A blog about Hudson, New York


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dot of Art

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ArtsWalk continues again this year, and one can’t help the feeling that it’s presence in Hudson seems to diminish every year, albeit with a  number of exceptions mostly in the five and six hundred blocks.  Well we’ve always got art in spades, with more quality galleries in town than ever and effective art in nearly every antiques and home furnishings store, as well as in just about all of the town’s restaurants. No one is a better curator than the Red Dot’s Alana Hauptmann. As she does wonderfully for her bar/restaurant for nearly every holiday except Purim, Hauptmann has this year killed two birds with one stone, doing an ArtsWalk exhibition on her own and getting a leap on Halloween with some effectively bizarre yet handsome shadow boxes/assemblages by Dennis Herbert, a longtime Hudson resident. If you want to see more of Herbert’s work, you can make an appointment to visit his gallery, a converted garage at 75 North 2nd Street. The number is (518) 828-2574. — Scott Baldinger

Color My World

 

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A sign that appropriate colors for residential facades aren’t all being completely displaced by gray and black include these two (or shall we say, five ) fine examples: the Gothic Revival house at 619 Union Street (above) and the row of four townhouses at State and Sixth Streets (below), the latter of which have gone through various changes from  the (now chipping), uniformly light green of the original renovation of about a decade ago. Notice how good the gray townhouse looks in counterpoint to the yellow and white adjoining it: neutral space highlighted by the brightly positive on either side.    –Scott Baldinger

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Getting Syria

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Saint Simeon’s Column outside Aleppo. Copyright 2009 Peter Aaron

Talk about inspired real-estate staging! There are a number of examples of commercial  interests and brilliant  artistic talent combining to create works—or the display of works –that have great cultural impact: The first two Godfather movies come to mind, a big Broadway show like The Lion King perhaps, not to mention nearly every good movie every Hollywood studio ever made.  In Hudson, it took the need to rent out the beautiful ground floor space at 555 Warren Street, owned by Mark McDonald and formerly the locale of McDonald’s own store and then NP Trent, which just closed its doors, to come up with the ad hoc exhibition Under Siege: Monuments of Syria, a show of epic and now painfully relevant photographs by Peter Aaron and Lynn Davis. They were taken in 2009,  before the civil war in that besieged nation – and the destruction or severe damage of many of said monuments. (Aaron has arranged a “before and after” display on a table in the center of the room, the “after” shots taken from other sources.)

The Aaron  photographs, which are both black and white and in color, were recently on display in ArtSpace in Germantown; here, instead of being spread out over a couple of rooms next to a veterinary office, they fill out one side and the center of the grandly cavernous space in one of Hudson’s best buildings, whose walls have been painted an elegant medium tinted gray by the sponsor of the event, HOUSE Hudson Valley Realty’s James Male, beautifully offsetting Aarons’ and Davis’ images of the surprisingly photogenic nation.  (“I got a great reaction to the show in Germantown, despite it being in a defunct shopping mall next to the dump,” Aaron says.)  Davis’ hugely sized timeless black and white photographs of the Roman ruins of Syria are, as always, monuments in and of themselves; four of them more than adequately fill the wall opposite the one devoted to Aarons’ work.

The show will be open September 27-28 and October 4-5, from noon to 5 p.m, with an artists’ reception on October 4 from 5 to 8 p.m.  –Scott Baldinger

 

 

 

 

Where’s “Sid and Nancy”?

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Tonight and tomorrow  Basilica Hudson will be showing three films by director Alex Cox, including his well-known Repo Man, as well as two other works, Straight To Hell Returns and Walker,  the latter starring Ed Harris as a 19-century American soldier of fortune who became the dictator of Nicaragua. Walker was penned by Hudson’s own Rudy Wurlitzer (who is also famed for his screenplay to Little Buddha)  and both Cox and Wurlitzer will be available for extended Q&A’s.  An exciting event no doubt. Oddly missing though, considering the musical background of Basilica’s co-founder Melissa Auf Der Mar,  is perhaps the director’s most sensational effort– Sid and Nancy, about the life and sordid end days of The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious (played wonderfully by Gary Oldman) and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Choe Webb).  Just wondering….pourquoi pas?  – Scott Baldinger

 

 

Memories, Observations, Resentments

A dear Hudson fellow–  an intelligent, older but still “with it” kind of guy – recently expressed excitement about the upcoming NYC theater season previewed in this past weekend’s New York Times Arts and Leisure section. Pronouncements like these always inspire mixed feelings in me: excited interest on the one hand and, frankly,  feelings of sadness and resentment on the other, knowing that I’ll probably miss most, if not at all, of the new shows, living far enough from the source to make attending (not to mention covering for a major publication, which I used to do) too much of  a project.

So it was with some dread, and then relief, that I looked through the section. Two of the shows– revivals of The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Scott Ellis, and the great Bernstein/Comden and Green musical On the Town, directed by John Rando, are transplants of productions I had already seen (and reviewed very positively) — the first at The Williamstown Theater Festival and the second at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield.  I was fortunate enough to have seen the original production of another prominently advertised revival – On the Twentieth Century—a good Cy Coleman musical adaptation of the wonderful Howard Hawks/Ben Hecht film, Twentieth Century, as a youngin’ in 1978 . (It starred the late great Madeline Kahn, as  well as Kevin Kline, John Cullum, and even Imogene Coca and was directed, terrifically, by Harold Prince– while the new production stars Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher and is directed by the ubiquitous –and always dependable — Scott Ellis. Still, if need be, memories of the original will serve nicely.)  Ditto Hedwig and the Angry Inch (a thrilling discovery when it debuted starring its creator, John Cameron Mitchell, in 1998);  Side Show ( a stunningly dark musical about circus people that sadly flopped in its first incarnation in 1998);  and even A Delicate Balance. (The Gerald Gutteriez 1996 production of this Edward Albee play featured the luminous Rosemary Harris, plus Elaine Stritch, George Grizzard, and Elizabeth Wilson, and at the time, I thought  it couldn’t be beat; it is now being revived in a production starring Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and  Bob Balaban  —all favorites perhaps, but once again, if need be, I’m happy enough with  my memories).  The wonderful Helen Mirren, in  The Audience, playing Queen Elizabeth II once again, would no doubt be fun —but certainly feels like a retread, if not downright audience pandering. (The Queen is very available on DVD.)

Which only leaves Kenneth Lonergan’s  This Is Our Youth, Larry David’s  Fish in the Dark,  David Hare’s Skylight, Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, and older-running shows like The Book Of Mormon  and perhaps Kinky Boots to feel a twinge at the possibility of missing. Though who says I definitely will?  There’s always Amtrak and the TKTS booth—or, in lieu of that, going under the bed covers and watching Rehab Addict  — a TV show not about Lindsay Lohan  but a spunky woman who likes to restore old homes using everything original to the house,  which can –and perhaps should –be seen on the DIY network, particularly by certain individuals involved in what seems like WAAAY too many “revivals” in town.

Thinking of that today, I coincidentally ran upon this oddly phrased yet observant little sign posted on the street facing yet another suburbanized, Frankenstein-like production being patched together by Eric Galloway’s Galvan Foundation at Warren and Fifth Streets. Yes, it’s true,  I made recommendations and finally approved plans for it while on the Historic Preservation Commission, but, as theater people know, it’s sometimes hard to know how the pieces will come together until the curtain is about to rise, particularly when this “impresario” is involved –Scott Baldinger unnamed

A “Barn” Razing

Well,  no, it wasn’t exactly a barn, at least not of late, but the Cherry Alley garage of 518 Union Street, which fell victim to an electrical fire a few weeks ago. The building happened to be one of my alley faves: a tall corrugated metal structure, painted bright red and crawling with (poison?) ivy. Design-wise, I’d say it was a combination of early Frank Gehry and mid-career Morticia Adams,  and while its passing is certainly no General Worth-like loss, or anything to grieve over in particular, I do regret not having taken a photo of it while it was still standing.  (In fact, I think I did…but heaven knows where the hell it is.)

What struck me the most in recent weeks since its passing is its super-quick dismantling– so fast it seemed as if we were living in a community of hell-raising Amish all of a sudden.  By the time I had written my last blog post til this one, with quite some time in between,  the structure has gone from this (first image copyright and courtesy of Michael Weaver of the Register-Star and Columbia Page)

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to this:

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to this:

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to this:

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Stairway to Purgatory

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What is it about Hudson that inspires so many would- be urban planners; worst of all, would-be urban planners who want to make an “original statement?” One of these is being seriously discussed; the other is actually under construction as we speak. The plans for the 7th Street Park, for instance, proffered generously and sincerely by landscape architect Cathryn Dwyre, are reminiscent — not of the wonderful High Line in New York City, as was perhaps intended– but of the  Robert Moses alterations to Bryant Park, Madison Square and Union Square in New York City in the 1930s and 40s (changes that were happily corrected in extensive renovations many decades later). Dwyre’s plans counter-intuitively throw out the footprint of the original as well as the idea of re-installing the central fountain statue of Venus (still in storage in a Department of Public Works garage) that once stood in the spot of a newer, unadorned and quite ungainly replacement. Dwyre has offered an asymmetrical plan that is disruptive of the simple but essential purpose of a central town square — to impose a moment of tranquil visual order and delight a midst the commercial hubbub (and visual blight) surrounding it. Dwyre has called the original 1878 layout a “default park design,” and has packed her new one with so many varying features –other than the original fountain — that tranquility will be the last thing attained should these plans somehow come to fruition.

Less noticed but far more bewildering perhaps is the “linear park” –i.e. promenade — beiIMG_1000ng constructed from the already existing concrete vest-pocket park across the street from the Opera House, up a steep staircase on Columbia Street, and all the way to State Street, where it ends abutting a vacant apartment building owned by Housing Resources on one side and a heavily vinyl-sided house on the other. A Baron Haussmann marvel of urban grandiosity this is not.(All of the photographs here are of the linear park, not of the 7th Street Park.) Made up of concrete paving and various concrete structural elements (and two nice wood benches),  the walkway,  the last element of a grand housing scheme designed by Teddy Cruz and financed by the PARC Foundation’s David Deutsch,  is a surrealist vision of urban sterility and purposelessness. It’s difficult to imagine that, once completed, it will become popular with neighborhood parents and their children, except for those who routinely carry around Bactine, Band-Aids and strongly protective head gear; more likely it will be favored by drug dealers and prostitutes not wanting to be spotted by  police who patrol 3rd Street in cars.

 

IMG_0999Mistakes like these were hallmarks of urban planning from the worst days of Moses through the 1970s;  one can only wonder why and how this phenomena has reappeared in Hudson, which offers block after block of examples of how well things used to be done long ago, “by default,”  in towns and cities all across the nation. –Scott Baldinger

Separated at Birth, Part Two

OK, we all need a little fun these days. Due to unprecedented demand (OK, just one person, who expressed mock regret at not being included, and another, who was included and said he “liked the way my mind worked”; plus a lot of new subscriptions after the first version ), herewith is the second installment of  my comparison of various Hudsonites who, to me at least,  are dead ringers for famed historical or entertainment personalities. For more serious and compelling fare, please read my positive review of Stageworks’ last presentation of the excellent Tomorrow in the Battle, which the company is reviving now, written for Rural Intelligence. It’s a play that had my mind atinglin’ then and shouldn’t be missed now. – Scott Baldinger 

 

Carole Osterink  of The Gossips of Rivertown /Geraldine Page, ingenious film and theater actress

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Dan Seward, musician, owner of John Doe Records/Rasputin, mystic, faith healer and private adviser to the Romanovs

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EllenThurston, Supervisor, 3rd District/ Queen Elizabeth I of England

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Nancy Horowitz-Felcetto, Halstead realtor/Catherine Keener, film actress

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Another Closing/Opening, Another Show

 

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“Dying is easy, retail is hard,” the maxim about comedy could be amended to read. The Darwinian struggle to stay in business, particularly if you are an independently owned shop selling objects of that ephemeral element—style – has been displaying itself in Hudson more noticeably in recent weeks.  In addition to Harvey’s Counter, whose closing Carole Osterink mentioned in today’s Gossips, there has been the recent (and almost overnight) disappearance of the megaplush antiques store NP Trent, which Word on the Street has heard will be moving to Kindherhook; last month’s closing of Mark Frisman 20th Century Design (after a steep rise of his rent at 527 Warren, Frisman decided to move his operation to St. Petersburg, Florida),  CM Cherry,  and now, Culture + Commerce Project (at 428 Warren),  which for three years featured warmly modernist furnishings, lighting, and artistic objects created by talented local artisans such as Rob Williams, Joshua Howe, and Jules Anderson.  “I’m very into brick and mortar, but it’s time to be more 21st century,”  Culture + Commerce’s owner Sherri Jo Williams says, adding that the last two weeks of the store’s existence this month will be devoted to work by artists Kahn and Selesnick, and that C+C will be a continuing presence in pop-up shops and on the internet.

Happily, many of the historic structures on Warren Street have signs announcing new businesses, demonstrating its continuing desirability as a retail destination through tough times and despite rising rents.  Classic Country will occupy the beautiful piece of stone and mortar (now, grayer than ever)  at 431 Warren;  Talbot & Arding Cheese and Provisions will (hopefully!) be opening at 323 Warren; and Hawkins New York, a modern home-furnishings store, will be the new occupant of the venerable Leader building at 339 Warren.  Elegant gold lettering and bordering in The Leader’s storefront window is just about the only change the Hawkins people will be making to the fabulously intact original signage and window details, according to the fellow who was doing the taping—presumably the owner— who said he loved and wouldn’t think of  camouflaging it;  all I can say is, whoever you are, WELCOME! — Scott Baldinger

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