Tuesday, May 14, 2019

  

Poughkeepsie city officials hear suggestions for future of Y building

Dilapidated YMCA building

POUGHKEEPSIE - City of Poughkeepsie officials held the first of several public forums Monday evening to hear suggestions for the use of the former YMCA building at 35 Montgomery Street.  

The city has taken ownership of the property and is seeking development proposals for the more than three-acre site. The building has been vacant since the YMCA closed its doors in 2009. 

Mayor Robert Rolison declared the property to be "the largest blighted property in the city of Poughkeepsie."

The roundtable discussion was moderated by John Penney, the city's Director of Community Engagement joined by Mayor Rolison and Community Development Coordinator Paul Hesse. 

At the start of the forum, Rolison announced that the city had hired an environmental consultant to inspect the building and the city received the report earlier on Monday.  The report recommended that no individuals enter the building without full hazmat clothing due to the interior condition of the building, and that includes city employees, according to Rolison.  The consultant has also provided a 45-minute video of the interior that Rolison hopes to make available to the public in the near future.

Attendees were briefed by Hesse about the process for which ideas are being submitted; only one of which has been received so far. According to the city's website, a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the property has been released. The RFEI is intended to solicit ideas that will yield significant community benefit, such as economic development, social and neighborhood cohesion and/or the creation of facilities serving youth and young adults. The RFEI may lead to a Request for Proposals (RFP) process that may result in an award of a preferred developer to move the project forward and to fruition. 

Originally, interested parties were required to submit their RFEI on June 3, but Hesse said that community input requesting an extension has been granted.  Proposals are now due on August 5.  Written questions about the plans are to be submitted no later than July 15.  

After the briefing by Rolison and Hesse, the public was invited to query city officials about the project and offer ideas.  Nato Hampton asked if the city had earmarked funding for the undertaking to which Rolison said that the city had not done so as of yet and they were still pursuing the options of some type of public-private partnerships.  "We're all partners in this together" Rolison said, offering that the city would consider having the school district as a partner in the plan. 

A woman who identified herself as Suzanne said that she had researched the deed to the parcel with the assistance of County Clerk Brad Kendall and discovered that there is a restriction that the parcel be used for recreation and remain "green" and was concerned that the city might try to allow for apartments or mixed-use development on the property.  Rolison assured her that the deed would be adhered to. 

City resident Laurie Sandow opened her remarks by expressing her disappointment that the forum was not being recorded for airing by the city at a later date.  Sandow followed with 'The city has a documented history of having behind closed door agreements with so-called preferred developers" and wanted to know who the "preferred developers"  were and also wanted to know if members of the common council who she described as "clueless when it comes to the law" were authorized to change the deed restrictions.  Rolison responded saying "the common council is as much a part of this conversation tonight and in the future.  They are a policy-making body in the City of Poughkeepsie and have a lot to say when it comes to this site."  The mayor also responded to Sandow's accusation about developers with "we've had none of those conversations as it relates to this property and there isn't going to be.  This is a community conversation."


L'quette Taylor: "People are really banking on this"

Satara Brown of Poughkeepsie wanted to know the city's definition of a youth center because as far as she is concerned "right now there are none in the city."  Brown said that this is "a really crucial time in Poughkeepsie right now" telling of how she runs an after-school program where many of the school-aged children can't read.  "We're failing our kids," said Brown, who stressed the need to have the right people at the table when it comes to determining what type of youth center the city needs.  "Our kids need help and we need to help them!"  Rolison called her comments "very important" and said that there are many people interested in being involved in the project and the city needs to figure out who needs to be involved and proceed from there.  

L'quette Taylor of Community Matters 2 in Poughkeepsie wanted to know how the city is trying to reach out to the community about this project.  Rolison said that the forum is a start but added that the nine members of the council along with the school district need to get involved in getting the word out. Taylor offered to provide Rolison with 700 surveys that were completed by school-aged children collected by Community Members 2 that express what the kids want.  Rolison said he would certainly read them.  "People are really banking on this," said Taylor, calling a community center a much-needed addition to the city.

 

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