Communication With Jen Fuentes About RESTORE program

Posted on September 16, 2012

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         On September  14 I attended the Ward 9 Neighborhood Care meeting at Larry McCauley’s house.   As usual it was lively and informative.   Among the information presented by Alderperson Debbie Brown, was a brochure for the RESTORE project, being administered through the Community Action office, with Jen Fuentes as Director with the able assistance of our FORMER Alderperson, Mike Madsen.   Long time members of this group will remember that  RAW9 was formed ten years ago this month (see separate post) to deal with FORMER Alderman Madsen’s removal of every reserved parking space reserved for persons with mobility chalenges in Ward 9 (including mine.)   Mike now has a position with the Building and Safety Department, having also  lost his post as Kingston Legislator and his post at bartender at the Rendezvous Lounge.

         The RESTORE Project souns very useful.   Targeting seniors, single parents, and veterans, it will do minor home repairs on homes owned by income eligable persons for free. including $500 worth of free repair supplies.   Since my home certainly needs a few minor repairs (like replacement of the glass in my storm door that was shot out eleven years ago, and stabiliztion of my balastrades)  I called th3e number on the brochure, and the telephone was answered by Mike Madsen.

         As a person, I am very fond of Mike.   I think he has potential as a journalist.   As an alderman, he was horrendous, and even worse as a legislator.   Just because I like a person does not mean they have any talent in politics–in fact the opposite might seem to be true!   Anyway, I asked to speak directly to Jen Fuentes, and called her separate number.     Jen appeared to have some idee fixe from the moment she picked up the telephone that I was “alleging discrimination” and “complaining.”   What I actually was doing was asking for information.    I knew that under a previous similar program administered by RUPCO, one could not chose the repairs to be done to their home–once you agreed to one repair, the entire home had to be brought up to code.    All I wanted to ask is whether the same rules applied to the RESTORE program.   This was a “yes or no question.”   Somehow it generated  a lengthy and occasionallty heated discussion on Facebook.

        The short answer is “YES”.    As a “for instance” in order to get my balastrade and my storm door repaired, I would also have to have the front steps and the entire wrap-around front prorch replaced, I would have gotten a citation for having birdbaths and lawn mowers stored on the front porch, my garden would have been torn up, my house would have had to be repainted…..It would have never ended.   Wait until they got to the bathroom on the second floor with the drains that need to be dug up with a backhoe.   Well, there would go my fence.   Jen  seemed to be indicating that all this chaos would be free, but I am willing to bet that the city is not going to invest about $10,000 in bringing my home up to code, without taking a lein on the property.   (And boy, if they would, isn’t that a peculiar way to spoend YOUR tax dollars?)

        Needless to say, I declined participation in the program, but I do worry that other “senior citizens, single parents, and veterans” may become involved without understanding all that the program entails.   For their edification, if you have time to read it, here is my correspondence with Jen Fuentes from Facebook reproduced (if cut & paste works) in its entirity.

 Jennifer Fuentes commented on your post in Restore Accountability Ward 9 Kingston NY.

 5:33pm Sep 14

The program is intended to reduce neighborhood blight and help residents with minor repairs.  Nobody will be burdened with any costs as your post implies.  As I explained, there is another rehabilitation program that pays for significant improvements to bring the property into code compliance.  Yes, how rude of the city to offer to PAY for a complete rehabilitation of your property.  Amazing how you are persecuted and wronged with such frequency… We however will not invest one penny on a property that will only continue to drag the neighborhood down.

Original Post

 Isaacs Lei

5:12pm Sep 14

Special note to anyone thinking of using the “RESTORE” program introduced to Ward 9 at last night’s Neighborhood Cares meeting….If your home is in compliance with all elements of the building code and needs one minor repair, this is your program!  Free labor & supplies for your minor repair!   B-U-T, and this was verified by program director Jennifer Fuentes this morning, the program is mandated to restore applying homes to compliance with the building code.   You CANNOT pick and chose your repairs.   If you want a window pane replaced and the window frame has lead paint and your house needs a new roof and repainting, you could find yourself trapped in a very expensive and needless cycle of repair with a possibility of condemnation of your property.    In my case, to be perfectly candid, I have opted NOT to have my storm door and bannisters repaired.    The next tenants of my house can be the ones to do heavy structural repairs.

 Jennifer Fuentes

 2:24 PM (23 hours ago)

 Jennifer Fuentes commented on your post in Restore Accountability Ward 9 Kingston NY.

 2:24pm Sep 15

We have two grants: 1 is for small jobs and the other is for large jobs.  You are misrepresenting the program AGAIN by suggesting we would force someone to take a loan.    So again, what is the problem?  How dare we come in and fix someone’s home at NO COST.  That’s entrapping them??

 Isaacs Lei

2:14pm Sep 15

(Ooops, I forgot, hit “enter” and FB starts a whole new comment. LOL)         My concern is that some of the vulnerable  demographic targeted by RESTORE may lose their homes and wind up in nursing homes or in Section 8 housing.    To illustrate, let us consider an imaginary 87 year old woman, Dolores Bright, who is living on…say…First Avenue, in the home where she was born, which was built by her father.    Dolores’ home was damaged in Hurricane Irene.   Bricks blew down her chimney, and her rear storm door was blown all the way open, shattering the tempered glass and also the outside light.    A “concerned neighbor” suggests RESTORE, and since Dolores is on a fixed income of under $10,000 a year, she is thrilled.   She calls the number on the flier and gets Mike Madsen who is very eager to assist her in any way possible.  Of course, she gives him permission to inspect the damage.   Mike’s trained eye perceives that the chimney, door and light are the tip of the iceberg.   There is an illegally installed  woodstove, heavy water damage to one interior wall, part of a ceiling is down, several windows are broken, there is water in the basement, there are insufficient electric outlets with power strips in use, the roof needs replacement, and the peeling exterior paint is lead based.   The estimate for repairs is $3000.  “Fortunately” there is a program (I believe through RUPCO?) that will give Dolores an interest free loan to pay for the repairs.             Dolores is not  a typical elderly lady, she did book keeping for fifty years and she has degrees in law and accounting.   She can easily perceive that since she is struggling to pay for $5000 in taxes on her home annually, and the heating and electric bill, she would never be able to pay off a $3000 loan, interest free or not, and the agency would have a lein on her house.   Regretfully she declines RESTORE’s kind offer.         And ten the rug gets yanked.    Since inspection has shown the house to be in abundant violation of the housing code, it is either condemned on the spot, or Delores is given  a sheaf of citations for violations, which, if not repaired will result in fines, which, if not paid, will be added to her tax bill which she is already struggling to pay every year.   Either the house is condemned as being a danger to Dolores and her neighbors, or the city eventually gets it for unpaid taxes.   It is bought at auction by a flipper, who makes the cheapest possible repairs, breaks it into four appartments, and eventually has his own visit b=from the building department.   Dolores ends her days velcroed into a wheelchair in Ten Broek Commons shrieking to everyone within a fifty foot radius that the city stole her house.   Senile, you know.         To prevent  homeowner from becoming entrapped in this system, I posted that this is a wonderful opportunity for homeowners but only if their property is 100% complient with the building code. 

Isaacs Lei

1:22pm Sep 15

I am so sorry if my post could have been misinterpreted as implying or stating that homeowners would be “burdened with any costs.”

Jennifer Fuentes

5:33pm Sep 14

The program is intended to reduce neighborhood blight and help residents with minor repairs.  Nobody will be burdened with any costs as your post implies.  As I explained, there is another rehabilitation program that pays for significant improvements to bring the property into code compliance.  Yes, how rude of the city to offer to PAY for a complete rehabilitation of your property.  Amazing how you are persecuted and wronged with such frequency… We however will not invest one penny on a property that will only continue to drag the neighborhood down.

 Original Post

 Isaacs Lei

5:12pm Sep 14

Special note to anyone thinking of using the “RESTORE” program introduced to Ward 9 at last night’s Neighborhood Cares meeting….If your home is in compliance with all elements of the building code and needs one minor repair, this is your program!  Free labor & supplies for your minor repair!   B-U-T, and this was verified by program director Jennifer Fuentes this morning, the program is mandated to restore applying homes to compliance with the building code.   You CANNOT pick and chose your repairs.   If you want a window pane replaced and the window frame has lead paint and your house needs a new roof and repainting, you could find yourself trapped in a very expensive and needless cycle of repair with a possibility of condemnation of your property.    In my case, to be perfectly candid, I have opted NOT to have my storm door and bannisters repaired.    The next tenants of my house can be the ones to do heavy structural repairs.

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