Monday, December 20, 2021

What's Being Asked

In a little more than an hour, the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) will be considering and voting on the financial benefits sought by the Pocketbook Factory restoration project. The benefits--ten-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement, exemption from sales tax on materials for the restoration, exemption from mortgage tax--amount to just over $1.3 million. The investment being made in the redevelopment is estimated to be $25.6 million.

Since the public hearing on the proposed project, the group calling itself the Hudson Community Benefits Alliance has submitted another letter outlining the commitments it seeks from the project before the IDA gives its approval. The commitments are in four categories.

  • That workforce training be conducted in partnership with/support of Hudson community organization already engaged in workforce development (such as Operation Unite)
  • That workforce training for future PBH staff be paid time
  • That the workforce development program include placement across sectors of employment including management, leadership, and front of house positions; and that a clear course for promotion and wage increases be made available
  • That job placement feature racial and economic parity across all sectors
  • That PBH invite union organizers to participate in a module on workers rights and the right to unionization as part of the workforce development training program
  • That PBH make job opportunities available to people returning from incarceration by actively recruiting through local organizations working with returning citizens (such as Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood)
  • That no worker earn less than $18/hr starting wage, and all workers receive meaningful annual/regular pay increases consistent with increases in area costs of living
  • That commitments to local hiring and training be defined hyperlocally and temporally, where standards for local hiring could include, for example:
    • Residents who lived in Hudson/Greenport/Columbia County before Jan 1, 2020
    • Residents of Hudson and Greenport
    • Residents of the Hudson School district zone
    • Residents who attended high school or community college in Hudson/Greenport

  • That PBH accept emergency housing hotel vouchers from the Columbia County Department of Social Services
  • That visitor impact language for guests and clients be designed with the input of credible organizations and community members who have a record of advocacy for economic and housing justice in Hudson, especially the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition

  • That 50% of retail, studio, and office spaces be offered as discounted, long-term rental space provided to community organizations and long-term BIPoC Hudson residents and resident-run businesses
  • That PBH create a program for off-peak/mid-week affordable community days, with discounts for food, beverage, and wellness services (Kripalu, for example, offers discounted Wednesday day passes to those in adjacent counties)
    • That PBH create a relationship of accountability with a Community Advisory Board consisting of 5-7 longtime residents of adjacent blocks and representatives of Hudson organizations focused on the interests of low-to-moderate income residents of color
    • That this advisory board have meaningful power in terms of orienting the direction of PBH community equity initiatives - including the workforce development program, use of space policies and preferences, partnerships with community organizations, and community services
    • That PBH leadership and the advisory council have a routine, responsive relationship with regular meetings, reporting, and opportunities to weigh in and shape the vision
    The letter concludes:
    We believe PBH has the capital, vision and unique combination of local and outside interests at the helm to raise the bar for all touristic enterprises and outside development moving forward. We also believe, on an economic level, that these requests do not impede the mission of PBH as it has been put forward. Instead, these requests are an opportunity to formalize a spirit of local/tourist interchange that has been informally put forward as PBH’s “brand.” We believe there is a market for hospitality rooted in ethical development and that disciplining the vision through commitments and actionable steps will distinguish this property in ways more significant than architecture, appealing to a diverse group of tourists who are tired of preying upon the places they visit–and are seeking better choices and more savvy hosts and guides. This should not hold the PBH back but instead propel them into the future they have narrated, in which a hotel’s private space is also green space for the city and residents feel welcome and interested in joining visitors onsite. We appreciate the willingness of the PBH to engage in this dialogue and consider community interests.
    The special IDA meeting begins at 12:30 p.m. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.


    1. "Please agree to give us patronage jobs now since there is a Common Council meeting tomorrow that will make it obvious the composition of the IDA will drastically change next month and if we had this meeting after tomorrow's Common Council we'd lose the illusion of leverage."

      The language on this is more palatable (read: vague) than earlier drafts but the end result is the same-power in the hands of people who place their own self-interest above the needs of the marginalized communities they purport to serve. (And where were these demands during the Galvan development PILOT application?)

      PBH and the Hudson community would be better served to wait a month and restart the PILOT with a new, more competent board than agree to any of this.

      If hospitality workers in Hudson want to unionize-have at it. There are plenty of labor abuses in the local industry that need to be addressed. Having said that, no one should feel comfortable putting this group in charge of their wages or their business.

    2. Who (specifically) does the Hudson Community Benefits Alliance represent?

      1. ...and, like the Hudson/Catskill Housing Coalition, who writes the checks?

      2. That is I think an overgenerous estimate by at least an order of magnitude.

    3. Who/what is the HCBA and over who’s signature was the correspondence sent?

      1. The letter is signed "The Hudson Community Benefits Alliance." Those speaking on its behalf, at today's meeting and at the public hearing on November 30, have been Claire Cousin, Suzanne Snider, and Kaya Weidman. It seems there are others involved, but none has been identified.