Wednesday, June 9, 2021

HCDPA: Its Board and Its Properties

HCDPA (Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency) is a relic of urban renewal. Its page on the City of Hudson website explains:
HCDPA was established as the City's Urban Renewal Agency. HCDPA is a corporate governmental agency, constituting a public benefit corporation. Although urban renewal agencies were initially created for the purposes of implementing the Federal Urban Renewal Program, many, such as HCDPA, have remained active and vital by aggressively initiating and managing a broad range of community development activities.
The HCDPA Board is made up entirely of people who serve ex officio--the mayor, the majority and minority leaders of the Common Council, the chair of the Planning Board, and the chair of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. In past decades, its mission has not always been clear, but HCDPA now sees itself as a key player in combatting Hudson's housing crisis. It is administering Hudson's ADLN (Anti-Displacement Learning Network) grant. Indeed, the ADLN grant was characterized at the HCDPA meeting on Tuesday as the agency's "main focus."

HCDPA owns property. Some parcels attributed to HCDPA in the tax rolls cannot be located, but there are four that can be: 202, 204, 206 Columbia Street (what remains of the community garden); 238 Columbia Street (a vacant lot that HCDPA has tried to sell twice in recent years); 6 to 14 State Street (a series of lots along the north side of the street); and 2 and 4 Warren Street (what is now a park on the northeast corner of Warren and Front streets). Two of those parcels were topics of discussion at Tuesday's meeting of the HCDPA Board--the first being the former community garden at Columbia and Second streets.

There are two parties interested in managing a community garden on the three parcels at Columbia and Second streets: the Hudson/Catskill Housing Coalition and an unnamed individual who is buying an adjacent property. Because there are two interested parties, the process calls for an RFP, and issuing an RFP requires legal counsel. At its May meeting, the board voted to do an RFP, which was prepared by Branda Maholtz, whose job with HCDPA is described as "coordinator." At yesterday's meeting, Maholtz asked the board to approve having assistant city attorney Victoria Polidoro provide legal counsel for the project. Maholtz explained that, although HCDPA is a city agency, it is not represented by city legal counsel. Legal counsel must be retained on a project by project basis.

Tiffany Garriga (Council majority leader) said she wanted to go into executive session to discuss the details, complaining, "All of this interest all of a sudden from people we've never heard of." When it was decided that there was no need for an executive session, Garriga questioned the choice of Polidoro as legal counsel, wanting to know if she had been recommended by anyone on the board or only by Maholtz. Maholtz explained that Polidoro was the only one of the city's attorneys willing to take on the task and reminded the board that Polidoro had worked on the ADLN grant. Rebecca Wolff (Council minority leader) and Mayor Kamal Johnson both said they were comfortable with Polidoro as legal counsel, and Steve Steim, newly appointed chair of the Planning Board, also expressed support for Polidoro. When a motion was made to have Polidoro represent HCDPA for the management of the community garden, Wolff and Johnson voted in favor, Garriga and Revonda Smith (chair of the HHA Board of Commissioners) voted against, and Steim abstained. Wolff observed, "We are not going to have action without an attorney," but Smith said she was not comfortable with the choice but would be elaborate about why.

During the discussion of the community garden parcel, Smith brought up another parcel: the lots at the western end of State Street. She said, "It seems like there is a lot of running around on this board," explaining that it had been six months since she asked about the parcels on State Street with the hope of acquiring them for HHA. She went on to say that she wanted "the running around to end today." Smith called for a special meeting. Wolff suggested there be a motion "to have a conversation about how HCDPA works with HHA." Council president Tom DePietro, who is not an HCDPA board member, suggested a resolution "that indicates which properties HCDPA wants HHA to develop." In the end, Johnson suggested they set a date for a special meeting "to hash this all out." That special meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, June 15, at noon. The meeting is now on the city calendar, but the Zoom link has not yet been made available.


  1. Why the knee-jerk desire to dive in to executive session all the time? And why, when restaurants and bars are open again, isn't Hudson City government resuming in-person meetings? Masks, social distancing -- all can be used to pry open our city government from the increasingly ham-like fists of the elected "leaders." Yes, keep virtual meetings, too -- the more access the better, isn't that a progressive principal? Though I doubt a live audience will stop Council and civic board members from opening their mouths and proving what the audience thinks, it will at least begin the process of reintroducing sunlight to our public discourse and decision making.

  2. the decision on the administration of the community garden should be done about 1 week after the Harvest Moon, just in time for winter.

  3. Isn't it obvious that many of these properties could be part of the recreation of Bliss Towers into a better version of public housing? Isn't this what all this conflict is about?

  4. Does anyone else think the number of boards and committees (many overlapping) is a bit much for the size of Hudson, and that the layers of deep bureaucracy that result actually stunt productivity and real progress? I mean did anything move forward here? How many meetings are similar?

    1. I don't know if the real problem is the overlapping nature of the various boards' jurisdictions (though that's a bit confusing for sure). Rather, the problem is that the talent pool from which the City seeks volunteers is finite and many of them are little more than cronies without the capacity or experience to actually do the tasks necessary to accomplish a relatively complex municipal goal. So each meeting is little more than jawboning with no decisions of consequence made because no homework was done in preparation for the meeting.