Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lapse of Civility

The current Common Council, under the leadership of Tom DePietro, takes pride in the civil manner in which it conducts its business. All of that seemed out the window last night, in a meeting that lasted for more than an hour and a half and included many a feisty moment.

The discord started with a resolution forwarded to the full Council by the Housing and Transportation Committee, chaired by Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward). The resolution calls for extending New York State's Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) of 1974, the law that created rent stabilization, to the entire state. The resolution also expresses support for the following bills now before the state legislature--S2845/A4349, S185/A2351, S2591/A1198, and S2892/A5030--all of which relate to tenants' rights.

Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) had concerns about the potential cost to the city of adopting rent stabilization, suggesting it might discourage investment, and protested, "This is an awful lot to ask us to understand and then vote on next week." When DePietro assured her, "This doesn't commit us to anything," Halloran opined, "I don't see Hudson as a place that needs rent stabilization." After several other aldermen reiterated that the resolution simply declared support for legislation, DePietro called for an introduction and a second to introduce the resolution.

That was the last of the resolutions to be introduced, and it was then that audience member Annette Perry rose to deliver an emotional indictment of the Common Council, the main themes of which seemed to be that she was born and raised in Hudson, and it was her town; the members of the Council (or some other undefined you) were taking over her town and wrecking it; and she was not going to let them ignore the kids and the elderly. She accused the Council of "taking from the kids" and "meeting in secret" and complained about the condition of the Youth Center. It is not clear if there was any particular incident that inspired her outrage.

DePietro tried to placate Perry by saying the Council was looking into moving the Youth Center to the former John L. Edwards school and announced that the proposals to do a feasibility study of the potential adaptive reuse of the building would be received and opened today, Tuesday, March 12, at 4:00 p.m., in City Hall.

Alderman Shershah Mizan (Third Ward) then brought up the issue of assessments, stating that some of his constituents saw the assessed value of their property double or triple, and wanted the Common Council to pass a resolution to have those properties reassessed. Mizan was told that's not how the process worked, and city assessor Justin Maxwell explained that the property owners needed to challenge their assessments. Advice was offered about the process by other aldermen, and Mizan was assured that all information needed was available online, but he protested that many homeowners don't have a good command of English, and Alderman Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward) noted that many did not know how to use a computer. Maxwell promised to work on getting interpreters and setting up a meeting with GAR on the weekend expressly for Bangladeshi homeowners. The possibility of extending the deadlines for challenging assessments was also raised, but no decision was made regarding an extension, and it may not be possible since the assessment rolls need to be finalized by July 1.

When DePietro asked if any other aldermen had issues to bring before the Council, Halloran stood, which is not typical for aldermen when they have the floor, and declared that the environment of the Council Chamber was getting "more confrontational" and called for a return of civility. DePietro said he was not allowing anyone to "go over the line," which he defined, in part, as questioning someone's motives. Garriga took Halloran's complaint to be specifically about Perry's tirade and accused Halloran of judging her (Garriga's) constituents who come to City Hall. The exchange devolved into intimations of racism and then segued into aldermen taking turns declaring what they have done, individually and collectively, to help the youth of the city. Audience member Claudia Bruce took the opportunity to bring up the revenue from the lodging tax controlled by the Tourism Board, which now amounts to about $140,000, and express the opinion that the money should not be used for branding and marketing the city but for other things--namely, the Youth Center and sidewalks. DePietro encouraged people concerned about how the funds were spent to attend the next Tourism Board meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, March 26, at 5:30 p.m. at 1 North Front Street.

When DePietro invited comments from the public, a woman who identified herself only as Gloria from CCSM (Columbia County Sanctuary Movement) wanted to know whom to hold accountable for the police "violating the executive order." When DePietro said the Common Council had no jurisdiction over the police and referred her complaint to the mayor, she said, "The mayor is not getting my anger and frustration." Bryan MacCormack, executive director of CCSM, then said, "If our only access is the mayor, it's a closed door meeting. The public has to be involved." Mayor Rick Rector, who was present at the Council meeting, responded, reiterating many of the points made in a statement released on Friday. He avowed that he had supported the "Welcoming and Inclusive City" resolution when he was on the Council and continued to support it and stressed that he just wanted to get to the facts. "If the police did something wrong, we will correct it. If I did something wrong, I want to know." The woman from CCSM told Rector that his statements "don't sound like they are coming from a sincere place."

After DePietro asked MacCormack to provide more evidence that the HPD is violating the the "Welcoming and Inclusive City" resolution, and MacCormack alleged the police were present at the incident last Tuesday "to protect the safety of ICE not anyone else," it was decided that the mayor's next meeting with CCSM would be a public meeting, to take place on Friday, March 15, at 6:00 p.m. in City Hall.


  1. Proposing to support rent stabilization after doubling the property tax is the kind of progressive legislation I'd like to see more of from the council.

    Instead of paying their fair share of property taxes, the landed proprietors of this city would love to strangle out the residents by raising rents.

    Then, they could simply rent out their properties for tourists on AirBnb, and live in a hollowed out city - like an empty playground.

    An empty playground...the stage upon which tantrums of affluence are used to apply peer pressure to any government official that stands in their way.

    Hudson not only needs rent stabilization, but higher taxes on the wealthy landowners as well.

    1. Hudson needs rent stabilization like it needs more junkies and drug dealers, and the suggestion that it will help is simply not supported by evidence. It will almost certainly result in lower investment in rental housing, a devaluation of the real property inventory available for taxation and therefore an increase in actual property taxes. Recall that the City's annual budget isn't quite $13m -- and the City provides essentially no services (except to its employees, especially its retirees but that's a legacy of another time). The real problem is that there are too many not-for-profit property owners (NGOs, GOs, NFPs, etc.) who game the system and take property off the rolls thereby forcing the "wealthy landowners" to pay their neighbors' costs.

      We don't need rent stabilization, we need a moratorium on site plan approvals for NFPS and other non-contributors that push up the cost of living here for the actual residents.

    2. How does one differentiate between not for profit entities who game the system, and those who provide essential and legitimate services?

    3. Rent stablization in NY has a long, complicated, and fascinating history dating back to when soldiers returned from WWI, housing demand was high, and unscrupulous landlords engaged in price gouging.

      Rent stabilization has since been used when a "housing emergency" exists, defined as a vacancy rate of less than 5%. Hudson's current vacancy rate is about 17%.

      Simply put, when operating expenses exceed income, deferred maintence results, causing properties and neighborhoods to decline, leaving residents in substandard and unsafe living conditions.

      While Hudson could benefit from an increase in mixed-income, mixed-use buildings, affordable housing only addresess one side - the expense side - of the equation.

      Jobs that pay a living-wage address the income side. A large number of Hudsonians earn well below the area median income. Rent regulation won't change this. Investment in targeted, long-term economic development initatives will. It's a more challenging path to be sure. But focusing resources and public discourse on living-wage employment would likely yield a stonger, more sustainable community than would short-sighted, economically unviable rent regulation strategies.

    4. When an NFP uses a building it owns 1 day a year and keeps it off the rolls on that basis, it's a scam meant to save money at the NFP's neighbors' expense.

      Newcomer -- Rent control was initiated in NYC in 1943. Be that as it may, you are correct in my view that the living-wage issue is the key to a perceived "housing crisis." This is a by-product of educational opportunities and skills-building trade-oriented apprenticeships, or the lack of those (but that's another story).

    5. "When an NFP uses a building it owns 1 day a year and keeps it off the rolls on that basis, it's a scam meant to save money at the NFP's neighbors' expense."

      Fair enough, and that needs to be somehow addressed by the city, but we can not move forward with blanket statements about NFP organizations that are indeed "contributors" and "actual residents". That is a damaging approach that discounts a lot of good work being done in the city (services provided, employment offered, cultural enrichment, community engagement) that does contribute meaningfully to the economy.

    6. I agree with you -- that's the purpose of a moratorium in development: to give the community time to study the issues and come up with reasonable, equitable and workable solutions.

  2. I was there at the meeting, and would like to offer a re-interpretation of Annette Perry's performance of grief and dismay, which if not civil in that it did not feature “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech,” had many more significant features. It is not to be sniffed at when a person insists, by whatever means necessary, that her indigenous rights and the rights of her people be recognized. As a white gentrifying resident of Hudson (meaning that when I moved here I brought my greater wealth to bear on the existing lower income community, and stood to profit from my ability to regard as "investment" what had been simply a home (though home is never simple)), I have been acutely aware of the intensifying shock and disorientation of the black community. The informal Common Council meeting is, as Council President De Pietro pointed out, informal, and also a forum for citizens to bring their concerns and speak their piece. From where I sat, Annette Perry was taking the burden of an all-but silenced and shrinking perspective, and emotionally voicing an emotional truth, one that causes Hudson to be cast under a pall. It should not surprise or confuse anyone whose eyes are open in Hudson that that truth would come out in hyperbolic and/or histrionic fashion. While it is definitely factual that there are members of the Common Council who work hard for the youth of Hudson, and that the meetings of the Common Council are far from secret, it is also factual that there are children living hand-to-mouth in the lengthening shadow of fine dining and eager shoppers and ever more extreme disposable income, and that Hudson is a brutally small city in which for such inequity to be allowed to continue when there are revenue streams open and gushing. The subsequent mention of the $140,000 raised by the Lodging Tax, and potentially to be used to “brand” Hudson—the ironies of the term must not go un-noted—when the Youth Center and other necessary infrastructures including the funding of a Housing Commissioner, as recommended by the Housing Task Force, reminded me of the real potential for Hudson to be a great city, which will not be fulfilled by any further marketing to tourists but only by a re-dedication of resources to its youth and the residents who love them. REBECCA WOLFF

    1. Hurrah Rebecca! If we expand the definition of indigenous people to include Hudson's working class, we see this "lengthening shadow" in the current assessment eclipse, which is driving out once proud and hardworking homeowners. Shameful.

    2. And if we expand the definition of "daytime" to include the dark periods of time then we won't need a word for "night." Words either have meaning or they don't. I chose to believe they do.

      In addition, expanding the definition of "indigenous" to include people who happen to be born somewhere now though they have no ties to the actual indigenous peoples who populated that particular geography, negates the concept that the term "indigenous people" was coined to encapsulate and, in doing so, dilutes the actual focus on actual indigenous peoples. I was born on the island of Manhattan but that doesn't make me an Algonquin, Manahata, Iroquois or any other indigenous group of that sandbar. I may be a native to somewhere but that doesn't make me "indigenous" to that place. If you're going to torture the language try not to do it at someone else's expense.

    3. I feel dumb, because I thought I'd replied to this yesterday, and am tech illiterate enough there's always a chance two comments will so up. Notwithstanding: I wasn't at the meeting, but reading this account and reading Rebecca Wolff's reply sent me to my dictionary. I make my money writing, so it sits on my desk. It's a big 1913 Webster's that's so exhaustive it's like a thesaurus. Next to the word "civility" it says: "The state of society in which the relations and duties of a citizen are recognized and obeyed." Now, it seems to me that by repeatedly speaking up, and upholding her duty to articulate her grievances in a forum designed for it, Annette Perry is being the model of civility. I'm not worried about people being displeased and talking about it together, out loud, as a society and community. I'm worried about people feeling like there's nowhere left to air grievances and no duty to do it.

  3. This is what I think it means.A self hating cockasion with a privileged background..