Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Acquisition of Hudson: When Will It End?

Gossips used to monitor diligently the acquisition of property by Eric Galloway, his various LLCs, and Galvan entities. That diligence has relaxed a bit in recent years, but word of two new acquisitions, either completed or in the works, has inspired a new inventory of properties in Hudson now owned by Galvan Initiatives Foundation, Galvan Asset Management (formerly Housing Resources of Columbia County), Galvan Civic I, and Hudson Collective Realty. The two new acquisitions--realized or soon to be--are 6 West Court Street and 502 Union Street. 

What follows is a street-by-street list of all the properties owned by Galvan, as listed in the tax rolls, organized by street--some with annotations, some with links to relevant posts--with a few pictures here and there to break up the monotony.

Warren Street
11 (the former COARC building)
22 and 24
201-203 (once known as the Shrimp Box) 
202-204 (the location of Princeton Architectural Press)
317½ (the location of Foley & Cox)
364-366 (the location of Bard Early College and Hudson Home) 
412-416 (the C. H. Evans Mansion)
449 (the location of Olde Hudson and Aeble)
455-457 (the vacant lot at the corner of Fifth and Warren)

Union Street
21-23 (the vacant lot next to 25 Union Street)
209-211 (the birthplace of General William Jenkins Worth)
215 and 217-219 (these two properties and 216 Partition Street make up the site of the house allegedly built with the salvage from 900 Columbia Street)
255-259 (the location of Ör)
501-505 (formerly Apartments of Distinction)

Allen Street
26, 28, and 30 (one double house and the lot next to it)

55-61 (the Charles Alger House)

Galvan seems to favor the south side of town and has acquired several parcels on the numbered streets south of Warren.

South First Street
20 and 24 (the lots behind 102 and 104 Union)

South Second Street
68 (the Robert Taylor House)
The parcel that appears in the tax rolls as simply "Deer Aly" [sic] is the land extending east behind the Robert Taylor House.

South Third Street
40 (the location of the Salvation Army)

Hudson Avenue
The baseball diamond now known as Galvan Field.

Galvan Asset Management has taken possession of all the properties previously owned by Housing Resources of Columbia County, most of which are located on the north side of town. Galvan has been acquiring additional property on the north side.

Columbia Street
252 (the office of Galvan Housing Resources)
538-540 and 542-544 (the location of Columbia Opportunities)
724 and 726 (what remains of the Gifford Foundry)

Galvan Initiatives Foundation also owns the vacant lot at the corner of Columbia and North Fourth street, which extends from Columbia Street to Long Alley. That parcel has the address 25 North Fourth Street.

State Street

237 and 239 (both vacant lots)
400 (formerly the Hudson Area Library)
618 (rear) 
Galvan tried to buy the house at the front of 618 State Street in the tax auction in November, but although the person bidding behalf of Hudson Collective Realty, Jack Connor, cast the winning bid, it was determined that he was ineligible to bid because he was the city judge.

620-624 (the original Hudson Orphan Asylum)
708 (the Hudson Upper Depot, the passenger station for the Hudson-Berkshire Railroad)

In the area of State and North Seventh streets, Galvan also owns 61-63 North Seventh Street, the original Canape Motors, purchased from Carmine Pierro in 2003, and 69-73 and 75 North Seventh Street, two houses purchased by Galvan Initiatives Foundation in 2014 and 2013 respectively. At the present time, there is only one property on North Seventh Street between State Street and the Hudson Central Fire Station that is not owned by Galvan.

Galvan, of course, owns the Hudson Armory at the corner of Fifth and State streets, now the location of the Hudson Area Library, and has been acquiring a number of houses on North Fifth Street and elsewhere in the vicinity of the armory.

North Fifth Street

Prospect Avenue
449 (adjacent to the back yards of 61-65 and 67-71 North Fifth Street)

Short Street

Elsewhere on the north side, there are two properties on Robinson Street: 211 and 215. Former is owned by Galvan Initiatives Foundation, the latter by Galvan Asset Management.

There are two more parcels owned by Galvan Initiatives Foundation: 12 North Second Street, the lot behind 202-204 Warren Street, and 13 North Third Street, the rear of 260 Warren Street. 

The total number of parcels, not counting the two newest acquisitions, now stands at eighty-six.

Primum Non Nocere*

In January, the Historic Preservation Commission granted a certificate of appropriateness for the restoration planned for 260 Warren Street. Certificates of appropriateness have been granted for that building twice in the past, but both expired before the proposed work was undertaken. As it turns out, that was a good thing, because this time around, led by HPC architect member Kate Johns and guided by historic photographs of the building found in the Evelyn & Robert Monthie Slide Collection at the Columbia County Historical Society, the HPC got the applicant to agree to replicate the doors in the building's storefront exactly as they were originally--something the HPC had failed to do in the past.

The doors have been a cause of concern for quite a while. They were removed from the building more than twelve years ago. Kevin Walker, majordomo for the Hudson Preservation Group, the Galloway LLC that owned the building at the time (ownership has since passed first to Galvan Partners and then to Galvan Initiatives Foundation), told the HPC in 2007 or thereabout, that the doors were safe inside the building. Soon after he made that statement, the doors were seen being loaded onto a pickup truck and carted off to a garage on North Seventh Street, something Walker vehemently denied. Now, no one in the Galvan organization seems to know what happened to the doors or where they are now.

Certificate of appropriateness secured, work is now moving forward on the building. In recent weeks, the building has become studded with anchor ties--along its east and south facades, and it's the anchor ties that raise a question.

Three of the anchor ties installed on the front of the building (the south facade) go right through the marble lintel, and one of them has cracked the stone.

Photo: Julie Metz

The Historic Preservation Commission is charged with preserving and protecting Hudson's historic architecture. That involves preserving the authentic fabric of our buildings. But once the HPC grants a certificate of appropriateness, who is responsible for overseeing the work to ensure that the methods and techniques employed do not damage the authentic fabric?

* Primum non nocere, "First, do no harm." 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Almost Like Being There

Now you can watch Lance Wheeler's video coverage of the Hudson Polar Plunge 2018 by clicking here.


Libelers, Monsters, and Rebels

If you missed David Voorhees' talk at the library on Thursday about the life and times of Jacob Leisler, Dan Udell's video of the presentation can now be viewed here.


Scenes from the Plunge

The Hudson Polar Plunge for 2018 happened today at noon, and Gossips was there--not to plunge but to observe. There was a great turnout to watch people hurl themselves into the chilly waters of Oakdale Lake. Among the better dressed teams taking the plunge was the Hudson Bed Race Team, made up of Lisa Durfee, David Olivencia, and Peter Frank.

The Hudson Police Department had a team that took the chilly dive into the lake and also won the coveted Plunger award for raising the most money.

Without a doubt, though, the best turned out and the greatest crowd pleaser was Girlgantua, a.k.a. Justin Weaver, who shed her opulent faux fur and kicked off her heels to take the plunge. She lost her wig in the chilly water, but her makeup and composure remained flawless.

Another memorable Saturday in our extraordinary little city.

There Is Still Time!

So far, the Hudson Polar Plunge has raised $8,000 for the Hudson Youth Department's planned improvements to Oakdale and the Hudson Fire Department's Water Rescue Unit. 

The plunge into Oakdale Lake is happening at noon today. There is still time to support your favorite individual or team. To do so, click here. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Truck Route Woes

We don't need any more evidence that trucks should not be routed through our city, but if we did, this would be it.

Photo: Julie Metz
Sometime around 10:45 this morning, there was a collision involving two trucks and a car at the intersection of Third and Union streets.

Not Taking "No" for an Answer

Last year, the Common Council Economic Development Committee considered a request from Stewart's Shops for a zoning change to allow the company to expand its convenience store and gas station at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue. The facility is now a nonconforming commercial use in a residential district--a status that prohibits Stewart's from carrying out its plan for expansion. 

In September 2017, the Economic Development Committee decided not to pursue a zoning change to accommodate Stewart's. This year, with a brand-new Council and a brand-new Economic Development Committee, Stewart's is renewing its efforts to get the City to make a substantial change in its zoning that would benefit Stewart's but could have undesirable consequences for the immediate neighborhood and for the city as a whole.

The change being requested, outlined in an application presented to the Common Council at its very first meeting for 2018, would create a "Green Street Commercial Overlay District" to allow for commercial development on the north side of Green Street, from the Rosery to the current Stewart's location, and along the west side of Fairview Avenue, from the Stewart's location to the former car dealership that is now ProPrinters. The proposed district is the magenta striped area on the map below.  

On Thursday night, Chuck Marshall, real estate representative for Stewart's Shops, was at the Economic Development Committee to pitch the plan and answer the committee's questions. Not far into the conversation, when questions were asked about entrances and exits, Marshall told the committee, "You're not approving a Stewart's. You're approving a zoning amendment." That's an important distinction to remember. Spot zoning, defined as "the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners," is illegal. So what Stewart's is asking the City to do is to rezone the north side of Green Street and the west side of Fairview Avenue to allow for commercial development--in effect, to invite the commercialization of Fairview Avenue found in Greenport to make its way back into Hudson.

Any discussion of Stewart's invariably involves talking about the intersection of Green Street and Fairview Avenue and peril pedestrians face trying to cross the street at that point. Last July, when the Economic Development Committee held a public "information session" about the Stewart's proposal, Eileen Halloran said she was "generally in favor of the project," because she saw it as a way to improve the intersection. Last night, Halloran, now a Fifth Ward alderman and a member of the Economic Development Committee, noted that the traffic study done by Creighton Manning, which was part of the Stewart's application, determined that intersection would not be dramatically different with a new and improved Stewart's. 

Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Economic Development Committee, brought up the fact that two houses, representing seven dwelling units, would have to be demolished to enable the Stewart's expansion, noting that it was a significant loss in a city with a shortage of affordable housing. Marshall responded by suggesting that the houses, were they to remain, could become single-family houses, thus reducing the number of available homes, and Halloran pointed out that a new building with four units was being constructed just up the street.
The new store being proposed by Stewart's would be 50 percent larger than the current store. When Volo asked about the products to be sold in the larger store, the answer was essentially more of what is now sold at Stewart's. Marshall asserted that "people in the community depend on Stewart's." Later in the conversation, Marshall said that Hudson was the victim of its own success and claimed that "the people we serve are the underserved." Marshall's statement about the underserved inspired Volo to comment, "I don't understand how Stewart's determines the people are underserved and a bigger store is necessary."

When Volo asked what benefit the Stewart's expansion would be to the community, Marshall answered, "A nicer building that improves the intersection is a community benefit." Earlier, Marshall mentioned a community host benefit agreement, although no information has been provided about what amenities and/or mitigations Stewart's might be offering in that agreement.

Toward the end of the conversation, Marshall said, "If we are unsuccessful, we will operate it as long as we can," vaguely intimating that Stewart's might abandon its Hudson location. When Register-Star report Amanda Purcell asked if he was saying Stewart's would leave Hudson if the City didn't change its zoning to accommodate the expansion, Marshall seemed to backpedal, saying, "The long-term situation is that nonconforming uses get pushed out." He then suggested that if Stewart's left, some other business that didn't provide as many hours of work for as many employees might take its place. 

It was in the context of talking about what might happen if Stewart's was pushed out that Marshall made reference to a post that appeared on Gossips: "Houses Back from the Edge." The post was inspired by comments that the two houses Stewart's wanted to demolish were in such bad shape they were not worth saving and featured houses in Hudson that had, in recent years, gone from "not worth saving" to desirable. Marshall noted that most of these houses had been purchased at tax foreclosure auctions (that's not exactly what he said, but I think that's what he meant), but the Stewart's purchase of the two houses would be "a market level transaction that will allow the owners to stay and reinvest."

It's not entirely clear what the Economic Development Committee's next steps will be with regard to the Stewart's application. Volo spoke of a public comment period. Halloran talked about having to learn how the "new law" would impact the Stewart's situation. It seemed she meant proposed Local Law No. 9 of 2017, which had been referred back to the Legal Committee at the Common Council meeting earlier this week. Local Law No. 9, as it's now written, would have no impact on the Stewart's situation, since the law does not address expanding commercial uses in residential districts but rather would allow buildings that were constructed for commercial uses prior to 1976 when Hudson adopted its zoning and have a long history of commercial use to be used again for a well-defined number of commercial uses.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

DRI Watch: What Did and Didn't Make the Cut

Tonight, at the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, Sheena Salvino, executive director of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) and member of the local DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) staff, told the committee she had posted the new project list, the outcome of a three-hour meeting of the committee of ten that took place last Friday, on the DRI website. The thirty projects have now been divided into three categories: recommended for DRI funding; recommended to be part of the DRI Investment Plan but not for DRI funding; and recommended to be removed from the DRI Investment Plan.

In the first category, there are twenty-two projects, seeking a total of $14,377,610 in DRI funds, about 50 percent more than is actually available. In the second category, there are three: the electric bus, the renovation of 59 Allen Street as a bed & breakfast, and the facade improvements to The Wareshouse and the DigiFab expansion. In the third category--not recommended for inclusion in the DRI plan--there are five: the skatepark, the North Bay connector, the bioenergy park, cybersecurity workforce development, and the proposal by Hudson Cruises to upgrade and extend tourism and community access to the waterfront. 

Of interest to those who think projects proposed by the Galvan Foundation should not be awarded DRI funding, the only project proposed by Galvan that was not recommended for DRI funding is the proposal to turn 59 Allen Street into a bed & breakfast.

Click here to review the entire list.

In the Category of Whodathunkit

Although there may be people in Hudson who have never visited the cluster of fishing shacks once known as the Furgary Boat Club, the site, with the name "Furgary Fishing Village," now appears as a destination on the Google map of Hudson.

Gossips has heard reports that, on the two warm days we had this week, the site attracted visitors from Arkansas, as well as photographers from Hillsdale and elsewhere in the county.

Bright Lights, Sad Park

Recently, Brian Herman, who owns 324 Warren Street, installed lighting on the east side of the building, which borders the pocket park at 326-328 Warren Street. The color of the light can be changed, as evidenced by these photographs. Last night, for example, the light was blue.

The new lighting draws renewed attention to the sad state of the little park, known to some as the PARC Park because it was created, on City-owned land, as a gift from the PARC Foundation. Fifteen or so years ago, the PARC Foundation (PARC is an acronym for Planning + Art Resources for Communities) had great plans to transform the north side of Hudson, what was then the Second and Fourth wards, but the linear park extending from Warren Street to State Street, of which this little park is the first stage, is the only part of the plan that was realized.

The park was completed late in the summer of 2007--a lovely little green oasis of modern design tucked into a streetscape of 19th-century buildings. A few days after the ribbon cutting, the stone fountain was tagged. Fortunately, the PARC Foundation, which then had a presence in Hudson, was maintaining the park at the time, and the graffito was promptly removed. 

The boxwood hedges that originally lined the front edge of the park and the ramp to Prison Alley suffered a different kind of abuse. A year or so after the hedge was planted, someone from DPW took a power trimmer to the lovely rounded nascent hedge and brutally squared it up, giving it the same shape exhibited by every bush and shrub in the city parks of Hudson, regardless of species.

In 2011, Gossips made an appeal for a "hedge fund" to restore the boxwood in the PARC Park. In 2014, the Mrs. Greenthumbs Day garden tour originally intended to solicit donations specifically for the restoration of the hedge, but it turned out that the PARC Foundation, in conjunction with completing the rest of the linear park, was going to "retouch" park on Warren Street, replacing the boxwood hedge with plantings they believed would be more salt resistant and would require less maintenance.

The new plantings were installed late in the summer of 2014, but, alas, a little more than three years later, they too are in sad shape. The following pictures were taken earlier this week.

Even more disturbing is the state of the plantings at the back of the park, along Prison Alley. Originally, there was a stand of ten trees, underplanted with hostas.

These trees were very important to the designers of the park because they screened from view 325 Columbia Street, which the folks from the PARC Foundation considered very poor design. Such was their distress over the proposed design for the building that they had commissioned renderings of two alternative designs--one that replicated a row of 19th-century buildings, the other a very modern building clad in copper--hoping the County might consider one of them instead of the ornamented big box that was built. Today, only five of the ten trees meant to screen the view survive. The others have been cut down and not replaced. Whether or not the hostas will reappear in the spring is unknown.

Sadly, the PARC Foundation will not be coming back to "retouch" the park a second time. The original agreement with the City was that they would retain "design control" of the park for ten years. That ten-year period was over in 2016, so we're on our own.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

More About the Geigers

As often happens, my interest in a house--in this case, 94 North Fifth Street--led to an interest in the people who lived in the house--Leonard Geiger and his family. When I reported on Monday that the remains of Leonard Geiger had been cremated at the Gardner Earl Crematorium in Troy, I suggested there would not be a monument to him in the Hudson City Cemetery. I was wrong. With the help of Gail Grandinetti, the cemetery clerk, I found it this morning, in Section 4-A.

It seems the ashes of Leonard Geiger and the remains of his wife and eldest son are interred beneath this stone. The names of his two youngest children, Rosa (whose name often appears in newspapers and public records as Rose) and Lily, who were born in the same year, which suggests they were twins, also appear on the stone, but the years of their deaths have not been completed, suggesting they were both buried elsewhere.

Photo: Historic Hudson
There are more discoveries about the Geiger family to share. On April 28, 1904, the Columbia Republican reported that Lily Geiger married John R. Billingham, in a "quiet but pretty church wedding which was witnessed by only relatives and intimate friends of the contracting parties." The wedding took place at the Universalist Church, where Billingham was the choir master. So we now know that the Mrs. J. R. Billingham who was advertising apartments and flats to let at 94 North Fifth Street was Geiger's daughter Lily.

It seems that Lily and her husband, who is sometimes referred to in the newspaper as "Prof. J. R. Billingham" and whose occupation is listed in the city directory as "Musician," inherited 94 North Fifth Street when Margaret Geiger died in January 1912. Rose (a.k.a. Rosa) seems also to have been provided for. On October 8, 1912, the Columbia Republican reported that a new house was being built for her on North Fifth Street.

Although the newspaper gives the location of the house as North Fifth Street, it was actually being erected at the end of North Fifth Street, on Clinton Street. The city directory for 1916 lists Rose and her brother Frederick residing at 500 Clinton Street, in this house, just a block away from the house where they grew up.

Rose Geiger's name appears often in the newspapers of the time, in connection with charitable and cultural events--hospital benefits, exhibitions at the D.A.R., Red Cross fundraisers. It is of some interest that the city directory for 1925 lists Rose Geiger's occupation as "asst matron N.Y.S.T.S. for Girls"--the New York State Training School for Girls.