Friday, September 27, 2013

An Old CDBG Project Returns

Two years ago, in 2011, the City of Hudson applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to install a handicapped ramp at Promenade Hill. The plans for the project, which were developed by Morris Associates, carried a price tag of $279,111.90. The grant application was not successful. Some who worry about the integrity of the design of what is probably the oldest public urban green space in the country to be set aside with the expressed purpose of viewing the landscape breathed a sigh of relief, because it was never clear what the ramp would look like.

The topic of the ramp at Promenade Hill came up on Wednesday night at the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting. It seems there is still a commitment to building the ramp and thoughts of appropriating money for it in the 2014 city budget. DPW superintendent Rob Perry expressed the opinion that DPW employees could do the work and the project would cost much less than the amount written into the grant application. He pointed out, however, that Morris Associates had created no design drawings or elevations. The grant application included only this rendering.

Oddly, the blue and red bullseye at the center of this rather confusing rendering, is not, according to a footnote that appears below it, part of the proposed project: "The reviewer should be aware that the water feature illustrated on the conceptual plan is not incorporated into the CDBG request." (There's also a sculpture garden in the rendering, but no footnote to say that's not part of the request.)

The rendering shows an ADA ramp, with a square configuration, south of the current entrance to Promenade Hill, which leads to the top of the first set of stairs, and a second ramp north of the entrance, along the retaining wall behind the playground. It is this second ramp that the City wants to pursue on its own without grant funding. Council president Don Moore pointed out on Wednesday that it is already possible to get to the level of the playground without climbing stairs. The ramp would enable people in wheelchairs and parents with children in strollers to ascend the rest of the way to the historic Georgian parade and enjoy the views of the river and the mountains.

1 comment:

  1. For nearly two months I've been arguing that a recent municipal action at the Promenade was improperly implemented thanks to the city's convenient confusion about the park's true ownership.

    I've continued my research in advance of consulting the city's past code books, and can find no occasion when the Common Council overturned the wishes of the grantors of the park. The city is bound by its own code to honor the conditions of grants.

    In August, the Register Star misquoted me as blaming the Historic Preservation Commission, when I had clearly insulted the integrity of Hudson's entire "historic preservation community." Now, only weeks after allowing a double standard in regard to actions at the Promenade, residents may ask themselves whether double standards don't usually come back to bite us?

    To re-cap, in early August the DPW Superintendent executed autonomously what I argue was an improper action at the Promenade, done so by virtue of the generally assumed responsibility for city parks under the Office of the Mayor.

    But the action which had offended me, and which perfectly prefigured the proposed actions in this Gossips post, begs the question of jurisdiction.

    The grantors of the park directed that the park's authority would reside "forever" with the Common Council. (Even the aldermen may not be aware that the City Charter endows the Common Council with rights to exclusive ownership of city property.)

    In that case, my beef is less with the mayor for assuming a responsibility that was not his than with the city legislature which shirked its obligation. Indeed, on several occasions the council has expressed its annoyance concerning this issue through the office of the city's default Prime Minister, Don Moore.

    When I'd requested records from the city's Records Access Officer, for some reason it was Mr. Moore who replied to me:

    "I believe I reflect the view of the Common Council when I suggest that your legal research concerning the Council's exclusive ownership role of the park is not at this point compelling."

    Mr. Moore further suggested that if I did not agree with his assessment, I could always bring suit to redress my grievance.

    And that's precisely how I am proceeding. Unfortunately for you, dear neighbors, when I win this case as I'm certain I must, taxpayers will be required to reimburse for 100% of the legal fees - mine and yours. (Well, you should have paid attention!)

    Now to return to the subject of this post.

    The grantors could have given the Promenade park to "The City," or to "The Mayor," but they did not. They purposely gave it to the legislature.

    The options of the DPW Superintendent to act alone at the Promenade are far more limited than anyone now believes. Some actions, such as the ones described in this post or the one I'm preparing to bring suit over, must be subject to the consent of the Common Council following public review. Ultimately it's the public's privilege to endorse or reject proposed actions in this park.

    People could have - and still can - take an interest in the ownership/authority question concerning our Promenade, and thus avoid further confusion resulting from our ignorance about this gift to us.