Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Alphabet Soup in the Soup

At the informal Common Council meeting last Monday, Council president Tom DePietro, Alderman Tiffany Garriga, and members of the audience, including Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann, voiced the opinion that HDC (Hudson Development Corporation) was "outdated," "outmoded," "out of control," and shouldn't exist. The alternative forwarded seemed to be that the Common Council, eleven members elected every two years with no particular expertise, aptitude, or experience in such matters, should take on the planning and development role for the city. The Council has an Economic Development Committee after all. 

The crux of the problem with HDC is the redevelopment of the Kaz site. Those most vocal in their criticism of HDC make it clear they have no confidence that the agency, with a thirteen-member board only two of whom are elected officials (the mayor and the Council president) serving ex officio, can do the right thing for the city with this project. Interestingly, though, the other alphabet soup agency, HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency), which people sometimes have difficulty distinguishing from HDC because they share the same staff, isn't drawing the same kind of criticism--perhaps because everyone is clamoring for more affordable housing (which is what HCPDA is all about), perhaps because everyone on the board serves ex officio--the mayor, the Common Council majority and minority leaders, the chair of the Planning Board, and the chair of the HHA (Hudson Housing Authority) Board of Commissioners. Although not under attack from members of the Council and the public, HCDPA is running into troubles of its own.

Back in 2015, HCDPA was nearly bankrupted by a demand from the Galvan Foundation to contribute $100,000 for the build-out of the senior center at the Galvan Armory. Three years before, in 2012, HCDPA had pledged $100,000 to the senior center, but that was when the City was planning to build its own building to be used as a senior center. Galvan had rejected $400,000 in CDBG funds for the senior center, awarded to the City in 2010, because the money came with too much red tape, but they wanted HCDPA's $100,000 and threatened not to complete the senior center if they didn't get it. HCDPA at the time only had $83,000. The solution to the problem was that the City ponied up the $100,000 for Galvan.

At the HCDPA meeting last week, it was disclosed that, after paying two bills, the agency would have no money. The possibility of selling off all the agency's property was proposed by HCDPA executive director Sheena Salvino. According to the tax rolls, HCDPA owns about twenty-five parcels, most vacant lots located in the Second Ward. Joe Czajka, senior vice president of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, who was at the meeting to present the Strategic Housing Action Plan, had a better idea: use the property as collateral for a loan, which would provide immediate operating funds and could be repaid as the properties are sold. The reason for hanging on to the property is that several of the parcels are, according to the current zoning, too small to be "buildable." There is talk of revising the zoning, in the interest of achieving greater population density, to allow buildings to be constructed on smaller lots; hence it is anticipated that the lots will command higher prices when zoning revisions have been adopted and they are "buildable." The board agree to "value and appraise every physical and 'locatable' property owned by HCDPA" in preparation for either selling them or using them as collateral for a loan.

1 comment:

  1. There's nothing wrong with the HDC that some good government couldn't fix. I recommend this morning's David Brooks column for some hints about what constitutes "good government":
    https://nyti.ms/2GeHsW1 Hudson has a long way to go.