Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day in Hudson

Hudson elected officials, led by Mayor Rick Scalera, Treasurer Eileen Halloran, and Common Council President Don Moore, enter courthouse square at the conclusion of the Memorial Day parade. Also marching in the parade were Aldermen Sarah Sterling (First Ward), Ellen Thurston (Third Ward), Richard Goetz (Fifth Ward), and Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward); and Supervisors John Musall (First Ward), Ed Cross (Second Ward), and Bill Hallenbeck (Third Ward). In the audience at the ceremony but not participating in the march were Aldermen Chris Wagoner (Third Ward) and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

No Trespassing?

The Register-Star reported the callous reaction of Ken Faroni of O&G (Holcim's tenant) when he was told by DPW Superintendent Rob Perry that a dog had drowned in the culvert in the South Bay and the dog's grieving humans were asking that grates be installed at the culvert to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. According to Perry, “His [Faroni's] response was that there are 'no trespassing' signs and said that people should not be on the causeway at all.”

How did the South Bay, once a center of shipping and, to quote Don Christensen, "part of the texture of life in Hudson," become a place where the citizens of Hudson cannot set foot or paw or dip an oar?

When Samuel T. B. Heermance was given a "Grant of Land Underwater" for an area of "41 acres, 3 roods, and 10 rods" under the South Bay--the entire southern part of the bay--the Letter Patent defined these conditions:
"Excepting and reserving to all and every, the said People, the full and free right, liberty and privilege of entering upon and using all and every part of the above described premises in as ample a manner as they might have done had this power and authority not been given. . . ."
When Heermance agreed to sell the land needed to build a railroad to the quarry, he sold only a narrow strip of land "one rod wide more or less" and "not doing any more injury than as surveyed by said line"--with the intention of protecting the rest of the waters. The promise at the time was to build a railroad on a trestle so that it would interfere with the bay and its use as little as possible.

In the years since that first trestle railroad devolved into the "causeway" we have today, the ownership of the underwater lands changed many times, but there seems to be no evidence that the people's "full and free right, liberty and privilege of entering upon and using all and every part" of the South Bay were ever withdrawn. Even if a deed existed that expressly withdrew those exceptions and reservations, it would likely be trumped by New York State Public Navigation Rights.

A commenter on South Bay Tragedy made reference to public navigation rights and provided the link to a brochure entitled New York State Public Navigation Rights: Questions & Answers. Here's how public navigation rights are defined: "The public right of navigation has existed in New York as a common law right ever since New York became a state. This right allows vessels of all kinds, including small boats and canoes, to navigate for commercial and recreation purposes on New York's freshwater rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and other waterways that are navigable-in-fact. Legally, the courts have said that the State of New York, in accordance with public trust doctrine, holds an easement on such waterways in trust for the people of the state, making them public highways for navigational purposes." [page 4]

Defining what is "navigable-in-fact," the brochure states: "For a waterway to be open to public use, it just has to be navigable-in-fact. It doesn't have to be declared navigable-in-fact by a court. In other words, if a waterway is in fact navigable for a significant part of the year and for a substantial distance, it is ordinarily safe to assume that it is legally 'navigable-in-fact.'" [page 6]

We know from the rendering done by Peter Jung and Bob Mechling that there's a lot more water in the South Bay than most people imagine, and we know from the experience of kayakers that is it navigable-in-fact.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Tree Blooms in Hudson

In 2006, Eric Galloway made a gift of trees to the City of Hudson. Landscape designer Tim Legg selected the trees--two varieties of tree lilac. Galloway paid for the trees. The Department of Public Works prepared the holes and planted the trees, along both sides of Second Street, from Allen Street to State Street: the shorter species where there were utility lines; the taller species where there were none.

Needless to say, the trees have not had an easy time of it. In the stretch from Allen to Warren streets, where I walk with William at least once a day, the trees along the east side of the street between Allen and Partition have been the victims of abuse by passers-by, who have snapped off branches. Three of the taller trees between Partition and Union, though suffering no visible abuse, appear to be completely dead, and another, between Partition and Allen, is nearly so.

But the good news in this sad tale of how tough it is to be a street tree in Hudson is that one of the taller trees is now in bloom--for the first time, I believe, since they were planted--and the two abused trees along the side of the Irv Schroeder & Sons building and another near Cherry Alley are also blooming. That's surely cause for celebration.

Author's Note: At one time I knew the names of the two species of tree planted along Second Street, but I don't anymore. I called them tree lilacs because their blossoms resemble lilac blossoms. If someone could enlighten me--and everyone else who reads this blog--by identifying the species, I would be most grateful.

The Shifting Sands of Assessments

The grievance process is on hiatus until June 2, but news is starting to leak out about assessment adjustments that have been made by the assessor and the Board of Assessment Review. Last Sunday, when Gossips published its feature The Million-Dollar Houses of Hudson, Sam Pratt reported in a comment that City Assessor Garth Slocum had already agreed to reduce the assessment on at least one of those properties to somewhere between $800,000 and $850,000 and word has it that Eric Galloway's attorney succeeded in getting the assessment on 345 Allen Street down to $800,000. Since assessments presumably reflect market value, and there should be, therefore, some relationship among the assessments of houses located in the same neighborhood, how does a 20 percent reduction in the assessment of one house impact the assessments of the other houses on the block? Do their assessments get reduced by 20 percent, too?

Consider these scenarios. House A sold within the past two years, and its selling price--its full market value--was used to justify raising the full market value and the assessments on other nearby houses. The owner of one of those houses--House B--presents her case to the assessor, based on square footage and comparable condition, and succeeds in getting the assessment on her house reduced. Then the owner of House A goes to the BAR and gets the assessment on his house--for whatever reason--reduced. House A, which the owner of House B argued was bigger and better than hers therefore worth more, suddenly has an adjusted assessment that is not significantly different from the adjusted assessment for House B.

House C and House D are nearly identical in location, square footage, and condition. The owner of House C considers her assessment fair and does not grieve. The owner of House D does grieve and gets his assessment lowered by 40 percent.

The owner of House E uses Houses F and G as comparables to get his assessment reduced by 30 percent. Meanwhile, the owner of House G gets her assessment reduced by 20 percent, making her adjusted assessment lower than the adjusted assessment for House E.

It's been suggested that assessment adjustments be published as they are made. Difficult as it may seem to implement (and potentially even more chaotic for property owners trying to monitor them on grievance day), it does seem that greater transparency about what is happening between the tentative roll and the final roll is necessary if Hudson is to achieve the goal of fair assessments for all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Credibility of Marco Marzocchi

Marco Marzocchi, attorney and pitchman for Widewaters, keeps losing credibility. Remember back in January when he told the Economic Development and Tourism Committee of the Board of Supervisors that T.J. Maxx wouldn't even consider locating in Greenport if there wasn't going to be a Kohl's store? He also said that without a twenty-year PILOT there would be no Kohl's and T.J. Maxx would demand the same deal.

Well, the IDA rejected a twenty-year PILOT for Kohl's and a fifteen-year PILOT, but, even though it's still not clear if Kohl's will build a store in Greenport or not, T.J. Maxx has broken ground for its new store. Amazing.

You can read all about it on ccSCOOP.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

South Bay Tragedy

Max, one of Tom and Mary Hack's beloved Boykin Spaniels, died a tragic death on Monday. Tom was walking him south of the Basilica in the South Bay when Max took off in pursuit of some geese. He got into the water and was sucked into a culvert and drowned before Tom could get to him. Max was a very special dog--dear to his humans and to everyone who knew him.

This is not the first time a beloved pet of the First Ward has come to a tragic end in the South Bay, on property belonging to Holcim (formerly SLC). Meg Carlin lost a dog in similar circumstances several years ago.

Contacted by Mary today, Hudson DPW Superintendent Rob Perry said he would ask Holcim to install grates on the culvert lest more dogs--or possibly even children--fall victim to this very treacherous situation. It might help if Holcim heard from several of the rest of us as well.

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 10

This is 260 Warren Street--on the northwest corner of Warren and Third. This building has belonged to Eric Galloway's "Hudson Preservation Group" for several years now, and Kevin Walker has appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission a few times trying to get a certificate of appropriateness for various alterations that Galloway wants to make to the building. These repeated appearances have yielded some memorable moments--the most memorable of which I will share.

Early on, Walker presented a plan that involved removing the original marble piers and thresholds and replacing them with new marble, explaining that "the owner doesn't like old things"--a remarkable statement to make about the man who heads up something called the "Hudson Preservation Group." The HPC followed their mandate and did not approve the arbitrary removal of authentic architectural fabric.

The French doors on the facade of the building have been an issue from the beginning. They are an original feature of the building and one of its distinguishing characteristics. Back in the 1930s--when this picture was taken--the building was a pub, and, before the days of air conditioning, the French doors would be opened to provide cross ventilation in warm weather. It's interesting to note that just last year, the HPC approved the installation of similar doors at 609 Warren Street so that the dining space at Le Gamin could, in fine weather, flow out onto the sidewalk.

Although the HPC had not approved the action, the French doors at 260 Warren were removed three or four years ago. After the fact Walker assured the commission that the doors were safe inside the building and would remain there. A few weeks after Walker made that statement, I was driving down Warren Street in the early morning and saw the doors being loaded into a pickup truck. Alarmed, I decided to follow the truck and see where the doors were going, so I parked a little farther down the street and watched the truck in my rearview mirror. I had my alderman card at the ready, hoping it was sufficient to empower me to act on behalf of the City and claim the doors, in the name of Hudson, historic preservation, and all things holy, if--God forbid--they were on their way to be dumped.

My surveillance didn't last long. Soon the truck pulled out and drove past me. I followed at a reasonable distance. My "tail" didn't last long either. The truck, as it turned out, was heading to Galloway's warehouse on North Seventh Street, just off State. As the truck approached, the warehouse doors opened, and I--passing as slowly as I dared--strained to see if I could spot the columns from the Brousseau Building inside. I couldn't, but there was a lot of other stuff in there.

At one point during the extended HPC review, Walker tried to coerce the commission by saying that if they wouldn't approve the plans, he would just leave the building--located at the principal gateway to Hudson's commercial district--in its current boarded-up state. In recent months, however, agreement has been reached. Instead of replacing the French doors with stationary plateglass display windows, which is what he wanted to do, Galloway has agreed to create and install new doors that are almost but not quite like the original doors but won't open. Walker has also promised to put the original doors in the building so that some future owner can--if desired--restore and reinstall them.

Reviewing the design for the new doors, Marilyn Kaplan, the architect member of the commission, asked an obvious question: "Why design new doors that are just a little bit different from the original doors instead of just replicating the original doors or restoring them?" Walker's answer: "The owner doesn't like those doors."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another Argument for Reapportionment

Sam Pratt recently published his Hudson Assessments: Part V, which analyzes assessment figures ward by ward from 1999 to 2010. His numbers confirm what I have suspected for a while: individual property owners in the First Ward are paying a great deal to keep the City afloat, but, because of the weighted vote in the Common Council, they--along with the residents of the Fourth Ward--have the least say in how the government actually works.

In the tentative rolls for 2010, the average per parcel assessment for residential properties in the First Ward is $213,641. Compare that with the Fifth Ward, where the average assessment for residential properties is $140,100. We can extrapolate that the average Fifth Ward resident is paying about two-thirds the amount of property tax as the average First Ward resident, but the two aldermen who represent the Fifth Ward wield three times the clout that representatives of the First Ward do because of the weighted vote. For a simple majority, which requires 1,011 affirmative votes, the vote of each First Ward alderman represents only 94 votes while the vote of each Fifth Ward alderman represents 278 votes. If the Fifth Ward aldermen vote together, as they typically do, they're more than halfway there.

Beloved as our historic ward divisions are, it's time to redraw the election districts in Hudson, as has been proposed by the Hudson Democratic Committee, to give them all equal population and do away with the weighted vote. A good start would be to divide the Third and Fifth wards, which already have two districts, into separate electoral divisions, giving the City seven wards instead of five. Then the ward boundaries need to be adjusted so that the population of all the wards is the same. Once this is done, each ward should have one representative instead of two, reducing the size of the Common Council from ten aldermen with disparate numbers of votes to seven aldermen each with one vote. It's an idea whose time has come.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Reminder about Comments

Back in February, when I changed the rules of this blog to allow people to comment without registering, I established some ground rules for commenting in A Comment on Comments.

To quote from that post:
I am very uncomfortable about totally anonymous comments, especially when they are snarky ad hominem criticism directed against commenters who have identified themselves. . . . The Gossips of Rivertown is a blog not a chat board, so comments that do nothing but react to someone else's comment and do not further the discussion or provide additional information are also discouraged.
So, to the anonymous commenter who accused a previous identified commenter of being a "hipocrite" [sic] and then went on to wonder if his/her comment would "make Carole's line," the answer is no.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Million-Dollar Houses of Hudson

No residential properties have sold for a million dollars in Hudson--not even the once residential now commercial Italian villa (the former Elks Club) at Union and Sixth streets, which sold a few months ago for $860,000, after being purchased in October 2006 for $1.45 million. Nonetheless, the assessments on four Hudson houses--residential properties--have been raised in the recent reval to more than a million.

Let's look at these alleged million-dollar houses and compare their assessments and estimated full market values for the current year with their assessments and full market values last year.

317 Allen Street
2010 Assessment $1,199,700
Full Market Value $1,365,623
2009 Assessment $295,000
Full Market Value $378,593

345 Allen Street
2010 Assessment $1,043,800
Full Market Value $1,188,162
2009 Assessment $305,000
Full Market Value $391,427

15 South Fourth Street
2010 Assessment $1,064,700
Full Market Value $1,211,952
2009 Assessment $480,600
Full Market Value $616,786

249-251 Warren Street
2010 Assessment $1,263,100
Full Market Value $1,437,792
2009 Assessment $180,000
Full Market Value $231,006

For an overview of what's been happening with Hudson property assessments over the past decade or so, see Sam Pratt's four-part analysis on his blog, Hudson Tax Assessments Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 9

This is 34-36 South Second Street--another property currently owned by Eric Galloway's "Hudson Preservation Group." In recent months, the house was been crawling with workers, but for years it stood vacant.

George Duguay lived in this house, on the first floor of the little wing on the north side of the building. There were, as I recall, at least four other apartments in the building, nothing luxurious, but decent affordable places to live--something that gets talked about a lot in Hudson. The building never seemed to be a magnet for drug dealing or any other undesirable activity. George had lived here for forty years, with his peonies in the backyard and his cats.

Galloway acquired the building toward the end of 2005, and George--and everyone who knew him--began worrying that he might lose his home. At least two compassionate neighbors contacted Galloway on George's behalf and received promises from him that he would not evict George. Unfortunately, once George got something into his head, he wasn't easily reassured, and he died plagued by the fear that he would soon be homeless.

Tenants started moving out soon after Galloway bought the building, and after George's death, the building was completely empty. It remained so for four years, until early this year when the restoration began.

Kevin Walker came to the Historic Preservation Commission with the plans for this building quite a while back--possibly as long ago as sometime in 2006. The original plan involved subdividing the house into two dwellings, making the two stories of the wing where George used to live into a separate unit with a sitting porch. Walker has since told me that they have given up the subdivision idea because they couldn't make it work--there was no way to make the smaller house big enough to be marketable--but the sitting porch remains part of the design. The pilings are already in the ground to support it.

The project received its certificate of appropriateness, but not until Galloway agreed to certain requests from the Historic Preservation Commission. One of them had to do with this unusual little window. The original plan called for its removal, but the HPC would not permit it, so modifications were made, and this lovely eclectic detail of Hudson's architectural heritage survives.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How America Eats?

Yesterday, I wanted to make something for the library bake sale, but I didn't want to spend the evening with the oven heating up the house, so I found a recipe on Epicurious for No-Bake Chocolate Cookies. Rolled oats, sugar, whole milk, butter, cocoa, coconut, marshmallows, vanilla--decent enough ingredients, except for the marshmallows, but I knew that without them there wouldn't be the "glue" necessary to hold everything together, so, hoping that no one I knew would observe me in the checkout lane, I selected a bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows and put them in my cart.

The cookies turned out OK--more like the homemade candy I remember from my formative years in the Midwest than cookies, but I liked them well enough. (After sampling one, Norman Posner asked if they came with free insulin injections.)

Tonight, as I stood in my kitchen holding the remains of the bag of marshmallows and wondering with on earth I was going to do with them (they're too little for toasting and making s'mores), I noticed a recipe on the bag for something called "Watergate Salad." Curious--and old enough to remember Watergate--I looked at the ingredients:

1 cup JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
1 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Pistachio Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
1 can DOLE Crushed Pineapple, in juice, undrained
1/2 cup chopped PLANTERS Pecans
1-1/2 cups (1/2 of 8-oz. tub) thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping

In what perverse alternative universe do these ingredients make something that can be called a salad? And--perhaps an even more frightening question--what else is on the menu if this is the salad?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I Love Hudson

William and I have a regular route when we walk: Allen, Second, Warren, Fourth, West Court, Allen. Sometimes we do it clockwise; sometimes we do it counterclockwise. We often walk at first light, when there are few people on the street except other dog walkers and kids waiting for the school bus. This morning, however, we didn't start out until 8:30, and our walk on this glorious day in May reminded me of why--in spite of a painful assessment and disappointing results in the school district elections--I love living in Hudson.

We did our route clockwise this morning, both of us content to revel in the moment. Crossing Union at Second, we heard a voice from on high. It was Timothy Dunleavy calling down from the second floor of his house--from a part of the building that he has only recently laid claim to, after the tenant he inherited when he bought the house ten years ago moved out. We exchanged morning greetings and talked briefly about the success of Historic Hudson's annual meeting last Sunday.

As William and I headed up Warren Street, we saw Skip Weed in his DPW pickup with the light flashing, making a beeline toward Front Street. He waved; I waved back. The same thing happened when we rounded the corner at Fourth Street and encountered John Craig, chauffeuring someone I didn't recognize.

Outside the post office, we ran into Peggy Anderson and had a brief conversation about William's age. (He's 12 now--84 in human years--and more than a little gray around the muzzle.) In front of the courthouse, we encountered Diana Ladden, who introduced us to a colleague and friend named Laura. As Diana and Laura--both dog people--petted William and chatted about him with me, Bill Cranna (Judge William Cranna) greeted us as he entered the courthouse, and someone passing on West Court Street made the gratuitous observation that William (my dog) looked like a wolf.

[ASIDE: William, the gentlest of dogs, is often mistaken for a wild animal. Usually, it's a wolf, but not always. Once, as we were walking west on Warren Street, someone coming from the north on Second rounded the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Recovering himself he explained, "I thought you were walking a BEAR!"]

On the homestretch back down Allen Street, we exchanged good mornings, in the middle of the 300 block, with Maria Miller. Then, in front of the Inn at Hudson, we met up with Fayal Greene and her border terrier, Malti, on the way to a play date with Dini and Windle's border terrier, Psyche.

Back on our own block, I exchanged congenial but frivolous comments about the comparative size of our pets with a woman walking a very small dog. Almost home, William sniffed a spot where another dog had recently peed, and I joked with a man I know only by sight that what William was doing was the canine equivalent of reading the morning paper or checking his email. Then it was back home for a big drink of water (for William) and a cup of coffee (for me).

Hudson has been described as a college campus for the middle-aged, and that's certainly a big part of its appeal. I lived in the same neighborhood in New York City for close to twenty years and in the same building for twelve, and I rarely ran into people I knew on the street. A few years ago, Furthermore held a party at the New-York Historical Society for its grant recipients, and, because Historic Hudson had received a Furthermore grant and I was the president of Historic Hudson at the time, I was invited. Not wanting to have to worry about train schedules, I drove to the city and parked in the garage under my old building at 79th and Amsterdam. Walking the three blocks to the Historical Society, I experienced something that never happened to me when I lived there: I kept running into people I knew. But they were all people from Columbia County--people I knew from my life in Hudson--who were going to the same party I was.

The Mantel of Power

The Hudson Area Library has new public access computers--nine of them, instead of the five or six they had previously--and to accommodate the new equipment, the computer room has been upgraded. The unused bookshelves have been removed, and the pathetic hodgepodge of recycled desks and tables has been replaced with newly constructed counters extending the length of the north and south walls. This new arrangement opens the center of the room and exposes this lovely marble mantel, one of the many interior enhancements introduced during the period (1865-1881) when the building was the residence of George H. Power and his family.

Two more marble mantels survive on the second floor--one in the director's office and the other in the room adjoining that office. There were others in the building, and Norma Hart tells the heartbreaking story of the fate of one of them. Soon after the school district took ownership of the building in 1959 and the library was established as its tenant, Norma witnessed a maintenance man employed by the school district smashing a marble mantel to bits with a sledgehammer. It wasn't wanted in the room where it was located, and pulverizing it was the easiest way to get rid of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guess Who . . .

is being named Hudson Rotary Club Citizen of the Year today. No, it's not Henry Hudson. It's the woman behind the mask--Hudson's own Ellen Thurston. The reception honoring Ellen takes place today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hudson Opera House. It's expected that the presentation of the award will be made at about 6.

Crashing in Hudson

Last night, sometime between 10:30 and 11, a stranger to Hudson, who was looking for the way out, got the accelerator stuck on his Jeep Cherokee. He came roaring up the hill at Second and Warren, veered to the right as he crossed the intersection, plowed between the stop sign and the lamppost, taking out the trash barrel, and crashed through the front window of the Deffebach Gallery.

Colliding with the front window wasn't enough to stop the vehicle. It continued far into the gallery, demolishing the art in its path and stopping only when it reached the wall of the gallery manager's office at the back of the building.

Sarah Sterling just sent me this great picture of the scene last night, as the Jeep was being towed out of the building.

Culinary Reconnaissance

Park Falafel & Pizza Inc. looks like it's on schedule to open Memorial Day weekend. They've unveiled the restored storefront in recent days, and it looks spectacular. I'm really looking forward to opening day!

Olde Hudson has settled in its new shop at 421 Warren Street--almost directly across the street from its previous location. The same superb cheeses and specialty foods, the same well-chosen wares for the kitchen and bath are now offered for sale in a generous and light-filled space that makes shopping there a joy.

Tortillaville is back! It's new location is 347 Warren Street, right next door to Dogs of Hudson. They have a new expanded menu, which you can check out on their website.
I was there last week for a really good grilled vegetable burrito. With extra guacamole on the side, only $6.50. A great meal for very little money.

American Glory, in the former Rogers Hose Company firehouse at 342 Warren Street, is predicting a June opening, and it looks like they're in shape to make their date. The building has been lavishly and meticulously restored and promises to be the kind of restaurant that appeals to all of Hudson--with the possible exception of vegetarians, particularly vegans. But check out the menu on their website and decide for yourself. Perhaps they can be persuaded to grill some vegetables along with all the steak, chicken, and ribs.

Lick has some intriguing new flavors: Caramel Pretzel and 3 Seed. I've sampled 3 Seed--sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds in a delicious creamy ice cream--and found it really good--an excellent delivery system for those beneficial Omega 3 and 6 fats.

Last summer, one of the Lick owners told me that Hudson had a reputation with Jane's Ice Cream for preferring the more unusual flavors. Shops that sell Jane's Ice Cream in other locations go through a lot of traditional flavors--especially strawberry. Not so Hudson. We go for flavors like Figs and Cream, Green Tea, and, my personal favorite, Hot Chocolate--that rich mousse-like chocolate ice cream with a little bit of heat from chili peppers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book & Bake Sale at the Hudson Library

After eating for the library at Mexican Radio yesterday, you have another chance to support the library on Saturday, when the Friends of the Hudson Area Library hold their semiannual book sale. Along with the traditional offerings of books and homemade baked goods and food items, there will be "treasure," including some very nice blue ware china--candlesticks, teapots, serving pieces--donated by Norma Sherman, and bedding plants donated by Holmquest Farms. Also, I have it on very good authority that Don Christensen is donating about a hundred books from his Willard Place library to the book sale.

The event begins at 9 a.m. and continues until 1 p.m. Get there early and don't miss out!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

School District Election Results

Budget passed 761 to 658
Roof proposition passed 790 to 616

Board of Education
Merante 717
Daly 663
Cukerstein 593
Haddad 422
Rice 263

Dan Barrett, treasurer for HCSD, reports that 1,481 people voted at the polls and 66 voted absentee for a total of 1,547--only about 16 percent of the 9,504 voters who are registered. Curiously, 128 of those who voted didn't bother to vote aye or nay on the budget.

Things to Do Today

Eat for the Library at Mexican Radio
537 Warren Street
11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Twenty-five percent of all you spend goes to the Hudson Area Library.

Vote in the School District Election
Noon to 9 p.m.
Polling Places
Hudson: John L. Edwards School, 360 State Street
Greenport: Greenport Pumper Company #1, 216 Green Street
For other areas of the district, check the article in today's Register-Star.

Gossips Picks for BOE: Carrie Haddad and Justin Cukerstein
Before voting on the propositions, ask yourself: Does it make sense to spend $41 million a year to educate fewer than 2,000 students?

The Road Not Taken

School district elections are today, so it seems fitting to publish again this excerpt from a biography of Alexander Woollcott, which I published on my old blog, First Ward Hudson, back in November. Woollcott was the model for the character Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. A visit by Woollcott to Hart's country house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, inspired the play. Woollcott demanded chocolate cake and a frosted milkshake, insisted that the heat be turned off, and then wrote in the guest book upon departing: "I wish to say that on my first visit to Moss Hart's house I had one of the most unpleasant evenings I can ever recall having spent."

Woollcott graduated from Hamilton College in 1909 and, in the fall of his senior year, came to Hudson to explore the possibility of gainful employment after graduation.

"Primarily, I wanted to become a teacher and actually got as far as to apply for the principalship of the high school at Hudson, New York," Woollcott wrote.

"The Hudson school board was gracious and encouraging, but during the tea table conference in what passed for a mansion in Hudson one of its more taciturn members took me aside.

"In a whisper he explained that, whereas the ordinances of the town were modern enough to frown on corporal punishment, it was an open secret that the principal must be prepared to thrash the occasional hoodlum among the students. Tranquil months might drift by without its ever being necessary actually to join combat. But that would only be because the principal was able subtly to convince the entire student body that he could, were he so inclined, take the toughest brute in the senior class and beat the living daylights out of him.

"This colloquy was held in a bay window which looked out on the elm-lined street of the old riverside town not far from Albany. At the moment three students were on their way home from football practice, their alarming bulk increased by the doggy high-necked sweaters of yesteryear.

"'There,' said my counselor on the school board, 'could you scare the wits out of one of those?'

"So I decided to become a reporter."

From Smart Aleck: The Wit, World, and Life of Alexander Woollcott by Howard Teichmann (Morrow, 1976)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meatless Mondays at Swoon

Swoon has joined the Meatless Monday Campaign! Across the country, restaurants, groups, and individuals are committing to making Monday a meatless day. Going meatless just one day a week can conserve water, reduce your carbon footprint, and lower your intake of saturated fats. So for those of you who want to help the planet and yourselves (and for those of us who go meatless every day), Swoon is offering on Monday evenings--in addition to their regular menu--a special four-course vegetarian tasting menu for $24.95 per person.

A Knight in Hudson

Hudson resident David William Voorhees is now a Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau. On April 30, the official birthday of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, he received the medal of knighthood from Gajus Scheltema, Consul General of the Netherlands, in a ceremony in New York City.

The Order of Orange Nassau honors Dutch nationals and foreign nationals for personal merit and achievements and for outstanding service to Dutch society. David is the managing editor of de Halve Maen at the Holland Society of New York and the director of the Jacob Leisler Papers Project at New York University.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 8

These three vacant lots--215-219 Union Street--are owned by Eric Galloway's "Historic Preservation Group." The lots, which are on the south side of the street, extend from Union to Partition Street. Directly opposite these lots, on the north side of Union Street, are three corresponding vacant lots, extending from Union Street to Cherry Alley, that belong to Hudson Electric. Together these vacant lots create a great void in what feels like the geographic center of the First Ward.

I've heard that the stables for the General Worth Hotel, which was on Warren Street where Hudson Electric is now, were located on these Union Street lots. If that's true, they've been vacant for a very long time, since the stables were undoubtedly demolished long before the General Worth was razed in 1972. If anyone has any information about the history of these lots--the ones on the south side of the street or the north side--please share it.

One wonders (and worries) what future development plans may emerge for these lots.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Getting on the Bandwagon

In a letter to the editor in this morning's Register-Star, Vince Wallace recommends voting for Carrie Haddad for HCSD Board of Education. I don't always agree with Wallace, but in this I do. Of the five candidates, Carrie is far and away the best choice.

Here's Carrie's statement about why she's running:
I'm running for the BOE because I care about kids. I want them to be as well prepared as possible to face the world ahead of them. I am running because I care about teachers and their jobs. I care because I live here, I work here, and I pay my taxes here. Let's find a way to give our children an excellent education without raising taxes. I need your vote so I can to do my best for the Hudson City School District and all of the communities it serves.
The sentence that resonates most with me is: "Let's find a way to give our children an excellent education without raising taxes." In the opinion of many, we've been spending too much on an educational system that has been delivering too little for too many of the children of Hudson. We need another voice on the school board to deliver that message and a creative and resourceful mind to focus on finding a solution.

Voting--on the proposed budget, on a proposition to spend $6 million to replace the roof on the high school, as well as for BOE candidates--takes place on Tuesday, May 18. Polls are open from noon until 9 p.m. The polling place for all Hudsonians is John L. Edwards School, 360 State Street (behind the library).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Citizen of the Year

Ellen Thurston--Third Ward Alderman and majority leader of the Common Council, Vice President of the Hudson Opera House Board and for years principal organizer of Winter Walk, chairman of Hudson's Quadricentennial Committee and moving force behind last year's wildly successful Namesake Celebration, keeper of the events calendar, creator of Much to Do About Hudson, publisher of weekly lists of meetings and "Ellen's Picks," woman with her finger on the pulse of what's happening in Hudson and beyond, redoubtable and indefatigable worker for the commonweal, and everyone's favorite Ms. Information--has been named 2010 Hudson Area Citizen of the Year by the Hudson Rotary Club.

Ellen will receive public recognition at a reception to be held at the Hudson Opera House on Thursday, May 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. A formal presentation of the award will be made at around 6 p.m. Although reservations are not required, it is recommended that you contact Joel Allen at or (518) 828-4729 to let the Rotary know you're planning to attend.

Congratulations, Ellen!

Google Blogger Boggle

The post "Walking the Dog Terror" hit a nerve and evoked lots of comments. Unfortunately, as I learned this morning, readers' recent attempts to post comments have met with an annoying error message. (I got the same one when I attempted to post a comment on behalf of a reader.) So, with the permission of the authors, I am posting these two comments as part of a new post. On the assumption that the problem is "post specific," I invite people who tried to comment on "Walking the Dog Terror" but couldn't to try commenting on this post.

"This is a terrible story. But it's a reminder of how close the culture of violence is in Hudson. The high-rise and lower State Street are teeming with fights and that might explain the cops' lackluster response to this incident. . . . If anyone cares to get a glimpse of this culture in a safe environment, I urge you to visit our local high school. You may not see a fight, but you'll catch some of the undertones of anger and physicality that go into creating the kinds of folks who spill on to our streets and do damage. . . . I'll be glad to arrange a 'tour.'"

Peter Meyer

"A little more than two years ago I took part in launching a loosely-knit "neighborhood watch" on lower Allen Street. We are still in existence, I think, although we're not very organized.

"At that time I shared several emails with Lieutenant Paolino, of the HPD. He told me that they were working on a roster of police sergeant contacts for each ward, in order that they might meet regularly with ward residents to discuss local problems and to encourage people to be more active. (It is true that Hudson citizens are not very involved, which shows in the few calls they get even for incidents such as gun play.)

"The Lieutenant explained that the assignments would be "coming from the Chief," so if I had a specific request I should put the word in.

"I asked for Sergeant Moon for the 1st Ward, since Moon has been here for many years. I'd met Sergeant Moon when I found a drug cache floating in the sewer at the bottom of Partition Street. He remembered being on call around 10 years earlier, the night my wife found a man with his throat slit on our steps. I thought, Sergeant Moon is our man.

"But then nothing ever happened. I asked the Lieutenant why not, and he reported that there was some confusion between the aldermen on the matter. I certainly do not blame Sergeant Moon if the program couldn't get off the ground, but I do not know whether the HPD dropped the ball or whether someone else did. Maybe it was just entropy.

"However, to those who do not believe that bad things happen in Hudson, just wishing that it were not so presents a different kind of danger."

T. O'Connor

Eat for Books!

Mark your calendars. Tell your friends. Make your plans. Next Tuesday, May 18, 25 percent of everything you spend on food and drink at Mexican Radio in Hudson--all day, from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.--will go to support the Hudson Area Library. Have huevos rancheros for brunch. Go back for flautas or enchiladas at dinnertime. Then round out the day--after attending a stimulating Common Council meeting or whatever your plans for the evening involve--with a late-night snack of nachos and margaritas. Eat early, eat often, and support the library!

Even though the City of Hudson now provides $120,000 in annual support, the library still needs to make up half its operating budget through grants and fundraising. Dining at Mexican Radio next Tuesday is a very pleasant and painless way to help out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Walking the Dog Terror

Everyone who walks a dog in Hudson has probably at one time or another been subject to some level of verbal abuse--from people who hate dogs, are afraid of dogs, or are just full of anger and think they can dump their rage on you and have it pass for righteous indignation. In eleven years of walking William (at left) in Hudson, I’ve been falsely accused many times of letting him poop on someone’s lawn, but this story, shared by a Gossips reader and fellow dog walker, is just plain scary--because the abuse didn’t stop with verbal abuse.

I share it with you as it was submitted to me, so that those of you who walk in Hudson--with or without dogs--can be aware of this situation and avoid it. Discretion is, after all, the better part of valor.

At about 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, May 1, my wife and I were attacked by a man on the 500 block of Union Street. He falsely accused us of letting our dog poop on his front yard; screamed at me and pushed me in the chest; screamed at my wife and threatened to assault her too; and then, as we tried to flee, hit me so hard in the back that I was launched off the sidewalk and fell sprawling, face-first into the street.

There’s much to say about the injuries I sustained. And the rapid response of the Hudson police department. And how our dog reacted to all of this. But first, some detail about the incident itself.

My relevant memories begin 25 minutes earlier. Walking our dog up Warren Street at around 10:20 a.m., we were dismayed to see how much dog poop was on the sidewalk. There’s no doubt that Hudson has a problem with scofflaw dog owners who, whether out of laziness or ignorance, refuse to curb their dogs. The threat of a $50 fine is clearly an insufficient deterrent. And while Hudson is nowhere near as bad as New York City in the 1970s--I remember skipping through the minefield that was Central Park in those days--it’s a problem that is clearly getting worse.

My wife and I are enthusiastic curbers. We use special biodegradable poop bags that we ordered on the Internet. Sometimes I tie these electric-green bags to the leash for all to see. These badges of virtue send a clear signal: listen folks, I will scoop my dog’s poop. We care about Hudson and are actively involved in our community. Curbing our dog is more than an act of legal compliance for us; it’s a matter of pride.

Anyway, we finished our chores on Warren Street at around 10:40 a.m., cut over to Union Street on 6th Street, and began our fateful walk down the 500 block of Union Street.

About three-quarters of the way down the block, our progress was interrupted by the loud bellow of someone behind us shouting, “Hey man! Hey man!” I looked behind me to see a man getting out of a car farther up (east) the street. As I had no business with anyone on that block, I assumed he was shouting at one of the other pedestrians on the block at that moment (there was at least one other).

I turned to continue on our journey, but my wife didn’t move. Characteristically more observant than me, she realized this loud person was shouting at us. The man continued his shouting and walked quickly towards us. I noticed two things: first, he was tall, maybe 250 pounds, and muscular. I had never seen him before; I didn’t (and still don’t) know his name; I didn’t (and still don’t) know where he lives. He had a bright green shirt on, almost as electric as the cherished poop bag that was still in my pocket, crumpled and unused.

Second, he was an “active talker,” by which I mean that he punctuated his shouted words with athletic, aggressive shoulder-jerks and fist-jabs.

Even though I held the dog’s leash, he went after my wife first. That’s not too surprising. Bullies generally choose physically smaller victims. He screamed something about how the “dog was shitting on my lawn!” and how “I’m sick of this!” and “keep your dog out of my yard!” He subjected her to that for about 5 seconds.

And then he left her--we were both standing petrified and confused, about 8 to 10 feet apart--and then went after me. He came very close and screamed his accusations directly into my face, emphasizing each word with jabbing motions with his fists (not raised, I should emphasize, but to his sides). He screamed at me for a terrifying 20 seconds, during which time I vainly attempted communication, saying “My dog didn’t do that” several times. But I don’t think he was interested in dialogue. The screaming continued and he moved even closer, so I put up my left hand defensively to my own chest, palm outward, and said “Wait, just calm down.” His huge barrel chest was heaving so close to me at this point, that his chest and my hand touched (a soft cotton T-shirt, I recall. Pretty high quality, I think. Funny what you remember.)

Asking him to calm down only made him more furious. His gesticulations became more violent. To the false accusation about the dog was added another one--that I had “raised a hand” to him. He rushed at me and shoved me pretty hard in the chest, sending me stumbling backwards a few paces.

The most terrifying part came next. He went back to my wife. I saw what ensued in profile, and it’s an image I will not soon forget: a seething attacker looming above my wife, screaming down at her and now punctuating his words with raised hands, jabbing finger-points menacingly towards her face. And I won’t forget the words: “I’m going to kick his ass [jabbing a finger towards me] and then I’m going to get my 13-year-old daughter to kick your ass!” The latter threat was directed, with more menacing finger-pointing, towards my wife, who was standing motionless and terrified. Tears were streaming down her face.

Fearing that he was about to hit her--after all, he had just hit me--I situated myself between them and tried to tell him “not to talk to my wife that way.” But he wasn’t done. The screaming and gesticulations, now directed at both of us, continued for another 10 to 15 seconds. He never paused to listen to anything we had to say. Reunited with my wife, knowing that physical self-defense was not an option and realizing that dialogue was impossible, we tried to flee. I handed the leash to my wife and told her to get away. She stepped off the curb with our dog and the two of them started crossing the street.

I turned to follow. I did not see what happened next, but I felt it. Something made an impact powerfully against the middle of my back; the impact flung me off the curb, face-first, into the street, where I landed between two parked cars. I looked back and saw the man being restrained by--I believe--his own daughter and perhaps one other bystander. My “flight” instinct had already been triggered, so I dusted myself off, and we walked quickly home.

It turns out that one of key legal differences in New York State between an assault (potentially a felony) and harassment (a violation, little more serious than a traffic ticket and punishable by a fine) is the extent of injuries caused to the victim. Mine were so minor that I did not seek medical treatment. Later that afternoon, I saw two red welts on my back, evidence of a cowardly and childish gesture--he hit me in the back as I turned to leave, either with his fists or open palms. I sustained a sore neck, a bruise on my shoulder, two cuts on my right hand, and a mildly traumatized psyche that kept me up for several sleepless nights thereafter. I was lucky. These injuries could have been far more serious.

This whole incident was observed by three adult witnesses: my wife and two bystanders. One of the bystanders, I believe, tried to restrain the attacker; the other neighbor called 911. The police responded quickly, but when they arrived, no one was left at the scene except for the attacker. The police took his statement then and mine a few minutes later; my wife was interviewed by another responding detective.

So, now we get to the obvious question. Why wasn’t the assailant charged with anything? This whole incident has been an education for me. I’ve learned three things.

First, when a bully assaults you without provocation, in broad daylight, in front of several witnesses, don’t dust yourself off and leave the scene. Sure, no one likes playing the 90-pound weakling to a mountain of muscle, but resist the temptation to pretend that you’re all right. Stay on the ground and allow yourself to be interviewed by the police and tended to by EMTs. You’re probably more seriously injured than you realize.

Second, if you want to press charges, don’t wait. Unless you’re lying bloodied and prone where you fell, it probably won’t be considered an assault. And unless you’re willing to make a complaint right away, a prosecutor may not be interested in interviewing any witnesses or pressing any charges at all.

I’m not complaining about the Hudson police. All in all, I found them to be about as responsive and sympathetic as an overworked urban police force can possibly be. Ex post facto harassment complaints are just not at the top of their priority list. I can understand that. If you want to put yourself at the top of their priority list, do what I didn’t do and file a complaint--immediately, and at the scene of the crime.

Third, I’ve learned that the single most powerful weapon that we can use in Hudson to defend ourselves is the cell phone. 911 response times are fast in a city of only two square miles. If you’re verbally assaulted by someone who is trying to alarm, intimidate, and/or threaten you with bodily harm, call 911 right away.

Finally, to answer the question that I’m sure you’re curious about: no, our dog left no poop on anyone’s yard that morning. None of her activities--which included trotting along good-naturedly and sniffing various spots of grass looking for Lord knows what--were out of the ordinary or in any way injurious to public health or safety.

Our attacker was clearly angry about something he thought he saw. Did our dog walk a couple of steps on his sidewalk or yard? Was he attacking us on Saturday for something he thought he saw earlier? Was this a case of mistaken identity? We honestly have no idea. If he had spoken to us rationally, I’m sure we could have worked it out.

And ironically, while our assailant snarled at innocent pedestrians, our smallish dog was the picture of calm and serenity. She did absolutely nothing during the attack. Not even a bark! It’s official, we have the world’s worst guard dog. Good thing, too. Had she tried to defend us, the man’s violent rage would surely have been directed at her.

So, it could have been worse. Ultimately, I’m most grateful that my wife was not injured. Her safety is my biggest priority and anxiety. I shudder to think what would have happened to her if I had not been there; or if it was nighttime; or if there were no witnesses. I’m also concerned about other bullies lurking in other neighborhoods in this city. I doubt that our attacker is the only wounded, unstable man in Hudson who is angry about perceived injustices and is ready to lash out at a woman, even if it means doing so in public.

I’m not sure what lessons to take from all of this, besides avoiding the 500 block of Union Street for a while. Perhaps other dog owners have similar experiences. Perhaps this was an isolated incident or part of a more generalized problem. Perhaps it could start a dialogue to keep our city safer. I don’t know. I’m just grateful that we all walked away relatively unscathed.

Many thanks to Gossips of Rivertown for the opportunity to share my story pseudonymously.

--Sotto Voce, a resident of Hudson


Assessments--the actual assessments for 2009 and the tentative assessments for 2010, for all properties in Hudson as well as the rest of the county--are now available online, accessed from the Columbia County website.

Starting today, May 11, Garth Slocum, assessor for the City of Hudson, will be available at the Central Firehouse, 77 North Seventh Street, to meet with people to discuss their assessments. He will be there every weekday except Wednesday up until Grievance Day on May 25. Today he's not expected to be at the firehouse until 11. I have been told that henceforward he will be there from 9 to 12:30 and again from 2:30 to 5. No appointments are necessary.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What's in a Name?

The question is on everyone's lips (well, maybe not everyone's): Why has Historic Hudson started calling the Hudson River estate in its care the Dr. Oliver Bronson House instead of the Plumb-Bronson House?

I have permission from Timothy Dunleavy, president of Historic Hudson, to reveal the answer to that question here.

Back in 1997, when Historic Hudson began its advocacy for the house, it was decided the name Plumb would be included in the house's name to acknowledge its connection with Hudson's New England roots and maritime heritage. Captain Samuel Plumb, for whom the house was built in 1812, was a seagoing man from New Bedford who followed the original Proprietors to their new "seaport far from the sea."

Recently, however, it seemed that to continue calling the house the Plumb-Bronson House only invited confusion. The house is of national significance because of its connection with the architect Alexander Jackson Davis, and it was Dr. Oliver Bronson who hired Davis first to "refit" the house in 1839 and then to expand it in 1849. In 1973, the house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. Perhaps more important, in 2003, it was designated a National Historic Landmark as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. Somewhere there's an NHL plaque waiting to be erected at the house that identifies it as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, so Historic Hudson decided it was time to transition to that name.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Golden Opportunity

The chance to see Hudson's only National Historic Landmark, the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, doesn't happen every day, primarily because the house is located on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility, and the folks in charge are quite particular about who comes and goes from there. Usually when Historic Hudson opens the house, it's for a fundraiser, and the price of admission is a substantial sum. But this coming Sunday, you can tour the house, admire the newly restored windows, hear architectural historian Alan Neumann talk about the house, the Bronsons, and the Picturesque Movement in American architecture, while enjoying wine and hors d'oeuvres prepared by the members of the Historic Hudson Board of Directors--all gratis, provided you're a member of Historic Hudson.

On Sunday, May 16, from 5 until 7 p.m., Historic Hudson holds its annual meeting at the Dr. Oliver Bronson House (also known as the Plumb-Bronson House). If you're not already a member of Historic Hudson, don't worry. Historic Hudson will be happy to sign you up on the spot, for a mere $25 annual membership fee.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 7

This is the corner of First and Union--property address: 14 South First Street. The existing house, facing First Street along Cherry Alley, and the adjacent vacant lot are owned by Galloway's "Historic Preservation Group." There's a long story about this property--only part of which involves Eric Galloway.

Back in 2002 or so, the City owned a number of properties that had been seized for nonpayment of taxes. This was one of them. The Common Council, which then included realtor and historic preservation advocate Judy Meyer, came up with an innovative plan for selling the properties--one that should have worked but didn't. Instead of holding an auction in which the properties would go to the highest bidder (which in the past usually meant that they were snatched up at bargain prices by Phil Gellert), the Council would solicit proposals from prospective buyers outlining what the buyer intended to do with the property as well as indicating the price the buyer was willing to pay. The idea was that the quality of the proposal and its potential benefit to the community combined with the bid itself would be used to determine who got the property. It sounded good at the time, but God is in the details. There were no covenants written into the deeds that established time limits for carrying out the proposal or stipulated how long the new owner had to keep the property before selling it to someone else. Ten years later, there are still properties acquired in that sale which have not seen their proposed improvements realized, but most changed hands long ago, before anything much was done to them. This one fell into the latter category.

Garden designer Phillipe Soule was the bidder who got this property in the tax sale. What he proposed, I remember hearing at the time, was an office for his business and a kind of specimen garden that showcased his design talent and displayed favorite plant materials. A couple years later, without having carried out the plan he'd proposed, Soule sold the property to Eric Galloway, reportedly for $60,000. At that time, too, it was reported that Soule had paid less than $10,000 for it.

In the early years of his ownership, Galloway cleaned the place up, which was a great benefit to the neighborhood. Behind the house there used to be an old mobile home on cinder blocks (illegal in the City of Hudson) and a ramsackle structure that connected the trailer to the house. All of that was demolished, the trailer carted off, and the house boarded up. But that's where things stopped.

In the summer of 2007, Kevin Walker, representing Galloway, brought a plan for developing the property to the Historic Preservation Commission. It involved the construction of, if memory serves, four attached townhouses--three that faced Union Street and another that faced Front Street--and the rehabilitation of the existing historic house. There was an effort to fast-track this through the HPC. Indeed, Rick Scalera, who was "stopping out" that term from being mayor, showed up at an HPC meeting to make sure the project got its C of A in a timely fashion. Despite the pressure, the HPC did its job conscientiously, rejecting, among other things I can't recall, the addition of quoins to the existing house--an architectural detail not found on houses of its kind in the vernacular architecture of Hudson.

After the project got fast-tracked through the HPC review, it went with the same sense of urgency to the Zoning Board of Appeals for an area variance. Hudson's zoning laws, adopted decades ago, call for setbacks that don't conform with the existing streetscape in most of the city's older neighborhoods.* Since the building being proposed would have the same relationship to the sidewalk and street as all the other buildings in the neighborhood, an area variance was required from the ZBA. That, too, was granted, and the project was set to go.

But, after all the effort and special attention from the HPC and the ZBA, the project never happened. According to Walker, by the time they had secured the C of A and the area variance, they'd lost the contractor. It would seem reasonable to expect that, if they were committed to doing the project, they would have lined up the contractor for the next construction season and started then, but several years have passed and nothing has happened.

* Early on, it was explained to me that the inappropriate setbacks in the Hudson zoning code were there because the City had more or less adopted standardized zoning meant for more suburban, 20th-century residential areas. A few years ago, however, someone who had been involved in the process told me that the setbacks were adopted quite deliberately. The expectation was that all the old buildings would eventually burn down or be demolished, and, with new buildings set farther back, the streets could be widened. Whenever I think about this, my blood runs cold.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


The new assessments came out yesterday. They weren’t mailed to property owners but were made available at City Hall. (Rumor has it that they will not be mailed until a week before grievance day [May 25], but that may be just rumor.) We’d heard that a “re-val” was underway, but no one knew what to expect. By afternoon, home owners on Allen and Union streets who were aware of their new assessments were either in shock or mad as hell. First reports made it seem that only Union and Allen streets had been reassessed, and a cursory check of the assessment book seemed to confirm that notion. Across the board, the assessments on properties on these streets seemed to have more than doubled--at a time when property values are depressed everywhere. The “full market value” assigned to my house, for example, is more than I could have sold it for in my wildest dreams at the height of the post-9/11 real estate boom!

Since yesterday more information has been received. According to City Assessor Garth Slocum, all the properties in Hudson were “looked at,” and the assessments changed for 90 percent of them. The assessments on only 230 properties remained the same. Of the 90 percent that changed, some saw increases, some decreases. The neighborhoods off Harry Howard--out by Montgomery C. Smith and the Firemen's Home--saw their assessments go down, because, according to Slocum, “houses there are selling for only between $170,000 and $190,000.” Most properties on the south side of town saw staggering increases, because some houses here have sold for tidy sums in the past year. Overall, the total taxable value of all the property in the city has increased 31 percent--cold comfort for those of us with property whose taxable value has increased more than 100 percent.

According to the New York State Association of Realtors, the median selling price for a house in Columbia County is currently $225,000. According to the “full market values” assigned to some of the houses in my neighborhood, $225,000 is barely enough to buy an aluminum-sided fixer-upper.

Sopping Up an Oil Slick with Castaway Hair

I heard this story last night on All Things Considered. There's a group called Matter of Trust that uses discarded hair and nylon stockings to create "hair sausages" to absorb and contain oil slicks.

So, hair salons of Hudson, will you donate our severed tresses to help clean up the Gulf Coast?

I'll have to find out if they can use dog hair. William is shedding at a remarkable rate now that the warm weather is upon us.

ADDENDUM: Here's the link to the New York Times article mentioned by Peter in his comment.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 6

This is 202-204 Warren Street, the first on the list of properties owned by Eric Galloway's "Historic Preservation Group."

This building was built as an apartment building around the end of the 19th century. Etched in the surviving glass transom over one of the entrances is the name "Brousseau Bldg."

The building was designed by architect Michael J. O'Connor, who came to Hudson in 1879 and worked here, designing houses and public buildings, for the next fifty years. His work includes several private residences in the neighborhood of the courthouse and throughout the city and many public buildings, including the Allen Street School and the original Firemen's Home, which was demolished decades ago. The Brousseau building was designed to have six apartments, two on each of the three floors. There are two entrances to the building, each with two doors: one door accessed the ground-floor apartment; the other door opened to the staircase that led to the apartments on the upper floors.

Galloway has owned 202-204 Warren Street for a number of years--possibly as many as seven. One of the first things he did after purchasing the building--even before he had evicted all the tenants--was to remove the porticos at the two entrances, which were supported by rather delicate and unusual Corinthian columns. (Of course, it's been a while since I've seen them.) Those who expressed outrage when the porticos were removed were assured by Galloway apologists at the time that (1) the porticos had been removed for public safety reasons and (2) the columns were in storage, presumably to be returned to the building at some future time.

A few years ago, Galloway had a plan to convert this apartment building into two enormous townhouses, with commercial or professional space on the ground floor and living space on the two floors above. The plan involved changing the doorways, installing porticos with columns that were not the originals, and enlarging the windows on the ground floor. I also seem to recall a decorative ballustrade above the cornice--an element that was never part of the original design.

The Historic Preservation Commission spent a lot of time reviewing the plans, suggesting changes, and reviewing them again. After several months, they may actually have gotten to the point of approving the design, but Galloway abandoned the project. I recall the reason given at the time was that there wasn't a market for such townhouses.

Meanwhile, the building's six apartments remain empty, and the ground-floor windows along the west facade are boarded up.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Falafel Fa La

There's a lot of buzz about the new falafel and vegetarian pizza restaurant opening on Seventh Street by the park--in the former location of the notorious but short-lived Lone Wolf. Word about falafel coming to Hudson is being spread on Facebook and via email, and it's even become a topic of conversation on the venomous Voy Forum. But here's a uniquely Gossips take on the story.

The restaurant is a collaboration between Brian Herman, who now owns the building, and Alana Hauptmann, who brings her considerable restaurant expertise to the enterprise. In April, Herman appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission, trying to exact a certificate of appropriateness for proposed changes to the storefront with an incomplete application. He had just closed on the building, and the restaurant had to open by Memorial Day weekend, so he wanted the HPC to grant a certificiate of appropriateness "on faith" that day, or he would simply leave the storefront in the sorry state it was in.

A critical part of an application for a C of A (certificate of appropriateness) is a historic picture that shows the subject building as it was intended to be. Since I have been entrusted--for the purpose of providing this support to the HPC--with electronic files of Historic Hudson's Rowles Studio Collection and all the images assembled by Byrne Fone for his book Historic Hudson: An Architectural History, requests for such pictures usually come to me. On the afternoon before the April HPC meeting, I received a request for a historic photograph of 11 North Seventh Street and was able to provide this picture, taken in 1911, which is quite remarkable for the clarity and detail it provides.

Fortunately, the situation that seemed to be at an impasse at the April HPC meeting finally reached a satisfactory resolution: within two weeks' time, Herman would provide elevation drawings for the proposed changes to the storefront, based on the historic picture; the HPC would review the drawings upon receipt and be prepared to vote on the C of A at their next meeting on May 14--allowing adequate time for the storefront restoration to be executed before the scheduled opening on Memorial Day weekend.

This afternoon, I paid a visit to 11 North Seventh Street to see how things were coming along. There, taped to the temporary flakeboard wall erected in front of the building, was a copy of the 1911 photograph. Passersby are being given the chance to see what the building used to look like and a preview of what (we hope) it will look like again very soon. How cool is that?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 5

This is the Cornelius H. Evans House, 412-416 Warren Street--another building significant to Hudson history that is owned by the Galvan Group.

Cornelius H. Evans (1841-1902) was the owner of the C. H. Evans Brewing Company, in its time (1786-1920) one of Hudson's major industries. Evans was a trustee of the Hudson City Savings Institution and a director of the National Hudson City Bank and was twice elected mayor of Hudson, serving from 1872 to 1874 and again from 1876 to 1878.

He was also the benefactor of C. H. Evans Hook & Ladder Company. The firehouse he endowed is now owned, appropriately, by a descendant and namesake of Cornelius Evans, Neil Evans, and is the site of Spotty Dog Books & Ale, where you can drink Evans ale brewed at the revived C. H. Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station--established in 1999 by Neil Evans.

The Cornelius H. Evans House was built in 1861. The house remained in the Evans family until 1941. In 1946, it was purchased by Congregation Anshe Emeth and used as a Jewish community center until 1970. After being a private residence for a short time in the 1970s, it became an apartment building and remains so today. The major change to the building since it was purchased by the Galvan Group was removing the paint from the brick and sandstone.

In 1974, the house was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Go to Hudson

Hudson has a new website! It's part of an effort to promote Hudson and Hudson businesses spearheaded by Melinda Slover, the proprietor of Lili and Loo, and the Go To Hudson Campaign Team: Paul Barrett, Carolyn Lawrence, Joan Castle, and Lynn Sloneker. The site offers lots of information, pictures, and links to Hudson businesses, venues, and organizations and portrays Hudson as the cool and happening destination that it is.

A criticism and an appreciation: The Home Page, which is also an ad that's been appearing in various publications, sadly underestimates the number of historic buildings in Hudson. There are 300 on Warren Street alone. In the entire city, there are way more than 700. But kudos to the group for coming up with a new descriptive name for Hudson: "Upstate's Downtown." It's smart, uniquely descriptive, and far more appropriate than the tired old sobriquet "The Friendly City," which is shared by many other municipalites in the United States and hardly suits a city where fines from parking tickets are viewed as a revenue stream. The Common Council may want to consider adopting it as the City's official epithet.