Yesterday, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors held a "public input meeting" about 11 Warren Street, the property the County purchased recently from the Galvan Foundation for $3.35 million. Close to forty people showed up to witness the event or to offer their input. Four of the five Hudson supervisors--Claire Cousin (First Ward), Michael Chameides (Third Ward), Linda Mussmann (Fourth Ward), and Rick Scalera (Fifth Ward)--were among the supervisors present to hear what the public had to say.
At the outset, Matt Murell, supervisor for the Town of Stockport and chair of the Board of Supervisors, stated unequivocally, "We purchased [11 Warren Street] for county office space, and that will not change." He then explained that Ray Jurkowski, who has been Commissioner for Public Works for the county since the beginning of 2022, would make a presentation about the project, and comments from the public had to be confined to "the presentation and who is recommended to inhabit the building."
Jurkowski's presentation confirmed the departments to be relocated to 11 Warren Street:
- Board of Elections (now located at 401 State Street)
- Probation Department (now located at 610 State Street)
- Public Defender (now located at 610 State Street)
- District Attorney (now located at 325 Columbia Street)
When it came time for public comment, Councilmember Margaret Morris (First Ward) was the first to be called on. Fearful, as she told Gossips later, that she might be asked to sit down if she didn't abide by Murell's constraints, she began by saying she was concerned about putting the District Attorney and the Public Defender in the same building. She went on to say that the County's plan for 11 Warren was not compatible with what the City planned for the site, spoke of foregone tax dollars since the building will be off the tax rolls, and expressed the opinion that it was unfortunate that there had not been a call for public input earlier.
The next speaker completely ignored Murell's request that comments be confined to "the presentation and who is recommended to inhabit the building" and took the Board of Supervisors to task for not allowing the Hudson Youth Clubhouse, a program run by Pamela Badila, to remain in the building. Although their lease with Galvan was up at the end of November, the County could have allowed them to stay. As Jurkowski indicated in his presentation, the design phase of this project will take up most of 2024. There seems to be no good reason why the Clubhouse couldn't have stayed in the building during that time.
In all, nine members of the public spoke at the meeting, and none spoke in favor of the project. Six of the comments objected because the County's proposed use of the building postpones any hope of replacing the 50-year-old relic of misguided urban planning with more appropriate development for another three to five decades. Typical was this statement by Peg Patterson, proprietor of the retail store Dish, located just two doors up from 11 Warren Street:
This move by the County just throws away any opportunity to rethink an entire block and an unattractive eyesore of a strip mall that is out of character with the neighborhood. With all the money spent and excitement felt about the new Promenade Park with its graceful steps to the river, this seems like a wasted opportunity. . . .
This is the beginning of Warren Street. The first block of our City's commercial and historic street should be an attractive row of buildings offering retail opportunities and apartments. Many have said this but it's worth stressing that retail businesses create money for the City and the County. . . .
So thoughtless. Another missed opportunity. Why does this happen over and over again in Hudson?
In her comments, Annick de Bellefeuille made the point that a 18,632 square foot building taking up such a large space was wrongheaded and wasteful in a small city where the demand for housing is greater than the supply.
Two of the Hudson supervisors who were present at the meeting--Claire Cousin (First Ward) and Linda Mussmann (Fourth Ward)--also spoke out against the plan. Cousin, who claimed to have "voiced her concern" about the project previously, complained that Hudson supervisors were "the last to have a say in issues that affect Hudson." Mussmann declared that she had been opposed to the project from the beginning but couldn't "reach out" because of the constraints of executive session. She expressed the opinion that "the County should think of reducing its footprint [in Hudson] rather than expanding it." She also echoed what others had said about 11 Warren Street: "That building was the one building that everyone had hoped could be eliminated."
Interestingly, Mussmann serves on the Board of Supervisors Space Utilization Committee, the committee that, according to some accounts, identified 11 Warren Street as a possible location. Mussmann, however, denied being part of any meeting of that committee which was devoted to the acquisition of 11 Warren Street. Other supervisors on the Space Utilization Committee are Ronald Knott (Stuyvesant), Clifford "Kippy" Wiegelt (Claverack), James Guzzi (Livingston), Brenda Adams (Canaan), and Robert Lagonia (Austerlitz).
The videorecording of the meeting has not yet been posted on YouTube. Gossips will let you know when it is.
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