POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – Just three years ago, there were more than 60 homes in Poughkeepsie’s 1st Ward that were empty eyesores, says Councilman Chris Petsas.
Now that neighborhood-depressing number is down to 37, thanks in part to happenstance, but mostly due to hard work put in by city officials and residents.
A shining example of one such turnaround is 36 Gifford Ave., Petsas said Sunday.
The two-story home had been left empty for years after its owner died and was in very bad shape. A woman, who had purchased the home's tax lien from the city, quickly found out that she had bitten off a little more than she could chew, Petsas said.
“It was simply too far gone,” he said, explaining that the foundation was crumbling.
The reluctant new owner was able to work out a deal in which the house was donated to the city, which, in turn, sold it for about $500 to Michael Lund, the owner of Poughkeepsie Ice House on the Hudson, a waterfront eatery.
It took nearly two years and a lot of hard work, but Lund was able to turn the wreck into a cozy, two-family residence. He is now working on fixing up a second home in the neighborhood, Petsas said.
Its first occupants, people who grew up in public housing, are “thrilled,” Petsas said, to be living in a private home near the school their children attend.
The project was “a big undertaking,” Lund said Monday.
The building, a longtime safety concern in the neighborhood, was close to collapsing because of a giant hole in its foundation, he said.
“I took the building and started new from the ground up … complete new construction,” Lund said.
Lund praised Petsas’ efforts to revitalize Gifford Avenue, saying the councilman “really cares about what goes (on) in the city.”
Gifford Avenue is just one place in the city where “like-minded elected officials and stakeholders are working to bring properties back to life and (to create) a place for someone to call home.”
The 1st Ward, which contains lower Main Street, the Mount Carmel area and the waterfront, is slowly, cut surely, “coming fully back to life,” Petsas said.
Its proximity to areas where there’s been a lot of development interest doesn’t hurt, he added.
A ribbon-cutting and open house were held at 36 Gifford Ave. in late January.
Petsas says he is hopeful that there will be another such celebration soon when Lund finishes his second project just five houses down the street.