This morning, Mayor William Hallenbeck went on Victor Mendolia's @Issue radio show and talked for almost a full hour about issues affecting Hudson. I won't attempt to summarize everything that was said. If you missed it, the interview is now archived, and you can listen for yourself. I will remark, however, on a few things he said that were news to me and may be news to Gossips readers as well.
In his laundry list of accomplishments and ongoing projects, Hallenbeck included RFPs being considered for the three acres adjacent to the old Dunn warehouse building on Water Street across from Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. The combination of the verb considered and the object RFPs made it unclear if the City was reviewing proposals submitted in response to a request for proposals or if the City was thinking of writing an RFP to solicit proposals from developers.
He also mentioned how happy he was that there was the "potential for a hotel just above City Hall," referring to the plan to convert 542 Warren Street into an upscale hostelry. In April, after site plan review by the Planning Commission was already underway, it was learned that the owner had a change of heart and had taken the building off the market, thus dashing any hope of the purchasers turning it into a boutique hotel. When Menedolia asked the mayor this morning if the hotel plan was still on track, Hallenbeck confirmed that it was.
When asked about the Furgary Boat Club, Hallenbeck reiterated that "once the City took ownership, the Furgary became a liability." He spoke of two "olive branches" that he had extended to the Furgarians: the first was giving them 30 days before evicting them from the shacks instead of doing it as soon as the court decision was handed down on June 14; the second was allowing the Furgarians to hold open houses, which Hallenbeck referred to as "tours," on two Saturdays--June 30 and July 7--prior to their eviction.
In recounting the most recent history of land ownership in the North Bay, Hallenbeck said that the City of Hudson had to own the land on which the Furgary Boat Club was located in order to qualify for $4.4 million in funding to upgrade the waste water treatment plant. The state owned the land in question and was willing to swap it for 9.5 acres of land underwater that was owned by the City of Hudson. According to Hallenbeck, when the City acquired the land, former mayor Rick Scalera "went to the Furgary and offered them the opportunity to work out a deal with the City to pay taxes and stay." The Furgary, calling themselves the North Dock Tin Boat Association, responded to Scalera's "olive branch" by initiating a lawsuit against the City claiming adverse possession, a lawsuit that Hallenbeck said cost the City $40,000 to defend against.
When asked about the City's future plans for the Furgary Boat Club, Hallenbeck reiterated that "it is my job to make sure I protect every citizen of Hudson from liability," and then mentioned four possibilities, along with the problems that might render each an impossibility. (1) The City could lease the land to the Furgarians, but he didn't think it was legal for the City to lease public property to a private entity, in spite of the fact that the City has for years leased land to the Hudson Power Boat Association. "Corporate counsel," as he likes to call Cheryl Roberts, has written a letter to the Department of State asking if the land can be leased, and the City is awaiting their response. (2) The City could sell the land to the Furgarians, but since the City needed to own the land to get the $4.4 million for the sewer treatment plant, it might have to return that money if the land was sold to someone else. (3) The City could preserve four or five of the shacks and rent them out--whether to Furgarians for whole seasons or to visitors for a week or two was not clear. The cost of bringing the shacks up to code, said Hallenbeck, would likely be $20,000 per shack, and whose expense, he wondered, would that be? (4) Some of the shacks could be "preserved for a boathouse or something that would support recreational use." This was the one possibility that seemed not to have a strong argument against it.
Speaking on the topic of the Civic Hudson Project, Hallenbeck revealed two things that had not previously been public knowledge. The first was that Scalera, when he was still mayor of Hudson, had tried to work a deal with Eric Galloway to have Galloway build a police and city court building for the City. That plan was abandoned because it was going to cost the City $385,000 a year for some undisclosed number of years, and that was more than the City could afford. Then, this year, when Scalera was no longer the mayor but a special adviser to the Galvan Foundation, the idea of adding low-income housing to the plan for a municipal building made the cost affordable to the City--only $100,000 a year for thirty years.
Hallenbeck also revealed that, although Galvan representatives have told the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals that no use has yet been determined for the first and second floors of the proposed building, there is still the possibility that the building will house the police department and the city court. Hallenbeck said that the architect for the building, whom he described as "an expert in police and court buildings" and I suspect is Tony Shitemi of Urban Architectural Initiatives, who presented the project to the Planning Commission last week, had a meeting with the Hudson Police Department. Hallenbeck, who was present at the meeting, intimated that the architect had persuaded the police to reconsider their position on the Civic Hudson Project, but, he explained, "they are waiting for the tax credits to be approved before they change their position." The decision on tax credits is expected in mid-August.
Another surprising revelation was that the City of Hudson has volunteered to, in Hallenbeck's words, "take the lead in providing a [homeless] facility" for the entire county. He spoke of "the movement Hudson has so graciously made to provide for the homeless throughout the county" and suggested that the City "should be compensated for that by the towns" who don't want the homeless in their municipalities. Just last night, Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) said we don't want "to make Hudson the repository for all the homeless in the county." It seems that someone had already offered our city to be just that, and the county has taken him up on it.
When Mendolia reminded Hallenbeck that he had said Eric Galloway should have the key to the city, Hallenbeck talked about the "great justice" Galloway has done to Hudson by "taking vacant buildings," many of which have been renovated. It is too bad time ran out before Mendolia could press him for examples, since most Galloway watchers would describe a quite different modus operandi: buy an occupied building, empty it of tenants, and let it stand vacant for years.
The entire interview has now been archived and can be heard online.