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Housing group seeks direction, participation

MILLERTON — The Tri-Town Coalition’s Millerton-North East working group wants to get the message out to the communities it serves: Amenia, Pine Plains and Millerton/North East, and met via Zoom on Tuesday, Dec. 8, to figure out how to do so. Member Sam Busselle said engaging with  community leaders is key, including the North East Zoning Review Committees, Comprehensive Plan Committee, North East  and Millerton Planning Boards and the municipalities themselves as well as relief agencies.

In addition to being facilitators, Busselle said they  know the local population. For example, he said he spoke with The Watershed Center’s Co-founder Gregg Osofsky and Rock Steady Farm Co-owner Maggie Cheney. Busselle suggested the group develop a short- and long-term action plan from such experts and then meet with a facilitator who can help galvanize food resources and funds.

“I think this is our next step,” Busselle said. “We’re not getting a very robust group of people at these working groups… and we’ve got to figure out how to get not only the community engaged, but also the leadership function.”

Engaging the community

“At this point, I just feel like we’re in a bit of ‘chicken and the egg’ question of which comes first,” Osofsky said. “I do think having ideas for projects is really important, but I also think there’s the outreach that needs to happen to get more engagement so that we are actually going down a path that has the community’s support on it.”

Osofsky said he’s interested in figuring out the Millerton-North East working group’s role — which seems to be “sort of an organizing nucleus as opposed to a space for community engagement.”  

Busselle said he and North East Community Center (NECC) Community Program Director Nathan Briggs have spoken about the need for more communication. Briggs said they scheduled an upcoming meeting with a marketing consultant to work with the Tri-Town Coalition and its subcommittees to craft a broad message across each of the three communities its working with, to discuss content and delivery methods.

Busselle said he wants the message of agriculture and the need for the continuation of services and economic development through the rural nature of the local area to spread far and wide.

Local challenges

Addressing Pine Plains town Supervisor Darrah Cloud and Pine Plains Councilwoman Sarah Jones later in the meeting, Busselle asked how they’d like to move forward. Cloud acknowledged she’s at a loss about how to engage the community, citing issues with broadband access and difficulties using Zoom for meeting with large groups of people. 

Cloud also said, to her, affordable housing, equitable housing and workforce housing tend “to bring up feelings that are actually generated by ages-old racism.” 

She added some Pine Plains residents like things the way they are. On the other hand, Cloud said, “nobody can find a place to rest.” Currently the town has little land, though some people do own property, convincing them to move is hard; she’s tried for three years, she said. Until the town has something to show, Cloud said she’s confused about how to get community support.

“I think the notion of controlling the message is critically important,” Jones said. “It’s important in politics and it’s important around this issue, and I think help with that and a coordinated effort when you have some kind of project to try to come out and control the message… Pine Plains communication has always been very difficult, so it’s not so easy. It’s easy to say but it’s another issue to actually get the job done.”

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