HUDSON — A letter from the Hudson Development Corporation called out the Common Council over statements about disbanding the corporation next week.
The corporation plans to address the Common Council’s statements about exploring the possibility of disbanding the agency, according to a letter from John Gilstrap, the corporation’s president.
Common Council President Thomas DePietro asked city attorney Andy Howard on May 7 to look into the legitimacy of disbanding a board like the Hudson Development Corporation.
DePietro called the corporation outdated and accused it of abusing its use of executive sessions.
DePietro challenged the corporation’s decision to enter into an executive session twice, he said Tuesday.
Second Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga thinks the corporation improperly represented certain residents of the city, including residents of the 2nd Ward, she said.
Fifth Ward Alderwoman Eileen Halloran was the lone voice in support of the corporation on May 7. She did not observe any abuse of executive sessions when she was a member, she said.
Halloran asked fellow members of the Common Council to consider extensively the work and mission of the corporation before making any decision to disband it. The council agreed more information is needed before a full discussion could take place.
The Hudson Development Corporation is a local nonprofit established to sustain, promote and attract projects that improve economic opportunities for businesses and residents, create jobs and enhance the quality of life in the city, according to the agency’s website.
The corporation’s board of directors consists of 11 volunteer community members and two elected officials — DePietro and Mayor Rick Rector.
In a letter to the Common Council dated May 14, Gilstrap addressed statements made by members of the Common Council, specifically DePietro’s.
The city does not have the authority to dissolve the Hudson Development Corporation, but the corporation does, according to the letter.
This option will be discussed at the corporation’s next meeting May 22 at noon at the Columbia County Chamber building, 1 N. Front St., according to the letter.
If the Hudson Development Corporation is disbanded, the city would have to assume its responsibilities, according to the letter.
The corporation is reviewing requests for proposals for the 4-acre site at 14-17 Montgomery and South Front streets, the former home of the plastics manufacturer, Kaz Incorporated.
With the loss of the Hudson Development Corporation, “the Kaz redevelopment project and purchase of the adjacent CSX property are no longer viable,” according to the letter. “The pursuit of housing, small supermarket, transportation enhancements and increased tax revenue at the Kaz site are terminated and very likely will be come the responsibility of the city.”
The state Department of State had no comment Wednesday on how the discord between the corporation and the Common Council could affect development projects for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, except to say that the projects are still under review.
The city was awarded a $10 million grant by the state in June 2017 for downtown redevelopment. Several projects have been recommended for funding.
Disbanding the corporation could lead to postponement, renegotiation or termination of the funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects, according to Gilstrap’s letter.
DePietro, speaking for himself and not on behalf of the council, emailed his response to the corporation’s letter Monday.
“In short, no one suggested a quick demise of the agency, and Eileen Halloran’s caution was affirmed by all,” according to DePietro’s response.
DePietro again called out the corporation on its use of executive sessions.
“The abuse of open meetings has been rampant, and our last meeting was a prime example,” DePietro wrote in an email to corporation members. “Discussion of the narrow topic of the developers’ financials quickly became a general discussion of the project — a clear violation by any standard.”
The Common Council has strived to make the meetings more transparent, DePietro said.
“Without starting a second storm, I think we as a council have made it clear we’ve encouraged them [the corporation] to be more open,” DePietro said.
Howard is continuing to look into the legal implications, Garriga said. Fourth Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann asked if the attorney could explore the possibility of a city employee serving on the corporation board.
The feud could come to a head at the corporation’s meeting next week, said Garriga, who plans to attend. She also encouraged the public to turn out.
“For me, as a 2nd Ward alderman and as a majority leader on this council, I will be there and I would like you all to be there as well,” Garriga said. “And we will stand together. And if they will shut us down, we will shut them down.”
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