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Artists raise money for housing advocacy group as it prepares exit from Catskill space

A flyer for a benefit art auction in support the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition
Photo provided
A flyer for a benefit art auction in support the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition

A housing and community-focused advocacy non-profit is preparing to move from its home in Catskill. Meantime, supporters and tenants within the same building are raising money to support the group.

The Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition formed in 2020 and has since that time utilized a rented space in what’s now know as Foreland, a renovated industrial facility-turned arts complex in Catskill.

As WAMC first reported in September, HCHC claims it’s being forced out after a dispute over a rent increase sought by Foreland’s executive director Stef Halmos.

Foreland, who declined an interview for this story, points out that HCHC operated out of the building with a reduced-rate rent. HCHC was already in the building when it entered a new lease with Foreland in February 2021.

HCHC is the only Black-led tenant’s rights organization in Greene County, in a community that has seen an influx of new residents in recent years and spiking rents.

Before its current incarnation, the group operated out of a space in Hudson. HCHC’s Elliott Matos says the group will return to 47 North Fifth Street.

“We became the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition in 2020 and that's when we moved over here. But we've maintained a small space over in Hudson, we're going to be going back to that space now,” said Matos.

Matos says since the news of HCHC’s pending move spread in September, other tenants of the Foreland building and supporters have gathered regularly.

“They were like ‘We want to do something, we want to be active.’ So, we've been meeting every Thursday, we have meetings that are happening here in the office, and will be happening here through December,” said Matos.

Local artists, including tenants of Foreland, have contributed works to a benefit auctionthat in just a few days has exceeded its initial $10,000 goal. Catskill resident Nicholas Weist works in the Foreland building and is an organizer of the auction.

“We're hoping that folks who live in the area, especially folks interested in art, will attend our live preview of the auction on Dec. 1st at Hands On Main gallery at 377 Main Street, Catskill and bid on work by local artists with international reputations, and also contributions from small businesses locally,” said Weist.

A group called Catskill Artists and Creatives for Housing Equity – or CACHE – has formed as HCHC prepares to relocate. Weist is also a co-author of a petition requesting Foreland donate 1 percent of its revenues back to Catskill and keep an open community-focused space.

“My very best hope for the outcome of this petition, and this conversation, broadly speaking, is that Foreland succeeds, as a as a business and as an entity and as an art, center of art and creative production in Catskill and that it also invests in Catskill so that Catskill can succeed and grow alongside it,” said Weist.

Matos says HCHC is grateful for the support and hopes the petition can help engage residents in the small community.

“There is power in numbers. And when we all collectively get together, we can put the people who hold the power in our community, put them into a position of understanding, they have to be a community member. They have to be our neighbor. They have to act neighborly,” said Matos.

Matos says HCHC plans to continue holding events in Catskill, including a monthly “Books and Breakfast” at the Catskill Housing Authority. HCHC is also hoping to add a Catskill organizer next year.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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