The alms house surprise

The Alms House

Recalling the stunned silence that greeted the planning board’s 3-2 vote Monday to reject the site plan for Rupco’s Landmark Place project for the old city alms house, I feel pretty safe in saying that no one in the room, maybe not even those who voted against it, expected it to fail.

You’ve probably heard of “jury nullification.” That’s when a jury, presented with evidence that proves someone committed a crime, finds them not guilty anyway, their logic being the accused was justified in doing whatever the accused was accused of. It seems, to me anyway, what happened Monday night was “planning board nullification.”

While sometimes jury nullification is the right thing to do, I don’t think what happened Monday was any kind of justice. Now, it wouldn’t be accurate for me to say I have no sympathy for the neighborhood. Their fears, as unfounded as they may be, are to them real, and for some, quite intense. Only the most morally rectitudinous among us, if we’re all going to be honest, would joyfully welcome a population of homeless people into our midst and not be worried about the impact. This speaks at least as much about our own flaws, and likely more, as it does the homeless. The vulnerable among us, those living on their friends’ couches or in the backs of their own cars, or camped out back of the Kingston Plaza, can’t afford publicists or social media campaigns to spruce up their image, after all.

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But many times in life, circumstances — and plain old doing the right thing — call all of us to rise above our fears and move ahead, doubts and all. When Rupco first proposed Landmark Place, I thought it was a good use for a building that was rather a white elephant, but shouldn’t be torn down. I still think that. The need for this kind of housing is obvious, will become even more obvious as Baby Boomers enter their twilight years.

There are suggestions that Rupco should “flip” the alms house, with the not-for-profit maybe even making some money for itself in the deal. But that suggestion, while perfectly valid for a real estate mogul, doesn’t fit in with what Rupco actually does — help people get and stay in homes. The organization’s strong sense of mission, as well a desire to not set a precedent which elements in other communities might follow, virtually demands Rupco battles in court to get the decision overturned.

Which highlights an irony. If Rupco goes forward with litigation, and I support them doing this, the city, whose Common Council voted for the zoning change, will be forced to pay to deal with that litigation. That’s annoying enough, but even more so when you agree with the plaintiffs in the first place.

There are 6 comments

  1. KAnderson

    Unfounded fears for sure, I keep visualizing a gang of 55 and overs with varying degrees of mobility issues struggling to cross busy Flatbush to wander down Clifton avenue and gaze at their gardens! But no these residents thought elder Veterans and seniors that require medical and mental health care provided in their community, was an evil plague that would result in said persons with an obvious lack of physical ability to crawl through their windows at night to rob them blind and that said individuals had the capacity to bring down their property values!! First time I’ve come across a campaign that elder Veterans could negatively impact property values and told NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD! and they won! By building senior housing it frees up other affordable housing options for the younger generations, keeps businesses open because their employee’s have a place to live near their job. Kingston lacks 100’s of affordable rentals for every generation so the needs in housing are great in Kingston. This decades empty site is perfect for seniors, it’s about the only demographic that would be able to utilize this residential property. If a developer wanted to build a hotel there it would’ve done so by now. Letting a few close minded residents influence the planning board to this degree is actually shocking and has most residents questioning what kind of bribe was taken to allow Ward 7 NIMBYs the result they wanted.

  2. Steven L Fornal

    You can be assured that this decision by the Kingston Planning Board will be overturned via Article 78 as the three no votes didn’t offer any reasoning. That’s classic “arbitrary and capricious” definition.

    So, this decision will be thwarted. No doubt.

  3. Long time Hugh fan!

    Thanks Hugh!
    As a subscriber I am disappointed about your editorial choice to leave the last paragraph of this weeks editorial in the print edition of the Kingston Times out of your on-line edition. Further, you made Mike Hein’s day which I suspect may have played into your decision.
    Columnist Hugh Reynolds is one of the only reasons I subscribe to this paper. Reynolds is the one and only reporter in Ulster County who has the background and understanding of local politics. His absence will be felt in reduced subscriptions and on line readership. I will give you a chance to hold my interest, but I suspect that I will be not renewing my subscription when it runs out. In fact, I may cancel. Reynolds deserved better and I hope one of the other local papers picks up his column. Their readership is sure to rise if they do.

  4. Susan

    This is the same Planning Board that approved the Irish Cultural Center with its 70-seat pub. Look at what a mess that project has become.

  5. TheRedDogParty

    As all of us advance in age or circumstance, having a choice about becoming a resident in Alms House is, in my opinion, a good thing. All of the income of its future residents goes right back into the community through the purchase of essentials of living.

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