Kingston, NY: A historic Hudson city gearing up for better opportunities


Kingston, NY was barely a place to stay in the 1990s when Malia Du Mont arrived in the area to attend Bard College, about 10 miles upstream from the Hudson River. Once a busy 19th century river port, Kingston had grown boring over the decades. The river boat that offered tours was actually named Rip Van Winkle, after the fictional character who fell asleep in the Catskills for 20 years.

Ms. Du Mont, 48, is now an administrator at Bard and there are a few things that are more important to her than they were 25 years ago: views of the river, forests full of wildlife, lots to do outside. And Kingston is not the same city as it was back then. Today it is thriving and closely related. Perhaps symbolically, the Rip Van Winkle has been replaced by the newer and more spacious Rip Van Winkle II in 2019.

“There is more of a sense of neighborhood and community than anywhere else I have lived,” said Ms. Du Mont of Ulster County, a town of approximately 23,000. Three years ago she bought a three-story brick home in the Rondout National Historic District for $ 398,000. “It’s like being in the city and in the forest at the same time,” she said.

The secret seems to be out in Kingston, on the west bank of the Hudson, just off the New York State Thruway, about 160 miles north of Manhattan. That’s in part because of the pandemic that has caused more New Yorkers to leave the city for outposts in the backcountry. But they’d been coming for years, said Margaret Thorne, an agent with the Keller Williams real estate office in town.

Almost every interested buyer she contacts is from New York City, creating a market that sells homes quickly. “There are more buyers than available homes and most properties get several offers above asking price,” said Ms. Thorne.

With a thriving arts scene attracting new shops and restaurants, Kingston is certainly hippier than it used to be. But its riverside, mountainous landscape, and rich history that predates the United States (with many architectures preserved) make Kingston more than Williamsburg North.

Dan Faronson and his fiancée Erin Nylen paid $ 450,000 (about $ 70,000 above asking price) for a four-bedroom home in neighboring Hurley, NY ex-Brooklynite this year.

Ms. Nylen, 37, got a new job with Scenic Hudson, a conservation group, and Mr. Faronson, 34, was able to continue his job as a data engineer. “We can still lead the life we ​​lived,” he said, adding that Kingston “has more of a big-city feel to it despite being in the Hudson Valley.”

The community calendar is jam-packed with activities like Children’s Day in October (“a little taste of terror”) and the Snowflake Festival in December. The first OMG Art Faire with works by contemporary artists took place this fall at the 100-year-old Wall Street Music Hall in Stockade.

“It just seems like a city preparing for ever better opportunities,” said Janet Hicks, One Mile Gallery owner and art fair sponsor.

Ms. Hicks and her ex-partner paid $ 300,000 for the 1789 three-story brick building on half an acre of land in 2009, thinking they could live in part of it and use the rest as a studio and art gallery. It’s still there. Over the years the Kingston property market has seen a surge, not to mention more businesses and repaints. But these days, she said, the recovery feels “more substantial and real”.

Kingston has three distinct boroughs: Uptown, which includes the historic Stockade area; Midtown, which is shared by Broadway, the city’s main drag; and Rondout, near the creek and river, to the south.

The stockade, which is about eight blocks, is neat and within walking distance, with an abundance of preserved Dutch and Colonial architecture. Wall Street and North Front Street offer shops and restaurants behind covered walkways. Hotel Kinsley is made up of four different buildings from the 19th century, including a restored bank building.

Two-story timber frame houses with verandas that jut out to the sidewalk sprout in the Midtown apartment blocks. Broadway looks like any Main Street in America, with Kingston High School, the majestic Kingston City Hall, and the restored Ulster Performing Arts Center just blocks away. Light poles are decorated with photos of local war veterans known as “home heroes”.

Rondout, next to the homonymous creek, is home to the critically acclaimed Hudson River Maritime Museum, Rip Van Winkle II excursions, and the charming TR Gallo Park. If it sounds like banjo music is being played through a speaker, take a closer look: it is likely a real banjo player.

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

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

The data showed that from January 1 through November 23, Kingston 225 homes sold for an average of $ 279,900. During the same period in 2020, 190 homes were sold for an average of $ 225,000. An additional 75 homes in Hurley sold for an average of $ 369,900 from January 1 to November 23, compared with 86 homes for an average of $ 322,500 in the same period in 2020.

Homes are also selling much faster, with an average market time of 24 days in Kingston, compared to 50 for the same period in 2020. In Hurley, the median is 29 days on the market, compared to 40 last year.

“The market remains strong,” said Ms. Thorne. “Properties were sold during the pandemic.”

A two-story Victorian building from 1900 listed in the Rondout Historic District at $ 599,000 carries an annual property tax of $ 6,427, according to the OneKey Multiple Listing Service.

Sean Nutley, who grew up in Kingston and now co-founded Bluecashew, a curated kitchen store on North Front Street, joked that he remembered tumbleweeds rolling the streets. Even when he opened his store four years ago, Kingston was considered a good place for Canadians to stop on their way to the Jersey Shore.

“It’s been a pretty dramatic turnaround,” said Nutley, 56, of the surge of new residents he’s seen in recent years. “If you drive two hours on a freeway from New York looking for a house, you don’t want to drive anymore.”

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

Residents believe the city benefits from its diversity: According to census data, African Americans and Latinos make up 30 percent of the population. WKNY, Radio Kingston, includes shows like El Mañanero, Hip Hop 101, and back-to-back Irish and Polka shows.

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

Ms. Du Mont, the administrator at Bard, noted the success of Kingston’s annual O + Festival, launched in 2010, which gathers art and wellness communities. Underinsured artists and musicians perform against the services of doctors, dentists and health care providers. “I am so proud to be part of this community that, like everywhere else, has its weaknesses,” she said. “But the community focus, so that the arts here too are geared towards engagement and accessibility, is a great and unusual thing.”

The Kingston City 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, in the years 2019-2020, 51 percent were white, 25 percent Latino, 12 percent black, 9 percent multiracial, and 2 percent Asian, Hawaiian, or other Pacific islanders. More than half of the students were considered to be economically disadvantaged.

Kingston High School had 1,950 students in the 2019-20 period with an 89 percent graduation rate after four years. 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 national averages of 534 for both.

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

Many Kingston residents prefer a 20 to 30 minute drive to Poughkeepsie, which has Metro North train services to Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal. On weekdays, there are nine trains arriving between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. and seven outgoing trains between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and a 10-trip peak ticket costs $ 163.75. Monthly parking at Poughkeepsie Station is $ 47.

10 buses to New York depart from the Trailways Terminal on Washington Avenue in Kingston on weekdays. The one-way fare for the two-hour and 10-minute journey is $ 26.50.

When European settlers and the Esopus tribe were on the brink of war in 1658, Peter Stuyvesant, director general of the New Netherlands colony, ordered settlers to build a new village above the Hudson River. Despite (or perhaps because of) their differences, the Esopus gave the settlers the land on the cliff in honor of Stuyvesant. The settlers dismantled their barns and houses and dragged everything uphill, rebuilt the village and surrounded it with a 4 meter high wall made of tree trunks. This is still referred to as the Stockade Area, a National Historic District.

In the summer of 1777, when the British occupied New York City, Kingston became the first capital of New York State. A few months later the British arrived and burned it down.

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