A free lunch, a block party and a former underwear factory.
Residents of Middle Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie discussed ways to improve the neighborhood — in the near future and with the resources at hand — over a free lunch Saturday in a former vacant lot-turned-pocket park.
The Poughkeepsie-based nonprofit group Hudson River Housing hosted the event, the latest in a series of monthly lunchtime discussions the group has hosted since the spring.
Hudson River Housing, in conjunction with Clearwater, a Beacon-based environmental organization, organized a block party for later Saturday with live music, arts and crafts for children, dance exhibitions and food at the same location, adjacent to the former Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory.
Hudson River Housing purchased the property in 2012 and plans to restore the brick-covered former factory to include two-thirds residential space, about 16 apartments, and one-third community commercial space with a cafe, said Elizabeth Celaya, director of community development for the organization.
The total cost would be just under $5 million; the group has about 16 percent of the necessary funding and is applying for additional grants. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, she said.
At the lunchtime event, about two dozen people gathered over fried chicken, rice and beans, salad, fried plantains and cool drinks donated by nearby establishments as residents offered and discussed ideas for neighborhood improvement.
Most popular were ideas that involved programs for youth, including recreational activities and tutoring. Attendees were also in favor of rehabilitating the former Dutchess County YMCA, which closed in 2009 due to financial problems, but Celaya reminded the group the parameters included ideas that those in attendance could accomplish in a few months.
Improved security was another suggestion, as were neighborhood cleanup events.
“We need to come out with our brooms and physically clean up,” said city Councilwoman Ann Perry, D-5th Ward, who was at the event.
City resident Gerri Pompey, 64, said she joined a walking club that had been created at a previous event. She said she liked the ideas about cleaning the streets, access to low-priced fresh fruits and vegetables and moderate exercise for seniors.
“I know the city has people clean, but there’s always garbage,” she said.
Renise Smith, 72, a city resident, said he is concerned that violence seems to be increasing again in the city.
“The community needs to come together more,” he said.
Emily Stewart: 845-437-4882;email@example.com; Twitter: @estwrt