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