Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Future of the Shacks

At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, the Council approved the proposal to hire Hudson Cultural Services "to prepare and implement a mitigation plan that documents the structures and history of The Shacks, installs at least one interpretative panel at the site and/or develops an exhibit to be displayed locally, and continues to study the feasibility of retaining at least one of the historic structures for use as part of the proposed park." 

Shacks being demolished on January 3, 2024
Introducing the resolution authorizing this action, Council president Tom DePietro referred to the historic fishing village as the "red-headed stepchild" of DRI projects, implying that it was neglected or perhaps even unwanted. Before the Council voted on the resolution, Councilmember Margaret Morris (First Ward) asked how the resolution had come about. It seems a valid question given that Hudson Cultural Services appears to have been hired to do an alternatives analysis, which was then submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office, without the Council's involvement or knowledge. Why was the Council to be involved at this point when it hadn't been involved before? 

As usual, the small amount of money--$150,000--allocated for the project was offered as an explanation of why the project hadn't been pursued in a timely fashion. Councilmember Jennifer Belton (Fourth Ward) suggested that some of the work involved in the project could be carried out by volunteers. In the past, when the use of volunteers has been suggested, the idea was dismissed because a study done in August 2015 found asbestos and lead paint present in most of the shacks. (That study can be found here.) It's not clear what Belton was suggesting volunteers might do, but the demolition of shacks containing hazardous materials, particularly asbestos, requires a crew trained to deal with such materials. According to Rob Perry, the four shacks that were demolished in January were the only ones that did not contain hazardous materials and hence could be demolished by the Department of Public Works.

Community member Ronald Kopnicki asked if there had been a committee involved in making decisions about how to proceed with the Shacks. He was told that it is not in the plan to have a committee and decisions had been made by the mayor and LaBella. (Chazen Companies, the original consultants on the DRI projects, was purchased by LaBella in 2021.) DePietro explained they had decided not to spend the consultants' time in meetings, adding that involving the consultants in public meetings was "just sucking money from the project funding."

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

HHA and Restore NY

Last night, at the Common Council meeting, the folks from the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA)--Revonda Smith, chair of the HHA Board of Commissioners; Jeffrey Dodson, HHA executive director; and Eu Ting-Zambuto and John Madeo from Mountco, HHA's development partner--made their pitch for the Council's support of their application for Restore New York funding. But before that happened, Council president Tom DePietro read aloud a communication from the other project that had been seeking Restore NY funding: Lil' Deb's Oasis, which is planning to redevelop the former TJ Auto Service Center building at 735-737 Columbia Street as its new location. The first paragraph of the message, from someone identified only as Halo, follows:
I am writing to let you know that after much thought, we have decided to no longer pursue Restore New York funding for this round. Competing with the Hudson Housing Authority's Bliss Towers project feels spiritually and culturally misaligned with our core values. Our hope is that by pulling out, this important project may have increased visibility and more opportunity to advance in the Restore funding process.
In the presentation of the HHA project made to the Council, it was clarified that the mixed income intended for the project is from 15 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). What was not clarified is how many units are being proposed. The number previously cited was 300, but last night 148 was given as the number of units in Phase 1 and 186 as the number of units in Phase 2. That adds up to a total of 334. 

The presentation also gave some insight into why the project is expected to cost $220 million, or about $733,334 per unit. The plans call for geothermal heating and cooling and subsurface parking.

In promoting the project, it was argued that the increase in lower income households would benefit the community. It would enable businesses to hire locally. It was also maintained that the design of the new buildings, which thus far no one has seen, would "mitigate the stigma of affordable housing." The courtyard being planned for the new development, which apparently will be open to everyone, is claimed will be "as big as Seventh Street Park." That seems an overstatement.

When Ting-Zambuto first told the HHA Board of Commissioners that they were seeking Restore NY Funding, Nick Zachos, who sits on the board, asked if there was a history of housing authorities getting money through Restore NY. Ting-Zambuto claimed there was an affordable housing component, but Madeo admitted he was unaware of any housing authority getting Restore NY funding. Wondering about the appropriateness of Restore NY funding for this project, Gossips decided explore the guidelines for Restore NY funding. The following is quoted from the Program Description and Goals:
The 2023-24 State Budget provided new funding for the Restore New York Communities Initiative and gave Empire State Development the responsibility of implementing this program for the sole purpose of revitalizing urban and rural areas, disadvantaged communities, and stabilizing neighborhoods. 
Municipalities, defined as counties, cities, towns, and villages, are invited to submit a Request for Funding Proposal for projects to demolish, deconstruct, rehabilitate and/or reconstruct vacant, abandoned, condemned, and/or surplus properties. . . . 
Projects should be architecturally consistent with nearby and adjacent properties or in a manner consistent with the municipality’s local revitalization or urban development plan. . . .
An important goal of Restore NY is to revitalize urban centers, rural areas, and disadvantaged communities. It is anticipated that upon completion, the projects funded by Restore NY grants will attract individuals, families, and industry and commercial enterprises to the municipality. It is further anticipated that the improved community and business climate will result in an increased tax base thereby improving municipal finances and the wherewithal to further grow the municipality’s tax and resource base, lessening its dependence on state aid.
It should be noted that at this point there is no concrete evidence that the proposed project will be "architecturally consistent with nearby and adjacent properties or in a manner consistent with the municipality's local revitalization or urban development plan."

What might be the most interesting bit of information provided about Restore NY process is this:
If a Municipality is intending to apply for Restore NY funding, a letter of intent must be submitted by the leading municipal official no later than 5:00 PM on March 25, 2024
This information suggests that the letter of intent was submitted by Mayor Kamal Johnson, independent of the Common Council. Last year, the Common Council has asked to choose between the Pocketbook Factory and the Kaz redevelopment in January. This year, the Common Council's support is being sought just a month before the application deadline on May 22. 

In the discussion following the presentation at Tuesday's meeting, Councilmember Margaret Morris questioned the wisdom of "bringing that number of people to a place that doesn't have many employment opportunities and no public transportation." Responding to this, Johnson asserted that "the hospital and the school district have a large number of openings." Last week, Michele Pierro cited employees of the school district as potential tenants for the market rate apartments proposed for Fairview Avenue.

According to one source, the AMI for Columbia County, which is the measure used by HUD, is $76,515. Eighty percent of $76,515 is $61,212. SeethroughNY publishes the salaries of 201 employees of the Hudson City School District in 2023. They range from $57,001 to $191,880. Only 18 are paid less than $61,212, and 50 are paid more than $100,000. 

A special meeting of the Common Council has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 24, to vote on whether or not to support HHA's application for Restore NY funding.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Who Will Get the Money

Last night, the Common Council Finance Committee, made up of councilmembers Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), Margaret Morris (First Ward), Vicky Daskaloudi (Fifth Ward), and Lola Roberts (Third Ward), divvyed up, in record time, the $30,000 allocated in the city budget for festivals and events. Their decisions must be approved by the full Council at its meeting tonight, but for now, here's how things stand. (For events that new and/or have never received funding from the City, their titles are hyperlinks to the funding application.)

    • Hudson Hall (Winter Walk)$5,000
    • Flag Day$5,000
    • Sankofa Blacks Arts and Cultural Festival$3,000
    • Who We Be (Juneteenth)$2,750
    • Hudson Festival Orchestra$2,750
    • Waterfront Wednesdays$2,500
    • Latinx Festival$2,500
    • Hudson-Athens Lighthouse (150th Anniversary Boat Parade)$1,500
    • Hudson Family Reunion$1,000
    • Hudson Film Festival$1,000
    • Beautiful Racket$1,000
    • FASNY Dalmatian Day$750
    • Hudson Halloween$750
    • Hudson Eye$500
Update: At the Common Council meeting last night (Tuesday, April 16), the proposed distribution of funding support was approved without discussion.

Restore New York . . . Again

Last month, Gossips reported that Eu Ting-Zambuto, director of development for Mountco, the Hudson Housing Authority's director of development, told the HHA Board of Commissioners that the City would be supporting an application for Restore New York funding for HHA's redevelopment project. That, it appears, was a bit of an overstatement.

Ting-Zambuto and John Madeo of Mountco, at an HHA meeting last July
At the HHA meeting last night, Jeffrey Dodson, executive director of HHA, said that he and Revonda Smith, who chairs the Board of Commissioners, along with representative(s) from Mountco, would be at tonight's Council meeting to make a presentation. It seems there are two projects in Hudson seeking Restore NY funding, and because Restore NY applications must be initiated by a municipality, and a municipality can propose only project in each round, the Council must decide which project will get the City's support. 

It will be remembered that last year, the Council had to decide between two projects to support for Restore NY funding: the redevelopment of the Pocketbook Factory and the redevelopment of the former Kaz site. The Council opted for the latter.

It is not known what other project is vying for Restore NY funding, but it is hard to imagine how the HHA project, which involves demolishing a fifty-year-old structure and altering the street grid in a manner that never existed before, falls under the rubric "Restore New York," but you never know.

The Future of the Furgary

The sad saga of the Furgary Boat Club in North Bay has been well documented by Gossips, from the seizure of the site in 2012 by a Hudson Police Department SWAT team to the demolition of four shacks earlier this year, among them the shack considered to be the one greatest historic significance. Here is the latest bit of news about Hudson's historic fishing village.

On the agenda for tonight's Common Council meeting is a resolution authorizing Mayor Kamal Johnson to enter into an agreement with Hudson Cultural Services "to prepare a mitigation plan and complete a structure documentation report as outlined by the State Historic Preservation Office." The resolution reads in part:
WHEREAS, following the City’s submission of an Alternative Analysis regarding the proposal to demolish the Furgary Boat Club, colloquially known as “The Shacks,” the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has agreed that there may be “no prudent and feasible alternatives to demolition of the Furgary Boat Club structures;” and 
WHEREAS, the proposed demolition of the historic structures is considered an Adverse Impact under the New York State Historic Preservation Act of 1980; and 
WHEREAS, the SHPO has directed the City to prepare and implement a mitigation plan that documents the structures and history of The Shacks, installs at least one interpretive panel at the site and/or develops an exhibit to be displayed locally, and continues to study the feasibility of retaining at least one of the historic structures for use as part of the proposed park; and 
WHEREAS, the City of Hudson directly solicited proposals from M/WBE consultants with expertise in the area of mitigation planning for historic structures and received a qualifying proposal from Hudson Cultural Services to develop a mitigation plan for the Furgary Fishing Village in the amount of $8,820.00…. 
As Gossips has noted before, the shack it made most sense to preserve--Shack #13--has already been demolished. 

Hudson Cultural Services is the same group that was hired by the Galvan Foundation to do the alternatives analysis to justify the demolition of two historic structures in the proposed "Depot District." The resolution does not indicate who did the alternatives analysis that the City submitted to SHPO.

The resolution is a new addition to the agenda for tonight's Common Council meeting. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Sunday at St. Mary's

Tonight, the Hudson Police Department issued the following press release regarding the incident that took place (and Gossips reported) on Sunday morning at St. Mary's Church:
On Monday, April 15, 2024, the Hudson City Police Department arrested Cameron A. Jamieson, 47, of Hillsdale, New York, pursuant to an active Felony Arrest Warrant issued by the City of Hudson Court. Jamieson faces one count of Making a Terroristic Threat, classified as a class D felony. 
The events leading to Jamieson's arrest unfolded on April 14, 2024, at approximately 9:38 a.m., when the Hudson Police Department received multiple calls from members of St. Mary’s Church reporting an emergency situation involving an unidentified individual within the premises. Witnesses recounted that an individual donning a mask and a long black cloak disrupted the Sunday mass service by shouting "All hail" towards the congregation and church officials. This individual proceeded to advance towards the church's front altar, brandishing a glass bottle raised above his head. Prompt action by several church members resulted in the apprehension and detainment of the individual before law enforcement arrived at the scene. Jamieson was subsequently handed over to HPD custody. The alarming nature of Jamieson's conduct left many congregants fearful and apprehensive, with concerns raised about the potential presence of an explosive device or firearm. Following his apprehension, HPD transported Jamieson to Columbia Memorial Hospital for a mental health evaluation. 
Following his discharge from the hospital, Jamieson was taken into custody by HPD and transported for processing and arraignment. Jamieson appeared before Judge Roberts in Hudson City Court for arraignment, where he was remanded to Columbia County Jail in lieu of $3,000 cash or bond. The case against Jamieson is scheduled to be revisited in Hudson City Court on April 16, 2024, at 9 a.m. 
"We empathize with the members of our community impacted by this incident. We recognize the distress it has caused and are dedicated to swiftly addressing their concerns. We extend our sincere gratitude to the church members for their quick thinking and bravery in stepping in to assist before law enforcement arrived. Rest assured, we are committed to providing a swift and thorough response to ensure the security of all residents. There will be an increased police presence near St. Mary's Church to offer reassurance and support during this time of heightened concern."  --Chief M. Franklin
Also tonight, Father Anthony Barratt, the pastor at St. Mary's, made a statement about the incident on Facebook. That statement can be heard here.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The week begins with the deadline for filing income tax returns. The week also brings a full complement of meetings.
  • On Monday, April 15, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 6:00 p.m. At this meeting, the committee will be reviewing applications for funding for events that promote Hudson as a destination and deciding which events will be awarded a portion of the $30,000 allocated in the city budget for that purpose. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.  
Photo: David McIntyre
  • Also on Monday, April 15, at 6:00 p.m., the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners holds its monthly meeting. As always, the meeting promises the possibility of learning something about HHA's redevelopment plans, which we now know are anticipated to cost $220 million. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person in the Community Room at Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
  • On Tuesday, April 16, the Hudson Development and Planning Agency (HCDPA) holds a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is not noted in the meeting announcement, and no agenda has been made public. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.
  • At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, the Common Council holds its regular monthly meeting. It is expected that Jeffrey Dodson, executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) will make a presentation to the Council about HHA's redevelopment plans at this meeting. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.
  • On Wednesday, April 17, the Zoning Board of Appeals holds its monthly meeting. No agenda is yet available for the meeting, which takes place in person only at City Hall.
  • On Thursday, April 18, the newly formed Public Works Board meets for the first time. The board is tasked with recommending an annual budget and schedule for sidewalk construction or repair; undertaking a search for a project manager to administer sidewalk improvement activity; reviewing and making determinations on appeals related to reductions in fees to property owners for past work. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.

Ear to the Ground

has learned that the 9:00 a.m. mass at St. Mary's Church was interrupted this morning when a man, cloaked in black and wearing a mask, entered the church crying "All Hail." Parishioners reported that the man entered the church around 9:30 a.m. and continued his chant as he walked down the center aisle. Ushers and law enforcement veterans in the congregation were able to restrain the man and remove him from the church through a side door. Most of the parishioners at the well-attended mass made their way outside, where they waited in the church plaza for police to arrive. After that happened, they went back inside, and the service continued.

Friday, April 12, 2024

At Hudson Hall Tonight

Tonight, the Camphill Hudson Players present Forgetful Divas, "a show about forgetting, remembering, and staying on schedule," at 7:00 p.m. at Hudson Hall.

Forgetful Divas explores the hilarious qualities of a group of demanding divas as they vie for their place on stage. Set in an open TV studio with a live film crew capturing the magic as it unfolds on stage and behind the scenes, the show examines the joy and complexity of being human through comedy, original biographical storytelling, and a dash of Bollywood dancing.

The Camphill Hudson Players are an integrated theater company, including people of all abilities who come together to create original theater productions. The Camphill Hudson Players offer a message of inclusion, acceptance, and positivity that is suitable for all ages. Forgetful Divas, directed by Jody Brookes, is the fifth original production to premiere at Hudson Hall.

The show is free, but reservations are recommended. To reserve tickets, click here.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Of Interest

Because the historic fireboat John J. Harvey has visited Hudson many times in the past decade or so, this article from the New York Daily News should be of interest: "Homeless man steals former NYFD fireboat, can't start engine as it floats down Hudson."

With Hudson, It's Always Something

Everything proposed in Hudson to sure to have its detractors, and the apartment building being proposed for Fairview Avenue between Parkwood and Oakwood boulevards is no exception. Last Thursday, the group proposing the building held an informational session in the back room of Wunderbar for residents of the Boulevards. The announcement of the event, shared on Facebook, indicated there would be "a short presentation followed by a Q&A session." It was probably hoped that this meeting would allay people's fears about a three-story, 30-unit apartment building abutting a neighborhood of single-family dwellings, but that seems not to have been the case. At the Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, there were still many fears and concerns voiced by residents whose houses are in close proximity to the proposed building.

Chip Verspyck, who lives at 5 Oakwood Boulevard, a property that abuts the site of the proposed building, expressed concern that the building would shadow his solar panels and his backyard. (The applicant agreed to do a shade simulation to determine the effect of the building on his property.) Verspyck also expressed concern about traffic trying to get on Fairview Avenue, people parking on his street, and the impact of the building on the sewer system, memorably commenting, "There's gonna be a ton of people living in this building, and that's a lot of shit."

Sean Allison, who lives at 13 Oakwood Boulevard, a house previously owned first by Christina Malisoff and then Ruth Moser, argued that Oakwood, Parkwood, and Glenwood boulevards are "designed neighborhoods"--"designed for the people who live there." He elaborated, "Every house has a driveway, every house has a garage, every house has parking. That's why there are no cars parked on the street." Allison objected to the idea of cars associated with the proposed apartment building being parked on his street. At various points, in his statement Allison called the proposed building a "tumor of a project," an "unbelievable eyesore," and an "absolutely malignant project." Allison maintained that there isn't a housing shortage in Hudson. "There's housing," he declared, "there's no money." He questioned specifically the need for market rate housing "in a town where the only job that people can get is bartending or working in one of the hotels." Allison had a great deal more to say, and all his comments can be heard here, beginning at 1:19:54.

Carmine "Cappy" Pierro, who is a cousin to Lou Pierro, the principal of the development group, also spoke during the public hearing. Although the address of the site of the proposed building was included in the litany of addresses Pierro recited as evidence of his standing in Hudson (Pierro moved to Taghkanic in 2013), he did not acknowledge having any financial interest in the project. Instead, reminding everyone of his past service on the Planning Board, Pierro talked about the zoning district and what was permitted in the General-Commercial District, declaring, "You could put almost anything there." Later he said, "That land could be a gas station right now." He reminded the Planning Board of all the projects with parking issues that the body had already approved. He concluded his statements by pointing out, "All the other housing projects in Hudson have PILOTs--payment in lieu of taxes. . . . This project is doing it on their own."

Michele Pierro, Lou Pierro's sister, who acknowledged her kinship to the applicant, claimed the project was "really done thinking about what would be best for the community." She talked about the Hudson City School District having trouble recruiting people to teach in Hudson because prospective teachers couldn't find a place to live. She asserted that this project was "giving young professionals a place to live."

All the public comments made about the proposed project can be heard here, beginning at 1:13:12.  

The drama surrounding this proposal, which the Planning Board has dubbed "the Boulevards," demonstrates how relationships can change in a small city. In November 2019, the Planning Board denied site plan approval to Cappy Pierro's plan to create a self storage facility on a portion of the land now the site of the proposed apartment building. 

At that time, Walter Chatham was the chair of the Planning Board. Pierro reacted to being denied site plan approval by telling Chatham, with some hostility, "You're gonna be gone in sixty-two days," intimating that he had some inside knowledge about the intentions of then mayor-elect Kamal Johnson. (Appointing the chairs of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals is one of the mayor's duties.) Today, in this plan for the same location, in which Pierro seems to have some interest, Walter Chatham is the architect designing the building.