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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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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 yesterday 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 3 days ago 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 4 days ago 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 5 days ago 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 6 days ago 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
Over at the Millbrook Times, Peter Krulewich (coincidentally, my father’s best friend from grade school) remembers his brother-in-law, CBS newsman Sandy Socolow. Peter recalls: [Sandy] was in the Millbrook Diner in 1963 when he saw people running down the street. President Kennedy had been shot. There were no open phone lines to CBS so Sandy got in a car and went immediately to CBS headquarters in New York where he was with Walter Cronkite covering the story. For some years, Sandy had a house in the 100 block of Warren Street, in the building now occupied by The Gilded Owl. A couple of times, he asked me to buy copies of local newspapers if he was not in town; turned out the reason was that he would drive them up every week to his friend Andy Rooney in Rensselaerville. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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If you’ve ever wanted a large old map of Columbia County, but didn’t want to shell out $300+ to buy one at auction, you’re in luck. The Library of Congress has a high-resolution scan of the 1858 Beers map which can be downloaded for free at this link. To download the largest version, use the bottom-most file link on the left hand side. (This could in theory be printed as large as 20 feet square at 72 dpi, but would look better at about 40 inches square and 300 dpi.) If you just want to inspect the map without downloading, the site also has a handy viewer that lets you zoom in to a specific part of the county. Two of the more intriguing uses of these maps is either to identify who owned a historical house 160 years ago, or to find the sites of houses which have since... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Dear Casual Football Fans and Less-Casual Patriots Haters: The Super Bowl is a week from Sunday, and millions of people who have not watched a single regular-season game will tune in to see the Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots. In the long two-week runup to kickoff, scores of reporters who normally don’t follow football also have been writing and talking about a supposed scandal involving the one-point favorites, the Patriots—particularly about their coach, Bill Belichick. (It does not help that most of the influential sports media is based in the territory of the Patriots’ most bitter rivals, the New York Jets and Giants.) So far, the DeflateGate “investigation” has looked a lot like a trial in the court of public opinion, using incomplete and thirdhand evidence, by a jury of one’s enemies. The NFL itself has come to no conclusions, despite interviewing over 40 Patriots staffers, and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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ABOVE: Red area shows the lands previously owned by SLC/Holcim, recently purchased by Colarusso for $8.75M. The 1,800 acres is 50% larger than the entire City of Hudson. Colarusso Ventures LLC paid $8,750,000 to acquire 20 parcels of land from Holcim (US), according to new records recently posted by the County. The parcel sales—3 in Hudson, 17 in Greenport—were concluded on October 27th, 2014, but were not reflected in County records as of late December. No RP-5217 sales records were on file with the Real Property Department at that time. And documents then in the Clerk’s office merely showed Colarusso acquiring easements and title to a railroad overpass. But sometime between December 24th and today, records of an actual sale have made it into the County’s system. The price of $8.75 million is far less than most would have predicted. Proponents of the deeply flawed Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP)... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2015 at SamPratt.com
The D.C. insider publication Roll Call today reports on a head-scratching rumor that Rep. Chris Gibson will “retire” (step down) today, with the likely intent of running for Statewide office. From the report: “Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., will announce his retirement Tuesday, according to two GOP sources. [...] Last year, Gibson annihilated venture capitalist Sean Eldridge, the Democratic nominee with deep pockets, by nearly 30 points. Initially, Democrats were optimistic about defeating Gibson in the lush and rolling Hudson Valley-based district north of New York City. But Eldridge’s candidacy quickly flamed out, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee never reserved airtime in the 19th District to support his campaign.” Link: http://atr.rollcall.com/house-races-2016-chris-gibson-retirement/ Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at SamPratt.com
The Poughkeepsie Journal says that Rep. Chris Gibson will serve out his term, but not run for a fourth time. Gibson is quoted as saying this was his plan all along, to “self-term-limit.” Previously, the D.C. insider publication Roll Cal reported that Gibson would “retire” (step down) today, with the likely intent of running for Statewide office. However, the Kingston Daily Freeman writes that Gibson will serve out his term, and will just announce that he will not seek another term. From the Roll Call report: “Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., will announce his retirement Tuesday, according to two GOP sources. [...] Last year, Gibson annihilated venture capitalist Sean Eldridge, the Democratic nominee with deep pockets, by nearly 30 points. Initially, Democrats were optimistic about defeating Gibson in the lush and rolling Hudson Valley-based district north of New York City. But Eldridge’s candidacy quickly flamed out, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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Taghkanic resident Scott Stackpole took the three photographs above of a milk truck which “overturned on the icy hill in front of our house on Saturday evening.” Stackpole writes that there was “a lot of spilled milk, but no injuries (or crying).” While the tractor itself “remained upright” and the driver was apparently uninjured, “another vehicle came along and collided with the truck before traffic could be stopped on the icy hill.” Responders included the Stalker wrecking crew from Hillsdale, Taghkanic Volunteer Fire Department, the Columbia Co. Sheriff's Office, New York State Police, New York State Department of Enviromental Conservation, the Greenport ambulance squad, and Columbia County Highway Department, which cleared ice from the road for the others. Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2015 at SamPratt.com
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A drive on Newman Road this morning revealed several dozen new No Trespassing signs on both sides of the road, covering property owned since the 1970s by St. Lawrence Cement and its parent company, Holcim. The new signs bear the logo of longtime Greenport gravel mining company A. Colarusso & Sons. Similar signs are on both sides the Route 9G portions of the 1,800-acre property, and on the gates of the dock area. Multiple transactions between Holcim (and O&G Industries, which had deals with Holcim) are on file as of late October with the County Clerk’s office. A quick initial reading indicates that Holcim sold Colarusso a $1 quitclaim deed to the old conveyor structure over the railroad tracks between South Bay and the Waterfront dock area. It appears Colarusso has meanwhile obtained O&G’s 20-year quarrying lease with Holcim, and “permanent” easements on the rest. Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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More than one confidential source is whispering that having been denied necessary permits by the Ghent Planning Board, Ginsberg’s Foods is searching for a new location in Columbia County—and has been focusing on the Town of Greenport. The company still might go through the motions of a court challenge to the recent Ghent Planning Board denial on the off-chance they still can’t find another location in another 12-18 months. That’s the likely timeframe for obtaining a judicical ruling. But such a process is lengthly, costly, and by no means guaranteed to provide the company’s preferred outcome. Courts tend to give deference to agency rulings, and at best a judge might send the matter back for further review at the Town level... Meaning another 6-8 months after that, before having a marginal chance of maybe getting a more favorable decision. Even so, such a “victory” would likely result in a much... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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On this date 34 years ago, I was in the upstairs bathtub of a house on Yale Hill Road in Stockbridge. I had just pulled the rubber drain stopper when from the hallway my mother yelled, “John Lennon's been murdered!” I sat in the tub watching all the water spool down the drain, and began to understand metaphor. Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at SamPratt.com
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Yours Truly has an article in the new issue of Upstate House about modern wood stoves. The link is here. Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2014 at SamPratt.com