HUDSON—People voiced thoughts about specific streets in Hudson on walking tours July 29 as part of a Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) project known as Hudson Connects. The goal is to create a “streetscape improvement” plan.
The tours consisted of walking on Hudson sidewalks between 2nd Street and the River, stopping at several corners to fill out a questionnaire about the segment just covered. The questionnaire asked about sidewalks, curbs, pedestrian friendliness, trees, landscaping, accessibility and perceived safety. Representatives of Arterial and Street Plans, firms that the city has engaged for Hudson Connects, led the walks.
The City of Hudson got $10 million from the State for the entire DRI and divided it into several projects, of which Hudson Connects is one. First the leaders had the participants divide into two “tour” groups: one for each side of the city. Afterwards, the groups came together for a workshop in Hudson Hall.
Many tour participants were already familiar with the areas covered, and their responses reflect impressions they have developed over time, as well as what they saw on the walk-throughs.
The mostly-north-side tour started with Warren Street from Front to Second Street. “This is the part of Warren that is beautiful with all the trees!” somebody said. Someone else remarked that the sidewalk pavement on one side is not safe.
The tour then proceeded north of Warren. Noteworthy was the contrast between participants’ comments about two adjacent streets: State and Columbia. Both streets have one side consisting of the same two income-restricted apartment complexes: Schuyler Court and Bliss. Those complexes stand on the land between the two streets. But the comments treated Columbia Street more positively than State Street.
State Street’s other side consists of a playground, parking lot, and sports courts associated with Bliss and—behind a guardrail—a wooded area. Columbia Street’s south side consists of a row of townhouses and an apartment building for senior citizens—Providence Hall.
Comments about the State Street portion included:
• “No sense of city. Feels as if you’re falling off the edge.”
• “No shade” (despite the saplings in front of Bliss Tower).
• “It doesn’t feel welcome,” said Michael Chameides, who is both aide to Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson and county Supervisor of Hudson’s 3rd Ward. “It seems like cars can drive faster here” than elsewhere in the city.
• Mike Lydon, of Street Plans, asked, “What does the guard rail make you think of?”
“Highway,” several people responded.
• One person included chain link fences as psychologically-negative features.
Reactions to Second Street, from Warren to just beyond State—a short stretch that contains a great mix of land uses—were similar: “Desolate and car-centric with empty lots,” was one observation.
There is even “more of an abandoned feeling” north of State Street now, said Mr. Chameides, although he said that “there is interest in developing” that area, which is in the DRI but was not on the July 29 tour. It includes industrial Dock Street.
‘Would anyone want to see this turned into something else?’
But on Columbia Street, a woman said, “This block feels more comfortable. There are children, there are senior citizens.” People spoke positively about its “high population density” and “intergenerational feeling.”
On the other hand, a woman asked, “How’s the noise with trucks?”
“It’s noisy at night,” answered Reverend Edward Cross.
People pointed out that Columbia Street is a truck route “designed for trucks.”
“Trucks add a complexity,” Mr. Lydon said. He also called the sidewalks in that portion of Columbia Street narrow. A man in the group said, “The sidewalks are inconsistent. I walk in the street.”
On Front Street from from State to Warren, said one person said, “This is a heavily trafficked area. Both cars and pedestrians. But there are no ramp except on Warren Street.”
On the northeast corner of Front and Warren, where a space with benches has replaced a building, Mr. Lydon called, “Would anyone want to see this turned into something else?”
Someone said “Yes,” without specifying what.
“But people hang out here!” said a woman.
The walking tour concluded with First Street, which has only two blocks: one north of Warren to Columbia, and one south of Warren to Union. It really has “two neighborhoods,” said Reverend Cross.
Reactions included “This street is unusual,” and, “No buildings face it. Just the sides.
“Gorgeous!” reacted Mr. Lydon. Sides of houses are interesting in their own way.
As the group stood on the corner of First and Union, the only pause point south of Warren, comments included: “It’s very quiet,” and “I love the privacy.”
“This used to be a sort of affordable area, about 5 years ago. Now it’s all Airb&b.” A participant estimated that only every fifth house has a full-time resident.
Somebody said an overgrown stretch of brick sidewalk on First Street between Cherry Alley and Union Street is “potentially beautiful.”
A man said, “I like how informal the alleys are.”
“How do people use alleys?” asked Mr. Lydon.
Rev. Cross offered a two part answer: 1. “People put junk in them” and, 2. people “who don’t want to be seen” travel down them.
A woman said she uses them for driving around and as a way to go out “if you don’t want to stop and talk with people.”
Regarding the north and south sides of Warren Street, somebody said, “It’s hard to knit two sides together when they’re divided by race and class.”
After the walk, Reverend Cross said, “People have to participate more if it’s about their neighborhood.”
The next day, Mr. Chameides summarized the Hudson Hall workshop, saying that there is interest in the highly-populated area around State and Columbia; and that there is a need to “make sure that people impacted by a project are involved.”
Plans call for more community meetings about DRI projects in the coming months.