Housing Authority hits pause button on new Hudson units

Renovation plans for Bliss Tower public housing is on hold for now. Photo by Jonathan Preuss

HUDSON–The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) is reconsidering the construction project that includes erecting two new apartment buildings. The announcement came at HHA Board of Commissioners meeting February 13.

Reasons given include an in-progress environmental evaluation of the proposed project and public comment. The project includes both constructing the new buildings and renovating Bliss Tower, which the HHA owns.

But now, said Board Vice President Randall Martin, “We are re-evaluating the project as proposed. Our focus is the renovation of Bliss.” This does not affect the conversion, now in progress, of the HHA from public housing to a so-called “RAD” partnership with the private sector, he clarified later.

The new buildings as planned would stand four stories tall and together contain 73 apartments, along with commercial space. Like Bliss Tower and the low rise apartment buildings on its grounds, the new apartments would be income-restricted. Agreements the HHA has made related to the construction are preliminary enough that it is possible to alter the plans significantly without penalty.

The Property Resources Corporation (PRC), a HHA construction partner, “has not finished the environmental study,” Dan Hubbell, the HHA lawyer for mixed finance development, told the February 13 meeting. “The hope is still to renovate Bliss,” he said, adding that as far as decisions about the new construction, “We’ll wait for the environmental study.”

He added that some environmental reviews discover something for which “prudence” requires more review.

“We can’t say the only reason for slowing down is the environmental review,” Mr. Hubbell continued at the February 13 meeting. “We have taken public comment into consideration. Your comments have been taken seriously by the board. The greatest voice we have listened to is the [HHA] residents. They will be affected the most.” The meeting room was full, mostly with people who do not live on HHA property.

Hudson Common Council President Tom DePietro recommended that HHA “consider scattering” new income-restricted housing throughout Hudson and handed the board a list of buildable properties in the city.

Former Common Council President Don Moore and Hudson Alderwoman Eileen Halloran asked some of the questions that elicited Mr. Hubbell’s statements.

“Poverty is a state of mind,” said a Bliss tenant. “Poor in the United States isn’t so poor.” It looks rather good to the really poor of some other countries. “My dream is for all to come together and live together as one community, doctors next to nurses.”

“We did research as to what is available in subsidized housing,” said Alan Weaver, chairman of the Board of Commissioners. He provided a chart, showing 525 subsidized housing units in five complexes, with a waiting list of at least 900 (see table).

“Will the new housing be for our people or the region’s people?” asked a woman from another part of Hudson.

“People have constitutional right to live where they want to live,” responded Mr. Hubbell. “Any questions as to which people should be allowed to live in particular places runs into constitutional gray areas.”

“If you keep bringing into an area more and more poor people–I know this sounds politically incorrect, but– it will affect the city!” the woman.

Commissioner Peggy Polenberg reminded her that the population of Hudson used to be higher than it is now. In 1930 the population of Hudson was over 12,000; by 2010, it was 6,713.

Also at the meeting:

• Tenant Commissioner Robert Davis reported that he called a tenant meeting and about six people attended, He said he hopes people attend the next one. The most recent meeting activity is reading the apartment leases and understanding what the text means

• Carl Quinn and Laurie Torgerson of Twin County Recovery Services spoke about helping people with addiction and called attention to their informational table in the lobby of Bliss Tower Wednesday afternoons, usually staffed by certified recovery peer advocates

• Other service providers who regularly set up informational tables at Bliss, said Tim Mattice, HHA’s Executive Director. These include Fidelis Care, healthcare navigators, and the Columbia County Department of Social Services.

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