Friday, October 11, 2013

Turbulent Hearing, Predictable Outcome

One gets the impression that Planning Commission chair Don Tillson would rather waive public hearings, and when a public hearing is unavoidable, he secretly wishes--as sometimes happens--that nobody will show up. On Wednesday night, at the public hearing on the Armory project (a.k.a., the Galvan Community Center), Tillson didn't get his wish. Although half the seats in City Hall were occupied by Galvan employees, consultants, and attorneys and almost all the members of the Hudson Area Library board, there was still room for people who had concerns about the project.

Predictably, parking was a big issue. Crawford & Associates had provided a parking study which concluded that "the on street parking far exceeds the needs of the project and should be considered adequate to waive any onsite parking requirements." The Planning Commission was satisfied with the findings of the study and willing to accept its recommendation. Members of the public, however, were not.

Linda Mussmann recalled that when she and Claudia Bruce located Time & Space Limited in Hudson, back in 1991, they were required to provide their own offstreet parking for the performance space. She complained that the parking requirements specified in the city code are now being relaxed for others. She characterized the future parking situation around the former Armory as "dumping a lot of new cars in a neighborhood that already has a lot of cars and traffic."

Selha Graham-Cora, who runs the Sip 'n' Sudz laundromat at 453 State Street, also had concerns about parking. She intimated that her experience of parking in the area was different from what was reported in the traffic study. She also questioned the basis of the information about the number of patrons who walk and drive provided in the parking study by the Hudson Area Library. "I go to the library all the time," said Graham-Cora, "sometimes on foot, sometimes on a bicycle, sometimes by car. I've never been asked how I got there."

Alana Hauptmann also expressed concern about parking around the Armory, predicting that "people who live in the neighborhood will no longer have places to park." She suggested that, instead of maximizing the available space by building a new addition where the 1950s garage now is, that the space along Short Street could be used for parking. She also suggested that the area along State Street, instead of being developed as a plaza, could be dedicated to offstreet parking.

Claudia Bruce summed up the situation by saying that "the more successful the building is, the harder it will be on the surrounding community in terms of parking."

Another issue of great concern was what Galvan attorney Joe Catalano called the "medical wing." Exactly what this is intended to be had never previously been revealed to the public. At the hearing, Mussmann was the first to mention it, saying that she had served for two years on a health committee that looked at ways to provide primary and preventive care for people not adequately served by Columbia Memorial Hospital. Mussmann spoke of the proposed facility as a "walk-in clinic that should work not only in the daytime but at night." 

Claire Parde, executive director of the Healthcare Consortium, took up the task of describing what was planned. She spoke of a feasibility study to address "unmet community health needs," which looked at public use data and surveyed a thousand people. What was proposed, she said, was a federally qualified health center. Although she indicated that the feasibility study had identified its ideal location as "below Seventh Street, to serve the concentration of under-served," she said the health center would serve not only Hudson but all of Columbia County and parts of Greene County.

Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) objected to the location, saying it was less than a mile from the hospital, and expressed the opinion that locating a clinic in this neighborhood was bad public policy. He suggested that Galvan's motive for leasing to a healthcare provider was to get tax credits. "Where is your lawyer?" Friedman asked the commission, referring to city attorney Cheryl Roberts. "This is not a proper use for this part of the city. You are not qualified to decide this. This man [Catalano] is lobbying you. The city does not need it. You [gesturing toward Catalano] need it."

When Friedman alleged that a medical facility was not a permitted use in this part of the city, which is zoned R2H, Tillson asserted that what was proposed in the application were simply "professional offices"--a permitted conditional use. This prompted Mussmann to insist that the facility would be a place where health services will be delivered, not just an office. "Something is wrong with the application," she declared. "You are not being told the truth about what is going to happen in that space."

The whole contentious conversation might have been avoided if someone in the room had been familiar enough with the zoning regulations to be able to clarify that a walk-in clinic is a permitted conditional use in an R1 zone and hence in any residential district in Hudson. Paragraph 325-7 B of the city code states the following: 
The following conditional uses are permitted, subject to the approval of the Planning Commission in accordance with Article VIII hereof. These uses are subject to the regulations specified below and elsewhere in this chapter:
(1) Hospitals, sanitariums, philanthropic or eleemosynary institutions and convalescent or nursing homes or homes for the aged, provided that with respect to such uses:
(a) Such hospital, institution or home does not primarily care for patients suffering from alcoholism and is not a transitional service facility.
(b) No building intended for such use shall be erected nearer than 50 feet to any street or property line, nor shall any lot on which such building is erected have an area of less than five acres.
(c) No building shall exceed a height of 45 feet.
Based on this, it seems the proposed medical wing should have gone to the Zoning Board of Appeals for an area variance, but I can't recall that it did. Perhaps it was exempted because the new wing is being built on the footprint of the old garage that's being demolished to make way for it. Still, that would only have relevance for the setback requirement not the lot size requirement.

Tillson more than once identified the proposed lessee for the medical wing named in the application as "River Health Care Incorporated." Padre mentioned Hudson River Health Care and made reference to a "robust provider network." Hudson River Health Care, or HRHCare, is a not-for-profit healthcare provider, founded in 1975 in Peekskill. It started with an ambulatory clinic in an abandoned department store on the main street of Peekskill that provided services to a community whose only other option was a county hospital 19 miles away in Valhalla. It now has nineteen clinics in the Hudson Valley--primarily in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties--and on Long Island, the closest one being in Pine Plains

After the public hearing, which went on for more than an hour, the Planning Commission convened its regular meeting. After some discussion about requiring the project to return to the Planning Commission every two years to reassess parking (it was decided it was meaningless to impose such a condition if there was no intention to rescind site plan approval), Claudia DeStefano, Gail Grandinetti, Glenn Martin, Cappy Pierro, and Tillson voted unanimously to grant site plan approval. Cleveland Samuels and Laura Margolis recused themselves--Samuels because he works for Galvan; Margolis presumably because her theater company, StageWorks, received a $5,000 grant from the Galvan Foundation in 2012.

Photos of parking around the Armory were taken shortly after 9 a.m. on Thursday, October 10      


  1. all animals are created equal - but some are more equal than others

  2. Why not tear down that old building where the library is now and make a parking lot there? Lots of precedent there; and no one would object!

  3. HRHCare's Peekskill site offers an alcohol and substance abuse outpatient treatment program, Pathways. Laboratory, x-ray, pharmacy, and emergency services are provided through formal agreements with off-site providers. Special populations targeted by health center programs include migrant and seasonal farmworkers, alcohol and substance abusers and their families, new immigrant day laborers, expectant mothers, high-risk adolescents, persons living with HIV/AIDS, frail and/or isolated seniors, children at risk for obesity and type II diabetes, public housing residents, and homeless

  4. Not only will parking be an issues but walking may be too. Let's not forget the neighborhood of 5th & State & the history of crime in the area.
    May I suggest that the Hudson Public Transportation System add the Library as a stop.
    Could the present Library parking lot & JL Edwards lot be used for parking & have the Public Transport add that as a stop too.
    Will the Hudson Police Department & Library, Sr. Center, etc. consider security & safety cameras to be located on the exterior of the building and/or surrounding areas?

  5. Carole, my "jest" is meant to remind people of the absolutely ludicrious path this City has been taking of late... The loss of 900 Columbia with barely a whimper is scary indeed. The total lack of backbone by our elected officials to enforce even the outline of the promises made on that deal is fairly reprehensible.... So, unless we see the current discussion about the Armory in this light -- the light shining on the hypocrisy -- we will never even get to the point of having a rational discussion (as your report suggests). Having lived here for 25 years I am well aware of the brutal politics. I applaud those who keep fighting for a venue for the facts, a forum for discussion of those facts, only because I have immense faith in the people of Hudson to make GOOD decisions if given the facts!

    1. so so true Peter - theres a total disregard for ethics here - rather like in DC - money + power

    2. Yes, Peter and Vincent.
      What is also so disturbing ,exhausting and the years now of sincerely trying,then fighting, just to get simple facts,to get to any truth, to catch a glimpse through all these veils of secrecy. Myself and other concerned citizens have consistently been met with incredible resistance to listen , to help , with such innapropriate hostility, dismissal, annoyance and at times serious threats.. while we are trying to deal with immediate dangers and the dangers to come , through the terrible decision making , apathy, neglect, incompetence, or much worse... by those that "represent us", with no seemingly awareness or foresight to our communities' and environments, safety and well being and
      our economic stability.
      This from the very people we elected or were appointed by those elected ; that we pay for and are there , solely to protect our and the future's best intersts, of this City of Hudson

      Not Greene County ,not Greenport or the needs of the rest Columbia County, that are not ours, but are gladly dumped on us
      . Not GalVan,
      Not Holcim or O&G,Colarusso&Sons,Lonestar,ADM...
      Not Rapport/Myers LLP,or Crawford & Assoc. ETC.,ETC.....OR any City Official's own circle of self interests. ...NO. they have been entrusted to serve and protect the best interests of the citizens of Hudson, NY, by the citizens of Hudson,NY
      I am so tired and do not have the time or the energy for this..
      but that's exactly what they depend on, and it works.
      So,not much choice, as I refuse to be part of the problem.

    3. dark energy = disguised and uninhibited hubris on the part of the 1%

  6. ...i did not write the above post, it was copied/pasted from National Healthcare or something similar i'd "googled". i was in a hurry, i have an eleven year old. i commented here because i thought it held interest. it gets very interesting the second time read.
    according to the discription of the Peekskill site, this is where HRHCare has main offices and i would guess their flagship facility, most medical treatment is provided with off-site providers. even if they have a medical doctor in the building, they do no lab work, have no X-ray, emergency is off-site, what do they do? why alter the building if it's a doctors office that refers most to facilities at CMH? i don't know anyone who would want to go to doctor to be sent to the hospital. in Peekskill they offer "programs" and a substance abuse outpatient treatment "program".....