Friday, June 7, 2013

Discussion of CDBG Project Continues

As promised, at last night's Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, Hudson's 2013 CDBG application was the single topic of discussion. A memo to the committee from Sheena Salvino, executive director for Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) and Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency (HCDPA), dismissed what had been the front-runner ideas from the previous meeting: trees, sidewalks, and the Ferry Street bridge. There were better sources of funding, the memo said, for these projects: for trees, DEC Urban Forestry Program; for the Ferry Street bridge, DOT Transportation Enhancement Program; for sidewalks, private/public partnership, such as the scheme mentioned by John Friedman at the previous meeting

The CDBG application process requires two public hearings: the first to solicit ideas from the community; the second to present the project the agency has decided to pursue. Although last night's meeting was advertised as an extension of the first public hearing, it felt more like a prelude to the second when Bill Roehr of TGW Consulting (a.k.a. the Grant Writers) got up to explain what seems to be the favored project: a synergistic program that brings together funds from CDBG and the Main Street and Rural Area Revitalization programs and concentrates them on a single area to make exterior improvements to owner-occupied houses. Roehr suggested the 200 and 300 blocks of State Street as a possible target area.

Part of the north side of the 200 block of State Street
Roehr described the project as "nice and neat conceptually but challenging to put together." The first challenge is to define the target area, which requires an adequate number of owner-occupied houses, whose owners are low to moderate income, concentrated in a small enough area to make a positive impact. Roehr suggested this might be accomplished with a walk through the neighborhood. Council president and Economic Development Committee chair Don Moore added that the tax rolls could also be helpful. 

A question from committee member David Marston about whether CDBG money could be used to improve private property brought attention to another challenge: administering the grant, dispersing the money, and making certain it is used as intended and the work is satisfactorily done. Despite the fact that housing grants are "labor intensive" in administration, Roehr argued that they made a difference for individual home owners and for neighborhoods.

Alderman Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), who was in the audience, declared herself "definitely on top of this," but other audience members were not as enthusiastic. Linda Mussmann, co-founder of Time & Space Limited, restated her case for new sidewalks on the 400 block of Columbia Street, calling that stretch of Columbia Street a "huge link to other services" and asserting that "the truck route should be primary."

Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward) presented an enhanced concept for improving the school bus stop on Third Street between Columbia and Warren: turn the vacant lot at Third and Columbia, where the Colored Citizens' Club once stood, into the pocket park. The plan would involve a covered bus stop for schoolchildren waiting for their school bus and a place where mothers and young children could enjoy being outdoors. Sterling called Third and Columbia "an ideal place to make a statement." 

Moore and Pertilla both rejected this idea--for different reasons. Moore made the point that "the City has $80,000 invested in the property [the cost of demolishing the building], and it won't be likely they will be willing to take it off the tax rolls." The property still belongs to the Overcomers Ministries, which is being charged for the demolition through property taxes levied on a property now assessed at $12,000. Pertilla's objections were different. She predicted that a park at that location would become a gathering place for undesirable characters and the neighbors would complain.

Mussmann took the meeting as an opportunity to complain about 325-327 State Street, demanding to know, rather disingenuously, if Salvino was responsible for this project even though there is a huge sign next to the building announcing that its rehabilitation is a project of Housing Resources of Columbia County and identifying the principals in that not-for-profit.

325-327 State Street this morning

325-327 State Street in 2010
Mussmann's frustration is understandable. Nothing has happened with this house in the past three years. According to Moore, Housing Resources "got taken to the cleaners by a contractor," and the City is now pressuring the organization to finish the project. "Code enforcement," said Moore, "has been asked to focus on it."

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the newest phase for "Urban Renewal" in Hudson.
    Can't imagine the living conditions on the inside for the tenants.
    Congratulations to the slum lords & the lack of code enforcement if it exists.
    Bring in the bulldozers.