The discussion was organized around two questions: "What does economic development mean to you?" and "What concerns you about the current DRI?" The first to respond to the question about economic development was Bill Hughes, Fourth Ward supervisor, who explained that economic development meant "a myriad of things"--among them jobs, education, housing--"not just tourism." He predicted that more income would be coming into the City as a consequence of the economic development fueled by the DRI, and people needed to consider how that income would be used.
Jobs, mentioned by Hughes, became one of the recurring themes in the discussion. Nick Zachos, Hudson youth director, made reference to a company, whose name he did not mention, that came to Hudson and "promised new jobs but didn't deliver." A woman spoke of the hourly wage and number of hours being offered at The Wick Hotel, complaining about the disparity of charging $300 a night for rooms and paying employees so little. Responding to the concerns about employment, John Kane noted that one of the priority projects in the DRI was a "maker space" and "trades and apprenticeship hub," where people could learn manufacturing and fabricating skills and other trade skills. Sarah Sterling, First Ward supervisor explained that workforce development was also part of the DRI. She went on to say that jobs were going unfilled because people could not be found with the needed skills. She mentioned specifically three openings for mechanics in the county Department of Public Works, with a starting salary of $41,000, which have not been filled.
Housing was another recurring theme of the discussion. One woman complained that there were no jobs in Hudson that paid enough to enable people to afford the rents now being charged. She reported that it was now impossible to find an apartment in Hudson for less than $800 a month. Abdus Miah, Second Ward alderman, also lamented that people are leaving Hudson because they cannot earn enough money to pay for housing. Claire Cousin said she was "frustrated that housing wasn't one of the first things" in the DRI. When asked by Johnson how he would handle "people's fears of displacement," mayoral candidate Rick Rector mentioned the amount of vacant housing, saying, "The quicker we get those back on the market, the better," noting that even if units were market rate, it would ease the housing crisis.
Integrally related to fear of displacement were the plaintive comments about feeling out of place in their own community. Cousin tearfully spoke of going to the corner store to buy milk with food stamps and having to pass people who spend $300 a night to visit Hudson. Another woman asked how children can feel they belong here when there are stores that sell a pair of socks for $60. Cousin and Charisse Johnson lamented that the community is no longer the one they had known all their lives. Linda Mussmann, co-director of Time & Space Limited, complained of the number of houses in her neighborhood that were now used as short-term rentals on Airbnb, noting that, except from Thursday to Sunday, "It's a pretty lonely place." She went on to suggested sardonically, "Maybe they will hire us to walk on the street, so that it looks like a real city."
Suspicion about the DRI process was also a common thread in the discussion. Several people complained that they had no knowledge of the public meetings that had taken place between May 16, when Round Two of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative was announced, and June 14, when the application had to be submitted. Some present at the meeting explained how and where the meetings had been announced, but Joan Hunt, program director for Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, maintained, "If the intention was really behind getting people involved, it would have happened."
People were also concerned by what is perceived as the "secrecy" surrounding the application and the formation of the Local Planning Commission (LPC) for the DRI. Hunt alleged, "Things are happening behind closed doors." Third Ward alderman John Friedman asserted, "Everything is now at the state level. This is a myth that we are running the show." He was referring in part to the selection of the LPC. A list of twenty-five names submitted by Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton is now being vetted by the state and winnowed down to from eight to twelve.
Communication was also a common theme of the discussion: complaints about not knowing about meetings. Some criticized the Hudson Community Board Facebook page, where Johnson had posted the announcement of the meeting, as a means of communicating because it was a "Secret Group" that required people to join to see posts and also because half the people who need to be reached "don't have social media." The Register-Star and Gossips, mentioned as places where meetings had been announced and reported, were also dismissed as ineffective means of informing people. Flyers posted on lamp posts and slipped under doors were suggested.
One thing that is clear is that there is a lot of fear and suspicion surrounding the DRI, its goals and intents, and how it will impact the city--fear and suspicion that won't be easily allayed but can only be allayed by information. So, Gossips, despite apparently not being the ideal means of disseminating that information, will continue to do so.
Dan Udell was there last evening videotaping the entire discussion. When his video is available on YouTube, Gossips will let you know.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CAROLE OSTERINK
The illustrations accompanying this post are renderings from Hudson's DRI application showing: a welcome center proposed for Cross and South Front streets; the re-imagined Second Street stairs; the Dunn warehouse, adaptively reused; proposed projects in and around Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.