HUDSON—The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) runs the 135-unit income-restricted Bliss complex in Hudson—a high rise with 120 units and three low-rise dwellings which together have 15 units. For years the HHA has been considering construction projects such as rehabilitating and upgrading apartments, renovating and “rebuilding” existing structures, and erecting new buildings on HHA land. Now HHA Commissioner Rebecca Borrer, who is also acting Secretary of the City of Hudson Planning Board, said she expects a construction plan that will be shovel-ready by April 2022. Ms. Borrer is not a voting member of the of the city Planning Board.
Before finalizing its details she told the February HHA meeting, current Bliss residents should have input on the plan.
Finalizing construction goals will help the HHA define its direction, complete a five-year plan and apply for loans. The most immediate needs include replacing the high rise elevators before fixing them becomes impossible and opening more units for rent. Both the HHA Board of Commissioners and HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice agree on these priorities.
In addition, 25 of the 135 units are uninhabited and awaiting rehabilitation. These 25 consist of 7 in Bliss Tower needing relatively simple renovations, 12 more in Bliss Tower requiring “full gut” reconstruction, and six in the low rises requiring expensive gut reconstruction, Ms. Borrer has reported.
For the seven simple Bliss apartments, the HHA has already bought materials and obtained an asbestos variance but is now looking for a contractor, said Mr. Mattice. The HHA will pay for these repairs using current operating funds.
To make the other apartments rent-able and replace the elevators, the board—at the recommendation of Chair Marie Balle—agreed to consider taking out a $1.2-million bridge loan from M&T Bank. This loan would last about 18 months, with the HHA paying only the interest of about $3,000 a month, said Mr. Mattice. The next step is for M&T Bank to draft a contract and send it to the HHA Board for discussion.
The HHA will also plan for a longer term loan, for what Mr. Mattice described as “permanent financing.” But applying for that loan will require determining the HHA’s additional construction and upgrade plans.
Ms. Borrer explained that making the buildings shovel ready by next April includes: drafting a request for proposals by this May; receiving public comment on it, preparing a list of developers and choosing one by September; creating architectural drawings by November; holding more public hearings by the end of this year, and turning it over to the Planning Board.
“It needs to be done fast, but it needs to be done properly,” said a commissioner.
At the same time, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants all public housing entities like the HHA to submit a five-year plan this year. The plan must be ready in time for a 45-day public comment period before submission. Mr. Mattice said that previous five-year plans were prepared before he joined HHA and he has not been able to locate them.
But preparing the plan “folds nicely with what we’re doing” to plan development, said board Chair Balle. Outreach to the tenants about future development and the five-year plan can happen at the same time.
Ms. Balle suggested using some of the HHA’s Covid relief money to reach out to the tenants. This outreach could include surveys and socially distanced interviews.
Hudson City Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga (D-2nd Ward) asked whether the construction would include rebuilding Bliss playgrounds. The board said that depends on the rebuilding plans.
On another matter, Tenant Commissioner Robert Davis—for the second consecutive month—reported that “kids,” most of whom do not live in Bliss, congregate, eat and leave wrappers, smoke tobacco and marijuana, and urinate in a Bliss stairway. Smoke seeps into the apartments of people with asthma.
Bliss is legally a smoke-free building.
Commissioner Davis said that tenants and maintenance staff complain to him constantly.
“I know these kids from the Youth Center,” said Mr. Davis. But when he tries to get them to stop, they tell him, “It’s cold, and we have nowhere to go.”
The rest of the board spoke about not knowing what’s been offered and what’s been tried to handle the situation. But board members said, “We’re not going to call the police on the kids.” Somebody suggested considering hiring a part time security guard, a topic that has arisen several times in recent years.
Commissioner Claire Cousin said tenants bothered by the situation should submit their complaints to the Tenant Relations Committee. “Let’s hear from them directly rather than through a tenant commissioner,” she said.
“I tell them to fill out a complaint form, but they say they don’t want to be known as a complainer,” Commissioner Davis said.
“It’s a big issue that people don’t want to issue complaints,” because they feel they would not be heard or fear retaliation, said a commissioner.
Also at the meeting:
• The board voted to accept a grant to replace the refrigerators currently in Bliss units with refrigerators that have been judged more energy-efficient. The grant is to come from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, via the City of Hudson, which will partner with the HHA
• Ms. Garriga suggested that Bliss have a printed newsletter like the one Hudson Terrace has
• Revonda Smith suggested the HHA hire a grant writer, who would write grant applications and recommend grants worth applying for.
The next HHA full board meeting will take place Wednesday, March 10, at 6 p.m., but meetings of the development subcommittee are planned for every Wednesday at 6 p.m.