Thursday, July 2, 2015

Keeping Up With Officer Miller

Gossips admits a fascination with Officer Miller, whose name appeared daily in newspapers for the days leading up to the Fourth of July holiday in 1915. This day a hundred years ago was no exception. On July 2, 1915, Office Miller was mentioned in a report about a landlord-tenant dispute on Columbia Street that escalated into fisticuffs.


His Work Is Done . . . at DEC

On Wednesday, two days after the ban on fracking in New York State was enacted, it was reported that Joe Martens was stepping down as the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Martens, who before becoming DEC commissioner in 2011 was the president of Open Space Institute, will return to OSI as a consultant, focusing on national climate change policy. 

Photo: Dan McDonough, Legislative Gazette
Marc Gerstman, who is Martens' executive deputy at DEC, will serve as acting commissioner until Governor Cuomo appoints Martens' successor. It will be remembered by some that Gerstman served as the attorney for the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition during the epic battle against St. Lawrence Cement and its plan to build the world's largest coal-fired cement plant just across the border in Greenport. The picture above shows Gerstman and Martens at an Assembly hearing on fracking in 2011.

How Does HCSD Compare? Part 5

Today, the Albany Business Review published its rankings for high schools in the Capital Region. Hudson Junior/Senior High School, which ranked 86 out of 92 when compared with other middle schools in the region, ranked 76 out of 85 when compared with other high schools.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fantasy and Reality

The problem with having a movie being made in our city, aside from having to deal occasionally with parking spaces being condoned off, access to shops blocked, and traffic diverted, is that the illusion being created for the film can sometimes be mistaken for reality. Yesterday, it was the transformation of what used to be Lisa Marie Beauty Salon into a funky video store, worthy of Hudson twenty or more years ago.

Photo: Drusilla Kehl

Today, it was the collapse of a building at 406 Warren Street.

Photo: Deborah Olin

Realistic as the scene above appears, it's all only make-believe. The building that stood at 406 Warren, and probably had since the latter part of the 18th century, was demolished in 2006.

A New Development on the Political Scene

This morning, Nick Haddad, alderman from the First Ward, spoke with Tom Roe on WGXC and shared his thoughts about the Hudson City Democratic Committee, the body that chose to make endorsements in the races for mayor and Common Council president instead of allowing the Democrats of Hudson to choose, in a primary, the candidates they want to to represent them in November. Haddad was one of the people seeking to be the Democrats' candidate for mayor. At the end of the conversation, which can be heard here, Haddad said of his political future, "You may still see me somewhere." Within hours of that broadcast, Haddad informed Gossips of his intention to retain the Council seat he now holds, challenging the two candidates, Rick Rector and Michael O'Hara, who have been endorsed by the HCDC. "There is far too much work to complete," Haddad told Gossips, "and the thought of it going south is unbearable."

How Does HCSD Compare? Part 4

The Albany Business Review continues to publish the rankings from its 2015 Schools Report. Today, the category was middle schools. Since the closest thing HCSD has to a middle school, Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, was ranked yesterday with the elementary schools, Hudson Junior/Senior High School was ranked in this category and placed 86 out of 92.

The Ubiquitous Officer Miller

Seeking to learn how Hudson celebrated the Fourth of July a century ago, Gossips has been perusing the Hudson Evening Register for the days leading up to the holiday in 1915. Little has been discovered about civic plans for observing Independence Day, but what has been found is daily mention of Officer Miller. On June 29, 1915, it was reported that Officer Miller arrested a couple deemed undesirable because of their loud talking and strange behavior. On June 30, 1915, it was reported that Officer Miller recovered the flag pole that had been taken from the playground at Franklin Square by "foreigners." 

Today, a hundred years ago, it was reported that Officer Miller had been called the previous night to a house on Mill Street to break up a domestic squabble. The squabblers--husband and wife--appeared in City court the next morning. The newspaper report begins with Judge Fritts observing, "It takes two to make a fight." Gossips picks up the story from there, with the reply to the judge's statement from the defendant, Thomas Lipscome.


Who Will Grow the Pot?

The Albany Business Review reports today that it could be announced as early as Friday which of the forty-three companies that have applied for a license to produce medical marijuana in New York will get one: "New York set to award licenses for medical marijuana producers." One of the companies in the competition is Good Green Group, LLC, which is considering locating their growing facility either in 40,000 square feet of the former L&B building at 99 South Third Street or in the old Roe Jan school building on Route 22 in Copake.

Ear to the Ground

Gossips has received word that two studies of interest to the citizens of Hudson have been completed, but it seems it will be a while before the public learns the results of either one of them.

The first is the outcome of the item by item analysis of the single bid received and the value engineering for the police and court building. 

Common Council president Don Moore confirmed that a preliminary report from architect Richard Franklin and construction manager Joe Rapp had been submitted early last week, but the process would not be complete until the Hudson Police Department and the Office of Court Administration (OCA) have reviewed the report. This review, Moore predicted, will be completed "in the next few weeks." He told Gossips that all involved are "working to stay with the plan submitted to OCA," which calls for "completion of value engineering, discussions and modifications to existing plans and specifications, issuance of amended bond resolution, approval of modified plans and specifications, and issuance of bidding documents" to happen by July 21, 2015.

The second is the feasibility study on the Dunn building at the waterfront, which Saratoga Associates has been working on for the past six months. 

At this very moment, the findings of that study, which will likely determine the future of the only surviving 19th-century industrial building on the riverfront, are being presented to members of the Common Council, the chair of the Planning Board, and others, at a meeting which is not open to the public. Sheena Salvino, executive director of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC), assured Gossips that she was "sure that a public meeting will be held," but such a meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Another Coup for Officer Miller

Yesterday, Gossips shared the report, from the Hudson Evening Register for June 29, 1915, of how Officer Miller took a man and woman into custody for talking loud and acting strange. Today, Gossips discovered an item in the Hudson Evening Register for June 30, 1915, recounting another of Officer Miller's exploits.


Five Years of Schools Reports

To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, "Change comes slowly, if it comes at all." Gossips has been reporting on the Hudson City School District's ranking in the Albany Business Review's annual Schools Report since 2011. In that time, there has not been a meteoric rise, but there has been improvement. Here are HCSD's rankings for the past five years.
2011--83 out of 85
2012--83 out of 85
2013--82 out of 85
2014--80 out of 85
2015--80 out of 85

During the same period, the HCSD budget rose from $40.9 million for 2010-2011 to $45.2 million for 2014-2015. The approved budget for 2015-2016 is $45,477,121.

How Does HCSD Compare? Part 3

The Albany Business Review continues to roll out the rankings from its 2015 Schools Report. Today it is elementary schools. There are quite a few more entries in this category because most school districts have more than one elementary school. Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, HCSD's only school considered to be an elementary school, ranked 168 out of 187.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Reason to Get Up Early Tomorrow

Word has it that tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock the loan committee of Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) will meet prior to the regular monthly CEDC meeting, which begins at 8:30. It is expected that a topic of discussion at the regular meeting will be whether or not to respond to the letter that Pat Grattan, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, sent to CEDC last October, asking the agency to repay the $110,000 the County paid for the 33 acres of land that CEDC is now selling to Ginsberg's Foods for $1. It has been reported that Supervisor Mike Benson (New Lebanon) has convinced the group that the letter is meaningless because Grattan wrote it without the formal consent of the full Board of Supervisors. Benson claims that at least twelve other supervisors (there are twenty-three in all) agree with him.

CEDC meetings take place at 4303 Route 9, in the office building that used to belong to Holcim and now is owned by Colarusso.

Not to Be Missed

The current issue of Metroland has an article about the Dr. Oliver Bronson House: "Riverside Revival." The house is also featured on the magazine's cover.

No Fracking in New York

It's official! There shall be no fracking in the State of New York. Read all about it in the New York Times: "New York Formalizes Ban on Fracking, Ending 7-Year Review." Then read what Riverkeeper and the Preservation League of New York State have to say in praise of this watershed moment for our state.

A Historic Instance of Inhospitable Hudson

Even before Hudson decided to assume the moniker "The Friendly City," there is historic evidence that Hudson was a pretty wide-open and welcoming place. Captain Franklin Ellis, in his History of Columbia County, notes that in 1786--just a year after the city was incorporated--there were eighteen public houses in Hudson and seventeen "individuals and firms . . . licensed to retail all kinds of spirituous liquors." Ellis comments:
This list of public-houses certainly seems large, but its size is perhaps in some measure accounted for by the very large country trade, indicated by the daily arrival of twelve hundred sleighs, the greater part of them coming from a considerable distance."  
In 1905, there were twenty-five hotels in Hudson, many of them located near the train station and the boat landings. And, of course, we've all heard tales of Hudson's notorious red light district, which survived until 1950 and is reputed to have attracted visitors to Hudson from all over the Northeast.

From Diamond Street by Bruce E. Hall
Given all this, it was surprising to find this item in the Hudson Evening Register for June 29, 1915, proving that, despite its Rabelaisian reputation, Hudson of a hundred years ago was still capable of being puritanical and intolerant.


How Does HCSD Compare? Part 2

Since Friday, the Albany Business Review has been rolling out its rankings, in different curriculum areas and categories, of school districts in the Capital Region. This morning, it was math, a component of the academic acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) we hear so much about these days. Of the 84 school districts ranked, the Hudson City School District was at the very bottom: 84.

Update on Lehigh Valley No. 79

Watching from Rick's Point, Gossips saw the tugboat Frances heading upriver to where the barge is moored at 9:36 this morning.

It is expected that the tug and the barge will move on up the river on the west side of Middle Ground Flats, and we will not be able to witness its progress from the Hudson waterfront.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Update on Lehigh Valley No. 79

The historic barge Lehigh Valley No. 79, a.k.a. the Waterfront Museum, has been stranded at Peckham Industries in Athens since Friday. The tugboat Frances left the barge in Athens around noon on Friday, with the expectation that another tug, Margot, would come and take the barge the rest of the way to Waterford, where it will go into dry dock for repairs. But alas, Margot experienced mechanical problems on its way from the Erie Canal and never showed, so Lehigh Valley No. 79 had to wait for Frances to return. Gossips received word late this afternoon that Frances, having finished up its duties on the Atlantic, is now on its way and is expected to arrive in Athens at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The Wildness Around Us

A couple of weeks ago, it was a black bear in Worth Alley. A couple of days ago, it was buzzards in the cemetery.

Photo contributed

Where's the Parade?

The Saturday parades are over for a while. This weekend, the action is at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, where the Hudson River Exchange is drawing an impressive crowd. But two parades, on consecutive weekends in June, inspired Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) to suggest at the last Common Council meeting that parades should happen someplace other than Warren Street, offering Columbia and Union as possible alternatives. His reason was that parades closed down the street for most of the day and prohibited business. 

There is photographic evidence that parades in the past have gone down streets other than Warren. There is this picture from the 1930s of a Fourth of July parade heading west on Columbia Street.

Of course, there's no way of knowing that this parade didn't make a left turn at Park Place and then head down Warren Street just as the Flag Day Parade does today.

Then there are these pictures of a parade in 1917, for the purpose of inspiring support for U.S. involvement in the war in Europe (World War I) and encouraging people to buy Liberty Bonds. In this parade, the marchers are heading west on Union Street.

In this case, too, the fact that the pictures of the parade were taken in the 400 block of Union Street doesn't mean that the parade was confined to Union Street. A parade two years later, in September 1919, which celebrated the victorious end of the Great War and welcomed the veterans home, followed a route that involved almost every street in Hudson. Called the "Monster Street Parade," its route, which began at the Armory, is described in the booklet commemorating the Welcome Home Celebration.
Up State to 6th, over 6th to Gifford Place to Columbia to Green, out Green to Frederick, through Frederick to Columbia to Eighth to Warren, down Warren to 6th, over 6th to Union, down Union to West Court, over West Court to Allen, down Allen to 3rd, over 3rd to Warren, down Warren to Front, down Front to New York Central station where the column will countermarch to Warren, up Warren to Park Place where the column will disband without form.
Such an elaborate route didn't seem to be reserved for celebrating victories in global conflicts. The parade on Memorial Day, which until the advent of the Flag Day parade as we know it today was the biggest parade in Hudson, took a similarly circuitous route. Here is the description of the route of the Memorial Day parade in 1911, as it appeared in the Hudson Evening Register. The parade started at the Armory.
Down State to Fourth, over Fourth to Warren street, up Warren to Park Place, over Park Place to Columbia street, up Columbia street to Cedar Park Cemetery.
On the return from the cemetery the line of march will be down Prospect avenue to Warren street, down Warren to Fifth street, over Fifth to the armory, where the column will be dismissed.
The question of rerouting the parades was taken up at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting last Wednesday night. In introducing the topic, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, mused, "If we decide Columbia Street is where you want the parades to go, the City might spruce up the street." Alderman Tiffany Garriga, who is not on the Legal Committee but was present in the audience, wanted State Street added to the list of possible alternatives, noting that a lot of people live on State Street.

Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) declared that he was "totally against moving the parades off Warren Street," recalling that in his lifetime Warren Street has always been the route of the Flag Day parade. Alderman Rick Rector made the point that there were only three parades that actually shut down Warren Street: Flag Day, Pride, and Inspection Day. Haddad adamantly maintained that, with only sixteen Saturdays in the summer season, losing three was substantial.

Friedman defined the dilemma: wanting to help people "who have invested their life savings in their businesses," while at the same time wanting to showcase Hudson's main street "because it's an architectural masterpiece." Council president Don Moore declared himself in favor of considering rerouting the parades. "Warren Street is our tax base. Protecting our tax base is what it's about. We have a business sector that needs protecting and that needs considering."

No decision on the matter was made, and it was suggested that this was a discussion that required input from business owners as well as the rest of the community.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

In Memoriam: Mary Hallenbeck

The sad news was shared yesterday by one of her close friends that Mary Hallenbeck had died. She had been a nurse, training when there was still at nursing school at Columbia Memorial Hospital, and a teacher of nurses, but those careers were behind her when many of us made her acquaintance. For those who knew Mary in the past two decades, she was a tireless and uncompromising defender of Hudson's architectural heritage and an unabashed champion and acknowledged authority on the area's history and traditions.

Mary served on the Historic Preservation Commission at its beginning. With city historian Pat Fenoff, she took on the task of reviewing and updating the inventory of buildings for Hudson's largest locally designated historic district: the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District, which encompasses most of the south side of the city. She made it her personal mission to get individual local designation for Cavell House, the grand mansion, now the location of New York Oncology and Hematology, which had for many years been the hospital's School of Nursing. When Mary and her husband Charles sold their house on Union Street and moved to Greenport, Mary was indignant that the preservation law's residency requirement forced her to resign from the Historic Preservation Commission. She and Charles would return to Hudson a few years later to be among the last residents of the Home for the Aged before the venerable institution closed early in 2014.

Mary was the historian of the Reformed Dutch Church in Claverack, and, at one time or another, served on the boards of Historic Hudson and the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church. She was also a member of the DAR and the Fortnightly Club.

Mary's devotion to Hudson was steadfast. During the years she lived in Greenport, she would come to Hudson often but religiously every Friday to have tea at Verdigris. One friend remembers that before Mary went back to Greenport, she would always drive the length of Warren Street down to the river, just to check things out and savor the city.

Mary esteemed Hudson's long history, remembered and valued its recent past, and embraced its present. We shall not look upon her like again.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Update on Lehigh Valley No. 79

Lehigh Valley No. 79 will be spending tonight and maybe tomorrow as well in Athens, at Peckham Industries.

It seems the tugboat Margot, which was to take the barge from Athens to Waterford, developed mechanical problems on its way from the Erie Canal, so now Lehigh Valley No. 79 must wait in Athens until the tug Frances can return either tomorrow or Sunday to take the barge the rest of the way to Waterford.

Alice Would Be Proud

So far as I know, Alice B. Neal, a.k.a. Alice Bradley Haven, was the first to call our little city Rivertown, giving the name to the thinly fictionalized Hudson that was the setting for her 1850 novel The Gossips of Rivertown. It is from that novel, of course, that this blog takes its name. Now Rivertown has moved beyond the purely literary realm. The newly restored and refurbished Warren Inn has a new name: Rivertown Lodge. Its new signs were reviewed today by the Historic Preservation Commission.


Does HCSD Compare? Part 1

The Albany Business Review has begun releasing information from its 2015 Schools Report. This morning, the ranking of school districts was published. Of the 85 school districts in the Capital Region, Hudson City School District ranked 80.

History Passing on the River

Later today or possibly tomorrow, Lehigh Valley No. 79, the last wooden barge from the Lighterage Era of transportation, will be floating by us on the river.

Lehigh Valley No. 79 passing the Hoboken Terminal   Photo: Annik La Farge
The 101-year-old barge, which today is the Waterfront Museum, is making the journey from Brooklyn to Waterford, where it will be dry-docked. At 7:50 this morning, the barge and its tug, Francis, passed by Tivoli. The plan is to drop off a stone barge, which is traveling with Lehigh Valley No. 79 and Francis, at Catskill. Then Francis will take the historic barge to Athens, where it will wait for another tug, Margot, to take it the rest of the way to Waterford.

You can learn more about Lehigh Valley No. 79, which is the type of barge known as a "lighter," and the Lighterage Era of transportation on the Hudson River at Annik La Farge's blog Livin' the High Line: "History Sailing by the High Line."

Gratitude to Annik La Farge for providing this story