Monday December 3, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- Splashes of color around the perimeter of the Hoosick Falls Armory portend far greater change inside as the new proprietors plan future events and uses.

Following a more-than yearlong process to excess the building, New York state officials notified the rebadged Hoosick Armory, Youth Center & Community Coalition (HAYC3) of the deed transfer Oct. 29, following successful legislation this past summer authorizing the sale of the armory to the local nonprofit for $1. Work began immediately, buoyed by a sense of renewed support in the community.

What's happening at the armory? See for yourself and volunteer for planned public work days in January and February, or serve on a committee to create new music and film series. Currently in the works over the coming months leading to an art show next March are two galleries, a ceramics studio, meditation room, cafe, and food co-op -- and that's just the basement.

Plenty has already been afoot: The armory's fire suppression system has been evaluated and deemed in good shape, a heating company has visited twice and will begin this week tweaking thermostats and heating zones to make those systems more efficient, while the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will soon be making its own recommendations.


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A holistic nutritionist will also have an office while the town of Hoosick offices remain -- and all the while the youth center continues "at full capacity."

"The (youth center) has been and continues to run at full capacity for our youth, which is why the armory is so exciting," said HAYC3 Executive Director Aelish Nealon, who characterized the 115 Church St. youth center as remaining the "home base" for youth, "while the armory will allow us to serve all members of the community."

In a recent telephone and e-mail interview, Nealon said the nonprofit had received greater support as of late, with a large leap (approximately 30 percent) in due-paying memberships for adults and seniors. The youth center's after school program has doubled and is at maximum capacity, while a new "before school" program is nearly at capacity. Recreation numbers and winter programs like basketball remain strong.

Currently "we're cleaning the entire downstairs," Nealon said, gearing up for a planned food cooperative, the Hoosick Food Co-op and Artisan Market, which will support and promote local farmers and artisans. The basement space already offers a full kitchen and mess hall, vestiges of the former National Guard unit stationed in Hoosick, and the nonprofit plans to take advantage with a cafe called the Owl's Nest.

Two art spaces dubbed "120 Gallery" and "Gallery 90" (a play off the local area zip code) with share a common, movable wall and will need to be in place for a scheduled March 1, 2013, art opening.

Planned for this coming January is a community event to celebrate recent athletic successes at Hoosick Falls Central School, where two fall sports teams won state championships. Returning events like February's second annual Hoosipalooza promise to be bigger. Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m., Santa leads a costumed parade from Wood Park to the armory where he will take requests.

A committee working toward a lease agreement with the town has progressed to a draft form of that document, and Nealon said the town's office footprint could largely remain as-is.

In terms of paying for improvements and maintenance, Nealon said the nonprofit was always looking toward different sources of funding. While the bulk of current funds comes from a federal Drug Free Communities Support grant, that source is set to expire in 2015. In lieu, membership and fundraising will take greater precedence.

Nealon said she was currently working on a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant in partnership with HFCS. The federal program supports academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours in rural and inner-city areas.

At their November board meeting, Hoosick Falls village officials approved a gift to HAYC3 in the amount of $30,000 (two-thirds the expected cost of the co-op, although the gift is not stipulated for any particular improvement). Mayor Matthew Monahan likened the donation from the general fund as a thanks to the organization "for taking over the armory."

Village officials continue to consider future support, either in the form of a grant, loan, or some combination of the two. (An economic development fund currently totals approximately $275,000, and some plans at the armory qualify under those guidelines.) "Right now, (we're looking to) help out as much as we can" through the transition, said Monahan. "We'll try to set them up as best we can."

While a lease agreement with the town for its office space is not finalized, Hoosick officials have previously voiced support for increased funding to the nonprofit. Supervisor Keith Cipperly did not return calls for comment, but the town budgeted $34,264 in 2013 for a contractual buildings line item that previously paid the rent.

The village and town currently provide an annual amount to support a part-time youth counselor position. Monahan said longer term support would be a topic when the village budgets in March.

To get involved with plans at the armory, call 518-686-9050. Events and happenings are updated online at www.hayc3.org.

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