RUPCO Purchases Midtown Commercial Property for Community Wealth-building Development

aerial view of The Metro site mapRUPCO completed the next step in bringing community wealth-building to midtown. RUPCO closed on the former MetLife Hall of Records building last week, a 70,000-square-foot underutilized factory/warehouse at 2 South Prospect Street. RUPCO is proposing The Metro, a film & technology hub including Maker Spaces and other creative uses. Community wealth-building focuses on creating jobs while producing materials and value-added products/services within a community, instead of outsourcing those same products and sending hard-earned local dollars out of the region. RUPCO has entered a strategic partnership with Stockade Works, a nonprofit specializing in media attraction, production, and training based in the Hudson Valley and spearheaded by actor-producer Mary Stuart Masterson.

“The opportunity to once again repurpose a fallow, vacant building — this time through a community wealth-building approach to bring a mix of creative uses, all with the purpose of creating local jobs and capturing local wealth — is very exciting. This project is about creating opportunity for everyone,” says Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at RUPCO. “The Metro is perhaps the last vacant factory building in Kingston. We’re combing our expertise in rehabilitating and managing old buildings with Stockade Works’ creative vison and drive. This is a new venture for all of us and we are not sure what the final mix of creative uses will be. The goal is to work collaboratively to build and keep the wealth, local. Already, the phone is ringing from Makers and small businesses who want to be a part of the scene at The Metro!”

Stockade Works is dedicated to fostering the further potential of film and technology in the Hudson Valley to increase economic growth and support local communities. As a driver of economic development in the region, Stockade Works attracts outside production and technology startups, connects regional media professionals, and trains the local workforce to create local crew and tech professionals. “Stockade Works is excited to partner with RUPCO to realize our vision for a community media hub to further education and innovation to ready the local workforce for jobs in film, television, and technology,” said Mary Stuart Masterson, Stockade Works Founder and Board President. “Stockade Works is dedicated to fostering the further potential of film and technology in the Hudson Valley to increase economic growth and support local communities. As a driver of economic development in the region, Stockade Works attracts outside production and technology start-ups, connects regional media professionals, and trains the local workforce to create local crew and tech professionals.”

It is our core belief that every individual should have access to fruitful economic opportunities, which includes access to well-paying jobs with avenues for growth. We believe in providing paths of entry to industries that suffer from a lack of diversity in order to transform the faces of entertainment and technology.

The $14-million development will generate a short-term, local economic impact during construction and long-term economic impact through job creation. RUPCO purchased the property with a private mortgage through the Leviticus Fund.

The Metro was named a 2016 “signature priority project” by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (MHREDC). Renovation, upgrades, and historic preservation will utilize a variety of funding sources including the federal dollars through New Market Tax Credits (NMTC). The project is also eligible for state and federal historic tax credits; RUPCO nominated the property for both state and federal historic registers. Empire State Development is supporting the development of The Metro with a grant of up to $1 million, which was recommended by the MHREDC in Round VI of the REDC initiative. “The Metro will be home to two of New York’s premier industries – manufacturing and film/TV,” said ESD President, CEO, and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “This project highlights the strength and success of New York State’s community-based approach to economic development, by recognizing and responding to a growing need in the Mid-Hudson region for exactly this kind of innovative workspace. The Metro will generate local jobs for local residents and Empire State Development is proud to support this project’s growth and success.”

The Metro property includes the warehouse, parking area, and Barmann Park, which will continue serving the local community’s recreational needs. RUPCO honors the name tradition, Metro, a nickname local children have called the Barmann Park area for years. Along with Stockade Works, The Metro’s immediate tenant roll includes private, local enterprises Chronogram and Steintex.

 “My administration fought long and hard to bring the Upstate Film Tax Credit Program to Ulster County, and we have already seen tremendous results with several multi-million dollar films being shot across our county.  We are extremely excited about the future of the film industry in Ulster County and our many partners including Mary Stuart Masterson who is an integral part of this project. By locating Stockade Works at this sight, there is the potential to deliver meaningful high-quality jobs for our community, as well as industry-specific job training,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

“This is an exciting step forward for RUPCO, Stockade Works and for our community at large,” said City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble. “This building in the heart of Midtown will no longer sit vacant. Instead, it will be bustling with innovation and purpose, empowering our local residents to access training, employment, and entrepreneurship. This isn’t just job creation, it’s community revitalization.”

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.

M&T Bank Sponsors HomeOwnership Center

RUPCO accepts M&T Bank sponsorship check of $10,000

Tara Dickett, Kevin O’Connor, Alex Hajek, Catherine A. Maloney, The Big Check, Eric Dahl, Kathy Germain, Sandy Altomare meet at Savonnah’s, Kingston.

RUPCO and M&T Bank share a vision for first-time homebuyers in the Hudson Valley, one that’s spanned several years and scores of first-time homebuyers. Last week, M&T Bank representatives Tara Dickett, Alex Hajek and Eric Dahl presented a $10,000 Girder Sponsorship check to RUPCO Board Chair Catherine Maloney, CEO Kevin O’Connor, Kathy Germain and Sandy Altomare from the RUPCO’s NeighborWorks America HomeOwnership Center.

M&T Bank — a consistent supporter of RUPCO’s NeighborWork’s America Homeownership Center located at 301 Fair Street, Kingston — believes its investment in local homebuyer education and savings programs works. “Homeownership is important. Like so much in life, our impact is greater when we work together. Thank you RUPCO for all that you do,” noted Eric Dahl, Vice President and Regional CRA Officer in MTB’s Community Reinvestment Program.

As of December 1, 2016, RUPCO’s HomeOwnership Center brought 81 first-time homebuyers across the finish line in Ulster County. The demographic make-up of that homebuyer group included 12 African-American (15%), 3 Hispanic and 13 single head of household families (16%).

The homebuying process, from orientation to house closing, can take up to two years. In 2015, 75 first-time homebuyers came through the education process to owning a home, up from 55 the year prior. “RUPCO’s Homeownership Center has helped hundreds of first-time buyers achieve the dream of homeownership,” adds Kathy Germain, RUPCO’s Vice President of Housing Services. “We all know that purchasing a home is one of our biggest, personal financial investments. At RUPCO, we work with local lenders like M&T Bank, who provide great fixed-rate, affordable mortgage products and the First Home Club match-savings program (FHC) to help families transition into homeownership with an affordable payment.” Often, a first-time homebuyer pays a mortgage payment, including other housing costs, that costs less than what the family is currently paying for rent.  Generally, families of 1-2 people can earn up to $60,160 to qualify for FHC. Mortgage payments are factored at an affordable rate or 30-42% of  a family’s gross monthly income, leaving greater disposable income for other necessities like food, clothing, and transportation.

As a mortgage lender, M&T Bank participates in the Federal Home Loan Bank’s First Home Club where first-time homebuyers open a match-savings program to facilitate savings toward a first home purchase. For every $1 a person saves, the bank matches $4, over a minimum of 10 months. A future homeowner can earn a combined grant of $7500 towards closing and down payment costs. Along with income eligibility requirements, future homebuyers must take six hours of homebuyer education and secure a mortgage through the lending bank. M&T Bank averages over 800 First Home Club participants a year, the highest enrollment in New York State. In 2015, RUPCO facilitated $336,000 in First Home Club grants.

Last year, RUPCO’s Homeownership Center introduced 81 homebuyers to their American Dream which generated over $10-million in mortgage lending through local banks. The average mortgage cost $140,880 with an average first-home purchase price of $155,251.

HomeOwnership Center sponsorship supports homebuyer marketing and outreach, orientation and homebuyer education classes. Accepting the M&T Bank sponsorship check was RUPCO Board Chair Catherine A. Maloney. “The partnership between M&T Bank and RUPCO is strong and vital. Together, we’re helping people achieve the dream of homeownership.”

RUPCO Receives Ulster County Executive Arts Awards

RUPCO 1 of 9 Honorees of Ulster County Executive's Arts AwardsOn Tuesday, June 6, Arts Mid-Hudson will present RUPCO with an Ulster County Executive’s Arts Award in the “Business/Corporation” category at its annual fundraiser to be held at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory.

“To share a night of recognition with the creative community — especially our partners Center for Creative Education and Lynne Wood and Stephen Blauweiss, documentary producers of “Lost Rondout,” — is a true testament to what we can achieve together,” notes Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer. “To be recognized for our contribution to the arts community with a nod from County Executive Mike Hein and AMH is fantastic, and we celebrate RUPCO’s high and low-profile work to expand Ulster County’s cultural vitality.”

RUPCO’s higher profile engagement on behalf of the arts community includes:

  • Creative placemaking through historic preservation of the once-vacant curtain-factory-factory-turned Lace Mill, a nationally recognized award-winning effort in community development complete with three gallery spaces, community offerings, and affordable living in 55 apartments with a preference for artists
  • Host site for Kingston Sculpture Biennial in 2015 where nine large-format pieces shared indoor and outdoor space, including “Big Boy” a 15-foot steel rocking horse at The Lace Mill entrance
  • Integrating the arts community with seniors and working families at the intergenerational campus, Woodstock Commons which preferences seven apartments for artists exploring their talent

Some of RUPCO’s lesser know affiliations with the regional cultural exchange include:

  • Hosting the annual Kingston High School Student Exhibit in conjunctions with the Women’s Studio Workshop held each year at The Kirkland
  • Serving as a nonprofit partner/grant partner for individual artists applying to AMH and other artist-work grants
  • Supporting the production of “Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal” as one of its executive producers
  • Spearheading the new construction Energy Square in midtown Kingston and future home of Center for Creative Education and Hudson Valley Tech Meet Up
  • Collaborating with StockadeWorks to bring TV/film sound stages, production studio and training center to The Metro; The Metro will also offer Maker’s Spaces for creative manufacturing, light industry and large-format artistry.

RUPCO is one of nine honorees including:

  • Woodstock Film Festival (Art Organization)
  • Center for Creative Education (Arts in Education)
  • Jane Bloodgood Abrams (Individual Artist)
  • Norm Magnusson (Art in Public Places)
  • Katharine L. McKenna (Patron)
  • Lynn Woods & Stephen Blauweiss for “Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal” (Special Citation)
  • Barbara Bravo (Volunteer)
  • Niaya DeLisi (Student with Exceptional Promise in the Arts)

“We see Kingston’s new economy steeped in The Arts, from manufacturing hard goods used in creating them to establishing new space for creative talents to thrive,” adds O’Connor. “In the process, RUPCO’s vision – to create strong, diverse and vibrant communities with opportunity and a home for everyone – supports the work and homelife of creative people looking to call Kingston ‘Home.'”

Open Letter to the Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s right. Surely, we can do better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely, 

Kevin O’Connor
Chief Executive Officer, RUPCO

“Those People” are People Like My Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gimme Roots

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

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

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

Holly at The Lace Mill

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

WIMBY: Welcome in My Backyard

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

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

Yet we do this. We speak like this daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s be WE.

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

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