Twenty years ago the City of Poughkeepsie debuted a Comprehensive Plan meant to be a road map for revitalization. If you look at Poughkeepsie today you can see, broadly, how well or poorly the City followed its own plan. Look around and there are indeed pockets of vitality — but also far too little of it. To spoil the plot, Poughkeepsie veered from the plan it devised for its own rescue, and it did so comprehensively. This three-part post seeks to grade these efforts. The first will evaluate Housing, Zoning and Transportation. The second will evaluate Cultural Resources, Parks and Recreation, and Historic Resources. The third will evaluate Main Street Revitalization, the Cottage Street Business Park, and Waterfront Strategies.
At the end of the 1998 City of Poughkeepsie Comprehensive Plan there is a list of initiatives listed for each of its recommended strategies, as well as a rating of their priority. The list also indicates if the initiative is an immediate goal, a short-term goal, a mid-range goal, or a long-term goal. It has been 20 years since the plan was adopted, enough time to have some impact. So we decided to grade the city’s performance. To do this we assigned 5 points to high priority initiatives, 3 points to medium priority, and 1 point to low priority. In the last post Housing, Zoning and Transportation were evaluated. This post will focus on Cultural Resources, Parks and Recreation, and Historic Resources. (Editor’s Note: The BenCen’s entire series, How the City of Poughkeepsie Fell Short, is now live and can be explored in depth, here.)
Outdoor Concerts and Fairs: With the numerous events that are held in city parks, and the Mayor’s First Friday initiative this goal has been accomplished. 3/3 points
Cultural recap: 6/6 points.
Parks and Recreation:
Neighborhood associations: The plan recommends forming “friends” associations to adopt parks and participate in cleanup and maintenance. Friends of Spratt Park is an example of one such organization. Though this is the sort of thing that we could always use more of, Poughkeepsie has created more neighborhood associations, and the work they do is admirable. 3/3 points.
Improvements to existing parks: There is no documentation available to judge the conditions of the parks in 1998, but currently they are well lit, and improvements have been made over the past 20 years. 3/3 points.
New park(s) in the 3rd Ward:
Just prior to the drafting of the 1998 Comprehensive plan, the Malcolm X Park next to Beulah Baptist Church was transferred to Poughkeepsie. It was never officially made a city park. It was, however, transferred to the City of Poughkeepsie School District. Currently the park relies on volunteers for cleanup and maintenance, and occasionally has GoFundMe campaigns for repairs and new equipment. No new parks have been created since 1998, and Wheaton Park was since sold. Additionally, the Main Street “sculpture park” which was transferred to the city from the Poughkeepsie Urban Renewal Agency was never officially made a city park, and was sold for development in 2015. 1/5 points.
Repair bulkhead, create riverside promenade:
The progress made on making the waterfront more accessible for public recreation since 1998 cannot be overstated. The bulkhead has been repaired, a new boat launch built, a promenade built, and Waryas and Kal Rock Parks beautified. Compared to the state of this area in 1998, this has been a marked improvement. While the vision of a working waterfront has not been realized, and nothing resembling a harbor has materialized, compared to the pile of rubble that this area was in the late 90’s, the current state of these parks is spectacular. 5/5 points.
The plans to create an amphitheater on the waterfront fell through, and there has been no discussion of this in a long time. The possibility of creating this space is diminished by more recent development, and the idea of an outdoor amphitheater may not mesh with the city’s current vision of its waterfront. 0/5 points.
Fallkill Creek Trail:
No Fallkill Creek trail has been created. The Fallkill creek has not been utilized as a cultural resource. Recently Columbia University / MASS Design Group / Hudson Valley Design Labs explored the possibilities for the Fallkill. 0/3 points.
Shuttle/tour bus to waterfront:
The suggestion was to have regular bus service down to the waterfront via the DC LOOP system so that people inside and outside of the city could get to and enjoy the waterfront. Currently there is no bus service to the waterfront, but several routes terminate up Main Street at the train station. 0/3 points.
Parks and Recreation Recap: The Parks and Rec. section of the Comprehensive Plan was a mixed bag. The city has made a great deal of progress, particularly on the waterfront, while it has accomplished far less elsewhere, particularly in less advantaged sections of town. 12/27 points.
Increase walking tours:
There is no indication that there are currently any formal historic walking tours conducted by the city. I am unable to find out if there were walking tours at one point since 1998 that have since stopped, so rather than take off points I am going to leave out this score.
Find new funding for historic preservation:
This is marked as a short-term goal. I cannot determine if this was done after the adoption of the plan, and so I will not grade this initiative. I will mention that in the 2018 budget, the city does not provide any money for historic preservation.
Create Market Street Historic District:
This district was never completed. There are currently three locally designated Historic Districts: The Academy Street Historic District, the Garfield Place Historic District, and the Dwight Street Historic District. 0/3
Create Mansion Square / Emeline Patrice Park Historic District:
See Above. 0/3
Historic Resources Recap:
This category scored 0/6. Poughkeepsie did achieve other historic preservation goals, but they were not outlined in the comprehensive plan.
Recap: With 18/39 the city scored 46% on this section of the test. While this is an improvement over the 32% it scored on the last section, it is still not a passing grade. The next post in this series will evaluate Main Street Revitalization, the Cottage Street Business Park, and Waterfront Strategies.