designated only for Warren Street, but since the residential neighborhood south of Warren Street is a locally designated historic district, Landmarks Gray concrete should probably be used there too instead of the lighter colored standard concrete now designated in the plan.

The focus of the project has narrowed to intersections. Ribaudo showed this image for the typical intersection off Warren Street in the BRIDGE District. 

He also presented these renderings for the three affected intersections on Warren Street.

Warren and Second
Warren and First
Warren and Front
HPC member Jeremy Stynes expressed concern that the white striping of the crosswalks was too aggressive and inappropriate for a historic district. Ribaudo told him that the intersection at First and Warren streets was now striped the way it would be in the future. He acknowledged that it was "messy," because the old striping had not first been removed, but it would give an idea of what the striping would be like.

Schobel objected to the boulders at the entrance to the Promenade Hill plaza. Ribaudo explained that this was part of bringing elements from the park into the street design. Schobel objected, "This isn't the park. This is the street. Why the boulders?" He asked to see an example of boulders used in an urban environment.

Chip Bohl, architect member of the HPC, suggested that granite benches similar to those at The Secret Gardener might be more appropriate to demarcate the street from the entrance to Promenade Hill while still making the connection with the materials found in the plaza.


A frequent complaint is that Hudson does not have enough bike racks. It's possible we could end up with an abundance of bike racks. The Hudson Connects plans include bike racks, and it seems City Hall would like to see those bike racks designed by local artists. At the first meeting of the Common Council Technology Committee on Wednesday, Alder Ryan Wallace (Third Ward) spoke of replacing the parking meters along Warren Street with parking kiosks. Addressing the problem of what to do with the posts that now hold the meters, Wallace said they could be converted into bike racks.  


There won't be redundancy. There are no parking meters below Third Street, so there are none in the BRIDGE District.
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Honoring Ruth Piwonka

The Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History announced yesterday the Ruth Piwonka Scholarship Award in memory of Ruth Piwonka, well-known and influential local historian.

Photo: Ralph Gardner, Jr.
The $500 scholarship will be awarded to a student pursuing an education in history. The scholarship is available to college-bound seniors graduating from a Columbia County high school. Applications are due by May 1. All applications will be reviewed by Jacob Leisler Institute board members. The scholarship awardee will be announced by June 1. 

For more information and application guidelines, contact the Leisler Institute at info@jacobleislerinstitute.org.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been just 5 new cases of COVID-19--the first time in a long time the number of new cases has been in the single digits. The number of active cases being reported today is 2 fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 7 county residents have recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized today remains the same as it was yesterday, but there is one fewer in the ICU. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Friday, February 18.

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

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 14 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 3,510, and the number of active cases was 143. There were 153 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 11 were hospitalized, and 1 was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 86.

Remembering Earl

There's an article in today's Times Union about the late outsider artist Earl Swanigan and the growing value of his work: "From $5 to $1,500: Hudson folk artist finds auction success."

This picture of Swanigan, which is included in the article, was taken by Gossips in June 2010, at the opening of the exhibition Local Self Portraits at the Hudson Opera House. His was the first self-portrait in the show to be sold--even before the opening reception began.
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Countywide Community Solar

Back in December, when the Conservation Advisory Council was trying to dissuade the City from pursuing a plan to site a solar array in the vicinity of North Bay, Michael O'Hara, who serves on the CAC and also chairs the Columbia County Environmental Management Council, reported that the County was "looking at community solar that would cover the entire county." O'Hara said then that the plan was already in the works. Now, more information is emerging about that plan.

Recently, an appeal on Facebook for community outreach specialists to help launch the project, provided a bit more information. The following is quoted from that post:
Columbia County is launching a County-Wide Community Solar Campaign. Open to NYSEG, National Grid and Central Hudson customers. . . .
Our solar projects are built on landfills, brownfields and some retired farm land. We use sheep to graze, instead of mowing, and we do not use pesticides to control pests.
Community Solar gives access to local renewable energy benefits for all and not the select few. It costs nothing to get started, no equipment to install, no changing your utility service. You will save on avg. 10% off electricity per year for up to 25 years. Community Solar is not a 3rd party energy supply arrangement. It is a state program which incentivizes participation w/ savings. There is no catch. No hidden fees, no credit requirements, and you can cancel w/ no questions asked, or penalties.

Gossips learned more about the project yesterday from O'Hara. In August 2021, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution (No. 275-2021) to launch a countywide community solar campaign. On February 9, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution (No. 76-2022) authorizing Matt Murell, chair of the Board of Supervisors, to enter into an agreement with Astral Power and Nexamp "to jointly promote offers to residents, businesses, and governmental and nongovernmental organizations to subscribe to offset their electric consumption with solar energy from existing and developing solar projects throughout New York State." None of the installations of these two vendors is currently in Columbia County.

The initiative is part of Solarize, a community solar program supported by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority). According to O'Hara, those who enroll in the program receive a $100 sign-on bonus and a 10 percent discount on their electricity bills. The county also gets a per customer bonus and, if a certain number of subscribers are reached, becomes eligible for a cash grant from NYSERDA, as well as points in the Climate Smart Communities program. If a town or city would like to participate and get credit for their residents who subscribe, the municipality needs to present a document to NYSERDA telling how they will support the promotion of the campaign.

To learn more about the program, go to nyserda.ny.gov/solarize. There you can download the NYSERDA Solarize Guidebook.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 17 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 3 fewer than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 20 county residents have recovered from the virus. There are 2 fewer county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 today than yesterday, but the number in the ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since Friday, February 18.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County today of 5.6 percent and a seven-day average of 4.8 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 4.3 percent and the seven-day average is 3.6 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 9 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 3,496, and the number of active cases was 134. There were 137 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 11 were hospitalized, and 1 was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 86.

Take the Broadband Survey

Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) has undertaken a campaign to encourage county residents to participate in the New York State Broadband Assessment Survey. The statewide survey project is designed to gather relevant data regarding broadband availability and adoption. The results of the project will help officials at the state and local levels make decisions about broadband in their communities and support new grant applications.

A website has been created to facilitate the collection of this data from households and nonresidential respondents: www.empirestatebroadband.com

The survey is open until March 18. Completing the survey takes only a few minutes. Gossips readers are urged to do so. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since Friday, there have been 50 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 16 fewer than on Friday, from which it can be inferred that, since Friday, 66 county residents have recovered from the virus. There are 5 more county residents hospitalized with the virus today than on Friday, but the number in the ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since Friday, February 18.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County today of 15.2 percent and a seven-day average of 5.5 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 4.8 percent and the seven-day average is 3.7 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 16 new cases over a two-day period and 1 death. The total number of cases was 3,487, and the number of active cases was 161. There were 137 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 11 were hospitalized, and 1 was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 86.

The Saga of the Kaz Site: The Final Chapter

At the Hudson Development Corporation meeting today, board president Bob Rasner announced that the closing on the sale of the Kaz site, a.k.a. the Montgomery Street parcel, was set to happen on Friday, March 4. Rasner told the board, "The buyer is enthusiastic and eager to close; we are enthusiastic and eager to close." But, despite the fact that the Albany Business Review and Gossips revealed the identity of the buyer last week, Rasner did not.

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Waiting on the AG

This morning, WAMC reported that the passage of a "good cause eviction" law was stalled in Ithaca, waiting for an opinion from New York State attorney general Letitia James on whether or not cities have the authority to pass such laws on their own. The New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) has already issued an opinion that they do not. The public radio coverage of the current situation can be heard here.

In Hudson, the Common Council voted to enact such a law in September, but the day before Mayor Kamal Johnson was to sign the legislation into law, Alder Rebecca Wolff announced at a Legal Committee meeting that she wanted to amend the law to eliminate transfer of ownership as a "good cause" for evicting tenants. It was determined that the best way to do this was to have the mayor veto the law and send it back to the Council. The law was amended and once again placed on the alders' desks in November. When the amended law came up for a vote in December, it was defeated. The vote was tied, five to five, with one abstention. Six affirmative votes were required to pass the legislation.
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Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

Presidents Day Weekend is now behind us. Here is what we can look forward to in the week ahead. 
  • On Tuesday, February 22, Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meets at noon. The agenda for the meeting is sure to include an update on the closing of the sale of the Kaz site and a continuation of HDC's discussion of how to reimagine itself. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • At 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 22, Mayor Kamal Johnson and The Spark of Hudson hold a community conversation about improvements that might be made to  Charles Williams Park. The event takes place on Zoom. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
  • On Wednesday, February 23, the Common Council ad hoc committee dedicated to Properties meets at 5:00 p.m. It will be interesting to learn the makeup of the new committee and if any progress has been made since the last meeting of this committee on the sale of 429 Warren Street, the former location of the office of City Court and the Code Enforcement Office. The meeting will take place on Zoom. The link to the meeting should be published on the City of Hudson website sometime on Wednesday. Scroll down to the calendar. 

Update: This week's meeting of the ad hoc Properties committee has been canceled, as has the meeting for next month.
  • Also on Wednesday, February 23, a new ad hoc committee dedicated to Technology meets for the first time at 6:30 p.m. It's just a guess, but one of the issues taken up by the committee may be perfecting a hybrid form of meetings in City Hall that allows residents to join meetings remotely after the post-pandemic return to in-person public meetings. The committee meeting will take place on Zoom. The Zoom link should be published on the City of Hudson website prior to the start of the meeting. Scroll down to the calendar.
  • On Thursday, February 24, the Common Council Legal Committee holds a special meeting at 6:00 p.m. The purpose of the special meeting has not been revealed, but there has been some hint that it may be the issue of adjusting ward boundaries in response to the 2020 census. The meeting takes place on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting.
Map: Steve Dunn
  • On Friday, February 25, the Historic Preservation Commission meets at 10:00 a.m. The agenda for the meeting includes a presentation by Arterial on proposed streetscape enhancements below Second Street as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and a public hearing on proposed alterations to 9 Rossman Avenue. The changes to 9 Rossman Avenue involve constructing an addition to house an elevator and altering the facade by moving the front door. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.
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Friday, February 18, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there has been another death from COVID-19, making a grim total of 11 deaths in the 18 days so far of February. There have also been 18 new cases of the virus. The number of active cases being reported today is 1 more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 16 county residents have recovered from the virus. There is 1 fewer county resident hospitalized 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 today of 3.3 percent and a seven-day average of 6.0 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 3.0 percent and the seven-day average is 4.2 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 17 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 3,454, and the number of active cases was 190. There were 288 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 16 were hospitalized, and 1 was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 85.

What Once Was There

Anyone who has contemplated this building in the 300 block of Warren Street has figured out that this is not the way the building was meant to be.
 
The building is shorter than neighboring buildings, its unadorned roofline seems just not right, and the midcentury picture window on the second floor is an obvious anachronism. Although it is possible to guess what event left the building in its current state, some photographs discovered in the collection PhotobyGibson.com confirm it. 

PhotobyGibson.com

PhotobyGibson.com
In 1956, there was a fire in the building which apparently destroyed the top floor. When the fire damage to the remainder of the building was repaired, what had been a two-story oriel was replaced with a picture window.
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Thursday, February 17, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 16 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 2 more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday 14 county residents have recovered from the virus. There is 1 more county resident hospitalized with COVID-19 today than yesterday, but the number in the ICU remains the same. There has not been a death from COVID-19 in Columbia County since Monday.

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County today of 2.6 percent and a seven-day average of 6.0 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 3.6 percent and the seven-day average is 4.4 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 18 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases was 3,437, and the number of active cases was 192. There were 301 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 17 were hospitalized, and 1 was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 83.

New Council, New Thinking About Sidewalks

Sidewalks have been a topic of discussion in Hudson for decades. Gossips first did a post about the state of the sidewalks in 2012: "Where the Sidewalk Ends." Since then, sidewalks and the City's attempts to remedy the problems of sidewalks in disrepair has been the topic of at least eighteen posts on Gossips. 

At the beginning of 2019, the issue of sidewalks was taken up by the Legal Committee of the Common Council. At the January 2019 meeting of the Legal Committee, Andy Howard, who was then city attorney, outlined two courses of action the City might pursue. He called the first an "enforcement mechanism." Substandard sidewalks would be ticketed, and the owners of the adjacent properties would have to fix their sidewalk or pay a fine sufficient to cover the expense of the City fixing it. The second would be the creation of a "special district," in which an annual payment for the repair and maintenance of sidewalks would be added to the property tax bills. 


Since that meeting three years ago, members of the Common Council--first the Legal Committee, then an ad hoc committee devoted exclusively to the issue--have been working on legislation that would shift the responsibility of maintaining sidewalks from individual property owners to the City of Hudson, a transfer that would be supported by an additional tax paid by property owners. The last the public saw of such legislation was draft posted on the City of Hudson website sometime in 2019.

The latest iteration of the ad hoc committee devoted to sidewalks, made up of Margaret Morris (First Ward), Amber Harris (Third Ward), Ryan Wallace (Third Ward), Vicky Daskaloudi (Fifth Ward), and Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward), met for the first time on Tuesday. It seems the new committee is ready to scrap the efforts of the past three years and pursue what Howard called the "enforcement mechanism." 

Early in the meeting, Alder Margaret Morris expressed her opinion that "having a tax is not the appropriate response" to the problem. Instead, she advocated for enforcing the current law, which makes property owners responsible for the sidewalks adjacent to their buildings. She told the committee that in New York City, when a sidewalk was determined to be deficient, the property owner had three options:
  • Hire a private contractor to make the repairs, which then must be inspected and approved by the City
  • Hire a contractor approved by the City to make the repairs
  • Ignore the citation and let the City make the repairs and charge them to the property owner in property taxes
Addressing the notion that some property owners may not have the wherewithal to repair their sidewalks, Morris asserted that some of the worst sidewalks are on Columbia and State streets, where the residents are renters, and although the residents may not be able to afford to repair the sidewalks, the landlords should be able to.

Merante pondered, "If we have a code, why do we have this problem? When was the last time the code was implemented?" Morris replied that sidewalk rules are not enforced, and citations are not issued. Wallace suggested that "things like that go to a bigger issue: People don't know the rules." Daskaloudi suggested that a letter be sent out with the water and sewer bill telling people to fix their sidewalks." Merante noted that the letter needed to say when they would start enforcing the code." Daskaloudi said people need a year to make repairs to their sidewalks.

The enforcement plan ignores one of the biggest problems with Hudson sidewalks. The specifications for sidewalks in the code require new sidewalks to be significantly higher than existing sidewalks. As a consequence, when a sidewalk at one property is replaced, the difference in height can be several inches. This presents challenges for all pedestrians but especially for people in wheelchairs or scooters and the visually impaired.


Hilary Hillman of the Conservation Advisory Council pointed out that, if the City were to take over the sidewalks, they could be designed with bioswales for stormwater absorption. She also argued that economy of scale could be better achieved if the City were to undertake replacing the sidewalks block by block. Daskaloudi responded, "In theory, this is great, but it will take years." She again suggested a letter be sent to property owners, "and people will fix whatever they can fix."

Wallace said there could be a tax incentive for people who repaired their sidewalks in accordance with the CAC's recommendations. Morris acknowledged that a uniform approach was good and suggested that the City could come up with a plan and "charge that back in taxes." With this, the discussion seemed to come full circle.

Because the ad hoc committee meeting had been scheduled just half an hour before the regular Common Council meeting, it had to be adjourned before any action items other than possibly a letter in the water bill had been agreed upon.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. Since yesterday, there have been 19 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases being reported today is 3 more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 16 county residents have recovered from the virus. The number of county residents hospitalized and in the ICU today remains the same as yesterday. There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Columbia County since Monday. 

The New York Forward dashboard is reporting a positivity rate for Columbia County today of 10.4 percent and a seven-day average of 6.5 percent. By comparison, the daily positivity rate for the Capital Region is 5.0 percent and the seven-day average is 4.9 percent.

A year ago today, the CCDOH reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 death, over a period of three days. The total number of cases was 3,419, and the number of active cases was 199. There were 290 county residents in mandatory quarantine, 23 were hospitalized, and 1 was in the ICU. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at this time last year was 83.

The Word on the $339,565 Intersection

Last night, the Common Council approved encumbering $139,565 of the City's ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to be added to the $200,000 received in the host community benefit agreement with Stewart's to pay for improvements to the intersection at Green Street and Fairview Avenue. The Council also received some information about what the plans for improvement entailed.

Responding to a question asked by Alder Margaret Morris (First Ward), Council president Tom DePietro said there would be "a whole new traffic light system," pedestrian crossings, and "a whole new traffic pattern system." Peter Bujanow, Commissioner of Public Works, further explained that there would be a camera-based signal system and the turning radius would be modified. Bujanow said it had been determined that the idea of having a pedestrian island, as seen in Matthew Frederick's drawing below, wouldn't work because this was a truck route.

As a consequence of last night's discussion, the plan for the intersection has now been posted on the City of Hudson website. Although it is not the easiest thing to interpret, it can be accessed here. The plan is also reproduced below.


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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has released its numbers for today. The good news is that no one has died from COVID-19 since yesterday. There have, however, been 20 new cases of the virus. The number of active cases being reported today is 8 more than yesterday, from which it can be inferred that, since yesterday, 12 county residents have recovered from the virus. There are 2 more county residents hospitalized with the virus today than yesterday and 1 more is in the ICU.   

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

A year ago, today was Presidents Day, and the CCDOH took the day off from reporting COVID numbers. 

What Price Intersection Improvements?

Back in July 2018, when the Common Council amended the city's zoning to accommodate Stewart's plans for expansion at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, it was the expectation that Stewart's would provide the money needed to finance improvements to the intersection, for the safety of pedestrians and drivers, in a host community benefit agreement. In May 2019, the terms of the agreement were presented to the Common Council. The City would receive $200,000 from Stewart's to compensate for the impacts of the project on the community: $135,000 to $140,000 to be used for improvements to the intersection to enhance pedestrian access; the remainder--$60,000 to $65,000--to be used for planning and zoning studies.

Now, nearly three years later, there is on the agenda for tonight's Common Council meeting a resolution regarding the improvements to the intersection. It reveals that the proposed improvements to the intersection, the exact nature of which is not known to the public, are now estimated to cost $339,565.00--70 percent more than the amount received for the purpose from Stewart's in the host community benefit agreement. The resolution authorizes making up the difference with the City's ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.
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