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Bliss hires help tracking down asbestos exposure


HUDSON—Rent payments, asbestos and other on-going issues received attention at the Hudson Housing Authority meeting March 1, which Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson attended. The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) runs the income-restricted 135-unit Bliss housing in Hudson, which consists of the high-rise Bliss Tower and three low-rise buildings, all on the same grounds.

The Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition (HCHC) has offered to pay the rent for all HHA tenants whose rent is overdue. Since it made the offer in March, the HHA has discussed it with lawyers, reported HHA’s interim Executive Director Nick Zachos. “It looks like it’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s incredibly exciting. It’s never been done before.”

Quintin Cross, senior policy advisor for the HCHC, stipulated, “We want no restrictions” on which tenants will receive the rental assistance. That means things in their past cannot make them ineligible.

On another topic, Mr. Zachos announced that the HHA has signed contracts with a company to monitor asbestos abatement work. Now it is looking for a contractor to do the work. The law requires these be two separate companies.

The asbestos issue has arisen at previous meetings. Like many other buildings erected before the mid-1970’s, the HHA buildings have asbestos in floor tiles, plywood sub-floors, glue, tape and “popcorn ceilings” (also known as acoustic ceilings). To reduce the danger, the asbestos must be contained or abated.

Some intact structures with no holes already contain the asbestos. Mr. Zachos said the monitoring company could help educate the tenants how to recognize holes and breeches that might release asbestos.

Rebecca Wolff, who is on the HHA’s Board of Commissioners, asked if such breeches will be “self-reported.” Mr. Zachos confirmed that there will be “no big inspection” of occupied apartments, adding, “Maintenance knows what to look for.”

But Leona Muhammad reported that she had to move from one Bliss Tower apartment to another because the first had asbestos. She was told the move would be for only two months. But now, she said, it has been six months, and her “temporary” apartment has leaks.

Flooding also hit a resident of the low-rises. She reported that her toilet, with “no shut-off valve,” had “burst everywhere.”

In addition, she remarked, when something is broken in one apartment, it gets replaced with not something new but with something from another apartment.

At any time, some HHA apartments are kept unrentable until they are repaired and renovated. These are called “off line.” units. Mr. Zachos estimated that only about 11 of Bliss Tower’s 120 apartments are currently off line. However, of the 15 apartments in the low-rise units, six were offline at the end of 2020. A question about how many of the low-rise apartments are off-line today was not answered by press time.

Meanwhile, at the March 21 meeting, Bliss resident Diana McPherson complained that garbage is not removed from the grounds on weekends. “I’m a clean person and like my place clean,” she said.

Commissioner Rebecca Borrer said this is a reason to hire more maintenance people. And Bliss resident Ifetayo Cobbins pointed out that there are only a few maintenance people for “a lot of” apartments.

“To be honest,” said another tenant, “I see maintenance people” hanging out together for two or three hours and “not doing their job.”

‘Maintenance knows what to look for.’

Interim Ex. Director Nick Zachos

Hudson Housing Authority

One maintenance and cleaning man was scheduled to become a security guard for HHA on March 28, Mr. Zachos announced. The HHA will need to find someone else for his current position. Some people suggested the housing authority hire two or more people for that role.

Several HHA residents have been asking for security, health, safety, and resource professionals for some time. The security guard will do while the HHA fine tunes what they want. However, the security guard “should know where to go in an emergency,” said the board’s vice-chair, Claire Cousin. “We don’t want the police to come unnecessarily.”

Mr. Zachos also reported that the HHA has hired a new company to maintain and monitor fire alarms. Since then, “we have had fewer issues,” he said.

Before, Bliss fire alarms were frequently going off when there was no fire. At a previous meeting, Hudson fire chief Tony Demarco said, “I’m used to going to false alarms. It’s part of what we do. However, when this happens too frequently “residents ignore the system,” and repairmen stop coming.

“It’s hard for folks to get up when there’s a false alarm two to three times a night,” Mr. Zachos observed.

He can serve as executive director only until May, and the HHA has hired the firm of Gans Gans and Associates to search for his replacement. At the March 21 meeting, Board Chair Revonda Smith reported being told that by mid-April, they would have “10 to 15 candidates to interview.”

Mr. Zachos also reported that tenants have been honoring” indicators for HHA employee parking.

On a new topic, Miss Cobbins asked why some residents had a key to Bliss Tower’s community room but others did not.

“This is news to me,” said Mr. Zachos. “I thought it was open to all tenants.”

“They don’t want people taking computers and other things from that room,” another tenant said.

Ms. Cobbins pointed out that the room has a surveillance video camera.

HHA monthly meetings have been changed for now to the third Monday of each month. The next HHA meeting will take place Monday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

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