Ulster County Executive Mike Hein Announces $17M BRIGHTER FUTURES INITIATIVE to Disrupt Generational Poverty At The Local Level

Posted October 2, 2018

Education, Health And Recreation, Restorative Justice Projects Receive $4 Million Grant From Local Foundations

Video News Release: https://youtu.be/5gmdlAtFKJI

Kingston, NY - On Monday, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein announced an unprecedented grant to support his multi-year Brighter Futures Initiative. The announcement coincides with the first day that new state legislation, known as "Raise the Age," goes into effect, which will help keep young offenders out of jail and offer an alternative to incarceration that will help transform their lives.

The Brighter Futures Initiative builds on County Executive Hein’s push to improve access to education for inner city youth with the construction of the SUNY Ulster satellite campus adjacent to Kingston High School, and incorporates new projects related to the County's innovative Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center on Broadway as well as the future Midtown Linear Park between Cornell Street and the Kingston Plaza, which will improve access to recreation and Kingston’s only major supermarket.

"Ten years after our nation's economy nearly collapsed, the economy here in Ulster County has rebounded well for many people, with property values exceeding pre-recession levels and unemployment the lowest it has been in nearly 20 years," said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. "But perhaps more than ever before, the national economy is leaving some people behind. For far too many kids, being born into poverty becomes a life sentence of poor health, low educational opportunity, disproportionate incarceration, low wages, and, too often, even premature death. But I refuse to accept that generational poverty is inevitable, and I believe that we can do something about it."

“This funding announcement could not come at a better time,” said Nancy Schmidt, Director of the Ulster County Probation Department. “Today is the first day we are operating under new Raise the Age legislation in New York State, and I’m proud to work for County Executive Hein, who understands that we have to do more than just meet the law’s minimum requirements. With a comprehensive view of the supports and resources that youth need to succeed, I’m confident that the Brighter Futures Initiative will help put our youth on the right path.”

“I am thrilled at the opportunity that this new initiative provides to work with the community to define pathways for our young people to break the downward cycle of generational poverty,” said Nina Dawson, Ulster County Human Rights Commissioner and Director of Ulster County’s Youth Bureau. “By investing in our marginalized and disadvantaged communities, I believe we will not only create a model for other communities throughout New York State, but we will also make a difference in the lives of our young people.”

Research shows that more than 4 out of 5 kids who are born into poverty will experience poverty throughout their lives, and that they are more likely to suffer chronic disease, more likely to drop out of high school, more likely to become incarcerated, more likely to be unemployed or under-employed, and more likely to suffer premature death. Though recent reports have highlighted improvements in the overall poverty rate in the US, childhood poverty remains higher in the US than in nearly any other developed nation.

"Since we began construction of the Kingston Center at SUNY Ulster in 2014, my administration has been laying the groundwork for a major new initiative aimed at providing pathways out of poverty for our youth. Today, I'm excited to officially launch our new multi-year effort, known as the Brighter Futures Initiative, and to announce a major new grant that will expand our impact," said Ulster County Executive Hein.

The Brighter Futures Initiative

The Brighter Futures Initiative is County Executive Hein’s vision for community-based solutions that fundamentally disrupt generational poverty throughout the County. To date, the initiative includes several capital construction projects in and around the City of Kingston that improve access to critical resources that are proven to help disrupt generational poverty. The relocation of SUNY Ulster's satellite campus from the Business Resource Center on Ulster Avenue to its new home adjacent to Kingston High School on Mary's Avenue was a first step, which then allowed the County to relocate its family court to the now vacant space, saving $10 million when compared with the cost of building a new family court facility.

At the same time, the County began preparing for the construction of the Midtown Linear Park and playground to connect neighborhoods in Midtown with Kingston's only major supermarket - along with doctors’ offices, the VA clinic, schools, and transit stations - in Uptown Kingston. In response to Raise the Age, County Executive Hein proposed a sweeping change – the Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center – which goes far beyond the statutorily-required response to new legislation. The Center will give justice-involved and at-risk youth as well as other community members a second chance and interrupt the "school to prison pipeline."

"Altogether, these projects represent an unprecedented County-led investment of over $13 million, which will lay a foundation for targeted and research-driven programming that can help reduce persistent childhood poverty throughout Ulster County," explained County Executive Hein. Funding for these projects included grants from the Dyson Foundation, the NYS Department of Transportation, NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation, Empire State Development and the SUNY Office of Capital Facilities. The remaining $4 million investment of County resources was offset by savings in other areas and was accomplished without raising taxes for County taxpayers.

New $4 Million Fund Facilitated by Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley

On Monday, County Executive Hein also announced that the Community Foundations will administer a $4 million fund, established with funding from the NoVo Foundation, to support programming and enhanced services that are designed to improve access to education, access to healthy food and recreation, and access to restorative justice for residents throughout Ulster County.

Grant funds are expected to be used for enhancements to the Midtown Linear Park, including playground equipment and trail amenities; to provide enhanced educational programming and job training in partnership with Ulster BOCES, SUNY Ulster, and the Ulster County Office of Employment and Training; and to provide mentoring, mental health services, tutoring and other supportive services at the Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center.

"The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley and its donors recognize the importance of engaging with partners in order to address social injustices like generational poverty. To that end, we are thrilled to facilitate the generous support of NoVo Foundation on this initiative. In the spirit of NoVo’s efforts to promote collaboration and partnership for the betterment of all, we encourage continued collaboration by partners in the public and private sectors to help transform communities throughout the Hudson Valley by expanding opportunities for those who have not fully shared in our region's growth and prosperity," said March Gallagher, Esq., President of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley.

Additional details regarding the Brighter Futures Initiative are available on the Ulster County Website at http://ulstercountyny.gov/brighterfutures.