County Executive Mike Hein said Monday that the NoVo Foundation will make a grant of $4 million to be used for various programs in Midtown Kingston. The grant, part of the Hein administration’s “Brighter Futures” initiative, will be administered by Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. Hein said this brings the total investment in county-led projects into Kingston’s poorest neighborhoods to $17 million.
“We are talking about trying to make substantive, transformative change,” Hein said while showing reporters around the under-construction Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center on Broadway. “I could not be more pleased.”
His announcement coincided with the going-into-effect of the state’s raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, a move its advocates say will help keep young offenders from a life of crime by shifting their cases from criminal courts to family court.
Hein noted that while some aspects of the American economy have improved of late, many people, including those living in Midtown, are getting left behind. He said turning a closed elementary school in Midtown into a satellite campus of SUNY Ulster was a vital first step, noting that “education is the fastest way out of poverty.” That move allowed the Business Resource Center on Albany Avenue to move to the Kingston Center of SUNY Ulster, which freed up that space for the new Family Court facility, where Hein will hold his budget presentation.
As for the $4 million from NoVo, Hein said it would be used to enhance the Midtown Linear Park rail trail project, including playground equipment and trail amenities. “Everybody should have the right to bring their kids to a playground,” Hein said. The county executive also touted the trail’s making it easier for residents to get to the Hannaford in the Kingston Plaza, the city’s only supermarket.
Other plans include programs and job training in partnership with Ulster BOCES, SUNY Ulster and the county Office of Employment and Training. Mentoring and mental health services out of the Restorative Justice Center are also envisioned.
“The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley and its donors recognize the importance of engaging with partners in order to address social injustices like generational poverty,” said Community Foundations President March Gallagher in a statement. “To that end, we are thrilled to facilitate the generous support of NoVo Foundation on this initiative.”
“By investing in our marginalized and disadvantaged communities, I believe we will not only create a model for other communities throughout New York State, but we will also make a difference in the lives of our young people,” said Nina Dawson in a statement. Dawson represented Midtown as an alderwoman on the Common Council and is now the county’s human rights commissioner and director of its Youth Bureau.
Hein, who said helping people break the cycle of poverty is “something really important to me,” noted that the millions put into Midtown have come largely from grants and state agencies, with the remaining $4 million paid for by savings in other areas of the county budget. The result being county taxpayers haven’t seen their bills go up as a result.