After making the point that he had "made himself available" to all the parties involved, Mayor William Hallenbeck, who sits on the HCDPA board, said he was "taken back" by reading in the newspaper that the community garden had gotten a one-year lease from HCDPA. He said he, "as a board member," had not agreed to the lease. In the same vein, Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward), also a member of the HCDPA board, declared that he "almost went through the ceiling" when he read the article. He told the representatives of the garden present, "You have no standing there," and accused them of "trying to pressure this board" and "bully this board and the City."
Garden director Vanessa Baehr apologized for releasing the information to the press, explaining that she believed that, because the garden directors had been asked to sign a lease, it was HCDPA's intention to renew their lease for another year.
Not far into the meeting, Salvino's "spectrum of practical options" seemed to get narrowed down to three: the community garden gets the land; Habitat gets the land; the garden and Habitat split the land.
There are four lots involved: 202, 204, 206, and 208 Columbia Street—the fourth lot being larger than the other three combined. Although the fence, erected by HCDPA in 1995, encloses all four lots, and the garden shed, the frost-proof pump, and the raised beds are all located there, 208 Columbia Street was never included in the land leased to the community garden. Asked if this lot, which is 75 x 120 feet, would be sufficient to build on, Brenda Adams, executive director for Habitat, acknowledged that they could build another pair of houses there but later explained that their original plan was to "engage an urban planner to determine the best build-out of the [entire] site"—from three to five houses. Asked if the garden could vacate the site, Baehr indicated that it would be asking them to "give up the most crucial part of the garden."
It was generally agreed that there were "open-ended questions" that needed to be answered before the board could make a decision. The lots need to be appraised, a process which could not commence until today. Salvino has in mind an alternative space for the garden on property connected with Bliss Towers but apparently has not yet spoken with Jeff First about the possibility. The board wants data about the families being served by the garden--Do they rely on the garden for food or is their participation "recreational"?
Hallenbeck, who was absent from the HCDPA meeting in November, suggested that the board "consider all these issues over the next month and make a decision in January." Interestingly, in January, the board, which is made up of only five people, will very likely have three new members. Cappy Pierro, the Common Council majority leader, will no longer be on the Council; Ohrine Stewart will no longer be the Common Council minority leader since there will be a Republican on the Council; and there will probably be a replacement for Lyle Shook, who resigned from the board last month.
In response to the proposed postponement, Adams pointed out that Habitat had "an issue associated with time." It seems that they have applied for a grant, the deadline for which was sometime in September. Habitat has gotten extensions on this grant pending an "acquisition decision," but they will lose $50,000 to $60,000 in grant money "if there is no decision made now." Although audience member Timothy O'Connor suggested that this "might be perceived as Habitat trying to bully the board," it was decided that the HCDPA board hold a special meeting on Thursday, December 19, at 6 p.m., to decide the fate of the parcel.
Before the meeting moved on to other things, Baehr made reference to the City's Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2002. She pointed out that "Cultivate the Development of Community Gardens" is the third recommendation under "Plan Goal 2: Protect & Strengthen Hudson's Sense of Community." Although it's not clear that recommendations are listed in order of importance, it's curious that "Develop a Housing Strategy" is the eleventh recommendation under "Plan Goal 3: Promote Economic and Cultural Vitality," after such things as "Improve the Pedestrian Streetscape" (2), "Develop a Fully Integrated Bike & Pedestrian Trail Network" (6), and "Develop a Community Newsletter and Web Page" (9). Here is the text of the recommendation:
While many of New York State’s urban communities are struggling with strategies to attract middle-class residents, Hudson has already started to attract this group. Hudson’s continuing revitalization is likely to coincide with increases in the cost of housing (including housing values and rents). For the most part, this increase in value will be a very good thing for Hudson. However, the challenge for local decision-makers, the business community and neighborhood residents will be to ensure the benefits of Hudson’s resurgence are shared among all community members. Consequently, a coordinated, multi-tiered approach must be developed involving the City, the private sector and not-for-profit organizations such as Housing Resources.For those who have never read Hudson's eleven-year-old visioning document and for those who haven't read it in a while, the Comprehensive Plan, available on the City website, makes very interesting reading.
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