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HHA plans get nod from the state, Phase 1 discussed

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By JEANETTE WOLFBERG

HUDSON–The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) and its redevelopment partner continue preparing their plan to erect new housing, while maintaining existing housing as long as people live there, executives reported at a HHA residents meeting March 5.

The HHA runs the 135-unit income-restricted Bliss Tower and Columbia Apartments in Hudson. It includes the land where the buildings stand and the land with a basketball court across State Street from the buildings. In 2021, the HHA Board of Commissioners decided to redevelop both pieces of land, and last year it picked Mountco Construction and Development Corporation of Scarsdale as its partner.

By last fall, the HHA and Mountco had settled on pursuing an ambitious vision of the plan with about 135 apartments on the basketball court site, townhouses on three land parcels the City of Hudson has offered to sell to the HHA at half price, new buildings where the current buildings now stand and green space. The whole plan envisions up to 300 apartments. The number is subject to modification. In any case, all new apartments are to be “affordable,” though for some “which type of affordable” remains under consideration, said Mountco Development Director Eu Ting-Zambuto.

But for now, the HHA and Mountco are pursuing Phase 1: the basketball court site, and the three parcels.

A Mountco executive estimated, at an earlier meeting, that they could be ready to begin Phase 1 construction sometime next year. Once that construction starts, Phase 1 should take about two years to complete, Ms. Ting-Zambuto estimated at the March 5 meeting. Only when buildings are complete and HHA’s current residents can move into them, can demolition of the current buildings commence.

Phase 1 construction can start only after several pieces are in place. Among these pieces are financing and “securing a spot in the construction pipeline,” said Ms. Ting-Zambuto. She called financing “our biggest hurdle,” and foresaw it including tax credits that a lending bank would purchase. Right now the Mountco/ HHA partnership is seeking pre-approval from the State of New York for financing, so it can approach potential lenders.

Ms. Ting-Zambuto said that the project has passed its first major milestone: presenting it to the state and getting its nod to proceed from the state. More milestones are coming. Meanwhile she added the City of Hudson “has been incredibly supportive.”

HHA Executive Director Jeffrey Dodson added that HHA is pushing and expediting to complete construction “as soon as possible, within reason.” Furthermore, he told HHA residents, “I want you to carry this message to your neighbors. When [other people] fight against the buildings we want to build for you, I want you to join the fight for the new buildings.”

Mr. Dodson reported that he has traveled around the world seeing what other public housing is like. “We want to build with the future in mind. What was toxic yesterday might not be toxic today.”

One resident suggested that the new buildings include storage units. Mr Dodson said that he had lived in buildings with storage units, but the residents had to pay for using them. In addition, allocating space to storage means less space for apartments, and fewer apartments mean less rent revenue.

Ms. Ting-Zambuto added that the state is “very prescriptive” about closet size in apartments, but “we can look into that.”

“We want to give you nice sized apartments,” Mr. Dodson said, but roomy apartments now take up more space than in the past, because then “people were smaller.”

One resident asked if one-bedroom and family apartments would be in the same location. Ms. Ting-Zambuto said according to current plans, yes. Moreover, people of all ages would be allowed in all apartments, “but it’s an issue.”

When the time comes to rehouse HHA residents, “we want to make the move as seamless as possible,” said Ms. Ting-Zambuto.

Meanwhile HHA residents live right now in Bliss Tower and Columbia Apartments, and Mr. Dodson encouraged keeping them clean and in repair. “Even though we’re individuals, we want to live as a community in harmony,” he said. “I want us all to succeed.”

He urged people who need something fixed in their apartment to contact the office. If nobody answers, leave a message, and if the office doesn’t respond, call again, he advised. He urged the tenants not to let fear of being charged for repairs keep them from “reporting an issue.” Residents do get charged for “damage you caused,” but the HHA can work out a payment plan.

One resident said window blinds break because of “wear and tear,” and tenants get charged to fix them anyway. Mr. Dodson said, “I can tell when someone has deliberately put a hole in the wall.”

In addition, if cleaning the apartment is hard, Mr. Dodson advised getting help with it. He told the residents, when the exterminator comes to their apartments, to take their pets out and let the exterminators in. But he acknowledged that exterminators had to stay out of some uninhabited apartments because of asbestos.

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