Friday, May 17, 2024

News from Last Night's Public Hearing

Last night, the Common Council held a public hearing on the City's application for a Restore New York grant for the proposed redevelopment and expansion of Hudson Housing Authority properties. 

The meeting was attended by several residents of Bliss Towers, who spoke of the deplorable conditions at Bliss Towers and the urgent need to replace the building. Council president Tom DePietro also read aloud a petition that had been submitted, signed by thirty-nine residents of Bliss Towers, in support of the grant application. That petition can be found here. Among the nonresidents of public housing present at the hearing, only one person, Caitie Hilverman, executive director of The Spark of Hudson, had anything to say in support of the grant application. 

Robert Rasner delivered an incisive critique of the manner in which the application process has been handled. His comments follow:
The beauty and burden of a democracy is that it grants citizens the freedom to express diverse viewpoints and mobilize around shared values. No idea should prevail without the support of the majority. 
This is a public hearing required by the Empire State Development's Restore New York Communities Initiative. "Restore New York funding is available for projects involving the demolition, rehabilitation, etc., of vacant properties." In short, this program has nothing to do with construction of new housing.
To be eligible for a grant under this program, there are just three simple requirements, including:
    • Demonstrate at least a 10 percent match in funds.
    • Hold a public hearing to discuss the application and the property assessment list.
On April 24, prior to the required public hearing, the Common Council met and voted NOT to approve the resolution supporting the application for a $2 million grant to demolish the existing structure once replacement housing was constructed. Apparently dissatisfied with that outcome, President DePietro once again placed the item before the Common Council at a special meeting on April 29. Again, the required public hearing had not been held nor even scheduled. Much of the discussion that second evening focused upon the need for affordable housing. Affordable housing was NOT the subject that was to be voted upon.
At the meeting of April 29, Councilperson Belton pointed out that the application required a public hearing. The requirement of a public hearing is clearly stated in the application requirements. The requirement was not met prior to the Common Council taking action on April 24.
When Ms. Belton drew attention to the hearing requirement, there was only brief discussion among Council members about the requirement. In fact, one member of the public pointed out that a vote taken prior to a public hearing was not in compliance with the intent of the application and not legal. Fully aware they were not in compliance with the requirement, Council proceeded to vote on the resolution and approved it with two dissenting votes.
The State of New York has published a fifteen-page document that advises and guides governing bodies on conducting public meetings and hearings. The title page of that document sets the tone for its subject. "Democracy, like a precious jewel, shines most brilliantly in the light of an open government."
Asking us now, after you have voted, for our thoughts on this matter is unacceptable.
Again, was the requirement of a public hearing to discuss or opine on the application for funds to demolish redundant housing simply overlooked or ignored? Either way this action does not speak well for Hudson's elected officials. You have shown no interest in the public's opinions, feelings, and concerns on this subject. That is an insult to the city's electorate. We, the voters of Hudson, sent you here. We expect you to be fair and informed regarding how government functions . . . you know . . . a government for the people, by the people. . . .
Do we have nothing to say that may be of value to our elected leaders? Is this all much ado about nothing?
As recently as yesterday Mountco's director of development told me, "YES--we will move forward with the process of developing redevelopment plans and securing financing regardless of whether ESD awards this grant (or whether the Common Council approves for the City to go after the grant).
On the bases of shoddy procedure alone, Empire State Development should be advised NOT to approve this application.
Linda Mussmann, county supervisor representing the Fourth Ward, also expressed opposition to supporting the grant application. Her comments follow:
Support for this RESTORE grant to demolish Bliss Towers means that the council and the citizens support the entire Hudson Housing Authority project. To support this grant at this time is not possible because the ENTIRE plans that HHA is proposing have not been fully revealed. We have only been given a preliminary sketch of the entire 300 plus apartment project and a ballpark estimate that each apartment will cost approximately $700,000. The size and scope of this project is an immense change to a small city to be sure.
To support this RESTORE grant without understanding the Hudson Housing Authority's entire project at this time is like putting the cart before the horse.
Simply put, I cannot support something I don't know enough about.
The HHA project, for example, wants to block off a portion of State Street so HHA can build Phase One (Phase One is building a new Bliss Tower complex) and once completed to be followed by the demolition of old Bliss Towers . . . 
the closing of the block of State Street idea has not been okayed AND without permission to close State Street between North 2nd and North 1st means HHA cannot build Phase One and that means HHA would have to rethink the entire project.
Changing the streetscape is not a small task, and it seems it would require a serious study--moving traffic resulting from the 300 plus apartments is no small task. North 2nd going toward Mill Street is a very small and narrow road with a steep grade. Moving more traffic onto Columbia Street (the truck route) is another concern to be understood fully. This rearranging of the street and traffic studies take time to study and requires public input.
In general, the density of your proposal appears to be out of scale with the rest of Hudson. A picture is one view of your project, but a scale model should be part of the presentation so the public can fully understand the total impact on our small city.
You have not followed the comprehensive plan or the task force housing plans that call for housing that is scattered and not a multiple of towers as your plans at a glance have shown. Instead it appears to be a place isolated and walled off from the rest of the city.
I for one think this grant should be postponed until the plans reveal a more complete picture of the entire proposal, and the guaranteed permits to close off State Street between North 2nd and North 1st have been acquired. Then it seems an application for the RESTORE grant potentially is in keeping with the projected plans.
It is only fair to have the public a partner in this project so we can make a better place for the residents of Bliss Towers.
It should be noted that First Street currently only goes from Warren to Columbia streets. The plans being proposed by HHA also involve extending First Street from Columbia north the State.

Also, given Mussmann's concern about the "very small and narrow road with a steep grade" that is North Second Street between State Street and Mill Street, it should be noted that Kearney Realty & Development has a project before the Planning Board to construct two apartment buildings with a total of 70 apartments on Mill Street. The people living in those apartments will also be using that "very small and narrow road with a steep grade" as they come and go from their homes.

A total of five people, including Gossips, spoke in opposition to support for the application and were taken to task by Ife Tayo Cobbins, a resident of Bliss Towers, who declared, "The building is about to fall down," and demanded to know, "What is wrong with y'all?" She went on to say, "We're trying to get action, and y'all throwing rocks at us." She told the people who had spoken against support for the application they were "just being greedy and selfish," and they should be ashamed of themselves. At this point, another woman who had spoken in support of the grant told Cobbins, "They want you to go and not come back."
In response, Carla Sadoff, who had earlier expressed concerns about funding for the project, said she didn't think anyone "doesn't think Bliss needs to be replaced," but appealed for "transparency and knowledge" about what is being proposed.

Before closing the hearing, DePietro recognized Jeffrey Dodson, executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority, who told the group, "Nobody in this room is more qualified than I am to make a decision," justifying his claim by saying he had lived in public housing and worked in public housing in the largest city in New Jersey. (Dodson has been in his position with the Hudson Housing Authority since May 2022.)

After this, the meeting dissolved into chaos, with many people speaking in raised voices, and DePietro declared the hearing adjourned.


  1. One would think that the City attorney would be advising the Common Council on following proper procedure.

  2. Another shit show brought to us by our municipal “leaders.” And you gotta love this cat Dodson — what a buffoon.

  3. When the going gets tough, the structural integrity of Hudson City Hall is revealed for what it is: weak and incoherent and overseen by rank, mostly selfish, amateurs.

  4. The poor people at Bliss, once again being used and manipulated like pawns, over and over again, it's pathetic. The Mill Street plan is equally insane.

  5. Jeffrey Dodson is the executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority. According to LinkedIn, Dodson managed 240 housing units at Newark Housing Authority from 2018-2022. Here are two links to articles about the condition of public housing in Newark.

    Feds Deem Newark Housing Authority a ‘Troubled’ Agency

    A Hard Truth and Reflection on Life at Stephen Crane Village: Sam's Story

  6. Here's another item I unearthed in which Dobson is mentioned....

  7. Mr. Dodson appears to he proud of his track record in Newark. Accordingly, he should share the name(s) of the apartment complex(es) he managed in Newark. It would be exciting to see what we have to look forward to under his tenure in Hudson.