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.

Read more…

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. … Read more…

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.

Read more…

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…

Read more…

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