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The best and worst

June 28, 2018 12:15 am

Hudson is riding a high-speed emotional rollercoaster and the twists and turns keep on coming.

On June 17, Mohammed H. Morshed, 27, of Hudson was charged with the murder of Inderly In’Stinfil, 19, of Philmont in a Fairview Avenue home. Five days later, on June 22, the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and Columbia-Greene Media presented the 2018 Best of Columbia awards, giving the city and the rest of the county a reason to feel good about themselves. But the good vibe didn’t last long. On Tuesday, four antique dealers on Warren Street or in its vicinity were charged by state Department of Environmental Conservation authorities with illegally selling products, including ivory, made from endangered or threatened species.

Let’s make clear, here and now, that all four establishments are innocent until proven guilty.

Having said that, these businesses have been trusted for their integrity over many years, but allegations of trading illegally in elephant ivory and other animal-derived products will be damaging in an animal-rights-driven city like Hudson. Did the four dealers knowingly buy and sell this contraband? Or did they simply treat them as they would any other artifact to dust off and put on a shelf? Were they working in collusion or did the traders go from one to another to peddle their illegal wares? Were they played? Or, more upsetting, were they willing partners in the deals?

The answers to these questions may come out in court, if the case comes to that. On the other hand, the public may never know what motivated these dealers or how much they knew about the objects they were acquiring.

Modern Hudson was built, in a strange way, on the foundation of the past. Antique shops have flourished on Warren Street (and its avenues) for decades. Naysayers dismissed it as a passing fad even as the dealers flowed into the city to open their shops and, as a by-product, bring a vibrant arts community to Hudson with them. It was a canny move, and it paid off.

Yet somehow, today, these same antique dealers must feel betrayed and embarrassed by the allegations against their comrades. The type of smuggling that brings elephant ivory to the streets of Hudson is big business, according to the environmental watchdog Global Witness. The solution is to take the profit out of poaching and resource smuggling, but that requires worldwide vigilance and cooperation from the thickest African jungle to the smallest markets, including Warren Street.

Hudson 4th Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann recently commented that the sight of armed-to-the-teeth SWAT teams running through city streets will be enough to stop people from moving to Hudson. Of course, she makes an excellent point. But what will happen if people stop coming to Hudson to do business because of an illegal ivory-dealing scandal?

What happened on Warren Street on Tuesday gave the city a black eye it certainly didn’t need in the wake of last year’s summer of gun violence and last Sunday’s fatal shooting. The antique community’s credibility has been shredded and will take time to repair. Columbia County Chamber of Commerce President Jeffrey Hunt said last Friday the Best of Columbia showcases the finest of what the county has to offer. The charges stemming from illegal ivory sales cast a harsh light on the worst.