No Chestnut Ridge Rent Increase — For Now

Owner seeks change in financing

By Michael Turton

Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy is asking the federal government to ensure that the company that owns Chestnut Ridge, which provides subsidized housing for seniors, is not allowed to convert the complex to market-rate apartments.

Residents in the 64-unit complex were alarmed last month when they received a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides low-interest loans to developers to create rural housing for the elderly, disabled and poor, that the owner of the property wanted to convert it to market-rate apartments.

Chestnut Ridge (file photo)

The letter, dated Nov. 15, said Harmony Management wanted to pay off its USDA loan and convert the apartments. The agency said that if it granted the request, rents could rise and the agency would no longer able to provide subsidies to tenants. (The USDA holds the mortgage on the property.)

However, soon after, a “corrected” letter arrived from the USDA, identical to the first except for a new, bolded paragraph that read, “Based on USDA’s communications with the owner so far, the owner plans to continue to operate the apartments as affordable rental housing.”

At its Dec. 5 meeting, the Village Board approved a letter from Merandy to the USDA urging the agency to ensure that Chestnut Ridge remains subsidized housing. The letter notes that Chestnut Ridge is the only affordable housing in western Putnam County.

“Without these subsidized apartments the low-income and mostly elderly tenants will be forced to move into an unfamiliar environment,” he wrote.

On Dec. 6, Dan Dunning of Harmony Management, which has owned Chestnut Ridge since it opened in 1981, told The Current that the company wants to transfer its loan from the USDA to a private lender but said the proposed agreement with the agency would keep Chestnut Ridge as subsidized housing for another 10 years. “We’ll probably keep it subsidized longer than that, but that is all USDA requested,” he said.

Christopher Stewart, a special projects coordinator with the USDA, wrote in an email that the current 50-year loan matures around 2030.

In other business …

  • Trustees approved Joule Assets to administer the village’s participation in the Community Choice Aggregation program, which allows municipalities to collectively purchase electricity at reduced rates. The towns of Philipstown and Fishkill and City of Beacon are part of the local CCA, an initiative developed by Renewable Highlands and the Ecological Citizen’s Project, two Philipstown-based nonprofits. A public hearing will be held before the village adopts its energy-purchasing plan.
  • Village Clerk Jeff Vidakovich will continue to handle building department applications and inquiries from Cold Spring residents. Trustees approved the six-month, $1,250 stipend he receives for those duties. The village and Philipstown merged building departments earlier this year, with Greg Wunner serving as building inspector for both municipalities.
  • Deputy Mayor Marie Early noted that 2018 marks the bicentennial of the opening of the West Point Foundry. “It put Cold Spring on the map,” she said, pointing out that President Abraham Lincoln visited the foundry at the height of the Civil War. Trustee Fran Murphy and Early will work on plans to commemorate the anniversary. Mayor Merandy suggested possibly combining events at the foundry with Independence Day celebrations.
  • Merandy reported that he toured Metro-North’s Cold Spring property with Neal Zuckerman, Putnam County’s representative on the MTA board, to identify areas for improved maintenance.
  • The mayor will meet with a group of eighth-grade Haldane students who are interested in painting the pedestrian tunnel at the foot of upper Main Street. The students would also like to see a skate park constructed at Mayor’s Park.
  • Merandy said the village would leave one of the two restrooms next to the Chamber of Commerce information booth open despite vandalism. A week earlier, he had said the restrooms would be locked for the winter.
  • At the board’s Nov. 28 meeting, John Costilow, a CPA with the Albany office of the EFPR Group, said his firm found “no issues” with the village’s finances after an audit for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2017.

CPA John Costilow said his firm had found no issues with the village’s finances. (Photo by M. Turton)

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