Friday, December 11, 2015

A Home for Promise Neighborhood

Back in July, it was learned that Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood was to lose its headquarters on South Second Street. The building is owned by Housing Resources, now Galvan Housing Resources, and strategy of the new leadership is to subsidize the rent on the residential units in the building by increasing the rent on the commercial spaces. It was reported that the monthly rent for Promise Neighborhood was to be increased from $800 to $3,200 a month.

The imminent eviction of Promise Neighborhood inspired protest from the community, and Promise Neighborbood got a reprieve: they could stay at 6 South Second Street, at the same rent, until December 31, 2015. On Monday, with the deadline only days away, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) presented to the Common Council at their informal meeting a letter from Joan E. Hunt, project director of Promise Neighborhood, requesting approval for the organization to relocate temporarily to the Hudson Youth Center at Third and Union streets. The Council seemed blindsided by the request. 

Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) asked if the request should not go through the Youth & Aging Committee. Garriga maintained that the plan had been proposed last summer, before Promise Neighborhood's deadline for vacating the space on South Second Street had been extended.

Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) said this was the first he was hearing about the proposal and asked if the request shouldn't come from Tyrone Hedgepeth, recreation program supervisor at the Youth Center, or from the mayor. Garriga told Rector that he should have been at the last Youth & Aging Committee meeting, a somewhat bizarre rebuke because Rector is not a member of that committee and even more bizarre because the proposal was not discussed at the last Youth & Aging Committee meeting. Gossips was there, as was Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward), who rose at Monday's meeting to attest that nothing had been said about the proposal at the committee meeting.

Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) suggested that Garriga, who is a member of the Promise Neighborhood board of directors, should not be the one presenting or promoting the proposal, calling it a conflict of interest for her as a board member and an alderman to be "asking for some benefit from the City."

Council president Don Moore suggested that the proposal was "not something the Council can act on right now." He went on to say that "the mayor's office should parse this [proposal]--how much space they need and the hours of use"--and provide a "definition of how this impacts the Youth Department."

It was agreed that Hunt and Hedgepeth appear at the Council meeting on December 15, "so the Council knows what is being requested."


  1. I am reminded of the old saying, "Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

  2. Alderman Freidman is correct, that Alder(wo)man Garriga's efforts present a conflict of interest.

  3. Conflict of Interest, is suddenly a concern of Common Councils'. That's novel.

  4. Oh, it is a public policy issue, and Alderwoman Garriga has every right to advocate or comment on this or any other issue as she so chooses. Her only duty is to disclose the potential conflict of interest, and obviously it was known, so I don't see a problem myself. I mean, does Alderman Friedman have no right to comment and take a position on parking meters between 2nd and 3rd Street on Warren because he has a legal office there? Of course not.

  5. I might add that Tiffany Garriga is but a Board member of the organization, and is thus not going to secure a personal financial benefit from the proposal. If she were receiving a personal financial benefit, while she would still I think be entitled to comment and advocate, she should then recuse herself from voting on the matter. I hope I have the law right here.

  6. Promise Neighborhoods does not have a board of directors they have a steering committee that is only advisory in nature. Promise Neighborhoods is currently a program under the Mental Health Association which is ultimately responsible for this program. It seems that everyone who is quoted outside of Tiffany Garigga feels someone else should present the proposal, Maybe the Mayor, Maybe Tyrone, Maybe the Youth Commissioner. We thank Tiffany for providing leadership on this issue and ask all those who have stated they supported Promise Neighborhoods and have blasted their landlord for moving forward with an eviction to come together and find a solution. Promise Neighborhoods is providing supports for those in our community whom need it the most and we as a community should help them in their time of need.

  7. While the letter of the anemic and toothless City and Col. County ethics laws (as well as the national joke known as the NYS ethics in government laws) does, in fact, require recusal only where one or his or her immediate family has a personal financial benefit in the outcome, this is a de minimus requirement and certainly not its spirit (that is, too, kind of a punch line in all this given recent convictions in the the Southern and Eastern Districts of NY federal courts).

    Additionally, it has been the practice in the City Council for the 4 years I've served on it, all snarkyness aside, to read the applicable statutes broadly in order to assure the most unbiased outcome. One glaring exception is Mr. Miah who, despite being a very senior part of the Hudson Islamic Center's hierarchy, has always obtusely refused to recuse himself as to votes concerning the various Galloway holdings and schemes. And, thanks to the anemic and toothless ethics laws alluded to above, and the fact that all initial complaints would likely have to go through the Col. Co. Ethics Board which is hamstrung by the same lax legislation, there is no effective remedy for this breach of public trust except eye-rolling.

    An earlier commenter hit part of the problem on the head: poor planning in terms of introducing a resolution leads to uncertain outcomes. Perhaps if Promise Neighborhood's steering committee came to the Council earlier, through the committee system the Council employees or directly through a floor introduction as was done 3 weeks before the end of the year, a solution would have already been found. Bringing this to the City at the last minute isn't leadership -- its poor planning exacerbated by a lack of communication.

    No one I've spoken to, on or off the Council, thinks Galvan's treatment of any of its retail tenants at the old Shrimp Box as to the rent was right or proper. But plenty of time was eventually given to Promise Neighborhoods to manage an orderly search for a new home and a move there. Once it became clear to that organization that it needed more time or special assistance, it should have communicated with the Council.

    There may well be an emergency regarding the future site of the Promise Neighborhoods, and I've no doubt that the Council will do what it can to help. But if there is an emergency it was self-made -- and that needs to be addressed so the same problems don't recur.