Mayor William Hallenbeck, who sits on the HCDPA board, seemed persuaded that such a compromise could not be reached. He talked about the amount of effort and time, especially "the mayor's time," that had been devoted to the issue and complained that HUG had rejected every alternative offered--among them plots in Charles Williams Park, across State Street from Bliss Towers, and at Montgomery C. Smith School. "What sense would it make," he asked rhetorically, "to offer a motion to split the lots, if the garden won't accept it?"
Responding to Hallenbeck's question, Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward), also an HCDPA board member, surmised, "What you're telling us is the garden wants it all or nothing." He then spoke of the City's "obligation" to Habitat for Humanity. "We're running out of space," he said. "We have to come up with more space so Habitat can fulfill their mission."
To Pierro's comment, Salvino responded, "We don't need to be beholden to Habitat," and suggested that solving Hudson's housing issues required a much larger housing strategy than "piecemeal putting houses in."
When Vanessa Baehr, director of the community garden, who repeatedly tried to be recognized to respond to Hallenbeck's characterization of HUG's position, finally got a chance to speak, she denied, "just for the record," that HUG had taken an "all or nothing" position. She also commented on what seemed to be the board's favorite alternative location: a strip of land behind the Habitat houses on Mill Street, which is part of Charles Williams Park. She noted that, although the location was being described as just a seven-minute walk from the garden's current location, the walk involved negotiating the very steep hill on Second Street, which would be difficult for people carrying children, gardening tools, and garden produce. [Gossips Note: The foot path down to Charles Williams Park from the north end of Third Street, involving lots of switchbacks to make it suitable for wheelchairs, which was part of the original plan for developing the park, has never been constructed.] Baehr also pointed out that the proposed alternative used to be a clay mine and "you can't grow vegetables very well in clay."
Hallenbeck, who seemed determined to resolve the problem at that meeting, became annoyed when city attorney Cheryl Roberts began quoting Section 507 of New York State General Municipal Law, which deals with the disposal of publicly owned property. One of the requirements specified in the law is notice in the newspaper that you wish to sell a property. Roberts observed, "In the past, what you have done is just given the property away"--something not permitted by General Municipal Law. Hallenbeck wanted to know why this discussion had not happened two weeks ago and at one point petulantly made a motion to adjourn the meeting. The motion was not seconded, and the meeting continued, but when conversation moved toward determining fair market value for the lots, the board went into executive session.
Twenty minutes later, when the meeting was reopened to the public, the HCDPA board voted on two resolutions. The first dealt with 208 Columbia Street and determined that sealed bids for 208 Columbia Street must be submitted before noon on December 24. The assumption seems to be that Habitat for Humanity will be the only bidder, but presumably anyone can submit a bid for the lot. John Mason reports in the Register-Star that Salvino told him after the meeting, "We are accepting the most responsible bid that coincides with the mission of this agency." The second resolution was an agreement to lease 202, 204, and 206 Columbia Street to Hudson Urban Gardens for one year, from January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2014, for an annual payment of $1,000. It was not clear if the lease agreement will contain the option to buy the property, which HUG seeks.
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAROLE OSTERINK
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAROLE OSTERINK