Bliss Tower will come down

HUDSON—The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners voted June 9 to demolish the nine-story income-restricted apartment building called Bliss Tower and the surrounding two-story income-restricted units.

The Board of Commissioners plan to construct new buildings on its property between Columbia and State streets and get its tenants new housing.

The board approved a draft RFQ (Request for Quote) to find developers interested in carrying out these plans and will hold a public hearing on the RFQ July 7. The plan calls for sending the RFQ to developers July 15.

Decisions on the types of new buildings that will replace the existing structures and how many tenants will live there will come after the HHA consults with interested developers.

The HHA runs 135 apartments, of which about 115 were occupied on June 9—and now number about 113 since a fire June 10. Of the 135 units, 120 are in Bliss Tower and 15 are spread over three low rises called Columbia Apartments.

But before the existing structures come down, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires HHA to rehouse all current tenant households, Board Chair Revonda Smith affirmed. If all or some of them move to new HHA buildings, those buildings would have to go up before Bliss comes down.

In addition to the land its buildings are on, the HHA owns land across State Street from its current site. That land now is used for parking and ball courts. The new buildings could rise on either site. In addition, said HHA Board Treasurer Marie Balle, “there might be property elsewhere in the City” of Hudson for at least some of the new units. Asked if this would require the HHA to purchase land, she replied affirmatively.

‘I know what’s happening to us. Before we were uncertain. I’m very excited!’

Betty Soto

Bliss Tower tenant

In 2018, the HHA started preparing to convert from a public housing entity to a RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration). At that time HUD was giving public housing entities too little money for basic maintenance and repairs. A housing authority that has RAD status is permitted to borrow money from the private sector.

The HHA pursued its RAD designation and initially found a developer who proposed renovating Bliss Tower rather than demolishing it and constructing new two-story units. But that plan collapsed in early 2019. One reason was a problem with the soil at the planned new building site.

Last year the housing authority obtained its RAD status, and in April of this year the HHA Board voted to apply for a three-year loan from M&T Trust Company, to finance repairs. The board is also looking at a long-term loan, which could finance bigger projects.

But the board asked its tenants what they wanted and this spring the housing authority circulated a survey with input from the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition. About 108 HHA tenants responded.

Tenants wanted on-site stores, gardens, and recreational facilities.

Another question asked: “With the reconstruction of HHA property, what would you like to see?” and offered three possible choices, none of which included the option of demolishing Bliss. The choice that got by far the most responses was “a full rehabilitation of Bliss Towers.”

The HHA held a “town hall” for its residents on On May 26. About 10 people attended. At the end, the commissioners reported that the tenants “want to see something that looks like a neighborhood,” and “don’t want to move multiple times,””but they also “want everything new.”

Before the regular June 9 meeting, the board called its tenants to the meeting room and told them their demolition decision. According to Ms. Smith, the residents who came all reacted positively to the news, and not one objected.

Betty Soto, who has lived in Bliss nine years, said, “This has been the most fulfilling [Bliss] meeting I’ve been to. It really hit home. I know what’s happening to us. Before we were uncertain. I’m very excited!”

Asked what she hopes for the new buildings, she said, “handicapped access.”

Following the vote draft RFQ, board members clapped.

Also at the June 9 meeting, Tenant Commissioner Robert Davis reported, as he has for several months, that people still complain to him about youths urinating and smoking in Bliss stairwells. Some of these youths do not even live on HHA property.

Vice Chair Claire Cousin said, “The solution we have suggested is creating key fobs for the stairs for residents. We have to see what we can afford, given everything else.”

“Kids don’t know where to go,” said a tenant. When they are in the stairway, “at least they aren’t in the hall. At least they aren’t selling drugs in the street.”

Hudson City Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga (D-2nd Ward), who attended the meeting, said, “People hanging around the stairway is nothing new. Let’s find out why they’re there. Maybe they have issues at home.”

“How about giving kids work painting the stairway,” Ms. Garriga added. “Give them pride in where they live.”

Ms. Cousin said that where she lives, in Hudson Terrace, “We plan things so kids can be engaged.”

A public hearing on the RFQ has been slated for Wednesday, July 7. The next full meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners will take place Wednesday, July 14. Both meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Bliss community room.

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