Early voting has begun in a closed Democratic primary election contest in Kingston. It includes a citywide Mayoral race and seats in Wards 1 and 4.
In all of Ulster County, those who can vote early in the June primary include (as per the Ulster County Board of Elections): All registered Democrats in: Shandaken, Woodstock, Saugerties, Kingston, New Paltz, Gardiner and Hurley; All registered Republicans in: Shawangunk; All registered Working Families Party in: Saugerties.
If your municipality is not listed, it’s because there is not more than one candidate seeking a spot on the ballot for any given party during the General Election ballot in November.
Here are a few helpful key questions and answers to help you during this primary season. Get out and vote!
What is a primary election? In a primary election, each political party selects its candidates to run for office during the general election in November. The candidates who get the highest number of votes in the primary election go on to run in the general election.
Can anyone vote in a “closed” primary? During a closed primary, only voters registered with that party can take part and vote.
Do I have a primary to vote in? Not all election districts have a primary. If there is not more than one person trying to seek a particular party line on the general election ballot, there would not be a primary.
What if I am not registered in the party that I want to cast a vote in? In NYS, as a current, registered voter, you must have changed your party affiliation by Feb 12 to the party you want to vote with. If that is not done, you will not be registered with that party and you cannot vote because in NYS primaries are closed.
Can I vote for a person if I do not live in that municipality in a primary election? A voter may only vote within their local voting district for any election.
Can I register today and vote? NYS currently does not have same day registration. This year, that was only available on June 17 as the last day to register as a NEW voter. Under the current law, only on that one day could you register and vote.
What happens if I am not in the voter rolls and I did register to vote? You can vote by affidavit ballot, which is then counted by the Board of Elections. If you have met the criteria to vote after their investigation your vote will be counted. If your registration does not fit the criteria, it cannot be counted. The BOE will then send you a letter explaining why so you can correct it for the next election.
Why are there no referendums on the ballot? Referendums appear on the ballot in General Elections in November and not during a primary contest.
Why would I not have a ballot to vote on? In the city of Kingston, there is a citywide democratic primary for Mayor. That means that every registered democrat can vote during this primary election. If you live in Wards 1 and 4, your ballot will include a primary contest for your democratic representative on the Kingston common council.
One of the things that we love about Kingston is its support for our LGBTQ community. On June 1, 2023, the city signed a proclamation claiming June, 2023 LGBTQ Pride Month in the City of Kingston. KingstonCitizens.org stands firmly in loving support.
The City of Kingston and Ulster County are both discussing the Rights of the Hudson River. It’s time.
With major threats that include PCBs, anchorages, transmission cables, radioactive discharges and more, community members in the City of Kingston and Ulster County have been working with elected officials to bring forward legislation and memorializing resolutions to imagine providing rights to the Hudson River and its watershed.
Ulster County Legislator Phil Erner has been collaborating with community members from The Eco-Assembly to bring forward legislation for Rights of the Hudson River. On June 1, the Ulster County Legislature’s Energy, Environment and Sustainability Committee passed a resolution for a public hearing on July 18. LISTEN to that discussion that begins at 10:00.
The request will go to the full legislature on June 13 for approval.
In the City of Kingston, Paul Tobin and Chief Mann, the Turtle Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation with the support of Julie Noble, the city’s Environmental Education and Sustainability Coordinator, recently introduced Memorializing Resolution #95 calling for a “Bill of Rights for the Hudson River, Also Known as the Mahicantuck, and its Watershed and Ecosystem” to the Kingston Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee that passed unanimously in May and that will go to the floor on June 6. The council is discussing many important items that we are following, this being one of them.
Please join our Facebook events linked above for important updates and to learn how you can participate.
LISTEN: On the Green Radio Hour with Jon Bowermaster “Does nature have rights? A conversation…”
Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, grassroots, volunteer organization committed to nurturing transparency in local government through public engagement and participation.
We’ve created this timeline to provide a comprehensive public record of our campaign advocacy since 2007. You can review our entire history or choose from one of the 25 categories to select a campaign category that interests you.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Inclusionary Zoning Provision segment outlined that for seven (7) or more apartment units, the Area Median Income (AMI) is being proposed at 80% for affordable and 120% for workhouse housing units (the percentage for workhouse in the 2.0 version increased by 20% in the 3.0 version).
120% AMI is considered market rate housing.
According to Starodaj, the AMI was set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where both the City of Kingston and Ulster County AMI numbers were the same. But Ward 9 Council Member Michelle Hirsch pointed out that the American Community Survey (ACS) data, which is an ongoing survey that provides data each year about the social, economic, housing and demographic characteristics of communities, shows that the City of Kingston’s AMI is nearly $30,000 less than Ulster County’s. For a household of four people, 80% AMI in Kingston was $47,072 while Ulster County was $76,800. Hirsch also shared concern that those who rely on Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV), a program that enables the lowest income households in NYS to rent decent, safe housing in the private housing market by providing rental assistance, would unlikely be able to find or afford an apartment in the City of Kingston.
Meanwhile, Bartek expressed concern that by “deepening” these percentages for those living in Kingston under 80% AMI could lead to chasing away developers from building in Kingston.
A new housing study for Kingston?
The City of Kingston has changed dramatically since it adopted its most recent comprehensive plan on April 5, 2016 and Kingston, like most communities around the US, got hammered during and following the pandemic. Council member Hirsch asked if the City of Kingston had a housing study that would look at all the AMIs and current housing stock in the community to provide the city with a plan to help make good decisions about setting housing standards now. “The whole point of Form-Based-Code is to provide housing for people that need housing and can’t afford it. The incomes in Kingston don’t line up with what is being proposed here.” she said.
PILOAH and Affordable Housing Fund
“The fear is that if the developer can’t find a way to cover affordable units in it’s development they will walk away.” – Bartek Starodaj
Recently, KingstonCitizens.org wrote about the city proposing a policy that would allow developers to be able to opt-out of 10% Affordable Units with a Payment-in-Lieu-of Affordable Housing. It included an Affordable Housing Fund as a placeholder without any clarity on policy and procedure that turned up in recent version (3.0) of the Kingston Form-Based-Code. Later, we stumbled across a request for proposal (RFP) from December of 2022 with a timeline for the city to hire a consultant for guidance on creating the fund by April even though a PILOAH hadn’t yet been adopted.
We followed up with Bartek in an email to ask what had become of the RFP where we copied local housing advocates and members of our common council. He confirmed that the city had established an RFP committee for this project, which included a representative from the Common Council (when we asked Council President Andrea Shaut, who would typically assign a council member to serve in this manner, she told us that she wasn’t aware of the committee or who from the council participated) and after reviewing the submission (s?) earlier this year ultimately declined to hire a consultant. We asked for minutes and to learn who served on that committee, what consultants responded and why the city chose not to proceed. After several attempts, we were told to submit a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) in order to receive that information.
During the Laws and Rules committee meeting, Barbara Graves-Poller, the City of Kingston’s Corporation Counsel, said that she would provide the council with information about the PILOAH and the Affordable Housing Fund in the coming days. Hopefully during tomorrow’s public “deep dive” that information can be shared publicly.
Parking requirements are one of the real barriers to creating affordable housing in Kingston
Michael Kodransky, a new resident in the City of Kingston and an urban planner, waited hours that evening in order to provide the council with his COMMENTS on what the city needed to do in order to remove barriers for the creation of more affordable housing.
‘’What stirred my desire to share comments, is being alarmed around parking requirements of the Kingston and Ulster County planning board recommendation around the minimum parking requirements. I have been working with around 10 other people (residents) in Kingston who are equally alarmed. They include parking similar to euclidean zoning and that is not what form-based-code is. If you haven’t been following the news lately (Harpers Magazine: Lots to Lose), parking is in the news quite a lot, and the reason is is because housing crisis in Kingston is a national crisis, there’s a shortage of housing all across the nation and it’s forcing municipalities to reevaluate their parking regulations if they exist. And those municipalities like Buffalo, Hartford, that are abandoning their parking regulations are seeing new development.”
“At this juncture in Kingston to consider putting in parking requirements when there is a housing shortage, when we know according to the 2030 climate action plan that 40% of climate emissions come from driving trips, studies increasingly show that the inclusion of parking undermines multi-model policies. We don’t have any travel demand management ordinance in the city or any understanding of existing private parking that currently exists. It seems like the planning board at the city and county did a copy and paste job from guide books that are being abandoned all over the county. It’s like they haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening over the last 20 years in the urban planning space. Every week, a new municipality around the country is abandoning their parking requirements…to see the planning board in Kingston and Ulster County recommend to put them in does not make any sense.”
“I encourage the common council to seriously look into this issue, because it increases the cost of construction, and it doesn’t seem as though the planning board on either the city or county level has spoken to any small or medium scale developers to see how this impacts their financial feasibility or banks or insurance to understand what the underwriting for small scale developments would be with these types of requirements. Essentially, these councils and boards are making market intervention recommendations without actually understanding the market implications and the implications on the production of housing. The costs of these types of requirements trickle down to everything else. Services, too.”
“That is correct.” said Ward 3 council member Rennie Scott Childress. “We agree with you.” said Ward 4 Rita Worthington
“I encourage you to accept the code that the consultant proposed with no parking requirements. There’s a reason they did that. They listened to what people were saying and what the policy outcomes were that we asked for which is affordable housing. A place that’s connected and affordable. This is an irrational burden for developers and the community. Listen to what the consultants proposed, there is a reason. The public was asking for these outcomes that were reflected in the consultant’s recommendations.”
In 2018, we learned about a potential drinking water deal between Nestle and the Town and Village of St. Johnsville, NY, North of Kingston located on the Mohawk River in the Hudson River watershed. Quickly, we identified the advocates working on this problem and outreached to them in order to offer our support and experience from the ground where we were successful in knocking out the Niagara Bottling proposal who was looking to purchase 1.75m GPD of our drinking water supply back in 2014.
Five years later, their community wrote to alert us that they had succeeded in beating back the Nestle deal. What’s more, is that the community members who were on the frontline went on to run for office and win elections to replace both the Town Supervisor and Village Mayor in St. Johnsville, NY.
We must pay it forward when so many community members provide their invaluable time and expertise to protect their community from the privatization of their municipal drinking water source. In that spirit, we will continue to offer our support to communities as we have done now for a decade. We believe that those who experience the same positive result will do so, too.
When did you first learn about Nestle coming to your community?
In 2018, the St. Johnsville Chamber of Commerce announced that Nestlé Waters was granted permission to perform a study of our municipal water supply as they had an interest in sourcing water.
What were they asking for?
At that time their request was simply to study our water supply.
What is your municipal water supply? Do community members have a say in how it’s managed or sold?
Our primary water supply comes from Congdon Springs in Ephratah, NY- about 7 miles from the village. Our secondary water source Is the Burgess Well, which is located within the village. Residents do not have a say in the way water is managed or sold.
How long have you been organizing around this problem? Can you list all of the members of your strategic group, and how did you all succeed?
Community members began watching this study since the fall of 2018. Since 2022, our group has been very actively following. Dawn White (now the new mayor of the Village of St. Johnsville), Phoebe Sitterly (now the new supervisor of the Town of St. Johnsville), Jordan McDaniel and Katrina Caringi championed this effort.
What have you learned throughout this process?
If something doesn’t “seem right”, it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid to stand up and advocate for what’s important!
How did KingstonCitizens.org help your effort? Are you interested in providing the same support for other communities that find themselves in this position?
Back in 2018, we met with Rebecca Martin and she was kind to offer guidance. Through time, the lessons that KingstonCitizens.org learned has proved to be very helpful. We were given hope that there was something that could be done to stop them and we would be happy to help other communities.
There are around 481 apartments managed by the Kingston Housing Authority that some say accounts for approximately 10% of the City of Kingston’s population. It is a critical source of deeply affordable and stable housing for very low and extremely low-income individuals, and particularly for people of color, single mothers, people with disabilities and seniors.
Over the last 20 years, budgets have been dramatically slashed for annual funding for repairs and everyday operations. These cuts have impacted both the availability and the habitability of housing. It has forced residents to live with heating system and plumbing failures, water leaks, pest infestations, peeling lead paint, and harmful mold. Years of deferred maintenance has caused the cost of repairing these homes to skyrocket. Steadily, public housing in municipalities are being taken over by private investors to manage and maintain these properties.
What is the Kingston Public Housing Authority?
According to its website, “The Kingston Housing Authority (KHA) provides homes for low-income City of Kingston Families and is an organization with a proud history and enviable reputation. In 1948 its dream of quality, affordable housing for area citizens was formalized. In 1953, it was put into action with the opening of Colonial Gardens. Over the years, hundreds of apartments were constructed and have provided the foundations for family and elderly communities around Kingston.”
The Authority is governed by a seven-member board, five commissioners that are appointed by the City’s Mayor with two elected members by the tenants
Today the Housing Authority manages six different communities that include:
Colonial Gardens Addition
Brigham Senior Housing
The KHA’s properties serve residents with Area Median Income (AMI) that, according to HUD, include Very Low Income (31-50% AMI) and Extremely Low Income (0-30% AMI).
In a 2021 report by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, DiNapoli found that the Kingston Housing Authority “did not provide adequate oversight of Authority operations. As a result: Budgets were not entered into the financial system and financial transactions were not properly captured; Adequate oversight of disbursements, bank transfers and bank reconciliations were not achieved; $6.51 million in disbursements and bank transfers were made without review or approval; $1,035 in management fees were incorrectly billed; Financial system access was not properly administered.”
When important programs fail, it’s generally due, at least in part, to poor management. Privatizing our public housing complexes in Kingston as a preferred solution to deferred maintenance is a bad outcome that is not well understood by the community.
Privatizing public housing in the City of Kingston: Mountco awarded bids on Stuyvesant Charter in addition to four other public housing complexes.
At last month’s Kingston Common Council caucus, Ward 9 council member Michelle Hirsch provided an update on Kingston Housing Authority developments, including the most recent Request for Qualifications (RFQ) issued by the Kingston Housing Authority in October of 2021 of a redevelopment and new development proposal for four of Kingston’s public housing complexes that include Colonial Gardens, Colonial Gardens Addition, Wiltwyck Gardens (all state funded complexes) and Rondout Gardens (the sole federally funded complex).
As an aside, can the KHA mix federal and state housing complexes together for an RFQ?
The RFQ request was seeking developer applications to be submitted by January of 2022 for a developer selection to be made by February, 2022. Because the Kingston Housing Authority hasn’t any minutes or documents listed on their website, we don’t know how many applications were submitted or how the projects were rated before Mountco Construction and Development (Mountco) was awarded the bid. According to sources, they are already walking through the Colonial Gardens Addition and Rondout Gardens. If that’s true, then we presume those will be the first on their list for improvements.
Four years ago, the Kingston Housing Authority issued an RFQ for the Stuyvesant Charter Apartments, which was also awarded to Mountco. They are currently making renovations and moving residents into “pods” while making these improvements. According to Hirsch’s update, a ribbon cutting is slated for May where folks from Albany are expected to attend.
The City of Kingston looks to be well underway in privatizing its public housing complexes. According to the NYS Public Housing Law article 58, it says that the “Sale of dwelling units by authorities” of any state or federal public housing project requires the “local legislative body in the case of a municipal project” to have a say in the sale of public housing units. Did the Kingston Common Council weigh in and if not, should they have? What about the general public? How can we engage on what happens to public housing in Kingston in order to provide input to protect our most vulnerable residents?
If you have concerns about public housing in Kingston, you can contact your council member. Ward 3 council member Rennie Scott Childress also serves on the KHA board. You can reach out to him, too, independently to learn more.
UPDATE: The meeting will be moved to council chambers
KingstonCitizens.org has requested that it be moved to council chambers in order to accommodate more members of the public. Community members can make the same request by calling or writing Bartek Starodaj, Director of Housing Initiatives at (845) 334-3928 or email@example.com
“Resolution 50 of 2023, that passed on March 7, 2023 when the Common Council, the lead agency for the Form-Based Code State Environmental Quality Review (“SEQR”), voted to accept the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“DGEIS”) as complete in scope and content. The Common Council also voted to schedule a public hearing on Thursday, March 23th with an open public comment period that will continue through April 10th. ”
An important moment for the public and housing in the City of Kingston
Although we are nearing the end of the citywide Form-Based Code process, the Kingston Common Council as Lead Agency of the State Environmental Quality Review (“SEQR”) as a type 1 action has an obligation to hear from and respond to the public in its determination of whether or not the DGEIS is either adequate or deficient.
We continue to fully support a Form-Based Code for Kingston as well as the city and the council in its work to create a unique code for the Kingston community. To do that, we have identified some questions and concerns out ahead of Thursday’s public hearing. It’s important that the public is confident that the council is guided by Kingston-centric data that takes into account pandemic conditions so that the code, once passed, is inclusive to make housing affordable for all.
Affordable Housing vs. Low Income Housing
In the City of Kingston, we have often heard people speak about Affordable Housing and Low Income housing interchangeably when they are not the same.
Affordable housing defines properties that take up less than 30% of a renter’s income. Low Income housing describes residences designed to support renters struggling to keep up with rising rental costs. These distinctions are important for our new code so that Low Income families are not left behind.
According to HUD’s Median Family Income Calculation Methodology and Income limit definitions, Low Income ranges from 51% – 80% Annual Median Income (“AMI”). If the city sets Affordable Housing at 80% AMI, then according to these figures, we are at the high end of AMI for Low Income housing and may not be attainable in this climate for our Low Income families in Kingston. Furthermore, if the city plans to privatize its public housing authority units as it is currently doing, what will happen to the Very Low Income (31-50% AMI) and Extremely Low Income (0-30% AMI) families living here now? We need more definitions, requirements and incentives for other categories in order to address the housing crisis in the City of Kingston.
Ulster County vs. City of Kingston Median Income
In the DGEIS, Ulster County rather than City of Kingston median incomes are guiding affordable. At a glance, according to the US Census (2021), the City of Kingston median income is $58,840 while in Ulster County for the same period is $71,010. That sample alone proves that there are tangible differences between the two.
So why is the code using Ulster County rather than City of Kingston data for the city’s unique zoning code? In the public comments of the Kingston Community Review (Draft 2.0, line 105), staff wrote that the Ulster County Area Median Income figure is referenced “because HUD does not publish AMI levels specific to Kingston,” and that, “the current draft is simplified to reference the applicable HUD definition.”
Is the council confident that HUD does not publish AMI levels for Kingston, and is it in our community’s best interest to “simplify” during a housing crisis to turn Ulster County’s AMI into law? What is the Ulster County AMI doing or not doing to provide opportunities and access for more people who live in the City of Kingston now?
A Payment-in-Lieu-of Affordable Housing (“PILOAH”) is included in the Kingston Form Based Code 3.0, page 114 , where the criteria is not clearly defined, as criteria would be set and adopted by the Kingston Common Council at some later date. Here, the developer is provided an option to make a Payment-in-Lieu of Affordable Housing instead of providing on-site affordable or workforce housing units into an Affordable Housing Fund.
Since an Executive Order was issued in December 2020, all applicants requesting site plan approval with the City of Kingston’s Planning board building more than 5 units of housing anywhere in the City are required to have at least 10% of its units affordable without any loopholes.
Where did the PILOAH come from and is it wise for the council turn it into law in the code before policies are clearly defined? What should be considered is continuing to require 10% affordable units for all housing projects as well as to include more income ranges than is currently required now as affordable.
Council sets a special meeting to approve the Stony Run Apartments deal ahead of the Form Based Code public hearing as well as the code for housing criteria becoming law.
Affordable housing and low income housing are not interchangeable. The code should include more definitions, requirements and incentives for all categories of housing in order to accommodate the housing crisis in the City of Kingston;
Kingston’s code should be informed by the most up-to-date data for the City of Kingston median income and not Ulster County;
A Payment-in-Lieu of Affordable Housing and Affordable Housing Fund needs policies before being included in the code as law. Otherwise it should be removed.
Attention historic preservation enthusiasts and newbies: Kingstoncitizens.org contributor Marissa Marvelli is hosting two free presentations at the Kingston Library that you should know about. The first one, Saturday February 18, is an introduction to researching buildings in Ulster County. She’ll also talk about historic rehabilitation tax credits. The second one, Saturday March 11, will feature Derrick McNab, one of Kingston’s greatest fonts of knowledge when it comes to restoring historic buildings.
Saturday February 18, 1pm: Research Your Historic House with Marissa Marvelli – Got an old house? Curious about who lived there or when it was built? Bring your questions to Marissa Marvelli, a Kingston local and an award-winning historic preservation professional. She’ll show you the available resources to help you become an expert on your home. Historic maps, deeds, census records, newspaper archives, city directories and other materials contain a treasure trove of information waiting to be mined.
Saturday March 11, 1pm: Ask a Historic Restoration Expert: Discussion with Derrick McNab – Wondering what to do with your old windows? Got roof repair issues? Thinking about installing new insulation? Want to avoid a bad masonry job? Wondering if your contractor is right for the job? In March, program organizer Marissa Marvelli will hand the mic over to Kingston-based Derrick McNab, an expert in all things pertaining to historic building restoration. His many skills include decorative paint work, plastering, woodworking and finishing, masonry restoration, and slate roofing and repair. He will discuss common restoration and maintenance issues and practical approaches to addressing them.
A (Working) Preservation Guide for Historic Property Owners and Enthusiasts in Ulster Co., NY. Last month, Marissa Marvelli shared a working GOOGLE DOCUMENT with the public and a goal of it becoming a comprehensive preservation guide for Ulster County. Marissa is a real treasure and we give her thanks for all that she does for Kingston and Ulster County.
Last year, KingstonCitizens.org was was one of 140 organizations that signed onto a letter urging the Governor and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the renewal of the permit for the Norlite Hazardous Waste Incinerator in Cohoes, NY to support our important Hudson Valley Solid Waste Management partners Lights Out Norlite. That effort was successful in getting the state to stop the “illegal” burning of AFFF toxic firefighting foam at the plant – though they continue to operate the plant on an expired permit right next door to a public housing authority.
PAUSE (People of Albany United for Safe Energy), the 350.org affiliate in the Capital District, is urging climate justice groups your organization to sign on to a letter to the State Attorney General asking her to support the motion by Lights Out Norlite to intervene in the lawsuit her office, along with DEC, has filed against the Norlite hazardous waste incinerator and aggregrate facility in Cohoes NY.
The letter outlines why the AG should support giving the residents who live by this public nuisance the right to have a strong voice in the litigation to finally clean up – and hopefully shut down – this facility that that has been polluting an environmental justice community for decades. While it is the judge in the case that will make the ultimate decision, it would be good to have the AG supporting it; we expect that NYS DEC as usual will oppose giving citizens a voice, and Norlite will oppose.
Since the judge may rule on the motion to intervene in early February, we need to convince the AG to not oppose the motion as soon as possible. We plan to send the letter by Friday, February 3.
Kingston Meadows, a planned 60-unit senior citizens housing complex behind the Holiday Inn off Washington Avenue and located in a flood plain(Watch the video. One of the planning board members, who is an affordable housing developer, publicly stated that she had a parent in a senior housing project and wouldn’t want her parent situated in this project site. She was a no vote), went before the City of Kingston’s Planning Board on January 17. The proposal called for a three-story, 65,145-square-foot building comprising 58 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units.
This is at least the third time that this project has appeared before the City of Kingston planning board. One of the benefits of doing advocacy work in Kingston for nearly 20 years is that I’ve got some institutional memory. I encourage residents to pay attention to this proposal. We don’t want our elders living in a new, profitable construction surrounded by an unintended moat. They deserve better.
This is what I recall.
In 2011, the Ulster County Planning board voiced significant concerns relating to the “public safety and the completeness of the information provided” read the three-page report at that time. Worries about “seasonal flooding, rail trail connections and site access” were raised by the Ulster County planning board’s review process. It was our understanding at that time that if there was a public subsidy request for the project, it went against the Ulster County Planning Board, the NYSDEC, and State Infrastructure Act funding, and could therefore not be approved.
Two years later in 2013, the Kingston Planning Board decided that the proposed senior citizen complex would not have significant impacts regardless of the Ulster County planning boards concerns. The project laid dormant.
Now, nearly ten years later, the proposal has emerged again and the City of Kingston planning board granted site plan approval to the project, once more overruling the Ulster County planning board’s referral that stated the project should not be approved.
The minutes to the Ulster County planning board for December and January are not yet available. But you can WATCH the Kingston Planning Board discussion from January 17, 2023.
1. Ulster County Planning Board recommendation letter from (2012):“The Ulster County Planning Board reviewed this proposal for site plan approval in January, 2011. As part of that review the Board recommended that the project be disapproved as the “UCPB has significant concerns as it relates to public safety and the completeness of the information provided to the extent that it believes the project should have a positive declaration under SEQRA.” This re-submittal answers some of the objections raised in 2011, but in the UCPB’s opinion, the project still has multiple issues that argue against its approval.”
2. City of Kingston Conservation Advisory Council (CAC)“The City of Kingston Conservation Advisory Commission has been following this proposed development project since 2012. The CAC is resubmitting comments made in 2012 and2016. This type of project, a valuable asset to our community with additional housing for the senior demographic, still presents issues with effects on Esopus Creek and flooding of the Creek. The SEQR Negative Declaration should be reconsidered at this time.”
Photo credits: Kevin Smith, Woodstock Land Conservancy 8/24/22
By Rebecca Martin
Cooper Lake is located in the Town of Woodstock and is the largest natural lake in the Catskill Mountains. It stores water from the Mink Hollow Stream in addition to water that reaches the lake from its nearly 9 square-mile watershed.
It is also the City of Kingston’s primary drinking water source.
The City of Kingston Water Department was founded on May 27, 1895 by a special act of the New York State Legislature to provide potable water to the residents of the City of Kingston. It is a financially and administratively independent department within the City of Kingston funded by drinking water users (and not tax dollars) and is governed by the Board of Water Commissioners. The Board is a continuously sitting body and each member is appointed to a five (5) year term by the Mayor. The Mayor is also a voting member of the Board and the Kingston Common Council assigns a liaison in January of each year to monitor their business.
Our area is in the midst of a drought. At the same time, important dam construction at Cooper Lake is underway in order to bring the dam into compliance to meet the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regulations. It’s a project that’s been in the works for many years.
At times like these, Kingston is fortunate to have a secondary drinking water source – the Ashokan Reservoir. Many communities that I work with haven’t got a plan B. Although the infrastructure is not yet connected, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) has run pipes under Route 28 at Basin Road and part way down Sawkill so that the Kingston Water Department would be able to tap into the reservoir if they ever needed to. They never have – until now.
In the early 2000’s, the Town of Ulster signed a long standing agreement to purchase 700,000 gallons per day (GPD) whether they used all of it or not from the Kingston Water Department making them one of our largest drinking water users. That agreement was recently brought to a halt because of the seriousness of the drought. Now the town is working to provide Kingston with 200,000 GPD to help us through this critical time, even when they are also experiencing drought conditions and cut-backs. The residents in the Town of Ulster deserve our gratitude.
Kingston Water Department and “surplus water”
Nearly 10 years ago, the City of Kingston was on the brink of selling 1.75 million GPD of our municipal drinking water supply to the California based company Niagara Bottling at Tech City in the Town of Ulster. Had they succeeded, they would have secured their first large drinking water bottling facility in our region and would have taken every drop for all the years they were here to bottle and to sell. For those following the changes at the Tech City site, Niagara would have likely impacted the recent trajectory of any progress seen today. And given Niagara’s track record, we might have been in a heap of trouble now. It’s one thing to negotiate with your neighbors. It’s a whole other matter to do the same during drought conditions with a corporation who have savvy lawyers and deep pockets. Luckily, with the support of many community members, organizations and elected officials, we nipped that proposal in the bud in just five months and sent Niagara packing.
Side bar: We still have Niagara Bottling on our google alert. We’ve been following them around the country for the last seven years and share information about our strategies with municipalities interested who are struggling as we were. We’ve had some success, too – in communities located in Texas and Wisconsin.
Back in 2014 when Niagara was a looming threat, we learned about Kingston’s safe yield (by definition, the safe yield of any water supply is the maximum dependable water supply that can be withdrawn continuously from a supply during a period of years in which the driest period or periods of greatest deficiency in water supply is likely to occur) being 6.1 million GPD. For Kingston’s drinking water supply, that period continues to be the drought of 1957 that lasted 3 months. Kingston’s safe yield was said to be accurate when we inquired. We were told changes were slow.
Also in 2014, community member’s concerns were said to be “hysterical”, as the City of Kingston had surplus water to sell and the East Coast was water rich. Their messaging gained no traction with us.
Here is some interesting data from old posts about droughts in the Hudson Valley:
Given the recent trends, is it time for us to take another look at our safe yield and consider climate? I think so. Although Cooper Lake was reduced 10 feet to its maximum capacity last year for important dam work, it seems clear that no one anticipated a drought a year later that would exacerbate our current situation.
Drinking Water Budgets
There is such a thing as drinking water budgets, or an accounting of all the water that flows into and out of a project area. The Kingston Water department once told us that they have one. Through our FOILs in 2014 and 2015 we never successfully acquired a copy. If our safe yield is 6.1 million GPD then we don’t want to overuse or over promise what we can deliver. A water budget keeps track of our current residential and business use and should also take into account future development project commitments.
In a report from 2007 for the proposed Hudson River Landing Development, it stated that the City of Kingston had a daily water usage of 3.28 million GPD. In 2014, we were told that that number increased to 3.5 million GPD. Where are we today? Outside of our own concerns about drought and drinking water, how does Cooper Lake’s current levels inform us about groundwater resources and the rapidly dropping water table area-wide? What about our neighbors public supply wellheads and thousands of private wells?
We’re sharing these photos – thanks to Kevin Smith of the Woodstock Land Conservancy – to illustrate that this crisis is real. The photos speak for themselves and it’s heartbreaking to see this natural waterbody in such a state. Beyond that, the water that flows through your pipes to your home or business is treated drinking water from Cooper Lake meant to keep you nourished and alive. At the very least, it’s a teaching moment. We shouldn’t ever take drinking water for granted.
Our drinking water supply levels are a real emergency. Follow the requests from City of Kingston officials and be mindful every day of how you borrow from Cooper Lake. Consider everyone and everything.
NO use of water from the KWD to fill or maintain the water level in any swimming pool.
NO use of water from the KWD to water any lawn, golf course, ornamental shrub or plant, except that water may be used to irrigate, from a hand held container only, vegetables or fruits grown for human consumption.
All air conditioning systems utilizing water from the KWD should be operated only in accordance with hourly restrictions established by the Superintendent.
All large, nonresidential water consumers must immediately reduce usage by at least 20%.
At a recent Kingston Planning Board meeting, the Kingstonian development team provided an overview of the current project in preparation for a full presentation for the planning board and the public on Monday, May 9. Following the presentation, a public hearing has been scheduled on Tuesday, May 17 for the public to weigh in on the project’s site plan and special use permit approval.
The Kingstonian project development team was present that evening and that included Dennis Larios (President of the Engineering firm Brinnier & Larios), Michael Moriello (Environmental Attorney) and developer Brad Jordan (Herzog Supply Company). Absent again was JM development principal Joseph Bonura. Brad Jordan explained that they had a new partner since they presented their original application, a developer from South Carolina who would be helping to build and finance the project.
Some of the notable items discussed that evening include:
The Kingstonian developers said that they have brought in another partner since the original application was made. It is a developer from South Carolina who will help to build and finance the project. LISTEN
The parking number was (finally) confirmed by the developers. Dennis Larios committed to create 427 parking spaces LISTEN
143 spots, one per residential unit, will have a spot
296 for the public
Hotel will operate with a valet off site
Special deed parking garage: 83.5
READ: The Kingstonian Project will require 343.5 parking spaces per Kingston’s zoning code
Jordan said that there were 1500 spots at Herzog Plaza for overflow. Valet parking will take cars to the plaza. Larios did a calculation of the available parking at the plaza based on the Kingston zoning code. LISTEN
The Kingstonian will charge the same hourly parking as the city, though the monthly rate has still not been finalized according to Kingstonian developer Brad Jordan. LISTEN
The Kingstonian’s small swimming pool, barbecue area and dog park will all be moved to the roof. LISTEN
The City of Kingston water department has done hybrid flood tests at the site because it will require a fire pump and domestic service pump as a multi-story project. LISTEN
The developers said that they had promised during the SEQR process to take as much gravity sewer to the truck station at Frog Alley which they have accomplished. They will also be collecting and treating the stormwater as a redevelopment project with a hydrodynamic separator on the east and west campus in a small rain garden. LISTEN
The pedestrian walkway to the plaza is going to be open for the same hours as Kingston City Parks. “We’re basically treating it like a city park but we’re flexible” LISTEN
There will be a delivery drop off zone in front of the Senate Garage and in the back of the building inside the plaza so that deliveries aren’t blocking a lane of traffic. LISTEN
According to Larios, in 2020, the state adopted a stricter energy code. The city adopted what’s called a “stretch code: which is stricter yet. “Not many designers have worked with the stretch coach in the United States. It’s coming over from Europe code people are having to get up to speed with it but the design team is dealing with the stretch code right now as we speak with the thermal envelope and all the other requirements in that code and it will likely be an all-electric building as well vehicle spaces…” LISTEN
The site plan will be referred to the Ulster County planning board, City of Kingston Engineering, Water Board and Parks and Recreation. LISTEN
Glenerie Boulevard and Katrine Lane residents experienced a major emergency on Friday, April 8th, as rainwater running off from the 28-acre deforested Central Hudson training facility site ran under the CSX tracks and flooded onto neighbors’ homes and yards — running under our properties and gushing into the already degraded Esopus Creek. The fire department could do nothing until the waters receded, and even the DEC came out to file a report.
As you can see, the water was within mere feet of reaching our cars and homes and caused damage to sheds and tools.
As tempting as it might be to attribute this flooding to the 4 inches of rain that came down the night before or to climate change exclusively, the primary cause of the recent flooding was that the NYC DEP did not provide adequate storage in the Ashokan Reservoir for springtime rains. They could not increase their storage when the predicted rainfall of 3 inches increased to 4 inches.
We are concerned that NYCDEP will provide no storage (especially this August and September), and if we receive a tropical storm, we can expect another damaging flood. The DEP had promised you that they would decrease the possibility of flooding, and we ask that you demand DEP provide the flood protection they promised.
The Central Hudson Facility project has only added to the flooding problem. According to longtime residents who have lived here for 35 years, they have never seen our streets flood like this nor seen runoff pour into the creek under their homes and so rapidly.
And the only variable/change is the Central Hudson facility site under construction that has been clear cut and now destroyed for decades – an environmental disaster facilitated by the sale of Bread Alone’s connector parcel to Central Hudson’s headquarters.
The exact site of the cascading flood on April 8th corresponds to the precise rock removal and the thinnest part of the tree removal line on the construction site. Clearly, the systems and streams that drain the new construction site, Central Hudson parking lot, and the Micron parking are wholly inadequate.
Currently, three existing pipes, approximately 30 inches in diameter, and the discharge from the new retention pond, flow through an undersized culvert and pipe into a small stream with deep and steep slopes. The velocity of the flow has eroded the stream banks and undermined the foundation of homes.
The Town should have addressed this problem long ago when the Micron parking lot was constructed. The Town should require Central Hudson to construct a retention basin for the three pipes, a larger culvert beneath the tracks, and enlargement and bank stabilization of the stream into the Esopus.
This community is standing together, but our concerns are falling on deaf ears on officials at the state, county, Town, and Central Hudson levels — those seemingly only caring about the bottom line. They don’t live here, so they don’t experience the daily harmful effects they’ve approved and created.
We are fed up with being ignored and irate since we questioned these potential dangers months ago. We demand that the multiple environmental impacts that this project has created due to the Town’s negligence be ameliorated by the Town, DEP, and Central Hudson at once before things get worse.
Regardless of the Town of Ulster’s lack of notification to the site’s perimeter residents — (over 60% of us had no idea it was coming and indeed would have shown up in the public comment period), the Town, as the lead agency, failed in its due diligence.
We are being affected directly as the potentially toxic flood water dumps into the creek but the thousands of neighbors downstream on the Esopus into the Town of Saugerties are being affected by this project too.
If this was an affluent community, we are convinced that a project as massive as this would cease to exist. Instead, our working-class neighborhood has been literally squeezed between two environmental disasters – the CenHud Facility and the muddy Esopus Creek due to the Ashokan releases.
Considering climate change at the very minimum, this project and ALL its impacts on the residents and our environment should have been studied thoroughly before getting anywhere near approval and a “NegDec” decision.
Within a mere 3 months of your premature approval, Central Hudson clear-cut 28 acres of absorbant forestland, emptying the site of its porous floor and rootbed; displacing millions of birds and wildlife, and then subsequently removed tons of stabilizing rocks near the CSX tracks over four months of dynamite blasting to create retention ponds.
And because this project was rubber-stamped, none of these actions were studied or vetted regarding their real-world impact on the surrounding neighborhood, the CSX train trackbed, and the Esopus Creek, nor the toxicity of the existing site’s soil.
Central Hudson’s retention pond plan has failed; the massive potentially toxic runoff is running under our properties and gushing into the Esopus Creek. It seems we have endured the unending construction, blasting, vehicle noises, and inconvenience they have created for the last six months for no good reason.
In addition, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) filed by CenHud was grossly flawed and didn’t disclose the site was within wetlands. If sustainability experts or professionals had been hired to evaluate the project, that omission would have been rectified and the situation professionally assessed — but even the site’s officially contracted developers and landscapers involved in the site planning fail to display any modern-day sustainability or permaculture expertise or interest.
Instead, your Board pushed the project through to create revenue and increase Ulster County’s tax base, and as a result:
– The DEC levied a $37,500 daily violation to CenHud for dumping waste into the Esopus Creek last November
– For those of us on well water, we may have potential drinking water contamination from toxic runoff
– Many of us experienced dust and soot downwind of the site, compromising the air we breathe
– The CSX trains are infinitely louder because of the deforestation, disturbing residents’ sleep, and work schedules
– The millions of birds, wildlife, beneficial insects, and even bears are all displaced due to 28 acres of trees being clear cut
– 5 longtime neighbors have already moved because of the site blasting and construction noise
– Our property values have been forever affected by the site’s existence
– Legacy trees in our yards have fallen because of the four months of dynamite blasting in the rain and 10 hours of daily pneumatic hammering vibrating our houses
– Light and noise pollution from 9W traffic and the storage facility drown our dark sky and peaceful environment because the forest screening is gone… and now…
– Floods – because the retention ponds Central Hudson built and assured us would contain the runoff do not work
– Increased insurance costs and claims resulting from the damage
– Add to that, the flooding weakens the land under the CSX tracks because now there is no shale buffer, and now we have to worry about a train derailment in our front yards
As much as we like lower taxes and bringing jobs to our community, our quality of life, the environmental impact, and our property values matter more. Clearly, our adjacent residential community was not prioritized when greenlighting this project. There should have been a balance. How much more money, time, and inconvenience will it cost now to fix these situations because they weren’t adequately addressed from the onset?
Since we initially reached out in concern in March of 2020 and then again in June of 2021, when the project restarted after pandemic delays, we have been polite, respectful, and cooperative.
We have tried to work with Central Hudson at quarterly virtual meetings (our next one is in June TBA) to make suggestions without any real significant progress to ameliorate these effects (even offering a comprehensive 10-page proposal to offset their impact on us) — but this latest event is too much and falls squarely on the Town, DEP, and CenHud’s shoulders.
Our immediate demands (paid for by the Town and/or CenHud and at NO EXTRA COST to Ulster County taxpayers):
1. We would like a study conducted and a short-term and long-term solution implemented for how the runoff will be dealt with on Glenerie Blvd. Eastern Parkway, 9W, and Katrine Lane in subsequent storms
2. Testing of drinking water for any of us on well water
3. We would like an acoustic engineer to study what can be done in the way of landscaping or infrastructure to absorb the additional train and traffic noise, and then a solution implemented based on their recommendations
4. We would like an expert to recommend screening and planting solutions to give us back some quality of life, cleaner air, and visual privacy from the site with absolutely no more clearcutting whatsoever
5. We want CSX to inspect the tracks from the crossing at Eastern Parkway to the switching station along the Glenerie Blvd. side to make sure the flooding has not compromised their tracks
6. Demand DEP provide the flood protection they promised
7. Community benefits: We can’t safely swim in the creek or hike the forest trails now, so we would like nearby public space dedicated or donated for recreational use for our kids and dogs to offset what’s been taken. This would partially compensate for the unbelievably negative impact and inconvenience this project has had on our community.
Your hasty approval of this project has created emergencies and environmental disasters on multiple levels. As tax-paying citizens, residents, and neighbors, we demand accountability by the Town of Ulster and Central Hudson and retroactive solutions. We look forward to your timely response before any of these situations deteriorate further. “
“But Shaut said that the city’s hands were effectively tied by Mott’s order. ‘Wehave to do it in person because that’s what the judge told us to do,’ said Shaut, who said she consulted city legal attorneys about the issue. So unless the judge tells us something different, it will be in-person.’” Council to Take Back Fair Street Extension, For Now (Kingston Wire)
By Rebecca Martin
Yesterday, KingstonCitizens.org launched a petition to request that the City hold the upcoming Fair Street Extension public hearing as either a hybrid or virtual meeting in order for the community to have the opportunity to participate during a time of high Covid infections. In 24 hours, 88 residents have signed.
In a recent news story, President Andrea Shaut says that the city’s “hands are tied” and that the public hearing must be in person due to a directive by Judge Mott. However, there is nothing in the stipulationthat suggests the meeting should be in-person only.
In the transcript of the meeting during which the stipulation was settled, it is clear that the City of Kingston’s Corporation Counsel requested the in-person meeting, not Judge Mott, who would go on to provide an opinion, not an order: “Look, it’s you guys who are complaining about it. If there is going to be any potential for a problem in this next one, I think that can be totally averted if it’s in-person.”
The public shouldn’t be punished at a time of high Covid infections by being denied the option to participate virtually. Please SIGN THE PETITIONto request a hybrid or virtual Fair Street Extension public hearing on January 12.