Kingston Alderman Questions Demolition of Potential Historic Properties in Kingston.


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By Rebecca Martin

Today, Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will issued a communication to the Common Council regarding his concern of the potential demolition of what are  potentially significant historic properties in Kingston. The public is invited to attend the next Common Council meeting on Tuesday, May 5th to voice in on the following information. To view’s Facebook invite on the upcoming meeting, please visit our FACEBOOK page.


Having reached out to residents who are experts in the field of historic preservation, please note the following:

Attached find two reports prepared by an ACRA-Accredited archaeologist for the NYS DOT in 2002, and two current real estate market estimates.  There is some discrepancy of physical address between tax roll, Ulster GIS, and the reports, but none regarding the historical significance of both properties – constructed ca. 1810-1830.  Note on page two of each report that the subject property “meets eligibility criteria” for inclusion on both State and National Historic Registers, and that each “embodies the distinct characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction; or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.”

These two structures should be saved – along with others that we will be asked to appropriate funds for destruction.  They are two hundred year old structuresthat speak to Kingston’s history – they should and can be preserved.  Properties should be re-marketed to eligible buyers (individuals or organizations) for reasonable asking prices that facilitate and encourage their preservation.  Clear and attractive identifying signage should be placed at the properties that state they are City-owned and for sale.  Absent these steps, Kingston risks losing much credibility of the marketing message stating that “Historic Is Just Our Beginning.”

Equally important will be the City developing comprehensive and public-accessible criteria to evaluate not only the structural integrity – but also the historic value and status – of any property that is being considered for demolition.  This means the City has to do its homework with SHPO, DOT, the County, Heritage Area Commission, Friends of Historic Kingston, and any other entity that may offer valuable information regarding a given property’s status.


Brad Will
Alderman, City of Kingston


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“The City of Kingston is nestled in the heart of Ulster County, New York. It is 91 miles north of New York City and 59 miles south of Albany. Kingston was New York’s first capital in 1777, and was burned by the British on October 16, 1777, after the Battles of Saratoga. In the 19th century, the city became an important transport hub after the discovery of natural cement in the region, and had both railroad and canal connections. Passenger rail service has since ceased, and many of the older buildings are part of three historic districts, such as the Uptown Stockade District, the Midtown Neighborhood Broadway Corridor, and the Downtown Rondout-West Strand Historic District.”

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Historic is Just Our Beginning – But We’re Not Just Getting Started

“Here in Kingston we say, “Historic is just our beginning,” but when it comes to historic preservation, we aren’t just getting started. We know that when people are looking to move to a city like Kingston, back to a place where population has declined over the years as factories closed or the shift took place toward the suburbs, they look for historic areas first.

“We have historic districts in Uptown where the original Stockade was established — along West Chestnut Street with grand views of the Rondout and the Hudson — and in the Rondout near the waterfront. But now we are taking steps and taking stock in our historic assets so we can plan for the future and expose our past.” – Gregg Swanzey, Director of Economic Development & Strategic Partnerships, City of Kingston

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On Municipal Policy.


By Rebecca Martin

Lately, and historically in fact, Kingston Government has had a conflict with department behavior and the public’s expectation. Without clear policy in place, we rely on common sense behavior – and that can be quite subjective when things go astray.

About 6 years ago in the City of Kingston, a city employee filed a sexual harassment suit against the supervisor and a few other employees at the DPW.  Their behavior that was widely publicized was despicable. To add insult to injury, the public learned that the COK didn’t have a Sexual Harassment policy in place, creating more concern. The cost of which felt by city taxpayers. Could the whole thing have been avoided?

Today, we are reading about city workers using their social media accounts in inappropriate ways in the headlines where policy is in place but clearly not adhered to. Conflicts of Interests are more common than not even though Ethics and all that it embodies are written into code.

With only a little bit of research, when we enter in ‘small city municipal policies’ what comes up is the different forms of government that include City Manager. No surprise.  1/3rd of small cities like ours have changed to incorporate it.

But given Kingston’s affinity to ‘strong mayor’ form of government (which is really new. Only 20+ years old) and which can and that we feel should be challenged and potentially changed (to city manager form of government), what we are searching for is what a municipality of our size and given our form of government generally does in the way of policy.

On first glance, Section 3: Village Operations: “Chapter 13: The importance of written policies and procedures” they state that “If your municipality is small or if it operates under a relatively close-knit management (which ours does), policies may be ‘understood’…..relying on ‘understood’ policies, however, may lead to misunderstandings.”

To us, city policies matter.  Could the city of Kingston create a policy manual? According to our initial reading here, and elsewhere a policy manual would be most helpful, as a ‘well written, up-to-date policy manual guides managers and supervisors in making decisions, training and handling employment issues that relate to safety and health. A policy manual also offers other less obvious benefits such as: 1) A basic communication tool; 2) An excellent training resource. 3) A written documentation. 4) Saves time and manages complex operations. 5) Gives employees a right to know’

City Government’s role is infrastructure which is broad. It includes water and sewer pipes, roadways, signage, communication, contracts and all else that makes those living and doing business in Kingston easy.  And that’s really it. I see Kingston government treading on the historic, the arts and other places one might say they haven’t any business and takes away from what it is meant to do.

There is no lack of important details that need attention in Kingston’s City Government. It may be a big effort initially, but it will make things run smoothly and more efficiently in the long run.

Kingston Water Board Meeting 4/9/15

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Kingston Water Board Meeting 4/8/15

Cooper Lake Damn Project (1:35 – 55:28)
Alternatives to raise the dam.

00:00 – 15:20 Cooper Lake Dam Project
Alternatives to raise the Dam.

16:00 – 30:53
Phase 1B Filter Renovation Project

31:15 – 35:59
SMLP (Storm Mitigation Loan Program)

36:33 -41:43
Alderman Brad Will, Council Liaison

41:53 – 43:46
CSX Main Relining Project

43:51 – 51:05
Purchase of Printer

51:11 – 55:50
Leak Detection

55:46 -1:04 
Alrighty. Correspondance.

“Would the Water Board consider changing the time of the monthly meetings.” – Brad Will

“We’ll think about it.” Water Board Commissioner Chair

“Down in DC, you put together a report. Did you come away with any sense to remove the tax exemption. How likely is it going to happen?” – Brad Will

“I don’t think it’s going to happen…it was interesting experience to see just how dysfunctional that place really is. ” – Judy Hansen

Majority and Minority Leader ‘State of the City’ Addresses 4/7/15

Great speeches last night.  We appreciate the hard work of our common council.

Now you can watch at your leisure.   Thanks to Kingston News for making this possible and available.

Majority Leader Matt Dunn (Democrat)
“We will give the City of Kingston a voice for the potential sale of our water outside of the City limits.”   (20:30 – 21:42)


Minority Leader Deb Brown (Republican)
“(Washington Avenue Sinkhole) We are doing our due diligence and making sure all aspects of this major undertaking is done in the proper sequence. This is not a problem that happened overnight…to coordinate this project with the consultants, funding, grants, government entities, the bidding process, construction companies, easements, regulations, mother nature and unexpected failures is a major undertaking. We all want it to be done right the first time, not having to be looking over our shoulder going into the next decade. We are an old city with old infrastructures.”  (1:00 – 3:40)

Niagara Bottling Proposal Timeline: 116 Events.

As a final follow-up of the work, we are pleased to share a timeline of the recent Niagara Bottling Proposal in our area.  For a good solid month, we have worked to encompass each event of significance to not only document but to also help to further illustrate how incredibly complicated this was.  The people working together with the help of many partners managed to stay on top of every detail and utilize their rights based on policy and the law (there is much room for improvement, too, as we found out in both departments).     VIEW: Timeline

What can we learn here to improve decision making processes in the future? A great deal – and we must never forget it and apply these important lessons to everything from here on out.

If there is an item that has not been recorded that you wish to share, please contact us.

It is our aim to also offer assistance and support to other communities who are in the midst of something similar.  Please be in touch if you’d like by writing

Special thanks to’s committee members Debra Bresnan and Rachel Marco-Havens for their assistance. 


Here are several key items:


An enormous amount of public funding was lined up to attract the Niagara Bottling project. It is hard to say what the tax abatements through Start-Up NY would have provided along with all the tax breaks that a Manufacturer is given in NYS – but over the course of 10 years it’s probably a fair assumption that it would have been upwards to $20-30 million +. That, plus the $10.8 million they would have received through the Consolidated Funding Application grant through the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Council (MHEDC) to go toward their facility build (an estimate $53 million for a new build, and not to reuse any of the buildings at the Tech City site).

A firm number of jobs and salaries were not ever provided to our group so that a cost analysis could be done to compare their worth vs. the amount of public funding that Niagara was looking to secure.  Very few elected and appointed officials involved knew what they were, but had signed confidentiality agreements and would not release that information to the public.


The public was encouraged to wait for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process to take place in order to get the basic information that they were requesting. Those who understood what was taking place worked hard to secure a ‘positive declaration’ in SEQRA in order for there to be a public process and thankfully were successful in doing so. It had been reported in the papers that Niagara was hoping to start their build in February of 2015 alluding to the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency probably counting on a ‘negative declaration’ – meaning no public input – sending the project straight to the planning board for a site plan review.

SEQRA, by the way and simply put, examines a project as it is submitted and relies on such submission to be accurate (and not segmented as this proposal clearly was). Determinations are then based on its accuracy for a proper review of the applicable laws. 


As it turns out and in this case, it is illegal in NYS for public funds to be awarded to a project before SEQRA takes place. Prior to the public’s awareness, the Niagara project had been selected as a priority project for the MHEDC. Whether shining the light on this fact impacted Niagara ultimately not being selected by the State in December is unknown. Though we suspect so.


Start-Up NY is a new program of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s that began in January/February of 2014. Corporations who come in from out of state and partner with a SUNY school may qualify for up to 10 years of tax abatements (tax free including employee, business, property, school and others). It is meant for corporations to move on campus to offer onsite internships for students but in SUNY Ulster’s case (located in Stone Ridge, NY), that wasn’t possible due to program allotment of 200,000 square feet to accommodate businesses under consideration. By utilizing their satellite campus’s however, Tech City located in the Town of Ulster where Niagara wished to locate (and for the most part empty since the early 90’s) could qualify.

Niagara Bottling applied and was selected by a very small number of people (four as we understand it) based on these qualifications as we know them:  1) Will the corporation provide jobs? 2) Does the corporation fit within the mission of the program/University? 3) Does the corporation conflict with any other business similar in nature within a certain radius of the potential new location?

…and that’s it.

The SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees (who have a fiduciary responsibility), students and faculty were not included in the decision making process. Furthermore, Niagara would require water from a municipal source (as well as local springs) that could have tremendous negative impacts to the community that the reservoir services (Kingston/Woodstock). The community-at-large were caught off guard, having not been alerted prior to reports in the papers with the process well underway.


Thanks to several of our partners (and their donors) that include the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and, a number of studies were created to show the potential impacts of the water withdrawal, creation of plastic bottles using PET pellets, traffic and waste water disposal in a nearby impaired water-way known as the Esopus Creek.   As you will see by reading through the timeline, there was little to none modeling to gauge future impacts. These studies helped us to show the potential dangers to our communities prior to SEQRA and in turn, helped us to secure a positive declaration in the process.


In the SEQRA process, those who have a “discretionary decision” to  make have a seat at the table and are listed as an ‘Involved Agency’. In Kingston, because the Water Board is independent – they alone would make the decision regarding the sale of the public’s water (and they alone were listed as an Involved Agency). All together, about nine people without any public oversight (unless you include the Mayor as the public, the only elected official who serves on the Water Board and who appoints all of its members, too).

All of the municipalities impacted directly that include Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties fought another hard battle to be listed as an ‘Involved’ agency prior to not being listed at all. To be ‘Involved’ gives the group the opportunity to voice in on Lead Agency in SEQR. That is a critical moment in the process and much effort, too, was made to request that the DEC become Lead Agency of the project given its regional impacts.

Instead, each were granted only ‘Interested’ agency status, which in essence is not any more authority in the process than the average citizen.

That, right there, is a real glaring problem for our community and we intend to work with our elected officials in the future to help to provide the public with a larger role in decision making for sales such as these.


Another item that was important to our group given the complexity of the project was to request a longer public comment period than what is allowed in SEQR (which is 30 days once the scoping document is submitted by the client/consultant (Niagara/Chazen Companies)). Because it is not mandatory to allow for more time, the public was beholden to the Lead Agency/Client to allow for it or not.

In addition, given that the impacts of the projects would have included multiple municipalities, we also asked that Lead Agency offer public hearings outside of the Town of Ulster and in those impacted communities so to increase the number of the public and their opportunity to be heard.


We hope that you will visit this page periodically as we continue to fine tune and add any additional information that is helpful to understand better our experience.

To try to keep the timeline tight, we’re including these other entries here to get a little more insight on the City of Kingston’s Water Board and other municipal decisions that have been made over the past 100 + years.

If you have anything that you wish to correct or to add – or you are a community facing a similar situation and would like to speak to us – you can do so by contacting us at


1906:  According to the NYS Archives, “the duties and functions of the Water Supply Commission were assumed by numerous successor agencies, and were ultimately assigned to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water in 1970.

1929: NYS DEC Water Power and Control Commission, Water Supply Application No. 493 for the City of Kingston.

1954: NYS DEC Water Power and Commission (today the DEC) application no. 2510 for the City of Kingston.   “Conditions: A) Under this decision and approval the city of Kingston is authorized to furnish a water supply to the new plant of International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in the Town of Ulster. No authority, however, is given herby to the sale of water to any others from the supply main to be installed to such new plant without the further consent and approval of the Commission.

2007: Ulster County Government demonstrates its commitment to the protection and management of open space and water resources with the adoption of the “Ulster County Open Space Plan,” with the largest section of the plan devoted to water resources.

2009: The City of Kingston demonstrates its commitment to environmental and climate protection by adoption the “Climate Smart and Green Jobs Community Pledge.

2011:  As a condition of the NYS DEC permit for Woodstock Commons to hook up to the Town of Woodstock (ToW) Water District, the ToW was required to develop and submit emergency back-up water treatment and supply plans to NYS DEC using Cooper Lake main on Tinker Street at site of the Town Hall renovation.

2012: City of Kingston, NY creates “Climate Action Plan” formally adopted on October 2, 2012. In it, the city proposes initiatives that include Water Conservation and Efficiency practices. A prioritized list of projects currently underway by the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC).