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Future of HHA property discussed along with current issues



HUDSON – The Hudson Housing Authority’s redevelopment partner presented scenarios that would include closing part of State Street and extending First Street, at the HHA Board of Commissioners meeting July 17, where parking and outdoor sprinklers also received attention.

The HHA (Hudson Housing Authority) runs the income-restricted Bliss Towers and Columbia apartments. Together these have 135 apartments, but only 106 of them currently are rentable as they are now, Executive Director Jeffrey Dodson acknowledged at the meeting. The HHA plans to redevelop its property. This redevelopment will probably include demolishing the existing buildings and rehousing the residents. This April the HHA selected Mountco Construction and Development Corporation to partner with it in this redevelopment. Two Mountco officers, Executive Vice President John Madeo and Development Director Eu Ting-Zambuto, attended the meeting. They reported what their company has done so far, and presented very preliminary visions of the end product. Under the best case scenario, the earliest construction can begin is fall 2024, they said.

“We want to make sure that when we finish, we’ll have improved people’s quality of life,” Mr. Madeo said.

Over the past 3 months, Mountco has commissioned studies of HHA property to determine what construction is possible, while starting preparations to apply for funding from the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, Mr. Madeo and Ms. Ting-Zambuto reported. The studies include soil boring, topographic surveys, environmental and suitability studies, and property appraisals. The results should be ready by September. However, applying for the funding is a long and complex process. Therefore, the partnership is already preparing for parts of the application, including a preliminary design of what they will build. As part of this preparation, the Mountco officers presented visions of the HHA land after redevelopment, each scenario diagrammed on a big poster, with shapes for buildings.

HHA’s current buildings stand between State and Columbia streets, on land boarded by Second Street and the Schuyler Court buildings. Across State Street lies more HHA land with a basketball court and playground. Plans call for constructing buildings on both sides of State Street. But Mountco, said its representatives, will initially consider each side as a separate site. They envision first building on the site that has no residential buildings. Then, when it comes time to build on the other side and demolish residences, the inhabitants can move into the already-erected new buildings.

Still, they want to keep the two sites a unified community and maximize open green common space. Thus the proposal to close State Street between the two sites. Some scenarios also call for extending First Street from Columbia Street to State Street, on the grassy strip currently between HHA land and the Schuyler Court apartments. First Street currently runs from Union to Columbia Streets.

“Any reaction to the pedestrianization of State Street?” Ms. Ting-Zambuto asked the audience. Initially, no HHA resident responded. But the Mountco spokespeople said “Anecdotally, there’s a general excitement about” it, and Commissioner Nick Zachos said he felt the same. On that part of State Street, people drive too fast, he said. At earlier meetings, people have said that stretch of State Street does not feel safe.

Of course, Mr. Dodson said, re-configuring the streets would require state, county, and city approval.

Board Chair Revonda Smith noted that “this area has the highest rate of asthma in the county.” Since trucks could contribute to this, the question arose as to how this reconfiguration would effect truck traffic.

Nobody said anything about the three parcels of additional land the HHA has the option of buying, from the City of Hudson, at a discount price, should it want them in the development.

What do HHA tenants actually want? The Mountco officials said those who talked with them had mentioned basketball and parking. The basketball courts really are used, they acknowledged. If new construction covers them, Mr. Dodson promised that they will be rebuilt.

Mountco’s posters, prepared by Alexander Gorlin Architects, did not clearly indicate how many stories the buildings would have. Mr. Dodson said, “I would really like to see” the number of units doubled. (That would mean 270 apartments.) The Mountco representatives said they also hoped to increase the number of units. But “what’s going to drive this is parking,” Mr. Madeo said.

The number of parking spaces will reflect the shape of the new buildings and more. There will have to be trade-offs, Mr. Madeo said. With fewer parking spaces, one can have more apartments, larger apartments, a larger playground, and more ancillary amenities, such as retail.

Possibilities mentioned at the meeting included one parking space for every two households, one parking space for every one and a half households, one parking space per household, and more than one parking space per household. “Quite frankly,” said Mr. Dodson, on Bliss grounds, “we see most of the parking spaces empty.” In the about 70 parking spots, there are only about 30 cars. Mr. Zachos said that some HHA parking lots are empty, but the one by the basketball court is full.

A Bliss resident responded that she parks in that lot because she can see her car there from her apartment window. Still, she called closing part of State Street “a good idea.” Furthermore, “I’d park in the street to get a larger apartment.”

Another Bliss resident said that to create more housing while providing enough parking, one should “cut the things we need the least.” Amenities to cut, she said, include grocery stores because of the grocery stores already in Hudson and the shopper’s bus.

But redevelopment is in the future and people live in HHA buildings today.

For the people living in HHA buildings today, a resident proposed running a sprinkler on the lawn on hot days. It would be a way for kids, and some adults, to cool off.

But another resident reported that in New York City such sprinkling is not allowed, because it interferes with the water pressure firefighters need.

Also at the meeting, Commissioner Anthony Bennett, who lives on HHA property, reported that in Providence Hall, across Columbia Street from HHA land, people have laundry cards and asked whether HHA residents could get the same. Mr. Dodson replied that that would require redoing, and perhaps replacing, the machines in Bliss’ laundry room. But “it’s something we can look at in the new development.”

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