By JEANETTE WOLFBERG
HUDSON–At a hearing in Hudson January 24, Columbia County officials presented plans for the recently bought building at 11 Warren Street while other officials and residents raised objections.
The county has “purchased the building with intention of using it for county offices, and that will not change,” declared Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors Matt Murell. But “we want to do a facelift,” and public input on how to modify the appearance is welcome, said County Engineer Ray Jurkowski. However, the public raised objections to not only the building’s present appearance but also the Youth Clubhouse’s eviction, the departments planned for the space, and the county’s communication with the public.
The offices the county plans to move to 11 Warren, Mr. Jurkowski said, include the Board of Elections, the District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s. The county has been looking both to store its election equipment in a safer place and to vacate its pre-war buildings in Hudson. Currently, Mr. Jurkowski said at the meeting, the election equipment sits in the damp basement of 401 State Street. The DA’s office is in 325 Columbia Street, which was built this century but the parking can get tight. And the Public Defender’s office is currently in 610 State Street, the building the county most wants to sell off. The county has moved and proposed moving many of its departments to Greenport or Ghent but some departments must by law stay in the county seat of Hudson. Among them are the Board of Elections.
When looking at various spaces for election equipment, county officials toured 11 Warren, Mr. Jurkowski reported. The building had empty space available, as well as an office for the Galvan Foundation, Bard Early College, and the Youth Clubhouse, which provided a safe space and enrichment activities for area youth. The officials found that the building not only could store election equipment more protectively but also had enough room for the Board of Elections offices. But in addition, with its 30 parking spaces in front of the building, built-from-the-start central HVAC, wheel chair friendliness, and already hooked up water, sewer, and electric, the county saw an opportunity to place additional departments there.
Mr. Jurkowski said he does not know whether the building was actually on the market, but the county approached Galvan, the former owners, offering to buy the whole thing, and Galvan agreed. So in last August, the Supervisors authorized the county to buy it, and in December 2023 the county bought the building. Bard Early College can stay there until the spring semester ends, but the Youth Clubhouse had to move out on November 30. (See articles on October 26, 2023 and November 2, 2023.) It moved to Fairview Avenue in Greenport.
At the January 24 hearing, about 10 people from the audience spoke. Several objected to 11 Warren Street’s appearance, and some called it an eyesore.
“This building started out as an incredibly bad example of urban planning. You are postponing for 30 to 50 years a chance to rebuild the space” with something better, said Carol Osterink.
“We need three stories,” instead of keeping a building only one story tall “in prime real estate,” said another.
The County’s plan thoughtlessly “throws away the opportunity to…get rid of an eyesore,” said another. “The beginning of Warren Street should be attractive. We, the people who live here, have no say,” said another.
Mr. Jurkowski called for community suggestions for altering 11 Warren’s appearance, but he later acknowledged that the building “can’t support [even] a second floor office space,” because of state building regulations.
11 Warren was built in the 1980s on grounds left when urban renewal annihilated a row of two-and three-story buildings. Since then, 11 Warren has served as a strip mall and the site of educational and social service offices. Eventually, Galvan bought it.
In February 2021 Galvan announced plans to erect on that site a three and a half story Neo-traditional building, with parking underground. Benchmark Development would partner with Galvan. The new building would contain about 68 apartments and four commercial spaces. But no ground was broken.
Several people said the Youth Clubhouse should have been kept in 11 Warren. One speaker declared, “Hudson is failing our children generation after generation.” The clubhouse was “a pillar for the kids of Hudson.”
Hudson Youth Commissioner Maija Reed expressed “Disappointment that the children were treated so shabbily.”
The clubhouse’s Greenport location is smaller than the Warren Street space was and is less accessible to its clientele, reported David Rosetti, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties, on February 5. Plans to design a clubhouse space near the Hudson Area Library are under review by building code enforcement, he added.
Another topic that arose at the January 24 hearing was building use.
Margaret Morris, a Hudson Common Councilmember from the First Ward which includes 11 Warren, expressed “Concern about the DA and the Public Defender being in the same building. The role of the Public Defender is to establish the trust of the clients. A lot of attention is to ensuring confidentiality.”
“In addition,” she said, “the building would have been better as mixed use. What you are proposing is inconsistent with Hudson’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.”
Galvan’s promotion of its 2021 plan stated it furthered Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) goals.
Claire Cousin, supervisor of Hudson’s First Ward, stated, “I have voiced my concern from multiple directions. There is a community in my ward that does not believe county offices should go there at all.”
“We need housing and retail space,” said Ms. Osterink.
Another speaker, who identified herself as a “resident homeowner,” said that she and her husband “strongly oppose converting it to office space. Transforming it into residential and commercial space [would] generate sales tax and provide housing and jobs. We appeal to you to reconsider.”
Some speakers lamented the lack of communication between the county and its residents in the early stages of buying 11 Warren.
“It is very unfortunate that no call went to the residents,” while the purchase was under consideration, said Ms. Morris.
“These people live here. We have ideas,” said Jennifer Belton, a Hudson Common Councilmember from the Fourth Ward. “You took the building off the tax rolls. I’m disappointed and say I want to oppose this.”
Ms. Cousin said that as a county legislator she first heard about this in executive session meetings, the contents of which the legislators were required not to tell the public. By the time they could discuss this openly, the plans seemed too far along to stop. “When I found out they were going ahead with this anyway, I tried to get services for people. There’s a public hearing now, but it’s too late. Now I am not in favor of this project.”
“All fall I attended meetings, and we were exited out,” said Ms. Reed. “I am disappointed that our effort could not extend” the time allowed for the clubhouse to stay.
“I’m thrilled the way there are other people who feel the same way as me,” said a speaker. “The plan that you have is hurting our community in an unacceptable manner.”
As for current plans, said another speaker, “It’s all about people who don’t live here.”