Moving forward with Landmark Place

The Alms House

On behalf of our senior citizens and vulnerable elders, we filed an amended petition on July 11 as one strategy to protect our collective rights. While state law allows for a protest petition by neighbors of a proposed rezoning to trigger a supermajority, the law is equally clear that if there’s a 100-foot-buffer between the rezoning and the neighbors, a protest petition from neighbors cannot force a supermajority for approval of the rezoning, and a simple majority vote is enough to approve it.

Let’s remember that a majority of the City of Kingston Common Council voted 5-4 in favor of a zoning change for this site. That is an expression of the democratic process and the will of the people of Kingston. While the city assumed the protest petition was valid, thus requiring a 7-2 vote to approve the zoning change, we believe the petition fails the legal requirements and should have been rejected. Therefore, we have filed an Article 78 and declaratory judgment action that challenges the denial of the zoning change under our original petition as well. We think the courts will deem the original vote in favor of rezoning to be sufficient.

In addition, if necessary, we will also file a complaint with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and will follow with a lawsuit against the City of Kingston for failing to make a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Both the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect persons with disabilities from discrimination and require reasonable accommodations to be made by a municipality to ensure fair housing practices. Persons with disabilities are a protected class, no less important than race, sex, religion, national origin, color or familiar status. Those protected classes include several of our intended tenants: seniors with mental illness, seniors with substance use disorder, and seniors with physical impairments. The record is clear that certain members of the Common Council relied on inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric against protected classes in making their decision on the original rezoning request. Simply put, a municipality may not make zoning or other land-use decisions based on neighbors’ fears that a dwelling may be occupied by members of these protected classes.

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While we harbor no ill will towards the neighbors who have protested against this project, we do believe it’s time — particularly given the hateful rhetoric that has been demonstrated across the country against persons of color, certain religious groups, and other protected classes — that the hateful rhetoric spoken here in Kingston against our most vulnerable senior citizens at public hearings and written in the comment sections of newspaper websites and on social media stops, once and for all. Kingston has declared itself a Sanctuary City and its leaders have almost universally spoken out against the culture of hate displayed elsewhere. It is time to take care of business at home and to stop treating people as “other” people! We stand with the majority of Kingston Common Council members who voted to support our proposed project.

We take no pleasure in bringing lawsuits against the City of Kingston, and we are troubled that the City has recently faced two other federal fair housing lawsuits. We hope the Common Council will take action to avoid unnecessary taxpayer expense by settling our claims without costly litigation. Between the cost of litigation and the loss of tax revenue this project would bring, all of the taxpayers of Kingston should not bear the burden of defending unlawful actions. We listened to the neighbors early on and responded by making reasonable accommodations in our proposal — we adjusted the age of the population to be age 55 and over for all tenants. The law requires the city to do no less. We were pleased to receive a negative declaration from the City of Kingston’s Planning Board and an endorsement from the Ulster County Planning Board prior to a favorable vote by the Common Council to change the zoning.

A proposal that is widely supported by the record is being held up by a handful of families who live next to the project. Their opposition is based on unfounded fears about the populations to be served, veiled in arguments which the record reflects are unfounded. We reject any notion that simply living near senior and supportive housing will have a negative effect on people’s lives.

We are compelled to move forward based on our mission and the following facts:

  • The City of Kingston, based on the fact that it accepts federal Community Development Block Grant funds, has a duty to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing.
  • The need for affordable and supportive housing for the age 55 and over cohort has been soundly demonstrated in the record.
  • Since 2001, other municipalities in Ulster County have approved and built 534 senior housing units while the City of Kingston has built zero. It is well past time for the City of Kingston to step up and meet the needs of its senior citizens. The rhetoric of opponents that the City of Kingston has “done enough” is simply not factual.
  • In 2009, Ulster County adopted the Three County Housing Assessment Needs Study, executed by an economist and paid for by the Dyson Foundation that stipulated that to meet the affordable housing gap, the City of Kingston would need to build 1,005 units of affordable housing by 2020. Since that report was published, the city has only added 55 units of affordable housing.
  • RUPCO has the experience and expertise along with funding commitments to develop, build and adequately staff Landmark Place to safely provide 35 supportive housing units for seniors with special needs along with 31 affordable housing units for seniors of low income.
  • Landmark Place will pay a robust $132,000 recreation fee to the City of Kingston Recreation Department and put the property on the tax rolls for the first time in its history. The $20 million development will bring tax revenue and jobs to the city during construction and as permanent positions when operating.
  • Landmark Place will save local taxpayer dollars by moving folks out of motel rooms, shelters, and overcrowded boarding homes where local taxpayers are paying up to $100 per night to house them, and alleviate the burden on local hospitals by keeping people housed and supported with regular care.

In the end, Landmark Place will accomplish all of the above and provide 66 permanent, healthy, accessible homes to our senior citizens, some with special needs, in a richly designed, well-built, well-staffed campus.

We hope that the will of the people of Kingston and the obligation of our city to serve its seniors and disabled will prevail, and that more people will come out to show their support.

Kevin O’Connor is the chief executive officer of RUPCO.

There are 9 comments

  1. Dr Al Pfadt

    Kevin
    I have great respect for the work RUPCO has done to provide affordable housing opportunities for vulnerable citizens and in fact contributed to a fund raiser for the agency I attended nearly 2 years ago.
    However, based on my limited understanding of the project you describe, it is difficult for me to see this as something other than the creation of segregated housing like I have experienced in the field of developmental disabilities, where large group homes have turned into mini- institutions.
    I would welcome an opportunity to learn more about this project and wonder if you have considered how it could be redesigned to create a truly inclusive community where a diverse group of citizens could share their strengths by living, working, and sharing recreational activities to promote the interdependence of all parties.
    My email address is probably and my cell phone is 917-566-2013

  2. The Red Dog Party

    Without considering zoning or any other issue, it is my belief that Senior Citizens are among the most valuable assets Kingston (or any city) possess.

    Seniors pay taxes, rent apartments/houses, buy food, use under-utilized systems such as public transportation, etc.

    Yes, they do use some of the social services available.

    On the other hand, their children no longer attend school, are rarely involved in use of other services such as police, and are generally good neighbors who volunteer their wisdom and services within the community.

    And you don’t want these citizens, who have given so much to our society to live in our community? How shameful is that.

    1. michigan j. frog

      it’s amazing to me that whenever residential development is discussed someone suggests that families with kids represent a drain on a community because their kids go to school. no wonder these towns are dying.

        1. Joe

          I think it was that you pointed out that their children no longer attend school as an on the other hand to that they do use some social services. This would lead one to feel that they would only be a drain because they use some services but not a drain on other facets such as their kids still going to school .

  3. All Of The Above

    I was going thrust my parts archive three days ago and found a 2001 and a 2008 and a 2014 letters from you stating I was “moving up the waiting list.” comes with your big logo envelope too

  4. endrun

    Well said, Mr. O’Connor. But Mr. O’Connor, consider this:the literature RUPCO sent out in advertising this plan was not well vetted beforehand, because when such items contain phrases such as “those with mental disabilities”(or words to this effect), this naturally gets the springs of the naysayers and NIMBY’s worked up to sky-high levels. I’m not suggesting it should, but I am suggesting it DOES, and there is some responsibility here to place on RUPCO per the way it chose to communicate this proposal to the community. I certainly do wholeheartedly agree with each and every sentiment as voiced above, and continue to ask why the diehard opponents never had a concrete alternative plan for the property to propose, and continue to somehow think that a property like that left vacant would somehow be better for their neighborhood or property values in getting vandalized, covered with graffiti, etc. as opposed to being used and used peaceably and well. Those are the ultimate questions and if folks can come up with good answers, the chances are excellent they already would have, and the conclusion there ARE no such good answers remains. And let’s be clear also: the city council came mighty close to caving here with the vast minority on this issue. That is unfortunate, but also emphasizes the phrase “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”; so folks who are in the majority need to turn out and speak out more on such issues prior to the council taking such votes. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does local politics.

  5. Aphrodite

    Your butt hurt attitude and your non-veiled threats simply confirm that however well-intentioned RUPCO was in the past, RUPCO has become a bully who will stop at nothing to get whatever self-aggrandizing project it wants. By any means necessary.

  6. Penny Decker

    I think that it’s a good plan. Of course it will be difficult for neighbors with the construction. It would be nice if Rupco would give a gift to the community by making it’s wooded property a park with a path, benches and recreation area open to the public.

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