Friday, June 17, 2022

Who Is Planning Hudson's Future?

has been reporting for years about the possible demolition of Bliss Towers and the low-rise buildings that are owned and operated by the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA). Although the idea of demolishing the buildings that were constructed in the 1970s during Urban Renewal and erecting new buildings to provide at least as many units as are currently offered by HHA has been discussed for more than a decade, the determination to do this has intensified in recent months. In May, HHA interim director Nick Zachos told the Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency (HCDPA) that HHA was "undergoing a pivot" and was moving forward on looking for developers. 

HHA has retained a new attorney, Brian Lawlor of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, whose practice, according to the firm's website"focuses on affordable housing and housing finance to which he offers deep industry knowledge and contacts as well as firsthand government experience." HHA also has a new executive director, Jeffrey Dodson, who has worked for the Newark Housing Authority for the past seventeen years and will take over from Zachos on Monday, June 27.

It seems HHA is poised to replace all of its buildings with something new. Although the impact the plan will have on the city as a whole promises not to be as devastating to the built environment as what happened during Urban Renewal, it is certain to be significant. 

Earlier this week, Gossips reported on the most recent meeting of the HCDPA Board and HHA's desire to include properties owned by HCDPA in its RFP (request for proposal) for developers: "HCDPA and Its Properties." Some of the comments from readers on that post inspired me to do a post reviewing who serves on the boards of HHA and HCDPA, so readers can know who is making the decisions that can alter the character of our little city--for better or for worse.

The Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners is made up of seven members. Five are appointed by the mayor of Hudson; two are HHA residents elected by HHA tenants. One member of the current board, former First Ward alderman Rebecca Wolff, was appointed by Mayor Rick Rector at the end of 2019. The other members--Revonda Smith, who chairs the board; First Ward supervisor Claire Cousin; and Rebecca Borrer, who ran unsuccessfully for Fifth Ward alderman last year--were appointed by Mayor Kamal Johnson. The two tenant members are Robert Davis and Anthony Bennett. The board is currently short one member. Marie Balle, who was appointed by Rector in 2018, resigned a few months ago, and so far, to Gossips' knowledge, Johnson has not appointed a replacement. 

The board of HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency) is made up entirely of ex officio members: 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. At the present time, the following people make up the board: Kamal Johnson (mayor), Dominic Merante (Council majority leader), Ryan Wallace (Council minority leader), Theresa Joyner (Planning Board chair), and Revonda Smith (HHA Board of Commissioners chair). It should be noted that Planning Board chair is a mayoral appointment. Johnson appointed Joyner to that position at the beginning of this year.


  1. Again, Hudson is about to wreck the beauty of what is left of the Historic City of Hudson to make way for a welfare cash register with ghastly out of scale government sponsored monoliths. Bliss Towers was the first outcome. Now this.

    Can you not leave the town alone to develop on its own, as it has done for the last two decades?

    You can see that half of the old city was torn down to make way for cheesy low end housing that has all fallen apart.

    Bureaucrats and simpletons come up with "PC" concepts of a state administered life style echoing a pseudo historic bunch of buildings placed in a town where they are no jobs for the inhabitants and no future for their offspring. But, the bureaucrats "know better" supposedly.

    they are merely shills for the real estate welfare tycoons behind the scenes.

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  3. That is great information that you found, Carol. While you were digging, did you happen to find out if there was anything "on the books" concerning violation of Board Member duties and or reasons that they could be dismissed from the Board? Is there a requirement for there to be a Public meeting on this, etc.? We need ways to stop this from happening. Conflicts of interest, etc

  4. It breaks my heart to see the work of two decades of moving forward to dig Hudson out of it's 'welfare town', red-lined status, sweat equity put in by many individuals for years to see the progress being wiped out before our eyes. History repeats itself, don't we ever learn. Look at the mess created on Front Street and Promenade Hill where once gracious old buildings stood. Shame, shame.

  5. This comment was submitted by Sarah Sterling, who served from 2012 through 2021 as First Ward supervisor:

    The 2010 group that led the movement to demolish and replace Bliss Towers was spearheaded by Bill Hughes. We accomplished a lot. The properties were identified that would need to be built to replace Bliss. That way residents would not be displaced and would have a place to move to while Bliss was being torn down. Livable two story units were designed to replace the tower. The funding was available. We knew then what terrible living conditions existed, and exist now, thanks to HUD lack of funding and management not disclosing the problems. Unfortunately, the funding dried up along with HUD interest. If you put Bliss Towers into the Gossips search engine you will turn up many, many more articles than Carole has referenced here. What a long and frustrating story!

    Not that long ago, I was roundly criticized for daring to suggest that Bliss was anything less than perfect. That same group is now proposing the same solutions that we worked on so long ago. Funny that both Bill and I were pushed out and then our ideas taken up anew by the next in power. Bill was truly the voice crying in the wilderness at that time. I hope that those who have replaced him will have the decency to honor his years of efforts on their behalf, not to mention what a gift we have of reference material and continued reporting in Gossips!

    Sarah Sterling

  6. Hudson is a town of 6,000 people. Because of the collapse of the local manufacturing economy and lousy decisions made by civic leadership in the 1970's, we have an unbalanced situation where we are accommodating an extraordinary number of economically disadvantaged residents. I think there is a strong social justice case to be made against the concentration of people who are caught in the social welfare system. It is very difficult to escape that trap when surrounded by many others who share the same circumstances.