Former council member finds Kingston has similar challenges
Sara Pasti was intimately involved in Beacon’s revitalization for most of the 18 years she lived in the city.
After moving to Beacon in 2002, Pasti was elected to the City Council in 2007 as a Democrat and served three, 2-year terms representing Ward 4. She also was co-chair of the committee that drafted the comprehensive plan in 2007, updated it in 2017 and was named co-chair of the Main Street Access Committee in 2020.
But after retiring in 2019 as director of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, Pasti found herself ready to downsize.
A year later, she began looking for apartments in Beacon as well as Newburgh and Kingston. “It was hard to find a place because so many Airbnbs were springing up during the pandemic and taking over the rental units in each of those cities,” Pasti said. In addition, because she was now on a fixed income, she found that two-bedroom apartments in Beacon (she wanted a home office) were too expensive.
Fortunately, Pasti stumbled onto a small house in Kingston that she could afford to buy. “Kingston still has some of the grittiness that Beacon had when I first moved there,” she said. “I was looking at the next phase of my life, and I was open to having it anywhere in the Hudson Valley.”
In Kingston, like Beacon, Pasti said she’s found a thriving arts community. She joined the board of the Midtown Arts District, which trains students in the arts and other life skills and is in the process of creating a community print shop.
She found diverse neighborhoods and housing, she said, but also a fear among residents that the city could lose its pockets of diversity, “the same way they disappeared in Beacon.”
Kingston has launched a rezoning effort that includes affordable housing initiatives, plus related projects, such as community grant programs, tenant protections and parks improvements, among many other projects. The rezoning is expected to be completed this year, and Pasti is running for a seat on the Common Council to oversee its implementation.
“Beacon is certainly not the only place experiencing an affordability crisis,” she said, noting that Kingston also saw an influx of new residents who fled New York City during the pandemic.
Once the rezoning project is finished, Pasti hopes, if elected, to join a task force that will guide housing policy. She also hopes to see Kingston address pedestrian and bike safety, one of the issues the Main Street committee wrestled with in Beacon.
Then there’s “the unseen work, which is what I came to love in Beacon,” of connecting residents with the services they need.
Pasti returns to Beacon often to visit. “As much as I loved Beacon, I realized it was the Hudson Valley region I had really fallen in love with,” she said. Once she arrived in Kingston, it was time to get invested in a new community, “and I was off on a new adventure.”
Why This Series
In the past quarter-century, Beacon has transformed itself from a city of boarded-up windows and crime to a vanguard of culture and environmental sustainability. But many residents feel the resurgence has come at a steep price, criticizing the pace and scale of development and arguing that housing prices are robbing Beacon of its diversity and working-class character.
Who has benefited most from this transformation? Who has been left behind? For this series, we’re talking to people who live and work in the city as we attempt to address these questions, as well as document changes in housing and demographics, the arts, politics and activism.
This series was made possible by contributions to our Special Projects Fund.