Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen run community group committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency of local government. By providing citizens with timely and factual information, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education, and advocacy.
Citizen Call To Action
Please attend the upcoming Town of Ulster (ToU) Regular Town Board Meeting on Thursday, December 21st at 7:00pm and request the following during public comment (*)
- Support the Town of Ulster Town Board to declare a positive declaration for the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center project. VIEW our Facebook Event
- Suggest that the proposal that seeks to reconnect natural gas infrastructure consider creating a 100% renewable project with battery storage.
(*) Citizens are invited to give public testimony at the beginning of the regular ToU Town Board meeting on any items that are listed on the agenda (at this time, the agenda is not yet posted. We will update the public on our Facebook event page when it is available. Please ‘like’ our event for updates VIEW). Citizens will have another opportunity to speak that evening on items not on the agenda at the end of the Town Board meeting. We ask that citizens be respectful when addressing the Town Board, and particularly those who do not live in the municipality. Keep your testimony to 3 minutes or less.
On Thanksgiving day while making a holiday meal for friends and family, I received news from a guest that a gas-fired power plant had recently been proposed in the Town of Ulster.
“Fracked gas” they said.
In addition, the Town of Ulster had its regular Town Board meeting a few days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday where the applicant and consultant gave a short presentation followed by the Town of Ulster making a request to be Lead Agency in SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review). That gave Involved Agencies only a 30 day window starting before one holiday to another (figures) to dispute their request, if applicable.
After eleven years, I had planned to step away from my volunteer work at KingstonCitizens.org to focus my efforts solely on my part time position in Water Quality at Riverkeeper (which I love, by the way) and my music career, come 2018. The news certainly dashed my plans. The balancing act continues!
A peaker project in the Town of Ulster. It wasn’t unfamiliar to me. In February of 2015, when Niagara Bottling pulled their proposal from a Tech City location in the Town of Ulster, I remembered hearing rumors of such a project and thinking to myself that after coordinating an intense five month citizen campaign and now having to find a way to move a timely charter change to address water powers with a referendum in the fall of that year, I’d have to come back to it if or when it appeared.
In November of 2017, here it was.
Didn’t Ulster County just recently install a large solar array near this location (and that feeds into the Lincoln Park substation, the same substation that would be used by this proposed project)? Furthermore, in December of 2016, Ulster County was prominently featured by National Geographic to highlight some of the County’s environmental achievements. That’s international coverage. So how would a natural gas power plant fit into our progress? Who attracted a midwestern company to come to the Town of Ulster with such confidence to propose such a thing? In December public testimony, a citizen called it a ‘tale of two cities’ and I chuckled. How do you have a solar array project on one end of a property and a natural gas power plant on the other?
READ the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)
I’m about to get into a whole bunch of technical stuff to the best of my ability, only because I want readers to understand how the coalition letter came to pass as well as our call to action. SEQR is nothing new. I’m hoping that you will recall some of this language from the Niagara Bottling and/or the Pilgrim Pipeline proposals. If you need a refresher, you can go here VIEW
In the project’s environmental assessment form, the “Lincoln Park Grid Support Center” is described, in part, in this way:
“The Applicant, Lincoln Park DG, LLC, is under contract to acquire three tax parcels between NYS Route 32 and US Route 9W in the Town of Ulster which total 120.92 acres, and proposes to construct the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center on a 4± acre portion of the property, with access from Frank Sottile Boulevard. The proposed facility is a natural gas-fired power plant that will supply power to the electric grid in the region….The facility will include a system of containerized batteries and a reciprocating engine generator system that is fueled by natural gas, with the capability to use on-site diesel when the gas supply is disrupted. The generator system will be housed within a steel Butler building and will require two exhaust stacks for combustion emissions which will be a maximum of 100 feet in height. The system will be available to the grid 24 hours a day and will operate based on the needs of the grid, with very little operation on some days and continuous operations on other days. The facility is expected to operate an average of 6 to 14 hours per day. Fuel combustion will result in primary emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), and carbon monoxide (CO), and will require an air permit from the NYSDEC. Some ancillary waste will also be produced including used lubricating oil and reagent as part of equipment maintenance.”
Concerning. On first glance looking at the list of Involved Agencies, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) seemed the best choice for a project that could be seen as a regional one, with potential environmental impacts that include air emissions, visual impacts, wetlands, the project footprint being within close proximity of a principal aquifer, cultural resources and threatened/endangered species There might be others. As a local matter, there were potential inconsistencies in the Town’s comprehensive plan and zoning code and concerns of something like this being built only approx. 600 feet away from a residential area.
Once a Lead Agency is designated, they may make a determination of significance for the proposed action (project) as being a positive declaration (pos dec) or negative declaration (neg dec) in SEQR. A pos dec in simple terms means that the project may result in having one or more significant adverse environmental impacts, triggering a full scoping process (to identify all of the potential impacts) with opportunities for public comment and then for appropriate studies to be identified and paid for by the applicant. A neg dec, means that the proposed action benefits “outweigh its adverse impacts” and would move the project to its site plan without any public comment. As a side note, a neg dec allows the applicant to apply/secure any public funding that might be available to its project.
The following video was captured from yesterday’s City of Ulster County Educational Workshop on Economic Development Services in Ulster County and Kingston on November 15th, 2017. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org thanks to The Kingston News.
We appreciate the effort made by Ulster County’s Economic Development office and the City of Kingston Economic Development office to bring this together for the public in 2017. We hope to see this become a yearly event.
The next Ulster County IDA meeting will occur on Wednesday, December 13th at 8:00am. On the agenda will be a discussion to change the meeting time to later in the afternoon (after 5pm) to allow for greater public participation.
Video #1: Educational Workshop on Economic Development: PRESENTATION
(Click on image to review video)
The following video was captured from yesterday’s City of Kingston Police Commission Meeting on November 15th, 2017. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org thanks to the Kingston News.
Thanks to the City of Kingston for moving the meeting to council chambers so to accommodate more citizens that evening.
Video #1: City of Kingston Police Commission: PUBLIC SPEAKING (Click on image to review video)
Video #2: City of Kingston Police Commission: Debate
(Click on image to review video)
(Click on image to review video)
CITIZEN CALL TO ACTION
- Request that the City of Kingston condemn police brutality in the City of Kingston.
- Request that the City of Kingston Police Department:
- Provide a summary of changes that have been made to the City of Kingston Police policies and procedures since the Fabian Marshall incident in 2015;
- Provide an action plan for continued improvements to the Department’s policies and procedure;
- Provide an overview of trainings completed by Department personnel on an annual basis, as well as a comprehensive description of the Department’s sensitivity training.
- As per Citizen Action of the Hudson Valley’s Petition VIEW
- Stop data by race and ethnicity, and use of force data including pepper spray and taser use;
- Inform the public on the complaint process, including a detailed overview of the process beginning with the submission of a complaint form and through the Police Commission review, ruling, and if applicable, appeal;
- Provide information on selection guidelines and term limits of Kingston Police Commission;
- Release of information on the number of investigations into complaints against members of the department concerning domestic violence, excessive force, coercion, and verbal abuse, and the results;
- Release of an immediate process to begin creating a community policing model that includes non-appointed members of the community as a civilian oversight board which would;
- Conduct investigations into all cases in which a department member discharges his or her firearm, stun gun, or taser in a manner which potentially could strike an individual, even if no allegation of misconduct is made;
- Systematically review reports and footage to conduct investigations into complaints against members of the department concerning domestic violence, excessive force, coercion, and verbal abuse, even if no allegation of misconduct is made;
- To investigate the the conduct of members of the Department concerning any investigative category, (excessive force, sexual misconduct, a false arrest, or illegal search or seizure, and/or committed another civil rights violation or tort.) even in the absence of a civilian complaint, when, based on information and belief.
Tomorrow, the Kingston Police Commission will assemble for their monthly meeting to be held at 4:00 pm at Kingston City Hall at 420 Broadway in Kingston, council chambers (top floor). We are told that there will be a sign-up for citizens to speak at the beginning of the meeting, so please plan to arrive at 3:45 to do so and to secure a seat.
As part of the agenda, the Police Commission will be reviewing a complaint filed by City of Kingston resident Fabian Marshall for discussion of an incident that occurred in 2015.
According to the Daily Freeman VIEW, “Fabian Marshall, 27, was found guilty Friday of obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor, following a jury trial before City Judge Lawrence Ball. The trial began last Wednesday. The case against Marshall dates to September 2015, when members of the Kingston Police Department were responding to a report of an assault on Broadway, the District Attorney’s Office said in a press release. The release said officers tried to interview Marshall, who was in the same area of the reported assault and matched the description of the assailant, but that he refused to comply, became uncooperative and fought with police.”
The event was captured on a police cam and cellphone which was fortunately released for the public to review. (GRAPHIC)
“…officers tried to interview Marshall, who was in the same area of the reported assault and matched the description of the assailant, but that he refused to comply, became uncooperative and fought with police.”
Being innocent of the alleged crime, Marshall seems uncertain as to why he was being approached by the police officer who acted in an aggressive manner without an explanation at the onset.
Marshall doesn’t appear to pose any danger to the officer carrying a gun and a taser. In the video, it is alleged that he is tasered 21 times. One time, in this case, was too many.
VIEW our Event Page for the UCIDA’s Wednesday Meeting
VIEW our Petition “UCIDA and PILOTs: Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.
Citizens have voiced concern about a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Tax) agreement and other tax incentives currently on the table for the ‘Hudson Valley Kingston Development (HVKD) LLC’ proposal in Uptown, Kingston.
According to their application, they propose to “build four boutique hotels in historic Uptown Kingston. There will be 43 hotel rooms in total, with a restaurant at the 301 Wall Street location. This will create a welcome space for community events and gatherings, and stimulate much-needed tourism and revenue for surrounding businesses.”
REVIEW HVKD’s application
Last week, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) held a public hearing on the HVKD’s application. Very few members of the public were in attendance.
In our opinion, that’s probably because UCIDA’s process can be difficult to follow, especially for something like a PILOT agreement or tax abatements. Often, meetings are insufficiently publicized leaving many citizens in the dark.
Incentives are important tools in attracting and supporting business. Allocations of tax dollars in this context are governed by state law and to that end, there are real checks and balances here.
However if the public is not properly made aware of the opportunities that they have throughout the process, then only a handful of appointed officials are in a position to make decisions that will certainly extend beyond their tenure. For that reason alone, it is in everyone’s best interest for a transparent process to be a priority, one that will allow citizens a better understanding and to enter into a more robust discussion.
The next meeting on the proposal is to occur on Wednesday, October 11th at 8:00 am (in the Karen Binder Library on the 6th Floor of the County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston, NY). To help the public proceed in an organized manner, we offer the following information and a recommendation for the public to make to the UCIDA board for their consideration.
VIEW our Event Page for more information on Wednesday’s meeting.
Background on Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) From the NYS Comptroller.
First, appointments to the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency are made via resolution by the membership of the Ulster County Legislature. Members serve at the pleasure of the Legislature.
The Ulster County IDA must follow State law, based on background provided by the NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the role of IDA’s in New York State are charged with the following:
“Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) are authorized to provide financial assistance for certain types of projects. Financial assistance includes the issuance of bonds by the IDA to finance construction of a project and straight-lease transactions. Because IDAs’ property and activities are tax exempt, the IDA may pass the benefits of certain tax exemptions (e.g., real property, sales and mortgage recording taxes) to the private entities that undertake the projects. The loss of revenue associated with these tax exemptions can be offset with an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), under which the private entity agrees to pay all or a portion of the taxes that would otherwise have been imposed had the project not been an IDA project. The IDA’s role is not just to act as the conduit for financial assistance, but also to monitor the success, progress, and cost-benefit of projects, including whether projects are honoring their commitments and agreements.”
In addition to making these decisions, the IDA must also provide follow-up on the projects where they have provided support.
“The IDA’s role is not just to act as the conduit for financial assistance, but also to monitor the success, progress, and cost-benefit of projects, including whether projects are honoring their commitments and agreements.”
The 2016 New York State IDA Law
In 2016, laws were put into place to increase the accountability and efficiency of IDAs.
“In June 2016, new legislation became effective to increase the accountability and improve the efficiency and transparency of IDA operations. For new projects, the law requires standard application forms for requests for financial assistance, uniform criteria for the evaluation and selection for each category of projects for which financial assistance is provided, uniform project agreements, annual assessments on project progress including job creation and retention, as well as policies to recapture, discontinue or modify financial assistance or tax exemptions.”
Next Steps in the process for the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC PILOT agreement and tax incentives.
On Wednesday, October 11th at 8:00 am, the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC is listed in the (Draft) AGENDA #12: Projects “Hudson Valley Kingston Development (Public Hearing held on October 4, 2017)”. There isn’t information listed as to whether or not the board will be making a decision regarding PILOTS or other available tax incentives for this proposal. Therefore, it’s important to make your voice heard now – and you can do so by
SIGNING OUR PETITION: UCIDA and PILOTs – Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens. VIEW
The County must carry on its important business for the residents of Ulster County. We also support and appreciate new business opportunities in our area. However, given the concerns of the public, we request that any approvals of tax incentives for the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC be delayed by the board to allow the following:
- Provide additional public educational opportunities on the UCIDA’s process in assigning PILOTS and tax incentives to proposed projects, including, but not limited to:
* The necessary documentation that is required as evidence that an applicant demonstrates a need for a PILOT or other tax incentives as well as to show that the applicant has exhausted all other available options based on NYSEDC recommendations. VIEW
- How the UCIDA applies recommendations to this, and all project considerations, provided by the Ulster County Comptroller from his 2014 report “A Study of the Impact and Best Practices for Industrial Development Agencies”, specifically:* Support only Projects which likely will not proceed but for IDA assistance;* Require market analyses for “retail” (and services) Projects;* Calculate costs and benefits specifically attributable to IDA assistance;* Give PILOT points only for jobs attributable to IDA assistance;
* Interpret the cost-benefit analysis with care;
* Require proof of pre-assistance employment levels;
* Maximize public access to information;
* Consider a scoring category for local support.
- The UCIDA’s follow-up procedures after-tax incentives are awarded.
- Additional public hearings to be scheduled and publicized for more public input.
On Thursday, September 28th at 6:00pm at City Hall, the first in a series of forums regarding the ongoing effort to update the City of Kingston’s zoning took place.
The theme for this month’s public forum was “Consolidation and Reformatting of Residential Districts and Bulk Standards.” A presentation on the topic took place to discuss the current code, why this topic is important and what has been discussed by the Zoning Sub-Committee so far regarding potential changes. Participants broke into smaller groups each facilitated by a city employee, where citizens in attendance provided comments and asked questions.
After watching the video, you can submit your questions or comments by sending an EMAIL to the City of Kingston’s planning office. We recommend that you copy the Mayor of Kingston at SNoble@kingston-ny.gov and send yourself a copy for your records, too.
CALL TO ACTION: Can we encourage 20 new Kingston citizens to submit an application to serve on a topic that interests them? We think we can.
Would you like to make an impact on government in the City of Kingston?
As many of you know, one of the most important aspects of our work at KingstonCitizens.org is to point citizens in the direction of process and the law when there is an issue of concern so that their effort can make a real difference.
Perhaps one of the greatest ways for the public to get involved which is not well known is to submit an application VIEW to be appointed to sit on one of the twenty-five boards, commissions or committees that exists and that is reliant on citizen volunteer’s in the City of Kingston.
In 2016, Mayor Steve Noble launched a brand new initiative hoping to “Attract and recruit volunteers for Kingston’s Boards, Commissions, and Committees“.
“All individuals interested in serving on a board, commission and/or committee must complete an application and submit it to the Mayor’s office for review. This information will be used in determining which individuals are best suited to serve, based on their qualifications, backgrounds, skills, and interests.”
Some of these important bodies have very long terms, so when a spot comes up – it’s important to know. Get in there! Kingston relies on the talent in its neighborhoods to help to define itself going forward.
The 2017 primary election will occur on Tuesday, September 12th. The polls are open from noon – 9:00 pm.
We know that primary elections can be confusing, and that’s why we created a guide intended to help City of Kingston residents successfully vote for their candidate tomorrow. Please be in touch if you notice any errors or to make suggestions in the comment section.
The best of luck to all candidates. Get out and vote Kingston citizens!
Can I vote in in the City of Kingston 2017 primary elections?
In a closed primary a registered voter may vote only in the election for the party with which that voter is affiliated. For example a voter registered as Democratic can vote only in the Democratic primary and a Republican can vote only in the Republican primary.
How can I find what district or ward I live in in the City of Kingston?
Please view the City of Kingston Ward map HERE
How can I find my polling place?
You can find your polling place HERE
What does it mean if someone is listed on the ballot?
When a candidate’s name is listed on the ballot, it means that they are in an actual primary (such as in the Kingston Common Council race in Ward 8). The other ward races are OTB primaries, where only endorsed candidates are listed. The others must be written in.
What does “Opportunity to Ballot” mean? (OTB)
An “Opportunity to Ballot” (or write-in) means voters affiliated with the party that is on the ballot are free to write any individual’s name in. For instance, if you are a Republican and you have the option to write-in a candidate in your ward or district, you may do so instead of voting for the listed candidate. An opportunity to ballot is the result of petitioning within an election district and if valid petitions are submitted with enough signatures, this opens the ballot for a write-in.
Where can I find information about the party’s in this year’s City of Kingston primary race?
In this year’s 2017 City of Kingston Primary races, the following party’s are involved (in alphabetical order):
The Ulster County Conservative party can be found on FACEBOOK.
Not to be confused with the “Independent” party, the Ulster County Independence party can be found on FACEBOOK for more information.
The Ulster County Republican party’s website can be found HERE.
Recently we learned of an inquiry made by the City of Kingston Republican Committee Chair and general practice attorney, Joesph Ingarra. Apparently, he took it upon himself to write to the state Attorney General’s (AG) office, requesting that they investigate KingstonCitizens.org as a Political Action Committee (PAC). He placed his request into a press release sent to several local news outlets to “investigate and report”.
Mr. Ingarra neglected to take the opportunity to reach out to us to clarify his concerns prior to his request to the AG. As a member of the legal profession, one would expect that he would understand the difference between a grass roots group and a PAC.
Here’s what is true.
By Hillary Harvey
In conversations around the City of Kingston, parking is a hot topic.
Uptown, there was a debate around Mayor Steve Noble’s plan to increase parking costs and add meters to municipal lots where there previously had been none, with business owners countering the plan by advocating for free parking. Meter increases went into effect just recently, and parking kiosks are already showing up near their intended municipal lot. In an effort to compromise, the city is also offering parking permits for frequent users of the City of Kingston’s municipal lots. Purchase a parking permit in advance of the installation and activation of new payment stations in six of the City’s municipal lots costs $10, and the permit is valid through December 31, 2017. VIEW
In Midtown, there’s ample parking, according to the city’s consultant for the Comprehensive Plan Zoning subcommittee. And the conversation has pretty much ended there.
By Hillary Harvey
The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) recently chose to change its format to allow the public an opportunity to participate on applications in real time, creating a more democratic format for both the applicant and the public. The changes provide a model of a more participatory meeting format that all City of Kingston boards, committees and commissions might consider applying.
Currently, in the City of Kingston, the majority of committees and subcommittees offer public speaking at the discretion of the committee chair. It is possible to reach out to the chair ahead of a meeting to let him/her know that citizens would like time to present comments or questions.
By Rebecca Martin
We had an informative educational panel on July 13 with Dr. Gerald Benjamin of The Benjamin Center and Jennifer Schwartz Berky, principal of Hone Strategic and District 7 Ulster County Legislator discussing Charters and Charter Reform.
To our delight, Dr. Benjamin took the time to mark up Kingston’s current charter which we felt was most important for the public to review. You will find his power point, frame by frame with video that is marked so that you can follow along. The audio isn’t great, but you can still hear. We do recommend headphones.
Recently, a citizen of the City of Kingston who lives near a new proposed Gas Regulating System to be located at 245 Washington Avenue by Central Hudson contacted us with some concerns. Gas and Electric Magnetic Field (EMF) Substations are a part of our landscape in Kingston, given the need for gas and electric in our daily lives.
But process is key, and it was the process that peeked our interest.
By Rebecca Martin
For some time, there has been much furor over the sale of 300 Flatbush Ave. (aka RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal), a property owned by Ulster County.
Lets cut to the chase on a few critical items.
– To be clear, the City of Kingston hasn’t any say as to who the county sells its property to.
– After being on the market for a little over a year, RUPCO made an offer at the listed price for a project they want to create in that location called ‘The Alms House” or “Landmarks Place”. Their goal is for it to become “66 units that would comprise of 14 studio and 20 one-bedroom apartments in the approximately 28,000-square-foot 1870s landmark building at the site and 32 one-bedroom units for people ages 55 and older in the new 42,000-square-foot building.”
– The proposal went in front of the Kingston Planning Board where they determined the project to have a negative declaration in SEQR. In other words, they found it to have no environmental impacts that would require further study.
– As part of Kingston’s code, the Kingston Common Council had 90 days to determine a zoning change that started months ago, with a request for it to be changed from single family to multi-family use. Whether multi-family or commercial, a zoning change will have to be determined in order for it to be placed back into any real use.
– In this case, once a zone change is made, the project site plan can be reviewed by the Kingston Planning Board, and the public will have more opportunities to help to shape the project.
These are the facts, and this is the process.
Come to the public hearing at City Hall, Council Chambers, on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed Irish Cultural Center (ICC) project.
Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers (top floor)
Monday, July 10th
Sign-up to speak at 5:45pm
If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have. The email will go directly to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston. We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.
Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.
Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.
By Hillary Harvey
The Irish Cultural Center proposed for Abeel Street on the Rondout in Kingston has just come back to the Planning Board with the latest in a series of updates to their project site plan.
Included are responses to the State Historic Preservation Office, the City of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Ulster County Planning Board, all of which were presented at the June 12th City of Kingston Planning Board meeting.
VIDEO: Planning Board Meeting 6/12/2017 VIEW
What the ICC Looks Like Now.
The Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley is proposed to be a 16,213 square foot newly constructed building on a 0.43-acre parcel at 32 Abeel Street with rights, granted by the City of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals, to follow the zoning for West Strand Street. New designs indicate a red, brick building of three stories measuring 49.5′ from the Company Hill Path side (South Elevation), with one story underground on the Abeel Street side (North Elevation). There would also be an elevator accessible roof garden, with outdoor seating and a 12’ tall room that rises above the height of the building. On the Company Hill Path side, there would be three full balconies with exterior gathering space that each run the width of the building. The building would be a “community center” with a 171-seat theater, exhibition space, commercial kitchen, 70-seat pub/restaurant, flex space, offices for the ICC and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (the ICC’s parent organization), radio station, map room, etc. The project would have 8 on-site parking spots and seek a parking waiver from the Planning Board for 47 parking spaces.
There will be a public hearing on these changes at the City of Kingston’s Planning Board meeting on July 10th, during their regular meeting, and comments can be made via email to the Planning Board before July 7th. We encourage everyone to weigh in.