Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Fifty Years Later

On Thursday, a lecture by Ted Hilscher at the Hudson Area Library commemorates urban renewal which, through massive demolition and reconstruction, transformed Hudson fifty years ago. Yesterday, Hudson Development and Planning Agency (HCDPA), an agency that is a legacy of the urban renewal era in Hudson, took action to, in the words of Quintin Cross, "right the wrongs" of urban renewal and, in the words of Councilmember Ryan Wallace, correct "the massive injustice done by urban renewal." Four of the five members of the HCDPA Board voted unanimously to enter into an option agreement with the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) which would allow HHA to include three parcels of land currently owned by HCDPA in its RFQ (request for qualifications) for a development partner for new construction to replace HHA's current properties, Bliss Towers and Columbia Apartments. The members voting were Mayor Kamal Johnson, Planning Board chair Theresa Joyner, Common Council majority leader Dominic Merante, and Common Council minority leader Ryan Wallace. Revonda Smith, who serves on the HCDPA Board by virtue of being chair of the HHA Board of Commissioners, recused herself from the vote.

The three parcels involved in the agreement are (1) the vacant lot at the northeast corner of Warren and Front streets, now maintained as a park; (2) what remains of the community garden at the northeast corner of Columbia and Second streets; (3) the vacant land along the north side of State Street from Front Street eastward.

According to the agreement, HHA will offer these parcels to prospective development partners in the RFQ as possible sites for new development, and the developers will assess and select which they want to use. HCDPA will sell the sites chosen to HHA for half the fair market value of the property.

Before the HCDPA Board went into executive session to discuss the agreement and afterward vote, Brian Lawlor, attorney for HHA, asserted that acquiring these properties was a key part of HHA's development strategy. He explained that HHA's major goal was to demolish Bliss Towers, which he called an obsolete building and not worthy of further investment. Before they could raze the building, they had to find or create places to relocate the people now living there. He spoke of expanding the supply of affordable housing, creating housing options that do not now exist, providing choice, and deconcentrating poverty. Wallace clarified that what's being contemplated is "affordable, mixed income not market rate" dwellings, all of which would be income restricted.

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