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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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A new online petition posted by GhentCann calls upon the Town’s planners to appeal this week’s ruling by Judge Richard Koweek, forcing the Planning Commission to reverse its denial of a permit to Ginsberg’s Foods. The petition, which can be found here, can be signed by residents of both Ghent and the County, says GhentCANN’s Patti Matheney, to support “sound planning decisions in our County.” The 300,000 square-foot project also received large tax breaks from the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency. Continue reading
Posted 2 hours ago at SamPratt.com
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John Reilly (IMAGE: Gallatin Democrats) Gallatin Supervisor John Reilly seems to want the head the Kafka Economic Development Committee. For Reilly, the chair of the County committee charged with overseeing economic planning, is now bizarrely denying what occurred in front of several dozen witnesses. Let’s review: More than a week ago, at a meeting chaired by Reilly, it was reported by the Register-Star that: “[C]ommittee members also voted to request a special Economic Development Committee meeting 4 p.m. June 10 to hear from Crawford, Sherwood and Better regarding the Ginsberg’s deal.” The paper was referring to Crawford Engineering principal David Crawford, Kinderhook Bank president Bob Sherwood and attorney Bill Better—the three members of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) who were cited in a State investigation for failures to disclose conflicts of interest related to the controversial Ginsberg Foods deal. This site observed and reported the same vote: “Current Ancram... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at SamPratt.com
According to an attorney who has seen the decisions, Columbia County Judge Richard Koweek “ruled in favor of Ginsberg’s on all four lawsuits” and has ordered the Ghent Planning Board to grant the company a special use permit. As a rule, it is very rare in New York State for judges to overrule decisions by local agencies such as planning and zoning boards. The decision is ironic in at least one respect: The State Authorities Budget Office decided not to delve deeper into the conflict of interest issues related to Ginsberg’s and the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, due to the denial by the Ghent Planning Board. The ABO said that the denial rendered such conflict questions moot: No harm has yet arisen [emphasis added] from the board’s failure to follow its own policies since the Ginsberg Foods expansion project was not approved by the Ghent Planning Board. This may not... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at SamPratt.com
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The new organic dairy barn in Churchtown, designed and built by Rick Anderson for Abby Rockefeller (first reported upon here several years ago), had an open house Saturday afternoon in conjunction with the nearby Triform Camphill site. More photos of the site and event are below: Above: Anderson & Rockefeller Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at SamPratt.com
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Current and former officials join call to hold agency accountable for “odor” around loan deals Along with the two corrective resolutions proposed yesterday by Hillsdale Supervisor Art Baer at the County’s development committee meeting, loads of other revelations and opinions were aired about how CEDC conducts its affairs. An unusual number of past and present County officials joined concerned citizens at the standing-room-only meeting, held at 401 State Street in Hudson. Each group uniformly criticized how the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (easily confused with the County’s similarly-named committee) does business. Former Stockport supervisor Leo Pulcher urged the County’s leaders to act promptly on the recent, stinging Authorities Budget Office (ABO) investigative report into the Ginsberg land deal and other inner workings of CEDC. Following Austerlitz Supervisor Rob Lagonia’s demurral that he did not have enough information yet to form an opinion, Pulcher retorted that “You have an independent agency who... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2015 at SamPratt.com
Hillsdale supervisor Art Baer has introduced two resolutions to the County’s development committee, calling for the resignations of three Columbia Economic Development Corporation named in a recent Authorities Budget report: David Crawford, Bill Better, and Robert Sherwood. Secondarily, Baer made a motion to create a resolution for the full Board of Supervisors to appoint an independent counsel to review all CEDC loans in excess of $25K in relation to conflict of interest and their ethics policy. The first motion was tabled by a 6-0 vote for two weeks to allow the three members to attempt to explain themselves at a follow-up meeting. The second motion was approved 5-0 with one abstention by Hudson Supervisor Sarah Sterling, who is an officer of CEDC. Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Phyllis Herbert was not one to go gentle into that good night. Living out the last decade of her life in Hudson, she could be at times, well, ornery. As memory failed her, she was prone to frustration with both herself and her interlocutors. She loved conversation, dropping by my office almost every weekday for years. Though her mind was full of both probing questions and lively anecdotes, as the fight got busier and busier I often had to instruct my staff not to let her know I was working downstairs, since such conversations could prove difficult to wind up. In saying so, I am not trying to tarnish Phyllis’ memory, but to conjure up her intense sense of self and willpower. She prided herself on her independence of mind and lifestyle. To the last, she could be seen chugging up Warren Street in practical sneakers and a long jean... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Upton Sinclair famously said that “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Muckraking journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair, Jr. That aphorism would appear to apply in spades to Ken Flood, the County’s economic development czar, as well as other leaders of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC). On Tuesday, CEDC’s board met to grumble and grouse about the recent Authorities Budget Office Report which blasted their handling of the recent Ginsberg proposal in Ghent. And on Wednesday, Flood issued a press release attempting to put a smiling emoji on the bad news. Patti Matheney of GhentCANN, the group which submitted the complaint which led to the ABO’s investigation, attended Tuesday’s meeting, and has circulated a blow-by-blow email account of their discussion. She writes: “I attended the CEDC meeting this morning and frankly, I’m appalled at the cavalier attitude... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2015 at SamPratt.com
If anyone thinks that CEDC got the message, think again: This morning they added Mike Benson to their board.
1 reply
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• Conflict of interest problems identified for four board members • Land sold to Ginsberg’s for $1 used as collateral for $9.5 million loan from board member’s bank • ABO questions $22K in payments to attorney Bill Better • Open meetings law violations found; lack of disclosure and transparency termed “troubling” In a report issued this week, an investigation by the New York State Budget Authorities Office (ABO) into the operations of the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation finds that CEDC has serious problems with conflicts of interest, as well as failing to comply with open meetings law. Specifically, the report identifies “four current or former members of the CEDC board as having potential conflicts of interests concerning the property transaction between CEDC and Ginsberg Foods.” The four named parties are Ginsberg’s CEO David Ginsberg, Crawford & Associates President David Crawford, Kinderhook Bank President Robert Sherwood, and attorney Bill Better.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Fifth entry in a series about people who have passed away in the decade since The Plant was Stopped Oddly enough, John Flynn and Charlie Butterworth both died last month, within a couple of weeks of each other. I say oddly, because John preceded Charlie as the engineer for the City of Hudson. John was a Hudson native who graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in the 1940s before studying at Harvard. He later worked for General Electric in Schenectady, and on nuclear submarines. In the late 1960s, he negotiated with the remnants of the Lone Star Cement company for the City to buy its quarries on the east side of Newman Road, with the intention of them serving as a backup water supply. The sale went through, but John was later chagrined that Charlie never hooked these up to the City water system. Every time there was a water alert... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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To get a sense of Cassandra Danz’s sense of humor, one need look no farther than her comments to a judge at a public hearing on the St. Lawrence Cement proposal: “I am a garden writer and sometimes a lecturer. I was led to believe that we could come here tonight and talk about how this plant would impact our lives. Well, it's impacted my life tremendously. I have always had a dream about Hudson because when I came here all the stores were closed and everything was shut up, but now it's all coming back to life. And my dream for Hudson was to start a school of horticulture here in town in my retirement. And I always thought that was possible because we had a clean environment but now it seems that that dream may come to an end. “So what I'd like to do is also I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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A visit to Jeff Bagnall’s second-floor office above Sweeps Vacuums involved more layers of security than most government buildings. First, his wife Patti would go in back to see if he was available. Jeff would amble out in his usual fedora-and-pocketed-vest attire. After a gum-chewing grin and a firm handshake, he’d offer a visitor a coffee from his machine. (Declining was not an option.) If you were deemed trustworthy enough, next came a short trip upstairs in a small, keyed elevator that he’d installed in his 700-block shop. At last, you reached the inner sanctum: A moderate-sized office crammed with video monitors showing various views of the interior and sidewalk. My understanding was that he was also able to monitor the sound both inside and out of the shop. Before he sold his vacuum domain names—website addresses which he’d cornered in the 1990s—a computer screen kept careful track of web... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Mary Davidson, participating in the Stop the Plant polaroid project June 21st, 2001, was an uncomfortable day by any standard. The temperature around Hudson reached 90 degrees, and humidity averaged 87%—running all the way up to 100% at its peak. The afternoon was punctuated by downpours and thunderstorms, literal and figurative. This was also the day that an estimated 1,000 citizens turned out for a public hearing on the St. Lawrence Cement proposal. It began at 10 am in the gymnasium of Columbia-Greene Community College, which had no air conditioning. Administrative Law Judge Helene Goldberger finally closed the session nearly 15 hours later, at 12:40 am. Concerned—correctly—that it would be outnumbered at the hearing, the cement company set up an operation to bus folks to its headquarters on Route 9, offering them a free meal and a t-shirt in exchange for appearing at the hearing. Many did not realize that... Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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First installment in a series The phone rang one afternoon in 1999 at my makeshift Stop the Plant office—a third-floor walkup in the back, donated by realtor Steve Kingsley. On the other end was a gravelly, well-measured voice: “This is Milt Meisner. You got my wife all riled up at some meeting last weekend in Claverack. Meet me at the diner in Hudson at 8 am tomorrow.” Click. Image: Hudson Farmer’s Market Oh jeez, I thought, here we go. Fearing the worst from the tone of his phone call, I braced myself for an earful of pro-SLC slogans, which were then saturating all local media: full-page print ads, radio ads, and hokey TV spots. (One of these featured a 1950s-style housewife removing a sheet of chocolate chip cookies from the oven, saying to her kids in a sing-song voice, “I just don’t know how anyone could be against it!”) By... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Hudson’s Bob Soto assists with the annual Stop the Plant Labor Day picnic at the Federation of Polish Sportsmen This week marks the 10th anniversary of the defeat of Holcim’s massive, coal-fired cement facility, which would have sprawled across nearly 2,000 acres in Hudson and Greenport. On April 19th, 2005, the State denied the Swiss-owned company’s subsidiary, St. Lawrence Cement, one of the 18 permits and approvals it had sought since late 1998. Despite the scolding predictions of some that opponents were celebrating prematurely—such as then-Independent editor Parry Teasdale—the company abandoned the project five days later, on the 24th. Now, personally I’m not that keen for the rote commemoration of events, birthdays, reunions, and other such anniversaries. A fixation on round numbers seems arbitrary—why should 100 years mean more than, say, 99? Why care about years rather than, say, months or days? And such solemnities can take on a repetitive... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2015 at SamPratt.com
This site has learned that a conference was held last Friday by Judge Dowd to discuss District Attorney Paul Czajka’s motion to dismiss Town Justice David Dellehunt’s demand for sanctions against him. At the conference, Dowd reportedly indicated that the Appellate Division’s decision compelled him to hold a hearing on the allegations, making it difficult to rule summarily on Czajka’s motion, which was first reported here last week. As a result, sources indicate that Czajka’s attorney agreed to withdraw the motion in hopes of securing a speedy hearing—likely in late this Spring—rather than waiting until the early Summer to resolve the dispute. Presumably the D.A.’s office employees who provided sworn affidavits as part of Czajka’s filing will instead testify at that time. Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Staff affidavits finger former Assistant D.A. as alleged culprit in alterations Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka has issued a stiff response to demands for sanctions against him brought by Kinderhook Town Justice David Dellehunt. While taking responsibility for his office’s actions, Czajka motions for a summary dismissal as he strongly denies “involvement in the alteration of a Court order… or somehow knowingly fail[ing] to inform the Court of that alteration.” Czajka’s rebuttal, which includes several affidavits from past and present members of his staff, can be downloaded here as a PDF [1.5 MB]. Two of the affidavits point to then-Assistant District Attorney Dominic J. Cornelius as allegedly making the key alternations in question. Cornelius is now listed as a County Attorney. Dellehunt and Czajka (now in his second stint as D.A., after an interlude as a County judge) have been engaged in a long tussle over their competing legal... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2015 at SamPratt.com
A reader in Claverack forwarded the news that (as predicted here last week) the rough patch in the proposed Lafarge/Holcim merger has proved to be more of a speed bump than a roadblock. Holcim’s posturing has indeed led to Lafarge making some concessions and the merger is said to be moving forward again. More at this link. Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Image: Agg-net.com According to the Wall Street Journal, the proposed megamerger of cement giants Holcim and Lafarge has hit a snag, with Holcim’s board rejecting proposed terms from Lafarge. Lafarge operates a large cement plant on the Hudson River near Ravena and Coeymans, while Holcim appears to have sold its interests in its former Catskill plant, Greenport quarries, and Hudson waterfront properties to smaller construction materials businesses. (This site is not 100% confident that they have fully relinquished all future mining rights or other options on its former Hudson Valley holdings.) Though the Journal characterizes this news as “cast[ing] serious doubt” on the merger, it seems more of a speedbump than a roadblock. Each company’s stock is down today, Lafarge’s substantially. The boards of these two massive industrial polluters have major incentives to see the merger through to completion, so Holcim’s move looks more like posturing to gain concessions than... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Car hood, two hours after visiting the car wash Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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They also can’t spell south of Houston. Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2015 at SamPratt.com
I was very sorry to learn of the recent death of Kinderhook’s John Pickett. I got to know John as one of the earliest and steadiest supporters of the Stop the Plant cause. A frequent volunteer and attendee of meetings, I remember especially vividly our trip to Albany to confront various legislators in the capitol building—such as then-State Senator Steve Saland, who looked like he’d prefer to fall through a hole in the floor rather than talk with us about St. Lawrence Cement. John’s calm but firm voice had a distinct Yankee credibility. He managed to deliver his opinions plainly but politely, in a tone that was neither strident nor deferential. His gentlemanly presence, along with his integrity will be greatly missed. An obituary can be found online at this link: http://m.thedailymail.net/obituaries/article_a1f95211-126f-5ffc-8703-857f7cb1c699.html Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Image Source: ABC News The idea of a lodging tax for Hudson B&Bs and hotels is not, on its face, a terrible one. In theory, such a tax would raise funds for the City of Hudson via visitors from afar, rather than citizens locally. And (again, in theory) it would not be likely to keep people from coming to Hudson, since most tourists either expect such a charge, or else won’t realize that it’s going to be tacked onto their bill until they are here, and it is too late to back out. But if you are hoping a lodging tax will actually lower your taxes, don’t get your hopes up. Why? Simple: There’s zero reason to have an iota of confidence that any new City revenue—whether from lodging, or restaurants, or parking meters, or the discovery of a strongbox full of antique gold bullion unearthed from the muck of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Above: Installation by Laetitia Hussain The New York Times has just published a long review plus a slide show of last weekend’s whole-house series of installations by 14 artists in the former Smith family residence on State Street in Hudson. The main article can be read here and the accompanying slideshow is here. Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2015 at SamPratt.com