Thursday, November 4, 2021

Last Night with the Legal Committee

The Common Council Legal Committee met last night and discussed a couple of items of interest. The first was the RFP/RFQ for a developer of affordable housing on the City-owned vacant lot at Fourth and State streets. 

The committee seemed to be working with a document that had been updated since Gossips saw it. Fortunately gone was this troublesome sentence--troublesome because only the Galvan Foundation would appear to meet the requirement: "The City prefers a developer with access to multiple scattered sites to further the aims of the SHAP [Strategic Housing Action Plan]." 

In discussing the document and the aspirations for the site, Alderman Ryan Wallace (Third Ward) said he wanted to see potential for ownership of the apartments. Someone mentioned the possibility of "condo-ops" or "condop"--a combination of condominium and cooperative ownership. It was suggested that the Mitchell-Lama program in New York City might be a model for apartment ownership in Hudson. The idea of ownership is to help tenants build wealth, but the Mitchell-Lama program put strict constraints on the resale price of apartments, limiting the potential for appreciation in value.

It is expected that the RFP/RFQ will be ready for consideration by the entire Council at its informal meeting, which takes place on Monday, November 8. Prior to that meeting, the document should be posted on the City of Hudson website.

The "good cause" eviction law, which was vetoed by Mayor Kamal Johnson on October 9 so that amendments requested by Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) could be made, was also discussed at last night's meeting. At the beginning of the discussion, Council president Tom DePietro told the committee, "The mayor has asked us to come up with revisions to put before the Council." That did not happen.

Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) brought up a memo to the Beacon City Council from its attorneys regarding a similar law being considered in Beacon. The following paragraph is from that memo:
Members of City Council expressed an interest in adopting a Good Cause Eviction Local Law for Beacon similar to those adopted in Albany and Hudson. However, after reviewing the Good Cause Eviction Local Laws adopted, speaking with municipal attorneys and officials at the NYS Conference of Mayors, and researching the authority granted to municipalities to adopt such legislation, it is our opinion that the City does not have the authority to enact a Good Cause Eviction Local Law and would be subject to litigation if adopted. Those reasons are explained in more detail below but can best be summarized as stating the State Legislature has preempted the ability of a municipality to regulate the Landlord/Tenant relationship in this manner. The State Legislature has adopted a statewide regulatory scheme which courts have interpreted prevent[s] a municipality from enacting its own Landlord/Tenant statute. If this were permitted, then each municipality in the State could have its own unique regulatory scheme, some that might protect tenants and others that might grant more rights to landlords. Courts have held that is not permitted. 
Jeff Baker, counsel to our Common Council, told the committee, "The field is dominated and preempted by the State. Adding a whole set of burdens that a landlord must meet in order to evict a tenant needs an opinion from the Attorney General if a municipality has the authority to do it." Baker also noted that a law with a similar intent has been introduced in the state legislature, but he did not know the status of the legislation. Gossips' research has found that Senate Bill S3082, relating to prohibiting eviction without good cause, was introduced on January 27, 2021, and is still in committee, as is Assembly Bill A5573, which was introduced on February 19, 2021.

Wolff asked if Baker's concern was that such a law would be struck down. Baker indicated he was concerned that the City would be sued over it and would lose the lawsuit. Wolff objected to what she called "the constant fear of lawsuits," saying, "I don't see that as a compelling reason." Baker responded, "It's a compelling reason if you are likely to lose." He continued, "My legal advice is you would be exposing the City to legal cost and not be successful."

In the end, it was decided that Council would pass a resolution stating its support for the state law and would also send a letter to the Attorney General requesting an opinion about the legality of such a law being adopted by a municipality. Baker indicated it would probably be two or three months before they would get a legal opinion from the AG's office. When Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward) suggested it might "not be prudent to burden the next Council with this," DePietro retorted, "How very Mitch McConnell of you."


  1. Comrade Wolff cares nothing for your taxes -- they are merely a tool for her to advance world revolution. Or at least make owning rental properties in Hudson so onerous and lacking in all profit for the investor that the only rental game in town will be the object of her affliction, the Galvan collective. It's almost as if Comrade Wolff were really a proto-corporatalist-monopolist capitalist lackey (a schlep in Wolff's clothing?).

  2. If the council is so concerned about getting sued, they should stop making uninformed, ill-advised decisions. Thank you, Dominic, for bringing some sanity to Crazy Town.

  3. Kudos to Trombley for stating the obvious (this legislation is important, wide-reaching, and requires much more deliberation than can be achieved in a couple months of lame-duck session.)

    Also props that she took the high road and didn't respond while Tom tried to take a cheap shot (at any rate, it missed the mark badly, so no harm, no foul.)

    There are a host of other issues that need attention at the end of the year that can actually be accomplished. Legislation to eliminate the Tourism Board and scrutiny of the budget, in addition to taking a deeper dive into malfeasance by City Attorney Cheryl Roberts come to mind as need-to-haves. Diddling with the selection of caucus leaders and passing unpopular legislation hardly seem like the people's work.

  4. Kudos to Jane, taking the high road, with the small man in a small town.