New Common Council member voices ambitious agenda

HUDSON–“We have to find ways to make life better in Hudson,” said Rebecca Wolff in a conversation January 14. It’s not idle speculation. Ms. Wolff, a writer and editor, is starting her first term as alderperson on Hudson’s Common Council (First Ward), serving as the council’s minority leader—she’s a registered member of the Working Families Party–and beginning a term as a commissioner on the board of the Hudson Housing Authority.

Ms. Wolff already serves as secretary for the Presbyterian Church, runs a literary magazine she created, publishes books and works as a freelance editor. She acknowledged that her two new positions will necessitate a “rearrangement” of her time but felt it is too early to know how.

Ms. Wolff said her goals on the Common Council include:

• Adopting short term rental legislation. This would “restrict the uses of non-owner occupied dwellings,” as several places from Jersey City to Las Vegas have already done

• Appointing a fair housing officer for the City of Hudson. Columbia County has one, but what she described as “a little known” item in Hudson’s City Code requires that the city also have one.

• Putting in place “some kind of measure” that calls for any new residential complexes constructed in Hudson to “set aside” some units “for workforce or affordable housing”

• “Figuring out how to remove the trucks from the city streets”

• Creating a city blog to overcome “a generalized lack of central information.” The new blog would “would look different than the city’s website,” and include—among other things–meeting notices.

• “Exploring how effective” local governments can be. When asked about the numerous decisions by federal and state courts, laws and mandates, many of which limit the powers of the city, she, responded, “There’s a lot decided by local government.”

Ms. Wolff said she wanted to be on the HHA Board “to see if I could move things along, stabilize BlissTower and the Bliss community, and hopefully create a dialogue between the HHA and the Bliss community. I don’t have an agenda for change; I just want to participate.”

The HHA controls Hudson’s income-restricted Bliss Tower (20 apartments) and Columbia Apartments (15 apartments) and a federal Section 8 housing program for housing elsewhere in Hudson (131 vouchers).

The HHA expects approval for its conversion to what’s known as RAD status is imminent. HHA officials believe this conversion will give the housing authority more flexibility to use private funding. Ms. Wolff said that it “gives funds to bring the HHA back on line.” When asked if she expects the HHA to cover more of its land with residential buildings, she answered, “if it’s possible, but it’s not my immediate priority.”

As for her editing and publishing, Ms. Wolff said, “I enjoy working with people when they’re not concerned with getting published,” adding, that because of the internet, “there are a lot more options for getting your work out where you want it to be.”

Ms. Wolff grew up in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. In 1998 she created Fence, a literary magazine with prose and poetry published twice a year, which includes writing considered “experimental,” and which is now affiliated with the University at Albany. In 2001 she founded Fence Books, which publishes the same type of writings.

In 2005, she moved to Hudson for the first time. She said she knew she did not want to live in New York City, but wanted to stay where the city was accessible. She liked Hudson because she found it “low key,” like Chelsea when she lived there. Soon, though, she moved across the river to the Greene County community of Athens for six years, but moved back to Hudson in 2012. However, she said Hudson is not as low key now as when it first sparked her interest.

In about 2015, Ms. Wolff, Michael Chameides (now Hudson’s 3rd Ward supervisor and an aide to Mayor Kamal Johnson), and Tiffany Garriga (Alderperson from Hudson’s 2nd Ward) started something called Affordable Housing Hudson. “Never an official organization, just an email list,” as she described it, it did organize and run some public forums. “It had no membership process, people just signed up,” she added.

Now it is “dormant,” but it might be revived. “If an issue comes up, it can send out notices” she said.

One of Ms. Wolff’s concerns is “Why is there such a split between people’s lives and the government?… It’s an on-going corundum.”

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