The Gift of Home

red toothbrush in frosted cup attached to lime green tile wall with white groutHeather Free knows what it’s like to be homeless. Employed full-time in the Human Services industry, Heather worked closely with those needing supportive services. A college graduate with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts, she is an accomplished violinist, mother of two, and blogger. However, a series of events — car accident, adverse medication reaction, a fiance’s cold feet, loss of insurance and then her job — put Heather on the other side of the Human Services table.

As a homeless single mom, she did what was best and sent her daughter to live with her father. She struggled to get well, both mentally and physically, while living nearly a year out of her handbag, sleeping on friends’ sofas or living room floors; one time, she slept under a bush behind a convenience store. “I couldn’t get the help I needed and I knew how the system works,” she said. “Homelessness is a full-time job. There are no hobbies when you’re homeless: there’s no thriving, just surviving.” She posted her plight online and so began a social media chain reaction that put Heather in touch with Property Manager, Tasyka DeRosalia. With a stroke of luck, Heather was housed within a week. 

While homeless, Heather traveled with her toothbrush in a Ziploc baggie, stashed consistently in her purse. No matter where she slept, she kept a simple routine: wake up, brush teeth, start day, hold onto hope, navigate homelessness. Two weeks after moving  into her apartment, she searched her handbag for the Ziploc’d toothbrush. Nothing. Frantically, she emptied the bag and then retraced her steps.

She found it…right where it’s supposed to be…in her bathroom toothbrush stand. She knew then she was home. The gift of Home offers peace of mind, reliability, safety, and security. A toothbrush in its place is why Home Matters.

Mending A Community

I consider myself lucky. My parents came from modest backgrounds and large families. Every resource was shared, saved, and utilized to its full expense. Both strove toward higher education; both earned their degrees. As college graduates, they worked hard from the bottom of the corporate ladder, saving what they could along the way, and accomplished enough to provide a comfortable life for me and my brother.

My brother and I were given everything we ever needed. We were taught the difference between needs and wants, and our needs were always met. We may have wanted and not received new gaming systems or clothes, but the minute a bone broke (and many did, we were rushed to the doctor without a second thought. There was never a question if we would have food on our table, heat for our house, or a stable place to live and call “home.”

I realize just now how fortunate I am. Beyond having the financial stability for my basic needs to be met, my home provided emotional stability and a place of refuge from the hardships of adolescence and growing up. I am lucky to have parents who can support me financially, emotionally, and mentally. Through their guidance, I have the confidence and ability to navigate the world around me. My college education was both a gift and an expectation from them, something I truly cherish and want to use to benefit my community. I gained valuable experience learning to serve those in the community and aiding in their overall wellbeing.

Home Matters because every person should feel a sense of refuge, stability, and safety from their living situation. It is the right of every individual to have their basic needs met, physically and mentally. We are all born to different situations and environments, but the need for a safe, secure, healthy home applies to everyone. Suffering due to a lack of these means is more than unnecessary. It is unjust. When a community’s citizens are taken care of and treated well, every person benefits. Working with an organization striving to provide safety and stability to neighbors in need begins the process of mending a community and is something I feel truly honored to be a part of.

Carolyn Smith is a SUNY New Paltz graduate majoring in Communications. She interned with RUPCO as a gran writer assistant in Fall 2017.

There’s no Place Like Home

Dorothy was right, there is no place like Home. For most, when you hear the word “Home” there is a strong feeling of nostalgia attached. Family is typically the main association and with that comes a sense of familiarity, security, love, trust and care.

When I think of Home, I remember baking cookies with my mom, throwing a baseball back and forth with my dad, completing homework at the kitchen  able and playing with my siblings and neighborhood friends.

When I was in school, I could not wait for the final bell to ring that meant I could go Home. Home was always the place I could be my most authentic self. At school, I was very quiet and shy. Though I was engaged in many school activities, I kept to myself and had only a few close friends. However, once Home, I had no reservations. Home was the place I felt most comfortable. If I felt excited, I could show it. If I needed to cry, I could let it out. There was no judgement or expectation behind those walls. My family and I, shared our most raw and honest versions of ourselves.

My Home was where my heart was. I carried Home with me as I formed my individuality there.

For me, my image of Home is a happy one. For others it can be a painful. But no matter the personal experience, the expectation for a Home comprises a sense of ownership, identity and self-hood. It was not until I went away to college that I realized what Home really was for me. As a teenager I craved small freedoms and new experiences; but once I received them I began to rethink what I wanted. Transitioning to a new living accommodation – a dorm suite that lacks privacy and familiarity – was especially difficult. A wonderful and trans-formative experience for many students, college living begins when you receive the keys to your “Home” on campus: a 15 x 15 space equipped with a complete stranger. Over the next nine months, I learned to make the best of my situation and space. With a roommate, you can find either a friend or a foe in your dorm room. In my college living experiences with roommates, I found that my dorm could either be a space I wanted to be in one or one I could not be away from enough. On campus, the disconnect between ‘housing’ and ‘home’ really came into focus.

I experienced homesickness to its fullest extent during my first few years of college. “Homesick” is a term many college students are accustomed to. By definition, the word homesick describes “a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.” With calls home to Mom and Dad, once, twice or three times a day, I counted down the days to vacation and longed for a comfortable night’s sleep in a bed that did not feel like a nail coffin.

Over time I became used to the dorm, the space, the roommates. I learned to live within those quarters without letting it take away from my overall great college experience. Nevertheless, I never considered my college room ‘Home’ because it lacked everything that made my family’s house the place I felt most comfortable, accepted and loved. I got past dorm life and now rent an apartment of my own. And, while I do love my apartment and the space and privacy it provides, it still does not have the same warmth and comfort I was lucky enough to have growing up. I understand it is a part of life to outgrow my Home, even if my family reassures me that I am always welcome to come back. The next course in life lies in finding what makes my house feel like a Home again. I know it can never the same, but I can learn to love this new place just as much. No Home is perfect, but those small fallibilities make each Home and family unit unique. At the end of the day, I see Home nurturing positive outcomes in my physical and mental health, education, employment, and relationships.

Home Matters because it is the place where I spend most of my time outside work or school. Home matters because it is the place that allows me to be the most honest version of myself. Home is where we start from. It is where we grow and thrive. But most importantly, home matters because it is the place you can be yourself with no inhibitions, to experience and share love, and be loved just for that.

Emily Humphrey is a 2018 SUNY New Paltz graduate majoring in Sociology and recently moved to a new apartment to call Home.

Michael Bisio Hits the Right Note in Home-Life Symphony

Michael Bisio holding bass black and white headshotMichael Bisio is an accomplished bassist player, music connoisseur, and long-time adjunct professor. Bisio also moved around many times, from Washington State to NYC, adding to his repertoire of cultural experiences.  He found stability at The Lace Mill in Kingston, where he lives with his wife and fellow artist Dawn Bisio.  Their apartment is his happy place with wiggle room to jive in and hang prized artwork hanging. Now, he can balance professorship, musical gigs, traveling, and love—a harmony he’d sought for years.

Bisio was a reserved student in college, shy and unassuming. Professors took note of his talent and realized self-confidence was holding him back from excelling. They routinely pushed him to step outside of his comfort zone in his work, to self-reflect on the success he wanted. They challenged him to see his potential, flaws included, modeling a budding artist into a star performer. For him, it was tough—to stand in front of sheet music and critics for hours a day. By graduation, he collected his degree and the payoff of a sharper sense of confidence.

Years later, married with a son, Bisio owned a home in Seattle. After experiencing a “high point” in home life, he divorced and moved cross-country for his musical career. He came to NYC, hopping from apartment to apartment for about a decade until he heard about The Lace Mill through a friend. He applied, and a “fantastic” opportunity unfolded for his music, housing and finding the love of his life next door. Dawn and Michael met passing through the door of ASK Gallery in Kingston—Dawn caught Michael’s eye. He flirted with a coy “you’re hot.” Dawn reciprocated, and the two instantly bonded. They soon moved in together and made their own hub for artsy exploration.

Now, Bisio is part of a large pool of artists who help each other out with events hosted at The Lace Mill. He’s glad he is in the mix, but with enough privacy to focus on his ever-evolving career. “I think in the abstract, it created a community that in the long run has proven to be diverse. It [The Lace Mill] gives me a platform to produce concerts, which benefits the community.” Artist-residents attend his concerts and they bring friends. Word of mouth spreads concert details quickly around town. Engaged audience members are key in these live concerts; they are an important “ingredient in the process” and contribute vibes—either high or low frequency—that Bisio feeds off for a unique emotive atmosphere. Live performance, he recognizes, is a special relationship between performer and audience. If the audience doesn’t understand the tradition behind the musical number, “they can still feel it—the overwhelming intensity of it.”

Bisio isn’t going to halt the torrent of gigs soon. He plans on affecting more people through his bassist work as long as he “remains creative and positive.” There’s always more good energy to create in the universe, and he feels it is his responsibility to contribute high-frequency vibrations that align people’s energies into a state of bliss. And after the shows are over, he comes home to his apartment, to relax and rejuvenate as he pleases. Indeed, his sacred space couldn’t be more loving and personal, a place which can be completely silent or filled with music, whichever, and whenever, he prefers. His home is where he can fluctuate between living and prepping for a show, balancing out the dynamics of being and doing, in symphony with his life partner.

Michael’s next Lace Mill concert is Saturday, April 21, from 4-6pm in the East Gallery of The Lace Mill, 165 Cornell St, Kingston. Suggested donation is $10.00. Guest parking is available on South Prospect Street and Manor Avenue. For more information, e-mail Michael at bisio@earthlink.net or visit MichaelBisio.com.

Check out Bisio’s photo feature on the American Express site: https://www.amexessentials.com/hudson-valley-guide/ Click “Start Slideshow and scroll to image #7.

Hope Through Activism: Lanette Hughes Inspires Through Artwork

Standing outside The Lace Mill, wearing over-sized black sunglasses, talking to a neighbor, Lanette Hughes appears nondescript. A cordial, “Hi, how are you?” to a stranger, she resumes her conversation. You would never guess she churned her tragedy into art in a profound way. A first-hand experience with domestic violence, her identity stolen and her savings robbed from her, these life-lesson setbacks made her willpower stronger. Lanette Hughes is not only a survivor, but a thriver — and her artwork embodies her understated vigor.

Hughe’s parents introduced her to situations at an early age that called for toughening up. They lived in Europe withinin target sites of WWII battle and concentration camp zones. While transitioning between countries, she found it difficult to reconcile that she had friends from opposing countries post-wartime. Her parent’s trip to Dachau further fragmented her sense of peace. The air-raid rubble and abandoned buildings that littered some streets haunted her as a child, a terror still raw when she thinks back.

Recently, Hughes channeled that experience into her artwork, “Human Beings are Not Created for Target Practice.” The large canvas oil painting highlights military personnel . If stripped of their uniforms, would they have reason to shoot the enemy? Hughes bears no bias towards “good” and “bad” sides where nationalism incurs.

She is, however, partial to beautiful art. While living in Germany, Hughes remembers trekking down to monasteries and playing nearby. One day while climbing a wall enclosure surrounding St. Michaelsberg, she fell and hurt herself. Monks brought her in, and she was introduced to wondrous sculpture and paintings within. Inspired, she asked her parents to hire a governess educate her in classical art training and illumination found in religious texts.

Being a sensitive artist and a newcomer whenever her parents moved, she stood out from the crowd. Coming to the United States, she was sorely misunderstood for her European values and mannerisms. She was often bullied and put down, and over time, these experiences impacted her artwork.

She was a target again a few years back, after she returned from a trip to Florida to find her identity stolen. Her home, savings, and future fell through her hands. Hughes became homeless, living out of her car, where she slept and traveled for weeks in Woodstock. She refused to give up her dog when Social Services prompted her to do so, so she could receive a no-pets hotel room. Deprived of everything else, she wasn’t relinquishing her four-footed companion.

Hughes kept her spirits up and applied to housing assistance programs in the local area that would allow dogs. At the time, RUPCO was accepting applications for The Lace Mill for artists. She applied to the lottery  and the patterns of the universe aligned with her needs. “In the miracle of miracles, I got RUPCO housing. And I love it here—every day I thank my creator for this fabulous place and all the friends I have made.”

Hughes realizes that others don’t have it as good. At her last exhibition, held at The Lace Mill in October 2017, Hughes combined her activism with her art show, and made a stand for something larger than making money. She created 50 pieces for sale, where 75% of proceeds benefited local charities. One of her paintings benefited the Haitian People’s Project to provide meals for afflicted families. Consistently without food, Haitian parents often feed their children “mud cakes.” These look like pies, but made of mud, and eating them causes malnutrition and infection. Hughes wants to help in her way, through her art and social activism.

Hughes is proud to live in an apartment where she knows her efforts are supported. She’s made many connections to Kingston nonprofits and continues to support human rights in the way she knows best. Her influence has already been felt among the community; one man started to cry when he saw one of her paintings regarding domestic violence. “’This happened to me, and I’ve never told anybody,’” Hughes recalls. “It really touched him. He didn’t say whether it happened to him, his mother, wife or girlfriend, but it happened to him somehow.”

Her paintings possess an understated emotional impact. She doesn’t wish people to turn aghast, but she wants her visual to resonate with them. She wants people to know that there is awareness, that others have been through similar situations, and the often misunderstood pain — maybe portrayed as endless swirls or spirals in her abstract work — is normal and valid. She connects to her audience on a personal level. “I don’t like the word authentic, but I try to be sincere about who I am. I’ve been through things and I try to relate that to other people.”

Maybe malnutrition, abuse, or trauma has robbed a person of identity, and they use public facades to hide the pain. By recognizing themselves in her work, a part of them is resurrected and recognized. Maybe it will take years to fix, with in-between years of denial. But something clicked, and that is what activism is all about.

Hughes has changed her perspective on earning a living and being an artist. “I don’t need as much as I thought I needed to make me happy. I’m happy with or without. But the fact that I can paint whatever I want is an incredible blessing. And because I live here, I can do that.”

A Bag of Cans

I picked up Janet hitchhiking this morning. The first time, I’d driven past her at 55mph down Route 9W. Thumb out, cigarette dangling from her lip, she stood shivering close to the metal guardrail — it was 46 degrees. She looked like she had slept in the woods – no doubt, she had. 

I drove past thinking, “Where is she going? Wonder what’s her story?” She looked worried, as if she was late for work, or that she wished she had a job to be late to. I found that to be the case. She lost her job, and her apartment, after breaking an ankle. I didn’t ask how, but from the smell of the bag of cans she lugged with her, I envisioned a cadre of circumstances: a miscalculated stride off the curb, stepping into a groundhog hole, or simply not paying attention. I’d done those  myself over a lifetime, some with, and without, the help of a bag of cans.

After a mile, I turned around. I half hoped she’d be there, half-hoped someone else had stopped for her. Flashers blinking, I pulled over gradually, giving the 18-wheeler behind me time to decelerate and pass. I stopped. She opened the door and thanked me. She wondered why I had my flashers on, what was my story: was I running out of gas? Or was I actually stopping to pick her up? She passed in her cooler, a bag of cans, and climbed in. She’d missed her bus by three minutes. Three minutes, she said, she couldn’t catch a break. She thanked me again, and told me I was one of her “Turnaround Girls.”

Trembling, she clutched a makeshift cup from an apple juice can, sharp aluminum edges folded over made for softer sipping. She cradled a second cigarette in icy-bent fingers, blue with cold and chipped nail polish. Ten minutes in the highway-side wind coupled with a night in morning dew-lined tent had frozen her to the bone. She huddled on the passenger side. I cranked the seat heater and blower motor; she defrosted.

In 5 minutes 23 seconds, from roadside to her destination, I got a glimpse of her story. I’d heard parts of this before, from people in need, some homeless, living in the woods, couch-surfing at a friend’s, tent-dwellers and those in-between on their way to permanent housing. They’d been to my office asking for help, help out, help up, any help.

Why the woods I asked? To save money for an apartment, she said, it was the only way to get ahead. But someone stole her pocketbook yesterday with $400 in savings. A friend had found her purse contents, but not before she’d cancelled her bank account; the bank charged her $30 to do so. She was back to zero. Luckily, she bought a tent two days ago; the Catskill cold had set in this week and she needed protection, but still needed a tarp. She’d been out there 10 days. She couldn’t afford a tarp. She cried, reset.

Janet would charge her phone at the convenience store. Her phone, a needed expense was her lifeline to work prospects, a human connection, a promise of another life, a home. Her battery barely holds a charge longer than an hour, she said,  but she’d make it work. She’d recycle the bag of cans she’d collected while walking and spend a dollar on coffee. She’d warm up, cry, recharge, reset.

Her warm clothes stored 30 miles away, her Kingston apartment belongings in limbo; she had no way to get to her stuff, to move them, to store them. She cried through our brief talk about support services, how a system tough to navigate was cruel and offered little help and no hope. She couldn’t access the support she needed. Anger reset her composure. She was not letting this get her down. Her sporadic surveying gig in Tug Hill provided inconsistent income that disqualified her from most services. We talked about 12-step meetings, asking for help, holding onto hope that things will turn around. She thanked me again and closed the door.

I crossed the street to get my car serviced. In the back seat, I found the bag of cans. Shame-filled, I clutched the stale-beer promise of 5-cents-on-redemption. I cringed, wondering what the Service Desk employee thought. Did he think that clanking smelly bag of cans was mine? Disgusted, I wanted to toss the bag of cans, ditch them inside the warm waiting room recycling bin, or maybe stash them out-of-sight outside under a dealership bush. Would this bag of cans really matter to Janet if it weren’t returned? What if it were her clothes bag and phone? I cried inside, reset.

I climbed into the warm shuttle van and asked the driver for two stops. Walking into the convenience store, I found Janet charging her phone, making small talk with another semi-defrosted companion. I gave her a bag of cans. She smiled, thanked me, hugged me. “It’s gonna get better, right?” Yes, I said. And walked out.

In the passenger seat, I cried, reset, and went to work… for housing for those most in need.

Do you want to share your perspective? Email Tara Collins with your story.

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.