Late 2018 update
Oh, didn't see you standing there! Well hello. At the time of writing this article in 2016, I had just helped start a creative business in Midtown Kingston and was all-in on the idea that plucky entrepreneurs like myself and new investment from cool people would start a cascading rainbow of positivity that would lead to the revitalization of an entire neighborhood. No negative consequences, just more jobs for people, better housing, upward mobility, more cool coffee shops, more STEM jobs, more galleries, more bars, more murals, better health, better transit, better everything.
I was, in so many ways, what you would call a neoliberal.
This article has become a critical point in the moving process for many people, who may be getting priced out and displaced from places like NYC or Boston, who are researching a move to Kingston. The act of seeking a better life for yourself, in and of itself, is not bad. However, the waves of people doing so have a side effect: rich people are being alerted that Kingston is a place where you can turn money into more money. The cool new businesses and murals sanitize the area for even richer investors to buy up tens of millions of dollars worth of buildings to turn into luxury hotels and amenities, which will create even more part-time service jobs and drive up the cost of living even more. People that live here already will get stretched thinner and thinner, working 2-3 part-time jobs, shuffling between run-down apartments while fleeing the threat of eviction, ever closer to the doomsday scenario where an unexpected expense puts them on the street.
Whether you live in Kingston and have some capitalist guilt, or if you're considering a move to Kingston because you're getting priced out of NYC, here are a few things you can do to not make the problem worse:
- Consider buying a house outside of Kingston, like in Esopus or Hurley, where there's less density and scarcity but housing prices and poverty are still relatively low. You can still get to Kingston very easily, but your existence will have less of an impact on housing prices around you.
- If you like someone's work, pay them for it, especially if they're an artist or a musician.
- If you employ people, make sure they're getting at least $15/hr, or change your business model so that you can pay at least that much.
- Consider joining the Democratic Socialists of the Hudson Valley, and check out Rise Up Kingston. Both groups are part of the growing housing affordability movement in the region, which recently had a major victory in Ossining to pass a rent-stabilization law
- Join the Gentrification and Community Development issues discussion group on Facebook
- Support the building of new affordable housing, like RUPCO's Alms House, all over the city; the rich parts, the poor parts, the middle parts, next to your house.
- Consider the impact that any new project has on affordability; is the good that you're providing offset by accelerating any problems?
- Be suspicious of anything where people who already have lots of money are being given incentives and breaks without a community benefits agreement in place
- Support the Kingston City Land Bank, which is off to a good start
- Don't fall for the trap of slashing social services to lower taxes; it may lower some people's taxes by a few hundred dollars a year but it also kills the funding for our most vulnerable people.
- Don't call the cops unless you're in actual danger
- Support the idea that tenants should be guaranteed a lawyer in tenant-landlord legal cases
- Support the fight for affordable housing in NYC; the destruction of rent control and affordable housing has accelerated affordability crises in upstate cities
- Support the idea of housing as a human right
Do some or all of those things, and then we can have our cake and eat it too. We can enjoy our community and tell the world how great it is. If they believe us and want to join us, we'll know that we have protections in place for the 58% of our population that is either in poverty or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). It doesn't have to be an either/or choice.
The original 5 Reasons to Move to Midtown Kingston article is below.
The original article
We love our city so much that we named our company after it. When people talk about Kingston, much of the discussion focuses on how great Uptown’s Stockade district and Downtown’s Rondout are. It’s an easy story to understand: both are packed with restaurants, trendy shops, and beautiful houses.
Midtown Kingston, the “other” neighborhood, is a little more complicated. Its identity has long been as the blue-collar, lunchpail part of Kingston, and it’s heavy on factory buildings, hospitals and medical centers, schools, and working class families, and has Broadway, Kingston’s main thoroughfare and defining piece of infrastructure, which links Uptown to Downtown. As part of a national trend, all of those things have been hit by hard times over the last several decades, leading to Midtown Kingston not being as shiny or trendy as other parts of the city.
However, challenges and change can also lead to new opportunities. Many great people and organizations love Midtown Kingston, and have been working very hard for years on fostering an inclusive rebirth of the neighborhood. It's not smoke and mirrors: the items below are real and already happening. Here's why we're bullish on the future:
1. Midtown Arts District
There’s no official designation yet, but there is a creative economy brewing in Midtown, mainly because there’s so much affordable space in repurposed factories, vacant storefronts and startup galleries. In addition to artists, there are also small manufacturers, makers, funky fitness classes and service companies flooding in as well.
Right now, you can take classes in rock climbing, zumba, tai chi, sword-fighting, Zumba, pole dancing, silversmithing and figure drawing at places like Cornell Street Studios, the Shirt and Brush Factory, and the Center for Creative Education without leaving a four block radius.
You can visit art openings at places like Green Kill, Art Bar, or Cornell Street Studios, or see performances by people ranging from David Sedaris to Kevin James to Chaka Khan at UPAC, an beautiful unaltered theater built in 1926. They also screen movies like Spaceballs from time to time.
Unique small businesses like Blackcreek Mercantile, Treeline Cheese, Green Palette and more are employing people and selling artisan goods online and in markets around the country, and more are following in their footsteps to incubate in Midtown. Actress Mary Stuart Masterson is even getting in on it, pursuing Stockade Works, a film production center that may open in 2017.
The Midtown Arts District is becoming a thing, and will be able to foster an even greater sense of connectivity between residents, businesses and organizations.
If you’re into art, fitness or entrepreneurship, Midtown Kingston is the place to be. Check out this infographic we just did on the topic.
2. The Midtown Quarter-Billion
Buffalo, another blue-collar city in the process of reinvention, has the Buffalo Billion, a $1B commitment from New York State to support a portfolio of economic development investments. Midtown Kingston isn’t as big as Buffalo, but there recently has been over $250M committed to some of our most foundational institutions in Midtown Kingston, with positive implications for the neighborhood’s education, healthcare, economic and housing.
Kingston High School: $137M
To be completed in 2023, this renovation is the first work to the Broadway campus since 1979, and will include 180,000 sq. feet of new construction. In addition to reversing decades of disrepair, it’ll also create several mini-learning academies that will help students learn in smaller groups and accommodate critical technology education and equipment.
This commitment means that Kingston will become an even better place to send kids to school.
Uncertainty around Midtown Kingston’s two hospitals has made the last ten years scary for both patients and employees, but New York State awarded HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley nearly $90M to invest in the two campuses and to partner with Westchester Medical Center Health Network. Hospital services will be consolidated into the former Benedictine Hospital campus, while the campus on Broadway will be converted into a medical village with lots of support services.
The takeaway: medical services are still going to be in Midtown Kingston, the company providing them is a lot more stable, and a significant amount of money is being spent to ensure that the services can support our community.
RUPCO’s Energy Square: $20M
RUPCO is getting really good at giving new life to outdated properties in Midtown Kingston. They recently re-opened the Lace Mill on Cornell Street, a long-dormant factory which took $16M in renovations that now has 55 units of artist housing.
Last year, they purchased a bowling alley property in Midtown, which will turn into a solar-powered, six-story facility that will combine mixed-income housing, event space and an elevated urban park called Energy Square. It will add 50-60 new housing units to Midtown, and is intended to have space for organizations like the Center for Creative Education and the Hudson Valley Tech Meet-Up to expand their services.
3. Kingston’s “Greenline” Rail Trail Network
Sitting in a car for 10-15 minutes to drive one mile is a major bummer, no matter where you live. One of Kingston’s current drawbacks is that traffic on Broadway can get bottlenecked, and the side streets are plagued with stop signs. Biking in Kingston can be a white-knuckle thrill-ride, while many sidewalks are in disrepair.
That's going to change, and soon.
The Kingston Land Trust has been pursuing a vision of a rail trail and bike route network, and it’s closer to fruition than ever before. The best part is that they all come together in Midtown Kingston. You’ll not only be able to bike across the entire city, but you’ll only have to share the road with cars for a brief portion of the ride. Kingston also links up to the Walkill Valley Rail Trail that can get you all the way to the Walkway Over the Hudson!
To make this happen, there are over a dozen separate ongoing projects being coordinated between the Land Trust and the Ulster County and Kingston city governments. This story in the Kingston Times is the most comprehensive overview of the current status of these projects, but it sounds like much of it will be completed by 2017 or 2018. You’ll be able to bike from Uptown to Midtown to Downtown, to the Hudson River, and back, and only have to share a road with cars for a few blocks.
Here's a map that includes some points of interest listed in this article:
Note: Two very controversial elements of this project are the proposal to add a bike lane to Broadway, and the ongoing battle between the Catskill Mountain Railroad and Ulster County government. Regardless of the outcomes of those two elements of this plan, it still will be possible to safely bike from Uptown Kingston to Downtown Kingston and the Hudson River on various trails and Complete Streets connections.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the restaurant scene Uptown and Downtown, but our post about food in Midtown Kingston was our most popular in our blog’s history. We only wrote about ten places, but if you check the comments, there were many that we missed including Joe Beez and The Anchor.
There’s great coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert to be had in Midtown Kingston, and locally made beer to wash it down.
5. Soccer & Smorgasburg
Kingston already has a bunch of huge events that the entire city can enjoy; the Uptown New Years’ celebrations, the O+ Festival every fall, the Burning of Kingston, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the weekly Kingston Farmers Market, Movies in the Park, and countless more.
This year, we’re also getting:
Kingston Stockade Football Club, a new semi-pro soccer team which will play seven home games in Uptown’s Dietz Stadium this summer.
Upstate Smorgasburg, an outdoor Brooklyn-style food & flea market that will be at a brickyard on the Hudson River near Downtown Kingston.
So picture it: you move to Midtown Kingston. By summer 2017, you’ll be able to walk to a parkour class, bike between the Farmers Market, a soccer match and Smorgasburg, go to some art openings, and grab a locally-made beer at Keegan Ales all in one day. You’ll be 20 minutes from an Amtrak station, ten minutes from the NYS Thruway, and 30 minutes from hiking, camping and swimming spots.
You just have to live in Midtown Kingston to do it!
This post was sponsored by 83 Downs Street, a three-story brick and bluestone Victorian house for sale in the heart of Midtown Kingston. If you want to live, make art, and possibly rent to people in Midtown Kingston, this is your place! It's not a fixer-upper, it's ready to go right now.