Alms House zon­ing de­ci­sion waits

Coun­cil seek­ing in­put from two city boards and county plan­ners

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­line.com ArielAtFree­man on Twit­ter

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.

FILE PHOTO BY TONY ADAMIS

The for­mer Alms House at 300 Flat­bush Ave. in Kingston would be turned into an apart­ment build­ing un­der a plan pro­posed by RUPCO

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