Sunday, July 27, 2008

COMMON FIRE BOARDING HOUSE SAGA


Neighbors around the proposed boarding house on Stuyvesant St are pleased to hear there will be a public meeting this Thursday at City Hall, sponsored by Alderman Robert Senor.

This quiet little street with limited parking is about to get a 12 member family at the cliff-side property of 35 Stuyvesant. A charming Queen Ann style home with a 4 car driveway, this single family home is the focus of "Common Fire" communities based out of Tivoli NY.

With 1 & half bath and an illegally renovated attic space, they plan on sharing expenses amongst the members of the home.

On the surface, the business plan sounds great, and there are some great people running the program, but the location is what has the neighborhood upset. Nestled at the end of this cull-du-sac, this home is slated for renovation. [The Greenification] Well, that means a standard home in “move-in” condition will be the source of additional waste at the dump. Correct? That wont help diminish the waste stream.

I have asked a few proponents of the boarding house to drive to the driveway and turn around, like a homework assignment. No-one has reported back with any pleasant stories. And not one has told me where the off-street dumpster will be located.

Here are some properties on the market that would better serve such a large group of people:


This one on Delaware ave is going for $330K and has 5 bedrooms, all of which are bigger than those in the Stuyvesant home. With a circle driveway around the house, it’s better suited than the proposed site. You could park 10 cars on-site easy.


This one is on Greenkill Ave is close to the three bus routes and houses 5 apartments with enough parking spaces to store five school busses. Going for $450K, the “Fire” people could double their occupancy and greater diminish their dependence on energy. An acre of gardening space would make them the “Garden Co-op” champions of the city.

These are just two examples of better suited properties within Kingston. I’m sure if we look in the Town of Ulster, we would find even more.


All of these choices would be excellent if full taxes were offered. Think about it...People in regular single family homes throughout the city are paying property taxes. They are families struggling to make ends meet.

This proposal intends to take the property off the tax rolls. What effect do you think that has on the greater community?

Some proponents of “Common Fire”, as well meaning as they are, are also touting that they would be happy to pay higher property taxes if it meant this boarding house moved into their neighborhood. I suggest the folks in this income bracket should wear a T-Shirt with that sentiment printed on it and walk around their neighborhood.

In conclusion, the scouting for property and negotiations with the departments could have seen more sunlight long before it got to this stage. Coming to the city or town with pride at the start would have prompted a helping hand from everyone. Now, with lawyers and angry neighbors, it will be hard to shift public sentiment. And thanks for letting the Aldermen know. No, really!

Note: the Tivoli location is in a less dense neighborhood and parking is a non-issue.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its funny that you point out that any realtor could have taken the Common Fire people to better locations. What drew this group to this quiet inaccessable property?

If they are such green friendly people, why would they want to alter a home in the historic district with so many regulations? The Historic Landmarks commission is just waiting for any excuse to get in that house.

MLS is the best bet, start looking for the right house for your experiment and pay taxes like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Greenies vs Meanies or is it Common Fire vs Common Sense...

Excuse me, but I think everyone should take a step back put their ego aside and think about a couple of issues rationally...

I don't think the meanies are really against the concept of green living are they? I mean if people want to jam themselves into tight quarters to save money (and mother earths resources) well I'd say God Bless!

And as far as telling commonfire to move out to the country or out of the county, I'd say that's a little mean.

To me this seems like a great concept and an admirable cause, by a group of people who should be respected for taking the lead on important conservation issues, but have become unfortunately fixated on a location not suitable for the purpose.

I would love to fully support this group and it's cause, but have some major reservations with this location and the whole tax exempt thing for reasons I consider common sense.

I'd like to see somebody's response to the following questions...

1). Most Obvious MAJOR Problem To Me... Where is the parking for 11 people... (And the family or friends that come to visit). It's my understanding that the driveway which looks like it would hold ~3 cars is not even part of the property. The house frontage will accomodate 2 cars. What about snow in the winter. It is hard enough to make a U-turn now, what will happen when they put another 5-11 cars in the mix... I can see the Greenie point that most likely people who share rooms will tend to share rides as well... However, there is no law saying how many cars you can own, so each person living there could theoretically have 2 vehicles and have friends drive over to visit as well... An I heard this was also to be used as a sort of "show piece" to encourage other people to join the cause... Where the that traffic park...

2). That street has some very nice homes with owners who care about the historic value and appearance of the houses on that street... I am sure anyone can related to the fact that they have spent lots of money to preserve the neighborhood and thier investment and are understandably concerned about any potential negative effects on the value of their investments. Is there anything that gives them assurance that this non-profit will stive for the same standards... What prevents this cause from falling victim to a downward spiral into a sloppy shelter for transients and wanderers?

3). So if the Holiday Inn changed to non-profit status they would no longer have to pay property tax? Or what if I form a non-profit for myself and my family, we are already sharing expenses in our daily living and we are also conserving as much energy as possible... So then would my property qualify to be tax exempt? I think you see my point that there is obvious potential for some slick maneuvers here and it makes me nervous that my taxes will go up so that somebody else can live cheaply... If everybody paid a fair share we'd all pay less. Imagine, a group focused on shared living where everybody pays their share asking to be exempt from paying their share? What measures are in place to stop unscrupulous operators from taking advantage of the system?

4). The residents would pay to live there right?... I understand part of that payment is for group purchased or shared expenses for food, heating fuel, cable, phone, etc.. But isn't part of that payment rent? The website says the biggest chunk of the payment is paid toward the mortgage... So what do the residents get for their part of the mortgage payment? Partial ownership of the house? If their payment doesn't get them anything, it's rent right? A non-profit doesn't have shares so the residents aren't buying shares with their payment... Rent = Group Home... I can't see it any other way can you?

5). Who owns the house? The non-profit right? So after 10 years when the house is paid off (tax free) and the non-profit sells the house where do the proceeds go? Is there anything that prevents the non-profit to pay out the tax free proceeds to the Goldens as a bonus or commission or ridiculous corporate salary? Not saying Mr. Golden or anyone involved with common fire would do any of these things, but is there anything to prevent the extra taxes that we have to pay to enable this process from going right into corporate pockets?

Wow did I really just type all that... Maybe someone should call a public meeting to discuss all these issues...

Let me just say I am sure that common fire has great intentions and are great people with a really truly admirable cause... But with the problems mentioned above maybe they just picked the wrong house for this project, and maybe need to work to establish why tax exempt applies...

E.L. - Kingston Resident and Tax Payer
e4andlel@verizon.net
cell - 914.466.5940

Anonymous said...

I find it fascinating that long time residents of Kingston are struggling to keep their homes, what with the increase in cost of heat and the real estate tax hikes, and are expected to welcome paying for a group of 11 people to live an extraordinary lifestyle in a home built for a family of 6.

We are given the impression that anyone who is working to save our beautiful planet should be put on a pedestal and revered. I would revere Common Fire if their website had stated that their purpose in life was to make a difference in their community as well. I would appreciate Common Fire more if they were coming in to Kingston to help every homeowner learn how to get off the grid. What I read about on their website is a group of people who pay no heat nor taxes, have the joy of saving the planet - (the luxury of eating only organic food) - yet are heedless of the existence of their future neighbors. These are people who focus on themselves, not on others.

By their not paying taxes, we foot the bill for their children's schooling, police protection, garbage pickup, street lights, the people who run their City Hall, etc. This is not fair to the people in this city who are not non-profit. What would happen if every person in the city became non-profit?? We'd have an instant breakdown of our City existence.

I think that the people who want to pay higher taxes to show support for this group home are to be commended on their altruism. However, I think that their money would be better spent helping everyone in Kingston move to alternate sources of energy.

I have to agree with the person who wrote before me - do the people who join Common Fire co-own this property? Is their name added to the deed? What happens if they leave? Is their name removed from the deed?
Common Fire talks a lot a' love but when I stand back and look at the situation from a business perspective, I see a fantastic way to own a lot of real estate on the backs of well-meaning, trusting, mortgage paying, temporary residents, as well as tax paying neighbors. I wouldn't think this about them if they made an effort to help build their local community.

Back in the 60's we realized that helping one another was an essential component to saving the planet. I help the community every day and do not expect, nor ask for, my neighbors to pay for me to do that.

I also remember the communes in the 60s (which is what this really is)... How can anyone find altruism in stuffing 11 people in so small a space, (I've been in the house), in close proximity to other houses, no parking, with little gardening space. Communes worked far better with room to live.

At a certain point in life, one simply has to have common sense.

Anonymous said...

There are many community houses in Kingston - informal but people sharing the bills to get by - the Building Dept selectively enforces codes - Good Ol Boyz.

Anonymous said...

The Common Fire website already claims it owns the property and is taking applications. Planning says its not true.
If they are falsly advertising the rental space online today, who says theyll be truthful in the future?
What can the taxpayers do to secure their neighborhoods?

Peter Mack said...

I find it outrageous that this project is even being seriously considered!

Why would anyone try to take an 1890s Queen Anne Victorian, built for one family, and turn it into a group home/commune (albeit a green one at that)?

There is no doubt that "GREEN" is the latest in fads and a growing concern for the environment; however, that is no reason to attempt to "shoehorn" 11 adults into a residence designed for two adults and 1-3 children, plus a maid or nanny.

I find it amazing that living standards and conditions were better in the 19th century when this house was built. Most of these Victorian had one to two parlors for formal entertaining, a kitchen (in which the cook or servants cooked the meals), a dining room for the family, a library or family den, a bedroom for each of the family members and third floor accomodations for the servants).

I want the building inspector to explain how 11 individuals are going to share 4 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms? How about fire safety and evacuation for the third floor, since Common Fire plans to use it for living space. There is no fire escape.

How about parking for 11 cars? How about parking for even 4 cars?

Can you see this "green co-op" becoming a disaster? I sure can--here are some examples...

One person must awake another to move his/her car to get out to go to work.

One resident is a slob and/or lacks personal hygiene.

One resident plays loud music late at night or has a party, disturbing the others who are sleeping.

Seven residents are using hair dryers, three residents are using space heaters, and one resident is using a microwave at the same time...WON'T THIS OVERWHELM A 200 WATT ELECTRICAL HOUSE SERVICE?

ELEVEN residents are awaiting the use of the 1.5 bathrooms to go to work.

The menu for the evening is Tofu Tuna steaks, but one resident is allergic to seafood. Must he/she wait to cook their dinner separate.

All these issues come back to the fact that this is a SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCE. Unlike an apartment, the walls are not soundproof, the bathrooms, bedrooms, and living space was designed for ONE FAMILY, not a community living arrangement.

Habitat for Humanity and the City of Toronto have done excellent studies on the impacts of overcrowding--increased altercations between residents, increased spread of communicable diseases such as influenza, colds, viruses, decreased mental health and morale, and decreased sanitary conditions.

To tell you the truth, I see nothing GREEN about overloading the capabilities of a 19th century house and dense impacting the neighborhood and street scape, not to mention the increased demand for water, heat, and electricity with eleven separate tenants.

If Common Fire is so concerned about the environment, why not buy the house and perform a GREEN renovation for just ONE FAMILY instead of a commune of 11, or will that not turn a profit?

If this project is crucial to the mission of Common Fire, then I say, FIND A BUILDING ADEQUATE IN SIZE TO SUPPORT 11 RESIDENTS! This includes bathrooms, fire escapes, and utilities appropriate to support the needs of such a great number of people.

Common Fire has stated that mortgage costs per resident are between 400 and 625 per person, plus 80-100 dollars for food, and 5 dollars for internet.

Let's say that the 11 residents pay on average 500 dollars per person per month. That's 5,500 dollars collected toward the mortgage. Let's assume Common Fire takes a 300,000 dollar 30 year mortgage for this property at 6.43% (a very liberal rate). That would be a monthly mortage payment of $1,882.41 per month.

That's quite a difference. One might ask...WHERE IS THE REST OF THE MONEY GOING? Especially considering food is coverage in a separate payment, and Common Fire is claiming non-profit (501-3c) tax exempt status.

Things that make you want to say, Hmmm.....

In closing, I would like to address Rebecca Martin's vehement attacks on fellow residents and citizens who oppose this project...

Rebecca, the French say that at 20 years old, if you are not an IDEALIST, you have no heart...
At 40 years old, if you are not a REALIST, you have no brain...

Rebecca, how old are you?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but this does sound more like a property owning scheme on the backs of well meaning people. I shared a 3K sq ft condo with 2 others, each paid 400 which included utils. What will each of the 12 pay? Didn't I read 600+?

And why is it 'mean' to tell them to live on a farm? Isn't that the pinacle of green living? You could have your windmill, watermill, corn to make ethanol, and soy plants for all your dietary needs. They could have their human compost for all their heating and gardening needs, without offending nearby neighbors. It's not mean, it's practical.

Anonymous said...

Why would "green" people need motor vehicles?

Bill Berardi said...

Maybe they will consider 55 Foxhall Ave - we are moving because we can't afford the high commercial taxes.

Rebecca Martin said...

In all fairness, Mike, you should point your visitors to the Ward 8 Yahoo! Group where the president of Common Fire responds to your every issue here. Whatever the outcome, it's important for people to get as much information as they can.


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Ward8Kingston/

Anonymous said...

I read your yahoo group, and it seems even more, to me anyway, that "Common Fire" is taking ADVANTAGE of loopholes in the law, to take advantage of common tax paying citizens. 'Family' 'Tax Exempt'. You base all your arguments on LAW! BS.

Rebecca, if you want to shack up with 10 others, there are a ton of group homes in Kingston. That is an 'industry' Kingston has excelled in. Difference, these landlords PAY TAXES!

Again, I will tout my experience with roomates. I paid 400 a month at The Hills on Rondout, with 2 others. We each had our own room. We cooked together, for the most part. We had to share 2 bathrooms.

Rebecca Martin said...

I wrote in response to Peter Mack once which didn't end up being posted by Madsen - so, I'll try again.

Peter Mack, I'm not sure what you are referring to when you suggest I have attacked residents/citizens who were opposed to the Common Fire project on Stuyvesant Street. You most certainly have the wrong gal.

I, too, am only becoming familiar with CF - and I have only wanted more information on them from our public servants who made pretty harsh remarks from the start - without doing more research or outreach. My personal feeling is that I would like CF to come to Kingston. I think it's a terrific organization. Where they were to build a home in the city was the question for many.

As always, I wish to create an open dialouge from both sides of any issue on KingstonCitizens.org. That is what we've accomplished beginning with our Ward 9 Community Group - for almost 2 years prior. Maybe you aren't aware of the work that's been accomplished over here. Our track record is quite good.

The ward 8 Yahoo! Group saw some very important information on Common Fire with a back and forth between CF President Jeff Golden and E.L. (who has posted here, too). I believe E.L. is an Elmer - who is closely connected to George and Robin living across the street from the proposed location. It was terrific to get information on both sides straight from the horses mouth. What could be better then that to become better informed?

Feel free to respond here if you'd like - though this will be my final post regarding this issue at Madsen's blog. I'd prefer that you write me directly if you have any other questions at info@kingstoncitizens.org. I'd be happy to speak to you that way - or to set up a time to speak directly which is always better then emails, I'd prefer it.

In the case that my note to you is not accepted again by Madsen, I will ask that what I am writing here is forwarded to you - by a mutual friend. In fact, I'll do that anyway. I'd like very much for this to reach you.


Thanks.

Anonymous said...

While I whole heartedly support this sort of venture, I also believe that there shoud be NO non-proft status applied. Let the monthy "rent" includetax payments.

Hrvoje said...

“Consumers Will Face Higher Energy Bills”
The Daily Gazette, Town Of Colonie, NY; June 07, 2008
By: Jason Subik, Tel 395-3198, jsubik@dailygazette.net

Qte-Unqte from the article:
PSC = Public Service Commission
IPPNY = Independent Power Producers of New York

“…. However, the PSC has created a mechanism for utilities to raise their rates if energy uses goes down, thus eliminating any savings for New Yorkers.”

“ Otherwise, if consumer demand for electricity goes down in New York’s deregulated electrical markets, utilities will loose money - unless they lower their prices to simulate more demand.”

“ We have something called a ‘revenue decoupling method’ which is trying to make sure utilities [don’t have incentives] to keep on increasing sales in order to make money, so they can get a return even if there isn’t sales growth” he (David Paterson) said. “””

“ National Grid Officials told reporters in a conference call last week that RDM they’ve submitted to the PSC is meant to allow them to increase rates to recover 100 % of revenues lost from customers using less energy.”

“ William Flynn, National Grid’s VP of government relations, attended the IPPNY meeting Wednesday. He said National Grid needs assurance that energy efficiency programs will not reduce the company’s revenues.


The above “In plain English & mathematically explained”:
1) Suppose:
· A community of 10 houses
· Each house consumes exactly 10KW/Day of electricity.
· 10 KW/day costs $10/day.
· All other standard cost of maintenance and any surcharge is assumed eliminated in this example for clarity purposes.
· At this stage no house has any “green energy savings”
2) The total Power Producer’ daily revenue from el. consumption is therefore:
10 (houses) x $10/day = $100/day.
3) Suppose:
· 5 houses out of these 10 are going “50% Green”:
· Based on the above article, the Power Producer cannot afford to have the company’s revenues reduced.
Based on that, the distribution of charges is as follows:
5 (houses) x $10/day = $50/day
5 (houses) x $5/day = $25/day
Total Revenue for 10 houses: $75/day
Revenue prior to “going Green” = $100.
Missing difference: $100 - $75 = $25/day

4) Power Producer’s raises price in order to compensate the loss of revenue:
$25/day : 10 = $2.50/day

5) New Charges after “Going GREEN”
“NON – GREEN” houses = $10/day + $2.5/day = $12.50/day
“GREEN” Houses = $5/day + $2.5/day = $7.5/day

6) Suppose that at one point of time, the 5 houses go 100% green, meaning they do not need any longer any electrical energy:
Based on the same calculation as above, the NON-GREEN houses will have to
pay $100/day : 5 (houses) = $20.00 / day.

7) QUESTION No. 1: Who is really benefiting from “GOING GREEN”?
QUESTION No. 2:
· Suppose the remaining 5 houses go “GREEN” because they refuse to carry on the bills from the first 5 houses.
· Consequence: the Power Producer is loosing all of its revenue from these 10 houses.
· Suppose that on Earth there is:
- only one Power Producer
- only one community with 10 houses.

· Suppose that all employees of that Power Producer are the ones leaving in these 10 houses
· How the Power Producer will survive?
· How the 10 people in these 10 houses will survive?
· Etc….