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Taghkanic, NY
Hudson Valley troublemaker.
Interests: media, the environment, civic affairs, small-town life, culture and government.
Recent Activity
A major sale in Hudson was just announced via the press release below. The asking price by seller David Crawford, who is understood to have owned the building via a corporation, had been $2 million; but the purchase price is not known. Colin Stair Announces Purchase of 551 Warren Street It is with great pleasure that I share the news that I have recently purchased the building at 551 Warren Street adjacent to my business, Stair Galleries. I am very excited to be part of the continuing growth and evolution of Hudson, where I have been part of the business community for over twenty-five years. The strong friendships and business relationships I have formed in Hudson have helped Stair Galleries to flourish. My family put down roots in this community many years ago and we have enjoyed raising our children in this close-knit, creative and diverse place that we call... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at
If Donald Trump had a weekend house in Columbia County, local Republicans would call him a “citiot,” instead of “our frontrunner.” Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at
A new installation of sculpture and paintings by Laetitia Hussain opens Saturday, August 22nd from 6-8 pm in the “barn” at John Davis Gallery. The gallery is located between 3rd and 4th streets at 362-1/2 Warren Street, and the installation will remain on view until September 20th. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at
The City of Hudson has no further need for its Industrial Development Agency, according to a review and recommendations by New York State’s Authorities Budget Office (the “ABO”). Though the report was issued three weeks ago, news of the State’s conclusion has been slow to hit the local papers, creating an impression that local officials may not be eager for word to get out. The report can be downloaded as a PDF file via this link. Dated July 14th, 2015, the ABO report concludes that “there is no demonstrable need for the IDA to continue in existence. The potential economic development functions provided by the IDA are being accomplished by other entities within the City of Hudson and any financial assistance benefits in the form of tax exemptions can be provided by the Columbia County IDA.” The ABO’s main reasoning for this conclusion appears below: “Since the IDA has only... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2015 at
Posted Aug 4, 2015 at
NOON UPDATE: According to GhentCANN’s Patti Matheney, Crawford did indeed resign this morning. (GOP chair Greg Fingar presented him with a bottle of gin as a farewell gift.) Retired realtor Mary Bartolotta, who has been outspoken about her distaste for the State investigation which prompted Crawford’s resignation, will serve as President for the next month as CEDC decides on next steps. Consultant Mike Tucker’s $6,000-per-month contract as temporary director was approved, taking on the role previously filled by Ken Flood, who remains in his County Planning/Development post for now. According to a well-placed source, CEDC President David Crawford intends to resign at this morning’s meeting of the agency’s embattled board. David Crawford with fellow CEDC Board member and GOP chair Greg Fingar (source: Crawford & Associates blog) Crawford’s failure to disclose an obvious conflict of interest, while participation in CEDC decisions regarding his client, Ginsberg’s Foods, were highlighted in the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2015 at
The long-vacant commercial property at the corner of 23 and 9H (once an outpost of the Video Cave, way back when people used dollar bills to borrow tapes of movies), has been under construction lately—fueling much speculation about what was coming next. At one point, a complex of shops was going to be built there, and then later plans were floated for a pizza place. With the Claverack Market still empty, people who pass through this intersection frequently have hoped for something fun, different, or at least useful. Now the word from someone working at the site this week is that it will be a Subway. (Guess it could be worse... Could be another gas station. Or a Long John Silver’s.) Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2015 at
Despite having no signed contract with the Columbia Economic Development Council (CEDC) for the past 18 months, Columbia County has until very recently been sending CEDC some $115,000 every quarter. Board of Supervisors chair Patrick Grattan The news raises doubts about whether County officials neglected to exercise due diligence, basic oversight, and fiscal responsibility for funding totaling $437,000-$460,000 per year. Funding allocations were approved each year by the Supervisors, but apparently contracts dictating the terms of their largesse stopped being signed. The County last had a contract with CEDC in 2013, according to documents obtained by this site, which can be downloaded [ HERE ] and [ HERE ]. In an email to colleagues this week, Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin characterized the situation as “sloppy management,” and that “common sense says you don't pay without a contract.” While waiting to find out whether the County “broke any rules, regs or... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2015 at
Stockport lawyer-turned-baker Louise Roback—who has been attending many of recent CEDC and County EDC meetings—has sent the following letter to her Town supervisor and others in County Government, reacting to the news that development czar Ken Flood has been pushed out of one of his three positions. DEAR SUPERVISOR MURRELL AND SUPERVISOR MEMBERS OF THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE: I wish to share my comments on the “reorganization” of the CEDC announced as a result of its Board retreat yesterday. That’s pretty terrible if the extent of the “reorganization” is to push Ken Flood out and not: Remove the conflicted board members, hire new counsel who knows what conflicts of interest are and so instructs the board members, impose term limits on board members, and open up the organization—and its board of directors membership—to public oversight and monitoring, including pledging to fully cooperate with the review of loans to be undertaken... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2015 at
BOS Chairman Pat Grattan (image adapted from: The public may want to bring some extra bags of popcorn to the County Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting on Wednesday at 7:30—where the ethics, transparency and other management issues dogging the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) are likely to come up. Last month, the County’s separate economic development committee voted 5-0 to forward a resolution proposed by Hillsdale Supervisor Art Baer to the full Board, calling for an independent investigation into possible conflicts of interest during CEDC’s past five years of loans and grantmaking. Prompted by a State report on conflicts of interest related to the Ginsberg’s Food proposal, as well as violations of open government laws, the investigation (if approved) would focus on only grants of $25,000 or more. Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2015 at
In five days, over 270 signatures have been gathered on an online petition calling for the Ghent planning board to appeal a judge’s ruling, which forces the Town’s Planning Board to issue permit to Ginsberg’s Foods. The petition, which also calls for reforms of the County’s economic development agencies, can be read (and if so moved, signed) at this link. The Board is slated to meet and discuss its options tonight at 7 pm at Ghent Town Hall. UPDATE: Attorney Louise Roback has obtained and scanned the four decisions by Judge Koweek, which can be downloaded at the following links: ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2015 at
According to a committeeman, last night brought two major developments for the County Democratic Party. Longtime chair Cyndy Hall has reportedly stepped down her position as chair due to health considerations. She will for the interim be replaced by Kinderhook committeeman (and former Town Board member) Peter Bujanow. Meanwhile, the Committee considered two candidates to endorse for County District Attorney: Gene Keeler, who held the post in the 1980s, and attorney Kenneth Golden, a Valatie resident and former Assistant D.A. under Beth Cozzolino. The Democrats have apparently given their nod to Golden, who more recently worked for the New York State Department of Labor. Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2015 at
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 May 29, 2015 at
John Reilly (IMAGE: Gallatin Democrats) Gallatin Supervisor John Reilly seems to want to 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 May 27, 2015 at
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 May 26, 2015 at
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 May 23, 2015 at
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
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
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
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
If anyone thinks that CEDC got the message, think again: This morning they added Mike Benson to their board.
1 reply
• 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
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
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
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