Friday, August 29, 2014

Set in Stone

More than two years after Staley B. Keith's death, and less than two weeks after his daughter, Alderman Alexis Keith, complained at a Common Council meeting that nothing had been done to fulfill Mayor William Hallenbeck's promise to designate the place where Carroll, Prospect, and Short streets converge with Harry Howard Avenue as "Staley B. Keith Circle," a stone appeared yesterday in the little grassy triangle.

It is expected that a bronze plaque commemorating Keith will be affixed to the stone.

Zephyr Teachout in Ghent

Andrew Cuomo had indicated that he would make his decision about debating Zephyr Teachout by 7 p.m. yesterday, but at 7 p.m. yesterday, when Teachout walked into the Ghent Town Hall and was greeted by a standing room only crowd, there had been no word from the governor.

Teachout's visit to Ghent last evening was her seventh stop that day on a Whistleblower Tour of the state. "We are blowing the whistle on the corruption we see," Teachout explained. "They're calling the shots, and we're calling them out." Applause greeted her every utterance, until she pleaded good-naturedly, "Stop clapping, because I've got some talking to do."

Defining herself as a traditional Democrat, Teachout declared her support of public education, saying that Cuomo has "looted schools to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest New Yorkers." She stated her commitment to maintaining and repairing the state's infrastructure, dissed using Clean Water Act funds to pay for the Tappan Zee Bridge, and spoke of "a public transit system we haven't imagined yet."

Applause erupted again when Teachout declared that, as governor, she would ban fracking in New York. "Our water is everything," she said and then quoted Franklin Roosevelt: "A nation that poisons its soil poisons itself." "FDR is my guy," Teachout explained. 

She called for "reinvesting in the public," objected to "contracting out basic public services," and asserted that "a society should be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members."

"We are in a position to have the upset of the century," Teachout proclaimed, calling it "an uprising of people who want to make history." Recalling that, at the outset, her campaign had been considered impossible, she quoted part and paraphrased the rest of this quote from Mohammed Ali:
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
The Democratic primary for governor and lieutenant governor takes place on Tuesday, September 9. Polls are open from noon until 9 p.m.

Photo by Lee Jamison

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Illusory Hotel

At last month's Common Council Legal Committee meeting, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, announced his intention to invite Richard Cohen, the owner of the buildings on the northeast corner of Warren and Fourth streets, to come to the next Legal Committee meeting to discuss the current condition of the buildings and explain his plans. The term being bandied about at the time was "demolition by neglect."

Cohen was present at the Legal Committee meeting on Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, he had met with assistant city attorney Dan Tuczinski and code enforcement officer Craig Haigh. At the Legal Committee meeting, Tuczinski reviewed the situation at the site: there are questions of public safety; the project is out of compliance with city code; no working plans for the building that have been filed with the code enforcement office or approved by the Historic Preservation Commission or the Planning Board. Tuczinski reported that the City had requested a letter from a structural engineer attesting that the site was safe. Tuczinski also indicated that a building permit was needed for the work now being done at the site, and Cohen had to present the "ultimate plans" for the site to the appropriate City regulatory agencies. "Time is of the essence," said Tuczinski. "It starts with the building office."

When Friedman asked if there was anything he wanted to add, Cohen said that the stabilization process, which he said had taken five years, was almost complete. He predicted that it would be done by the end of September. He indicated that the facade of 8 North Fourth Street would be "completely dismantled" but made assurances that "we are keeping whatever materials we can." 

When asked if he had a plan for "what ultimately will be there," Cohen's response was only that they would be rebuilding the wall at 10 North Fourth Street.

Friedman concluded, "It sounds like everybody's talking, which they were not before." He asked Haigh to prepare a report for the Legal Committee and then declared the project "off the Legal Committee's agenda for now."

Rumor has it that Cohen was recently offered for the buildings an amount, in cash, that most of us could only hope for if we won the lottery, and he turned it down. 

BUMP: Whale Bones at the Basilica

If you missed seeing and experiencing BUMP, the interactive exhibit of whale bones at Basilica Hudson, you have another chance this weekend. The exhibit is open on Saturday and Sunday, August 30 and 31, from 1 to 4 p.m., and on Labor Day--Monday, September 1--as well. 

The installation, made up of bones from three different whales, is the creation of Daniel DenDanto and Frank DenDanto. Daniel is a cetecean biologist; Frank is a light and theater designer. The brothers have collaborated previously on whale skeleton articulations for museums, but BUMP is their first exhibit centered around an educational and interactive fine art approach rather than a traditional scientific assembly.

BUMP was first exhibited at the Maine College of Art and has also been shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Portland, Maine. "Bringing BUMP to Hudson," says Basilica creative director Melissa Auf der Maur, "reflects Basilica's commitment to the rich history of our region and the Hudson whalers, who played a big part in what we love about Hudson today." 

Tomorrow night--Friday, August 29--there is a closing party with "an intimate, early music vibe." The a capppella trio Black Sea Hotel will be performing "electrifying arrangements of Balkan folk songs, interweaving the ancient and the contemporary in a harmonic blend that has been called otherworldly, haunting, even spellbinding." Also performing will be Charlie Looker, whose haunting voice and guitar create music that ranges "from early music to demented covers," and Patrick Higgins, who's been described as an "electrified Bach for the classical guitar." The doors open for the party at 8 p.m., and the music begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Teachout and Wu in Ghent Tonight

If you missed seeing and hearing Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor who is challenging Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary on September 9, when she was in Hudson a few weeks ago, you have another chance tonight, provided you are willing to drive to Ghent.

Tonight at 7 p.m., Teachout and Timothy Wu, who is challenging Kathy Hochul to become lieutenant governor, will be stopping at the Ghent Town Hall on their Whistleblower Tour of the state. Ghent Town Hall is located at 2306 Route 66, on the left, just before the Dairy Queen.

The Democratic Primary is Tuesday, September 9. The polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. If you are not going to be in Hudson on September 9 and need an absentee ballot, click here for an application. Completed applications must be mailed to the Board of Elections seven days before the primary or hand-delivered to the Board of Elections office at 401 State Street on the day before the primary. If you have questions, call 518 828-3115.

The Downside of Economic Vitality

Warren Street is the scene when it comes to commerce in Hudson. It's where people who come to Hudson for a day of shopping and exploring gravitate. It's where the action is. It's understandable then that people with businesses near but not on Warren Street would want a sign on Warren to steer folks in their direction. It's also understandable that in fine weather, when the restaurants set out their sidewalk cafes, the sidewalks get crowded. Then there are the vendors and other alternative forms of retailing that want to be part of the scene. All these issues--the downside of Hudson's success and vitality--were taken up at last night's Legal Committee meeting. John Mason reports on the discussion in today's Register-Star: "City sandwich boards in peril."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Of Interest

The New York Times has endorsed Timothy Wu, a Columbia law professor, for lieutenant governor of New York, not Kathy Hochul, the former congresswoman who is Governor Andrew Cuomo's choice: "Timothy Wu for Lieutenant Governor."

The primary election is on Tuesday, September 9. In Hudson, there are only two Democratic races: for governor and for lieutenant governor. The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m.

Dog Park Progress

The campaign to raise funds for a dog park in Hudson has reached the halfway mark. The goal is to raise $10,000; so far, there is $5,000 in the Hudson Forward Dog Park Fund. Click here to make your contribution and help create a park for our canine citizens.      

Paper Boats on the Hudson

Among the boats built in the Hudson Sloop Club's summer camp program and launched on the river last Friday was this swift and beautiful canoe made from paper.

It turns out that, far from being a bizarre novelty, paper boats, made from a form of papier-mache, were very popular in the latter half of the 19th century. Before there was fiberglass and composite plastic, paper was used to build light and fast racing shells, canoes, and rowboats, and the leading manufacturer of paper boats was E. Waters & Sons, Paper Boat Builders, just up the river in Troy.

You can learn much more about the Waters paper boat factory and about paper boats in general at an amazing website called Ken's Paper Boat Page. This is all by way of introducing the news that a flotilla of paper boats from Troy is due to visit our part of the river on September 1 and 2 as part of a collaborative art and activism project called SeaChange.

On Monday, September 1, the SeaChange crew will be guests at Publication Studio Hudson in Catskill for dinner and a movie. Dinner is fish stew; the movie is The River Twicea documentary by Meryl O'Connor about floating on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. The event starts at 7 p.m. Publication Studio Hudson is located at 460 Main Street in Catskill.

On Tuesday, September 2, the paper boats will be on our side of the river for a Riverside Party for Climate Justice at Rick's Point in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Paper boats from Kite's Nest and the Hudson Sloop Club will join the SeaChange paddlers on the water, while on land, there will be food, ice cream, and live music. Hudson Praxis, Hudson Community Garden, and Publication Studio Hudson will also be part of the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. and goes on until 8 p.m.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reaction to Proposed Development

Arthur Cusano reports, in today's Register-Star, on the reaction at last night's Board of Education meeting to the notion of developing 33 acres of land belonging to HCSD for market rate housing: "City school officials unsure of property deal."

Of Interest

Yesterday, Zephyr Teachout, who is challenging Andrew Cuomo to be the Democrats' candidate for governor of New York, was endorsed by the New York Chapter of the Sierra Club.

If you haven't already done so, take three minutes to watch this video: Zephyr Teachout: Two Futures. It delivers a very compelling campaign message.

The Democratic Primary--the only primary in Hudson--is Tuesday, September 9. The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m.

Hudson's History Is Secure

Last October, Gossips reported that Byrne Fone's beloved and valued history of Hudson, Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait, was out of stock, and there was a chance it might not be reprinted. Almost a year later, the good news is that the book, which was originally published in 2005, has been reprinted, and copies from the new run are now available at The Spotty Dog, Hudson City Books, and Rural Residence.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Better Look at the Venus Fountain

Unless the responses to the Seventh Street Park survey prove otherwise, it appears there is overwhelming support in Hudson for restoring and/or re-creating the Venus fountain, which was originally installed in the Public Square in 1883 and replaced, in 1975, by the "Inspiration Fountain," in an attempt at beautification and modernization.

Much abused and twice repaired, the statue of Venus, which surmounted the fountain, has been in storage since 1998. According to some accounts the stone pedestal, which was also the top pan of the fountain, was pulverized at Gold's Scrap Yard in 1975. Gossips recently heard, however, the totally unsubstantiated rumor that the pedestal lives on in someone's backyard, but probably not in a backyard anywhere in Hudson.

It always seemed that the fountain was so well documented--its dimensions were published in the newspaper, and countless images of it exist in archives and on post cards--that it would be possible to replicate the missing pedestal. These two images, however, recently brought to Gossips' attention, from the Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection in the Collection of Columbia County Historical Society, reveal the details of the fountain better than any images we've seen before and make the task of replicating the pedestal even more possible.

Photos from the Collection of the Columbia County Historical Society; The Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection

The End of the Quest

This morning, one of the children of Herbert Meicht confirmed that the house that figures largely in the mystery photo album is indeed 38 Chapel Street, where Ezra and Emma Meicht lived and raised their three children: Clarence, Herbert, and Mildred. Mystery solved!

And here's a message from John and Susan Roberts, who took on the task of finding the family to whom the album belonged, to all the Gossips readers who assisted in the search. (That's Clarence at the left and Herbert at the right.) 

Mystery Album Update

Last Sunday, Gossips appealed for help in identifying the family whose picture album, dating from the 1910s through the 1920s, had found its way to an antique shop in South Burlington, Vermont. A week later, thanks to a terrific lead from a loyal Gossips reader, the mystery is as good as solved. 

Although the search continues for a picture that will provide proof positive, it seems pretty certain that the mystery house is 38 Chapel Street--a house and a street that are no more. At the time the photos in the album were taken, the house was owned by Ernest and Emma Olm. According to the 1920 census, Ezra and Emma Meicht also lived in the house (Emma was Ernest and Emma Olm's daughter) with their two sons, Clarence, then 5, and Herbert, 4. 

The young couple in the picture below is believed to be Emma and Ezra Meicht, and it may be Clarence, whose birth was announced in the Hudson Evening Register on May 19, 1914, who is in the baby carriage.

Ezra Meicht worked as a machinist at the Gifford-Wood Company, which would explain the pictures of the Gifford-Wood Company in the album. He was one of two assistant fire chiefs in Hudson, which would explain the firemanic outfits worn by the boys, believed to be Clarence and Herbert, in this picture.

Ezra and Emma Meicht also had a daughter named Mildred, and it is believed that this is baby Mildred in the picture below, with her two older brothers.

So far, this detail from a 1970 aerial photograph of the part of Hudson targeted for urban renewal is the only picture that has been located of 38 Chapel Street. 

If you have pictures of Chapel Street, please contact Gossips. If you are a descendant of this family and would like to claim the album, the contact information for the people who have it and are seeking to return it to you can be found on Flickr, along with more pictures from the album.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Crossing a Bridge with the Bridge

It has been determined that, although in the past the City has pestered CSX to make repairs to the Ferry Street Bridge, the City has owned the bridge all along, so it's up to the City to deal with the historic bridge that Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) recently called "the ticking time bomb in Hudson."

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Common Council passed a resolution allocating $30,000 for a feasibility study on replacing the Ferry Street Bridge and authorizing the mayor to "solicit for and enter into a contract" for such a study. 

On Thursday, at the Economic Development Committee meeting, Council president Don Moore instructed Bill Roehr of TGW Consultants, the group that is retained by the City and Hudson Development Corporation to identify potential grant funding and prepare grant applications, to focus all efforts on finding funding for the bridge. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), however, declared, "We need emergency funding tout de suite." He went on to say, "We can't wait for the grant cycle--it's too political." Friedman seemed to think one of the sources of funding might be Columbia County, implying the the County had money available for such things when he observed, "Bridges throughout the county get fixed"--overlooking the bridges in Columbia County that have been closed rather than repaired.

It is expected that a new bridge over the railroad tracks to the riverfront will cost $2 million--"more," Moore opined, "if we want it to have any character." In the past, Moore has spoken of the possibility of retaining or replicating the more visible parts of the 1905 bridge, the historic significance of which rates 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Haddad stressed the urgency of the situation by saying, "The moment this [feasibility] study comes in, we have to fast-track it." He then expressed a different concern: "The more attention we bring to this bridge, we may end up with it closed."

Increasing the Tax Base

At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Council president Don Moore proposed a resolution that "the City of Hudson forthwith initiate discussions with the Hudson City School District . . . to convey [a parcel of unused land] to the City of Hudson for development of market rate housing." The parcel in question is about 33 acres of land west of the Hudson Junior and Senior High School campus, near the border with Greenport.

When the idea was presented, the mayor immediately wanted to know if it had been discussed with HCSD. At the time, it hadn't, but on Thursday, at the Economic Development Committee meeting, Moore reported that a discussion with HCSD had been initiated, and the school district was open to the idea.

The thinking behind the proposal is that, because the City of Hudson needs to increase its tax base and the revenue the school district requires increases inexorably every year, it makes no sense for HCSD--a tax exempt entity largely supported by property taxes--to own property that is unused and generates no tax revenue either for itself or for the City of Hudson. The idea is to encourage private development of new housing on this 33-acre parcel to create new property tax revenue for both the City of Hudson and the Hudson City School District.

When Gossips asked Moore about the nature of the housing envisioned for the site, he reiterated that the resolution specified market rate housing and suggested that "arguably there could and should be both" individually owned homes and apartments. In a subsequent email, Moore stated, "The desirability of the location is clear. It has access to the center of Hudson, to the Middle, Junior and High Schools, to merchants on Fairview Avenue, and to the existing and planned recreation and conservation areas along the river." He went on to say, "I foresee a complex set of land use master planning, negotiations and agreements between the School District and the City to arrive at a point where everyone is confident in the character of the project." Moore believes that the City--represented by the Council, the mayor, and Hudson Development Corporation--and HCSD are in earnest to begin discussions of the possibility.

Click here to read the draft resolution.      

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Boats on the River

Yesterday, the Hudson Sloop Club marked the end of its summer camp program by launching the boats they'd built on Hudson River. Gossips arrived at riverfront park too late to see the boats set off for Middle Ground Flats but was there to see them return, some in tow, some being paddled on their own. Among them were the ingeniously designed bicycle boat,

the swift and beautiful paper boat,

the reed boat, made from plentiful phragmites,

and the party boat, kept afloat by platoons made with about 500 empty plastic bottles.

Congratulations to the Hudson Sloop Club and all the talented young boat builders!