Sunday, September 5, 2010

Replacing Bliss Towers

In an effort to determine where new public housing to replace the 132 units of Bliss Towers might be constructed, Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes, who is a great supporter of the plan to replace Bliss Towers, has been walking the streets looking for vacant and abandoned buildings that, in his opinion, could be demolished to make way for new public housing. At the Common Council Legal Committee meeting on August 25, Hughes presented a list of fourteen properties that he thinks might be "demolishable." In the case of two buildings--249 State Street and 12 North Second--Hughes conceded that rehabbing might be a possibility. All the buildings are privately owned and would have to be purchased from their current owners.

1. 312 State Street

2. 66 North Third Street

3. 255-257 Columbia Street

4. 253 Columbia Street

5. 251 Columbia Street

6. 249 Columbia Street

7 & 8. 248 and 250 Columbia Street

9. 240 Robinson Street

10. 249 Robinson Street

11. 210 State Street

12. 249 State Street

13. 12 North Second Street

14. Small lot with garage on Robinson Street


  1. It's a great idea to purchase existing housing for rehab rather than build another colossus. These projects seem to be an endless cycle, money passed onto towns and local developers and builders, the residents shuffled around like cards. Aside from that I wonder what the point is to take people stuck in a place with no job or future and move then to another spot in the same place. Why not expand the search to other localities where people may actually have opportunity to create a better future for themselves and their kids? Many people displaced from the flooding in New Orleans were given the opportunity to come back and chose not to. I suspect it would be the same for many of the low income residents who feel trapped in Hudson.

  2. having lived on robinson street, i feel a little sad to see that someone considers so much of the block demolish-worthy. it needs a boost, but not a wrecking ball.

  3. Carole, wonderful images. Its striking to see these, and string it with those green empty lots you posted on the 1st; If this visual essay doesn't say "Look what else you'll preserve if you Save Bliss" than one isn't looking. We'll be hard pressed to see this "Hope" IV money get spent on "rehabilitating" anything but the carburetors on two very large earth movers and a fleet of dump trucks. What we'll get will be another testament to centralized planning, and its absolute inability to understand architecture. And cities for that matter. The scale of this is astounding. Just when we get a momentum as a City, the City wants to tear down buildings and bulldoze gardens. When we Don't Demo Bliss, we Don't Demo all of This.

  4. David Voorhees submitted this comment:

    Despite their decrepit condition, this is a wonderful collection of early Hudson vernacular buildings. Ten years ago my own house and neighborhood looked virtually like this, and I thought “no way.” It took considerable convincing from others with vision before I bought. Now a remarkable late-18th century federal is emerging after a century of neglect and abuse. It would be unfortunate to lose these wonderful structures and the sense of community they provide because of a lack of vision.

    It is too bad that Hudson had never followed the example of such communities as Harlem: educated the people about their surroundings and trained them to be restoration craftsmen, plumbers, and electricians. Not only giving them a pride in themselves and their community, but the tools to earn good incomes. Absentee landlords and governmental agencies will never do this, only suck everyone dry, particularly those they claim they are helping.

    David William Voorhees

  5. These are the kinds of thoughtful and intelligent comments that should begin (not end) the process of deciding what to do with Bliss Towers. And I love David's idea of "educat[ing] the people about their surroundings and train[ing] them to be restoration craftsmen...."

    --peter meyer

  6. Another comment that I am passing along:

    In addition to the buildings you illustrate--and David Voorhees is right to see that many of them have great potential for restoration--David Marston noted that a community garden could be one of the casualties of a Bliss demolition. Any scheme that might destroy community gardens and historic houses while displacing hundreds from their homes, all in the name of public benefit, has a great deal of explaining to do. As the ancient Romans liked to ask, whom is this good for?

    Christabel Gough

  7. Carole, thank you for posting these photos. If I was asked a few months ago (or perhaps even more recently), I would have been all-for getting rid of Bliss Towers and turning to "scattered site housing" as a better option. But the arguments for saving Bliss are compelling. I've read much of and been moved by the PDF file linked here several months ago "We Call These Projects Home," among other points in my own "education" on the question.

    So, viewing these photos with a different mindset, my first thoughts are: Don't tear them down to put up... what? Identical "centralized planning" structures that lack soul? How large or how small? Suited to their lots or crammed onto, regardless?

    And yet...

    The houses in these photos are decrepit, though I have always seen diamonds in the rough (have spent years of my life combing thrift stores and trash heaps with the treasures to prove it). But if Bliss Towers is saved and these properties are not needed for replacement housing sites, I have many forest-for-the-trees questions: Who would rehab them, and when (i.e. for private housing; who has the vision and money to do so)? Are any of them already beyond saving? Would funding support their rehab for public housing? And if so, how many families could live in these homes (at roughly their present size)? In their current condition they are a smudge on our charmingly smudgy city-scape. Would demolition be so bad? (But let me restate: I am NOT for simply tearing them down. Nor am I for bulldozing Community Gardens, etc.)