The opening sentence in John Mason's report in the Register-Star on last night's Common Council meeting reads like an entry in the Bulwer-Litton Fiction Contest: "Hudson's seniors, neglected for years, victims of dashed hopes and swallowed promises, will apparently now have their long-awaited senior center." Mason's bathos reflects the drama of the meeting, but given the reports of how many people actually participate in the City's senior programs, one has to wonder where these masses of disappointed elders have been huddled, yearning for a senior center.
Last night, the aldermen had on their desks a document the size of a phone book for a major city, which contained the resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a lease agreement with the Galvan Foundation, the lease agreement, the SEQR form, the site plan, and other supporting documents. Needless to say, the aldermen had questions. Is the 2010 Community Development Block Grant being repurposed? (We don't know.) Will the fit out proceed without this grant? (Yes.) Will there be an elevator and a handicapped ramp? (Yes.) Is this a self-contained space? (Yes.) Why are we being asked to vote on the lease before the construction begins? (Construction on the senior center is ready to begin now.) Can the Common Council vote on the lease before the Planning Commission has approved the site plan? (The resolution only authorizes the mayor to sign the lease.) Is the lease a critical component for financing? (Yes. Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation will not consider an application for funding without a commitment from the City.)
None of the questions seemed unreasonable, but the mayor grew impatient. More than once he rose to complain that he and the seniors had waited two and a half months while the city attorney and the attorney for the Galvan Foundation negotiated the terms of the lease. He referred to the aldermen's questions as "delay tactics." At one point, he called upon Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward) to speak on behalf of the seniors about the delays, which, according to the mayor, have been going on for eight years. Sterling gamely rose to speak, but what she said was probably not what the mayor had hoped she would say. She expressed the opinion that "if there's one final tweak, it won't hold up anything. We're almost there."
The one final tweak was the need, identified by Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), a contract lawyer, for clarification on how the expenses for public spaces in the building would be prorated. Friedman argued that "all expenses are going to devolve to the City if there is no clarification." The mayor objected that "to change the document is an assault tactic and an obstruction for the senior center going to the Armory." He worried aloud that any change in the language would require that the document go back to the Galvan attorney.
In the end, it was decided that Friedman and city attorney Cheryl Roberts would take a half hour to amend the language--about ten words--in a specific section of the lease "to ensure that the City is only paying for public spaces in the section of the building that the City is renting." That accomplished, the Council president Don Moore called for a voice vote to amend the resolution; the city attorney asked that the minutes reflect that the Council had reviewed the SEQR form and had no issues with it; and the Council, in a roll call vote, agreed unanimously to authorize the mayor to sign the lease.
Alderman Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), declaring herself one of the people responsible for the senior center, proclaimed, "Today we made history."
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