HUDSON — The Common Council will vote March 20 on whether to ask Mayor Rick Rector to disband the Board of Commissioners of the Hudson Housing Authority and appoint new commissioners in response to purported living conditions at Bliss Towers, 41 N. Second St.
The resolution was introduced by 2nd Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga and seconded by 2nd Ward Alderman Dewan Sarowar at an informal meeting of the Common Council on Monday.
“As a council, we need to do everything that we need to do to show the people [Hudson Housing Authority residents] that we are concerned for their health and safety and their living conditions,” Garriga said after introducing the resolution. “That is what this about. I hope you all stand and join with me. This is not personal. People are suffering. That is what this is about.”
The proposed resolution calls for the removal of the entire Board of Commissioners, none of whom were appointed during Rector’s administration.
“Recent revelations concerning the conditions of property administered by the Authority has revealed the necessity of changing the leadership on the Board of Commissioners, now,” according to the proposed resolution.
But the Hudson Housing Authority contends it is addressing concerns at Bliss Towers and its leader said Garriga’s resolution was introduced out of spite, Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Chairman Alan Weaver said Tuesday.
“Now that we finally have a board and executive director working hand-in-hand to improve living conditions at Bliss Towers, the Common Council has decided to step in at the urging of a disgruntled former tenant [Garriga],” Weaver said. “I would like to know from the Common Council when was the last time presented the resolution and at the end of the presentation said, ‘This is not personal.’”
The motivation for bringing up the resolution was not personal, but about the people at Bliss Towers, Garriga said Tuesday.
“My family and I lived in Bliss Towers and we also suffered,” said Garriga, who no longer lives there. “We also had damage to our apartments that was not taken care of. We know first-hand what the people are dealing with. It is not about me. I never showed my apartments because it is not about me.”
Windows have to be replaced, mold exists in several apartments and a stairwell to the building remains locked, Garriga said.
“The board members have been on and nothing has been done,” Garriga said. “It’s nice they want to fix up the lobby to accommodate visitors but the problem is the apartments need to be updated.”
Garriga cited a recent inspection report for Bliss Towers on Monday, saying the living conditions and the Hudson Housing Authority property have deteriorated.
The Hudson Housing Authority and its board have a strategic plan to address issues at Bliss Towers and commissioned its own recent inspection report, Weaver said.
“We have addressed all the health and safety issues from that inspection,” Weaver said. “The building had a bird infestation that was there for decades. All the garbage chutes have been fixed and cleaned. The lobby has been painted and redone.”
The Hudson Housing Authority is also in the process of rehabbing vacant apartments, Weaver said.
“That building has been neglected for 25 years,” Weaver said. “Now that the board is in agreement behind the executive director, the executive director is doing nothing but doing positive improvements for the tenants.”
Garriga met with Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, in Albany on Tuesday about conditions at Bliss Towers. Garriga said she also plans to reach out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, recently sent a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson calling on him to investigate living conditions at Bliss Towers.
Garriga’s resolution will be voted on at the Common Council’s formal meeting March 20, Common Council President Thomas DePietro said.
At Monday’s meeting, Garriga asked the city attorney to look into the process of removing Hudson Housing Authority commissioners.
“We’re well aware of the years of mismanagement and the neglected conditions,” DePietro said. “We would like to see a board that at least seems to be addressing the genuine issues and the real problems. “Tiffany Garriga, who I appointed as new chair of housing and transportation, is the point person for housing issues. It is great she is taking a lead in this issue about Bliss Towers.”
The Hudson Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners consists of seven members, five of whom are appointed by the mayor and and two elected by tenants. The resolution asks for the removal of the mayor’s appointees.
“We’re going forward with the resolution even though we know it has no real power,” DePietro said Tuesday. “We can’t force the mayor to do anything. We, as a Common Council, want to put on notice that we are concerned about the future of Bliss Towers.”
The Hudson Housing Authority will meet tonight at 6 in the community room at Bliss Towers.
“I have been vocal and supportive of any and all assistance in putting a spotlight on the current conditions at Bliss Towers,” Rector said. “The Hudson Housing Authority has a new director who I have met with several times who has begun to address many of the issues that have been neglected for many years.”
Rector declined to comment on whether he favors removing any members from the Hudson Housing Authority Board if the Common Council votes for the resolution.
“I have attended one HHA meeting and the entire committee was not present, so it is too premature for me to make any comments or decisions on the future of its members,” Rector said. “I plan on attending as many of these meetings as possible and watching all efforts that have been put into place.”
The Housing and Transportation Committee of the Common Council will meet at 6:45 tonight at City Hall, 520 Warren St.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.