Thursday, July 27, 2017

News from DPW

Rob Perry, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, included a few of things of interest in his report to the Common Council Public Works Committee last night. First among them was that the funds have been released from the 2015 CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) for the controversial sewer separation project, which would divert untreated storm water runoff into North Bay. Perry provided no information about when the work on the project would begin.

Perry also told the committee he had received the "Notice to Proceed" from the Department of Transportation to begin work on the preliminary design for the new Ferry Street Bridge. The contract with Creighton Manning, the engineering firm for the project, is expected to be signed this week, after which work will begin. Perry explained that the preliminary design represents about 60 percent of the design and does not include the above the roadway appearance of the bridge.

Photo: Paul Trantanella
Perry also shared the news that the federal governmentFEMA Region IIhas approved reimbursement to twenty-eight counties in New York, Columbia being among them, for emergency expenses incurred during Winter Storm Stella last March. Soon after the storm, Perry tallied the costs to the City for the cleanup at about $65,500. Last night, he speculated that the City might be reimbursed $40,000. This, he said, was a good thing, because there is only $6,000 left in the snow removal budget for 2017, which must get us through any snowstorms that may come our way in November and December.
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Some Myths of the Haul Road

Last night, in his remarks that prefaced a motion to make a negative declaration in the SEQRA process, Greenport Planning Board member Michael Bucholsky spoke of the "new traffic pattern" and the benefits to the infrastructure of eliminating "the heavy pounding of trucks, as well as diesel fuel." Clearly, he was taking at face value Colarusso's main justification for the proposed haul road: that it would remove trucks from city streets--not only trucks traveling between the quarry and the waterfront but also retail trucks bound for Colarusso headquarters on Newman Road. 

In a comment on Facebook yesterday, John Rosenthal took issue with the claim that the proposal would remove trucks from our streets and with the claim the "haul road" through South Bay, once known as the "causeway," has been there forever. Rosenthal's statement, published with his permission, appears after this c. 1893 post card image of South Bay, found in the attic of a house on Willard Place and first shared by Sam Pratt on his blog on 2010. 

The current proposal does not eliminate the use of the state truck route by Colarusso, in fact, the company has said it intends to keep using the truck route to supplement traffic as necessary. What their plan calls for is the building of a new double-lane road through the South Bay, along an old railroad berm. This new, expanded road would be built in a conservation district where roads are currently prohibited. They are not proposing to use an "old haul road" as there never was one--at least until recently. Historically, there were railroad tracks and a long disused access road for maintenance of those tracks along the berm. All of these long ago went out of use. Around 2011, the previous landowner built the current private haul road. The City rezoned in response, locking in the single lane "haul road" and dock as nonconforming uses (freezing them at their dimensions in 2011), allowing for entering and exiting the dock via a private, single lane. Colarusso bought the property in 2014, after the rezoning took effect and began arbitrarily using their private haul road in one direction, rather than routing their trucks back and forth across a single lane. The company chooses to send empty trucks back out along Front Street and Columbia Street to rejoin the state truck route. They are abusing City streets to try to force a zoning change. They have a single lane, private road and pretend that they can only use it one way. Their proposal would only reduce truck traffic in the First and Second Ward, something they could do now immediately if they slightly altered their proposal. Instead, they are trying to get the City to change the zoning laws that were already in effect when they bought their property. In essence, this is a crisis of their own making. They can operate right now without any hassle and remove trucks from the streets, but instead they demand we carve out a special concession that will distort the mixed-use balance at the waterfront.
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Another Morning Down by the River

Joey and I went down to the river this morning, as we do every morning. While there, I snapped a few pictures.

Checking out the ongoing work on the escarpment:

Waiting for the southbound train to leave the station:

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Greenport Makes Its Declaration

That the Senate would vote yesterday to move forward on repealing the Affordable Care Act was not unexpected, nor was it unexpected that last night the Greenport Planning Board would make a negative declaration on the Colarusso haul road. Still, though not unexpected, both were more than a little stunning when they actually happened.

The Colarusso portion of the Greenport Planning Board meeting started with chair Ed Stiffler asking P. J. Prendergast, engineer for A. Colarusso & Sons, for an update. Prendergast reported that "technical people" from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had visited the South Bay portion of the haul road after Colarusso had proposed they would pave the roadway as a means of reducing dust. According to Prendergast, DEC was "OK" with the paving but "would like a little less filter strip." DEC requested "woody vegetation instead of all grass" along the haul road, with "no mow" areas. Prendergast told the board that Colarusso's "environmental guy" would be creating a planting plan to submit to the DEC. 

Then the board turned its attention to making a declaration. After some exchange about a narrative prepared by engineer Ray Jurkowski, board member Michael Bucholsky opined, "It's been a long time since we have gone into anything with such detail, scrutinizing the environmental aspects of the haul road." He delineated the reasons he thought the proposal had merit, including the benefits of the altered traffic pattern, expressed the opinion that the applicant "has done a fine job," and then moved that the board make a negative declaration. A roll call vote was taken, and all the members of the Greenport Planning Board--Sandy Kipp, Paul D'Onofrio, Robert MacGiffert, Bucholsky, and Stiffler--voted to make a negative declaration. Stiffler then complimented the board and the consultants for "doing a fine job."

The next step in the process is a public hearing. The Greenport Planning Board has extended an invitation to the Hudson Planning Board to be present at that hearing so that the Hudson board can hear about "things we would like to see done in Hudson that we don't have authority over." That public hearing was set for Tuesday, August 22, at 7:30 p.m.  

Having dispatched the haul road issue for the evening, the Greenport Planning Board moved on, and the spectators from Hudson filed out of the room. There was a Greenport police officer in the corridor, and Gossips learned that he was lurking there because the Planning Board had gotten a tip that people from Hudson were going to come and disrupt the meeting. No such thing happened.

An audiorecording of the first twenty minutes of the Greenport Planning Board meeting can now be heard on WGXC
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pajama Plays at the Library

Here's news for folks with young children. Carol Rusoff and her Teen Theatre Players are turning their considerable collective talents to creating theater for young children.

Image: Emilia Ortiz
This summer, the teens have been engaged with Rusoff in an intensive theater program offered by the Hudson Area Library, in preparation for this special performance. They have chosen their favorite childhood stories and created original plays to perform for a young audience. The result is Pajama Plays. 

On Sunday, July 30, and Monday, July 31, from 6 to 7 p.m., the library will host the performance of the short plays created by the Teen Theatre Players. Children ages 4 to 8 are invited to come in their pajamas, with pillows and their families, for this magical theater experience. After the performance, milk and cookies will be served, and there will be free book giveaways. 

The performance, which takes place at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street, is free and open to children ages 4 to 8 and their families. Call 518 828-1792, ext. 101, for more information.
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Monday, July 24, 2017

Update on the Escarpment

This morning, as I do every morning, I went down to the riverfront to watch in horror the work progressing at the escarpment. 

Today, at around 8 a.m., I encountered Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton there. All work seemed to have temporarily stopped as the mayor spoke with some of the workers. Afterward, when the work resumed, I got a chance to talk with her.

What I learned was that rocks falling on the tracks were a problem--one known to Amtrak and CSX but not to the public. Although the City of Hudson was unaware of why such an extreme remedy was required, the people carrying out that remedy are well aware of Hudson's concerns about it. The mayor is in close touch with the NYS Department of State. Since there is nothing in our city code to prevent or regulate what's happening to the escarpment, its fate is in the hands of the Department of State.

Over the weekend, the intel from the site was that they were two weeks away from applying the shotcrete. This morning, there was speculation that the application could start as early as next week. (The rods now being inserted in the rock face are to hold the shotcrete in place.) It seems they haven't yet decided what color shotcrete to use, but apparently they have ruled out blue. 
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Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Cause of Suffrage in Hudson

Suffrage shared attention with the Great War in the news during the summer of 1917. (Women would win the right to vote in New York in November of that year.) On July 10, suffragist Margaret Foley delivered an open-air speech in Hudson, at the corner of Warren and Fourth streets. We can only imagine it was delivered from the courtyard in front of 364-366 Warren Street.

An Irish Catholic from Boston, described as "tall and confident, with a powerful classically trained voice," Foley started delivering open-air speeches in support of woman suffrage in 1909. The speech she delivered here in Hudson was printed the next day in the Hudson Evening Register. Because much of it resonates for us a hundred years later, although its central argument seems curious, Gossips publishes the speech again here.

American men are the best men in the world and if it were possible for any men to represent women through kindness and good-will toward them American men would do it. But a man is too different from a woman to be able to represent her. Whatever his good will, he cannot fully put himself in a woman's place and look at things exactly from her point of view. To say this is no more a reflection upon his mental or moral ability, than it would be a reflection upon his musical ability to say that he could not sing both soprano and bass. Unless men and women should ever become just alike, which would be regrettable and I fear monotonous, women must either go unrepresented or represent themselves.
It is not the men alone who have built up this great republic. All woman pay taxes directly or indirectly. Eight million women are engaged in the industry of our nation. Laws are made regulating and controlling their lives and yet their point of view is not considered.
Needed by Laboring Women.
Does the laboring man need the ballot? There can hardly be two answers to this question. But what reason can be given for the ballot in the hands of the laboring man which does not have equal force for the ballot in the hands of the laboring woman? The under-paid woman is a menace to the ranks of labor as a whole. Wherever a woman can be found who will undertake a piece of work for less than living wage, not she alone suffers, but the whole industrial army with her. But why should a woman be willing to undertake a piece of work for scanty wages? Because the market is flooded with women and girls who ought to be living in the comfort of their homes; who ought to be doing housework, mending, caring for the children and cooking their family's food, but who are nevertheless forced out to compete with some other man or some other woman. Where untrained labor can be made to serve an end, untrained labor will be employed.
One by one woman's duties have been taken away from her and placed in the charge of city or State officials, appointed by the Mayor or Governor, who are elected by the votes of men. Every department of a woman's household is regulated or controlled by officials more or less involved in politics. To procure pure milk for babies, pure drinking water, meat from non-tuberculous cattle, non-poisonous canned goods, the housekeeper must depend upon the efficiency and incorruptibility of the various commissioners. She also depends upon the fire, police and street cleaning departments to protect her home.
Changed Conditions.
The old fashioned housewifely tasks are no longer pursued in the home, even the clothing is purchased ready made. Country doctors testify to the outbreak of scarlet fever in remote neighborhoods each autumn after the children have begun to wear the coats and cloaks which have been sent from infected city sweat shops. The sanitary regulation of sweat shops by city officials is all that can be depended upon to prevent such needless destruction. And are not women concerned in the enforcement of such regulations if they would preserve their homes?
Whereas, formerly, women's interests centered in their homes, they must now embrace the public schools, the public hospitals, the public parks and playgrounds. The care of the young, the feeble, the delinquent, the sick, the aged, has always been woman's function, but now the philanthropic activities have gradually changed from private to public auspices women find themselves excluded from their management and with her political status, unable to cooperate.
 Home Always Holds First Place.
The greatest reserve fund of energy in any American city of to-day is the leisure or semi-leisure of certain classes of women. They who fear that woman's fuller development, her enlarged activities, her changed viewpoint will weaken her desire to serve those whom she loves in the home, know little of woman's real nature. Whether she seeks self-culture, strives to become a part of the forces of organized society, combats with the evils of labor conditions, or struggles for personal freedom of action, she does it not for herself chiefly, but to ennoble and endear the home. The home is and always will be, as ever, the place of woman's opportunity and joy; all that she has she gladly lays upon the altar of home; but to the modern woman has come a new vision of herself in relation to the home. The only noble way in which a woman can stay at home and yet express through the home her highest ideals is by sharing, as duty permits, in all the forces which determine home conditions.
Not loss of love and honor for men, not desire for supremacy, marks the great onward march of women; but rather the purpose to live her own life, to be herself, to develop all her faculties, and to cooperate with man in noble enterprise in which she is deeply concerned. To rule alone she would deem as unwise for her as it now seems unwise for him. The trend is not toward separation, but toward a closer union in sympathies and interests, more of a mutual life together.
Woman suffrage reduced to its last analysis always means the protection of the home, the conservation of society's most vital forces.
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Meeting Reminder

On Tuesday, July 25, the Greenport Planning Board holds its regular meeting, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Greenport Town Hall. It is expected that the Greenport Planning Board, as lead agency in the SEQRA process for the proposed Colarusso haul road, will formally decide at that meeting whether to make a positive declaration or a negative declaration on the project. A positive declaration is a determination by the lead agency that an action may result in one or more significant environmental impacts and starts the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Given the board's responses, at a special meeting on July 11, to the items in Part 2 of the Environmental Assessment Form, it seems unlikely they will make a positive declaration.
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear in Hudson

On Thursday night, when Michael LeSawyer was recounting of his sixty years living at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Green Street, he told what had preceded Stewart's Shops on the site across the street. I thought he said, "William Tecumseh's Mobil station," but that seemed a bit bizarre, so after the meeting I contacted LeSawyer and asked if he had indeed said William Tecumseh, as in William Tecumseh Sherman, as in Sherman's March to the Sea.

LeSawyer's response: "Yes, indeed." William Tecumseh Sherman, known to his friends as Bill Sherman, owned a Mobil station at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue back in the day. He claimed to be a direct descendant of the famous Union general who terrorized Georgia. According to LeSawyer, "He had a sassy southern accent, reminiscent of W. C. Fields, sorta." Every winter, he would close the Mobil station and drive down to Miami for the season in his red Cadillac convertible, with the vanity plate "WTS."

"Quite a colorful character," LeSawyer recalled. "Loud, boisterous, smoked cigars, and always wore thick, dark prescription sunglasses." 

A search of Ancestry.com revealed that, in 1990, Hudson's own William Tecumseh Sherman lived at 25 Virginia Avenue in Greenport, a.k.a. Lorenz Park. He died in 1992, at the age of 83, and is buried in the Ghent Union Cemetery.
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Hudson Fifty or More Years Ago

Today, while reorganizing the files at the Youth Department, Nick Zachos came upon these pictures, which he sent to me, and I share them with you.

This picture gives the best sense of any I've ever seen of Promenade Hill the way Frederick Law Olmsted described it in 1886: "a queer little half-public place, half-domestic back-yard, from which the river may be overlooked if any one cares for it."

Here's another pre-urban renewal view of Hudson: the northwest corner of Second and Columbia streets. I believe the houses that appear in the background, facing north, were on Chapel Street, the street that ran between Columbia and State streets and parallel to both. Chapel Street was totally obliterated to create Bliss Towers and Schuyler Court.

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Get Used to It

Gossips warned you about this back in March, but now time is running out. In less than a month, on August 19, you will have to dial 10 digitsarea code + numberto make any phone call, even if the person you are calling has the same area code you do. That's because, starting on September 19, new phone numbers will be issued with a new area code: 838. The part of New York that was once the 518 area code will now have two different area codes. You can read all about it here: "Local calls in 518 require dialing ten digits, in less than a month." 
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Stewart's and Hudson

Last night, the Common Council Economic Development Committee held an "information session" about the request from Stewart's Shops for the City of Hudson to amend its zoning to accommodate their desire to build an bigger and better gas station and convenience store at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue.

Gossips has reported the details of that proposal before, notably when it was presented to the Common Council Legal Committee in March and when consideration of the request was, at the suggestion of Andy Howard, counsel to the Council, handed off from the Legal Committee to the Economic Development Committee in June, so only a few of the details from the presentation made last night by Chuck Marshall, real estate representative for Stewart's Shops, will be included here. 

Marshall started out by saying that his predecessor at Stewart's Shops had built 300 stores, and he was charged with making each of those 300 stores bigger. (Stewart's actually has 337 stores in upstate New York and southwestern Vermont.) He said he didn't expect much more gas would be sold at an expanded Stewart's because "the market is fixed," but he then said that 1,250 gallons a day were currently sold and speculated that would go to up 2,000 gallons--a more than 50 percent increase. At one point, he talked about a 15 percent increase in overall business, but later it seemed the anticipated increase was 25 percent.

Before members of the public were given a chance to speak, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, offered his own opinions. "In a vacuum, I have no problem with this project, but seven families will be dislocated, and that to me is a big problem." He went on to say, "Forgetting about whether there are spot zoning issues, [changing the zoning to accommodate this project] will devalue property throughout that corridor."

Eileen Halloran, who lives on Bayley Boulevard, was the first member of the public to speak. She said is was "generally in favor of the project," because she saw it was a way to improve the intersection, which she said was "among the worst," and to address hydrology issues plaguing that part of the city, although she didn't explain how introducing more impervious surface on that corner would mitigate water issues. She also suggested that landscaping at a new building could "absorb the schmutz that comes from truck traffic." 

In his response to Halloran's comments, Marshall stated that "post-development discharge cannot exceed what happens now," not exactly the improvement Halloran was looking for. He also brought of the subject of a host benefit agreement, which he said could be used to mitigate impacts, and asserted that an improved Stewart's would benefit the city more than seven units of housing.

The next member of the public to speak was Michael LeSawyer, who lives directly across Fairview Avenue from Stewart's. LeSawyer began by asking rhetorically, "How will Stewart's correct the safety issue?" He told the committee that he has lived at that corner for sixty years, and "accidents are no more or less than they were sixty years ago." On the issue of pedestrian safety crossing the street, he recalled that there was once a pedestrian signal at the corner, which is no longer there, but concluded, "Stewart's will not do anything for safety unless they put in a pedestrian overpass." He predicted, "A bigger, better Stewart's will be more traffic."

LeSawyer took issue with Friedman's statement in the press release announcing the meeting that "Stewart's has been a good neighbor . . . for many years." He complained that litter from Stewart's ends up in his yard all the time, and nobody from Stewart's has ever picked it up. He also pooh-poohed the idea of landscaping, recalling a past effort at landscaping was four marigold plants. (Currently, the "landscaping" at Stewart's consists of a lone hosta.)

Gossips has more than once noted the irony of the committee that is working on legislation to ban formula businesses in the City of Hudson giving serious consideration to a request to change city zoning and ignore the intent of the Comprehensive Plan to accommodate a plan to expand an existing formula business. LeSawyer cited his own irony: "They can't park oil barges on the Hudson River, but we can double the size of a gas station in Hudson."

LeSawyer asserted that the project had no benefits for Hudson but only benefits for Stewart's. "Am I going to tell my son, 'We're getting a new Stewart's, just like the one in Chatham'? That's something to aspire to!"

LeSawyer also complained about the degradation of Green Street, once lined with handsome and substantial late 19th- and early 20th-century houses, many of which survive, along with three former car dealerships and other mid-century commercial intrusions. "Green Street doesn't get any better," he lamented, citing the former Dairy Queen building now adapted for use as a laundromat. "Why don't we share the rebirth of the city with Green Street?"

After quoting the City's zoning code, "The City is committed to the gradual elimination of nonconforming uses," LeSawyer concluded, "It's ridiculous to even think about this unless you bring in Frank Gehry to build us a beautiful gas station."

Next to speak was Keith Kanaga, who confessed not to live in that part of Hudson but said he drove by there often. He called Fairview Avenue and Green Street a dangerous intersection and said, "It was a mistake to allow them there in the first place." He predicted that "it would only get worse with a larger facility."

Wint Jackson, who lives on Green Street, asked, "What does the City expect to get in return for allowing this?" He had surmised from Marshall's presentation that the gain would be one full-time job and the loss six housing units. He went on to suggest, "The liabilities far outweigh the benefits. If Stewart's were gone, and there were houses there, we wouldn't have the problem [with the intersection]." He called the Stewart's in Hudson "the worst Stewart's Shop I've ever been to" and told Marshall, "You could make the building more attractive. . . . I don't think you've been a particularly good neighbor." 

When Marshall protested that, because it was a nonconforming use, they couldn't make any changes to the building, Jackson did a little on the spot fact-checking and informed Marshall that being a nonconforming use only prevented the building from being "enlarged, extended, or put on a different portion of the lot." There was nothing to prevent Stewart's from making cosmetic improvements to the building.

Finally, a volunteer from WGXC who had been dispatched to the meeting to ask a question got the chance to do so. She wanted to know if the City of Hudson would take responsibility for relocating the people who would lose their homes if Stewart's were allowed to carry out its plan. Friedman's answer was terse: "Of course not. The City is never responsible for that sort of thing."

The committee plans to continue exploring the issue. Friedman expressed the intention to have "someone from [Assemblymember] Didi Barrett's office and someone from the Department of Transportation at the next committee meeting, presumably to discuss the possibility of improving safety at the intersection.
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A Bargain at Twice the Price

Richard Moody reports today in the Register-Star that the Columbia County Board of Supervisors has agreed to purchase a tract of land in the Gerald R. Simons Commerce Park for a new training facility for fire fighters. The property is assessed at $438,300; the asking price was $935,000; and, after negotiation, the County is buying it for $840,000. You can read all about it here: "Columbia County to buy Gerald Simons Commerce Park property for fire training facility."
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fear of Change

Those of us who own houses in Hudson fear change when it comes to our property assessment. Some of us, who have lived through a few assessors, also fear change when it comes to assessors. But we are going to have to deal with the latter before the former, because Cheryl Kaszluga, our current assessor, has announced her resignation.

In a letter to the Hudson residents, Kaszluga, who was appointed to the position by Mayor William Hallenbeck in November 2013, explains that she has accepted a new full-time position in Dutchess County. The letter continues:
I have put many hours of thought into this decision. I want to thank all the residents of Hudson for their warm welcoming. I really enjoyed working as your assessor, and I have high hopes that you will be treated with respect and fairness in the coming years. Hudson will always have a soft spot in my heart. My mom grew up in Hudson after my grandmother settled here from England. I am excited for my new endeavor and sad to say goodbye.
We wish Kaszluga success in her new undertaking and Mayor Hamilton success in appointing a new assessor for Hudson.
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Footnotes on a Post from Tuesday

Yesterday, a once regular now only occasional reader of Gossips commented in an email on the post "Houses Back from the Edge." He reminded me that rescuing houses some considered not worth saving started in Hudson back in the 1980s. He cited the notable example of 611 Union Street.

Back in 1984, the Elks wanted to buy this Gothic cottage, built in 1851, and demolish it to expand the parking lot next to their lodge, which was then located in the Richard Upjohn designed Italian villa at 601 Union. Fortunately for us, Cassandra Danz and Walter Brett bought the house instead and restored and preserved it.

From this reader I also learned something I didn't know about one of the houses that was included in my Before and After gallery of rescued houses: 327 State Street.

Sanford Robinson Gifford's sister Mary, who was the artist's constant companion, moved to 327 State Street when Sanford Gifford married in 1877. This is where she was living in 1880, when Sanford Gifford died, and many artists, her brother's friends and colleagues, visited her there. 
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Meeting Reminder

Tonight at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall, the Common Council Economic Development Committee is holding an information session to hear from Hudson residents about the proposal by Stewart's Shops to expand its gas station and convenience store at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, a proposal that requires a change in Hudson's zoning and the demolition of two houses.

Photo: StreetView.com
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