Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Farmers' Market Returns for the Holidays

Thanksgiving leftovers may have sustained us and kept us from missing the Hudson Farmers' Market too much last weekend, but happily, for those in need of fresh provisions, the market returns this Saturday for its annual three-weekend pre-Christmas run in the Parish Hall at Christ Church, 431 Union Street. Many of the market's favorite vendors will be there--The Farm at Miller's Crossing, Red Barn, Pigasso Farm, Northern Star Farm, Cedar Flower Farm, Trixie's Oven, and more--and Christ Church volunteers will selling coffee. Market will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the next three Saturdays, December 5, 12, and 19.

Monday, November 30, 2015

'Tis the Season for Pop-ups: Addendum

On Saturday, to mark the beginning of holiday shopping season, Gossips published an annotated list of pop-up shops in Hudson this year. As predicted, not all of them were included. So here is the first of what could be several addenda to the list.

Starting Saturday, December 5, at 356 Warren Street, the former location of Hudson Home, Luca Chiara will have a pop-up shop offering its unique line of unleather goods--RFID identity protecting wallets, card cases, and passport holders, as well as shoes and bags, all of which are 100 percent vegan and PETA approved.

If you are planning a pop-up shop for the holiday season, contact Gossips with information, so it can be added to the list. There are still 24 shopping days left until Christmas.

More About Schools

In his essay published yesterday, Peter Meyer made the point that Hudson City School District administers "have many masters": "The feds demand programs for poor kids; the state wants teacher evaluations based on standardized tests; the locals want excellence for their kids and low taxes; the unions want money and job security for their members." It seems in this tussle, the teachers' unions are doing pretty well. The Empire Center released a report this morning: "Six Figure School Pay Up 55 Percent."
The number of teachers and other school employees paid more than $100,000 by school districts outside New York City climbed to 49,834 last year, according to payroll data added today to SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center's transparency website.
The number represents a 55 percent increase from 32,179 in 2008-09, the first school year for which data were posted at the SeeThroughNY site.
Visiting the site and checking out the numbers for HCSD reveals that there are ten employees of the district with six-figure incomes, and another seventeen being paid somewhere between $90,000 and $100,000 a year. Explore SeeThroughNY for yourself to learn more.

Word of the Day: Grimthorpe

This morning, I received an unconfirmed report about work going on inside one of Hudson's grand houses. With that on my mind, while in the kitchen making a cup of coffee, I tore yesterday's page off my Forgotten English daily calendar, to reveal the word for November 30: grimthorpe. 

The word grimthorpe is a verb. The calendar defines it thus: "to restore an ancient building with lavish expenditure rather than skill and fine taste." Merriam-Webster offers this definition: "to remodel (an ancient building) without proper knowledge or care to retain its original quality and character."

The inspiration for the word is Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe, who was responsible for rebuilding, at his own expense, the west facade of St. Albans Cathedral, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain. The building was in need of repair, but the "restoration," which was carried out in the 1880s and 1890s, turned out to be a highly unsympathetic Victorian re-imagining of the medieval cathedral.

According to the history on the cathedral's website, "Lord Grimthorpe had no architectural training and bad taste. . . . Many antiquarians protested, by no one had the power to stop him." Popular opinion at the time was that he had changed the cathedral's character, and this inspired the coining and brief popularity of the term "to grimtrophe" meaning  "to restore with the effect of spoiling."

The restoration of St. Albans complete, Lord Grimthorpe turned his attention to two parish churches in St. Albans--St. Peter's and St. Michael's.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Time Is Running Out

If you want copies of Hudson River Zeitgeist's Book of Interviews, you only have a few more hours to act. By pre-ordering here, you ensure that you will have copies of the book to give as gifts or to keep for yourself, and you also support the ongoing oral history project that is Hudson River Zeitgeist.

A Gossips Guest Essay

Here's a first on The Gossips of Rivertown: a guest essay. It started out as a comment but grew too long to be posted as such. The comment/essay was written by Peter Meyer, author, journalist, contributing editor at Education Next, who served on the Hudson City School District Board of Education, whose son was educated in Hudson schools, and who writes about education for the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

HCSD: Walmart or Little Red Schoolhouse? 

There is no doubt–at least, there should be no doubt–that the health of the Hudson City School District (HCSD) is a matter we should all take seriously, whether it’s building a new building or rolling out a new curriculum. And the recent discussion here is welcome. We need more of it.

Not only does HCSD pump $45 million into the local economy (through your tax dollars), it is supposed to educate our next generation of citizens. We don’t want to be throwing all that money away if all we are doing is creating future boobs. In fact, there are plenty of HCSD success stories to warrant confidence in HCSD as a district with a great deal of talent, in both the student and educator ranks.

This does not mean that “JoAnn Z,” John Friedman, and “Jay K” don’t have some justifiable complaints. Believe me, I sympathize. As a parent and taxpayer, I spent many years lobbying (and sometimes railing) for school improvement. I was a constant presence at PTA meetings, created a “listserve” to keep parents (and taxpayers) informed of the ins-and-outs of district issues, and spent five years on the school board working to improve our district’s education outcomes. We had some mighty loud arguments about how to do that, and my batting average was a baseball below-average (.210 maybe!) with only a couple of home runs and a modest number of RBIs. But we laid some good foundations during the superintendency of Jack Howe, and, I’m happy to report, we hired a worthy successor in Maria Suttmeier.

But here’s the problem: HCSD is more like a Walmart than a Little Red Schoolhouse. And that is a huge challenge for all of us.

There was a time when the Hudson School District was run by local citizens: a school board, elected by popular vote of registered voters, determined how much it would cost to educate our kids, then set a tax rate on local property owners to pay for it. Most of the city’s residents had kids, and most of those kids went to Hudson schools. It was a community enterprise. Greenport, Claverack, Livingston all had their own school districts. (It was the same everywhere. New York State had 10,000 autonomous school districts in 1900; today, just 730.) That locally owned and operated public school system worked for a hundred or so years. As a friend of mine who grew up in Hudson in the 1950s put it, “The shopkeepers of Hudson would not let the school fail.”

Unfortunately, such educational intimacy ended long ago. The current $45 million HCSD budget is funded by the federal government, the state government, and our local voters, each entity laying claim to a piece of the action. The district is also now composed of school children from five different towns--Hudson, Greenport, Livingston, Claverack, Stockport–each of which have their constituencies, further driving a wedge between local government and school government. All this means that our HCSD administrators have many masters, each spinning reams of regulations about how to use their money. The feds demand programs for poor kids; the state wants teacher evaluations based on standardized tests; the locals want excellence for their kids and low taxes; the unions want money and job security for their members. And we haven’t even talked about the “thought world” that drives the pedagogy: the schools of education training teachers about what should be taught and how to teach it. I think of the brouhaha over Common Core as a huge distraction.

Into this surreal world jump “JoAnn Z,” John Friedman, and “Jay K” with their opinions about how the school district runs–and should run. I wish there were more of them. But the fact is that these folks are mostly ignorant about the vast educational ice floes that now drive our nation’s school systems, not to mention the intricacies of how that plays out on the ground here in Hudson. The sale of John L. Edwards is nothing new; we were discussing it when I was on the BOE. And Mr. Friedman wrongly attributed the new sign in front of Questar to a decision by HCSD, apparently unaware of the BOCES system (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) which runs Questar and is a separate entity. (See the previous Gossips entry for other important but misinformed opinions.) Meghan Tice, the communications liaison for the district, has tried to sort some of this out with her comments, as indeed she should.

But this is but a whisper in the wind compared to the dialogue we need to have. And it is not a discussion for the faint of heart. There are no easy answers, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t answers. The one thing that should unite us is our communal ignorance–and the compelling need for more information. Unfortunately, at a time when we need more dialogue and more information about our schools, our local media seems to “cover” the territory as if schooling was an afterthought. As a school board member I attended many two- and three-hour board meetings, debating the pros and cons of multi-million-dollar budgets and expenditures, only to see silence from the local media. This sets up a “gotcha” dynamic, as the recent comments here attest, that is hard to change.

We can improve our local school system, but it will take a village. And the challenge is to find ways to create–re-create!–that village.

Peter Meyer
November 29, 2015

Of Interest

A week or so ago on WAMC, Alan Chartock spoke with Roberta Gratz, journalist, urban critic, lecturer, author, and friend of Hudson, who featured our fair city in her 2000 book Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown, coauthored with Norman Mintz, about her most recent book, We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City. The discussion is a lot about New Orleans, understandably, and a lot about New York City, but in the course of the hour-long conversation Gratz has much to say about affordable housing and gentrification that is has relevance for the residents and policy makers of Hudson. Click here to listen.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

'Tis the Season for Pop-ups

For those who don't shop on Black Friday--out of principle or because they're too busy turning Thanksgiving leftovers into turkey chili--today may be the first day of the holiday shopping season. With that in mind, Gossips presents a list of some of the pop-up shops that have joined Hudson's regular lineup of unique shops and sources of wonderful gifts.

We'll start by the river, with the biggest pop-up shop of all: Basilica Farm & Flea. The weekend market, created in collaboration with Hudson River Exchange, opened yesterday and continues today and Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Heading up Warren Street, the Columbia County Council on the Arts, at 209 Warren Street, is having its annual Holiday Small Works Show, which is kind of a pop-up shop. Artworks smaller than 15 inches are on sale for $250 or less and "Small Gems" measuring less than 7 inches are priced at only $50 a piece. Click here for gallery hours.

Up the block at 217 Warren Street, FRG Objects & Design/Art is having a Gift Pop-up Shop--GPS: Design Destination. The shop features glass by Michael Archin, jewelry by Sheva Fruitman, lamps by Lyn Godley, candles and diffusers by Nabila K, ceramics by Kiara Matos, handmade leather by Jay Teske, kitchen tools by Joshua Vogel, tabouret by Shane Siever, paintings by Merrill Steiger, works on paper by Joseph Conrad-Ferm, and more. The shop is open Thursday through Mondays, from noon to 6 p.m., right up through Christmas Eve.

In the next block, at 314 Warren Street, Source Adage NYC is hosting a J. Hilburn trunk show, with the latest collection of men's wear, next Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m., during Winter Walk. A personal stylist from J. Hilburn will be on site to show how to fit clients for the made-to-measure suiting and custom made shirts.

Farther upstreet, on the 500 block of Warren Street, two pop-up shops offer the means to stay warm during the coming winter. At 535 Warren Street, Cashmere in Hudson makes its annual appearance. As in years past, this shop is selling luxurious cashmere hats, gloves, sweaters, and scarves for women and men, as well of wraps and throws. The shop is open daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. (until 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday) until January 2.

At 555 Warren Street, more warmth for the coming winter is on offer. The Spruce Ridge Farm pop-up shop is back, with yarn, sweaters, gloves, and many other products made with the fiber of the farm's alpacas and from fiber coops, as well as imported items. The alpaca pop-up is open daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

If any pop-up shops have been overlooked in this list, please contact Gossips with information about them, and an addendum will cheerfully be published to remedy the oversight. There are 26 shopping days left until Christmas.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Unspeakable Holiday Tragedy

The Register-Star has updated the story of the newborn baby boy left in a dumpster in Livingston: "Newborn found dead in Xtra Mart dumpster." A video of the press conference with Columbia County district attorney Paul Czajka accompanies the updated report.

The More Things Change . . .

A hundred years ago, by a proclamation delivered by President Woodrow Wilson, Thanksgiving was observed on Thursday, November 25. On the Friday after Thanksgiving 1915, the Common Council held a meeting. The next day, Saturday, November 27, what transpired at that meeting was reported in the Hudson Evening Register. It's an interesting account for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the mention that the Council was working on drafting the city charter, which would not to enacted into law for another six years. A transcription of that report follows.

Recorder Hall and Aldermen Avery, Connelly, Finigan, Golderman, Ham, and McAree were at the Common Council meeting last night, and there was also present Recorder-elect John J. Moy, who is desirous of familiarizing himself with the Council's work, and he was invited to a chair beside the Recorder.
A certificate was read from Superintendent O'Hara showing that $4,000 had been used for material and labor in laying of water mains on Fairground boulevard and Spring street, and a resolution was passed that such sum be paid to Commission of Public Works out of the special fund of $10,000 raised by special election.
Alderman Finigan stated that charter revision committee had held two meetings, and the committee had decided to invite the different commissions and city officials, hoping to receive thereby suggestions of profitable nature. At a later meeting an invitation would be given to the public to offer recommendations. Then the committee would take up the thread of the suggestions and their own conclusions and frame charter. The Recorder-elect had also been invited to attend the meetings of committee.
Alderman Finigan stated that the Street committee recommended the payment of $4.10 to Edwin W. Hallenbeck for opening of a city sewer, as the city was at fault, and the claim was ordered paid.
Alderman McAree said that Council had been trying from time to time to get reports from the various city boards, but the only one which sent in a monthly report was the Cemetery commission. He would therefore move that clerk communicate with State Comptroller to have an auditor come here.
In connection with this and charter revision, Alderman Ham spoke of a matter in connection with Cemetery commission. A man had left $1,000 for care of his lot. The care of the lot only called for a few dollars, not over $5 a year. The auditors from State when here before had ruled that surplus monies was to go to City Treasurer. This money could be put out by commission so that at 3½ per cent it would bring in annual revenue of $35. If the charter could be so amended that such monies could be invested by commission it would come close to being a self-sustaining body. . . .
Broad Street and Railroad.
Alderman Connelly said that he had been looking over city map presented to members by Superintendent O'Hara, and he found thereon Broad street, but he could see no street, it looked like a railroad. He thought if railroad was occupying this street it was about time for Council to find out and take action.
Alderman Finigan said the matter had been up some years ago and was then laid aside owing to lack of funds to make survey and research. He understood that act of legislature laid out Broad street for 50-feet width west of Third. Now it only ran to Front. If railroad was squatting it was time for city to recover its property. Resolution was adopted that Commission of Public Works furnish a survey of that portion of the city.
Alderman McAree inquired if Fire commission was doing anything with building code. The clerk stated that code had been drawn and gone to State Board of Underwriters at Syracuse, where with some changes it had been approved. It was now waiting for publication, for which the commission had evidently no funds.
Alderman McAree said the icehouse on the old Grander Brewing Co. property was in dangerous condition. Alderman Connelly said he had brought up this matter some time ago, and it had been referred to committee, which had not reported. It was stated that property had recently changed hands, and a resolution was adopted that clerk notify Thomas J. Slauson to put the property complained of in safe condition within a week.
Alderman McAree said that about two months ago he had presented rules of order for Council, which had been laid on table. He would like to have same disposed of. A suggestion was made that same be taken up at meeting next week, and the Alderman accepted this.
The Council then resolved itself into a canvassing board, and went over the report of votes cast for city officials as certified to by Supervisors as a canvassing board. The report was accepted, being as already published in Register. Alderman Ham said that repairs to City hall boiler, for which appropriation of $75 was made, has been fixed for $56, and the balance was returned to treasury. . . .
Three police bills were held over. One officer charged $2 in one case for going to Mellenville, and another $3 for going to same place.
Alderman Golderman reported that Election committee were holding out the bills for watchers of machines on night before election, and also a bill for $5 for watcher of machine at City hall, which was unauthorized by committee. The claims of janitors were also cut $2 each.
The Council then adjourned to next Thursday night at 8 o'clock.
The name of the recorder-elect should be a familiar to Gossips readers. In 1922, John J. Moy, then the city judge, was one of the attorneys retained to defend Chief John Cruise when he was accused of dereliction of duty. The position to which Moy had just been elected in November 1915 is not so familiar. A document found on the New York State Museum website on the topic of "The Albany Corporation" defines "recorder" as "deputy mayor." The article from the Hudson Evening Register reveals that the recorder, or deputy mayor, unlike the position of "mayor's aide" that exists today, was an elected position not a mayoral appointment. It seems one of the tasks of the recorder, which is like that of the mayor's aide today, at least during the Hallenbeck administration, was to attend Common Council meetings.

Horrifying Occurrence in Our Backyard

Sam Pratt reported this shocking and heartbreaking news minutes ago: "Holiday horror story."

The Register-Star also has the story: "Baby allegedly found in dumpster, according to reports."

Journalistic Roots

Although the actual anniversary was back in April, the Register-Star chose today to recall that 2015 marks 230 years from the founding of the newspaper, which traces its roots back to Hudson's first newspaper, the Hudson Weekly Gazette, first published by Ashbel Stoddard and Charles B. Webster in April 1785. The history of the paper, from the Hudson Weekly Gazette to the publication that now exists, is recounted by Roger Hannigan Gilson in today's Register-Star: "Celebrating 230 years in print."     

Gilson makes the point that the Register-Star is the second oldest newspaper in the country still in print. The oldest surviving newspaper is the Connecticut Courant, originally called the Hartford Courant. Interestingly, both Stoddard and Webster apprenticed at the Hartford Courant before joining forces to create Hudson's first newspaper.

A few years ago, the portraits attributed to Ammi Phillips of Ashbel Stoddard (shown above) and his wife, Patience Bolles Stoddard, were came up for auction at Stair Galleries. At that time, Walter Ritchie wrote a biography of Stoddard and his life in Hudson, which can still be read at the Stair Galleries website: "Ammi Phillips in Hudson, New York: The Portraits of Ashbel and Patience Bolles Stoddard, c. 1812-1813."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fifty Years Ago, Not Far From Here

Frank Engels|The Guthrie Center

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Sturgeon and the Bridge

In the 18th century, the term "Albany beef" was coined for sturgeon. Up until the 20th century, the large, almost prehistoric looking creatures were regularly fished, and their flesh consumed as food.

Today, both the Atlantic sturgeon, the largest fish in the Hudson and the icon of the Hudson River Estuary Program, and the shortnose sturgeon, which is particularly associated with Hudson and the North Bay, are both federally protected endangered species. 

Recently, Riverkeeper raised the alarm that concurrent with the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge there has been a dramatic rise in the mortality rate of both Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon. Click here to learn more about the threat to Hudson River sturgeon and what you can do to help protect them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Council on the Budget

On Monday night, the Common Council held a special meeting to adopt the 2016 city budget. The resolution before them read:
RESOLVED, that the items set forth in the attached statement in the aggregate to the sum of $13,225,752 be and hereby adopted, and the same shall compose the January 1December 31, 2016 budget, and the amount of $4,879,753 shall be raised by the next annual tax levy in the City of Hudson for the purpose expressed pursuant to the provisions of the City Charter.
Typically, the meeting to adopt the budget, which must take place within twenty days after the budget is presented by the mayor, is pretty much pro forma, but that was not the case this time. Although the Common Council cannot add things to the budget, it can remove them, and Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) suggested that the money budgeted for parking meters in the 200 block of Warren Street be removed from the budget. Friedman argued that there were no municipal parking lots below Third Street and no off-street parking; therefore, residents and business owners had no option but to park on the street.

Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) argued that "business owners welcome parking meters," claiming that there was "no room for patrons to park because people from other blocks park on the 200 block" where there are now no parking meters. 

Friedman, whose law practice is located in the 200 block, disagreed with her. "There is never a complaint about the lack of short-term parking in December [when parking is free on all blocks of Warren Street]," he asserted.

Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) said he was getting mixed messages from his constituents about meters on the 200 block. "Initially, I embraced meters," he said, "but now it is mixed." Rector asked how parking meters for the 200 block had gotten into the budget in the first place and was told it was a suggestion "from an alderman in the Second Ward." City treasurer Heather Campbell explained that the original suggestion was to install meters all the way from Front Street to Third Street, but the Board of Estimate and Apportionment agreed to meters on just one block.

Council president Don Moore suggested that the cost and benefit of the meters needed to be considered. "I'm not sure the revenue is great enough to justify the meters." Campbell, however, assured the Council that "revenues from meters and fines outweigh the expenses."

Friedman argued that a better source of revenue would be ticketing people for moving violations. "We nickel and dime our own residents," he complained, "instead of enforcing the law."

At some point it was suggested that the $50,000 to go to the Galvan Foundation for the senior center should also be removed from the budget. Friedman called the $100,000 exacted from the City by Galvan ($50,000 a year for two years) "wealthfare" and went on to say, "It makes perfect sense to me--pulling the meters and the $50,000 to Galvan." 

Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) called the money to Galvan "ransom" and told his colleagues, "You're selling your birthright." The latter comment provoked Alderman Bob "Doc" Donahue to tell Haddad, "Your birthright isn't Hudson, New York! That's for sure!"

In the end, the resolution put forward was simply to remove from the budget the $25,000 allocated for parking meters on the 200 block of Warren Street. Moore, Friedman, and Henry Haddad (Third Ward) voted yes to remove the budget item; Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward), Donahue, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), Nick Haddad, Alexis Keith, Rector, and Stewart all voted no.  Abdus Miah (Second Ward) was absent from the meeting.

When the resolution to adopt the budget was voted on, all present voted in the affirmative except Friedman, who voted no.

The New Mayor and the Commissioners

The positions of commissioners in Hudson--there are five, with varying levels of visibility and de facto responsibility: Police, Fire, Public Works, Youth, and Aging--are mayoral appointees who receive an annual stipend of $1,000. It is reported today in the Register-Star that mayor elect Tiffany Martin Hamilton has made a decision about one of the commissioners, asking Gary Graziano, who has served as police commissioner for the past four years, to continue in that position: "Police commissioner asked to stay."