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Tenants, experts ponder fate of Bliss Towers

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HUDSON–”Are you saying you are going to knock it down?” someone asked at a meeting held this week to discuss the future of Bliss Towers, the 36-year-old public housing complex.

“We’re entertaining the idea of replacement. Maintenance has become a headache,” said Jeffrey First, who manages the building as executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority, a program associated with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Bliss Towers, the only federal housing project in the city, needs either significant renovation or replacement. A renovation that would bring the building up to new green energy and health standards required by HUD could cost $17 million or more, over $100,000 per unit. The concrete apartment complex was built before planners designed for greater energy efficiency, water conservation and sustainable maintenance costs.

The first informational meeting to discuss its possible replacement with new housing was held last September. The meeting Tuesday, April 13, brought together a roomful of green housing experts, city officials and five tenants to exchange information and ideas about the possibility of replacing the towers.

“The rich shouldn’t be the only people to benefit from green concepts and technology,” said Ed Connelly, president of New Ecology, Inc. of Boston. Talk revolved around the virtues of green housing: recycled sheetrock, formaldehyde-free cabinetry, energy efficiency, durability, health benefits and the substantial savings that can be realized on future energy costs and maintenance.

But tenant Tiffany Garriga voiced her opposition to such plans. “I don’t want my kids to be squeezed because you guys want to go green,” said Ms. Garriga, who lives in a 7th-floor, 3-bedroom apartment with a view of the Catskill Mountains.

She was not the only tenant present who said that high-rise construction deterred crime. She just wants officials to fix the building and add a fully equipped playground.

Since it was built in 1973, repairs to the structure, boilers, elevators, windows, plumbing and roof, have cost $1.75 million. A lobby renovation in the planning stage for the past 10 years has not yet been realized. The experts in the room agreed that renovation costs are usually higher than new construction, and said it was a harder sell to get HUD to agree to renovation.

More meetings with tenants are planned. Grant applications for new construction must be submitted by January of 2010.

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