Sunday, May 22, 2022

The HPC and the "Depot District"

The Register-Star published an article yesterday by Noah Eckstein about Friday's special Historic Preservation Commission meeting: "Panel weighs Depot District options." The article seems intent on portraying the concerns of the HPC as impediments to the noble goal of creating more low-income housing in Hudson. It repeats the claim made by Dan Kent, vice president of initiatives for the Galvan Foundation, that without the demolition of the house and outbuilding located at 65-67 North Seventh Street, both contributing structures in the National Register Hudson Historic District, the building planned for the west side of North Seventh Street could only be 35 units instead of the 75 units now being proposed.

Much that happened in the meeting was not touched on in Eckstein's report. First was the discussion of the alternatives analysis, which was submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to justify the demolition of the two structures. Gossips recently read that document and found this rather extraordinary paragraph:
Galvan Foundation is currently rehabilitating the existing structures at 61 N. 7th Street and 622 State Street, which are currently vacant and derelict. The retention of the smaller structures along State Street, and parts of N. 7th Street will screen the larger proposed buildings, creating a screen along the urban streetscape, and providing a transition between the various sized buildings along these corridors. The landscape around the Upper Hudson Depot will be revitalized for community recreational and market use (i.e. farmers market, craft fair, etc.) further incorporating the varied elements of community into the overall project. The proposed height of the buildings is consistent with the historic elements in this portion of the city, and facilitates a visual transition to the urban street scape along State and Columbia Streets. 
For those for whom an address doesn't instantly conjure up the mental image of a building, this is 61 North Seventh Street:

It is not clear what is meant by 622 State Street. The now lost Hudson Orphan Asylum building, demolished by Galvan in 2019, had the address 620 State Street. 

Perhaps 622 State Street is meant to refer to this house, which Galvan acquired in 2017. The actual address of the house is 618 State Street.

Interestingly, the alternatives analysis speaks only of the house that is to be demolished and does not mention the accessory building on the parcel which is identified in the 1985 National Register inventory as an "ice house." At Friday's HPC meeting, Beth Selig of Hudson Valley Cultural Resources Consultants, who wrote the alternatives analysis for Galvan, presented Sanborn maps from 1895, 1903, and 1911 to demonstrate that the structure called the "ice house" did not exist in 1895. (In my post about the buildings to be demolished, I suggested it was likely this structure was already there when the property was owned by the Hudson Orphan Asylum. The 1895 Sanborn map shows that was not the case.)    

Selig questioned identification of the structure in the 1985 inventory as an "ice house," saying there was nothing in the Sanborn maps to suggest it was an ice house and commenting that ice houses were typically underground.

Since most of the members of the HPC attested to having never seen the alternatives analysis, the discussion of the document was postponed in favor of discussing the materials being proposed for the two buildings. That discussion was introduced by Walter Chatham, who asserted that the proposed site was "the only area in Hudson where this kind of building could occur" and assured the commission, "Our intention is to do no harm." He went on to say of the buildings, "This could be a big box with a flat roof, but hopefully it doesn't look like that to the average person." Responding to HPC architect member Chip Bohl's appeal at a previous meeting that the buildings be handsome, Chatham told the commission, "I have tried to make this handsome. . . . Our intention is to build some big buildings that don't look like they were built yesterday. We want to work with you all to create a charming neighborhood and provide much needed housing."

The materials for 76 North Seventh Street (the building proposed for the east side of the street, formerly identified as 708 State Street) include a black standing seam metal roof, black synthetic slate on the mansard roof, aluminum clad wood windows, and a cornice that appears to be wood but isn't. 

Most of the building's facades will be brick, a type of that is not perfectly rectangular and is meant to look old.

Because they are struggling to meet the energy requirements with brick, they are proposing to cover the less visible facades of the building, those that face the railroad tracks, with a synthetic stucco known as Exterior Insulating and Finish System (EIFS). (The acronym seems to be pronounced "e fuss.")

The building across the street--75 North Seventh Street--has gotten a $1 million NYSERDA award and is being planned to be an all-electric passive building. Because, as was explained by architect Jorge Chang, "full brick and thin brick are not approvable for a passive house," the lower floors of the building will be engineered brick called "NewBrick" and above that, where it is less visible from the street, "rigid insulation made and formed to look like brick" would be used. It is Gossips' understanding that, in the elevation drawing below, the darker pink represents where NewBrick would be used and the lighter pink where the insulation made to look like brick would be used.

Regarding the brick made from rigid insulation, Chang explained that the faux bricks are applied "pretty much like real brick, and then mortar is added in the grooves."

All of the proposed synthetic material gave the HPC pause. Phil Forman, who chairs the HPC, questioned the durability of the faux bricks made from insulation. Bohl said he had serious reservations about the product, expressing the opinion that freeze/thaw in our climate would be destructive. "There is an authenticity to buildings in Hudson," Bohl maintained and urged the architects to look at "an authentic material that has durability." He expressed the opinion that the siding solution didn't have to be brick.

Forman said he recognized the intention was not to disrupt but said he would accept disruption over lack of authenticity. He said in weighing compatibility and authenticity he valued authenticity the most.

Kent responded by saying, "We don't want 75 to stand out." (It will be remembered that 75 North Seventh Street is meant for households with incomes that are 40 to 80 percent of the area median income [AMI] and 76 North Seventh Street is meant for households with incomes that are 80 to 130 percent of the AMI.) He went on to say, "We are sensitive to the fact that we are creating a mixed income neighborhood where there is not an obvious difference between the two buildings." Kent promised to come back with more information about durability.

HPC member John Schobel asked rhetorically, "What's the case for this being appropriate? What is the alterative?" He then posited, "The ideal solution would be that we can be convinced this will work," adding, "You don't want to build something that everyone hates in fifteen years."

Chatham promised, "We will go back to the drawing board and find something better, or put a sample of [this] on City Hall so you can all see it." 

The discussion concluded with Forman telling the Galvan people, "You guys will get back to me when you want to meet again."   

When public comment was invited, only Mayor Kamal Johnson spoke, telling the HPC, "I hope we can make a decision soon."


  1. Has anyone mentioned the potential loss of the existing solar panels, or adding them onto the new buildings?

  2. Thanks for this review Carole. Well done.

  3. The highlight of the meeting, though, was a telling moment near the end when Chatham tried his best to convince us all of his wonderful creations when he said: "I have a close friend who recently purchased a house on 7th and is well aware of the LOOMING and LARGE buildings he will be living near." This is Galvan's architect describing his own goddamn buildings. If LOOMING and LARGE buildings with no off-street parking for 140 units on either side of little N. 7th doesn't create harm for the neighborhood and everyone who lives in Hudson, nothing will. Chatham didn't misspeak or try to take his words back. He expressed what he believes these monstrosities with fake brick truly are. "Looming and large," not "tasteful and well-scaled to the surroundings." Hudson needs more architects like this guy
    to work for the sleaziest developer that our Mayor can't get enough of. These amateurs are an embarrassment.

  4. Sounds like a dizzying amount of BS.

  5. does Hudson really conform to the subsidized housing that is proposed ?

    hudson does not have a low cost supermarket that is required. hudson is a food desert for the poor.

    hudson does not really have a public transportation system.

    hudson has a very poorly rated public school system. which is already too costly.

    hudson has no jobs for the working class, and will not have them in the near future or the thereon. Hudson has jobs for the highly educated.

    Why is this being built here ? it makes no sense, other than to provide Galvan with yet another money machine based on the backs of the poor. the Poor would do better in a place with services and a mass transit system.

  6. Galvan is so full of it. 61 n 7th is not derelict and someone has been living in that garage for at least 4 years. He parks his car in front and occasionally blares music, has parties, puts out the trash. There's no heat in there, maybe a wood stove, and my guess is that no one should be living there. I'm sure Craig Haigh would find it to have all sorts of violations. It's not a living space, it's an old garage Why on earth would Galvan claim the place is vacant? Because they shouldn't be renting it?

    1. ... because they have no compunction about lying, it suits their purposes to do so, and they think no one will check the math.

  7. Enough is enough. Why has Galvan been able to get all of his buildings approved as architecturally appropriate for Hudson, when what he is building are bland, prison like structures that do not fit in with Hudson at all. How is it that the City has granted him a PILOT for these monstrosities that flank the Despot District? Is the smell of conflict of interest wafting here? Citizens of Hudson, how could you permit this invasion and draining of your financial resources for projects that line the pockets of Galvan?

  8. Thanks, Walter, for proving prostitution isn’t completely gone from Hudson.

  9. These enormous buildings with fake brick and ersatz facades are out of scale and unneccessary in Hudson, do not compliment the architecture of Hudson and add nothing to it except people who will have to go elsewhere to shop and work. "Depot District" my foot. The burden is on those of us who pay taxes and the City is mad to hand out pilots to developers who provide nothing to the citizens but burdens.

    1. the design is very South Bronx -- neo 19th century on steroids. We have to pack them in so Galvan can squeeze as much Federal money out of each unit as possible.

      And this is "good" for Hudson. I think it is good for someone's bank account, but not for the people of Hudson or its future. We have a plethora- i.e. too much - of subsidized housing as it is.

  10. If, in referring to the derelict and vacant 622 State (which doesn't exist), Galvan was attempting (in their own incompetent and duplicitious way) to refer to the TWO HOUSES located at 618 State, there should be no question as to why they are both vacant and derelict. It's called neglect, and Galvan is the neglector. One of Galvan's subsidiaries, Hudson Collective Realty LLC, bought the house in front from the City of Hudson over two years ago and they have not worked on it one bit. It was in bad shape then and it is in worse shape today because Galvan has not lifted a finger to fix it even though our Code Enforcement Office deemed the building unsafe and dangerous in 2019 and sent Galvan a Notice of Order To Remedy. In other words, FIX THE HOUSE SO SOMEONE CAN LIVE IN IT. YOU CANNOT AND WILL NOT NEGLECT THIS HOUSE. Galvan has done nothing of the sort, scoffed at the OTR and, perhaps most concerning, our Code office has not held Galvan to their responsibilities as laid out in the OTR. Apparently Code Enforcement doesn't care if the house remains dangerous and unsafe indefinitely or if it just falls over OR even if Galvan says "Hey, look, 618 State is derelict, we have to knock it down." Demolition thru neglect, exactly what the OTR is supposed to prevent.
    As for the house in the back along the alley, a distinct property known as 618 State Rear, it too has been neglected by Galvan, but for much longer than its partner a few feet away. The Galvan gang, under both the Galvan Initiatives Fund and Galvan Partners, has owned that house since 2005. For AT LEAST the past 7 years, this decent structure has been vacant and no one has ever been working on it. It has potential and if someone owned it who actually gave a crap about housing people in Hudson, the place would have been fixed up by now and someone would be renting or owning a funky house along the alley. Go walk by the back of the place sometime and see all the garbage that Galvan is perfectly fine with allowing to accumulate in the back entrance. Talk about neglect. Again, City Hall doesn't seem to care. And see the well-faded, red and barely legible "ORDER TO VACATE dangerous and unsafe building" sign which was attached to the fence by Code Enforcement over 3 years ago.
    So, Galvan, your 2 houses at "622 State" are DERELICT and VACANT? You don't say! Of course both of these house are vacant and derelict AND THE HOUSE IN FRONT IS AN EYESORE-- they've been so for years because you chose to neglect and ignore them (and Code allows you to do so) so you can knock them down someday and expand your ugly empire as if you own the city. And the so-called mayor will cheer you on every step of the way and Code Enforcement will look the other way. Hoorah!
    To Dan Kent of Galvan: You are pathetic and full of BS with your "we just want to house people and make Hudson a better place for everyone" nonsense. Have you no shame? Do you even live here in Hudson? No and no, I didn't think so. B I L L Huston

  11. ...and where are these hundreds of apartment dwellers going to go when they need some air and sun ... 7th street park! More customers for the wine bar!

  12. Yet another Galvan boondoggle. And why should it ever stop? He gets the green light, no matter how outrageous and inappropriate the project, and and no matter how much the city will be landed with in lost buildings, parking, income lost to the PILOT, etc., etc. When decision makers are bought and paid for by the developer, anything goes.

  13. Has anyone thought about moving the "contributing structures" to another location, if they have that level significance in the sweep of human history? That was once done a century or so ago in Los Angeles, when the Van Nuys' mansion, grand ballroom on the third floor adorned with a cupola decorated with a fresco of seraphims and sky and clouds on the ceiling and all, was rolled down
    Wilshire Boulevard on logs at midnight from the West Adams neighborhood that was losing its chicness, to the Hancock Park neighborhood where it still sits today.

    Yes, I thought not.

    1. Galvan was supposed to move historic structures before and look what happened. Gone with the wind.