“We saw flames coming off of the wires,” said Hudson resident Zia Anger, describing this afternoon’s fire in the alley east of South 5th Street, between Warren and Union. The conflagration knocked out cable and internet to many Mid-Hudson subscribers, and to Verizon phone and internet clients in the southeastern reaches of the City.
According to another witness, the blaze began in a narrow gap between two garages on the south side of the alley, at least one of which appeared to be completely gutted. He told the officers investigating: “I bet some guy took his last puff of a cigarette and flicked it right between them.”
MHC’s Jim Reynolds surveys the scene
Mid-Hudson Cablevision had several bucket trucks on scene by late afternoon, with linesman sorting out the many dangling loops of loose fiber. A man in sunglasses taking cameraphone pictures along turned out to be MHC President James Reynolds, who predicted that his company would have service back on before Verizon did.
And indeed, a lone Verizon tech parked on Sixth Street said that his company would be unlikely to restore phone and web to its customers before tomorrow at the earliest. “The brass don’t want to pay us overtime,” he confessed, appearing as irritated as the two customers who had converged on his small van.
One 500 block businessperson stated that he had spent an hour on the phone with Verizon tech support, attempting to diagnose why his internet and phone had dropped out, before he independently heard about the fire. This observer had the identical experience of waiting through long hold (and interminable Muzak) as various customer service reps tried in vain to test the studio modem.
During one of those holds, a check of Facebook via a smartphone revealed the emergency in progress—of which Verizon’s central office appeared to be totally unaware. One rep actually claimed that this call was the only customer outage in all of Hudson, a claim readily disproven by a visit to the Hudson Community Board or a walk down the street.
Between ice storms, falling trees, fires, and wayward vehicles taking out telephone poles and wires, it seems far past time to either bury the rest of these cables—creating a nice employment boom locally. Or else use the top of Columbia Memorial Hospital to broadcast wi-fi citywide, with a repeater on top of Bliss Towers.
For more than a decade, officials have privately mulled changes to the Columbia County airport. Over the past year, contentious public debate raged at over a dozen meetings about how to bring the Ghent facility into compliance with safety regulations. But just this week, a surprise suggestion from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have rendered all of these arguments and explorations moot.
According to sources familiar with a conference call this week between the FAA and the County Airport Committee, the Feds suggested a radically simple bureaucratic solution: Just reclassify the airport into a category requiring a much shorter Runway Safety Area (RSA).
Due to the airport handling less than 500 jet operations per year, it is apparently eligible to downgrade its classification to a level which needs only a 300-foot RSA, not 1,000 feet.
The longer 1,000-foot requirement has been the key factor driving endless controversy about compliance. For most of last year, and also in the decade previous, the County devoted substantial time and resources to assessing whether to acquire additional land via purchase or eminent domain from Meadowgreens, or else to shorten or shift the runway away from the golf course’s border.
The stunningly quick-and-dirty solution reportedly proposed by the FAA would mean the County could meet the RSA requirements using the existing 200 feet of space between the north end of the runway, plus reducing the overall length by another 100 feet to 5,250. By contrast, the compromise “Porreca Plan” approved by the County recently would have shortened the runway to about 5,000 feet, and involved construction costs on the southern end.
The FAA’s idea might still require the County to acquire some avigation easements from Meadowgreens to ensure that obstructions do not permeate aircrafts’ approach zone. Or perhaps a hybrid of the Porreca Plan and the FAA solution (reclassification plus the 5,000-foot declared distance) would further reduce or eliminate that remaining obstacle.
This seemingly positive outcome does raise one sticky question: Why wasn’t this option identified sooner by either the County’s highly-paid consultants at C&S, or its various Development and Public Works staff, or its Committee members, or the FAA itself?
This observer can’t help but think it might have something to do with pride—officials not wanting to admit what citizens had constantly pointed out, that there is very little jet activity at the Richmor-managed facility.
A longtime Hudson resident shared this email exchange with Hudson Mayor Bill Hallenbeck, on the current controversy over finding open space for dogs to be exercised in town:
Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 2:41 PM
Subject: dog park
As you know, we disagree on some current issues in Hudson and that is o.k. I feel we can still have a decent, productive conversation. I just wanted to invite you to go to some of the local dog parks with me and my family. They really are not bad places as some of the citizens of Hudson believe. We go to the Friends of Kinderhook Dog Park and the Athens Bunker Hill Dog Park frequently. I understand you have a new puppy and it would be great to visit the parks with him/her. These dog parks are self sufficient and I do not believe they would be costly to the city. These parks are very well run and cared for by the users.
Just a thought,
[Name Withheld by Request]
On Tuesday, May 27, 2014 3:20 PM, Hudson Mayor <email@example.com> wrote:
I have never said I did not favor a dog park first and foremost. Secondly, I will not burden the Taxpayers of this City with the cost of upkeep and creation of a Dog Park in a City where there is approx. 2.7 sq. miles to walk dogs. There is a minority here in the City who feels the City should accommodate dogs in a “Park” for some reason but I refuse to have taxpayers pay for it. So the first issue is funding. Issue number two, at the dog parks you mention to which I have visited in some cases, there are rules and regulations to abide by for the health and well-being of not only the dogs but human beings. If a simple “No dogs allowed” sign prohibiting dogs in the cemetery can’t be followed by you and your associates, why would I believe you would follow any other rule at any other location? It is apparent to me if a rule was created at an dog park of your choosing and you and a few people didn’t like it, then you would rally against it with total disregard for that rule as evident by your recent history in the cemetery. These questions need to be answered and I need to believe in the intent of those individuals such as you wanting a dog park before I would consider supporting such an idea. With that said however I have met with and continue to meet with some elected officials who are supportive of the idea. Dialog continues in reference to your belief that the City of Hudson, a City which never had a dog park needs one now. Thank you much for reaching out to me.
For New York City art worlders of a certain age, the brass ring of their youth was to reach for a 2,000 square foot downtown loft. Now that they have attained maturity, that ambition has grown tenfold, to more like 20,000+ square feet. But for even the wealthiest 1%, that’s a difficult proposition in the five boroughs.
And so the abandoned municipal, industrial, and educational buildings of the Hudson Valley beckon—to the likes of Marina Abramoviç, or the clerics of DIA:Beacon, or contemporary collectors Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol, or Studio 54 fixture Francine Hunter McGivern, or, most recently, Chelsea gallerist Jack Shainman. Call it the Hudson River School of Art Storage.
Shainman debuted his vast new 30,000 square foot space, The School, yesterday in Kinderhook with an installation by Nick Cave. The event drew, without exaggeration, at least 1,000 attendees.
The crowd was a surprisingly comfortable mix: Grizzled Soho vetarans commiserated about the demise of Pearl Paint. Williamsburg and Long Island City hipsters clad in pristine Carhartts guzzled the free beer and locally-sourced hoagies, while wondering where in tarnation they had landed. Expatriate New Yorkers, who decamped to Columbia County long before any major collectors had heard of it, felt validated at last in their decision to move upriver. Lifelong residents who learned long division in these classrooms gazed in gently rueful amazement at the building’s dramatic-yet-respectful transformation by architect Antonio Jimenez Torrecillas. (Rule of thumb: The more pockets in a pair of pants, the more likely the person lives locally.)
The generosity of Shainman’s spread, the beauty of the rooms, the free Cave posters, the disco tent, and the absence of any velvet ropes or clipboard Nazis, gave the event an ease and uplift not common to the typically sour, tense atmosphere of so many City openings.
Only “downtown” Kinderhook itself seemed unprepared for its placement on the high art map. A half-dozen storefronts are empty near the intersection of Albany & Broad, waiting to be filled by the restaurateurs and baristas and mid-century modern furniture dealers who make the trek up Broadway, which eventually becomes the old Post Road–today, Route 9.
The Carolina House seemed like the only local business ready to take advantage of the influx, with black Beemers, Audis and Mercedeses replacing the customary muddied Jeeps and minivans in the parking lot.
The “space” (that once-annoying term now universally used to describe everything from literary salons to hair salons) is strikingly successful. A pitch-perfect glow illuminates a seemingly endless maze of galleries, the next larger than the last. It must have been a H
Herculean labor for Cave to occupy the entire cavernous building, and his decorative-yet-political work is strong. But the structure itself was the star of the day.
It was not clear how often The School would be open, or how regularly the exhibitions would change, but Shainman earned a ton of local goodwill with his début. A photo sampler follows below; click each image to enlarge it.
I was very sorry to learn this week of the unexpected death of Greene County resident Dick May. A professor of history with an abiding interest in the correct use of language, Dick’s gentlemanly manner managed to keep his searing wit from ever offending.
I last saw Dick a couple of months ago at a charity poker tournament (in which he placed fourth out of a couple dozen players), and he seemed his usual acerbically-witty self.
For several years, he posted wry observations about local politics at Seeing Greene. His blog posts will be missed—with hope someone will archive them—but their author will be missed far moreso.
The February 14th, 2014 minutes of the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency reveal that the County intends to make a “land donation” of approximately 33 acres to Ginsberg’s Foods.
Former Claverack Planning Board member (and Churchtown firefighter) Nathan Chess dropped that bombshell research at tonight’s joint meeting with the Ghent and Claverack planners, as part of a a scheduled public hearing.
The gift presumably is dependent upon approval of the company’s application for a new 300,000 refrigerated warehouse, office space and trucking center on Route 66, just north of the intersection with 9H on the Ghent/Claverack line.
The IDA minutes found by Chess state that the County’s Economic Development Council (CEDC) “continued to negotiate with Ginsberg’s about the land contract.” The 2014 head of CEDC is David Crawford, the principal of Crawford Engineering—the same firm which is spearheading Ginsberg’s application before the two Planning Boards. David Ginsberg himself was listed as a member of CEDC as recently as its September 2013 meeting.
Mr. Chess further noted that the company appears to be operating under two names, G. Best Realty and Ginsberg’s Institutional Foods, per a letter from County economic development czar Kenneth Flood authorizing the company to pursue an application for a project on County-owned land. Mr. Ginsberg was in charge of the candidate search which eventually hired Flood, according to sources familiar with the hiring process.
Sardonically referring to himself as “an investor” in Ginsberg’s—as a County taxpayer—Chess further noted that the IDA’s December 3rd, 2013 minutes discussed giving the company a $30,000 “mortgage tax exemption” in relation to its Payment In Lieu of Tax (PILOT) deal for its existing, smaller facility further west on 66.
The public hearing was marked by an unusual number of interruptions and admonishments of public commenters by Ghent Planning Board chair Jonathan Walters, (who serves as an editor and writer at Governing magazine). Walters warned those wishing to speak not to repeat others’ comments, and made numerous interjections during various attempts by citizens to enter questions and comments into the record.
Resident Donna Davey was among those cut off by Walters, when she attempted to express concerns about “sprawl.” During the remarks of others, such as Mr. Chess, the hearing officer made eye and hand gestures indicating he wanted the speaker to hurry up or abandon certain lines of argument.
By contrast, officials such as Columbia County Chamber head David Colby and former Claverack Supervisor Jim Keegan, along with employees of Ginsberg’s who spoke in favor of the application, were allowed to speak uninterrupted. A supportive letter from County Supervisors chair Pat Grattan was read aloud by Brandee Nelson of Crawford Engineering, again without interruption.
Meanwhile, concerned neighbor Tom Runyon was lectured to “read the application” before the next time he offered comments, even though Runyon’s softspoken questions reflected an obvious familiarity with key details of the application.
Runyon pointed out that the two Boards had proceeded with a public hearing despite not having voted to deem the Ginsberg’s application complete, a normal procedural hurdle. Joint attorney for the two boards, Jeffrey S. Baker, argued that the application was “substantially” complete, conceding that some environmental formalities remained to be formally adopted.
Walters appeared impatient with what he characterized as Runyon’s “procedural” comments, and urged him to focus instead on the meat of the application. But Runyon was again shot down when he quizzed the Boards and their joint attorney about such particulars. He noted, for example, that the application was for a “warehouse,” but also included other components such as an 85-bay trucking operation. Board members and Ginsberg’s reps claimed that the trucking component was for “repairs,” though other discussion clearly indicated that the trucks would be loading food in and out of the facility.
Runyon’s concern about emissions from the 85-odd vehicles running “all night” appeared to be deemed more germane by several on the two Boards.
Runyon, along with Ghent resident Patti Matheney and others further managed to tease out information that the water tower proposal for the property was a “County project,” which apparently would be paid for by the County, not Ginsberg’s. Though the proposed water tower was a frequent topic of discussion at the meeting, it does not appear to be mentioned in the public notice for the project.
The often hostile back-and-forths with audience members struck this observer as highly unusual, given that Planning Boards serve in a “quasi-judicial” capacity—with an obligation to not render an opinion until all input, including public comment, is received.
At dozens of similar hearings attended over the years, this attendee has seen members of a diverse set of municipalities and agencies take input on a wide variety of topics, without attempting to divert or derail the commenter’s line of thought. Members typically do not interact with commenters during a formal public hearing, of which a transcript is supposed to be made, answering only the simplest procedural and factual questions when these can be addressed succinctly and without tainting the proceedings with any appearance of bias.
Issues and other comments raised by commenters are more usually addressed later in a reply document, which sorts out new substantive issues from those already addressed in the course of the review, and setting aside those not germane to the process. Such reticence helps preserve the appearance of a Board not rendering objective judgements free of premature, arbitrary or capricious decisions.
Missing from the well-attended meeting? Town Supervisor Michael Benson, who similarly missed some 70% of his County Airport Committee meetings.
One infers from the account by reporter Katie Kocijanski that there have been many complaints in New Leb about Benson’s willingness to comply with the spirit, if not the letter, of these long-standing laws.
In the wake of his latest public relations debacle in April, Sean Eldridge’s Congressional campaign put out a call for applicants to serve as an “experienced, energetic Communications Director to manage the campaign's day-to-day operations of press strategy.”
The development led to yet another satirical blast from Republicans. The GOP seized this as a fresh opportunity to highlight Eldridge’s lack of experience in running for public office, his lack of roots in the district, his overabundance of money to spend on his campaign. and other now-familiar talking points.
Leading the charge was the NRCC’s Ian Prior (himself a former Congressional campaign manager) , who drafted a fake application for the job. Prior used the tongue-in-cheek letter to highlight the GOP’s preferred bullet items: that Eldridge is his own largest campaign donor, that he’s allegedly Hudson River Ventures to curry favor in the district, that he’s bought expensive houses in different districts to “shop” for a winnable race, etc.
Gibson’s people seem to understand that in non-Presidential election cycles, these one-liners are useful (whether fair or not) for motivating the Republican base to turn out—and for helping to dampen Democratic enthusiasm.
Even some Democrats who would like to see the party regain control of the house have grumbled that Eldridge’s missteps are playing into Republican hands, as image and media issues allow Gibson to avoid discussion of votes which might put him out of step with the NY-19 electorate.
One p.r. problem leads to another, as even more balanced articles such as this recent Freeman report consistently highlight Republican accusations about carpetbagging and campaign finance before glancingly addressing the issues at stake.
Eldridge’s challenge now is to undo the Al Gore-ing of his campaign, even as the opposition tries to make his infinity pool into the regional equivalent of 2000’s unfair “I invented the Internet” tag on the then-Vice President.
Meanwhile, though the ad for a new Communications Director is now nearly a month old, recent press releases on Eldridge’s site continue to list the same outside p.r. rep, Morgan Hook of SDK Knickerbocker, as his primary press contact. (The Knickebocker Albany office lists only one other key staffer other than Hook, whereas its New York City office lists 20 Managing Directors, Vice Presidents and Associates.)
So while Eldridge may be belatedly realizing—less than six months from Election Day—that his campaign needs to speak more for itself, and more freely, the intended course-correction appears, like the rest of his campaign, to be a work in progress.
According to this interactive New York Times map, Columbia County is deeply and irreconcilably divided: 47% of residents root for the New York Yankees, and 32% for the Boston Red Sox. (The Mets rate a lowly 8%.)
As you zoom in, the breakdowns can be reviewed by ZIP code. Not surprisingly, the percentages for the Yankees increase as you head further south and west, and for Red Sox as you head further to the northeast.