Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Galvan Civic Motel Moves Ahead

Yesterday afternoon, the Board of Supervisors' Health and Human Services Committee voted to move ahead with approving the contract between the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Galvan Foundation for the use of the Galvan Civic Motel to shelter homeless people. There was only one dissenting vote: Kathy Eldridge, supervisor for the Town of Greenport.

Before the discussion of the contract began--a discussion that was postponed until the end of the meeting--Rick Scalera, supervisor for the Fifth Ward and a member of the committee, delivered what seemed to be a prepared statement about his relationship with the Galvan Foundation. He explained that he worked for Galvan on an "as needed" basis. Scalera, who was seated at the table with the committee, announced that he would abstain from the discussion and from the vote, and with that he relinquished his seat at the table. Scalera was no longer in the room when the vote was taken, having explained earlier that he had to leave at 5:00 to go to Kinderhook.

The discussion of the contract, which DSS commissioner Robert Gibson called a "referral agreement," began with Gibson explaining that the revised document before the committee specified that no sex offenders and no violent criminals would be housed at the facility and that security measures must be put in place.

Jennifer Wai-Len Strodl, director of the Liberi School located across the road from the motel and one of the people most concerned about the motel's possible negative impacts, seemed mollified by the terms imposed in the contract but wanted to know what steps would be taken if problems arose. Would the school communicate with DSS or Galvan? The answer was DSS. She was also concerned about drug and alcohol use and asked that there be signage noting that the area was a drug-free school zone. That was agreed to. 

Tom Alvarez, whose business and manufactured home community are in close proximity to the motel, was not appeased. He suggested that there be a six-month probationary period before the county entered into a five-year contract with Galvan. He was told by Gibson, "If this is an untenable situation, we will know that and address it." Alvarez reminded the committee of the petition he submitted with the signatures of ninety-four residents of his adult community, people who are, he said, "totally opposed to this." Alluding to past experiences with homeless people housed at the Sunset Motel, Alvarez stated, "I want to be sure the committee knows these are real things that happened." He also expressed concern about visitors who will come "after their friends get situated in the 'Ritz Carlton.'" Commenting on the extensive work being done at the motel, Alvarez asked, "What gives them the incentive to leave?" 

Gibson conceded that "they may have to call the police from time to time," but after First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling asked about a code of conduct, and Gibson explained that it was illegal for DSS clients to use drugs or alcohol, the vote was taken to move the resolution forward to the full Board of Supervisors. 


  1. It was Tom Alvarez who'd expressed people's concerns about the septic system, and rightfully so where the property's State-regulated wetlands would be the first to experience the potential negative impacts of the action.

    It would be a pity if nobody followed up on SEQRA (the State Environmental Quality Review Act), a State law typically dodged by local governments and only enforced by the public.

    I think what has people confused is that the Supervisors, and not the Greenport Planning Board, would be the SEQR lead agency.

  2. Hooray for Kathy Eldridge. Carole, do you know the other votes? This contract continues to be one dogged by ignorance. Unheimlich points to just one, the environmental problems. There are plenty others, notably, the complete absence of any study suggesting that a) this contract is necessary or b) the right one. The taxpayer is once again being taken to the cleaners in a sleak van with no windows. --peter meyer

    1. The members of the committee are Pat Grattan (Kinderhook), Sarah Sterling (Hudson-First Ward), Maria Lull (Chatham), Abdus Miah (Hudson-Second Ward), Robert Beaury (Germantown), Matt Murell (Stockport), Mike Benvenuto (Ghent). I don't know a couple of these people, so I'm not entirely certain if they were all there (one of them may have been missing). Also, it was a voice vote not a roll call vote, so that was no help.

    2. When looking at this issue we should consider the current homeless emergency housing situation. Bad rooms, lack of rooms, far away, no on site services. Will this proposal provide better services? Does it prevent an even better solution?

      From a taxpayer standpoint, the proposal is unlikely to increase current expenses on homeless emergency housing. It is more likely to decrease expenses because transportation costs will be cheaper and the added services may also reduce overall numbers. If you ignore the costs of the additional services, the proposal would decrease costs.

      While there is no formal study, a number of homeless advocates and department heads have spoken in favor of the proposal. Are there homeless advocates knowledgeable of the situation in Columbia County who are against the proposal?

      We should seriously consider whether or not this will help the homeless.

    3. Clearly you've not read the contract which requires the County to pay Galvan $85 per person per night. Two adults and a child -- that's $255/night for a crap motel room in the middle of Greenport. That's the rate at many BBs (and AirBnBs) in Hudson proper.

      This issue was raised at the last committee meeting and assurances were made that it would be reduced to $85/night (not per person per night). Too much work for the County Supervisors I guess.

    4. John, clearly you have not read the latest version of the contract which states $85/room/night not per person. 30% of the cost goes back to services. I stand by my previous statement about costs.

      Again I urge us to seriously consider whether or not this will help the homeless.

    5. I'm glad the contract was changed -- too bad Gossips doesn't have link to it. In any event, the rest of your analysis is flawed regardless: at the meeting in March the uniform conclusion of all the homeless advocates was that the Galvan Motel (or any motel) is precisely the wrong approach. Even Galvan's spokesperson agreed -- as if someone was holding a gun to their head and forcing them to suggest the path they are taking. The reality, of course, is that they are taking this path because it is a known money maker for them. Nothing more. If the goal was to truly help the homeless -- of which there is no emergency in Columbia County by anyone's standard -- then the Board of Supervisors would do the hard work to produce an RFP designed to yield an actually helpful emergency housing shelter in the county. Instead, they cooperate in the graft that is the current motel housing system. It helps the motel owners, who I'm sure help the Supes. But it does SFA for the homeless in any strategic or longterm sense.

    6. I did provide the link to the contract that is available on the Columbia County website, but apparently the latest version of the contract is not available online.

    7. John, I want to make sure I understand what you are saying. Do you believe that the advocates and department heads that spoke in favor of the proposal are being coerced and that they don’t actually think it would be an improvement? You yourself don’t believe it would be an improvement? You think the proposal is mutually exclusive with creating a shelter? You think the County can and should issue an RFP and agree on location, size, cost, long-term feasibility, layout, contract, and construction of a shelter within a year or so and thus don’t need a stop-gap improvement?

    8. No one's being coerced: they're being led willingly. Not sure why but that's the gist of both their words and actions. Everyone who spoke at that meeting spoke against the current model. I personally believe it fails in all metrics except profitability for its owners. If the model is so roundly discredited, then why is the BoS agreeing to accept another such motel AND give it the right of first refusal as to new clients of DoS and those it will take? If, as all the commenters stated, a shelter is the best thing for this purpose (emergency homeless housing), why is the BoS not actively working on an RFP for that?

      Is that clear enough?

      Now, please make the edited contract available for the community.


    According to the GIF website, Mr. Scalera appears to be one of its three Board members. Assuming that he attends and participates in Board meetings in that capacity, his relationship with GIF would appear to be something more than simply working for it on "an as-needed basis."

  4. Though Mr. Scalera may have left the room one can be sure that he used he influence previous to that.

  5. There but for the grace of God go I