Looking ahead to 2023, Town Supervisor James E. Quigley III said the town of Ulster will likely continue to struggle with the rapidly changing demographics that are changing the character of the community.
“My off-the-cuff observation would be that the Town of Ulster is losing more and more of its rural character that has been there forever,” he said. “I want to stress that it’s not due to development, it’s due to the changing demographics.”
Quigley recalled that the Town of Ulster was historically a bedroom community for IBM employees, many of whom took early retirement when the facility closed in 1995 and stayed in the area.
“They were in their early-50s, and they’re now in their 80s,” Quigley said. “We are a community where our elderly are aging in place, but I believe that they are now getting to a point where aging in place is becoming more problematic from a physical standpoint. I’ve certainly noticed the trends in our town clerk’s office on the death certificate issuance going steadily up over the last three, four years. And, operationally, the number of permits we’re issuing for the transfer station is going down. And when we look at the age group of those that we issue permits to, the largest majority of those are seniors…So all the ancillary little pieces of data indicate that the town is seriously in a transition phase.”
Quigley added that as the longtime population gets older, some are selling their homes to younger buyers, a demographic that has proven difficult to read.
“I don’t have a good handle on where to go,” Quigley said. “We’re faced with delivering services, and if you look at a younger demographic that has a family, that’s focused on raising a family, you would think that demands for summer camp and recreation programs would increase. But that’s not what’s happening. The registration is going down, but we’re also seeing an increasing penetration of non-Town of Ulster residents participating in the program. You just look around at all those little things and you say, Hey, we’ve got a changing community.”
Quigley said it’s similar to the changing demographics in other local communities.
“It’s probably not as evident as the changes that take place in the City of Kingston because of the migration from Brooklyn, and we don’t have the, um, gathering points,” Quigley said. “Such as the (Kingston) restaurants on Wall Street or North Front Street, where people would hang out, and you don’t necessarily see these types of get-togethers. But I can tell you, I think that it’s occurring.”
The supervisor said there have been other social trends that are more concerning.
“We have seen an increase in (opioid) overdoses,” he said. “We have seen an increase in cases that resulted in the application of NARCAN and saves, but we’ve also had a fair share of overdoses that did not result in saves.”
Other crimes have also increased locally, though Quigley said some of that is spillover from the City of Kingston.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of guns being taken off the street in the Town of Ulster, and we’ve seen an increase in the amount of cross-border crime flow,” Quigley said. “And by that I mean, since we are directly adjacent to City of Kingston, the perpetrators of those crimes don’t respect the municipal boundaries.”
But there is also good news ahead in the Town of Ulster, some of which was due to work done in the recent past.
“2022 was a period that was very productive in preparing for what may happen in 2023,” Quigley said.
The RUPCO conversion of the former Quality Inn on Route 28 has gone through the town’s Planning Board, clearing a path for the installation of 80 units of affordable housing in a county with too little of it.
Quigley noted that a federal $2 million ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) grant through Ulster County has been obtained to secure water and sewer lines to the Quality Inn property.
Elsewhere, the Town has received a $500,000 ARPA grant through the county for the replacement of the Ulster Water District’s south tower 500,000 gallon tank.
“The original tank was constructed in 1957, and it currently looks like a piece of Swiss cheese with a bunch of rubber plugs in it that are plugging the holes,” Quigley said. “So that tank has clearly met its life expectancy.”
Quigley said there was some urgency for the tank replacement because of a longstanding issue with a five million gallon tank at the same location, which will likely have to be replaced within a decade.