History at 300 Flatbush Avenue

Bronze plaque commemorating Ulster County Chronic InfirmaryIt speaks well of the newly formed city government of Kingston that the first building it erected, between 1872 and 1874, was an institution to care for some 200 of the city’s poor. The City Almshouse was designed by the region’s leading architect, John. A. Wood (1837-1910), who had already designed many important Kingston buildings. Wood used an up-to-date Victorian style, the Italianate, to create a building with a three-part facade that was both dignified and economical.  Italianate features include the freely interpreted classical forms of the porch, the variously arched windows topped with drip moldings, the projecting eaves, and the gently pitched roof. Also worthy of preservation are a utility building and barn or stable behind the main building. The Almshouse interior was remodeled in 1954 by architect Harry Halverson to serve as the Ulster County Chronic Infirmary, but the original exterior was minimally altered.

Architect Wood based Kingston’s three-part Italianate facade on the Poughkeepsie City Alms House he had designed earlier, in 1868. Poughkeepsie’s former Almshouse, listed on the National Register in 1978, can now perhaps be a model for the preservation and adaptive reuse of Kingston’s structure. Poughkeepsie’s main building has been successfully renovated as Maplewood, housing for senior citizens, while the adjacent barn or stable has been adapted to function as Mill Street Loft, an arts program for young people.[1]  Ulster County proposes a similar adaptive reuse that will preserve this historic building, the first built by the new City of Kingston after its creation in 1872 and the work of a distinguished nineteenth century Hudson Valley architect.              

Early Care for the Poor in Ulster County and Kingston

In his history of Kingston written in 1888, Marius Schoonmaker wrote that the trustees of the early township of Kingston had “uniformly from the time of their incorporation taken care of the poor of the town and provided for their wants.”  Provision for the poor was, in fact, written into the town’s charter.  In 1770, the colonial legislature explicitly made the trustees overseers of the poor.  But it was 1790 before the township’s Board of Trustees resolved on building an alms house.  They also specified a piece of property on which it would be built.[2]

In time, other use was found for the property on which an alms house was to have been built but the resolution to have an alms house remained in effect. In 1803, the town trustees set forth a plan for selling off lots in the town’s “Commons” or undeveloped wood and pasture land to the town’s freeholders.  The money collected for selling the lots would be used to finance support for the poor, presumably including the building of the alms house first mentioned in 1790.[3]

Kingston City Alms HouseIn 1805, the Village of Kingston was created out of the larger township.[4]  Although provision of some kind was probably made for the poor of Kingston village, no building seems to have been designated for this purpose nor, based on a reading of Stuart Blumin’s study of the neighboring Rondout village, does that much newer village, incorporated in 1849, seem to have included such an institution. In 1872, the villages of Kingston and Rondout combined to form the City of Kingston.  At the very first meeting of the city’s new Common Council, Mayor James Lindsley pointed out that the State Legislature provided for the establishment of an Almshouse Commission and bonding authority of $10,000 to build an alms house.  According to Mayor Lindsley, the greatest change in the new Charter was in taking care of the poor and the distribution of alms.

A newly appointed Almshouse Commission voted at its first meeting to visit the Alms House in Poughkeepsie.  In June of 1873 the Commission voted to hire J. A. Wood, an architect who was well-known in the Hudson Valley “to draw the plans and superintend the construstion of a large and suitable building for the keeping of paupers.”  After acquiring 21 acres on the outskirts of Kingston for a building site, the Commission determined that $10,000 was not enough to build the alms house and went back to the State Legislature for permission to bond up to $25,000 for the building.

Work began during the summer of 1873 with Henry Otis chosen to do the masonry work. It was the first of a number of buildings on which Wood and Otis would work together.  The new Kingston City Almshouse was opened in June of 1874.[5]

Black & white postcard of Kingston City Alms HouseThe New Almshouse

The 21-acre site for the Almshouse was on Flatbush Road at the northern boundary of the village.  The facility was intended to care for somewhere between 150 and 200 of the poor.[6]  The main building consisted of a four-story main building (30 x 60 feet) with adjoining three-story wings (each 40 x 40 feet), in an Italianate style clad in brick.  Plans were made for a large brick barn (30 x 50 feet) and for a frame laundry building behind the Almshouse.  A quarry behind the laundry was to provide stone for a wall around the property.  Of the 21 acres, 16 were to be cultivated for vegetable gardening together with apple trees.  A spring-fed reservoir (38 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep) was to provide water.  The site itself cost $7,000 and the main building $23,000.  Another $22,000 was allocated for the grounds.[7]

The Almshouse opened in July, 1874. Six years later, an unnamed reporter in the Kingston Daily Freeman wrote that “There has been an immense amount of work done by the inmates of the institution in the years since 1874 in grading.  Other cities have their charitable institutions . . . but there are few cities that can boast of as good and well kept an Alms House as Kingston can.  Much fault has been found of the cost of its erection, but those who conceived the plans were working for the future, and coming generations may praise them for their far-seeing wisdom.  It is a substantial building, and when poor people have become so old that they have no kith or kin on which to depend for support may thank fortune to be allowed to live their remaining days in such a home as is here provided for them.”

“The house as far as cleanliness and fresh air is concerned is as good as any hotel or summer boarding house in this or any other county. It would pay any one to visit the Alms House, and go into its upper stories, as the best view can there be obtained of the surrounding country in our city.  The view takes in a grand sweep nearly all the Catskill range and the Shawangunk mountains, the whole of old Kingston village and a long stretch of country including the level plain toward Saugerties,  which already has been waving fields of grain.  Just inside the main entrance to the building are the two offices of the Superintendent . . . . The dining room is very pleasant, having windows its entire length and facing the Catskills. . . . The kitchen contains a mammoth American cook stove.  The whole building is heated by steam . . . .”[8]

Later or Additional Buildings

The one-story building with monitor roof immediately behind the main building of the Almshouse is identified in 1932 Sanborn maps as the laundry, built sometime after 1880. A similar laundry was built just behind the Poughkeepsie Almshouse.

The barn or stable further to the rear of the property (probably the building scheduled to be built in 1880) again relates to stables or barns behind the Poughkeepsie Almshouse.

Bronze plaque honoring Linda UhlfelderA Burying Ground

A “burying ground” at the Almshouse is mentioned in these issues of the Kingston Daily Freeman:

May 3, 1907: Body of Frank Sheldon (with “bad habits”) interred.

June 23, 1909: Body of unidentified man killed in north yard of West Shore Railroad buried at Almshouse, but now identified and disinterred for burial in New Jersey.

April 12, 1910: Body of Mag Graney found in Hudson River “after a debauche” probably to be interred at Almshouse burying ground.

August 15, 1911: Body of Henry Clark who died suddenly on upper Broadway interred in the Almshouse burial ground after Undertaker Murphy unable to communicate with relatives.

Similarities Between Kingston and Poughkeepsie Almshouses

Both of the alms houses have a central, three-story main block flanked by matching two-story wings placed slightly forward of the main block. Both are in the Italianate style in terms of their porches, window heads, cornices, and low roofs with slightly rising gables.[9]

More Recent History

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Almshouse was commonly known as “The Poor House” and was administered by the Board of Alms Commissioners . In 1948, the building was vacated and, in 1954, the property was transferred to the county for use as a chronic infirmary.   The Ulster County Infirmary operated in the building until new facilities were built at another site (Golden Hill) in 1973.  Thereafter, the building served as offices for the Ulster County Health Department until 2014 or 2015.[10]               

 Architect J.A. Wood and riendsThe Architect: John A. Wood

 [The following is from William B. Rhoads’s Kingston New York – The Architectural Guide (page 179):

 A. Wood was the leading architect in the Mid-Hudson region in the late 1860s and 1870s, designing several of Kingston’s most prominent buildings of that period. Born in 1837 in the Town of Bethel, Sullivan County, he was the son of Stephen C. Wood and Mary Crist Wood. By 1863 he was practicing in Poughkeepsie, where his office remained until 1871 when he established his office on Broadway in New York.  His operations were centered in New York for the rest of his life.

His buildings in Kingston include First Baptish Church, Albany Avenue, 1868; conversion of former Dutch Reforemd Church to St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, 1869; Kignston Music Hall (later Opera House), on Fair Street, 1867-1869; Ulster County Savings Bank, Wall Street, 1868-1869; Office of Simeon and William B. Fitch , Wilbur, 1870; Children’s Church, Ponckhockie,  1870-1871; Kingston City Almshouse, 1872-1874;  Thomas Cornell Carriage House, 1873;  Dr. Robert Loughran House, Fair Street, 1873; Kingston Argus Building, Wall Street, 1874 (demolished); First Presbyterian Church, Elmendorf Street  , 1878; New York State Armory , Broadway, 1878; and Stuyvesant Hotel, John and Fair Streets, 1910.

Wood became something of a specialist in hotel design, and was responsible for the second Overlook Mountain House (1878) above Woodstock, the Tremper House (1879) in Phoenicia, the Grand Hotel (1881) at Highmount, as well as hotels in Georgia and Florida.  The most famous of the latter is the Tampa Bay Hotel (1891), preserved by the University of Tampa.

A. Wood died in Middletown on December 18, 1910, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Town of Bethel. His career hs been the subject of intense and fruitful research by Annon Adams and James Storrow, who have generously shared their findings with me.

[Rhoads describes the Kingston Almshouse on page 114:]  It speaks well of the new city government that the first building it erected was an institution to care (inexpensively) for 150 to 200 of the poor of Kingston.  J. A. Wood had already designed the Poughkeepsie City Almshouse in 1868, and so he repeated the Italianate elements of that three-part facade in a fashion that alludes to the dignity of municipal government while avoiding expensive ornament.  In 1954, the building was remodeled by Harry Halverson to serve as the Ulster County Chronic Infirmary.

Bibliography        

Adams, Annon. “Victorian Ambitions: J. A. Wood’s Architectural Legacy in Ulster County,” a slide lecture presented to the Ulster County Historical Society at the Bevier House on November 3, 2007.

Blumin, Stuart M. The Urban Threshold – Growth and Change in a Nineteenth-Century American Community. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 1976.

Kellar, Jane and Roberts, Peter. “Preservation of the Kingston City Alms House (1872) – Kingston, NY.”  Comment presented to Ulster County by the Friends of Historic Kingston about the preservation of the Alms House.                                      

Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880. “City Alms House…What a Reporter Saw of Interest.” (Available online at fultonhistory.com; search “Kingston Alms Houses” and see third of twelve items).  Kingston, New York.

Rhoads, William B. Kingston New York – The Architectural Guide. 2003.  Black Dome Press.  Hensonville, New York.  The Alms House is pictured and described on page 114.     

Schoonmaker, Marius.  The History of Kingston, New York from Its Early Settlement to the Year 1820. Burr Printing House. New York: 1888.      

[Sections of this application were prepared by Lowell Thing using extensive notes provided by William B. Rhoads. Lowell Thing can be reached at twothings@hvc.rr.com.] 

[1] For information on Maplewood, contact Burt Gold, principal at Fallkill Properties, Collegeview Ave., 471-8433; on Mill Street Loft, contact Carole Wolf, 471-7477; this contact information provided by Professor Harvey Flad of Vassar College.

[2] Schoonmaker, pps.  376-377.

[3] Schoonmaker, p. 378.

[4] Schoonmaker, p. 382.

[5]Adams.

[6] Rhoads, p. 114.

[7] Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880.

[8] Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880.

[9] Rhoads informal note.

[10] Kellar, p. 3.

RUPCO Strives to Better Engage Latino Community

Pictured l-r: James Kopp, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Hannah Karp, Hugo JuleOn October 21st, RUPCO Outreach Coordinators Hugo Jule and James Kopp and Executive Assistant to the CEO Maru Gonzalez attended the 3rd Annual Hudson Valley Latino Forum held at Dutchess County Community College in Poughkeepsie.

Nearly 300 participants — including NYS Secretary of State, NYS Comptroller, State Assembly and County legislature members, City Mayor, Governor’s office, Empire State Development, Federal and State Agencies — came out to share perspective and service information. Organizations from Long Island to Albany and more that 25 sponsors, including RUPCO GJGNY, contributed their ideas on how to improve the quality of life of all residents in the Hudson Valley. 

Several round table discussions addressed health, media, community, education, politics, business and arts. James sat in on the media and politics sessions; Hugo attended the community and business sessions; and Maru attended the politics and community sessions. During the business session, Hugo explained how saving energy can improve business profit, as well as save money at home. Hannah Karp from Solarize Hudson Valley tabled next to RUPCO so that energy efficiency and renewable energy were on display together.

“One concern expressed at the forum was the difficulty that agencies have in bringing services to the Latino community,” notes Hugo. “This is due, in part, to the different immigration situations that residents may be dealing with. There needs to be a consistent, trustworthy presence of agencies in the community. Moving forward, the RUPCO GJGNY team will continue to work with the community leaders who work with the Hispanic population in the Hudson Valley so they may all benefit from the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program.”

RUPCO is also working to provide better service connections to the Latino community with its first-time homebuyer program and foreclosure prevention services. RUPCO recently launched a Spanish home buyer education orientation series and several energy-efficiency videos spoken in, or translated overdub, into Spanish.

Pictured l-r: James Kopp, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Hannah Karp, Hugo Jule

RUPCO Board Receives $10,000 at Completion of Leadership Development Training

RUPCO Board accepts $10k Big Check for Excellence in Governance workThe Board of Directors at RUPCO, affordable housing advocate and innovative community developer in the Hudson Valley, received $10,000 last week for its completion of the NeighborWorks America (NWA) Excellence in Governance Program. NWA President & CEO Paul Weech and the Board’s personal coach Carilee Warner presented the check and commemorative tile awards to key board members at RUPCO’s 35th anniversary celebration, Community Lunch, on October 13.

The NeighborWorks Excellence in Governance program is an 18-month board leadership development intensive designed to help boards create lasting, adaptive change and transform from responsible to exceptional. “Our Board of Directors is dedicated, passionate and, now with this training, empowered to take our organization to the next level,” notes Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at RUPCO. “We look to them for leadership, direction and commitment as we move into our next 35 years of creating homes, supporting people and improving communities.”

RUPCO is one of 16 Class of 2016 graduates and joins 40 other affiliates as Excellence in Governance Program alumni. NeighborWorks America directly supports a network of more than 240 nonprofit organizations with technical assistance, grants and training for more than 12,000 professionals in the affordable housing and community development field every year. RUPCO is a Charter Member of NeighborWorks and CEO Kevin O’Connor was recognized as NeighborWorks’ Practitioner of the Year in 2013.

“RUPCO’s team worked one-on-one with Coach Carilee Warner to develop performance challenges and areas for improvement and focus,” added O’Connor. “Using a performance-based framework paired with governance principles, the Board assessed their current level of engagement, set goals, defined success, and measured effectiveness.” The Excellence in Governance Program enhances governance through changing behaviors, strengthening ways of doing business for the long term, as well as enhancing the culture of the board.

“Five board members took on the leadership challenge,” noted O’Connor. ‘This was a huge time commitment from this team. They worked with Coach Carilee, attended three weekend in-person trainings, and then reported back and received input from RUPCO’s full board of directors at a board retreat. The goal was to focus on important existing work rather than to create new work. The leadership training lasted 18 months and NeighborWorks will circle back with our group in 18-24 months to assess our progress, find out what habits we’ve held onto, and how our Board is working with our broader constituent base and partners.”

The Board plans to use the Excellence in Governance award check to seed a new homeowner restoration fund in honor of Lisa Schatzel, a former RUPCO board member who passed away earlier this year. Lisa dedicated her life at Ulster Savings Bank to orchestrating mortgages for first-time homebuyers; this fund would help fund post-closing repairs and renovations.

According to the NeighborWorks America website, “training and additional governance experts help board members learn and apply concepts on:

  • building constructive partnerships and an engaging board culture
  • fostering functional and social inclusion
  • sustaining organizational resources
  • becoming ambassadors beyond the board room
  • creating lasting, adaptive change”

(Pictured are past-chair James B. Childs, Secretary Leah Gherardi, current board chair Catherine Maloney and RUPCO Chief Executive Officer Kevin O’Connor. Other Excellence in Governance Program team members were Christopher Marx and Patrick Paul. RUPCO’s complete board member list is captured below.)

RUPCO Board of Directors: Catherine A. Maloney (Chairperson), Christopher J. Marx (Vice-Chairperson), Henry Gleich (Treasurer), Leah Gherardi (Secretary), James B. Childs, Renee Darmstadt, Karen Winkle-Gorsline, Richard Heese, Joan Lonergan, Adam Mandell

Advisory Council Members: Thomas A. Collins, Peter M. Frank, John Mizerak, Patrick Paul, Constance Snyder

Proposed housing brings historic building back to its roots of serving public need

Alms House, 300 Flatbush Avenue, Kingston, built circa 1874RUPCO, the Hudson Valley’s premier developer and operator of affordable housing, and the Ulster County Economic Development Alliance (UCEDA) took an important step today toward rising to the challenge of providing a housing solution to many of the County’s most vulnerable residents. In keeping with Governor Cuomo’s call this year to construct 1200 units of housing of supportive housing for the homeless across the state, the UCEDA entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with RUPCO to sell the County’s historic Alms House site at 300 Flatbush Avenue to RUPCO who plans to develop a 66-unit, integrated housing campus to provide housing for the homeless and seniors.

The property currently features the City of Kingston’s historic Alms House built circa 1874, and fronts on both Flatbush Avenue and Route 9W. RUPCO expects to repurpose the existing structure with 34 units of single-resident apartments. The Kingston Supportive Housing proposal also includes new construction of 32 apartments, age-restricted to seniors age 55 and over. 35 of the apartments will offer support services to a mix of homeless populations with special needs including veterans and frail or disabled seniors.

“The MOU is an important first step to redeveloping this property in response to a growing need, and we are proud to have the opportunity to make this historic site a home to some of Ulster’s most vulnerable populations,” said Kevin O’Connor, RUPCO’s Chief Executive Officer. “The use of this building as a center of supportive housing services is a natural step in the history of how the most vulnerable populations among us are treated. People who were left behind by society at the time of its construction were housed here as a ‘poor house’; later it was a hospital ward for those suffering from tuberculosis. Today, the goal is to provide the dignity of a home to everyone. That’s what we’re going to do here.”

“RUPCO has a track record for creating high quality, accessible housing units to meet the diverse needs of our population,” said Mayor Steve Noble. “I am pleased that RUPCO is focusing its efforts and resources on filling the gap in housing opportunities for those in need of supportive services, including homeless individuals and senior citizens. I am confident that should RUPCO succeed in its funding requests and approvals, residents accessing this new supportive housing campus will benefit immensely. In addition to providing good quality housing to our local residents, I am pleased that the property will be added to the tax rolls, which will benefit our entire community.”

In addition to an ever-present need for affordable senior housing, Ulster County has just 27 shelters beds to house homeless families. Between January and April 2016, the monthly average number of homeless people in Ulster County was 160. That number climbed to 177 during May. When Ulster County’s 27 shelter beds are full, the remaining homeless are placed in motels where the average length of stay is 85 days, at costs of $65 to $91 per day. The alternative to costly emergency shelter is permanent supportive housing that can save over $16,282 per person per year (according to the Corporation of Supportive Housing).

“Recidivism rates among our homeless are staggering: within the first year, the recidivism rate is 18%; at by 2 years, fully 26% of those who were homeless return to being homeless. But, homelessness doesn’t have to be chronic. Permanent supportive housing is the answer, and this a small, but critical step,” adds O’Connor. “Increasingly, affordable housing is beyond the means of many in our community and our aging baby boomer population is not immune.”

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) Out of Reach report released in May 2016, the hourly wage rates of renters has gone down in Ulster County from $9.90 in 2012 to $9.26 in 2016. The hourly wage required in Ulster County to afford a 2-bedroom apartment is $22.04 and this gap is trend is growing. The 2016 fair market rent (FMR) for a 2-bedroom apartment in Ulster County is $1,146 per month, however the average wage of Ulster County renters will only support a rent of $482.

For RUPCO to move forward with Kingston Supportive Housing, the property (currently zoned residential) requires a zoning change to commercial/multifamily zoning by vote of the Kingston Common Council. The MOU shows RUPCO is ready to purchase Alms House property for $950,000, pending zoning changes and site plan approval from the City of Kingston Planning Board. Zoning and planning approvals could take six to 12 months. Once those approvals are in place, the property closing could take another three to six months. New building construction and renovation and historical preservation of the existing Alms House would begin by year-end 2017.

The property was designed by architect J.A. Wood, who also created The Stuyvesant hotel, owned by RUPCO at 289 Fair Street, Kingston. Originally constructed as a solution for care of the City’s poor, Alms House was later used as a tuberculosis ward in the 1950s and then housed the County’s Department of Health offices. In its 156-year history, the site has never been a part of the City of Kingston or Ulster County tax rolls. RUPCO’s purchase and development will place the property on both tax accounts receivable ledgers once complete.

RUPCO’s Kingston Supportive Housing proposal brings Alms House full circle, providing dignified, supportive care and services through a housing solution that serves Ulster County’s most vulnerable populations: seniors, the disabled and the homeless. The 14.86-acre site currently includes the 23,000-square foot historic main building and three smaller, storage and HVAC buildings. The proposal also calls for construction of a 4/5-story, 37,000-square-foot senior residence building designed by local architect, Dutton Architecture. The housing campus may generate up to 10-12 new jobs including a case manager, nurse, 24/7 security, on-site superintendent, property manager and maintenance support.

The historic rehabilitation of Alms House will include 34 apartments; 28 of those will be designated to permanent supportive housing for those currently homeless plus 1 on-site superintendent apartment. Approximately 2500 square feet in the historic building will be allocated to community/program space.

In the proposed new construction, 32 apartments for seniors 55 and over, includes 7 designated specifically as permanent residence to those currently homeless. Approximately 3500 square feet on the first floor will serve as community and commercial space. The proposal would be financed through a series of funding opportunities including mortgage debt, private equity, 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, and other potential sources.

For 35 years, RUPCO has led the region in creating and maintaining quality, sustainable housing and rental opportunities, inspiring understanding and acceptance of affordable housing initiatives, fostering community development and revitalization, and providing opportunity to people to improve their living standards. In that time, RUPCO has established a successful track record as a leader in the creation and improvement of quality, sustainable housing, created strong partnerships locally and nationally, and has maintained a fiscally healthy balance sheet, allowing for flexibility and agility in providing services.  As part of its mission, RUPCO provides first-time homebuyer education, rental assistance, and senior/disabled supportive housing services. For more information, visit www.rupco.org.

Home Ownership Center

RUPCO Home Ownership Center Orientation

RUPCO’s online orientation video series “Your First Steps to Becoming a Homeowner” is designed for you. Watch when and where you can, at your convenience. But the sooner you get started, the sooner you can move closer to owning your own home.

When you’re done viewing and learning, contact us for a free housing counselor consultation to continue on your journey to homeownership!

In less than 30 minutes, these videos cover the basics:
• Your First Step to Becoming a Homeowner: Benefits of Homeownership (2:59)
• What You Need to Get a Mortgage: Understanding Credit (4:16)
• What You Need to Get a Mortgage: Improving Your Credit (5:50)
• What You Need to Get a Mortgage: Calculating Your Mortgage Payment (6:41)
• What You Need to Get a Mortgage: The Cost of Getting a Mortgage (6:10)
• What You Need to Get a Mortgage: Next Steps to Getting Your Mortgage (2:35)

No Place Like Home

Snapshot of Tom Hansen's homeI have called Ulster County home my entire life and I have never thought of it as otherwise. No matter where I went in the world, no one location was drawing enough to keep me away from the place I called home. No one location was ever enticing enough to make me want to leave Ulster County behind. The world is undoubtedly filled with beauty, but Upstate New York has a special place in my heart that will always make it my home.

I grew up in at a secluded stone house nestled in Stone Ridge. I have many memories of this house from all seasons of the year. I would spend my springs watching the heavy rain and thunderstorms from my porch. My mother and I always used to call thunderstorms “giant bowling tournaments in the sky.” Watching storms with her is one of my best memories growing up. I would spend my summers and autumns exploring the woods behind my house and scouring my stream for frogs and crayfish; my dog would always follow me everywhere I explored without fail. No matter how deep into the woods I went, he would always be right behind keeping an eye on me. I would also walk to my grandmothers or jump into the river using a rope swing tied to a tree. I would spend my winters walking along the frozen stream or building snow forts in the giant snow banks made from my dad’s snow plow. There was always beauty to be found at my house.

As I grew up and left childhood behind, things began to change; the harsh reality of life began to press down on me. My favorite tree was cut down while we were away on vacation. I was furious with my parents because I never got to climb it one last time. The dog I had grown up with, my partner in crime, passed away. Hurricane floods took away the tree holding up the rope swing. I did not get into the college I had dreamed of going to in high school. I drifted apart from my childhood best friend and my mother passed away. As much as these events changed the way I remembered things, they were never able to take away the beauty of this area that I call home. I still hike to the top of Bonticue Crag every summer to see the entire valley stretched out beneath me. I still swim in every river I can and ski every mountain possible. This area will always be my home, no matter what hardships I endure, because every day I make new memories. Ulster County will always be a place I can return happily to.

 

Tom Hansen is RUPCO’s Assistant Event Coordinator. He is currently a student at Ulster Community College majoring in Business Administration.

The Home in Community

Shot of Alison Simmons in her communityHome is more than just a house, or an apartment, or a bedroom, it needs a community to be whole. My family was always very involved in our community, which means I was very involved in my community. My parents coached almost all of our town sports teams, we attended the local church, and my brothers and I were in Scouts. The whole town knew my family, so we always had people looking out for us. Whenever I was out with my mom, everyone said hello and came up to talk, even all the kids at my school knew her; my school was pretty small but I think that says something about my community.

When I was thirteen, I could walk into town after school with my friends; I always felt safe because wherever I went, people knew me and I knew them. I did not always like it when I was younger because if I did anything I was not supposed to, my parents always knew by the time I got home. I felt it was unfair because my friends never got caught and I nearly always did; I see now that it was a great thing. It kept me out of trouble, it opened opportunities for me, and I met so many people.

Most of my free time was spent in town just hanging with friends. There were multiple times when my phone died or it rained and I needed to be picked up, but I had no way of contacting them. I always found someone I knew who could help me out. People get shaped by more than their housing situation and that is why I believe community is so important to the home.

Today I live in an apartment complex and I miss knowing all of my neighbors. The only person in the complex I talk to is one woman who lives two buildings down. It could just be because I am a college student in a complex of mostly new families and older couples, but it is a lonely feeling not being a part of the community around me. I never realized how important it was to me until I was no longer part of it.

A lot of people try to be independent and believe that they can rely solely on themselves or their families when times get tough. If we stopped to think about how many people in our lives actually affect us, it would become obvious that it is more than just those few. No one is alone in this world; as long as you look, people are out there to help. Being part of a community is about being “home.”

Avigayil Landsman

Headshot of Avigayil LandsmanThe featured pieces in my show are illustrations from my book, “Letters from Heaven: Spiritual Guidance from the Hewbrew Alphabet for Every Day of Your Life,” and card deck. The book offers information about each of the twenty-two Hebrew letters and includes twenty-three illustrations. The card deck includes the letter illustrations as well as brief informational cards. This project had been over a decade in the making. It required years of study, research, meditation, and huge doses of inspiration. And…a lot of editing! Illustrations came to me in fits and starts. I did the illustrations in various media and sizes. When drawing and painting failed me, I turned to wool, which I sculpted in low relief. The last piece I did was a free-standing wool sculpture.

Last year’s show featured most of the felted pieces. This year I have selected a few illustrations that I did in other media that include: colored pencil, crayon, pastel, watercolor marker and acrylic paint.

There is no specific reason for choosing the media I used. the imageA. Landsman 3one of Landsman's art work came to me and I was drawn to the media that would produce what was inside of me. I often waited for years to “see” how the letter wanted its “portrait” done. Most often I would see something in nature that would inspire me. Once the idea struck, I ran to my studio and set the image down in about twenty minutes. Occasionally I would redo the picture for reproduction purposes, as many pictures were done very lightly. Several illustrations were replaced because the first version did not fit in with the others stylistically. Although size and media varied greatly throughout the development of the project, there are many common aspects to all of the illustrations.

For more information on Avigayil and her art visit  www.avigayillandsman.com.

A. Landsman half page flyer

Want Equality? Start with Providing Housing That People Can Afford

red house, two green houses sitting on a $100 billUpwards of $22 TRILLION!

That’s what some experts estimate we’ve spent since LBJ launched his Great Society in 1964 in an attempt to eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America. Yet, little has changed.

More than 50 years later, 46.5 million Americans live in poverty — 16.1 million of them are children.  Millions more live on the edge, one job loss or one illness from an impoverished existence.

What went wrong?

Among other things, “Our housing policies…for decades have simply created islands of poor and low-income families, who for all intends and purposes, have been ignored and cut off from mainstream society,” says a paper recently published by the NHP Foundation, a national affordable housing nonprofit headquartered in New York City.

It goes on to say that these “housing policies have forced entire generations of Americans into neighborhoods—whether labeled public housing, low-income housing, or undercapitalized affordable housing—offering little supportive educational or social services.  The result has been chronic unemployment, ever-increasing crime rates, drugs, gangs, domestic violence, child abuse, high rates of incarceration, and premature deaths. “

The sad news is that these dire social issues will only become worse, more widespread, intractable, and irreversible as the crisis of unaffordable housing continues to spread from poor, underclass households to those earning average median incomes—and above.

According to an NYU Furman Center and Capital One study, households with incomes of 80 percent to 120 percent of area median income also are struggling to find affordable rental units in all 50 states.  Like many low- and moderate-income families, these households are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on housing.

The government considers a family “cost burdened” if its housing costs are more than 30 percent of its income.  Yet, according to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing—which leaves little left over to purchase necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care, let alone save for things like education, retirement or unexpected expenses.

If housing policies remain as they are and wages stay stagnant, that number is expected to grow to nearly 15 million within a decade, according to a report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and Enterprise Community Partners.

More than 55 percent of American adults—approximately 138 million—are struggling financially, according to the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, many still reeling from financial losses suffered as a result of the Great Recession.

The pressure on local communities and nonprofit housing groups to create enough affordable housing to meet demand is enormous—and this at a time when many foundations and government agencies are shifting their focus from housing to social justice and equality issues.

Studies show, however, that where and how people live are good predictors of their life outcomes.  If social justice and equality are our desired goals, providing quality, safe housing that people can comfortably afford should be our top priority.

The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program has been an extremely effective tool, but has fallen far short of demand.  According to the National Council of State Housing Agencies, the LIHTC has provided financing for the development or preservation of nearly 2.8 million units.  But to meet demand a whopping 8.2 million more units are needed.

So what’s to be done?

The NHP Foundation recommends building support among public and private-sector leaders to increase funding and re-engage the philanthropic community to help nonprofit affordable housing developers provide services that improve the quality of tenants’ lives.

Perhaps the most important recommendation put forth by the Foundation is to get everyone “to see this housing crisis for what it is—i.e. a root cause of social inequality.”

To paraphrase Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning Washington think tank, we need to stop treating poor people as liabilities to be managed, and begin to see them as assets to be developed.

In short, rather than isolate entire segments of our population in dilapidated, rundown tenements that are Petri dishes for antisocial behavior, a good place to start is with providing people with quality, safe housing where they can thrive, have opportunities to succeed and feel that they are a part of the mainstream of our society.

Larry Checco headshotGuest blogger Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications in Silver Spring, MD. Larry is a nationally sought-after speaker on branding and leadership, and serves as a consultant to both large and small organizations, companies, foundations and government agencies. In addition, Larry is a faculty member of the NeighborWorks® Training Institute and an adjunct at Southern New Hampshire University. Larry has authored several books including Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization, and Aha! Moments in Brand Management: Commonsense Insights to a Stronger, Healthier Brand.

Contents Copyrighted © 2016 by Larry Checco.  All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission.
No Compromise Needed

Headshot of Avigayil LandsmanCompromise requires that one or both parties give something up in order to get something in return; it is a win-lose situation. Unfortunately, we compromise daily, but one should never compromise on a home. When Avigayil Landsman was looking for a new home she expected to compromise on something considering she survived three floods in her last apartment, she figured she’d give up something. As a disabled artist, there were quite a few things that were necessary for her to live comfortably, things she couldn’t compromise. So, when the Woodstock Commons completed construction in 2013, Avigayil was one of the first to apply for an apartment and, much to her relief, one of the first to be accepted.

“It’s clean and affordable, it’s a healthy environment,” she states. It had what she needed most: privacy, proximity and accessibility. Three years later, Avigayil could not be happier. She appreciates the well thought-out flood system and on-site trash and recycling. “The maintenance staff is amazing here. If something goes wrong, it’s taken care of right away. Anything I’ve had to wait on doesn’t interfere with my life. Everything is up to code and in ship shape” commends Avigayil. The one person who seems to stand out the most for Avigayil is Ken Brown, the residential superintendent. “He’s a wonderful neighbor who’s really funny and very helpful,” says Avigayil, “Ken always leaves a smile on my face. He’s the guy I call when there’s a problem. He puts everyone at ease.” There is no greater comfort than knowing someone reliable has your back.

There are tons of other benefits that Avigayil gets to experience while being a part of the Woodstock Commons community. Unlike most apartment buildings, Avigayil is allowed one small pet to keep her company. She also has an in-house washer and dryer, saving her the time, money and travel of going to a laundromat. Best of all, Ms. Landsman is a short walk from town. “Driving is difficult for me, but now I can just take a walk down the lovely path RUPCO created with the sunflowers.” There are also various community building activities which she partakes in; all are offerings through RUPCO’s supportive housing programs. She attends the free acupuncture, participates in tai chi, consults with the monthly nutritionist, and enjoys the community gardening. She also displays her work publicly at RUPCO-hosted artist receptions for resident creators such as herself.

“Woodstock Commons is a little oasis for those of us lucky enough to get in,” says Avigayil. “Here at Woodstock Commons I don’t have to compromise on my comfort,” she states “I’m in my home all the time; home is my world. It’s where I create and it’s where I live.”

 

HeadshotEmily Lazo is RUPCO’s Editorial Assistant to Communications. She is a student at SUNY New Paltz double-majoring in English and Communication and Media with a concentration in Intercultural/Interpersonal.