Harold Renzo, long-time resident at The Stuyvesant, has been a supportive neighbor, voice for those unable to speak, and a community icon known for his friendliness and determination. RUPCO honored Harold at Community Lunch on November 9, 2017 for his courage, inspiration and indomitable spirit with our first-ever Community Inspiration Award.
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.
Chief Executive Officer, RUPCO
Time 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:
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.
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):
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:
- “Don’t Put It Here” by the Furman Center
- Fear of Affordable Housing Perception vs. Reality by ShelterForce
- Low-icome Housing Trends by Trulia
Last updated 7/7/17
Below 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.
After 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.
This 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.
Rebecca Sauer, Director of Policy and Planning at Supportive Housing Network of New York, issued this statement for the Landmark Place press conference held on February 13, 2017.
Along with the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing, the Supportive Housing Network of New York has been working for three years to ensure that there are sufficient resources to house the most vulnerable New Yorkers, at a time when more than 80,000 are homeless statewide. We have applauded Governor Cuomo’s commitment to develop 20,000 units of supportive housing over the next 15 years and were pleased when his budget last year included resources to develop the first 6,000 over five years through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI). However, the requirement that the appropriation be subject to a Memorandum of Understanding between him, the speaker of the Assembly, and the leader of the Senate, led to unsuccessful negotiations. The full pot of money has not yet been released. Nevertheless, as a result of the tireless advocacy of our partners and members, we were able to secure funding in the amount of $150 million in last year’s budget cycle to fund the first 1,200 units of supportive housing.
RUPCO’s Landmark Place will contain 35 ESSHI units, among the first in the state to be part of this monumental commitment. The historic property will be rehabbed to house seniors, including those that are medically frail, veterans, the chronically homeless and those with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. This development will allow these people the opportunity to rebuild their lives and regain stability. The Network salutes RUPCO on innovative and critically essential work.
Meanwhile, back in Albany we are prepared for another season of budget negotiations. The governor has included $2.5 billion in his budget for an affordable housing plan, including $1 billion for supportive housing over the next five years. While this budget removes the requirement for the MOU, the proposal is still subject to negotiations in the legislature. Along with our partners, we are continuing to push for the release of much-needed funds for supportive housing, be it through the signing of last year’s MOU or through the appropriation of funds in this year’s budget. Organizations like RUPCO, with the buildings they develop and tenants they serve, remind us of why these government policies are so important. We look forward to the successful construction and opening of Landmark Place and the shared work ahead.
It speaks well of the newly formed city government of Kingston that the first building it erected, between 1872 and 1874, was an institution to care for some 200 of the city’s poor. The City Almshouse was designed by the region’s leading architect, John. A. Wood (1837-1910), who had already designed many important Kingston buildings. Wood used an up-to-date Victorian style, the Italianate, to create a building with a three-part facade that was both dignified and economical. Italianate features include the freely interpreted classical forms of the porch, the variously arched windows topped with drip moldings, the projecting eaves, and the gently pitched roof. Also worthy of preservation are a utility building and barn or stable behind the main building. The Almshouse interior was remodeled in 1954 by architect Harry Halverson to serve as the Ulster County Chronic Infirmary, but the original exterior was minimally altered.
Architect Wood based Kingston’s three-part Italianate facade on the Poughkeepsie City Alms House he had designed earlier, in 1868. Poughkeepsie’s former Almshouse, listed on the National Register in 1978, can now perhaps be a model for the preservation and adaptive reuse of Kingston’s structure. Poughkeepsie’s main building has been successfully renovated as Maplewood, housing for senior citizens, while the adjacent barn or stable has been adapted to function as Mill Street Loft, an arts program for young people. Ulster County proposes a similar adaptive reuse that will preserve this historic building, the first built by the new City of Kingston after its creation in 1872 and the work of a distinguished nineteenth century Hudson Valley architect.
Early Care for the Poor in Ulster County and Kingston
In his history of Kingston written in 1888, Marius Schoonmaker wrote that the trustees of the early township of Kingston had “uniformly from the time of their incorporation taken care of the poor of the town and provided for their wants.” Provision for the poor was, in fact, written into the town’s charter. In 1770, the colonial legislature explicitly made the trustees overseers of the poor. But it was 1790 before the township’s Board of Trustees resolved on building an alms house. They also specified a piece of property on which it would be built.
In time, other use was found for the property on which an alms house was to have been built but the resolution to have an alms house remained in effect. In 1803, the town trustees set forth a plan for selling off lots in the town’s “Commons” or undeveloped wood and pasture land to the town’s freeholders. The money collected for selling the lots would be used to finance support for the poor, presumably including the building of the alms house first mentioned in 1790.
In 1805, the Village of Kingston was created out of the larger township. Although provision of some kind was probably made for the poor of Kingston village, no building seems to have been designated for this purpose nor, based on a reading of Stuart Blumin’s study of the neighboring Rondout village, does that much newer village, incorporated in 1849, seem to have included such an institution. In 1872, the villages of Kingston and Rondout combined to form the City of Kingston. At the very first meeting of the city’s new Common Council, Mayor James Lindsley pointed out that the State Legislature provided for the establishment of an Almshouse Commission and bonding authority of $10,000 to build an alms house. According to Mayor Lindsley, the greatest change in the new Charter was in taking care of the poor and the distribution of alms.
A newly appointed Almshouse Commission voted at its first meeting to visit the Alms House in Poughkeepsie. In June of 1873 the Commission voted to hire J. A. Wood, an architect who was well-known in the Hudson Valley “to draw the plans and superintend the construstion of a large and suitable building for the keeping of paupers.” After acquiring 21 acres on the outskirts of Kingston for a building site, the Commission determined that $10,000 was not enough to build the alms house and went back to the State Legislature for permission to bond up to $25,000 for the building.
Work began during the summer of 1873 with Henry Otis chosen to do the masonry work. It was the first of a number of buildings on which Wood and Otis would work together. The new Kingston City Almshouse was opened in June of 1874.
The New Almshouse
The 21-acre site for the Almshouse was on Flatbush Road at the northern boundary of the village. The facility was intended to care for somewhere between 150 and 200 of the poor. The main building consisted of a four-story main building (30 x 60 feet) with adjoining three-story wings (each 40 x 40 feet), in an Italianate style clad in brick. Plans were made for a large brick barn (30 x 50 feet) and for a frame laundry building behind the Almshouse. A quarry behind the laundry was to provide stone for a wall around the property. Of the 21 acres, 16 were to be cultivated for vegetable gardening together with apple trees. A spring-fed reservoir (38 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep) was to provide water. The site itself cost $7,000 and the main building $23,000. Another $22,000 was allocated for the grounds.
The Almshouse opened in July, 1874. Six years later, an unnamed reporter in the Kingston Daily Freeman wrote that “There has been an immense amount of work done by the inmates of the institution in the years since 1874 in grading. Other cities have their charitable institutions . . . but there are few cities that can boast of as good and well kept an Alms House as Kingston can. Much fault has been found of the cost of its erection, but those who conceived the plans were working for the future, and coming generations may praise them for their far-seeing wisdom. It is a substantial building, and when poor people have become so old that they have no kith or kin on which to depend for support may thank fortune to be allowed to live their remaining days in such a home as is here provided for them.”
“The house as far as cleanliness and fresh air is concerned is as good as any hotel or summer boarding house in this or any other county. It would pay any one to visit the Alms House, and go into its upper stories, as the best view can there be obtained of the surrounding country in our city. The view takes in a grand sweep nearly all the Catskill range and the Shawangunk mountains, the whole of old Kingston village and a long stretch of country including the level plain toward Saugerties, which already has been waving fields of grain. Just inside the main entrance to the building are the two offices of the Superintendent . . . . The dining room is very pleasant, having windows its entire length and facing the Catskills. . . . The kitchen contains a mammoth American cook stove. The whole building is heated by steam . . . .”
Later or Additional Buildings
The one-story building with monitor roof immediately behind the main building of the Almshouse is identified in 1932 Sanborn maps as the laundry, built sometime after 1880. A similar laundry was built just behind the Poughkeepsie Almshouse.
The barn or stable further to the rear of the property (probably the building scheduled to be built in 1880) again relates to stables or barns behind the Poughkeepsie Almshouse.
A Burying Ground
A “burying ground” at the Almshouse is mentioned in these issues of the Kingston Daily Freeman:
May 3, 1907: Body of Frank Sheldon (with “bad habits”) interred.
June 23, 1909: Body of unidentified man killed in north yard of West Shore Railroad buried at Almshouse, but now identified and disinterred for burial in New Jersey.
April 12, 1910: Body of Mag Graney found in Hudson River “after a debauche” probably to be interred at Almshouse burying ground.
August 15, 1911: Body of Henry Clark who died suddenly on upper Broadway interred in the Almshouse burial ground after Undertaker Murphy unable to communicate with relatives.
Similarities Between Kingston and Poughkeepsie Almshouses
Both of the alms houses have a central, three-story main block flanked by matching two-story wings placed slightly forward of the main block. Both are in the Italianate style in terms of their porches, window heads, cornices, and low roofs with slightly rising gables.
More Recent History
By the end of the nineteenth century, the Almshouse was commonly known as “The Poor House” and was administered by the Board of Alms Commissioners . In 1948, the building was vacated and, in 1954, the property was transferred to the county for use as a chronic infirmary. The Ulster County Infirmary operated in the building until new facilities were built at another site (Golden Hill) in 1973. Thereafter, the building served as offices for the Ulster County Health Department until 2014 or 2015.
The Architect: John A. Wood
[The following is from William B. Rhoads’s Kingston New York – The Architectural Guide (page 179):
A. Wood was the leading architect in the Mid-Hudson region in the late 1860s and 1870s, designing several of Kingston’s most prominent buildings of that period. Born in 1837 in the Town of Bethel, Sullivan County, he was the son of Stephen C. Wood and Mary Crist Wood. By 1863 he was practicing in Poughkeepsie, where his office remained until 1871 when he established his office on Broadway in New York. His operations were centered in New York for the rest of his life.
His buildings in Kingston include First Baptish Church, Albany Avenue, 1868; conversion of former Dutch Reforemd Church to St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, 1869; Kignston Music Hall (later Opera House), on Fair Street, 1867-1869; Ulster County Savings Bank, Wall Street, 1868-1869; Office of Simeon and William B. Fitch , Wilbur, 1870; Children’s Church, Ponckhockie, 1870-1871; Kingston City Almshouse, 1872-1874; Thomas Cornell Carriage House, 1873; Dr. Robert Loughran House, Fair Street, 1873; Kingston Argus Building, Wall Street, 1874 (demolished); First Presbyterian Church, Elmendorf Street , 1878; New York State Armory , Broadway, 1878; and Stuyvesant Hotel, John and Fair Streets, 1910.
Wood became something of a specialist in hotel design, and was responsible for the second Overlook Mountain House (1878) above Woodstock, the Tremper House (1879) in Phoenicia, the Grand Hotel (1881) at Highmount, as well as hotels in Georgia and Florida. The most famous of the latter is the Tampa Bay Hotel (1891), preserved by the University of Tampa.
A. Wood died in Middletown on December 18, 1910, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Town of Bethel. His career hs been the subject of intense and fruitful research by Annon Adams and James Storrow, who have generously shared their findings with me.[Rhoads describes the Kingston Almshouse on page 114:] It speaks well of the new city government that the first building it erected was an institution to care (inexpensively) for 150 to 200 of the poor of Kingston. J. A. Wood had already designed the Poughkeepsie City Almshouse in 1868, and so he repeated the Italianate elements of that three-part facade in a fashion that alludes to the dignity of municipal government while avoiding expensive ornament. In 1954, the building was remodeled by Harry Halverson to serve as the Ulster County Chronic Infirmary.
Adams, Annon. “Victorian Ambitions: J. A. Wood’s Architectural Legacy in Ulster County,” a slide lecture presented to the Ulster County Historical Society at the Bevier House on November 3, 2007.
Blumin, Stuart M. The Urban Threshold – Growth and Change in a Nineteenth-Century American Community. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 1976.
Kellar, Jane and Roberts, Peter. “Preservation of the Kingston City Alms House (1872) – Kingston, NY.” Comment presented to Ulster County by the Friends of Historic Kingston about the preservation of the Alms House.
Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880. “City Alms House…What a Reporter Saw of Interest.” (Available online at fultonhistory.com; search “Kingston Alms Houses” and see third of twelve items). Kingston, New York.
Rhoads, William B. Kingston New York – The Architectural Guide. 2003. Black Dome Press. Hensonville, New York. The Alms House is pictured and described on page 114.
Schoonmaker, Marius. The History of Kingston, New York from Its Early Settlement to the Year 1820. Burr Printing House. New York: 1888.[Sections of this application were prepared by Lowell Thing using extensive notes provided by William B. Rhoads. Lowell Thing can be reached at email@example.com.]
 For information on Maplewood, contact Burt Gold, principal at Fallkill Properties, Collegeview Ave., 471-8433; on Mill Street Loft, contact Carole Wolf, 471-7477; this contact information provided by Professor Harvey Flad of Vassar College.
 Schoonmaker, pps. 376-377.
 Schoonmaker, p. 378.
 Schoonmaker, p. 382.
 Rhoads, p. 114.
 Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880.
 Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880.
 Rhoads informal note.
 Kellar, p. 3.