The Birches at Esopus

Birchez Associates Continues to Strive for Excellence with Opening of New Resident Craft Studio and Gallery

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Going far beyond what’s required for affordable housing communities, Birchez Associates is known for its strong commitment to the properties it develops, often adding a number of unique amenities that make residents truly feel special.

In August, the company demonstrated this commitment once more with the grand opening of a craft studio at the Birches at Esopus, an award-winning senior living community in Esopus. The studio, dontated by Birchez founders Steven and Judy Aaron, offers a central place for residents to explore their creativity, as well as an opportunity for a club called “The Busy Bee Crafters” to display its wares onsite to support additional projects and local causes.

“Being a part of the club and sharing our talents with the community gives us a sense of purpose,” said Marie Shultis, a founding member of the Crafters. “Steve and Judy [Aaron] have provided us with a gift. Everything they do for their properties has created a way of life.”

Craft Room at Birches at EsopusWhile impressive, the craft studio at the Birches at Esopus is just one example of the company going above and beyond the norm at its properties.

Founded in 2002, Birchez Associates strives to find solutions to the shortage of housing for those who need it most in the Hudson Valley. Its team prides itself on offering high-quality, affordable housing to senior citizens, veterans, and workforce families. The company currently manages five properties throughout the region, and it continues to add value to communities long after they open.

Ever since Birchez Associates launched, the Aarons have emphasized this commitment to excellence, providing a greater overall quality of life for residents. To make this happen, the company adds amenities usually reserved for high-end, gated community-style retirement living, while maintaining the affordability of its units.

In taking this approach, Birchez provide residents with amenities that they would enjoy in their own home. The newly opened craft studio, for example, creates a better sense of community at the Birches at Esopus, serving as a welcoming space that encourages seniors to step out of their apartments and into a more social setting. The property also features a community club area, movie theater, bocce ball court, fitness center, library and game room, where residents can gather and socialize throughout the day.

Birchez has been praised throughout the Hudson Valley for their commitment to excellence at each of their affordable housing properties. In addition to a number of amenities, the company’s properties provide aging-in-place opportunities and feature a wide range of green initiatives. As a result of its efforts, hundreds of seniors in our local communities have been able to enjoy more fulfilling, interactive lives.

“Long after the Birches at Esopus project completion, Steve and Judy continue to demonstrate their love and commitment to the seniors in our community,” said Esopus Town Supervisor John Coutant.

Birchez Associates manages affordable housing properties in Kingston, Saugerties, Ulster and Esopus.

Birchez Remembers

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Birchez Associates remembers, with deepest gratitude, the veterans of foreign war, who, “for love of country, accepted death.”

A Sweet Treat

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

February 13, 2012
Residents of The Birches at Esopus celebrated Valentine’s Day in style with a delectable brunch of homemade treats, plenty of smiling faces and friendly hugs from a special guest. The Community Room was decked out in style for the event, which was organized by the residents of this premier affordable senior housing community which overlooks the Hudson River.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey & Fortunée Bennett.

Congressma Maurice Hinchey, who the residents lauded for his longtime support of and fight for seniors’ rights, dined with the residents, listened to their concerns and clearly enjoyed the delicious fare. He’s shown to the left enjoying a laugh with resident Fortunee Bennett.

Steve and Judy Aaron, who are responsible for this Birchez Associates community, praised those responsible for organizing the event, while delighting in the diversity of the scrumptious spread.

Bill & MaryAnn Banks

Longtime Valentines Bill and MaryAnn Banks, happily married for 35 years, spoke lovingly about the changes in their lifestyle since joining the Birches community and of the many activities and amenities offered at the facility. One of MaryAnn’s choices is the bus that comes to the door and takes her for excursions at the Mall (especially when Bill’s working or watching a game!).

Residents Eileen McGuire & Shirley Shumate

Spry and chic, the 91 year-young Shirley Shumate looked positively captivating in her red Valentine dress. For some seniors keeping in shape comes naturally, but many take advantage of the Fitness Studio, complete with instructor at no charge, at The Birches at Esopus.

Eileen McGuire, pictured with Shirley in the picture to the left, is president of the Residents Club at this award-winning facility.

Roseann Harominek spoke glowingly of her new life at the Birches at Esopus – as shown in the picture below, her smile speaks volumes. Many who attended were in their late 80s and 90s, fitting tribute to the aging in place philosophy of The Birches at Esopus and other Birchez Associates communities in the Hudson Valley.

Roseann Harominek

Valentines from loving hands

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Seniors give to other Seniors

Pictured is one of two hundred Valentine cards made by The Birchez at Esopus Crafts Club.

Birches at Esopus resident and crafter Barbara Fidow shows off a card.

For the last several weeks, a dedicated group of crafters at The Birches at Esopus have handcrafted some two hundred Valentine’s Day cards. And where have they directed Cupid’s arrows? The Golden Hill Health Care Center, Ulster County’s nursing home, located off the Boulevard in Kingston. Started 65 years ago, Golden Hill provides both rehabilitation services and long-term health care.

A range of materials were creatively incorporated in these one of kind cards. Ribbons, jewels, doilies, wallpaper, whatever these clever crafters had at hand. Designs varied from whimsical to modern, something for everyone’s tastes.

According to Crafts Club member Marie Shultis, this is the third year the Esopus seniors have created Valentine’s Day cards for the seniors at Golden Hill. “If we had one thing to do over, we would have started earlier,” she said. But with a new target of 200 cards this year, their highest to date, they made it with a few days to spare.

Some Birches at Esopus Crafts Club members in the final stretch (seated: Janis Loring, Rae Skinner, Barbara Fidow, Ruby Sterling,
standing: Senior Advocate for Birchez Associates communities Alice Tipp.)

At Golden Hill, Marie Shultis tells Resident Virginia Burhans how the card was made; Ruby Sterling looks on.

On Friday, February 10th, a contingent of the crafters met with a few residents of Golden Hill to present the cards. The intent is that the cards could be used to brighten the resident’s room or to give to a loved one.

Golden Hill resident Ralph Hayner shows off his pick as Ruby Sterling and Barbara Fidow smile with approval.

As The Birches at Esopus group chatted with the residents, there was some sharing of techniques and materials used. Marie Shultis talked about some exacting measurements used in various crafts to make sure the results look as best as possible. Looking at the results, one might even say professional!

(More text below photos.)

Resident Ken Hyatt has his choice of cards presented by Janis Loring and Marie Shultis.

The Crafts Clubs keep busy year ’round at both The Birches at Esopus and The Birches at Chambers. Chambers has had two annual collaborative events knitting hats for children with cancer.

At Esopus, the crafts room has shown off holiday gifts ranging from cards, kissing balls, knitted scarves and hats, and at this time of year, lots of red cards.

Every now and then the public gets a chance to check out the crafts at The Birches at Esopus. Last year, during the Town of Esopus Fall Festival, the tour bus made a stop at this senior affordable community so interested purchasers could browse the Crafts Club’s creations. We’ll let you know when the seniors have newly created crafts to share.

Seniors’ New Year’s Eve Ball

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Kingston, December 31, 2011:

Thanks to the generosity of community supporters, Kingston NY area seniors danced the night away waiting for the 2012 ball to drop. The annual  New Year’s Eve event was held at The Hillside Manor, a leading fine dining and events facility. Host Denni Demosthenes managed to get all guests to the table despite the many attendees who arrived up to an hour early! Over 350 seniors attended and enjoyed a full dinner and dessert, dancing to both live and DJ’d music, a champagne toast and, of course, New Year’s hats and noisemakers. The music makers mixed it up with the predictable old favorites and many contemporary hits that got everyone on the floor rocking.

For the third year, the main sponsors were Birchez Associates, the Bruderhof, and the Demonthenes family which owns The Hillside Manor. Other local purveyors also helped out. For example, Adams Fair Acres Farms donated beautifully prepared (and delicious) cookie platters for each table, Deisings Bakery provided the  dinner rolls.

The smiles of the seniors were evident at the festively set tables in both the full rear ballroom and the restaurants front function room. Not to be outdone by the decor, many of the ladies were “dressed to the nines.” As one quipped, “Where else am I going to get the opportunity to get so dressed up. I love it!” Join the festivities via video (only a minute and a half in length) in which Birchez principals Steve and Judy Aaron welcome one and all.

Several political leaders stopped by to lend their support, most notably Congressman Maurice Hinchey who greeted many by name. Outgoing legislator Walter Frey and encumbent councilman Jimmy Bruno traveled from Saugerties. Majority Leader for the Kingston Common Council Tom Hoffay was in early attendance. Newly elected Alderperson Deb Brown, 9th ward Kingston, shared her thoughts on the video.

Seniors who attended and who would like to comment on the evening can contact us at We’d love to share your thoughts as we enter 2012!

Holiday Party Has Seniors Rocking to the Beat

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Holidays can be lonely for seniors living on their own. But at the Birchez Associates communities, you’ll find many ways to celebrate the holidays. In addition to cosponsoring the Kingston area senior New Year’s Eve party (to watch video, click here), Birchez owners Steve and Judy Aaron also hosted a holiday party for all their senior residents and staff.

At The Hillside Manor, a popular dining and events destination in Kingston, Birchez took over . A decorated Christmas tree welcomed guests in the foyer, with holiday decoration throughout. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres started the event in the front ballroom. Then festivities moved to the full back ballroom (complete with its own Christmas tree and Menorah) for dinner and dancing.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey pictured with Birches at Chambers Resident June Diamond (left) and Hostess Judy Aaron

Special guests included Congressman Maurice Hinchey who spun at least one senior on the dancefloor. County Treasurer Eliott Auerbach and his lovely wife Judy, County Clerk Nina Postupak, County Legislators Peter Loughran, Hector Rodriguez and Walter Frey, as well as Town of Esopus Council members Kyle Barnett, Gloria VanVliet and Donna McAuley also joined the party.

The band leader of “Outside the Box” thought he was doing the right thing when he mentioned a 92 year old resident was on the dance floor, only to have other dancers raise their hands to say “I’m in my nineties too!”  From the salad course through desert, the dance floor was in motion. Whether a classic melody or a cover of a contemporary song from Lady GaGa or Adele, guests were up and dancing. Chambers Court Resident and Centenarian Bill McDonough didn’t dance but had a front row table to watch others do so.

Host Steve Aaron (right) greets Centennarian Bill McDonough as Chambers Court Resident Dorothea Schwenk looks on.

Pointsetta centerpieces obtained through the local Boys & Girls Club were given to those residents who found a lucky penny underneath their place setting. In addition to peach melba for desert, plates of cookies from local Deising’s Bakery provided some extra energy for seniors to keep the dance floor full.

And for residents who no longer drive, A.N.N. Transportation provided a handicapped bus and van to get everyone to the event. After four hours of partying, there was even some grumbling when the announcement was made that the bus and van were ready for loading to take residents home. “Already?” some were heard to exclaim!

For additional pictures, see Holiday Party album on Facebook

Doing 90

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

November 29, 2011:  The Report 90+ in the United States: 2006-2008 was issued this month by the American Consumer Survey (ACS), which is sponsored by the US Census Bureau. The ACS gathers data for the Census Bureau on an annual basis; this data is utilized by communities in allocating investments and services. Unfortunately, crunching the data and reformatting it into readable, intelligible reports takes time. Hence the appearance of three-year lag; in reality the 2010 census is cited in some instances.

Significant in the findings is that 90+ is the new 85+. Many demographic reports analyze age groupings such as 55 to 64, 65 to 74, and then 85+. This assumes a commonality in the group and/or smaller numbers that may not be reliable statistically. Yet the reality shown in this  report is that there are some sharp distinctions, even in the five year segment breakdowns of 85 to 89, 90 to 94, and 95+. Certainly as our seniors of today age healthier than their predecessors this will morph expectations for these segments.

This segment is growing both in size and proportion of the older population. Between 1980 and 2010, the people aged 90 and over almost tripled to 1.9 million. Projections are that the 90+ segment will more than quadruple by 2050, in comparison to a doubling of the population 65 to 89.

New York currently ranks third (after California and Florida) in the sheer number of 90+ residents, but it’s not even in the top ten when comparing the percentage of 90+ versus the 65+ populations by state.

The report details racial and educational statistics, and considering the report covers those born in 1918, this is an educated group. Perhaps not a surprise that women aged 90+ outnumber 90+ men nearly 3 to 1.

The economic numbers are certainly of interest in the affordable housing field:

  • Social Security represents almost half of total personal income for the 90+ (47.9%)
  • The poverty rate for the 90+ is higher than that for those aged 65-89
  • 16.5% of women and 9.6% of men aged 90 and older were in poverty 2006-2008

When one considers this in the perspective that many baby boomers are ill prepared for retirement, and certainly for living some 20 years longer than expected, the economic forecast for this segment is of concern. Further compounding this is that the report addresses the 2006-2008 period, during which the source of 29.8% of 90+ income was  ”other” (which would include directly held investments), and 18.3% came from retirement accounts. Given the financial upheaval from the end of that period to the present would indicate that the 2011-2012 period would mean the 90+ segment might well be relying on Social Security for more than half of their income.

Difficulty doing errands alone and mobility-related limitations are the two most common types of disability for the 90+ (disability in this context is defined as a substantial limitation in a major life activity). Appropriate transportation modalities, proximity of services and handicapped accessibility will be key features of senior housing to come.

Aging in place will play an important role for the 90+ segment. While the percent of people with disabilities increases sharply with aging (see below), the nature of the disability(ies) may determine whether the individual needs an institutionalized setting or not. Certainly advances in senior housing facilities and services offer alternatives to more expensive nursing homes or even alternative level of care  facilities.

  • Ages 85-89      80.4% report one or more disabilities
  • Ages 90-94      82.7%
  • Ages 95+          91.2

To see the full American Community Survey Report, 90+ in the United States: 2006-2008, authored by Wan He and Mark N. Munchrath,  click here.

- K.J. McIntyre

Birchez Associates featured on Senior Services panel

Friday, June 10th, 2011

At the recent annual conference for the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), a panel on senior housing featured Birchez Associates. Speaking for Birchez were Founder & Managing Member Steven L. Aaron and Director of Marketing, K.J. McIntyre. Known to provide market rate plus services and amenities at affordable rents for seniors, Birchez Associates has built and manages four affordable senior communities in the Hudson Valley, as well as one workforce affordable community.

Entitled Serving Seniors: Innovative Ideas and Opportunities, the panel was chaired by Peter Florey of D&F Development. In addition to the Birchez representatives, the panel included Ken Harris of the NY Association of Housing & Services for the Aging, Evelyn Wolff of Selfhelp Community Services, Julie Behrens of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development, and Stuart Zalka representing NYS Homes & Community Renewal.

Among services and amenities provided for residents, Birchez Associates employs a Senior Advocate, Alice Tipp, who had served for 30 years in the Ulster County Legislature and chaired the Health Services Committee. Ms. Tipp provides a knowledgable bridge to resources and services in the greater community. At residents’ meetings, she frequently invites service providers to meet with the residents. Augmenting the advocacy team is the Director of Community Services, Paul Watzka.

Working with agencies such as the Ulster County Office for the Aging and Jewish Family Services, Birchez has brought services to the doorstep.  Both physical and mental health issues are attended to at the Birchez Communities. This spring a mental health social worker was on hand to meet with seniors dealing with issues such as bereavement and depression and to recommend longer term services available often at no cost to the senior. One result of this has been the formation of a weekly group at The Birches at Chambers.

Physical health is improved at the Fitness Studios available at both The Birches at Chambers and The Birches at Esopus (although open to all Birchez residents). Here a specially trained senior fitness coach is available at no cost to work out at the residents ability and speed.

Augmenting amenities include Media Centers with state of the art projection and sound for the latest Indie or Classic film. Community rooms encourage gatherings, the library/game room to meet with friends, and a computer lab for instruction and free use.

The crafts room allows seniors to show off crafting ability and to learn new ones. A team of knitters created nearly 100 caps for young children this past winter at both the local neighborhood center and Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital. Among the participants were three male seniors, two of whom were in wheelchairs. None of them had ever knitted before but they took to the project with zeal.

Steven L. Aaron, Founder &  Managing Member of Birchez Associates LLC, is a board member of NYSAFAH. Birchez Associates was a Gold Sponsor for the annual conference held in New York City each spring. Birchez Associates LLC, founded in 2002, has built five affordable housing communities in the Hudson Valley.

The New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), formed in 1998, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) is the trade association for New York’s affordable housing industry statewide. Our 300 members include for-profit and nonprofit developers, lenders, investors, syndicators, attorneys, architects and others active in the financing, construction, and operation of affordable housing. Together, NYSAFAH’s members are responsible for virtually all of the housing built in New York State with federal, state, or local subsidies. is the trade association for New York’s affordable housing industry statewide. Our 300 members include for-profit and nonprofit developers, lenders, investors, syndicators, attorneys, architects and others active in the financing, construction, and operation of affordable housing. Together, NYSAFAH’s members are responsible for virtually all of the housing built in New York State with federal, state, or local subsidies.

Esopus Business Alliance Second Anniversary

Friday, June 10th, 2011

The Esopus Business Alliance (EBA), formed just two years ago, supports local businesses that both operate within Esopus or those outside Esopus which support the local community. Among these is The Birches at Esopus which has hosted a networking mixer for the membership.

Now the EBA is holding its second annual celebration with a picnic mixer on June 27th from 5:30 to 7:30 on the majestic lawns of the Hudson Valley School of Massage overlooking the Hudson River. Locate at 1723 Route 9W, West Park, the school is directly across from the Stonehedge Restaurant.

Come on out for a special evening. Live (and lively) music features Earl Pardini and his group. Complimentary picnic style refreshments, lawn games, chair massages and mini-facials by the H.V.S.M.T. staff, and a champagne toast to celebrate EBA’s incredible first two years. Non-members and guests are welcome. There will be a $5 per person fee for members and an $8 fee for non-members, payable at the event.

This is a rain or shine event as indoor space will be available if needed. Registration is a must. Birches at Esopus residents who would like to attend, please call K.J. McIntyre at 845-532-7528 or email her at so we may add you to the guest list. Sounds like a fun event!

Case Study in Excellence: The Birches at Esopus

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

New York, NY:  The New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) honored Birchez Associates’ affordable senior community, The Birches at Esopus, as Case Study in Excellence at a reception and presentation held in New York City at the REBNY (Real Estate Board of New York) headquarters.

Already recognized by NYSAFAH as Project of the Year — Upstate for 2010, The Birches at Esopus served as a case study in successful public and private partnership, innovative financing, and green energy efficiencies. At its ribbon cutting, the community was also acknowledged as an Energy $mart Building by NYSERDA, in part because 70% of domestic hot water and 30% of the heat comes from solar thermal panels. Further, The Birches at Esopus was one of four national finalists for Senior Project of the Year in Affordable Housing Magazine.

The panel (shown to the right) was introduced by Jay Seiden, Seiden & Schein, PC, and comprised Birchez Associates Founder & Managing Member, Steven L. Aaron, The Honorable John Coutant, Supervisor of the Town of Esopus, John Kelly, Esq. of Nixon Peabody, Marian Zucker of New York State Homes & Community Renewal, Peter King representing the Federal Home Loan Bank – NY, and Rita Wyatt Esq., principal of Wyatt & Co. Judy Wells Aaron and K.J. McIntyre both of Birchez Associates also participated in the presentation. Available for the Q&A were the Town of Esopus clerk, Diane L. McCord, town council member Gloria VanVliet and chair of the planning board Roxanne Pecora (shown in the lower left photo from right to left).

Key topics introduced both by panel participants and the audience included:

  • Finding financing for affordable housing projects and how that has changed in today’s economic market
  • Creating market rate amenities to both attract residents and to fulfill aging in place goals
  • Structuring a public – private partnership and the political courage it takes to succeed in bringing quality affordable housing to a community
  • Changing environment in the now combined DHCR and nyhomes, now New York State Homes and Community Renewal

Attendees included developers, financiers, architects, attorneys and other members of NYSAFAH.