Thursday, March 15, 2018

HHA and Housing & Transportation

Last night, I attended the monthly meeting of the Hudson Housing Authority board of commissioners, and I learned many things, which I will share in no particular order. 

First, the Hudson Housing Authority has a website, which you can view by clicking here. Some parts of it appear to be still under construction, but you can find the RFQ for a co-developer for "the rehabilitation or redevelopment of the Authority's Columbia Apartments, a 9-story 117-unit high rise and a 15-unit low rise development originally constructed in 1973" and for "a proposed new mixed use, mixed income, housing development on State Street, an adjacent parcel owned by the Hudson Housing Authority." Also, soon to appear on the website are the new bylaws approved by the board of commissioners last night.

On the subject of the RFQ, which HHA executive director Timothy Mattice explained was really an RFQ (request for qualifications) and an RFP (request for proposal) rolled into one, proposals are due from prospective developers on March 30. Mattice said they were looking for "the right developer that will work with us in a community-engaged, transparent process," involving charettes and workshops, to plan both aspects of the project.

The elevators have been a problem in Bliss Towers for some time. Last night, Mattice told the board that Otis Elevator will soon be doing a "modest modernization" of the elevators. A "modest modernization" is being pursued instead of the "substantial modernization," because the former will cost $134,983 and the latter well over $500,000. The modest modernization will address the operation and reliability of the elevators but will involve no cosmetic changes.

Two more bits of information: The building has a new generator which prevents the brownouts that used to occur with some frequency. The size of the maintenance staff has been doubled. 

In January, the HHA board hired an independent inspection group to help them "clearly define and understand the magnitude of the problem." Last night, Mattice reported that within two weeks of receiving the report, all the health and safety items were fixed, and they are now moving forward on addressing general repairs.

Nine apartments are currently "offline," awaiting a total rehab, for which $80,000 has been budgeted. Seven apartments are vacant and being prepped for new tenants, which involves, among other things, a fresh coat of paint. 

I have to admit that I haven't been in Bliss Towers for a few years, not since 2014 when I was regularly attending HHA board meetings during the great bench controversy. Upon entering the building last night, I missed a vaguely unpleasant odor that I remember being present in the building. During the meeting, I learned why. The garbage chute, which hadn't been cleaned for twenty years, had recently been power-washed and sanitized. The ventilation system had also been cleaned.

I left the meeting before it was over to go to City Hall for the first meeting of the Common Council Housing & Transportation Committee, so I wasn't there to witness the resident members of the board and residents in the audience praise Mattice for the work he has been doing, but I heard about it from others who remained to the end of the meeting. 

When I arrived at City Hall, only two members of the four-member Housing & Transportation Committee were present--Tiffany Garriga, who chairs the committee, and Dominic Merante. With no quorum, the committee was just having a discussion with members of the audience. Making reference to an article that had appeared that day in the Register-Star, "Alderwoman wants to remove Housing Authority members," former Fourth Ward supervisor Bill Hughes, who was in the audience, cautioned Garriga about approaching the problem "from a contentious angle." Speaking of the resolution she had introduced, asking the mayor to remove the currently appointed members of the HHA board of commissioners and appoint new members, Garriga said it was "sending a message," tacitly acknowledging that the resolution cannot force the mayor to take this action. Speaking of the conditions that prompted her to demand a change of leadership, she asked rhetorically: "How many apartments have you inspected inside? When was a grant applied for? Who is overseeing the executive director?" She also alleged that "HUD in Buffalo has not been doing its job."

When Mayor Rick Rector arrived at the committee meeting from the HHA meeting, Garriga asked him about the earlier meeting. In his response, he provided a hint about what action he might take if the Council passes the resolution introduced by Garriga: "I give him [Mattice] the opportunity to do what he said he will."  

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