Hoffay’s Updates on Pike Plan, Valet Parking

Last week as I was gathering insights on the Pike Plan, I had emailed alderman Tom Hoffay (Dem., Ward 2) to get him to weigh in on the topic. Tom emailed back to say he was busy and would reply later. Well, a busy week got ahead of Tom and he replied this morning with an update of not only the Pike Plan, but other topics on his ward as well.

Thank you!

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Tom's email:

 I'll give you a summary of the week, where four developments and the meetings and correspondence attendant to them, gobbled up the time.

>CityPark, a New Jersey company, looking to establish a connection in Kingston, ran a four day trial for a valet parking service in Uptown Kingston.  This was on the initiative of John Perry, who runs Signature Fitness, a personal training gym, on the corner of Wall and North Front St.  It was supposed to run Tuesday through Friday, but because of weather and some communications problems, the trial ran through Thursday.  It is a good idea, attempting to provide a service for individuals who have difficulty with the parking situation in Uptown.  There are, of course, some glitches to be worked out, which the trial period was meant to discover and it did.  A follow up meeting with everyone involved is scheduled for this coming week.  I think it is a great idea, which tapped into the experience and initiative of one local service provider.

>KURA, the Uptown Resident's Alliance, is working towards their first full public meeting.  It has strong support from the four Aldermen, whose wards are represented in the area.  This is an independent group, working together on the problems...and the potential of their neighborhoods.

>Main St. Manager:  The Business Alliance of Kingston held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the pending funding proposal.  This began with an outreach from the Mayor to the business associations as a way that the city could help them become more focused and cooperative in their efforts to deal with this worsening economic climate.  There is a real need for attention to the businesses and commercial section of our tax base.  Failures in this sector, whether business closures or property foreclosure, affect the that part of the community which while only 25% of the city's property value, pay over 50% of the city taxes.  The challenges facing this part of our community have become critical and immediate.  Without attention, failure in this community will quickly become a major disaster for the entire community, impacting the city budget and tax rate for the residential community.

The Main St. Manager proposal is one tool providing communication and common efforts throughout a business community, which struggles at times to find a common voice.  The three separate associations recognized this and came together a  couple of years ago.  The Main St. Manager is the project that all three have now made their priority.  The board of the Business Alliance is composed of three members from each association.  Another meeting is scheduled for this coming week.  Patrice Courtney of the Mid Town Business Association has been instrumental in guiding this project.  As President Obama stated this week, "we don't have a minute to  waste"  Over one hundred thousand jobs were lost last week, some of them were Ulster County jobs, lost to IBM layoffs in Poughkeepsie.  The business community in Kingston needs every bit of help it can get right now and the three associations recognize this.  Failure to do something now, will impact our entire community down the road.  Having gone through a very difficult city budget process last fall, where we cut over $500,000 in spending form the Mayor's budget, I know that any decrease in revenues to the city from sales tax or property tax sources will be devastating.  The Main St. Manager proposal, by itself, is only one tool and it must be combined with others  to be effective.  But if we don't start now and use every tool available, we face a bleak economic future.

Pike Plan:  This project has been in the making for four years.  Much of the credit goes to RUPCO, which responded to outreach from the Kingston Uptown Business Association over the condition of the canopies.  RUPCO held a series of meetings, which included all members of KUBA and building owners before proceeding to secure a $200,000 grant to begin the process of restoring and repairing the canopies.  This involved bringing in speakers and having presentations on the options available.  The decision was made to proceed and request federal funding for a full restoration.  Congressman Hinchey secured the 1.2 million dollar appropriation for the restoration work.  The Pike Plan Commission, established under NYS legislation back in the 1970s, requiring at least four members of the seven member group be building owners, voted to commit a $100, 000 bond for the work.  The uses of the various money streams are controlled by the appropriations involved...some can only be used for construction purposes, some for planning and architectural work.

This has been a very slow and deliberative process, requiring the continual commitment of the groups involved.  A meeting of representatives of the stakeholders, including RUPCO, Congressman Hinchey's Office and the Pike Commission was held last week to  reaffirm that support and commitment.  Architects are set to present the agreed upon plan, which has been approved by the NYS Historic Preservation Office at a public meeting due in February.  With progress, carpenters, electricians and workers will begin the restoration this year.  Again, my view on this is, this is in line with the federal infrastructure initiative, spending dollars to put people to work and to restore and renew our infrastructure.  This significant sum of money will circulate throughout our local economy and the end result will be a beautiful, more practical and less expensive to maintain structure.

The petition you mention was originally drawn up in August and referenced the governance and expenditures of the Pike Plan Commission.  The governance issue is in fact being addressed, with legislation being proposed that calls for members of the commission to be elected rather than appointed.  I support that proposal and will work for its passage.  The cover letter sent and unsigned along with the petition is something very different, however.  First of all, it addresses not the Pike Plan Commission or the Pike Plan proposal, but another study altogether...the Ulster County Uptown Area Transportation Study, recently concluded by the County Planning Office.  That study referenced the sidewalks in the Pike plan area as well as street structures such as bump outs and trees, but did not include the canopy.  The unknown author of this letter took a prior existing petition on a different subject and graphed on a letter stating things that have now been publicly disowned by some of the signers.  Not a very straight forward way to address the issue and not helpful to a process that has gone on now for four years.

Kingston Gives $15,500 in Presidential Race

For many Kingston residents, support of a candidate this year amounted to lawn signs and bumber stickers. According to OpenSecrets.org and Federal Election Commission data, our humble zip code of 12401 doled out just $15,500 in the 2008 presidential race.

The total contributions in 2008 for political action committees, elected officials and those seeking office totalled $49,657 for Kingston -- well below the average contribution by zip code of $57,858.

If you are interested in seeing how much and to which presidential candidate that your neighbors gave to, click here, and click on the map tabs. This shows the address and amount given.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Reuse and Reclaim

Have you seen the new furniture shop uptown that makes great things out of reclaimed wood? It's called Salvage Co. and also offers the works of local artists as well as unique items that are worth checking out.

Although Salvage Co. is not a traditional auction house, they are having an auction on February 8.

Here are the details:
Salvage Co
Presents
The Sustainability
Auction

This is a public auction
All Welcome

Offering:
Reclaimed - Recycled - Interesting Furnishings - Mid Century Furniture
Photography - Primitive Rural Artifacts
Antiques - Local Art
Architectural Elements

FEBRUARY 8th @ 2:00 PM
314 Wall St. Uptown Kingston
Preview:
Thursday, Friday, Saturday (2/5-2/7)

For more info
call
845-331-7565
wallstreetsalvage@gmail.com

Ward 9 Visioning Session is Open to All

Just wanted to share with you this email from Rebecca Martin regarding our upcoming visioning session:

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Dear all,

I just got off the phone with the Kingston Times, who is doing a story on the visioning session that Arthur Zaczkiewicz and I are organizing for one block in our neighborhood on Saturday, February 14th at 2:30pm. Those who are on the Ward 9 Community Group email list, and members of the KingstonCitizens.org Yahoo! Groups have received a press release. I’m attaching it below, in the case that you did receive it by not being on one of these lists. While being interviewed today, it occurred to me that I be certain that you were all made aware of what we are doing and to make it clear that it is open to all.  I also felt it was necessary to give you a bit of background on why we have decided to proceed with this project.

Recently, on a block in our Ward (between Brewster and W. Chester Street), we made another discovery of dangerous knives being sold at ‘Head to Toe’, an establishment that is known as a head shop in our neck of the woods. I sent a letter to Chief Keller and within 48 hours, the knives (and some other items in their inventory) were removed.  This is the second establishment in a block radius selling such items – illegal weapons some of them - in a three year period. Within close proximity to the Kingston High School, Sophie Finn Elementary School – and a residential neighborhood teaming with young families and a large elderly population.

Over the years, several residents in Ward 9 – myself, Arthur and Lowell Thing – made a big effort to work with the city in support of a new comprehensive planning process. Something that we called ‘Kingston 2020’ and one that we hoped would be embraced as a citywide effort. Different from the way it had been done up until this time.  In broad strokes, an effort that was all inclusive and would not only tap into the city’s important stakeholders, but the citizens equally as well. One that would allow for complete transparency – from choosing a proper consultant for a city such as ours – to making a strategic and meaningful effort to bring the people together and to build, in time, a more cohesive and modern place to live. One that could represent the changes that have occurred in it’s population and updating the current patchwork zoning ordinances et al so to give our town a fighting chance to move forward with a current and up-to-date business plan intact. Some of you are aware that the Mayor and Suzanne Cahill applied for grant monies from the Community Block Grant in the tune of $50,000 from this process that we undertook with the city.  Those monies were initially approved to start a planning process, but then reallocated to what may be an uptown manager – or some other project TBA based on what I’m reading in the papers.  Our hopes and hard work, were dashed.

This upcoming visioning session was spearheaded, organically – from these and other processes we’ve witnessed – both progressive and not. An experiment that will span a block in the city of Kingston. A block that although has several important businesses, is for the most part vacant. Five properties for sale, for lease or for rent – and buildings that are in serious disrepair, but with great potential.   The process will include a model of the street made from photos taken from Brewster to W. Chester.  A visual for the people living close by to brainstorm, to be idealistic, and to simply have a chance to be included by sharing their best case scenario of business and safety in their neighborhood.

We are taking the time to contact the owners of vacant buildings so to get the properties current rental offerings, etc. I am finding in this work that the owners are more then happy to be flexible if the concept for any given business is strong and serious.  Our goal is to take all of the information and findings from this session to create a marketing plan for our neighborhood to attract entrepreneurs in and outside of the city. As far reaching even as New York City.

So far, I have received about a dozen emails from residents on the Ward 9 email list who are not only excited about this process, but who are offering fantastic ideas even prior to the 14th. The energy created by this work I expect will not only help to bring more of the neighbors together to take stock in what happens on this block, but also will make them more aware of what business currently exist. Furthermore, my hope is that it will encourage establishments who may have seen themselves as separate entities to become more accountable for what they do and sell, and better neighbors too.  It can only lead to a positive outcome.

KingstonCitizens.org, as you are all familiar – is a citizen run site that supports good, open communication for all. It’s something that I am proud to be a part of – and I wanted for the business associations here to realize – that we work to shine the light on all of our businesses and business associations as they are now. Here is the link to the page:   http://kingstoncitizens.org/business.html . Like everything else, we would like to have your feedback in how we can help further your efforts.

If you are free that afternoon, I’d like to ask that you come. Not only to take part in the process but to offer your important input as we proceed. I would also like to recommend that if you are not on our mailing list, or a member of one of the nine Yahoo! Groups at KingstonCitizens.org to please sign up.  If you need any assistance in doing so, please let me know. I would be happy to help you.

Feel free to send this to anyone you feel would be interested. Press release is below.

Thank you.

Rebecca Martin
KingstonCitizens.org

 

January 22, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

‘Ward 9 is Mine’ for Valentine’s Day: Residents are invited to participate in “Ward 9 is Mine!” – a visioning session to create ideas and shares wishes of businesses in the Ward 9 section of Kingston

KINGSTON – Citizens are invited to participate in a visioning session called “Ward 9 is mine!”, a project to gather ideas and wishes for the vacant commercial buildings that line Broadway between Brewster and West Chester streets in Ward 9 on Saturday, February 14 at 2:30 p.m. in the Kingston Food and Gardens space at 33 Broadway in Kingston.

All Ward 9 residents and current businesses are invited to attend as well as anyone who is interested in what a citywide comprehensive planning process might look like.

“This session is way for residents to collectively gather a vision for the types of businesses they would like to see in their neighborhood,” said Arthur Zaczkiewicz, one of the organizers. “What better way to spend a few hours on Valentine’s Day than by falling in love with your neighborhood again?”

Inspired by a recent discovery of dangerous knives on their block, KingstonCitizens.org organizers Rebecca Martin and Zaczkiewicz decided to work with their neighbors to hold the visioning session, which is a technique used by communities to create a short- and long- term visions of their neighborhoods, towns and cities. The process involves creating a setting where people share ideas, dreams and wishes – which then leads to actionable steps to make the ideas real.

Seating is Limited. Please bring a chair or comfortable mat.  Clip boards will be provided. A muralist will be on hand to document what our new block on Broadway could look like in the near future from all citizen comments.

For more information, Contact KingstonCitizens.org’s Rebecca Martin at info@kingstoncitizens.org or Arthur Zaczkiewicz at zaczkiewicz@yahoo.com

Give Us the Old Main Street Again

One of the editors of Retail Traffic magazine said he possibly had a story for me to do on mixed used development. Having covered the retail real estate beat for some time, I'm intrigued that this trend is gaining speed again -- it backs up what I've been reading about elsewhere regarding how people are seeking urban environments.

The large real estate investment trusts (REITs) are taking heavy losses on their large-scale development projects as retailers fail and businesses sink. But there are smaller, more nimble companies who are working on mixed use projects that is in step with a consumer trend of shopping local. Consumers want the old main street back again.

Just the other night, a long-time Kingstonian said they were considering moving from their home in Hurley back to the city. "I've got over three acres," he said. "Who wants to take care of that at my age?" He is nearing 70.

There are also aging baby boomers who are attracted to the idea of living in walking distance to their doctors, their grocers and car repair shops. Dominick from Dreamweavers told me the other night that uptown Kingston has it all. Indeed, it fits nicely into the mixed use model. Although there could be more apartments there, people who live in the uptown section can walk to Hannaford's, see their doctor, get a massage, a haircut, eat really good meals, see music, visit museums, go to church, etc. It's all there.

The question, though, is how to enrich and encourage more businesses and people to move in. In the Pike Plan area alone, there are at least 10 vacant storefronts -- including the recently closed Fitness Unlimited.

Rebecca Martin wondered in a prior post regarding "micro-economic development" what projects the economic development office of the city was working on. This is a good question. We're spending a lot of money for the department, and yet there are gaping holes here and there.

In the meantime, Kingston has an asset in place -- existing mixed use areas -- that are in demand. Now we just need to tell people about it.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Future of the Pike Plan: Part II

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Several building owners who own properties on North Front and Wall streets, where the Pike Plan canopies are located, reiterated that a petition was circulated in August of last year demanding "an individual vote in regard to all plans and/or monies received and spent on the future of the Pike Plan. Without a vote, we consider this to be taxation without representation."

Thirty seven of the roughly 42 building owners in the Pike Plan district signed the petition and are working to take control of the destiny of the Pike Plan.

Separately, around the holidays, a handful of business and building owners sent a letter to the mayor asking for the option to remove the Pike Plan.

From the building owners perspective, the Pike Plan requires a heavy tax on an already heavy tax load. What several of the building owners would like is to examine the feasibility of removing the structure and restoring the buildings to its original facades.

It's important to note that in one study, Norman Mintz, an expert consultant known as "Mr. Main Street," recommends hiring a main street manager and conducting a thoughtful marketing campaign.

Mintz's final report, which was submitted in July of 2007, urged for the creation of a business improvement district as well.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Three Victorious Sisters

We're hearing that the City of Kingston is working with Rebecca Martin's Victory Garden Project to install a garden at City Hall -- which would make it one of the first Victory Gardens to be done on a municipal site since, well, at least World War II.

There's also a separate project involving some folks in Maine to install an organic garden at the White House. Isn't Kingston just ahead of the curve?

Kingston's Victory Garden will involve master gardeners, experienced farmers and volunteers working with the Kingston High School. The plan is to launch it on Earth Day, April 22. Stay tuned for details.

But what will they plant? Well, since 2009 marks 400 hundred years since ol' Henry Hudson sailed up his namesake, the organizers wanted to grow something that reflected the area's heritage. So the choice was to plant a "three sisters" garden, which grows corn, beans and squash in a symbiotic way. Read about this type of garden here.

If I know the organizers well, I think the kids will be donating the food produced by the garden to area soup kitchens.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Traffic, Safety in Ward 4

There's been some good chatter on the Ward 4 discussion site tackling topics such as traffic and safety.
Jeanne Edwards has a short wish list for the area near the library. "I would like to see Franklin st one way from Clinton to Broadway, then have Vanburen St one way from Broadway to Furnace. Make Franklin, and Vanburen both sides of the street parking. It would be safer for the kids, cars, trash trucks, everything," she wrote. "I really think this should be done. Liberty st is one way and not too many problems."
As a resident who lives on a one-way street, I concur with Jeanne's point of view. I don't know anything about street design or planning, but I can say that one-way streets that are strategically place sure make a difference.
Separately, "Gerard" posted a comment on the Ward 4 site noting two armed robberies over the past two weeks, on Clinton and Liberty streets -- involving delivery services. "That merits at least broad and continuous public notice and warning to all services: do not respond to calls for delivery of any kind to that area, at least not after dark," he wrote. "Citizens deserve to be warned if they cannot at least be protected. That really is a shame for the many good people living in midtown. It seems that there could be at least one or two well lit and camera monitored sites in Midtown where a person might be reasonably safe."
Jeanne said she lives on "Liberty St and the past year has been great. Not to many problems. I can see when the spring hits the house next store to me will be some problems. These people just moved in and there are alot of people in and out. The music has not yet hit high but its going there.
I moved in 5 years ago and it took that time to get it cleaned up, now [its] heading back to where it was."
Certain areas of midtown have been problematic for residents, and the city is aware of the quality of life issues that affect the area, particularly safety related. But awareness is one thing and action is another. Perhaps an investment can be made to install cameras and lighting.
What do you think?

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Wisdom From Red Hook

As reported today in the Freeman, a task force was formed in Red Hook to update the town's comprehensive plan, and recommendations to zoning law changes are now in place.

You can read the task force's report here.

For Kingston, there's an important lesson to be learned. The Red Hook task force was a collaborative effort that keyed in on a collective vision for the town.

This is what Kingston needs to do. Whether the topic is the Pike Plan, waterfront development or citywide economic development, the city should be working toward collaboration between residents, property owners, businesses, planners and other groups as well as elected officials.

In the meantime, the blog here at KingstonCitizens.org can serve as a forum for ideas, insights and discussions.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Future of the Pike Plan

Last fall, U.S. Rep Maurice Hinchey announced funding for an upgrade of the Pike Plan, the overhead canopies located along several streets in the uptown section of the city.

Recently, city officials have said there's a petition going around calling for Kingston to abandon the project. Several businesses would like to see the structure, which is rotting in places, be torn down.

What do you think?

Shiver Me Timbers, Arggghhh Mate!

Recent moves by the city and local developers to kick start the waterfront walkway project along the Rondout is timely.

As consumers pass on taking long, expensive vacations in faraway lands, local places of interest are attractive. Therefore, the waterfront in Kingston is an asset that should be carefully managed and thoughtfully marketed.

In Rhode Island, The New York Times reports that city and state officials are leveraging the area's maritime history to attract tourists and business. Tall Ships Rhode Island has joined the effort by launching a project that includes building a full-size replica of an 1812 ship.

For Kingston, what assets on the waterfront can be leveraged in a similar way? The Maritime Museum and Trolley Museum come to mind. And these sites can surely step-up marketing efforts to draw people in. But what else can be done?

Perhaps the city can launch a marketing campaign that spotlights the Rondout as an historical destination. To make it fun, maybe there's a one-day event that features maritime-themed music, arts and crafts. Perhaps there could be a pirate parade for kids, and a folk rock concert in the evening.

What are your thoughts?

Brooklyn in the Catskills?

Mark Greene, Kingston's own Emmy winner and founder of Pecos Design, just submitted a proposal to the mayor that essentially rebrands the city as a tech hub, a sort of "Brooklyn of the Catskills" where hip, smart and small-biz savvy folks can relocate and thrive in an urban setting -- yet be strikingly close to assets such as the Catskills, the Gunks and the Hudson.

"The city has a brand, but it is dormant," Green said. "It needs to be brought back to life, and this is one way to do it."

To see his entire proposal, read on...

Marketing Kingston, New York:
Creating A New Digital Tech-Friendly Brand

PART ONE: The Challenge for Kingston

Kingston's Existing Marketing Brand: Kingston has typically been branded as an arts city with historic tourist attractions. This existing brand offers no point of difference from any other town in the Hudson Valley (or the Northeastern United States) and provides no clear incentives for potential incoming businesses or residents to choose Kingston. Furthermore, this brand is inert and vague.

Summary of Current Economic Development Challenges: Kingston is pursuing a traditional economic development strategy. With limited success, Kingston is attempting to attract small to medium manufacturing. Kingston is also also trying to attract national retail chains to shore up the city's depleted retail tax base. To this end, the city of Kingston has undertaken an effort to shift the tax burden from businesses to home owners assuming that it is the retail tax burden that is causing small start up retail to often fail.

But this is not the key issue for the lack of healthy retail in Kingston.

Although high taxes do not help struggling Kingston retail businesses, the primary issue is that a large percentage of the residents of Kingston are low/fixed income and do not have the disposable income necessary to drive local retail. When they do spend money, they buy almost exclusively based on lowest price, which means they shop at big box discount retailers like WalMart. This makes creating robust retail activity in Kingston a challenging prospect.

Part Two: The Opportunity for Kingston

The solution: Recruit a new class of resident with a higher income level and a community minded interest in supporting local businesses.

Proposal:
Kingston should make a concerted effort to attract New York City and New York State wide web/digital entrepreneurs to relocate and set up shop in Kingston by branding itself as the upstate digital tech-friendly city.

Web entrepreneurs will find Kingston attractive due to the price point of real estate and the slightly more urban quality Kingston offers.

The benefits of attracting web/digital entrepreneurs to Kingston include the following:
* They have disposable income to fuel retail.
* Their income does not rely on the state or local tax base. (They are not teachers, city employees, or the product of a city or state funded jobs initiative.)
* Because they have a range of clients both nation wide and by business category , they function as "economic shock absorbers" for Kingston during times of regional or business category specific economic downturns.
* They purchase property, thereby taking real estate off of the rental roles and potentially eliminating "absentee landlords".
* They hire local businesses/contractors to renovate property, improving Kingston's economic outlook and housing stock
* They skew more progressive politically, thereby being mindful of shopping locally and supporting local retail businesses. (They tend to shop based on value not just on price.)
* They tend to be more active politically and in terms of their community.

Marketing Kingston to web entrepreneurs

Definition: Web/Digital Entrepreneurs
Web entrepreneurs are self employed or small business owners who offer the following services:
Web Design
Video Design, Editing and Post Production
Applications Programming
Web Marketing
Viral Marketing and PR
Graphic Design
Music Recording and Composition
Web Editorial Content
Web entrepreneurs are:
Self employed or work for companies with less than ten employees
Often work from home
Often pay for their own health insurance
Average between $40 - $100 thousand dollars a year in income
Have clients that are outside of Kingston and often outside of New York State
Are politically, socially and community wise, much more engaged

Part Three: Taking Action
"Define it and they will come."
Branding Kingston as a Digital Tech-Friendly City

What Kingston offers:
*Proximity to NYC
*Cheap real estate relative to surrounding cities/towns
*Abundant warehouse space
*A burgeoning tech class
*Mixed work/living spaces in uptown and downtown
*Existing and planned tech focused business/educational centers

Kingston's 721 Media Center and the planned Carnegie Library Digital Arts Center represent defining lynchpins of the new Kingston Digital tech-friendly branding Initiative.

By promoting these two entities and tying them to the web entrepreneur community here in Kingston, the city can re-brand itself in the eyes of surrounding communities and New York City.

How to Re-Brand Kingston on the cheap

1) Modify the city web site to include a Kingston Tech-Friendly component, inviting micro to mid size Web companies to visit Kingston and meet with real estate agents and local mortgage banks. Include links to WAREHOUSE SPACE LISTINGS and put up a Kingston AMAZING HISTORIC HOUSE OF THE MONTH link.

2) Create the Kingston Digital Business Association. Promote a monthly web entrepreneur party at a local pub or bar.

3) Have an annual Digital Tech Street Party every summer with technology displays, light shows and live music.  Call it the Kingston Digital Tech Street Party and promote it up and down the river.

4) Once a month, sponsor a bus to go to Brooklyn and bring a bus load of web/digital entrepreneurs up to tour Kingston and meet with real estate brokers. Then take them to the local brew pub and then return them to NYC.

5) Take another look at free wireless hot spots. At least some in uptown and downtown. Call them Kingston Tech Spots and make sure that all city locations who can share bandwidth are doing so. Each location can be posted on the city's web site and branded with a logo at the location. Also list all other hot spots. It's not a question of how many you create. This is a perception issue.

6) Reach out to local Chamber of Commerce to echo the new Kingston Digital tech-friendly branding and see if they can help organize additional events.

7) Create a Kingston Digital tech-friendly! logo and branding initiative. Begin putting the logo on all city business cards and buildings. Make it part of all city communiques.

8) Have the city's Business Development Office focus on branding issues of importance to web entrepreneurs. Sell this new brand as part of the traditional economic development efforts.

9) Create buzz around tech in Kingston by promoting citizen's who are running tech micro businesses here. Kingston has, EMMY and GRAMMY award winning micro business owners living and working here.  Promote them and others who work and live here.

10) Promote progressive assets in Kingston! Web entrepreneurs skew progressive. Promote what Kingston already has!
* Named number one arts city
* Natural Food Buying Club
* Nearby hiking and biking trails
* Waterfront access for Kayaking and Boating
* Kingston Land Trust
* Local music venues
* Uptown Bicycling Club
* Historic Real Estate
* Farmers Market in Uptown
* Fleicher's Natural Meats
* Trailways Bus to NYC
* AMTRAK station just across the river
* Solar Energy Consortium
* Hudson Valley Tech Incubator
* Mac User Group
* Mid Town YMCA
* Victory Garden Initiative
* Community Gardens
* Walk friendly mixed business/residential neighborhoods
* Top restaurants
*UPAC Bardavon partnership
*Etc.

Summary:
While all of Kingston's current economic development efforts are important and should continue, Kingston's public branding is currently inert and unclear. Kingston is not differentiating itself from other Hudson Valley towns and cities. By not having a clear defined point of difference, Kingston is wasting it's brand and missing opportunities to capitalize on things already happening here.

Why is this important? Kingston's economic challenges stem from it's significant percentage of poor and fixed income residents. In order to create and stabilize a viable RETAIL TAX BASE, Kingston needs to recruit a new more economically vibrant class of residents.

We recommend the city differentiate itself from dozens of "arts and historical" cities up and down the river by promoting itself as a "DIGITAL tech-friendly CITY" and promoting its clear points of difference: 721 Media Center, Planned Carnegie Library Tech Center, affordable real estate, ample warehouse space, tech assets, and its progressive quality of life assets to attract more web entrepreneurs. A successful effort to attract web/digital arts entrepreneurs will improve Kingston's economic base. Only then will there be enough disposable income to support the retail tax base for the city.

We recommend the city rebrand itself as Kingston, the Digital Tech-Friendly City because that is exactly what we are becoming!

This branding proposal was created by Pecos Design, Inc.
A Kingston based web and digital design micro business.

markg@pecosdesign.com  http://www.pecosdesign.com

Why Montessori Works

As the Kingston Daily Freeman reports today, the Montessori program at George Washington elementary school is having a positive impact on students.

The Freeman reports that "Nancy Griggs, a first-grade teacher, said she has not relied on consequences for misbehavior or 'bribery,' like giving out stickers for good performance. Griggs estimated that she submitted 15 disciplinary referrals last school year compared to none this year."

No surprises here. My wife and I have had our daughter Marina attending the Montessori pre-school at Winter Bear here in Kingston for the past two years. The teachers instruct students on practical life skills that build confidence, self esteem and self worth.

One of the mantra's of the program, which is why it works so well, is to "never do for a child what they can do for themselves." Also, as Griggs points out, there are no punishments or bribes. Students are treated as equal to adults, and are shown respect and love.

If you have school-aged children and are interested in learning more about the Montessori Method, check out this FAQ.

I also think there are other methods and programs available that help nurture young minds in positive ways. The Sudbury School is a democratic model that works in similar ways to Montessori. Another notable, alternative education method for children is the Waldorf School.

I think the nearest Waldorf School is in New Paltz. And there's a Sudbury school -- one of 40 in the U.S. -- just outside Kingston off of Route 28.

Regarding the direction of public schools toward more progressive methods is long overdue. And it is wonderful to see that there is Montessori program here in Kingston.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Micro-Managed Economic Development

The Kingston Times reports this week that some people are lamenting how cuts to the Empire Zone program will be bad for business, but I say trim the fat away.

The Empire Zone program is a bloated beast that needs to be deflated. It is often misused by elected officials, and does not result in the type of economic development that suits life in this century.

A better way to spend dollars and marketing energy is to engage in "micro-managed economic development." It's simple. Here are the steps:

1. Empty your mind of old habits and ways of doing things. Large scale development projects are a thing of the past.

2. Create an inventory of vacant lots, storefronts and commercial properties in your city or town.

3. Encourage redevelopment of these existing properties with a thoughtful, focused marketing campaign to specific business segments that residents would like to see in their neighborhood.

4. As an incentive, offer these small businesses six-month tax breaks for relocating. Award the tax break after two consecutive years of occupancy.

5. Celebrate the success of filling these vacant storefronts with thriving businesses that make voters happy while swelling the tax base, long term, by encouraging other municipalities to follow your example.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Now is the Time to Unite

When Martin Luther King, Jr. made a famous speech at a certain march on D.C. in 1963, he told those in attendance that, "It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment."

He was referring to the Civil Rights Movement, but this thought is relevent now, here in Kingston.

As president-elect Obama takes the helm of the country, local folks here in Kingston need to step up to the plate. We need to help one another at this critical time. We need to create unity.

On that last point, our most recent survey showed as of today that most people -- 46 percent -- in the city say "unity" is what Kingston needs the most.

The first step, of course, would be to work toward changing your own mindset. Look at Kingston not as a place with three distinct sections (uptown, downtown and midtown) and nine separate wards, but as one city with many different neighborhoods.

When people ask where you live, just say "Kingston" instead of midtown or uptown or where ever.

While you are thinking Kingston to be one, look at your own block the same way. Look at it not as a bunch of separate houses, but a single neighborhood where people have one amazing thing in common: they are all neighbors.

These are the seeds of community.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz