Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Does the City Have to Sell?

During the recent contretemps over financing a capital reserve fund, several people--in particular, Mayor William Hallenbeck, Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward), and Supervisor Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward)--talked about selling City-owned property as a way to raise money for future expenditures. Hughes' comments especially made it sound as if there was a vast amount of property that could be unloaded by the City to swell its coffers in preparation for the $2.8 million in expenses just on the horizon. Given that, it seems useful to review just what it is the City has to sell.

First, there is the vacant lot at the corner of Fourth and State streets, where, until 1994, the Fourth Street School, the building that was the original Hudson High School, stood. The lot is currently being used as a parking lot to accommodate the overflow from the parking lots created for the County office building at 325 Columbia Street.

The original deal, cut back in 2004, which allows the County to use the lot without compensating the City, was that the County would pave and landscape the lot and "develop" it as a parking lot. The public was led to believe at the time that, because of the way the old school building had been demolished (it was said that the building had been bulldozed into its own cellar and oil tanks had been left in the ground), the lot could not be used for anything but a parking lot without costly remediation. The paving and landscaping never happened, and it's unclear if the people thinking of selling it recall the use limitations the lot allegedly had a decade ago.

Then, there is the Dunn building on the waterfront and land that adjoins it--everything east of Water Street between Broad and Ferry streets. This is clearly a valuable asset, but it is also one that the City must handle very carefully. Developed well, the building and land can be an enormous economic boon to Hudson; developed badly, it could be a disaster.

Back in 1996, the Hudson Vision Plan imagined lots of commercial development on the waterfront. A restaurant would take the place of the Hudson Power Boat Association and the now vacant land east of Water Street would be lined with buildings that were meant to be mixed use commercial and residential--housing shops and offices, perhaps an inn, as well as apartments.

Today, the hopes for the waterfront tend to be a bit different. People talk of developing the Dunn building as an aquarium and natural science center and using the land east of Water Street to expand the park and create more green space.

At the moment, those two properties are all that the City has to sell. The old Kaz warehouses, acquired in 2010, belong not to the City of Hudson but to the Hudson Development Corporation. If they are sold, the money doesn't go into the City's general fund; it goes to HDC.

Speaking of things to sell, Hughes made reference to the vacant lot at the corner of Third and Columbia street where the old CC Club used to stand, but that property doesn't belong to the City. At the end of 2011, the City spent something like $60,000 to demolish the building and charged the demolition back to the owner, Overcomers Ministries, in property taxes. According to the 2014 tax rolls, Overcomers Ministries is still the owner of 255-257 Columbia Street, which is assessed at $12,000. It is not known if the cost of the demolition has been reimbursed to the City, but there is also no indication that the City is moving to foreclose on the property for nonpayment of taxes.

In 2013, the Common Council authorized spending up to $26,000 to demolish this house at corner of Fairview Avenue and Spring Street.

Photo: Scott Baldinger
At the time, it was said that there was someone interested in buying the lot if the house were demolished, so the City could readily recoup what it spent on the demolition. Now, almost two years after the Council passed the resolution to demolish the house, there is no indication that the lot has been sold by the City or even that the City has taken possession of it. The 2014 tax rolls indicate that the property is still owned by Maleea Drescher and Paula Miner, who were the owners of record when the resolution to demolish the house was passed in January 2013. The property is now assessed at $23,400, which is probably the amount the City spent to demolish the house.

So it seems that, in the past three years, the City has spent more than $80,000 to demolish buildings, and it is not clear if any of that money has been recouped. If it had been, coming up with $70,000 to reach the desired $200,000 contribution to the capital reserve fund might not have been an issue.


  1. Selling City properties is the best money-raising idea I've heard so far. But the fact that the City spent $80k demolishing old buildings signals the haphazard way it spends money. No plan, no vision, no research-based idea of what to do and how to do it. I ask again, why the sudden concern with raising new money for the City? Looking at vacant lots is a good start, but there should be a full inventory of land and buildings, public and private, especially those not on the tax rolls. Maybe, for instance, Habitat would finally get the idea to rehab old houses instead taking vacant lots off the tax rolls.... C'mon City, let's do this right.

  2. Now that Hudson's property values and building sales prices have reached such amazing heights, one might wonder how much the Fourth Street school building,if it were still there, might be worth if it were sold to someone who would commit to its renovation and developed into apartments or as some other useful space. If the City Fathers had had the foresight to keep it rather than demolishing what was not only a Hudson historic and architectural site but also possibly a very useful and valuable building, surely no matter what it might have cost to keep it, it would still certainly be less than the current value of a vacant lot, and the current sale price,even if it were sold undeveloped, would certainly be vastly more.

    1. there is no looking ahead.
      those in control seem to enjoy the corruption of the past.

  3. Is there some reason that the City has not moved to foreclose on 255-257 Columbia and the Fairview and Spring properties?

    Great research job Carole. Without knowing all the facts, and having a good data base, be it a financial one or otherwise, making appropriate decisions as to how to plan for the future becomes much more difficult - if not impossible.

    As to the "Dunn building" (like the name :)), I wonder who is doing what on that property asset at the present time to make some forward progress towards some resolution. Things do indeed seem to move at a glacial pace in this city sometimes, don't they?

    It's tragic that beautiful and so architecturally distinguished building on Columbia Street (one of the handsomest that I have seen in the City) was torn down to make way for a butt ugly parking lot. Maybe it just had to be done for financial reasons at the time, but it still makes me very sad.

  4. i thought selling firehouses had solved the problem, maybe not, and who is still in city government that was a part of that debacle? they need to go.
    4th and State is actually four building lots on a proprietors map.
    the Dunn warehouse is toxic, has been "re-mediated" (cleaned up) and cant be "re-mediated" any more, not safe for food storage or kids on the floor, forget the brew-pub or museum. they store the SPOUT whale in there and then use it to spray water on people in parades, i'm leery about that even.
    "transferring" over a hundred acres to the columbia land conservancy for free, ...ridiculous...

    1. Have the DPW occupy the Dunn property and give back to the people access to N Bay, which is now is blocked by the DPW and the city pound...

  5. The old CCClub did have an interested party to save it - Chris Gilbert - (who saved the "Cannonball Factory") - but Scalera would have nothing to do with it and tore it down months later without care or concern of cost or safety.