Monday, February 6, 2017

News from HDC

This afternoon, the Board of the Hudson Development Corporation held a special meeting, the purpose of which, as described on the City of Hudson website, was "to build consensus to respond to the Sustainable Community Associates and clarify HDC's position with respect to the Kaz redevelopment project." Eager to learn the status of this project, Gossips showed up for the meeting, as did Rick Rector, First Ward alderman; Nick Zachos, chair of the Waterfront Advisory Committee; and Ellen Thurston.

The meeting was attended by seven members of the HDC board--Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton, Council president Claudia DeStefano, former City treasurer Eileen Halloran, former Fifth Ward alderman Bart Delaney, Bob Rasner, Christine Jones, and Alex Petraglia, development and marketing coordinator at the Hudson Opera House. Sheena Salvino, HDC executive director, opened the meeting by summarizing what had happened with the project to this point. She indicated that up until now discussions with SCA had proceeded "in a relatively informal way." She explained that SCA wanted a site that was larger than what was being offered and that HDC was "helping in any way it could"--working with CSX and the City of Hudson to secure addition property. She also reported that SCA had had an initial meeting with the residents of Tanners Lane and intended to engage the community in a six-month planning process before the project actually begins.   

It will be remembered that Senator Chuck Schumer was in Hudson at the end of December to declare his support for the project and to announce that he was sending a letter to the CEO of CSX urging him to make the CSX property available for the project. Salvino reported today that Senator Schumer's office is "cautiously optimistic" that this could happen. She also reported that City attorney Ken Dow had made the determination that would be legal for the City to sell a piece of the train station parking lot for fair market value or swap it for land of equal value, with two-thirds support of the Common Council.

At the present time, HDC wants to enter into an option agreement with SCA, which would involve some percentage of the sale price to be paid as earnest money to hold the property off the market for a specified period of time. SCA proposed an option agreement, the terms of which were not acceptable to the HDC board. HDC offered other option agreements to SCA, none of which were acceptable. SCA has proposed another option agreement, which is what the board would considering at the special meeting.

Before the meeting went into executive session, Rector asked if the earnest money was nonrefundable. When told that it was nonrefundable, he asked if that was the reason SCA wouldn't agree to it. At that point, Halloran expressed her opinion that the board should not talk about this with the public. 

Zachos wanted to know what specific items required that the discussion take place in executive session. Again Halloran responded by saying, "We as a board need to talk about all the moving parts of this. Having the public know what we are considering would weaken our position."

That being said, the members of the public withdrew, as requested, from the meeting room.


  1. I also attended, or tried to attend, this meeting, as did Steve Dunn. I did so precisely to find out what was going on with the Kaz redevelopment. Before the meeting started we were told by Mayor Hamilton and Sheena Salvino that the meeting would be held in executive session. So we didn't stay. Now it seems that there was a considerable amount of open discussion about the current status of the redevelopment project before the board went into executive session. I have to say I am baffled as to why I was urged by Tiffany and Sheena not to bother staying, since it must have been obvious to them that observing and perhaps participating in that discussion was exactly when I had come. It should have been obvious not just because I was physically present, but also because in an email exchange last week I told them both that I intended to start paying attention to what HDC is doing.

    1. In the past, innocent questions asked before executive sessions resulted in the public unpacking of crucially related subjects the HDC would have been happy to skip over.

      "Nothing to see here folks, move along!"

  2. I just took a drive around that old KAZ warehouse, and it's a wreck. Really hope that the SCA project can move forward, it would be a game-changer for the waterfront and Hudson. Looking around the waterfront, one wonders what in the world previous administrations were doing-- there is a LOT of room for improvement.

    1. This is a novel pay-to-play scheme: the SCA pays up just to find out if it can play. (Technically, this is a form of rent seeking.)

      But it really smacks of an HDC scheme to get rid of SCA now that it's served its purpose.

  3. Hi Carole,
    You might not be aware of this, but I also submitted a proposal for development of the Caz property. My plan included using the existing buildings (they're in quite good shape- a shame to tear them down) with a green roof and full glass surround. And half of the building would be for use of the Hudson public, for charitable groups, farm market etc, free.
    I was quite surprised to barely get a response from Sheen S or any of the committee members , considering that I have successfully developed projects just like this in Hudson . Catskill, Red Hook and other communities, and the buildings become magnets for community culture and spirit. Oh well....
    Chris Gilbert

    1. One wonders if your proposal was rejected during an open discussion, or only from the privacy of an executive session? Sounds like the latter.

      Your example is probably new to Gossips' readers (it is to me), and provides invaluable evidence of the hazard posed by the HDC to Hudson's self-determination.

      Why does this oligarchy of semi-private manager-types get to exert this degree of planning power in such a small City? Well obviously we give them that privilege, but it's kind of insane.

      Given the ongoing parade of public relations blunders, the days of the supremacy of the HDC may be numbered.

  4. Wish I had a dollar for every time a body has gone into executive session in this town.

  5. It might be helpful to post the SCA proposal. One wonders if the Board needs a refresher on the proposal it decided to move forward with. It discusses the need for the CSX land as a necessity for moving forward. Without site control and a consolidated site, why would any developer want to put money down?

  6. I'm no expert, nor have I discerned all the niceties involved, but it seems to me that an Industrial Development Agency does damned near everything a Development Corporation can do.

    Here's the enabling legislation for IDAs in the NYS General Municipal Law:

    Here's the Office of the NYS Comptroller on IDAs, "Background, Issues, and Recommendations":

    Here's how the City of Albany differentiates its Development Corporation from its IDA (which may or may not depart from the above legislation):

    "The primary difference between the two entities is that the Capital Resource Corporation focuses on providing assistance to not-for-profit civic facility projects. Prior to 2008, the Industrial Development Agency issued tax exempt bonds for such projects ..."

    In 2011, the State Comptroller advanced a reform agenda for Development Corporations, acknowledging that "the extent to which LDCs and similar entities are used for improper or inappropriate activities has been difficult to determine."

    My aim is not to impugn the individual members of the HDC, but to suggest that residents may be better served if these same individuals were members of our Industrial Development Agency instead.

    Was it only last year the City was preparing to dissolve our IDA!?

    What we ought to be discussing instead is what our IDA will be able to achieve once the HDC is gone.

  7. If the SCA proposal falls through, perhaps Hudson should explore the the possibility of turning the Kaz factory into something like the Brooklyn Expo Center. Here's a link to the website...

  8. I wonder if there is a ballpark number for the property tax implications of the SCA proposal?

  9. Ah,Peter, you beat me to it! Would they be seeking a PILOT? The answer most certainly is yes.

  10. The conflicts abound at HDC and the consistent misuse of executive sessions only underscores this. (Executive sessions are misused by both the agencies and Council -- though in the last year there have been very few Council executive sessions because neither the Council nor the mayor have done anything that would require executive sessions.)

    The HDC insists on standing by the legal fiction that it is an independent agency. It is not. It was created by the City for the city and, as such, only does City business. How else to explain the presence of so many ex officio members of the HDC? To a person, the ex officio members have no relevant economic development chops -- they own no businesses, make no payrolls and pay no employment vig.

    To find out that they have spurned even discussion with a local developer such as Chris, with a proven track record of locally-relevant and respectful redevelopment is just another black eye for the HDC board and its members.

  11. Please someone out there help me.
    I believe that I read an article some where that the water level of the Hudson River is expected to rise "x" amount of feet and possibly cover the land that is now part of the waterfront, including the Dunn's warehouse, rr tracks and most likely everything up to Cross St.
    That would include the S. Bay and the Bay Rd, including the haul rd.
    Is there a Noah out there to see into the future?
    If the projected water level is to rise what are we wasting all the time and money?
    Maybe the money is best spent to build a river wall.
    Or stop all development until we here from Noah.

    1. The river-rise figures we've been given by our alarmist State government are highly controversial. Because the "semi-empirical" method used to arrive at river-rise projections are rejected by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the State rarely refers to the IPCC in its literature. Like many other things out of Albany, I'd call this semi-honest.

  12. The fact that Chris was ignored after a superb track record reminds me of how he was treated by the previous administration with his proposal to save the CCC.