Village leaders on either side of the Shawangunk Ridge are hoping that a barbell proves not to be too heavy a lift. Ever since the system for doling out municipal state aid was retooled to heighten competition for the limited dollars to pursue essential projects, local leaders have worked hard to chase those dollars. That’s included doing extensive — and sometimes expensive —work preparing applications for the biggest prize, $10 million, under the “downtown revitalization initiative (DRI).” Most of those awards have been conferred to support projects in cities, but last year one winning project was an effort to jointly benefit the communities of Haverstraw and Ossining, which are connected only by a ferry route. With state officials endorsing this “barbell” concept, one of the applications in this year’s frenzy will be from officials in the villages of Ellenville and New Paltz, connected by a series of carriage roads that once were used to by guests heading to Mohonk Mountain House.
In a meeting held in Ellenville on September 7 that was also attended by New Paltz officials who connected virtually, leaders of the two governments sketched a vision of what this joint application might look like. The details were scant in part to keep the session from lasting long into the night, and in part because this was the “public engagement” portion of the application process, intended to solicit ideas and to drum up written support for the bid from residents of the two villages. The DRI process also makes being specific difficult: while a clear vision does seem to make applications stand out, when one of these mammoth awards is handed out then a planning committee must be convened to finalize the particulars.
Ellenville leaders have tried a few times for this money, while in New Paltz this extensive exercise has been undertaken each time it’s been offered. Mayors Tim Rogers and Jeff Klein each say that every failed attempt is an opportunity to win next time; as is true with many competitive grants, the feedback provided on an application that falls short can be seen as a road map for future success. DRI proposals require a considerable investment in planning ahead of time, because these awards are supposed to be going to help fund projects that can be brought to fruition relatively quickly. In addition to planning, the funds cannot be used for operations, training or purchasing property. Among the other criteria are a “strong sense of place” concept that could drive jobs to a community and prop up the medieval-style property-tax system upon which most local infrastructure depends. The projects are also supposed to enhance public spaces, reduce greenhouse gases and provide more diversity in housing and employment options.
Under the cloud of contradictions inherent in requiring a “clear sense of purpose” and also a planning committee after the fact, leaders highlighted some of what might make a “sense of place” in each village. Michael Warren, who serves as village manager in Ellenville, touched on ways to enhance that downtown through strategic improvement or restoration of facades in the village core around key public areas on Canal and Center streets. The New Paltz focus this year is on the North Chestnut Street corridor, according to Rogers, as it benefits both from zoning that encourages mixed-use buildings near a rail trail and also the site of the Ann Oliver house, an historic home which is to be restored as an African-American cultural center. The thin line of the barbell is the Smiley carriage roads, extending from the River-to-Ridge trail in New Paltz over the ridge and down to Berme Road Park in Ellenville. Control of these rests with the Open Space Institute, and some of the money would be used to complete the section from High Point down into Ellenville.
Money would also be used to prop up harm reduction in both communities, in the context of the opioid pandemic and other human services; to expand options for child care; and to leverage college resources for these types of collaboration.
This year, officials in both villages are not only joining forces on this carriage-road concept, but will also be trying to get money through another competitive program that’s intended for smaller communities, called “New York Forward.” Under that scheme, winning applications would result in award of $4.5 million. Details were scant, but it appears that each of these applications will be an echo of what’s being sought for one end of the DRI “barbell.”
Suggestions by members of the public were received graciously, but given the open nature of these applications, it’s difficult to predict precisely when or how any might be incorporated into the grant applications. Local officials are especially eager to collect letters of support from residents. Those in New Paltz who wish to do this may find information with an internet search for “New Paltz revive.”
Home prices are still rising
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York updates its county estimates for home real-estate activity with new data monthly. In July 2022, the central bank put Ulster County, where prices increased on a year-to-year basis by 9.3 percent, in the middle of the pack, where the Long Island counties and many upstate counties also were. That increase was about the pace of inflation.
The New York City counties except for Staten Island continued to lag, but all were in positive territory.
July-to-July price changes in the Hudson Valley counties were a mixed bag, ranging from 18.5 percent in Greene County to a scant 3.4 percent across the Hudson River in Columbia County. In between these two extremes were Rockland County at 15.2 percent, Sullivan at 14.9 percent, Dutchess at 13.3 percent, Westchester at 12.1 percent, and Putnam at 11.2 percent.
Because of the small sample size of sales in the smaller counties, one-month numbers are not statistically reliable.
The state brokers’ association, NYSAR, which calculates housing stock a little differently, said July-to-July median home prices statewide increased from $385,300 to $420,000, and in Ulster County from $349,900 to $389,500.