Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Monday Night at City Hall: Part 2

There were two public hearings held on Monday night: the first on the six-month moratorium on registering new short-term rentals (Local Law A of 2020); the second on defunding the Tourism Board (Local Law B of 2020). In both cases, there seemed to be an equal number of people speaking in opposition and in support of the proposed legislation.

Photo: Julien Capmeil|CN Traveller
Opposing the moratorium, Kristal Heinz called it a "bad decision," arguing that the Council has not done the research to establish the need or to understand the impact of such action. Jay Neuschatz questioned if regulating short-term rentals would have any positive impact on affordable housing and urged, "We need to find a balance." Steve Dunn said he had written a memorandum opposing the moratorium when it was proposed previously and called it the "wrong remedy." He also expressed disappointment that the Council has not made more progress in drafting regulations on short-term rentals. Myron Polenberg asserted that the housing shortage would not be solved by doing away with B&Bs and asked rhetorically, "What business other than tourism can the city attract?" He said the problem should be "solved and studied" but maintained "a moratorium is not the way to go."

Speaking in support of the moratorium, Claudia Bruce, who spoke of the "avalanche of short-term rentals," and Linda Mussmann both characterized the moratorium as providing time to "get all the facts." Alana Hauptmann said Airbnb was "unraveling our community," complaining that her employees cannot find a place to live in Hudson and the "regular person" cannot find a place to stay. The latter situation, she suggested, "has a lot to do with weddings." Another commenter spoke of the "excessive proliferation" of short-term rental units. Hauptmann later lamented, "The whole thing is about money. It's changing so much here. The city has lost its soul." Matt McGhee cautioned, "Tourism can be a good thing, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing." He went on to advise, "Tourism needs to be regarded with a jaundiced eye."

In opening the public hearing on defunding the Tourism Board, Council president Tom DePietro reminded those present that more than $300,000 in revenue from the lodging tax had already been earmarked for use by the Tourism Board. 

First to speak, Dunn pointed out that the allocation of a portion of the revenue from the lodging to the Tourism Board was "a deal cut to get it passed" and called it "not a prudent expenditure of funds." Michael Chameides, mayor's aide, said earmarking money was "not typical" and expressed the opinion that "it makes sense to give the City other options for spending the money." Hauptmann complained about the high property taxes and declared, "We have tourism. We are not not known. Give me some money back." Bruce opined that the money should "run through the Common Council." McGhee warned about taking property off the tax rolls and declared that "the solution was not making the city a [tourist] trap and making it not livable." Nick Zachos said he didn't realize the Tourism Board already had $300,000 and complained that whenever he tries to get more money for the Youth Department he is told there is no money. Mussmann wanted the money invested in her ward, the Fourth Ward. She claimed, "Tourists ask, 'What's so different about the north side of town?' We need sidewalks, lights, and garbage cans." Dunn concurred, calling the north side "the stepchild." 

Among those in support of keeping the money allocated for the Tourism Board, Heinz said of tourism, "This is what we have. This is our economic engine." Kane argued that tourism brings in tax revenue and cautioned, "We are not arrived yet [as a destination]; we are still a weekend town." Polenberg opined, "Tourism doesn't have to be beds. Maybe you get a visitor who becomes a businessman here." Neuschatz advised, "If we have any chance of attracting other business, they want to see a vibrant main street." Kane expressed the opinion that it might be a good idea "to hold off until the new Tourism Board has a chance to decide what it wants to do." Peg Patterson concurred.

On the subject of the Tourism Board, at the informal Common Council meeting that followed the public hearings, a resolution was introduced naming the Council's four appointees to the Tourism Board. They are Hannah Black, co-owner of Lil' Deb's Oasis; Selha Graham, co-manager of Rolling Grocer 19; Sidney Long, who was appointed to the Tourism Board by the Council last year; and Kate Treacy, second vice chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee. So far, Mayor Kamal Johnson has not made public his appointments to the Tourism Board. The board will be chaired by Alderman Calvin Lewis (Third Ward), who also chairs the Common Council Economic Development Committee.

The Council is expected to vote on enacting the Local Law No. A and Local Law No. B at its regular monthly meeting which takes place on Tuesday, February 18, at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall.


  1. Alana, your taxes are high because so much property in Hudson is not on the tax rolls. School taxes are very high.

    Tourism and sales tax revenue help the City and County pay for the expenses.

    Tourists must find the Red Dot and eat there. the food is good. people in business need customers

  2. If you want to lower rents, then regulate rents, if you want more low income housing, build it. Restricting the growth of B&Bs isn't necessarily going to impact that, this seems more founded in class based resentments. When it comes to spending money on anything, like patching a hole in the Dunn roof or tearing down some Furgery shacks, decades of studies are needed before any action is taken, why then in this case, does a ban need be put in place before any study or evidence is presented, other than hearsay of some annoyed neighbors? Case in point, why would someone from Rolling Grocer be appointed to the tourism board? Rolling Grocer sells health food to people on food stamps, a great and noble thing, a community service, but it has absolutely nothing to do with tourism. Little Debs likewise caters to a very alternative, anti tourist crowd. Seriously folks, tourism is the only growing, income generating game in town. If you really want to help the low income, downtrodden people of Hudson, get some backbone and say it directly, take that tourist money and use it to fix up the decrepit North side, put it into the youth (free day care) department. This fake neo-liberal, disguised policy is pretty pathetic.

  3. The moratorium makes total sense if the Council is interested in accelerating the speed of gentrification: if landlords can't make a reasonable return on multi-family housing, the only rental properties will be Section 8 or otherwise subsidized. Two family and other multi-family buildings will be sold as single family homes. Eventually, even the subsidized buildings will get offers their owners won't refuse -- and then there won't be any renters in Hudson at all. Mission accomplished? It seems that's what the Council is after. If not, this moratorium is ill-advised.

    Lots of people want to live here (which is why the cost of living is going up). And if we want to stay a diverse city where everyone can afford to live, we need to think more creatively than this. Because we can't have it both ways: we can't have a robust, growing economy that will support the local population, and hamper that same economy with hastily-drawn regulation the impact of which is unknowable.

    1. The moratorium and subsequent regulation seem a foregone conclusion at this point, though the parameters and texture of the STR regulation still has plenty of opportunities to be refined. Our housing stock is limited and too much is off-market right now for the sake of STRs; I'm hopeful that Legal will buckle down over the next 6 months to present a data-backed solution to a complicated issue.

      You do raise a valid point about cost of living, though. If Hudson wants to thrive, it needs to actively develop market-rate housing to increase supply on the tax rolls, ease the pressure on property owners and renters, and work to develop its commercial base across a broad swath of industries, not just tourism.
      Affordable Housing is fine, but PILOTS are not property taxes, otherwise developers wouldn't insist on them. At any rate, if we don't ease the burden on middle-class homeowners and renters, we're putting the brakes on upward mobility within our community for lower-income individuals and families to purchase homes, rent market-rate housing (which will be bearing the brunt of the property tax burden), and create a path to financial security for themselves within the community.

  4. So you are okay with more airbnb's and similar short-term rentals, John, even an unlimited amount of them?

    1. Bill, I believe that at some level the market self-regulates. I'm a cockeyed capitalist, I guess. What's the "correct" number of anything? Hudson has historically been very friendly to entrepreneurs and, specifically, home-based businesses. Perhaps limiting the moratorium to only non owner occupied properties might be a good way to slow down speculation while permitting the market to meet demand.

    2. By "home-based businesses" would you include the bordellos that were so popular in Hudson? Were those businesses good for Hudson? Seriously, though, are you equating someone making jewelry in their basement to someone renting out their empty apartment? One has little or no effect on the wider community and the other most certainly does, and mostly negatively in my mind. B HUSTON

    3. The whore houses? No, I don't think so. Nor drug dealers, most of whom don't have offices or store fronts. But a legal business is a legal business. And boarding houses are permissible uses in all zoning districts to the best of my knowledge except "Industrial" -- where no one may live. The same is true for B&Bs generally under the City code.

  5. One:
    The City of Hudson does receive revenue directly into the general fund from the 4% lodging tax. Just some background on the actual law when written by the 2016/2017 Common Council. The original law co-sponsored by Assembymember Barrett & Senator Marchione in 2016 included a section on the distribution of the tax dollars, as follows:
    Collected each year
    First $250,000: 50% to City of Hudson General Fund/50% to Tourism Board
    Next $250,000: 75% to City of Hudson General Fund/25% to Tourism Board
    Funds over $500,000: 90% to City of Hudson General Fund/10% to Tourism Board
    The annual cap to the Tourism Board is $250,000 – then 100% goes to City of Hudson General Fund for the remainder of the reporting period

    From my understanding the total tax revenue received by the lodging tax was 2017 (June – Dec): $178,669 2018 (a full year) : $317,467. By the end of 2018: The City of Hudson general fund received about $250K and the Tourism Board received approximately $250K

    The first Tourism Board appointed took some time to settle in and to focus on their role as outlined in the law. The tourism board fund the Finance Event Awards with $20,000 that were given out to local events, parades & other programming that was attended by visitors and residents alike. (Halloween Parade, Flag Day, Black Arts Festival, to name a few) When I chaired the Finance Committee – we actually had an ask of over $30,000 and had to divided $20,000, so that every eligible applicant got funding– I hope that the Tourism board continues to provide this funding, and perhaps provides an increased award in 2020. The Council stripped this funding (The old Arts & Entertainment Awards) in the 2018 budget negotiations for Budget Year 2019. Thankfully the Tourism board came to the rescue or some of these events would not have happened.

  6. Two:
    The board also presented a proposal in the fall of 2019 to have a firm come in to start to identify and market the City of Hudson, using the money in the Tourism Board funds – and this was voted down by the Council and now that Tourism Board appointments expired.

    Now that at the law was renewed in 2019, we will have new Tourism Board in 2020 – The Council should not make any decisions on changing the split of these tax dollars. They should allow the new board to come together, work through their ideas – hopefully, providing funds for the Finance Committees events, along with other thoughtful ideas that everyone, residents & visitors alike can enjoy.

    The Council is pushing a 6-month Short Term Rental moratorium stating they want to spend the time finding a thoughtful solution for Short Term Rentals, so they don’t feel rushed. Why not apply this same logic to the Tourism Board. Give the new board a chance to be successful and find ways to enhance our reach – I sit in meetings and listen to folks complain that weddings don’t support all of the service industry here - if we want a new type of tourist, such as adventurers, or weekenders that want to spend time and money in Hudson, let’s get creative in marketing to them.

    1. Rob, I love this point. I'd say, though, that it's not quite that we need to get creative in "marketing" to adventurers or families or other "new types" but that we need to build up city services and parks and infrastructures that those groups find exciting and can use. It's not "getting them here." It's creating things here that are wonderful and exciting and unique. That's one reason it's great to see Cece is on the tourism board. So many people I know have gone to Rolling Grocer and said: Oh my god, Hudson is so cool. It's wonderful community services, and free events, and free and dynamic open spaces, and places to walk and bike and hike and swim and play that can build a tourism industry here that benefits residents and visitors alike.

  7. Three:
    Tourism isn’t going away – and why do we want it to? It is not the enemy; nor is it just about tourism. The dollars that come into this City trickle through to other business, outside of the food service industry and local retail businesses. As an owner of a financial firm, we insure these businesses that provide the vehicle to help attract tourists to town. I also provide career training, competitive salary, benefit and paid time off to an 8-person office in Hudson, of which most live within Columbia or Greene counties. Our agency supports the community both by donating computers, monitors and other office equipment and also support local youth programming such as soccer and a scholarship program for High School graduates.

    Tourism is a DRIVER in our community that help to develop careers, community programming & the ability for local students to further their studies by helping them pay for college.

    We should be rushing to find ways to attract tourism here – not rely on being the gem of the month in a magazine. If we aren’t satisfied with the type of visitor we have – let’s find ways to attract more diverse visitors then. We are the County Seat of one of the most diverse counties in the Hudson valley offering so much to residents & visitors, we should celebrate this and find ways to grow it.

  8. In the City of Hudson over 80% of Airbnb rentals are entire residence. There are over 250 listings, 30% of which for >6 adults. It is no doubt proportionally - without any zoning, permitting, or planning - a magnificent force that is shaping this city in its image. Why we persist in thinking this decision to legislate policy around this flood is an all or nothing proposal speaks pretty well to our more vocal neighbors complete lack of imagination on this issue. Notwithstanding their total ignorance of how other communities have navigated this tremendous change.

    New Orleans, Asheville, Santa Monica, Charleston, Amsterdam and San Francisco have all banned entire house Airbnb listings.

    Because all of these cities recognize that you can very easily poison the well. Find me a single person in Venice saying ‘leave the cruise ships alone’. They realize that it is critical, for tourism, that they do not become some vacant soundstage, some sad spectacle, of what was once a real City. If you want to own a home here, make it a home, for yourself, or a neighbor, not a crash pad for drunken bachelorette parties that you manage remotely.

    1. Perfectly reasonable approach, esp. for a part-time-at-best legislature such as our Council, to crib from other municipalities that have taken thoughtful approaches to common problems. I don't think too many of these laws have been subject to significant litigation -- which may be guidance enough for Hudson to implement something modest such as a whole-house ban. (It's worth noting, I think that, by definition in NYS, an entire house rented out can't be a B&B.)

    2. New Orleans, Asheville, Santa Monica, Charleston, Amsterdam and San Francisco already have strong, diversified economies that can more easily withstand a disruption to the tourism industry. Navigating ourselves to a place where we can attract new businesses, develop our workforce, and build new housing requires revenue, which is currently supplied in large part by the tourists some people are so quick to dismiss.

    3. Mary Ann Gazzola submitted this comment by email:

      Airbnb uses "entire" to indicate private apartments (vs. a bedroom in a shared apartment or house), as well as a single family house, thus defining a private rather than a shared space. So 80% of Hudson's Airbnb rentals may be entire apartments and/or single-family houses.

      Also, if you look closely at the listing locations, you'll find that many of them called "Hudson", are actually in Greenport and surrounding towns, which may share the Hudson zip code, so have the benefit of using Hudson in the description.

      Additionally, many of the Airbnb listings are of existing hotel or BnB rooms, not just individuals renting out their spare bedrooms, apartments, or houses.

      It would be interesting to take a more detailed look.

  9. How does the Council expect to enforce the moratorium?

  10. I think many Hudsonians are struggling to pay their bills in the State if NY. they have come to Hudson and made their homes here. they took a chance.

    they have to pay city taxes, insurance, water, electric and gas costs -- which have some of the highest rates in the the USA. school taxes alone are insane. why is New York so expensive ??

    is AIRBNB so bad ?? also, the listings go over to Greenport and even Catskill when you look on line.

    hudson is not alot of people from Greenwich Ct. , trying to scam the system, do you think ?? people here are pioneers i think.

    brave individuals invested here and now you hate them for making Hudson better.