Community forum comment on ‘Prison’ sparks tensions | Colombia County
HUDSON – A community forum hosted by representatives of the 1st Ward Democratic Committee showed the power of words when 1st Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling compared Bliss Towers to a prison.
Representatives of the First Ward Democratic Committee John Kane and Monica Byrne hosted a community discussion on Zoom on Tuesday to hear residents of the First Ward talk about local issues and start a conversation about the 2022 local election. But the outreach methods committee and Sterling’s commentary became a center of attention.
Kane provided some discussion points, which led to Ward 1 Alderman and Minority Leader Rebecca Wolff, a member of the Working Families Party, discussing the concept of scattered versus concentrated low-income housing. She spoke about the Galvan Foundation’s plan to create mixed-income housing, which prompted Sterling to join the conversation.
There had been efforts in the past to demolish the Bliss Towers and replace them with smaller scattered homes, Sterling said.
“I just think the whole fabric of Hudson changes when you put in a 75-unit apartment building with no outdoor space,” Sterling said. “I mean, why are people coming? It is, for me, like a prison. You just live in a huge box, all stuck together. I just don’t see it.
There are a lot of vacant properties in the 1st neighborhood, she said.
“Like the one right next to me is in terrible shape,” Sterling added. “Another was burned because homeless people lived there. It’s just – it’s so scattered across the map and Hudson’s vision, I’m just not very happy with Galvan most of the time.
Chris McManus, resident of First Ward, a member of the town’s tourism board, suggested that attendees be sensitive when talking about people who live in affordable housing and not use terms like “jail.” .
“I don’t see a lot of people at the (Hudson) Terrace Apartments,” added McManus. “I don’t see a lot of diversity here. What can the Democratic Town of Hudson Committee do to get more involved? He asked the hosts.
Kane responded that he had put flyers in Hudson Terrace the day before the event and contacted some residents. The snowstorm prevented him from distributing leaflets outside, he said.
“We have spread the word,” he said, adding that inclusiveness will always be a challenge.
McManus suggested that the committee look at awareness in a more “client-centric” way.
“In other words, don’t look at what’s practical for this group to get engagement, but what are the ways people in marginalized communities want to engage,” McManus said.
The forum was intended to be the first of many conversations open to the entire constituency, Byrne said.
“Although this is a great group, it is true that the majority of us are already engaged and we have to do much, much better and I hope we can continue to do so,” she said. “Because 1000%, we won’t win any election if we don’t have people engaged. “
Mayor Kamal Johnson also commented on the lack of diversity among the meeting attendees.
“I’m looking around, you know, it’s a very white meeting and I also say thank God that it is,” Johnson said, pointing to Sterling’s comment.
“… I think a lot of us have this stereotype of what it’s like to people living in apartment buildings without ever having this experience,” Johnson said. Sterling asked if she was the one who made the jail comment and Johnson said yes.
“I’m sorry if I offended you,” Sterling said. “I think Bliss Towers – any place you’re locked up where you can’t get to the stairwells and you could be sitting there with a broken elevator – is a prison to me. This is something I would like to change.
The Housing Authority has fixed the stairwell and elevator issues in the Bliss towers, Johnson said.
First Ward resident Jessanna Britton has lived in Hudson for more than a decade, she said.
“What I have noticed in the 11 years that I have lived here is that most of the wealth within the city limits, especially over the past decade, appears to belong to the Democratic people. liberals and this is – during a housing crisis – it seems a bit suspicious for me to try to rally against advances in affordable housing and I just hope the Democrats do their best to launch a strategy of care and compassion to the people who are in desperate need of quality housing right now – yesterday, 10 years ago, five years ago. It’s terrible, “said Britton.” And so I think at instead of speaking out against the Galvan project, maybe we should consider how desperate people can be for housing. I’ve been there. I think a lot of us have been there.
First Ward resident Claire Cousin, Commissioner of the Hudson Housing Authority, said Sterling’s comment reflected a larger problem in the neighborhood.
“This is one of the reasons the 1st Quarter was unsuccessful in my opinion,” Cousin said. “The fact that you think of the skyscraper as a prison or that those words can even come out of your mouth says a lot about why the black and brown community in your neighborhood has not been engaged for so long.” Sterling asked if she had been invited to the meeting to be “attacked”, and Kane said no.
Richard Garmise, a former part-time New York and Hudson resident who now lives full-time in Hudson, called criticism of Sterling’s comment as an example of a “culture cancellation” that discourages newcomers. residents.
Earlier in the meeting, Garmise said moving to Hudson had caused him to look beyond Warren Street. He was surprised to learn that subsidized housing in Hudson has a long waiting list and believes the wealthiest people should move to the city to improve its economy.
“I would love to see rich people and people with a tax base come into the city and to some extent, you know, a rising tide lifts all the boats,” he said.
The people of Hudson need jobs, Wolff said, responding to Garmise asking officials what they think Hudson needs economically. The median income in Hudson is around $ 36,000 a year, Wolff said. “Workforce development is a major initiative that the whole city needs to get involved in, which is currently being developed within IDA (Industrial Development Agency) and at the county level.” , she said.
Towards the end of the meeting, Sydney Jarrard, a resident of the 1st Ward, encouraged participants to use the tension created by Sterling’s comment as a learning moment.
“The world has changed,” Jarrard said. “The language has changed and with the change of language, you understand that words mean different things than they used to do … It’s not about attacking people. It’s a learning time and we should be thankful that someone has done the emotional work to help us learn something today … “
The second constituency alderman and majority leader Tiffany Garriga has called on the Democratic Committee to reach out to people of color for many years and has yet to see this happen, she said .
“I asked the Democratic Committee for its support for the Black Lives Matter movement,” she added. ” I did not see anything. Here we are at the second day of black history in February and I once again ask for the support of the Democratic Committee to show people of color your support, as we all know from history that has been made, it was the black vote that helped Joe Biden become our president, as we all wanted.