A blog about Hudson, New York


A Rock and a Hard Place

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It’s not the most gainly part of town, and it might seem like a very small improvement, but I couldn’t help getting some pleasure and feeling encouraged by a  boulder in an awkward traffic triangle bounded between Prospect, Carroll, and Short Streets, now named as a memorial for Staley Keith of the Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center. Even though it’s been in place since the summer, it recently struck me as a piece of earthwork art, as if someone responsible for these things finally made a trip to Dia Beacon and got some l’arnin. (Think of it as mini Michael Heizer, one of whose work is pictured below.)  Let just say it’s a big improvement over the city’s default design contribution to these public places: mercilessly truncated shrubbery (one example of which is on the triangle here as well, though not pictured).  As Carole Osterink has previously reported in Gossips, the rock will have a plaque to Keith on it, which seems logical — but I have a perhaps quixotic request: Please put the plaque somewhere else on the triangle and leave the rock alone!   imgres

 

 

 

 

Moving Mondrian

 

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Another sorry sight of January in these parts (temp now at 11 a.m:  six degrees): the moving of the wonderful Piet Mondrian house, part of this season’s much improved Santa’s Village complex at the Seventh Street Park. In what other town could one see such a visually arresting little creation blocking traffic at a major intersection?

Here’s a shot of it in its original setting and during much balmier weather (way back in December), courtesy of DPW superintendent Rob Perry and Carole Osterink’s The Gossips of Rivertown. –Scott Baldinger

Piet Mondrian house

A Post About…..Nothing

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These are difficult times for a self-described flâneur. The holiday decorations are coming down; it was five degrees when I got up this morning, and, even now that the thermometer has risen to a sultry 19 and I’ve put on a pair of double-layered pants purchased at that invaluable sartorial haven, Second Show, Warren Street turns out to be nearly absent of pedestrians, shoppers, wanderers, business people, and even those ne’er-do- wells we’ve grown accustomed to (and, in many cases, rather fond of). Construction or restoration projects seem to have slowed to a crawl, save for those by the unstoppable T. Eric Galloway—what, by the way, are those brick stanchions being installed in front of the Armory, the future location of the library, and why? – or by Richard Cohen, whose hotel project at 4th and Warren seems to consist mostly of work on a torn-down historic town house, the foundation of which is being dug farther downwards by the day. (It was this week covered in burlap, pictured above, just as a very historic looking brick sistern was exposed.) The evenings are, despite the even more freezing temperatures, keeping things lively: while DABA and Vico have closed for a winter break (DABA will reopen on January 30 and Vico January15) places like  Swoon, Club Helsinki, and the Red Dot are as lively as ever, even with the latter’s wonderful Madeline/Bemelmans Bar Xmas murals now dismantled. Of course there’s nothing at all unusual about all of these seasonal changes; all of this kvetching is simply an attempt to explain how polar vortexes can affect the minds of ambulatory bloggers like myself. – Scott Baldinger

Getting Tweaked

If, because of the wear and tear of the holiday hustle, you’might be craving a hit of methamphetamine but don’t want to ruin your teeth, health and life,  a good alternative is the gourmet quality, highly charged coffee at Swallow (433 Warren Street).  In addition to its fulsome flavor, there’s something uniquely powerful but dextrorotory (in medical/pharmaceutical parlance: non jittery) about the buzz just one cup of their brew provides, and the café from which it is dispensed has gained enormous popularity, keeping its always hip-looking customers up way past their bedtimes for a number of years now.

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For a month or so the sign at top right has had me scratching my head. After speaking to owner Aaron Dibben, I now have the answer to what it all means:  The café will be moving right down the street (hence the arrow and directive) to the space previously occupied by the graphic design company Sorted at 357 Warren Street, a haven of Helvetica lettering. The new locale, Dibben says, will be called Moto Coffee Machine, meaning of multi (but as of yet unspecified) uses, with Swallow a central part in it. (He said that  the name change had nothing to do with a suit he and wife Sarah are bringing against a coffee establishment in Brooklyn also called Swallow, and that name will be added to the new storefront window.)  As for their still current location, there were hints that the building would become a hotel, with the first floor its lobby, but Dibben says with a smile that he thinks that’s just a little rumor he himself started.  – Scott Baldinger

 

A Madeline to Remember

 

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For nearly each of its 15 years as Hudson’s most essential watering hole and casual dining spot, the Red Dot has fulfilled its theatrical temperament by scenically dressing up its dining spaces for the holidays. Previous years have included floor-to-ceiling makeovers to themes such as Moulin Rouge, Xmas at Tiffany’s and even a Blair Witch Xmas. ( I missed that one, or at least I think I did.)  In previous years, owner Alana Hauptmann did this with her husband, the late Perry Cooney, but his sad passing earlier in the year did not deter her from coming up with the goods this season. In fact, she and her friend—the immensely talented artist, theatrical set designer and film art director Wendy Frost – have outdone themselves with as good an interpretation of the Hotel Carlyle’s Bemelmans Bar in New York City, with Madeline as the expected central character, as could possibly be done with brown craft paper and pastels. It really is a sight to be seen, a warming, elegant and light-spirited tonic for an emotionally strained time in Hudson’s recent history.   –Scott Baldinger

 

 

 

My Own Private Winter Walk

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It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, and all I can say is mea culpa — but there’s just something about the holidays that are—no,  not depressing ( I like being with  my family and, in  lieu of that this year,  the lovely new friend whose kin I shared Thanksgiving with this year) but a little distracting. Thanksgiving day itself was something I should have written a little panegyric about: the snow coating all the trees, and the complete and utter quietude of the day, compared to even a slow weekday in town (particularly with the hammering, sawing and other noisome sounds at construction projects on either side of  4th and Warren) was almost magical. Days like these remind one that yes indeedy… Hudson is a busy little town, even on days when most of its stores aren’t open. But I think I was under too much of  a tryptophan haze to hit the keyboard.

This week, there’s a mad dash for owners of said stores to do something with their windows in time for Winter Walk this Saturday. A few have gotten a nice jump on things; whle so many of the other storefronts are so richly elegant, even under everyday circumstances, that they could pass muster as holiday displays. The photos to the left include a few of the ones that have gotten in Winter Walk mode relatively ahead of time. I’ve also included a Union Street house –which I displayed and discussed in a previous post—whose exterior paint job, now completed, could be counted as a holiday display all year round.  –Scott Baldinger

Sandwich Board Servings

 
unnameddoepic Anyone concerned that Warren Street might be transforming ever so slowly into a high-end shopping mall will take comfort in the sidewalk signs on the 400 block, which certainly express a personal — if not occasionally otherworldly– way of selling things. – Scott Baldinger

 

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Change We Can Believe In

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It might be hard to believe now. But there once was a time when people bemoaned the miraculous transformation of Hudson’s historic Warren Street from a nearly abandoned strip of what was considered “obsolete” old buildings to a decorative arts center so sophisticated that it became as renown as it tended to be pricey. Now some might be concerned about its changing identity from a town made up of businesses that primarily sell antiques and home furnishings to one that focuses equally on other areas of style—and food– with the arrival of so many new non-antique stores that even a daily passerby could be forgiven for not being able to keep track. The 400 block is the most glaring example.

Just in the last year we’ve seen Kosa (clothing) moving from a spot on the 500 block to 443 Warren, only now to be replaced by the newly opened Hudson Clothier. Hudson and Laight Gallery has been replaced by Cesare + Lili, “a luxe beauty bar” at 437.  Harvey’s Counter has been replaced by a boutique of scarves and shawls, fig & bella, at 443. Up a block, at 527, Savor the Taste is setting up to take the place where Mark Frisman Antiques once was. And most dramatically, Matt McGhee’s high-end, year-round Christmas store, fresh from Greenwich Village, will be taking the place of the boutique Laloon in the handsome building at 445, some time around Thanksgiving.

To this observer, although almost none of the wares at these venues seem to have been chosen with him in mind, the town’s gradual shift from its first reincarnation is far from something to be concerned about: Jane Jacobs herself addressed this issue in her essential The Economy of Cities. The major premise of her book is that one-business towns (Detroit for instance),  i.e. those that lack  diversity in their economic backbone, are far more vulnerable to distress, if not complete collapse, than those that have nurtured it.  Granted, “style” here –in whatever form– is roughly equivalent to “automobiles” in Detroit, but the ever-changing form that it has been taking recently is a sign that people are as beguiled by our town as ever, and that our motors are running smoothly.   –Scott Baldinger

Race to the Middle

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Chis Gibson, Republican            Sean Eldridge, Democrat

Mid-term elections in recent years have made Halloween genuinely ghoulish for most of the last two decades, just about ruining the holiday for me. This year is no exception, with our Republican incumbent, who votes the Tea Party line far more often than not, masquerading as a moderate and gaining substantial support from 41 percent of Democrats. Moderation is quite a  costume for the congressman. What shocks me is that this is the same area where registered Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the liberal Zephyr Teachout over Andrew Cuomo (who would be regarded as more than liberal enough by most of the nation), and they seem to have bought the Gibson act hook, line, and sinker. According to The New York Times, Democrats interviewed said they liked Gibson “because he’s down to earth,”  “a good man” and “because he’s run a positive campaign.”

Frankly I can only attribute this impression to the local public radio station, WAMC, and the obsequious treatment of Mr. Gibson by the station’s president and omnipresent host, Alan Chartock (“WAMC: all Chartock all the time”). Chartock, who is someone  I generally admire, concur with politically, and also find very annoying to have to listen to all day, is notoriously unctuous to politicians from all parties, but, during a recent interview, what he did with Gibson had me switching to Shostakovitch in a heartbeat. Essentially he let Gibson play the “reasonable non ideologue” role to the the hilt, and — at least for as long I was able to listen –not once challenged him on his voting record: no on the Affordable Care Act, of course but also anti- Planned Parenthood, abortion rights, same sex marriage and a sundry other pieces of legislation, including stopping the government altogether, just to ruin President Obama’s day. In reality, his worthy Democratic opponent, Sean Eldridge, would win any sensitivity contest, but it’s doubtful that doing so would be of any help at this point. –Scott Baldinger

Shrubs I Hate

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All too soon, we’ll be grateful for any vestige of greenery in the great — or not-so-great — outdoors. But, in the meanwhile, I can’t help feeling irked at the very sight of a few plantings “gracing” some of our public places.

The one that gets my goat every time I see it in town is the privet bush.  I’m hardly what you might call a horticulturalist, but you don’t have to be an expert to realize that this species seems to be the default botanical of the city’s public works department, and its abundance, sizing  and oddly scalped manicuring throughout two of our  parks, the one at Seventh Street  and Promenade Hill, are just too depressing to ignore. They all look as if they were  pruned by Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre rather than by Edward Scissorhands, let alone any of the legion of gifted landscapers who make this town their home and who would no doubt offer their advice and loving hands purely as an act of civic generosity, if only they were asked. In the meanwhile all I want to do is rip these mothers from their roots, particularly the ones surrounding the railroad tracks in the 7th Street Park.  Here’s one small example from which we would all benefit by taking a cue from New York City’s High Line —take pride in the tracks and stop trying to camouflage them with what now looks like a pile of sticks with some leaves attached. (As for safety, one could be sure that the sound of a massive freight train blasting its horn til your ears are popping and traveling at five miles an hour towards you, would be sufficient enough protection.)

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Another planting that is a scrunched eyesore, just by placement and lack of proper care, is not a shrub but two very shrubbish-looking cedar trees, placed on either side of the entrance canopy of the county office building, formerly the Sixth Street  School on State Street. To my mind’s eye, there should no foliage here whatsoever –the building is a remarkable enough example of the Romanesqe style to stand on its own;  in addition to getting rid of the trees and the awning, a good cleaning (and improving the now ungainly fenestration) will reveal a structure of dazzling color that will make its unique massing all the more delightful. Once properly bathed and repaired, there should be no need to dress up a building like this with anything. –Scott Baldinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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