Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Galvan to the Rescue

At last night's Common Council meeting, a resolution was introduced that would rescind a resolution that was passed at last month's meeting which, among other things, directed Spacesmith to prepare new bid documents for the senior center. The goal of re-bidding was to bring the project in at no more than $1,080,000, which is all the money the City has to spend on it. The reason for the new resolution was to give the Council time to consider an entirely new proposal for a senior center from the Galvan Initiatives Foundation. Daniel Kent, executive director of the Galvan Foundation, was on hand to explain what they were offering.

The plan is to put the senior center in the Armory, now being developed as the Galvan Community Center. The Hudson Area Library is going to occupy the drill hall. What is being proposed for the senior center is the second floor of the part of the building that faces Fifth Street, known as the officers' hall. In December, when the schematic design for the building was presented to the library board and the public, this part of the building was being called the Community Wing and the plan was to rent space in this part of the building to not-for-profits.

Kent explained the total area being offered for the senior center was 2,700 square feet. (The new building proposed to be built on Third Street, next to the Youth Center would be 4,200 square feet.) The space consists of a 1,200 square foot room, which Kent suggested could be used for yoga and aerobics classes, two other rooms, and a long, narrow 100 square foot space (a mezzanine) that could be developed as a kitchen and handicapped accessible bathrooms. The senior center would also have the use of a community room on the first floor which is being developed in collaboration with the library and over which, according to Kent, the library will have "administrative control." This is being offered to the City, on a lease basis, for a dollar a month, with no initial investment or development costs, with the City, going forward, paying for utilities, maintenance, and liability insurance for this part of the building.

The thinking about the new wing that Galvan plans to build on the west side of the building, where the garage now stands, has evolved since December. Originally, this proposed addition was being called the Education Wing, but its exact use was undefined. Last night, Kent explained that they were now seeking to develop this as a facility for health care providers delivering primary care and urgent care. 

Kent talked enthusiastically about the senior center being part of an intergenerational center, since the library has programs for children, teenagers and adults, and spoke of the "obvious synergies" of the senior center and health care services. He also said the location--"at the center of the city"--was a "big plus."

The proposal met with skepticism from some aldermen and unquestioning enthusiasm from others. Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward), noting that building a new senior center on Third Street would cost $1,080,000 while the new proposal would cost only $12 a year, admonished his fellow aldermen, "You should be saying a prayer of thanks." David Marston (First Ward) expressed the opinion that the proposal seemed "too good to be true."

At the beginning of the discussion, it seemed that the Council was being asked to abandon the plan to build a senior center adjacent to the Youth Center and embrace the new plan. Marston wanted to know why Kent had waited until the formal meeting to present the proposal, leaving the aldermen no time to study it or consult their constituents before having to make a decision. Kent explained that it was a new concept, and they "just came up with it."

Nick Haddad (First Ward) expressed concern that progress on the Armory project depended on the library raising the $2 million that is its share of the development costs. Kent explained that work would begin when the design development process was complete, even if the library had not yet raised all its money. When Council president Don Moore asked how the financing for the library will work, Kent recited a list of government funding sources--New Markets Tax Credits, historic preservation tax credits, New York State economic development grants--and said that he expected the funding "to be in line by this fall." 

Mayor William Hallenbeck, speaking from the audience, said that he had not "abandoned the idea of a senior center at the Youth Center" and announced that he had an appointment at one o'clock on Monday in Albany to discuss an extension on the $400,000 grant, which is the first and largest sum contributing to the $1,080,000 for the project. Last month, the Galvan Foundation offered to give the City the $300,000 needed to fill the gap between what the City had and how much even a trimmed down version of the new building was going to cost. (The complete budget breakdown is CDBG $400,000, HCDPA $100,000, Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation $150,000, City of Hudson $130,000, Galvan $300,000.) Someone asked if the new proposal meant that Galvan was withdrawing its offer of $300,000 for the new building, if the City decided to pursue that project. Kent indicated that it did not. 

There was much discussion of the proposal. Haddad described it as "a wonderfully generous offer that comes out of the blue in the eleventh hour," and, recalling Galvan's recurrent interest in building supportive housing in Hudson--Starboard, Civic Hudson, Galvan Quarters--he wondered aloud, "Are we going to end up with a homeless shelter here?" Victor Mendolia, former chair of the Hudson Democratic Committee, expressed his skepticism, noting that the Galvan Foundation and Eric Galloway "have had these fits and starts" when it came to undertaking projects and seeing them through to completion. Supervisor Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward), a great proponent of Galvan Quarters, took issue with Mendolia's comments. He observed that "there is dissension whenever Galvan is mentioned" and suggested that "if we work with him, maybe something will be finished." In support of the proposal, Hughes concluded, inscrutably, "I don't know how we can look it in the face."

It was finally decided that the resolution was not absolutely necessary. City attorney Cheryl Roberts could review the contracts, but they would not move ahead on re-bidding the project. The Council would take a month to consider the new proposal, and Kent agreed to give the aldermen a tour of the space late next week.


  1. Any "Gift Horse" from Galloway..not only would I look it in the mouth, I would bring in a team of dentists to examine it, throughly.

  2. "too good to be true" - sounds it to me

    the proof is in the pudding - and so far the pudding has gone stale with empty promises - and a library that now needs $2 million dollars to keep in the galvan game

  3. A senior center on the second floor, by design? Accessibility?

    1. An elevator was already part of the renovation plans for that part of the building.