Letter to the Editor: Petition for What is Right

In response to recent articles about Landmark Place — in particular RUPCO’s filing of an amended petition, Article 78 and HUD complaint — RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor distributed this letter to area news outlets. Some opted to print his comments in full; others not. Here is the complete content of that letter issued 8/22/17.

On behalf of our senior citizens and vulnerable elders, we filed an amended petition on July 11 as one strategy to protect our collective rights. While New York State law allows for a protest petition by neighbors of a proposed rezoning to trigger a super majority, the law is equally clear that if there’s a 100-foot-buffer between the rezoning and the neighbors, a protest petition from neighbors cannot force a super-majority for approval of the rezoning, and a simple majority vote is enough to approve it.

Let’s remember that a majority of the City of Kingston Common Council voted 5-to-4 in favor of a zoning change for this site. That is an expression of the democratic process and the will of the People of Kingston. While the City assumed the protest petition was valid, thus requiring a 7-to-2 vote to approve the zoning change, we believe the petition fails the legal requirements and should have been rejected. Therefore, we have filed an Article 78 and Declaratory judgment action that challenges the denial of the zoning change under our original petition as well. We think the courts will deem the original vote in favor of rezoning to be sufficient.

In addition, if necessary, we will also file a complaint with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and will follow with a lawsuit against the City of Kingston for failing to make a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Both the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect persons with disabilities from discrimination and require reasonable accommodations to be made by a municipality to ensure fair housing practices. Persons with disabilities are a protected class, no less important than race, sex, religion, national origin, color or familiar status. Those protected classes include several of our intended tenants: seniors with mental illness, seniors with substance use disorder, and seniors with physical impairments. The record is clear that certain members of the Common Council relied on inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric against protected classes in making their decision on the original rezoning request. Simply put, a municipality may not make zoning or other land use decisions based on neighbors’ fears that a dwelling may be occupied by members of these protected classes.

While we harbor no ill will towards the neighbors who have protested against this project, we do believe it’s time – particularly given the hateful rhetoric that has been demonstrated across the country against persons of color, certain religious groups, and other protected classes – that the hateful rhetoric spoken here in Kingston against our most vulnerable senior citizens at public hearings and written in the comment sections of the newspaper and on social media stops, once and for all. Kingston has declared itself a sanctuary City and its leaders have almost universally spoken out against the culture of hate displayed elsewhere. It is time to take care of business at home and to stop treating people as “other” people! We stand with the majority of Kingston Common Council members who voted to support our proposed project.

We take no pleasure in bringing lawsuits against the City of Kingston, and we are troubled that the City has recently faced two other federal fair housing lawsuits. We hope the Common Council will take action to avoid unnecessary taxpayer expense by settling our claims without costly litigation. Between the cost of litigation and the loss of tax revenue this project would bring, all of the taxpayers of Kingston should not bear the burden of defending unlawful actions. We listened to the neighbors early on and responded by making reasonable accommodations in our proposal – we adjusted the age of the population to be age 55 and over for all tenants. The law requires the City to do no less. We were pleased to receive a negative declaration from the City of Kingston’s Planning Board and an endorsement from the Ulster County Planning Board prior to a favorable vote by the City’s Common Council to change the zoning. 

A proposal that is widely supported by the record is being held up by a handful of families who live next to the project. Their opposition is based on unfounded fears about the populations to be served, are veiled in arguments which the record reflects are unfounded. We reject any notion that simply living near senior and supportive housing will have a negative effect on people’s lives.

We are compelled to move forward based on our mission and the following facts:

  • The City of Kingston, based on the fact that it accepts federal Community Development Block Grant funds, has a duty to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing.
  • The need for affordable and supportive housing for the age 55 and over cohort has been soundly demonstrated in the record.
  • Since 2001, other municipalities in Ulster County have approved and built 534 senior housing units while the City of Kingston has built zero. It is well past time for the City of Kingston to step up and meet the needs of its senior citizens. The rhetoric of opponents that the City of Kingston has “done enough” is simply not factual.
  • In 2009, Ulster County adopted the Three County Housing Assessment Needs Study, executed by an economist and paid for by the Dyson Foundation that stipulated that to meet the affordable housing gap, the City of Kingston would need to build 1005 units of affordable housing by 2020. Since that report was published, the City has only added 55 units of affordable housing.
  • RUPCO has the experience and expertise along with funding commitments to develop, build and adequately staff Landmark Place to safely provide 35 supportive housing units for seniors with special needs along with 31 affordable housing units for seniors of low income.
  • Landmark Place will pay a robust $132,000 recreation fee to the City of Kingston Recreation Department and put the property back on the tax rolls for the first time in its history. The $20-million development will bring tax revenue and jobs to the City during construction and as permanent positions when operating.
  • Landmark Place will save local taxpayer dollars by moving folks out of motel rooms, shelters, and overcrowded boarding homes where local taxpayers are paying up to $100 per night to house them, and alleviate the burden on local hospitals by keeping people housed and supported with regular care.
  • In the end, Landmark Place will accomplish all of the above and provide 66 permanent, healthy, accessible homes to our senior citizens, some with special needs, in a richly designed, well-built, well-staffed campus.

We hope that the will of the People of Kingston and the obligation of our City to serve its seniors and disabled will prevail, and that more people will come out to show their support.

Kevin O’Connor
Chief Executive Officer, RUPCO

Real Facts: 34 Things You May Not Know About Landmark Place

Real Facts: Landmark PlaceTime for the “Real Facts.” To counter “alternative facts” presented by some as “the truth,” we’re sharing 34 Real Facts you might not have known about RUPCO. These cover our nonprofit status, real estate development in general, Landmark Place in particular, and facts about creating community through housing. Print this PDF and share with a friend or misinformed neighbor.

RUPCO the Nonprofit

1. RUPCO, Inc., is a 501 (c) 3, non-profit organization. It is tax-exempt, and like thousands of other non-profit organizations, it does not pay income tax.

2. We are celebrating our 36th year of doing business. We are led by a volunteer board of directors and an advisory council.

3. RUPCO’s mission is to create homes, support people and improve communities. Our vision is for strong, vibrant and diverse communities with opportunity and a home for everyone.

4. As a tax-exempt organization, RUPCO is exempt from property taxes but generally needs to apply for local property tax exemption on a case by case basis. Nevertheless, all of RUPCO-owned or controlled property pays taxes or PILOTS because we believe in contributing to our community.

5. RUPCO had a $1.4M profit in 2015. RUPCO had a loss of $176,000 in 2016. Over the past 5 years, RUPCO has averaged a profit of $410,000 against an annual budget of $7.5M, considered prudent at 5.5%. Here are the last 5 years of profit or loss as reported in our 990 filings:RUPCO Profit-Loss Table 2012-2016

6. Today, RUPCO has 63 employees, most live in Kingston or Ulster County.

7. In 2015, RUPCO’s fund balance of $11.7 million dollars, accumulated since the agency’s inception in 1981, consisted of $5.3M in properties, $6.5M in long-term receivables and $3.7 million in cash and current receivables. $1.8 million of the cash is restricted and there was also $2.2 million in current liabilities. RUPCO’s current ratio for this 2015 snapshot was 1.69 where 1.5 – 2 is considered healthy in the industry.

8. RUPCO has had no income qualifying as ‘unrelated business income’ (UBI) for 2015 or any other year as all income was directly related to RUPCO’s tax-exempt mission as registered with the IRS and NYS Charities Bureau.

9. RUPCO consistently maintains a Certificate of Good Standing with the New York Department of State.

The Development Process

10. The IRS administers the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program that was created by the tax reform act of 1986 under President Ronald Reagan. The LIHTC program is the largest producer of affordable rental housing in the country. The IRS requires the investors (any entity that purchases the federal and/or state tax credits) to own the real estate for a minimum period of 15 years. Thus, the nation-wide, industry standard is to create limited partnerships to admit the investors as limited partners. The for-profit or nonprofit developer, usually in the form of a subsidiary, serves as the general partner. The developer is then given the right of first refusal to buy out the investors at the end of 15 years. To illustrate:

  • For our Lace Mill project, Morgan Stanley purchased the LIHTC and historic tax credits making a private equity investment of over $10M in the project. They are the limited partners in the Lace Mill Limited Partnership that owns the Lace Mill. RUPCO created a subsidiary corporation, Lace Mill Housing Development Fund Company to manage the limited partnership and RUPCO has the right of first refusal to purchase the property from the investors, dissolving the limited partnership, at the end of 15 years.
  • RUPCO has recently bought out the investors in the Park Heights Senior Housing in Rosendale which had been in a limited partnership. The property is now owned by RUPCO.

The Need for Senior & Supportive Housing

11. The critical need for affordable housing including senior and supportive housing is well documented:

a. Harvard Joint Center for Housing State of the Nations’ Housing
b. National Low Income Housing Coalition Out of Reach
c. A Three County Regional Housing Needs Assessment for Dutchess, Orange and Ulster Counties from 2006 to 2020
d. United Way ALICE Study of Financial Hardship

12. Recognizing the critical need for supportive housing, Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature created the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) in 2016 and are funding 6,000 units of supportive housing across New York State.

13. The City of Kingston has 39% of Ulster County’s affordable housing – not 61% as has been claimed. New Paltz has 186 affordable housing units – not zero as has been claimed.

14. The City of Kingston has only 26% of the senior affordable housing units in Ulster County. The last senior housing built in the City of Kingston was 40 units at Brigham Charter on O’Neil Street back in 2001. Since then, the rest of Ulster County towns have built 469 senior units while Kingston has built zero. So, for senior affordable housing, the scorecard since 2001 reads: Ulster County Towns 469 – City of Kingston 0  
For a detailed analysis of affordable housing units in Kingston and Ulster County, refer to this chart. 

15. RUPCO currently has over 700 senior applicants on its waitlists for affordable housing in Ulster County.

16. On average, there are well over 150 homeless adults on any given day. In New York State, fully half of the homeless single population is over the age of 50.

17. Today, given the very low vacancy rate and long waiting lists, there is not one affordable housing unit for seniors available anywhere in Ulster County!

18. David Scarpino, President and CEO, Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley, recently reported: “ When we look at people who have had four or more hospitalizations in the last 12 months, it comes down to two populations, people with respiratory problems and people with behavioral health problems – mostly the elderly – and we’ve chosen to focus on the issue of behavioral health because it is so profound in our community. Last year we had one person come to the hospital 64 times. When you have people living in shelters, single rooms, flop houses and hotels, they feel insecure, they have no social contact and they are lonely.”

19. Harold Renzo, who served his Country in the U.S. Marine Corp, has lived in an apartment in RUPCO’s Stuyvesant for over 20 years. Harold suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a wheel chair for his mobility. At a recent public hearing regarding the proposed zoning change, Harold said this: “And I just want you to know that one of the hardest things in life is not being disabled and it’s not having a disability, the hardest thing is not being accepted by the community. We want to support the community and we want the community to support us.”

The Fiscal Impacts

20. RUPCO will propose a PILOT of $66,000 per year at Landmark Place. This is calculated at $1,000 per unit annually compared to other housing developments that have secured PILOTS that range from $150 to $400 per unit, per year. It is important to note that PILOTS are not given solely for job creation. NYS law provides PILOTS for affordable housing production as well.

21. In addition, RUPCO will pay a one-time recreation fee of $132,000 ($2,000 per unit) to the City of Kingston. Commercial projects DO NOT pay recreation fees, ONLY housing projects pay recreation fees. RUPCO paid $110,000 for the Lace Mill and when added to Landmark Place and Energy Square, RUPCO will have paid $356,000 in recreation fees to the City of Kingston which are dedicated to fund the development or improvement of City parks.

22. The economic impacts of a $20M development project are substantial. According to the 2017 study: The Economic Impacts of Affordable Housing on New York State’s Economy, the economic impact of a typical 50 unit project in NYS is included below. At 66 units, the economic impact of Landmark Place is expected to be 30% higher than these figures:
a. One-time Construction Impacts
i. $16.6 million in total economic spending
ii. 100 total one-time jobs. This includes 46 direct jobs in construction-elated activities, 30 indirect jobs in related industries supporting construction and 24 induced jobs from household spending
iii. $6.43 million in total employee compensation
b. Ongoing Annual Impacts
i. $2 million in annual economic spending
ii. 14 total jobs
iii. $0.7 million in annual compensation

23. Not doing Landmark Place will not save any taxpayer dollars. The funding proposed for Landmark Place has already been appropriated at the federal and state levels with bi-partisan support. If money is not spent at Landmark Place, it will be spent elsewhere in NYS or around the country.

24. According to the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), supportive housing saves local taxpayers up to $15,000 per year when compared to shelter/hotel costs of nearly $100 per day, hospital, police and court costs.

The Alternative

25. The property at 300 Flatbush Avenue, Kingston was determined surplus by Ulster County and has been known to be available since 2012 and it has been actively marketed to developers since 2013 by SVN Deegan-Collins Commercial Realty. Click here to read the SVN that letter outining the extensive marketing effort conducted to showcase this property.

Kirchhoff Companies looked at the site in 2015 and declined to pursue it for commercial purposes. Click here to read why Kirchhoff believes this site is not suitable for commercial use.

26. According to industry experts we talked with, most commercial tenants would likely need to eliminate the mature tree line along Flatbush Avenue and the Route 9W, introduce more curb cuts and bring in truckloads of fill to raise the site. RUPCO’s proposal will do none of that.

27. The Alms House was not listed on the historic register prior to RUPCO’s recent steps to have the property listed. Therefore it is inaccurate to assert that the building’s historic status was a deterrent to other potential developers.

28. The site location is far from the central commercial district along Route 9W in the Town of Ulster where today there are numerous vacant commercial pads and storefronts. The City of Kingston has other commercial districts including Midtown, Downtown and Uptown that are more advantageous for commercial development.

29. RUPCO’s proposal to historically treat the Alms House and build a new, attractively-designed senior building is an example of QUIMBY: QUality Investment in My Back Yard! The design by Dutton Architecture offers high quality that meets high standards, marries old and new, and is sensitive to the existing site’s natural features:

  • The two primary structures on the site each present unique opportunities to enhance the community with quality design. By listing the Alms House on the National Register of Historic Places, the project is guaranteed to be designed and renovated to the highest standards in the nation for preservation. The building will be designed to comply with the standards of the Secretary of the Interior. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “Historic places create connections to our heritage that help us understand our past, appreciate our triumphs, and learn from our mistakes. Historic places help define and distinguish our communities by building a strong sense of identity.”
  • The second primary structure on the site will be new construction and designed to exceed EnergyStar® standards. EnergyStar® standards address the health of building occupants with an emphasis on reduction of energy consumption. The building design strategies for the senior residence focus on
    • access to natural light,
    • community spaces for congregating, eating and activities both inside and outside the building, and
    • encouraging ACTIVE participation by the residents who otherwise find themselves in isolation.
    • Our award winning landscape architect has designed a landscape plan that is rich with variety of spaces and experiences.
    • Fully accessible walking paths to encourage active lifestyles and healthy living are a focal point of the landscape design.

Senior and Supportive Housing

30. The project will provide 66 residential apartments:

  • 35 apartments for formerly or temporally un-domiciled homeless adults, age 55 and over. Most are anticipated to be frail and disabled seniors. Others will include Vietnam- era veterans, and other persons with disabilities.
  • 31 apartments will provide affordable housing to 1 or 2 person households comprised of persons age 55 and over.
  • The income limits for persons living in these affordable apartments will be up to 50% and 60% of the area median income (AMI):

Income eligibility at Landmark Place and Rents
31. Everyone residing at Landmark Place will be age 55 and over.

32. The median income in Ulster County is $78,500 for a family of four. This means that half the households in Ulster County earn more than $78,500 and half the households earn less.

33. The ESSHI funding allows RUPCO to provide robust services and staffing at Landmark Place that will include:
a. 24/7 front desk clerk security
b. 2 full-time care providers including and LPN and a Case Manager
c. 1 live-in Maintenance Superintendent
d. 1 part-time Property Manager
e. 1 van with regular transportation service

34. Questions have been raised about the impact to the value of single-family homes when low-income housing is nearby. According to the National Association of REALTORS® Field Guide to Effects of Low-Income Housing on Property Values (Updated May 2017) “most studies indicate that affordable housing has no long-term negative impact on surrounding home values. In fact, some research indicates the opposite.”  Additional studies on the effects of affordable housing on neighboring property values:

Last updated 7/7/17

Building Blocks of Change

Colorful Building blocks of change blogI grew up privileged. I always had ample food, clothing, resources and quality education from prestigious grade schools as well as colleges. I never had to worry if my parents could afford an unexpected expense, such as a doctor’s visit or replace a new electronic item that my brother, sister or I might have broken.

However, my father and both grandparents grew up in poverty. They experienced firsthand what the throes of destitution without familial support. Fortunately, they were able to work to where they are now, which includes having a steady income and being able to raise a family in comfortable means. However, this does not mean that people who can’t climb out of the cycle of poverty are lazy or undetermined to make a change for the better. Maybe they are missing the opportunity of a new job promotion because they have children to take care of during those hours of interview or work. Or maybe they don’t have a strong support system to fall back on for help. Maybe motivation just isn’t in the picture because circumstances have depressed their efforts to look for alternative solutions to save money or to search for better-paying jobs.

I haven’t experienced this type of traumatic situation, but I do know how it feels to live on a smaller budget that easily runs out if I spend a few dollars more on laundry for this week. Going to college, I made a personal goal to only spend the money I earned on rent, food, gas, and travel. This new habit cost me much more than I would have imagined—not just my finite cash source, but the emotional energy to hold back from spending money on needed expenses, such as healthy food for breakfast, versus spending money on fast food trips and unhealthy options. Being prudent for the first time in my life definitely robbed me of pleasures that I now consider luxuries. This spend-thrift habit enlightened me on what it means to work hard for money and not being able to save or spend. This lack created an endless worry over finances and fear of the black vortex of indebtedness.

Coming out of my senior year of college, I was determined to help others and make a difference in the world, but I wasn’t sure which career path to take in order to do so. The VISTA program was my opportunity to see other’s lifestyles and gain a humbling perspective of what it means to live in poverty without the fallback of family or savings. As I am making my way up into the economic and business world, I am doing so alongside the people I am served. It’s is amazing to hear about the challenges and milestones that are now a part of RUPCO’s family history, such as Give Housing a Voice community response to Woodstock Commons resistance. During my time here, I hope my writing offers you a peak through into the gems of what would otherwise remain undiscovered in RUPCO’s large network, and to give a voice to individuals with incredible stories to tell. Though I can’t provide the homes or make sweeping decisions that determines program eligibility, I can write our people’s narratives to promote awareness. That is often enough to set in place building blocks of change.

Monique Tranchina is an AmeriCorps VISTA member and RUPCO’s editorial assistant. A SUNY New Paltz graduate, Monique holds a Bachelors in English, a concentration in Creative Writing and minor in Theater. Look for more storytelling from her in the coming year.

10 Reasons Why Landmark Place IS Right for Kingston

Landmark Place, drone view, rendering of both buildingsBelow is our full comment provided to The Daily Freeman in response to Ward 1 Alderman Tony Davis’ statement. We list here 10 solid reasons why senior supportive housing at Landmark Place makes sense for Kingston taxpayers:

1. We’re proposing a natural re-use that restores the historic Alms House, preserving one of Kingston’s unique landmark buildings.

2. We’ve designed an attractive senior residence in a park-like setting with mature, native-inherent landscape. This design provides a quality alternative to what standard commercial development will bear. Developers we’ve contacted suggest that commercial development on that corner will need to cut down all mature trees lining Flatbush and East Chester Streets, make additional curb cuts, and bring truckloads of fill to raise up the site. Our proposal for Landmark does none of that.

As to what benefits the City of Kingston financially, we disagree with Alderman Davis’ assessment for the following reasons:
3. This site has been available since 2012. To date, no one has knocked on the County or RUPCO’s door offering any grand commercial development scheme or made any offer to buy us out.

4. Our proposal offers the City of Kingston a $20-million dollar site redevelopment that creates local construction jobs, pays professional fees, purchases materials, and supports local businesses.

5. Landmark Place creates 7.5 new, full-time-equivalent permanent jobs available in the City of Kingston.

6. Landmark Place saves taxpayer dollars now being spent on shelter, motel and expensive hospital costs. Each day, roughly 170 people receive emergency housing that costs up to $100 per night; this money comes directly from taxpayer dollars.

7. The property will be put onto the tax role for the first time in its history.

8. As a housing development, our proposal pays the City of Kingston a one-time recreation fee of $132,000. Commercial development is not required to pay that rec fee, leaving the City short $132,000. The rec fee charged to housing development is $2,000 per unit.

9. In rec fees, RUPCO paid $110,000 to the City for The Lace Mill. When you add up the rec fees we will pay for Landmark Place and Energy Square, RUPCO will pay total recreational fees of $356,000, funding the City of Kingston can surely use.

10. Lastly, Kingston hasn’t seen any new senior housing come online since 2001 while other Ulster County towns have created 469 senior units since that year. Our aging population needs dedicated senior housing for those living on modest Social Security and retirement incomes.

Open Letter to the Community

In 2016, RUPCO celebrated its 35th anniversary as a not-for-profit, community development corporation. Led by a volunteer board of directors, our mission is to create homes, support people and improve communities. Our vision is for strong, vibrant and diverse communities with opportunity and a home for everyone.

RUPCO works broadly in the area of housing and community development. Last year, we helped 81 families purchase their first homes in Ulster County. We proudly administer the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) in Ulster and Greene Counties, serving nearly 2,000 working families. We market NYSERDA’s Green Jobs/Green New York program in 10 counties including Westchester. This program encourages homeowners to have energy audits performed and then to make energy retrofits that save energy and money while creating jobs for local contractors.

RUPCO has long served as the administrative consultant for Ulster County’s Continuum of Care approach to homelessness. Over the past decade, our role has guided the Continuum’s receipt of over $11 Million to support an array of nonprofits serving the County’s homeless; in turn, these partners provide homes and support services while saving local taxpayers significant dollars.

Our real estate development work has included Buttermilk Falls in the Village of Ellenville where we built and sold 15 townhomes to first-time homebuyers. We also constructed the innovative Woodstock Commons, an intergenerational campus of 53 homes for seniors, working families and artists. In developing Woodstock Commons, RUPCO overcame significant NIMBY opposition. Now that the campus is built and a demonstrated viable part of community, its acceptance is universal. We are very proud of our award-winning work at The Lace Mill that transformed an old boarded-up factory building and created 55 spectacular rental homes with preference for artists.

Landmark Place, drone view, rendering of both buildingsRUPCO has proposed Landmark Place to return the Alms House to its original purpose of providing affordable and stable housing to Kingston’s most vulnerable people. The concept, which involves the historic restoration of the existing building and construction of a new building, came about as a direct response to the need we see every day at RUPCO. Indeed, when the phone rings today, as it does every day, from people in need of an affordable housing solution, we have no resources. None! There are rarely vacancies at the affordable housing complexes. The Section 8 wait list is closed for the foreseeable future, and more than a thousand people are stalled on our wait-list for rental assistance or an affordable home. In our wok with the County’s Continuum of Care, we count a daily average of 160 single homeless people – many of them seniors – being ill-housed in costly motel rooms. The idea for Landmark Place is a response to our observation of the area’s boarding homes that have little choice but to inadequately crowd four people to a room. This type of treatment has consequences and costs as Health Alliance CEO David Scarpino recently reported:

When we look at people who have had four or more hospitalizations in the last 12 months, it comes down to two populations, people with respiratory problems and people with behavioral health problems – mostly the elderly – and we’ve chosen to focus on the issue of behavioral health because it is so profound in our community. Last year we had one person come to the hospital 64 times. When you have people living in shelters, single rooms, flop houses and hotels, they feel insecure, they have no social contact and they are lonely.”

He’s right. Surely, we can do better.

Last summer, we responded to Governor Cuomo’s call to create 6,000 units of supportive housing across New York State and applied to the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI). This program saves local taxpayer dollars in several ways. First, by providing stable and supportive housing, vulnerable seniors stay out of the emergency rooms, and have less interface with our local law enforcement and court systems. Secondly, this state funding provided by ESSHI, will pay for rent and support services at Landmark Place and will replace local dollars that are now contributing towards the daily costs of shelters and motel rooms of nearly $100 per day.

RUPCO Paid $215K in 2016 Kingston taxes We are putting the Alms House property onto the tax roll for the first time in its history and we expect to pay property taxes of nearly $70,000 per year. Although a non-profit, RUPCO believes strongly in contributing to the tax base and is proud of its record as a taxpayer. In 2016, RUPCO and its affiliates paid over $215,000 in property taxes in the City of Kingston. Current New York State law requires local assessors to strictly value affordable housing by the income approach, recognizing that lower rents produce far less income than market units to pay for operating expenses including taxes. New York State also authorizes local taxing jurisdictions to enter into Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) to both for-profits and non-profits for economic and community benefits including job creation and affordable housing. Landmark Place – with its proposed property tax contribution coupled with the aforementioned savings to local taxpayers – makes for a truly wise economic investment.

Landmark Place will offer the first new, affordable senior housing in the City of Kingston since 2001 when Brigham Senior Housing was created on O’Neill Street. In sum, Landmark Place will offer 66 rental homes for seniors, including 35 supportive homes for seniors who are experiencing, or are threatened by, homelessness. The campus is designed with health and safety in mind, so that our seniors can thrive. Health and safety measures include a 24-hour-7-day-a-week security detail plus on-site staff including a full-time LPN, a Supportive Care Manager, and a live-in maintenance supervisor. Landmark Place will also offer van transportation to its seniors without cars.

Landmark Place offers a unique opportunity for our community to come together and provide an oasis for our seniors for the next century. To provide a home for vulnerable elders who are frail or have a disabling condition. To hand a set of apartment keys back to a veteran who served our country during the Vietnam War. Or to help a loved one that is in need of a safe, accessible and affordable apartment – one that is nearby to you and your family – to grow old. This type of opportunity comes along once in a generation – to lock in place a community asset akin to that which our forefathers did over 140 years ago – a home for our elders.

To those who live nearby and have expressed concern – we hope that you recognize the recent shift that we have made in our proposal for Landmark Place to make it an age-restricted senior campus where everyone must be age 55 or over. We believe this should lessen any fears or concerns regarding safety for your neighborhood. We also intend to invite a few neighbors, if interested, to join a neighborhood committee for Landmark Place to monitor the process during construction, lease-up, and operation and offer a forum to discuss issues and concerns. We hope a few will take us up on this offer.

Kevin O'Connor, Chief Executive Officer, RUPCOWe hope that the entire community will voice their support for this opportunity to return a vacant property to historic and productive use that will provide our seniors with a remarkable living campus for the next century. Landmark Place, a place to call home.

Sincerely, 

Kevin O’Connor
Chief Executive Officer, RUPCO

Dorms and Domiciles

Stephanie A. Lopez, the authorMy relationship with home hasn’t changed much in my twenty years of living. Born in what was once called St. Vincent’s Hospital (now Richmond Memorial Hospital), my parents raised me in a small, modest apartment by the Staten Island Mall. The apartment occupies the lower level of a two-story home, the upper level of which my aunt and landlady occupies. My parents, who were born and raised in Manhattan, elected to raise their children in Staten Island twenty-two years ago, and it was then that they settled down in my now-Home.

My Home is nothing like my dorm room, or what my relatives affectionately call my “home.” Often, when I am returning to school after a long break, my mother will kiss me goodbye and say in a sing-song voice, “Have a safe trip home!” Moments like this stick out in my mind, times when my mother could not be more wrong.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do love my residence hall and the SUNY New Paltz campus as a whole. Nonetheless, that is not my home; that is my school, the rock that grounds my studies and the work that I tirelessly undertake everyday. But the dorm, that is not my home. Home is where my mother makes arroz con gandules, or rice with beans, and pernil, or roast pork, around the holidays. Home is where my siblings and I poorly play Mario Kart 8 then swear that we will come in first place next time. Home is where I hang up the hand-drawn Marvel’s Avengers poster my dad drew for me last year.

Still, I know I am very fortunate to readily conjure a vision of home. Some people, like the same man who drew me my Avengers poster, are not so lucky. For the past three years, my dad’s been couch-surfing after a less-than-civil separation from my mother rendered him homeless. My siblings and I watched helplessly as our father migrated across Staten Island, exhausting his reserve of friends and relatives who could afford to house him. Currently, he is residing with one of my uncles and his family, but there is no telling where he will end up next.

RUPCO’s daily work helps people like my father secure safe and affordable housing. Their initiatives have touched countless lives in the city of Kingston and beyond. Because of my work at RUPCO, I’ve facilitated important conversations with my father about his future and finding the help he needs to secure that future. Every day, when I see the faces of those who have benefitted from RUPCO’s mission, I think of my father. It is my pleasure to assist in RUPCO’s efforts and to be a part of their goal of creating homes, building communities, and impacting lives.

Stephanie A. Lopez is a graduating senior from SUNY New Paltz and is currently the Editorial Assistant in RUPCO’s Communications and Resource Development Department.

 

“Those People” are People Like My Parents

Welcome signAfter attending the public hearing on February 28, 2017 (held by Kingston City Planning Department on proposed rezoning in the area of 300 Flatbush Avenue), I feel compelled to voice my concern for one argument, in particular, raised in opposition. I find it incredibly offensive that some project opponents would characterize potential residents of Landmark Place as aggressive criminals, waiting to attack our children and seniors. Those characterizations are without any valid basis, and reflect those speakers’ ignorance of the people within our community who need stable, supportive and dignified homes. I hope that the members of the Planning Board will reject this fearmongering as the transparent scare tactic that it is.

To counter that scare tactic, I’d like to share with you a portrait of who I see as potential residents of Landmark Place, by way of the example of my own family’s story. My parents do not live locally, and will not be applying to live in Landmark Place. I use them only to demonstrate the population that Landmark Place hopes to serve.

My parents are both college educated, tax-paying citizens, with no criminal histories. My father was a successful banking executive and my mother was a special needs teacher. In 2006, my father decided to start a leasing/financing business with a couple of partners, in which he invested almost all of the personal wealth he had amassed over his professional career.  In late 2007/early 2008 when the economy collapsed, he lost everything. For the next several years, he worked when he could, but depleted the remaining savings he had left, attempting to pay-down creditors, their mortgage and other bills. Ultimately, my parents lost their home to foreclosure and filed for bankruptcy.

Their financial troubles took a toll on their relationship, and after 44 years of marriage, my parents then got divorced.

My father now lives in an apartment that he can’t afford. He is diagnosed as clinically depressed and requires medication and treatment. At times, he is forced to decide between paying rent or paying copays for treatment and medications. He has been actively looking for a more affordable living situation for the past year, with no success.

Around the time of my parents’ divorce, my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer that had metastasized to her lung. She had the lung tumor surgically removed this past December, and is currently in the middle of six-months of chemotherapy. She would like to work, but can’t, because the chemo has made her too weak, and because her compromised immune system makes it too dangerous for her to be around children, or people in general. Her paid leave runs out in April 2017, when she will no longer be able to afford the apartment she is currently living in.

Obviously, neither of my parents will be living in Landmark Place.  However, they are both appropriate examples of good people, who despite their best efforts, still need assistance by way of affordable, stable housing. Most of us are just a financial crisis, or a divorce, or a serious illness away from needing this help.

To vilify and dehumanize the people whom Landmark Place could potentially help, in an attempt to incite opposition to this project, is disgraceful.

Adam T. Mandell headshot, RUPCO board memberThis post was adapted from a letter to the Kingston Planning Department and entered into public record in support of rezoning proposed at 300 Flatbush Avenue. The former City of Kingston Almshouse currently sits vacant at this location, the proposed new home of Landmark Place, am affordable senior and supportive housing solution.

Adam Mandell is a RUPCO Board member since 2016. He is also a partner at Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto, LLP.

Gimme Roots

Gimme roots, ivy creeping on brick walkwayShe opens the door to a Lace Mill gallery. She reminds me of every favorite Art and English teacher I’ve ever had. She’s an accomplished writer, poet and Mom. A part of Ulster County and its thriving artist community for her entire life, Holly is one of the people that makes our area the amazing place it is.

As we sit on soft leather couches in the gallery, other residents stop in and out, asking for an opinion on an art project or quick feedback on an inspiration. I ask her if she knows her neighbors, really knows her neighbors. Is The Lace Mill a social building? Her eyes light up.  Residents of The Lace Mill bond over everything: their families, growing up, religion, even politics. At this point in time, almost everyone in the building seems to love the Netflix show, The Adventures of Kimmy Schmidt.

“I do know my neighbors, and I love my neighbors!” extolls Holly. “I was thinking just today that it would be weird for me to move away and not see them anymore. And that’s after less than a year.”  In that time, Holly’s life has changed for the better. Within a place she calls Home, she embraces her true self: a comforting, welcoming, and happy woman. With great shoes.

Holly at The Lace Mill

Holly dressed as Queen Bee for Sinterklaas, outside The Lace Mill

“It’s been a hard few years in these parts,” Holly says.  “Because the apartments are subsidized, my rent is lower than average local rents, and that’s changed my life substantially.  I had been fighting for a while the idea of having to leave Ulster County, which has been home all my life, to find some place more affordable. Since being here, I’ve applied for artist residencies (where you go and just write for an entire month), and I am leading a poetry workshop in Missouri this summer, at an academic conference about Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wrote The Little House on the Prairie books, which are important historical documents about pioneer life.  Maybe even more exciting, I am going to have an article in the local paper, which I have wanted to do since High School. Lace Mill has let me focus on creating the life I want, rather than imagining it to be somewhere else, in some imaginary future.”

 

She’s realized what a role being safely housed plays in much mental illness, something she spoke about at a recent public hearing in support of Landmark Place. She’s seen first-hand how housing stability plays a huge role in productivity, and what a difference secure housing makes in a person’s life.

Because she’s got a solid place to live, Holly can now open herself to new writing opportunities and collaborations. She plans to hold poetry workshops and finish her new book. Since moving in to The Lace Mill, she’s coordinated several group shows, called Samplers, and gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol in December. Seeing people excited to create new work is what makes the time putting together things like The Spring Sampler worth it, and she loves brainstorming with other creative spirits in The Lace Mill.

She and I agree that having a secure place to live makes you a happier person. Life is hard enough. There are lots of people suffering from all sorts of different things. “I think that when you chronically don’t know where you’re going to live in a year, mental wellness suffers. Everybody needs a place to regroup and ‘just be.’ Moving around a lot, or not having a place to land — it definitely makes a hard situation worse.”

Holly knows what Home means to her. She happily and knowingly appreciates her neighbors, and newfound opportunities. Having roots for the first time, Holly thrives, more and more every day.

This interview has been updated, reflecting a few of Holly’s more current artistic activities.

Rachel Barnett headshotFreelance writer Rachel Barnett wrote this interview while serving as Editorial Assistant in RUPCO’s Communications Department (Fall 2016) as part of the SUNY-Ulster Internship Program. Rachel too knows the important connection between housing and mental wellness; her brother strives for mental wellness, too. Rachel has seen the benefits of stable housing and its affect on his life, and hers. A lover of all things avante garde, Rachel too appreciates fabulous glasses and great shoes.  

 

 

WIMBY: Welcome in My Backyard

WIMBY: Welcome in My BackyardTwo words I believe are very dangerous together, though benign alone: Us. Them.

Uttered in singularity, neither word brings much to mind except perhaps a grade school spelling test or two. Uttered together in virtually any context, and the speaker has just created a dichotomy that truly does not have to exist.

Yet we do this. We speak like this daily.

“Why are they so much different than us?” “Why are they taking what belongs to us”?

And when we consider our neighborhoods, our villages and cities, we pit “us” vs. “them,” and we create the phenomenon called NIMBY. Not In My Back Yard.

Let’s be honest. When we say “Why do they have to live here with us?” that is exactly what we are saying.  We are saying that “they” don’t belong. But we do. Do we stop and think what gives us the right to make this determination? Do we stop to consider who has helped each of us along the way? Do we consider that at any moment “us” can become “them”? In fact, each of one of us is a “they” to someone else.

No. We don’t consider those questions. We move forward. We close our eyes to our neighbors who have come on hard times. We close our eyes as we walk in Kingston, focusing on the new shiny renovated spaces, the blue sky, the historic district. We close our eyes to our community. We miss the beauty that can be found in need. We miss the opportunity to be more than ourselves.

We, as individual members of our community, cannot do many things on our own. We cannot individually make the opioid drug epidemic go away. We can’t stop people from developing terminal illnesses. We cannot individually hide on our porches, behind our picture windows, behind our fear hoping that someday we will go for a walk in Kingston and all of the people who make us uncomfortable — just because they are them and not us — have been cared for by someone else because we don’t want to do it.

But, a community that decides to do right by everyone who is a member of that community, can collectively do anything.

It starts with admitting to ourselves that we all know right from wrong. We were all taught this at some point. And, even if we weren’t, we know right from wrong because we are human.

We share this community, but we do not get to choose who our community members are. Learn about the community, love the community, enjoy your neighborhoods, parks and restaurants.

But never forget that this community is our community, collectively. Beautiful, ugly, new, old, rich, poor, homeowners and homeless. No matter how hard we try to separate “us” from “them,” it is impossible because it is not reality, nor should it be.

I offer WIMBY. Welcome In My Back Yard. Let’s change the conversation. Let’s open ourselves up to the opportunities that come when we avail ourselves to them.

Let’s be WE.

And most of all, let us do what is right.

Eliza Bozenski, RUPCO Advisory CouncilEliza Bozenski is a member of RUPCO’s Advisory Council since 2017. She also works as Director of Anderson Foundation for Autism, and has been with that organization since 2006.

Give Housing a Voice – Call Our Governor Today

Call the Governor TodayRUPCO is one of many New York State organizations ready to fulfill Governor Cuomo’s call for 1200 new units of supportive housing. These apartments benefit the disabled, veterans, and our most vulnerable neighbors, by helping them live independently and by providing a network of supportive services as part of their living arrangements.

Give Housing a Voice by joining us, the Supportive Housing Network of New York, and the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing by calling the Governor’s Office today 518-474-1041. SHNNY has provided a quick script for you below — here’s what to do:

* Call-In to Governor’s Office TODAY to encourage the final push for $1-billion for supportive housing
* Call 518-474-1041. It is a recorded number which gives options.
* Press “1” immediately and leave a message.  Otherwise you will have to listen to the menu of options.
* Message to Leave: Hello, my name is [XXXX] and I live in [XXXX]. I am calling to urge  Governor Cuomo to keep his promise to release funds for the first 6,000 units of supportive housing for the homeless in this year’s budget. The Senate, the Assembly and the Governor have now all said that $1 billion is required to fund the first 6,000 supportive housing units. With the homeless crisis at an all-time high, we need Governor Cuomo to prioritize this issue and get the job done!

The Governor is engaged in final budget negotiations and your call today is important to keep attention on the supportive housing plan. Your call matters. Ask a friend to make a call, too.

And thanks for your voice and help to Give Housing a Voice.