Sunday, February 7, 2016

About That Referendum

Tuesday, February 9, is the New Hampshire primary. On Tuesday, we in the Hudson City School District also get to vote--not on presidential candidates but on two different issues: the sale of the former Claverack School building and a $20 million capital project. 

In a My View that appeared in the Register-Star on Friday, Wayne Coe, a resident of the Chatham Central School District and a free speech advocate, advised HCDS voters to vote no on the capital project proposal. In yesterday's print version of the Register-Star, Peter Meyer, a Hudson resident and former member of the HCSD Board of Education, calls the capital project proposal a "win-win" and urges us to vote yes. Since Meyer's My View is not yet generally available online, he agreed to let Gossips publish the text, which follows:
Until a couple of months ago I had been enjoying the sleep of someone no longer on the school board--no four-hour meetings, no 20-hour work weeks with no compensation, no late-night calls from parents, and a blood pressure that had dropped 40 points. (I served from 2007 to 2012.)
Then I saw the words “capital project” in a headline and the education alarm bells went off. Nothing like a little $20 million spending proposal to wake one up. Didn’t the Hudson City School District just go through a $35 million renovation and new construction at the high school? 
Déjà vu all over again?
I heated up the midnight oils and started reading (the four-page information sheet that came in the mail, the HCSD website, local papers, and blogs), talking to teachers and parents, emailing friends, attending one of the three District-sponsored public “conversations” at John L. Edwards School, and sending my own set of questions to Superintendent Maria Suttmeier, School Board President Maria McLaughlin, and board member Sage Carter. (Contact me if you would like to see a copy of the Q&A.)
Déjà vu all over again? The answer, I’m happy to report, is absolutely not. 
Not only does the proposal finish many of the needed improvements that didn’t make it into the last construction effort, the $19.9 million that voters are being asked to approve offers enhancements much more closely targeted to benefit our students and the taxpayer: notably, new facilities for PreK-2 students at the Intermediate school (that lovely WPA building that I think of as our shining city on the hill) and track and field facilities that will finally give our kids a level playing field. 
Most importantly, however, is the District’s willingness to engage the community in this project--and listen! It was not only with the well-attended community conversations, but when the South Bay Task Force raised questions about the environmental impact of the building proposed for the north side of the Intermediate School, Dr. Suttmeier immediately arranged for a tour of the Underhill Pond area with several conservationists and board members and concluded that the District would not only provide appropriate drainage measures to prevent further erosion of Underhill, but endeavor to partner with the City of Hudson to provide educational and recreational programs for students and adults alike. She also reached out to--and addressed--Hudson’s Common Council. 
Perhaps the most controversial part of the February 9 spending proposition is not on the ballot: the closing of JLE. For Hudson, of course, this is a community treasure, with many memories for many residents. The problem is that neither the taxpayers nor the students can afford it. HCSD enrollment has dropped by nearly 25 percent in the last 10 years--we now have under 1,800 students sloshing around in buildings capable of accommodating 2,400. This is an amazing waste of space, one that will be solved, with great financial savings to taxpayers, with the new plan. 
More importantly, from my point of view, is that putting the PreK-2 kids under one roof, with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, will finally solve the “silo” problem: moving kids from one school to another, especially at this age, is simply not an academically sound policy.
Dr. Suttmeier assured JLE staff that there will be no cutbacks in staffing except that which comes from normal attrition. And, as to transportation to the new school, it must be noted that most JLE students already take a bus to school. It could also be a great opportunity to revisit the “walking school bus” idea that was discussed when I was on the board--as well as sidewalks, which Dr. Suttmeier noted would be part of the ongoing discussion.
Finally, it cannot be emphasized enough that local taxpayers are being asked to contribute less than 25 percent of the total cost of the project. Because of New York State building aid rules and the structuring of the District’s existing debt, the State pays $14.2 million of the total! If your house is worth $300,000, your HCSD taxes go up roughly $38 per year. And, thanks to income from the sale of the Claverack school (the first proposition voters are being asked to approve next Tuesday) and savings of over $100,000 in operating expenses from closing John L. Edwards and selling the Claverack building, taxpayers may even see more savings.
The February 9 proposal is a win-win, for taxpayers and children. Please Vote YES next Tuesday.
The polling place for Hudson residents is John L. Edwards Primary School, 360 State Street. The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m.

A Message from Daniel Nilsson's Family

We are very grateful for the outpouring of affection for our Daniel. We all miss him.

We invite everyone who wishes to share their memories to meet on Monday, February 8, between 2 and 6 p.m. at DA|BA.

The funeral will be private and no charity has been designated. We are planning a memorial service open to everyone in the community for Daniel’s birthday, March 18.  More information will be posted at a future date.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Where to Be Tomorrow Morning

The Indoor Farmers' Market in the Parish Hall at Christ Church returns tomorrow and will be back every Saturday until the outdoor Hudson Farmers' Market returns on the first weekend in May. Eggs, breads, flowers, nuts, meats, cheeses, prepared foods, and more await you. The market is open from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Remembering Daniel Nilsson

The community of Hudson was stunned yesterday by the news of the death of Daniel Nilsson. The words incomprehensible, unfathomable, unspeakable have all been used to describe the tragedy. Gossips will not attempt to comment on the tragedy or its effect on our community. Instead I recall a moment that revealed the nature of the man now lost: the moment when he ennobled an episode of Guy's Grocery Games with a memorably unselfish gesture. Watch the 10 minutes from 32 minutes in until just past 42 minutes.

Rest in peace, DA|BA Dan.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Down by the Station . . .

A hundred years ago, there were six hotels within easy walking distance of the train station--the Albany Hotel, the City Hotel, the Eagle Hotel, the Germania, Hudson House, and New Curtiss House. Now, a new hotel is being proposed, with one of its principal selling points being its proximity to the train station.

Although the hotel project proposed for 41 Cross Street is still before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, Rick Rector, who chairs the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee, invited Tom Rossi and John Blackburn, principals of Redburn Development, to come to a committee meeting on Wednesday night to talk about their plans.

Rossi and Blackburn described their approach to real estate development as "taking historic properties and breathing new life into them." They have already converted two historic industrial buildings into apartments--River Street Lofts in Troy and Tilley Lofts in Watervliet. When it comes to historic preservation they are serious. There is uncertainty about whether 41 Cross Street, which was built in 1876 as a candle and soap manufactory, is or is not part of the locally designated Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District, which would make the project subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission, but Rossi and Blackburn pursued (successfully) an individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and therefore the project is being reviewed for historic appropriateness by the State Historic Preservation Office.

For the first time, preliminary design drawings for the building were revealed, with the caveat that they were subject to change. The floor plans will ease the minds of those who may have worried that fitting fifty-five rooms into the building would require building additional stories. Amazingly, all 55 rooms fit into the existing building. Even the smallest room is 325 square feet, and the rooms in the center of the ground floor will have skylights to provide natural light.

The average price for the rooms is expected to be $149 a night, and the hotel will be working to attract corporate traffic and weddings, as well as visitors to Hudson who arrive by train. An economic impact study indicates that the hotel's indirect impact on local business will be $2 million annually. Assuming that the lodging tax in Hudson, when it takes effect, is 3 percent, the hotel is expected to collect $50,000 a year in lodging taxes which go directly into the City's coffers.  

During construction, which Rossi and Blackburn hope can begin in June and be completed in late winter 2017, the project will create 70 jobs and pay total wages of $3 million. Once the hotel is open, it will employ 12 to 14 people and pay a total of $405,000 in salaries and wages annually.

When asked if the $1.5 million Empire State Development grant the project was awarded in December 2015 required a match, Rossi explained that the total project cost is $8 million, and when the hotel opens, the project will be reimbursed $1.5 million. He also indicated that the project was not dependent on the $1.5 million grant, but receiving it allowed them to include some additional features--among them an enclosed four-seasons rooftop deck where guests can enjoy a view of the Hudson River and the Catskills beyond and watch the sun set.

The developers are operating on the assumption that the hotel requires a use variance because, although rooming houses and boarding houses are conditional uses in the zone where the building is located, a hotel is not. The project will be go before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, February 24. The zoning for the Waterfront Revitalization Area in the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program), which was adopted by the Common Council in 2011, puts the building in the Residential Special Commercial (R-S-C) zone. Here's what the LWRP has to say about that zone:
Additional commercial zones are proposed to the waterfront area such as the Residential Special Commercial District and the Core Riverfront District, both of which allow for a mix of commercial uses intended to support continued mixed use development along Front Street and in the Core Riverfront area to encourage the redevelopment of vacant sites and increase pedestrian activity within areas near the riverfront and the Amtrak station.
It certainly seems that a hotel is exactly why the R-S-C zone was created in the first place and therefore shouldn't require a use variance, but we'll see what happens on February 24.

Climate Resilient Design for the Waterfront

At the meeting of the Conservation Advisory Council on Tuesday evening, it was announced that a Climate-Adaptive Design (CAD) studio will study areas of the Hudson waterfront this spring. The four-month project is a research effort partnering Cornell Landscape Architecture, Cornell Water Resources Institute, and the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program.

In Catskill, which was hit hard by hurricanes Irene and Sandy, the project began with students exploring the village's natural watershed setting, NYS projections for climate change, and solutions for designing more climate adaptive spaces, such as "floodable parks and wet floodproofed buildings." The students made site visits and conducted interviews with local stakeholders (municipal staff, volunteers, and business owners) to make their design concepts specific to Catskill. A similar process is proposed for the City of Hudson.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pursuing the History of Oakdale Lake

Last month, Gossips reported finding an item in the Hudson Evening Register for January 9, 1916, that shed light on the origin of Oakdale Lake. The item, which promoted ice skating on the lake, identified it in this way: "It's the artificial lake which was made this summer on the Farrand & Watson building tract just above Underhill pond." 

Given their proximity, some have surmised that Oakdale Lake and Underhill Pond were once a single waterbody. The 1888 atlas map shows the original shape of Underhill Pond, when Sixth Street ended at Washington Street and the Boulevards didn't exist.

The shape of Underhill Pond today is quite different.

In her History of the City of HudsonAnna Bradbury explains the origin of the name Underhill Pond: "A fulling mill and flannel factory was built by Josiah Underhill, on the hill below Underhill's pond, which thus obtained its name." Earlier this week, local historian Joe D'Onofrio told Gossips that at sometime between the early 19th century, when it got the name Underhill Pond, and today, the waterbody was known as Lake George and the area around it was called Power's Woods, because the entire area was owned by George H. Power, who in his time was one of the richest men in Hudson. Born in Hudson in 1817, Power owned the New York and Hudson Steamboat Company, the Hudson and Athens ferry, and the Hudson and Catskill ferry. For sixteen years, from 1865 to 1881, Power lived at 400 State Street, which he had fitted up to be his private residence. 

Although the name Lake George seems to have been short-lived (perhaps because there is larger, more famous lake in New York by the same name), the name Power's Woods hung on into the 20th century. In 1911, when F. M. Haviland was promoting his plan for creating a city park, the location of his proposed park was identified as "Powers Woods."

What's interesting about the above map, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register for August 31, 1911, is that the area proposed for the park contains no waterbody, and the east shore of Underhill Pond retains the shape that it had in 1888. Sixth Street, which now continues north and flows into Glenwood Boulevard, passes over only a small stream that feeds into one of the arms of the pond. It appears that the map supports the idea that Oakdale Lake is an artificial lake.

Recently, Jack Connor, who lives near Oakdale Lake, shared information that provides insight into its origins. "If you kayak on the lake when it is clear (which doesn't happen very often)," Connor told Gossips, "you can see the stumps that were left when trees were cut down and the lake was created."

The search for a newspaper account of Oakdale Lake's creation continues.

Meeting Reminder

The second meeting to share ideas for programs for seniors, elders, or vintage citizens takes place tonight at 6:30 at Camphill Hudson, 360 Warren Street. Click here to review what was discussed at the previous meeting.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Save the Date: Mrs. Greenthumbs Day

As you all know by now, Punxsutawney Phil did not see this shadow todayauguring an early spring. But even before the furry prognosticator was rousted from his cozy burrow this morning, the organizers of Mrs. Greenthumbs Day, the maybe biennial, maybe sporadic garden tour honoring the memory of Cassandra Danz, Hudson's most talented, most exuberant, and most famous gardener, were already thinking of spring and of gardens and decided to bring back the event this summer. The date has been set--Sunday, July 17--and the invitation is extended to the gardeners of Hudson to include their gardens on the tour.

Mrs. Greenthumbs Day has always been the most democratic of garden tours. People with gardens they love, work hard at, and are proud of open their gardens to fellow gardeners, gardener wannabes, and garden appreciators. The event offers the rare opportunity to view gardens hidden behind buildings and fences and to get inside gardens that can only be tantalizing glimpsed from the street. 

If you want your garden to be part of this very special day in Hudson, just send an email to Gossips letting us know your willingness to have your garden on the tour.

Monday, February 1, 2016

In Memoriam: Meg Mundy

An extraordinary person who dwelt among us here in Hudson for twenty or so years died last month at the age of 101. At the end of the last millennium and the beginning of the new, Meg Mundy lived on Willard Place, in the house that is now Croff House. When I was buying my house in 1993, Meg's name was regularly invoked as evidence that Hudson was a desirable place to live. My first knowledge of Meg was as the lovely and gracious woman who was willing to open her home for a house tour I co-chaired for the Hudson Opera House in 1996 and her garden for the garden tour Historic Hudson and the Hudson Opera House collaborated to present in 1997.

I never quite knew the full extent of Meg's remarkable career. She'd been a model (the image above is the Vogue cover, by Irving Penn, for November 15, 1944), an editor for such magazines as Vogue (under Diana Vreeland), House & Garden, and Mademoiselle, and an actress. During the McCarthy Era, her name appeared on the "Red List" of people involved in radio and TV on the East Coast suspected of having Communist leanings. This obituary, from The Classic TV History Blog, recounts Meg's long and distinguished acting career. To quote a former Hudsonian who was her neighbor here and her friend long after they'd both left Willard Place, "We will never know anyone quite like her, but, of course, they don't make them like that anymore."

About Those Power Lines

On December 17, 2015, the New York State Public Service Commission decided to move ahead with plans for new high-voltage transmission lines that would cut through a major swath of the Hudson Valley. In recent days, an update on the situation has been issued by both the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and Scenic Hudson. Excerpts from that update are quoted below.

The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and citizens who joined its campaign won a commitment that the project will be built within existing rights of way and not cross the Hudson River and its sensitive ecosystem. The chosen project route also will not destroy world-class views and natural surroundings at historic sites and destinations such as the Olana State Historic Site, FDR Home and Library, and Omega Institute. Using independent science and economic research, the coalition achieved modifications in the project and its route that will reduce potential damage to a host of community resources. . . .
Member organizations of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition will continue to play a role in the process as it moves forward to ensure the gains made are implemented and to push for the most environmentally sound energy system for the state. We will press for projects that will minimize negative impacts to communities, property owners and natural resources. 
During the next year, New York State entities will require the competing power lines developers to submit refined proposals that comply with parameters--shaped by hard-won concessions brought about by the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and citizens--the PSC outlined in its decision.

Of Interest

The Dunn Warehouse Adaptive Reuse Redevelopment Analysis and Master Plan can be viewed online at the City of Hudson website.


It's Official

Early this morning, Will Yandik formally announced his candidacy for New York's 19th Congressional District. The press release making the announcement follows.

After earning the full endorsement of the Columbia County Democratic Committee on Saturday, local farmer, environmental leader, and Livingston Deputy Town Supervisor Will Yandik announced his campaign for Congress in New York’s open 19th Congressional District.
“I am running for Congress because this is my home,” said Yandik. “I love these communities and our way of life, but the dysfunction in Washington is making it harder for families in Upstate New York to get ahead. We need a member of Congress who understands our communities and will focus on getting results for this district.”
Yandik was born and raised working his family’s farm in Columbia County. After earning degrees from Princeton and Brown and working on environmental policy, he returned home to manage the family’s Green Acres Farm, which grows a variety of sustainable fruits and vegetables and operates a popular roadside stand and bakery. Yandik is a leader in the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and is the first-ever Democrat to serve as Deputy Town Supervisor in Livingston.
“I have a record of bringing people together to take on tough challenges and get things done,” continued Yandik. “That’s the approach I will take to Washington to solve local problems and help families right here get ahead. I am so grateful for the encouragement I’ve received from every corner of the district and the support folks have offered. People are ready for solutions.”
In the two weeks since Yandik opened a committee to explore a run for Congress, his campaign has received more than $200,000 in contributions from local residents throughout the district, along with endorsements from the Columbia County Democratic Committee, the Greenport Town Democratic Committee, the Livingston Town Democratic Committee, and dozens of local elected officials, rank and file Democratic activists, and community leaders.
“The Columbia County Democratic Committee endorsed Will Yandik by acclamation, and we are pleased and proud to be the first County Committee to vote to send our local family farmer to Congress,” said Committee Chair Peter Bujanow.
“Will Yandik is the right person to serve this community in Congress,” said Marion Mathison, a Milan Councilwoman in Dutchess County. “Will is one of the sharpest and hardest-working people I’ve met and he just flat-out cares about folks in this region. He will bring a tremendous energy to the campaign and the job.  We need Will representing us in Washington.”
At this point, Yandik faces a likely primary with Fordham University Law Professor Zephyr Teachout and would face Long Island-native and lobbyist John Faso or New York City business owner Andrew Heaney in the general election. “I have great respect for Zephyr Teachout’s passion for reform and we share many of the same positions,” said Yandik. “But I’m running for Congress because I was raised to step up and help my neighbors when they’re in need and this is an opportunity to do just that.”
Yandik launched a website at and has been meeting with local leaders in all 11 counties.  His campaign will announce more endorsements in the coming days.

The Battle Raging a Hundred Years Ago

The search of Hudson newspapers from a hundred years ago seeking an account of the creation of Oakdale Lake has been yielding much information on a completely different topic: the battle in Hudson and elsewhere in the county between suffragists and "antis" in the months preceding the 1915 referendum on woman suffrage in New York. The most recent finds are this pair of letters to the editor, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register on May 21, 1915. The first, signed "A Mere Man," complains about the "vemon" and hostility of "our obsessed suffrage friends."

The letter writer's reference to "the yellow cause" alludes to the suffragists' choice of yellow as their color. We can assume that the hats worn by the suffragists in this picture, those who marched from New York to Albany in the winter of 1912, were yellow. The "antis" also had their colors. Sharon Hazard, in The Ultimate History Project, reports: "Delicate colors and pastels representing the demure nature of women were often worn by anti-suffragists as opposed to the bold gold and yellows worn by the suffragettes."

Published with the letter from "A Mere Man" in the Register was the following letter from a local suffragist, who signs her name, protesting the inaccuracies in the Hudson Republican's report about an anti-suffrage meeting that had taken place in Philmont.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Speaking of Lincoln in Hudson

The period in the life of Abraham Lincoln that was the subject of the 2012 movie Lincoln is also the subject of a recently published book: Lincoln's Gamble: The Tumultuous Six Months That Gave America the Emancipation Proclamation and Changed the Course of the Civil War. The book, which was written by journalist Todd Brewster, is a well researched exploration into what was happening in Lincoln's life and what was going on his mind in the period preceding signing the Emancipation Proclamation. A review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette commented: "Brewster's greatest achievement in this book is to bring nuance back to a story that is often paved over with heroism . . . transforming Lincoln from an American saint back into a man."

Brewster will be at the Hudson Opera House on Saturday, February 6, at 4 p.m., to read from his book and to sign copies.