One of the “Crosswalk Four” arrested last week for allegedly spray-painting their own unsanctioned crosswalks in Hudson said the city’s system was “busted” for not addressing residents’ and politicians’ concerns about the intersection.
Peter Spear, Hudson Fourth Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann, Claudia Bruce, and Rev. Ed Cross, a former Hudson Ward Supervisor, were arrested Oct. 18 and each charged with Making Graffiti, a misdemeanor, for allegedly painting the crosswalks Sept. 24, according to Hudson Police Chief Ed Moore.
Hudson Department of Public Works Commissioner Rob Perry, who oversees painting new crosswalks in the city, shot back at the Crosswalk Four, calling their crosswalks “pathetic” and saying it put pedestrians in danger.
The arrest stems from a complaint from an “anonymous male,” who phoned Hudson Police and told them people were marking the street at the intersection, said Moore, who added posts on social media helped them identify the alleged painters.
Spear said Saturday there were attempts to get the crosswalks installed through regular channels.
An advocate for pedestrian safety, Spear has been studying the issue in Hudson, and pushed for Hudson’s Common Council to adopt a “Complete Streets” model for the city. Spear authored a Common Council resolution for Hudson to adopt the pedestrian-friendly model with the help of Alderman Dominick Merante, but it has yet to be voted on.
Spear was frustrated by a Sept. 19 meeting of the Common Council’s DPW Committee where the crosswalks were discussed, he said.
Alderwoman Eileen Halloran, the chair of the DPW Committee, said the crosswalks were brought up the month before at the DPW Committee meeting, when Rev. Ed Cross, one of the “Crosswalk Four,” asked Perry about it.
Perry acknowledged the request and said line painting was underway in the city, Halloran said.
At September’s DPW Committee meeting, Halloran brought up the crosswalks, relaying a request by Ed Cross, who was not at the meeting, to get a timeline for the crosswalk’s painting.
Perry did not give a timeline, Halloran said.
Perry’s responses to Halloran and Alderman Rich Volo, who also asked Perry about the crosswalk, was “the trigger,” Spear said.
“[That] made me think, this channel is broken, the system is busted, because you’ve got two elected officials…asking multiple questions on behalf of a named resident, Ed Cross, IDing a specific problem, asking for a solution, or even an answer, and the DPW Commissioner was unable or unwilling to give any clarity or commit to anything,” he said.
“It seemed to me that [Perry] does not feel accountable to elected officials, so he did not feel like he owed them an answer,” he added.
Though Halloran said she understood the mutability of the DPW’s schedule because of weather and other unforeseen events, she called Perry’s response “frustrating.”
“I understand not giving a schedule, but I would’ve appreciated a response that said, ‘we’ll do everything we can so these get done by the time the snow falls,’ or something like that,” she said.
The DPW has been slowly adding crosswalks since he began his position 10 years ago, Perry said, and many people did not understand crosswalks cost $1500 each, or that this was merely one of many things his department must do.
The DPW oversees Hudson’s sewers, cemeteries, municipal buildings, and its 25 miles of roads, Perry said, and much of what they do can’t be planned for, such repairs to Columbia Street after sinkholes opened up along the street after months of persistent rain.
“This isn’t a new discussion at all it’s been in-process,” he said of the crosswalks. “The fact that people conveniently forget that things have been upgraded over years to try to justify their own illegal behavior — shame on them.”
The work of the “Crosswalk Four” — which has since been painted over — actually made the intersection more dangerous, Perry said.
“They put crap down, the crosswalks they made were garbage, they were absolutely pathetic…these things are supposed to be six inches wide…so cars can see them,” Perry said.
A pedestrian would be able to see the crosswalk and might be hit by a motorist who could not, Perry said.
“They created a more dangerous situation then existed without the crosswalk,” he said.
There is no formal process for getting crosswalks painted, Perry said.
“People can make a request, and if we have the manpower, and if we have the materials, and if the weather [is good] and if there’s a way we can do it safely, then we’ll take that into consideration,” he said.
Spear, Cross, Mussmann and Bruce all face up to a year in jail for the charge. However, misdemeanors rarely lead to this severe a punishment. The last person arrested in Hudson for graffiti was sentenced to community service, according to Chief Moore.
Spear was presented with an appearance ticket to appear in court Nov. 8, while Cross, Mussmann and Bruce were served the tickets through their attorney, according to Moore.
Mussmann declined comment when contacted for the article. Cross and Bruce could not be reached.
Moore said he knew of Spear’s work on traffic and pedestrian safety.
“We know that the intentions of these folks [were] proper…in a way, we understand,” he said. “Unfortunately, the law requires that we cite people when they do this.”
Moore questioned the efficacy of crosswalks in general, saying people in Hudson and elsewhere often do not use them, and promoting more compliance with traffic and pedestrian laws was key.
Hudson police issued more than double the amount of traffic tickets this year than last, even with two months left to go, Moore said, since the department was able to contribute more manpower to traffic safety than when the city was dealing with a rash of shootings in 2017.
The department was hoping to increase traffic safety details in the future, he added.
Interestingly enough, the Crosswalk Four’s creation expedited the painting of the legal crosswalks, according to Perry.
“We were prepared to do it, we just didn’t know when we’d [be able],” Perry said. “Once they created this dangerous situation, yeah, of course it got moved up as a priority.”