Gossips hasn't reported on the fate of 900 Columbia Street since October 2011 when word was received that the State Historic Preservation Office had "closed the file" on this early 19th-century Hudson house. There are rumors that the Mental Health Association is now ready to publish its RFP for the construction of the new building and the demolition of the historic building. It has been suggested that, since Jeff Rovitz of MHA offered to give the historic building to anyone willing to move it off the site, Eric Galloway should accept the challenge and move the house to the vacant lots he owns in the 200 block of Union Street where it can be in the company of other buildings of the same era.
A month or so ago, city treasurer Eileen Halloran joined the effort to save 900 Columbia Street, but for her, saving the historic building is secondary to protecting the houses along Green Street from further problems caused by water seepage and run off. Halloran was at the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday night to present her concerns about the impact of the construction and demolition at 900 Columbia Street. Halloran reported, from her own observation and conversations with Green Street residents, the current problems: some sections of sidewalk are "nearly impassable," railroad ties in retaining walls are being pushed out, many properties have visible soil erosion and exposed tree roots, property owners have trenched around their houses or constructed stone or block barriers to divert water, one property owner runs sump pumps to remove water from the basement, the foundation of one of the houses is being compromised because of ground water problems.
In her statement to the Public Works Committee, which she also submitted in writing to the chair of the Legal Committee, Halloran made the point that the property owners on Green Street were good neighbors to the Mental Health Association and its residents: "Unlike other neighborhoods where MHA has met with resistance, this neighborhood is not looking to chase MHA away. Rather, they are asking MHA leadership to be a good neighbor to them."
Halloran wanted to know "where the accountability lies for a thorough environmental review [of the project] . . . to ensure compliance with the storm water requirements of the Clean Water Act" and concluded by saying: "We owe it to the people on Green Street to understand the sources of the problems and make sure MHA activity doesn't make it worse."
Unfortunately, Halloran's presentation seemed to be received with lack of sympathy from some and a hint of skepticism from others. City attorney Cheryl Roberts acknowledged that the project was exempt from site plan review by the Planning Commission, which is where a study of its impact on the hydrology would take place, but noted that it was "subject to code." Mayor William Hallenbeck asked from the audience if the people Halloran had talked with on Green Street were her friends. Halloran explained that she simply approached people she saw working in their yards. Former mayor Rick Scalera made the comment--in a voice audible to all sitting near him--that "apparently the campaign is on early." After the committee meeting adjourned, Scalera admonished Halloran, saying that her issues appropriately should be addressed to "these three people," indicating himself (Fifth Ward supervisor) and the two Fifth Ward aldermen, Cappy Pierro and "Doc" Donahue.