Amid a continuing revival of downtown Cherry Valley, this past week the Alden Park Apartments in Cherry Valley celebrated its first year of full tenancy as an affordable rental housing complex for low-income area senior citizens. Located in the former elementary wing of the old Cherry Valley Central School at 2 Genesee Street, Alden Park Apartments consists of four one-bedroom and six efficiency units.
The project was developed with a $1.4 million New York State Homes & Com-munity Renewal Small Rental Develop-
ment Initiative (SRDI) grant by a partnership between the site owners, the non-profit Cherry Valley Community Facilities Corporation (CVCFC) and Otsego Rural Housing Assistance, Inc. (ORHA), a Cooperstown based non-profit.
Long before the development of the rental units, the all-volunteer CVCFC board had reclaimed and redeveloped large sections of the old school, creating what is essentially a multi-purpose community center. As a result, Alden Park residents have access in the same building to the Post Office, village and Town offices, senior meals, educational activities, and arts programs, as well as adjacent park and playground facilities. The hallway of the Alden Park Apartments is decorated with art works by Cherry Valley students over the years.
As befits a site owned and managed by artists, the celebration on Saturday July 2 featured musical performances by CVCFC board members, family, and supporters of the complex, including poet/songwriter Carl Waldman, jazz & classical guitarist Richard Saba, and dazzling jazz vocalist Cristina Mattey. An appreciative audience of Alden Park tenants, their families and friends, and CVCFC supporters such as ORHA Executive Director Timothy Peters enjoyed the music and dance performances, mingled, and nibbled on snacks.
ORHA’s Timothy Peters commented on the larger meaning of the celebration: “Alden Park shows what can be accomplished when local leaders, governmental and otherwise, work cooperatively over an extended period of time to address a genuine community need — in this case, affordable rental housing. For example, while not a direct funder, the Village of Cherry Valley provided crucial logistical and moral support to the project, from the grant application through the final construction phase.”
Furthermore, Peters states, “There is a dire shortage of affordable rental housing in Otsego County, but there is grant money out there to help. These federal and state grant programs have various names: NY Main Streets; Community Development Block Grants, among others. All involve bureaucracy. All require leadership and effort at the local level. A new state program called RESTORE NY is especially promising.
It is in fact being launched this week by the Empire State Development agency.”
According to the ESD announcement, “The Restore New York Communities Initiative (“Restore NY”) provides municipalities with financial assistance for the revitalization of commercial and residential properties. The program encourages community development and neighborhood growth through the elimination and redevelopment of blighted structures…with a strong emphasis on economically distressed communities.”
Peters comments: “Think Portlandville, Schuyler Lake, Laurens, Edmeston, Richfield Springs, to name a few. For regions of our size, up to $2 million per municipality is available, but only if local residents prod their local leaders to act, and support their efforts.”