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John Rosenthal

June 9, 2021


Hudson, NY


Recorded by

Carolyn Fraser

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John Rosenthal is a two-time alderman in Hudson’s 4th ward, a musician, writer and filmmaker. As a child, he wanted to be an archaeologist or an astronaut when he grew up. He believes his child self would be somewhat disappointed by his adult occupations, but that a spirit of intense curiosity and a commitment to self-directed learning has informed his life path from childhood. Rosenthal has lived in Hudson for just over a decade. He originally came to Hudson to work with his filmmaking partner Tony Stone, one of the founders of Basilica Hudson, a non-profit arts space housed in a former 19th century factory. Rosenthal moved to Hudson after a period of spending time between Brooklyn and Hudson. Rosenthal toured extensively with his hard rock band [The Giraffes?], and later, as a musician-for-hire. Rosenthal’s family of origin is deeply involved in New England politics; he describes it as the “family business”. He originally ran for public office in Hudson somewhat reluctantly, but is committed to contributing his time and effort where needed. He describes himself as a policy nerd and really enjoys the research work entailed in his public service role. He is clear that all political achievements are made by teams, not individuals. In this way, he draws connection between his political life and the collaborative nature of his creative endeavours. An important focus of his work is affordable housing. An achievement he identifies is the work he contributed toward the regulation of short-term housing rentals in Hudson. He discusses his efforts to demand transparency from the Galvan Foundation, a housing developer who he believes is operating with an unsustainable monopoly in Hudson. Rosenthal’s own rent has increased 90% in the past two years. He discusses the possibility that in ten years, he may not be able to afford to live in or near Hudson. Rosenthal has served two terms as an alderman and will not run again when his term ends in 2021. He does not rule out ever running for public office again however, and will serve if he is needed. He believes that Hudson would be well-served by complete reform of the city charter to move from the structure established in the 1930s when the city population was twice its current size (approx. 6200) to a structure more responsive to contemporary conditions. He believes there might be resistance to this by parties invested in maintaining the power inherent in political roles. Rosenthal talks about the whale iconography that appears on all street signs in Hudson, harking back to a very brief period in Hudson’s history when whaling was a local industry. He finds it ironic that Hudson is so invested in this form of nostalgia, when historically the cement industry is a much more important contributor to the history and development of the city. He is fearful that Hudson may end up as a Colonial Williamsburg-type, ye olde facsimile of a city, sold to tourists like a souvenir snow globe.This interview will be of interest to those wanting to know more about the experiences of a public official in Hudson in the late 2010s/early 2020s and to those interested in the life experiences of a transplanted creative from Brooklyn, NY.

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Interviewer Bio:
Carolyn Fraser

Carolyn Fraser is a writer and curator living in Melbourne, Australia on the unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. She is currently writing a book about collecting practices and the preservation of objects. She works as an exhibition curator at the State Library Victoria, the world’s fourth most popular library (according to Her specialism is social history, with particular focus on craft practices, fads, crazes and enthusiasms, and experiments in creativity and consciousness. She is interested in the possibilities of oral history to preserve the ephemeral and quotidian, and how recorded voices can speak across time and place.

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This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.

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