Yesterday, Kamal Johnson was interviewed by Tim Lake on Channel 10 News. If you missed it, the interview can be viewed here.
Predictably, housing was a major topic of discussion. As he did in an interview on WAMC in June, Johnson complained that there are some streets in Hudson "where you barely have neighbors." In June, Johnson blamed that on the perceived phenomenon on short-term rentals. Yesterday, he seemed to attribute it to "a ton of abandoned buildings that we really need to revitalize," giving the impression that the magnitude of the problem rivaled that in Newburgh or Detroit. Johnson said he wanted to bring in developers to create more affordable housing and claimed to have a "huge plan for housing" that he's been working on "for about a year now." This may be the first anyone outside of Johnson's inner circle has heard of this plan. He later made reference to "a bunch of plans that are in play," a statement that also piques one's curiosity.
Johnson talked about changing the zoning in Hudson, something people have been talking about for at least twenty years, and then made a puzzling claim. According to Johnson, there are developers who currently own vacant lots and want to build affordable housing units on them but "our zoning doesn't allow that." What could he be talking about? The Hudson Housing Authority recently abandoned its plan to create many more units of subsidized housing on land it owns on State Street, but that decision had nothing to do with zoning. Hudson Development Corporation's efforts to develop the Kaz site for mixed income apartments have been on hold since May 2018, but that had nothing to do with zoning either. The only instances in recent memory when zoning interfered with the proposed construction of residential buildings was back in 2016, when a block of four town houses (probably not what Johnson would define as "affordable") was proposed for Hudson Avenue, in the area that was zoned "Industrial" (the zoning was amended to allow that), and in 2013, when a misreading of the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations for Residential Districts scotched a plan to build a five-unit apartment building at 248-250 Columbia Street. (The building that has since been constructed on the site is a two-family duplex--probably not as affordable as what was originally planned.)
The interview also touched on Johnson's age (he's 34) and how he has contemplated becoming mayor since is was a junior in high school, his plans for the "jobs presentation/fair" to bring job opportunities to Hudson, and his intention to work with the school district to address the problem of homelessness among students. Johnson conjured up the familiar metaphor of Hudson as a doughnut, with a little variation. When Linda Mussmann, who may have created it, uses the doughnut metaphor, Greenport is the doughnut, and Hudson is the hole. According to Johnson, the doughnut is a small inner city that is vibrant and diverse "surrounded by a huge rural circle of energy."
One thing that was made clear at the start of the interview is that, although he ended his campaign for mayor early last month, incumbent mayor Rick Rector is still on the ballot, and his re-election is still a possibility.
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