Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Place for the Police

Once upon a time, the Hudson Police Department was headquartered at 327 Warren Street--then City Hall, now the Hudson Opera House. When City Hall fled upstreet to a former bank building in 1962, the HPD moved to its current location in the 400 block of Warren Street. For at least twenty of the past fifty years, there have been complaints about how inadequate the buildings are that house both the police department and the adjacent city court. Over the past ten years, there have been several attempts to create new quarters for law and order in Hudson, but none has achieved the desired goal.  

Gossips Note: A reader who has been in Hudson much longer than I have just informed me that when City Hall moved to 520 Warren Street, the police department moved there, too, and for the next ten or so years was located where the city treasurer's office is now with an entrance from Prison Alley.  

Now it seems that city officials are once again actively pursuing a new facility for the police department and city court. The current plan involves acquiring and adapting an existing building, but so far no one is revealing publicly what building they're considering. While we wait for that revelation, let's review the possibilities that have been considered over the past ten years.

The Charles Williams School was one of several schools that the Hudson City School District sold to Columbia County for $1 each or some other token amount. The County used it first as the headquarters for the Sheriff's Department and later for the offices of its various health departments. In 2002 or thereabout, when the County decided to build a new office building for these departments, the County swapped the former school building with the City for the land on which 325 Columbia Street was built. The City took the building with apparently no idea of what to do with it. The first scheme was to adapt it to house the police department and the city court.

The adaptive reuse of Charles Williams School was a plan promoted by former DPW superintendent Charlie Butterworth, but then mayor Rick Scalera had other ideas. In 2003 and 2004, Hudson was buzzing with new construction--the central firehouse, 325 Columbia Street, the medical office building and parking garage at Columbia Memorial Hospital, and the townhouses on Mount Ray. Scalera wanted BBL, the design-build firm that created the central firehouse and 325 Columbia Street, to construct a new police/court building on the corner of Fourth and Columbia streets, on property owned by Eric Galloway. The deal was that Galloway would give the City the land in exchange for 427 and 429 Warren Street--the buildings where city court and the police department are now located.

Around this same time, another idea was explored, which involved buying this former car dealership on Green Street for the police department and building a two-story addition behind it for the city court.

When the Tracy administration took control of City Hall in 2006, the plan to build a new building of questionable architectural merit was abandoned. The new idea was to move the police, the court, as well as all the offices and functions of City Hall into the Terry-Gillette mansion at 601 Union Street. During the time it had been the Elks' Lodge, the building had been expanded significantly, and it was thought to be large enough to house all offices and departments of city government. Proposals were requested for a feasibility study, but when the price for such a study came in at about $50,000, the president of the Common Council at the time got cold feet about pursuing the idea. 

Attention then returned to Charles Williams School, which seemed to be the only solution the City could afford. A public meeting was held in the building to discuss the the idea of locating the police station in the neighborhood, and at that meeting, two families who lived on Robinson Street were so vocally and vehemently opposed to having the police station in their midst that the plan was abandoned--even though other neighborhood residents had privately expressed their support of the plan.

When Scalera returned to the mayor's office in 2008, another plan was born: the City would buy 25 Railroad Avenue, the building that had been built for and occupied by the Columbia County Department of Social Services but which DSS was looking to leave. But after years of exploring this alternative and that, spending $1.5 million for the old Ockawamick School in Claverack and spending thousands more for various studies and security deposits, the Board of Supervisors decided to buy the building they'd been leasing for twenty years after all.

Next came "Civic Hudson," the scheme to use public money earmarked for homeless housing to help build a new police and city court building for Hudson. In this plan, the City would lease two floors in a building built and owned by Galvan Partners or the Lantern Organization (it was never entirely clear which). The top two floors would be 35 units of "supportive housing" for formerly homeless single men and women. Chief Ellis Richardson and the HPD rank and file were not happy about the prospect of sharing a building with 35 low-income studio apartments, and the New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP) indicated that they would not approve financing for the project in the face of opposition from the police department. Nothing has been heard recently about Civic Hudson or its complementary proposal Galvan Quarters.

A possibility often mentioned for relocating the police department, the court, and all the offices and functions of City Hall is John L. Edwards Primary School. The HCSD Board of Education perennially talks about changing the way it groups the grade levels to eliminate this building, which is currently used for the primary grades, K-2. However, HCSD has indicated that it wants untold millions of dollars for the building, which puts it out of reach for the City of Hudson.

Gossips looks forward to the time when it can be revealed what building is currently being considered as a headquarters for the HPD and the city court.      


  1. Great reporting.As all of your posts are. I don't ever want Gossips to think, that because there are no comments,they are not being read or appreciated. Always top notch storytelling and reporting.I would be lost here ,without Gossips as a guide.

  2. Antics typical from the Common Council and lack of leadership in City Hall. Nothing will change until Ellis Richardson is mothballed. The new commissioner is a start, but he's hamstrung by the union contract. We don't have enforcement and why are there 24 officers on staff with 3 shifts and the night shift gets all of 2 officers? When is the next police committee meeting and can the public effect any change here?

    1. Clown Town--The Police Committee met this past Monday. The next meeting doesn't happen until November 26.

    2. Thank you, Carole. Where are the agenda and minutes from the last meeting?

    3. Committee meeting agendas--although usually distributed at the committee meeting--don't seem to be available online. The minutes of the October committee meetings are presented to the full Council at the November meeting and become part of the minutes for the regular monthly meeting.

  3. FYI, I remember a time, maybe '70s or early '80s, before HPD was at 427 Warren, when they were located in the current City Hall. You entered via the alley side entrance & they had some of the space in the rear of the building. Very cloak & dagger.

  4. What about the armory? Isn't it right on the corner of THE hotspot in town? The library will be in the drill shed and the PD's offices and a police/traffic court could be in the adminstration bldg. It's even got a sally port (garage?) at the rear of the building and a range in the basement and room for a cell block.

  5. The Armory for police and court was GalVan's first offer to "City" through Scalera,to woo him away from 25 RR purchase for same purpose.That Armory offer quickly dissolved into GalVan's "Civic" proposal at 4th and Columbia,new construction for Cops,Court.,and two floors of SRO-Homeless housing.Gossip's lays out that part above.

  6. If I owned property in Hudson my concern would be about the costs of a new police station, sr.citizen center, a new library, a youth center, a homeless center, city schools, etc. & how much more the taxes will need to be increased to pay for all that is required.
    Should the City of Hudson consider having a City sales tax to offset the cost of projects?
    Is it cost effective to rent vs. build which would have Galvan providing building(s)or some other contractor.
    I can't imagine the State requirements for a new Police Station but I can hope that the State/Fed Gov'ts will provide grant monies to meet the same.

  7. Before any more taxes are even considered on top of the ridiculous local City taxes we pay-prop/school;I will gladly pitch in my federal/state taxes ,for a swat team of Federal Forensic Accountants,to trace all the money spent directly through Hudson City Hall, from tax payers, state,fed,corp. grants,on all City projects,contracts,especially no bid and all monies allocated to all depts. and thier programs,and where is it? For last 20 years.Dust off that box of receipts, boys.