Tenants have their say on fate of Bliss Tower

HUDSON—The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) is interested in redeveloping its property, which includes income-restricted housing with 135 apartments. But to find out what the residents of this housing want from redevelopment, the HHA conducted a survey this spring and held a town hall style meeting May 26.

The tenants’ feedback gave mixed signals on the fate of the current buildings and the possibility of increasing the number of housing units. But it showed an unambiguous preference for stores, gardens, and recreational facilities in the community.

HHA’s property straddles State Street. South of that street stand its residential buildings: the nine story high-rise Bliss Tower and three low-rise buildings. North of State Street are ball courts, a playground and undeveloped land.

The HHA Board of Commissioners has said Bliss Tower needs major repairs. On May 12, about 100 of its 120 units were inhabited. According to the board, the low-rise units need even more major repairs, with only 9 of the 15 apartments in shape to be rented.

About 108 tenants responded to the survey, which the HHA conducted in conjunction with the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition. The HHA Board discussed the results in a meeting May 19.  There it decided to call the “town hall meeting” May 26. About 10 tenants attended that meeting. They were divided into two tables, each with about 5 tenants and two commissioners, who together discussed specified topics.

“We aren’t bringing in a developer to tell you what to do,” Commissioner Claire Cousin, vice-chair of the board, told the tenants. “We want to know what you want. We have a tenant relations committee. Our job is to keep you informed every step of the way.”

One survey question asked, “With the reconstruction of HHA property, would you like to see?”

The survey gave three choices:

• A full rehabilitation of Bliss Towers

• Additional townhouses (single-family units with shared walls but different entrances)

• Additional residence the size of the current Bliss Towers building.

Over 40 respondents checked “a full rehabilitation of Bliss Towers”; between 15 and 20 checked the second option, and about a quarter of respondents checked the third option.

At the May 19 meeting Commissioner Rebecca Wolff observed that the third option did not make clear that the board was considering whether to keep Bliss Tower or demolish it.

“This building is not in good shape,” said Ms. Cousin. “Knock-down is best.”

“But the survey results say most people want rehabilitation,” said Ms. Wolff.

“That means they need to be educated more,” said Ms. Cousin.

One meeting participant said the tenants need assurance that if the tower is demolished they will not become homeless.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires the rehousing of all current tenants.

Mary Decker, a long-term tenant and former commissioner, pointed out that less than three years ago, “You were going to build across the street, and it didn’t happen. Is this going to be squashed like the first one?”

‘This building is not in good shape.… Knock-down is best.’

Comm. Claire Cousin, vice-chair

Hudson Housing Authority

The 2018 plan called for building two new, four-story buildings, with about 73 apartments, on the HHA land north of State Street, while keeping Bliss Tower standing and renovating all of its apartments.

“This will be different,” said Ms. Cousin. For one thing, now that the agency has converted to “RAD” status, the HHA can obtain financing on its own.

One of the May 26 town hall discussion topics was: “When you hear words like rehabilitation or redevelopment when talking about the HHA, what does that mean?  What excites you about these words?  What concerns you?”

At the end, commissioners reported that people at their tables want to see everything new, knocking down the tower and rebuilding. “Maybe the replacements should have only five stories tall. Maybe buildings should have solar panels. However, the people don’t want to move multiple times,” the commissioners said.

Other questions asked residents what they want in their community. On the survey, an overwhelming number of respondents answered “yes” to interest in adding “commercial storefronts.” Other questions asked what they would like in the community room and on the grounds, giving suggestions. Suggestions that got the highest number of “yes” responses included “movie night,” children’s “play area,” “new playground” and “community garden.”

At the town hall, one topic was: “When you think of HHA property right now, what is missing?” After the discussion, participants said they wanted all the amenities people favored on the survey plus a pool, a basketball court, a “field where one can play football,” a youth center, a beauty salon and a library. And “security.”

The third town hall topic was: “If you were given whatever amount of funds necessary, what would the ideal HHA neighborhood look like?” with participants asked to draw their answer.

Ms. Cousin held up a long diagram she and the tenants at her table had drawn. It showed buildings, services, and amenities on the grounds. “They want something to look like a neighborhood,” she reported.

The May 19 and 26 meetings were auxiliary sessions. The next official, full-board meeting will take place June 9.

Comments are closed.