City of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County Propose Land Deal for Youth Center, Set Date for Presentation
Poughkeepsie, NY … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison announced today an agreement in principle between the County and City to have the County take ownership of the former YMCA site at 35 Montgomery Street in Poughkeepsie and invest $25 million to build a new, state-of-the-art Youth Opportunity Center at the site.
The Mayor and County Executive are seeking approval from the Common Council to transfer ownership of the property for $10 to Dutchess County, which would allow the County to put forth $25 million for the demolition of the existing decaying structure, and design and construction of the new center. Mayor Rolison and Council Chair Sarah Salem have called a special meeting for March 3 at 6 p.m., when a coalition of stakeholders will give a special presentation about the proposed agreement to the Common Council. The registration link is https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7Bph4quPSraVxHRU9BSEaQ
The City Administration has determined the city does not have the financial capacity to complete this project on its own. As such, collaborating with Dutchess County Government and a coalition of community stakeholders will make the center a reality, achieving the goal and broadening its reach.
Under local finance law, the County must have an ownership of the property to finance the $25 million development project through municipal bonding. If the Common Council approves ownership by Dutchess County, the transfer of the property and bonding would then go to the Dutchess County Legislature for final approval.
The first phase of the project would transform the property into community green space while design plans proceed for the youth center and other community benefit services on the more than 3-acre property.
“We have devised the best way to begin this immensely important project – creating an inspiring center to serve the needs of all our youth,” County Executive Molinaro said. “The site is the ideal location, and the project fits perfectly into the County’s Path to Promise initiative, designed to ensure that all young people in Dutchess County — from birth through employment — have the assistance they need to achieve their full potential as they grow into young adults. Working together with the City of Poughkeepsie, the County Legislature and community stakeholders, we can make this a model.”
The City has conducted a preliminary environmental and structural review of the property, concluding that the former YMCA building must be demolished — a conclusion supported by the city’s Building Inspector, who has deemed the structure unsafe. Under the proposed agreement, the City would contribute 25 percent of the demolition costs.
The City took ownership of the YMCA property in February 2019 as part of its anti-blight initiative with the goal of using the property to yield significant community benefit. The City then issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to the public and interested parties, seeking proposals to develop a youth and community center on the site and held two public meetings to garner more public feedback. The 35 Montgomery Community Coalition emerged as the successful respondent to the RFEI process after presenting its plans to the public at another public meeting in October 2019.
“Since the YMCA closed more than a decade ago, the community has urged for the creation of a youth center,” said Mayor Rolison. “The partnership between the City of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County governments makes this project possible and will develop the former Dutchess YMCA site as a safe, structured space that will benefit our area youth and provide much-needed educational and healthcare services, childcare and recreation opportunities. I also wanted to thank Council Chair Salem for working with me to put this matter before the Common Council and the public at large at a special meeting.”
The Coalition — which includes Dutchess County, as well as education and healthcare leaders — seeks to create a multi-use facility that would provide services connected to their respective missions in the community. The Coalition includes the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County, which is working to re-establish the Dutchess YMCA as a hub for educational and recreational resources for all Dutchess County residents. The YMCA facilities would include an indoor pool, gymnasium and fitness center, and wellness services.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with such a dynamic group of organizations to bring the YMCA back to Dutchess County,” said Heidi Kirschner, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County. “From summer camps to swim lessons, we are excited to work with the community and partner with local youth service providers to design a Y that will give Dutchess County’s kids the best possible start in life.”
DAY ONE — a City of Poughkeepsie-based nonprofit co-founded by Geraldine Laybourne, former president of Nickelodeon — intends to operate the first-of-its kind 24-Hour Child Development Center. The Center also would house DAY ONE’s apprentice teacher training program that will train 200 early childhood teachers over the five years, providing hands-on and intensive coursework to individuals new to the early childhood education field and those working in local daycares.
“We are energized by the actions the City and the County have taken to put kids first in the rebirth of the former YMCA site at Eastman Park,” Laybourne said. “Nothing does more for kids than investing in high-quality early education. Along with training and placing early childhood teachers and ensuring children have affordable early childhood education, DAY ONE will empower parents to enter or re-enter the workforce and will encourage young families to stay in or re-locate to Dutchess County.”
City of Poughkeepsie grassroots nonprofit Community Matters 2 also has been an active member of the coalition, leveraging its community revitalization work and development of youth programs in the City to ensure key voices are being heard from the earliest stages of the project.
“Community Matters 2 has been working for years to advocate for the rebuilding of a community center in Poughkeepsie,” said L’Quette Taylor, founder and chief executive officer of Community Matters 2. “We joined the 35 Montgomery Community Coalition to be sure that the voices of parents, grandparents, youth and all of our neighbors were represented in conversations about the project. The progress to date is really encouraging, and we’re excited to work with the City and County teams to build what we think can be a national model for what’s possible when a community unites on behalf of its children.”
The City, County and the 35 Montgomery Coalition will work to secure funding sources in addition to the County’s $25 million commitment. A stakeholders’ advisory board, which will include the 35 Montgomery Coalition and the City, will be created to have input on the design of the youth activity center and its future operations.
The agreement is subject to a number of conditions, such as giving the County three months to perform an environmental assessment and six months from the closing of the title to obtain financing for the development of the center.
“We are confident this is the most effective way to move forward,” County Executive Molinaro said. “I appreciate the efforts of both the County and City staffs to get us to this point. We welcome the input of the Common Council, the Dutchess County Legislature and the public. We believe there is widespread community support to move at a brisk but responsible pace to bring this project to fruition, and with the backing of the community, that is our intention.”