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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A tale of two cities

Two decades ago, when Rhona and I moved to Kingston, I always viewed our new hometown as the poor stepchild of Poughkeepsie, 20 miles to the south.

After all, Poughkeepsie – which we visited often – was bigger, bustled with more commerce, had better stores and restaurants, boasted multiple entertainment venues, offered commuter train access to New York City and seemed like a generally more attractive place to live, shop, eat and hang out.

I’m not sure whether my impression of Poughkeepsie was right or wrong at the time, but now, 20 years later, I have no doubt that Kingston is the superior place to live – and, more importantly, to raise a child.

As the city editor of the Freeman, I naturally read the region’s other daily newspapers every day, and it doesn’t take more than a passing glance at the Poughkeepsie Journal to realize what a depressing place Dutchess County’s largest city has become. Murders, rapes, drug arrests, other crimes, urban decay and the city’s weak economy are front-page news almost every day. Just this past week, there were homicides on back-to-back days – a shooting death early Friday, and a woman thrown out of a third-story window early Saturday after being stabbed repeatedly. Yikes.

Kingston has its problems, to be sure. Every city does. Parts of Midtown, in particular, have dubious reputations for drug activity, violent assaults and run-down housing. But the ills of Kingston seem minor in comparison to those of Poughkeepsie – one homicide per year here is a lot – and Kingston, perhaps more than any other small city along the Hudson River, has worked continuously to make itself attractive to both residents and tourists. Put another way, it’s a nice place to visit and you would want to live here.

I’m not sure why Poughkeepsie has taken such a turn for the worse, be it recently or over the past two decades. Perhaps it’s the same influx of New York City miscreants that has plagued neighboring Newburgh for so long, perhaps it’s related to economic hardship, perhaps its just the evolving nature of the city.

But whatever the case, looking at Poughkeepsie these days makes me glad to call Kingston my home and makes me feel a bit sorry for the residents of a city I once, perhaps naively, envied.



Blogger John Donnaruma said...

I agree with your assessment of Kingston and Poughkeepsie. I worked in law enforcement in the Poughkeepsie area for over 30 years and saw the underbellies of both Kingston and Poughkeepsie. While neither is pretty, Poughkeepsie is seedier and more violent. That city has some beautiful neighborhoods but far too few. The majority of neighborhoods are run down. The city's government and entertainment downtown look quite nice. But don't walk around there at night. the surrounding Town of Poughkeepsie, by contrast, is very appealing and safe.

Kingston is by far a safer, more appealing small city, but lacks cleanliness (streets and graffiti) and middle class housing development. It's ironic that Poughkeepsie based Scenic Hudson throws up road blocks to Kingston's river side development, while Poughkeepsie is developing their waterfront unfettered.

June 27, 2008 at 11:00 AM 

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