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Hudson
Taghkanic, NY
Hudson Valley troublemaker.
Interests: media, the environment, civic affairs, small-town life, culture and government.
Recent Activity
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... from the West Ghent Fire House. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at SamPratt.com
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Mendolia photo on MySpace.com A statement by Hudson City Democratic Committee chair Victor Mendolia in today’s Register-Star, on the topic of Rick Scalera and political signage, is demonstrably untrue. The City has a longstanding but patently unenforceable local ordinance on the books. That local law unconstitutionally attempts to limit the number of days before an election that political signs can be displayed. But courts have repeatedly struck down such laws (typically, on the basis that political and commercial speech cannot be treated differently). Nevertheless, in the 2005 local election then-Police Commissioner Carmine Pierro—with the backing of then-Mayor Rick Scalera—attempted to have signs removed for certain candidates the pair did not support. A June 24th, 2005 article in The Register-Star reported that Some Democrats are jumping the gun on this year's political season, Mayor Richard Scalera told the Common Council Tuesday. Signs have been popping up around town endorsing Richard Tracy... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at SamPratt.com
One group of people that Ginsberg’s Food Vice President John Brusie was not able to photograph during Wednesday’s IDA public hearing: The County IDA board itself. Out of six members, only one (James Mackerer) bothered to show up for their own meeting, ostensibly held to hear the views of the public. Chair Bruce Bohnsack, vice chair Sid Richter, Secretary-Treasuer Don Kline, plus Board members Robert Galluscio and Robert Stickles were all missing. Instead, the Board was represented by attorney Ted Guterman (who ran the meeting) and IDA Executive Director Ken Flood, who was almost entirely silent... But who spent much of the hearing making long faces and rolling his eyes along with Mr. Brusie, who was seated across from him in the front row. After this glaring absence was pointed out, Guterman tried to reassure the audience that the missing board members would be provided transcripts. This did not seem... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Ginsberg’s VP John Brusie appears third from right, alongside his mother Nancy Fuller Ginsberg and David Ginsberg, at center. Ginsberg’s Foods Vice President of Operations John Brusie was observed snapping photographs of residents speaking in opposition to the company’s Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) application to the Columbia County IDA. Ghent resident Jefferson Snider was the first to mention out loud what many others in the audience had noticed during the Wednesday public hearing: That Brusie, the son of Ginsberg’s co-owner Nancy Fuller Ginsberg, was using a gold-cased cameraphone to take pictures of various speakers. Toward the end of the hearing, Snider specifically questioned why this was being done, after which Brusie appeared to stop taking the photos. (After that point, however, pretty much all the remaining commenters had already spoken earlier as well, and thus had already had their pictures taken.) Brusie did not explain the purpose of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Patti Matheney of GhentCANN dropped a bombshell at this morning's public hearing about the Ginsberg Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) plan. County officials have repeatedly left the impression that the 33 acres being sold to Ginsberg's Foods for $- was “inherited” by the county. As a result, press reports (such as an editorial questioning the deal in the Register-Star) dutifully repeated this language, giving the sense that there hadn't been much if any cost associated with the land acquisition. But public records obtained by Matheney, Christine Jones and close neighbors of the proposed facility tell a very different story. In fact, the County’s development arm paid $109,950 in 1997 to acquire the acreage from the Ribley estate. Confronted with this evidence, as well as the presence of a surviving Ribley family member, County economic czar Ken Flood claimed that he had always known that the Columbia Economic Development Corporation... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Apparent conflicts of interest raise eyebrows even among supporters The maneuvers and machinations behind the Ginsberg’s Foods deal—resulting in some $2 million in public fundings and tax credits—strike many local observers as irregular at best. Ginsberg family members and employees have touted the company’s longevity, local roots and continued “investment in the community” as reasons for the company to benefit from substantial County largesse and indulgence from town permitting agencies. To a large extent, both have rolled over and given Ginsberg’s everything they’ve asked for, from public handouts to multiple zoning variances. But while development officials have voiced a shining appreciation for the employment provided by Ginsberg’s, such testimonials seem tarnished by a growing sense that inside government influence has been used to achieve a private company’s expansion goals. Below is an inventory of some of the more dubious ways in which this deal has been advanced. Taken together, these... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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A Siena College-Time Warner Cable poll of the NY-19 Congressional race shows incumbent Republican Chris Gibson with an “early” 24-point lead over Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge. Gibson leads 57%-33% district-wide, with 10% undecided. Of those already decided, only 10% indicated a likelihood they might change their mind. The poll’s results for Columbia County are lumped in with those for Greene, Montgomery, Schoarie and Rensselaer counties. In those five counties, Gibson’s lead is even larger, 64%-23%. Full “crosstabs” for the poll are online at this link. Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2014 at SamPratt.com
Less than 10% of Democrats, both statewide and in Columbia County, participated in today’s gubernatorial primary (in which Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated challenger Zephyr Teachout by a roughly 2-1 margin). As such, tonight’s primary results tells us little about the views of Democratic voters. But it does demonstrate that Democratic officials and party operatives, whether progressive or centrist, are not able to motivate its rank-and-file members to vote. Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2014 at SamPratt.com
Today is primary day, so of course the Columbia County Board of Elections’ database went down this morning... Should make for a fun afternoon. Polls are open from noon to 9 pm. If you have voting questions, call the Board at 828-3115. Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Border of Livingston, Claverack and Taghkanic (NY). Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Benson’s profile picture at his company's website, bciinc.com Columbia County Board of Supervisor chair Patrick Grattan has moved oversight of the Board’s Airport Committee into the hands of a former committee member who played hooky from over 70% of its meetings. Via email, Grattan announced that he was moving the same committee from which New Lebanon Supervisor Michael Benson resigned in a huff—after rarely showing up, and not getting his way—into Benson’s portfolio: TO: Airport Committee & Public Works Committee It has been brought to my attentions [sic] that there is a question regarding the status of the Airport Committee. First, let me thank all the members for their hard work on this issue. I know that this issue was very complicated and, at times, contentious. I respect your patience and understanding during the process. The County has several subcommittees: Negotiations, Salary Study, Pine Haven, Central Business Office, Labor Management... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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This site will leave it to others to continue debating the Union Street Guest House’s $500 fine policy (with an intensity more usually reserved to debating Israel vs. Palestine). Was it a “joke,” a scare tactic, or a scam? We may never know, and probably shouldn’t care. Far more interesting to this observer is the question: Why did this particular story go “viral”? So far, the story has been covered in at least 200 online and print publications, many of them with a global reach, such as CNN. Reportedly, the inn has been beseiged with requests to appear on national morning programs, as well as p.r. reps pitching their crisis management services to its staff—as if the USGH were Union Carbide. The story likewise sparked an intense backlash against the Guest House, with over 1,000 fake negative reviews posted in the first twelve hours on Yelp. (Many of these have... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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NOTE: A follow-up on why this story went viral has been posted at this link. A Hudson lodging establishment has been slammed with a tidal wave of bad publicity after The New York Post’s Page Six described a policy of fining wedding parties $500 per negative reviews on Yelp. The Post’s story about the Union Street Guest House was quickly and gleefully picked up by Fox & Friends, TIME online, Business Insider, and others, leading to a raft of negative feedback on Yelp and Twitter. (This begs the question: Is all press really good press?) The USGH’s longtime owner, former 3rd Ward Alderman Chris Wagoner, responded around noon to the outrage, noting that the proposed fine was for weddings only, had never been levied, and in any case was “tongue in cheek”: The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Bon Appétit magazine has a 10-page feature on Hudson eats and drinks in the current (August 2014) issue, with a ten-point sidebar of recommendations from Yours Truly. The issue is available at ShopRite near the checkout, and probably elsewhere. Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Sustained rain over the past fortnight has caused an explosion of mushroom growth in the area. A half-hour walk on Thursday in the Taghkanic woods (sticking only to trails, and not specifically searching for anything) revealed at least 13 varieties of toadstools, some of them very poisonous. A few friends have helped with possible identifications, but if any readers are expert micologists, please don’t hesitate to share your theories. Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Appearing to confirm its departure from the Town of Ghent, PCB-processor TCI of NY has withdrawn its application to following its catastrophic fire two summers ago. The company also (per the memo below) has withdrawn a specious lawsuit against the Town’s Planning Board, claiming that the Board could not regulate a rebuild. TCI is already embroiled in zoning controversies in its new location, across the river in Coeymans, whose residents may want to be on their guard—each of TCI’s past three facilities (Ghent, Greenport and Newburgh) exploded. Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Found on Warren Street, presumably detritus from the renovation of the Warren Inn (formerly the Roylton, not to be confused with the one in Manhattan). Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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This Columbia County map has hung on the wall of the Bell’s Pond XtraMart for years. Over time, the map has become discolored, worn and even torn from people pointing to Bell’s Pond on the map. You can also faint, greasy lines along the roads emanating from Bell’s Pond toward likely destinations (the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, the Taconic Parkway exit, Lake Taghkanic, the Claverack light). This site will periodically feature other examples of wear and tear, erosion, and other patterns of use. If you spot an example, don’t hesitate to send your photo via email. Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Hudson’s Columbia Memorial Hospital and Albany Medical Center are announcing plans today to form a long-term “strategic affiliation” or “alliance,” with the goal of “better coordination of care for residents of Columbia and Greene counties and greater operational efficiency for both organizations.” A draft agreement, still in negotiation, is said to stipulate that some members of CMH’s board would serve on Albany Med’s board, and vice-versa. But hospital officials stress that the two institutions will remain distinct, saying that “there will be no acquisition or merger.” On its Facebook page, Columbia Memorial is even more adamant about that point: This is NOT a merger. It is NOT a consolidation. It is NOT a sale, and it is NOT an acquisition or a takeover. We are working to align our respective organizations to take advantage of one another’s strengths. Potential benefits of the new partnership for Columbia County patients could include... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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History is the tale of man’s attempts to impose geometry on nature. Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Route 66, Greenport (NY) Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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“We saw flames coming off of the wires,” said Hudson resident Zia Anger, describing this afternoon’s fire in the alley east of South 5th Street, between Warren and Union. The conflagration knocked out cable and internet to many Mid-Hudson subscribers, and to Verizon phone and internet clients in the southeastern reaches of the City. According to another witness, the blaze began in a narrow gap between two garages on the south side of the alley, at least one of which appeared to be completely gutted. He told the officers investigating: “I bet some guy took his last puff of a cigarette and flicked it right between them.” MHC’s Jim Reynolds surveys the scene Mid-Hudson Cablevision had several bucket trucks on scene by late afternoon, with linesman sorting out the many dangling loops of loose fiber. A man in sunglasses taking cameraphone pictures along turned out to be MHC President James... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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For more than a decade, officials have privately mulled changes to the Columbia County airport. Over the past year, contentious public debate raged at over a dozen meetings about how to bring the Ghent facility into compliance with safety regulations. But just this week, a surprise suggestion from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have rendered all of these arguments and explorations moot. According to sources familiar with a conference call this week between the FAA and the County Airport Committee, the Feds suggested a radically simple bureaucratic solution: Just reclassify the airport into a category requiring a much shorter Runway Safety Area (RSA). Due to the airport handling less than 500 jet operations per year, it is apparently eligible to downgrade its classification to a level which needs only a 300-foot RSA, not 1,000 feet. The longer 1,000-foot requirement has been the key factor driving endless controversy about compliance.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2014 at SamPratt.com
A longtime Hudson resident shared this email exchange with Hudson Mayor Bill Hallenbeck, on the current controversy over finding open space for dogs to be exercised in town: Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 2:41 PM To: Mayor@cityofhudson.org Subject: dog park Mayor Hallenbeck, As you know, we disagree on some current issues in Hudson and that is o.k. I feel we can still have a decent, productive conversation. I just wanted to invite you to go to some of the local dog parks with me and my family. They really are not bad places as some of the citizens of Hudson believe. We go to the Friends of Kinderhook Dog Park and the Athens Bunker Hill Dog Park frequently. I understand you have a new puppy and it would be great to visit the parks with him/her. These dog parks are self sufficient and I do not believe they would be... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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JACK SHAINMAN DEBUT DRAWS 1,000 TO KINDERHOOK For New York City art worlders of a certain age, the brass ring of their youth was to reach for a 2,000 square foot downtown loft. Now that they have attained maturity, that ambition has grown tenfold, to more like 20,000+ square feet. But for even the wealthiest 1%, that’s a difficult proposition in the five boroughs. And so the abandoned municipal, industrial, and educational buildings of the Hudson Valley beckon—to the likes of Marina Abramoviç, or the clerics of DIA:Beacon, or contemporary collectors Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol, or Studio 54 fixture Francine Hunter McGivern, or, most recently, Chelsea gallerist Jack Shainman. Call it the Hudson River School of Art Storage. Shainman debuted his vast new 30,000 square foot space, The School, yesterday in Kinderhook with an installation by Nick Cave. The event drew, without exaggeration, at least 1,000 attendees. The crowd... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2014 at SamPratt.com