Dan Hust | Democrat
The shuttered Paramount Hotel in Parksville shows signs of vandalism and deterioration in this recent photo.
Plan draws skepticism
Story by Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY August 30, 2013 Two large-scale projects were presented to the Town of Liberty Board on August 19.
A story on the proposal by Louis Cappelli’s group to develop his Grossinger’s property appeared in this Tuesday’s Democrat.
The evening’s second large-scale proposal involves the old Paramount Hotel in Parksville.
Joy Cole-Johnson, with non-profit group North Eastern Expansion Development Corp. (NEED) out of New York City, proposed approximately 160 one-, two- and three-bedroom units of “supportive housing” for displaced veterans and their families.
“We aim to address one of the largest problems the county faces, the homelessness of our veterans,” said Cole-Johnson. “We intend to remove a good portion of the existing structure and create new, affordable housing.”
According to Cole-Johnson, all of the veterans and their families’ needs will be taken care of on-premises.
Units will be fully furnished with provisions for daycare, athletic facilities, on-site medical care and much more.
“Because most veterans come to us with nothing, we supply all their needs,” said Cole-Johnson.
Furthermore, employment training in such fields as cosmetology, nurse’s aide, housekeeping, culinary and more will be available to residents.
And with a need for nurses, social workers and other support staff, Cole-Johnson says the project will create a number of job opportunities for locals as well.
Cole-Johnson also touted an on-site “factory” where the displaced vets will produce everything from t-shirts and ties, to jams, jellies, mugs and more. A supermarket, clothing store, restaurant and gym are also proposed for the site; essentially making it a fully self-sufficient community of sorts.
According to Cole-Johnson, the ambitious proposal will be fully funded through grants from the New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Program.
Though the group has pitched similar projects in Orange and Ulster counties, neither of those proposals have yet to bear fruit.
Further, though the lion’s share of the project would be tax-exempt, 20 percent would be taxable, as it would involve non-veterans.
Why the decrepit, old Paramount site? For exactly those reasons explained Cole- Johnson, “The state wants us to attack blighted structures and make them whole again,” as part of the grant qualification process.
Seeking a “letter of support” from the Liberty board Monday evening, Cole-Johnson would subsequently leave empty handed as a skeptical board felt she left behind more questions than answers regarding the proposal.
“If this is something for veterans and only veterans I’m all for it,” said councilman Chris Austin, who also had some concerns regarding the proposal’s language.
“You just mentioned to Mr. Gerry [Councilman Maurice Gerry] that it was permanent housing, but in what you’ve given us here it clearly states permanent housing, transitional housing, emergency shelter and housing for persons with AIDS or HIV related illness,” affirmed Austin.
“That’s not the grant we’re applying for,” replied Cole-Johnson. “We’re proposing permanent supportive housing. When we put in the grant application we will be going under permanent supportive housing… that is just the language that the government uses for the grant.”
Austin and Barbuti then related to Cole-Jackson the significant amount of time the hamlet of Parksville has spent in the last five years “deciding what they want to look like… and this property [the Paramount Hotel property] is a part of that,” said Supervisor Charlie Barbuti.
“I don’t feel comfortable even giving a letter of support without at least giving them [Parksville residents] their due respect,” added Austin.
“Sure, I agree with that,” said Cole-Johnson. “It is not our intention to force this housing on anyone.”
Noting the county’s recent history as a sort of bastion for welfare benefits, a poverty rate hovering around 17 percent and an unemployment rate around 9 percent, Barbuti explained, “I think everyone is very sympathetic to the need that is there for veterans. They’ve given to us and we have a commitment to them.… we have a need for a lot of things in Sullivan County, but we don’t have a need for more people with great need. This is something we’ve got plenty of, we’ve got enough to go around.”