Friday, March 4, 2011

Last Night's Public Hearing

In preparation for this year's Community Development Block Grant application, there was a public hearing last night to consider community needs. In the past, these public hearings seemed to be empty gestures. Community members came with earnest proposals for ways to use the City's potential CDBG funding, but the decision usually seemed to have already been made. Last night, however, one got the impression that the ideas put forward had a genuine chance of being pursued. 

The hearing, conducted by John Duchessi of TGW Consulting Group (The Grant Writers), was sparsely attended. Common Council President Don Moore was there, as were Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston, First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling, Scott Baldinger, and Gossips

This computer-generated image of the
proposed senior center by Matthew
Frederick appeared on his blog,
Hudson Urbanism.
The maximum that Hudson can be awarded in CDBG funding this year as last is $400,000. Last year, the City got $400,000 to build an addition to the Youth Center at Third and Union streets, to be used as a senior center. It seems that project now needs more money in order to install an elevator, and Mayor Scalera reportedly wants to try to get more money from the CDBG program to pay for it. Duchessi indicated, however, that is was unlikely that more CDBG funding would be awarded to the project, since the original amount was supposed to be adequate. 

Four ideas for using CDBG funding were proposed last night--two by Thurston, and two by Sterling. Thurston's first suggestion was to use the money for housing rehabilitation--making the $400,000 available to low- and moderate-income homeowners in the City's historic districts. The plan would help homeowners deal with the costs of maintaining their historic homes and provide a means to preserve the economic diversity of neighborhoods. 

Thurston's second suggestion was to seek $400,000 to make improvements to the plaza surrounding Washington Hose, providing handicapped access to Promenade Hill and upgrading the playground. Thurston explained that this would support the rehabilitation and reuse of Washington Hose and it was a project that was talked about in both the Vision Plan and the LWRP. Since Promenade Hill is Hudson's most historic open space, there was some concern about making changes before a historic landscape study was done that could inform the alterations.

Sterling's first idea also had to do with Washington Hose. She suggested that an addition be built at the back of the building to provide much needed public bathrooms. Such a public facility would certainly be useful to both residents and visitors, assuming that, unlike the current public bathrooms in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, they could actually be unlocked and accessible on a regular basis.

Sterling also suggested that the City might apply to the CDBG program for help in building a parking garage at Fourth and Columbia streets, but Moore pointed out that the cost of such a garage has been estimated at between $3 and $4 million, and $400,000 represented an insignificant part of that cost.

Photograph by Peter Frank
The idea that generated the most interest and discussion was housing rehabilitation. Duchessi advised that, in order to pursue the project this year, a citizens' committee should be formed now to create a program implementation plan for the CDBG application. The committee would need to set program parameters: target neighborhood, qualifying income level, and maximum grant to individual homeowner. It was generally agreed that only owner-occupied dwellings would qualify. It was also suggested that since the Robinson Street Historic District is currently being considered as the first historic district in the Second Ward that the area proposed for that historic district might be the area targeted for the proposed housing rehabilitation program.

The CDBG application is due on May 27, and before then there will be a second public hearing to present the project that the City is proposing for CDBG funding. It is not clear what the decision-making process is that will determine which of the ideas discussed last night will the proposal the City pursues, or if it will be something else altogether.    


  1. Great report, Carole. I love Ellen's idea of using the money for rehabbing houses in the historic district. It's much more complicated than the Washington Hose / Promenade Hill ideas, which I also love, but, done right, could be fantastic.


  2. Great write up. Exciting ideas. Hudson has so much potential. I'm for something that encourages economic development, tourism wise. Thanks for this.