Monday, March 7, 2016

Problem Corrected . . . After 20 Years

Tonight, at a special meeting, the Common Council unanimously passed a resolution approving the contracts for the police and court building. But it was a nail-biter to the end.

As soon as the resolution had been introduced by Henry Haddad (Third Ward) and seconded by Michael O'Hara (First Ward), Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) asked city attorney Ken Dow if he had seen the letter from the Office of Court Administration, received last November. Specifically, Garriga wanted to know Dow's interpretation of this statement: "In light of the long history of delays in addressing the needs of the Hudson City Court, it is essential that this project move forward now, and any further delay would require that we consider our legal options under section 39 of the Judiciary Law." Disappointingly, Dow said that he was only just seeing the letter and that he was not familiar with the section of the law referenced.

At this point, Haddad interjected that a representative of OCA had said, in Council chambers, that the state would take over and construct a building for the city court and send the bill to the City. John Friedman (Third Ward) attested that this had been reiterated to him personally.

Dow contended that everything had been approved up to this point. The approval of the contracts was a necessary last step, but there was nothing to indicate the project was being brought back for reconsideration. 

Abdus Miah (Second Ward) then declared that it was on the record that he had predicted the project would cost $4 to $5 million. He further predicted that it was going to cost more than the $4.3 million now budgeted to complete the project and declared that he would not take responsibility for any more money for the project. [It was later clarified by Superintendent Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward) that Miah was concerned that the building would need a new roof, a foyer (which OCA requested initially but then withdrew), and covered parking for police vehicles.]

The content of Section 39 of the New York State Judiciary Law, referenced in the letter from the Office of Court Administration, was then revisited. Dow said he didn't know what it said. Friedman, a lawyer, said he did and reminded the Council that the state had stepped in and built a new courthouse for Newburgh, which cost the City of Newburgh something like $10 million--and that was a few years ago. Friedman went on it say, "Promises have been made and broken for years. . . . We voted on this and we voted on this and we voted on this. Now it's time to pull the plug."

Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward) reiterated his claim that we could have a brand-new building "from the ground up" for a mere $3.5 million.

Former Council president Don Moore reminded the Council that OCA has the authority to withhold state funds that come to the City--among them more than a million dollars of CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) funding--in addition to deciding to build a courthouse for us.

Responding to Moore, Garriga asked, "Will they do this if we are still working on a project in another location?" She didn't specify what the other location might be.

At this point, Police Commissioner Gary Graziano weighed in: "OCA made it perfectly clear that they would take over the project."

Former mayor Rick Scalera also weighed in, recalling past proposals (2001 and 2005) for a new police and court building that would have provided more space but were rejected by the Common Council. Scalera expressed his opinion that there was "no way OCA would sanction the City if they want to put it in a different location."

In the end, the Council unanimously approved the contracts. Garriga prefaced her vote by saying she wished the police department could have a better location; Miah said something Gossips didn't understand; and Lauren Scalera (Fourth Ward), who for the first time since she joined the Common Council said anything more than Here, Aye, or Nay, prefaced her vote by saying she didn't like the location.

Congratulations, Hudson! After two decades, you are finally going to get a new police and court building.


  1. Correction: They are getting an old auto parts store with 4.3 million dollars shoveled into it.

  2. Assuming the building footprint is remaining the same, the price they are paying per square foot to renovate this building is comparable to the cost of new construction for this kind of building.

    1. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) asked me to post this reply:

      Your analysis fails to consider, and thus account for, the unique and costly requirements for fitting out both a police HQ and a court facility. The specifics of each build-out are dictated by a variety of third-parties, primarily the Office of Court Administration and the NYS Rules and regs about holding cells, constitutional protections for persons and communications, etc. Yes, if all we sought was an office building -- essentially a series of Sheetrock boxes -- we'd be spending way too much. But that's not at all what the City is doing, either in the first or second instance.