Monday, April 23, 2018

The Great War: April 23, 1918

It's been a while since Gossips has reported about life in Hudson a hundred years ago, when the country was fighting the Great War--World War I. A hundred years ago today, April 23, 1918, one of the stories on the front page of the Columbia Republican told of plans for a parade to take place in Hudson on Friday, April 26. Along with impressing us with how quickly Hudson could put together a parade a hundred years ago, the article definitively identifies the parade that was the subject of these photographs, found in the Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection at the Columbia County Historical Society.

With the weather man promising fair and warmer weather for latter part of this week, with innumerable committees hard at work, and with proclamations issued by President Wilson and Mayor Charles S. Harvey, requesting that all places of business close for a half-holiday, Liberty Day--next Friday--looms up as one of the biggest days on the calendar of local events the city has seen in many years. On that afternoon in Hudson a Liberty Loan demonstration will take place, the equal of which has never been witnessed in Columbia county before. There is going to be a parade that promises to be the greatest affair held here since the Hudson-Fulton celebration; there will be patriotic gatherings and speaking; there will be a day in which all--young and old, poor and rich--will join hands in helping send the Liberty Loan over the top with a bang. And then there will be additional features. By a coincidence the Liberty ball and the famous liberty coach, which are traveling across the State from Buffalo to New York city in the interest of the loan, are scheduled to be here. They will, therefore, be a part of the great procession. Everywhere in [the] State where the ball and coach have been seen wonderful demonstrations have been held as patriotic receptions, and Hudson with the arrival on Liberty Day will go every city one better--and maybe two or three.
Yesterday morning in the Common Council chamber, the general parade and demonstration committee appointed by Chairman William Wortman, of the local Liberty Loan campaign, met and discussed the plans. The idea is to have something beside a procession--something that will be worth going miles to see, and this is just what is going to be the result of the work of the committees in charge. The demonstration will no doubt attract many from all parts of the county and of Greene county as well.
Roughly, the plan is to have a parade with at least two bands and five drum corps, many decorated floats of attractive designs and in keeping with the patriotic purpose of the day. All local organizations of all kinds are invited to take part and last night it was learned that but few if any will not march in a body. The Hudson police will march and it is certain that the firemen of the city will turn out as well as Co. F. There will be a division of flag-bearers in which all the flags of the allied nations will be carried. There will be new divisions also.
Among the novel features will be the Red Cross war dogs. Local canines will be blanketed and equipped in the same manner as the dogs who are doing such valuable service on the battle field. There are many other similar features on which the committee is working and will announce the full plan in a day or two. It is proposed to have the parade start at 1:30 o'clock.
One of these will be a service flag division. It is proposed to have every family in Columbia county, if possible, which has a boy in Uncle Sam's service, represented in the parade by a service flag. The home guards of Chatham, Hillsdale and Philmont will be invited to take part, as well as the Boy Scouts of Athens, the Camp Fire Girls of Kinderhook and other towns in the county and the Girl Scouts of Blue Store.
This picture of the Liberty Ball appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger in April 5, 1918.

The caption below the picture reads: "Here is the seven-foot Liberty "push-ball" that is to be rolled over 473 miles from Buffalo to New York city as a reminder to all patriotic citizens to keep the money flowing in for the Third Liberty Loan. On a signal from Washington at 8 o'clock tomorrow morning, the Buffalo Liberty Loan Committee will start the ball on its journey. Each city along the road will hold a celebration as the big red, white and blue globe passes through, and all may help its two guardians, who will be dressed as Uncle Sam, to speed its progress. It is expected that the ball will reach Madison Square May 1, in time to mark the triumphant close of America's third appeal for war dollars."  

It seems pretty clear that giant globe being rolled down Union Street in the picture below is the Liberty ball, perhaps looking a little worse for wear, followed by the Liberty coach, passing through Hudson almost right on schedule--twenty days after it left Buffalo and four days before it was due in New York City. One wonders, though, what happened to the guardians dressed as Uncle Sam. Two men rolling the ball appear to be dressed as soldiers. Perhaps, after walking all the way from Buffalo, they were getting a well-deserved rest here in Hudson.

Curious to know more about Red Cross war dogs and how the local canines would have been outfitted to appear like them, I found a blog post on the American Red Cross website and learned that the war dogs were also known as "ambulance dogs," because they were attached to ambulance units and were trained to find wounded soldiers. They were even trained to recognize uniforms so they wouldn't give aid to enemy soldiers. When a Red Cross war dog located a wounded soldier, it would get as close as possible so that the soldier could access the dog's saddle bags, which contained first aid supplies and rations. The dogs were trained not to bark, because that would alert the enemy. Instead they would bring back something that belonged to the soldier. This painting by Alexander Pope shows a Red Cross dog returning with the helmet of a wounded French soldier in the midst of a gas barrage.

War dogs in World War I also provided messenger and delivery services, carrying ammunition and rations through dangerous territory, and they acted as scouts and guarded strategic posts. This photograph shows a French war dog wearing a gas mask.


Of Interest

For those curious to know about future plans for Bliss Towers, here's news. The Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, April 24, at 6 p.m., in the community room at Bliss Towers. The official notice of the meeting explains the purpose in this way:
The Board will conduct an initial review of submitted development proposals for a co-developer partnership project with the Hudson Housing Authority. This board will also discuss above baseline service agreement partnership proposal with the Hudson Police Department. Persons with special needs relating to handicapped accessibility, hearing or vision impairment or foreign language shall contact the Hudson Housing Authority Office at (518) 828-5415 prior to the date above. [The date above being Tuesday, April 24.]

Sunday, April 22, 2018

As Earth Day 2018 Winds to a Close

On Friday, the blog "Capitol Confidential" in the Times Union reported that two of the seven candidates vying to be the Democrat who will challenge John Faso in November are "taking steps to offset their carbon footprint during the campaign season." The candidates are Gareth Rhodes and Brian Flynn, and you can read about what they're doing here: "Congressional candidates address their carbon footprint."

Gareth Rhodes (left) and Brian Flynn (right)

Earth Day at the River

As the Tin Horn Uprising Brass Band played such tunes as "Wade in the Water," "Which Side Are You On," and "Down by the Riverside," people gathered at noon at Ernest R. Lasher Memorial Park in Germantown to demonstrate their opposition to Amtrak's plan to install fences and gates around its right of way, cutting off access to the river. There was an actual sample of the fencing to be used on display.

Alluding to Amtrak's position that the fences are needed for public safety, Jen Crawford, chair of the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee told the crowd about the current practice when people are down by the river, "When we hear a train coming, we yell 'TRAIN!' That's how we keep each other safe." A little later, when a train was heard approaching, the crowd yelled "TRAIN!" and held up their signs toward the train as it sped by. Crawford assured the crowd the protest wasn't against the train. "I want the train to be here," she said, "but I also want the train to let me be here."

Former Germantown supervisor George Sharpe called for people "to come together in a bipartisan way," declaring, "We do not want to lose access to our 'poor person's park.'" He recalled that twenty-five years ago, there were no protected crossings, and Amtrak resisted local governments' requests for them to be installed. He maintained, "The path to continued safety is to leave things alone."

Several of the speakers stressed the need for public meetings in the affected communities and reminded those gathered at the rally that the public comment period would end on May 1. Comments by email should go to, with the subject line "F-2018-0060." Comments can also mailed to:

New York State Department of State
CR G-2018-0060
Office of Planning
Development & Community Infrastructure
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231

Jennifer Benson, outreach coordinator for Riverkeeper, urged people in their comments "to write about what the river means to you."

The Gossips Challenge: All Is Revealed

If you haven't already figured it out, now's the time to reveal the answers to the Gossips Challenge: Which is the Matterhorn at Disneyworld and which is our newly stabilized escarpment?



It occurred to me this morning that, in detail, our escarpment looks a little like the surface of the moon. Perhaps the challenge should have included a third choice.

Cause for Observation and Celebration

Today is Earth Day, the day that marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Today is also an anniversary for us in Hudson. On April 22, 1785, the City of Hudson was incorporated by an act of the New York State legislature, making it the first city to be incorporated in the new United States.

Plate 4, No. 12, Amerique Septentrionale, Etat de New York, by Jacques Louis Milbert. From the collection of the Columbia County Historical Society

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rally at the River

If you're planning to go to the riverfront rally in Germantown tomorrow, Sunday, April 22, to demonstrate your opposition to Amtrak's plan to install fences and gates that will impede access to the river, here's some information you need to know.

Because parking at Ernest R. Lasher Memorial Park, the site of the rally, is limited, people are asked to park at Palatine Park on Palatine Park Road off Route 9G. A free shuttle will transport attendees from Palatine Park to Lasher Park on the riverfront. The rally begins at noon; the first scheduled shuttle departure from Palatine Park will be at 11:30 a.m.  There will be a handicapped drop-off area at Lasher Park. Access will be provided to the boat launch during the rally, but boaters are encouraged to find alternate launch sites.

The following speakers will be participating in the event:
  • Germantown supervisor Robert Beaury--"I don't believe Amtrak's proposal for Germantown is consistent with the NYS Coastal Management Program and should be stopped in its tracks."
  • Assembly member Didi Barrett--"Our communities along the Hudson River have every right to expect public meetings to hear firsthand why Amtrak feels these barriers are needed and to share their perspectives and concerns about their threatened river access."
  • State senator Kathy Marchione--"Amtrak's proposal would severely limit local access to the Hudson River and would undo years of tradition that allowed for regular access to this critical waterway, as well as affecting the area's scenic beauty."
  • Jen Crawford, chair of the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee--"This proposal is not consistent with our town's goals, and it is not consistent with the state's Coastal Management Program."
  • Former Germantown supervisor George Sharpe--"The main point I want to share Sunday is safety to and from the river. . . . Actually the fences and gates will hinder safety."
  • Jennifer Benson, outreach coordinator for Riverkeeper--"For decades, these communities have enjoyed access to the Hudson River and held annual cleanups and restoration projects. They deserve a full opportunity to participate in decision-making processes that affect local quality of life."
  • Jeff Anzevino, director of land use advocacy for Scenic Hudson--"Hungering for river access, people found places between the railroad and the river to enjoy boating, fishing, windsurfing, and iceboating. Amtrak's proposed gates and fences could prevent these activities and be inconsistent with the state policies that protect public access and prioritize water-dependent recreational uses."

Take the Gossips Challenge

Which is the Matterhorn at Disneyland, a totally artificial creation, and which is our escarpment, a totally natural rock face of Ordovician shale now stabilized?


The answer, if you haven't already figured it out for yourself, will be revealed tomorrow.

Preservation Conundrum

This Carpenter Gothic house in the 300 block of Allen Street, owned by the Galvan Foundation since 2014, is where some of the promised twenty-nine new affordable rental units will be located.

Earlier this week, I noticed that the front porch was being propped up and one of the columns that supported the porch roof had been removed.

Then yesterday, I was tipped off by a reader that the entire porch was gone.

Concerned, I called Craig Haigh, our code enforcement officer, to ask why this project had not gone before the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness. Haigh told me he had questioned the project and was told they were simply replacing everything exactly as it was--like for like. He had issued a stop-work order until they provided him with plans that demonstrated, to his satisfaction, that everything new would be exactly like what had been there. Because he was satisfied they were doing nothing different, he considered the project to be a straightforward repair, which did not require a certificate of appropriateness.

It's too bad the project didn't go before the HPC. They would have asked to see historic pictures of the house, which are readily available. They would have seen that the porch once had a carved railing on top, which made the porch roof a balcony, and they might have been able to prevail on the applicant to restore the railing.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson

Photo: Byrne Fone

The railing was still there in the early 2000s. The second picture above, taken by Byrne Fone, shows the house in 2003 or 2004. According to a Gossips source, when the railing was removed, it was stored in the basement of the house so that if a future owner wanted to repair it or replicate it, they would have the original. We can only wonder what's become of it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Transformation of the Escarpment

Because I didn't go down to the waterfront this morning, the picture below shows the escarpment and the application of the shotcrete as it was on the morning of April 19. Since this picture was taken, the application of the shotcrete, seen here to the left of the truck, has undoubtedly progressed farther to the right. 

I could not help but think about the shotcrete last night, when, while researching another project, I came upon, as I have many times, this description of the view of Promenade Hill from the river in Franklin Ellis's History of Columbia County. Ellis was writing in 1878, soon after the fence had been installed along the western edge of the parade.
Along the entire river-front and southern end there has been completed a solid wall, commencing low enough to secure a firm foundation, and rising to a level with the grade, above which it is surmounted by a strong and handsome iron fence. When we approach the city by the river from the south, this fence is not at first seen, but the hill, standing boldly out to the river, with its towering flag-staff, and its steep escarpment crowned by the rampart-like wall, looks much like a fortification, and forms one of the most salient features in the city's outline.
One of our most salient features now has a patina of artificiality. 

As June Approaches

The federal primary takes place on June 26, and there are seven candidates vying to be the Democrat who will challenge John Faso in the November election. This morning, the online group called "Listen to Us John Faso" issued the following press release, announcing the results of an online poll conducted this week:
"Listen to Us John Faso" is an online group of 2,200 people who oppose Rep. John Faso (R, NY CD-19) and the GOP's toxic policies. Most (although not all) members are voters in New York's 19th Congressional District.
The group has organized events and tracked Congressman Faso's actions with the aim of defeating him in the November 2018 election. In the last few months, as primary candidates have emerged, group members have debated, researched, and interviewed the candidates. The goal is to vet the candidates in the hope of finding the person with the best chance of beating John Faso in the November general election.
The poll was conducted online, and only open to members of the group. Responses were tracked to confirm that only members responded, and that each member responded only once. The results of the poll remained consistent as the sample size increased from 3 percent at the start of the poll, to just under 10 percent at the close of the poll. 
Two hundred and three out of the group's 2,200 members took the poll which was open for a period of four days ending April 19, 2018. Each poll participant was asked to rank the candidates from 1 to 7, with 1 being the candidate they most preferred, and 7 being the least preferred.
Gareth Rhodes is the candidate with the best average result and the highest number of "most preferred" 1st place votes with an average of 2.4. Rhodes received 73 1st place votes. . . .
This bar graph, which accompanied the press release, reports the poll results.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Long Story of Brownfield Remediation

Among the photographs of Howard Gibson made available online by Bruce Bohnsack is this picture showing striking workers in 1960 at the Foster Refrigerator plant at North Second and Dock streets.
That was fifty-eight years ago. For the past quarter century, the site of the Foster Refrigerator plant has been an abandoned brownfield. Ownership of the site and responsibility for its remediation somehow devolved to the City of Hudson, and the site has, over the years, been a frequent topic of discussion in City Hall.

Back in April 2012, after at least five years of talking about a possible use for the site if only it were remediated, then mayor Bill Hallenbeck suggested it as the location for a dog park. It turned out to be an empty gesture offered to those clamoring for a dog park, and within a few days all talk of the site becoming a dog park ceased. Cleaning up the site would be no easy task. About 2,600 cubic yards of lead-contaminated subsurface soil and 100 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated soil had been found on the site, and the remediation was expected to cost more than $1 million.

Fast forward to today. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been working on the cleanup of the site for more than a year. In the past couple of weeks, approval was given to start carting away the contaminated soil, and that process is now underway.

When all the contaminated soil has been hauled away, a one-foot layer of new soil will be spread over the site, and grass will be planted. Going forward, DEC will continue to monitor the site (it is within the 100-foot buffer of a wetland) and will dictate how the site can be used. Last night at the Public Works and Parks Committee meeting, DPW superintendent Rob Perry predicted that the site will not be ready for any use until summer. The question is: What will happen then?

Lecture Tonight

The Jacob Leisler Institute, in cooperation with the Hudson Area Library and the Gotham Center for New York City History, will present Natives on the Land: American Indians in the Mid-Hudson Valley, by lecture by Dr. William A. Starna. 

Starna is professor emeritus of anthropology at the State University of New York, Oneonta, and a long-time student of the Iroquoian and Algonquian peoples of eastern North America, as well as federal and state Indian relations. He is a fellow of the New York Academy of History and a member of the board of trustees of the Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History. For many years, he was a consultant with the Native American Rights Fund and has worked with more than twenty American Indian tribes on land claims, treaty rights, and the federal acknowledgment process and has written extensively on Native American and colonial history.

The lecture takes place at 6 p.m. today, Thursday, April 19, at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street. A question-and-answer period and refreshments will follow the talk.

Endless Winter

Thirty days after the first day of Spring and nineteen days into April, there was a dusting of snow on the ground in the cemetery this morning.

If April showers bring May flowers, what do April snow showers bring? It better be something good.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Cautionary Tale

At the Board of Supervisors' Health and Human Services Committee meeting yesterday, Jack Mabb, interim director of the Health Department, reported that already this year there have been four instances of rabid animals in the county: two raccoons and two cats. He then told a frightening story about a Columbia County resident's encounter with a rabid raccoon.

The man had gone out on his porch at night. He hadn't turned on the porch light, relying instead on the light emanating from the house, so he didn't see the rabid raccoon on the porch. The raccoon bit him and then ran into the house and attacked the family cat. The cat, which had recently given birth to four kittens and was still nursing them, had not been vaccinated for rabies. Mabb did not recount the fate of the raccoon, and we have to assume that the man is getting proper medical treatment, but the sad outcome for the cat and her kittens is that they all had to be euthanized.

Galvan Civic Motel Moves Ahead

Yesterday afternoon, the Board of Supervisors' Health and Human Services Committee voted to move ahead with approving the contract between the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Galvan Foundation for the use of the Galvan Civic Motel to shelter homeless people. There was only one dissenting vote: Kathy Eldridge, supervisor for the Town of Greenport.

Before the discussion of the contract began--a discussion that was postponed until the end of the meeting--Rick Scalera, supervisor for the Fifth Ward and a member of the committee, delivered what seemed to be a prepared statement about his relationship with the Galvan Foundation. He explained that he worked for Galvan on an "as needed" basis. Scalera, who was seated at the table with the committee, announced that he would abstain from the discussion and from the vote, and with that he relinquished his seat at the table. Scalera was no longer in the room when the vote was taken, having explained earlier that he had to leave at 5:00 to go to Kinderhook.

The discussion of the contract, which DSS commissioner Robert Gibson called a "referral agreement," began with Gibson explaining that the revised document before the committee specified that no sex offenders and no violent criminals would be housed at the facility and that security measures must be put in place.

Jennifer Wai-Len Strodl, director of the Liberi School located across the road from the motel and one of the people most concerned about the motel's possible negative impacts, seemed mollified by the terms imposed in the contract but wanted to know what steps would be taken if problems arose. Would the school communicate with DSS or Galvan? The answer was DSS. She was also concerned about drug and alcohol use and asked that there be signage noting that the area was a drug-free school zone. That was agreed to. 

Tom Alvarez, whose business and manufactured home community are in close proximity to the motel, was not appeased. He suggested that there be a six-month probationary period before the county entered into a five-year contract with Galvan. He was told by Gibson, "If this is an untenable situation, we will know that and address it." Alvarez reminded the committee of the petition he submitted with the signatures of ninety-four residents of his adult community, people who are, he said, "totally opposed to this." Alluding to past experiences with homeless people housed at the Sunset Motel, Alvarez stated, "I want to be sure the committee knows these are real things that happened." He also expressed concern about visitors who will come "after their friends get situated in the 'Ritz Carlton.'" Commenting on the extensive work being done at the motel, Alvarez asked, "What gives them the incentive to leave?" 

Gibson conceded that "they may have to call the police from time to time," but after First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling asked about a code of conduct, and Gibson explained that it was illegal for DSS clients to use drugs or alcohol, the vote was taken to move the resolution forward to the full Board of Supervisors. 

Can This Be Acceptable?

At about 8:15 this morning, when Joey and I were down at the waterfront, I noticed a Bonded cement truck apparently dumping its leftover black cement along the edge of the City-owned property that GSI (GeoStabilization International) is using as a staging area and wondered if this was something they had permission to do.

Update: After this post appeared, the site was visited by Mayor Rick Rector and DPW superintendent Rob Perry. It was agreed that the cement trucks would no longer clean out their mixers on City property but would do it instead on Amtrak property. Exactly where that might be is not clear.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Meetings of Interest This Week

For those interested in the fate of the proposal by the Galvan Foundation to have its Galvan Civic Motel be the hostel of first resort for the Columbia County Department of Social Services seeking shelter for homeless people, the contract between DSS and Galvan will be discussed at this afternoon's meeting of the Board of Supervisors' Health & Human Services Committee meeting. That meeting takes place at 4 p.m. at 401 State Street.

At 5:30 p.m., the Common Council Finance Committee meets at City Hall. The agenda for that meeting can be found here. Of interest is an update on the City's lodging tax system.

At 7 p.m., it's the regular April meeting of the Common Council at City Hall.

At 5:15 p.m., the Common Council DPW and Parks Committee meets at City Hall. No agenda for the meeting is available, but the monthly report from DPW superintendent Rob Perry always contains something of interest.

At 6:00 p.m., the Zoning Board of Appeals is holding two public hearings: the first on the area variances required to build a new structure on the footprint of a garage behind 241 Allen Street; the second having to do with a lot line adjustment on North Third Street. During its regular meeting, which will follow the public hearings, the ZBA is expected to return to the difficult question of boundaries between the Core Riverfront (C-R) and Conservation Recreational (R-C) districts in South Bay. Click here for a review of the discussion of the topic that took place at the ZBA's March meeting.

At 6:00 p.m., the Common Council Economic Development Committee meets at City Hall. Now that the Stewart's Shops application for a zoning change has been handed off to the Legal Committee, the major item on the agenda, besides the update from HDC executive director Sheena Salvino, is a discussion of the City's cable franchise agreement with Mid-Hudson Cable, which expired in the summer of 2015.

Is This Getting Old Yet?

Two years ago, Hudson was one of twenty places vying for the distinction of being named Best Historic Small Town in USA Today's 10 Best competition. This year, Hudson is one of the twenty nominees for Best Small Town Food Scene. Click here to check out the competition (there's another Hudson Valley town in the race) and to vote. You can vote every day until the polls close at noon on Monday, May 14. Hudson is currently in ninth place.

Thanks to Ann Cooper for bringing this to our attention.