On Saturday night, invited guests, described by one observer as "young and well dressed," gathered at Eric Galloway's antebellum mansion on Allen Street to meet the mayor of Hudson. Before the event, Hudson was abuzz with speculation about its purpose, and afterward some people present reported that they were still unclear about what it was meant to accomplish.
With the fifty or so guests seated in chairs arranged in rows, the evening began with Tom Swope introducing the mayor. In his introduction, Swope explained that when he first came to Hudson he was not a fan of the mayor, but he soon changed his attitude. Later on in the evening, Jamison Teale professed his loyal support of the mayor, boasting that, unlike Swope, he had supported the mayor from the beginning. Gail Walker also declared her fondness for the mayor, calling him a "decent guy."
Before he began what was described as a "long presentation" about his accomplishments during his many years in office, Scalera assured the audience that he was not running for mayor again. Rather, he said, he plans to run at the county level. Exactly what county office he would be seeking is unclear. He lives in the Fifth Ward, and in 1999, when he decided to run for Fifth Ward supervisor instead of mayor, he lost. Also, no one in the crowd on Saturday night seemed to be a resident of the Fifth Ward. In fact, word has it that a few people on the guest list were neither residents nor property owners in Hudson.
Having disclosed his political plans for the future, Scalera talked about his accomplishments in office over nearly two decades. (With the exception of two years--2000 and 2001--when Ken Cranna was mayor and two years--2006 and 2007--when Dick Tracy was mayor, Rick Scalera has been the mayor of Hudson since January 1994.) The highlights, according to reports, were the new water treatment plant, paid for with a no-interest loan which the City is now repaying with income from a "rent to own" deal, negotiated by Scalera with A. Colarusso & Sons, for more than 200 acres of land surrounding the City's secondary water supply, and the waste water treatment plant now under construction, financed by federal stimulus money. Both projects provide evidence of his ability to find money to finance major capital projects from sources other than local property taxes. Scalera also cited "cleaning up Warren Street" as one of his accomplishments and mentioned specifically putting lids on the trash barrels to prevent people from dumping household trash in them.
Speaking of accomplishments he hopes will soon be realized, Scalera told the group that he is committed to getting the LWRP adopted this year and that next week the City--or rather Hudson Development Corporation (HDC)--will close on the old Kaz warehouse at the head of Tanners Lane. Although he seems not to have talked about the plan for this property on Saturday, more than a year ago he explained that his intention was to raze the building to expand the parking lot for the train station and provide additional parking for people attending events at the waterfront.
Following the mayor's presentation, there was a question-and-answer period moderated by Peggy Polenberg. One audience member asked if the mayor was for or against demolishing Bliss Towers. He said he was definitely for it. At some point in the discussion, presumably in the context of the conversation about Bliss Towers, Scalera said he hoped "people would buy up these buildings and make them beautiful." It wasn't clear what he meant by "these buildings," but it's assumed he was talking about surviving pre-Urban Renewal houses in the Second Ward.
Another audience member asked how many of the 7,000 people living in Hudson received some kind of social services. Scalera said he didn't know, but someone in the audience offered the information that more than 60 percent of Hudson residents rely on social services.
The oft-cited fact that 50 percent of the properties in Hudson are not on the tax rolls--either tax exempt or receiving some kind of PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes)--was also mentioned. On the topic of the heavy tax burden levied on the few, Scalera allegedly made the observation that the taxpayers of Hudson have to support a large police force (the police force represents half the City budget), but the people who make such a large police force necessary do not own property and do not pay taxes.
When asked to share his vision for the waterfront, Scalera said he was hoping a restaurant will open on the waterfront very soon, which seems to lend credence to the suspicion that there's a plan afoot to sell the old Dunn warehouse building across from Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, now owned by the City (or maybe by HDC), to some private developer--perhaps to Eric Galloway. The mayor also spoke about attracting to the waterfront some big, fabulous industrial enterprise that would utilize the railroad and the river to ship goods out of Hudson. Might he have Aerocity wind turbines in mind?