Welcome to KingstonCitizens.org!

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.

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The UCIDA AND PILOTs: Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.

VIEW our Event Page for the UCIDA’s Wednesday Meeting

VIEW our Petition “UCIDA and PILOTs:  Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.

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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:

  1. 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

    * Explain UCIDA’s Uniform Tax POLICY that, based on the MATRIX determines the Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) hourly rates assessed as per the number of jobs it will create.

  2. 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.

  3. The UCIDA’s follow-up procedures after-tax incentives are awarded.

  4. Additional public hearings to be scheduled and publicized for more public input.

 

VIDEO: Comprehensive Plan Zoning Sub-Committee Public Forum

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.

VIEW VIDEO

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.

 

How City of Kingston Citizens Can Make an Impact On a Board, Committee or Commission

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.

Read more…

A Helpful Guide to the City of Kingston 2017 Primary Elections.

 

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):

CONSERVATIVE
The Ulster County Conservative party can be found on FACEBOOK.

DEMOCRAT
The Ulster County Democrats can be found HERE.  The City of Kingston Democrats can be found HERE.

INDEPENDENCE
Not to be confused with the “Independent” party, the Ulster County Independence party can be found on FACEBOOK for more information.

REPUBLICAN
The Ulster County Republican party’s website can be found HERE.

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Read more…

Who is KingstonCitizens.org?

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.

Read more…

The City of Kingston’s Community Forums on Parking

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

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.

Read more…

A More Democratic Approach to Public Meeting Discussions in the City of Kingston.

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

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.

Read more…

A First Look at the City of Kingston’s Charter.


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.

Read more…

(Amended) GUIDANCE FOR TESTIMONY: Proposed Central Hudson Gas Regulating Substation in Kingston, NY

Item #3: #245 Washington Avenue SPECIAL PERMIT to install a gas regulating station. SBL 56.90-6-20. SEQR Determination. Zone R-1. Ward 3. Central Hudson Gas & Electric; Applicant/owner

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.

Read more…

Clarity on process. 300 Flatbush Ave. (RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal)

 

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.

Read more…

Understanding the Latest Changes to the Irish Cultural Center

WHAT
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.

WHERE
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY
Council Chambers (top floor)

WHEN
Monday, July 10th
6:00 pm
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.

WHY
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.

ICC Site Plans, March 8, 2017     VIEW
Floor Plans, March 2, 2017      VIEW

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.

Read more…

VIDEO: KingstonCitizens.org 2017 Educational Series “On Public Education”

                                         Click on image to view video

 

By Rebecca Martin

We are just about half way through our educational series this year, with this recent panel on “Public Education” that was so enlightening.  Did you know that every summer, the Kingston City School District re-writes curriculum to supplement “Engage NY” by selected teachers in the district? Or that only 1% of the school district’s budget is federal dollars?

A special thanks to Robin Jacobowitz and James Shaugnessy for their time and service to our community.  As always, to Julie, Peter, Matthew and staff at “Church Des Artistes” for hosting us.

Read more…

The City of Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning: How Are They Related and What’s Happening With Them Right Now?

By Hillary Harvey

“A comprehensive plan is known as a general plan, master plan or land-use plan, and is a document designed to engage the public and to guide the future actions of a community. It presents a vision for the future, with long-range goals and objectives for all activities that affect the local government.”

Local politics can be a bit daunting.  Various officials play different roles, and multiple boards are responsible for various capacities and processes. All of these interrelated elements differ for each locality.  When it comes to learning about local politics, all you have to do is start somewhere.

I started in November 2015, as I sought to catch up on the Irish Cultural Center’s development proposal for my neighborhood, the Rondout.

In trying to understand a specific development proposal, I learned about all the various boards and their roles in the process.  In studying the zoning codes of my block in downtown Kingston, and then my neighborhood and the city, I learned that zoning codes are meant to serve as an important protection for residents and home-owners in any community.

So when I first heard about “Kingston 2025,” the city’s Comprehensive Plan efforts to update the city’s original Comprehensive Plan from 1961, I was curious about how it would impact the development proposal I was already studying as it involves a re-evaluation of the city’s zoning codes along with other planning processes.

A little back history.  The Comprehensive Plan process began in 2011 as the City of Kingston faced a problem.  According to the Comprehensive Plan, known locally as “Kingston 2025,” which was adopted on March 15th, 2016, “Since 1961, the City has made a number of changes to its land use regulations, some proactive based on study and planning, others reactive based on certain evolving trends or in response to specific development proposals.”

There were multiple plans and a ton of documents to cull through, and the city’s planning and zoning policies were no longer holistic.

Read more…

VIDEO: “On Immigration” – A Public Educational Forum in April

By Rebecca Martin

Our recent educational forum “On Immigration” was focused around the Ulster County Legislature’s Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government to Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health,  And Well- Being Of All Persons In Ulster County” structured around ACLU guidelines. VIEW

With guest panelists District #7 Ulster County Legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum, it was my favorite educational panel discussion so far this year, where we had the opportunity to focus on a single piece of local legislation with at times two opposing points of view.

Resolution No. 138 is important and worthy, but it doesn’t have the support it needs to pass through committee to the legislative floor. It also doesn’t have the Sheriff’s support for reasons you might not suspect.

Empowered by New York State law and the County charter, the Sheriff’s office is independent in the way of policy making and procedure (though in reviewing the county CHARTER, it does state that “the Sheriff shall have and exercise all the powers and duties heretofore or hereafter lawfully granted or imposed by the Charter, Administrative Code, local law or resolution of the County Legislature“. My interpretation is that the Legislature would have oversight in some cases). In the resolution, there are several points in the model language that the Sheriff feels would infringe upon his office.

I wish that the Ulster County Legislature would have taken its time with this, starting with a small item that they and the Sheriff’s office could agree to.  For instance, sensitivity training on immigration by all county officers was something that was brought up on Sunday by a community member.  All the while, building support both internally and externally for a Resolution as important as No. 138 to have a fighting chance.

RESOURCES:

VIEW: Ulster County Resolution No. 138
VIEW:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky Powerpoint on Immigration
VIEW:  ACLU Model State and Local Law Enforcement Policies and Rules
VIEW:  “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions”
VIEW:  10th Amendment
VIEW:  Ulster County Charter Article XX “Sheriff”

Read more…

PARTICIPATE! Attend Regular Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Council Meetings.

By Rebecca Martin

How can we improve local government? By becoming more civic-minded rather than a single issue participant and attending regular, monthly meetings of both the Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Common Council.  That’s a potent and simple place to start.

To help you to get on your way, KingstonCitizens.org has put together a schedule of 2017  for both elected bodies.   “Many hands make light work” as they say. If each of us attended one or two meetings a year and shared what we witnessed – the landscape would look and feel very different.

Here are simple steps you can take to become a more engaged, local citizen.

  1. Sign up for the dates and times that are most convenient for your schedule (see below)
  2. Attend meetings. Make sure you check the calendar prior to attending, as all dates/times are subject to change (see below).  Make sure you add the dates to your personal calendar so you are reminded of your commitments.
  3. Write a one-page (or more) summation of your experience.  What happened that evening? How many citizens were present? Did you speak during public comment? What issues were discussed?  What significant decisions were made?  What did you learn and what outcome would you like to see on the issues that were discussed that evening?
  4. Submit your piece to KingstonCitizens.org:  rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org to be shared in our “Citizen Opinions” section (rules apply).
  5. We can help you to identify your council and legislative representatives and will encourage you to send a copy of your report directly to them as well.

 

Get Started. 

  1. Ulster County Legislature:  Dem/Rep Caucus and Regular Legislative Session
    1. VIEW:  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW:   Check the Ulster County Legislature Calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change.  You can also access an agenda at the legislative site.
  2. Kingston Common Council: Caucus and Regular Meeting
    1. VIEW  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW: Check the City of Kingston municipal calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change. You can also access an agenda at the City of Kingston website.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Join us in becoming familiar with local government.