Mayor Marc Nelson delivered his State of the City address Wednesday at The Academy, citing a new level of cooperation between the administration and Common Council and pointing to the city's continued momentum to fiscal solvency.
You can see a replay of the speech here.
Common Council Chairwoman Natasha Brown made introductory remarks to the audience on behalf of the mayor. Nelson took over as mayor in January and also continues to serve as city administrator following the election of former Mayor Rob Rolison to the state Senate.
“The city has worked diligently to reduce a $12.3 million general fund deficit that we expect to be eradicated through the creation of the 2024 budget this year,” said Mayor Nelson. “Reducing our deficit and rebuilding our fund balance hold the key to restoring our investment grade quality bond rating, which will lower our cost of borrowing. This is particularly urgent given the economic challenges caused by inflation and rising interest rates.”
The mayor pointed to the considerable economic development activity in the city and announced the city will support and help implement a Downtown Business Improvement District, organized by the property owners within the district footprint of the Main Street corridor and surrounding area.
“The formation of the business improvement district will give voice – and funding – to our community so that decisions aren’t made solely by City Hall, but by all the stakeholders of the district,” the mayor said.
Late last year, the city approved and published a revamped Comprehensive Plan after significant public engagement and feedback, replacing a 20 year-old version and laying the foundation for important citywide zoning code updates.
The mayor said the city is also plowing more than $6 million into city parks and has worked with partners – including Dutchess County, Scenic Hudson, and New City Parks – to make significant and long-lasting improvements in the areas that need it the most. This includes new benches, trees, basketball hoops, resurfaced courts, installation of new site lighting at Pershing Avenue Park and Malcolm X Park and the installation of two soccer pitches at Pulaski Park.
Meanwhile, on the waterfront, the city is seeking qualified developers to offer their vision for the former Delaval site, the last parcel with undeveloped acres on the city’s riverside. The city has released a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the DeLaval site. The city is looking for creative, compatible waterfront uses, such as restaurants, a boutique hotel, docks, water recreation, or other such uses.
The mayor also announced that the city will be putting $140,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to grow and nurture the arts community and make the city more of an arts destination.
As the economic activity and cultural enhancements continue, the mayor said the city still places public safety as a priority, praising the work of the both police and fire departments.
He also pointed to the city’s increased capacity to help youth through key initiatives and new resources. The city has created a Division of Youth Opportunity and Development at City Hall, and last year hired Karen Williams as its first director. Williams has worked with other city staffers to implement the city’s Youth Activities & Opportunities Grant program that began with $140,000 in seed money in 2018 and has grown to nearly half a million dollars this year.
“It’s a remarkable accomplishment for the city,” Mayor Nelson said.
The mayor also cited the city’s collaboration with the Poughkeepsie City School District in creating the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet, which brings together government agencies, child-serving community organizations, health institutions and other local stakeholders.
“The Cabinet was formed in recognition of the fact that children spend 80 percent of their time out of the classroom and in the broader community. As such, we have embarked on a shared vision and cradle-to-career agenda for child and youth development throughout the city.”
Summing up the State of the City address, Mayor Nelson said, “Through dealing with cash shortfalls and COVID, through bolstering public safety and making park improvements, through guiding business growth and housing development, we, as a city, have faced extraordinary challenges these past few years and have endured. Undoubtedly, the city has momentum to thrive and prosper. Not even a global pandemic could slow us down for long.”