Meet our President… Andi Turco-Levin

Andi Turco-Levin

If you don’t know and love Kingston luminary Andi Turco-Levin then you must be living under a rock. Andi is an award-winning Ulster county realtor, a local radio personality and a former alderman. She’s also a vintage car enthusiast, a dog agility competitor (with her prize-winning Westies named Lily, Spencer, Kirby and Cricket) and the President of the Kingston Land Trust’s Board of Directors. She’s pretty much amazing at everything she does and we’re lucky to have her at the helm of KLT. We recently had a chance to ask Andi about her and her work with the Kingston Land Trust.

Look for Andi on the dance floor on April 15th, 2016 in “Dancing with the Stars: Ulster Style” benefiting The United Way. Get your tix NOW!

How did you initially get involved with the Kingston Land Trust?
Back in 2010 when I was serving as 1st Ward Alderman in Kingston I met Gregg Swanzey who was talking about the conversion of the old Kingston Trolley line into a walking path as well as the development of the other abandoned railroad lines that ran through the City of Kingston. I had invited him to speak at one of my Ward meetings to share his vision about the concept so the residents knew this could be a great asset for them. I had recently been on tour with my husband (bassist Tony Levin) where we had visited San Antonio, TX with its River Walk that ran through the city. It was lovely and I could envision something like that for Kingston. I got involved with The Rail Trail Committee which is actually a project of the Kingston Land Trust. The work that the KLT was doing interested me as they were beginning to talk about urban agriculture/farming and preservation of the green spaces that exist in our urban environment. After leaving the Common Council I had mentioned to Rebecca Martin who was then the Executive Director for the KLT that I would love to be involved in their efforts. I attended a few meetings then joined the Board of Directors in 2012. I became Chairperson in January of 2014. I never realized how unique and complex the work can be but it has been an amazing journey so far and I have worked with so many talented and amazing people.

What are your main duties as the KLT Board Director?
The Kingston Land Trust is unique where we are a young organization where we have no paid staff and rely on the enthusiasm and dedication of our Board. Unlike most conventional land trust organizations, we are not looking to preserve vast amounts of open space,  yet we are committed to creating useful and enjoyable green space in a more urban environment. It is important for the health of our community and the people who use it. As directors we are working to building our foundation of supporters (both volunteer as well as financial) while we help oversee the success of our projects which include the Kingston Greenline. We are also working to identify beneficial partnerships to achieve these goals with organizations such as Live Well KingstonSafe Routes To School, Bike Friendly Kingston, and others. We also continue to sponsor small urban farmers which helps bring healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to our inner city areas where it may not be so easy to get. The South Pine Street City Farm is gearing up for another great growing season where you can stop by all summer long and buy farm fresh produce. It is amazing how much food our farmers can produce from that small city lot. The Kingston Land Trust helps these farmers obtain space for them to operate and we hope to expand to more city lots with new young farmers.

What are some of your fave things about being a chairperson?
Working and meeting so many smart and creative people in our community. I also love that we have a very dedicated Board of Directors, many who are newer to Kingston and have so much enthusiasm to build something great. The mixture of our Board gives us a lot of depth and great ideas which is exciting. Being able to hear their ideas and capture that enthusiasm is what I love about being Chairperson. Making it work and focusing on how we grow is key right now. Representing the Kingston Land Trust truly is an honor and I am so proud to be a part of it.

How can people interested get involved in the KLT?
Of course everyone should visit our website and be sure to sign up for our newsletter and also follow us on Facebook. The KLT actually has a lot of activities that are fun and a great place to meet other people. We host bike rides, sponsor Bike Valet parking at various events, we even host “Gathers” at different establishments where we just connect and enjoy the company of our supporters. Of course, now that spring is here our monthly Rail Trail walks will continue on the 3rd Sunday of the month. This year these walks will expand to other areas of the Kingston Greenline to include Midtown and Uptown. It’s very exciting an lots of fun. If you really want to get involved, some of our committees are open to members of the public so if you are interested in fundraising, or planning events, or even just cleaning up the rail trails on occasion, we will gladly put you to work.

Many don’t understand the relationship between KLT and The Kingston Greenline. Can you explain their connection?
The Kingston Greenline is a project of the Kingston Land Trust. Over the years the KLT has worked on various projects that needed support, manpower, or funding through a grant in order to make it possible. We do this through our Committees which includes the Kingston Greenline Committee. To put it into perspective, over the years the Kingston Land Trust has been able to obtain funding in order to complete surveys, design studies and now we are working on the actual plan for the lower portion of the Kingston Greenline. Although we do not own the actual Kingston Greenline, we partner with the City of Kingston or the County of Ulster when needed to help get these projects ready for development. It seems complicated but it is all about partnerships and helping each other create a strong community.

How do you think the completion of the Kingston Greenline will improve Kingston?
This project is so important on many levels. Creating a bike friendly corridor to traverse Kingston’s three neighborhoods will be huge. A lot of people no longer want to own a car or simply can’t afford it yet they need a bike to get to work or school. In addition the businesses along that corridor will benefit from more foot traffic and bike traffic. There is also the tourism component that will encourage more visitors and recreational bike riders to come to Kingston. All of the old railroad lines converged in Midtown Kingston and if we build it, those riders who have come to enjoy the Wallkill Valley Rail Trial, the Hurley Rail Trail, and now with the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail in the works we will have 3 world class bike lines all connecting in Kingston. Who wouldn’t want to come here?

As a real estate expert, how do you think the Kingston Greenline project will affect Kingston’s real estate market? Any hot tips?
The Kingston Greenline has definitely been an asset when I list homes that are nearby. I just listed a home on Third Ave which is just a few doors away from the trail and it was the deciding factor for the buyer who wanted easy access to walk safely with her dog and have easy access to the waterfront and Rondout business district. I do believe that the closer you are in proximity to this amenity it will improve property values as well as create great opportunity for new business near these trail heads. It is a very exciting time for us. We have to realize that the millenials outnumber babyboomers 3 to 1 and their lifestyles prefer living in a walkable community where they don’t need to own a car. Kingston is a very old city with great charm and history, unfortunately our sidewalks and streets are not easy for someone with a stroller or who has mobility issues to accommodate which is why we need better solutions to get around.

Okay Andi, it’s time for the… SPEED ROUND:

Fave Color: Depends… Earth tones for the world that surrounds me at home, but in clothing and accessories I seem to always go with pink trim (and of course black everything).

Fave Movie: My Cousin Vinny. I can relate to Marissa Tormei in her role. I grew up with cars and still love them.

Fave Band: That’s not fair, I would have to say that my husband Tony is my favorite musician… But I will always love The Beatles. They were influential on my musical experiences since I was 7 years old.

Fave Food: Pizza

Fave Book: “The Essential Earthman”  written by Henry Mitchell. He was the Garden writer for the Washington Post for many years. He captures the true essence of what makes a gardener a gardener. The victories, the failures, the hopes of a new growing season, and of course the dreaded ‘Hound” who digs it all up in the end. He can make you laugh out loud.

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