Thursday, March 10, 2016

Challenges at the Senior Center

Many of the over 65 crowd--whether they are willing to admit they are elders or are still in denial--have been encouraged by the enthusiasm and creativity brought to the role of Commissioner for the Aging by Amanda Henry, but it seems not everyone warms to her style. Arriving late for the Common Council Youth & Aging Committee meeting last night, Gossips walked in as Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) was expressing her concern about the way seniors were "being talked to and considered," presumably by Henry. For her part, Henry apologized for her habit of speaking fast and for her British accent and assured the seniors gathered at the meeting--filling almost all of the available seats--that she had the utmost respect for them.

There seem to be a few issues that are causing problems. The thirty-five or so seniors who use the senior center currently operating at the Youth Center at Third and Union streets feel that their interests and desires haven't been factored into Henry's planning. Henry held two well-attended community meetings, on January 29 and February 3--one held in the morning, one held in the early evening--to which the seniors currently using the program, along with everyone else, were invited. According to Henry, only six of them attended.

There is some reason for their discontent. Of the four programs now available for seniors at the Youth Center--aerobics, yoga, bingo, and open recreation (playing cards and watching TV)--all but open recreation seem to be in some kind of jeopardy.

Since very little money has been budgeted for senior programming, Henry is looking for ways to do more with less. Speaking of the current aerobics and yoga programs, she was quoted in the Register-Star as saying, "'I'll ask people to pay the instructors directly, at vastly reduced rates, rather than taking from city funds." She indicated the fee would be about $5 a class. The instructors are currently paid by the City of Hudson and collect $2 from each participant at every class. That money is turned over to the City.

That statement inspired a letter to the editor that appeared in yesterday's Register-Star, protesting Henry's proposal that participants pay instructors directly: "I disagree with the idea of paying the instructor directly by attendees, just as I would disagree with such an arrangement at the high school or at CGCC or the library. The instructor who is educated and trained in her field needs, and appropriately should receive, a regular pay from her employer." The letter concluded:

At last night's Youth & Aging Committee meeting, Henry announced that the City would continue to pay the instructors of two exercise programs--aerobics and yoga--and proposed maintaining the existing $2 charge for "Charter Members of the new community center who are City of Hudson residents. Those Charter Members and others who live outside the City of Hudson will be asked to pay $5." That proposal was not received well either, with several of the Charter Members present protesting that $5 was too much.

Bingo is also in jeopardy. At the meeting, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton explained that the New York State Gaming Commission limits the number of "free games"--games conducted by entities that do not have a bingo license--to fifteen a year. With bingo being played by seniors at the Youth Center more than once a week, the City of Hudson has already exceeded the legal limit. "We cannot, as a City, sanction illegal gambling," said the mayor and spoke of the possibility of partnering with the American Legion to have them conduct bingo games at the senior center.

The new senior center itself was also a cause for dissatisfaction. It was revealed that Henry has had the key to the space since the middle of February, but the new senior center has not yet opened because there is "insufficient money to get it up and running." There seem to be two things that are particularly problematic: a community room full of tables that are too heavy and awkward to move, making it impossible to use the space for exercise classes; and a utility closet that needs to be fitted out with shelves for the storage of equipment.

The kitchen seems also to have its shortcomings. Gloria Giles, one of the senior center regulars, asked the committee and the Youth Center staff why the "experts," referring to herself and her colleagues, had not been consulted "instead of accepting what you get." The truth is that no one from the City was consulted on the fitting out of the space although the City was required to provide $100,000 for that purpose.

Photo: HudsonNY Magazine

Leo Carlin, who at the January 29 idea-gathering session said he had been "around the block" with the senior center several times, commended the Galvan Foundation for creating "a remarkable piece of interior architecture." He talked of the space and the light but then said, "It's not a senior center. It's not warm, it's not friendly, it's not inviting."


  1. Why would a city sponsored center for anyone, in this case people with considerable life experience, offer programs that are widely available elsewhere? TV watching? Is there a shortage of TV's in Hudson homes? Bingo? Is this not offered and readily available elsewhere?
    I commend Ms. Henry for trying to bring about health change and activities.

  2. All this grief is and was manufactured by a majority of the City Council with the connivance of the former mayor and 2 of the City's county supervisors.

    This happened late last year when, after an unsuccessful attempt by this group to raid the treasury of the Hudson Development Corporation (thereby accomplishing 2 of the group's hoped-for ends -- taking the money and killing a competitor to the Galvan private urban renewal machine), the group set its sights on the City's general fund.

    At the time, the City and Galvan were already party to a 20 or 30 year lease for the Senior Center at $1/year rent. A sweet deal for the City, for sure. That lease required Galvan to deliver to the City a Senior Center comprised of 2 or 3 sheetrock boxes at the (then-)to-be-remodeled Armory. The City would outfit the space to the seniors' specs and then pay for the programming. Then, suddenly, Galvan demanded $100k from the City or something dire would happen (what that might be was never articulated -- as Galvan was contractually bound to do what they had offered the City).

    Well, the money for the outfitting and programming was appropriated by the City Council and given -- no strings attached -- to Galvan. And what did the City get in return? Well, we got a cancelled check. And now, it seems, about $100k of dissatisfaction.

    I think Ms. Henry is to be commended for her creative attempts at filling a $100k hole -- $2 at a time. That's a lot of yoga! She has taken on what is rapidly being shown to be a thankless chore.

    And who led the charge to give the $100k to Galvan in return for absolutely nothing? Why none other than the Council's majority leader (then and now): Tiffany Garriga. Funny that -- she's now dissatisfied with the senior center and how it's run with no money. This is what leadership looks like in Hudson in 2016: scuttling a good deal to take a bad deal and using the senior citizens to fund the theft. Of course we can't give the majority leader all the credit -- she was ably assisted by supervisors Scalera and Hughes along with all the aldermen except those from the 1st and 3rd wards. Oh, and then-mayor Hallenbeck who vetoed or ignored every other Council initiative that year -- he found the time, energy and interest to hold open the bank door so the funds could be accessed.

    Nice work if you can get it. Anyone for bingo?

    1. Thanks for the review of the facts. Curious if any of the $100,000 went to outfitting the space of Perfect Ten.

  3. Surprise Surprise Surprise … not

  4. of course, as always in Hudson, the seniors end up on the short of end of an expensive stick.

    the seniors need a well designed place to congregate. yes, they can watch tv, but not holed up in their apartments alone. people can watch tv together.

    and do aerobics together etc.

    the space looks pretty bleak -- and they need a decorator who can make it feel less like a prison.

    its just doesnt seem like the real goal here is to help the seniors live more comfortable lives. its poliics and money.

  5. To make a correction to the record: as I have previously stated here, this is the timeline of events:

    Immediately post completion of the Community Building at Crosswinds, then Mayor Scalera spoke at great length, and on repeated occasions, with both the developer and me about how the footprint of that building would be the perfect footprint - or very nearly the perfect footprint - for a Senior Center.

    And at that time, with the permission and blessing of my boss, Crosswinds was opened up, free of charge, to the Hudson Seniors. Then Commissioner Moore was both delighted and grateful. She was also present for some of those discussions between then Mayor Scalera, the developer, and myself, regarding moving forward (and quickly at that) on a Senior Center.

    I was tasked with gathering the requisite data, and having discussions with people close to and involved with the VERY successful Catskill Senior Center.

    All the work was completed on Crosswinds' end, and then a very interesting thing happened: then Mayor Scalera stopped the conversations about the Senior Center with the developer, with me, and began ducking and evading his own Commissioner. Commissioner Moore repeatedly came into my office to bitterly complain about the fact that Mayor Scalera was so obviously avoiding her calls and her visits.

    So in fact, a Senior Center could have been built seven or eight years ago, for less money, and with programming at the core of the project.

    Interestingly of course, all the data, the demographics, the research on programming, etc. that was completed, and handed off to then Mayor Scalera, was never, to my knowledge, returned.

    It must have gotten filed under "$G$".

    Susan Lynn Troy

  6. Ms. Henry is indeed in a very difficult situation not of her making. She does not deserve the criticisms she’s receiving. Her critics need to review the history of the Senior Center and its funding. My guess is that few of them are aware of what transpired last fall.

    1. The true cravenness of the theft's backers' behavior is evident by their rallying many seniors to fill the gallery seats that night, too. Those seniors were there to cheer on the thieves who were stealing their money. There is no other way to view this.

      And, bear in mind, that the theft was described by not 1 but 2 independent lawyers before the Council the night of the vote. (Disclosure: 1 of them was me.) Both analyses concluded that the City was under no obligation to do anything; that the City had a valid contract for the development of the Senior Center and its rent to the City in place at a cost of $1/year for 20 or 30 years (I can't recall if its was the former or latter); that the new contract -- which required the City to pay Galvan $100,000 -- required Galvan to do nothing more than it was already contractually bound to do. And this was after the City offered to help Galvan secure public funds which commenced a receptive chorus of "we don't need anyone else's money for this project" from Galvan -- 4 times they claimed that. Both lawyers recommended that the Council vote "no" and save the taxpayers' funds. The majority of the Council voted "yes" and then high-fived. Disgusting.

      The Orwellian nature of the City Council majority in its most important matters is simply astounding to me. The pettifogging, the double-speak, the out-right lies and blatant theft. I cringe to think what might come down the pike next.

  7. It's very interesting why we watch as history is rewritten. The reason why the seniors don't have much money in their budget is because the board of estimate and apportionment didn't put it in the budget. It's has nothing to do with the 100,000 given to Galvan is has to do with the priorities of that board. The majority of that board was former Council President Don Moore and City Treasurer Heather Campbell. Mr.Friedman should stop by and see those seniors who have been airing their concerns because we at the social justice center received complaints about the way members of our community have been treated. We can't speak to the meeting but we can speak to the fact that some seniors are upset and their concerns should be heard.

    1. The irony is palpable. This is the funniest thing I've read in weeks. It's true what they say: writing comedy is hard. You have to really work at it. "[w]hy we watch as history is rewritten" indeed!

      Whomever this author is, they seem unable or unwilling to grasp the rather basic idea of cause and effect: Because the Council stole $100k from the general fund, the BEA didn't have the money to fund the senior programming.

      Of course the Social Justice Center receives significant funding from Galvan so the community shouldn't expect its commentary to be nonpartisan in this regard. After all, it was your patron who received the stolen money, wasn't it?

  8. To The Social Justice Center:

    The then Commissioner of Aging, Commissioner Moore was in MY office numerous times bitterly complaining about then Mayor Scalera ducking and evading her phone calls and in-person visits.

    THAT is where it started, period.

    When then Mayor Scalera shut down the conversation with his own Commissioner, with the potential developer, and with me.

    Perhaps it would be useful for those Seniors who are visiting the Social Justice Center to voice their concerns be provided with copies of this article and ALL of the comments. You know, context and all.

    Susan Lynn Troy

  9. Then there is that skipped over - very interesting, more recent history of all the money that went up in smoke , with ex- C.C.President Donald Moore's new Senior Center building fiasco
    that was to be attached to Boys and Girls Club,on South 3rd.; which is How GALVAN "to the rescue" got involved in the Senior Center in the first place.C.C. signed all that money away.

  10. Gossips Senior Center Woes

    A few thoughts:
    As I walked my dog around the perimeter of the new library/ senior center/ Perfect Ten location last evening, I thought: what a beautiful repurpose of this building. I also thought: as much as I've not entirely understood Galvan projects and motives over the years, here is one coming to a lovely fruition. I really should write Eric Galloway a thank you."

    Then I read this post on Gossips. Pause. Back up. That's right: just because the armory will soon open its doors as a new center of our community, nothing really has changed. Galvan still remains shrouded in their cloak of bait and switch, and does little to gain the trust of citizens of Hudson (and frequently, does the opposite). I will give them credit for taking on projects no one else was capable of or willing, and improving on much that was boarded up and empty (while also boarding up and leaving empty much else; but I digress...)

    When a senior center was proposed at Crosswinds years ago, was Scalera already in his position as puppet of Galvan? Perhaps they already had the intention of creating a senior center... somewhere... and Scalera was tasked with preventing it from happening... elsewhere... (Crosswinds).

    Lastly, several years ago I visited the senior center for a number of weeks, meeting the members, getting to know them, preparing to propose a workshop idea on writing personal histories. When I proposed it, my idea fell on deaf ears. Perhaps my approach wasn't right, perhaps the seniors didn't feel they knew me well enough, or could trust me with their stories. But the overall feeling I came away with was that they were content with their bingo and yoga and ginsbergy luncheons, and a writing workshop would just be a bother.

    Now they have a beautiful shell of a facility, a capable and caring commissioner in Ms. Henry, no money for programming, and many voices hollering about their "plight." Leave 'em at 3rd and Union and let 'em play bingo (though it sounds like that can't be free anymore, either). They didn't want help in the first place.

  11. Former mayor Richard Scalera, by email, submitted this comment. I'm not certain if it was his intention that I share it, but since he is responding to another commenter, I am posting it here:

    The reason a lot of people turn to social media and blogs is because telling the truth is not necessarily that important. In this case I will tell the story that Ms Troy didn't.
    It is true that back about 10 years ago I as Mayor explored the costing out and building a senior center somewhere in Hudson but not in the Crosswinds Development obviously because there is no room for it there. Bruce Levine, the Co-Owner of Crosswinds and a friend (we still talk and keep in touch) assisted me with those figures citing that he can give me the price and measurements of the Crosswinds Community Room . When all was said and done the building priced out around 900G and we needed to place it on city land.
    The Commissioner was well aware of the challenge we had finding the money and the right location for a center. However at that time the City had other expensive priorities ie; the need for a new water treatment plant, waste water plant and a new consolidated fire station totaling over 30 million dollars.

    From that time the City on numerous occasions applied for grant money for a center without success. Their new home is available for 30 years at a dollar a month. I believe we all would agree that is a nice offering. Someday there may be a better location who knows.
    Commissioner Moore and I never and I repeat never stopped communicating contrary to what Ms Troy states. I was always challenged to find money for the seniors but I did, even at one point using the Mayor's salary to fund exercise programs and I made sure there was always funding available for the senior day trips they so much enjoyed.
    Trying to figure out what Troy's ax to grind with me has me believing only one thing, she is still mad that Crosswind's owners relieved her of her position citing she had trouble getting along with the resident .Susan always thought I had something to do with that and I did not it was all doing.
    I do not have time for facebook tweeting or any other blogs but some things need be said. However I will respond if warranted through e-mail which is
    Thank You
    Rick Scalera

  12. This is the entirely anticipated response I've been expecting.

    And, honestly, proof that it must be getting a little hot out there on the street, with regard to conversations about the Senior Center.

    And Carole whether this was meant for publication or not, I am more than a little grateful to you for publishing it.

    So Rick you say that you "never stopped communicating" with then Commissioner Moore; well you certainly did your darndest to duck her in person: I saw it up close and personal on multiple occasions. For you to debate and define "communicating" is like Bill Clinton defining and debating the meaning of the word "is".

    With regard to my leaving Crosswinds, I would be careful how you characterize that, Rick. In fact, as you are well aware, my continued presence at Crosswinds was on the table, and I roundly rejected the offer.

    But who took that seat after me, is most interesting: the brother of your neighbor, who had just returned to Hudson.

    He was hired over a candidate who possessed many years of housing experience in Hudson. But perhaps experience in sport fishing or sport fishing touring was the professional skill set necessary at that moment in time - for what turned out to be a short tenure.

    As for being mad at Crosswinds' owners, actually, I was then, and continue to be, proud of the work I did to help bring Crosswinds to Hudson, and on numerous occasions, (most recently when there was a significant drug raid there) have defended not only the value Crosswinds brings to Hudson, but have written on this blog about the challenges many people face when looking for clean, sanitary, safe, affordable housing. But good try, Rick.

    As for being challenged to find money to build the Senior Center, you had scores of contacts at every level of government, and your personal friends, the Grant Writers, had and have, one would presume, even more contacts and leverage, because that's what they get paid to do with taxpayer dollars.

    The fact of the matter is, Hudson's Seniors are no better off this day, than they were last month, last year, or last decade.

    But a developer and that developer's team is much better off. And the means to the end included manipulating people who didn't have all the facts, or all of the history, and then setting them up for one hopeful outcome, all the while clearly understanding that outcome was NEVER to be.

    And (almost) finally, no need to Email Rick. We often pass one another in person, in line at Dunkin' Donuts, or when you drive past my house every Wednesday morning on the way to the Claverack Breakfast Special. So, you've certainly had opportunities to speak to me. Or at me. But because this is in fact, about public policy, about a segment of our community that I was taught to revere and respect, and NOT about personal relationships, this is precisely the community forum to have this discussion.

    I know you think this was the nuclear option. That this would put me in my place, or shut me up. Well, you've miscalculated.

    There's not a whole lot left to say about the Senior Center that hasn't already been said.

    But I will say this: in terms of the pure politics of it, you did outwit and outplay a lot of people, and from your vantage point, you won.

    I'm just not sure what you won.

    As a very good friend of mine often says, "Let go and let God."