Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Classics on Hudson Family Concert

Every so often, an event comes along that makes you wish, if you don't have young children in your life, that you could borrow some for a few hours. Such an event is the concert Classics on Hudson is offering at the Hudson Opera House on Sunday, March 15: Ferdinand and Friends: A Musical Menagerie!

On that day, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Eugenia Zukerman, flute, Helena Baillie, violin, and Ryan Kamm, bass, extend this invitation to families: 
Join Ferdinand the Bull and his raucous coterie of furry and feathered friends in this enchanting  journey through classic tales. Will Peter escape the wolf? Will the goat dance away the snow? Can the elephants keep up with the carnival procession? These colorful creatures will be brought to life with music by Saint-SaĆ«ns, Honegger, Ridout, Prokofiev, and more.
And the very best thing may come after the concert, at the instrument "petting zoo," when kids get the chance to handle a variety of classical and world instruments!

The concert is free, so mark your calendars and plan to be part of this delightful event on Sunday, March 15, at 3 p.m., at the Hudson Opera House.

A Battle of Wits

Last Friday, when the Register-Star reported about the mayor's opposition to the residential parking permit law drafted by the Common Council Legal Committee, the idea for which had originally been his, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, was quoted as saying of the mayor: "The man doesn't understand the constitutional separation of powers. He's dumber than a box of rocks."

Yesterday, at the public hearing on a new law amending the zoning code, the mayor took the opportunity to get in his licks. Speaking with Register-Star reporter John Mason after the hearing that no one attended, Mayor William Hallenbeck is quoted as saying: "This law was sent to me by the Common Council. There doesn't appear to be much opposition to it. I want to review the document, that was created by Chairman John Friedman of the Legal Committee, in its entirety, prior to signing, for any inaccuracies that may exist in it."

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hudson's Thespian Mayors

Last month, on a slow news day, Gossips reported finding an article that appeared in the Columbia Republican on February 9, 1915, about Richard A. Brandon, former mayor of Hudson, who was appearing at the Eltinge Theatre in New York City, in a play called A Man About Town. Checking the list of mayors at City Hall, to find out exactly when Brandon had been the mayor, it was discovered that there had never been a mayor of Hudson named Brandon. The Columbia Republican recounted how Brandon had been recruited to run for mayor in 1896, but from January 1897, when he would have taken office, through April 1899, the mayor of Hudson was Richard A. M. Deeley not Richard A. Brandon.

Columbia County at the End of the Century tells that Richard Arthur Measom Deeley, sometime mayor of Hudson, was born in England, of American parents, in 1861. He was educated in Brussels and "thoroughly mastered the science of brewing in Europe." He came to Hudson, by way of Philadelphia, in 1888 to be the superintendent of the "well known brewing firm of C. H. Evans & Sons." City of Hudson historian, Pat Fenoff provided the clue that connects Deeley and Brandon: Richard A. M. Deeley, in addition to being a brewer and a mayor, was an actor. Can we surmise then that, in his fifties, Deeley took the stage name Brandon to pursue a new career in the theater?

Satisfying our curiosity about the Eltinge Theatre, where Brandon performed, proved more fruitful. The theater, on 42nd Street, was built in 1912. It was designed by Thomas W. Lamb, and it was named for Julian Eltinge, "the top female impersonator of the American stage."

Photo: New York Public Library
Eltinge's Theatre started out as a legitimate theater specializing in light comedies. During the Great Depression, the building was sold and converted into a burlesque theater. In 1942, it became a movie theater, and in 1954, it was renamed the Empire Theatre. In the mid-1980s, the theater was closed and abandoned.

In 1998, the 7.4 million pound historic theater was lifted off its foundation and moved 168 feet to become the western entrance of a giant entertainment complex. The entire interior of the theater is now the lobby and lounge of the 25-screen AMC Empire 25.

The year 1998 provides the segue to Hudson's other thespian mayor, Kenneth G. Cranna, whose acting career, which preceded his term as mayor (2000-2001), flourished in 1997 and 1998. Using the screen name Kenny Cranna, he appeared, in 1997, in a Season 7 episode of Law & Order called "Double Down." His character was Number Four in a police lineup, and he delivered the line: "Move your damn truck, and I'll park somewhere else."

Cranna also appeared in two independent films: Illuminata (1998), directed by John Turturro, in which his role is described as "Scruffy man," and O.K. Garage (1998), starring John Turturro, where he plays "Yuppie #1."

What He Said . . . Then

Yesterday, while doing some fact checking for the post about the weighted vote, I came across an article on Crosswinds that appeared in the Times Union on September 21, 2008. Rick Scalera, who had that year returned to being mayor after a one-term hiatus, was interviewed for the article. Here's what he had to say:
Mayor Richard Scalera said Hudson's once readily available housing has been increasingly purchased by New York City investors. Properties were either leased out and left vacant, or rented at exorbitant rates, he said, which "squeezed out" prospective local residents.
Interestingly, Scalera now works for the Galvan Foundation, which has been accused of creating a shortage of affordable housing in Hudson by buying up buildings, emptying them of tenants, and keeping them vacant for years on end.

State Street Fire: The Aftermath Continued

At 6 a.m. on Monday morning, the GoFundMe campaign to help the families who lost their homes in the fire at 336 and 338 State Street has raised $5,000. Congratulations, Hudson, for this generous show of community! The original goal was $5,000, but considering the enormity of the need, a new goal of $10,000 has been set. Donations of food, clothing, diapers, furniture, and household items can also be delivered to the basement at 331 State Street.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Can't Get Much Worse" . . . Or Can It?

In the past year or so, during and after the recalculation of the weighted vote, there has been a lot of talk about the inequity of Hudson's method of achieving the constitutional standard of one person–one vote. Most of it has to do with the disproportionate amount of power wielded by the aldermen from the Fifth Ward, who each cast votes that are nearly four times more powerful than the votes cast by the aldermen from the First and Fourth wards and almost twice the weight of the votes cast by the aldermen from the Second and Third wards.

All that talk has led to scrutiny of census data and ward boundaries which has only served to make matters worse. First, Stephen Dunn discovered the population figures for 15 South Front Street and 15 North Front Street--the two parts of Hudson Terrace complex south and north of Promenade Hill--had been switched in the data used to calculate the weighted vote. It turns out the population of the First Ward is even smaller than it was believed to be, and the votes of the First Ward aldermen should be even less powerful than they are now.

Then it was discovered the ward boundary between the Fourth and Fifth wards in the area of Harry Howard Avenue was incorrect. A couple of problems came to light here. First, although the ward map disseminated by the Board of Elections shows Harry Howard Avenue as the boundary, the charter indicates that the ward boundary is the continuation of North Fifth Street. Second, although the residents of Crosswinds, a housing complex completed in 2008, were voting in the Fourth Ward, they were being counted in the Fifth Ward, thus increasing the power of the Fifth Ward aldermen--representatives for whom the residents of Crosswinds had not voted.

Now there is a new discovery: the ward boundary between the Third and Fifth wards out by the cemetery is incorrect.

It seems that Columbia Street has been used as the boundary between the Third and Fifth wards when it should have been Columbia Turnpike. As a consequence, all the residents of the houses in the little wedge of land from the point where Columbia Turnpike splits off from Columbia Street just beyond the hospital to the border with Greenport actually belong not in the Third Ward but in the Fifth Ward. This includes the mayor, who once served as Third Ward supervisor.

These discoveries underscore the need to revisit and redraw the ward boundaries for the purpose of establishing election districts of equal population.

The Fifth Ward was created in 1886, when much of that area the comprised the Fifth Ward was taken up by the fairgrounds. The Fifth Ward represented a lot of acreage but very little population.

When the weighted vote system was adopted back in 1975, Hudson was at the height of urban renewal. Ten years earlier, the 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan had assessed only the neighborhoods that make up up the Fifth Ward--the High School Neighborhood and the Oakdale Neighborhood--as being without serious problems for which rehabilitation and redevelopment were recommended. One can see how people in the less admirable neighborhoods--those seen as contributing to Hudson's reputation for having "the worst housing stock in all of New York State"--might have acquiesced to the representatives of the Fifth Ward having the greatest power in the City's legislative body, but in truth, the differences in the weighted vote were not that great in 1975. As this chart shows, they only became remarkably imbalanced in the most recent adjustment, giving the aldermen from the Fifth Ward just shy of 72 percent of the votes needed to achieve a simple majority.

The Common Council Legal Committee is still waiting for an opinion from former city attorney Daniel Tuczinski on whether or not Hudson's weighted vote system is unconstitutional, but logic suggests that the time has come to make the changes needed to ensure that all Hudson residents have equitable representation on the Common Council.

State Street Fire: The Aftermath

Several families lost their homes and all their belongings as a consequence of the fire that severely damaged the houses at 336 and 338 State Street last night. To assist them, a GoFundMe campaign has been established to raise money for the families and a drop-off location is being prepared in the basement of 331 State Street, which will be ready tomorrow, to receive donations of clothing, diapers, food, furniture, and household goods.

Fire on State Street

Late on Saturday night, there was a major fire on State Street.

Photo: Scott Baldinger
The two houses involved--336 and 338--both suffered major damage. Word from the scene is that the people living in the houses got out safely. The Register-Star reports that a fire fighter was treated at the scene for nausea, and Animalkind was called in to rescue a cat: "Two Hudson homes ignite."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spread the Word

As regular Gossips readers know, this year marks the sesquicentennial of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Happening less than two weeks after the fall of Richmond and less than a week after General Robert E. Lee's surrender, the first presidential assassination plunged the country into mourning and gloom, fear and desolation.
For people who lived along its route, the train bearing the body of the slain president was the focal point for demonstrations of mourning. The citizens of Hudson went all out in their preparations for the funeral train, which traveled the New York-to-Albany leg of the journey on April 25, even though they must have known the train would only stop here for a few minutes. What transpired on that night was recorded by Assistant Adjutant General Edward Davis Townsend, the commander of the funeral train:
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in white, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President’s coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. This whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night.
On Saturday, April 25, at the very time that the funeral train arrived in Hudson 150 years ago, the scene described by Townsend will be re-created. Playing a major role in the commemorative event is the "band of young women dressed in white." On Saturday, March 7, Mary Deyerle Hack, of Diamond Opera Theater, who will be rehearsing and conducting the choir of female voices, is holding auditions to find 35 female singers, to represent the 35 states in the Union in 1865, to make up the band.

All those who are part of the band get to wear, for the re-creation, this fabulous costume, inspired by period engravings and designed by Stephanie Monseu of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.


The Risk Across the River

Gossips' post on Thursday about the risks of transporting crude oil by rail inspired Neal Van Deusen, a former chief of the Hudson Fire Department, to share this picture, taken last October in Catskill.

Fire trucks and fire fighters from two Hudson companies--Hoysradt Hose & Chemical and Rogers Hose--are on the ground, assisting the Catskill Fire Department at a structure fire just off Route 9W, while a train of tanker cars passes overhead.

Ear to the Ground

Gossips missed the Common Council Police Committee meeting last Monday and hence missed the news that a canine unit is returning to the Hudson Police Department. Hudson used to have a canine unit, but in 2006 the Common Council voted to remove the funds for the canine unit from the city budget. Among the reasons for this action at the time were: the canine unit was causing costly scheduling problems for the HPD; the dogs were not being used, as was hoped, to prevent people from bringing drugs into the city by train (it was maintained that this could not be done because people had to put their bags down voluntarily for the dogs to sniff); the county sheriff and state police had canine units that could be called in when and if they were needed.

Nine years later, all the problems and constraints seem to have disappeared--at least, the cost of a canine unit to the City has. The word is that the new canine unit will be funded by the Richard & Terez Abatecola Foundation.

Friday, February 27, 2015

MAI Update

There's an article today in Bloomberg Business that summarizes Marina Abramovic's career and reviews her current situation vis a vis the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI), which is hoped will someday open in the old Community Theater building at the corner of Columbia and Seventh streets: "The World's Most Famous Performance Artist Needs to Make Real Money."

Thanks to Seth Rogovoy for bringing this to our attention

HPC Hears from the Public

This morning at 10 a.m., the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed design for 701 Union Street, the metal building constructed in 1977 to be an auto parts store which is now being transformed into the Hudson City Police and Court Center.

Rick Rector, chair of the HPC, began the public hearing by explaining that the commission's concern was with the compatibility of the design and the materials with the surrounding neighborhood and reminded the commission members that their role in the public hearing was to "listen and learn." He made it clear that the public hearing would last no more than an hour, but it was over in far less time than that.

Richard Franklin, the architect for the project, was on hand to present the plans to the HPC. He began by saying it had been "a fascinating project to be involved in." He spoke of the complexity that needed to be incorporated into the interior design and noted that the building sits below street level. The goal, he explained, was "to uplift it and give it some presence." The use of metal paneling made it easier to utilize the metal panel system of the existing building, and the metal "parapet" proposed was an inexpensive way to increase the building's height.

Franklin said he had "always been interested in the way the roofs in the area were configured" and spoke of the proposed design as "contextualizing" the building into the existing neighborhood.

Although, it had been reported that there were "many residents who are not happy with the exterior design of what this building will look like" and there were a fair number of people in attendance, only two people made comments, and both were positive. Sarah Sterling, supervisor for the First Ward, acknowledged "all the complexity of meshing the police and court" and congratulated everyone involved. She expressed the opinion that she liked the design and said the architect had done "a great job with what was there." Nicole Vidor echoed Sterling's comments, calling the design "an extremely handsome building." Had the public hearing gone on a bit longer, Gossips might have opined that the building was a textbook example of both adaptive reuse and compatibility of modernity with historic surroundings.

When the public hearing was over, the HPC resumed its discussion of the building. Some members asked questions that seemed less than relevant to the review at hand. Peggy Polenberg wanted to know about lighting on the site and how people entered the building; David Voorhees wondered about snow on the roof. A germane comment was made by Miranda Barry, who lives in the neighborhood and confessed her personal interest in the building and its appearance. She commended Franklin for "making the effort to incorporate elements of existing architecture" into the design and called it a "really good job."

The HPC then voted unanimously to give the design its blessing.

Mayor vs. Council . . . Again

On Wednesday, the Common Council Legal Committee voted unanimously (of those present) to move forward the plan to introduce resident parking permits in the area around Columbia Memorial Hospital. This was reported yesterday in the Register-Star: "Legal committee OKs bigger parking plan." Today, the Register-Star reports that the mayor has announced he will oppose the revisions made to the plan, originally his, by the Legal Committee: "Mayor, committee vie on parking plans."

The mayor takes issue with the additional streets included in the plan by the Legal Committee, maintaining that these "were not part of the problem." According to the article, "Hallenbeck said the extended area covered by the plan 'causes a problem for the hospital, not to have any [on-street] parking for its employees.'"

On Wednesday, Claudia DeStefano, who lives on McKinstry Place and has been closely monitoring the progress of this law, even though, as she regularly reminds the Legal Committee, it doesn't affect her because she has a driveway, observed that "the scope of the area is humongous from the original" and wanted to know why. Alderman John Friedman, who chairs the Legal Committee, explained, "Exporting a problem from one area to another doesn't solve the problem," and pointed out that the affected area now extends "two blocks in all directions" from the hospital.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hudson on the TV News

On Tuesday, Hudson made the evening news again--this time on CBS Channel 6. The story featured Chief Ed Moore of the Hudson Police Department, warning of the dangers of walking on the frozen Hudson River: "Stay off the ice!"

There Shall Be No Ice Skating This Year

Sad but true, although the ice on the Hudson River is reported to be 16 inches thick, there is no place in Hudson where the public can skate and probably will be none this winter.

As reported last month, snow has not been cleared from the ice on Oakdale Lake to allow skating because the City's liability insurance does not cover ice skating on open water. At last night's Public Works Committee meeting, Gossips asked about the progress on Plan B: to turn the basketball court at Oakdale into a skating rink. Rob Perry, superintendent of Public Works, reported that the white tarp they had been waiting for had finally arrived, but by the time it did, the future rink was covered by several inches of snow and the Department of Public Works was fully engaged clearing snow from the streets of Hudson.

When asked by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) about the ice at the sides of streets, separating the sidewalk from the roadway and presenting a treacherous barrier for pedestrians, Perry said there was nothing that could be done. "It will be there," said Perry, "until Nature takes it away."

More About Those "Bomb Trains" Passing By

Last week, a train carrying 3 million gallons of crude oil--very likely one that had already traveled through the Hudson Valley--derailed in West Virginia. Nineteen tanker cars slammed into each other and caught fire. A nearby house burned. Hundreds of families had to be evacuated when they lost their water and electricity. And oil spilled into a tributary of the Kanawha River.

Last night, Dave Davies, substituting this week for Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, interviewed Marcus Stern, an investigative reporter who has spent the past year studying the risks of transporting crude oil by train throughout the country. If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to the interview online: "A Hard Look at the Risks of Transporting Oil on Rail Tanker Cars."

The Tyranny of Aging

Gossips reader Chloe Zerwick, whose comment on an article about ageism in our society appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago, has now published a post on the topic on imby.com: "The ageism of dinner parties." 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Can It Be? The Study Begins

In December, Gossips reported that the Common Council had passed a resolution "authorizing the mayor to 'execute all necessary documents to engage Saratoga Associates to implement the Redevelopment Analysis and Master Plan for a Multi-Use Waterfront Building.'" The building in question is one of the last surviving historic industrial structures on the waterfront: the Dunn building, originally part of the Hudson Coal Gasification Works.

Gossips learned yesterday that the signed contract for the project had been returned to Saratoga Associates and work will begin any day now. The study is expected to take six months. Saratoga Associates has subcontracted with Jennifer Schwartz Berky to handle the planning aspect of the project.