Sunday, April 11, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Jamie Larson's article in this morning's Register-Star online about the building being proposed by the Lantern Organization for the corner of Warren and Fifth streets: "Officials wary of proposed low-income housing development."

The patio shown in the drawing and the renovation of the former clinic building as a restaurant are not included in the proposal or the application for funding.

Last week the Lantern Organization, Eric Galloway's not-for-profit real estate development group, distributed a flier describing the project. Also last week, Common Council President Don Moore and City Treasurer Eileen Halloran send a memo about the project to members of the Common Council and asked these questions: (1) Why should this facility be situated at the center of the still developing Hudson business and tourism district? (2) Why should a twin-county facility be located in Hudson at all? (3) Why should a property that is an indispensable element in the economic development of Hudson with the potential to add real, tax-paying commercial space to Hudson’s tax rolls be used in this way?

The Lantern Organization will be making a presentation to the Common Council at its informal meeting tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at City Hall. It's our chance as a community to let the Lantern Organization and the Common Council know what we think of this remarkably wrongheaded idea.

There's a lot of history on this corner--all happening in the past fifteen or so years, since the lot has been vacant. The Columbia Hudson Partnership took ownership of the property back in 1995 or 1996. Not long after that, probably early in 1997, Mayor Scalera reportedly returned from a mayors' conference with the idea of turning the vacant lot into a sculpture park and tasked Carrie Haddad with coming up with a design. Carrie asked three architects and landscape designers, among them the late David Whitcomb, to suggest designs pro bono for the space. When Carrie presented the designs to Scalera, he denied ever asking her to do the project. He was quoted in the Register-Star as saying something like, "Sculpture park--does that sound like something I would suggest?"

When Hudson withdrew from the Columbia Hudson Partnership somewhere near the beginning of this century, the lot became the property of HDC (Hudson Development Corporation). In the late winter/early spring of 2005, there was word that a group represented by architect Peter Sweeny wanted to build a hotel on that corner. In fact, they entered into an agreement with HDC that gave them the option to buy the vacant lot. At the beginning of 2006, however, Eric Galloway made known his desire to buy the property and build shops and condos there. A court battle ensued. Judge Christian Hummel sent the case to arbitration, but a few months later, it was back in court. Interestingly, Galloway's usual attorney in Hudson, Mark Greenberg, was representing Sweeny et al in the matter, so Galloway was represented by Jack Connor, who had been the city attorney and would be again. (In 2006, Dick Tracy was the mayor and Bob Gagen the city attorney.) To my knowledge, the details of the arbitration were never made public, but the outcome was that Galloway bought the property and agreed to assume responsibility for remediating any environmental issues on the site.

In the summer of 2008, Kevin Walker, representing the Galvan Group, Galloway's for-profit development company, presented plans to the Historic Preservation Commission for a great monolith of a building that would extend the entire 150 feet along Warren Street and involve a row of townhouses along Fifth Street. On the ground floor would be an indoor mall. On the top three floors would be market-rate apartments and condominiums. The frontage of the building would be three times greater than the largest existing building on Warren Street. The HPC requested design changes and contemplated a public hearing, but the Galvan Group never came back to the HPC with a revised design, and a few months later, Walker mentioned in a meeting about inclusionary zoning that his employer was seeking state funds to finance the project, which was now going to be low-income housing.

Ironically, the imitation Italianate design of the building now being proposed is something that the Historic Preservation Commission might be able to grant a certificiate of appropriateness. What is inappropriate is the use. Last year, when the county advanced the idea of using the St. Charles Hotel for transitional housing, the Common Council passed a moratorium on the creation of new transitional housing and homeless shelters in Hudson. That moratorium is still in effect, and there was discussion at the last Common Council Legal Committee meeting about the possibility of extending the moratorium while a task force studies the problem and seeks an appropriate solution.


  1. I'll be thrilled if we end up with a building that good-looking at the corner of 5th & Warren. I was bracing for blue-grey vinyl. But the notion of using prime commercial real estate for the purpose of housing individuals with challenges is nuts. Hudson is already shouldering more than its share of that load.

  2. the proposed building would ruin the growing business district

  3. Housing proposals of varied sorts are coming at Hudson and the surrounding area like meteorites lately, and I find myself pondering, philosophical. What makes a place desirable to live? If Hudson was desirable to me when I 'found' it a few years back, what made it so? Clearly, it is the "mix" that is here, in every sense of the word. We are not Rhinebeck, we are not Bed-Stuy. To me, we are a pleasing place in the middle.

    Having moved to and begun creating a life (my ideal life to be honest) in Hudson, I am now more aware of an underbelly. Yet I find myself striving to keep in check an "us and them" attitude, to not let my pride sway. I also find myself greatly wanting to contribute to our community in a positive way.

    I pondered recently as I read about Greenport residents who would like to keep group homes for disabled citizens out of their neighborhood. I have worked with people like those who would be living in the homes and I see nothing to "fear." I have been in such homes and know them to be well-supervised, positive places for disabled people to live and learn. I truly hope the residents in Greenport where the homes are proposed will take a second look, become informed, and welcome the group home residents as neighbors. I would welcome them on my block, if it were proposed.

    But oh, hypocrite that I am, as I ponder Lantern's Starboard proposal. The building is near where I live, on the corner of Warren I pass most often on errands etc. When I think of the people for whom the housing is proposed... yes, I'm going to say it: I don't want them there. Not right there. It's not that I don't want them to have a nice place to live, in Hudson, I simply don't want them on a prominent corner of town. This type of housing on Warren Street is not a forward move for Hudson. When I read the archived Register Star Article detailing the 2008 proposal for townhouses and commercial space on the corner, I realize it might not be a realistic plan in this economy, but it holds much greater appeal and makes more sense for the long term vision for our city. (Sidenote: Has anyone noticed that the current plan is 10,000 sq.ft. larger than the earlier "monolith" proposal? Does size matter, here?)

    How do I oppose the Starboard proposal without seeming like a snob, or heartless, or the hypocrite that I am? My stance against it would make no one believe that still, it is Hudson's mix that I love, that keeps life here "real."

    And besides, where will Tortillaville go if Starboard comes?!?

  4. "I have worked with people like those who would be living in the homes and I see nothing to 'fear'."

    Anonymous, you might have bought a home near the Hudson Terrace Apartments on Front Street, and been cured of your finer feelings by now.

    Down here, we're convinced us that the Hudson police give the apartments a wide berth. Drug dealing and other law-breaking is rampant (phoned-in to the HPD, yet never to become a statistic).

    Many in Hudson Terrace are breaking the rules by keeping dogs, but our calls to the management office are met with hostility. It's the "us and them" attitude, can you believe it?! (I take your supposition to be that the "us and them" can't possibly come from "them," right?)

    And those are merely "section 8" apartments! But I'm sure the behaviors will change once those apartments are refurbished at such great cost to the taxpayer.

    You remind me of the scene in "Annie Hall," when Allen is visiting the ghost of his past at Cony Island. His father is offering a socio-economic rationalization for why the maid must continue to steal from him. It is implied that he feels better about himself for this reflexive magnanimity. The mother is more "NIMBY," but for some reason Woody Allen concludes that they're "both crazy." Your comment reads as if you are both parents, so maybe now I understand Allen's exasperated conclusion a little better.

    I have a bipolar brother who has greatly improved (all we can ask for) ever since we stopped making the kinds of excuses and rationalizations that your "ideal" world-view would foist upon your new neighbors. (Oh I forgot, not your immediate neighbors, but just some townsmen elsewhere.)

    But if by putting this facility somewhere further away in Hudson, somewhere not too near to you, we can do anything to improve your feelings of self-worth and magnanimity (thus defeating that troubling "pride" that worries you so - huh?), then I'm all for it. The world is my therapy-place too, locals be damned!

    And when the experiment fails, as it must, one can always move along to help create an ideal world somewhere else. After all, the trail of failures is always someone else's fault, since blaming unfortunates is the only kind of mental disorder that deserves punishment.

    As I say to my brother in his better moods, "Your both crazy."

  5. Anonymous responding to anonymous: My understanding is that the group homes in Greenport would be for developmentally disabled adults-- mentally disabled, perhaps autistic, Down's syndrome, etc. These are the people I describe having worked with. They are not to be "feared."

    But the Lantern facility would house recovering addicts, formerly homeless, etc. Only 3 developmentally disabled people. It is the first two groups-- and their attendant problems-- that I do not want on the main street of our town. It would potentially be Hudson Terrace all over again, and you've spelled out the difficulties of that.

    That residents there are given a wide birth for any violation of rules-- from having a dog to selling drugs-- is wrong and should be righted. If the police won't do it, who will? "Us"? Can anything be changed or done?

    My frustration with "scenes" that occur in places like Hudson Terrace, or on State Street near my home, is lack of "civic" behavior (granted, my own particular judgment of what is civic). My ideal world-- and no doubt this means Hudson-- would include citizens who show respect for each other in word and deed, show respect for their surroundings and belongings, and those of others. If I thought potential residents of Starboard would act "civilly" I would be much more welcoming, but as you say the experiment must fail. You are probably right, but I am a Pollyanna at heart and will continue to hope, eventually, it will succeed. In Hudson; just not on Warren Street.

    Side note/ End note: to be happy and successful in life, people need to feel they belong, that they matter, that they have purpose. I am convinced if more people in Hudson felt they had a purpose (and responsibility) toward the betterment of our town, we would not have as many problems.