Last week, the Register-Star devoted an article and an editorial to Mayor Kamal Johnson's appearance at a meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education on Tuesday, September 12. It wasn't entirely clear from either what the issue between the City and the school district was, but today Gossips got clarification from the mayor's office.
It the beginning of the year, the Common Council passed resolutions to sell three City-owned parcels to Kearney Realty and Development Group for the purpose of developing affordable housing. The problem with HCSD relates to one of these parcels: the parcel on Mill Street, which is currently part of Charles Williams Park. The plan is to build a mixed-income apartment building on this site.
The City took ownership of this land, which had been the playground of Charles Williams School, in 1983. When the school, now the location of the Second Ward Foundation, was being planned in the 1920s, the Columbia Republican had this to say about the site.
[T]he remarkable feature of the property is the playground facilities. Below the grade . . . is a large tract big enough for two baseball fields and places for all sports. The ground is level and excellent for this purpose and would give this part of the city an essential playground. It was with this big feature in mind that the Board favored this property.
The Charles Williams building, completed in 1924, ceased being a school in 1970, but it wasn't until 1983 that the City acquired the playground, which became Charles Williams Park. The transfer of ownership was done with the understanding that the land would be used for a park and for recreational purposes. This was written into the 1983 deed. If the land is used for any other purpose, ownership would revert back to the Hudson City School District.
The parcel in question is the part of Charles Williams Park south of Mill Street and does not figure in the plans for park improvements now being pursued.
Curiously, this reverter clause seemed not to have been a problem twenty or so years ago when the City donated land that was part of the original Charles Williams playground to Habitat for Humanity for the purpose of constructing five single-family houses. It would be interesting to understand why.