Monday, April 29, 2024

Be Careful What You Ask For

Today at 6:00 p.m., the Common Council holds a second special meeting to consider a resolution supporting the Hudson Housing Authority's application for a Restore New York grant to demolish Bliss Towers, as part of a larger redevelopment plan for HHA properties.

At the previous special meeting, which took place on Thursday, April 24, the resolution failed to get the six affirmative votes needed. In advance of that meeting, one letter was submitted by a member of the public asking the Council not to support the application. In the documents posted on the city website for today's meeting, there are twenty letters. There are seven that urge the Council to support the application, and, with the original letter, fourteen that oppose that action.

Peter Spear of Future Hudson posted his letter to the Council on Instagram and followed up today with another post on Instagram, which attributes the current situation to a failure of leadership. The following is quoted from that Instagram post.
I think throwing a massive housing development into the public sphere, without taking responsibility for helping the community understand it, is irresponsible.
I don't think it's enough to claim that housing leadership has done its job simply by having its regular operating meetings open to the public.
This transfer of responsibility of comprehension onto the recipient of this proposal is unkind and counterproductive.
Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann has also expressed her opposition, on her Facebook page and in an article posted on imby: "Hudson Housing Authority is trying to rush through 300+ unit project." That post begins:
Hudson Housing Authority has proposed a 300+ apartment project where Bliss Towers now stands.
But the residents of Hudson and the Hudson Common Council have little information about the project, other than than cost of $700K for each unit. We have seen no design for the buildings themselves, only a street map, and there has been no study of the actual impacts on our city.
Council president Tom DePietro, who called the second special meeting after the resolution failed to pass on Thursday, has revised the resolution. The original resolution can be found here. The revised resolution can be found here. The changes to the resolution are these (underscore added):
  • The seventh Whereas has been changed from "the City of Hudson is requesting $2,000,000 in funding assistance from the Restore NY Communities Initiatives Program to support this redevelopment" to "the City of Hudson is requesting $2,000,000 in funding assistance from the Restore NY Communities Initiatives Program to support for [sic] the demolition of Bliss Towers."
  • Also, a twelfth Whereas has been added to the resolution: "Whereas, the HHA agrees to hold future public meetings concerning the design of this project and will remain in communication with the Common Council by appearing regularly with updates at Council meetings."
It is not clear if HHA, which, as Gossips has reported, has been keeping its plans close to the vest, has agreed to this condition.

Since starting this post, seven more letters about the issue have appeared on the City of Hudson website. As things now stand, it is 17 opposed to supporting the grant application, and 11 in favor.

The meeting at which the Council will vote on the issue, for the second time, takes place at 6:00 p.m. today, in person at City Hall and on Microsoft Teams. Click here for the link to join the meeting remotely.

Update: At 4:17, there are six new letters on the city website--5 urging the Council to support the grant application, 1 expressing opposition to such action. That brings the total to 18 opposed and 16 in favor. Of course, it should be noted that two of letters urging support come from members of the HHA Board of Commissioners--Nick Zachos and Rebecca Wolff--who, of course, would want the Council's support for their project.


  1. This scenario is all too common: strategies devised behind closed doors and presented last minute to dodge scrutiny under the guise of a looming, self-imposed deadline. In recent memory such tactics have been employed to push through decisions on issues like the Hudson Dots tax exemptions and Ferry St bridge bids, often portraying dissenting council members who demand due diligence as opponents of affordable housing, etc. This manipulative framing leaves little time for thorough review, prompting hurried special meetings and a flood of communications from activists on either side.

    Claims that the HHA meetings and development planning have been transparent are misleading. As highlighted in the linked article, plans were obscured from public and camera views at meetings, with no subsequent release of building elevations or renderings, casting doubts on the openness of the process.

    The project under discussion, a mere contender for a modest state grant potentially unsuitable for its purposes, is already mired in controversy. While public input is crucial, it shouldn't be a simple tally of for or against but rather a nuanced consideration by the Council, who are tasked with making informed decisions on behalf of their constituents.

    Support for the project, much of it in form letters, relies on idealistic rhetoric about making Hudson "a place where everyone can afford to live," yet it skirts substantial discussion on feasibility and impact. This development contradicts decades of strategic planning and learned lessons against clustering low-income housing in isolated complexes. Furthermore, it fails to consider the compounded effects on city infrastructure and taxes—critical factors in Hudson’s affordability crisis—nor does it address potential overlaps with other planned developments.

    Finally, the financial outlay proposed—$700,000 per unit—could arguably be better invested in something like the Hudson Dots initiative, and directly fund the purchase and renovation of houses, offering a more tangible benefit to current residents, and maybe a path to home ownership. This project, as it stands, is a costly endeavor with questionable returns, rooted more in fantasy than in the practical needs and well-being of the community.

  2. If you look at the "support" letters, you will notice that these are mostly cut and paste letters, not statements originating from the individuals. It is an organized political pressure tactics commonly used create the appearance of community support for controversial projects.

  3. Looking back over the past decade in Hudson, the only constant is the failure of local government to approach almost any matter of public importance in an open and honest way. The reliance on legal formalities and niceties is merely a ruse suggested by lawyers and eagerly agreed to by the Council and Mayor -- and has been since I started paying attention 16 years ago.

    For the most part, I think is not due to the people involved -- I think they think they're doing their jobs and doing them well (or, at least, well enough). Whether they are or not is a question for the voters every 2 years.

    So what can explain the constant failure, the over-reliance on pretzel logic and legal formalism? Could it be that our local government, based on a Charter that encapsulates a form of government suited to the city in the 18th century, is no longer up to the task of managing the day-to-day governance of an albeit small but 21st century city? Perhaps, in this essentially antique system of governance we are ruled by, failure is to be expected given the changes in society as a whole and their reflection in our small city?

  4. It's also worth noting that a large proportion of "pro" letters are boilerplate, using the same language over and over.