Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and members of the City’s Common Council joined local stakeholders today as demolition of the former YMCA building at 35 Montgomery Street began, the next step in the process of the development of a state-of-the-art Youth Opportunity Union (YOU), which will be built on the site and benefit children from throughout Dutchess County.
The YOU will be a fixture for the County’s Path to Promise initiative that employs strategic ways to ensure all young people in Dutchess County have the assets they need to realize their full potential as they grow into adults.
County Executive Molinaro said, “The YMCA had a profound, positive impact on our communities for decades, and Dutchess County’s Youth Opportunity Union will build on that legacy of transforming the lives of young people. We will build a safe, structured space to offer essential educational services, childcare and recreation opportunities – addressing numerous needs for Dutchess County children and their families. We continue our journey toward the YOU, which will transform the lives of so many young people for generations to come.”
In July 2021, the County and City finalized a land agreement, whereby the County acquired the 35 Montgomery Street site from the City, and County Executive Molinaro committed to spend $25 million for the YOU’s design and construction; design is still ongoing. The YOU project has received great interest from a variety of organizations, including the nationally renowned Harlem Children’s Zone; formal funding/donation solicitation, however, will not begin until design and cost estimates are finalized.
Jeh Vincent Johnson, a pioneering African-American architect who taught at Vassar College for 37 years, was a designer of the YMCA building, and Dutchess County will honor the facility’s past, building on its legacy to help future generations of County young people.
The County selected MASS Design Group as the architect and project lead for the YOU, following a Request for Proposals and review by the Dutchess County Legislature’s Architect/Engineer/Construction Management Consultant Selection Committee. MASS has engaged in a wide range of engagement events and listening sessions, both in-person and virtually, to gain valuable input from the community.
The County will continue to work with MASS and its other partners on the design plans throughout this year. Once construction estimate costs are determined, County Executive Molinaro will request the County Legislature authorize $15 million in bonding to complete the County’s $25 million commitment to the project, with the goal of construction beginning in 2023.
The County has created a YOU Advisory Committee of community leaders who provide feedback on design plans and potential operational aspects of the YOU, and the County selected the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County as the YOU’s future operator.
To engage and involve youth in the project, the County also has worked with The Art Effect and design firm Small Stuff on an inspiring initiative that will feature artwork on the temporary fencing surrounding the construction site, seen below. Local students created the art at workshops throughout Dutchess County, including the East Fishkill Community Library, Red Hook Community Center, Adriance Memorial Library in the City of Poughkeepsie, Tivoli Free Library and the North East Community Center in Millerton.
The City took ownership of the property in 2019 after the site had been dormant for a decade.
“During our initial public meetings in 2019, community members made it abundantly clear they wanted this site to be used once again as a community hub, with a focus on youth,” Mayor Rolison said. “I’m grateful the County has agreed to take on this project and is committed to creating an inclusive and safe space for our youth to learn and grow.”
Prior to selling the property to the County, the City conducted a preliminary environmental and structural review and concluded the former YMCA building had to be demolished. That conclusion was supported by the city’s building inspector, who deemed the structure unsafe.
Ongoing updates about the YOU are available at www.the-you.org, where residents can also provide feedback.