Community Positive News Briefs

Positive News Briefs

Nov 03, 2017 CWN

Research shows that we start to become what we focus on in life. Check out the wonderful things our neighbors are up to.

ACA Sign Up Still Okay In NY

   We’re all hearing bad things about the future of our health care. Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act marketplace has been set to run from November 1 through December 15, half of what was allowed last year, without any advertising by the federal Department of Health. The website will go down Sundays for maintenance, and maybe at other times according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Families Foundation. It’s uncertain whether those with applications in the pipeline will be able to see their applications through to the finish if they get caught by the deadline; similarly, systems seem to have been set up so that one may get saddled with a new insurance company if the one you were with via the marketplace has folded, or changed its rates drastically. You’ll only find out if you ask. So, is there an upside? Where do things stand in New York State? On October 5, the state Department of Health announced that NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan marketplace, would be extending its 5th Open Enrollment Period, beginning November 1, 2017, to January 31, 2018. “Consumers in all counties of the state have a robust selection of health plans to choose from. New York expects to both renew coverage for more than 400,000 households during the Open Enrollment Period and enroll new consumers. Most Marketplace consumers qualify for financial assistance to pay for coverage,” the Department of Health noted on its website. “Among QHP enrollees who qualify for tax credits, premium costs for the most popular silver plan will be about the same or lower compared to last year.” As for finding navigators, some counties are very good at hooking one up with a professional quickly, and with actual phone and in-person help. Others aren’t so good. The suggestion we kept hearing is that the best thing to do is get on the New York State of Health website immediately, or even better call the program at 855-355-5777, where a fully-staffed customer service center will work to hook those calling with navigators.

Get Ready For Radio Kingston

    The Federal Communications Commission recently approved the sale of radio station WKNY-AM 1490 to the nonprofit Radio Kingston Corp as a commercial-free platform “dedicated solely to a vibrant, just and healthy Kingston.” The new non-profit, to be headed by former WDST program director Jimmy Buff and run under the aegis of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, purchased the 78 year old station from the national company Townsquare for $500,000, with money provided through a grant from the NoVo Foundation. Buff has said that the new Radio Kingston’s programming will focus on community storytelling, artistic and musical expression, conversation and connection, and begin in early 2018. Townsquare bought the station in 2013 at the same time they also purchased WPDH-FM, WCZX-FM and WRRV-FM, among other local stations.

Hudson Valley Startup @ Ulster Chamber

    It’s not every day one eats breakfast with local business leaders as the idea of angel investing gets explained and everyone speaks about synergy. But that was the spirit October 18 when the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted its monthly breakfast meeting by honoring Dennis Crowley of Kingston Stockade FC and Foursquare fame (a “rock star,” as Chamber president Ward Todd called him), and Hudson Valley Startup Fund co-founder Johnny LeHane. LeHane spoke about the two-year old fund’s role as a means of helping local investors get involved in building new economic futures for the region, what’s being funded to date, how the Start Up Fund works, and what’s next at HVSF. LeHane explained how 44 investors each put $25,000 into the fund, which has an office in Rhinebeck and also works out of the Rhinebeck Bank Building on Fair Street in Kingston, and how HVSF’s very presence has helped the entrepreneur climate from Westchester County north to Columbia and Greene counties. “We’re not looking at mom and pop shops but businesses that can be scaled above the $10 million range,” Lehane said to his attentive audience. “We’ll be starting Fund II soon, for more startups and investors.” Startup funding between $50,000 and $250,000 is invested only after a strenuous application, pitching and due diligence process that’s seen 306 applicants whittled down to 34 pitch finalists to date. The four startups funded to date include two web-based businesses out of Westchester County, one tied to sports event ticketing and the other to cultural calendar coordination, a Newburgh-based shrimp farming operation, and Statebook, a Kingston-based company that helps companies find new homes.

BAK Draws The Mayor’s Attention

    The Business Alliance of Kingston heard from Kingston Mayor Steve Noble at their October 18 board meeting, hearing updates on recent city efforts that are bringing in a $10 million state grant for revitalization work in the Stockade district. The grant is geared to remaking the city’s traditional business center, as well as coming Broadway renewal work, upgrading Henry Street across Midtown, and continuing work with the state on economic development projects throughout Kingston, including a new uptown parking lot. Noble promised to better communications and keep stressing city arts and healthcare activities. Other discussion focused on projects highlighting the city’s history as it gets rediscovered by and for new Kingston residents, various efforts benefitting the Ulster Immigrant Defense Fund, the City of Kingston’s new Whoosh app that allows one to carry paid parking credits around with them, and ways in which the entity will better its own outreach to the Kingston business and nonprofit worlds. BAK, as it’s known, advocates for business interests across the City of Kingston, with a special focus on the development of Midtown, and is a prime sponsor of the annual Made In Kingston event, taking place December 7 at RUPCO’s The Metro on Greenkill Avenue (www.madeinkingstonNY.org). BAK will meet every other month in 2018 at the Community Hall at Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church at 30 Pine Grove Avenue. A modest dues structure will be introduced as the new year begins.

Women’s Studio Workshop Enters A New Era

    The venerable Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, one of the nation’s leading centers for book arts, and one of our region’s major arts organizations for over 42 years now, has hired Lauren V. Walling as executive director upon the recent retirement of co-founder and executive director Ann Kalmbach, and Erin Zona as artistic director, filling the big shoes held for years by WSW co-founder Tana Kellner. Walling is an artist and art educator with an MA in Art Education from Columbia University, an MAR in Religious Studies and Art History from Yale Divinity School, and a BA from Wells College. She spent the past three years working with the WSW founders preparing for this executive succession. Zona is an artist and educator with an MFA in printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design who later founded the education-based community print shop The Zz School in Kansas City, MO. 

Community Foundations’ Annual Garden Party

   On a sunny Sunday in late September, some of the Hudson Valley’s most generous philanthropists, business and community leaders came together at Obercreek to honor some of the region’s top philanthropists: Elizabeth Peale Allen of Dutchess County, Seamus Carroll and Marie Wieck of Putnam County, and Tim and Laurel Sweeney of Ulster County. Each honoree spoke about role models, childhood experiences and beliefs that influenced their decisions to give back to their community through volunteer service and philanthropy. Proceeds from the event went to support the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley’s work in the region, including its Community Grant programs in Dutchess, Putnam and Ulster counties that work to build the capacity and effectiveness of local nonprofit organizations in health and human services, education, the arts, environmental protection and more.

New York Enshrines The Second Chance Ideal

     A new provision in the state’s landmark Raise the Age law regarding the age at which young people can be tried as adults has now gone into effect. The provision allows individuals who have remained crime-free for 10 years to request that certain New York State convictions be sealed. The idea is to eliminate unnecessary barriers to opportunity and employment that formerly incarcerated individuals face, and to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the state’s criminal justice system. “Law-abiding New Yorkers should not be forever branded with the stigma of a non-violent criminal conviction when they have turned their lives around,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the new provision that takes new steps to undo damage created by the so-called Rockefeller Drug laws. Eligible individuals can petition the court to seal up to two misdemeanor convictions; one misdemeanor and one felony conviction; or one felony conviction. Individuals who were incarcerated may not apply until a decade following their release date. Excluded from sealing are convictions for sex crimes or any offense requiring registration as a sex offender; child pornography; murder, manslaughter and other homicide charges; certain conspiracy charges; and any crime defined by law as a Class A or violent felony.

 Honoring Ulster’s Hispanic Heritage

    The Ulster County Office of Economic Development and the Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center celebrated Hispanic heritage in Ulster County last month with a special event at Gaby’s Cafe, a Hispanic-owned restaurant in the heart of Ellenville. Among those feted were Mariel Fiori, Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the publication La Voz, Kingston Business Owner and Community Leader Marco Ochoa, Antonio Bonilla, Director of the Educational Opportunity Program at SUNY New Paltz, artist Elisa Pritzker, and Gaby’s owner Genaro Garcia. Talk about recognizing the vibrancy of our widening business and arts community!

3rd Annual Conf a Fab Event Again

    Catskills Conf, a gathering of “technologists and creators at a retreat in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains,” didn’t have the allure of a full-color Autumn this year. But its Ashokan Center weekend in mid-October, just following another successful O Positive Festival in Kingston, was noted for its concentration of informative talks, networking, and general Upstate bonhomie that included a composed-on-the-spot theme song with the refrain, “Don’t fall in the creek. Be as open and present as you can be.” Particularly popular was a lightning talk session with seven bursts of informative enthusiasm-building, a great sampling of contemporary diversity in gender and racial backgrounds, plus the now-usual non-tech elements of blacksmithing, letterpress printmaking, foraging, breadmaking and shared meals (with plenty of locally crafted beers and ciders, of course) to make this 3rd annual outing not only a success in spreading the word about local economy ideas, but also a solidifying of the new business community’s sense of network.

Estuary Grants Better The Valley’s Opps

    Mid-Hudson projects will share $1,137,113 in funding for 19 Hudson River Estuary plans to improve water quality and habitats, conserve open space, increase storm resiliency, and improve recreational access to the river for people with disabilities. Among the grants are $45,820 for the city of Kingston to improve access for people of all abilities for swimming, fishing, and environmental education programs at Kingston Point Beach; various aids to natural resource inventories being drawn up around the region; $27,541 for Pace University to work with the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance and implement a community-based land use leadership alliance in Ulster and Orange counties; and $48,720 for Bard College to work with the Saw Kill Watershed Community to improve understanding about connections between land-use and stream/watershed conditions. Ah, stewardship!