Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Results of Today's HCSD Vote

has received this information regarding today's HCSD vote.
The Hudson City School District is excited to announce the results of the 2024-2025 budget vote and Board of Education. . . .
The proposed 2024-2025 Hudson City School District Budget in the amount of $56,602,036 has been approved by the following vote:
464  YES
231  NO
The top two vote-getting Hudson City School District Board of Education candidates were elected to three-year terms (July 1, 2024–June 30, 2027):
91  Micaela McClinton (Candidate)
382  Amanda Grubler (Candidate)
300  Daryl Blanks (Candidate)
96  Selha Graham (Incumbent)
430  Matthew Mackerer (Candidate)
3  Write-in Candidates
"On behalf of the Hudson City School District administration team and the Hudson City School District Board of Education, I would like to formally thank the Hudson City school community for exercising their right to vote and approving the 2024-25 budget," said Hudson City School District Superintendent Dr. Juliette Pennyman. "I congratulate and look forward to working with the newly elected Board of Education members, along with those currently serving on the Board, in embracing the District's vision of creating a healthy and forward-moving place to work, learn, and accomplish goals."
It appears that a total of 695 voted in today's election of an untold number of people eligible to vote in the Hudson City School District. It seems not even all of the parents of the 1,200 or so students in the district came out to vote.

Last Night's HHA Meeting

The Restore NY grant application experience has had one effect: the Hudson Housing Authority and Mountco Construction are going out of their way to appear open and transparent in their plans for the redevelopment of HHA properties. Last night, Joel Mounty, the president and principal of Mountco Contruction, appeared at the HHA Board of Commissioners meeting, along with Mountco regulars to the project, John Madeo and Eu Ting-Zambuto. They brought with them architects Alex Gorlin and Quncie Williams, both of Alexander Gorlin Architects. Gossips showed up in person for the meeting, hoping to get more information about what the proposed buildings would look like, but no drawings or renderings were shared that haven't been seen before. The buildings still exist only as orange boxes on a map.

Gorlin began his presentation by saying his architectural firm specialized in affordable housing. He then mentioned El Borinquen Residence, an award-winning building he designed in the South Bronx.  

He also said he had written a book on affordable housing and produced two copies of the book: Housing the Nation: Social Equity, Architecture, and the Future of Affordable Housing. The book is actually a collection of essays by various authors, edited by Gorlin and architectural historian Victoria Newhouse.

Gorlin stressed that "the idea of the plan is not to displace anyone." He explained that 135 units in the new development would be for the low and extremely low income households now residing in HHA buildings, but all the additional units would be workforce housing. He cited teachers and policemen as potential tenants for the new housing. Later in the discussion, the income parameters for this workforce housing were defined as between 50 and 80 percent of the AMI. 

According to information found on SeeThroughNY, in 2023, 50 educators in the Hudson City School District had annual salaries of more than $100,000, and 57 had salaries of more than $80,000. The lowest salary for someone described as an educator was $57,110. Similarly, for the Hudson Police Department in 2023, 8 officers had annual salaries of more than $100,000, and 11 had salaries of more than $80,000. The salary of the lowest paid officer in 2023 was $58,289. According to the site DataUSA, the median household income in Hudson in 2021 was $40,417. Given this information, it doesn't seem that many teachers and policemen will be living in the new buildings.

Quncie Williams talked about plans for the courtyard surrounded by buildings, which he described as a park, similar in scale to the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park. He and Gorlin have maintained that this new park will actually be bigger than the Public Square. Comparing the two spaces on a Google map shows that is true. 

Williams said there would be a public workshop, or a community charrette, for the development of the park. When pressed by an audience member to specify when that workshop/charrette might take place, Williams declined to name a time. It was requested that the public be notified at least a month before the charrette is to take place. 

The developers and the architects have given assurances that the design of the new buildings will fit into the architectural context of the neighborhood. Last night, a picture of Providence Hall appeared, apparently accidentally, among the boards being displayed. This may be a hint to what the architects consider the context with which the new buildings will be compatible.

During the public comment period, Ronald Kopnicki, who was attending the meeting on Zoom, asked about the soil and engineering study for Site B, the parcel across State Street from Bliss Towers. Madeo told him they haven't done the site study yet, because they wanted input from the community first. The wisdom of this seems a bit questionable. 

Back in 2018, working with a different developer, HHA got very far along on another redevelopment project. This one involved renovating Bliss Towers and building two new buildings across the street--one of which would have 33 units, the other 40. Things had gotten pretty fair along in the process. There were renderings showing the proposed design of the buildings, charrettes in which the community critiqued the design, and revised designs based on community comments. 

After all that, the plan was abandoned in the summer of 2019, when it was discovered that the land on which the buildings were to be constructed could not sustain what was being proposed. What was being proposed then were four-story buildings. What is being proposed now is one five-story and one seven-story building. Given that history, one wonders why doing a soil study isn't a priority. What could have changed since 2019?

The meeting provided a lot of interesting information, elicited by questions from the public. The video of the meeting is now available on YouTube. It is recommended viewing.

Monday, May 20, 2024

News of CMH

Tomorrow night, 1199SEIU healthcare workers plan to show up in force at City Hall to ask the Common Council to pass a resolution supporting them in their struggle for a fair contract with liveable wages and better health benefits. The resolution, which can be viewed here, maintains that Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) is facing a crisis because it cannot maintain and recruit qualified staff. It also alleges that the situation exists because the CMH management team is refusing to negotiate the competitive wages and affordable comprehensive health benefits needed to retain and attract workers. 

On a separate but related subject, at a "town hall" meeting last week, CMH announced it had received two $5 million grants and shared plans for the "reinvention of the main CMH campus"--that's the hospital here in Hudson. The plans involve making the focus of the hospital emergency, medicine, and behavioral health, which apparently means expanding psychiatric services here. It also involves retrofitting the Greene Medical Arts building across the river in Jefferson Heights as an "ambulatory hub" where all same-day medical procedures would be performed. The images below show the Greene Medical Arts building as it is now and as it is envisioned after the retrofitting.

For now, that's all the information Gossips has to share.

Nothing Is Forever

When the City of Hudson agreed to sell three City-owned parcels of land to Kearney Realty & Development Group for building affordable housing in early 2023, it was discovered that one of the parcels was incumbered by a "reverter clause." That parcel was the playing field at the end of Mill Street, which was once the playground for Charles Williams School. According to the 1983 deed that conveyed the parcel to the City, if the land were to be used for any purpose other than a park or for recreation, ownership would revert back to the Hudson City School District.

In September 2023, Mayor Kamal Johnson appeared at a Board of Education meeting to appeal to the board to negate the reverter clause. How the situation resolved itself was never announced, but Gossips has recently learned that on February 27, 2024, the HCSD Board of Education passed a resolution releasing the reverter clause. The resolution states in part: 
the Board has determined that a fair, equitable and reasonable value of the reverter would be one-half of the proceeds received therefor based upon the Property's fair market value in 1983, the City's use for over forty years, the City's pledge to apply the other one-half of the proceeds toward furthering the affordable housing program within the City of Hudson, and the Board's and District's commitment to supporting affordable housing within the school district. . . .
The full resolution can be found here. It is anticipated that the City will sell the parcel to Kearney for $272,000, and $136,000 will go to the Hudson City School District.

Community Dinners Return at Camphill Hudson

Thanks to generous funding from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation's "Fresh and Healthy Food for All in Columbia County" fund, Camphill Hudson's free community dinners will now be held on the first and third Tuesday of each month for the remainder of 2024. The first community dinner will be on Tuesday, May 21, with a meal prepared by an Ecuadorian cook. The dinners will be served at 5:30 p.m. at 360 Warren Street.

The dinners, which are open to all, will feature fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Freewill donations are appreciated. Several more international meals are planned throughout the rest of the year. 

Follow Camphill Hudson on Facebook or Instagram to stay informed about the international meal offerings and to get notifications of any cancellations made necessary by extenuating circumstances. If you are interested in volunteering to help prepare or clean up after Camphill Hudson's community dinners, please contact info@camphillhudson.org.

Camphill Hudson is a community of people with differing abilities working to build healthy social relationships and striving toward personal and social healing and caring for the earth.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Meetings and Events in the Week Ahead

In the week that culminates in the observance of Memorial Day, there is lot going on--at least one meeting every day of the week.
  • On Monday, May 20, the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meets at 6:00 p.m. Word is that Alexander Gorlin, the architect for the HHA redevelopment, will be present at the meeting "to start the process of making renderings of the proposed project." 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, May 21, voters in the Hudson City School District vote on the $55.6 million budget for 2024-2025 and for members of the school board. If you haven't already seen it, the "Meet the Candidates" forum can be viewed here. Brief bios of the candidates can be found here. The voting locations are open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Hudson residents vote at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street. Residents of Greenport, Stottville/Stockport, and Ghent vote at the Greenport Community Center, 500 Town Hall Drive, in Greenport. Residents of Claverack, Livingston, and Taghkanic vote at the A. B. Show Firehouse, 67 Route 23, in Claverack.
  • Also on Tuesday, May 21, the Common Council Finance Committee meets at 5:15 p.m. 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, May 21, the Common Council holds its regularly monthly 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, May 22, the Space Utilization Committee of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors meets at 3:30 p.m. This is the committee that supposedly made the decision to acquire 11 Warren Street for use as county offices. It is expected that a number of people who are unhappy about that decision will show up for this meeting, which takes place in person only in the Committee Room at 401 State Street. 
  • On Thursday, May 23, the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency meets at 4:30 p.m. 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.
  • Also on Thursday, May 23, the Public Works Board, the group tasked with implementing the Sidewalk Improvement District, meets at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place on person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.
  • On Friday, May 24, the Historic Preservation Commission meets at 10:00 a.m. 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.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Celebration Continues

May is Historic Preservation Month, and Historic Hudson has been observing the month by exhibiting a sampling of The Warren Street Project at 243 Warren Street. The Warren Street Project is the monumental assemblage of photographs, nay portraits, of every building on Warren Street, taken in 1994 and 1995 by renowned photographer Lynn Davis. The exhibition celebrates Hudson's revitalization over the past thirty years and the role historic preservation played in that journey back from the edge. The event also reminds people of the part Historic Hudson played in helping Hudson embrace its historic architecture and its history. 

Since the beginning of the month, the photographs of the buildings on the north side of Warren Street, from Front Street to the middle of the 300 block have been displayed at 243 Warren Street. Visitors to the exhibit could view the photographs of the buildings as they were thirty years ago and then step outside to see the buildings as they are today--preserved, restored, and revitalized. 

This morning, the exhibition was changed. The images of the north side of the street were replaced with the images showing the buildings on the south side of that same stretch of Warren Street, from Front Street to the 300 block. Those who have seen the north side of the street are encouraged to come back and see the south side of the street.

The exhibition continues at 243 Warren Street through the end of the month. It can be viewed from noon to 5:00 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and by appointment. Call 518 828-1785 to arrange a viewing. A closing reception is planned for Friday, May 31, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Opposition to Another Bad Idea

The upcoming meeting on Wednesday of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Space Utilization Committee, the committee that allegedly made the decision to acquire 11 Warren Street and use the failed shopping mall building for county offices, is drawing attention back to that bad idea. 

On Thursday, the 11 Warren Street Action Group (11WSAG) released a report titled "Columbia County Properties in the City of Hudson and Alternatives to 11 Warren Street." The report offers "a first ever comprehensive inventory and assessment, documenting the entire footprint of County-owned properties in Hudson, including surface parking in the Central Commercial district that would be better suited to commercial and residential development." The report can be found here

The cover of the report features these two photographs, juxtaposing the buildings that stood there in the 19th century, up until Urban Renewal in the 1970s, with what is there today. 

The press release announcing the report provides this information:
11 Warren Street Action Group (11WSAG) was formed in response to Columbia County's acquisition of 11 Warren Street in Hudson. Purchased from Galvan for $3.4 million, the current single-story 1980s structure is located in the historic district on Hudson's main commercial street. The County has announced its intention to use the location for storage and offices, and plans to spend approximately $5.5 million in further upgrades. The report was researched and written by 11WSAG member Clark Wieman, who brings an extensive background in urban planning and real estate management. 11WSAG chair Donna Streitz contributed additional research and editing.
This report will enable Columbia County tax-paying constituents, stakeholders, and representatives to consider innovative "upcycling" ideas for judicious and economically productive use of currently underutilized County-owned properties, bringing them to their full potential. The aim is to open a dialog that will take advantage of information now available in this report to benefit both the City of Hudson and the County at large, and serve as a model for other municipalities.

The Hudson Business Coalition has weighed in on the subject, releasing this letter to the editor on Thursday. The first sentence of the letter says it all, but the entire text of the letter follows:
The current plans proposed by the Columbia County Board of Supervisors for the property at 11 Warren St. are misguided and backward looking, and should they be allowed to proceed, will adversely affect the residents of Hudson, Columbia County, and our local economy for decades to come. The Board reached its decision without any prior public input sessions or consideration of Hudson’s business community, and failed to consider Hudson’s vibrant and ever-evolving downtown district or its waterfront redevelopment plans. 
Last year, the Board of Supervisors entered into a contract to buy the property at 11 Warren St. from its then-owner, the Galvan Foundation, for over $3.3 million. Since then, the County’s elected leaders have indicated their plans to move several offices and departments—including the Board of Elections, Public Defender, Probation Department, and District Attorney—from their current locations in Hudson to the building at 11 Warren when the property is renovated. Those renovations will cost an additional $5.5 million. 
These departments provide vital services to the residents of Hudson and Columbia County, and both the public and employees of each of those offices deserve a place that is safe, modern, and suited to each one’s particular functions. 
But moving these offices to 11 Warren St. will result in a cost that will be borne by all of Columbia County’s residents for years to come. 
The property at 11 Warren is an unfortunate relic of Hudson’s urban renewal period. Where once stood an entire block of handsome 19th-century buildings, home to residents and businesses, there is now little more than a blighted and ill-fated single-story remnant of a failed attempt to compete with the strip malls of Fairview Avenue during the 1970s. Since its construction nearly a half-century ago, the benefits of the building at 11 Warren St. have never been fully realized, because no one has ever developed the property to its full potential. 
The lot where 11 Warren St. is situated is among the most desirable properties in Hudson. It is steps from the newly-rehabbed Promenade Hill Park, which overlooks the Hudson river and provides stunning views of the Catskill mountains. It’s the first block of Warren St. experienced by thousands of yearly visitors to Hudson via AMTRAK. The County’s plans, as currently proposed, would continue to leave this entire block of Warren St. essentially dark outside the hours of 9am-5pm from Monday through Friday, and totally desolate on weekends and holidays. If they proceed, the County will likely occupy the property with these offices for decades, tying up any other potential uses for it. This would also mean keeping it off the tax rolls, leaving residents having to bear that additional tax burden. 
Instead, the property at 11 Warren St. should be fully utilized for commercial and residential purposes. There is potential to turn it into something much better than what’s now being proposed. Just three years ago, when it still owned the property, the Galvan Foundation released its own plans to redevelop it for mixed-use. Its plans at the time included the construction of over 60 apartment units, three retail units, and a restaurant—providing much needed housing for those living or wishing to move here, as well as furthering the economic resurgence of Hudson. Those plans were ultimately scuttled, but a return to that kind of planning and development is exactly what is now needed. 
Most recently, the 11 Warren St. building was home to the Hudson Youth Clubhouse, an afterschool program for our City’s young people. Due to the sale of the property, that program is now displaced. Better planning and development within Hudson would generate sales tax and property tax revenues that will help ensure funding for organizations exactly like this one—so that they could have a permanent home within Hudson and provide desirable programs for our youth. 
The businesses of Hudson—our myriad retailers, restaurants, performing arts venues, and lodging providers—generate considerable sales tax that’s distributed to all municipalities in Columbia County. A study presented recently from the New York State Tourism Industry Association makes clear that visitors to Columbia County spent over $230 million at restaurants, retailers, lodging businesses, arts and cultural venues, and those offering outdoor recreation. These revenues help offset potential property tax increases for our residents, and fund vital local programs and initiatives, like the aforementioned afterschool program.
Abandoning its current plans for this property, the Board of Supervisors could instead return us to sound economic development, civic pride, and positive long-term planning for our City and County. The “11 Warren St. Action Group”—a small cadre of concerned Hudson residents working to present better alternatives—just published a report that inventories over a dozen other properties within Hudson that are already owned by the County. In addition, the report identifies and analyzes four scenarios for properties in Hudson, as well as in Greenport’s commercial districts, that would be far better suited to the County’s purpose. The combined properties already in the County’s holdings include over 250,000 square feet of building space and provide a total of 200,000 square feet of parking, equating to about 450 parking spaces. These scenarios would result in a savings of up to $4.9 million—more than half of the proposed $8.9 million total cost for 11 Warren St. The County should give serious consideration to one or more of these alternatives. 
The Supervisors still have the opportunity to do the right thing for the citizens of Hudson and Columbia County if they quickly change course. Working in partnership with local government, civic organizations, private development partners and economic development agencies, we can all work to chart a brighter future for 11 Warren St., and our community as a whole. 
The 11 Warren St. Action Group has drafted and circulated a petition on behalf of our County’s residents that’s already garnered over 700 signatures from individuals expressing their opposition to what is being proposed by the Board of Supervisors. Their well-documented report inventories all of the County-owned property in Hudson and offers clear and actionable alternatives to the Board of Supervisors—we encourage everyone concerned about this issue to read it, and to make their thoughts known at the next Board of Supervisors Space Utilization Committee Meeting on May 22. 
To learn more, read the Action Group findings, and to sign that citizen petition, we urge everyone to visit hudsonbusiness.org/11warren.
The Board of Supervisors Space Utilization Committee meets on Wednesday, May 22, at 3:30 p.m. in the Committee Room at 401 State Street. The petition opposing this plan, which currently has 763 signatures, can be found here.

Friday, May 17, 2024

News from Last Night's Public Hearing

Last night, the Common Council held a public hearing on the City's application for a Restore New York grant for the proposed redevelopment and expansion of Hudson Housing Authority properties. 

The meeting was attended by several residents of Bliss Towers, who spoke of the deplorable conditions at Bliss Towers and the urgent need to replace the building. Council president Tom DePietro also read aloud a petition that had been submitted, signed by thirty-nine residents of Bliss Towers, in support of the grant application. That petition can be found here. Among the nonresidents of public housing present at the hearing, only one person, Caitie Hilverman, executive director of The Spark of Hudson, had anything to say in support of the grant application. 

Robert Rasner delivered an incisive critique of the manner in which the application process has been handled. His comments follow:
The beauty and burden of a democracy is that it grants citizens the freedom to express diverse viewpoints and mobilize around shared values. No idea should prevail without the support of the majority. 
This is a public hearing required by the Empire State Development's Restore New York Communities Initiative. "Restore New York funding is available for projects involving the demolition, rehabilitation, etc., of vacant properties." In short, this program has nothing to do with construction of new housing.
To be eligible for a grant under this program, there are just three simple requirements, including:
    • Demonstrate at least a 10 percent match in funds.
    • Hold a public hearing to discuss the application and the property assessment list.
On April 24, prior to the required public hearing, the Common Council met and voted NOT to approve the resolution supporting the application for a $2 million grant to demolish the existing structure once replacement housing was constructed. Apparently dissatisfied with that outcome, President DePietro once again placed the item before the Common Council at a special meeting on April 29. Again, the required public hearing had not been held nor even scheduled. Much of the discussion that second evening focused upon the need for affordable housing. Affordable housing was NOT the subject that was to be voted upon.
At the meeting of April 29, Councilperson Belton pointed out that the application required a public hearing. The requirement of a public hearing is clearly stated in the application requirements. The requirement was not met prior to the Common Council taking action on April 24.
When Ms. Belton drew attention to the hearing requirement, there was only brief discussion among Council members about the requirement. In fact, one member of the public pointed out that a vote taken prior to a public hearing was not in compliance with the intent of the application and not legal. Fully aware they were not in compliance with the requirement, Council proceeded to vote on the resolution and approved it with two dissenting votes.
The State of New York has published a fifteen-page document that advises and guides governing bodies on conducting public meetings and hearings. The title page of that document sets the tone for its subject. "Democracy, like a precious jewel, shines most brilliantly in the light of an open government."
Asking us now, after you have voted, for our thoughts on this matter is unacceptable.
Again, was the requirement of a public hearing to discuss or opine on the application for funds to demolish redundant housing simply overlooked or ignored? Either way this action does not speak well for Hudson's elected officials. You have shown no interest in the public's opinions, feelings, and concerns on this subject. That is an insult to the city's electorate. We, the voters of Hudson, sent you here. We expect you to be fair and informed regarding how government functions . . . you know . . . a government for the people, by the people. . . .
Do we have nothing to say that may be of value to our elected leaders? Is this all much ado about nothing?
As recently as yesterday Mountco's director of development told me, "YES--we will move forward with the process of developing redevelopment plans and securing financing regardless of whether ESD awards this grant (or whether the Common Council approves for the City to go after the grant).
On the bases of shoddy procedure alone, Empire State Development should be advised NOT to approve this application.
Linda Mussmann, county supervisor representing the Fourth Ward, also expressed opposition to supporting the grant application. Her comments follow:
Support for this RESTORE grant to demolish Bliss Towers means that the council and the citizens support the entire Hudson Housing Authority project. To support this grant at this time is not possible because the ENTIRE plans that HHA is proposing have not been fully revealed. We have only been given a preliminary sketch of the entire 300 plus apartment project and a ballpark estimate that each apartment will cost approximately $700,000. The size and scope of this project is an immense change to a small city to be sure.
To support this RESTORE grant without understanding the Hudson Housing Authority's entire project at this time is like putting the cart before the horse.
Simply put, I cannot support something I don't know enough about.
The HHA project, for example, wants to block off a portion of State Street so HHA can build Phase One (Phase One is building a new Bliss Tower complex) and once completed to be followed by the demolition of old Bliss Towers . . . 
the closing of the block of State Street idea has not been okayed AND without permission to close State Street between North 2nd and North 1st means HHA cannot build Phase One and that means HHA would have to rethink the entire project.
Changing the streetscape is not a small task, and it seems it would require a serious study--moving traffic resulting from the 300 plus apartments is no small task. North 2nd going toward Mill Street is a very small and narrow road with a steep grade. Moving more traffic onto Columbia Street (the truck route) is another concern to be understood fully. This rearranging of the street and traffic studies take time to study and requires public input.
In general, the density of your proposal appears to be out of scale with the rest of Hudson. A picture is one view of your project, but a scale model should be part of the presentation so the public can fully understand the total impact on our small city.
You have not followed the comprehensive plan or the task force housing plans that call for housing that is scattered and not a multiple of towers as your plans at a glance have shown. Instead it appears to be a place isolated and walled off from the rest of the city.
I for one think this grant should be postponed until the plans reveal a more complete picture of the entire proposal, and the guaranteed permits to close off State Street between North 2nd and North 1st have been acquired. Then it seems an application for the RESTORE grant potentially is in keeping with the projected plans.
It is only fair to have the public a partner in this project so we can make a better place for the residents of Bliss Towers.
It should be noted that First Street currently only goes from Warren to Columbia streets. The plans being proposed by HHA also involve extending First Street from Columbia north the State.

Also, given Mussmann's concern about the "very small and narrow road with a steep grade" that is North Second Street between State Street and Mill Street, it should be noted that Kearney Realty & Development has a project before the Planning Board to construct two apartment buildings with a total of 70 apartments on Mill Street. The people living in those apartments will also be using that "very small and narrow road with a steep grade" as they come and go from their homes.

A total of five people, including Gossips, spoke in opposition to support for the application and were taken to task by Ife Tayo Cobbins, a resident of Bliss Towers, who declared, "The building is about to fall down," and demanded to know, "What is wrong with y'all?" She went on to say, "We're trying to get action, and y'all throwing rocks at us." She told the people who had spoken against support for the application they were "just being greedy and selfish," and they should be ashamed of themselves. At this point, another woman who had spoken in support of the grant told Cobbins, "They want you to go and not come back."
In response, Carla Sadoff, who had earlier expressed concerns about funding for the project, said she didn't think anyone "doesn't think Bliss needs to be replaced," but appealed for "transparency and knowledge" about what is being proposed.

Before closing the hearing, DePietro recognized Jeffrey Dodson, executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority, who told the group, "Nobody in this room is more qualified than I am to make a decision," justifying his claim by saying he had lived in public housing and worked in public housing in the largest city in New Jersey. (Dodson has been in his position with the Hudson Housing Authority since May 2022.)

After this, the meeting dissolved into chaos, with many people speaking in raised voices, and DePietro declared the hearing adjourned.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Tonight at City Hall

Today, the following notice appeared on Instagram. 

It should be noted that the hearing is not actually about the Hudson Housing Authority's redevelopment plan, it is about the City's application for a Restore New York grant on behalf of the HHA redevelopment project. Given the guidelines for the Restore New York Grant Program, if the City were to receive the grant, the funding would have to be used for the demolition of Bliss Towers and Columbia Apartments. The maximum amount that can be received in Restore NY funding is $2 million. The redevelopment project is expected to cost $220 million.

Those opposed to the City using its single Restore NY application opportunity for the HHA project are concerned that support for the grant application will be used as evidence that the residents of Hudson are in favor of the overall project--a project that will more than double the number of units managed by HHA and a project whose plans have been assiduously kept from the public until just recently. A statement made by Jeffrey Dodson, executive director of HHA, after the Common Council passed a resolution in support of the grant application seems to validate that concern. Dodson told the Register-Star, "I'm excited the measure passed. This is a strong and clear decision to support us (the housing authority) with the 9-2 vote."

The hearing tonight takes place at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, and it will be in person only. Gossips has learned that those who wish to comment will be asked to sign up and their comments will be limited to three minutes.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

HHA and the Planning Board

The agenda for last night's Planning Board meeting indicated there was to be a presentation by the Hudson Housing Authority and Mountco Construction about the redevelopment planned for HHA properties. On Monday, at the informal meeting of the Common Council, Theresa Joyner, who chairs the Planning Board, said, because the Planning Board had a very full agenda, HHA and Mountco would be making a presentation next month. It seems no one told HHA and Mountco about this. Both Eu Ting-Zambuto, director of development for Mountco, and Jeffrey Dodson, executive director of HHA, attended last night's Planning Board meeting on Zoom and stayed for the entire meeting, which went on for three and a half hours. Just before the meeting ended, Ting-Zambuto posted this message in the "Chat":

The "preliminary redevelopment proposal," which can be found here, consists of the same five drawings that Gossips shared three weeks ago. Of interest is the "prelim Q&A," particularly this question and answer. 

Instead of integrating extremely low and very low income households into the existing community, something typically achieved by scattered site housing, the HHA plan "ensures that there is not a concentration of poverty" by combining households with higher incomes--from 50 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI)--with the traditional public housing population. The information provided in the Q&A seems to suggest that, although HHA is committed to providing new housing for its current residents "in good standing," the number of units available to extremely low and very low income households, among 300 units HHA is hoping to build, will not be greater than what exists now. 

Tomorrow night, the Common Council holds a public hearing on the application for Restore NY funding for HHA's redevelopment project. The hearing is in person only at City Hall. On Monday, May 20, the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners holds its monthly meeting at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person in the Community Room at Bliss Towers and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.

Beautification at the Entrance to Cedar Park

In March, Gossips reported that the Conservation Advisory Council was planning to improve the "landscaping" at the entrance to Cedar Park Cemetery. (Landscaping is in quotes because this is what has graced the entrance to Hudson's burying ground since 2019.)

This morning, the sewer pipe planters were removed, and the boulder was repositioned to make way for new plantings in the triangular traffic island.

Photo: Arone Dyer
Photo: Rich Volo

Here is what the CAC is planning for the landscaping at the entrance. Since this design was created, it was decided to plant a serviceberry tree instead of a crabapple tree.

Thanks to Arone Dyer, who serves on the CAC and is spearheading the project, and Rich Volo, who chairs the CAC and persuaded the group to take on this project, for providing Gossips with the pictures and news of the project's status.