Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Senior Center Marches On

The proposed senior center was the subject of consideration at two meetings this week. On Tuesday night, the Common Council reviewed the completed LEAF (Long Environmental Assessment Form) for the senior center project--a 21-page document with as many more pages of appendices and attachments--and unanimously made a Negative Declaration: The project would have no significant adverse environmental impacts. Last night, Mike Sullivan of Crawford & Associates presented the project's application for area variances to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Area variances are required because of setbacks and lot coverage.  

Surprisingly, at last night's meeting, after so much has been written about the senior center project in the press, the members of the ZBA seemed to have little or no prior knowledge of it. When it became clear that the proposed new building would sit on the site of what is now a parking lot, there was lots of concern about parking. Sullivan explained that there was street parking on Union Street, along the south side of the original historic building, and there was the municipal parking lot on the other side of Cherry Alley, where the plan is to designate two additional parking spaces as handicapped spaces and remove the guardrail to provide access to the parking lot from the alley. Theresa Joyner wanted to know if the historic church building was going to be renovated in this project. Kathy Harter asked why there was going to be an elevator in the building. Someone else wanted to know if seniors or seniors and youth would use the new building. 

Toward the end of the meeting, ZBA member Mary Ellen Pierro said of the senior center, "We really need this"--an opinion that most city officials seem to accept as a truism but many taxpayers question. According to reports, about 35 people currently participate in the City's senior program, which offers a total of 9 hours of programming a week. When questions about parking, traffic, fugitive light and noise, and overall impact on the adjoining residential neighborhood arise, current use is cited, with the implication that no one expects that to increase or change significantly when the new building is completed. So it would seem that the City is poised to spend $780,000 to construct a senior center that will benefit 35 people. That's a little more than $22,000 per person--oddly, about the same number you get when you divide the Hudson City School District's annual budget by the number of students it serves.   

On April 11, Don Tillson chair of the Planning Commission proposed that the Planning Commission and the ZBA hold a joint public hearing on the senior center on Wednesday, May 9, after which each panel, in succession, would hold a regular meeting to make its decision. It is not clear when the Planning Commission intended the public hearing to begin, but last night, the ZBA set 7:30 on May 9 as the time for its public hearing and subsequent meeting. When there is clarity about the meetings and times, Gossips will report it.    


  1. $780,000. for 35 people - like this even makes sense - while $800,000. has already disappeared into the adjoining still decrepit church - hudson foolishness lives - long live hudsons dysfunctionalism.

  2. With the building proposed, are there no plans to expand the programming for the Senior Center? That would seem central to planning a facility expansion, would it not?

  3. Wait a sec.

    So, the proposal is a total public expenditure, to benefit 35 people, of $1.5 million (as Vincent is suggesting), not counting program costs, facilities maintenance etc.

    That's about $43,000 per head.

    That is insane -- but if that's the sort of thing that Hudson wants to do, then good luck to Hudson...

  4. Jock--Let's be clear. The previous investment to which Vince refers was in the original historic structure which is the Hudson Youth Center. The proposal now is to build a new building next to that historic building, connected to the building but structurally independent, to be used as a senior center to house a program that currently serves about 35 people.

    Bob--One would hope that there would be more senior programming once the senior center is built, but the point I was making is that when people like Karen Smith express concern about the impact of this new building on their property and the quiet enjoyment of their backyards in summer, the current level of use is cited to assure them that there will be no impact.

  5. Clearly the City's hope is that the new senior center will attract more users, and that the increase in demand and existence of the facility will enable more programs including those funded by the City, the county, the state, etc. This is commonly known as the "if you build it, they will come" approach. It often works, particularly with municipal projects if they are visible enough (i.e. parks, skateparks, swimming pools, well publicized offerings, etc.).

    As for the impact on Karen Smith's and surrounding properties: this is clearly of very high concern to those affected and myself and, I believe, both Chris Waggoner and Ellen Thurston. I've had numerous conversations with the Mayor and Jane Smith about this issue as well as with fellow alderpersons. I believe the design as it now stands minimizes any changed impact on Karen's backyard. It doesn't have a zero effect but the City, like any property owner, has the right to use its property as the law allows -- and the City is getting both Planning and ZBA approval prior to construction. The light impact won't be any different -- whether one person is in a lit room or a 100 are it's as lit as it's going to be when there was only 1. But increased car and foot traffic that increased use necessitates is a concern that thus far has not been addressed and I think should.

    I think of more concern -- to the neighbors and myself -- is the real structural integrity of the existing structure. Remember the new one will not be structurally joined to the existing former church. But the engineer's report raised issues about needed maintenance and further investigation. One of the recommendations required the work on the purlins (I believe) be completed prior to winter 2012 - 2013. This is a grave concern.

    And of course the overall budget of $780k ($1.5m has never been discussed as far as I know) includes $130k of general fund funds (i.e. property tax dollars). From a financial point of view, I believe there are many projects the City needs to accomplish that we have to think long and hard about these extra dollars being spent on the senior center.

  6. OK, Carole, thanks. But at c. $22,000 per head it still seems like a lot of money for a small number of people for vague recreational purposes.

    (Hudson could just hand each of these people $1,000 per month, to be used to enjoy himself as he likes, and save 50% on the bill, yes?)

    I just hope that only Hudson is on the hook for stuff like this, i.e., not the County, not the State. This looks to me like what many people call Government Waste.