Every few weeks we will feature folks who live and work in Poughkeepsie. Have a suggestion for somebody we should feature? Let us know!

Natalie Quinn headshot

Natalie Quinn
Senior Planner for the City of Poughkeepsie

How did you come to Poughkeepsie?
I’m originally from California, but moved to New York for graduate school about six years ago. After graduation I was hired by a small consulting firm and Poughkeepsie was one of my first client cities. We were working to bring forward the Main Street Economic Development Strategy, which was aiming to improve transportation, aid development, and support local businesses.
After living in New York City for two or three years, I was feeling tired of being a consultant and doing planning work for communities I wasn’t necessarily a part of. I loved the people of Poughkeepsie and the layout, the fact that there’s an urban center but it’s also close to nature. So when I found out the City of Poughkeepsie was hiring a planner it was a one second decision for me to leave Brooklyn and move here. That happened at the beginning of this year.

What’s the role of a city planner in Poughkeepsie?
About half the job is overseeing the land-use development process, including the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Historic Preservation Commission, and the Waterfront Advisory Committee. Anybody who owns a piece of property or who wants to buy or develop a piece of property, they start with the planning office to figure out they need to do to get a project done.
The other half is long-term planning, like creating a comprehensive vision for how the city will grow over the next fifteen years, and how can we improve on things like biking and walking in the city. We also work with businesses to determine what they need from the city in order to grow, whether it be related to public safety, lighting, or parking. We’re focused on long-term quality of life for residents and businesses in the City of Poughkeepsie.

How do you see your work supporting your vision of what Poughkeepsie needs?
I love Poughkeepsie the way it is, but I know that there are some things residents have voiced concerns about. I see the downtown central business district, particularly on Main Street, as the area to focus on because historically this district served everybody in Poughkeepsie, and it should again. In the next few years I’d like to work toward getting those storefronts filled, getting people walking on the street again, and feeling comfortable coming downtown. I see my role in that vision as being, first, to ensure the city can be competitive with other communities like Kingston or Beacon that are already seeing that kind of activity, but also learning from the experience of those cities in order to make sure that Poughkeepsie continues to be inclusive in our growth. We want to make sure that we’re improving things for the residents that have been here twenty, thirty, or fifty years.

How would you encourage people to get involved in the work the planning department is doing?
The biggest initiative right now is the PKGO website. It’s not replacing the city’s own website, which is focused on official business, but it’s a place to get information on all the fun things happening in the city, as well as job postings and new business openings. There’s also a suggestions page for recommending things that should be included on the website and a place for people to submit their own stories about what Poughkeepsie means to them. Going forward, whenever there’s a planning initiative that needs public engagement and feedback, that information will be posted on PKGO.

What are the things you love about Poughkeepsie?
I’ve only been here seven months and I already run into people I know everywhere I go. Last Saturday I biked out to the Poughkeepsie Farm Project to pick up a friend’s CSA share. I was out picking tomatoes and ran into three or four people that I know from other places in the city. When I go out to eat in a restaurant I run into people who have heard there’s a new city planner and want to chat.

What are the hidden gems you’d like to call out?
I love Tavern 23 on Verrazano. They’re a perfect little neighborhood bar and very respectful of their neighbors during quiet hours. Every time I go there it’s a mix of people I know from planning, other business owners, or people I see around the city. Hefzi-ba on Academy and Cannon is also amazing. Whenever I feel like I need some comfort food, going there is my special treat to myself.

Anything else you want to let people know?
There are so many people in Poughkeepsie that are doing amazing work and I keep hearing that people are starting to work together in new ways. It seems like everybody is starting to row in the same direction. While city government is a very important component in how Poughkeepsie grows and changes in the coming years, there are so many other organizations involved in that process and working to make sure that we stay inclusive.