Monday, June 10, 2024

11 Warren Street: The Empire Strikes Back

On Friday, Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, responded to Clark Wieman and Donna Streitz, the principals of the 11 Warren Street Action Group. His letter was copied to Mayor Kamal Johnson and the Hudson Common Council. The letter, in its entirety, can be found here. Gossips shares the meat of the letter below. 
Prior to purchase of 11 Warren Street, the County conducted its due diligence regarding the County's intent to renovate the building for County Office's. This included confirmation by the City of Hudson Code Enforcement Officer that the parcel is located within the Central Commercial (C-C) zoning district and that professional, governmental or business offices are identified as allowable uses within this Zoning District. 
Furthermore, the County reviewed applicable sections of the City of Hudson Zoning Code pertaining to site plan approval and received concurrence from the City of Hudson Code Enforcement Office that the intent of the County to occupy the existing building footprint, as well as the County's proposed use of the building as Governmental offices would not trigger any threshold as listed within City Code that would require the County to obtain Site Development Plan Approval prior to occupancy. 
Based on the above, at the monthly Board of Supervisors meeting held August 2023, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution, with a unanimous vote of the Supervisors present, in favor of determining that, [1) the purchase of the 11 Warren Street parcel is desirable for utilization as office space for county departments, and (2) to proceed with the purchase of said parcel. 
The renovation of 11 Warren Street and relocation of several county departments will include a fully multi-operational facility for the Board of Elections that will increase walkable accessibility by residents including but not limited to the Hudson Housing Authority, Hudson Terrace, Schuyler Court, and Providence Hall; for voter registration, absentee ballots and early voting. It should be noted that approximately 10% of the entire building will be used for work areas associated with programming voting printers, voting machines, and check-in tablets. 
Currently the site contains 30 off-street parking stalls for use by the staff and visitors. As discussed during the recent space utilization committee meeting, the normal business hours of the county offices is 8:00am-4:00pm, Monday through Friday which leaves the parking available in the evenings and weekends. In addition, the availability of this off-street parking area at nights and on weekends allows for the parking lot to be used by the public and/or community organizations for special events. As an example, the County has been contacted by a representative of the Hudson Catskill Coalition regarding use of the parking lot for a Juneteenth block party celebration. 
It's too bad the County's due diligence didn't go beyond confirming that governmental offices were an allowed use in the zoning district where 11 Warren Street is located and a chance encounter with Mayor Kamal Johnson, during which the mayor allegedly told Murell and Rob Lagonia, Austerlitz supervisor who serves on the Board of Supervisors Space Utilization Committee, that "the City had no plans for 11 Warren Street since the City did not own it." A public hearing in Hudson might have been in order, but, of course, that could have meant hearing things Murell and his colleagues didn't want to hear.

Regarding the "unanimous vote" that took place on August 9, 2023, only two of the five Hudson supervisors--Abdus Miah (Second Ward) and Michael Chameides (Third Ward)--participated in that vote. Rick Scalera (Fifth Ward) recused himself because he is, according to a document submitted recently to the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA), the treasurer of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, which owned the building the County was about to acquire for $3.35 million; Claire Cousin (First Ward) was absent from the meeting; and Linda Mussmann (Fourth Ward) had to leave the meeting before the vote was taken.

Update: Rick Scalera provided this information to Gossips in an email this morning (June 11, 2024): 
I, for years, have volunteered to sit on the [Galvan] Housing Resources Board and was never the treasurer of the GIF, Galvan Initiatives Foundation who owned 11 Warren St. When the County showed interest in that site, I had a discussion with the County BOS attorney and it was agreed upon that the direction I should take was to recuse myself of all discussion and ultimately the vote to purchase of that building.
Scalera has not responded to Gossips request for comment on why he is identified as the treasurer of Galvan Initiatives Foundation in the application for financial assistance for 65-75 North Seventh Street submitted to the IDA on May 29, 2024.

Update on the Update: Since I published the initial update, Scalera responded to my request for comment. Here is what he had to say:
Dan Kent has acknowledged the mistake and will be correcting it! I serve as treasurer to nothing. . . . More importantly, I did not recuse myself from participating in the 11 Warren St discussion and purchasing because of the above mistake but rather being on another board and quite frankly didn't need to but chose to!


  1. As I recall from the meeting, Clark asked Ron Knott what other properties the county had considered beside 11 Warren. That was the due diligence, I think, that Clark, Streitz and Margaret Morris were getting at. All Ron could respond was the following: "Yes, we had ideas for other properties. Everyone has ideas." He actually said this, all the while fidgeting incessantly with his pen! But he couldn't offer ONE OTHER property, telling Weiman and the others (well, everyone really) that he would eventually get them a list of those properties. That meeting was so insulting and disgusting it made a believer out of me that Columbia County is corrupt to the core.
    After a 30 or 45 minute power point presentation showing where every department and bathroom would be located in the building, I asked the engineer how many employees would be in the building. He couldn't even offer a ballpark range, saying that he had that information at his office. Talk about due diligence. These people have been allowed to get away with too much for so long that they can't see right from wrong anymore, and Murell is at the top of the list.

  2. The mayor is in Galvan’s pocket. Linda Mussman is in Ricky Scalera’s pocket and Ricky’s legal address is deep in Galvan’s wallet. Listen to what Murrell said — they did this a year ago and none of the Hudson supervisors lifted a finger to help the city. The mayor — never one to shoulder work that can be shucked — couldn’t be bothered to read between the lines (or upset his patron and landlord, Galvan). So the city gets screwed by its elected “representatives” and Galvan doubles his investment in 11 Warren. Mussman’s excuse is less than pathetic and only illustrates how money hungry she is as a nascent slumlord.

    Nice work if you can get it — and aren’t weighted down by a conscience.

  3. Murell's "explanation" of the parking situation at 11 Warren is disingenuous at best. At the meeting, the engineer (Lagonia?) admitted that the 30 spaces in the parking lot would not be sufficient, and that some employees and visitors would need to park on the street. He then confidently stated that there was plenty of on-street parking to be had on Warren during the week. (Meters may coming to that block of Warren and the 2 blocks to the east.) Notice how Murell does not mention this in his letter. Parking on the street? What need for parking on the street? So convenient! So helpful. So consistent. These people just encourage suspicion from anyone paying attention. Just like Galvan.

  4. Lots of "he said/she said" and gobbledygook from the Columbia County Board of Supervisors and not much City leadership representing the best interests of Hudson going forward. And more than anything, a total lack of common sense. This building was a mistake and always will be. Tear it down and allow something appropriate for Warren Street. This reminds me of the same bad decision making that allowed the old Penn Station to be torn down. We still have a chance to correct this. Work together people!

  5. I compliment Weisman and Streitz and others, Morris and Clark, for their efforts exposing this truly stupid deal. Really, Hudson Government and County Supervisors. Linda you let the people down.

  6. Nothing short of a lawsuit, state AG investigation, or some miracle bureaucratic move by the city will stop this. Murell and the good 'ol boys from the rest of the county are too dug in their heels and their egos won't allow them to change course, no matter how bad the numbers look. They think Hudson is just a dump, full of poor people, tourists and weirdo ex-city folk; and they're not gonna let those types tell them what's best for the county. But I expect that from the county supes. The bigger disappointment is from our own city delegation and city officials. After the blowback, only Mussman seems to show some regret. The rest are mostly silent, or making excuses... including Claire Cousin, who now wants to represent us in the assembly, when she can't even represent us to the county. Probably since the DSA doesn't have a stance on this hyperlocal issue. As for the Mayor, he always seems to ride the fine line of plausible deniability between either malice (plotting for Galvan) or incompetence (doesn't understand or care why this is bad for his city).

  7. The fact that the Supervisors plan for #11 Warren might meed the zoning code doesn't mean that it's a good outcome for the City. It's a shame that the good ol' boys in the county have any influence whatever on what happens in our city.

  8. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The Supervisors are so clearly making backroom deals to line their pockets and couldn't care less about Hudson. There is no world where their purchase of 11 Warren makes sense for anyone but themselves and we might as well just change the name of the town to Galvanville. Shame on all of them.