Housing project stalls as two sides lock horns

HUDSON–The possibility of two 4-story buildings with 73 apartments going up across State Street from Hudson’s Bliss Towers remains on hold, pending re-evaluation of options, the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners reported at its meeting April 10. “Everything is on the table. Not much is happening yet,” said board Chairman Alan Weaver.

“There is nothing new to discuss,” added HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice. “They’ve completed some studies, which are very voluminous and have technical language. Not everybody has read them.”

“The soil has been evaluated, and it’s an issue,” reported Tenant Commissioner Martin Martinez.

Though much smaller than in previous recent meetings, the audience brought up a variety of issues.

Recently some HHA employees had their hours reduced from full time to part time, and Mary Decker, a Bliss tenant and last year’s commissioner, asked for an explanation.

“That’s a personnel matter we’re going to discuss in executive session,” responded Mr. Mattice.

“What about the stairways?” asked Mary Ann Gazzola from another part of Hudson. “You close them off except in fire. There can be non-fire emergencies.”

Mr. Mattice said that the stairways met the code, because their doors became unlocked in fire situations. In addition, he acknowledged, “residents have tended to use stairs to go from floor to floor. That’s not the intent.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Mattice acknowledged, “We’ve undertaken a lot of evictions recently.” When asked why, he said the matter was too private to divulge. However, he said tenants have a right to legal counsel, and “when we move to evict someone, we tell them about their legal resources.” Furthermore, “once we amend the grievance procedure, we’ll mail” a copy of it to the tenants.

This was Mr. Martinez’s first board meeting during his current stint as tenant commissioner. He was tenant commissioner in the past and left when “I knew I was leaving it in great hands.” When asked his goals for his new term, he answered, “To make sure respect for the people and the authority is obligated.” Mr. Martinez said he works as a computer operator for Questar and holds an Associate Degree in Computer Science.

Despite the lack of new information, many remarks centered on the plan for new buildings.

Ms. Gazzola proposed that the HHA add no new apartments, but since it has extra land, replace Bliss Tower with two-story buildings sprawling over its property for existing tenants of Bliss. “Don’t build for additional people. I am opposed to additional public housing or subsidized housing in the city! There has to be a balance between subsidized housing and the economic well-being of the community,” she said.

“Then stop people from coming from New York City,” said Mr. Martinez.

“Do you think the NY City people can come up and buy half the properties and rent them out for $1,000,” asked Ms. Decker. “Where would I go?”

Ms. Gazzola assured her she would stay in the neighborhood Bliss has become but “this building has structural problems.” Hudson’s 1970 urban renewal “displaced people. We don’t want to displace more people,” just move them to “better housing,” she said.

“Not everybody wants a townhouse,” said Mr. Martinez.

“I’m going nowhere,” said Ms. Decker. “I’ve been here 39 years, and I want to stay until I die.”

“Twenty five percent of our people are in subsidized housing,” said Ms. Gazzola. “No other place in the county has as much public housing.”

“It’s because this is a county seat. It’s because of Amtrak,” said board Vice President Randall Martin.

“No it’s because of NIMBY,” said Ms. Gazzola, implying other places in the county are more successful in opposing public housing.

When she indicated she did not want more people brought into Hudson, several called attention to the fact that Hudson’s population is dropping.

The city’s population has gone from a high of 12,337 in 1930 to 6,713 in the 2010 census—the lowest since 1850.

“We’re trying to function in an environment where there’s a lot of resistance,” said Mr. Martin. “No one raises an objection when someone builds something elitist,” citing a local hotel. “But when we want to build something for poor people, out come the pitchforks.”

“Whenever we have something positive here, we have objections,” said Mr. Martinez. “Meanwhile, when we’ve reduced our deficit since Tim came, and nobody praises that.”

“Is there a way to build a building that isn’t so segregated?” asked a person in the audience.

“What do you mean by segregated?” a commissioner responded.

“Warren Street itself is a big symbol of segregation,” said Mr. Martinez. “The buildings are filled with businesses that aren’t making a profit and aren’t contributing to the community.”

“Galvan tried to build low income housing on Warren Street, and that was turned down,” added Mr. Martin.

But from the audience came reminders that in the HHA’s planned construction, “seniors will be segregated from families.”

“Seniors and families have different lifestyles. When they’re co-mingled, there are conflicts,” said Mr. Mattice.

“Studies have shown that when children and seniors together, they benefit each other,” said people in the audience. And elderly people can give good advice to younger people, “especially single mothers.”

“There are also studies that show the opposite,” said Mr. Mattice. “I’ve read the reports you cite, but I’ve also read the opposite.”

“I don’t want to live above or below a senior citizen,” added Mr. Martinez. “I want to play music loud at all hours of the night.”

“I don’t want to live on top of somebody elderly, because I have kids who like to run,” added Ms. Decker.

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