POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.—As part of Scenic Hudson’s work within the valley’s river cities, Poughkeepsie is an example of how the nonprofit is engaging people to discover and improve natural treasures in their urban neighborhoods and to become advocates in restoring these places into community assets. As part of the Poughkeepsie-based Northside Collaborative Project, Scenic Hudson has been listening to community members, partnering with other groups and undertaking action to improve the quality of life, safety and cleanliness of areas along and near the Fall Kill in the city’s Northside. Now the land preservation and environmental group is announcing that it will invest $46,000 in seven dynamic projects that will happen this spring, summer and fall. Its staff will continue to team up with partners as the projects advance.
Scenic Hudson Senior Vice President Steve Rosenberg said, “We’ve enjoyed ramping up our work in Poughkeepsie, the longtime home to our offices. Our goal has been to bring together residents, community groups and government to identify and tackle issues important to Northside neighborhoods. With great participation by other members of the Northside Collaborative Project, we’ve made an immediate difference and imagine exciting future possibilities. There’s a real desire for places to experience nature in the heart of the city, and people want to be part of making that happen.”
Scenic Hudson is investing in six projects based on detailed proposals and goals that align with the organization’s environmental mission in the city.
1. Creating a New Outdoor Community Space
Hudson River Housing will revitalize a vacant Main Street parcel in the Fall Kill Corridor. The effort will leverage existing investments Hudson River Housing has made in the Middle Main area. A goal is to clean and beautify a vacant lot at 535 Main St. and address residents’ concerns about safety and cleanliness for the neighborhood’s growing Latino population and others. A trail and plantings will be created through the site. Hudson River Housing will engage community residents in designing the project and working to create the new outdoor space for gatherings, performance or art. Also included will be installation of a second Middle Main Community Kiosk. It will be in Spanish and feature community information and jobs postings.
The project will be completed by November 2018 and celebrated with a community event and art show. Scenic Hudson’s investment is $16,037.
2. Developing Outdoor Art Installations
The Art Effect, formerly Mill Street Loft and Spark Media Project, will launch Fall Kill Community Outdoor Art Installations as part of a 2018 summer youth employment program. The program focuses on youth from lower-income households to explore visual arts, media and design careers through experiences with related businesses and mentoring with working professional artists. The program will clean up two sites along the Fall Kill and create art pieces at each site. The youth also will design and fabricate a multimedia art project that takes a novel approach to encouraging people to appreciate and care for the Fall Kill and areas along it.
A late summer or early fall conclusion is planned, as is a public unveiling. Scenic Hudson is investing $10,000.
3. Drone Video to Make Fall Kill More Climate Change Resilient, Greater Connector for Northside
MASS Design Group Hudson Valley Design Lab will create comprehensive drone footage to highlight opportunities for initiatives that will make the Northside neighborhood more connected, storm- and flood-resilient, and attractive. The project also will inspire community action to seize the opportunities. The video will enable the city to better understand and respond to current conditions and target and prioritize ongoing maintenance, repair and design improvements. The images will showcase the way people experience the creek and fuel conversations on maximizing an important community natural resource. The footage will be compiled into a 3-D video model that can provide an interactive experience of the creek.
December 2018 is when the initiative will be wrapped up, with a $5,000 investment by Scenic Hudson helping make it happen.
4. Archaeological Study as First Step in Transforming Empty Lot into a Vibrant Community Space
The Poughkeepsie Alliance envisions turning a 1.5-acre wooded, city-owned parcel near Pershing Avenue into a community garden and food hub. Before doing this, it will be necessary to determine if there are prehistoric and historic remains at the site. The property is located on the northern side of the former Poughkeepsie Alms house, and the Fall Kill was a significant waterway in the prehistory and early history of Poughkeepsie. Ecological assessments also would be done. The long-term goal is to create a safe, outdoor public area along the Fall Kill Corridor and potentially provide job training and youth employment opportunities. This property then could be joined with an existing recreation park and another parcel on the Fall Kill.
Scenic Hudson’s investment of 5,500 will help facilitate a spring 2018 completion.
5. Cleaning up Fall Kill and a Nearby Park to Give Students Jobs and Encourage Enjoyment of the Creek
High school and middle school students will learn about the Fall Kill, clean up a portion of the waterway at Malcolm X Park and introduce more of the neighborhood to this important natural and historic piece of the city. This will occur through a project by R.E.A.L. Skills Network. Students will lead educational activities and workshops that will engage elementary students and community members. Doing, learning and teaching others to care and be involved, the project will enhance the Northside and spark use of, and pride in, the Fall Kill that flows through their neighborhood. The students also would participate in a BioBlitz project with the Vassar College Environmental Cooperative and Scenic Hudson (see below).
The groups have determined to accomplish the work by September 2018 with help from $5,000 provide by Scenic Hudson.
6. Bringing the Fall Kill to Life Through a BioBlitz
A BioBlitz is a collaborative effort to survey living things in a specific area over a short period of time. Vassar College and its Environmental Collaborative at the Vassar Barns will host such an activity at sites along the Fall Kill. Partners will include Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County, expert naturalists and Vassar personnel, as well as local schools, R.E.A.L. Skills, Family Partnership Center and The Art Effect. Students will participate in the biological survey work. The project teaches science hands-on, connects young people with nature and provides students and community members with a better understanding of the city as a habitat while they advance community alliances and neighborhood strength.
With a timeline through the end of 2018, this effort will make use of $5,000 from Scenic Hudson.
Community partners in the Northside Collaborative Project
Formed by Scenic Hudson, this group includes The Art Effect; Arts Mid-Hudson; Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; City of Poughkeepsie; Cornell University Cooperative Extension Dutchess County; Dutchess Community College; Dutchess Outreach; Family Services; Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County; Hudson River Housing, Inc.; Marist College; MASS Design Group; Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum; Mid-Hudson Heritage Center; Nubian Directions; O+; Poughkeepsie Alliance; Poughkeepsie City School District; Poughkeepsie Farm Project; R.E.A.L. Skills Network, Inc.; Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute; Scenic Hudson; SNUG; Vassar College; and Walkway Over the Hudson.
In addition to above-described undertakings, Scenic Hudson is investing in another project along the Fall Kill as part of a larger effort.
Advancing a Vision for Transforming Parking Lot into Gathering, Recreation and Garden Space
Long a nexus of community services, gathering and support for City of Poughkeepsie residents, the Family Partnership Center will take fuller advantage of its connection to the Fall Kill and offer more to residents and the neighborhood. Family Services operates the center and will partner with Dutchess Outreach, MASS Design and Scenic Hudson on redesigning areas surrounding the center. The initiative is intended to create a more welcoming perception of the center, provide new outdoor recreation opportunities and enhance the community garden run by Dutchess Outreach.
May 2018 is when it’s anticipated that all project goals will be reached. Scenic Hudson is investing up to $30,000.
Quotes from Partners
Hudson River Housing, Inc.
“We know addressing vacant properties is a top priority of Poughkeepsie residents, and we are thankful that Scenic Hudson has made resources available that prioritize community-driven projects that highlight and maximize local assets,” said Hudson River Housing Director of Organizational & Community Development Elizabeth Celaya. “Our joint efforts will bring new community voices into the discussion about Poughkeepsie’s future, and produce visible improvements to vacant space in the city. This type of collaboration is what will continue to enhance the progress being made in Poughkeepsie and ensure all residents can be part of helping the city achieve its full potential.
MASS Design Group
MASS Design Hudson Valley Design Lab Director Chris Kroner said, “Our project will build on the momentum of recent listening sessions and drive actionable next steps. The idea is to use 3-D video and modeling to engage residents in imagining the Fall Kill as a community and natural resource worthy of restoration. The visuals will help enable the city to prioritize efforts along the creek to make its neighborhoods more resilient in the face of weather events that now cause flooding.”
The Art Effect
“The Art Effect has partnered with Scenic Hudson to engage youth in Poughkeepsie in environmental arts and media projects for several years. We commend Scenic Hudson’s unique approach to partnering and are thrilled to receive this support to empower local youth to help make the Fall Kill a vibrant, safe community asset through public art projects this summer,” said The Art Effect Executive Director Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt.
R.E.A.L. Skills Network, Inc.
“R.E.A.L. Skills Network is proud that we have the chance to be in a collaboration that engages youth in taking ownership of the Fall Kill Creek and the community at large,” said Founder and CEO Tree Arrington. “We feel that this investment will achieve longevity in the community because our youth are here for the long run to watch and take care of what belongs to them. That is why it is called the ‘It’s our Creek Too’ Initiative.”
“The Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns is excited to be part of the Northside Collaborative Project and is looking forward to connecting Vassar students with the great work Scenic Hudson and other community groups are doing in the City of Poughkeepsie. We look forward to helping create awareness and interest in our natural resources, including the Fall Kill, through a combined community effort,” said Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns Manager Jennifer Rubbo.
About Scenic Hudson
Scenic Hudson helps citizens and communities preserve land and farms and create parks where people experience the outdoors and enjoy the Hudson River. We also bring together people, businesses and government to protect the river and natural resources that are the engines of the valley’s local economies. Started in 1963 by a handful of citizens who cherished the simple pleasures of the outdoors along the Hudson, Scenic Hudson is credited with launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today, in the face of new challenges and the effects of climate change, we are dedicated to making the Hudson Valley a great place to live, work and play. Our focus is on strengthening and maximizing benefits all can enjoy from the region’s great assets—beautiful open spaces, working farms, and vibrant cities and town centers.