The Hudson Valley, Brooklynized

warren street hudson

Warren Street in Hudson.

The NYT's Peter Applebome has a interesting story today about the "Brooklynization of the Hudson Valley, the steady hipness creep with its locavore cuisine, its Williamsburgian bars, its Gyrotonic exercise, feng shui consultants and deep clay art therapy and, most of all, its recent arrivals from New York City."

Prominently featured is the Basilica Hudson, which is co-owned by Melissa Auf der Mauer (yep, the same):

The Basilica is the kind of space and scene that the artist and musician Patti Smith (no stranger to Hudson) had in mind a few months ago when she advised young artists that "New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling" and that they should find their futures someplace else, like Poughkeepsie.
"A bunch of my friends from Montreal came to visit and they said, 'You told us you moved to a small town, but you didn't tell us you moved to a magic David Lynch town. What is this place?' " Ms. Auf der Maur said. ...
Not long ago, Hudson was notorious for drugs, prostitution and post-industrial torpor. Now, Warren Street, with its antique stores, galleries and hip eateries, is a vision of the Hudson Valley reborn. And it was the scene of perhaps the last great battle between the old industrial Hudson Valley and the new one, when a coalition of interest groups came together to defeat a proposed coal-fired cement plant with a 40-story smokestack capable of producing two million tons of cement a year. Opponents said it would be an environmental disaster that would cut off access to the river and go against everything Hudson was becoming. They made an overwhelming case. But in the housing projects and poor neighborhoods just off Warren Street, strangers in the new landscape, it doesn't seem so clear.

It's easy to snark about this "trend" (we're surprised Gawker hasn't already taken a shot at it) -- but it's been going on for years, especially in places such as Beacon and Cold Spring (we worked on a story about just that during the middle of the last decade). And it seems like every time we're in Hudson now, we overhear someone talking about how they're up from NYC or moved from the City or how some place in Hudson is like some other place -- in the City.

The NYT article does a good job highlighting some of the problems related to the -ization -- specifically, "it takes more than art, farm stands and caffeine to make an economy work." Definitely worth reading -- some of it is applicable the core Capital Region, too.

[via @DanielleSanzone]

Earlier on AOA:
+ 12 hours in Columbia County
+ Etsy to Hudson
+ Albany-NYC: strong potential for high-speed rail? (note Tim's comment)


This Times piece reflects less upon any actual influx of "hipsters" to our region, and more the tendency of downstate writers to view our area through the lens of NYC service journalism. It's a shorthand for "explaining" the Hudson Valley to City readers.

And by the way: That decision to prevent the building of that Hudson cement plant? It was written by an African-American (then-Secretary of State Randy Daniels).

Had the author of that Times piece bothered to review any of his own paper's many reports and editorials about that seven-year fight, he would have learned that the project would not have created jobs for local people. Why? Because the Swiss-owned company was planning to transfer all but one of the workers in from another plant which they would close:

NYT edtiorial, 10/7/22:

"This plant is wildly out of scale for its setting, and important questions about the potential effect of its emissions and its daily operations have not been answered. Supporters argue that the plant will create jobs, but even St. Lawrence Cement has estimated that when its old Catskill plant closes, the net increase in jobs will be just one. The plant would also have a negative effect on an area that has been revitalized by its scenic, cultural and historic resources. The economic future of the Hudson River depends on them, not on cement."

NYT editorial, 11/18/2003:

"Certain basic facts about the proposed plant and its majority shareholder, Holcim, have not changed, and as a result, the opposition to it only grows as time passes. The new plant would be an enormous eyesore -- an industrial city -- in a region increasingly dependent on cultural tourism and in a county that is prospering compared with counties where cement plants already exist. The St. Lawrence cement plant would unleash a plume of pollutants endangering everyone downwind, including residents of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. And it would yield, by St. Lawrence Cement's own assessment, only one new job because its Catskill plant would close. To those basic facts, we would also add the fact that Holcim, a Swiss company, has been repeatedly fined for safety and environmental violations at its North American plants."

In the end, over 14,000 public comments were submitted about the project, in a county of 65,000 people. 87% of those comments were opposed. Not a single local public official supported it by the end, as it had become clear from credible research that the only effects would be to subject local kids to asthma, adults to cancer, and the elderly to premature heart attacks. All to benefit some Swiss billionaires.

Hipsters taking food out of the mouths of the disenfranchised makes for a better story, though, and guarantees a lot more buzz.

Went to see my brother and his wife play some tunes at 7th Street Park a couple weekends ago (The proprietor of John Doe Books and Records is trying to make this a regular thing with rotating artists).

What I saw going on on Warren Street and its environs is very exciting - but I think the NY Times reporter does bring up a good point - the well-heeled were all parked on Warren Street, but 7th Street Park and beyond still seemed to be no-man's land - it will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out. Overall, all this change is positive I believe - but there does seem to some tension between the people who have been there forever and those who haven't. Par for the course.

Luckily for us (for now) since Holcim shut their doors, production as been up at our plant has been up. This allows us to shore away some OT pay so when our doors eventually shut we can still afford our property taxes while we're peddling pancakes and antiques to the weekending hipster set.

It's a tough life being a cement plant worker's girlfriend, but somebody's gotta do it.

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