Hudson residents generate community wish lists

HUDSON – An “ideas lab” last month generated a variety of suggestions for making Hudson a place “where children and families can thrive.” Held November 5 at Helsinki Hudson, the gathering was part of the Raising Places project of Greater Good Studio (GGS), a Chicago-based organization that says it “designs tools for social change.”

CGS has been in existence six years, according to Project Director Sara Cantor Aye of Chicago. The goal of the Raising Places project, she said, is to “inspire community transformation by empowering local change agents to build healthier places where children and families can thrive. We wanted to learn about how child-centered places are created.”

Funding will come from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

CGS called for applications to participate in the project and 156 communities applied. Six were accepted, including a joint application from two Hudson community organizations: Kite’s Nest (Sara Kendall and Kaya Weidman) and Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood (Joan Hunt). The other five communities chosen are in San Francisco; Minneapolis; Wilmington, CA; North Wilkesboro, NC; and Valley of the Chief, MT. Ms. Aye explained that they wanted to do the Raising Places project in different types of places and different parts of the country.

A large proportion of the participants were politicians, activists and other prominent people. As part of the application, the submitters, or conveners, had to name individuals to serve as “change agents.” Hudson got 11 change agents, most of whom are already involved in public and community activities: Jabin Ahmed, Tom DiPietro, Cedric Fulton, Kamal Johnson, Willette Jones, Victor Mendolia, Maija Reed, Brendan Santos, Jennifer Stockmeier, Zebi Williams, and Nick Zachos. Most of the conveners and change agents were present. Ms. Ahmed is involved with Hudson Muslim Youth, Mr. Fulton with the Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center, Mr. Johnson with Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, and Ms. Jones with the Hudson City School District (HCSD) School Board. Mr. DiPietro, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Jones, and Mr. Mendolia have all run for public office.

About a week after the November 5 meeting, Ms. Jones recalled the ideas lab as “very interesting,” and Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Suttmeier recalled it as “well organized.”

School board member Sage Carter remarked that a lot of Hudson’s disposable money “is going toward tourism,” and more of it should go toward something else.

At the ideas lab, people filled sheets of paper with their suggestions for improving Hudson. Contributors placed their written suggestions on long tables at Helsinki Hudson’s large 2nd floor room.

Each table had a question in English, Spanish and Bengali. One question read, “Renters in Hudson (commercial and residential) are experiencing uncertainty and displacement at an accelerating pace, which also creates psychological and emotional challenges. How might we better protect people from being displaced from their homes and businesses?” Other questions dealt with youth, jobs, economic development, and the police.

Though most suggestions placed on each table referred to the table’s question, some suggestions fit other tables’ questions as well, and one table asked for additional suggestions.

One could not distinguish those suggestions written by public figures from those written by private citizens.

Below are summaries of suggestions from community members:

• Within walking distance of where people live should be parks and “green spaces” with trees, picnic tables, and grills; playgrounds, sports fields, and a swimming pool; community gardens and gardens for kids; a supermarket; bicycle paths, lanes, and other bike infrastructure, and a community center for children

• Hudson should have less expensive homes, safe housing and good jobs; more homes and apartments for big families; more access to healthier foods; its own “crypto currency to raise money for greening old buildings,” citywide free wireless internet access and a You Tube channel with videos explaining/talking about issues

• Community activities should include “An international chorus of youths and adults, meeting and rehearsing regularly, learning not only songs but also cultural anecdotes;” a Community Play Day

• Bilingual programs for both parents and children

• More public transportation

• Community based businesses, a trampoline park, pool and water park; more halal restaurants; graphic design; bioenergy

• Income possibilities and job training for all ages; job fairs; cooking classes in downtown restaurants; sewing lesson; allowing people to run businesses out of their homes; zoning changes to let new, locally owned, businesses on Columbia and State streets; short term rentals for startup businesses; and shared space for small businesses, so they can share costs (utilities, etc.)

• Help youths get jobs by having a page on city website under Youth Department that has youth/ summer employment; work with local business owners willing to provide internships for ages 13-16; host a youth job fair and have job search and resume writing lessons in school time

• Economic development in the city might include children and families by attracting businesses that cater to youth; establish a “child in all policies” protocol for economic development; children eat free at restaurants night; require new commercial spaces to have an indoor play space

• “Low income housing is needed more or as much as affordable housing–they aren’t the same; rent control, more rental assistance; subsidized rent for lower income people beyond Section 8; rental assistance to renters in danger of being evicted because of gentrification; establish a minimum time required (3 months) for evictions; mediation between renter and landlord to agree on a fair rent; fixed income protection; assist families with buying or planning to buy homes; and stop corporations from holding more real estate.

• Limit Airbnb

• “Police should say hi with a normal voice that is happy” (from a seven-year-old); “I want police officers to jump rope and hula hoop with me,” a nine-year-old).

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