Alms House zoning decision waits
Council seeking input from two city boards and county planners
City lawmakers will await the recommendations of three boards before taking action on a request from RUPCO to change the zoning of the former Alms House on Flatbush Avenue to allow housing for senior citizens.
And while the request still is in its early stages, some residents
already have spoken out against the zoning change.
The Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee on Tuesday took the procedural step of referring the zoning request to the city Planning Board, the city’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Ulster County Planning Board. All three will hold public hearings on the request, then make recommendations to the Laws and Rules Committee, Alderwoman Lynn Eckert said.
Eckert, D-Ward 1, who chairs the committee, said Tuesday’s action was required by the city code. She said the committee will hold a public hearing on the matter, tentatively on Jan. 17. Eckert also allowed some residents in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting to speak because the issue of the Alms House initially was listed as an agenda item before being removed “at the 11th hour.”
RUPCO, a Kingstonbased affordable housing agency, is seeking the zoning change for the building at 300 Flatbush Ave. to help clear the way for a renovation project that would create 66 units of permanent housing. The building is to have 34 single, residential apartments and 32 apartments
for people ages 55 and older. Of the apartments, 35 would offer support services to a mix of homeless populations with special needs, including veterans and frail or disabled seniors, RUPCO has said.
The parcel, at Flatbush Avenue and East Chester Street, is zoned for singlefamily residential use. For the proposed project to proceed, the property must have a multifamily zoning designation.
“There’s a better thing for that building if we sit and wait,” city resident and real estate agent Karen Vetere told the committee. She said the building, which most recently housed Ulster County offices, could be used for a boutique hotel or regular apartments, rather than more low-income housing in a city that she said already is oversaturated with it.
Vetere, who ran for Kingston mayor in 2003, questioned whether the city was trying to make that area the “corner of low-income housing and destroy everybody’s assessment value.”
Vetere also was critical of RUPCO, which she said makes money by bringing their projects in under cost. She said that at RUPCO’s Lace Mill housing complex for artists, on Cornell Street in Midtown Kingston, most of the residents are low-income.
Desiree Crespino-Rossi said she has lived in the Alms House area for more than 50 years and that it has been going back to being more of a family-oriented neighborhood. She said there already are three low-income housing facilities along Flatbush Avenue and she questioned why the area always is subject to these kind of non-taxable operations.
Crespino-Rossi said she read RUPCO’s project would have about seven units for homeless veterans. In her mind, she said, when a veteran is homeless, he or she is either having mental health issues or drug problems.
“Don’t need that in a family-oriented neighborhood,” she said.
She said if RUPCO goes forward with the project, she wants to know where to apply to lower the tax assessment on her home since its value will plummet.
Guy Kempe, vice president of community development for RUPCO, attended the meeting but did not speak publicly.
On Wednesday, RUPCO Chief Executive Officer Kevin O’Connor said the proposal is not a “homeless project” and that affordable senior housing has not been built in the city since 2001.
O’Connor said he looked forward to the review process continuing and having a chance to explain the project.
The former Alms House at 300 Flatbush Ave. in Kingston would be turned into an apartment building under a plan proposed by RUPCO