Monthly Archives: February 2009

Today’s Image: A Kingston Cave

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Kate Lawson’s photo this week reveals another Kingston treasure:

While walking around Wilbur in search of a potential site for a small piece of the Kingston Victory Garden Project, I got to thinking about the cave that is just around the first curve of Rodney St.  It’s been about 100 years since I last saw it.  A make-shift fence now blocks the mouth of the cave so I couldn’t go in and wander around. 

Instead, I stuck my camera through the mesh fencing and took a couple of shots.  It reminds me of what a unique place Kingston is.  We have beauty from majestic waterways, rolling hills and mountains, and even a subterranean land few of us know anything about.

– Kate Lawson

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An Ancient Order

The Freeman’s story today about Mayor Jim Sottile’s “credit” on the costs of police overtime for organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade will certainly stir some critics as the $1,000 break comes after the Rondout Business Association pulled its parade due to costs.

In the Freeman story, alderman Robert Senor said the move by the mayor was a “slap in the face” to the Rondout businesses.

Debacle aside, what was interesting to learn was that Sottile, Senor and council president James Noble are all members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which are the organizers of the St. Patrick’s parade.

This is a reminder that Kingston is a tightly knit community, with deep immigrant roots. Organizations such as the AoH not only organize parades, but work as a community group on a variety of projects.

The Ulster County chapter’s website has a detailed history page on the organization that says the national AoH is the oldest Catholic lay organization in the country. Read about it here.

The national AoH website has even more information, including an archive and can be seen here.

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High-Speed, Wait, Slow Down

Did you hear that Amtrak was looking for several billion dollars of the stimulus package to use for its rail upgrades, specifically high-speed rail development?

The idea is to pour money into several projects across the country, which would make high-speed travel possible in routes such as the New York City to Albany corridor. The Federal Railroad Administration website has details of the Empire Corridor, which would allow people to travel between Albany and New York City in two hours.

This would have a profound impact on commuters, home prices and refined gas sales for autos. The prospects are intriguing for someone like me who used to spend five hours a day commuting from Kingston to NYC. If there was a high-speed train that stopped in Poughkeepsie, presumably the halfway point to Albany, the trip would take an hour. Sign me up!

This sort of commute would put us on par with many of the high-speed rail lines in Europe. Then again, the U.S. Feds have been talking about developing high-speed rails since 1965 when the first bits of passenger rail legislation were introduced.

Currently, the outlook without the stimulus money is grim. Amtrak has a plan in place for high-speed travel. But according to the FRA, Amtrak’s commitment to the corridor upgrade plan that’s been sitting idle “is contingent on adequate federal funding of Amtrak’s capital program – which is not being provided – and accordingly all activities to implement the plan are presently deferred.”

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

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Solution for a Rained-Out Parade

The Freeman reports today that the Mardi Gras parade is cancelled because the Rondout Business Association doesn’t have the funds to pay for insurance and police overtime. The other planned events remain a go.

In the case of the parade, which includes four floats and kids in costume, why not still have it, but create a modified version of it? The parade can line up at lower Broadway right near the Downtown Cafe and proceed West along that service road. One end of the parking lot can be closed off and there could be another barricade on the starting corner.

A few barricades. That’s it. It could function just like the block parties held in Kingston where a street is closed off with barricades. There’s no police presence, and no insurance for block parties, right? And the city regulary closes off streets. For this function, the parade can proceed slowly down a narrow street that opens into a parking lot. Just a throught…

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

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The Need for Newspapers

In the local media circles, we’re running out of shoes.

After several weeklies in the Hudson Valley closed or merged, another shoe dropped as the Daily Freeman reports that the Ulster County Press has shuttered its doors. Anyone concerned about the importance of living in a free, democratic society should be alarmed. Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Continue reading

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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

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