Saturday, March 31, 2012

Galvan Responds

At last Wednesday's Legal Committee meeting, Alderman David Marston (First Ward) reported that his research had revealed that the eleven supportive housing facilities operated by Eric Galloway's Lantern Organization in New York City averaged twenty-six building code violations per building per year. This statement was quoted in the Register-Star coverage of the meeting and by Gossips. Today, Tom Swope, executive director for the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, responds to this allegation on the foundation's blog.  

An Unveiling

Speaking on Victor Mendolia's @Issue program on WGXC in early March, Tom Swope, executive director for the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, said that work was beginning on three multi-unit buildings that Eric Galloway has been warehousing for several years: 202-204 Warren Street, 260 Warren Street, and 356 Union Street.   

In February, the interior of the Brousseau Building (202-204 Warren Street), which Swope said would be restored to its original configuration of six apartments, was completely gutted. Since then, there have been no visible signs of work going on at the building. 

The plans for 260 Warren Street include commercial and residential space: commercial space on the ground floor and three apartments--one each on the second and third floors at the front of the building and a duplex apartment at the back of the building. In recent weeks, however, there seem to be no visible signs of work going on at this building either.

It would appear that the activity is now focused on 356 Union Street, which Swope indicated would again be a multi-unit dwelling, although probably divided into fewer apartments than it had been previously. In recent weeks, the building's pinkish siding was removed, revealing the original clapboard. 

Can It Be . . . ?

Scott Baldinger has an update on his blog about the rumor he reported that the Ace Hotel Group was interested in the Pocketbook Factory: "Ace Update."

For some information about the Ace Hotel Group, see "Coming up Aces?" on Sam Pratt's blog.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Outcome in the 103rd

Gossips just received word that, with the absentee ballots in Columbia County still to be counted, Richard Wager has conceded defeat. Didi Barrett is the new representative for the 103rd Assembly District. For Wager's concession statement, see Capital Tonight and the Register-Star

900 Columbia Street

Gossips hasn't reported on the fate of 900 Columbia Street since October 2011 when word was received that the State Historic Preservation Office had "closed the file" on this early 19th-century Hudson house. There are rumors that the Mental Health Association is now ready to publish its RFP for the construction of the new building and the demolition of the historic building. It has been suggested that, since Jeff Rovitz of MHA offered to give the historic building to anyone willing to move it off the site, Eric Galloway should accept the challenge and move the house to the vacant lots he owns in the 200 block of Union Street where it can be in the company of other buildings of the same era. 

A month or so ago, city treasurer Eileen Halloran joined the effort to save 900 Columbia Street, but for her, saving the historic building is secondary to protecting the houses along Green Street from further problems caused by water seepage and run off. Halloran was at the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday night to present her concerns about the impact of the construction and demolition at 900 Columbia Street. Halloran reported, from her own observation and conversations with Green Street residents, the current problems: some sections of sidewalk are "nearly impassable," railroad ties in retaining walls are being pushed out, many properties have visible soil erosion and exposed tree roots, property owners have trenched around their houses or constructed stone or block barriers to divert water, one property owner runs sump pumps to remove water from the basement, the foundation of one of the houses is being compromised because of ground water problems. 

In her statement to the Public Works Committee, which she also submitted in writing to the chair of the Legal Committee, Halloran made the point that the property owners on Green Street were good neighbors to the Mental Health Association and its residents: "Unlike other neighborhoods where MHA has met with resistance, this neighborhood is not looking to chase MHA away. Rather, they are asking MHA leadership to be a good neighbor to them." 

Halloran wanted to know "where the accountability lies for a thorough environmental review [of the project] . . . to ensure compliance with the storm water requirements of the Clean Water Act" and concluded by saying: "We owe it to the people on Green Street to understand the sources of the problems and make sure MHA activity doesn't make it worse."

Unfortunately, Halloran's presentation seemed to be received with lack of sympathy from some and a hint of skepticism from others. City attorney Cheryl Roberts acknowledged that the project was exempt from site plan review by the Planning Commission, which is where a study of its impact on the hydrology would take place, but noted that it was "subject to code." Mayor William Hallenbeck asked from the audience if the people Halloran had talked with on Green Street were her friends. Halloran explained that she simply approached people she saw working in their yards. Former mayor Rick Scalera made the comment--in a voice audible to all sitting near him--that "apparently the campaign is on early." After the committee meeting adjourned, Scalera admonished Halloran, saying that her issues appropriately should be addressed to "these three people," indicating himself (Fifth Ward supervisor) and the two Fifth Ward aldermen, Cappy Pierro and "Doc" Donahue. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tonight at City Hall

It was the expectation that at tonight's special meeting the Common Council would discuss and deliberate about the Hudson Civic proposal and then vote on whether or not to support it. Only the latter part of that happened. Between last night's Legal Committee meeting and tonight's meeting, the memorandum of understanding came off the table, and the resolution presented to the Legal Committee last night by Council president Don Moore, with the addition of one new Whereas paragraph, was what came before the Council for a vote. Moore explained that the resolution was the product of discussion between the City and the Lantern Group and then said that he believed that there should be a partnership between the City and Lantern and trusted that there would be, but it needed to happen one step at a time.

Bearing the title "A Resolution of Support on Behalf of the City and the Common Council for the Development of a Supportive Permanent Homeless Housing, City of Hudson Police Station, and City of Hudson Court House as part of a Three-Unit Condominium Project," the resolution concludes: 
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Mayor and the Common Council President are authorized to convey this Resolution of Support to the Sponsors, and the City will explore further the mutual development of a Memorandum of Understanding delineating the potential agreement between the parties over the next three months. 
The discussion consisted only of a lengthy statement by Second Ward alderman Abdus Miah, the gist which seemed to be that, although it was not "100 percent perfect," the proposal was the best the City could come up with to solve its problems.

There being no other comments, Moore called for a vote. Voting aye were Moore, Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward), John Friedman (Third Ward), Miah, Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), Carmine Pierro (Fifth Ward), Sheila Ramsey (Fourth Ward), and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward). Voting nay were Nick Haddad (First Ward), David Marston (First Ward), and Chris Wagoner (Third Ward). The resolution passed 1,566 to 454.  

Act in Haste . . .

On his blog, Sam Pratt reports that the Galvan Initiatives Foundation has so far not been approved as a charity by the IRS even though it is listed as a project sponsor on the Civic Hudson fact sheet: "I.R.S. has yet to approve Galvan." This may explain why all references made last night to the sponsor/owner of the project were to the Lantern Organization not to the Galvan Inititatives Foundation. 

Nothing New Under the Sun

Promoters of the plan to combine the city court and police headquarters with housing for formerly homeless adults describe it as innovative, creative, and an example of "thinking outside the box." While it may be true that using funding from the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP) to finance a municipal building hasn't been done before, the idea of combining the police and the homeless appears not to be new at all. 

This morning on WAMC, Joe Donahue interviewed Richard Zacks about his book Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-loving New York. Mentioned in passing was this bit of information: At the time when Roosevelt was trying to root out vice and corruption in New York City, it seems to have been the practice to have homeless shelters in the basements of police stations.  

No Trucking Way

At its March meeting, the Common Council passed a resolution asking the NYS Department of Transportation to reopen the discussion about rerouting trucks out of the city of Hudson. Tom Casey had the story in yesterday's Register-Star: "Truck route relocation revisited." If there is anything that everyone in Hudson can agree on it is that trucks coming through Hudson on Routes 9 and 9G is something we would like to stop. The problem is that they have to go somewhere, and if the trucks don't come through Hudson, they have to go through Greenport and Claverack. 

Greenport supervisor, John Porreca, who used to live in Hudson, has already expressed his intention to oppose trucks being rerouted through Greenport, citing the congestion on Route 9 as the reason. Unscientific observation of the trucks entering Hudson on Route 9G/Third Street gives the impression that the majority of them are bound for ShopRite, PriceChopper, Walmart, Loew's, and other big boxes along Route 9/Fairview Avenue, Greenport's retail corridor. Whether they go through Hudson or not, they're going to end up contributing to the congestion of Route 9. 

Legal Committee Discusses Civic Hudson

Tom Casey's account of the deliberations of the Common Council Legal Committee over the Galvan Initiatives Foundation's Civic Hudson proposal is in today's Register-Star: "Much ado about police/court plan." Toward the end of the discussion, committee chair John Friedman (Third Ward) suggested that "financial due diligence should go both ways," saying that the City needed to vet the Lantern Organization, Eric Galloway's not-for-profit which it seems would own the building and operate the two low-income residential floors, to determine Lantern's financial fitness. This prompted Mark Greenberg, attorney for Eric Galloway, to ask, "If Carnegie, Ford, or Marina Abramovich came in, would you be hammering them about their financials?"

On the topic of the Lantern Organization, David Marston (First Ward) reported that his research had revealed that Lantern operated eleven supportive housing buildings in New York City, each of which had an average of twenty-six building code violations.

The discussion at last night's meeting clarified what the City is getting from Galvan/Lantern in this scheme: "a white box with partitions and plumbing and heating." The City will be responsible for financing all the interior finishes and equipment. The "indenture agreement" between the City and Galvan/Lantern will be either a triple net lease or a condominium agreement. In either case, the City would be responsible for maintenance costs. Friedman made the point that $100,000 a year for thirty years, which is being touted as the only cost to the City, "is not everything." 

With the exception of Marston, all the members of the Legal Committee present--Friedman, Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward), Don Moore (Council president)--seem to think the plan is a creative way--and perhaps the only way--to achieve what Friedman said would otherwise be an "unreachable goal." Friedman, Moore, and Marston agreed, however, that things were moving too fast. The debate at tonight's special meeting of the full Council will likely be whether the Council should pass a resolution of suppport for the project or adopt a memorandum of understanding. One or the other is needed to strengthen Galvan/Lantern's application for funding, which must be submitted by April 1. Tonight's special meeting begins at 6 p.m.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Futures for Old Buildings

Gossips has just learned that the sale of the surviving building of the Hudson River Knitting Mill on North Front Street to Rob Kalin, founder and former CEO of Etsy, closed last week. Word is that Kalin intends to use the building for his new venture, a not-for-profit called Parachutes. The mission of Parachutes has been described as "empowering people around the world to learn and teach what they desire, to showcase their capabilities, and to make a living doing what they love."

On his blog, Word on the Street, Scott Baldinger reports the rumor that Eleanor Ambos is in final negotiations to sell the Pocketebook Factory on North Sixth Street to the Seattle-based Ace Hotel Group: "Ace Is the Place." 

Photo of the Pocketbook Factory by Scott Baldinger    

What's Happening in the HCSD

Lynn Sloneker has two new posts on her blog, Unmuffled: An education blog. The first, "Basic numbers," summarizes the bleak sitution of the Hudson City School District budget. It outlines the cuts that will be required to eliminate a $577,788 shortfall and explains how none of these cuts would be necessary if the Hudson Teachers' Association would make some concessions. The second, "Board says 'no' to superintendent search," reports on a vote made by the Board of Education in the third hour of their meeting on Monday--after an executive session that lasted for half an hour--and predicts who the next HCSD superintendent might be. 

Follow-Up: A Question of Eligibility

Yesterday, on the recommendation of city attorney Cheryl Roberts, Nick Haddad, now an alderman from the First Ward, resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission. Since the HPC is now made up entirely of men, HPC chair David Voorhees has made it known that they would like to replace Haddad with a woman.

Chapter 169, Paragraph 169-3 of the city code defines the qualifications for HPC members:
The Commission shall consist of seven members to be appointed, to the extent available in the community, by the Mayor. All new members, but the architect-member, shall be residents of the City of Hudson and remain so throughout their term.

(1) At least one shall be an architect experienced in working with historic buildings; if there is no resident of Hudson who has these credentials and is willing to serve on the Commission, a nonresident may be appointed to the Commission;
(2) At least one shall be an historian;
(3) At least one shall be a resident of an historic district;
(4) At least one shall have demonstrated significant interest in and commitment to the field of historic preservation either by involvement in a local historic preservation group, employment, or volunteer activity in the field of historic preservation, or other serious interest in the field;
(5) All members shall have a known interest in historic preservation and architectural development within the City of Hudson;
(6) All members, but the architect-member, shall be residents of the City of Hudson;
(7) The Chairperson of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Common Council shall be the liaison between the Historic Preservation Commission and the Common Council and shall report to the Common Council regularly on the actions and proposed actions of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Although this paragraph of the preservation law was amended in 2006, it needs to be amended again to eliminate item 7. The Planning and Land Use Committee of the Common Council was created in 2006 by Council president Rob O'Brien and abolished by Rob Perry when he became Council president in 2008. 

Appointments to the HPC are made by the mayor, usually on the recommendation of the HPC. People--especially women--who are interested in being considered for the HPC should make their interest known in writing to Mayor William Hallenbeck and HPC chair David Voorhees. Letters should be delivered to City Hall, 520 Warren Street.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What We Could Learn from the French

Not much has been heard recently about the plan to demolish Bliss Towers and replace it with an undetermined number of two-family town houses situated on the site and in various locations around town, but for those residents of Bliss Towers and others advocating for renovation rather than demolition, today's New York Times has an article of interest. It's about a housing project tower in Paris that was innovatively retrofitted for less than the cost of demolition and new construction: "In Paris, public housing tower becomes a beacon." Don't miss the slide show.     

Where's Quintin?

Although discusssion at the Common Council Police Committee meeting last night was entirely taken up with talk of the proposed police/court/low-income housing buildingGossips got a chance, after the meeting was adjourned, to ask Chief Ellis Richardson for an update on the search for Quintin Cross and in the process managed to get some clarification about the events of last Monday. 

Richardson said that Cross had voluntarily presented himself at the police station on Monday and was interviewed by HPD detectives. After the interview, he was allowed to leave. Richardson, who was not party to the interview, told Gossips that the law did not allow the police to detain Cross at that point. When asked if the detectives had seen the surveillance tapes when they spoke with Cross, Richardson demurred, saying, "We're not going to try him right here."

According to Richardson, the HPD immediately involved the district attorney's office, and Cross was indicted by a grand jury on Monday afternoon, but that did not happen until after Cross had been released. When asked about Lieutenant Anthony Paolino's comment, quoted in the Kingston Daily Freeman, that he was confident Cross and his accomplice would be found because "the city of Hudson is a small place--2.17 square miles to be exact," Richardson conceded that Cross was probably not in Hudson. "If he were here, he would have popped up by now."

Thanks But No Thanks

Yesterday, the Hudson Police Union delivered a letter to Common Council president Don Moore and all the aldermen expressing their dissatisfaction with the plan to combine a new police/court building with low-income housing for formerly homeless adults. Nathan Mayberg has the story in today's Register-Star: "Hudson police oppose station plans." 

When the topic of the letter came up in last night's Common Council Police Committee meeting, there seemed to be more concern about breaches in protocol than about the content of the letter. Police Committee chair Cappy Pierro, who took the opportunity to remind everyone that he was once Police Commissioner, pointed out the impropriety of a letter from the police union being written on Hudson Police Department letterhead and delivered by an on-duty officer. Moore protested that his copy of the letter had been hand-delivered to his personal mailbox, which is postal violation. Police Commissioner Gary Graziano and HPD Chief Ellis Richardson, who were both present at the committee meeting, attested that neither had knowledge of the letter prior to its distribution.    

The proposed police/court/low-income housing building will be a topic of discussion at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28. A special meeting of the full Council to decide whether or not to support Eric Galloway's application for tax credits for the project is scheduled for Thursday, March 29, at 6 p.m.   

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Question of Eligibility

Last Thursday night, Nick Haddad was elected to fill the seat on the Common Council left vacant when First Ward alderman Larissa Parks resigned earlier this month. The next morning, he reappeared in City Hall as one of the members of the Historic Preservation Commission. Some assumed that serving as an elected official precludes a person from also serving on a regulatory commission, but apparently the charter is not clear on this, and Haddad is waiting for a decision from the city attorney before resigning from the HPC.

Article II, Paragraph C2-3 of the charter--a paragraph that was amended in 2006--states: "No person shall, at the same time, hold more than one of the offices created or authorized by this charter, except holding the office of Commissioner of Deeds or Superintendent of Cemeteries shall not disqualify any person from holding any other office hereunder."

That seems pretty straightforward, but it becomes unclear when you read Paragraph C2-1, which explains who the officers of the City are: "The officers of the City shall be a Mayor, a President of the Common Council, a City Judge, a City Treasurer, one Assessor, a Commissioner of Public Works, a Commissioner of Police, a Commissioner of Fire, a Commissioner of Youth, a Commissioner of Purchases, a Commissioner of Grants, a Commissioner of Aging, a Planning Commission of seven members, such members of the Board of Plumbers as are now or hereafter shall be provided by law, local law, or ordinance, a City Clerk, a Superintendent of Public Works, a Superintendent of Cemeteries, such number of policemen as the Commissioner of Police shall appoint, a Chief of the Fire Department, two Assistant Chiefs of the Fire Department, a Director of Youth, a Bingo Inspector, special policemen and, in the discretion of the Mayor, a City Marshal and such legal counsel as the Mayor may deem necessary or expedient for the preservation of the rights or the protection of the interests of the City." Aldermen and supervisors are mentioned in Paragraph C2-2, which identifies ward and district officers.  

Paragraph C2-1, which was also amended in 2006, makes no mention of the Historic Preservation Commission, which existed at that time--nor does it mention the Zoning Board of Appeals or the Board of Assessment Review. The only regulatory commission it does name is the Planning Commission. Given that, one would expect that members of the Planning Commission could hold no other city office, but that's not the case. In the early 2000s, the chair of the Planning Commission was also the Common Council president, and Cappy Pierro, who is now on the Planning Commission, was appointed to the commission by the mayor when he was the mayor's aide and is now serving out his three-year term while an alderman. So why the discrepancy? 

In Article XXV, which addresses the Planning Commission, Paragraph C25-2 explains: "There shall be appointed by the Mayor seven members, who together shall be the Commission, and, as nearly as possible, 1/3 of them shall be appointed for the term of one year, 1/3 for a term of two years and 1/3 for a term of three years; and at the expiration of such terms, the terms of office of their successors shall be three years, so that the term of office of 1/3 of such Commission, as nearly as possible, shall expire each year. All appointments to fill vacancies shall be for the unexpired term. Not more than 1/3 of the members of said Commission shall hold any other public office in the City of Hudson."  

It is not known what the framers of the city charter had in mind when they wrote Article XXV to allow two members of the Planning Commission to hold another public office, but with lots of qualified people in the city of Hudson these days, it may be time for that to change. It seems preferable for decisions that affect the community as a whole to be decided by many rather than few. So while the lawyers are parsing the articles of the charter to determine whether or not Haddad can be an alderman and a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, the people of Hudson should probably be asking their representatives for charter amendments to make it impossible for anyone to hold any two offices in city government at the same time. 

A Cautionary Tale

We've read in the Register-Star about armed home invasions around the county, but a less threatening version of the home invasion, which never seems to get newspaper coverage, is apparently quite common here in Hudson.

A reader, who lives off Rope Alley near the Armory, shared this story with Gossips yesterday. Early one morning, when he was at home, someone entered through an unlocked back door, grabbed everything that looked to be of value in the kitchen and dining room, including the homeowner's wallet, and left before the intrusion was noticed. When the incident was reported to the police, they told the victim that this sort of thing "happens all the time." The reader told Gossips that had he known this happened "all the time," he would have been more vigilant, so Gossips is telling the story to caution people to be more security conscious and keep their doors locked. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Slippery Slope

Gossips' earlier post about the illegal dumping sites in Hudson inspired a reader to sent me this picture of the steep slope down from Promenade Hill to the railroad tracks and the river.

Looks like it may be  time for some surefooted DPW workers or some intrepid volunteers to descend the slope and clean up the mess. As a preventive measure, some trash cans along the fence on Promenade Hill might be effective.   

The Dumping Grounds

Gossips toured two obviously popular but completely illegal dumping sites in the city yesterday--both on the north side town. One of them, behind the backyard of 90 North Second Street, turns out to be on county property.

The location of this illegal dumping site is at the western end of land that used to be part of the Charles Williams School property. Decades ago, the building and the land were given to Columbia County by the school district. In 2004, when the City of Hudson gave the county the lots on which 325 Columbia Street now stands in exchange for the Charles Williams School, this little piece of land apparently wasn't part of the deal. So, even now, when the Charles Williams School belongs to people who plan to turn it into an arts center, this bit of land still belongs to the county. 

The owner of property adjacent to this dumping site is reported to have tried unsuccesfully, during the previous administration, to get the site cleaned up and was allegedly told by Rick Scalera that there was nothing he could do about it. The current administration, however, is taking a different attitude. Gossips was privy to a conversation last Friday morning between Peter Wurster, code enforcement officer, and Mayor William Hallenbeck, in which they agreed that Wurster would speak to David Robinson, public works commissioner for Columbia County, about cleaning up the mess. In the conversation, they also discussed the second dumping site--at the eastern end of Rope Alley.

This property is owned by the Hudson City School District. Hallenbeck and Wurster agreed that Wurster would contact George Keeler, the buildings and grounds superintendent for HCSD, about getting this illegal dump site cleaned up, too. 

Of Interest

The wedding of Gary Schiro, executive director of the Hudson Opera House, and his partner of many years, Robert Burns, formerly the director of development for The Olana Partnership, is included in the Weddings/Celebrations section of today's New York Times.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Library Wants to Know

It may seem that we have gone through this exercise before, and we have, but the current board of the Hudson Area Library wants community input to help them design the perfect library space, the location of which is still unknown. In pursuit of this, they are conducting focus groups, but you don't need to attend one in order to make your opinions known. There's an online survey on the library's website, which you can complete in the comfort of your own home. 

Of Interest

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Henry van Ameringen, the "van" of Galvan, plans to give $1 million to In the Life Media on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary. In the Life Media produces a public affairs television program that deals with such topics as homophobic bullying, gay politicians, discriminatory immigration laws, hate crimes, and transgender children, as well as sponsoring various community outreach initiatives.  

Tote That Barge, Carry That Ballot

Controversy has erupted again over the practice of "carrying ballots" to permanently disabled voters. John Mason has a story about it in today's Register-Star: "An argument over the carrying of ballots." Virginia Martin, Democratic Commissioner of Elections for Columbia County, maintains that election law clearly states that absentee ballots for the permanently disabled must be delivered by first-class mail from the Board of Elections. In spite of this, for the special election this past week, absentee ballots were issued to Linda Mussmann and Lyle Shook, who regularly carry ballots to disabled voters and deliver them back to the Board of Elections.     

Friday, March 23, 2012

It Isn't Easy Being a Tree

Heading home from our morning walk, William and I noticed that a branch on one of the new trees planted in front of 34 South Second Street--a branch that had just started to leaf out--had been brutally broken. It strikes me that if people planted street trees that were bigger than this one, with branches that were higher up and less vulnerable to the casual walk-by snap off, trees would have a better chance of surviving in our tough urban environment.  

Chronic Breakage

Gossips heard from DPW superintendent Rob Perry yesterday about this broken lamp post base in the 300 block of Warren Street. According to Perry, a new base was installed just before Winter Walk, but since then the new base was struck and broken by a car exiting the municipal parking lot next to the First Presbyterian Church. Perry also told Gossips that a new base costs $500.    

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Haddad Wins!

The Common Council met tonight to determine who would replace Larissa Parks, who resigned as alderman from the First Ward on March 12. The meeting began with Council President Don Moore explaining the procedure. A resolution to elect each candidate would be presented in the order in which the candidates declared their interest in the office. Since Nick Haddad had declared first, the resolution to elect him was introduced first.

First Ward alderman David Marston introduced the resolution, which was seconded by Third Ward alderman John Friedman. In the discussion that followed, Marston presented the evidence of First Ward voters' support for Haddad: the straw poll in which Haddad beat out Geeta Cheddie 28 to 2 and the petitions in support of Haddad signed by 45 First Ward voters. He then asked the Common Council to take the evidence into consideration when they voted.

When asked if he wished to speak, Haddad promised to represent the First Ward to the best of his ability and to work with the other aldermen in a "collegial and comprehensive fashion" for the good of the city. 

Sarah Sterling, county supervisor for the First Ward, reiterated the results of the straw poll and reported that she had received email messages from nine people who were unable to attend Saturday's meeting and participate in the straw poll expressing their support for Haddad.

Second Ward alderman Abdus Miah then made a statement the gist of which was to ask Haddad if he would work with the aldermen who represented the north side of town. Haddad responded in the affirmative, saying that compromise was important and all wards were "part of this wonderful fabric that is Hudson."

Then it was time for the roll call vote, and surprisingly--remarkably in the case of some--the Common Council president and all the aldermen present--Doc Donahue, Friedman, Marston, Miah, Wanda Pertilla, Cappy Pierro, Sheila Ramsey, Chris Wagoner--voted aye, thus making Haddad the new First Ward alderman. 

Because the Common Council had unanimously chosen Haddad, resolutions for the two other candidates--Geeta Cheddie and Timothy O'Connor--were never introduced. Cheddie was not present at the meeting, although some of her supporters were; O'Connor, who had worked to muster support for Haddad before putting himself forth as a candidate, was.

Spring Comes to Fourth Street

The magnolia tree by the post office has started to bloom, but it has not yet reached the pinnacle of its splendor. The picture below, taken last year by Lynn Davis, is a reminder of how glorious the tree looks when it is in full bloom. The splendor, however, is very short-lived, so try not to miss it. 

Tenants and Landlords

Audra Jornov reported today in the Register-Star that the police were called three times on Tuesday night "to the area of 37 Columbia St." to deal with noisy altercations: "HPD squashes late-night fight." According to the report, on their third visit, the police used pepper spray to quell a "large and discontented" group of twenty to thirty people and tazers in "drive-stun mode" to subdue the four people who were resisting arrest for violent behavior. Interestingly, the assessment rolls reveal that 37 Columbia Street is one of two houses in the row between First and Front streets (33 Columbia is the other one) that are owned by former Hudson police commissioner and pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Reverend Ronald Grant. 

This is not the first time there has been trouble of this kind on this block. Last year, in May, a group of Second Ward residents came to the Police Committee of the Common Council to express their concerns about the level of noise and unruly behavior in the neighborhood. According to them, the focal point of the disruptive and unsettling activity was a trio of houses on Columbia Street between First and Front streets--two of them being the two houses owned by Grant. Then police commissioner, Grant conceded that the disturbance might have come from one of his buildings and said he was addressing the problem "in his capacities as commissioner, landlord, and community leader." A report on that meeting by Jamie Larson appeared in the Register-Star for May 25, 2011: "Residents say noise, disruptions escalating."  

Dealing with Breakage

In September 2011, Gossips reported about this lamp post in the 300 block of Warren Street, beside the entrance to the municipal parking lot, and wondered how long it would be before the broken base would be replaced. So far, it hasn't been, but the breakage of another street lamp farther down the block has been dealt with in what might strike some as a charcteristically Hudson way.

Not long ago, there was a street lamp in this spot, about midway along the hundred or so feet of sidewalk in front of 347 Warren Street. The lamp post was twice struck by a car making a U turn in the lot in front of 3FortySeven. The first time it happened, the lamp post was replaced, but when it was struck a second time, the street lamp was simply removed, leaving a significant stretch of Warren Street without street lighting. 

Looking east to the next street lamp
Looking west to the next street lamp

Of Interest

Tom Casey reports on the Galvan Initiatives Foundation proposal to build a police and city court building in today's Register-Star: "GalVan proposes plan for new police/court facility." A special meeting of the Common Council has been scheduled for Thursday, March 29, to discuss the project prior to deciding if they will enter into a memorandum of understanding with Galvan Initiatives, stating they agree with the concept. The MOU is required by April 1 so that grants and tax credits can sought for the project.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Of Interest

Hudson Valley Magazine published an article yesterday about falafel restaurants and cafes in upstate New York. Not only is Hudson's own Park Falafel & Pizza one of the eateries featured, but Justin Goldman, the general manager at PF&P, was interviewed for the story and is quoted as saying, among other things, that falafel is "a healthy alternative to fast food." 

What Gossips Missed

While the voice of Gossips was working the special election at St. Mary's Academy last night, checking in Second Ward voters, former mayor Rick Scalera was making a presentation to the Common Council about a scheme to build a new facility for the Hudson Police Department and the City Court at the corner of Fourth and Columbia streets. The notion of building a new police and court building on that corner has been promoted before, back in 2005, when Scalera, then mayor, wanted BBL, the design/build firm that brought us the county office building at 325 Columbia Street and the central firehouse at 77 North Seventh Street, to build a police and court building there. This time, there's a new wrinkle. The four-story building, which will be built for the City by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, will include 33 units of "permanent housing for formerly homeless adults." 

It sounds like Galvan is recycling the Starboard idea, pitched to the Common Council two years ago by Eric Galloway's other not-for-profit, the Lantern Organization, and withdrawn when it ran up against very vocal opposition from the community. This time, instead of putting the 33 units of permanent supportive housing over retail space on Warren Street, they're proposing putting those units over a municipal building on Columbia Street and sweetening the deal by solving the City's decade-old problem of having to improve its police and court facilities without having to spend a few million up front. One wonders, however, if solving this fiscal challenge by creating more low-income housing and having to lease the police and city court building from the Galvan Initiatives Foundation for the foreseeable future may not in the long run be too high a price to pay.

For details of this project, which is called "Civic Hudson," see the Galvan Initiatives Foundation blog.  

Another Election to Be Decided by Absentees

Virginia Martin, Democratic Commissioner of Elections, reports this morning that Didi Barrett leads in the 103rd Assembly District by 154 votes. There are reportedly 1,072 absentee ballots yet to be counted: 454 from Democrats, 410 from Republicans, 152 from NOPs, 33 from Independence Party members, and 23 from Conservative Party members. 

Click for Columbia County election results and Dutchess County election results.  

See also Tom Casey's report in the Register-Star: "103rd District election will go to absentees."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Election Update

With all precincts in the 103rd Assembly District reporting, Didi Barrett leads Richard Wager by 159 votes.

Election Results

Gossips didn't stay on top of the Quintin Cross story today because the voice of Gossips spent the day--starting at 5 a.m.--working as an election inspector. So far, the news on that front is that Didi Barrett achieved an overwhelming victory in Hudson. How she did in the rest of 103rd Assembly District is not yet known. 

The Quintin Cross Saga

At 7:46 p.m. today, the Register-Star posted on updated story about the break-in at City Hall: "Quintin Cross named suspect in City Hall break-in." Gossips was mistaken in reporting earlier today that Cross been arrested and arraigned. According to sources, he was indicted by a grand jury yesterday and was supposed to turn himself in. Instead, he and his accomplice, Jamont McClendon, did a bunk. 

Sam Pratt has a summary of the situation on his blog: "Stations of the Cross: HPD searching for former Alderman." 

And to think, day after tomorrow Cross was going to China to teach English and earn some money so he could make restitution to the City of Hudson.  

Break-in at City Hall

Shortly after noon yesterday, the Register-Star reported that someone had broken into City Hall over the weekend and stolen "loose change and cash." By late afternoon, the rumor was spreading like wildfire that the culprit had been identified from surveillance camera tapes and had already been arrested and arraigned at the county courthouse. At 1:07 a.m. this morning, however, the Register-Star published a followup story which only explained how the burglar had gained entry to City Hall and indicated that the investigation continues: "City Hall break-in probe continues."  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Indian Food Is on Its Way

The Chai Shop is soon to open at 444 Warren Street, within the home furnishings store Lillie K. Traders. The sign is already in place. The shop will feature authentic chai, made from scratch, and other Indian teas. Except for the unexpected Italian items (panini, crostini, ribollita), the menu evokes Colonial India: Indian street food (samosas and chaats) and English tea sandwiches.

The Chai Shop opens on Friday, March 30, and will subsequently be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.      

Of Interest

All Over Albany has a feature article by Siobhan Connally entitled "Inside Etsy Hudson." The photograph is from that article.

Committee to Review HCSD Code of Conduct

The Hudson City School District Code of Conduct is described as "the school district's only student behavior law and the most important document governing student discipline." The document defines the rights and responsibilities of students and the expectations for what it calls "Essential Partners": Parents; Teachers; Aides, Food Servers, Custodial/Maintenance and Other District Personnel; Guidance Counselors; Principals/Assistant Principals; Superintendent; Board of Education. (Curiously, listed first among the expectations for teachers is "Maintain a climate of mutual respect and dignity"; "Be prepared to teach" comes third in the list of eight.) Much of the thirty-page document is taken up with defining prohibited student conduct and the penalties for such behavior, making frequent reference to New York State Education Law, as well as occasional reference to New York State Penal Law and Criminal Procedures Law.

At its meeting on March 12, the Board of Education appointed board members Peter Meyer and Jeri Chapman to form a Code of Conduct Advisory Committee tasked with the job of evaluating the effectiveness of the Code of Conduct. It is stipulated that the Code of Conduct be reviewed and adopted at least annually by the Board of Education. Since the current document was adopted in January 2010, this evaluation would seem to be somewhat overdue.

Parents, staff, and community members interested in serving on the advisory committee should contact Peter Meyer by email or phone (518 929-6505). The BOE has asked the committee to deliver its report in May. The committee hopes to begin work no later than March 26.

Before the BAR

At the beginning of March, Gossips reported that there were two vacancies on the Board of Assessment Review. Those planning to grieve their assessments will be interested in knowing that those vacancies have been filled. Newly appointed to the BAR by Mayor William Hallenbeck are Rachel Kappel and Tiffany Martin Hamilton. Both Kappel and Hamilton live in the Third Ward, on upper Union Street and upper Warren Street respectively. The third member of the BAR is Phil Forman, who lives in the Second Ward, on lower Warren Street.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Architect Member Joins HPC

Hudson's historic preservation law, Chapter 169 of the City Code, requires that at least one member of the Historic Preservation Commission "shall be an architect experienced in working with historic buildings." The Historic Preservation Commission has been without an architect member since it was determined that Jane Smith's involvement with the design for the senior center addition to the Youth Center constituted a conflict of interest that required her to resign from the HPC. Today, HPC chair David W. Voorhees announced that a new architect member has been appointed by Mayor William Hallenbeck: John ("Jack") D. Alvarez II. In a press release, Voorhees says, "We could not have asked for a more qualified candidate," and goes on to summarize Alvarez's background: 
Mr. Alvarez is a native of Hudson. His background as a preservation architect began upon completing his degree at Syracuse University in 1995 with Mesick, Cohen, Wilson and Baker Architects, a noted Albany firm specializing in historic preservation. He was an intern with that firm for four years, during which time he was immersed in reconstructing Thomas Jefferson's retreat home, "Poplar Forest," near Lynchburg, Virginia, and worked on mansion restoration projects in Newport, Rhode Island. He then broadened his experience in architecture and preservation by taking positions with preservation firms in San Francisco, where he worked on seismic retrofit projects and residential scale preservation. Returning to the East Coast, Mr. Alvarez worked for Ann Beha Architects in Boston in 2000-2002, concentrating on restoration and adaptive use projects in New England before returning to work for Mesick, Cohen, Wilson and Baker. He was particularly attracted to what became one of the largest preservation projects that firm has undertaken--the restoration of James Madison's "Montpelier," a $25M project to restore Madison's home to its late 18th- and early 19th-century period of significance. In 2011 he joined his wife, Kim, in her firm of "Landmark Consulting," which is a small private practice focused on historic preservation and architectural services. They also offer hands-on workshops to educate owners of historic homes and buildings in the merits of saving their original wood windows and other character-defining features. He has volunteered much time to preservation advocacy through Historic Albany Foundation, the Preservation League, and Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. 
It is worth noting that Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker is the architectural firm that is working with Historic Hudson on the restoration of Hudson's only National Historic Landmark: the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, also known as the Plumb-Bronson House.

In addition to Voorhees and Alvarez, the following people now serve on the Historic Preservation Commission: Tony Thompson, Rick Rector, Phil Forman, Scott Baldinger, and Nick Haddad.

Galvan Responds

A reader alerted Gossips to the fact that the Galvan Initiatives Foundation has a blog. An entry entitled "Initiative to help the Homeless," posted yesterday, responds to the news reported by Gossips and the Register-Star that the HAVE building on Power Avenue is being considered as a possible site for transitional housing. The post defines the foundation's role in the proposed plan--they would acquire and renovate the building and lease it to a service provider--and indicates the population that would be housed there--single, homeless adults. 

The blog also provides this information about the foundation: "Founded by T. Eric Galloway and Henry Van Amerigen [sic], the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, Inc. started operation in January 2012. The mission is to promote the quality of life in Hudson by conserving and maintaining buildings of architectural, historic, and social significance. The Foundation will also operate a grant-making program and will provide financial support to charitable organizations operating in Hudson."    

More News from the First Ward

Nathan Mayberg's article in today's Register-Star reports all the news that Gossips reported yesterday and something more: "Haddad endorsed by Dems, wins straw poll ahead of Council vote." Surprisingly, the Register-Star scooped Gossips on Timothy O'Connor's announcement that he intends to seek the vacant First Ward seat on the Council. O'Connor identified himself to the Register-Star as a "single-issue candidate: Crime." Speaking on behalf of the Lower Allen Street Association, a group he organized, O'Connor wanted to discuss crime in the First Ward at yesterday's meeting and felt that Haddad "blew him off."  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hudson Democrats Endorse Haddad

On the heels of the results of the straw poll, Hudson Democrats have endorsed Nick Haddad to fill the vacant First Ward seat on the Common Council. In a press release issued by the Hudson City Democratic Committee, Victor Mendolia, committee chair, comments: "This morning a meeting of 1st Ward residents was facilitated by 1st Ward Supervisor Sarah Sterling and Alderman Dave Marston. The Straw Poll taken at the meeting was completely decisive with 28 votes for Nick Haddad and 2 votes for former Alderman Geeta Cheddie. The Hudson City Democratic Committee stands with the residents of the 1st Ward in calling on the Common Council to appoint Mr. Haddad to the seat."

Results of the Straw Poll

Gossips just learned the results of the straw poll of First Ward voters. Of those present at this morning's meeting, 30 participated in the straw poll, and results were decisive: 28 voted for Nick Haddad; 2 voted for Geeta Cheddie.

The Wishes of the First Ward

About forty residents of the First Ward gathered this morning to hear from the two people who have expressed interest in the vacant First Ward seat on the Common Council: Nick Haddad and Geeta Cheddie. Cheddie was not present at the meeting because, as she explained in a prepared statement, she had recently taken a job as a patient representative at Columbia Memorial Hospital and could not change her schedule. Nick Haddad, however, was there to speak and respond to questions.

In her statement, which was read by Alderman David Marston, Cheddie reviewed her involvement in politics--in Hudson and elsewhere. Speaking of her two years as alderman, she stressed her knowledge of the issues, pointing out that during her tenure she had attended every committee meeting and had a "solid working relationship with the Council members I served with."

Haddad, a mayoral candidate last November, talked about the need to work together with the new administration for the betterment and future of Hudson. He identified as issues of particular concern taxes, education, the waterfront, and jobs. He explained that he saw the vacancy on the Common Council as an "opportunity to participate, which is what I want to do."

In addition to the First Ward representatives, Alderman David Marston and Supervisor Sarah Sterling, who organized and moderated the meeting, other elected officials were present: Common Council President Don Moore, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), and Supervisor Ellen Thurston (Third Ward).

Concern was expressed by some present about the process whereby the new alderman will be chosen. Moore explained the provisions in the city charter for replacing an alderman. The election by the Common Council must take place no sooner than 10 days and no more than 20 days after an alderman resigns. A special meeting of the Common Council has been called for Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m., at which time a resolution for each candidate will be presented for a vote by the Council, in the order in which the candidates declared their interest. The successful candidate must be elected by a simple majority of the weighted vote in the Council.

It is not yet clear if this is a simple majority of all the possible votes or all the votes that can actually be cast by the members of the Common Council present at the meeting. A simple majority of the full Council is 1,011. The Council is now short one alderman, and if Fifth Ward alderman Cappy Pierro, who was absent for the informal meeting last Monday, is not present for the special meeting on Thursday, a simple majority of the votes that could be cast is only 825. Whatever constitutes a majority, only 94 of the votes can be cast by the lone representative of the First Ward. More than one audience member expressed concern and frustration that, given the weighted votes, a new First Ward alderman could be chosen by representatives of the Fifth Ward.

At the conclusion of the meeting, audience members were asked to participate in a straw poll, writing their preference--Haddad or Cheddie--on a piece of paper provided to them only after they had signed in, giving their name and address to validate their status as First Ward residents and voters. The marked "ballots" were then placed in a ballot box. The results of the straw poll will be presented to the Common Council on Thursday, as evidence of the First Ward's wishes.

First Ward voters lined up to cast their ballots in the straw poll
Although the straw poll involved only the two candidates who have so far declared their interest, Stewart suggested that there might be a third candidate, who has not yet been identified. Anyone interested in the position has until the special meeting on Thursday, March 22, to declare his or her interest and be considered. 

NIMBY and the Former Mayor

Inspired by a statement made by Rick Scalera and quoted in today's Register-Star article "Will HAVE building be a shelter?", Sam Pratt makes a new entry in "The Ricky Files."

News of the HCSD

Lynn Sloneker reports on her blog, Unmuffled: An education blog, that Jack Howe, superintendent of the Hudson City School District, intends to retire at the end of this school year, after serving in that position for only three years. 

How Things Stand with the HTA

Today, in the Register-Star, there is a letter signed by all the members of the Hudson City School District Board of Education reporting on the state of negotiations with the Hudson Teachers Association: "Our view on contract." It summarizes what has happened so far and concludes: "In the end, the union offered no meaningful options to save money in a way that jobs and programs can be saved. Instead, the union chose to demand more money from the taxpayers, knowing full well what the consequences would be."  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Admitting One's Mistakes

This just in, from someone who should know: Gossips got the wrong HAVE building. It's not the building at the west end of Power Avenue that's been identified as a possible site for transitional housing but the building at the east end of Power Avenue--a building that's for sale but still in use by HAVE Inc.

The Search Continues

Transitional housing, homeless shelter, emergency housing--the terminology varies, but the search for a location--usually in Hudson--continues. The word is that Rick Scalera, former mayor of Hudson and now special advisor to the Galvan Initiatives Foundation and supervisor from the Fifth Ward, is advocating for this location: the former HAVE building at the west end of Power Avenue.

Existing Zoning
LWRP Zoning


Power Avenue, which goes from Route 9G to the entrance to the Hudson Correctional Facility and connects with the south end of East Court Street, is currently zoned industrial, and, in the zoning proposed in the LWRP, it continues to be designated industrial. It is not clear if the idea is to retrofit the existing building as housing units or to demolish the existing building and construct a new facility on the site.

Important Deadlines

Today, Friday, March 16, is the last day to request an informal review of your property assessment with GAR. To schedule an appointment, visit The informal reviews will take place at the Central Firehouse, 77 North Seventh Street. 

Tomorrow, Saturday, March 17, is the last day to register to participate in a library focus group. To sign up and ensure your opinion is considered, visit the library's website. The focus groups will take place between Thursday, March 22, and Monday, March 26, at 400 State Street.

Redistricting--All Over But the Legal Challenges

Tom Casey reports in today's Register-Star on the state of redistricting New York: "Redistricting redux: Where we stand." These maps show the fate of the City of Hudson if there are no further changes to the lines.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Which Will It Be?

At Wednesday night's regular meeting of the Hudson Area Library Board of Trustees, Theresa Parsons confirmed two things: that she was stepping down as president but would remain on the board; and that the Register-Star building was being considered as a possible location for the library, although she said, rather enigmatically, "As far we're concerned, today, we're moving to the Armory." 

The Register-Star building, acquired last month by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, has been offered by Galvan to the library, and members of the library board took a guided tour of the building recently with Register-Star publisher and former library trustee Roger Coleman. Mark Young, one of the trustees who took the tour, reported that "we can't tell by looking at the building if it would be an appropriate space for the library," so the board has requested a schematic to show how the space in the Register-Star building might be used for a library. A similar schematic has already been created for the Armory. Young revealed that the schematics were being done by an architect named John O'Connell. A little sleuthing discovered that John O'Connell of OConnell Architecture in Arlington, MA, designed the interior space at Young's restaurant, Mexican Radio.   

Meanwhile, the library board has hired Kim Cullin, a library design consultant, to conduct focus groups in the community. The information gathered from these focus groups will used to develop a program that the architect will use to design the space. Parsons described the process as "the conversion of our vision into something an architect can use." The library has scheduled ten focus groups, and so far only twenty people have agreed to participate. For this exercise to have meaning, more people need to be involved. Registration for focus groups continues through Saturday, March 17, and can be done in person at the library, by phone (828-1792), or online. See the library's website for more information.  

As the library board sees the decision-making process, they will consider the information from the focus groups, the schematics for both buildings, and other factors such as maintenance costs and will choose the building they want to be in. This doesn't quite jibe with what Galvan executive director Tom Swope said on @Issue last week. Swope suggested the possibility that the Armory might be put to some commercial use and, when expressing the foundation's commitment to providing a "new 21st-century home for the Hudson Area Library," indicated that the location chosen would have to be one that the library board agreed to.