Sunday, April 10, 2022

Worries About Warren Street

Controversy seems endemic in Hudson. When I moved here in 1993, Judy Meyer, who was, early on, my mentor in civic involvement, explained it as "something in the water." 

Last night, a friend forwarded to me a letter that been sent to Warren Street business owners. Today, it was posted on at least two Facebook community pages. The letter begins: "It has recently been brought to our attention that the city's tourism board again wants to push a plan to have Warren Street shut down to all traffic and parking one weekend a month." The letter goes on to present all the reasons why this is a bad idea and concludes with a call to action: 
This is of great urgency as we have just found out that they plan to vote on this at Monday's 6 p.m. meeting. 
Unless they hear from a great many of us who make our opposition known, the Tourism Board may very well get this pushed through at Monday's meeting.
I strongly urge you to contact the mayor, all Council members, and the Council President immediately to make your feelings known.
Needless to say, I found the letter confusing and somewhat alarming. I had attended the meeting of the new Common Council Tourism & Events Committee on March 30 (the Tourism Board has been abolished) and posted about it. The big issue before the committee, and the one I posted about, was whether or not the concrete blocks were going to be brought back to allow restaurants to offer outdoor seating in the parking spaces in front of their establishments. If the committee decided to propose to the full Council that Warren Street be closed to traffic one weekend a month, I had either missed it, or it had been hashed out somewhere other than in a public meeting. Because Monday's meeting is the Council's informal meeting, at which nothing is or legally can be voted on, there is no likelihood that, even if there were truth to this information, any resolution regarding this would be voted on tomorrow night.

Wanting to confirm my own memory of the meeting and my understanding of the situation, I contacted Councilmember Ryan Wallace (Third Ward), who chairs the Tourism & Events Committee. He reminded me that someone at the meeting had mentioned there was a suggestion from community members that Warren Street might be closed down one or two days a month, but there had been no decision to pursue that suggestion, and nothing has been proposed to the full Common Council. It's probably just as well if people are contacting the councilmembers to express their opposition to shutting down the street. Regarding Warren Street Seasonal Usage (WSSU), Wallace told me, "Everything is on the table for consideration as alternatives to the concrete blocks, which many people have reached out to voice opinions on." 



  1. The streetspace survey from March 2021 by the previous iteration of the Tourism Board is here:

    Of particular interest is Question 4:

    On weekends, would you like to see Warren Street open to pedestrian only traffic (except for emergency vehicles, pickup/delivers and residents)?

    Of the 77 business owners
    49% said every weekend
    11% said 1 weekend a month
    6% said 2 weekends a season
    32% said never

    Of the 242 Residents who completed the survey
    45% said every weekend
    10% said 1 weekend a month
    4% said 2 weekends a season
    39% said never

  2. John Friedman submitted this comment:

    If we've learned anything over the past 2 years, it is likely that while the partial street closure was a boon in the immediate wake of the first lock-downs in 2020, they were less well-received in 2021. And while the bars and restaurants may well have been saved at least in part by both local and state political leaders' efforts to expand both on- and off-premises alcohol consumption as well as the usage of public spaces, the calculus has changed as our public health habits have adapted to COVID. The need is simply no longer there and this is amply illustrated by the sales tax figures over the past 2 years in this sector of the economy. As for the use of parking spaces by other businesses as done last year, that program showed how useless this ceding of public space is for retail businesses.

    What the vast majority of negative comments seem to me to have focused on boils down to the fact that a "hybrid" approach -- whether it's partial street closures or closures only on particular days of the week -- creates confusion and angst. I think this is particularly true for visitors. I know it's popular in some circles to bad-mouth or bemoan these visitors -- I regularly hear it from folks sitting next to me at bars and in restaurants all over Hudson -- but if nothing else these critiques of the partial street closures point to the need for consistency in the design and application of public policy alongside effective and ample communication about them.