In Support of Veterans…and Landmark Place

American Flag by Sarah Carlson, Lace Mill artistFifty years ago, I was drafted into the United States Army along with thousands of other Americans.  Though I was drafted into the Army, I’m proud of my service to my country. I spent 12 months with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam.  When I returned, I took full advantage of the GI Bill to complete my college degrees and advance my education.

After 40 years of working and having a wonderful family with my wife, Valerie, I began to have emotional problems related to my military experience.  For 10 years, I have been going to the VA Clinic in Kingston and the VA Hospital in Albany. With the help of the Ulster County Veterans Service Agency and the great support of people I know in Kingston, I find myself lucky compared to most veterans I meet. My medical condition is not good presently, partially related to my exposure to Agent Orange. For many years I went to consultations with the Veterans Service Agency at the Alms House (soon to be Landmark Place), which is now being considered for low-income housing by RUPCO.

Many times I had asked, “Where in Kingston or Ulster County are there apartments or living areas for Veterans?”  I was told the closest one is in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. After speaking with RUPCO about this, I learned that if the Alms House is used by RUPCO, 10 apartments will be made available to veterans.  I think this is a good idea, and I know there is a controversy, but it’s the first time I’ve heard that any housing would be made available to consider Veterans in Kingston or Ulster County. Something tangible and realistic could be done for homeless veterans.  Many need a place to live. Very few are loved.

Dennis Connors, Kingston NY

Artwork by Sarah Carlson, Lace Mill resident
Judge Overturns Kingston Planning Department Decision on Landmark Place

This week, RUPCO received notice of Judge Mott’s decision to overturn the City of Kingston’s Planning Board’s denial of RUPCO’s application for site plan approval and special use permit for Landmark Place. “Judge Mott’s carefully reasoned decision found that the Planning Board’s action to deny our site plan and special use permit was arbitrary and capricious, in contradiction of its own prior environmental findings,” RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor said.

RUPCO’s proposal for Landmark Place is to create 66 supportive and affordable homes for seniors age 55 and over. RUPCO has set lofty goals for Landmark Place. “It will create significant jobs during construction and operation, contribute to the local tax base and preserve an important & inaugural part of our City’s history while contributing to the health, stability and well-being of our elders,” said O’Connor. “More than ever, people are waking up locally to the fact that it is important to have local ownership and good stewards of our rental housing with management that is responsive to the residents and community at large. More than ever, people are experiencing firsthand the upset that occurs when housing becomes unaffordable, unsafe or both. Now is the time for this community to embrace Landmark Place as a new community asset, creating a well-designed, well-staffed and managed senior community that will provide safe, accessible and affordable homes for our elders for the next half century.”

Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org commented: “I am pleased that RUPCO rightfully prevailed in the recent court case for the Alms House. The project, the first rental housing for senior citizens built in the City of Kingston since 2009, is one that our community sorely needs. It will provide 66 affordable, permanent rental housing units to those 55 years or older, and who in some cases are vulnerable including veterans and frail or disabled seniors. To know that this historic landmark will be brought back for this purpose is deeply gratifying.”

The property was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Place in February 2018. RUPCO intends to use private equity, debt, Low Income and Historic Tax Credits to complete construction and enjoys a commitment for operating support from the NY’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) program.

Rennie Scott-Childress, Majority Leader, Common Council said: “There is a clear need in Kingston for housing for elderly folks who are housing insecure. The Court’s decision today will enable RUPCO to build safe, affordable housing for scores of them at Landmark Place.“

O’Connor concluded, “We now look forward to the Planning Board completing its job by granting site plan approval and issuing the special use permit for Landmark Place subject only to reasonable conditions normally imposed.”

Guy Kempe elected to the Board of Directors of NYS Rural Housing Coalition

RUPCO’s Vice President of Community Development Guy Kempe has been elected as Hudson Valley Representative on the board of directors of NYS Rural Housing Coalition. The NYS Rural Housing Coalition, Inc. is a network of rural housing professionals who work toward a common goal: to design, develop, finance, build and manage affordable housing to meet the diverse needs of rural New Yorkers Members share their knowledge and expertise to attain this goal. 

Mr. Kempe completed his undergraduate education at Bard College, attended graduate level courses at the Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies at Oxford University, and began an MFA at the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts. Guy has been VP of Community Development since March of 2012 and oversees a staff of three and a current development pipeline worth $100million.

 

For nearly 40 years, the Rural Housing Coalition has brought together affordable housing professionals who work to address the affordable housing crisis, to promote healthy homes and to create vibrant local economies in rural parts of New York. “It’s a pleasure for me to join the board in this important work.”

The Gift of Home

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

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

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

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

Annual Ulster County Continuum of Care Meeting – Update on Local Homelessness

 

Ulster County Continuum of Care logoThe Ulster County Continuum of Care is hosting its Annual Meeting on Wednesday March 21st from 1:30-3:30 at the Kirkland 2 Main Street in Kingston. This meeting is open to the public. The group works to coordinate homeless resources and identify the needs of homeless individuals and families in Ulster County. The Ulster County Continuum of Care submits an application to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that brings over $1 million dollars annually to Ulster County homeless providers. Funding is determined on an annual basis and all parties serving the homeless are eligible to apply. 

The group is comprised of local government; non-profits; homeless housing and service providers; local elected officials; Veteran groups; faith based; for profit and educational representatives that assist the homeless; and The Continuum welcomes new members that are interested in understanding the local homeless issues and finding creative solutions to reduce homelessness in Ulster County.

At the Annual Meeting The Continuum will review the results of our annual HUD homeless Count, discuss our Strategic Plan to reduce homelessness and introduce our Coordinated Entry System as well as fill vacancies on the Board of Directors for the Ulster County Continuum of Care.

To register to attend or for more information please contact Kathy Germain, at RUPCO (845) 331-9860 or [email protected]. On-street or municipal parking available. 

All welcome. The Ulster County Continuum of Care represents a broad range of agencies working together to understand issues surrounding homelessness in the county with the goal of coordinating and maximizing homeless services that leads to a reduction in the number of homeless.  

This forum is open to the public; please share this post with others.
 
WHO:  Ulster County Continuum of Care (UCCofC) 
WHAT:  UCCofC Annual Meeting
WHERE:  The Kirkland, 2 Main Street, Kingston 12401

WHEN:  Wednesday March 21st, 1-3 p.m.
WHY:  To 
review the results of our annual HUD homeless Count, discuss our Strategic Plan to reduce homelessness and introduce our Coordinated Entry System as well as fill vacancies on the Board of Directors for the Ulster County Continuum of Care.
From Homeless to Housed: Leslie Mann’s Story of Growth

Leslie Mann wakes up with a fridge and cupboard full of food, a roof over her head, amenities for daily living, and the man of the house, Mutai, a 10lb terrier who licks her incessantly. The sun shines through her tall windows, dog figurines line the window sills, garden beds fill the view outside her front door. Book-stuffed shelves with her favorite literature are within reach from her wheelchair. Hers is a place to call home.

But attaining a handicap-friendly, affordable home wasn’t easy to grasp.

Mann grew up in NYC and lived with her parents while a young adult. Childhood was emotionally difficult for her. She didn’t fit in with groups at school and her interests in western-cowboy history and poetry didn’t align with other childrens’ fancies. Later, she earned a living as a factory worker and a filing clerk until her family moved and her brother went to college.

Mann struggled and eventually became homeless after her NYC apartment burned down. For a while, she lived on the streets, seeking shelter in abandoned buildings and eating what she could find in garbage cans. Her housing instability prevented her from owning a dog, but she found ways to relocate stray dogs in the City, asking around who would take care of a rescue cared for on pauper’s salary.

She found solace in good deeds. One day, she overheard a young couple at odds with each other, when the young man raged and grabbed his dog by the neck. Mann swiftly intervened and took the dog away, but not without struggle. He acted on impulse, threatening Mann with a knife. On-foot patrol officers quickly intervened and no one was hurt. Now, her eyes shine when she thinks back to the memory. She saved a dog’s life risking her own.

People took notice of her acts. They wanted to help her the way she was saving dogs’ lives. Regular goers to the dog park saved money to help her move into her first upstate apartment— she settled first in Woodstock, then Lake Katrine in a Motel 19. Lake Katrine suited her needs. For a while she walked everywhere, finding comfort in familiar habits, and eventually she applied to live at The Stuyvesant, supportive housing for seniors in Kingston, NY, owned and operated by RUPCO.

The Stuyvesant offered neighbors in nearby apartments who shared similar interests, a pet-friendly policy, and the flight of stairs that hindered her mobility. When RUPCO completed the Woodstock Commons in 2013, Mann transferred to a ground floor apartment. Of course, she kept Mutai, now 14 years old.

Independent Living has deepened and widened her personal growth. On spring and summer days, the surrounding outdoors are “wonderful and unbeatable.” She finds pleasure in taking care of her canine companion, ensuring he lives the life of a pampered pup. Meals on Wheels delivers food to her every week. Her healthcare is in place. When she isn’t listening to audio books or watching movies, she brainstorms ideas for a book about a man dedicated to his dog; a quasi-reversal of dog loyalty to humans, a testament to her life’s work.

She isn’t finished making a difference. There’s always more dogs to rescue, more activism to spark. With her sense of Home established and her accessibility needs met in a supportive housing community, Leslie’s starting a new chapter in her quest for goodwill.

 

 

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

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.

“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.