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.
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