Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Alleged Extortion and Assumed Largesse

After last Wednesday's Youth & Aging Committee meeting, it seemed reasonable to expect that resolutions to appropriate, presumably from the general fund, an additional $11,657.75 for the Senior Center and $54,669.75 for the Youth Department would be introduced at last night's informal Common Council meeting. No such thing happened. There were only three resolutions: the regular monthly resolution appointing a new batch of commissioners of deeds; a resolution to accept, on behalf of the Hudson Fire Department, a $250 donation from Stair Galleries in gratitude for responding when their sprinkler system was activated; and a resolution to accept a donation of $10,000 for the Senior Center from the Galvan Foundation.

When the last resolution was introduced, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) wanted to know if there was a competition for "the silliest, most craven resolution," because the resolution to accept $10,000 back "from a man who stole $100,000 from us" was that. "This Council," Friedman averred, "aided and abetted in stealing $100,000 and giving it to the richest man in town--for nothing." He exonerated only the First and Third Ward aldermen, who had opposed the resolution. Council president Claudia DeStefano then reminded him that several of the current aldermen and she herself had not been on the Council when the decision was made to give the Galvan Foundation $100,000 for the build out of the Senior Center.

Alderman Robert "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward) reacted to Friedman's statements with his usual protestations about the beautiful senior center provided to the City by Galvan for a mere dollar a month. After speaking, Donahue scanned the audience, seemingly searching for his liege and the Galvan Foundation's special adviser, Rick Scalera, who could quash Friedman's wild accusations, but Scalera was not present. Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) went on at length, recounting how HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency) had committed $100,000 to the senior center and then reneged, so it was left to the City to make good on that commitment or risk not having a senior center. Friedman summed up Miah's disquisition: "You spent five minutes explaining a theft, as if you can." Later, Supervisor Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward) took it upon himself, as he has done once before, to restate what Miah had said "because he is sometimes hard to understand."

City treasurer Heather Campbell joined the fray twice. The first time, she asserted, "We had a contract in place, signed by both parties, reviewed by the lawyers for both parties. . . . We had a legally binding contract in place, . . . [and] you decided to change the contract and give the money away." Addressing Miah specifically, she said, "I just want you to acknowledge the choice you made." On her second foray into the heated discussion, Campbell reminded the Council that "when cash agreements were made, it was for a building the City owned. Funding the build out of a building owned by a private entity, when the City has no take back, is an incredibly different thing." She concluded, "It makes sense for the City to invest in a building it owns not in a two-year rental space."

The meeting was adjourned without either side giving any ground. During the course of the discussion, a couple of things were said that merit attention. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) claimed that Amanda Henry, commissioner for the aging, intended to use the $10,000 from the Galvan Foundation for "wall décor." In this assertion, Garriga seems to have conflated the first two items in the list of donations Henry presented in her report to the Youth & Aging Committee last week.

The donated wall décor that Henry valued at "$10,000.00+" includes the gift to the Senior Center of high-end wallpaper and its installation and the anticipated donations by prominent local artists and photographers of examples of their work.

In defending the decision to give $100,000 of taxpayer money to the Galvan Foundation, Hughes claimed that his ward--the Fourth Ward--had "the predominance of seniors." When Gossips left City Hall, former Third Ward supervisor Ellen Thurston had Hughes cornered in the lobby and was challenging him to substantiate that claim.


  1. It seems that a lot of sound and fury was spent on what is spilt milk at this point. I am not sure that is the best use of the Council's time. Save it for the next campaign if someone wants to go there would seem more appropriate to me.

    1. Rather than re-hashing old issues, why did discussion of the proposed donation not include scrutiny of any possible "strings attached"? And if the donor's only motive is simply to buy some good PR, who cares? For heaven's sake, take the money! Then at least we can claim we only got swindled for 90K.

  2. Spilt milk stinks if you don't clean it up.

  3. Robbing from Peter to pay Paul.