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POUGHKEEPSIE – About 125 Poughkeepsie residents gathered at Christ Episcopal Church on the south side of the city last Wednesday evening for the second informational meeting on proposals for the former YMCA on Montgomery Street.
Mayor Rob Rolison noted it is extremely important to engage the community on the future of the building.
“People need to feel part of the process,” Rolison said. “We said this two years ago that at some point in time, we would take this building and have the resources to do it, and then the most important part of it is what does the community think.”
The mayor and City Administrator Marc Nelson unveiled a condensed video created by the environmental consultants that detail the condition of the building. The full video is about 45 minutes but was shortened to six minutes to stay within the meeting time constraints.
According to the video, the former YMCA is in a complete state of disrepair. Employees of the consulting company, dressed in hazardous material clothing and breathing apparatus showed dangerous conditions that exist. The entire building is filled with debris. The facility also has a substantial amount of asbestos and mold present that create “respirable hazards” throughout the interior. The consultants indicated that there was a strong stench of sewage present, noticeable even while wearing the respirators. The basketball courts, once the pride of the area, have wooden floors that have heaved in the form of one-two-foot waves that are now useless.
Paul Hesse, the city’s community development coordinator, once again explained the timeframe for getting input from potential partners. The city released a request for expression of interest (RFEI) as a precursor to the request for proposals (RFP).
Hesse said that it was designed to find out exactly who is serious about doing something with the property that meets the recreational and community-based needs of the city. “We certainly don’t want to rush the process,” said Hesse in advance of announcing the dates for submitting formal questions as well as the actual deadline for the RFEI. Questions are due by July 15 and the deadline for the RFEI is August 5.
A few community members stressed the need for additional information and it was noticed by common council member Sarah Salem. “This meeting showed us that the community wants more information about the timeline, about what the next steps are, and about what the costs are for the demolition or rehabbing the former YMCA. I heard a lot of frustration as for what can be done with the building” and Salem felt the attendees weren’t getting the answers they needed.
After two hours, the City’s Director of Community Engagement, John Penney, wrapped up the meeting and vowed to keep the public informed about the next meeting date. He was joined by Rolison who said “It’s important to have these conversations because people have a lot to say about it. We don’t have the answers to everything.” The mayor also stressed the need for the community to help because “people need to feel like part of the process.” Penney noted that the video showing the conditions of the building will be available on the city’s website as soon as possible.