Thursday, January 10, 2019

Last Night at the HHA

In September, Gossips marveled at how the proposed development on the south side of town had been stopped in its tracks by public outcry, while a proposed development on the north side of town, with the potential to have significant impact on the character of the city, was moving along pretty much off most people's radar. That is no longer the case. Last night, all the chairs set out for attendees in the Community Room at Bliss Towers for the monthly Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meeting were occupied, not by residents of Bliss Towers but by members of the larger community, elected officials, and local media.

On the agenda was a resolution to approve the Master Development Agreement (MDA) for the proposed new construction on State Street and the rehabilitation of Bliss Towers. The board intended to go into executive session to discuss the MDA, but before they did, Alan Weaver, who chairs the HHA board, opened the floor for public discussion.

Don Moore was the first to speak, raising the same questions he had at the informal Common Council meeting on Monday: How did what was truly a mixed income development--30 to 120 percent of the AMI (area median income)--become one with narrower income parameters--50 to 65 percent of AMI? How did 40 to 50 units become 150 units?

Weaver and Dan Hubbell, legal counsel for the project, addressed Moore's concern about the scale of the project. Weaver clarified, "What we are developing is 73 units. Possibly in the future we may redevelop the low rises." Having said that, he said there would be 33 units for seniors and 43 units for families, which totals 76. Hubbell elaborated on Weaver's disclaimer, explaining "if there is a remote possibility [of further development], you must disclose it under SEQR [State Environmental Quality Review]. . . . In order for the Planning Board to do a full review, we are revealing that." But he asserted, "There is no plan whatever" to redevelop the low rise. (There are currently 15 units in the low rise buildings.)

Moore also expressed concern about the RFQ issued by HHA, which Timothy Mattice, executive director of HHA, once described as an RFQ (request for qualifications) and an RFP (request for proposals) rolled into one. Moore's concern was that the RFQ, which was issued a year ago, specified that firms responding "must describe in detail their history and experience in Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversions." Moore charged, "You narrowed potential respondents by requiring RAD experience," and indeed they had. Only two developers responded to the RFQ. Hubbell noted that the project has not been awarded yet. There is no signed development contract; there is only a preliminary award, which is nonbinding.

Fifth Ward alderman Eileen Halloran told the board, "People are expressing concern about the partnership," making reference to the shared ownership of the buildings with the proposed development partner PRC (Property Resources Corporation), which was the subject in early December of an article and an editorial in Columbia Paper. She asked, "What would the board like to say to correct misinformation?" Mattice responded, "The buildings will always be public housing." He explained that there would be a twenty-year agreement with HUD, which would be subject to automatic, mandatory renewal. He said the partnership with PRC is a fifteen-year agreement, after which HHA can assume full ownership of the new buildings. Mattice encouraged people to call the HUD Regional Office, which he said "is now under direct control of Ben Carson," to fact check what he was saying. He went on to say, "Public housing as we know it is in a transitional phase. The federal government does not have the money to maintain public housing and is looking to the private sector to bail them out. HUD is pushing [RAD conversion] on housing authorities because it is such a crisis."

Mary Ann Gazzola raised questions about the income limits for the proposed housing. "We have a lot of young people--young, creative people who make Hudson vibrant--who may not fit the income parameters," she said. "If it's not mixed income, you are creating a whole enclave. . . ." She cautioned that developers try to justify building projects by asking about waiting lists, but waiting lists for housing may be deceptive because the same people can appear on several different waiting lists. Weaver and Mattice cited the City's Strategic Housing Action Plan, the very document that Mayor Rick Rector said was "in almost complete contradiction to what is being proposed," as calling for the housing being pursued by HHA. In reaction to this assertion by Weaver and Mattice, Council president Tom DePietro noted that the need defined in the appendix of that document was for the entire county not just for Hudson.

Observing that all residents of the new buildings would have to be eligible for Section 8 housing, Moore asked, "Why does the City of Hudson need to be responsible? This is not housing for Hudson; it's housing in Hudson." Weaver responded, "There is no concern about people coming here and paying $2,000 or $2,500 a month [in rent]." He made a comment that implied Moore's concern was elitist if not racist and went on to say, "We have a mission. The City owns a lot of land, you seem to have a lot of experts on your boards, why isn't the City stepping up?" 

Matthew Frederick also criticized the RFQ that made RAD experience a requirement and resulted in HHA receiving only two responses. He argued they should have opened up the process, positing, "There could have been a lot of people if you had not restricted it to RAD experience." Mattice disagreed. He told Frederick that HUD required three quotes for the rehab work done last year on some of the apartments in Bliss Towers, so he had reached out to local contractors, but they "would not come to 'the Tower' and passed on the opportunity to do the work." The contractor who did the project was from Schoharie.


  1. While Don Moore and others want an ideal of "affordable" housing" that is some mixture of lower income and middle class income, the developers who are building this want MONEY and as many apartments for the poorest people possible for as long as possible, because that is how they make the most amount of MONEY off of this kind of housing. MONEY is what they want-- Not good things for the City of Hudson or the County.

    the people living in North by Northwest have no access to anything -- like jobs, food, or public transportation that conforms to federal guidelines. Lets call in the FEDS from HUD to see if Hudson really meets the requirements. for one thing we know that all the sidewalks in Hudson are not wheelchair accessible. Neither is the City Hall.

    Hudson is a place from an earlier time that we have restored -- arduously.

    as Alan Weaver advised everyone last night, this building will essentially be there forever according to the HUD guidelines. Renewing into the future forever.

    Is this new overscaled building with room for more really what Hudsonians want ? Another low-end cheaply constructed ugly building that looks like the declining urban cities like Newark ?

    Hudson deserves better than this and the residents should want taxpaying people and properties.

    Does the County want federal poverty money, as an industry for the few who run things behind the scenes ? It is the old Industry of Poverty that the old boys ran in the 1970s when the tore the City down.

    Look at the Lantern Organization in New York.
    Its a capitalist structure to earn huge profits on the backs of the poor. This developer is doing the same thing - to make MONEY and gets huge flows of federal section 8 rents.

    i personally think it is unhealthy and cynical.

    Let Hudson grow organically with real people investing. Most people here are building stores and renovating houses so that they can live in a walking town or small city. isnt that good >

    the question of how you get some mix here seems to be working -- there are apts here for under 1000 a month. that is pretty affordable for a writer or a retired person, without having to go to the government to pay for it.

    Lets let Hudson grow on its own.

  2. "Hudson is a place from an earlier time that we have restored -- arduously." What? We have restored? Who is "We"? What is "restored"? "Let Hudson grow organically" What? Like my garden? Weeds galore. It is the City's duty to take care of its residents. Let it start to do that.

  3. I agree -- let the City take care of its residents.

    Put in real sidewalks for all people -- including the disabled.

    Add a real public transportation system with low fares.

    Make City Hall accessible to all.

    Make the water system better and free of chlorine -- the water is bad for the children. Take the lead pipes out of the water system. lead poisons us.

    There are many things the City has not done to protect and serve its citizens. Lets start with the basics.

  4. Here in Hudson was founded on the basis of people took care of themselves and worked.

    In fact, St Winifred, whose statue is on Promenade Hill, is the patron saint of payroll. It is the core symbolism of of the City.

    We need to help those who cannot, but we all must help ourselves and work. That is what made Hudson.