Everette Hodge Is Spinning In His Grave

Posted on April 2, 2011


     Has anyone been following the controversy reguarding the future of of the Everette Hodge MidTown Neighborhood Center?   If you live in Kingston New York, and you are not living under a rock (or even if you are living under a rock and you stick your nose out once in awhile) you can’t miss it.   After something like 11 years of benign neglect, all of a sudden “The Hodge” is front page news.   After 11 years of being a classroom, day care center, community meeting hall, free store, kindergarten, computer lab and public bathroom, all of a sudden everyone wants into the act.  The YWCA apparently wants to control the programs at the Hodge Center, and the people who have been supposedly controlling the  programs all these years do not want to lose their little run-down kingdom.

        Point in fact, the Hodge Center is a Kingston City Building.   Per se, nobody else is controlling  the building.   For a time, UCCC operated a program there, but that was awhile back.   In point of fact, over the past  three or four years, as I worked with various community programs (Victory Gardens comes to mind) there seemed to be some confusion over who was actually “in charge of programs at the Hodge.”  Some people seemed to think Megan Weiss was the go-to person, some people seemed to think Elder Sandra Hopgood Thompson was the go-to person.  I usually went to both of them in whatever order I happened to meet them as I came in the door.   Megan is not there too often, and Elder Hopgood (as I usually call her) has had several  bouts of severe illness.   The last one, just over a year ago, almost took her life and left her with a vivid scar on her chest from quadruple bypass surgery.

     In the meantime this city building(which faced  structural challenges as it was being constructed) was allowed to compost.  There would be sporatic efforts to  keep it in repair, but the roof tends to channel rainwater right down in front of the door.   Entering in rainy weather, one faces a natural baptism.   The power -siphon toilets that impressed me so much the day the Hodge Center opened, began flushing when they were in the mood, and when they were not in the mood, nobody could find the plunger.  (Twice I went to the dollar store and bought one.)   The soap dispensors broke off the walls, the door locks developed a mind of their own, and if you wanted hot water, you’d betten bring it with you.

         The computer lab, which was state of the art 11 years ago, turned into a technological graveyard.   The chairs turned into  uncooperative modern sculptures that left one either sitting two inches from the floor, or at some exotic tilt.   By this year, almost none of the computers are fully functuonal.   The keyboard on one doesn’t work.  On another the keyboard works but its not connected to the printer.   The next one has a working printer and the keyboard works, but it won’t connect to the internet.   This one won’t turn off, that one won’t turn on, those two don’t have video capacity, and that one over there has no sound.  According to one of the volenteers, the license agreement on some of the software expired, and that is why half the programs  don’t work.

        And in the middle of all that, two ten year old kids are gleefully playing “Halo” and shouting, “You shot me!”  “No, stupid, you shot yourself!’   When I questioned the wisdom of  teaching inner city pre-teens how to shoot, Elder Hopgood pointed out, quite correctly, that at least the kids were off the streets.  This is correct.

        In the past year, the nutrician program at the Center has improved and every Friday night the kids–and some grownups–are enjoying a delicious and  free repast.   During the past  two months, this program has expanded to include  homeless and underserved adults as the Heart of the Catskills has been dishing out hot meals to everyone who came in.   Generally, the meals were good.   There were some half-cooked beans in chilli once that turned me into a methane factory, and there was the World’s Smallest Deep Frier trying to keep up with the demand for fried chicken, but generally the gleaned food that is served is good.   It must be, I’ve gained ten pounds in two months.  We all know how I am about brie cheese.

     Unfortunately, the entire program has been getting pretty cheesy.   Accusations in the mid-town community of  inappropriate behavior, ineffective programs, and mismanaged funds appear to have led the YWCA to  express a desire to control the programs.   Not too surprisingly, Elder Hopgood and Frank Nazzaro of Heart of the Catskills wnt to be the ones in controll.   Meanwhile homeless persons and the psychiatricly diagnosed have decided THEY are controlling things.   Kettles of potatoes are boiling on the stove, laundery is soaking in the lavatory, feral kittens are scattering trash all over the lawn,  and a guy who lives in a tent in the woods is telling consumers what they can and cannot do.   Its great if you like green icing and goat cheese–until one realizes that one’s tax dollars are paying for all this  disorganized largess.

      A hearing was held last Wednesday at Kingston City Hall.  I took an entire day out of my busy scheule to write every alderperson and and mayor about how I felt about the  overseeing of the Hodge Center.  

      Two alderpersons showed up.   That is not a typo.   Two.   Seven did not.

       The no-shows included the  Alderwoman for Ward 4 where the Center is located, my alderman in Ward 9, the outspoken alderman who is now suggesting the building now be sold to a not-for-profit, and several alderpersons who have been regularly delivering food to the center.  The apathy was deafening.

     My opinion was in my letter to my elected officials.  To paraphrase, my tax dollars are supporting the center, I wish their chairs supported my posterior.  I do not think that homeless non-residents of the city ought to be  left in control of the building.  I think the city had a LOT of nerve tearing up the children’s garden two years running.  I do not think the YWCA has the capacity, financially or emotionally, to operate this derelect building, and that it will prove to be a drain on their resources, as it has been on everyone elses.

     I think that when a city building has to be dedicated to the needs of neglected children, homeless adults, persons in recovery, and those without food, there is some sort of problem in that city that is not being addressed.   My taxes have gone up to where I have to chose between eating nd paying my property tax.  My taxes then go to pay for a soup kitchen in a city building.

    What is wrong with this picture?  And why, in this election year (hmmmmmm) are so many people wasting so much time, energy, and ink on a building that any real estate agent would call a “fixer upper?”

         Enquring minds don’t really give a darn.   I have a vegetable garden to begin.  And maybe this afternoon, I’ll go over to the Hodge Center to the refrigerator I am paying the electricity for, and see if I can score a  little wedge of brie….

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