Friday, June 17, 2016

On the Topic of Economic Development

John Mason reports in the Register-Star today about last night's Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting: "City seeks $10M state grant for waterfront development." Gossips arrived late at the meeting and missed the discussion of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (the $10 million grant), the competition for funding Gossips reported on several weeks ago. According to Mason's article, the DRI application submitted by Sheena Salvino, executive director of the Hudson Development Corporation, "breaks the neighborhood to be improved by the grant funding into four zones."

Bing Maps
The neighborhood in question is the South Bay Waterfront district, and the article describes the zones in this way: 
  • The Waterfront Development Zone, including four acres on Water Street--the former Dunn warehouse building, the parking lots just north of it, which would conceivably be developed, and the Ferry Street Bridge.
  • The Recreation-Reactivation Zone includes the interface between the industrial Colarusso property and the piers at the southern end of Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, with their fishing, kayak launches and picnic tables, as well as the sliver of land for which the Hudson Sloop Club got funding to create an environmental education center.
  • The Transportation-Oriented Development Zone includes the area around the Kaz warehouse property, the Wick and the Amtrak station.
  • The Innovation Zone includes Basilica Hudson and 99 S. Front St., formerly the LB building and now a business incubator.
Some insight into the nature of the investment being considered was provided in an email Salvino sent to the Hudson Business Coalition on May 24 to solicit letters of support for the City's DRI application. In the email, she described five elements of the investment proposal:
  1. Build out of an open access network for improved internet access, providing fiber to each home and office in Hudson.
  2. Citywide Complete Streets programming designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.
  3. Quality of life improvements such as rehab/upgrades to center city pocket parks, Promenade Hill Park, and Seventh Street Square; public restrooms on Warren Street; upgraded recycling/rubbish receptables, signage and wayfinding, community gardens & arts
  4. Waterfront enhancements that will improve vehicular/pedestrian circulation and connections among the waterfront amenities, businesses, cultural anchors, and maritime focused activity.
  5. Improve Hudson's resilience to sea level rise and address climate adaptation needs along the waterfront and 9G.
If not all proposed investments seem to fit within the proposed zones, it's likely that the application, which had to be done in a matter of weeks, may have evolved a bit in the last few days before it was due. What is important to remember is that if Hudson should get the $10 million, the first year and the first $300,000 will be spent planning how the rest of the money will be invested.

At last night's committee meeting, other grants being pursued in this year's Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process were discussed. As happens every year, the City will be seeking the maximum--$400,000--from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The lion's share of that amount would be used for stabilization and reconditioning of the Youth Center, but there would also be money for zoning revisions and for updating the City's fourteen-year-old Comprehensive Plan.

Salvino told the committee that the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) is dedicating $20 million in matching grants through the Environmental Protection Fund grant program--the most money this program has ever had to distribute in one year--and the City would be making an application to fund a site plan for the restoration/rehabilitation of Seventh Street Park, a.k.a. the Public Square.

The City will also be seeking a $50,000 grant from the Department of State for help in revising and updating the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, which was adopted in 2011 but has yet to be submitted to or approved by the Department of State.

Toward the end of the meeting, Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward), who chairs the Economic Development Committee, brought up an issue of concern to him: the Dunn warehouse. Rector said he was "more and more concerned about the building and its condition" and wondered if any of the recommendations for stabilizing the building made in the feasibility study completed last summer had been carried out.

Calling the building "the gateway to the county" for people arriving by train or by water, Rector went on to suggest that it could be a civic center, an indoor/outdoor farmers' market. "The Dunn warehouse," he asserted, "could be a very proud moment for Hudson." 

Salvino said she wanted a comprehensive plan for the entire four acres along Water Street. Rector said he wanted to stabilize the building and suggested the committee revisit the feasibility study done last year. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who sits on the Economic Development Committee, said he thought the master plan presented in the feasibility study was a good plan and urged moving forward to issue a request for proposal (RFP).



  1. From what I can tell, our Common Council has a lot of work to do to earn the right to be messing with our waterfront in such significant ways. By the same token, it needs to get its governance house in order as more and more pressure is put on it to "develop" the waterfront. I got a glimpse of the problem recently watching the CC in action just trying to navigate some simple environmental questions related to the sewer separation project; from a governmental perspective, a disaster. The weighted vote referendum is certainly a start, but there are many more governmental process issues that CC must address before it starts reshaping our waterfront. IMHO.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Word has it that the City will soon hire expert planners, and that the results will somehow be different than the those of the last planners, and the ones before that, and the ones before that.

      Evidently this was discussed at the last WASC meeting. Unfortunately, the meeting wasn't listed on the City's calendar for the public to attend.

      Whatever is driving this effort - and it appears to be funding and ambition rather than vision and self-knowledge - the City appears to be reinventing the wheel.

    3. The meeting was announced TWICE on the WASC Facebook page: Regarding "expert planners," the only move so far in that direction is the mayor's intention to apply for $50,000 from the Department of State to fund professional support for the WASC which would mostly take the form of public input gathering, interpretation, and implementation, legal counsel, and climate resiliency planning.

    4. Facebook crashes my old Safari program (2007), and so I rarely use it. Is the WASC only for people who can afford new computers?

      Has the Clerk, or anyone else for that matter, informed the WASC that these meetings cannot be listed on the City calendar?

      Remember that the last LWRP effort stumbled on the issue of public participation.

      As far as I know, so far there have been three meetings. The first featured a presentation by a private citizen who's highly controversial. When the meeting's announcement said that the public would not be able to speak, I boycotted the meeting, and so should everyone else.

      I walked out of the second meeting in solidarity with a WASC member after the HDC, a non-public corporation, was given the floor to make its own presentation. I still can't believe that the WASC was used in that way, which reminded me of the sorts of mistakes made throughout the previous LWRP effort.

      At the meeting that I just missed, you were informed about the mayor's intention to apply for a grant.

      But to take the point of the first commenter above, this is precisely how to put the cart before the horse. One does not initiate any level of an LWRP effort by putting a clock on the process.

      First we heard that it would be done in one year (I believe that was the first thing announced about the new effort).

      If more time is now permitted (by whom?!), then a grant is just another way of putting this to a schedule.

      Evidently, we've learned nothing from our LWRP history. Of course the State is not permitted to weigh in either way; a waterfront process belongs to the municipality which is free to make its own mistakes, and again and again and again if need be.

      And what will the $50,000 buy us before anyone on the WASC has a clue what's going on? (again, see first comment above):

      • "Public input gathering" [probably just like BFJ Planners did, with the important, local "stakeholders"];

      • "Interpretation and implementation" [see BFJ, above];

      • "Legal counsel" [does anyone see a pattern here?];

      • "Climate resiliency planning" [for a rapid sea-level rise scenario so drastic it was wholly rejected in the 5th Assessment Report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change].

      In my opinion, and perhaps the opinion of the first commenter above, this waterfront business is already headed in a very stupid direction.

      I suggest that the WASC slow down, take stock, maybe reduce the size of its membership, and reject any idea that the process should comply with anyone's arbitrary schedule.

      C'mon people, we've been here before. Wake up!

  2. The only reason why local community navigators are not at the table is because they're on the menu.

    1. Potential disruptions may interrupt the (ill-informed) time frame.

  3. In a city incorporated for "Navigation of the deep" littoral liberty should not be determined by which side of Warren one enters the Hudson.