Kingston, New York


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

The Healthy Kids for Kingston partnership managed tensions related to differing individual and organizational interests by creating an advisory network, focusing on co-creating a vision and collaborating with residents in more focused and meaningful ways. This generated more room for participants to engage in hands-on, program-oriented opportunities and encouraged partner self-restraint as community leadership asserted itself.

For more information, read the full story.

July 2014

It’s a historic city that was New York’s first capital, a gateway city to the outdoor fun of the Catskill Mountains. Yet here on the banks of the Hudson River, Kingston is also a city trying to recast itself—as a community that helps its residents be physically active and healthy.

This vision would not be realized without challenges, as nearly one-fifth of Kinston’s population of 24,000 lived in poverty, and about 44 percent of youth were overweight or obese, according to 2009 statistics, the year Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities started.

Midtown, home to many renters and lower-income families from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, is an area of greatest challenge in the city. This is an area impacted by a four-lane main road that bisects the city. Although Kingston boasts a variety of recreational resources, including a nature center and riverfront beach, Midtown only contains one small park and a few small school playgrounds, and many children cannot reach them without hazarding their way across the busy central thoroughfare of Broadway. The road has neither median strips nor bike lanes. “Kids in Midtown and throughout the city haven’t been able to travel safely to parks, recreational centers, stores or even to school,” noted project director Kristen Wilson.

Kingston’s landscape also offers lots of potential for creating environments conducive to active living and healthy eating. The city is under three miles across at its widest point, making accessibility for people on foot or on a bicycle a very feasible prospect. A city-led effort branded as BEAT (Business, Education, Arts, and Technology) aims to revitalize Midtown and the Broadway Corridor. Another effort to develop Kingston as a multi-modal hub connecting three rail trails coming from different directions is under way with support of the city and the county.

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) partners in Kingston have worked to eliminate the barriers and tap into the potential for youth to be physically active and have access to healthy foods. Led by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County in collaboration with the Kingston Parks and Recreation Department, the Kingston Land Trust, the Community Heart Health Coalition, Gilmour Planning, the Kingston City School District, Family of Woodstock, the Kingston Farmers’ Market, the YMCA of Kingston, Rose Women’s Care Service, the Center for Creative Education, the Mid-Hudson Health and Safety Institute, and several Ulster County departments, HKHC funding has been used to tackle planning and policy to make Kingston a healthy city.

These accomplishments are creating a culture of health within the city and resulted in the formation of the Live Well Kingston coalition to keep the momentum going. The coalition is supported by the city, with the Mayor and Common Council calling for city organizations, community partners and citizens to join. “A city-championed coalition can bring organizations, business, and individuals together under a common agenda for our health,” Wilson said.

Key accomplishments include:

  • Adoption of a Complete Streets resolution, establishment of a Complete Streets Advisory Council and secured commitments from the Department of Public Works for sharrows and sidewalk repairs.
  • Acquirement of a $489,000 Safe Routes to School infrastructure grant, and $4.3 million in New York State grants for Complete Streets improvements in the City.
  • Adoption by the Kingston Common Council supporting community gardens and by the Kingston City School District to adopt school garden language in its health and wellness policy.
  • Installment of gardens at eleven schools in the Kingston City School District which may be used during afterschool hours, as well as gardens on properties of the YMCA, Ulster County Mental Health Department and Kingston Housing Authority’s Roundout Gardens apartment complex which is located in a food desert.
  • Adoption of the partnership’s recommended healthy snacks policy as part of the Kingston City School District’s Health and Wellness policy.
  • Passage of an “Eat Well Kingston Resolution” by the Common Council requiring healthy options wherever food is sold on municipal property and a Healthy Meeting policy to be followed by city employees in city-owned buildings.
  • Establishment of a new Kingston Farmers’ Market at Midtown, a major thoroughfare in the City.

Five medal awards from Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties and the National League of Cities for the partnership’s accomplishments in the areas of healthier early care and education programs, participation in the School Breakfast Program, and increased access for physical activity and play spaces.

Kingston, New York