City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison has decided to postpone tonight’s State of the City address at the Changepoint Theatre, believing now is not the right time to bring together such a large group of people for a public gathering.
“We think it’s smart to use an abundance of caution in this instance,” Mayor Rolison said. The Mayor said he and city officials will be discussing a future date for the State of the City address and will be keeping the public informed as decisions are made.
City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison will deliver his State of the City address at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday March 11 at the Changepoint Theatre, 260 Mill St., Poughkeepsie. The public is invited to attend. RSVP to Kathy Vacca at 845-451-4073, [email protected].
In November, Mayor Rolison was elected to his second, four-year term and took the oath of office in January. He will review the progress made during his tenure and provide details on the 2020 initiatives, including addressing the city’s improving financial condition. Most recently, Mayor Rolison has been working with Poughkeepsie City School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser to form a “Children’s Cabinet” aimed at creating a shared vision and cradle-to-career agenda for child and youth development in the city. Rosser also will offer remarks during the speech.
“I look forward to providing the public with more information about the city’s many initiatives,” Mayor Rolison said. “The State of the City address is an important point to give an update, but the address will be centered on what the city has been focusing on – the future.”
(Introduced by Dr. Felicia Watson, Chair of the Poughkeepsie City School District)
Thank you Dr. Watson. Welcome Everybody to such a fabulous venue for this year’s State of the City, and thank you Pastor Marlow Dunham and Jacques Battel for hosting us – it is so fitting for us to be here at Changepoint this year, a real anchor in our community – right downtown, with its doors open and welcoming everyone of all faiths and backgrounds – Changepoint is not just non-denominational, it is multi-cultural, it is inclusive, and it is here, tonight, that we take stock of what community really means, the challenges we face together, and our shared goals and hopes for the coming year and beyond.
has been an extraordinary year in Poughkeepsie, and I am privileged to stand
before you this evening and report on the state of our great city. Without
doubt, it has been the work of the last several years that bring us to where we
are today, and tonight I ask you to not only consider our progress but to
consider how our great city is poised for a revitalized and reinvigorated future.
A Poughkeepsie more able to address the needs of its citizens, to attract and
welcome more visitors, to be more attractive to new business and employers and
carefully crafted-development and – most important – within reach of our highest
goal: – a safer, more inclusive city.
the stabilization of the City’s finances came the first chance in nearly a
decade to make measured but vital investments in city government. We started –
and we will continue – with public safety. I want to also take this opportunity
to address a recent incident involving a city police officer that has garnered much
attention within the community. The City takes these situations with the utmost
seriousness and gravity. We hold our law enforcement officers in high regard:
but we also hold them to the highest standard. Maintaining the trust of the
community is essential to providing public safety, and I commit to maintain
done significant work in the past year when it comes to public safety.
implemented a program to address longevity of our police officers who leave our
department in favor of higher paying positions in neighboring communities. This
retention program brought our police salaries in line with our peers, while
reducing the city’s cost of healthcare, which is one of our toughest expenses
to combat. We also eliminated vacant-but-funded positions and moved those
budgeted funds into salary schedules for the out-years, providing real
incentives for our officers to stay longer. Between 2016 and 2018 thirty-three
officers left our employ due to retirement or for higher paying positions.
Since our retention program was implemented we have hired 9 and we’ve lost…
zero. Even better, of the 9 we recently hired, 4 transferred to the City – already trained and ready
to get to work. And we will be hiring an additional six officers who will be
entering the Academy in just two weeks.
if we hadn’t done that?
I took office as your Mayor, our officers hadn’t had a contract in 3 years – we
asked for help from New York State’s Financial Restructuring Board to resolve
that long-standing problem; and we got that help – not because we asked, but
because we wrote a turnaround plan that decision-makers in Albany believed in.
Today, our Police Department is nearly fully staffed – and a return to
community policing and increased foot-patrols are no longer wistful thoughts of
years past, but real conversations about our immediate future.
I am pleased to announce that, because of our increased staffing levels in our
police department, the City’s previous COPS grant award can be reactivated this
year, bringing back to the City over $680,000 in federal funds.
want to thank Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, and Senator Charles Schumer,
who kept that funding alive for more than three years while we worked to reach
the target staffing levels the grant requires.
arrive at this point, having done the things we have, better able to address
the issues that matter most to you. We got here because we worked together. Our
Common Council was engaged in the process, asked the right questions, and
worked with the Administration and the Police Union to set priorities for
needed improvements and modern technology. This year the 2019 budget funds body
cameras for our Police Officers and Chief Pape and the Command Staff are
already working on procurement and implementation. I am pleased to report that
we are on-track for a roll-out this fall.
2018 our City’s Fire Department saw its busiest year in over 120 years of
service to our community. Driven by a significant increase in both commercial
projects and the uptick in residential housing projects, the fire department
responded to more than 5000 calls for service, representing a 16% increase in a
single year. We expect this trend to continue – as more than 1000 residential
units and multiple commercial projects are at various stages of completion. As
we saw with our police department, the success of our financial stabilization
efforts took hold in time for us to begin investing in our fire department
2017 we’ve added two firefighters and promoted three firefighters to
Lieutenant. Equipment has also been upgraded, adding two new command vehicles
and upgrading our Clover Street Firehouse with new windows, new flooring, and
electrical upgrades. At our Hooker Avenue Firehouse, we have installed a new
boiler, new water heater and an all-building generator. Grant funding also
allowed us to purchase new protective gear for our firefighters. Last year our
fire department personnel conducted 375 inspections throughout the City, leading
to important upgrades that made our community safer. We conducted 40 fire
safety classes at our schools and daycare centers, making our children safer
and introducing our children to one of the most respected professions in
Imagine if we hadn’t
firefighter’s training, skill and bravery led to the successful rescue of a
woman trapped in the building collapse on Academy Street on June 18, 2018.
Unfortunately, the City also experienced its first multiple-fatality fire in eighteen
years, as four individuals lost their lives in a fire at an abandoned building,
also on Academy Street. We are redoubling our efforts to address vacant and
abandoned buildings in our City. For many years the City lacked the resources
to tackle this problem.
in 2018, with the establishment of an Anti-Blight Task Force, we’ve cleaned-up,
secured, or demolished more properties than at any point in our city’s history.
Newly hired code enforcement officers are on our streets taking action. We’ve
hired an additional Sanitation Inspector and deployed new technology, all while
building stronger partnerships with our non-profit housing partners, such as
Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, and Hudson River Housing. For nearly thirty
years Hudson River Housing has been working in our community and in the
region. Tonight I’d like to recognize and thank their executive director –
Christa Hines, who along with a great team is making a difference in our City.
thank you to all our Housing Partners for your work on our Anti-Blight
Task Force, our new approach to systematically attacking blight in our city is
working, and progress can be seen throughout the City. One of the most visible
examples, is the City’s recent taking of the former YMCA building on Montgomery
Street. For years our Y’s were a part of the social fabric of the City, and so
many of our residents still hold fond memories of their own time there. For
nearly a decade the Montgomery Street property has stood at an important and
historic corner in our city – slowly deteriorating.
was time for us to act. Today’s City Government will no longer stand by while
legacy problems continue to fester.
week we will begin a lengthy public comment period to listen to our residents,
our faith-based organizations, our non-profits and others, about what the best
plan for redevelopment or perhaps rehabilitation is for the property. We will
be issuing a Request for Expressions of Interest to the development community
and all our stakeholders, from our hospitals and colleges to community
foundations and others, which may find natural connections between their own
missions and some of the ideas we hope to hear in coming months.
know that attacking the problem of vacant and abandoned properties requires a
multifaceted approach that strategically cultivates private-sector investment,
while at the same time protecting access to affordable housing, that’s why
we’re excited about the opportunity to partner with the County in establishing
a land bank.
of our goals and objectives for the coming years demand greater community
outreach and engagement with our residents in order to assure we all have an
opportunity to contribute to the important decisions that are before us. And to
that end, it is our responsibility to make our local government more responsive
City Charter created a legislative branch comprised of eight councilmembers,
each representing their own Ward here in the City, and one member elected at-large
to Chair the Council and move its agenda forward. But carving our small city
into Wards does not assure equal representation – equal representation is only
achieved when there is an equitable distribution of government resources. How
do we foster equity in our City? We start by doing a better job of listening.
We do more to engage constituencies that have had less of a voice in civic
affairs, yet contribute so much to our community.
I am pleased to announce the appointment of the City’s first “Director of
Community Engagement”, who, in partnership with Dutchess County, assumes an
extraordinary role at an extraordinary time. Please help me welcome John Penney
to the team at City Hall. John is well known to all of us, reporting fairly and
providing editorial context at the Poughkeepsie Journal for decades; he will
not only bridge divides between us, but his real mission is one that seeks to
match the needs of our community with the ability of government to address them.
I know John will serve the City and the County with distinction and will help
harness our collective resources as we shift to a more “outcome-based” approach
to local government.
We also recognize the
city school district is undertaking a search for a new superintendent and look
forward to actively participating and assisting the district in any way we can.
We realize the fortunes of the city and the school district are intertwined. I
want to give my thanks and acknowledgment to acting Superintendent Kate Farrell
and her team, along with members of the Poughkeepsie City School Board.
What I enjoy the most
about serving as Mayor is when I get the honor of being around our youth. When
I get to engage with them I realize what an impact we have on them! And they do
not forget. It is our responsibility to lead by example with civility
and respect. Our kids deserve it.
That’s why I created a new youth grant program in 2018. That’s why we increased
funding for youth in 2019, and that’s why I plan to ask our Common Council to
increase funding for youth programs again in 2020.
While funding youth
programs is important, we must also do a more exacting job of conveying to
children and their parents the existing youth programs run by various and
talented organizations – and how they can access them.
are also important to our own mission. For the last three years we have seen a
steady increase in grant revenue from a wide variety of sources. Throughout our
financial recovery Dutchess County has been a steady partner in many of our
most successful endeavors. Tonight I’d like to recognize – and thank – my good
friend, our County Executive, Marcus Molinaro. Marcus is one of the
hardest-working leaders I know, and he has built the most professional team in
County government anywhere in the State. Marcus, thank you for your commitment
to the City of Poughkeepsie.
I can report to you that the City has more partners, more stakeholders and more
investment going-on than we’ve seen in years. In just the last year we have
received millions of dollars in grants from the State of New York – from $2.4
Million for pedestrian safety, to $1.2 Million for Green Infrastructure
projects downtown to $1 Million to rehabilitate the historic Trolley Barn on
Main Street. Private developers and businesses have also been awarded millions of
dollars in the last couple of years, from $1.2 Million for the “HIVE” Project
on the corner of Academy and Church Streets, to $2 Million for the Poughkeepsie
Landing project on the southern waterfront to over $1 Million for Northside
manufacturers expanding their businesses.
revenue is up in our police department as well, with nearly $1.3 Million in
grants supporting things like our Behavioral Evaluation and Action Team which
is now in its second year, to $50,000 for a comprehensive evaluation of our
9-1-1 system. It’s a long list that we are very proud of, not only because
higher grant revenue helps keep taxes down, but because these awards validate
our work – they tell us that others have increased confidence in City
government, and particularly in how we handle our finances.
commitment to strong financial management and fiscal responsibility is the
bedrock of many of our accomplishments since I took office in 2016. We have
continued to implement cost-cutting and restructuring initiatives that have
allowed us to stay under the tax cap the last two years, while still putting
more resources into our Department of Public Works, restoring programs that
care for and manage our city’s trees, pave our streets and repair our
Imagine if we
hadn’t done that?
years of general fund surpluses have boosted our city’s bond rating outlook
from negative to stable and we know that further upgrades will come as we
reduce our deficit and remain good stewards of our taxpayer’s money.
is another area where I thank our Common Council for its diligence as it
exercises its responsibility as our appropriating body. I want to particularly
thank Councilmember Yvonne Flowers of the 5th Ward, and
Councilmember Natasha Cherry of the 6th Ward, for their work on the
City’s Finance Committee. I also want to thank our Commissioner of Finance,
Bill Brady, and the entire budget team for the consistently great vision and
clarity when it comes to the City’s $90 Million Dollar annual budget. By the
way, our Council passed this year’s budget unanimously, proving once again that
we can come together and speak with
one voice when it comes to the well-being of our City.
the City made its last payment – some $960,000 – on bonds we’ve been paying on
for more than a decade. Just this month, and again with the approval of a
unanimous Common Council, we refinanced some other outstanding bonds into more
favorable rates – this transaction alone will save City taxpayers over $1.2
Million over the next twelve years. Lowering our debt-service costs will
further improve our credit rating, saving the city millions more.
Last year, I also pledged to develop a strategy to beautify our
parks and make some much-needed investments in them. Under the sound guidance
of Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Brian Laffin, we have undertaken a
deeper review and have discovered that the challenges are more considerable
than initially thought. We remain fully committed to funding this initiative
and will be sending a bonding resolution for the council to consider later this
I am pleased to report that our city’s conversion to a new
multi-million dollar reservoir, located atop College Hill Park is now in the
final stages of completion – and discussions have begun on the possibility of
repurposing our current reservoir that has been in use for nearly a hundred
years. Water quality and the protection of our drinking water at its source is
a top priority. The City, along with six other river-front communities that get
their drinking water from the Hudson River, has banded together to further this
important mission. The “Hudson Seven”, as it’s called, is an example of new
collaborations, and I want to thank Dan Shapley of Riverkeeper for leading this
effort. I also want to mention the fine work being done by Poughkeepsie-based
Scenic Hudson which is taking a particular focus on the Fallkill Creek and the
Northside. Thank you Steve Rosenburg of Scenic Hudson.
year, MSN.com ran a fun and lighthearted story about underrated towns across
the country, and they named Poughkeepsie the most underrated town in New York State. They said that Poughkeepsie is “hard to spell
but easy to love,” and I couldn’t agree more.
This city is finally getting the recognition that it deserves, and
judging by the amount of development interest we’ve been receiving, the investment
community is clearly taking notice.
our estimation, the city is experiencing unprecedented levels of investment,
including more than $1B in development projects. We are seeing growth in industries such as
the manufacturing sector, where cutting-edge employers like MPI and Koshii
America, both located on Smith Street on the city’s north side, are expanding
their operations to meet growing demand.
Growth means Jobs.
in the Arts and Entertainment sector, while a small portion of our overall
jobs, have grown by 144% since 2002, and we expect that trend to continue.
of course the healthcare industry continues its remarkable growth. Nearly 16,000 jobs in this industry are
located within 10 miles of Poughkeepsie, with nearly 40% of those jobs located
right here in the city. We’ve all been
watching in awe as Vassar Brothers Medical Center’s new patient-pavilion has
taken rise – the largest construction project in the county’s history – and
with a variety of medical specialists and urgent care facilities, Poughkeepsie
has become a regional center for
healthcare and is only growing.
fall, Marist College and Health Quest announced their plans to establish a new
medical school next to Health Quest’s flagship hospital here in
Poughkeepsie. Planning and design is
already underway for a new 100,000 square foot building that will house the
only medical school between New York City and Albany. Offering undergraduate, graduate medical
education and residency programs, the Marist Health Quest School of Medicine
will truly define Poughkeepsie as the leading location for medical training in
a new, state-of-the-art facility. We are also very grateful for our partnership
with Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital Center of the Westchester Medical Center
Health Network, located just outside the City, but firmly within our community.
These anchor medical institutions are examples of how all our stakeholders are
investing and invested in the City Poughkeepsie.
accommodate this unprecedented level of development, our planning and
development staff have grown in the last year, a far cry from just a few short
years ago when we didn’t have a planning department at all. This year, funded
by a grant from Dutchess County, we’ve engaged the Pace University Land Use Law
Center to conduct a review and analysis of the city’s process, policies and
procedures surrounding applications for building permits, site plan approvals
and related public requests for service. The PACE review compares our current
practices to best practices around the country, and will lead to
recommendations that will become our roadmap for organizational change,
increasing our efficiency and improving our service to community.
Can you imagine
if we hadn’t done that?
today, our City once again has capacity to usher projects small and large
through the approvals process and we know what we need to do this year to build
on our progress.
Common Council recently approved the new Poughkeepsie Innovation District
zoning for the city’s downtown. This will make getting projects approved in
this key area of the city more streamlined, and not a moment too soon. City Staff are fielding calls on a regular
basis from persons interested in long-vacant sites. And with Rhinebeck Bank
partnering with the city to make $3 Million dollars available for small
business loans in the Innovation District, we are more poised than ever to see
transformational growth, and I want to thank Mike Quinn of Rhinebeck Bank – thank you Mike.
sites are already under redevelopment.
Queen City Lofts on Main and Bridge Streets is near completion and in
the process of leasing its residential and commercial space.
‘One Dutchess Avenue’ project on the northern waterfront is well underway with
its first phase of development, including 140 residential units.
the Middle Main district, our partners at Hudson River Housing are building 78
new supportive housing units on Rose Street.
the heart of downtown, 40 Cannon Street has been transformed from a long-vacant
eyesore to an anchor on the block, with apartments, a brewery and wine-bar, a
coffee shop and an art gallery.
the corner of Mill and Catharine Streets the proposed Crannell Square project will
bring needed new residential density with this mixed-income project.
all, the city has more than 1,000 housing units and more than a million square
feet of commercial space that has either recently come online, is under
construction or is in the development pipeline.
we will not measure success solely by the number of cranes in the air. We will
engage in solution-minded conversations about the risks that accompany
development booms – we’ve seen some examples of those risks here in the past,
remembering the formation of the Main Mall that turned a part of Main Street
into a desolate area, the creation of the arterial highways that have severed
neighborhoods, and other ill-advised ventures the costs of which we know well.
Risks lurk among all this good news. The risk of decline in affordable housing – risks to home ownership as property values rise, and we must remain vigilant in order to ensure our City does not become just another bedroom community as development marches up the Hudson River.
me be clear. These are not issues that divide us, these are issues that unite
we cannot do is nothing, for I can tell you with certainty, while change is
inevitable – the kind of change is
There is still
so much work to be done.
We began work on
a major update to our Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, a document last
updated in 1998. This year we will begin the long-delayed update to our City’s
Comprehensive Plan, a two-year effort that will update a document also crafted
back in 1998 and that will guide our forward path for more than a decade.
We will work
inclusively, and with renewed vigor, to finally bring to a conclusion our
city’s long debate surrounding the Southern waterfront’s development. These are
not simple tasks, and many of you will
contribute to their completion. As your Mayor I have set these priorities, and
with your help – we will achieve
and how we face them are often our defining moments. The most rewarding of our
accomplishments are usually the hardest of our achievements. That’s the thing
about community – we come together to cheer our victories, but we also come
together to tackle the big issues – we are not afraid to wrestle with complex
challenges and we will not pause in our pursuit of solutions.
of victories – we have with us tonight a group of young men who epitomize what
working together is all about. It isn’t easy – it requires leadership – and
great coaching – teamwork – and tireless focus, and so much more – and let me
tell you, I think there is a lot we can learn from these young men – Ladies and
Gentlemen, please welcome our city’s, your
city’s – Pioneers: ThePoughkeepsie High School Basketball Team
and the New York State Class A Champs!
years ago, we accepted the challenge – a considerable challenge – to turn the
city’s misfortunes into something more positive. Today, Poughkeepsie has
momentum. What’s so inspiring to me is how that vibrancy is expanding – and how
it fuels our expectations for this year and the years ahead. There is a flurry
of activity at City Hall. There is real BUZZ in that building. There is an
energy and enthusiasm that was not there three years ago. And for the first
time in a while, a Mayor can stand before you and tell you that the state of
our city is strong. The results of our efforts are real, they are measurable,
and if you take a look around you can feel it.
resurgence of Poughkeepsie rests not in the hands of one individual or one
group of people. The credit belongs to all those who work and live here, all
those who made the decision to invest in our community, whether by purchasing a
home, fixing-up a property, or by starting a business.
credit belongs to the three hundred and sixty five employees of this great city
who take pride in their work and service to our community.
credit belongs to the more than 30,000 residents who call Poughkeepsie home and
share our passion to work together for our common good.
credit belongs to you.
Just imagine what we will do
together in the coming years.
you and God bless the great city of Poughkeepsie.
Mayor Rob Rolison’s 2017 State of the City Address, as delivered at the Cunneen Hackett Arts Center
February 22, 2017
I would argue that one of the most breathtaking scenes anywhere in the world is a sunrise over the City of Poughkeepsie.
The sun peeking over the hillside; the first light of the day glistening off the water; the warmth of the sun on your face as it continues to reveal its full majesty – illuminating a breathtaking view that appears to transcend for miles up and down the mighty Hudson.
And even on those foggy mornings, there is something near magical and inspiring as the sun’s powerful yet elegant rays cut through and lifts the haze off the river to reveal our new day….
One year ago, I stood before you to report that our City was one of transition.
A needed transition from a burdensome past into a feeling of hope and optimism for what the future could hold if we all worked together and helped to move our city in the right direction.
One year ago, I spoke of our plan to make Poughkeepsie: Safer, Cleaner and Stronger…
After one short year, I am pleased to announce to you that today the people of Poughkeepsie are safer; our city is Cleaner; and our future is stronger than ever.