Strike the Pike?

This is an interesting development.

Sometime back, I learned of what  I believe to be a $1.3 million dollar amount  (in state/federal funding that has grown since) slated to be used to restore and upgrade the current Pike Plan located in Uptown, Kingston.  This sort of ‘canopy’ was popular in and around the 1970’s, when Main Streets were looking for ways to compete with the fairly new “mall mentality”.

Today, Kingston’s Pike Plan is seen by many as nothing more than an idea that didn’t stand the test of time and is now backfiring. Its canopy covers both sides of Wall Street’s sidewalks between John and North Front, and creates a dark and decayed feeling that many feel is hurting what business we have in the Uptown area.

Those in support of the development say that the Pike Plan is ‘historic’ and worth preserving.  The Uptown area where it is located is deemed historic, it is true. But there is nothing historic about the Pike Plan.  Furthermore, I have been told that the canopy is one of the last (if not the last) left in the Country.   That might seem like a good thing, except the reasons they were torn down to begin with was mainly due to their being a deterrent to foot traffic and to business in general.

I learned that the ever impressive KURA (the Kingston Uptown Resident Association) has serious reservations of this project moving forward.  The letter was written to the Mayor by Gerard T. Soldner, President of KURA.  His findings are significant.

I wish those who are so keen on this project might have had the same enthusiasm for saving what was truly historic – the old Trolley Barn on Broadway and W. Chester Street. Their lack of vision now provides residents with another drug store chain. The third within a one mile radius.

Are those at the helm  following the money, or are they doing what’s right by the uptown  residents, businesses and citizens of Kingston overall?

I’m not so certain. But what do I know?

Since this was posted, we made a few changes to it by adding a ‘visual’ of the letter written by KURA. We expect to also include the petition of businesses and building owners concerned with the current Pike Plan effort.

Some additional reading in no particular order. More to come:

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters – Ulster Publishing
Pike Plot, The Hudson Valley Chronic
KUBAs Pike Plan Meeting – Neighborhood Watch
RUPCO: More than a Roof Overhead

19 thoughts on “Strike the Pike?

  1. No. This post was inspired by the many costly and unknown risks with this project moving forward, and the unfortunate nature of the discussion being polarized and confusing due to poor leadership on the subject and a city filled with citizens who are rightfully frustrated.

    Feel free to share more here if you’d like.

  2. It would seem that making “improvements” on behalf of a business community that does not want the improvements, does not wish to pay for those improvements or its maintenance, and feels that the canopies actually hurt business.
    There must be positions for and against. Who speaks for the canopies?
    What’re the chances of redirecting those funds to more modern, urban purposes.
    What is the design of the “new” Pike plan?
    It seems the city is at loggerheads with the business on which it depends so very heavily on for tax revenue.
    Interesting: Rebecca is bringing what may have been too private a discussion to a public view. But these $ have been in hand and held off for several years now!
    On the face of it, the money for contingencies: what happens if they are that far off the mark.
    Recently, the city has benefitted from the charrette form of discussion: why not a design review charrette for the Pike plan? It is no light matter for a person in business to face what may be their destruction.
    Personally, I like the Pike plan. And it is dark. and it is not well maintained. And the planters and trees are a wreck. And it does look a bit like a Hollywood western town.
    Hmmm. Wonder what the “new” one is supposed to look like. In this age of internet and youtube and flickr, how come no pictures?

  3. Oh Rebecca, thank you for saying this. It’s rare that I go uptown and don’t rant to my husband “when will they just tear these damn things down??” It’s ghastly. Without even getting into the safety, deterring of shoppers..etc. etc. From a purely esthetic standpoint, how lovely would it be to have true storefronts with vintage-type awnings representing eras of true history of the area rather than a wild west movie set? I never understood the concept of how and why the Pike Plan happened to one of the most beautiful historic areas of the city, and worse, why it remains in its decayed state.

  4. I’ve always disliked the pseuod-historic Pike Plan and it’s true that you can’t see the stores underneath as you drive by. (Or even walk by during the Farmer’s Market where on a sunny day the overhang on the sides makes the stores underneath seem especially dark and remote.)

    One problem with removing it, however, would be that you would then notice that virtually every storefront is no longer historic (although the buildings generally are preserved above the storefront level) and many of the storefronts are, besides being generally compromised, are, in addition, just generally ugly. A new plan to remove the Pike Plan would probably require that the money be redirected toward restoring the storefronts, somewhat as Community Development money was once used (as I recall) to restore (to some extent) the storefronts on lower Broadway.

    But I haven’t seen the current plan, either, and I do imagine that the newer version of the Pike Plan as I’ve heard it described would admit more light and seem a bit less “Western.” I also suspect that it would be difficult to redirect the money that has been allocated to a new plan and so have decided to defer to Tom Hoffay’s better judgement and hope I like it.

  5. The money could not be reallocated but I would imagine that there are monies out there that could be used to restore the buildings as they once were if the PP were to come down instead. But that’s not the point. Whether I or anyone else thinks it’s a good idea or not, the important aspect is that it’s done correctly and all of the issues are ironed out. We are all too familiar with the lack of planning around these parts, and there isn’t any more wiggle room for the people to pay for mistakes that could have been prevented.

    I also feel that it is wise for one to see the plan before deferring it to anyone. I’m a little surprised by that.

    Regardless, residents and city officials need to look more closely into this project to be certain that the funding and the plan actually match – and as Gerry suggests make sure that future maintenance costs are factored into the equation so that the building owners are not caught off guard.

    This effort has literally split the two sides in half. All the while, taxes are what they are, empty storefronts look trashy with owners not being held to the fire to rent them out and the streets and sidewalks are a mess. That isn’t fair to those who have worked hard to invest in their properties and businesses that make Kingston a great place to live and do business – even in this terrible economy.

    It’s too bad that it’s got to be all or nothing.

  6. The Federal money that was initially designated for uptown streetscape refurbishing is what was manipulated. Pretty much against Hinchey’s will. Tearing down the canopy, replacing bluestone and curbs as well as moving “downroot” trees within the original sidewalk path were the original intent.
    The plan was bastardized and revamped to rebuild a failed economic stimulus. Like throwing good money after bad. My question would be, how difficult would it be to return the grant money plans back to their original intent?
    Not fighting this funding diversion when it happened is one regret I have while on the Council. For that, I am sorry.

  7. I have always thought that the Pike Plan canopy was very “western” looking from the moment I moved to Kingston in the early 1980″s. The only advantage I saw for that canopy was to protect shoppers from the elements. Unfortunately the canopies were not well designed and maintenance was very spotty. My wish would be to use that money to restore the building facades to the original architecture and use the canopies like they did in that era. Rolling up the canopies at night was a store closing ritual I remember as a child in my grandparents smalltown. The canopies were all of the same color and they were only rolled out on hot days and rainy days. It would certainly lend its charm on the uptown businesses. But I am afraid that once that money was allocated to the Pike Plan it might be hard to reverse the decision. Or they may take it back altogether. I also seem to remember that every delay in this process would cause less funds for that actual project due to deadlines??

  8. I agree wholeheartedly agree the pike plan should be torn down.

    1) Can’t see what the stores are, can’t read the signs. Bad for marketing
    2) Unsafe, dark at night, detracts from a potential 24-hour type living environment.
    3) Agreed many of the buildings lower portions are no longer historic.

    This can be remedied via: Application for main street grants – which focus on facade work.
    Anytime a new proposal comes in for site plan review there are historic district regs and design regulations – you require the upgrade as a condition of approval. With money from a main street grant available, it would not be as great a hardship.

    Here are the city codes I am talking about

    Historic districts:

    Landmark design

  9. This is a very one-sided perspective.

    The reality is that there are building owners who like the pike-plan, and the effort to refurbish the pike plan was started five years ago. There were many public forums to discuss and see what people wanted to do. At that time, it was decided to restore the pike plan.

    Now, the proponents are somewhat worn out. But they are still out there. One problem is that if the project doesn’t move forward (as thoroughly planned and debated publicly for years), it will stagnate grants for years – including grants to remove the pike plan and restore the storefronts. It will show that Kingston cannot come together around a project – and that it is fickle and not able to administer grant money.

    If people want the pike plan torn down, then they need to organize and raise money to do so. No one has ever done so. KUBA was highly involved in creating a public forum for the pike plan, and while debate occured, there was always an overwhleming agreement to move forward. There is a city commission in charge of the money – and they have solicited and received extensive feedback. Dominic Vannacore – an opponent of the pike plan, was on that commission, and had many chances to help change the plan. He utilmately failed to do so, because many building owners DO want the pike plan. The commission chose to move forward, and they did so democraticly and openly. Those meetings are not secret.

    The existing money can’t be used to remove the pike plan. Raising the kind of money needed to restore the storefronts will cost many millions (as the storefronts are hidden by the Pike plan and are in poor shape.

    Let’s use the money to restore the pike plan now, and then debate properly the future of the Pike plan. If there really are enough people to support the removal – then new grant money can be achieved. Don’t think that will happen quickly – it can take years to go through the channels for these grants – especially when there is not consensus – which if this forum is any evidence, there is clearly not consensus.

    I think Tom Hoffay has provided excellent leadership in trying to first ascertain the majority opinion, and then later putting his weight and leadership behind the pike plan. I stand with him, as do, I beleive, the majority of businesses in Uptown.

  10. Thanks.

    Five years in the making, and still major concerns in the planning of the project – and yet, it’s moving forward.

    Embedded in the post here is KURA’s letter to the Mayor. There haven’t been any comments made I noticed on it – so I’m thinking it might be better to scan and post instead of a link. I’ll do that today.

    I am going to look into getting a copy of a petition that went around as well – where it looks as though the majority of building/business owners effected by the Pike Plan were opposed to it. Our question really, is why was there a need to petition? What about the $100,000 bonded amount and additional taxes that those in opposition (the majority) would be responsible to pay against their will?

    The comment made by “Madness” states that the original intent of the project was to restore the buildings and sidewalks. That’s news to us.

  11. Thank you for posting the KUBA letter, Rebecca – since I was not able to access it from your link.

    The “petition” you refer to was not for or against the pike plan renovations, it was for the pike plan commission being taken over by an uptown business improvement district – and away from the city government. I support that concept fully – and I don’t know anyone who opposes that. That is clearly needed – as prior to 5 years ago the commission was mainly run by a few individuals who allowed to the canopy to deteriorate in order to keep the costs to the building owners to near zero. But in order to do that, the building owners must organize themselves. KUBA was working on this through the creation of the Main Street Manager program and the Busienss Alliance of Kingston. Pike Plan building owners could still organize themselves, but so far, they have not done so.

    Mr. Vannacore severly discredited himself by claiming that the petition indicated anything about removing the canopy. I encourage you to read that petition carefully, Rebecca.

    The letter from KURA and your post only indicate a lack of knowledge about the process that has been going on for years. Talk to the officials of KUBA who have been around, Mr. Quilty, Mr. Jacobi, being perhaps the best two.

    I completely agree that the potential costs for fixing the buildings will be substantial – and COULD be more than the current money available. But those SAME costs will exist if the canopy is removed. So lets move forward with the current plan and continue discussing the future. Let’s start applying for other funding to fix the streets which could also be used if severe damage that is as yet unseen prevents the completion of the whole project. I’m not against the canopy being removed – but I think ALL building owners should be consulted – not just a few vocal opponents. Ultimately the costs will either be borne by the building owners or grants. If we can’t implement this grant, then the likelihood of future grants is significantly decreased.

  12. I am pleased with this dialogue, and think it does help to have it so that perhaps communications can improve. I will continue to post information that I come across in the additional reading section, which will also include Norman Mintz’s report and SHPO’s advice back in the 80’s.

    Is there a place where early meeting minutes can be obtained to show early KUBA and the Pike Plan communications? That would be good to see.

    Whatever the outcome, it would be helpful in the future for projects this massive and important to be handled better in it’s organization for a more constructive community outcome. It has become hostile on both sides – and quite divisive in nature which is never any good. It doesn’t need to end this way.

    I suggest the city extend a hand and make an effort to mend some of these negative relations to help while (or if) the PP gets underway. How about free parking for Thanksgiving and the Christmas week to encourage shopping in Uptown, some street sweeping and even something measured on the graffiti removal front that sometimes shows up on Wall between John and North Front? Promote it well. A little care could go a long way

  13. Let’s face a fact here. Years of deferred maintenance and neglect caused the deterioration of the Pike Plan. As the local retail economy shrank, property owners converted retail spaces to offices, etc., the Pike Commission failed to raise an adequate tax levy from the property owners for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the canopy. Obviously businesses hate to pay taxes. So, that’s why RUPCO, Congressman Hinchey and other civic leaders had to step in and raise significant public dollars and grant monies to rescue the structure. I would also note that preserving the Pike Plan is no more or less costly than the alternative.

    If you personally like it or not, we all need to remember that the Pike Plan is a community asset. When the structure was built, a limited business improvement district (BID) was also established. It was and is supposed to be supported and maintained by the tax revenues collected by the properties attached to it. Today, we see the consequences of inadequate tax revenues. Now some property owners want to shift their future tax burden for the asset that improves the value of their building to the general tax levy. Given their history, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us.

    Here is some good news: The project to restore the Pike Plan will be in construction before the end of the year.

  14. The Pike Plan money can be ALSO used for:crosswalks, bumpouts,sidewalks,intersections to name a few of the things that the grant application mentions, even though it is kept a closely guarded secret. It does not have to be used for the canopy although the canopy is mentioned in the grant as well. The money CANNOT be reallocated for anything that is not mentioned in the application. There is also a traffic flow study that the common council accepted and our county paid $100,000 for. This study mirrors some of the acceptable proviions in the grant. So shame on our public officials for clouding the discussion when the majority of building owners in uptown want to STRIKE THE PIKE!!!!!

  15. First of all, Guy Kempe, that overhang does nothing for the value of our property.When Uptown sinks slowly into the horizon, the canopy will do nothing to salvage the buildings or their values so let’s forget about it being an asset……to that I ask “To Whom?”.
    Let’s talk about SHPO’S letter. They take no stand one way or another although their representative has said if they were in existence in 1974 when the Pike Plan was built, they would have never allowed it, and if it is taken down they would not allow it to be rebuilt. IT IS NOT HISTORICAL.
    Once the canopy is renovated (God forbid), it cannot be removed unless we pay back the financial funding from the government that we received. In the 1970’s it cost $3,000,000 to erect it, what makes anyone who knows anything about the cost of building materials and labor, in their wildest dreams, think it can be completly renovated for $1.4 million?
    Normon Mintz’s reaction to the Pike Plan was “after we remove the overhang, we will”. But he was told that wasn’t an option so it’s not in his report, since he proceeded from that point.
    The KUBA board of directors voted in favor of the project. The only two board members with properties under the canopy voted against it. Although I have great respect for Mr. Jacobi and Mr. Quilty, neither have a building under the canopy. In fact, Mr. Jacobi’s building is one of the only visible storefronts when you look down Wall St.
    Now, Mr. Gereshe, Mr. Vanacore never claimed that the petition was about getting rid of the canopy. Before you quote people you should verify your information.
    . The reality….. there are 46 properties under the canopy…… 10 of those properties are owned by 4 people all of whom want the canopy down. Now, that leaves 36 properties, 23 of those property owners, a majority, ( which in a democracy should mean something) want it down. I am so tired of hearing the phrase “some of the property owners” . That is not the reality.
    Talk to the business owners who don’t own buildings who, also, want it down.
    Yes, taking it down could bring other problems into view but again I say “VISIBILITY” is the key to revitilization and we don’t have it.
    Bring all the information to the table, let the newspapers carry it……show all the options (pro and con)….then use the funding for what the majority of stakeholders are willing to support.

  16. For the record, I have begun a “part 2” of this post that will provide important documents for citizens to have all in one place. I have been put in touch with Norman Mintz, so shortly you will no doubt learn his current position.

    I’ve confirmed that there isn’t a Pike Plan Commission page on the City of Kingston website which in my estimation, is a huge oversight. That means that there isn’t a place for ongoing communications with the public in a clear and transparent manner. The names of the commission (appointed or otherwise), a project description based on the original grant, minutes to meetings, press. Nothing at all.

    Although some might feel it’s too late to have this discussion, whatever the outcome on the Pike Plan project – I think it’s imperative that citizens push for the city of Kingston to do better in the way of using the city site for communication. Kingston citizens need to take on this responsibility in number. I am confident that City Hall will hear you. I think it’s a reasonable request where both sides can be successful. It will also help for future efforts in the way of building trust, which this particular project has failed to do.

  17. I cannot speak to anyone’s motivations on their stance as to whether or not the canopies should remain. And it might indeed be that the money is not being well-spent or budgeted. But I think those issues are separate and apart from the actual aesthetic and comfort value of the canopies themselves.

    As a non-uptown-business-owner – personally, I think the canopies add a tremendous amount of flavor to uptown. While Christmas shopping, I took a few minutes to walk around uptown and visualize what it would look like without them. and to me, and several others who I asked, taking the canopies down would remove something French-quartery from Uptown.

    I also never have a problem finding or seeing a business up there. There is more than ample signage for the businesses there – both from the sidewalk and the street.

    Again – I’m not one of the owners in question – but as someone who frequents those businesses – I like being able to stroll the sidewalk without being rained or snowed on, and don’t feel it’s dark at all.

    On a separate, but to me completely relevant side point…I can’t help but wonder how much of this frustration could be linked to the lack of business in uptown. I’d be shopping up there regardless, but it seems to me that it’s far more important working to get folks frequenting those businesses, as opposed to a fight over what’s hanging above their front windows. But that’s just me.

    Thanks for listening.

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