Some of the biggest ups and downs of the year include:
- Biggest Sale of a Small Object: Auctioneer Colin Stair of Stair Galleries in Hudson sold a Tsarist figurine by Fabergé for $5.2 million in October to an undisclosed phone bidder. The figurine was discovered in a Rhinebeck attic.
- Wackiest Would-Be Terrorist: County resident (and Kinderhook Elk) Eric Feight was arrested as part of a harebrained plot to build a ray gun intended to beam radiation into mosques, with the apparent crackpot goal of giving Muslims cancer.
- Most Avant-Garde New Building in an Historic District: Grigori Fatayev built this handsome black box off Willard Place behind the Allen Street home of painter Tony Thompson. The building now serves as Thompson’s studio.
- Most Welcome Threat to Leave the County: Following two catastrophic fires in 2012, and after suing the Town of Ghent for upholding its zoning code in 2013, TCI of NY threatened to move their PCB (mis-) handling business across the river to Coeymans. While many breathed a sigh of relief, reminding TCI to not let the door hit them in the back on the way out, it remains to be seen whether Coeymans will really take on the troubled company. The first weeks of the New Year may provide an answer, as the end date for the postponement of TCI’s lawsuit comes due. The company agreed to drop the suit if they found a new home.
- Liveliest Glimpse of Old Hudson: A video of people hanging out and partying in the 7th Street park in the early 1990s was posted by YouTuber Satansdarkmetal.
- Most Misleading Local Headline: The Register-Star titled an article about the Board of Supervisors voting to keep on pursuing eminent domain against Meadowgreens owner Carmen Nero: “Board Rejects Eminent Domain Resolution.”
- Most Pandering Local Headline: For its article about a local engineer who allegedly “zoned out” while speeding a Metro-North train into a fatal accident around a curve at Spuyten Duyvil, Columbia Paper editor Parry Teasdale used this headline: “Germantown Engineer Assists Crash Probe.”
- Most Heartening Turnout at a Public Meeting: Hundreds streamed into the Livingston Town Garage for the first public meeting of Livingston Farmers & Families, which is organizing to alter or stop a massive power line project from Upstate to NYC. The meeting featured the political speech of the year, a ripsnorter by farmer and Town Board member Will Yandik, who seems destined for higher office.
- Clumsiest Campaign Rollout: The first major media introduction of newly-minted Hudson Valley resident Sean Eldridge, who is seeking to unseat Congressman Chris Gibson, came in the early Summer pages of the New York Times. But the article mainly provided fodder for his opponent. The Times’ revelations about the cost of Eldridge’s Shokan house, with the implication that he and Facebook zillionnaire Chris Hughes had shopped around for a district to run in, were swiftly followed by an Albany Times-Union exposé of how Eldridge’s campaign was paying area residents $100 a pop to focus group attack messages on Gibson.
- Most Revealing Comment by an Official Once Thought to Be More Enlightened: Mistakenly thinking that the press and public had left the room, Hudson Development Corporation director Sheena Salvino denigrated citizens who had come out to support the Community Garden as a “mob.”
- Most Revealing Comment by an Official Never Thought to Be More Enlightened: County Economic Development tsar Ken Flood shared his unvarnished opinion with Ghent resident Kevin Delahanty that “restaurants in Hudson and Chatham ... don’t provide good jobs except for the owners.”
- Worthiest Ideas Gathering Dust on Some Politician’s Shelf: In July, the Columbia County Emergency Management Council proposed a series of sensible, forward-thinking guidelines to prevent major disasters. Little or nothing has been heard about their recommendations in the six months since.
- Ugliest Use of Social Media by an Elected Official: Ghent Town Board member Richard Sardo opined in a Facebook post that MSNBC host (and Berkshire County resident) Rachel Maddow “looks very much like an ugly man.” Sardo, who coupled this assessment of Maddow’s looks with his barely-disguised hots for FOX anchor Megyn Kelly, badly lost his Tea Party bid for Town Supervisor against Republican Mike Benvenuto.
- Most Gratifying Told ’Ya So: The Valley Alliance was vindicated as the City of Hudson glumly acknowledged the group’s contention that the people, not Holcim, already owned 4.4 acres along the Waterfront. Research by the Alliance demonstrated that the riverfront lands had been improperly sold in the early 1980s without State approval.
- Least Merited Award: Hudson Phoenix president John Tonelli was given the Chamber of Commerce’s “Businessperson of the Year” award in June, just months after announcing the arrival of his plastics extrusion business. But Phoenix seemingly never made any hires, and according to a Chamber source the company had “ceased operations” by November.
- Least Festive Street Fest: A car show put on by American Glory’s Joe Fierro, with little or no notification to neighbors, shut down the 300 block of Warren Street on a Spring Saturday, but attracted little interest.
- Most Hilarious Banter Between Star Chefs: A New York Magazine article about the opening of Fish & Game featured this exchange between the restaurants’ principals, Zak Pelaccio and Jori Jayne Emde:
Foraging for ingredients turns out to have its limitations. Before long, Pelaccio suggests we give up the mushroom hunt. Emde reluctantly agrees. “I mean, I can smell mushrooms though,” she says, then tells me about recently sniffing her way to ramps. “Zak calls me a hound dog.” She gives an animalistic howl. “It’s weird, that’s the sound I make when we’re having sex.”
“It boosts my self-esteem,” says Pelaccio.
“Like you need it,” she returns.
“We always need it,” Pelaccio says.
- Least Effective Tool for Promoting Business: In March, the Columbia County Industrial Develpment Agency (IDA) had to revoke its Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) plan for fish-breeder Local Ocean, as the company had gone into default. Yet another past Chamber award-winner, the company announced its closing in August.
- Lamest Campaign by a Candidate Claiming to be a Skilled Organizer: Hudson’s Victor Mendolia garnered the lowest number of votes of any mayoral candidate in a two-person race in recent memory, possibly in City history. The former City Democratic chair lost his campaign manager in the process of losing to incumbent Bill Hallenbeck, despite Democrats having a massive registration advantage over Republicans, and despite Hallenbeck himself earning fewer votes than his first run. Turnout was almost half of Hudson elections of a decade ago, despite the number of registered voters staying the same. As of August, Mendolia had spent more on restaurant dinners than his campaign had banked up for the Fall campaign.
- Most Important Unread Mail: Government records uncovered by Ghent resident Patti Matheney revealed that the Department of Homeland Security had warned local emergency officials of the presence of highly-explosive sodium in the TCI building. But the warning apparently went unheeded, contributing (along with egregious negligence by the company itself) to some 12-15 explosions when water was dumped on the company’s smoldering building. Shamelessly, TCI attorney Bill Better shamelessly tried to use this revelation to deflect responsibility from his client.
- Most Confusing Campaign Signage: Road signs for the Taghkanic Republican slate seemed to deliberately conflate 20something candidate Ryan Skoda with his much better-known father, farmer (and sitting Town Board member) Richard Skoda.
- Most Concerted Effort to Deny the Obvious: Hudson City Attorney Cheryl Roberts, Alderman Cappy Pierro, Council President Don Moore, and attorney Giff Whitbeck repeatedly attempted to deny that Standard Oil had occupied a key piece of the Hudson Waterfront, even after clear evidence was brought forth to prove it. Roberts, who had incorrectly identified the Standard Oil location, and lectured citizens about being “completely wrong,” even wondered aloud whether oil tanks existed in the 1880s. Moore similarly wagged his finger at the public about “being careful.” Eventually, the Gang of Four could not help acknowleding their mistake, brushing it off with barely a shrug. (Their motivation appeared to be a desire to avoid any investigation into contamination.)
- Most Selfish Bogarting of Scarce Public Services: The new Barlow Hotel somehow convinced the City of Hudson to not only build an awning over the sidewalk, but also to grant the business exclusive use of two parking spaces in the 500 block of Warren, ostensibly for loading and unloading of baggage. The request was granted despite the block being the the busiest in Hudson, and there being a vast public parking lot immediately behind the hotel. (This frequent perambulator of that part of the street has yet to see a single guest using the two much-needed spaces for their intended purpose.) The City has not clarified what the criteria are for securing one’s own private parking spaces, but no doubt others would love to get the same special treatment.
- Least Dignified Post-Election Email: Claverack resident Chris Lastovicka broke with American election tradition in trashing the Town’s voters in the wake of her partner’s loss of her Supervisor seat. Incumbent Robin Andrews lost by 20 votes to Republican Kippy Weigelt. Lastovicka blamed weekenders whom she claimed did not turn in enough absentee ballots—despite Andrews picking up 60 votes from absentees. No blame was assigned to the candidate herself for failing to take a stand on issues such as TCI or the County Airport, or for opposing both an increase in the State minimum wage and common sense gun regulations.
- Most Blatant Media Conflict of Interest: Community radio station WGXC had scheduled an interview with recently-departed Mendolia campaign manager Clay Laugier. But the interview on the @Issue show was abruptly canceled without explanation—the most obvious being that Laugier was likely to be critical of Mendolia—a co-host of the show, on leave at the time.
- Two Most Pleasant Out-of-County Finds of the Year: Discovering that Dope Jams Records of Brooklyn had reopened in Oak Hill (Greene County) and stumbling upon an utterly authentic northern Chinese restaurant in Wappingers Falls.
- Most Missed Bar, Bar Owner, and Bar Patron: 2013 brought the sad demise of the Iron Horse bar, its owner Frank Martino, and one of its most loyal patrons—former Hudson Police Commissioner Jeff “Sweeps” Bagnall. Join me in pouring one out tonight, New Year’s Eve, for all three.