Kingston, NY: A Historic Hudson Town “Preparing for Better Opportunities”

Kingston, NY, was hardly a place to relax in the 1990s, when Malia Du Mont came to the area to attend Bard College, about 10 miles upstream from the Hudson River. Once a bustling 19th-century river port, Kingston had grown into, well, drab over the decades. The riverboat that offered tours was actually called the Rip Van Winkle, after the fictional character who fell asleep in the Catskills for 20 years.

Ms Du Mont, 48, is now a trustee at Bard, and some things are more important to her than they were 25 years ago: river views, woodland bustling with wildlife, plenty to do outside. And Kingston is not the same city it used to be. Today, it is flourishing and united. Perhaps symbolically, the Rip Van Winkle was replaced in 2019 by the newer and more spacious Rip Van Winkle II.

“There is more of a sense of neighborhood and community than anywhere I’ve lived,” Ms. Du Mont said of the County town of Ulster of about 23,000 people. Three years ago, she bought a three-story brick house in the Rondout National Historic District for $ 398,000. “It’s like I’m both in the city and in the forest,” she says.

The secret seems to be that of Kingston, which sits on the West Bank of the Hudson, just off the New York State Freeway, about 100 miles north of Manhattan. This is in part due to the pandemic, which has prompted more New Yorkers to abandon the city for upstate outposts. But they had been coming for years already, said Margaret Thorne, agent for the Keller Williams Realty office in town.

Almost all of the interested buyers who contact her are from New York City, creating a market where homes sell out quickly. “There are more buyers than there are homes available, and most properties are getting more than one offer above asking,” Thorne said.

With a thriving arts community attracting new stores and restaurants, Kingston is certainly more hip than ever before. But its riverside perch, mountainous landscape, and rich pre-American history (with much surviving architecture) make Kingston more than Williamsburg North.

Dan Saronson and his fiancee, Erin Nylen, paid $ 450,000 this year (about $ 70,000 above asking price) for a four-bedroom house in the nearby Hurley, NY neighborhood. ex-Brooklynites.

Ms Nylen, 37, got a new job with Scenic Hudson, an environmental protection group, and Mr Saronson, 34, was able to continue his work as a data engineer. “We can still kind of live the life we ​​were leading,” he said, adding that Kingston has “more of a big city vibe despite being tucked away in the Hudson Valley.”

The community calendar is full of activities such as Children’s Day in October (“a little taste of terror”) and the Snowflake Festival in December. The first OMG Art Faire, showcasing the work of contemporary artists, was held this fall at the century-old Wall Street Music Hall in the city’s Stockade neighborhood.

“It looks like a city bracing itself for better opportunities,” said Janet Hicks, owner of One Mile Gallery and sponsor of the art fair.

Ms Hicks and her former partner paid $ 300,000 in 2009 for the 1789 three-story brick building on half an acre of land, believing they could live in part of it and use the rest as a studio and gallery. art. She is always there. Over the years, there have been surges in the Kingston real estate market, not to mention more businesses and new coats of paint. But these days, she said, the recovery “seems more substantial and real.”

Kingston has three distinct neighborhoods: Uptown, which includes the historic Stockade district; Midtown, which is crossed by Broadway, the city’s main thoroughfare; and Rondout, near the stream and the river, to the south.

The palisade, which spans about eight blocks, is neat and walkable, with an abundance of Dutch and colonial architecture preserved. Wall Street and North Front Street offer shops and restaurants behind covered sidewalks. The Kinsley Hotel occupies four separate 19th-century buildings, including a restored bank building.

Two-story wood-frame homes, with porches that protrude from the sidewalk, proliferate in the residential blocks of Midtown. Broadway looks like any main street in America, with Kingston High School, the majestic brick-built Kingston Town Hall, and the restored Ulster Performing Arts Center just a few blocks away. The light poles are decorated with photos of local veterans, known as the “heroes of the hometown”.

Rondout, next to the cove of the same name, is home to the highly acclaimed Hudson River Maritime Museum, Rip Van Winkle II Tours, and the charming TR Gallo Park. If you have the impression that banjo music is playing through a speaker, take a closer look – it’s probably a real banjo player.

Near the Wurts Street suspension bridge is a loop called Presidents Place. “There are beautiful old houses that were built as the elegant homes of the presidents of shipyards, presidents of steamboat companies and presidents of brickyards,” said Ms Du Mont, who lives nearby. “Even the weather vane on a church is a Hudson River steamboat.”

According to data provided by the Ulster County Board of Realtors, there were 32 active residential listings on November 23 in Kingston and another 16 in Hurley. Their prices ranged from $ 89,900 to $ 799,000 in Kingston and from $ 129,000 to $ 2.185 million in Hurley.

Data showed that 225 homes were sold from Jan. 1 to Nov. 23 in Kingston, for an average of $ 279,900. During the same period in 2020, 190 homes sold for an average of $ 225,000. Another 75 homes in Hurley were sold from Jan. 1 to Nov. 23, at an average of $ 369,900, compared to 86 homes at an average of $ 322,500 during the same period in 2020.

Homes are also selling much faster, with a median of 24 days on the market in Kingston, up from 50 over the same period in 2020. In Hurley, the median is 29 days on the market, compared to 40 days on the market. last year.

“The market remains strong,” Ms. Thorne said. “During the pandemic, properties were selling. “

According to the OneKey Multiple Listing Service, a two-story 1900 Victorian listed at $ 599,000 in the historic Rondout district comes with an annual property tax bill of $ 6,427.

Sean Nutley, who grew up in Kingston and is now part owner of Bluecashew, an organized kitchen store on North Front Street, joked that he remembered the tumbleweeds rolling through the streets. Even when he opened his store four years ago, he said, Kingston was considered a good place for Canadians to stop en route to the Jersey Shore.

“I’ve seen a pretty dramatic turnaround,” Nutley, 56, said of the wave of new residents he’s seen arriving in recent years. “When you look for a house, when you drive on a freeway for two hours from New York, you don’t feel like driving anymore.”

Ms Nylen, who bought the house in Hurley this year with her fiance, enjoys hiking, going to concerts, visiting local breweries and farmers’ markets, and volunteering with the Ulster County SPCA. “Spotting all the different birds in the forest around our house is a favorite activity,” she said.

Locals believe the city benefits from its diversity: African Americans and Latinos make up 30% of the population, according to census data. WKNY, Radio Kingston, includes shows such as El Mañanero, Hip Hop 101 and consecutive Irish and polka shows.

Kingston may be called an “artistic” city, but some residents say the label doesn’t do it justice. Real people work and live here. It is a place to plant roots. “They’re nice people, it’s creative, it’s a very special place,” Mr. Nutley said. “We see so many young and cool people starting their lives here. “

Ms. Du Mont, the administrator of Bard, highlighted the success of Kingston’s annual O + Festival, launched in 2010, which brings together the arts and wellness communities. Underinsured artists and musicians perform in exchange for services provided by doctors, dentists and health care providers. “I am so proud to be part of this community which, like everywhere, has its faults,” she said. “But the focus on community, so that even the arts here are all about engagement and accessibility, is a great and unusual thing.”

The City of Kingston School District has approximately 6,300 students enrolled in 10 public schools: seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.

According to the State Department of Education, enrollment in 2019-2020 was 51% White, 25% Latino, 12% Black, 9% Multiracial, and 2% Asians, Hawaiians, or Americans. other Pacific Islanders. More than half of the students were considered economically disadvantaged.

Kingston High School had 1,950 students in 2019-2020, with a four-year graduation rate of 89%. According to the State Department of Education, the school’s SAT scores in 2018 were 553 for evidence-based reading and 555 for writing, compared to an average of 534 across the board. ‘State for both.

Kingston is located just off the New York State Thruway Exit 19, Interstate 87, which crosses the Hudson Valley to the Major Deegan Expressway and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (Triborough). A one-way trip to or from New York will take at least two hours, on a good day.

Many Kingston residents prefer to drive 20 to 30 minutes to Poughkeepsie, which offers Metro North train service to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. There are nine incoming trains between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. and seven outgoing trains between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays, and a peak ticket for 10 trips costs $ 163.75. Monthly parking at Poughkeepsie Station costs $ 47.

There are 10 weekday buses to New York from the Trailways terminal on Washington Avenue in Kingston. One-way fare for the two hour and 10 minute trip is $ 26.50.

With European settlers and the Esopus tribe on the brink of war in 1658, Peter Stuyvesant, the CEO of the colony of New Holland, ordered the settlers to build a new village over the Hudson River. . Despite (or perhaps because of) their differences, the Esopus gave the land on the cliff to the settlers, in honor of Stuyvesant. The settlers dismantled their barns and houses and carted everything upstream, rebuilding the village and surrounding it with a wall of 14-foot-high tree trunks. This is still called the Stockade area, a National Historic District.

In the summer of 1777, with the British occupation of New York, Kingston became the first capital of New York State. A few months later, the British arrived and set it on fire.

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