Tom Davis, an alum of the earliest Saturday Night Live classes and a neighbor here on Bell’s Pond Road, has died after a struggle of several years with cancer. He had a wicked sense of humor about even that, recommending his illness as a weight loss regimen; after his initial bout, I hardly recognized him in his usual spot at Swoon. Tom held on for so long, and seemed so well-adjusted to his fate, that it feels that much more surprising that the death he anticipated really did overtake him.
He did an installation last year in Maximillian Goldfarb’s revolving window gallery in Hudson's 300 block, consisting of objects he’d salvaged from the Taghkanic Creek. The Creek passes by his somewhat ramshackle house—on whose lawn a gold Grand Marquis has sat most days, like the embodiment of some inside, sardonic but jovial joke. Tom managed to be easygoing even at his most absurdly cynical moments. His text for the installation is required reading:
As an old-school Malthusian liberal, I’ve always believed that the source of all mankind’s problems is overpopulation. I’m finally going to do something about it.
One of the pleasures of living Upstate is getting to know people like Tom as people, at a distance from their fame. We’d shared space at various local bars for a long time before I cottoned to the fact that this guy was the other half of Al Franken’s team, or that he played one of the goofball workers on the train in Trading Places, among many other classic scenes he acted in or scripted.
My last chat with him was at a local sushi place, debating whether it was worse to grow up as a Vikings or a Red Sox fan. I’ll remember in particular Tom’s nasal yet rotund conversational voice, which added that much more wry force to his understated wit. Tom could look up and say “it’s raining,” and it would come out funny.
Once again, a proposal has been floated in Hudson to put parking meters on the lower blocks of Warren Street, i.e. below 3rd. According to a Register-Star’s account today, this would rake in between $25K and $27K in revenue annually.
Let's be generous, and round that revenue up to $30,000. To put that (piddly) amount in perspective in relation of the City’s (giant) 2012 budget:
That’s just 3/5th of 1% (.006) if computed as a percentage of Hudson's $4,687,618 tax levy;
That’s just 3/10ths of 1% (.003) if computed as a percentage of Hudson's $9,651,173 in general fund appropriations.
And that's just 1/4 of 1% (.0025) if computed as a percentage of Hudson's $12,122,801 in total expenses.
Any way you slice it, the savings would be invisible (a lot less than 1%) to pretty much every taxpayer.
And even in a highly-unlikely best-case scenario, in which the entire $30,000 gets applied directly to reduce peoples' tax burden, an average person paying $2,500 in property taxes would save a grand total of $15 a year. If instead, the amount were subsumed into the entire appropriations or expenditures, the personal savings might be more in the $4-$8 range. With that kind of cash, one maybe could afford lunch once a year at Applebee's in Greenport, where parking is free.
Unfortunately, even after paying off the installation costs within 6-12 months, the external costs of metering would likely erase any such savings by causing some area residents to shop less in town, and causing more casual visitors to vow not to come back to Hudson again because they got a ticket.
Meter advocates tend to argue (often without any supporting data) that metering results in more turnover of parking spaces, deterring people from parking in the same spot all day. But at 25 cents per hour, many can easily afford to stay in the same spot all day anyway, or just pay the ticket: the marginal difference between 8 hours at 25 cents and a $6 ticket is all of $4. Unless Hudson begins chalking tires to prevent people buying more than 2 hours at a time, ticketing only really affects those least able to afford parking, and those easily ticked off by tickets.
Meanwhile, as has been pointed out here before, many thriving area towns such Millerton, Rhinebeck and Great Barrington have no parking meters on their main streets. So how is it that these meterless towns are doing as well as their metered neighbors?
According to a longtime member of the Furgary Boat Club, Hudson Common Council President Don Moore has stonewalled that person’s efforts to discuss the fate of the 100-year-old local fishing encampment with him—going silent for over a week, after demanding to know where the member lived, and being told that member resides outside of Hudson.
If Moore, fashioning himself a man of principle, intends to adopt a consistent policy that he won’t discuss City of Hudson issues with non-residents, he may wind up with a long list of people with whom he’d have to stop talking. Don’s Don’t Talk List would also have to include, among others:
Gary Schiro, head of the Hudson Opera House, who lives in Staatsburg;
Peter Paden, head of the Columbia County Land Conservancy, who lives in Taghkanic;
Elena Moseley, head of Operation Unite, Cyndy Hall, Columbia County Democratic Chair, Colin Stair, head of Stair Galleries, and Paul Mossman, head of DSS, who all live in Claverack;
Todd Erling, Director of Hudson Valley AgriBusiness, who lives in Livingston;
Ken Flood, head of development for the County, who lives in Castleton;
Ann Cooper, head of Columbia County Tourism, who lives in Stockport;
David Harrison, the Columbia County Sheriff, who lives in Austerlitz;
Sheena Salvino, Director of HDC and HCDPA, and David Colby, President of the Chamber of Commerce, who both live in Athens;
Cheryl Roberts, Hudson Corporation Counsel, who lives in Austerlitz;
Giff Whitbeck, Assistant District Attorney, who lives in Greenport;
Ken Faroni, lawyer for O&G Industries, who lives in Connecticut;
Donald Stever, lawyer for Holcim, who lives in New York City;
Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator, who lives in Brunswick;
Barack Obama, President of the United States, who lives in Washington, D.C.
Moore’s (alleged) new law of discourse would also preclude him from discussing concerns with most every lawyer, banker and accountant in town; several Hudson police officers; all of the non-Hudson County Supervisors who represent other towns; all the non-Hudson members of the County Democratic Committee; and about half of the shop, gallery and restaurant owners on Warren Street.
N O T E : About 10 years ago, when the right to speak at Common Council meetings was finally granted to the public, the Council President at the time briefly attempted to prevent non-residents from speaking at meetings. When the unwise, impractical and probably unconstitutional nature of this idea was decried, the then-President relented—recognizing that nonresidents often have business, family, property and other personal ties to the City which may require discussion. Perhaps Moore wants to turn back the clock, and try that gambit again.
A source in the northern reaches of Columbia County has passed along persistent rumors there that Chelsea Clinton and her husband Marc Mezvinsky are buying a house in Old Chatham. (This would help explain why the former President and Secretary of State were dining with them at an unprepossessing restaurant recently in Chatham, en route to no obvious destination. The pair were also married in the region, outside Rhinebeck.)
The source’s best guess is that that the property in question might be a 6,000 square foot brick home on 20 acres with a pool, listed at $1.3 million, currently owned by the founder of a cable porn network. Gabel Real Estate, one of the more active brokers in that part of the Couny, has a half-dozen properties listed in Old Chatham, ranging from $550,000 to $2.65 million, several of them marked sold.
If true, the location ironically would put the former First Daughter some 10-12 miles downwind of pollution belched by the Lafarge Ravena cement plant. Hillary Clinton, to her discredit, was paid for several years to sit on the board of Lafarge.
Miscellaneous notes from around Hudson and its environs:
Café on the Hudson, which briefly graced Riverview Street in Stuyvesant with organic, locally-sourced meals (the buckwheat pancakes were a real treat) appears not to be reopening after what was expected to be a Winter hiatus; for rent signs are in the windows.
Dana Wegener, the proprietor of MOD Restaurant who was unceremoniously locked out of her own Front Street establishment earlier this summer, is said to be reopening as a breakfast/lunch spot in the former Strongtree location, across from the Amtrak station in Hudson.
The Chai Shopin the 400 block (across from Swallow and upstreet from Spotty Dog) is going to start serving Indian dinners starting July 21st, though on Friday and Saturday nights only for starters.
Crimson Sparrow’s Sunday brunch is a great way for those wanting to try out the chefs’ ambitious cooking (and equally novel interior renovations in Hudson’s 700 block to do so without making a major investment. Their flat $16 brunch menu allows you to choose four items from a list of a dozenoptions, from waffles to fried green tomatoes.
The former Richter’s building in the 500 block (for decades a local source of tube socks and jumpsuits) has reportedly sold to Kinderhook’s John Knott, who is said to be planning a different sort of men’s shop there—likely to carry more Brooks Brothers-y haberdashery than FUBU sweatshirts.
Dan Gibson, proprietor of Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent and the Grazin’ diner in Hudson, has taken over Milk Thistle Farm’s former dairy operations whichsadly closed last winter.
Renovations at the former Fabrications and Mix locations (in Hudson’s 400 and 500 block, respectively) seem to be going slowly, with paper still up in the windows of each. Work on the former Verdigris location on 3rd Street, where NYC restaurateur Zak Peliccio is aiming to extend his Fatty Crab/Fatty ’Cue empire, looks to be actively progressing. Also in the renovations department, work is likewise moving along on former Etsy honcho Rob Kalin’s North Front Street warehouse, the future home of his new Parachutes venture, though it’s likely to take a while given the size and condition of the building.
TOAD, which has moved its mountain of tie-dyed tees and headshop paraphernalia around Warren Street probably a half-dozen times in the past 15 years, has lost its most recent location in the 700 block due to the sale of the building... No doubt it will reëmerge from under some other lilypad in town.
ABOVE: Mayor Bill Hallenbeck attempting to explain the City's eviction, complete with a SWAT team, of the Furgary Boat Club after 100-plus years of stewarding Hudson's North Dock and North Bay.
According to a longtime Furgarian, the Hudson police cuffed three remaining members though they did not resist the eviction, then brought them to the police station. The three were apparently not charged with any crime, and released, but required to walk back to the Club site to retrieve their cars.
Perhaps fearing the glare of television camera crews (at least one of which was headed to Hudson in the early morning), City of Hudson workers raced to barricade off the Furgary Boat Club at 3 a.m. this morning.
School Board member Tiffany Martin Hamilton has posted this notice on Facebook, showing a maturity rare in Hudson politics, and leading some to call for her to run for higher office:
UPDATE: Several news reports indicate that the City used a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team for its covert late-night action, with officials claiming the presence of one or more guns in possession of the remaining Furgarians. Since the same reports do not indicate that any weapons were recovered, this seems like at best like grandiose overkill, and at worst an attempt to shame or discredit the Club members, adding a final insult to their injury. Also, both heavy equipment and TV crews were seen near the site around midday.
Four properties linked to developer Eric Galloway were granted tax assessment reductions totaling $422,000 in June by the Hudson Board of Assessment review. Of the five properties grieved by Galvan Partners and the Galvan Foundation, four were granted tax relief.
Nearly 50% of all other grievers got no relief at all from the BAR in this cycle.
Tom Swope, who stepped down as a member of the BAR late last year, is now the director of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation. Those reductions were certified by BAR member Rachel Kappel and chairman Philip Forman on June 13th.
Public records indicate that the BAR did deny Galvan’s attempt to have 400 State Street (the Library building) declared tax exempt. When last checked with the IRS, Galvan had yet to be approved as a charity, which might explain the BAR’s inability to give Galloway’s operations even more assistance.
According to The Register-Star, the Galvan Foundation awarded $117,000 in local grants earlier this month, including $40,000 to the Hudson afterschool program Perfect Ten, which was founded by Forman’s wife.* Though Perfect Ten began in 2010, it was only incorporated as a nonprofit corporation at the State level in February of this year, and IRS online records do not yet list it as an approved charity as of this week.
According to its Facebook page, Perfect Ten has two full-time staff, Forman and Katherine Moore, a daughter of Hudson Common Council President Don Moore. The elder Moore voted in March to support Galvan’s controversial homeless shelter-cum-police-station at the corner of State and 4th Street.
As previously reported, some of the Hudson BAR’s other major tax reductions in 2012 include a $1.5 million tax reduction for Holcim, and a 35% break for the City’s law firm.
* Full disclosure: the Formans bought a house from this writer in 2007.
Rapport Meyers, the same firm which represents the City of Hudson on many legal matters, received a tidy 35% reduction in their tax assessment from the local Board of Assessment Review. The lawyers’ local property tax valuation was dropped $320,000 (from $920K to $600K) by the Board of Assessment Review. Hudson Corporation Counsel Cheryl Roberts joined the firm within the past year, and at least one member of the BAR has used the firm for legal work.
As previously reported, Holcim received a $1.5 million tax reduction from the BAR, while nearly half of all other grievers got no tax relief at all.
Holcim has received a whopping $1,563,000 reduction in its property tax assessment from the Board of Assessment Review in the City of Hudson, according to publicly-available data.
The BAR decision, signed by members Philip Forman and Rachel Kappel, brought Holcim’s assessment down 33%, from over $4.5 million to just $3 million.
The reduction was by far the largest reduction in valuation, in terms of dollars, provided by the BAR this year. Out of some 148 property owners who appealed to the BAR for help this year, nearly half (70) received no reduction at all.
The Swiss-owned multinational, which has been a constant source of controversy locally over the past 15 years, has been simultaneously suing the City over its taxes. It’s unclear if the reduction will cause Holcim to withdraw its (even greedier) legal complaint, which in 2011 argued it should be assessed at less than $1.6 million. According to some reports, State approval of the City’s deeply flawed Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan has been stalled due to Holcim balking at transfer of some South Bay acreage while that suit was still in court.
This site will be reporting on other notable tax discounts provided by the BAR in the coming days.
Former New York State Assemblyman and gubernatorial hopeful Patrick R. Manning filed petitions yesterday to compete in a crowded Republican primary for the 105th District seat, which covers most of Dutchess County.
Manning, a Vassar grad, previously served in the Assembly from 1995-2006, first in the 99th and then in the 103rd District, before being unseated in a GOP primary by current Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.
Also seeking the GOP line are Kieran M. Lalor and Richard C. Wager. Lalor also filed for the Independence Party line. Meanwhile, Paul F. Curran filed uncontested for the Democratic and Working Families lines. Republicans outnumber Democrats in Dutchess by about 6,000 voters.