A blog about Hudson, New York

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Preserving the Piece

There are events that I regret not having attended (the Hudson Pride Professional Networking Party at Club Helsinki, for instance, which I heard was a great success). Last week’s public hearing on the proposed historic designation for Robinson Street, however, was not one of them. I truly think my heart—or at least a number of blood vessels– would have broken had I had to witness this worthy if flawed presentation and all of the negative rhetoric being hurled about in response to it.

Robinson Street, an amazingly tight ensemble of modest 19th/ early 20th century working class houses built on a small cross street, is definitely a sight to been seen. Still it has more merit as an expression of old urbanistic values than of architectural ones, and protecting fine architecture is the fundamental purview of any landmarks law.  The destruction of so much of the second ward through misguided urban renewal was a terrible mistake, but it is something of a stretch to try to redress that folly by making too much of a case for what’s left – at least on aesthetic merits alone.

Or is it? If there had been support for it, worse things could have happened than to have protections and guidelines set for the area. The fact is, the continued existence and careful stewardship of so many buildings here—both fancy and everyday– is the reason why Hudson has come back to life; it remains the best economic tool the city has at its disposal, whether everyone likes this fact or not. Contrary to myth, preservation law is capable of keeping a neighborhood stable without turning it into an enclave for the rich. And while it is a painful reality that such aesthetic values can lead to displacement (particularly of low income renters) and possibly add to the cost of maintenance and repair, it is average homeowners in the neighborhood in question and not some imagined “gentry” who would benefit the most from any attendant rise in land value. (Fear of higher taxes due to such a rise could be offset with an agreement for long term abatements from the city for lower income areas such as these.)

It was probably unwise for Historic Hudson to have gone forward with public hearings before having met with members of the neighborhood—not just for the sake of the proposal but for the cause of  preservation itself, now seriously shaken here.  Historic Hudson, as well as the Historic Preservation Commission, should be as much an educational as an advocacy group, and from the looks of it, it has been falling off the mark in this regard. But to have its values decried as a tool of the wealthy to get rid of the poor impugning the motives of  so many who have chosen to make Hudson their home, many of whom are of modest means themselves— is a divisive tactic and a hallmark of that reliable purveyor of malevolent and mischievous discord, Time and Space Limited’s Linda Mussmann. For once speaking in person rather than through some Manchurian Candidate on the city council, Mussmann laid down the gauntlet in typically antagonistic terms, as recounted here in Jamie Larson’s very able account in the Register Star.

“I will work very hard to postpone, stop, delay this plan,” she said, remarking that the cost of historic replica windows is unmanageable. She went on to say that there are many streets, like State and Columbia, that have similar architecture to Robinson, and asked why if Robinson was being proposed Historic Hudson wasn’t proposing making the whole city a historic district. “I think this is a hardship for a community struggling through a recession,” Mussmann continued. “This is the reality of historic preservation. We shouldn’t fool ourselves. They want it to be: Out of price, out of range.

“They”? (It should be noted that Mussmann, far from being a purely disinterested party, is a home owner and landlord in the area she mentions and has recently purchased other properties there.)  Given the forces trying to further divide this contentious little city, local preservationists need to find a better way to counter distrust, lack of information,  and the opportunism of those who want to exploit those things for their own purposes. –Scott Baldinger

Kudos to Carrie

It’s hard to imagine what Hudson would be like today had Carrie Haddad not opened her first gallery on Warren Street twenty years ago. (Just think of  Bedford Falls without Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life and you might get an idea.) At the time hers was the only one; now there are over 16 devoted to the showing of art alone, among them the always snazzy Carrie Haddad Photographs at 318 Warren Street. (A number of other galleries combine art with antiques and/or jewelry.)  She is celebrating her anniversary at her current space (622 Warren Street) with an exhibition of work by representative artists, including David Paulson, Vincent Pomillo (pictured above left), and David Halliday (above right), some of whom have been with her from the beginning;  the opening reception is tomorrow, April 23, from 6 to 8. –Scott Baldinger

Hot To Trot

Tango might look simple (think Gomez and Morticia in The Addams Family, minus the rose- in- the- mouth swapping and the whip). But it’s a complex ballroom dancing art. “It’s not a completed step, it’s a whole system of moves that you have to learn and then improvise on as you go along with your partner,” says Ellen Chrystal, who teaches the Argentinean way at The Sadhana Center (403 Warren Street) and, once a month, in the upstairs meeting space at Helsinki Hudson. A recent beginners session and three hour Milonga (i.e hootanany) there was very well attended; the lessons are free; the Milonga is $15.  It’s a sexy and classy sight to be seen. –Scott Baldinger

Loafing at Swallow

Even though it was a Monday, and only a week before taxes are due, there was a celebratory feeling on Warren Street as the thermometer hit 84 degrees.  The most fortuitous place to experience this weather anomaly (the kind that, for once, no one felt the need to complain about) was Swallow cafe, now sharing its 433 Warren Street space with the fab baguettes, brioches, and ciabattas of Loaf Bakery. It was a great day and place not only for guilty carbo loading but for people-watching as well– more specifically gam -gazing, as a parade of bare flesh we haven’t seen in a dog’s age passed by. (The dogs seemed happy too.)  And as the sun sets, it’s off to Lick Ice Cream at 253 Warren, the former location of Loaf (which was once Lick…oh never mind!), for more non Atkins- approved sensations. –Scott Baldinger

Yes We Can

Hudson is definitely forging new culinary frontiers: I don’t think I’ve ever seen the tuna noodle casserole trumpeted on a marquee before. (Davi’s Delights, at 41 Green Street, is a good, independently owned fast food drive in with a large, quirky menu, but this item took me by surprise.)  A staple of many a baby boomer’s youth,  this exemplar of canned food cookery was the piece de resistance of a type of  cuisine that began after WW2 and continued for decades after but has long been out of favor and never really come back retro-style.  (It reached  its apex during the 60s and 70s,  the period when my family and I consumed a pretty good version of it at least once a week.) Unless Davi (sic),  is doing a nouvelle version, it is invariably made up of canned tuna, noodle or macaroni, bread crumbs (or, if truly declasse, potato chips)  and most importantly, canned cream of mushroom soup, invariably Campbells. One interesting trivial tidbit that the poet/translator William Weaver once offered to me:  During the 1950s the dish was so favored by gay men for  dinner parties that it was nicknamed Fairy Pudding.  Put that on a marquee and watch what happens! –Scott Baldinger

True Grit

Even at its most ramshackle, Hudson has a visual poetry to it. The unoccupied house collaged above and pictured below, on Short Street off of State, is a compelling deconstruction of decades worth of bad siding.  The tar paper sided garage/ warehouse building on  Columbia Street, at the bottom, had its top section removed over the winter and looks even stranger now than it did before.  –Scott Baldinger

Art Attack

It was recently announced that a traveling art fair called NADA (no, it is not devoted to minimalism–the acronym stands for the New Art Dealer’s Association) will be coming to the happily reemerging  Basilica Hudson this summer. But Hudsonians don’t’ have to wait:  another sizable assembly — the mother of all Saturday exhibition openings in fact–will be taking place on  just a few city blocks of lower Warren Street tomorrow from 2 pm until after 8. Coordinated by the Hudson merchants group BeLo3rd,  seven  galleries will be having opening receptions for displays of over 35 contemporary artists.  (The above painting by Gloria Garfinkel at the Hudson Opera House and Ray Martin’s Bacon Triglyph, Bacon at the Limner Gallery are just two of the dozens to be seen .) Make sure your eyes get adequate rest beforehand.   See Ellen Picks on our  This Week in Hudson page, for times and details. —Scott Baldinger

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