An article in today's Register-Star reports that a project to gather local input about village development was launched in Philmont this past weekend. The project asks participants to prioritize seven themes, the initial letters of which spell the acronym DEVELOP: Distance of commute, Engaging activities, Village resources, Economic opportunities, Limit inconveniences, Overall beauty, Prosperity. One of the participants quoted in the article is none other than Phil Gellert of Northern Empire Realty, the controversial owner of a number of buildings offering low-income housing in Hudson. Gossips inventoried those properties back in November 2010, in a post called "Gellert Gallery."
According to the article, Gellert identified "economic opportunity, limiting inconveniences, and prosperity" as the themes he considered most important for the village of Philmont. Somehow this seems a bit ironic. It is impossible to calculate the negative impact that Gellert's real estate holdings and his record as a landlord have had on these themes in Hudson over the past few decades. One of Gellert's buildings in particular seems, in some people's minds, to be a reason to support the proposed Civic Hudson project.
Supervisor Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward) was quoted in the Register-Star a few weeks ago, lamenting the deplorable living conditions in some Hudson buildings and speaking of the proposed Civic Hudson project as the solution to the problem: "There is housing in this city where people have dirt floors, where they don't have furnaces, where walls have holes in them, unsuitable conditions. . . . We want to move those people out of those homes and get them into something like this."
It seems fairly clear that one of the buildings Hughes had in mind was this one at 718-720 Union Street, owned by Phil Gellert.
Last July, a tenant was evicted from this building allegedly for speaking out about the living conditions. The Register-Star coverage of the eviction revealed that Gellert was collecting $750 a month for the apartment in question--the lion's share of which was paid by a Section 8 subsidy.
That all Hudson residents should live in decent conditions is not debatable, but is forfeiting the City's civic function and pride and partnering with the Lantern Organization to built yet more low-income housing the only way to ensure that? Surely, the City of Hudson, with the power to enforce its building code, and Columbia Opportunities, which administers the Section 8 program, could ensure that all apartments offered for rent in Hudson, particularly those subsidized by the Section 8 program, be decent and habitable. Besides, is there any reason to believe that if there are thirty-three new studio apartments in Hudson that thirty-three substandard apartments will miraculously disappear? More likely there will just be thirty-three more unfortunates in Hudson desperate enough to live in the substandard apartments.