River Treasure

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If you’ve not been down to the Hudson recently, make the trip. The ice that has covered most of the river north of the Rhinecliff bridge on our side is breaking up in large chunks. It’s magnificant.

The photo above was taken yesterday afternoon, and includes two brave — and cold — souls walking along the ice at Ulster Landing Park. This is a great reminder to me how valuable the Hudson River is as a natural resource.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

El CID

After this past weekend’s visioning session for Ward 9’s business corridor, I thought about what is going on uptown with the creation of a BID (business improvement district). The effort there is to create stakeholders in the business community who can leverage their collect efforts to create change and improve business.

For us, the end-goals seem to be similar. As residents, though, we hope that our quality of life also improves.

Perhaps what we need is a partnership between businesses, government and residents. We could create a CID (community improvement district) in the Ward, which would focus on key issues impacting our quality of life, business and infrastructure.

Here’s a link to a CID in Georgia, which has a governing board and is tasked with specific and ongoing goals. It’s important to note that this CID works like a BID in the sense that the group taxes itself to pay for improvements. The board is made up of businesses who understand that the added tax is an investment in the success of their businesses.

For us, we can probably do much without added taxes. Collaboration alone can do a lot. Perhaps it would mean volunteers from the high school and community working together with local businesses.

In addition, the CID cited above won grants for some of its work. Perhaps we can pursue funding too.

Either way, it’s worth a look and worth considering for our little corner of Kingston.

– Arthur Zaczkiewicz

A Vision for Ward 9, and for Kingston

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About 20 people gathered this past Saturday at the Kingston Food & Gardens storefront at 33 Broadway for the “Ward 9 is Yours’ and Mine” visioning session, which focused on the commercial business area on Broadway between Foxhall Avenue and West/East Chester streets.

At the session, residents shared ideas for the vacant storefronts along the corridor, and identified hurdles to the overall success of the area from a business perspective. For example, residents said the area — as well as much of Kingston — is in dire need of a sense of pride. Residents recommended a “clean sweep” day where people and businesses take to the streets with brooms and bags to clean up the litter.

For the Ward 9 Broadway business corridor, residents shared their ideas for the types of stores they’d like to see. Ideas included:

— An ice cream parlor
— A custom bike shop
— A community center
— A stationary store
— A vegetarian cafe
— A luncheonette

Residents also discussed the need for several of the medical buildings to open up their Broadway-facing doors, which would encourage foot traffic and help businesses in the area thrive. Right now, there are two buildings — the Broadway Medical Center and the Kingston Hospital Pain Center — that have their Broadway entrances closed. Users of these facilities park in the rear of the buildings.

In addition, residents discussed ways to drawn-in businesses that will enhance the quality of life in Ward 9. Also, the idea of encouraging mixed used development in the corridor was discussed.

The overall tone of the meeting was positive. While the discussion was going on, two artists — Laura and Jasmine — created a mural (a portion of it is picture above) of the business area as it could look in the future.

Rebecca Martin, an organizer of the event and founder of KingstonCitizens.org is creating a “next steps” agenda, which could include another visioning session. Martin said the process could evolve into a comprehensive plan for Ward 9, and perhaps encourage the city to launch a city-wide plan.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Q&A with Mark Greene

Mark Greene, Emmy-award winning animator, graphic designer and filmmaker, took some time to chat with KingstonCitizens.org on Kingston’s prospects as a tech-friendly city.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Arthur: In your opinion, what makes Kingston attractive to digital tech entrepreneurs?

Mark: BROOKLYN ON THE HUDSON

Clearly, digital creative entrepreneurs skew more urban. Kingston offers a much more urban aesthetic than some of the smaller towns around us. That’s why we call it Brooklyn on the Hudson. (Okay you coined that phrase, but I use it a lot.) But compared the New York City, Kingston also offers very very cheap office and living space. Kingston has mixed use buildings and a wide range of housing/home office options.

Read more

How About a “Plan C”?

The Daily Freeman reports today that the Kingston City Schools was presented with two renovation plans for the high school by KSQ Architects and Triton Construction.

“Plan A” would cost $151 million, and result in a major overhaul that creates a closed campus.

“Plan B” has a price tag of $101 million and would basicially reconfigure the site to include installation of a track and field.

Either option is pricey,  and I suspect given current economic conditions that residents would prefer a “Plan C.”

Triton Construction is a hugh construction firm based in Garden City, Long Island, and specializes in muncipal buildings such as schools, hospitals, libraries and the like. They are big, and think big.

Perhaps there’s another firm out there — a local one — that can offer some lighter fare. A smaller, less costly renovation that uses the existing space in a better way. I bet there are companies out there that can do it. And perhaps even make the site more green.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Chilly Goat Hill

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I know the weather was balmy today, but this snow-filled picture reminded me that we still have a few weeks of winter left.

From Ward 9’s Kate Lawson:

35 DuFlon St – a.k.a. Billy Goat Hill.  It’s the only one house street I know of in town.  Thankfully the snow is hiding the rotting front porch!  It’s where I hang my hat at the end of a day.  It’s a great family well of days gone by and memories not to be forgotten.  It’s a murky vision of hope.  It’s why I am slowly becoming a better, active citizen.

Feeding the Community

Our friends Kevin and Barbara are just back from a trip to New Orleans, and shared this site with us that was of note.

The Hollygrove Growers Market & Farm is a ” storefront retail center in Hollygrove offering locally-grown, affordable fresh produce as well as ‘green jobs’ certification programs in urban agriculture” — a program born out of the need to redevelop New Orleans, post-Katrina.

What’s interesting is that this is the sort of project that can work in an urban setting such as Kingston. The bottom line is about getting healthy food to people.

For our part, Rebecca Martin’s work with Victory Gardens and Jennifer McKinley’s work at the Kingston Food & Gardens buying club have the same aim. It’s nice to see that Kingston is trend right on important issues.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

The Mayor’s State of the City

We’ll try this again…

Here’s Jim Sottile’s state of the city address:
State of the City
of Kingston 2009

Before I review the state of the city of Kingston this year, I first want to reflect on the gratitude I feel for the people of this community. No matter what challenges we have faced or what the future brings, we have always drawn strength from each other. In this small, tight-knit community, that means everything. Our rich history is woven together by its people. From Sojourner Truth to George Clinton to the modern day heroes of Kingston, who care for the children, drive the busses and pick up the garbage, we can be grateful. … Read more

Tugs Dance on the Rondout

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Ward 9 resident Kate Lawson snapped some great photos of the tugs and barges on the Rondout this weekend. The boats did a little dance to break up the ice.

“Feeney’s were parallel parking a new barge that came in earlier this week,” Kate said. “Have you ever tried parallel parking a barge? It took a good 20 men, 2 tugs, a crane and over 5 hrs of jockeying to do!”

Kate said two tugs “did doughnuts in the creek to chop up the ice. Then came the tedious process of line throwing, lining up and a little more ice chopping.”

Fun stuff.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

A Cooper on Brewster

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Early Saturday morning I noticed a large hawk that swooped down from my neighbor’s house on Brewster Street and grabbed a small bird that was preoccupied at a bird feeder.

In a burst of small feathers, the attack was quickly over and the larger hawk then perched itself on a tree branch to enjoy the meal. I snapped a few photos, including the one above, and looked up the bird. Based on the lateral, thick bands on its tail, I take this bird of prey to be a Cooper’s Hawk.

If you can help me confirm this, that would be appreciated. And if you have any similar bird or wildlife stories, I’d love to hear it.  That’s one of the things that makes Kingston a great place to live: we’re in a city, but also blessed with some wonderful wildlife.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Real Estate Agency Offers Assessment Service

As homeowners struggle with mortgage payments and rising taxes, Vetere Real Estate said it will help residents look at the market value of their property and will walk taxpayers through the necessary steps to help reduce current real estate assessments.

“We cover all angles as to re-grouping, lot line erasures, correct square footage, averaging square foot values, acquiring up-to-date comps and taking you through the proper steps to getting fair assessment values,” the agency said in a statement. “Let us provide you with information dealing with Town and City Assessors. Fees vary through representations that are required. We want you to save on your next tax bill.”

Vetere said it covers all of Ulster County and that the deadline in Kingston is March 1 for the 2010 tax year. For more information call 845 338-0571 or e-mail: kvetere@vetererealestate.com. Ask for Karen Vetere or Regina Melnick.

If there are other businesses out there who can help residents have a more fair assessment, please let us at the KingstonCitizens.org blog know.

NYSERDA Launches New Energy Saving Program

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) said today that it was rolling out a new campaign, “Power Management,” to help consumers save energy as well as money.

The program encourages consumers to use power management technology such as programmable thermostats, “advanced” power strips and other devices to better manage home electronics and appliances that can use energy even when off.

“Using power management products is one of the easiest steps to saving energy at home,” said New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President and CEO Francis J. Murray Jr. in a statement this morning. “These devices, coupled with simple energy-saving actions, will help New Yorkers further reduce their power consumption while increasing their energy savings.”

For more details, see NYSERDA’s website here.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz