Hunger Is Not a Disease

Woodstock Commons Then and Now

An institution in Woodstock, the Sunflower Natural Foods Market, sits on the main street in of a piece of property once called Bradley Meadows. Bradley Meadows was a privately owned property allowed for many years by the owners to be natural. Townspeople loved it that way. Wild forest creatures inhabited the place: squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, migratory birds, wood frogs, spring peepers, newts, American toads, spotted salamanders, and the endangered Indiana Bat. There are even a few stories about a black bear.
Homeless people inhabited Bradley Meadows then also. Quietly, as far under the radar screen as possible, people lived. They pitched tents, or lived under the trees in the woods behind the Sunflower.
These homeless visited the pantry weekly. Between pantry days, it’s said, they dumpster dived for what food they could get.
Several years ago, steps were taken to turn the Bradley Meadows property into an affordable housing site. The Rural Ulster Preservation Company came to town. What a group! No matter what objection anyone raised about the housing project, the RUPCO team overcame it. The Woodstock Commons plan created much dialogue and discussion among some residents.
Some Woodstock residents fight change as aggressively as if their livelyhood depended on it. Historical events include the Woodstock Post Office, and the Cumberland Farms gas station among others. After much noisy back and forth the project eventually gets finished and we all forget there was ever conflict or that anyone even cared. But, it certainly beats boredom.
“They’re going to ruin the traffic in the area.”
“Using all the water is going to be too expensive for our town.”
“That’s a flood plain over there. Nothing should be built.”
“What about the wildlife?”
“Nobody local is going to get to move in. This is going to ruin the town.”
The dialogue could have been summed up as somewhere between “Over my dead body” and “When hell freezes over.”
After much haggling, horse trading, and politicking, the buildings went up on one third of the forested plot. Eighteen acres, designated a Forever Wild Conservation Easement, have nature and interpretive trails. One trail goes to the shopping center where the Sunflower, Rite Aid, and Bank of America are located which minimizes automobile traffic.
These trails have fitness exercise stations. One, an Energi Total Body Fitness System is good for overall fitness. The other station, a Lifetrail Wellness System Exercise Station focuses on fitness for those over 50 years of age.
The construction code is “Green”. Eleven buildings were beautifully laid out on the land, arranged in a circle so residents can connect with one another.
Woodstock Commons is an intergenerational development with two buildings for seniors/handicapped residents. Twelve units are reserved for artists. All buildings are non-smoking. (There is a specified smoking area in the gazebo.) In short, Woodstock Commons is an example of the country’s affordable housing movement. Woodstock Commons is eligible for gold level certification in the US Green Building Council Program.
People filled out applications and turned them in at the Ulster Savings Bank, and the RUPCO office in Kingston. And, finally, in late 2012, the first residents moved in. As each unit became complete, a family moved in. New residents moved in by ones and twos every few days or so until all fifty-three units were filled.
At first, the residents felt as if they were experiencing culture shock. Everyone and everything was new to the space. People moved from Woodstock, Rosendale, Kingston, Saugerties as well as other places. It took awhile to anchor and define the energy of the new community.
A true diverse community, people came from different educational, class, ethnic backgrounds. What they had in common was a desire to meet basic needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy comes to mind here. In many instances, RUPCO was a lifeboat for people who had lost their homes to foreclosure, weather events, etc.
RUPCO is a landlord and sooo much more. The goal is to create lively and active community for the residents.
The hub of the whole community is the Superintendent. Ken has the personality and drive to make the Commons as positive an experience as possible for the residents. He’s well liked by everyone and the grounds and buildings are well maintained. He has his hand in many Commons events. Projects include:
Organic vegetable garden on common property
Local barbecue events for residents
Nature classes with scavenger hunts on the grounds
Art shows
Birthday parties
Dance classes
Crochet classes
Sunday Morning Story Hour
Drumming circles
Holiday dinners for the residents
A real community has emerged as residents get to know one another. Babies have been born. Conversations are taking place over the garden plots, Saturday movies, community meals, and food pantry deliveries.
Even with all of these activities there’s a hunger for more. People are looking for a story teller to visit regularly.
So…we’ve come full circle. It’s rumored that one of the homeless who lived in Bradley Meadows now has a home at Woodstock Commons.
And, what about the wildlife? Some of it is no doubt gone. But, some of it has stayed on to become part of the Woodstock Commons community. New wildlife has arrived. Every time I drive on the grounds I see animals.
The place is beautiful. It makes me wonder what the fuss was all about in the beginning.
What a gift to our community!
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco