Alms House let­ter wasn’t a state­ment of sup­port, mayor says

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Kirby pkirby@free­manon­line.com paulat­free­man on Twit­ter

Mayor Steve No­ble says a lauda­tory let­ter he wrote about the cre­ation of hous­ing for se­nior ci­ti­zens and the home­less at the for­mer Alms House was not a state­ment of sup­port for the project.

In in­ter­views and in emails, No­ble has re­peat­edly de­clined to take a de­fin­i­tive po­si­tion on the project planned for the prop­erty at 300 Flat­bush Ave., say­ing he did not want to air his opin­ions on the mat­ter be­cause they might in­flu­ence, among oth­ers, the Kingston Plan­ning Board dur­ing its on­go­ing re­view of the pro­posal.

But in a July 11, 2016, let­ter to the Ul­ster County Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Agency, ob­tained by the Free­man on Fri­day, No­ble ap­pears to back the project.

“I am writ­ing to ex­press my sup­port for the of­fer re­cently sub­mit­ted by RUPCO to ac­quire 300 Flat­bush Av­enue,” No­ble wrote. “It is my un­der­stand­ing that RUPCO’s pro­posal will fill the gap in af­ford­able hous­ing for home­less in­di­vid­u­als and se­niors, two of our area’s most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions in need of qual­ity hous-

ing.”

The Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Agency owns the for­mer Alms House build­ing, which most re­cently housed county of­fices and now is va­cant. RUPCO, an af­ford­able hous­ing agency based in Kingston, wants to buy the build­ing from the Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Agency for $950,000.

No­ble’s let­ter also lauded the plan’s fo­cus on his­toric preser­va­tion and the fact that the prop­erty would re­turn to the tax rolls.

“My ad­min­is­tra­tion strives to pro­mote the adap­tive re- use of his­toric prop­er­ties, and I am pleased that the ex­ist­ing his­toric struc­ture will be pre­served,” No­ble wrote.

The let­ter also ex­pressed con­fi­dence in RUPCO’s abil­ity to bring its plan to fruition.

“The city of Kingston has en­joyed a long­stand­ing pro­duc­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion with RUPCO, and I am con­fi­dent that, should this of­fer be ac­cepted and this pro­posal move for­ward, RUPCO has the ca­pac­ity and ex­per­tise to de­liver sorely needed, high­qual­ity hous­ing fa­cil­i­ties,” the mayor wrote.

No­ti­fied that the Free­man had ob­tained the let- ter, No­ble said he wrote it merely to con­firm to the Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Agency that he was aware of RUPCO’s plan.

“My let­ter, which I in­tended to con­vey that such a use would serve a need in Kingston for our most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions, is by no means a state­ment with re­spect to the plan­ning and zon­ing re­view of the plan, which is sub­ject to board and con­sul­tant re­view,” No­ble said in an email for the Free­man on Fri­day. “In ad­di­tion, the let­ter was pro­vided be­fore any for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion was made. Now that a for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion has been made, it will go through the zon­ing and plan­ning process.”

The project has be­come con­tro­ver­sial in the months since No­ble wrote the July 11 let­ter. Op­po­nents say Kingston has enough low-in­come hous­ing and that the for­mer Alms House could be used in bet­ter ways, per­haps as com­mer­cial space.

RUPCO has said the plan is “in keep­ing with Gov­er­nor [An­drew] Cuomo’s call this year to con­struct 1,200 units of sup­port­ive hous­ing for the home­less across the state.”

RUPCO wants to es­tab­lish 66 apart­ments at the for­mer Alms House site, about half of which would be in a four-story, 40,000-square-foot build­ing to be con­structed on the prop­erty. (The ex­ist­ing build­ing was con­structed in the 1870s.)

Thirty-two of the units would be for peo­ple age 55 or older. And of all the apart­ments, more than half would of­fer sup­port ser­vices to a mix of home­less pop­u­la­tions with spe­cial needs, in­clud­ing veter­ans and frail or dis­abled se­niors, RUPCO has said.

RUPCO needs the Kingston Com­mon Coun­cil to ap­prove a zon­ing change for the site — from sin­gle-family to mul­ti­fam­ily res­i­den­tial — in or­der for the project to pro­ceed.

Ul­ster County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein on Fri­day was non­com­mit­tal about RUPCO’s plan, though he lauded the no­tion of re­turn­ing the for­mer Alms House to the tax rolls.

”My fo­cus from the be­gin­ning of this has been en­sur­ing that this prop­erty gets back on the tax rolls to help the prop­erty tax­pay­ers of both city of Kingston and Ul­ster County as a whole,” Hein said. “The de­tails of this par­tic­u­lar project are ul­ti­mately de­cided as part of lo­cal land use, as it should be. I am com­mit­ted to be­ing re­spect­ful to lo­cal lan­duse com­po­nents like plan­ning and zon­ing boards....”

A Kingston Plan­ning Board pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posal is sched­uled for 6 p.m. Feb. 28 in City Hall, 420 Broad­way.

TA­NIA BARRICKLO — DAILY FREE­MAN

For­mer Alms House

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