Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Managing Change

The building at 432 Warren Street has been the subject of concern for a while. Once part of Phil Gellert's "Northern Empire," the building was sold in 2014, but it didn't appear that much was being done to improve the building's prospects. 

Some feared that the building might be allowed to deteriorate beyond the point at which it could be rescued. That would have been a terrible loss, and one difficult to imagine, since 432 and 430 were originally one building. The picture below shows the buildings after the Great Blizzard of 1888.

Last year, Gossips included 432 Warren Street in its series Nine Not to Ignore, which highlighted at-risk buildings in Hudson.

Photo: Zillow
Gossips breathed a sigh of relief when a proposal for the restoration of 432 Warren Street came before the Historic Preservation Commission in November. The building was to get a fourth floor, set back so that it would not be visible from the street; a re-created storefront, the design of which would be guided by the 1888 photograph of the building; and a complete restoration. When the work was complete, there would be a retail space and seven apartments in the building. 

The HPC granted the project a certificate of appropriateness, and things seemed to be going well, until the new owners, Restoration Lane, based in New Jersey, posted about it on Instagram. On November 23, three days after receiving a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC, this is what appeared on Instagram.

Have you ever seen an uglier building? Get ready to see it revived. This 8-unit project up in Hudson, New York, is about to kick into high gear. Because . . .
We have a closing date! Finally. One week from today we will add this fully gutted shell of a building to our portfolio.
As you know, real estate is all about location and this eyesore is dead center on Warren Street--the main commercial corridor of this artsy little city that is a popular escape for New Yorkers. It's got great restaurants, a major antiques scene, and it's right on the Hudson River with a direct train to Penn Station. Hudson is enjoying a bit of a boom as so many are looking to work from more interesting places.
But even before COVID, this little city was experiencing a serious shortage of quality rental housing. This building behind me was once a boarding house that 72 people lived in.
A local broker recently told me that 2 somewhat renovated units across the street recently received 35 and 50 applicants a piece. Now that's demand.
So what we'll throw out on the market will be this: 7 brand new 2-bedroom units with open concept kitchens, balconies and views down Warren Street or of the Catskill Mountains, plus a prime retail rental on the ground floor facing all the foot traffic on Warren Street.
If you're interested in visiting this pretty little city, feel free to reach out. I'm new to town so I'm not a great tour guide, but I'll be happy to show you our project as it is constructed.
On Friday, December 11, the following appeared on Instagram:

We are HERE. It's been a busy week, but I want to stop and reflect on how we now own the keys to our biggest project yet. 8 units in a brand new market--the incredibly charming city of Hudson, NY.
If you haven't visited, you should. We spent a full day this week meeting with a handful of talented people to build our team here.
So, why Hudson?
1. The spread. The cost to own and build compared to the rents (especially post-covid) is very attractive. 60% of residents here rent their homes! A big tenant base.
2.  The stock. Housing in Hudson is changing, lots of renos. But there are plenty of homes in need of love. In 2018, a community housing plan specifically called for the redevelopment of mixed use buildings, exactly like this one!
3.  The location. While it's not a major city, Hudson is a direct train ride into NYC. And it lures a ton of downstate people (pre-covid, and even more now). It offers an urban feel with restaurants, luxe little hotels, boutiques--but you can also hike the Catskills, shop farm produce and boat the Hudson River.
We are so excited to be in Hudson and can't wait to offer this little city a beautiful building to look at & live in. Cheers to the next project.   
Shared on Facebook, these Instagram posts provoked a flurry of comments from locals and inspired Michael Hofmann, who was the principal author of the Hudson Breathe Act, to send an email to the Common Council, with the subject line: "This is gentrification. What are we doing about it?" The following is quoted from Hofmann's email, which can be read in its entirety here.  
I'm writing to the full Common Council with the intention of bringing to light recent activity on social media surrounding Hudson's newest home flipper couple to descend on our city: New Jersey-based Christie Duffy and Matt Nieroda of Restoration Lane.
On November 23, the couple posted on their Instagram [a] photo of 432 Warren Street. In a long description accompanying this image, they lead with the question, "Have you ever seen an uglier building?"--later calling the location an "eyesore" in an "artsy little city that is a popular escape for New Yorkers … enjoying a bit of a boom as so many are looking to work from more interesting places."
The couple's disdain for this building and its history, and ignorance to our local community, is particularly painful when accompanied with their glib, short-sighted reference to our current housing crisis, framing it instead as simply "demand."… 
I write to share these social media posts because their purchase of this property, secured through outside investment with an intent to flip for profit, is an undisguised example of active gentrification happening in this city. If left to their own devices, Duffy and Nieroda will convert this building into yet another set of unaffordable units, which are already being marketed to affluent escapees of New York City, to make as much money as they possibly can. This is not what Hudson is asking for.
Many locals on Instagram caught wind of these two posts, and wrote close to a hundred messages between them condemning the couple for their tone-deafness and for playing a part in the displacement of life-long Hudson residents through skyrocketing costs of living. One example of these comments:
Please remember that even though you are "HERE" many families and generations have been here long before you, and have been EVICTED. Many families with legacy in this city, especially black and brown residents, have been driven out due the same perspective. I hope we can convince you to join the community in turning this crisis around and making those units affordable … I'm sure you will be happily welcomed with open arms if you make sure to use your capital to assist us in solving this crisis, and not exacerbating it further. Thanks.
[I]nstead of replying or even acknowledging the discussion happening on their account, they instead turned off and deleted all comments on their November 23 post, and have been otherwise silent. … So much for community engagement.
I know that there are members of this Council--and other leaders in the community--that are working extremely diligently to chip away at the immense and complex issue of housing insecurity in Hudson. … The unfortunate reality is that gentrification, as so clearly detailed in the example of 432 Warren Street, works far, far faster.
I hope you all share my sense of urgency on this matter.
Hofmann's email was received as a communication by the Council, without discussion, at its regular monthly meeting on December 15. It is not known what, if any, action the Council will try to take in response to this.


  1. What can the council do about outside real estate investors besides discussing the issue endlessly? What can any of us do to stop the gentrification besides condemning it?

  2. While Restoration Lane decided to take their account private rather than engage with the community, you can follow the brilliant parody account @restorationlame led by "Christie Real Estate Predator" on Instagram.

  3. Is the intent to make these units condos? If not, I question the profitability of their business plan.

    As to the affordable housing issue, there is no way to renovate units to used as affordable housing in a way that will stand the test of time (our climate is a harsh mistress), that makes any sense at all from a financial standpoint, unless of course, one way or the other, you are using other people's money, in particular, directly or indirectly, the money of one or more governmental entities. Heck, these days I question the profitability of doing renovations for non affordable housing. Folks do it of course, but I suspect more out of love than profit. But yes, the sales and marketing hype was tone deaf.

    Finally, whomever characterized Hudson as the "friendly city," needs their head examined. Many residents are friendly of course, including most of my neighbors, but the civic tone around here cannot be characterized as other than caustic and counterproductive in my view. Sad!

    1. Mr. Dunn:
      At one time, prior to the 1970’s, Hudson was a friendly City. It was the norm for people to greet one another when passing on the street with a smile and a cheerful hello. Neighbor helping neighbor, taking pride in ownership of property, etc. That is no longer the case and Hudson is not the friendly city that it was once called. I’ve made the mistake many times of greeting people on Warren that I know now live in Hudson. The blank look, cold stare now is the norm.
      Twice so with women. On a different matter. May I suggest that the HPC request picture(s) of all properties for archives and future references prior to renovation. And as the saying goes “money talks and bullshit walks” , a friendly city saying from days ago. And thanks for having common sense that is so missing in Hudson today.

  4. From their website: "Restoration Lane is a house flipping, home decor, real estate investment company." The end is near.

  5. And there you go — as predicted when the Council first engaged in its attempt at social engineering via the “Airbnb ban,” — the net result will be more luxe rentals and single-family homes. Congratulations Hudson, we’ll soon be Greenwich.

  6. Tommy -

    As usual you are spot on. There are elected officials who walk on Warren Street and refuse to acknowledge a smile and/or a "hello", let alone respond.

    And, as Maya Angelou wisely said, " When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."


  7. Hope springs eternal. Don’t give up on Hudson, I still say that this is a magical place.

    1. Oh you are so right. Hudson was a magical place until the 1970’s. The magic left town along time ago my friend.

    2. Sigh. No, I think you are confusing Hudson with your own personal stuff. I have similar feelings about my hometown of Milwaukee.

  8. Meanwhile Galloway holds his cards close to his chest and keeps plotting on ...

  9. Never thought there could be someone worse than Galloway but here we are. Was the building gutted when they bought it or did they gut it?

    1. Since they posted a picture of themselves standing in a gutted building on the day they closed on it, we can assume it was gutted by the previous owner.