Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Celebration Continues

As we announced on Friday, yesterday, January 20, marked the eighth anniversary of The Gossips of Rivertown. Today, the celebration continues. Starting at 7 p.m. tonight, Gossips readers who dine at the Red Dot Restaurant & Bar, 321 Warren Street, will get a piece of anniversary cake for dessert, compliments of The Gossips of Rivertown.


This amazing cake, featuring the iconic Gossips ear trumpet crafted from marzipan, was created by the very talented Michele Delage of Winkle's Bakery in Catskill. (Yes, I crossed the river to get it!) So come out tonight, dine at the Red Dot, enjoy some cake, and celebrate eight years of sharing news, history, and gossip about the troubles and triumphs of our little city.

Gossips also invites you, if you haven't already done so, to celebrate eight years, 7,337 posts, and more than 5 million pageviews and help ensure that Gossips continues, by adding your name to the list of 2018 Supporters. Just click on the "Donate" button at the right. Your support--in any amount--is deeply appreciated.
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The Great War: January 15, 1918

It's been a while since we reported on Company F, Hudson's National Guard unit which was federalized in the summer of 1917. On July 29, 1917, the "F boys" left for training at Fort Niagara, where they were expected to stay throughout the summer. After Fort Niagara, Company F was transferred to Camp Wadsworth, outside Spartanburg, South Carolina. On January 15, 1918, the Columbia Republican reported that Company F was expected to "go across" within a few months.    

 
    
Camp Wadsworth was established in July 1917, three months after the United States entered the war, and existed until it was inactivated in March 1919, four months after the war ended. It was considered to be "one of America's premier army mobilization centers." A hundred thousand soldiers trained at Camp Wadsworth for the war in Europe.

 

Census records indicate that Sergeant Edward Best, who was "in town for a few days' visit" in January 1918, was the younger brother of Archland Best, the captain of Company F when it left Hudson at the end of July 1917. Archland and Edward were the only children of Frank and Etta Best. They both survived the war, and the 1920 census--the first census after the war--shows them back home with their parents at 511 Union Street. Archibald, then 32, worked as a draftsman at a machine shop, and Edward, then 30, was an armorer with the New York Guard.
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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Trump Tweets






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Scenes from the Women's March














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Happening Today


See you in Seventh Street Park at 1 p.m.!

The Round-House in the Hill

The "round-house" on Promenade Hill was one of several details that helped identify the primitive watercolor painting auctioned this week at Sotheby's as a depiction of Hudson. A reader reminded me that the round-house also appears in the decorative detailing of a settee, dated 1810 to 1820, in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.  

The painted panel at the right depicts the round-house and South Bay beyond.

Images of the settee were featured in the exhibition Seeing South Bay, which opened at the Hudson Opera House in February 2001.

Yesterday, when talking about the painting misidentified as Fort Lee or Hoboken, New Jersey, we quoted part of what Franklin Ellis had to say about the round-house in his 1878 History of Columbia County. Today, we'll quote that passage from Ellis in its entirety.
After the hill was donated [in 1795] to the city (but we have been unable to ascertain how long after that time) there was built upon it a house of octagonal shape, two stories high, the upper one being used as a lookout or observatory, and the lower one as a refreshment-room, which latter was never a desirable addition to the "attractions" of the place. Upon the erection of this structure the "Mall" received the name of "Round-House Hill," and continued to be so known until about 1835, when the ground was improved by the erection of a fence, the laying out of graded walks, and the removal of the "roundhouse"; after which the name, being inappropriate as well as inelegant was dropped. . . .
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Friday, January 19, 2018

Celebrate Eight Years!

On January 20, 2010, The Gossips of Rivertown published its first post. Eight years, 7,337 posts, and more than 5 million pageviews later, Gossips has become a highly respected and valued source of hyperlocal news and history of our little city.

As always, the anniversary of Gossips is the occasion for thanksgiving and celebration. Gratitude goes to all the readers who make Gossips widely read (between 2,500 and 3,000 pageviews a day) and continue to make writing Gossips a joyful endeavor. Very special thanks are reserved for the many Gossips supporters and advertisers whose financial contributions help pay the bills and keep Gossips going.

On the eve of this auspicious day, Gossips invites you to join the celebration of eight years of sharing news, history, and gossip about the events, machinations, troubles, and triumphs right here in our little river city in three ways. First, by adding your name to the list of 2018 Supporters. You can to so by clicking the "Donate" button in the right column. Your support--in any amount--is crucial to the continuation of Gossips. 

Tomorrow, Saturday, January 20, the actual anniversary of eight years of Gossips and one year of Donald Trump, join me for the Women's March down Warren Street. Aligning myself with those denigrated as "the enemies of the people," my greatest motivation for marching is to protest the current president's ongoing war on journalism and to support freedom of the press.

The Women's March (men are welcome, too) begins with a rally in Seventh Street Park at 1 p.m. and ends with a gathering at Basilica Hudson.

The celebration of Gossips' anniversary continues on Sunday, January 21, when there will be cake! Starting at 7 p.m., Gossips readers who dine at the Red Dot will get a piece of anniversary cake for dessert, compliments of The Gossips of Rivertown, for as long as it lasts. (Fear not. It won't be stale cake. The picture shows the Gossips cake from 2016. This year's cake, being created by the same baker, hasn't been made yet.) 

Come out on Sunday, help celebrate eight years of Gossips, and wish Gossips many more years of relevance!
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Not New Jersey

Yesterday, Sotheby's sold at auction a painting of a waterfront. It was a 19th-century American primitive watercolor, believed to have been painted circa 1830 and identified as "A View of Fort Lee or Hoboken, New Jersey." The painting is of interest to us because it is not a view of Fort Lee or Hoboken. It is a view of Hudson, New York.

In the center foreground, there's the "canal through the flats" begun in 1816 and completed in 1817 to provide a direct route for the horse ferry between Hudson and Athens. At the far left, on the bluff, there's a round structure which has to be the "attraction" on Promenade Hill described by Franklin Ellis in the History of Columbia County:
After the hill was donated [in 1795] to the city (but we have been unable to ascertain how long after that time) there was built upon it a house of octagonal shape, two stories high, the upper one being used as a lookout or observatory, and the lower one as a refreshment-room, which latter was never a desirable addition to the "attractions" of the place.
This house on the hill is the structure that gave Promenade Hill its earliest name: "Round-House Hill." Beneath what was then Round-House Hill appears the familiar rock face of Ordovician shale.

Then there is the church building at the center of the painting, which is, of course, the original First Presbyterian Church, located at Second and Partition streets. In the church tower can be seen a clock--the town clock--which was installed in the tower of the First Presbyterian Church in 1801, a tradition that continues today.

Perhaps the detail most persuasive in identifying the place as Hudson appears at the far right, only partially in the painting.



This distinctive-looking building can only be Captain Samuel Plumb's house, which we now know as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. The house in its original 1812 configuration, before it was re-imagined in the Picturesque style by Alexander Jackson Davis in 1839, appears in this c. 1819 painting by William Guy Wall.

There is reason to believe that the person who acquired the painting at auction yesterday may have known it depicted Hudson and not New Jersey.
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

New House on State Street

Last night, after a public hearing at which members were invited to ask questions of the applicant but no comments were solicited, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the area variances required to build a new house at 418 State Street. Since the house is not located in a historic district, its demolition requires only a demolition permit from the code enforcement office.

To illustrate the new placement of the structure on the lot, the applicant had created a model, which thoroughly impressed the ZBA. The model shows 418 State Street and the houses on each side. The house to be demolished can be slipped out, and the new house inserted in its place. From my seat in the audience, I snapped pictures of the model, only one of which is very clear. The first shows the street as it is now; the second shows the shape and placement of the new house in the streetscape. (The existing house appears off to the side.)


When asked by ZBA member Mary Ellen Pierro about the cantilevered second story on the model of the new house, the applicant explained that it was "an interpretation of a front porch."
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Highlights from the Council Meeting

A couple of noteworthy things happened on Tuesday, at the first regular meeting of the Common Council for 2018. First, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) wanted to revisit the appointment of the minority leader. It will be remembered that, at the organizational meeting on January 8, Garriga nominated herself as majority leader and Kamal Johnson (First Ward) as minority leader but was informed by Council president Tom DePietro that the majority could not elect the minority leader. Garriga intimated on Tuesday that DePietro's response was ad hominem, and DePietro made a point of denying that "the name Kamal Johnson was not why I stopped the conversation." At the organizational meeting, DePietro explained that, as the only non-Democrat on the Council, Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) could either serve as minority leader or designate someone to serve in his place. Merante designated Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward). On Tuesday, Garriga said she had gotten a legal opinion that the appointment to minority leader needed to be the result of a vote and requested "case law to support how the minority leader was determined." 

Responding to the request for case law, city attorney Andy Howard said, "This is the first I've heard of it," but reiterated his position that "members of the majority vote for the majority leader, but they do not then get to select the minority leader." That seems pretty logical, but it did not satisfy Garriga or Johnson, who said he wanted "a better understanding of the process." The majority and minority leaders represent the Council on the boards of two agencies: Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency (HCDPA) and the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA).

Also of note, the Council voted to enact Local Law No. 6 of 2017--"to preserve community character, local business ownership, and local wealth." The law essentially bans "formula businesses"--chains with more than four locations and a uniform appearance and signage--from the city. The vote to enact the law was unanimous, but at the end of the meeting, Garriga stated that although she supported local businesses, she wanted the Council to consider "that people cannot afford the restaurants on Warren Street." It is not clear if Garriga was suggesting that lower-cost chain restaurants be added to the list of exceptions already in the law: "(a) federally or New York State chartered banking, savings and loan, and trust institutions, (b) pharmacies and drug stores, (c) stores where the overwhelming majority of foods sold are un- or minimally-processed and intended for preparation and consumption by the purchaser at another location [in other words, supermarkets], and convenience stores that also sell gasoline"; or if she was seeking some other remedy to the high cost of dining out in Hudson.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Watch the Whole Thing

Gossips had to leave the special meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee after it had gone on for an hour and fifteen minutes, but Dan Udell and his video camera stayed for another half hour, until the very end. His recording of the meeting can now be viewed on YouTube by clicking here

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When Will It End?

Even before 2003, when the City of Hudson adopted its preservation ordinance to protect its historic architecture, houses were being brought back from the edge and restored to their original appearance and vibrant use. Many hoped the preservation law would raise awareness of the value of historic properties to the overall character and appearance of the city, and the impulse to demolish buildings would go away. Sadly, despite all the evidence that people are drawn to Hudson by its historic architecture, people continue to find reasons to want to demolish the very elements that create Hudson's unique appeal.

Between Christmas and New Year's Day, the carriage house behind 405 Warren Street was demolished, to be replaced by a new building, meant to imitate the original, that will be a garage with office space above.

Photo: Lisa Durfee
On Monday, the early 20th-century garage behind 439 Union Street was demolished, to be replaced by a new building, imitating the old, to be used as a garage and dwelling. Gossips arrived on the scene in the afternoon of the day it came down to find all trace of the building gone. 

Both buildings--the one on Cherry Alley and the one on Partition Street--were located in historic districts, and their demolition and replacement were granted certificates of appropriateness by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Tonight, at 6 p.m. in City Hall,  the Zoning Board of Appeals is holding a public hearing on the proposal to demolish this building at 418 State Street and replace it with another building which does not imitate the design of the original and will not be in its footprint.

The project is before the ZBA, which means that the only thing being considered are setbacks for the new building. The location is not in a historic district, so there will be no one to speak out against demolishing the building or to assess the appropriateness, within the context of the neighborhood, of the new building proposed for the site. Having an engineer declare the building unsafe is sufficient to get a demolition permit. Then all that remains is for the ZBA to grant the area variances required to position the new building on the lot as desired.
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Galvan, Homelessness, and the Sunset Motel

There is some irony in the fact that the Galvan Foundation, which owns about seventy residential properties in Hudson, most of which stand vacant, is making a proposal to help solve the county's homeless problem, but they are. Last night, at a special meeting of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors' Health and Human Services Committee, the committee and the public learned about what is being proposed.

The meeting started out with Robert Gibson, Commissioner for Social Services, describing the problem of homelessness in Columbia County. He spoke of the Department of Social Services (DSS) having in recent weeks to find shelter for 93 people every night, and the shelter provided is in motel and hotel rooms throughout the county. He said that the Galvan Foundation had approached him last February with a plan and returned in the summer with an enhanced plan. Galvan would make the 25 rooms at the Sunset Motel, which the foundation owns and is now in the process of renovating, exclusively available to DSS clientele, and 30 percent of the revenue would go to pay for services for the people housed at the motel. Gibson noted that the county was already providing transportation to Columbia-Greene Community College, and the motel was nearby.  

Robert Gibson, seated; Dan Kent, standing
Dan Kent, who returned to the Galvan Foundation last fall as Vice President of Initiatives after a year of working elsewhere, told the committee that "housing is a central part of the Galvan mission." He said Galvan was creating 20 more units of "voluntary low-income housing" by the end of the year. He also made reference to the plan for a homeless shelter, "Galvan Quarters," proposed back in 2013. He explained that the 25-room Sunset Motel was now under renovation and would be finished in April 2018. The renovation was being done "with green design standards." Each room would have a microwave oven and a refrigerator; there would be a community kitchen and computer stations in the building. There would also be units designed to accommodate families. He explained that the county would pay for emergency services "as they now do," but the motel would provide supportive services on site not available at other motels.

Comments in support of the proposal came from the expected sources: Tina Sharpe, of the not-for-profit Columbia Opportunities; Michael Cole, director of the Columbia County Mental Health Center; and former Fourth Ward supervisor Bill Hughes, who explained that he had been "the lead on the previous project" proposed by Galvan. Hughes praised the proposal, calling it "perfect for the homeless population" and "a model that other counties should follow."

Not everyone shared Hughes' enthusiasm. Tom Alvarez, whose modular and manufactured home business, John A. Alvarez & Sons, is located immediately adjacent to the Sunset Motel, recalled when the property was "a nice mom-and-pop motel" and went on to recount the problems that occurred when the motel was being used by DSS for emergency housing: his office had been burglarized and computers stolen; there was damage to model homes on the site; motel residents would panhandle at the entrance to his manufactured home community for seniors and come into his office to ask to use the phone. Alvarez said he wanted the homeless shelter to be in Hudson. "I cannot approve this type of facility so close to my adult manufactured homes and my operation."  

Also speaking out against the plan was Jennifer Strodl, the director of the Liberi School, a one-room school for children ages 5 to 10 being operated in the building across the road and a little east from the Sunset Motel. Strodl said the school was "creating a trusting, loving environment" and wanted to know if the presence of the school, which opened three years ago, had been considered when the plan was conceived. 

Two parents of children attending the Liberi School and Nicole Vidor, who revealed that she was Strodl's mother-in-law, expressed their concern about threats to the safety of children posed by sheltering homeless people in close proximity to the school. Their comments raised the fear that child molesters and sex offenders might be sheltered there, but Gibson assured them that DSS "will not put any level of danger in a situation where there are families with children." One of the parents, who said he was a volunteer fireman, spoke of emergency calls to the Yorkshire Motel four miles away, which also houses DSS clients. He predicted that the proposal "guarantees something bad will happen," saying of the Yorkshire Motel, "Terrible things happen there all the time."

The meeting began at 5 p.m. and was still going on at 6:15 when I left to go the Common Council public hearings at City Hall. I have since learned from Sarah Sterling, First Ward supervisor, who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee, that Gibson, who said of the proposal, "It's not my project, not my money, just my need," plans to meet with the people potentially impacted "to talk about how we could make this safer." Meanwhile, Sterling told Gossips that the committee has not yet seen the proposal they are being asked to accept or deny in the form of a written contract.
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