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Positive News Briefs & Opportunities

Feb 10, 2018 CWN

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

New REDC Funding Announced

The state announced more than $755 million in economic and community development funding through its Regional Economic Development Council initiative just before the holidays, with the Hudson Valley receiving $84.8 million in funding promises for 113 projects, and a number of funds also coming for Columbia and Greene counties. Among the top projects were Kingston’s JM Development Group LLC, a hotel/parking/mixed use project on the edge of the Stockade District; a Walkway Over the Hudson visitor center; a new LED lighting laboratory; renovations to Dutchess Stadium and Dia:Beacon; a number of key brewery and cidery projects; upgrades in and around Newburgh including a new stage at the historic Ritz Theater; a new apple storage and distribution center; the rebuilding of Kingston’s Franklin Street and Hutton Brickyards; stabilization of Mohonk’s Gateway Tower; the building of a Minnewaska visitor center; an extension of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail; an Ulster County effort to better address climate change; and the start of preparations for the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Regionally, projects include: a big push towards new start-ups in the Capital District portion of the Valley; renovations to the theater in Hudson that Marina Abramovic was set to make an arts center; various agribusiness and “digital fabrication workshop” aid packages; and the start of various projects tied to the 200th anniversary of Thomas Cole’s arrival in the United States. Now the question is: how much of this money is new, and how much will actually get dispersed. Stay tuned.

Smorgasburg to Leave Its Upstate Digs

The quality of our audiences in the Hudson Valley are strong. Our numbers, though, still leave some used to urban figures wishing for more. Upstate Smorgasburg, a Hudson Valley version of a Brooklyn-based food festival/flea market which has run with increasing infrequency at the old Hutton Brickyard along the Hudson in Kingston for the past two summers, recently announced it would not be returning this summer. The problem was scale; it wasn’t growing as expected. And why was that? Seems our media market—how you reach people that first time to get them engaged on social media—is more diffuse than organizers expected.

HV Current Starts Ambassador Program

The Hudson Valley Current, Country Wisdom News’ umbrella organization, has launched an Ambassador Program to spread awareness about the Hudson Valley Current system of digital exchange and the ways in which local currencies help stabilize a community’s economy and render them recession-proof. The idea is simple: Ambassadors spread awareness and sign up new members for the Hudson Valley Current, while also encouraging greater use of the Current among existing members. The more trade that’s enabled on a purely local basis, the less money gets pulled out from our communities’ economy. “Our most valuable asset is our community of members and our goal is to engage as many as possible,” noted the new Hudson Valley Current Ambassador Program’s director, Sonia Narvaez. “As an ambassador you will play an active role in our member mixers and workshops by providing local context, creating social media content, and undertaking other Current-related activities. You will earn Currents and have access to the diverse expertise of our Current staff and membership workshops, recommendation letters for college and job references, plus the chance to help build a stronger local economy.” Narvaez stressed that Current Ambassador candidates should be: At least 16 years old; open to collaboration; enthusiastic about engaging with their community; and interested in learning more about our local economy. Enrollment for the Current Ambassador program has started. Contact the Hudson Valley Current at 663- 2286 or sonia@hudsonvalleycurrent.org to receive a link for the application, or with any questions.

Rising Wages Versus Shrinking Jobs

On January 1, minimum wage bumps were put in place by 18 states, including New York. For the average working class American this sounds great, and to many it is. Unfortunately, while many have been looking forward to this day for a long time, and now look forward to the annually scheduled increases leading up to $15 an hour, experts fear the new payout for employers may have more of a negative effect than expected. New studies exploring possible economic reactions to wage increases found a possible outcome that could have crippling effects on a large portion of the U.S. economy as employers may not want or be able to pay as many workers in their push for more profits. Additionally, many positions may be ousted by automation due to the cost efficiency of eschewing labor expenses. The New York State minimum wage is now $10.40 per hour, versus the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

What’s With New York’s Free College?

Last fall was the first semester for New York’s new Excelsior Scholarship program. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement of the program last April noted how the state’s offer of free tuition makes “the dream of a college education and a better life now within reach for all New Yorkers,” which Cuomo called a necessity in today’s economy. The program is generally described as tuition-free college for families with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) lower than $125,000 annually, as calculated by an individual or their family’s filed income on their federal tax returns from two years previous. With adjustments, the current school year (2017- 2018) is actually being based on a max AGI of $100,000 from 2015, and the coming year (2018- 2019) qualifies families making less than $110,000 annually. The 2019-2020 school year will be the first to actually assist those with an AGI under $125,000. Deadlines for the program are strict and go by semester rather than full year. To apply for the Excelsior Scholarship, a student must be a New York State resident for at least 12 months prior to the beginning of the term they are applying for, be pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college, complete 30 credits each year, and live in New York State following their scholarship for the amount of time the scholarship was received. The New York State HESC website promises to notify you the next time the Excelsior Scholarship application becomes available; in the past such dates included July 21 for the autumn 2017 semester, and December 4 for the semester starting this month. The Excelsior Scholarship pays remaining tuition after other grants and scholarships have been applied. To receive payments each subsequent year after the initial application year, the Excelsior Scholarship recipient must complete the Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and TAP Application annually. The maximum amount an applicant can receive is $5,500. The program does not cover the other costs of college, including fees, room and board, transportation, textbooks, meal plans, and more.

Readying the Columbia To Sail Our Hudson

The Steamship Historical Society of America has recognized the SS Columbia as its ship of the year. The vessel, which spent more than 90 years making daily round trips from Detroit to Canada’s Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park, is currently laid up in Buffalo while organizers with the SS Columbia Project try to raise funds and bring her back to life ferrying tourists up and down the Hudson River with berthing in Kingston. The Columbia was designed by noted marine architect Frank E. Kirby, famed for his excursion steamers and Great Lakes overnight boats, and delivered in 1902. The 200-foot vessel boasts a triple-expansion steam engine with indicated horsepower of 2000, driving a single propeller. Inside, Louis O. Keil filled Columbia with mahogany paneling, brass fixtures, gilded moldings and leaded glass. Columbia was recognized in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and was awarded National Historic Landmark status in 1992. Under the guidance of the SS Columbia Project, she has undergone a $1.6 million hull restoration.

Fighting Inequalities in STEM Hiring

Inequalities within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, referred to as STEM by the U.S. Department of Education, continue to worsen and research has shown that much of this is because girls and youth of color are diverted from this growing field of employment. Mentoring programs are a proven antidote to level the field and the 4-H Tech Wizards Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension Positive News Briefs Research shows that we start to become what we focus on in life. Check out the wonderful things our neighbors are up to. of Ulster County has been going strong for four years and has been able to connect 122 youth with mentors from the community. However, with the federal government cutting its funding to 4-H drastically, the Extension has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money that will allow them to keep weekly programming alive through June 2018 for up to 50 youth in Ellenville and Kingston by covering transportation, direct staff time, minimal supplies, and important engagement trips, including to Cornell’s Career Explorations program. Meanwhile, a push is on to restore 4-H funding by September. Visit gofundme.com/saveulstermentoring for further information.

State’s Green Bank To Fund Projects Elsewhere

NY Green Bank seeks to raise at least an additional $1 billion in private sector funds from third-party investors to expand financing availability for clean energy projects while broadening the scope of investable projects beyond state boundaries. The move is based on the entity’s robust track record which has resulted in driving nearly $1.4 billion in clean energy investment, prompting pension funds and insurance companies to utilize it as an investment vehicle for sustainable infrastructure projects. The additional capital raised can be invested in projects across the United States, expanding transaction scale and leverage, and increasing the amount of clean energy that will be deployed for every dollar invested. NY Green Bank will also work with other states and philanthropic entities to help establish local Green Banks in other states, providing financing along with midand back-office services, due diligence, underwriting, and general technical support. Among state projects funded through NY Green Bank have been massive expansions of municipal and community solar around the state and increased funding for Workforce Development & Training Programs at SUNY campuses.

Advocate For The Catskills in Albany!

February 6 was Catskill Park Day 2018, an annual day of advocacy for the Catskill Park that resulted in significant funding last year, and hopes to see more for everything from trails and promotion to upgrades at state-owned Belleayre Ski Center for the coming year. The goal? To make the Catskills a funded equivalent to the Adirondacks. The day is being put together by the ever-growing Catskill Park Coalition. Visit catskillcenter.org or call (845) 586-2611 for more information.

Let’s Help Our Salvadoran Community

The New York State Department of State has increased access resources for communities impacted by the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua. Of the 114,127 Salvadorans currently living in New York State, 16,200 are TPS beneficiaries and will be impacted by the federal government’s decision to end TPS recognition for the country. Anyone known to be impacted by the TPS decision should contact the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. Calls to the hotline are confidential and anonymous. Also, the Office for New Americans’ 27 neighborhood-based Opportunity Centers—with local centers in Newburgh and Poughkeepsie and lawyers specializing in immigration law and members of the Liberty Defense Project—will provide free up-to-date information and advice to TPS individuals from all affected countries and through individual consultations. The consultations can also provide guidance and screening for possible adjustment of immigration status. In addition, Know Your Rights seminars and consultations will take place on February 8, 15 and 22. Visit www.newamericans.ny.gov for more information.

Satisfy Hunger, Share a Community Meal

Hudson Valley Current’s Satisfy Hunger crusade will join forces with Family of Woodstock, UlsterCorps, Bread Alone, and the Kingston YMCA Farm Project again on Friday, February 23 for a 5 to 8pm community dinner at the Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall Street in Kingston. Break Bread with your neighbors and join in a growing conversation about all we can do to alleviate hunger in our region. It’s a free farm-to-table dinner for all but volunteers will be needed to assist throughout the evening, from 3-9pm, especially with setup, greeting, and cleanup. If you can help out please email volunteers@familyofwoodstockinc.org, call Beth at (845) 331-7080 x157 or get in touch with us here at Hudson Valley Current.

Celebrating Thomas Cole’s Great Legacy

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will be hosting a three-night concert series with Sting as part of its programming for the exhibition “Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings” (January 30–May 12). The performance, which includes both song and storytelling, will also feature a visual component as Sting takes the stage in front of artist Stephen Hannock’s “visual scenescape.” The two are friends and their collaborative art book, The Last Ship from the River of the Northern City, will be on view in the Met’s American Wing during the Cole show, along with a 2000 painting by Hannock inspired by Hudson River School painters. Tickets for the April 25 and 26 shows are $125–175, with a special members-only performance on April 24. Attendees will have the chance to view the show after hours, free of crowds, before settling into their seats. Talk about a rare treat.

Woodstock Land Conservancy Gets Credit Union Donation

Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union presented a check for $1,500 to the Woodstock Land Conservancy as part of a Woodstock community outreach effort by MHV. The donation will go towards preserving land and trails in the Woodstock and surrounding area as WLC works to protect open lands, scenic areas, natural resources, and historic sites by collaborating with landowners to offer alternative uses of selling their land. “This was a great holiday surprise for us,” said Maxanne Resnick, Executive Director of Woodstock Land Conversancy. MHV President/CEO, Wayne Winkler commented, “It’s part of the cooperative spirit of the credit union to help community organizations such as the Woodstock Land Conservancy.”

Benjamin Center Takes On Marijuana Fallacies

The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz recently released its latest highly-researched report—on the ways in which false accounts that marijuana can serve as a “gateway” drug have hampered our nation’s and states’ policies for decades. It starts with a 3,000 page 1894 report that concluded that even moderate use of cannabis caused no significant physical, mental, or moral damage to the user and how, “for the ensuing 120 years, this has remained the generally accepted medical knowledge about marijuana use” while government policy has staked out other directions. The report notes how “a great deal of push-back against the decriminalization of marijuana remains in both the public and private spheres,” statewide in the Republican State Senate and nationally within the Trump administration. The paper recommends diverting resources from fighting pot to quelling the nation’s issues with opioids.

A New Year For Further Fitness

Jamie Dreyer and Maribel Torres of Further Fitness moved their new business to Sawkill Road in Kingston a couple of years ago, and specialize in an individualized free weights regimen that’s not just for the experienced lifter, but also for people looking to live a longer, healthier, and more active life. Like so much business in the Hudson Valley, Further Fitness is all about the personal touch, from everyone getting greeted by Stella, the couple’s sweet little pittie, to the ways in which Jamie and Maribel work with one’s goals, one’s health history, and a full measurement of where you are when you start training with them. As they say, the scale is not everything! For info: 481-4187 or furtherfitness.com.

Help For Affordable Home Ownership

The state has announced the availability of $26 million for its Affordable Home Ownership Development Program, with grants to be used to make improvements to, acquire and rehabilitate, and construct new owner-occupied homes for sale. By owner-occupied, the state is referring to single and multi-family homes, condominiums, or cooperatives including dilapidated and manufactured homes. The program provides up to $40,000 per home to eligible municipalities, municipal housing authorities, and other not-for-profit and charitable organizations that develop affordable housing or assist income-eligible homeowners in funding necessary repairs. Funds are administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Affordable Housing Corporation. Applications are due February 16, 2018. More information can be found at nyshcr.org/Topics/Municipalities/AHC.