Friday, April 27, 2018

HUD in Hudson

In January, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) took Congressman John Faso on a tour of Bliss Towers to show him the deplorable living conditions there. In March, Faso wrote a letter to HUD secretary Ben Carson declaring that living conditions at Bliss Towers "have deteriorated well beyond livable." This past Monday, Lynne Patton, event planner and Eric Trump Foundation VP who was appointed by Donald Trump last June to head up HUD Region II (New York and New Jersey), visited Bliss Towers, along with a number of other HUD officials. According to Timothy Mattice, executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority, "they liked what they saw."

Photo: The Real Deal
During a special meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Mattice told the board that Patton, who he said "has a lot of clout and a lot of power," was "the first official from HUD who has ever come here." He also spoke of HUD's intent to "redirect and redefine HUD . . . to change the public housing paradigm." How the plan announced by Carson on Wednesday, which would expand work initiatives and raise the rent for tenants in subsidized housing to 35 percent of gross income, figures into this "change in the public housing paradigm" is not known.

The principal purpose of Tuesday's special meeting was to "conduct an initial review of submitted development proposals for a co-developer partnership project with the Hudson Housing Authority." As it turns out, there were just two proposals submitted in response to the HHA's RFQ (request for qualifications): one from Beacon Communities and aother from Duvernay + Brooks. Interestingly, Beacon Communities, under the name OMNI Housing Development, was involved in a charette on the topic of renovating or replacing Bliss Towers back in 2010. Also of interest is that Darren Scott, from NYS Homes and Community Renewal, referred Kearney Realty & Development Group, one of the three developers being considered for the Kaz site (the one proposing to create there "all kinds of housing with not enough of any one type to stigmatize it" and to call their creation "The Landing"), to the HHA project. Kearney apparently decided against submitting a proposal because of time constraints.

In its proposal, Duvernay + Brooks suggested retaining Bliss Towers and making it exclusively for seniors and demolishing the low rise and creating a new development on that site for families. The plan from Beacon Communities involved improving housing units but focused on developing a new building on State Street, across from Bliss Towers. Both proposals maintained that HHA does not have the capacity (that is, the staff and expertise) to do what they are proposing: overseeing the rehabilitation of Bliss Towers and the construction of a new building across the street. 

Accepting the opinion that HHA did not have the capacity to carry out the project as it was being proposed, Mattice recommended to the board that the two projects be separated and suggested that they bring in the two developers to "see if they are comfortable with bifurcating Bliss from the new building." If they're not, HHA will issue another RFQ for the project is it has been redefined. A developer would take on the task of building the new building, while HHA continues its effort to improve Bliss Towers. This would postpone any major rehab or "de-densification" of Bliss Towers until HHA has a better understanding of what's involved in financing and administering such a project. 

Mattice explained on Tuesday, as he has before, that a third of the units at Bliss Towers (forty units) are now "offline" as they undergo a "complete rehabilitation"--new kitchens, new bathrooms, new flooring. Next year, he hopes to rehabilitate another third of the units. The remaining third, he says, are OK, just needing a fresh coat of paint. "In two years," Mattice told the board, "we can bring all the units up to up-to-date standards with the money we have." Mattice went on to say, "I'm confident we can meet our goals with Bliss Towers, but we're going to take our time. We can maintain an acceptable level of living standards as we consider what to do moving forward."
COPYRIGHT 2018 CAROLE OSTERINK

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