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.
-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz
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.