Friday, October 31, 2014

Register-Star Reports on the Park Survey

Last Friday, Gossips reported the results of the Seventh Street Park Survey. Today, the Register-Star reports the same information: "Survey: Restored fountain tops 7th St. Park wish list." John Mason's article, however, includes something more: an account of the meeting at which Sheena Salvino presented the results to the HCDPA board. 

It seems the mayor doubts the reliability of the data because a link to the online survey had been provided on The Gossips of Rivertown. "There could be influence here," the mayor is quoted is saying. "A survey is a funny thing, if it's not done while you're sitting with someone. You mention Gossips of Rivertown who is preaching (to a readership) who believe in the same things its creator believes in, while there are many people who don't believe in the same things." He went on to tell Salvina and Branda Maholtz, "I'm not faulting you. I'm just trying to figure out why this passion with historic significance."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Some Good News for Viewsheds

The Times Union reports that the Federal Communication Commission decided against adopting a rule that would give automatic approval to the expansion of cell towers: "FCC backs scenic vistas."

The Sierra Club Endorses

Yesterday, Andi Weiss Bartczak, political chair for the Mid-Hudson Group, announced the Sierra Club's endorsements of candidates running for office in the Hudson Valley. The endorsed candidates that will appear on our ballot here in Hudson are Didi Barrett, running for re-election in the 106th Assembly District, and Sean Eldridge, running in the 19th Congressional District.

The other candidates endorsed by the Sierra Club are Kevin Cahill, 103rd Assembly District; Frank Skartados, 104th Assembly District; and Terry Gipson, 41st Senate District.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Measuring the Impact of Heritage Tourism

A study was released this month called The Economic Importance of the Great Estates Historic Sites & Parks. It was done by the consulting firm Urbanomics, Inc., working with the Taconic Division of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. Twelve sites were included in the study: five--Mills Norrie State Park, Staatsburgh State Historic Site (Mills Mansion), Wilderstein, Montgomery Place, and Clermont--located within the Hudson River Historic District; five--Locust Grove, Walkway Over the Hudson, the Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Val-Kill, and the Vanderbilt Mansion--located south of the Hudson River Historic District; and two--Olana and the Thomas Cole House--located north of the historic district. 

Comparing attendance at the sites over a ten-year period, the study shows a dramatic increase from 2009 to 2010--an increase that continues. 

The study analyzes the impact on the local economy from four sources--employment and employee compensation, non-salary operational expenditures, capital expenditures, and non-local and overnight visitor spending--and offers this summary:
Collectively, the four measurable economic benefits of the twelve Great Estates and their support groups amounted to $65 million positive effect on the local economy. This, in turn, generated roughly a $2 million increase in local sales tax revenues.
You can review the entire study here.

The Architect for 701 Union Street

Hudson has had its share of notable architects who have designed buildings in the city--among them, Alexander Jackson Davis, who refitted and expanded Dr. Oliver Bronson's house and also John Gaul's house; Marcus Reynolds, who designed a mansion for Morgan Jones, inspired by Dutch and Jacobean buildings that struck his client's fancy while traveling in Europe; Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore, who took time out from working on Grand Central Station to design a new courthouse for Columbia County and later designed a new building for the Hudson City Savings Institution; R. H. Shreve and William Lamb, who designed a new building for Farmers National Bank the year before they began their most famous project: the Empire State Building; Edgar Tafel, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the rectory and offices for Christ Church Episcopal.

Now another noteworthy architect is working in Hudson, on what may seem to be an unlikely project: the adaptive reuse of 701 Union Street as the police and city court building.

The architect working on the police and court building is Richard Franklin, principal of Franklin Associates, Architects/Planners, who was awarded the project, as city regulations require, because he submitted the lowest bid.

Photo: St. Louis American
Franklin was the first African American to graduate from the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. Before forming his own architectural firm in 2011, he was an associate partner with Davis Brody Bond, where he was involved in such high profile projects as the restoration of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, the construction phase of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and the design for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.

Photo: Allan Tannenbaum-Pool|Getty Images
Two weeks ago, Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), who is the point man on the Council for the police and court project, told Gossips that the final design for the new facade of 701 Union Street, which is different from the preliminary drawing done by John O'Connell, is now getting some fine tuning. He expects that a "final iteration" will soon be ready for display at City Hall. Haddad also indicated that the design will be submitted for review by the Historic Preservation Commission.

At the informal Common Council meeting on October 14, Haddad reported that the architect is preparing the bid documents for the project and bids are expected to be in before the new year. The projected completion date for the new police and court building is September 2015.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Turn Your Radios On

Tomorrow morning--Wednesday, October 29--on @Issue on WGXC, Victor Mendolia and Debora Gilbert will interview Assemblymember Didi Barrett and Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins. The show begins at 10 a.m. and can be heard at 90.7 FM or online at

In Your Face Satellite Dishes

Last week, three Direct TV satellite dishes were installed on two houses in the 500 block of Union Street--one on one house, two on the other. They were installed on the porches, at the level of the porch railings. Absolutely no effort was made to conceal them from view. The installer didn't even have to climb a ladder.

The houses on which these dishes were mounted are located in a locally designated historic district. Chapter 169-5 of the city code states very clearly:
A certificate of appropriateness is required to carry out any exterior alteration, additions, restoration, reconstruction, or moving of a landmark or property within an historic district, or to make any material change in the appearance of such a property or its windows, or to install or move a satellite dish.
There is no way a certificate of appropriateness was granted to the placement of these satellite dishes.

This is not the first time satellite dishes have been installed without a certificate of appropriateness, but it is certainly the most offensive example. Perhaps it's time for the code enforcement office to send a copy of the map of the historic districts in Hudson and notify the companies that install satellite dishes that they are in violation of city code if a dish is installed in a historic district without a certificate of appropriateness.

In the Small Hours of the Morning in Hudson

In the aftermath of some destructive rowdiness outside Wunderbar in September, the Common Council began mulling the question of how to deal with late night disorderly, often dangerous and destructive conduct near and presumably emanating from particular bars in the city. On Monday night, police commissioner Gary Graziano and HPD chief Ed Moore were at the Police Committee meeting, armed with information and statistics that had been requested by the Council. 

Graziano had been asked how much it would cost the City to have two more officers on duty from midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. (Currently, there are only three officers on duty through the night in Hudson.) His answer was $48,880--$47 an hour (the officers would have to be paid overtime) x 5 hours a night x 2 nights a week x 2 officers x 52 weeks a year.

Moore offered statistics about the number of times the police were called to three bars--before and after 2 a.m. The statistics cover the first ten months of 2014, from January 1 through October 26.

Moore also reported, based on police records, that "large disturbances seem to happen more after 2 a.m." and "stabbings, shootings, and fights seem to happen after 2 a.m."

Barbara Walthour, owner of the Savoia, objected to Moore's numbers, saying he was claiming there were 12 more calls to the Savoia than there were when the police chief reviewed the numbers with her previously. Moore explained that conversation took place in July, and there had been 12 calls to the Savoia since July. Walthour tried to dismiss the evidence, saying the police had been summoned by "the lady at the corner who calls all the time." Later, a man who had accompanied Walthour to the Police Committee meeting insisted, "The same person who doesn't want the Savoia to be there is making the calls to the police."

Walthour's companion at the meeting, identified in the Register-Star as James Rose, described a pattern of late night behavior. "The crowd from Wunderbar [which closes at 2 a.m.] come to the Savoia looking for food." Whereas the restaurants in Hudson typically close their kitchens and stop serving food at 9:30 or 10 p.m., the Savoia doesn't start serving chicken wings and other bar food until 11 p.m. Chief Moore talked about "travel points": "If one place closes at 2 a.m. and another stays open, [between those two points] is where things get broken." He cited planters, flowerpots, and car windows. He also talked about "loud gatherings, assaults, and fights . . . happening outside the bars." 

Walthour countered by saying, "I can't do anything more than I've already done. . . . What happens happens after they leave my establishment." Mayor William Hallenbeck corroborated Walthour's claim: "The Walthours have always been cognizant of the need to run a safe establishment." In contrast, Council president Don Moore told Walthour toward the end of the meeting, sarcastically and with a hint of frustration, "You've done a very good job of explaining why none of this is your responsibility."   

Down in the Valley Designs
Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) made the point that Hudson's main economic engine is now tourism. "We cannot have shootings in the street, and we can't have people fighting in the streets." Friedman's comments reinforced those made by Bob Rasner, the proprietor of a bed and breakfast on the 200 block of Union Street, who told how he had reassured guests on Friday when they checked in that it was safe to walk on Warren Street at night only to have them read the next day that overnight there had been a shooting only a couple of blocks away.

It was revealed that the victim of the shooting early Saturday morning reportedly told police he had been drinking at the Savoia, and there is allegedly evidence that he had been at Wunderbar earlier that night, but Alderman David Marston (First Ward), chair of the Police Committee, cautioned, "It is not a productive path to connect shootings and the bars." Later, Rasner told of his experience in two other communities where, he reported, "business went away overnight when someone was shot." When he called the current situation in Hudson "a ticking time bomb," Hallenbeck cut him off. "You're making it sound like you can't walk on the street," Hallenbeck protested. He spoke of reforms made in the police department during his administration and told Rasner that, although he often agreed with him, in this instance, he rejected what he was saying.

On the topic of police reform and crime, Chief Moore reported that a comparison of crime statistics for 2013 and 2014 shows that the number of crimes is trending downward, but he also noted that the severity of crime is escalating and suggested that there is a correlation between late night drinking and the severity of crime. 

No decision has yet been made about imposing a 2 a.m. closing on all bars in Hudson. Marston noted that only 36 percent of the police calls to bars occurred after 2 a.m. He also asked rhetorically, "Do two bars warrant a change that affects all bars?" 

Alana Hauptmann, proprietor of the Red Dot, pointed out that there had been no police calls to the Red Dot in 2014, and, in the fifteen years the bar and restaurant has existed, "it's rare that we ever had to call the police." She argued that it was unfair to require all bars to close at 2 a.m. when only two bars were problematic. "We don't stay open until 4 a.m. every night," said Hauptmann, "but when we do, that's when we make money."

Tony Stone, co-owner of Basilica Hudson, suggested that having all the bars close at 2 a.m. might bring new problems. "If all the bars closed at the same time," he mused, "it might be more dangerous if a hundred intoxicated people were on the streets at the same time."

Chief Moore noted that bar owners in Hudson used to have an association to discuss problems and brainstorm solutions, implying that such an organization might be useful again. In answer to a question from Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), Moore confirmed that the police department had filed a report about the Savoia with the New York State Liquor Authority and were awaiting a response.

The Future of the Half Moon

This topic was introduced in a comment, but it is important enough to have its own post. We are all familiar with the replica Half Moon. It docked here for four days in 2009 as the centerpiece of Hudson's celebration of the Quadricentennial, marking the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of the river that bears his name.

Henry Hudson Riverfront Park was dedicated during Hudson's Namesake Celebration, while the Half Moon was moored at the city dock. In his remarks at the dedication, Rick Scalera, then mayor of Hudson, articulated this vision for the waterfront:
While reminding us of the past, this great Quadricentennial can give us glimpses into the future and point to creative new windows of opportunity. For instance, just imagine that instead of being here for only a few days, the Half Moon had good reason to spend more time here--coming and going, as if from a home port. Imagine one of the three slips on the Henry Hudson Park grounds being re-engineered to comfortably accommodate historic vessels like the Half Moon. Imagine the old brick warehouse building there just across Water Street, as the Henry Hudson Maritime Museum, a perfect land-based complement to the floating museum that is the Half Moon. And finally, imagine what something like this could mean for Hudson and its waterfront: a powerful new magnet for tourism, education, recreation, investment, commerce and quality of life. Just an idea, born of the river . . . that always has been, and always will be . . . a key to our future.
This vision for the waterfront was recalled a year later by several speakers at the public hearing on the draft LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) and draft GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement). Since then, though, the hope has been kept alive only in the hearts of a few.

In April, the hope that Hudson might become the home port for the Half Moon seemed dashed when Jennifer Schwartz Berky, the conservation architect and urban planner who was working with Damara Stolfo and Sarah Dibben on the Hudson Praxis project, stated matter-of-factly, in an interview with Ellen Thurston on WGXC's Thursday Afternoon Show, that Troy was going to be the Half Moon's home port. That turned out to be something of an overstatement, but now the news is worse. 

On October 9, the Times Union reported that the Half Moon may leave New York and indeed the New World: "Half Moon replica may have to leave New York." Captain of the Half Moon, William "Chip" Reynolds is quoted in the article as saying, "In spite of many efforts, we haven't had any serious response by any entities to recognize that we need a permanent facility." As a consequence, the Half Moon's home port could end up being in the Netherlands. 

The director of the Westfries Museum, in Hoorn, a city north of Amsterdam, wants to buy the Half Moon and relocate it there. Officials in Hoorn are expected to vote on a proposal to acquire the Half Moon before the year is out. Meanwhile, Reynolds hopes the Half Moon can stay in New York. The Times Union reports: "Though many people have raised the possibility of a full-time home for the ship, nothing has happened, he said. 'The community has a very strong interest and when we traveled, for example, to any of these communities, there's always a very high visibility. . . . It brings people down to the waterfront,' said Reynolds."

What kind of commitment would it take for Hudson to pursue the vision articulated five years ago and put itself forward seriously as the home port for the Half Moon? Or has this ship really sailed?


Monday, October 27, 2014

Don't Forget to Vote

A week from tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4, is Election Day. The polls are open for fifteen hours on that day, from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m., so there is plenty of time to get to your polling place and vote. If you don't know your polling place, you can find it here.

If you cannot be here next Tuesday to vote at the polls, there are other ways to carry out your civic duty. The simplest is over-the-counter voting. Just present yourself at the Board of Elections office at 401 State Street and ask to vote. They will give you a ballot, and you will fill it out right there and return it to them. The opportunity for over-the-counter voting is available every day this week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; on Saturday, November 1, from 9 a.m. until noon; and on Monday, November 3, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you are unable to get to the Board of Elections before Election Day or to the polls on Election Day, you can download an application for an absentee ballot here. Fill it out, authorizing a friend to pick up your ballot, and ask that friend to deliver the application to the Board of Elections for you. (You can also mail the application to the BOE, but it must be postmarked by tomorrow, October 28.) Once you have your ballot and have filled it out, a friend can deliver it back to the Board of Elections for you, or you can mail it. If you mail it, it must be postmarked by November 3. The Board of Elections recommends that you take your ballot to the post office and ask them to hand cancel it. Then check the post mark to be sure it is legible. If the postmark cannot be read, your ballot will not be counted.

Design Recognition for Our Courthouse

Lothrop Associates, the architects for the expansion and the addition of a handicapped accessible ramp at the Columbia County Courthouse, announced today that the project has been selected to receive an AIA Westchester Hudson Valley 2014 Design Award Citation for "accessible architecture to an historic building."

The courthouse, which has been closed for almost two years during the construction, is expected to reopen next month. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for Friday, November 14, at 2 p.m.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nightlife Quality of Life

At the Legal Committee meeting in September, there was much discussion about how to deal with late night rowdiness emanating from certain drinking establishments in the city. The topic was on the Legal Committee's agenda again last week, but there was little discussion. Instead the information was shared that the owners of two bars that have been identified as late night trouble spots are expected to attend the Police Committee meeting on Monday, October 27. Their presence at the meeting, together with news of the shooting that took place on the north side of Warren Street between First and Second streets in the small hours of Saturday morning, guarantees that nightlife quality of life will be a major topic at the Police Committee meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Gathering at the River

On Saturday, Joan Davidson invited some people to gather on the banks of the Hudson River at Midwood to celebrate the restoration of two century-old icons. The first icon is an agricultural corn crib that was moved from nearby Southwood to its current location on the river's edge at Midwood and is being re-imagined as a boathouse. The second icon is the S.S. Columbia, a National Historic Landmark vessel and America's oldest surviving passenger steamer.

Built in 1902, Columbia is the oldest and grandest of only two surviving examples of the collaboration of two key figures during the Golden Age of Steam: naval architect Frank Kirby and painter/designer Louis O. Keil. Kirby developed an international reputation as an engineering innovator. Keil led a workshop of artists and artisans who worked to make the steamboats palatial and aesthetically pleasing. Over thirty years of working together, Kirby and Keil created some of the great Hudson River Day Line steamboats: Hendrick Hudson, Washington Irving, and Robert Fulton. Although the S.S. Columbia originally sailed on the Great Lakes, it has a connection to the Hudson River, and the plan is to bring Columbia to New York to be fully restored and put into service on the Hudson River, carrying passengers from New York City to communities along the river.

On September 18, Columbia was moved from the Rouge River in Detroit, where it had been moored for more than a decade, to a shipyard in Toledo, where it is now in dry dock and where work has begun on the hull. 

It is anticipated that Columbia will make the journey to New York in August 2015, traveling in tow from the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean, then down the East Coast to New York Harbor and on up the Hudson River to Kingston, where the restoration will continue. 

Hudson needs to get ready for the revival of historic water transportation on the Hudson in order not to miss the boat on this important initiative to promote heritage tourism.

The photographs of Columbia en route to Toledo and in dry dock are from the blog at, where you can follow the process of the project. The historic photograph shows the Alexander Hamilton at the Hudson waterfront.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Of Interest

Yesterday, the editorial board of the New York Times published its choices in Congressional races for districts in and near New York City. The board's choice for District 19--the Hudson Valley and the Catskills--was Sean Eldridge.

Another Debate

Two weeks ago, incumbent state senator Kathy Marchione abruptedly withdrew from a debate to be held the next evening in Saratoga Springs because, she explained, it was "too far of a drive." 

On Tuesday, October 28--just one week before the election--there is another debate, a League of Women Voters Candidate Forum, scheduled to take place at the Brunswick Community Center on Keyes Lane in Brunswick, New York. The event, which brings together Marchione and challenger Brian Howard, begins at 7 p.m.