Friday, June 30, 2023

Mournful News

Gossips learned yesterday that Windle Davis has died.

Windle and his husband, Dini Lamot, lived in Hudson from 2000 to 2016 and were principal characters in the life of Hudson in those golden years. In addition to lending their energy and support to every good and worthy cause, Windle and Dini created the Hudson River Theater on the second floor of 521 Warren Street and later restored 317 Allen Street, the century old dream house of Morgan A. Jones that had fallen into disrepair, and transformed it into a sought after bed and breakfast known as the Inn at Hudson.

In July 2012, Windle was interviewed as part of the Oral History Summer School at the Hudson Area Library. After learning of his death, I listened to that interview, which can be found here. It was a sweet and moving experience to hear Windle talking about his life and particularly about his years spent in Hudson. Better than any tribute or obituary I could write, it captures, in his own words and his own voice, the creative, adventurous, and genuinely lovely person he was, moving through the world leaving beauty in his wake. I recommend the experience to others mourning the loss of this gentle, gracious man.

Dini and Windle, with their beloved Psyche, at the Hudson waterfront in 2015

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Of Interest

On Monday, Assemblymember Didi Barrett posted this on her Facebook page.

The link is to the Gossips post published on June 12, which reports on the plan to submit a letter to the NYS Department of Transportation requesting that the Route 9G/23B truck route be eliminated and trucks more than 48 feet in length be prohibited from entering Hudson unless they are making a local delivery within the city limits, not the post published in June 22, which reports that the Common Council tabled the resolution authorizing that letter to be sent.

It was Barrett, of course, who secured $100,000 in state funding in 2019 to conduct an origin and destination study of truck traffic in Hudson with the goal of finding a solution to the major safety and quality of life issues caused by trucks passing through Hudson on their way to someplace else.

The Haze Returns

The hazy, smoky skies we experienced at the beginning of June, as a consequence of wildfires in Canada, is returning. Currently, the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups, which include children under 18, adults 65 and older, and those with cardiovascular disease (e.g., congestive heart failure, history of heart attack) or lung disease (e.g., asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

The air quality is expected to worsen in the next day or so. To check the air quality at any time, click on and enter your zip code.

Vote for Our Farmers Market

American Farmland Trust is currently running its 15th annual America's Farmers Market Celebration (AFMC), showcasing the markets across the country that are making a difference for farmers, ranchers, and communities. From June 19 to September 18, you can visit and vote for your favorite farmers market--the Hudson Farmers' Market. (When you're voting, look for "Hudson City Farmers Market." If you vote for the Hudson Farmers Market, you'll be voting for the market in Hudson, Ohio.) 

This year, $15,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the markets receiving the most votes: $5,000 for first, $2,500 for second, $1,500 for third, $750 for fourth, $250 for fifth, and $100 for first in each state. The funds awarded to markets go toward marketing, communications, and other needs that help expand the market's reach and impact. 

So take a minute right now to click on and vote for "Hudson City Farmers Market." Ask all your friends to do so as well.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

From Civic Center to Hub

In 2019, the City did a feasibility study on moving City Hall to 360 State Street, the former John L. Edwards Elementary School, which the Hudson City School District has been trying to sell since 2018.

The building is 90,000 square feet, and even when all the offices and functions of City Hall, the Code Enforcement Office, the Youth Department, and the Senior Center were moved into the building, there were still 20,000 to 30,000 square feet of building available for other unidentified uses. For reasons not entirely explained, the plan was never pursued.

Then came Adirondack Community Development, which in June 2021 proposed adapting the building for housing. Their original plan involved adding a five-story addition to the building.

By December 2021, Adirondack was proposing a different plan, this one involving the demolition of the 1964 school building, which they originally said was not feasible because it would cost "millions and millions," and the construction of a new building in its footprint

In the past year and a half, nothing more has been heard from Adirondack Community Development, and the building is still on the market for slightly less than $4 million. It seems, however, that Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) has taken up the idea of making the building some kind of civic center, which they are referring to as "Hudson Hub." Chris Jones, president of the HDC board, spoke of the plan at the yesterday's HDC meeting. 

As before, the plan involves moving the City's administrative offices and meeting rooms, now located at 520 Warren Street, into the building. In addition, Jones reported that she had spoken with Carlee Drummer, president of Columbia-Greene Community College, who thought an outshoot of C-GCC might be established in the building, offering some nondegree programs. Jones also reported that Talbott & Arding were enthusiastic about doing training there. The building has a very large kitchen. Jones indicated that the Youth Department was also interested, because they are "bursting at the seams" with programs for younger children and older youth. Jones told the board that she had looked into New York State grants and reported that there is not one idea for reusing the building that doesn't have money available.

Jones told the board she had spoken with Mark Thaler of Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson, the architectural firm that did the feasibility study for the City in 2019, who is willing to make a presentation to the HDC board about the work done four years ago.

When Jones said they were still in the "big idea" phase and were not ready to talk about financials, Mayor Kamal Johnson, who serves ex officio on the HDC board, commented, "For us, as the City, the financial piece is the most important." He then asked who would have ownership of the building. John Friedman, who is a member of the HDC board, responded, "We are looking more conceptually," but added, "Whoever takes on most risk will be the owner."

HDC has asked the HCSD Board of Education to give them six months to explore the possibility of redeveloping the former school building as a "Hudson Hub."

Summer on the Waterfront

Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer, the summer solstice is the actual beginning of summer, but it can be argued that the first installment of Waterfront Wednesdays marks the beginning of summer in Hudson. This year, the fourth year of this popular event, Waterfront Wednesdays begins on Wednesday, July 5.

Presented by the Hudson Sloop Club, the Hudson Arts Coalition, and Operation Unite, Waterfront Wednesdays offers six weeks of vibrant cultural programming that celebrates the spirit of togetherness, accessibility, and artistic expression, entirely free for everyone to enjoy. 
Every Wednesday, from July 5 to August 9, the Hudson Waterfront will come alive with a diverse range of activities and entertainment that caters to all ages and interests. 

The evening begins with an African drum circle from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., fostering a sense of rhythm and unity within the community. As the sun sets, there is live programming at 7:00 p.m., featuring an eclectic lineup of talented artists who will enchant audiences with their unique sounds and vibrant energy. New this year is Hudson emcee Loki Anthony, who will be hosting the weekly festivities. The lineup for Waterfront Wednesdays 2023 includes:
  • July 5: Beautiful Racket
  • July 12: Andes Manta Music
  • July 19: Lex Gray and the Urban Pioneers
  • July 26: Pocket Merchant
  • August 2: Social Justice Leadership Academy
  • August 9: Swap Meet Dance Party
In addition to music and entertainment, the event offers a wide array of on-the-river activities that are free for all participants. From dockside fishing to sailing excursions and enchanting trips to the lighthouse, there's something for everyone to enjoy. 

Waterfront Wednesdays is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by CREATE Council on the Arts. The project has been supported by a grant from the Fund for Columbia County of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Our Visiting Vessels program was made possible through generous support from the City of Hudson and the Berkshire Taconic Foundation.

For more information, visit

Anticipation . . .

At the meeting of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on Monday, Mary Decker, who is one of the tenant members of the board, reported some tenants were getting ready to start packing up in anticipation of moving out of Bliss Towers and worrying about how the move will carried out. Revonda Smith, who chairs the board, assured her, "It will be years before they need to do that."

Jeffrey Dodson, HHA executive director, elaborated on the status of things. Mountco was chosen as the development partner in April, and since then he has been meeting with Mountco every Wednesday. At present, they are still working on the memorandum of understanding. Dodson predicted that it would be three to five years before any new construction is completed.

Dodson also announced that on Friday, July 14, from noon to 4:00 p.m., there was to be a Tenants Appreciation Day, partially sponsored by Mountco, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hudson Housing Authority and also, although Dodson didn't mention it, the 50th anniversary of Bliss Towers. The photograph below, found at, shows the building when it was newly completed in 1973.


The World According to Colarusso

The Valley Alliance and Our Hudson Waterfront are hailing the recent NYS Supreme Court decision as a vindication of the Hudson Planning Board and a win for the Hudson waterfront. Paul Colarusso, president of A. Colarusso & Sons, sees it quite differently. In an article that appears in the Register-Star today, Colarusso is quoted as saying, "We're very happy the decision turned out the way it did. It couldn't have worked out better for us." The article also attributes this statement to Colarusso: "The decision in effect overturned the planning board's claim that a second environmental review of the haul road proposal was necessary."

Decide for yourself what the ruling means. Here is the final paragraph of the ruling:
As such, to eliminate any doubt, and because petitioners are entitled to a decision by respondent on the haul road application, whatever that decision may be, Supreme Court's directive must be clarified. That said, the language of "site plan approval is directed to proceed" in the decretal paragraph of the court's order must be deleted and be substituted with "a decision on the haul road application is directed to issue forthwith." Finally, to the extent that respondent challenges that part of Supreme Court's order directing that the haul road application is not subject to further SEQRA review by the City, such challenge is without merit (see Matter of Gordon v Rush, 100 NY2d 236, 243 [2003]). Respondent's remaining contentions have been considered and are either unavailing or improperly raised for the first time in reply. 

The entire ruling can be found here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Today's Election Results

The Columbia County Board of Elections has posted the unofficial results of today's Primary Election. Here is the way things stand at the moment. The results are incomplete. They include today's voting, early voting, and most absentee ballots. They do not include absentee ballots received in the last few days or affidavit (provisional) ballots.

County Judge
    • Mark Portin   1,786
    • Brian Herman   1,987
    • Michael Howard   1,950
First Ward Councilmember

    • Randall Martin   63
    • Margaret Morris   129
    • Gary Purnhagen  71

Second Ward Councilmember

    • Dewan Sarowar   109
    • Mohammed Rony   86
    • Kevron Lee   47 

Third Ward Councilmember

    • Shershah Mizan   76
    • Lola Roberts   73
    • Daniel Schmeder   62

Note: The numbers originally reported here, although found on the BOE website after 10:00 p.m., did not include the votes cast today. The numbers that now appear above include all but some absentee ballots and the affidavit ballots.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Responding to the Colarusso Decision

On Thursday, the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division handed down a ruling in the lawsuit brought by A. Colarusso & Sons against the City of Hudson Planning Board. That decision can be found here

Today, David Konigsberg and Donna Streitz, on behalf of Our Hudson Waterfront, sent a letter commenting on the decision to Mayor Kamal Johnson, Council president Tom DePietro and the members of the Common Council, and Planning Board chair Theresa Joyner and the members of the Hudson Planning Board, and shared the letter with Gossips. The text of that letter follows:
As Hudson citizens who support economically productive and environmentally protective development, we are greatly relieved by the ruling last week by the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division that upholds the Planning Board’s right to approve, deny, or modify Colarusso’s plans for the waterfront. 
Hudson, its agencies and citizens, rather than a sole Greenport company, have the duty to determine how to best develop Hudson’s greatest natural asset. This means ensuring that any development preserves the integrity of our South Bay wetlands, creates jobs for our citizens and increases public waterfront access and enjoyment. All of these are threatened by Colarusso’s plan to build a high-volume, two-lane truckway and greatly increase gravel transport and loading at its dock. 
Despite claims made by the company throughout this drawn-out saga, Colarusso’s proposed roadway will neither remove most trucks from city streets nor provide economic benefits of any kind to the City of Hudson. It will, however, threaten every other productive waterfront use and development—this despite efforts over nearly four decades to de-industrialize the Waterfront District. 
Our research shows that on busy days, heavy truck traffic could more than double, increasing noise and pollution and creating new dangers at essential road and rail crossings. Alarmingly, this represents an over 2000% increase in daily average truck volume since 2015. With this volume, potentially 250 days a year, gravel truck traffic and loading would become the main feature of life on the Hudson waterfront and on the River. This would largely derail the waterfront revival now underway, hindering the growth of job-creating businesses, threatening enjoyment of waterfront parks, and increasing environmental hazards to wetlands, public amenities, and the surrounding community. 
Despite Colarusso’s claims to the contrary, the City Planning Board need not abide by Greenport’s 2017 approval of the company’s truckway. In its SEQR review, Greenport’s planning board neither evaluated truck volume nor considered impacts on Hudson’s waterfront, citing a lack of evidence that transportation systems would be adversely affected or that Colarusso planned to expand at the Hudson Dock. The latter claim is easily debunked by a dramatic rise in daily average truck trips from 48 in 2016 to 114 in 2019, and by Colarusso’s own estimates at a potential 284 daily maximum, more than double the 2019 volume. 
In his 2016 letter giving Lead Agency status to the Greenport Planning Board, State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos makes clear that this status “in no way limits jurisdiction or responsibilities of other involved and interested agencies—particularly the City Planning Board.” 
Year after year, Colarusso has shown an utter disregard for the City’s concerns, refused to turn over critical truck data to the Planning Board, suing twice to prevent review, and steadfastly insisting that no public entity has the right to regulate its volume. We hope this court decision will put an end to such arrogance on the company’s part, and that the Planning Board will make decisions based on what’s best for the City, not best for Colarusso.

A Native Son Returns

On Friday, July 7, at 6:00 p.m., Dr. Stephen Bergman, who writes under the nom de plume Samuel Shem, will be at Hudson Hall to talk about his new book, Our Hospital.

It's been a decade since Bergman, who grew up in Hudson and left after graduating from Hudson High School in 1962 to attend Harvard, has been back to talk about one of his books. He was here a couple of times in 2008 to talk about The Spirit of the Place, a novel set in a place called Columbia, NY, an only slightly fictionalized Hudson. At the center of the plot of The Spirit of the Place is an event that took place in the actual Hudson: the struggle to save the General Worth Hotel in 1969. Bergman was invited back in 2009 to speak at a fundraising dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hudson Area Library. (Bergman's mother, Rose Fuchs Bergman, whose spirit is a major character in The Spirit of the Place, was a major force in founding the library in 1959.) Bergman came to Hudson again in 2013 when the paperback edition of The Spirit of the Place was released.

In those years, there was the expectation of another Samuel Shem book set in a fictionalized Hudson and inspired by an actual event. That book was to be set in 2003 Hudson, and the event was the unfortunate fate of Ansar Mahmood, the Pakistani pizza deliverer who was arrested a month after September 11, 2001, on suspicion of terrorism for taking pictures of the view from Hudson's water treatment plant and deported in July 2004 for "harboring illegal aliens." That book, although eagerly awaited by some, never happened.

Now, fifteen years after The Spirit of the Place, Bergman has written another book set in Hudson, Our Hospital, in which a doctor returns "to his economically depressed hometown in upstate New York to help the struggling hospital battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the money-driven bureaucracy." The doctor, Dr. Roy Basch, is also the main character in Bergman's best-known book, The House of God (1978), and its sequel, Man's 4th Best Hospital (2019). Our Hospital is a sequel to those two books. In a review of Man's 4th Best Hospital that appeared in The New Yorker, called, "'The House of God,' a Book as Sexist as It Was Influential, Gets a Sequel," Rachel Pearson wrote of the main character:
Roy Basch is back, and his life in the years between the two books maps closely with Bergman's. Both men married a psychologist . . .; both adopted a daughter from overseas; both became psychiatrists with a special focus on addiction medicine; both wrote a novel called 'The House of God.'"
In the new book, this character, perceived to be autobiographical, returns to a fictionalized version of his hometown, Hudson, which in the author's mind continues to be "economically depressed."  

The event at Hudson Hall is free, but reservations are recommended. Click here for more information and to reserve your spot. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

As June winds to an end, and we approach the Fourth of July, here is what's happening on the meeting front.
  • On Monday, June 26, the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meets at 6 p.m. This meeting was originally scheduled for June 12 but was canceled and rescheduled. Now that the HHA board has selected a development partner, the meeting may provide updates on the progress of plans to construct new buildings to replace Columbia Apartments and Bliss Towers. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person in the Community Room at Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
  • Tuesday, June 27, is Election Day for the Democratic Primary. The polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. The polling places for Hudson voters are:
    • First Ward--St. Mary's Academy, 301 Allen Street   Sample Ballot
    • Second Ward--St. Mary's Academy, 301 Allen Street   Sample Ballot
    • Third Ward--St. Mary's Academy, 301 Allen Street   Sample Ballot   
    • Fourth Ward--County Office Building, 401 State Street   Sample Ballot   
    • Fifth Ward--Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street   Sample Ballot
To find your polling place, click here.
  • On Tuesday, June 27, the board of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meets at noon. The meeting takes place in person in the conference room at 1 North Front Street.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27, the Common Council ad hoc Parking Study Committee holds its monthly meeting. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
Update: The Parking Study Committee meeting scheduled for tonight has been canceled.

  • On Thursday, June 29, Dr. David W. Voorhees, director of the Jacob Leisler Institute for Early New York History, presents a lecture titled "Hoe woest de werelt" ["How Savage the World"]: The Role of Women in Leisler's Rebellion." In his talk, Voorhees explores the prominent role women played in the 1689-1691 New York uprising against King James II's government, popularly known as the "Leisler Rebellion," and women's involvement in New York politics a generation after the English takeover of New Netherland, in both the local and broader Atlantic World contexts. The event takes place at 6:00 p.m., in person only, in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.
Illustration by F. T. Merrell, from Edwin Lassetter Bynner, 
The Begum's Daughter (1890), a novel about Leisler's Rebellion

The ZBA and the Future of 601 Union Street

In March 2022, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a use variance for the adaptive reuse of 601 Union Street, the Italian villa that was for decades the Hudson Elks Lodge, as a boutique hotel. 

In the year that followed, the new owners of the building discovered that the roof of the addition to the mansion, which was added after the Elks acquired the building in 1936, would not support the various amenities--a pool and an event space--they planned to locate there. As a consequence, it was decided to site the pool and the event space, along with a gym and spa, a kitchen and bar, and eleven additional rooms on adjacent land that is part of the property but extends behind the municipal parking lot next to the building and behind the historic house at 611 Union Street.

The changes required an amended use variance, and in February 2023, the new owners appeared before the ZBA seeking an amended use variance. The ZBA has been considering the request for four months now, and this past Wednesday, the members of the ZBA seemed ready to make a decision. 

There are four criteria to be considered when granting a use variance:
  1. The applicant cannot realize a reasonable return, provided that lack of return is substantial as demonstrated by competent financial evidence.
  2. The alleged hardship relating to the property in question is unique, and does not apply to a substantial portion of the district or neighborhood.
  3. The requested use variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood.
  4. The alleged hardship was not self-created.
At Wednesday's meeting, a representative of Casetta, the group proposing the hotel, presented the financial evidence required by the first of the four criteria. The presentation included an economic analysis for five different scenarios, from the 30 rooms originally proposed with no amenities to the 41 rooms with the amenities now being proposed. One of the five scenarios involved doing the structural reinforcement necessary to put the pool and the event space on the roof as originally planned. This, the ZBA was told, would add 24 months to the construction time and $6 million to the construction costs. The economic analysis demonstrated that the scenario with 41 rooms and the proposed amenities was "the only scenario that realizes a profit in Year 3." The spokesperson for Casetta told the ZBA, "This is not something we just came up with. This project does not work any other way."

The attorney representing Walter Brett, who maintains that his house at 611 Union Street will be negatively impacted by the proposed hotel structures behind his property, particularly the structure that will house eleven hotel rooms, argued that there has been "no satisfaction of the major requirement that the situation is not self-created." Representatives from Casetta responded, "You can't start tearing into a structure that you don't own." Kristal Heinz, who is now the attorney for Casetta but represented the seller at the time the property was sold, attested that it was a condition of the contract that they could not "bore into the roof to discover the condition" until the sale had closed. 

After some back and forth between Brett's attorney and Heinz, each citing case law, Lisa Kenneally, who chairs the ZBA, asked members of the board, "Do you feel you are informed? Have your questions been answered?" ZBA member Myron Polenberg responded, "They answered everything we asked for." Saying he had to remove himself from "this," meaning the exchange between the lawyers, he commented, "I cannot work on the assumption that they [Casetta] are trying to bullshit me." Polenberg seemed ready to make a motion to grant the amended use variance, but Kenneally stopped him, saying, "I don't know if we're there yet."

ZBA legal counsel, Janis Gomez Anderson then led the board through Part 2 and Part 3 of the SEQR Short Environmental Assessment Form, and the board agreed unanimously that granting the use variance would not have a huge impact on the environment. Kenneally then said that the "financial stuff" needed to be incorporated into the resolution they voted on and made a motion to authorize Gomez Anderson to draft a resolution including that information. It is expected that the ZBA will vote on a resolution to grant the amended use variance at its next meeting, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, July 19.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

More News from the HPC Meeting

At Friday's meeting, the Historic Preservation Commission voted to approve certificates of appropriateness for several projects, among them the metal stairs and railings proposed for the entrances on the west and south facades of the Charles Alger House, 59 Allen Street. Two days earlier, Gossips received from a reader this photograph of the building, showing that the two metal staircases were already in place before the HPC gave its final approval.


An Outcome for Emanuel Lutheran

On Friday morning, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed "restoration" of the former Emanuel Lutheran Church, 18-20 South Sixth Street. The changes to the building for which a certificate of appropriateness was sought included removing the stained glass windows on the south and north sides of the building and replacing them with two over two double-hung windows. The plans also include painting the entire building, which was covered with vinyl siding in 2010, white, or alabaster. 

Photo: Stone House Properties
Before the public hearing began, Joseph La Piana, who is proposing the changes to the church, told the commission that his goal was "to do what's right for the community and the building" and said he was willing to make a compromise: he would retain the six stained glass windows on the south side of the building, which are clearly visible from Union Street, but would remove the stained glass windows on the north side of the building, which he maintained were only visible from an internal courtyard. He avowed, "I'm not here to be adversary," and assured the HPC that in his other restoration projects he has "always maintained the utmost architectural integrity." 

First to speak in the public hearing was Christabel Gough, who read a statement she had prepared prior to learning of the proposed compromise. She prefaced her statement by contending the stained glass windows on the north side of the building were visible from the street and all the stained glass should be preserved. Gough's entire statement follows:
We are looking at an unusual if not unique building in a prominent place in the historic district, and unfortunately there is an application to strip it of a distinctive feature: a series of stained glass windows illustrating Biblical subjects running along both sides of the building, lighting the nave and decorating a major street, now that a parking lot has opened a side wall to the street. To strip the building of the vivid color, and the articulation the stained glass provides, is especially grievous since there is no restoration of the original wooden surfaces. The fake siding, which should never have been allowed, and reportedly did not receive the blessing of this commission, will be further disfigured by a futile attempt to paint it. The synthetic will not bond with paint as the original wood would do. It is regrettable that the project has been characterized as restoration, when the fake siding is to be left in place. Real restoration would begin with its removal. We see no evidence presented of decay, or failure of the stained glass. The proposal is entirely counterproductive from the standpoint of historic preservation. Observing the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties is not required by law in this situation, but they still provide valuable guidance. The federal Standards state in part: "Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved." We hope that that will happen in this case, not least because the historic architecture of Hudson is an important factor in its prosperity, a tourist attraction, and an incentive for private investment. It is also a pleasure for many of us, remembering the warning words of the New York City landmarks law, that without landmark regulation "distinct areas may be . . . uprooted or may have their distinctiveness destroyed, although the preservation thereof may be both feasible and desirable."
In his comments, Ronald Kopnicki also took issue with calling what was proposed a "restoration." What was being proposed, said Kopnicki, "removes original material while retaining nonoriginal material," which made it not a restoration.

Matt McGhee, who shared photographs of his study of the building, maintained that the windows were in very good condition. He argued, "What really needs to be done is remove the vinyl siding . . . and restore the original look of the building."

Photo: Arthur Baker, Wooden Churches (2003)
When the public hearing was closed, La Piana agreed to withdraw his request to remove any of the stained glass windows, saying, "I do not want to have anyone upset." Still to be replaced are the lower windows on the south and north sides of the church and the windows in the adjoining parsonage. 

When this concession had been made, HPC chair Phil Forman asked, "Any thoughts on removing the vinyl siding?" La Piana said he was not in the position to do that, speculating, "All the siding could be rotted underneath." HPC member Miranda Barry pointed that the vinyl siding had been added "quite recently" (in 2010), motivated by the desire not to have to paint the building not by the poor condition of the wood clapboard and shingles. "You might discover the siding is in pretty good shape," she told La Piana. He conceded he would "rather paint the wood than paint the vinyl siding" and suggested he might be willing to remove some of the vinyl siding to check on the condition of the wood clapboard beneath.

In the end, the HPC agreed to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the replacement of the lower windows on the north and south sides of the church and windows in the parsonage with two over two double-hung Anderson wood windows.

In his presentations to the Historic Preservation Commission, La Piana repeatedly made reference to the Masonic Temple in Hillsdale as evidence of his sensitivity and integrity in restoring historic architecture. County records indicate La Piana purchased the building in September 2020 for $775,000. Now described as having been "restored to its former glory and reimagined as an artist's live/work space," the building is currently for sale for $2,875,000.


Friday, June 23, 2023

A Decision in the Colarusso Lawsuit

In November 2021, the Planning Board made a positive declaration in the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process, requiring A. Colarusso & Sons to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). Colarusso responded by filing a lawsuit against the Planning Board, seeking an annulment of the Planning Board's positive declaration. In August 2022, a decision was handed down by Acting Supreme Court Judge Henry F. Zwack, the gist of which was: "[T]he haul road project is not the subject of further SEQRA review by the City of Hudson, and site plan approval is directed to proceed."

The City appealed that decision, and yesterday the New York State Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case, which can be found here. The ruling concludes:
As such, to eliminate any doubt, and because petitioners are entitled to a decision by respondent on the haul road application, whatever that decision may be, Supreme Court's directive must be clarified. That said, the language of "site plan approval is directed to proceed" in the decretal paragraph of the court's order must be deleted and be substituted with "a decision on the haul road application is directed to issue forthwith." Finally, to the extent that respondent challenges that part of Supreme Court's order directing that the haul road application is not subject to further SEQRA review by the City, such challenge is without merit (see Matter of Gordon v Rush, 100 NY2d 236, 243 [2003]). Respondent's remaining contentions have been considered and are either unavailing or improperly raised for the first time in reply.
The Valley Alliance just now issued the following statement regarding the latest court decision:
Citizens are optimistic about a Thursday ruling by the New York State Supreme Court (Appellate Division, 3rd Judicial Department) in the long-running dispute between A. Colarusso & Sons and the City's Planning Board.
Resolving the latest lawsuit filed by Colarusso during the review, the ruling empowers the Planning Board to either immediately grant, conditionally grant, or deny one of its two applications, concerning the haul road.
In doing so, the court largely overturns a muddled decision earlier ruling by substitute judge Henry Zwack, whose language the appeals court has now modified.
Previously, Colarusso sued the Planning Board to stop its review of the project, but was denied in a stinging 2019 ruling by Justice Melkonian. This new ruling arises from yet another Colarusso lawsuit, which again held up Hudson's review in an attempt to block it completely.
"Throughout this process, Colarusso's legal obstruction has shown that they don't think their project can survive an actual review," said Valley Alliance co-director Peter Jung. "Its lawyers have imposed intolerable burdens on the volunteer Planning Board members."
"Colarusso keeps delaying and complicating everything in an effort to prevent the Planning Board's members from just doing their jobs," continued Jung. "They've also cost the City unnecessary legal fees. It's time for Colarusso to play by the same rules as everyone else."
"Though Greenport already did a superficial review of the haul road, Hudson's planners now have the right to reach their own conclusions, based on the existing record," added co-director Sam Pratt. "Hudson has never been bound by Greenport's much laxer rules and standards, no matter how many times Colarusso sues."
The new ruling also appears to leave in place the Board's ability to continue its thorough review of the second application, concerning dock operations.
The Valley Alliance has argued for the past 17 years that neither a "temporary" truck route through downtown Hudson nor an alternative route through the South Bay is good for the Waterfront's economic, social, cultural or environmental future. In the current dispute, over 1,000 citizens have called for both of those destructive uses to be denied, in favor of more widespread benefits to the whole community instead of a single company.
Before the current controversy, Jung and Pratt led the successful fight in 1999 to prevent a dry cleaning waste plant at the site of the Basilica, and the battle in 1998-2005 to stop the coal-fired St. Lawrence Cement project, which also would have involved a large dock facility.
"Again and again, going back to the 1980s or even earlier, diverse groups of local citizens have fought to make the Waterfront a vibrant center of Hudson civic life," recalled Pratt. "It is time for the goals of the forward-thinking 2005 ruling by the Department of State to finally be enacted, removing the industrial threats of noise, pollution and traffic, so that both real jobs and real fun can be had by all.". . .

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Down Memory Lane

At Tuesday night's Common Council meeting, during the discussion of the resolution authorizing Councilmember Margaret Morris to send a letter to the NYS Department of Transportation requesting changes to the truck route, Councilmember Ryan Wallace (Third Ward) suggested that, since most of the trucks passing through Hudson where going from one point in Greenport to another point in Greenport, and Greenport elected officials seemed unwilling to discuss solutions to the problem, Hudson residents and public officials should "show up en masse at a Greenport Town Board meeting," to demand cooperation and change. This suggestion brought me back to my own experience on the Common Council. 

Back in 2006-2007, the Greenport Planning Board was considering a proposal from Widewaters for the retail center now known as Greenport Commons--where Walmart, Lowe's, Kohl's, and other big boxes are located. In January 2007, I, then serving as an alderman representing the First Ward, introduced a resolution urging the Greenport Planning Board to issue a positive declaration on the project, thus triggering a full SEQRA review. The full text of that resolution follows and can be found here in the minutes of the Common Council.


WHEREAS, a proposal for a 565,000 square foot shopping mall to be constructed by the Widewaters Group on Route 9 is currently before the Planning Board of the Town of Greenport; and
WHEREAS, this shopping mall expects to draw customers from a twenty-mile radius of its proposed site on Route 9 near Joslen Boulevard; and
WHEREAS, all traffic traveling to the site from the south and the west across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge must travel by way of Routes 9 and 9G and pass through the City of Hudson; and
WHEREAS, the increased traffic from the trucks making deliveries required for such a retail facility will have significant negative impacts on the quality of life in the City of Hudson, as well as on the city’s infrastructure and its historic buildings; and 
WHEREAS, the cars for shoppers and employees will also significantly impact traffic in the City of Hudson, particularly on Green Street and Harry Howard Avenue and other arteries in the City seen to be “shortcuts” to the site;
and WHEREAS, the traffic study done by The Widewaters Group is inadequate because it studies only a small area of Route 9 immediately adjacent to the proposed site and was done in late August when traffic is traditionally the lightest;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Common Council of the City of Hudson, finds that the traffic impacts from the project are likely to have a significant impact upon the City of Hudson, its infrastructure, historic buildings, and quality of life, and therefore recommends and requests that:
(1) the Planning Board of the Town of Greenport issue a Positive Declaration under SEQRA and direct the applicant to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement; and
(2) the City of Hudson be listed as an “interested agency” in the SEQRA review.
The minutes of the Common Council also record the vote on the resolution.
Ayes: President O’Brien, Aldermen Judd, Osterink, Sterling and Thurston. (908) Nays: Aldermen Donahue, Hughes and Shook. (556)
Back in the day of the weighted vote, 1,011 affirmative votes were required for a resolution to pass. Needless to say, the resolution failed, a full SEQRA review was never done, the Widewaters project was approved, and we in Hudson live with the consequences. Had the resolution passed, who knows? It probably wouldn't have made any difference at all, but then again, it might have.

Common Council Updates: Part 3

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Common Council considered a resolution authorizing Councilmember Margaret Morris (First Ward), chair of the ad hoc Truck Route Committee, to send a letter to the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting changes to the truck routes that pass through Hudson. The resolution was put on the agenda by three councilmembers (Morris, Dewan Sarwar [Second Ward], Mohammed Rony [Second Ward]), because Council president Tom DePietro, who lives on Worth Avenue which could be negatively impacted by one of the requested changes, declined to do so. The letter, which can be found here (scroll past the resolution), makes two requests: that the Route 9G/23B truck route through Hudson be eliminated; that trucks more than 48 feet in length be prohibited from entering the City of Hudson unless they are making deliveries within the City of Hudson.

The letter was accompanied by this map, which shows how trucks go from one point to another in Greenport by passing through Hudson when there are other ways to go.

Donna Streitz, a community member on the ad hoc Truck Route Committee, prepared a six-page document analyzing the impact of eliminating Route 9G/23B as a truck route, using data from the truck study done by MJ Engineering in 2021. That document can also be found here (scroll to the end). Among the conclusions of Streitz's analysis was that eliminating the Route 9G/23B truck route would divert 26 trucks each weekday and 10 trucks each weekend day, but they would not all necessarily be diverted to the Route 9 truck route through Hudson. Some could decide to stay on Route 23 until they get to Route 9H. An important reason for sending the letter and making the request of DOT is that it would trigger a study specifically of the impact eliminating one of the two truck routes through Hudson would have. This seemed to be lost on many members of the Common Council and the public.

Councilmember Vicky Daskaloudi (Fifth Ward) worried about the impact of more truck traffic on Route 9 on Seventh Street Park. Councilmember Ryan Wallace (Third Ward) complained that the effort would punish a part of Hudson that is currently the most economically robust, namely Warren Street above Park Place. Susan Meyer, who lives on Worth Avenue, complained the initiative did nothing to mitigate truck traffic on Worth Avenue but instead increased it. She spoke of her house shaking and reduced property values and concluded, "It's not fair; it's not equitable."   

Jason Foster, who lives on Green Street, where the two truck routes merge and all trucks transiting Hudson pass, pointed out that the access highway program is extremely powerful and predicted it would be extremely hard to eliminate both truck routes through Hudson. He opined, "Bypass is the only solution," and warned, "We run the risk of losing an opportunity."

Nevertheless, Wallace moved to table the resolution, and Councilmember Art Frick (First Ward) seconded it. In the vote that followed, five councilmembers (Theo Anthony [Fourth Ward], Morris, Rony, Sarowar, Malachi Walker [Fourth Ward]) were opposed to tabling the resolution, and five councilmembers (Daskaloudi, Frick, Amber Harris [Third Ward], Dominic Merante [Fifth Ward], Wallace) and Council president DePietro voted in favor of tabling the resolution. After the vote, DePietro commented, "No one's trying to shut this down."

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Common Council Updates: Part 2

There were two resolutions on the agenda for last night's Common Council meeting: one to sell 10-12 Warren Street; the other to sell 429-431 Warren Street

This is the second time the City has attempted to sell the two buildings. In April, the City tried to sell the buildings in a sealed bid auction, setting as the minimum bid the value of each building as determined by an appraisal--$895,000 for 10-12 Warren, and $595,000 for 429-431 Warren. There were no bids for either property.

This time, the buildings are to be sold in a live auction with no minimum bid but a $100,000 penalty if the property is not developed or is sold within three years of taking title. Councilmember Margaret Morris (First Ward) expressed concern about there being no minimum bid, opining, "It is risky for the City." It was speculated that someone could be successful in a live auction with a low ball bid of $50,000, pay the $100,000 penalty, and have a building on Warren Street for $150,000. Council president Tom DePietro suggested language be added to indicate the City reserves the right to reject any and all bids. Crystal Peck, counsel to the Council, said she had to look into the legality of that.

DePietro said many people came to view the buildings during the auction in April but all felt the minimum bids in that auction were too high. In the end, it was decided to table the two resolutions until it was determined if the City can reject a winning bid if it deemed to be too low.

In 2019, when the City held a live auction to sell 427 Warren Street, the former police station which is now Finch, there was a minimum bid set at $300,000. That was the value of the building determined by an appraisal done four years earlier in 2015. There were two bidders vying for the building. The opening bid was the minimum, and the bids increased by $5,000 increments, until the winning bid of $435,000 was cast. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that an appropriate minimum bid could be determined for the two buildings the City is now trying to sell.