Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Council and the Galvan Proposal

Yesterday, before the Common Council meeting began, Gossips reported a surprising turn of events: the Galvan Foundation was "withdrawing from proceeding further with the 75 North 7th Street Project."

The letter from Dan Kent announcing this decision cited lack of support from the Council, spoke of the "significant changes and concessions" made to satisfy the Council, and made this claim: "Despite this transparent process, the City's criteria for supporting affordable housing continues to change and remains unclear. We have participated in extended conversations both at Council meetings and with individual Council members and shown a willingness to respond to all questions and address concerns. Unfortunately, this effort has not been sufficient to secure Council support."

The letter was received, along with several other communications, at the beginning of last night's Council meeting, but before the Council voted to receive the communications, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who had logged into the meeting from a car en route to Hudson from Albany, asked permission to address one of the communications. Council president Tom DePietro asked her to hold off a bit. After the Council had voted to accept the communications and pay the bills, DePietro announced that he wanted to make a short statement "in lieu of a number of things we've learned in the past twenty-four hours." DePietro had just defined the topic of his statement--the Galvan proposal to build a large apartment building on its property on North Seventh Street--when Garriga interrupted, saying, "May I ask that you read the communication, so that it is on the record?" DePietro responded, "You may not right now. I am making a statement. Please hold and wait. We will get to it. I don't interrupt you. Please don't interrupt me."  

Continuing with his statement, DePietro defended the Council's record in supporting affordable housing, citing its approval of financing for rehabbing units at Bliss Towers. Speaking of the project proposed by Galvan, Pietro said, "Despite widespread support for affordable housing, we were not getting the basic information we needed to make a reasoned decision." DePietro referenced the changes in the project: "an entirely different building on an entirely different site designed by an entirely different architectural firm." He claimed Galvan had never provided a "cohesive and complete presentation of the finances and the design of the project."

DePietro then segued into speaking about Eric Galloway, one of the two principals in the Galvan Foundation. He mentioned that Galvan owns more than eighty properties in Hudson, a number of them vacant, and concluded that Galvan was not an ideal developer for a huge affordable housing project "given Galloway's checkered history as a developer in New York City." In speaking of Galloway, DePietro disclosed that Galloway was suing the City over the assessments on his home in the 300 block of Allen Street and the carriage house also on the property.

Gossips' investigations discovered that on July 17, 2020, Galloway filed an Article 7 lawsuit against the City of Hudson with the Columbia County clerk's officeIn last year's reval, his house on Allen Street was assessed at $1.4 million and the carriage house at $500,000. This detail from the petition, which can be viewed online, shows what Galloway is claiming the properties are worth: $695,000 for the main house; $175,000 for the carriage house.

At the end of his statement, DePietro took issue with Kent's letter which blamed the City for lack of clear criteria for supporting affordable housing and accused Galvan of refusing "to acknowledge their complicity in the demise of this project." He recognized the need for a clear protocol to ensure proper public engagement and transparency and expressed hope that the consultant to be hired by the mayor to develop an affordable housing plan would "lead the way forward." The video recording of the Council Zoom meeting can be viewed on YouTube. DePietro's statement begins at 8:12.

Reacting to DePietro's statement, Mayor Kamal Johnson said he remained committed to affordable housing but he can't do it alone. "We can't just rely on what my office is doing." He went on to say, "We'll take this as a lesson that we'll learn from." It seems the lesson that a large, neighborhood altering development cannot be done by fiat is something that should have been learned long ago.

When the Council began its consideration of the resolutions before them, Garriga reentered the meeting and castigated DePietro for his earlier words to her. "Don't you ever scold me and talk to me like that." Later, she told him, "I am not your child. I speak for the people."

When Garriga was given the opportunity to speak, she read aloud the letter from Kent and then told her colleagues, "I am disgusted and disappointed with the entire Council." She went on to say, "You find every little way to find an excuse not to support this project. . . . You're stuck on parking, and you're stuck on saying, 'We want to see a better deal for the City.'" She demanded to know, "What is your plan for the housing project? What is your plan to give the people the housing that is needed?" She called out her colleagues by name--Malachi Walker, John Rosenthal, Rebecca Wolff. When Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) called a point of order, because they were now being subjected to the same scolding Garriga had accused DePietro of directing against her, Garriga attacked. "Why don't you have another glass of wine on camera? Because you don't support the people."

Later in the meeting, when the public was permitted to comment, Vern Cross took up Garriga's harangue, demanding to know what the alternative plan for affordable housing was and directing his question specifically at Malachi Walker (Fourth Ward) and John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward). Rosenthal responded by talking about the legislation to regulate short term rentals, inclusionary zoning and other changes to the zoning code, and looking for other development partners. He revealed that the Council had wanted to table the resolution supporting the PILOT agreement, but it was Galvan's decision to withdraw. Walker told Cross he was "willing to sit and figure out where we can go from here" and to "go back to the drawing board and figure out the next step." Cross challenged, "Did you know when you ran on housing that it was hard?"

DePietro then told Cross that, on Monday, "after things seemed to blow up with this," he had called Randall Martin, chair of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, and learned that "they hope very soon to have a project on State Street." Cross responded scornfully, "Keep all the black people downtown."  

The entire Council meeting, which went on for slightly more than two hours, can be viewed on YouTube.


  1. It is a good idea to focus on upgrading existing affordable housing that is currently in disrepair.

    Bliss Towers needs a lot of renovation and this has been difficult for the Hudson City entities to accomplish.

    1. Bliss Tower, I believe, is a federal Section 7 housing project and its funding is independent of the City of Hudson as I recall. I might be wrong -- wouldn't be the first time. Perhaps someone else on this thread can confirm its funding status.

    2. I don't know about Section 7. I've never heard of that. You may have meant Section 8. But the Hudson Housing Authority is independent of the City of Hudson, except that the mayor of Hudson appoints some of the people on the HHA Board. I believe four of the commissioners are mayoral appointees.

      Up until recently, the funding for maintaining Bliss Towers came only from the federal government--HUD. In recent years, HUD has been encouraging RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) conversions, which allow housing authorities to borrow money from the private sector and incur debt. HHA has been working on its RAD conversion for a while, practically ever since Tim Mattice took over as the executive director there. I think the process may be complete now. The Common Council had to pass a resolution in support of the RAD conversion. I do believe it is money that is coming in as a result of the RAD conversion that is financing the interior rehabbing at Bliss Towers. At one time there were also plans to rehab the exterior.

    3. OK, thanks, Carole. Your second paragraph brought it all back to me. As for the distinction between Section 7 and 8: the latter is an indirect subsidy to tenants (payments to private property owners for qualifying properties); the former is what Bliss Tower is -- government-owned property where the subsidies are direct (i.e. low rent).

  2. If affordable housing is dependent on PILOTS, or any other project that requires this kind of funding, must be rejected at this juncture. The City is already supporting way too many not-for-profits who don't pay taxes, and at a time when there is a sweeping financial crises across the nation due to COVID, nothing that requires ANY monetary support from the City of Hudson should be considered. This has nothing to do with not wanting to sponsor affordable housing, but the bottom line of whether this City can continue to allow for exemptions or deferrals of paying taxes on real estate projects, causing the increase of these taxes on those who are not exempt and paying their fair share. Eric Galloway does not even want to pay his fair share of taxes on his own residence, resorting to suing the City, to beat them into submission to his unrealistic demands. I sold my building on State Street several years ago for more than Galloway is claiming his mansion on Allen Street is worth. He knows how to get around having to pay real estate taxes, never using his own money to develop projects, and using questionable business practices on projects presented, moving locations, failing to secure the proper environmental studies needed to complete a project, and so much more. It seems that the City of Hudson not only didn't look at the financial burden that this project would cause, but didn't consider the substantially increased sewerage and need for services from DPW for garbage collection, etc.that would have to be able to accommodate such an influx of additional tenants. The Council needs to stop flying blind or relying on the opinion of those who have conflicts of interests due to their previous and or current association with Galloway, and start being fiscally responsible to the City, its property owners and its residents.

  3. SSiH brought up a great question: What conflicts of interest exist(ed) as it relates to the 75N7 Street project? What promises did Galvan make to Tiffany Garriga, which were then withdrawn with the proposal, that caused such an unprofessional and mean-spirited outburst? Her rant at her fellow Council members deserves either censure or at minimum an apology, especially to Eileen Halloran who has served the public for decades. Then to have 2 people from the public (Claire Cousins and Verne Cross) take up Tiffany's mantle to once again chastise (calmly or not) Council members for their positions and "demanding" answers. "To keep Black people downtown" is inflamatory and insulting and much below the esteem I believe Verne Cross normally is due. Finally, Tiffany screams "I am working for the people!" - well, so are all the Council and, if they don't agree with you it's quite possible their constituents don't either. Galvan's hold on this town needs to be broken, and maybe this was just the thing to do it. (Take a ride by his Allen Street house. He hasn't been there for a very long time as is evidenced by the overgrown grass in the front and the absence of his Bentley in the driveway. So how concerned about affordable housing in Hudson is he?)

  4. Galloway's estimate of the worth of his Allen Street house is absolutely laughable. And also the carriage house. The Inn at Hudson on the same street sold a couple of years ago for well over $1 million and it's a lesser property. It doesn't have a Tiffany cupola inside.